Two Blondes Walking Christmas Quiz – Answers

If you haven’t worked it out yet, like all good super heroes, I have a double identity. Not only am I Fi Darby, outdoor writer extraordinaire, I’m also Blonde Two of the (slightly) famous blogging duo, Two Blondes Walking.

Each Christmas we Blondes set up a Dartmoor quiz or fun activity. This year the questions appeared (in pictorial form) on the Two Blondes Walking blog, on Christmas Eve.

If you haven’t seen the quiz yet, this is your opportunity. Just click through here BEFORE you look at the answers below.

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Swimming ear plugs. Where exactly am I supposed to put them?

This year I finally got round to treating my ears to a set of ear plugs for outdoor swimming. I haven’t heard a ‘thank you’ for this gift yet but that might be because my hearing isn’t as good as it once was.

What is surfer’s ear?

If you’re a cold water swimmer, diver, paddler or surfer, you’ll know that continued submersion in cold water and exposure to wind can cause tiny bony growths in the ear (sometimes known as surfer’s ear).

Whilst nobody can see these growths, they really aren’t convenient because they can cause ear infections, and have a negative impact on your hearing.

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Welcome the ripe, the sweet, the sour, the hollow and the whole.

I have an affinity with apples.

Not surprising perhaps as I grew up on the borders of the cider county that is Herefordshire.

We had apple trees in the garden, apple sauce in the pantry, and apple crumble in our tummies. I prided myself from a young age on my ability to carve a whole apple peel snake. The smell of apples cooking conjures so many happy memories of life around the kitchen table that it still brings tears to my eyes today.

I don’t, by the way, have many memories of teenage scrumpy sipping sessions. Nobody ever does remember those!

Our trees weren’t unusual then but today they’d be valued as a heritage collection. Sadly not that long after we left the house, they did too.

Their names, Orange Pippin, Egremont Russet, Blenheim Orange, were like poetry to a young girl just finding her way with words. I used to talk to them and stroke them of course, and that hasn’t changed. Trees, I feel, grow better with a bit of love and encouragement.

Even trees that aren’t mine. There is something about apples that engenders a sense of community ownership. Of life before the Enclosures Act. Even the act of taking apples that don’t belong to you has a romantic name. You don’t scrump cabbages, potatoes or even blackberries. Taking those might be stealing. Scrumping though. Well scrumping is a rite of passage. At least it was in Herefordshire.

If there was a list of most satisfying words, ‘scrumping’ would be very near the top. There’s nothing like sourcing a neglected apple tree, snuffling surreptitiously around, and coming home with bags of fruit to process. If the scent of an autumn orchard could be bottled, it would make millions. Especially once the sheep have been in to enjoy their share.

There have been discussions in our house about the meaning of ‘scrumping’. Initial dictionary investigations indicate its affiliation with stealing, but if you look deeper the word is associated with ‘scrimp’, and more likely originally referred to taking windfalls or the tiny apples deemed not worth picking.

We aren’t by the way, the only ones who like to illicitly gain our apple portion. Or, as Laurie Lee put it, our ‘season’s dole’. You only have to look at the holes and pits on a scrumped apple to see that the rest of the natural world is just as keen.

Whoever’s taking their share, I believe there’s a special kind of magic afoot in orchards.

And poetry.

'And pluck till time and times are done,

The silver apples of the moon,

the golden apples of the sun.'
W.B. Yeates, The Song of Wandering Aengus
Title poem extract - Robert Frost, After Apple Picking

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Five ways social media is lying to us about the outdoors

‘Social media is toxic’, ‘social media is fake’, ‘social media is bad for your mental health’.

How many times have you heard (and perhaps agreed with) those statements? The truth however is more complicated. Social media is a tool, and like any tool it’s how you use it that matters.

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Aged between 50 and 70? How do you feel about active travel?

I’ve just been reading some results from a really interesting survey. The Centre for Ageing Better and Sustrans (both organisations well worth following) have been investigating the motivators and barriers to active travel for people in the UK 50-70 age bracket.

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There’s a fruit fly in my office – a different type of productivity

‘I’m currently harvesting a great crop of Drosophila melanogaster from my compost bin.’

Remarked my neighbour over the garden wall. Remembering secondary school biology experiments, I nodded wisely and responded,
‘Me too but mine are in my office.’

There would have been a time when an abundance of desk-bound fruit flies would have shocked me. Not any more. My home office is currently doubling as a greenhouse. This former spare room isn’t alone in its multi-occupancy status. The kitchen has developed into a sourdough micro-bakery, and the lounge has gained additional status as a flour warehouse.

There would have been a time when all of this would have annoyed me but these days I find it exciting. Please allow me to explain.

A couple of years ago I enjoyed a session of business coaching. I learned many useful business skills but the one thing that has really stood the test of time is the idea that for me, business success relates to the concept of livelihood.

It was a seminal moment. I realised I wasn’t out to conquer the freelance writing world, make millions of pounds or mash my rivals into submission. All I really wanted was a livelihood. A way of living that would provide the physical and emotional necessities of life for both me and my family.

Which is probably why, when March lockdown reduced my income, I didn’t panic (too much). I worried of course but turned my thoughts to how I could use my newly spare time to ensure the continuance of those necessities. So I turned to gardening. Permaculture gardening to be precise. All summer and autumn I have grown, foraged, baked, and preserved food for my family.

With a small, north-facing garden, we haven’t even come close to self-sufficiency. However, I’ve realised this doesn’t matter. What’s more important is that this year has helped me redefine my ideas of personal productivity. Whereas my previous ‘good days’ were all type-till-you-drop ones, they now also include garden and kitchen tasks. My concept of ‘work’ has stretched, leaving me more satisfied than I have felt in many years.

Which brings me to productivity. The business world is full of it. As a species, increasing our productivity should apparently be our end goal but what is this doing to us, our loved ones, and our planet? Perhaps if we all focused for a while on the idea of livelihood, the concept of just having enough, we might find ourselves in a happier and healthier place.