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Archive for Jan, 2019

Today’s guest picture is a speedy little number as it was taken by our friend Bruce as he whizzed along the Settle to Carlisle railway line at 50 mph this afternoon.

brucetrainsnow

We had the same chilly  less warm weather here in Langholm and for the second day running, I had the slightly mournful pleasure of admiring our sunlit snow capped hills from our upstairs window….

whitasnowagain

…rather than being out and about snapping away at the scenery.

The day of rest yesterday seemed to have improved the state of my foot so I thought that I should take the hint and spend another more or less motionless day indoors.  Part of the impulse to do this was driven by the very icy state of things outside.

The temperature stayed at or near freezing all day so the garden looked much the same…

snowymiddlelawn

…with neatly iced box balls.

plumpuddingboxball

From our back door, I could see the hardly hill cattle finding something to eat on the slopes of Castle Hill.

cattleoncastlehillinsnow

In the garden, our lone brambling made a return but once again, it didn’t come down to the feeder and didn’t stay long.

brambling

Chaffinches were more obliging.

peeringchaffinchsnow

The feeders were not as popular as yesterday although there were some busy moments…

busyfeeder

…so I had time to contemplate the ice capped plants nearby from time to time.

sedumsnowcapped

The birds insisted on approaching the feeder from the shadows which made taking good pictures difficult…

darkchaffinch

…and you would never guess that the sun shone all day.

gloomychaffinch

When they did come on from the sunny side, they made sure that they got the shadow of the feeder on them so I still couldn’t see them properly.

flyingchaffinchinshadow

The result was a lot of silhouettes like these.

silhouettechaffinches

I am going to miss the first producers’ market of the year as I will be away on Saturday so Mike Tinker very kindly came round to get a shopping list of items which he and Alison will purchase on my behalf.  These are the sort of friends you need.

I only just managed to resist the temptation to go for a walk as it was such a glorious day but luckily I had some Archive Group work to finish and some songs to practise, so I occupied the time quite usefully.

Because of the cold and the snow, we didn’t go to Edinburgh to visit Matilda today and this gave Mrs Tootlepedal time to finish another week’s work on the crochet blanket.

crochetblanketprogress

She thinks that there may be two more weeks to go before the blanket will be finished.

Weather permitting (there is snow forecast in England), we are going south tomorrow to visit relatives so there will only be brief phone posts while we are away.

The temperature is going to remain low in Langholm so I will fill the feeders up before we go off to catch the train and hope that the birds find somewhere else to eat if these get emptied.

Meanwhile, there are two flying chaffinches of the day today…

…wings down…

flyingchaffinchsnow28229

…and wings up…

flyingchaffinchsnow

….Take your pick.

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Today’s guest picture comes from Manitoba.  Never mind diamonds, Mary Jo sent me this portrait of a girl’s best friend in her neck of the woods.

mary jo friend

It may well be much used because she also sent me this screen grab from the local airport weather page this morning.

screen shot 2019-01-30 at 7.16

I am going to have to stop saying that our weather is cold!

Our weather was not very warm today.

It was another day with snow on the ground because it hardly got above freezing all day.

The sun did come out in the afternoon….

whita in winter

…and I would have dearly loved to be out on the hills rather than looking at them from an upstairs window.  However, I had decided to give my foot a complete rest today so I resisted the temptation for ‘just a short walk’ and stayed indoors all day.

I did put some of the day to good use by working of Langholm Archive Group business and practising some songs but I also did a lot of creative lounging around, posing first in this chair and then in that one in a very artistic manner.

I also took time to make some ‘what’s in the fridge’ vegetable soup and eat it but I spent more time than usual looking out of the kitchen window.

Birds were about….

chaffinch and goldfinch bright snowy

…and we even had a visit to the feeder from a couple of starlings, who came down from the walnut tree.

perching starling

They didn’t stay long though.

flying starling

The result of the kitchen window staring was not one, but many flying birds today.

