Making a fool of myself

Today’s guest picture comes from David, one of my walking companions of yesterday. He took this delightful view of our house as we had our cup of tea under the walnut tree at the end of our journey.

We certainly chose a good day for our walk yesterday, as it was a grey and miserable day today, with no sun and the temperature not getting above 16 degrees until it mysteriously got a degree or two warmer in the evening.

Mrs Tootlepedal had a busy morning visiting the hairdresser and the dentist, so I was by myself as I cycled up to Cronksbank to do some more work with the volunteers at the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve tree nursery. There were five other volunteers, so a lot of work got done, with about 1000 more seedlings put into new trays, while rabbit proofing of the area was also going on. The Nature Reserve managers are hiring some professional help, as there are far too many seedlings for the volunteers to deal with by themselves.

It was gloomy up on the moor, but the rain held off while we were there . . .

. . . and it let me cycle home in the dry before it started. Once started, it kept going for most of the rest of the day.

I found a nearly dry moment to whizz round the garden.

The nasturtiums are thriving this year and lasting well.

And the dahlias looked positively cheerful in spite of the rain.

A lily was blowing its own trumpet.

After yesterday’s walk and the morning’s volunteering, I felt quite happy to have a relaxing afternoon in today, with continuing rain and some wind too giving me a good excuse.

I put some of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database, did some puzzles from the paper, mooched about moodily, and occasionally glanced out of the window at the bird feeder.

Once again, sparrows were to the fore, and a greenfinch was a bit offend by some of the language that they used.

Mrs Tootlepedal had purchased some cream on one of her morning outings, so I filled an idle moment by making some gooseberry fool. For those who don’t know it, this is a dish of stewed and mashed gooseberries, sweetened with sugar and judiciously mixed with custard and whipped cream to a smooth consistency. Whether it tastes good or not depends very much on the quality of the gooseberries. The ones that I had picked a couple of days ago were just right, and the result was excellent. Mrs Tootlepedal, who doesn’t much care for gooseberries, is recalibrating her opinion after having a taste test.

It looks as though we are in for some more cool and rainy weather over the next few days, but there might be some sunshine too. As we need the rain, a mixture of sunshine and showers would be very acceptable. That is as long as there is time for the occasional cycle outing between the showers.

The light was very poor this afternoon under the thick clouds, so the flying sparrow of the day is correspondingly pretty poor too.

A long walk and a short cut

Today’s guest picture comes from my walking guide Mark. It shows David and me taking the straight and narrow way on our walk today.

As you can see from Mark’s picture, we got a lovely day for our ten mile walk today. It was quite hard work, with some rough ground across the hill as well as the long straight uphill road. In addition, it involved basically walking gently uphill for eight miles and only getting the downhill right at the end of the walk.

I won’t go through the walk with a blow by blow account. Suffice it to say that we walked out for five miles at a low level and came back by way of the top of the ridge above the Wauchope valley. I didn’t have my camera settings right for the conditions so I took a lot rather dull pictures on the way. I will rush through some of them here with a minimal commentary.

David and I met with Mark at his house after breakfast and we set off to go to Old Irvine along the hillside above the Esk, and then take the forestry track up to the Kerr crossroads.

There was a bit of route finding to do and some rough ground to cross before we got to Old Irvine. I took this picture looking back, as the light was better in that direction.

I liked the shadow of bracken on a lichen covered rock.

We could look across the valley and the moor to Tinnis Hill, the target of our last walk together. The weather was a lot better today.

We saw creeping yellowcress and mint beside the forestry track.

When we came to the end of the track, we walked along the road that I often cycle along, stopping to pick some brambles, before coming to my favourite oak tree.

At the oak tree, we left the road and took to the open hill. The going varied between fairly easy and very hard work. The views along the ridge were expansive, but the light was rather hazy and I could not do them justice.

The heather on the hill was in very good condition.

We spotted this little batch of berries. None of us was brave enough to give them a taste test. There is a suggestion that they may be cranberries. I didn’t know that you could find them on top of a hill.

We stopped for a picnic lunch on the top of the ridge with good views across the Wauchope valley . . .

