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Anther grey day

Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone who has temporarily abandoned  golf and gone on holiday with his family to Islay where he saw this cross.

Islay cross

It was a grey and windy day today and whenever I thought about doing something  interesting,  it tended to start to rain.  But then it would stop.  And then it would start again so I spent a lot of time thinking about doing things but very little time actually doing them.

I got up late and then a leisurely breakfast merged into coffee .  When Mrs Tootlepedal went off to meet a friend for lunch in Hawick, I watched the birds.

They were very active in the brisk wind.

I have picked three flying chaffinches…

flying chaffinch 1flying chaffinch 2flying chaffinch 3

…and three flying goldfinches…

flying goldfinch 1flying goldfinch 2flying goldfinch 3

..of all ages.

I made some potato soup (with added courgette) for my lunch and then, when the rain had stopped for long enough for things to dry up a little, I mowed the middle and front lawns.

lawn and phlox

I try to mow in a different direction every time I go over the grass.

There are two little golden patches beside the path in the picture above and they are box balls which grew too big.  Mrs Tootlepedal cut them back severely and we are pleased to see that they are growing back strongly and we will soon be able to trim them into spheres again

When I had finished the mowing, I trimmed one of the remaining big box balls.  This one is  beside the pond.

clipped box

It shows that the golden colour is only skin deep.  It will be cut back too in the not too distant future.

I did some dead heading, a never ending task, and took a picture or two.  The rain has taken its toll on the flowers and many of them are looking a bit battered but this poppy was well sheltered by bigger plants.

poppy

As were these cornflowers.

cornflowers

The dahlias can cope with quite a lot.

dahlia group

And the potentillas on the dam side are very hardy too.

damside potemtillas

It was good to see a steady flow of water going under our new bridge.

The zinnias haven’t enjoyed the rain very much and several have broken but this one is still standing proud.

zinnia

Mrs Tootlepedal returned, having had a good lunch and done some useful food shopping and we sat down to a cup of tea just in time to welcome Mike Tinker to join us.  He had had an on and off rainy walk in the morning so I was pleased that I hadn’t gone out on my bike.

Heavy winds may keep me off it for a few days more as the forecast is pretty miserable as far as the wind goes.

While Mrs Tootlepedal converted her food shopping into a delicious evening meal, I put another week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database.

The grey day gave me a lot of time to read the newspapers and listen to the radio so I am now very well informed on the goings on in the world.  This is probably not a good thing.

I should have stuck to bird watching.

The flying bird of the day has landed and is looking pretty pleased about that.

flying goldfinch 4

 

Retail therapy

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew’s visit to Shugborough Hall and shows the modest dwelling itself.

Shugborough Hall

The forecast was gloomy again and the day was pretty gloomy but not quite as gloomy as the forecast.

I checked out how the trimmed hydrangea looked after my efforts last night…

hydrangea

…and reckoned that the haircut was neat enough.

The day was cheered up by the arrival of Sandy for coffee.  He has been having great fun fitting out his new shed with storage and tool racks and all those things which really make a shed a shed.

While we drank our coffee, a blend of Kenyan and Ethiopian, I noticed a blue tit visiting the last of the fat balls on the feeder.

blue tit

The blue tits look rather green at this time of year.

I took a tour round the garden with Sandy before he left and then did a tour of my own dead heading a considerable number of flowers.  Mrs Tootlepedal had already been out dead heading but there is always more to do.

Then I pointed the camera at flowers.

The dahlia of the day…

yellow dahlia

…a pale poppy…

pale poppy

…and some very bright and poisonous Lords and Ladies (arum maculatum).

lord and ladies

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help out at the Buccleuch Centre cafe over lunchtime and I set up the camera at the kitchen window.

Business both at the Buccleuch Centre and our feeder was brisk.

