Unexpected calm

Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s recent outing. As well as interesting cliffs, she saw a whole field of flax.

Between the two inches of rain that fell yesterday and the strong winds that are expected tomorrow, today was a sort of placid buffer zone, grey and occasionally drizzly but cool and calm, not really a summer day but not a bad day either.

Like the day, there was not much happening in the garden, except for a lot of tidying up work from the gardener and the gradual reduction in the height of the hedge between us and our neighbour Betty.

But as always there were things to look at and so I looked at them. More alstroemerias have appeared…

…and although the roses have been a bit depressed by the weather, they are still producing new flowers all the time.

WordPress offered me a rounded frame and I thought that it suited the rose, so I have used it.

A few more of the fine clover flowers in Mrs Tootlepedal’s green manure bed have appeared. I couldn’t resist a look…

…and a new stouter calendula has joined the simpler versions.

I went to have a look at the Potentilla beside the dam and found that it was flowering freely.

There are other Potentillas in the garden and I have put flowers from two of them into a panel with a Welsh poppy and a perennial wallflower. They belong together as they are all very long lasting sources of colour. (The first Welsh poppy appeared on the 2nd of May.)

The red poppies are still drawing in bees, even in the wet conditions.

It was raining very gently as I took these pictures and there was some doubt as to whether we would get a garden coffee meeting. I consulted Margaret and Liz and the general opinion was that we would take no hurt from a few drops of rain, so we put on our coats and I brought a brolly out and we had a short coffee and conversation meeting before the rain was voted too much of a pest and we broke up.

Liz has been impressed by the height of the ligularia which is growing well just beside where we sit for coffee and we were able to show her the first flowers on it today.

Of course the rain waited only until we had packed up and gone our respective ways before it stopped. Mrs Tootlepedal went back to using netting to give as much support as she could to delicate flowers threatened by tomorrow’s strong winds and I cut a bit of Betty’s hedge and shredded the cuttings.

A berberis that was pruned is shooting back up…

Mrs Tootlepedal made bacon and eggs for lunch and I had time for another quick look at the geraniums in the garden….

…and a peek into the vegetable garden which is full of beans.

The runner beans are potential but we have begun to eat the broad beans.

I had a look at the bird feeder where the siskins were behaving normally…

…and then we had a most enjoyable Zoom meeting with Al, Clare and Matilda, with a display of gymnastics from Matilda and a rendition of Frère Jacques as a round from Matilda and Clare. Al has acquired a new microphone and it improved communications a lot. I am going to look into getting one too.

After the Zoom, I had a look at the weather and decided that it looked stable enough for me to get a twenty mile tour of Canonbie in.

I took a helmet with a peak to keep my glasses dry if it rained, and a rain jacket as well. This was enough to persuade the weather gods that I was giving them proper respect, and they let me get round in the dry.

The mown verges looked sad.

…while cattle were practising social distancing.

I met a couple of cyclists on the single track section of the old road at Byreburnfoot. They were just getting back on their bikes so I slowed down as I came to them. It was lucky that I did because if I had been going at full tilt, I might not have realised that this was in my way…

…until it was too late. It is easy not to see something, even if it is quite obvious, if you are not expecting it….as motorists who come out of side roads straight in front of cyclists will testify.

The picture above was taken looking back after I had squeezed under the fallen tree. It blended in more when seen from the other side.

There were some good looking raspberries growing on the bank beside the fallen tree and I have put them in panel with foxgloves which escaped being mowed thanks to a telephone pole and a combination of meadowsweet and knapweed which are the wildflowers of the moment near Irvine House.

There is a lot of water about and this little cascade was at the traffic lights near Irvine House.

Doubtless because they are a bit worried about Mrs Tootlepedal and I losing all restraint and hugging passers-by now that lockdown is being eased, the powers-that-be have festooned the town with notices telling us to behave.

We will do our best.

There is a wonderful St John’s Wort display opposite the Buccleuch Centre, and I stopped to record it just before I got home.

I refilled the feeder when I got in and the additional supplies allowed a greenfinch to have a calm moment on its perch.

As usual the afternoon ended with a sibling Zoom meeting and then we drove down to the Co-op to do a little shopping and get rid of our glass recycling at the waste disposal site there. We hoped that anyone who was watching us would realise that the big noise was being made by three months of bottles, not just one heavy drinking session.

Mrs Tootlepedal made a tasty lentil dahl for our evening meal and the day ended with rain coming down and the wind getting up. We have our fingers crossed that the wind will be forgiving.

I only managed to spot a nearly flying bird today. It got its foot down before I could get my shutter finger down.

A mournful day

Today’s guest picture goes to show that you should never judge by appearances. My brother Andrew was offered a choice between a vegan sausage roll and this good looking scone. He naturally chose the scone but found when he became more closely acquainted with it, that it was very old and dry. The vegan sausage roll acquired some retrospective charm, but alas, too late.

It was a very consistent sort of day here today as it was raining when we got up and it rained steadily all day. I did go out into the garden at a moment when the rain was lighter rather than heavier and had a quick look round. I was very happy to see that the raspberries are beginning to ripen…

…and that some judicious pruning of the Goldfinch rose has given a clematis a bit of breathing space.