. . . and some comfortable tussocks to recline on among the heather.

Finally we came near the end of the ridge, and could look over Langholm and up the Ewes valley.

The mast and trig point on Warbla marked the end of the ridge.

Mark and David posed with their dogs at the trig point. We had not been on high hills, or out in wild country far from home, but it still felt like an achievement to have got to this point.

From here it was all downhill (very welcome).

We finished the walk with a look at the touch-me-not balsam (jewelweed) beside the park. It is looking better every time that I go past it. Mark and David had not seen this flower before so I was pleased to introduce them to it.

We were happy to arrive at Wauchope Cottage and sit under the walnut tree while we drank a refreshing cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal.

When the walkers left, we had a look round the garden . . .

. . . and we were hailed over the fence by our neighbour Irving.

He told us that he had leapt out into the road near Skippers Bridge earlier today to take a picture of Mrs Tootlepedal and me cycling along towards him. He had been more than a little embarrassed a moment later to find that he had been waving at two complete strangers, though it must be said that the lady did bear a resemblance to Mrs Tootlepedal. The strangers were baffled by the whole experience and cycled off rapidly.

While we were talking to Irving over the fence, I noticed that a late burst of the rambler rose was blooming just beside him

I filled the bird feeder and we went in. Mrs Tootlepedal then cut my hair and I had a shower before looking to see if anything was eating the bird seed. The sparrows were back.

I took the bird camera out into the garden to see if anything interesting was flying overhead, and in the absence of interesting birds, shot the pink lilies and came back in.

The day ended with a zoom with my siblings (heavy rain in London this evening), and a delicious cottage pie for our evening meal.

The flying bird of the day is one of the many sparrows.

Surprisingly cheerful

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary. She went for a walk this morning, hoping to get thoroughly soaked by a welcome shower of rain. Sadly, she was disappointed, but she took a fine picture of the canal lock in action while she was out.

I start today’s post with a picture from yesterday. When I went out into the garden in the dark to see if it was raining, I heard the tell tale snuffle of the hedgehog. My new camera comes with a built in light which picked up the flowers but failed to show where the hedgehog was lurking.

It was a grey day when we woke up, but it stayed dry all day so we were able to cycle up to the new tree nursery on the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve on our electric bikes to do some more potting on of rowan seedlings. We were the only volunteers to join our leader Kat today. We potted on 350 trees before we left Kat on her own to finish off the task.

On our way back, I stopped to record a scabious beside the road.

We had had to leave Kat on her own because we were due to go to the funeral of a friend.

As he had died at a very young age, leaving a wife and three children, it might have been expected that his funeral would be a sad affair, but Angus had always been the life and soul of the party, and his family and friends provided a service of remembrance that celebrated his life as much as it grieved for his death. I would say that everyone at the service left the church feeling better than when they came in.

We had a late lunch when we got home, and then I went out into the garden. I started by mowing the front lawn which had been a bit neglected during the recent visit of Matilda and her parents. It hasn’t really recovered from the pecking that the jackdaws gave it in the spring, and it would have needed warmer weather and more rain that it has got this year to look at its best. All the same, considering that it has had no weedkiller or fertiliser put on it, I am quite pleased with how it has turned out. (If you don’t look too closely.)

After I had mowed the lawn, our friend Mike Tinker dropped by for a cup of tea and some conversation. When he left, I took a moment to wander about, doing some dead heading and taking some pictures.

The nicotiana are thriving, bringing good smells to the evening garden.

The first spots of colour are showing on the sedums. Perhaps some butterflies will appear when they are fully out.

Lilian Austin has produced some late flowers, with more ready to appear of the weather stays kind.

White hostas and campanulas are set against the reds of St John’s Wort berries and the hips of Frau Dagmar Hastrup

The very pale pink lily has got less pale and more pink.

There are salvias all over the garden and the coreopsis and Icelandic poppies are flowering cheerfully.

My new camera is not very good for catching insects unless they sit very still as it hasn’t got a zoom lens. The insects tend to fly off as I approach. Two sat still for me today.

