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Archive for October, 2015

Today’s guest picture shows a view of London from the top of Primrose Hill.  My sister Mary was following the Primrose path earlier in the week.

View from top of Primrose HillAs seems to have been the case for quite a long time now, we started the day by staring out of the window at grey skies and falling rain.

Once again, it was quite warm for the time of year and quite calm but the persistently soggy gloom didn’t make the idea of going outside very attractive.  Wanting to get some use out of the day, I got out my Dan Lepard cook book and set about making some of his teacakes.  My daughter had pointed out the recipe to me and she has left some helpful tips in the margin of the book.

His method for making bread dough is very easy on the wrists as it demands only gentle kneading but it takes some time because you have to let the dough rest for fifteen minutes between each gentle kneading session.  As a result, you  get very good dough but it takes quite a long time to get it prepared.  This was very satisfactory as I had plenty of time on my hands and the results later in the day, repaid the time taken.

tea cakesWe have been experimenting with the cooking time and oven temperature because if you follow the recipe’s suggestions using our oven, you end up with burnt concrete blocks.  Reducing the temperature and the time worked well today and Mrs Tootlepedal declared that they were the best I have made.  I agreed.

After the teacakes came out of the oven, we thought that we ought to go for a walk to shoogle down a little room for them and since it had stopped raining, we resolved to do the circuit of the Duchess, Sawmill and Town bridges.

Although it was pretty gloomy with the clouds sitting well down on the hills, the warm, still conditions made walking a pleasure.

Duchess Bridge

The misty view from the Duchess Bridge

Even in the murk, there were bursts of colour to be seen on the Castleholm…

Castleholm…and although there were plenty of fallen leaves on the paths….

fallen leaves…there were plenty still on the trees and bushes.

leaves

leavesMrs Tootlepedal complained that the rain had deprived her of the pleasure of kicking up the leaves as she walked through them.

At the Clinthead gardens, two trees were bursting with berries.

clinthead berries

Some sort of fancy rowan tree and a cotoneaster

I didn’t have my big camera with me so although we saw both Mr Grumpy and a dipper singing its head off, the best I could do was this.

heron and dipperI took a view down the Esk from the Town Bridge….

Esk…and noted the heaps of leaves on the ground under the trees.  It was so mild that it was hard to remember that November starts tomorrow and that our lovely autumn colour must come to an end soon.

Suspension Bridge

Perhaps though it will last until Tuesday when a little sunshine is forecast. There is no sign of any frost to come.

It was interesting to have a walk in the town and not to be able to see anything at all of the hills that surround us.

When we got home, we set about the teacakes with such appetite that by the evening there were only four of the original fourteen left and this saved us the trouble and expense of cooking an evening meal.  Not the healthiest diet perhaps but a treat all the same.

In between kneading the bread in the morning, I had looked out of the window from time to time to see a steadily increasing number of goldfinches on the feeder…

goldfinches…but it wasn’t a good day for bird photography so the flying bird of the day only just qualifies.  I had to catch it when it was almost stationary.

jackdaw

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan, who has been kind enough to send me this massive but hungry looking  figure which is currently hanging around at the British Museum.

skeletonWe woke to another grey and wet morning but we weren’t downhearted because Dropscone was due to come round with treacle scones and the forecast was for an end to the rain well before lunch.

Both of these happy events came to pass.

I even got to see a short  video of Dropscone practising his golf swing under the eye of his golf professional.  What a great start to the day.

After coffee, I took a stroll round the garden.  It is getting very near the end of its flowery life but there are still bits and bobs about.

chives

The chives are still brightening up the vegetable plots.

chives

The orange crocosmia is very durable and I was surprised to see a honeysuckle blossom

crocosmia

The yellow crocosmia arrived late and is staying late

clematis and nerine

There are a few clematis flowers and a lot of nerines.

But the prettiest thing in the garden today was this Charles Ross apple….

Charles Ross…and some of them went down very well in the evening when stewed and taken with custard.  The cool summer and the relatively good autumn have left the apples tasting as good as they have ever done this year.