A new rose, planted last year and still quite small, is doing well….

…and most of the delphiniums are managing to survive in spite of wind and rain.

Poppies comes and go but we still had a good show today.

But it wasn’t a good day to be out with a camera so I soon went back inside again.

The weather was not the only gloomy thing about the day. In the late morning, we went out to join many others from the town who were lining the streets to pay their respects to a good friend and a stalwart of the church and the local operatic and dramatic society. Funerals are very modest affairs in the lockdown but I hope that Bob’s family were able to take some comfort from the warmth of feeling for him that was evident as the small cortege passed through the town.

When the cortege had gone, there was nothing to do but go home again, feeling that we had not really done justice to the memory of a really good man.

When we got back, I filled the feeder and watched the birds in a somewhat sombre state of mind. the weather and the birds matched my mood.

There was a good deal of coming and going…

…and some very bad behaviour….

…particularly at the top right hand perch for some reason.

I let some time pass while I tootled idly on my flute and tried to remember how to sing. It will be a shock when communal music making and singing are back on the menu.

Then I found that I had got so gloomy myself, that even a walk in the rain seemed to be a better idea than hanging round the house in full mooching mode.

I put on a waterproof jacket and trousers, picked up a brolly and went out.

It was quite windy as well as being wet so I chose a low level and sheltered route, taking me past the caul at Pool Corner…

…and the Auld Stane Brig.

I checked on the little lichen garden on the top of the fence post at the bridge and found that it was thriving.

It was too dark as I walked through the woods along Gaskell’s Walk to take usable photographs and even when I came out into the open, the light was not much better with the hills wreathed in low cloud.

I walked thought the tunnel to the Stubholm…

…and continued down the hill and along the Murtholm track to Skippers Bridge. It was gloomy there too.

I came back along the other side of the river, where the clematis in the hedge that hides the town’s sewage works was the brightest thing that I saw on my walk.

On the river bank, a splash of colour was provided by clumps of ragwort.

Thanks to my good waterproofs, I got home without getting soaked by the rain, but again thanks to my good waterproofs and the extremely humid conditions, I was just about as wet under my outer clothing as I would have been if I hadn’t been wearing it. Still, as ever, a bit of exercise made me feel more cheerful.

The rain has stopped as I write this post and although it will probably return tomorrow, it shouldn’t be quite so persistent. Then we are promised heavy winds and more rain of Sunday. Memories of the wonderful lockdown sunny days are fading fast.

The flying bird of the day is a greenfinch.

Adding a little spike to our life

Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset corespondent, Venetia. She visited the coast at Klive and saw this very ‘geological’ cliff.

When Mrs Tootlepedal went into the utility room to wash her hands this morning, she found that the floor was rather messy. Her first and very natural instinct was to wonder what I had been doing to create such a mess. A second look caused a rethink, and peering behind the washing machine she could see a young hedgehog which had obviously both made the mess and spent the night as our guest.

With great patience (and a litter picker), she wrangled the hedgehog out from behind the washing machine and showed it to me…

…before taking it out to a purpose made hedgehog house which she had prepared earlier.

I was left wishing that I had been able to take a better picture.

That’s life though and I wandered round the garden looking at flowers to cheer myself up.

It was a more pleasant day than the forecast had indicated, with light wind and thin cloud overhead. This made taking poppy pictures a pleasure. We may have lost two but we have gained four, a good bargain, with plenty more to come.

At the end of the lawn, another verbascum has started to produce flowers…

…and once again, it goes to prove the point that when it comes to flowers, nothing seems to be smooth…

…when you take a closer look.

Though it must be said that this backlit rose was looking pretty smooth this morning.

I was happy to see that a bee had discovered one of the few hydrangea flowers…

…and I was walking over to tell Mrs Tootlepedal about it when I was stopped in my tracks by this unexpected sight.

The hedgehog had left its house and was exploring the compost area.

It waited politely until I had got a good shot or two…

…before it disappeared between two compost bins, probably on its way to visit a neighbour’s garden. We didn’t see it again.

We picked blackcurrants and gooseberries and then I looked at roses.

…and mowed the front lawn before having coffee and a good chat with our neighbour Margaret.

After coffee, we made a start on trimming back a hedge between us and another neighbour. This will be a long job and Mrs Tootlepedal is intending to do a yard a day, weather permitting. It produces a lot of material for shredding so we will be kept busy.

It was a day for neighbours as we also spent time chatting to Irving and Libby over their fence.

I added two new flowers, a partly open water lily and a fancy clover to my photographic collection…

…and then it was time for lunch after a busy morning.

A tricky crossword and natural indolence helped me to waste an hour before I got my shopping bike out (no word from the bike shop yet, alas) and set off for an afternoon pedal.

The wind was light but enough to turn our local turbines and the temperature was pleasant, not too hot or too cold so I decided to look around and not rush today.

I took a decent picture of the orchid up the Wauchope road that had evaded the verge cutters by a few inches….