They were all chaffinches…

snowy flying chaffinch (2)

…and because of the uniformly white backgrounds in some of my shots today, I experimented with popping some of them into frames.

snowy flying chaffinch (7)

Where the birds were close to the feeder, no frame was needed…

snowy flying chaffinch (6)

..but at other times, the frame and a fill, gave a different feel.

snowy flying chaffinch (5)

All the frame and background colours are picked up from the birds.

snowy flying chaffinch (4)

Mrs Tootlepedal had a quiet day in too as she was not feeling 100% so the house was very peaceful.

It is supposed to be pretty unwarm again tomorrow and as the ground has got rather icy, I may well opt for another day of foot rest.  We have decided not to go to Edinburgh to see Matilda as we have more travel in mind for Friday, weather permitting and we are getting too old for larking around in frost and snow just for the fun of it.

Of the many flying chaffinches I watched today, I thought that this one deserved the signal honour of being declared flying bird of the day.

snowy flying chaffinch

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Since the queen has asked us all to pull together as a nation*, I am happy to use an English bird for today’s guest picture.  Venetia spotted this plump pigeon in her Somerset garden.

venetia's pigeon

We got a bit of a shock after a night when we had been woken up by heavy rain pounding on the roof to find the garden looking like this.

snowy garden

And it kept snowing and looked as though it might come to something.

snowy sedum

The birds obviously thought that action was required and the feeder was busy from the start.  If you look carefully you can see that three chaffinches are competing for a single perch.

busy feeder snow

Once again, a small flock of starlings perched on the very top of the walnut tree but they didn’t venture down into the garden.

starlings in the walnut tree

Mrs Tootlepedal spotted a robin pecking a fat ball in the sheltered container that she has recently cleaned up.

robin in snow

Dropscone dropped in with some scones and news of his first committee meeting as captain of the golf club.  Nothing exciting happened at the meeting which is a good thing.

While we ate, sipped and chatted, the chaffinches continued to bicker outside and….

sparring chaffinches snow

…the snow came down heavily from time to time.

goldfinches in snow storm

After Dropscone left, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help out at the Buccleuch Centre coffee shop over lunchtime and I walked up to the new Archive Centre base in the newspaper offices on the High Street and did some work.

The snow had stopped falling by this time so I was able to stop and enjoy the scenery on my way.

snowy trees by esk

My work in the newspaper offices consisted of photographing twenty nine articles from back numbers of the Eskdale and Liddesdale Advertiser which are held in bound volumes there.  A correspondent has been going through the newspaper index on our website and he has found many references to his family.  He had found them been being born and dying, playing cricket, attending school concerts and school inspection days, doing a lot of fishing and on one occasion being found guilty of malicious damage  by foolishly pinging a pony with a catapult.  It was a full and varied selection which made my task more interesting.  Mrs Tootlepedal was a bit shocked by how much work we had been asked to do but for me it was a pleasure, as requests like this mean that we are not doing our archiving work in vain.

As I walked home, it was obvious that not only had it stopped snowing but that it had started thawing…

 

melting snow langholm bridge

…and there was no danger of slipping as I went.

Mrs Tootlepedal got home from a very busy session of waiting at table in the coffee shop and almost immediately rushed off to catch the bus to Carlisle where she had arranged to go to the pictures with two friends from the Carlisle choir.  I had hoped to drive her down as time was tight but the car had not come back from the garage.

While she was gone, I processed the 29 newspaper images and emailed them off to my correspondent.  Just as I was finishing, Mike Tinker came round and very kindly offered to drive me up to the garage so that I could collect our car.  It had passed its test with a couple of minor grumbles about this and that so I drove it home.

And then, because the day seemed quite promising by this time and I had been sitting around long enough, I went for a little drive out of the town on the well cleared main road to have a look around.