I turned my attention to the potatoes that we had dug up yesterday. They had been lying in trays in the garage overnight and they were ready for packing away today. They all went into two bag which quite surprised me. I kept a big one out and had a baked potato for my evening meal.

Then I took my bird camera out into the garden and had a look about. The roof of our house was busy, with a pigeon, a collared dove, and two jackdaws all in residence.

The pigeon on the ground in the top right of the panel above, appeared at the feeder. It is very different from our normal pigeons as it is a homing pigeon stopping for a snack on its way home. You can see that it has a green identifying ring on its leg.

We had the usual customers at the feeder, like this siskin . . .

. . . and lots of Mrs Tootlepedal’s friends, the sparrows, too.

A less frequent visitor was a starling.

I am going for a walk with Mark and David tomorrow, so I hope that the much needed rain doesn’t arrive until Thursday at least.

The flying bird of the day is a passing swallow, high in the sky.

Digging the dirt

Today’s guest picture of a fine hydrangea in a pot in her garden comes from our neighbour Liz.

We finally got a day that was not hot and sunny here today. It was still pleasantly warm, but it was cloudy and relatively cool in the garden. It had even rained a bit over night. I took advantage of this to do some lawn mowing after breakfast.

It is remarkable, in my view, how green our garden has stayed in spite of the lack of rain. The soil in the flower beds and vegetable garden is dry as a bone, but the grass has remained quite springlike.

Sandy came down for coffee, and I must have made a good blend today because we both drank three cups as we chatted. We went for a walk round the garden before he left and then, boosted by surplus caffeine no doubt, I set about digging up our maincrop potatoes. They have done well, and I had a fair bit of work to do. Luckily, because the soil was so dry, it was not very hard to get them out of the earth.

There were some big ones among them, and when I had dug up half the crop, I took one across the road to where Mrs Tootlepedal and Margaret were having coffee with our neighbour Liz and presented it to Margaret. She was impressed.

I had a wander round the garden before I took the potato across the road. The lack of bright sun made taking flower pictures easier than of late.

Sandy was impressed by the colour of this buddleia when he saw it. The insects seem less impressed, because I haven’t seen a visitor on it yet.

The cover crop clover in the vegetable garden caught my eye . .

. . . and I was happy to see two new flowers out, a yellow crocosmia . . .

. . . and a white verbascum, one of the flowers that repays a closer look.

. . . as well a pink version of the big lilies.

The Rosaraie de L’hay has taken a deep breath and started to put out flowers again.

And there are always dahlias.

On my way back from Liz’s garden, I took a picture of one of her flowers. I don’t know what it is, but I like it.

Liz came across with us and very sportingly shinned up a ladder while we held it firmly. Once up, she poked a loose roof tile back into place. Having neighbours who like shinning up ladders is definitely a good thing. I can do it but I don’t enjoy it.

Mrs Tootlepedal helped me dig up the rest of the potatoes and get them laid out nicely to dry.

While we were in potato mode, we inspected our early potatoes which are in bags in the garage, and removed any damaged ones. We let the others lie on trays for a while to make sure that they were well aired and dry too. They are looking very sound so far, and I re-bagged them later in the day.

Mrs Tootlepedal planted out another row or two of her willow seedlings, and I inspected the mini meadow on the drying green and was very pleased to spot a silene noctifora or nightflowering catchfly . . .

. . . and a pretty mallow too.

We went in for lunch, and when we came back into the garden after our meal, we found that it had started to drizzle gently. We had to find a large plastic sheet to cover up the potatoes. The drizzle became persistent, so I went in and put a couple of weeks of the newspaper index into the Langholm Archive database. There have been so few rainy days recently that I have got rather behind in this work.

I looked out of the window and saw one of Mrs Tootlepedal’s little friends. . .

. . . with a lot more to follow . . .

. . . and this reminded me that I needed to order new supplies of sunflower hearts.

The drizzle was very light, so I walked up to the town without a jacket on, and placed an order. There was a craze for parking unused bicycles on fences and walls around the town some years ago to brighten the place up, and some are still being well looked after. I like this one in Caroline Street . . .

. . . even though I think that it is a bit of an insult to use a bicycle as a flower pot.