I started by seeing sparrows…

sparrows 4

…sometimes quite caring and sharing…

sparrows 2

…sometimes a little bit threatening…

sparrows

…and sometimes not very welcoming at all.

sparrows 3

Within minutes, the sparrows had turned into greenfinches…

greenfinches

…who were just as competitive as the sparrows.

greenfinches 2

A couple of chaffinches crept onto the bottom perches…

greenfinches and chaffinches

…and had to put on their hardest stare to keep the greenfinches away.

greenfinches and chaffinches 2

After 6 minutes of bird watching, I had taken 45 pictures so I hurriedly put the camera away again and went out to pick a lettuce and have my lunch, a lettuce and tomato and a lettuce and marmite sandwich.

I did think about a bike ride but it was grey and windy and every now and again some light drizzle floated down from above so I put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database until Mrs Tootlepedal came back from the Buccleuch Centre.

It didn’t look as though it was going to get any brighter so we got into the car and went off to Carlisle to do a little shopping.

I bought some new photo frames and then we topped up on dates, cheese, coffee and other necessities of life before rolling home.  It was one of those annoying days when the weather in Carlisle, a mere twenty miles south of us, was much better than in Langholm.  It is the price we play for living in beautiful hilly country.

I had a last look round the garden, picking out a strongly coloured sweet pea today…

sweet pea red

…and then went in and shut the grey day out.

I have updated my photo editor and I now have a lot of new things to learn so perhaps a few wet, cloudy and windy days won’t come amiss while I grapple with the mysteries of ‘Cloud Computing’ indoors.

The flying bird of the day is one of the greenfinches.

greenfinch flying

 

 

 

 

Today’s guest picture, taken by Dropscone while he was refereeing a golf tournament at Bruntsfield Golf Club last week, shows the trough where the carriages from the big house used to get washed.

coach washing pit

The forecast was unreliable and planning was difficult.  It had said that it was going to rain all day and since we had heard the rain pattering down as we went to bed last night, we feared the worst.

When we woke up though, the rain had stopped but the forecast now said that it was 90% certain to rain heavily at nine o’clock for an hour.

I was getting ready to spend the morning indoors but a quick look at the actual weather rather than the forecast made it plain that it wasn’t raining and didn’t look likely to rain for some time.  I put my cycling gear on and took a walk round the garden before setting off.

The poppies are rather scarce but good looking when they do appear.

red poppy with stamens

This one planted itself and is hidden behind the new bench

poppy behind bench

And this Icelandic poppy came with added insect.

hoverfly on icelandic poppy

It turned out to be an excellent morning for cycling with the temperature in the high teens and very light winds.  As a result, I was able to go round my customary Canonbie circuit in the quickest time of the year without having to try too hard.

I noted the fine heather beside the road at the Kerr Wood.

Kerr heather

And there were quite a lot of these about on that section of the ride too.

white wild flowers

I stopped for a quick breather at Irvine House and looked around.

irvine house wild plants

The view back towards the new road looked quite autumnal as the sky was cloudy but I was still more than happy to be cycling in my summer shorts.

Irvine house view

When I got home, the weather was still holding so I did a bit of dead heading and had another look at the flowers.

The Japanese anemones are starting to flower.

Japanese anemone

Mrs Tootlepedal cleared a lot of them off in the winter but she has left a few and more photographs of them will undoubtedly appear as I like them a lot, even if they do spread themselves around uninvited.

More poppies caught my eye.  This was the pick of them.

red poppy

And here is the dahlia of the day.

dahlia

I was trying to take a picture of this dahlia and bee but a little hoverfly got in the way.

fly and bee on dahlia

The most notable feature in the garden was a large flock of sparrows.  They were everywhere, much to Mrs Tootlepedal’s disgust as they eat her vegetables. I think that I can count thirteen of them here in the silver pear tree but there may be more.

sparrows in pear tree

There may have been a lot of sparrows around but once again there were very few coloured butterflies about.

butterflies

Whites are ten a penny.

I did see the first Red Admiral of the year in the garden but it got away before I could digitally immortalise it.

Mrs Tootlepedal made scrambled eggs with new potatoes for lunch and then we scrambled to get the washing in just before a sharp rain shower came on.

I am letting the scientific rain gauge (©MaryJofromManitoba) accumulate at the moment and it was showing 3cm or over an inch by the end of the day.

