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Archive for December, 2014

Listening

Today’s guest picture was sent to me by Dropscone who went out for a bike ride this morning.  He claims that he would have been much quicker if he hadn’t had to wait for half a mile behind these sheep.

sheepDropscone also passed Mrs Tootlepedal on his ride though she was driving in the opposite direction in our car to do some shopping at Gretna.  I had had a restless night and was happy to let her go by herself.  I did manage a short walk up to the town to pay my bill at the paper shop.

This walk, although short as I say, was a landmark for me as I strolled up to the High Street without using any crutch or pole to help me and only used my walking pole very gently on the  way home.  It was great to find that I could walk freely without any aids and although I will take my walking pole with me in case I get tired, I will try to walk unaided from now on when I am out on a level surface.

The main problem in getting a new knee to work is getting it to flex properly.  Walking doesn’t need much bending and comes quite easily but cycling is a different kettle of fish and yesterday’s attempt on the exercise bike had led to a torrent of complaints from my muscles so I listened carefully to them and took things very gently today. My morning walk was the last energetic thing that I did all day and the bike to nowhere remained untouched.

I did take a quick stroll round the garden when I got home and admired Mrs Tootlepedal’s fine crop of kale.

kaleWe have eaten so well over the holiday period that Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that she is going to make kale the chief ingredient of her diet for the next month.

There are signs of spring to be seen…

bulbsspring…and the days have started to get longer by a few minutes so we are looking forward with hope.

My leisurely day gave me plenty of time to look out of the kitchen window.

chaffinchIt was rather a grey day but there were plenty of birds at the feeder…

chaffincheschaffinches…though they were almost all chaffinches.

I could take my pick of flying birds today….

chaffinch…as long as I wanted to pick a chaffinch.

chaffinchI don’t know where all the other birds had gone at all.

 A little flute practice, a visit from Dr Tinker and another week of the newspaper index filled in some of the gaps in the day but I am getting the hang of sofa surfing pretty well.  As the forecast for New Year’s Day here tomorrow is 40mph gusts and heavy rain, the sofa may well be getting more use.

In the meantime, I wish all those who take the trouble to follow these meanderings a very happy new year.

The flying bird of the day is a golden eagle chaffinch.

chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is a Harris hawk which my brother noticed while on a trip the other day.  From the trailing cord on its legs, it looks like a falconer’s bird.  I might well have been walking rapidly in the other direction rather than taking photos as it looks quite alarming to me.

harris hawkThe mist had lifted today and we were treated to a sunny morning.

The recent colder weather had brought a siskin or two into the garden.

siskinI took the opportunity to combine a visit to the High Street with a stroll round the New Town to make up my morning walk.  I got back in time to eat one of Dropscone’s excellent scones with my morning coffee as he had kindly brought some round with him.

While we ate and drank, I couldn’t help noticing some visitors outside the window and popped up from time to time to snatch a picture.

Robin

A robin, plumped up against the chill of the morning.

Blackbird

A blackbird keeping a wary eye out.

blackbird

And another checks things out.

dunnock

To complete the collection, here is a  dunnock hopping around in search of seed

Although Mrs Tootlepedal had sneaked onto the bike to nowhere while I had been out walking, she was game for further exercise and so after lunch and a quick check out of the window…..

starling

A starling paying a flying visit.

chaffinch and sparrow

A chaffinch appalled at a presumptuous sparrow

…we drove up to Callister.  Our first choice of tracks had the sound of dogs and raised voices further along it so suspecting that there might be shooters about, we went back down the hill a bit and walked off on a track in the opposite direction.  The sound of guns in the distance showed that we had made a wise decision.

It is not the most exciting track in the world….

Callister track…and you can see that we were walking in some very low cloud.  Annoyingly, the sky straight above our heads was a clear blue but our view was quite limited.

Callister trackAlthough the track is quite new, there was a surprising (to me at least) amount of growth along it.  There was healthy looking lichen growing among the gravel beside the track…

lichen…and the world’s smallest Christmas tree too.

Small Christmas treeOn the plus side, the track had a very good surface and a gentle gradient so it was perfect for my walking.  As we reached our turning point after 20 minutes walking, the sun even came out, though not strongly enough to disperse the mist entirely..

Callister trackAfter twenty minutes walking gently uphill, the trip back downhill was very welcome.

Mrs Tootlepedal was much struck by the intense colour and height of this peat bank beside the track and wondered how many hundreds or even thousand years of development it represented.

peat bank When we got back to the car, I had enough energy left to cross the road  and admire this fine lichen on the wall opposite.

lichenAs we drove home. the sun tried to shine in earnest and we stopped at the Auld Stane Brig for a look backwards.