There were lots of starlings on the power line above our garden again today . . .

. . . and one who preferred the roof ridge.

The light drizzle persisted, just enough to be annoying but not enough to be useful, so I went back inside and stayed there until we found a dry moment, uncovered the potatoes, collected them all into trays, and put them in the garage. They were amazingly dry, but they had come out of perfectly dry earth in the morning. They should go into storage bags tomorrow.

I saw a greenfinch through the window while I was inside.

To celebrate the potato season, I made a pot of potato soup after our regular family Zoom meeting, and enjoyed a bowl of it followed by another helping of Mrs Tootlepedal’s fish pie for my evening meal. Mrs Tootlepedal took the potatoes damaged in the digging up, and cooked and mashed them, before freezing them for future use in fish pies to come.

The flying bird of the day is a pigeon which was trying to fly up into the walnut tree without me seeing it.

Settling back down

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. He wishes to point out that his local park has adopted a no-mow policy too. As this combines ecological correctness with money saving, I expect that quite a lot of other local councils will be doing this.

We had another very hot day here, but there were definite clouds by the end of the day. This should herald a change in the weather.

It was already quite warm as we cycled to church n the morning. The congregation was a little larger than usual, thanks to some visitors, and there were seven of us in the choir, so it was quite a cheerful occasion.

After church, we had time for a coffee before we got into the car and drove up to Cronksbank where the new tree nursery for the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve is being established. The new trees need regular watering . . .

. . . and while the sprinkler was working, we transplanted another 60 seedlings into a half filled bigger plug tray. I hope to go back with the volunteers twice in the coming week as there is an immense amount of work still to be done. We brought back three more trays for Mrs Tootlepedal to fill with the willow seedlings. She has filled three already so there will be a lot of willows to plant out later on.

It was very hot on the moor . . .

. . . though we did find a little shade to do our work in.

All the same, we were happy to have a rest and do nothing after lunch when we got home.

I did go down to the Co-op on my bike, and on my way back I helped to rescue a man who had fallen over. Luckily Nancy, our Archive Group treasurer, was nearby with her car and she took him home.

Then I went out into the garden to see if I could find any butterflies, but there were none to be seen. This was a bit discouraging as the garden should be full of them on a day like today at this time of year. I wonder if they have been put off by the vast number of sparrows. They are everywhere in the garden.

On the fruit cages . . .

. . . in the rowan tree . . .

. . . and even on the buddleia where the butterflies should be.

Whenever you go out into the garden, great waves of them rise up into the sky.

I took a picture of a starling which stood out among the sparrows.

I waited until the real heat of the day had passed, and then went out for an early evening cycle ride on my electric bike. A cycling friend had told me that the council had resurfaced the Solwaybank road, and I wanted to check if it was fit to ride yet.

It wouldn’t have been much fun on my road bike with its narrow tyres, but the newly gravelled surface was quite tolerable for the small fat tyres of my electric bike. They have resurfaced quite a long section of the road and it should be in good condition now for some time.

Not all the road has ben resurfaced yet though.

I took a few pictures on my way round, including the field of cropped willows which are growing at an amazing rate . . .

. . . an attentive onlooker . . .

. . . and two shots of the turbines at the wind farm, taken ten seconds apart, just to show how slowly the turbines were turning. The ones at the front had only turned about 40 degrees and the one at the back hadn’t moved at all.

In the absence of natural wind, I had to keep my legs turning as fast as I could and make my own cooling breeze. As a result, I got home in good time to enjoy an evening meal of Mrs Tootlepedal’s fish pie.

The house feels very quiet.

The flying bird of the day is one of the army of sparrows.

A fond farewell

Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Bruce. He visited the standing stones at Callanish on the Isle of Lewis, and wants us to know that the sun wasn’t shining everywhere in Britain yesterday.

The sun certainly was shining here again today, and once again, we felt it sensible to take in the outdoors in manageable portions. Before the day got really heated up, we went out into the garden where Mrs Tootlepedal and I took the haulms off the maincrop potatoes.

I managed to take a few pictures while I was out. There were very few butterflies about and the ones that were there were very unhelpful all morning.