The rain stopped and I filled the feeder and put out some fat balls and stood back to watch.

The feeder was soon busy.

busy feeder sparrow

And the sparrows went for the fat balls in numbers…

sparrows on fat balls

…leading to some sparrow sparring…

sparring sparrows

…but the arrival of a group of jackdaws soon scattered the sparrows.

jackdaw closeup

The jackdaws very nearly polished off all the fat balls by the end of the day.

In the midst of all this activity, a very calm lone goldfinch arrived for a snack.

goldfinch

I put the bird watching camera away and as this seemed like a good time to be indoors in case the heavy showers returned, I put another week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database.

The heavy showers did not return but my flute pupil Luke came in the early evening and we battled away at the art of counting and playing at the same time.

We are trying to master the art of not making mistakes in music that we know and should be able to play easily.  I am very aware that I always made mistakes when playing under pressure until I read the book, “The Inner Game of Golf” to try to help my wayward golf game.  It helped my golf quite a bit but it helped my music playing quite a lot more.  This was an unexpected bonus.

After Luke went, I got out a ladder and trimmed the climbing hydrangea which grows on the wall of the house.  It has a tendency to climb under the guttering and onto the roof if not checked each year.

The flying bird of the day might well have been a sparrow as I caught several in action this afternoon but I thought that I might go for a refreshing change.

Behold, the flying fly of the day.

fly hovering

 

 

 

Action and pictures

Today’s guest picture is another from a splendid set that my brother sent me after his visit to Shugborough Hall near Stafford a week ago.

shugborough bridge

We awoke to find it was still raining after a night of rain and a check on the scientific rain gauge showed two centimetres had fallen.  This is a fair amount of rain for us and it is an indication of how dry things have been that the garden wasn’t awash with puddles.

It was too wet for gardening though so when Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing in the church choir, I made a beef stew for the slow cooker and then watched the birds for a while.

A rather anxious looking sparrow appeared first.

worried sparrow

It was probably right to be anxious as there was quite a lot of demand for a seat at the table.

chaffinch incoming

incoming sparrow

flying chaffinch

I was pleased to see a blue tit among the sparrows and chaffinches. The sunflower seeds are too big for a blue tit to chew whole so they usually take one off and trap it under their feet on a handy tree nearby while they peck at them….but sometimes they just drop them.

bluetit dropping seed

The rain soon eased off but it was still pretty wet and when I put the camera away, I stayed inside and put another week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database.

This took me up to lunchtime and after lunch, I nearly succumbed to the temptation of watching more of the European Championships on the telly but I managed to pull myself together in the nick of time and put on my cycling gear.

I was punished for saying there weren’t many insects about by being bitten by a horsefly when I had stopped for a breather on my bike ride but there are still not many of them in the garden.

I took this one by accident when I was shooting the dahlia of the day while wasting time before cycling…

dahlia

..and zoomed in for a closer look.

hoverfly

There are still geraniums about although they haven’t been at their best this year.

geranium

A close look at a rose mallow revealed a very fluffy interior.

rose mallow

The second flowering of the orange hawkweed goes from strength to strength.

orange hawkweed august

In the end, I stopped looking at flowers in my cycling gear and actually got on my bike.

It was an odd sort of day.  It looked very autumnal, gloomy and  grey and overcast but it felt rather summery with the temperature at a very pleasant 20°C so I  went off wearing shorts but with a rain jacket packed just in case.

After the overnight rain, I checked on the little cascade near Wauchope Schoolhouse and was not surprised to find quite a bit of water splashing over the rocks.

Wauchope cascade

There were a lot of wild flowers growing near the river, some familiar…

wauchope wild flowers

…and one which was quite new to me.  I have no idea what it is.

white wild flower

When I stopped after ten miles to admire the view…gair road

…and have a drink and a nibble of guava jelly, I found that my lost water bottle was back on my bike again.

two water bottles

I had had a reasonable idea of where I had lost it on my previous ride and wondered whether it would be visible today.  It was just resting quietly in the grassy verge on top of Callister.  I took it home with me and though it will have to go in the bin, at least I haven’t left litter beside the road.