Auld Stane BrigI had a quick go on the bike to nowhere when we got back, thinking that it might be a good time to try it when my knee was well exercised but my knee had completely different views on that so I quickly got off again.  Later on in the evening I tried again with 100 rotations of the pedals as my target.

I got on and got going but I had to stop after only 75 rotations because the sound of someone crying was putting me off.  The crying stopped when I stopped pedalling so I never did find out where it was coming from.  I will try for the 100 tomorrow.

As I managed to find a moment to put another week of the newspaper index into the database and got some useful flute practice in too, this has turned out to be a pretty good day.

A traditional flying chaffinch rounds it off.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my daughter and shows one of the dull sorts of birds that come to a feeder in the middle of a big city.

parakeetThe temperature here stayed just about zero all day and I was banned from any adventurous walking for fear of icy patches.  Mrs Tootlepedal and I did venture up to the High Street to do a little business but that just went to show how little I was missing by staying indoors.

Langholm Bridge in the mistIt stayed like this all day.

I did peer out of the window at the feeder but I was either a bit too early to get the birds in frame….

chaffinch…or a bit too late to catch them still in the air.

chaffinchIt wasn’t that the feeder wasn’t busy…

busy feeder…or that there wasn’t plenty of action about….

chaffinches…I just didn’t seem to be in the right place at the right time.

Even the birds on the ground seemed rather gloomy.

blackbirdMy knee is getting more flexible by the day and I have set the belt driven bike up on a simple turbo trainer in the garage.

the bike to nowherePutting it on almost the easiest setting, I gave the pedals 50 turns as a trial run.  It seemed to be possible so I will start on a programme of small increases and see how that goes over the next few days.   Mrs Tootlepedal, who has been stuck in the house looking after me, put the saddle right down and did a brisk 15 minute workout herself.  I hope that we will soon be going nowhere fast or at least faster.

I put the dull day to a bit of use by practising my flute, copying out some music and putting a week of the newspaper index into the database so it wasn’t all wasted.

It is getting slightly more comfortable each day to sit at my computer desk so I hope to make inroads on the newspaper index backlog over the next few days while hoping that the data miners take the holiday seriously and slack off a bit themselves. (The indefatigable Nancy brought two more weeks round this morning to add to the pile.)  We are compiling a partial index to our local newspaper and over 66,000 entries have only covered the first 40 years.  There is a lot of work still to do.

In the hope that the mist will rise sooner rather than later, I leave you with today’s flying bird, a goldfinch.

goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture shows a cycle track on an old railway leading to Melbourne.  Although my brother Andrew, who took the picture earlier this month, was in Melbourne, Australia not long ago, this Melbourne is in Leicestershire, England.

Approaching Melbourne in Leicestershire, bridges became more frequentIt was a fine sunny morning when we got up and the dogwood in the back border was ablaze with colour.

dogwoodHowever, things were not plain sailing and I received two visitors during the day.

Lorne and SueThe first visitor, seen on the left, was Bob the Yorkshire terrier who had come in the morning to warn me against walking because of the slippery conditions of the roads and pavements. This was sound advice which I took.

It was below zero and the birds looked chilly as they came to the feeder.

blue tit and robin

A blue tit and a robin

However, by the time that the second visitor, Sue, my recorder playing and choir singing friend on the right,  had arrived, the sun had done just enough work to make a walk not too risky.

Sue had come to lunch and Mrs Tootlepedal provided home made soup, fresh bread and cheese and one of her delicious caramel custards for the occasion.   After such a feast, a walk was a necessity so we wrapped up well and ventured out.

The feeder was a much more sunny place by now…

flying chaffinches…and where the sun had shone, the road surfaces were reassuringly ice free.  After a careful plod up the sheltered and still slippery road outside the house, we hit dry tarmac and strode out merrily towards the Auld Stane Brig.

There was plenty to look at as we went along.

gate frost

This may look like the icing on the cake but is just frost on a gate.

moss with frost

Where the sun had shone, the frost had melted.

crystals

Where the sun hadn’t shone, there was a crystal forest.

The sharp eyed Mrs Tootlepedal noticed an odd phenomenon, high in the branches of a tree beside the road.

frost beardI had seen this before on a walk with Sandy and knew that it was ‘frost beard’ or ‘hair ice’ and that the weather we had today was perfect for its formation,  By co-incidence, a neighbour who was also on a walk came up to ask if we knew what it was.  He said that he had passed a lot of examples of it along Gaskel’s Walk.  We were just at the start of the walk, so we strolled along the track to see what we could see.