Flowers were more open and co-operative. The poppies have lasted very well.

Japanese anemones don’t seem to mind hot sun and no water.

Little red roses still appear.

I looked into a lily.

The first tiny flowers are opening on the mint beside the compost bins.

We had a second garden outing after coffee. Starlings had descended on the lawn again while were inside. This time they were pecking the mown part. I still couldn’t get a picture which shows what they are eating.

Quite a lot of dead heading and tidying up (with shredding) went on, but as usual, there was also time to look around. The orange hawkweed is having a second lease of life, and at least there was a white butterfly on a calendula.

I really like the purple clematis on the vegetable garden fence . . .

. . . and I am happy to report that Mrs Tootlepedal’s mixed packet of small dahlia seeds, which started out all white, has now produced flowers in three colours round the chimney pot.

After lunch, in the absence of a definite group outing, Matilda and her parents went back to the river at the park, and I cycled round my familiar 20 mile Canonbie route.

Just to show that I am not completely addicted to electricity, I went on my normal road bike. It was pretty warm, and I was slightly worried that I wouldn’t be able to create enough breeze to keep me cool, especially when I was going uphill. However, the electric biking has not discouraged my legs from proper work, and I was able to keep up a reasonable speed, and never got too warm for more than a few minutes now and again.

The wind was light and it was a perfect day for a pedal.

There are still some wild flowers to brighten the verges, in spite of the verge mowers and the heat.

Farmers were doing the modern equivalent of making hay while the sun shines.

It looked like a good crop.

I was not unobserved as I pedalled along.

Once again, I didn’t stop often to take pictures, but I found a shady spot on the bridge at the Hollows to show just how the low the river has got again.

There was too little water to let the Archimedes screw at Hollows Mill work.

It may seem strange, but it wasn’t much harder to pedal round on my road bike today than it had been to go round electrically assisted yesterday. It was a lot slower though. I don’t mind that as I have plenty of time on my hands these days.

Everyone was back at home by the time that I got back, and Matilda got us all into the front room where she gave us a fine dramatic dance performance which she had created and practised over the week that she has been here. It was done to the music of Give the Wolf a Banana, the Norwegian entry in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, with Mrs Tootlepedal appropriately in the role of Grandma and her father Alistair, inappropriately but convincingly, in the role of the wolf. It was great, and a fitting end to her stay with us.

After the show, Matilda came out into the garden to take her final selection of colour co-ordinated flower pictures of the week. She too liked the purple clematis.

We had a a last meal, and then the Edinburgh party departed in what was relatively the cool of the evening. It was even cooler in Edinburgh when they got there, so their timing was excellent. Life will be less interesting here now.

In the midst of all this, I completely forget about a flying bird of the day, so a sole seated butterfly, caught in the early evening light, must do instead.

Going green

Today’s guest picture comes from Sandy. He tried growing a wild flower bed beside his house this year, and he is very pleased with the result.

We had another very hot day here, and the flowers are tending to get a bit tired . . .

. . . as are the blackbirds.

Once again we rationed how much time we spent outside in one go. A morning excursion into the garden saw Matilda shooting the shooter as he tried to catch a butterfly.

Her father Alistair took a picture of her taking a picture of me, but we have withheld it from public view as it was deemed too exciting for general publication. The butterflies were present but they were not in a very co-operative mood when it came to opening their wings. Alistair took a couple of pictures of them tucking in to the buddleia flowers. . .

. . . while I caught pair on the top of the bush.

Mrs Tootlepedal has planted quite a few new buddleias, and I like the dark colour of this one which is growing in a vegetable bed at the moment.

A second excursion after coffee saw Matilda focus on another white butterfly and the lovely berries of the rowan tree.

We marvelled at the neat holes which the starlings have drilled into the now mown lawn.

There was obviously a lot of food, whatever it was, down there.

I took another shot of the developments on the hydrangea . . .

. . . which is opening more flowers every day but taking its time to come fully out.

I checked my records to see when the plums should ripen, and found to my surprise that they came out in late August last year. Perhaps I have been too gloomy about them not ripening this year so far. Still, a lot of the plums look like this . . .