…and stopped not much further along the road to admire this fine yellow flower by a bridge.

Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that it is Agrimony.

I thought that I should visit one of the little cascades in the Wauchope Water to show the effect of five inches of recent rain on a river that had been reduced to a trickle by the drought in May.

As I was cycling towards Tarcoon, a loud noise overhead made me look up. My pocket camera is not ideal for tracking planes so this is the best shot that I could manage of an unusual aircraft….

…which I thought might be one of those planes that can swing the engines round and use them to land and take off vertically.

I took a slightly different route down to the bottom of the Canonbie bypass, and the potholes and muck left on the road by farmers working in the fields reminded me of the reason that I don’t use it more often.

Still, it provides some good views…

…and goes very near to the border between Scotland and England, which according to our British prime minister’s statement yesterday does not exist. This is news to us who live in the border country.

A kind wind wind blew me home to Langholm and I arrived in time for the sibling Zoom meeting which was full of interesting news today (a visit to the dentist, a new kitchen, hedgehogs etc) and an excellent evening meal cooked by Mrs Tootlepedal.

As the day was still fine and the wind was still not too bad, I popped out for an evening ten miles to Callister and back after tea.

I was glad that I had done so, because not only did I see a family of herons flying across a field at the Bigholms..

…but I saw a small flock of lapwings too, a very unusual sight round here these days.

It was a pity that the light had faded so much that my little camera couldn’t do them justice.

Once again, I was wafted home by a favouring wind and my active day ended very cheerfully.

I didn’t fill the seed feeder today as there was a lot of fallen seed to be cleaned up before I put new seed out, so the flying bird of the day is a low flying plane that passed over Irving’s house just as we were talking. It’s lucky that Irving doesn’t have a chimney as the plane was really low.

Footnote: I met Irving and Libby thee quarters of the way round my afternoon cycle ride. They had driven down to the Hollows for a walk. It was hard to say who was more surprised, them or me.

Bad decision

Today’s guest picture comes from our neighbour Liz who encountered this large snail when out on her morning walk. She got away safely though.

The forecast offered a still, dry and cool morning, followed by an afternoon of light rain. A sensible fellow would have been off on his bike while the going was good. I spent the morning doing the things that I have done every morning during the lockdown so ingrained is the habit now. I spent most of the afternoon looking through the window at pouring rain and wishing that I hadn’t been so foolish.

Still, I did have a pleasant garden wander, and I mowed the front lawn before coffee time so it wasn’t a wasted day entirely.

The opium poppies are doing very well and attracting a good class of bees.

There were rarely less than two bees guddling about among the stamens, and sometimes more.

Other poppies were available…

…but not so popular.

We have two sorts of phine phlox in phlower now. This sort…

…and that sort.

Although it was badly set back by the late frost, one of our Philadelphus has still got some pretty flowers to show….

…and the hydrangea has also produced a few potential flowers to my surprise.

As far as purple goes, the melancholy thistles are fading….

…and are being overtaken by new knapweed.

Our neighbour Irving looked over the fence and asked for the name of the mock orange, which is flowering extravagantly. Mrs Tootlepedal presented him with a couple of branches of the flowers to take in for his wife, and I loaded him up with rhubarb as we have got a surplus at the moment.

Then I wandered again.

Alstroemeria are doing well…

…and the astrantia is amazing.

When I look at the detail of each flower head or ‘pincushion’, I just wonder at the extraordinary process of evolution.

Of course plant breeders have been hard at work too, giving nature a helping hand and producing results like the Crown Princess Margareta.

As you can see, from this calendula…

….there was plenty of moisture about, but it stayed dry for our garden coffee meeting and we had a good chat, filled with cheerful reminiscences of cycling crashes from Liz and me.

Liz and Margaret didn’t escape without helping to reduce the rhubarb mountain. It is good if things aren’t wasted.

There wasn’t much time after coffee before the rain started and we didn’t get much more gardening done before we went in for an early lunch.

After lunch, I filled the feeder and watched the birds. The rain didn’t put them off….

…though the goldfinch at the bottom left does look bedraggled to say the least.

Then, while Mrs Tootlepedal did useful things, I spent quite a lot of time mooching about the house complaining that I should have gone bicycling in the morning .

Finally, I got so fed up with my own moaning that I put on my waterproof trousers and jacket and went for a walk in the rain. I took an umbrella too and because of the light winds, the rain was coming straight down so I managed to stay extremely dry. I even got my camera out under the shelter of the brolly to record a goosander swimming in the Esk. I was on the bridge at the time so the goosander was quite far away and it was only after a while that I noticed some faint marks in the water behind it.

On closer inspection, the marks turned out to be nine mini goosanders swimming along behind mother….

…who shepherded her brood to the rocks and got them all safely onto dry land.

I walked on without seeing anything else, apart from the ducks on the Kilngreen in today’s header picture, which was interesting enough to make me get my camera out until I came to the Duchess Bridge.

Like the castle which appeared in a recent post, the bridge is suffering from a little neglect and has so many plants growing on it that it might be classed as a Garden Bridge.