The skies were clearing….

warbla in snow from terrona

…but once again, hills seemed to be attracting their own personalised clouds.

sloud on snowy hill

I drove back through the town and out again on the minor road towards Bentpath.  It was by no means clear of snow, ice and slush so I didn’t go far but parked the car at the quarry and had a look around.

I thought that I might get a better views if I scrambled up a small hill beside the road and as I had had the forethought to bring my wellies and walking poles, I did just that.

This was the view up the valley.

looking down road from quarry

Things looked promising as I neared my mini summit and I bustled along to get there before the hint of sunshine disappeared.

hill above quarry pedens view

This was the view back down towards Langholm

sunlit snow evening

I waited for a while and soon Whita was bathed in warm pink.

sunlit snowy whita

To the west, there was a dramatic cloudscape.

dramatic cloudscape

I could see that Whita was generating its own cloud cover and as it was getting quite chilly, I went back down the hill to the car and…

sun on snowy warbla

…on my way, I saw some interesting pitted track marks in the snow and wondered for a moment if a gang of tiny animals had been about.  Looking up though, I found the cause was more prosaic, just melting snow from the power line.

drips from wires

It was back to freezing by the time that I got in and I was pleased to have a snack and warm up.

The bus brought Mrs Tootlepedal safely back from Carlisle.  She had enjoyed the film, Collete and had even had time to buy a prawn sandwich to eat on the bus home so she had had a good outing.

Although there were a lot of birds about, I didn’t have much time to look at them and this rather vague chaffinch is the best that I have for flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch snow

*Note:  I don’t think that the English politicians have been paying attention to the Queen’s request as when it came to considering a motion in Parliament this evening asking the government to pay some attention to the needs and wishes of Scotland and Wales while conducting their brexit business, the Conservatives voted against it en bloc and the Labour party abstained.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She was visiting the Somerset Rural Life Museum with my Somerset correspondent Venetia not long ago when she came across this very patient horse.

mary somerset horse

It was a beautiful day today with not a cloud in the sky but as it was still below zero after breakfast, there was no chance of a cycle ride for me.  Unfortunately my foot was rather sore which was annoying so I didn’t think that a walk up one of our hills was a good idea either.

As a result, I hung around doing nothing much while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Carlisle in the bus to do some shopping.  In the end, I pulled myself together and went out to see if I could walk my sore foot off with a nice flat stroll.  I couldn’t but it didn’t get any worse and it was a lovely day for a walk so I wasn’t complaining (too much).

There were gulls dipping their feet in the icy waters of the river at the Kilngreen…

bathing gulls

…with others keen to join them.

gull landing in esk

Meanwhile there was a lot of gulls leaving their posts and flying past me both at low level…

flying gull 1

…and higher up too.

flying gull 2

I pottered on round the Castleholm and pheasant hatchery, enjoying frequent splashes of snowdrops as I went.

lodge gates snowdrops

The last time I walked this way, it was a very grey day and I took a black and white photo of the woods near Holmhead so I thought it only fair to show them in full colour today.

holmhead woods

I would have liked to be on the top of Timpen instead of looking up at it but…

timpen from pheasant hatchery

…there were interesting icy puddles to admire where I was….

frozen puddle mat and clear

…and a delightful view of a characteristic farm cottage…

breckonwrae

…colourful cones, fallen to the ground…

cones

…and quite a bit of hair ice too.

hair ice

The fungus which causes this phenomenon must be spreading as I am seeing more and more hair ice as I walk about.

As long as I was in the sunshine, it was a very kind day for a walk but in the shadows, the ground was still frost covered.

whita in sunshine and shade

The conditions underfoot were perfect, dry and ice free…

castleholm walk

…so I got home very content with my walk.   My foot was a different matter though and as I can’t work out what is wrong with it,  I will seek medical assistance next week unless it has magically cured itself.  Quite often just making an appointment with a doctor or a physio is sufficient to make ailments behave themselves.  I live in hope.