. . . and some research seems to suggest that this is the result of stress, possibly caused by too little rain. I am not getting my hopes up too much yet.

Two poppies beside the front lawn have had varying success in attracting pollinators.

I had another outing into the garden after lunch and enjoyed the clover plants in Mrs Tootlepedal’s cover crop in the vegetable garden . . .

. . . as well as seeing a pigeon putting its foot down while another flew off in disgust during a debate.

In the afternoon, Matilda took her parents down to the park to play in the river and in the new play area, while Mrs Tootlepedal finished planting out a third tray of tiny willow trees. In the hope of getting a cooling breeze, I went round my familiar 20 mile Canonbie route on my electric bike.

It was a very still day, so although I created a good breeze by pedalling hard and using plenty of assistance, it was not a cool breeze. It is not often that I wish for a stronger wind when I am cycling but this was one such occasion. However, any breeze is better than none, and I got round without getting uncomfortably hot in spite of temperatures which briefly touched 30°C (according to our local weather station).

It was far too hot to hang around taking pictures, and I only took one, just to show that I had gone out. The heather is enjoying the weather.

In the late afternoon, Matilda lay on the grass on the middle lawn in the shade of a philadelphus and listened to the tweeting of the birds. I came out to sit on the bench beside the patio rose.

Then, when Matilda went in, I rounded up a few dahlias.

The bird feeder was busy again but the bright sunlight is not very sympathetic to photography.

In the early evening we enjoyed a feast of digital communication as Matilda spoke both to her other grandparents and an aunt on WhatsApp, and then to several great aunts and a great uncle on Zoom.

We had green pasta for our tea, cooked by Alistair. He had said that it would be green pasta, and that was exactly what it was, pasta shells coated in a very vivid green sauce. He and Mrs Tootlepedal had picked spinach from the garden and he had made a spinach pesto for the sauce. Mrs Tootlepedal had made some courgette fritters to go with it, so we had a good meal again.

Al and Clare went out into the garden in the cool of the evening as the light was fading and were somewhat disturbed by sinister snuffling in the undergrowth. Once again, research was conducted, and it suggested that it was highly likely to be the sound of a hedgehog. I went out with a torch and there indeed was a hedgehog on the back garden path. The trail camera had produced this last night . . .

. . . so it was good to see one in real life too. I didn’t take a picture.

I rounded off the day by going upstairs in the course of writing this post and looking out of the window. I was looking for the Sturgeon Moon, and there it was, rising behind a neighbour’s chimney pots . . .

. . . and floating clear.

I don’t usually get my timing that right.

The flying bird of the day is a pigeon from the discussion group.

A riverside outing

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who was swanning around today.

It seems to be getting a little hotter every day at the moment, and for a brief moment this afternoon, we touched 85°F (which is just under 30°C) according to our local weather station. This led to some rationing of how much time we spent outside. Matilda came out for long enough to take a picture of the Golden Syllabub rose . . .

. . . and feeling that she probably couldn’t top that, left it as her only flower picture of the day. This meant that I had to take pictures for the six flower panel. Because of the very bright sunlight, I brought the exposure of the camera down a lot and then tinkered with the results in the photo editor.

The starlings were out pecking the lawn again after breakfast . . .

. . . and they left very neat holes in the no-mow lawn unlike the jackdaws in the spring. It is only the now mown no-mow lawn that attracts them.

Mrs Tootlepedal popped another hundred willow seedlings into a plug tray during the morning and I gave the yew bush a haircut.

Matilda and I made an excursion to the dam behind the house to see if we could see any fish. We saw lots and lots, each about the size of my finger or shorter. It is quite hard to make them out in the photo that we took, as they all have shadows on the bottom of the shallow stream to confuse you.

After lunch, we went for a walk. Our primary destination was the ice cream van on the Kilngreen. Being prudent, we were well supplied with umbrellas to provide ourselves with portable shade.

Having obtained and eaten our ice creams, we sat under the shade of our brollies while Matilda paddled in the river. I noticed black headed gulls . . .