As I walked home, I could see that the recent rain had put a ripple in the river.

When I got home, I had time for another look at the bird feeder. I saw a blue tit giving a siskin a nasty turn, a most unusual sight…

…before making a cup of tea and hosting the daily sibling Zoom meeting.

Mrs Tootlepedal made a fine evening meal of lamb chops and vegetables, all roasted together in the oven, and that helped us to get over the miserable weather of the afternoon. The forecast is a bit better for tomorrow but with the temperature set to be about 13°C, it is not going to feel very much like summer.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin in the afternoon rain. They are our most frequent visitors to the feeder at the moment.

A cutting edge

Today’s guest picture(s) comes from our friend Gavin and shows the differing skills of his son Fraser and daughter-in-law Leslie who live in America. Fraser very neatly laid bricks on the ground while Leslie prefers life on the tiles.

The month ended with a day that was neither good nor bad, neither hot not cold, neither totally dry or totally wet….a medium sort of day.

Mrs Tootlepedal started it off with an hour and a half of Zoom meetings with the community buy out group and I started it off with a garden wander.

After the first poppy in the green house had been thoroughly exhausted by insects, it was good to see that another one was out and ready for business…

In the garden, another poppy was standing beside the lawn, giving me a ready made background for a shot that has come straight from the camera with no further processing.

I always try to spot new flowers so I was pleased to see this tiny entrant into the garden stakes, a very small geranium.

In the vegetable garden, the courgette flowers are being followed by actual courgettes and we can look forward to courgette fritters soon.

There was a tremendous racket of birds as I walked about, with rooks and jackdaws shouting about something, but the loudest noise was coming from this young starling on the greenhouse.

My wanderings took me past roses Bobbie James and Goldfinch….

…and Roseraie de l’Hay and the Crown Princess.

I thought that the Stachys was looking well…

…and a new Verbascum was very promising.

I had time for a little weeding and dead heading as well as a look at the day lilies, who all seemed to have chosen the same day to come out. Like me, they were looking around for some sunshine.

Then it was time for morning coffee. Mrs Tootlepedal was still Zooming and Liz was still walking so Margaret and I were the only two sipping and chatting at first. We were joined later by both Mrs Tootlepedal and Liz, and by a bee who was very interested in the red poppy…

…and the same young blackbird as yesterday, who had come to get its picture taken again.

It poses well.

It was typical of the sort of day that it was that Margaret and I had been saying that it was quite warm but when Mrs Tootlepedal came out to join us, she immediately remarked that it was quite chilly….and somehow, we were both right.

After coffee, I mowed the middle lawn and then got the hover mower out and did the drying green and the vegetable garden grass.

While I was there, I admired the potato flowers. It can’t be long before we get our own new potatoes to eat.

Then I edged the middle lawn and went in to make lentil soup for a late lunch.

The soup was accompanied by Tallegio, Brie and Stilton on crackers.

I took some time to watch the birds, who were as busy as ever. Some chose to take a seed and make off…

…rather than stay for a second seed and get harried by impatient siskins…

…and sparrows.

There was occasional drizzle about so Mrs Tootlepedal thought that it would be a good idea for her to stay inside and write up the minutes of her morning meetings. I thought that I would round the month off with a cycle ride and hope that the drizzle didn’t turn into rain.

At 60°F, it was warm enough for a little drizzle not to be a problem, and this was lucky as the drizzle stayed around for a good few miles. It was light enough not to get me wet and I didn’t have to put my rain jacket on.

What was disappointing though was the fact that they had been out mowing the verges…

…and they had been so efficient that every verge along my route had been mowed. Just where I took the picture above, I had been hoping to see orchids and now felt that I was likely to be disappointed. But by a miracle, the cutter had just missed a couple of the flowers. This was the spot where I got bitten by horseflies so I may have rushed taking the orchid pictures. Anyway, for whatever reason, they didn’t come out well but I didn’t stop for a second go and pedalled on thinking that orchids might have to wait for another day.

To add insult to injury, I was actually held up by two of the tractors doing the verge cutting as I went along a back road!

When I got the Canonbie bypass though, the verges are so wide that the cutters can’t cut them all, and there were plenty of orchids (and time) to take pictures. One of the pictures came out quite nicely.

I stopped to look at the pylon at Canonbie village…

…and thought that these must be the new wires in place.

Yesterday on my walk, I was delighted by foxgloves and today rosebay willowherb provided visual pleasure, being just far enough back from the road to have escaped the verge cutting.

Many wild flowers had met their fate at the hands of the cutters but where the verges were wide, treats were still to be found. This knapweed (probably greater knapweed) looked lovely.

The twenty miles of my usual Canonbie circuit very neatly brought up 2000 miles for the first half of the year. Since my expectation was a modest 1500 miles by this time, the generally good weather since the lockdown started has been a great bonus.

When I got back, Mrs Tootlepedal and I Zoomed away with my siblings, and then Mrs Tootlepedal picked mounds of spinach from the garden and I made baked eggs in spinach with a cheese sauce for our tea.