While Mrs Tootlepedal busied herself with some apple branch sawing, I made some potato soup for lunch.  She was frequently visited by a robin while she worked but my only glimpse of one when I had a camera in my hand, was this one out of the dining room window later on.

robinI saw several jackdaws when I put out some pellets…

jackdaw…but sadly the best one flew past a telegraph pole just as I snapped it so I couldn’t use it as flying bird of the day.  The chaffinches were in a kinder mood…

flying chaffinchflying chaffinch…though I did catch one making off with a pink pellet that should have been reserved for blue and coal tits.

chaffinchAs well as all the flying birds, there were some standing around too.

dunnock and blackbird

A dunnock and blackbird, frequently seen in the garden but not feeder users.

After lunch, while Mrs Tootlepedal did more tidying and bulb planting, I went off for a pedal.

Because I don’t like taking medicine if I don’t have to, I have been experimenting with cutting down on my asthma puffers over recent days but after feeling rather gloomy yesterday and very cold and tired while I was pedalling, I returned to the full dose today with very beneficial results.  I was much cheerier all day, I was much warmer when I went out for my bike ride and I went quite a bit more quickly too.  “Keep taking the tablets,” as they say.

I even had the energy to stop and take a picture or two of the larches along the Wauchope road which are probably at their autumn best.  A little sunshine would have helped but they looked good anyway in my view.

Pool CornerlarchesApart from the larches, it was a bit gloomy and wisps of cloud were still sitting on the tops of the hills.

CleuchfootWhen I got back, we had a visit from Mike Tinker who came to tell us that his wife Alison was a bit poorly and so wouldn’t be coming to play duets in the evening.  This was a disappointment as they have been on holiday and I was looking forward to a tootle on their return.

It did give me some time to practice some choir music so there was an upside.

The flying bird of the day is a blue tit who was legally carrying off a pellet from the new feeder.

flying blue tit

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Today’s guest picture, from Mrs Tootlepedal’s tablet, shows Matilda wondering when her father will stop paying attention to his phone and start paying attention to her.

MatildaWe woke to another wet and horrible day and I was happy to welcome Dropscone, who was back from a trip to Aberdeen, for a cup of coffee.  The forecast was for the rain to stop by midday and on cue, it stopped.  Dropscone went off to play golf and I took a moment to put another week of the newspaper index into the Archive database and then went out to buy some honey and more of the pink pellets.

Before I left, I had a quick look to see what was going on the garden.

There were some rather morose Michaelmas daisies…

daisies…which were so discouraged by the bad summer weather that they waited too long before coming out and have not done well.

At the back door, a depressed winter jasmine was looking soggy.

winter jasmineThere was not a lot  of action at the seed feeder today but, as always, there were some birds about.

chaffinch

A chaffinch approaches the feeder and realises that there isn’t a perch there.

chaffinch

But the chaffinches are very good at timing their approach to be able to sneak a seed and depart.

There were some small signs of sunshine to raise our hopes.

chaffinchFeeling the need for a bit of excitement after lunch, I put some of the newly purchased pellets out on the lawn feeder and enjoyed a flying display from the jackdaws.

JackdawThey are very delicate for large birds and nip the pellets off the cage with great precision.  Two can land on the feeder at the same time.

JackdawI was interested in the bird on the right because it has the little feathers on the front of its wings raised up and this seems to happen a lot….

Jackdaw…and you can see it again in the picture above.  Perhaps some knowledgeable bird person can tell me what is happening.  Is it some sort of flap system when the birds slow down?

Jackdaws can fly backwards when they want.

JackdawThe bird on the left is going backwards while the one on the right is coming forwards.

They can also do a fan dance.

JackdawAs soon as the jackdaws left, there was a spell of starling mayhem.

starlingsIt had been quite breezy in the morning but the wind was getting progressively lighter in the afternoon so I waited for as long as I could before going out for a pedal.

I spent some time while I was waiting, looking through my picture files to try to find some pictures to print out for our forthcoming camera club exhibition and after having looked through the last two months’ pictures from the blog, I can only apologise for the inordinate number of poppy and chaffinch pictures which patient readers have had to put up with.