. . . signs of the turning of the year . . .

. . . and the beautifully clear water in the river.

There is a row of small rocks across the river at one point, and as the gentle flow slipped across them, the sunshine drew beautiful patterns on the stones beneath the water.

While Matilda paddled and built stone towers, Mrs Tootlepedal kept a grandmotherly eye on her.

With our portable shade, it was very pleasant sitting beside the rippling water, and we stayed for some time before making our way back home across the Castleholm. We got to the Castleholm by crossing the Sawmill Brig, but Matilda got there by fording the river like the cornet on Common Riding day.

We all met up, and Mrs Tootlepedal and Matilda took the direct route home past the cricket club, while Alistair, Clare and I went round the new path. I append some scenes from our afternoon outing.

After an interval to recover when we got home, I went out into the garden to see if there were any butterflies about. Disappointingly, there were hardly any, and none that would pose for me. I went to sit down on a shady seat to wait for some to come, but once again, a feathered friend had got there before me.

I sat on the bench under the walnut tree and took a consolation photograph of the fine phlox instead.

No butterflies came, but a set of swallows did arrive, and perched on the power line above the garden. First two, then three. and then four . . .

. . . and then they flew away again.

Mrs Tootlepedal came out to sit in the garden for a while, and we admired the sunflowers beside the bench.

We went in to cook pizzas for our evening meal and I finally saw a posing butterfly on my way in.

By the time that the pizzas were cooked (the bread machine makes excellent pizza dough), the day had cooled down enough to make the idea of eating pizzas in the garden seem very attractive. We ate them under the shade of the walnut tree. It was perfect. As we sat there, more swallows arrived on the power line, so I went in and got my big lens out and had a look at them.

The forecast says that it is going to be even hotter tomorrow. There is no sign of any rain to come and Mrs Tootlepedal says that everything in the garden is beginning to wilt. We are spot watering some plants but we really need some proper rain soon.

The flying birds of the day are two departing swallows. It is not a good picture but it is very rare for me to get any picture of flying swallows, so I have put them in for the novelty.


Today’s guest picture is another fine dawn dog shot from sunny East Wemyss. Our son Tony gets up very early every working day.

If I had got up early, I would have found a misty morning here, but the mist had cleared and it was another sunny day by the time that I emerged. Mrs Tootlepedal brought a number of starlings on the lawn to my attention . . .

. . . and it came as no surprise to find that they were pecking away at the grass.

I don’t know what they had found to eat, but they were very neat eaters and didn’t make a mess of the lawn at all. They soon flew off and didn’t return. While I was out with my camera, I had a look around for butterflies, and when I couldn’t find any, I took a picture of the last rose on the Queen of Denmark . . .

. . . a late flowering clematis . . .

. . . and a profusion of sweet peas. I can’t keep up with picking them.

Before it got too hot, Matilda took her father and me to the play area in the Buccleuch Park. I sat on a bench and chatted with the parent of two ex pupils of mine while her grandson played on the new equipment. The parent left and we were joined by Clare. After a while, I left Matilda and her parents to enjoy themselves and retreated home for a coffee.

After coffee, Mrs Tootlepedal and I set off in the car to go up to Cronksbank on the Tarras Valley Nature Reserve to help out with the new tree nursery which they are going to establish there.

It was a glorious day to be out on the moor . . .

. . . but it was pretty hot in the sunshine as the group of volunteers transplanted over 1000 rowan seedlings into trays where they could develop before planting out. They were still working when we left after an hour and a half of gently cooking in the heat of the day.

After a late lunch, we played cards with the others in the relative cool of the kitchen, and then I had a look at the birds, just missing a flying chaffinch.

I am pleased to see a few chaffinches back on the feeder as they have been conspicuous by their absence lately.

Mrs Tootlepedal was out in the garden transplanting a large tray of willow seedlings which she had brought back from Cronksbank into individual cells. She had filled one tray by the end of the afternoon but still has a lot to do.

I looked round for butterflies with more success. A small tortoiseshell . . .

. . . had come to join the peacocks . . .

. . . but they were very fidgety, and kept closing their wings and flying off so I didn’t get any good pictures.