The forecast for the next ten days is pretty cool and showery but I hope that there will still be some summer weather to come after that. I would like to get near 2000 miles for the second half of the year too but that needs good weather while the days are long.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin in the drizzle.

Relative calm after the storm

Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo, and shows her own rain gauge in Manitoba. It is all the more impressive because the five inches it recorded all fell in an hour and a half. Then they got another two inches overnight making seven inches in eight hours. That’s what I call real rain.

The rain gauge that she gave us only showed four and a half inches in our garden this morning and that had taken three days to accumulate…

…but all the same we were very pleased to find that it had stopped raining when we woke up this morning.

And all things considered, in spite of the rain and the wind, there wasn’t too much damage in the garden. Some things, the Delphiniums and Sweet Williams had suffered…

…but the phirst phlox of the season had appeared…

…the front door clematis was thriving

I was able to shift a lot of the compost out of Bin B into Bin C before we had morning coffee on the lawn with our neighbours. The brisk wind had dried the garden up and actively whisked some threatening clouds away, so we were able to enjoy our coffee and conversation in pleasant conditions, surrounded by blackbirds both young…

…and old.

Bees buzzed…

…and after we had finished coffee, I had time for a walk round to enjoy roses and clematis that were flourishing after the rain.

Perhaps the oddest thing was how dry everything seemed. The strong wind and occasional sunshine helped the drying and the storm now seemed long ago and not just a day away.

Over lunch, I watched the birds…

…and they were so active that I brought out the second feeder and soon every perch was occupied.

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy catching up with community buy out administration so I went for a walk by myself.

It was grey and windy, but it was warmer than yesterday and it didn’t rain on me, so I had an opportunity for a brisk walk without worrying too much about getting some good views.

As I went along the Kilngreen, I saw a posing wagtail and an old friend lurking in the long grass…

…and further along I came across a young bird on a bench. I think it must be a young wagtail. Nearby a duck was quacking loudly as its young got swept away across the river. It soon caught up with them and settled down again.

I walked up past the estate offices and out of the town along the track known as the Baggra. I feared that it might be rather wet but the going was reasonably good, although there was always the sound of running water as I went along.

There were plenty of wild flowers too…

…but I kept a special eye out for colourful lichen.

I came down to the High Mill Brig….

…which had a good flow of water running underneath it. I crossed the bridge and walked back towards the town, but when I got to Whitshiels I took the road up the hill and extended my walk a little.

I was rewarded for the extra effort by banks of foxgloves…

…and picturesque horses grazing in a meadow.

I left the road and walked onto the open hillside, following a newly made vehicle track which led me up the the pylons. I was hoping to see the work to replace the actual power lines some time soon so I stopped to chat to a power company worker who was sitting in his vehicle under one of the pylons.

I asked him when the cables were going to be replaced. “We’ve done the far side already,” he said, “and we are doing the near side now.” The cables are pulled through the wheels that you can see by powerful winches but the process had paused for a moment to let a connecting joint be unconnected. This left me a bit short of exciting power cable replacement pictures and the engineer admitted that it was not a spectacular process. If it had been sunny, he said, I would have been able to admire the shiny new cable, but it wasn’t so I couldn’t.

In fact when I looked down the line of pylons….

….. it was so far from being sunny, that I set off down the hill to the town as fast as I could go. The engineer had been very chatty. As he had told me that he had been sitting in his vehicle for some time simply to ensure that no walkers passed under the lines while they were being winched along, he was probably quite glad to have someone to talk to. He also told me that renewing power cables was a remarkably easy thing to do if you knew what you were doing.

I got home in good time for a cup of tea and a sibling Zoom meeting convened by Mrs Tootlepedal.

It had only been a four mile walk, but after three months of alternating walking and cycling more or less every day during the lockdown, my legs are beginning to get the hang of taking exercise and I felt remarkably cheerful for a walk on a grey and windy day.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin, juggling with some flying seed.

Hey, ho, the wind and the rain

Today’s guest picture comes from my camera club friend Simon who found a fine flower for me to enjoy.

The forecasters had predicted rain overnight and all through the day, and unfortunately they got it quite right. I had a very unsettled night with the rain beating down and my legs complaining about the miles on the shopping bike but I wasn’t as unsettled as Mrs Tootlepdal was when she got up early in the morning.

She looked out of the window and saw our dam beginning to rise up. Regular readers may remember that we got flooded by the dam last year so Mrs Tootlepedal was worried enough to make and fit some covers for the ventilators in our wall beside the dam just in case history repeated itself.

When I gt up, I went to check on the state of affairs at Pool Corner. A faulty sluice gate there had led to our last flood. Although the Wauchope was high….

…the new sluice gate and the retaining wall were doing their job.

As it continued to rain all day and it is due to rain all night and a lot of tomorrow, we can just hope that they keep this up.

I went to look at the Wauchope as it flows into the Esk and found that it had dropped a bit from its overnight height which was comforting. You can see a tide mark on the right hand bank.