There is a stretch of this striking grass beside the road near Springkell and considering how full the seed heads are, I am surprised that I don’t see more of it about.

seedy grass

I saw a bright yellow flower in the verge at one point and wondered what it was.  A closer look makes me think that it is a bird’s foot trefoil but it has come rather late in the season if that is what it is.

trefoil

The weather gods played an amusing game with me over the last ten miles of the trip.  They sent down enough light rain to make me think about stopping and putting my rain jacket on and then, just as I was about to stop, the rain stopped.  And then, of course, a mile or so later, it started again.  This went on for some time and they only got fed up when it became apparent that I wasn’t going to stop even if it rained quite hard  (which it did for a few minutes) and they went off to annoy someone else.

I managed 35 miles at a modest pace and got home in time to have a walk round the garden before tea.

There were pale pink sweet peas to be seen today.

pink sweet peas

I picked a plum from the plum tree (a good place to look for a plum)…

first plum

…and went inside for a shower.  The plum will need to ripen for a day before it is ready to eat.

With more rain forecast for every day next week, I am glad to have got some miles in this weekend.  I still have plenty of archiving work to do so perhaps it will be a case of every cloud having a silver lining, a statement with which I do not agree in general.

I was spoiled for choice as far as flying birds went but the poor light didn’t let me get a very good picture.

flying sparrow

 

 

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She took it a week ago at the height of the hot weather in London and it shows a fine crop of green algae on the canal.

Canal basin, King's Place

The mornings are getting chillier now and I had to wait for a bit until the thermometer hit 10°C, which I thought was warm enough to start cycling.

It was an excellent day for a pedal with sunshine and clouds giving a perfect temperature and with a only a light wind which wasn’t a nuisance at all.

It might have been a day for a long ride if I hadn’t had something to do in the early afternoon.   With that in mind, I stuck to the main roads and cycled down to my favourite bench in Newtown and back again.   I was going to go on a more interesting route but I found that the Cumbria Highway Authority had just spent a lot of money resurfacing some of the bumpiest bits of the road south of Longtown so I thought that it would be rude not to go and try the new surfaces out.

They were very smooth and any cyclists will know just what a treat it is to cycle on a really smooth surface.

I was concentrating really hard on pedalling and forgot to take any pictures until I reached the thirty mile mark on my way home.  This is the broad sweep of the Esk…

River Esk at Longtown

…but the real reason that I stopped was to take a picture of this fine bunch of machines in a lay-by.

road menders vehicles

They are going to smooth out another bumpy section of the main road next week, this time to the north of Longtown.

With light traffic and winds and lots of good surfaces, I was able to average over 15 mph for my 40 miles, a very rare thing these days.  My new bike, although admirable in every way, is a little heavier than my old bike and thus a little slower.  I have done 1500 miles on it now and have no complaints about the extra weight as this comes with increased stability and comfort, important elements for the older cyclist.

I had time for a very quick look round the garden….

dahlias growing well

The dahlias are enjoying the weather a lot.

white sweet peas

Paper white sweet peas.

Mrs Tootlepedal occasionally buys gardening magazines and sometimes they have free packets of seed taped to the cover.  She has done very well out of two of these lately as the lilies were free…

big white lilies

…and so were the zinnias.

zinnia

After a quick lunch and a shower, I was ready for the next item on the calendar, an organ recital in the Parish Church in aid of the organ restoration fund.

As we got to the church, I looked back and saw the Kirk Brig looking decidedly overgrown.

kirk brig

The Wauchope Water is down there somewhere.

Once inside the church, I admired the bright colours in the stained glass windows…

Kirk window

…in front of which a former congregation in their wisdom erected a large sounding board above the pulpit.  This ruins the view of the window from the body of the church and I am told that there are plans to remove it but to place it elsewhere in the church as many parishioners like its ornamental carving a lot.  The minister is ‘miked up’ these days so the need for a sounding board has gone anyway.