In the end, I left it a little too long and had to put my rear light on when I was pedalling home as the light was rapidly failing.

Although the thermometer said it was 11°C when I set out and I was wearing three layers, it still seemed remarkably cold and it was a struggle to get my muscles warmed up and moving.  It certainly didn’t tempt me to stop and take pictures, especially as it was rather grey overhead.  Annoyingly, I could see blue sky in the distance but it was too far away for me to enjoy it.  Still, I was pleased to get another 20 miles in before the end of the month.

In the evening, I went off with Sandy to the Archive Centre and put another week of the index into the database.  This got me fully caught up with the data miners.

The flying bird of the day is one of those jackdaws.

flying jackdaw

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by Mrs Tootlepedal and shows Matilda honing her literary skills in Edinburgh yesterday.

MatildaThe picture of Matilda was by far the brightest feature of the day.  It was raining steadily when we got up and it rained for  most of the rest of the hours of daylight.  The light was terrible and I only took two photographs all day.

GoldfinchThe goldfinch looked remarkably unruffled by the rain though.

I used the wet weather as an excuse for a very quiet day and did two crosswords and put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database  slowly enough to fill the entire morning.

In the afternoon, I plugged away at preparing a practice file for one of our Carlisle Choir songs and it became apparent when I tried to sing the tenor part, that I will need a good deal of practice if we are going to sing it in a concert so it was time well spent.

I was going to make another set of Chelsea buns in the hope of producing a more presentable product than last time but Mrs Tootlepedal suggested that I should try for a tea cake instead.  I tried.  This turned out to be a mistake and the results were even less presentable than the Chelsea buns and not quite so tasty.

They weren’t too bad though as they all seem to have disappeared.

In the evening, the rain had stopped and we went off to sing with our Langholm choir and it became obvious that I need to practice some  songs there which I thought that I had mastered.

There is hope of some better weather later tomorrow but it would have to try hard to be worse than today.  On the plus side, it has been pleasantly warm for the time of year so I suppose we should be grateful for that.

The flying bird of the day picture is as bad as the weather was when I took it.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from the son of my friend Sue and shows the very impressive container (used only once on the trip from Hong Kong) which Sue has had craned into her garden.  She will transmogrify it into a garden room and office.

Sue's container We have been blessed with an unexpected rise in temperatures and we were back into double figures by breakfast today.  Sadly, it didn’t come supplied with additional sunshine so a great deal of fine autumn colour went unrecorded (to sighs of relief from happy readers).

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Edinburgh for her weekly visit to Matilda and I did a little tidying up and a crossword until Sandy arrived for coffee.  He tells me that he too has bought a coffee grinder.  Soon you won’t be able to hear yourself think in Langholm because of the roar of coffee grinders all over the town.

After coffee, I had a walk round the garden….

potentilla and poppy

A new potentilla and the welcome sight of a poppy perking up.

…and put out some pellets on the lawn feeder.  The starlings were there in force almost immediately and I put the following picture in, despite its poor quality, just to show that the pink pellets are still the pellet of choice among discerning avians.

starlingsOther starlings looked on with amazement at the goings on below.

starlingsThen I got the bike out and went off for a pedal.  I was intending to do exactly the same double trip as yesterday and go twice to the top of Callister but when I got back to the town, the prospect of a fourth trip up the hill in two days seemed uninviting so I continued through the town and out in the opposite direction.

Not being in any hurry, I stopped for a photo or two.

larches at High Mill Brig

The larches at the High Mill Brig caught my eye

Sorbie

And I could hardly miss these bright trees screening the cottage at Sorbie.

The new direction meant that I finished my twenty mile outing with a relaxed spin down hill and down wind back into the town.

Although I didn’t realise it while I was pedalling, this ride took me to exactly 400 miles for the month and as the weather ahead looks a bit variable to say the least, it was comforting to reach this target with a few days in hand.

After lunch I had another wander round the garden and took some shots of foliage colour now that many of the flowers are over.

garden colourSome flowers have not gone yet though.

nasturtium

My mobile phone doing a great job of a low light close up with a flash.