There were some very elegant frosty leaves, both dead….

dead leaves…and alive…

frosty leaves…and sure enough, there were many examples of beard frost or hair ice too. It generally occurs on dead branches and Sue picked one up for me to photograph.

hair frostIt is amazing stuff, soft and delicate to the touch.  It is formed when moisture is forced out of the host branch and freezes.  More moisture coming from behind forces the frozen hairs to elongate.  It is usually found on dead branches on the ground which was why it was very odd to have seen it first high up on a branch in a tree.

hair iceI can only assume that the branch is dead even if it is still attached to the trunk.

We didn’t go far along the path as we thought it might be too challenging and icy for my safety so we turned and walked home along the road.

This was my longest walk so far and a cup of tea and one of Sue’s home made brownies was very welcome when we got back.

It was very nice to see Sue, with whom we have compost and cycling interests in common as well as singing and playing and we were sad when she left to go home.

Once again, with the light gone and the temperature dropping, we were happy to succumb to the lure of the arm chair and the telly though Mrs Tootlepedal did improve the shining hour with a good deal of embroidery and I found the energy to put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database.

As it was a clear night, we popped out to see if we could spot the ISS but it was too low for us and was hidden behind our hills so once again, I had to make do with the moon.

moonA chaffinch in the sun is the flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

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Knees up

Today’s guest picture comes from Bruce, who is on holiday on the isle of Arran, and shows an inventive use for an old bed head.

arran bedsteadThe temperature kept above 2°C and the pavements and paths were ice free so I managed a couple of walks today which were a bonus.

The day started with a bright and early visit from Dropscone, bringing scones round to go with a cup of coffee.  It wasn’t that bright and early from his point of view perhaps but it did require a rapid sweeping of the breakfast plates from the table and a quick change into our day clothes for us.  Still, a scone (and Dropscone) is always welcome and augmented with a little blackcurrant jelly, it went down well.

After Dropscone left, I got organised and walked up to the town to visit the Post Office.  Once again, there was early morning mist in the valley….

mist over Langholm…but it was rising quickly and it was a very pleasant winter’s day.  I walked back along the High Street and over the Town Bridge to work up an appetite for lunch. As my route only covered three quarters of a mile, the number of calories used would hardly make room for half a slice of plain bread but it’s the thought that counts in these calculations and not the calories.

As well as Dropscone, we were also visited by a jackdaw during the morning….

Jackdaw…but our bird feeder doesn’t get much sun so I took a perching picture….

chaffinches…before putting the camera away.

After lunch, since the sun was still shining, Mrs Tootlepedal packed me into the car and drove up to Henwell.  By the time we got out to have a little walk, the sky had clouded over and the sunshine was now either behind us….

sunshine on Warbla…or ahead of us….

Ewes hills…but not on us.

We walked on towards the top of the col, looking for interesting things….

Mrs tootlepedal…like this curly wire acting as an electrified gate….

electric gate…and enjoying an occasional glimpse of a ray of sunshine.

ray of sunshineWe reached the cattle grid, which along with this fine boundary wall,….

wall at Sorbie hass…marks the boundary between the Esk and Ewes valleys and admired the view into Ewes….

Sorbie Hass…but went no farther.  This was partly a matter of distance and partly due to the piercingly chilly north wind that hit us as we came out of the shelter of the hills.

The walk back to the car brought our distance to just over a mile which was quite far enough for me today.   As I got back into the car, I looked back at some deceptively blue skies…

Henwell…and Mrs Tootlepedal turned on the windscreen wipers as a shower of rain blew over us from the other direction.

The days are still very short so once home, we tucked ourselves into comfortable chairs and passed the rest of the afternoon and evening in unsullied domesticity, getting up from time to time to brew tea and make a light evening meal.

I did find one flying chaffinch in the morning.

flying chaffinch

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Boxing clever

Today’s guest pictures come from my elder sisters’ Christmas visit to my younger brother.  As you can see, like all old people today, they are obsessed with technology and traditional games like charades have flown out of the window.

Christmas with AndrewAfter yesterday’s glut of eating and walking, Mrs Tootlepedal and I took things more easily today and settled for light meals and a single walk.  I didn’t do much looking out of the window either because it was really a day for perching birds only.

chaffinchAs it was so gloomy in the town, we drove up onto the moor after our cup of coffee.  Looking back, you could see why it had been so glum.