You can also see, if you look carefully as I did, a small heap of something on the bank. On close inspection, this turned out to be a great pile of young goosanders with mother standing guard.

As I was watching them, another gang of goosanders swam along to join them.

This was not what was wanted….

…and the heap stood up and got ready to go.

There was some debate among the newcomers…

…while the heap got ready for action.

In the end, the newcomers paddled a bit further upstream and both groups settled down happily, well socially distanced, while I went to see how high the Esk was.

Oddly, it was not very high….

…and there seemed to be more water flowing from its tributary than down the main stream.

When I got home, I was able to report that we were not in immediate danger and Mrs Tootlepedal was greatly relieved.

It was a day for staying indoors because as well as more or less continuous rain, there was a strong wind blowing. This made trying to take flower pictures a waste of time, as they were either being blown this way or that.

You might even think that it had been snowing.

Luckily there were indoor diversions to keep us from getting too bored and we enjoyed a Zoom meeting with Matilda, her parents, two aunts, a cousin and her other grandfather in three different countries. When I tell you that there was colour bingo, twin rabbits (stuffed), princesses, a unicorn and several good stories involved in the meeting, you can see that we were royally entertained.

In the afternoon, I stared out of the window at the rain. Sometimes, I was interrupted by birds.

…who weren’t discouraged from their usual habits by the weather at all.

The goldfinch was unmoved by the boot in the back.

The seed went down at a rapid rate.

Sometimes I was distracted by thought of taking flower pictures or going for a wet walk…

…but I never got further than looking at the garden through the window.

I did look at a flower on my computer for a while as I practised using the wonderfully named ‘magnetic lasso’ on the photo editor. I experimented with layers too to get this result.

But mostly I watched birds or the telly.

A lot of the birds looked fairly soggy as the afternoon went on…

…but this redpoll won the prize for the sorriest looking sight.

Mrs Tootlepedal had scheduled the evening sibling meeting and we were pleased when the technology worked and everyone turned up. My two older sisters had successfully caught a train to go the three stops down to the River Thames in the morning and it had been as good as a tonic for them to get out and about. The trains were very empty so they thought that it had been a safe outing.

Thanks to the relaxation in the lockdown rules, my youngest sister had had a visit from two of her grandchildren and their parents so it had been a busy day all round.

After our evening meal, I put on a full set of waterproofs and went to see how the River Esk was doing. It had risen a bit but there were still plenty of rocks available for an oyster catcher to stand on.

Although it had rained steadily and the strong wind had made conditions very unpleasant, it hadn’t rained very heavily so the river was lower than I expected. I hope that tonight’s forecast rain doesn’t get too heavy.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

Footnote: Although we have not been out for a thorough inspection, apart from the shower of rose petals, the only damage from the wind and the rain that we have seen was to a Sweet William on the drive. This was snapped clean off, a victim perhaps of its own success in having a terrific head of flowers. The flowers are now inside and they feature in today’s header picture.

Footnote two: I forgot to mention that during the afternoon, a kind friend turned up and gave me a bag of coffee beans and a bar of dark chocolate. This is the sort of friend that brightens up a day.

A one handed clap

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. His son arrived and cut down a tree in his garden, leaving Andrew’s lawn well hidden.

We had dire warnings of a 90% chance of heavy rain with thunder and lightning throughout the day. So although we were quite pleased to have occasional rain and only one mild outbreak of thunder, we did feel that the day was somewhat lacking in excitement as a result.

We managed to get our garden socially distanced coffee morning organised between light showers and the tropaeolum was looking so good….

….that our neighbour Liz asked for a bit for her garden. As tropaeolum growers will know, there is never any shortage of the stuff to give away (to say the least) and while Mrs Tootlepedal was getting some for Liz, she was surprised by a large frog in the border.

It kindly stood still for long enough for me to go over and take its picture.

The coffee morning broke up when some quite threatening rain started but by the time that we had gone our separate ways, the rain had stopped again so Mrs Tootlepedal and I stayed in the garden.

While Mrs Tootlepedal did some heroic tidying up among the daisies and euphorbia, I looked at some flowers. The poppy in the green house had obviously been playing host to some energetic insects…

…while the one in the flower bed and been completely de-petalled by the overnight rain and replaced by another one.

The coffee drinkers had admired the blue of the delphiniums…

…but my flower of the day was Crown Princess Margareta, fresh out and looking glamorous….

…though The Wren ran her close.

In between looking at the flowers, I mowed the middle and the front lawns. Although it was cooler than yesterday, it was even muggier and it wasn’t just the Martagon lilies…

…that were feeling a bit soggy as I went in for lunch.

As well as the mowing, we had done a lot of chopping and sorting for the compost bin and picked blackcurrants from our new bush. It has done well for a first year. There are still some more currants to pick and I hope we might get enough for a pot of jam or even jelly.

The weather did look quite threatening after lunch, and this was when we heard the thunder. Even so, the rain was patchy enough to allow Mrs Tootlepedal to cycle down to the Co-op for supplies without getting very wet at all. It then stayed dry enough to let me out for a short three bridges walk, and I only had to use my umbrella once or twice as I went round.