I had some soup for lunch and watched the birds for a while.  The goldfinches were back and I liked the beady eye that this one was casting on proceedings.

wary eyed goldfinch

A brambling appeared in the plum tree…

brambling in sun

…and since this is the third or fourth time that I have seen a single brambling lately, I am beginning to wonder if it always the same bird which has got detached from its friends.  Usually, if you see one brambling, you soon see more.

I had a walk round the garden and was pleased to see more signs of life, both potential….

peony shoots

…and actual.

first crocus

I would like to have made better use of such a fine day but apart from taking the car up to the garage in readiness for its MOT test tomorrow, I spent the rest of this fine day indoors.  At least I got some Archive Group work done so it wasn’t entirely wasted.

My flute pupil Luke came and we did some hard work on reading and playing demi-semi quavers.  They are not intrinsically hard to work out but it can be tricky working out how long you need to hold a crochet for when you have just been playing dozens of these little notes.

The rocking horse is still drying out upstairs and Mrs Tootlepedal has been visiting it and giving it a pat from time to time.

There is not one but two flying birds of the day today as the gulls flew past me in formation on my walk.

two flying gulls

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew, who was visiting Nottingham University when he took this picture of the main buildings in the background behind the lake and a very interesting looking mini golf course with giant acorns.

andrew nottingham

We woke to a sunny day but as the thermometer had dropped several degrees and a very biting northerly wind was blowing, I wasn’t tempted to go further than the garden before church.  In spite of the cold, definite signs of spring are all about.

crocus, daff, sarcococca

The church choir, though small in number, sang away heartily at the hymns and a short anthem and at the practice after the service we agreed to try something a little more ambitious for Easter.  Time will tell if we have bitten off more than we can chew but our organist and choirmaster is so enthusiastic that it will be fun trying.

When we got home, I fortified myself against the chill with a cup of coffee and went for a walk. Yesterday’s day of rest had made my sore foot worse if anything so I thought that perhaps exercise might be a good idea.

I aimed for a route which would have the wind at my back when I was exposed and which would find me in the shelter of hedges and the valley on my way home.    This took me along the track to the Becks Burn and back along the road.  It worked out well.

When I read other people’s blogs, I often long for some context for their pictures and words so I took the chance to show Wauchope Cottage tucked into the heart of the new town of Langholm

wauchope cottage from scotts knowe

Our white front door can be seen in the centre of the picture with the walnut tree in front of the house.

A little further up the hill, I could now see the new town in the foreground with the old town behind and Whita Hill providing the backdrop.

view from scotts knowe

I noticed a healthy looking polypody fern on a wall near Holmwood.

fern front and back

If you could get out of the wind and into the sun, it was a pleasant day for walking.

becks track

Although the fields along the track are still fairly green…

becks track field

…the rough pasture on the hills is losing its colour and we won’t get our green hills fully back now until May.

warbla from becks track

The felled trees in the wood provided some pretty patterns.

felled tree stump

I was passed by a jogger after I had crossed the Becks Burn and was impressed as he sped up the hill on the far side.

jogger in becks wood

The road back down into the valley was richly dressed with catkins in the hedge…

catkin panel

…and when I got down to the Wauchope road, I had a good time looking at various very healthy lichens on the walls.

four lichens

I filled the feeder when I got home and watched the birds for a while.  Two male chaffinches showed off their fine colouring in the sunshine…

two colourful chaffinches

…while a female looked unavailingly for a free perch.

chaffinch approaching goldfinches

This goldfinch had found one and was keeping a close eye on it as he approached.

goldfinch looking for a perch

Another goldfinch had a friend who was kindly keeping the sun off him as he ate.

slave goldfinch

After lunch, we drove down to Carlisle in glorious sunshine to attend our community choir there.  The wind was gusting at 40 mph so for once I wasn’t at all unhappy not to be cycling on a sunny day.