I sawed another couple of logs from the apple tree and sieved some compost as well.  Mrs Tootlepedal’s garden tidying work has filled Bin A to the brim so there will need to be shifting and turning in the near future.

She has made a very neat job of packaging the kindling cut for the apple tree twigs.

kindlers

Drying in the greenhouse.

Later in the day, Sandy arrived back from a trip to Carlisle and we went for a walk.  The light was fading fast but I took a camera anyway.  We kept an eye out for fungus but there was surprisingly little to be seen.

fungusfungusThe autumn colour may not be with us for much longer as we were trampling through fallen leaves for much of our walk…

Beechy Plains…though as you can see, there are still a lot of leaves left to fall.

We met a handsome dog on our way round Gaskell’s Walk…

dog…and saw any amount of colourful leaves as we went along.

autumn leavesThe whole day had been very mild and it was pleasant to be able to walk without a coat so late in the day and so late in October.  My final shot was of a very calm Pool Corner just before we got home.

Pool CornerIn the evening, Susan kindly drove me to Carlisle for our regular recorder group meeting and we had an enjoyable time playing quartets as our fifth member is currently in Spain.

It wasn’t a great day for catching flying birds.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone.  He found himself with tokens which he had earned from his bank and spent them on a new camera which he took up to the golf course.  A tricky lie.

Golf ballIt was a beautiful morning but when offered the choice of a morning cycle ride or a cup of coffee and a scone, I opted for the coffee and scone, confident that the fine weather would last all day.

As an insurance, I nipped out while I was waiting for the official scone bearer to arrive and took a couple of sunny pictures just in case.

The meeting of the watersAs I took this picture of the Meeting of the Waters, where the Esk and the Ewes join, I noticed a good supply of gulls lurking on the Kilngreen.  I wondered if they would still be there later in the day.

I went down to the suspension bridge and couldn’t resist the allure of the church, snugly wrapped in the contrasting foliage around it.

Parish church in AutumnI got home in time to receive the scones and make coffee for the scone bearer.

We had just sat down when we received a summons from Mrs Tootlepedal, who was in the garden, to see something a bit out of the ordinary.  We leapt up, rushed out and saw this.

Balloon

Not something we see every day.

We hope it landed safely as it was being blown towards the hills at a brisk pace.

After Dropscone left on his way to a golf lesson, I got the slow bike out and pedalled off to the Kilngreen to see if the gulls were still hanging about.

They were hanging about quite literally.

gullJim, an old friend and his wife were entertaining a grandchild by feeding the ducks and this had caused the gulls great excitement and they were flying all over the place.  When I put my camera up to try to catch the scene, Jim was amazed that I should be photographing something so ordinary as a gull.  I showed him some of the shots on the rear screen of the camera and he had to admit that perhaps there was more to a gull than he had thought.

gull

The wingspan was bigger than he realised (and too big for my frame).

I love the gulls here.  Their flight is most elegant and from my point of view, the lack of flapping when they are flying is a very good thing.

gullThey gave the ducks a good chasing when they took any bread into the river….

chasing a duck…but mostly they just flew around in circles hoping for scraps.

gullSometimes they flew in formation.

gullsI took far too many gull pictures but in the end, after a glance back towards the Town Bridge…

Town Bridge in Autumn….I pedalled on, crossing the Sawmill Bridge and coming onto the Lodge Walks.

Lodge walksI pedalled onto the Castleholm and looked around.

Larches on Timpen

The larches are beginning to turn

trees on the castleholm…before cycling home for lunch (the last of the batch of lentil soup).

My confidence that the day would stay fine was well founded and I set out after lunch to do twenty four miles in two twelve mile laps while Mrs Tootlepedal addressed urgent business in the garden.

The wind was quite noticeable but since it was behind me on the way out to the top of Callister, cycling was an unmitigated pleasure.  The sun disappeared behind some inconvenient clouds just as I turned for home and cycling back downhill into the wind was a great deal chillier than the outward journey.