I did think about going for a cooling cycle ride but the volunteering earlier on had taken all my energy, so I wandered slowly round the garden instead, letting my eye be caught by birds, bees and flowers.

It was warm so I thought that I might sit for a while in a shady seat, but someone else had got there first.

Jackdaws were finding something to drink in a neighbour’s gutter.

Matilda joined me to take pictures for her six flowers panel of the day, and left me to select the best from the ones that she took. I liked these six the most.

I kept an eye out for butterflies and spotted this one.

Alistair cooked us a delicious pasta alla norma for our evening meal and we followed that with some fresh raspberries and ice cream. We are living well while our visitors are here.

The flying bird of the day is a passing jackdaw in a clear blue sky.

Shooting the breeze

Today’s guest picture is another from Irving Bell. He tells me that he often sees this fox, but never when he has a zoom lens to hand.

We had another lovely sunny day today, and though it seems to be rude to complain about it, it got almost too hot in the sun as the day went on. And of course, we could do with some rain, but perhaps not until next week when our visitors will have gone home.

In the garden today, the chief excitement was the arrival of more butterflies. There were not a great many but definitely more than we have seen so far. I went out after breakfast to look at flowers . . .

. . . and got a bonus of a peacock butterfly on an inula . . .

. . . and another one on the big buddleia.

I took a picture of the multi coloured berries on the perennial nasturtium . . .

. . . and of a large white (or possibly cabbage white) butterfly . . .

. . . before going off to join Matilda and her parents at the new play area in the Buccleuch Park. We stayed there for quite a while until it got too hot in the sunshine to be comfortable any more.

When we got home, I had another go at underwater photography. I had hoped that I would be able to put the camera in the shallow water of the dam and get my phone to set the shutter off. Although the phone spoke happily to the camera in the kitchen, it wasn’t so keen when the camera was under water, so my plan to set the camera up and wait until a little fish swam past was foiled. I took a couple of pictures anyway.

I don’t known what those curious things in the second picture are. I will have to go back and check.

As a consolation, I saw a couple more butterflies when I went back into the garden, a red admiral which soon flew off . .

. . . and a peacock which stopped long enough for a picture.

I had hoped for a picnic beside the river in the afternoon, but it was voted down on the basis of excessive heat after the morning in the park. While the rest were happy to stay in the cool of the house, I went out and created my own cooling breeze by cycling the 26 miles round the Crossdykes windfarm on my electric bike. The electric bike was important because it kept my speed up, even up hills, so I had a good breeze in my face all the way round, and never felt too hot at all.

You quickly get hot if you stop so I rationed my pictures. It was a lovely day as I cycled up the Esk valley . . .

. . . and the cows which sometimes block the road when you are cycling past the turbines . . .

. . . were sitting quietly some way away from the road today.

I like the way that the turbine towers seem to come straight out of the ground.

Half way down the valley of the Water of Milk to Paddockhole, I stopped to look back, one of my favourite views . . .

. . . and across the valley to the south.

Once I got to Paddockhole and turned for home, the wind was behind me, and between it and carefully selected electrical assistance on the uphill bits, I fairly whistled back to Langholm, averaging just under 20 miles an hour for the last five miles back down into the town.

I found a very competitive game of Ludo going on when I got in.

When the game finished, Matilda came out into the garden to take her six flowers. These are her choice today.

Readers who are paying attention will note the bee and realise that one of her flowers is a butterfly.

There were quite a few butterflies about and I turned my bird camera onto them.

Then I sat on a bench while Matilda did cartwheels on the lawn and Mrs Tootlepedal gardened. I enjoyed backlit flowers.

Our son Alistair prepared us a delicious curry for our evening meal, and as it was followed by Mrs Tootlepedal’s sticky toffee pudding from Nigella’s recipe, a good day could hardly have ended better.

The flying bird of the day is a poor effort to catch a jackdaw heading for the walnut tree.

Footnote: Matilda learned a new note on the recorder today. She looked at me as we picked up our instruments and said, “A recorder is a good thing, Grandpa, isn’t it. You don’t have to turn it on.” Wise words.