Langholm in the mistLooking north, each little valley had it own portion of mist.

Ewes in mistWe continued on over the ridge and down into the Tarras Valley where we parked and embarked on a short walk.  There was no wind at all in the shelter of the hills and it was very pleasant to walk along the Tarras, listening to the music it makes as it tumbles over countless little rapids.

TarrasTarrasThe road leaves the river bank for a while….

Tarras road…and we could look back down at the river….

Tarras…and ahead at one of my favourite places.

House at TarrasIt’s a bit bleak in the winter but a little paradise on a sunny day in summer.

On the hillside behind the house there is a network of walls which must have been for collecting and sorting sheep.

wallsWhen we reached the top of the hill, we turned and walked back to the car.  I admired the abundant lichen on the wall at the car park…

lichen…and was bowled over by this lone tree beside the road in the middle of nowhere on our way home.

TreeWho says that grouse don’t have a sense of humour?

Our walk was brilliantly timed because it started to drizzle as we passed the Christmas tree and it was raining hard by the time we got home.

Some cold cuts and a very superior version of bubble and squeak made for an excellent lunch and once again we reflected that one of the joys of a good Christmas dinner is the number of tasty meals it provides (with a little imagination) over the subsequent few days.

Then we settled down for some serious relaxation for the rest of the day.   Mrs Tootlepedal has got stuck into some new stumpwork embroidery techniques so that kept her happy and I need no excuse for idling so I was happy too.

We are promised several days of sub or near zero temperatures so walking may not be the simple proposition that it should be for me.  If it does get really cold, I am hoping that my knee will bend enough to allow me to get on the exercise bike, at least for a few minutes at a time.  Fingers crossed.

I managed to catch a single flying chaffinch in the morning mistiness.

flying chaffinch.

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by Bruce, who found a nice to day celebrate Christmas on the Isle of Arran.

arranBecause of the uncertainty surrounding my knee operation, Mrs Tootlepedal and I had made no arrangements to entertain or to be entertained at Christmas this year and so we spent a very peaceful day in our own company.

In the morning, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing in church and I took a short walk to work up an appetite for the feast which she was preparing for our lunch.

My knee was in a co-operative mood so I stretched my maximum distance by another three tenths of a mile and walked out to the Auld Stane Brig on the Wauchope road.

As this involved, like the Grand Old Duke of York, walking up a hill and then walking back down it again, I was interested to see how the knee held up.  It held up well.

Wauchope roadIt was a sunny day and with the temperature at 4 degrees C, walking was a pleasure.

Meikleholm HillI would have liked to be in the sunshine on the top of the hill rather than in the shadows in the valley but that will have to wait.  The Auld Stane Brig itself was in the sunshine…

Auld Stane brig…and I was pleased to find that my favourite fencepost there was still rich in lichen…

lichen…as was the stonework of the bridge.

lichenI have photographed the lichen here often but I make no excuse for doing it again today as I was so pleased to have got there under my own steam.  I got back too.

WhitaYou can see how low the sun is in the sky at this time of year.

Our Christmas lunch, turkey with all the trimmings, was excellent but it did mean that Mrs Tootlepedal and I had to go out for a walk afterwards to shoogle it down a little.

We set off on the opposite direction from my morning walk….

The morning walk on the left and the afternoon walk on the right.

The morning walk on the left and the afternoon walk on the right.

…and walked past the Kilngreen and round the bottom of the Castleholm, crossing the Town Bridge, the Sawmill Bridge and the Jubilee Bridge on our route.

The light was fading as we went so I only had time for one picture.

The esk

Looking up the Esk from the Kilngreen

We stopped just before we got home and were treated to shortbread, tea and sherry, according to taste, by Alison and Mike Tinker.  It was very cosy sitting in front of their log burning stove but the need to put a packet of frozen peas on my knee shifted us from our chairs and we completed our circuit.

This was easily my best walking day so far, with a distance of just under three miles between the two walks, and this was the best Christmas present that I could have had.

Although there was a sunny morning, the amount of cooking going on meant that there weren’t many opportunities to look out of the window.

Blackbird

A blackbird grateful that no one had baked it in a pie.

chaffinch

The sunshine didn’t reach the feeder until I had put the camera away.

Between the walking and the eating, I shall hope to sleep well tonight.

We saw a young man trying out a drone with many coloured lights on it at the Kilngreen as we went past….

drone…and I did think of making it flying bird of the day but as I don’t think these things are to be encouraged (and I didn’t have the right camera with me anyway), I have stuck to the traditional flying chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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