I stopped when I got home to check on Mrs Tootlepedal’s work in the garden and she told me that she had planted over 60 bulbs while I was pootling about.  That makes over 100 bulbs planted so far but there are still another 100 to go over the next few days. There should be a good show in springtime.

I left her to it and went off to do my second lap.  I arrived at the top of the hill about half a minute earlier than the first lap but this reflected a slight increase in helpful wind speed more than anything else and I had to pedal like the clappers to get back down at the same speed as the before.  I just managed this which pleased me a lot.  I have been accused by a reader of being a bit obsessive about time and speed but when you frequently cycle over the same roads, it is these little differences which make life more interesting (or depressing, if things don’t go well).

I was concentrating so hard on the pedalling that I didn’t stop to take any pictures.  This will be a relief to busy readers.

In the evening, my flute pupil Luke came and we enjoyed playing a variety of duets.  He is continuing to improve steadily all the time and puts up with my nagging with great hood humour.

The other two members of our usual Monday night trio are away so I enjoyed a quiet night in.

The flying bird of the day is one of those gulls.

flying gull

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Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia, my Somerset correspondent, and shows her very fruitful crab apple tree in all its glory.  Her answer to the question, “How do you like them apples?” is “A lot.”

crab appleIt was a chilly 3°C this morning when we got up, in spite of it being an hour later than it would have been yesterday as our clocks went back during the night.

I was hoping for a cycle ride but 3° is right on the limit of what is safe on a road bike as far as possible icy conditions go so I was pleased to have the legitimate excuse of preparing a lamb stew for the slow cooker to help me pass the time until it got a bit warmer.

A little early sun looked promising….

goldfinch…but it didn’t last.

It was still pretty chilly when the stew was ready so I was happy to let a few more minutes float past the kitchen window while I tried unavailingly to bank a flying bird of the day.

flying bird errorsI was either too soon or too late though.

In the end, Mrs Tootlepedal had gone off to sing in the church choir before the thermometer finally hit 6° and I was brave enough to go out.  Luckily, the wind was very light and although it was in my face as I headed down the A7 towards Longtown, it wasn’t brisk enough to provide any noticeable wind chill factor.

I was heading for Smithfield, 16 fairly flat miles away and I was hoping that the light wind, by then behind me, would compensate for having to go uphill for the last few miles to get home.

My hopes were perfectly realised and my outward and return trips differed by less than a minute. With the trip being 32 miles (100000 in binary) and the times being almost equal, I was pleased by the mathematical precision of the ride.

On a less satisfactory note, I was hoping for some sunshine as the colour on the trees was the best yet but the skies remained obstinately cloudy and I didn’t much feel like stopping and getting colder than I was already

I did stop once on my way out though to take a few pictures of and from the bridge over the River Lyne, south of Longtown.

Lyne BridgeI scrambled down the bank to try to get the reflections in the water under an arch.

Lyne BridgeThe water was running very dark indeed but a tree by the bridge was bright enough.

Lyne BridgeWhen I got home, I had time to have a shower, look at some white flowers trying very hard to brighten a dull day….

Japanese anemones and cosmos

Japanese anemones and cosmos in need of dead heading

…and the fine display in front of the kitchen window….

sedum, nerines and lobelia…before having some lentil soup for lunch and getting ready to go to Carlisle for our Carlisle Community Choir practice.

I did spend a moment or two trying to get a decent  image of a pair of coal tits that were flitting about….

coal tits…but they were more interested in eating than posing.  A blue tit was equally disobliging and turned its back on me.

blue titOur choir practice was very enjoyable as we concentrated on two tuneful songs with good tenor parts which were not too difficult.

With clocks going back, it was dark when we left Carlisle to drive home and that certainly brought the shortening of the afternoons very much into focus.  I will have to remember that if I want to get about outdoors, then an early start is essential.

When we got back, Mrs Tootlepedal made dumplings to go with the lamb stew and the whole thing was so tasty that we had to be quite restrained so as not to eat tomorrow’s meal as well as today’s at one sitting.

I did find one flying bird but it was only a rather blurry standard chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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