Potato.

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Here’s a quick recipe I made up the other week when I was wondering what to do with some potatoes from the garden.

Ingredients:

New potatoes – a couple of handfuls, thickly sliced

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons hot curry powder (or mild if you prefer)

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

2 cardamom pods

Fresh ginger, about an inch, grated

Olive oil

Salt to taste

Method:

1. In a wide frying pan fry the sliced onions slowly in oil, making sure they don’t brown. Meanwhile, par boil the sliced potatoes until just soft. Toast the seeds and cardamom in a dry pan and grind coarsely.

2. When the potatoes are done, drain (Bamms) and set aside. By now the onions should be quite soft. Chop the chilli and add it to the onions, along with the garlic. Allow to fry for a couple of minutes, then add the crushed spices and allow to fry for a couple more.

3. Add the curry powder and ginger and allow to fry for a minute or so longer. You might need to add some more oil to the pan to stop everything sticking, as the curry powder will absorb some of it.

4. Add the potatoes to the pan and using a spatula coat them in the rest of the ingredients. Turn the heat up to medium/high and fry the potatoes in the spices and onions. Leave them alone for a couple of minutes at a time, so the potatoes have a chance to start colouring and crisping up, but turn them occasionally to stop them burning. Add salt to taste.

This was really nice as a meal on its own with a green salad, or it could accompany a curry. Whatever’s left is ideal the following morning if you’ve consumed a bit too much Kingfisher… If you like a little sweetness, you can mix in some sultanas towards the end.

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Orbit.

The Perseid Meteor Shower: Some further reading.

Have you ever wondered why the Perseid meteor showers occur so regularly and predictably? Whether this is something to do with their orbit coinciding with the Earth’s annually? Whether they orbit the Sun on a year cycle? Whether they’re in the same plane as Earth’s orbit and the other planets? Whether any 3D diagrams exist? Whether the Perseids are decreasing in number each year? Whether they come from the constellation of Perseus? Whether the tracks of all the meteors are the same?

Well, funnily enough, you’re not alone! My Uncle Andrew wondered all of these things at once, and contacted drainbamms.wordpress.com seeking further clarification.

I shall now attempt to answer all of his questions.

The particles associated with the annual Perseid meteor shower come from a comet called Swift Tuttle, which was discovered independently by Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle on July 16th and July 19th 1862 respectively.

Yes, the comet does orbit the sun, but each orbit takes around 133 years, 11 times the length of Jupiter’s orbit. Swift Tuttle does not orbit on the same plane as the planets, but cuts across Earth’s orbit at an angle.

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The Perseids aren’t decreasing in number each year, as Swift Tuttle is still orbiting the sun and leaving a trail of dust particles behind it. Most of the dust in the cloud at the moment is thought to be around 1000 years old, although there is a newer stream of particles which was pulled from the comet in 1865 (presumably as it passed the sun? I can’t find clarification on this).

The meteor shower associated with Swift Tuttle is called the Perseid shower because to an observer in the northern hemisphere the meteors appear to radiate from a point in the sky closest to the constellation of Perseus. However, having observed the shower each year for a few years, I find the diagrams too simplistic, and in reality you’ll see the meteors all over the sky and won’t really be able to tell where they’re radiating from.

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And finally, an amazing fact of the day: The dust particles entering the atmosphere during this meteor shower are hurtling along at 58km/s.

Peregrine.

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WARNING: GRAPHIC PHOTO OF SEVERED PIGEON HEAD BELOW!

Until very recently, I’d never seen the Peregrine falcons which nest on Lincoln cathedral, and have raised a total of 13 chicks since 2007. I’d always known they nested there, but for whatever reason I’d never gone looking for them.

My first sighting came accidentally during a recent trip to Lincoln castle. A fellow ‘Peregrine Virgin’ and I were walking along the top of the castle walls when we suddenly spotted a couple of birds of prey in the sky above us. They were soon joined by a couple more, and we realised they were a family of peregrines. Probably two adults with their young. The young treated us to a very entertaining display as they honed their hunting skills by repeatedly dive-bombing one another, hurtling through the air screeching all the time.

As we walked back along the castle wall, we suddenly noticed a rather grotesque severed pigeon head lying on the wall. It definitely hadn’t been there a couple of minutes earlier, so presumably the peregrines had just made a kill and left a little present for us!

A few days later I was back near the castle during the early evening, and heard a screeching peregrine passing overhead. I looked up and saw a falcon chasing a pigeon at about treetop level past the water tower. I asked my uncle about this, and he said that almost all the time peregrines will attack their prey from above, using stealth and incredible speed to take their victim by surprise. Perhaps this one was a young bird who didn’t quite understand the rules…

If you’re in the Lincoln area any time soon it’s well worth heading up to the cathedral and castle to have a look at the birds.

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Meteors.

The International Space Station is back over the UK this month, and I popped outside last night to take a few snaps of the pass as 23:02.

My neighbours were out in their garden at the time, and I heard them wondering what it was when they spotted it coming over, so I surprised them with my slightly geeky level of knowledge about the ISS.

I also let them know about the annual Perseid Meteor Shower, which is treating the northern hemisphere to an amazing firework display over the next few days, peaking on Monday 12th August.

I plan to take a drive out into the middle of the Lincolnshire Wolds, which should give me a nice dark sky, and watch a couple of ISS passes and around 100 meteors per hour. It should be a pretty spectacular evening’s star-gazing!

Get yourself outside on a clear night this week and look up – you’ll be amazed! It’s incredible to look up at the ISS in the knowledge that it’s moving at around 17,000 miles per hour 200 miles above the earth, and spotting so many meteors is pretty damn exciting!

Amazing fact of the day:

The meteors entering the atmosphere during the Perseid Meteor Shower are tiny- about the size of a grain of sand! That’s pretty incredible when you see how much light they produce and the speed they’re going as they burn up.

Here’s a link to a website listing all the ISS passes this month, as well as the dates you can see the Perseid meteors

http://www.meteorwatch.org/uk-iss-passes-august-2013.html#more-5321

And here’s a nice article about the Perseids, by a guy I follow on Twitter. He posts some really interesting things, and provides reminders to help make sure you don’t miss the ISS passing overhead! Check him out @VirtualAstro

http://www.sen.com/feature/perseids-meteor-shower.html

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