The young oyster catcher had been swimming.

It was raining as I walked along the Kilngreen and the ice cream vendor looked lonely in his van with no customers about. These two black headed gulls were not in the market for a nougat wafer.

They looked to me as though they were quite well fed already.

As I passed the Castle on the Castleholm, I wondered how long it will be before it is completely submerged by vegetation.

The threat of rain kept me moving along a bit more smartly than usual so I didn’t see much myself, although I was an object of interest to this sheep….

…and as I went round the Scholars’ Field, I caused a thrush to fly up into a tree in some agitation.

I was hurried home by another short shower and retired indoors to watch the birds from an upstairs window.

As I watched a greenfinch, the day brightened up again and I took the opportunity to lean out of three windows in turn to look at the garden below from left to right.

The sharp eyed reader may have noticed that the grass at the vegetable end of the garden is more insect friendly than the lawns.

I was still left with a bit of time on my hands so I sat down to try to improve my photo editing skills and picked a calendula to work on. The result may not look sensational but it is lot better than the original.

When I took the first picture for the blog of a calendula in the garden a week ago, I wrote that it seemed rather early (and Mrs Tootlepedal agreed) so it was interesting (and chastening) when I looked at my records to find out that it was no earlier than last year and a week later than the year before. Memory is treacherous.

The forecast for tomorrow is gloomy, according to the Norwegians experts….

…and 14° or 15°C colder than it was two days ago. We live in interesting meteorological times.

Mrs Tootlepedal’s scheduled Zoom meeting with my siblings went off smoothly and she then cooked a chicken casserole for our tea. I made a gooseberry fool for my pudding (Mrs Tootlepedal doesn’t like gooseberries and stuck to plain custard) but even with the help of plenty of sugar and lots of custard and cream, the gooseberries were still tart enough to make my eyes water. I won’t pick any more for a few days.

The flying bird of the day is a greenfinch being mean to a siskin.

Twice bitten

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony who captured this raindrop in his vegetable garden on his phone.

Our hot weather continued, although the thermometer level dropped a little and it even rained at midday. But with the temperature at 75°F and the humidity at 90% at its maximum, it didn’t feel any fresher at all.

I hadn’t slept very well and it took even longer than usual to get going after breakfast and I only just made it in time to join Mrs Tootlepedal in a WhatsApp call with Matilda and her father. Matilda was in fine form and read us no less than three stories before we started playing some games on an app called Caribu.We are really missing visiting them in real life.

By the time that we had finished, a light rain was driving our neighbours Liz and Margaret indoors after their coffee morning. However, the rain proved so light that Mrs Tootlepedal and I were able to go out and walk round the garden without actually getting wet.

A very smart new poppy has arrived…

…and I was very surprised to find another one growing inside the greenhouse.

In the veg garden we are getting very near to picking the blackcurrants and we did thin out enough beetroots…

…to have some on the side with an egg salad for our lunch.

I wish that WordPress provided a facility for transmitting smells so that I could convey the full beauty of our Philadelphus.

Its good looks are only half the story.

When it comes to good looks, the roses are still doing well.

I found a small corner of the hydrangea which shows what the rest of the shrub should look like.

And Mrs Tootlepedal found a tiny green thingy on a thistle.

Some research tells me that it might be a Dagbertus, but I don’t know what sort.

I know that this is the tip of my favourite lupin (and if you look closely, you will see a tiny fly visiting)…

…and that this is the first nasturtium of the year, hidden away among the leaves.

As I went back into the house, I noticed a lot of white clover growing in the drive. You could regard this as an annoying weed or a thing of beauty.

Sandy has a lot of clover in his lawn. He is taking the beauty line.

It was still raining after lunch so I sawed up some pruned branches of lilac and fuchsia to add to our log pile and then went to look at the birds.

A sparrowhawk had the same idea as me and nabbed a siskin which had unwisely stayed on the feeder when all the other birds had made their excuses and left. the hawk swooped in far too quickly for my shutter finger. Rather to my surprise, I didn’t have to wait too long before the birds came back to the sunflower seeds.

A siskin left before it got a kicking from a goldfinch…

…but a green finch was not going to be moved so easily and hung on tight.

The rain passed over without any heavy showers or thunderstorms. We were lucky, as our neighbour Kenny, who had come back from Dumfries in the course of his work, told me that he had passed through some very heavy rain indeed on his way.

We considered a walk but it was very humid and there seemed to be a good possibility of midgies, so we abandoned the idea, and I went for a cycle ride on the shopping bike instead.

You always hope to outrun any biting insects when cycling but I foolishly stopped to take a picture of a roadside orchid (not far from some ragged robin)…

…and was promptly bitten on the back of both legs by horseflies while I stood there.

For readers who don’t know them, these insects, known locally as clegs, are little savages and give you a nasty bite which often swells up and gets painfully itchy. Luckily, we have a stock of good anti-histamine ointment, and a quick application as soon as I got home got the swellings down. I am blaming my sister Susan for this mishap as I took the orchid picture because she said that she liked orchids.