The organ recital, given by Dr John Kitchen, a very competent organist from Edinburgh,  was excellent.  He had a delightful touch and was able to make the organ sound very musical to my ears, not something that every organist can manage.

Dr Kitchen is the official Edinburgh City Organist and gives many recitals in the Usher Hall there so he had no difficulty in preparing a varied and interesting programme for us.

It was a still a fine day when we got home and Mrs Tootlepedal sat on the new bench with a fellow soprano from the church choir who had been at the recital  and considered the joys of gardening.

sopranos

They couldn’t help noticing a pair of butterflies making sure that there would more butterflies available in times to come.

white butterflies mating

I had a look on the buddleia….

another peacock butterfly

…but there was a disappointing turn out of coloured butterflies with just a couple of peacocks, with no small tortoiseshell, painted ladies or red admirals to be seen.  It is looking as though it is going to be a very poor year for coloured butterflies after all.

And although there are quite a few bees about…

lamium

…other insects are in very short supply with many less hoverflies about than I would expect and no clouds of small flying insects in the sunny evenings.

I thought that I ought to take a bit of action after a slow day yesterday so I mowed and edged the middle lawn, then did the same to the front lawn and while I was in the mood, I trimmed a couple of the box balls on the edge of the front lawn as well.

After a short sit down, I went out and mowed the greenhouse grass and the drying green.

I paused long enough to admire the clematis on the fence…

fence clematis

…and then went inside to enjoy a delicious meal made by Mrs Tootlepedal.

Luckily, there was a great deal of interesting athletics on the television in the evening so I refrained from any more activity.

There was no opportunity amid all this fun to set up the camera to watch the birds so the flying bird of the day is a close look at the Ooh La La clematis.

clematis centre

 

 

Unusually, I have two guest pictures of the day from our son Tony.  The first shows that he got up at sunrise to walk his dogs…

wemyss dogs

…and the second shows what he saw.

wemyss seal

His new house gets our seal of approval.

Dropscone is away refereeing another golf tournament so there were no treacle scones today but there was ample consolation in the appearance of Sandy who came for coffee and biscuits.

I had a cycle ride in mind for sometime during the day after Sandy left but the weather was very unsettled with a combination of sunshine and rain, including one very sharp shower that came with added thunder and hailstones.

lawn with hail

I did go out in the sunny spells to see if butterflies had arrived but there were none so I took a picture of a Michaelmas daisy…

michaelmas daisy

…had a look at the vegetables..

onion, bean and courgette

…checked out the bees…

bees

…and went back in.

I spent a moment or two watching the birds.  A sunflower is growing uninvited behind the bird feeder and a chaffinch perched on one of its ample leaves to check out the seeds.

chaffinch on sunflower

Amongst the regular visitors, a very white bird appeared.  It was tricky to see what it was but I think it is  sparrow.

white sparrow

Mrs Tootlepedal was out on business in the morning and when she returned, a passing neighbour commented on the number of walnuts in the tree…

walnuts in tree

They are looking very impressive and we are hoping that they will ripen into a usable crop.

If I had been keen and watchful, I would have found a good enough spell of weather during the day to get out on the bike but I was not keen and instead of watching the weather, I spent time watching the European Games on the telly.

I was just going upstairs to admire a layout for a patchwork blind which Mrs Tootlepedal is making when the doorbell rang so I went back down and found my South African correspondent, Tom Elliot on the doorstep.

It was a pleasure to see him and we had a good chat.  I had to go up and fetch the car from the garage where it had been having a service and he was still chatting to Mrs Tootlepedal when I got back so we had a walk round the garden and he tested the new bench…

Tommy elliot

…and pronounced it fit for purpose.

He is a keen cyclist and is in training for a very hilly mountain bike marathon back home in South Africa.

When he left, I felt that I ought to make some good use of a day that had become very sunny again so I went for a short walk.

In spite of the heavy showers and quite a bit of recent rain, it is still basically quite dry and the river is low.