It was so humid and warm that cycling along was a bit like having a bath but I enjoyed it all the same and stopped once or twice more on a shorter than usual run to Canonbie.

I like the staying power of this tree. It might be down but it is far from out….though when I think about it, it is in fact both down and out.

I didn’t see another orchid but I did see a lot of vetch.

I got back in time for the sibling Zoom. Mrs Tootlepedal, who has an official Zoom meeting for the community buy out group to organise next week, is going to host tomorrow’s meeting as a practice.

After the meeting, I followed my recent method of adding an evening ride to my afternoon outing on the shopping bike and once again, it was a lovely evening for a bike ride…

…though the wind was a lot brisker than it had been in the afternoon and my five miles out were hard work. The five miles home went by in literally half the time of the outward journey.

The ten miles to Callister and back brought my total for the week on the shopping bike to 100 miles and my total for the month on both bikes to 400 miles. This was much better than I had expected when the gear change broke at the start of the week. Mustn’t grumble.

Mrs Tootlepedal had cooked a really tasty dish of liver and onions while I was out cycling, and that rounded off a day which had been more enjoyable all round than the forecast had indicated that it might be.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch, concentrating on making a good landing.

A curious connection

Today’s guest picture is the newt that Bruce was seen going to great lengths to photograph in a recent guest picture of the day. The newt prefers to remain anonymous.

We had another very hot day by our standards today, with the thermometer well over 80°F in the afternoon. A weather station in the town recorded a maximum of 87°.

Certainly by the time that I had walked up the short but steep hill to Sandy’s for a cup of coffee in the morning, I was absolutely jiggered and was only revived by a generous slice of his birthday cake.

After a good chat, I tottered back down the hill to find our street coffee morning strategically parked in the shade cast by Margaret’s garage. Even there everyone was getting slowly cooked, so it soon broke up.

I had a walk round the garden.

Thanks to the lockdown, mid summer day has come and gone with scarcely a ripple in our consciousness, because for three months one day has been remarkably like another. However, it can’t be denied that we are now on the downhill path to autumn and winter, and the orange hawkweed knows it, even if we haven’t noticed.

On a brighter note, the tiger lily has got a friend…

…and the roses are saying “Summer” in a loud voice.

You might think that this is a little pixie castle…

…but it is only nectaroscordum seed heads.

Although it was hot, walking round the garden in the sunshine is always better than walking round in the rain, so I lingered for a while and kept looking round, doing a little deadheading and weeding as I went.

I like the way that the clematis at the front door chimes well with the wall behind it….

…and I was quite excited to find potatoes and runner bean flowers in the veg garden, and very excited to see that one lonely apple has survived the frost massacre.

Noting that the Goldfinch rose could hardly have any more flowers if it tried…

…I went in for lunch. Mrs Tootlepedal cooked delicious grilled mushrooms stuffed with bacon, cheese and spinach.

After lunch, I watched the birds for a while and found them very calm today…

…and then, because it was too hot to do anything else, I went out and sat on our new bench and watched pigeons doing pigeon things on a wire.

…and while I was there, I considered the contrasting fortunes of shrubs. A philadephus which came out after the frost, is covered with flowers…

…while behind it, our climbing hydrangea which should also be covered with flowers, was caught and has hardly a flower to be seen.

Mrs Tootlepedal was sensibly in the relative cool of the garage mending a dining chair and I drifted slowly in that direction, passing irises….

…brightly lit foliage….

…mini campanulas…

…and a host of orange hawkweed showing that they are not all dead yet.

Strangely, Mrs Tootlepedal was doing very well without any help from me, so as the sun had dropped a little in the sky, I got out the shopping bike and headed down to Canonbie, going down towards Tarras first to add a bit of variety to my usual Canonbie circuit.

It is an up and down route at the start and luckily I was on an up section when some ragged robin caught my eye. I thought that they might make a good subject for a picture and stopped to look but found myself staring at about a dozen fine orchids a few yards further on instead.

I cycled on and went through Canonbie and down the old road to the bottom of the bypass. As I pedalled up the bypass, another patch of ragged robin caught my eye and to my surprise, there was another set of orchids nearby.

Further along the bypass, more ragged robin and yet more orchids…

…made me wonder if this was more than just a coincidence. I will have to keep an eye out.

I got home after eighteen fairly hot miles and was able to have a cup of tea and still be just in time for the regular sibling Zoom meeting. My brother had an interesting tale of meeting drunks in a Tesco’s at half past ten in the morning.

We had our evening meal after the meeting and then I took the shopping bike out for an evening twelve miles to bring up thirty miles for the day.

It was another beautiful evening for a bike ride…

…though the shadows were lengthening as I headed back to Langholm.

The thirty miles for the day took me up to my basic target for the month of 375 miles. It sounds more impressive if I say that that is the same as 600km.

The weather is due to change tomorrow, with rain every day until the end of the month so I did well to do my cycling today in spite of the heat.

The flying bird of the day is one of the fretful pigeons.

The Tiny Potager

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