River Esk in august

I walked up one of Langholm’s narrowest streets…

George Street

…and came to the Kilngreen where there were a good number of black headed gulls about, some very active…

black headed gull flapping

…and some quite passive.

black headed gull on grass

Then I crossed the Sawmill Brig and headed up the Lodge Walks…

lodge walks

…hoping that the sunshine would last for long enough for me to get home dry.

I was keeping an eye out for fungus….

fungus august

…and signs of the season.

beech nutbrambletree fruitsCastleholm acornsbrown twig

Some black clouds loomed up so I didn’t dilly dally but had enough time to see some brighter colour once I got back into the town.

rowan, dahlia and honeysuckle

Rowan berries at the manse, astounding dahlias in Walter Street and honeysuckle in our hedge

I looked into our garden from the road and enjoyed Mrs Tootlepedal’s ranks of yellow crocosmia which surround the front lawn.

yellow crocosmia

There was more rain to follow the sunshine before it brightened up again just in time for Mike and Alison to arrive for their regular Friday evening visit.

Both Alison and I have been practising a bit so it came as no surprise when our playing was a bit more ragged than usual.  We were worn out before we started!  Still, playing duets is always a pleasure so we were not downhearted.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

Today’s guest picture comes from Bruce’s holiday on Arran.  He saw not only good views but some mighty fine rose hips.

arran rosehips

A brief report today as we have had another long day in Edinburgh.  This time we were visiting Matilda and her parents and we caught an early train and walked up Cockburn Street from the station…

cockburn street

…where we found a quiet pub and had lunch.

It was my intention to go up to the High Street after lunch and observe some of the fun and games there in connection with Edinburgh Festival Fringe.  The city fathers close the High Street to traffic and all sort of street performances take place.

Unfortunately, several thousand other people had had the same idea and it was so crowded that we soon gave up and walked quietly down the high Street into the Canongate.

We couldn’t help noticing that unique taste of Scotland that the visitors come to Edinburgh to enjoy as we went along.

high street cafes

We peeped into the White Horse Close which does give a taste of Old Edinburgh.

White horse close

When we got to the Scottish Parliament at the foot of the Royal Mile, I glanced up at Arthur’s Seat…

arthurs seat

…and thought that it looked a bit like our bird feeder on a busy day.  I just hoped that there wasn’t any siskin-like pushing and shoving on the top as it is very steep.

We passed the old Calton Graveyard…

Old calton graveyard

…and soon found ourselves at Matilda’s.

We briefly met her other grandparents before they went off to a show and then while her parents talked house buying business with an adviser, we took Matilda on the bus to Portobello beach…

portobello beach

…Edinburgh’s riviera.

Matilda was very excited to see a swan swimming in the sea…

swan at portobello

…and as always, I enjoyed the characteristic shape of North Berwick Law further down the coast.

north berwick law

We could look across the Forth to the Fife shore and imagine that we could see our older son’s house there.  We stood there last week and looked back to where we were now.

fife

It wasn’t particularly warm but people were having fun in a subdued sort of way…

portobello beach 2

…and I rolled up my trouser legs and ventured into the water for a paddle with Matilda.  I could swear that it was colder in the sea today than when we were paddling at North Berwick in May but that must just have been my imagination.

Some gulls looked on…

gull family portobello

…and a brave paddle boarder kept his feet well out of the water as he passed along the beach.

paddle boarder

Mrs Tootlepedal and Matilda put a lot of effort into building a sand car and Matilda jumped in and announced that she was going to drive to America to see Mr Trump.

Ally and Matilda at portobello

We stopped her just in time.

Mrs Tootlepedal saw a lady bird on a piece of wood and Matilda was very happy when it crawled onto her arm and wandered about.

ladybird portobello

The sun stayed behind some clouds so we adjourned to a beach side cafe and had cakes and ice cream and then caught the bus home.

Once there we offered a helping hand to Matilda’s parents.  Mrs Tootlepedal did some indoor tidying as they are preparing to sell their house and it needs to be got ready for viewing and I did some lawn care with the same thought in mind.

Then we had pizza for tea and caught the train home.

There was no time for a flying bird of flower of the day today.