Unlike the church choir, the Carlisle choir was very well attended with about 100 members enjoying an excellent and productive practice.  My time spent trying to learn the songs for our Manchester competition paid off and I found that I was fairly confident in the two that we sang today.  It was lucky that we didn’t sing the third one, as I have a lot of work to do on that still.

We paused outside the chip shop in Langholm on our way home for long enough for a poke of chips to insert itself into the car as if by magic and eating the chips with the last of my tapsi flavoured sausage stew brought a satisfactory day to a close.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch, applying the brakes and looking keenly for a free space at the feeder.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo from Manitoba.  It is not a Canadian picture though.  She met this balletic hare on her trip to Londodn last year.

mj 1

It was a thoroughly rotten day here, very windy, very grey and either drizzling or  raining during the hours of daylight.

Even the birds were fed up and largely stayed at home, though a few goldfinches occasionally braved the weather in the slightly drier moments.

_dsc9672

I stayed in and did nothing worth recording.  Indeed things were so quiet that we even spent the afternoon watching horse racing from Cheltenham and Doncaster on the telly.  This is an occasional pleasure for us and there is no doubting the superb athleticism of horses and riders.

A lone chaffinch just sneaked in as flying bird of the day….

_dsc9674

…but in such  thin photographic times, I am very glad to able to add a couple of birds kindly sent to me by our sons today.

Alistair was at the zoo with Matilda…

penguin

…and Tony was on the shore with his dogs.

untitled-1

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Today’s guest picture, sent to us by their proud grandfather and used here with the permission of their mother, shows a talented trio made up of Mrs Tootlepedal’s great nephew and nieces giving the von Trapp family a run for their money.

3fcd8950-27c5-4385-a78b-257bcc030db2

After our chilly spell, the thermometer rose today and the snow and frost disappeared.  On the down side, some fairly persistent drizzle arrived instead.

I was very pleased to have the grey morning brightened by the appearance of Dropscone bearing the traditional Friday treacle scones and we enjoyed a cup of coffee, a chat and the scones in the kitchen while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to have coffee with ex-work colleagues elsewhere.

When Dropscone left, I looked at the birds and found that it was largely a goldfinch day.

In spite of the rain…

goldfinch in the rain

…they arrived from all directions, left…

goldfinch touching down

…right….

goldfinch arriving

…and above.

three stacked goldfinches

Perhaps because of the rain, there were outbreaks of ill bred behaviour involving shouting  between goldfinches…

flying goldfinch goldfich barney

…and between goldfinch and chaffinch.

chaffinch goldfinch barney

I dithered about after lunch, hoping to go for a cycle ride as it was warm enough at 5°C and the rain stopped from time to time.  Needless to say I only had to put my cycling gear on to make it rain quite hard.  I was just contemplating the bike to nowhere in the garage when the rain eased off to a light drizzle and I set off up the road.

By the time that I had done three miles, the rain had cleared and although it was still a dull day….

cleuchfoot valley

…I was able to cycle 20 miles without getting really wet.  As this was the first ride for some time, I was pleased to have done it and I was even more pleased to find that it seems to have helped my foot problem rather than harmed it.

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal broke from her crochet work to make me a cup of tea.  She has been beavering away at the blanket and it is growing bigger all the time.  She has just downloaded the new set of colours and is already hard at work on them.

crochet blanket

45 double rows of colour represents three weeks of hard work but the final number of rows is still a secret so there is much work still to be done.

Upstairs the gesso on the rocking is quietly drying.

I made a sausage and tomato stew for my evening meal, making use of a tapsi recipe to provide it with a spicy flavour.  This was a result of the excellent meal we had had in Edinburgh yesterday which included a tapsi dish.  Although my stew was nothing like a genuine tapsi dish which should be vegetarian and baked, I did use a lot of vegetables and the flavour was excellent.

Alison, my Friday night accompanist, is still recovering from a shoulder injury so there was no music in the evening but she and Mike came round anyway and we enjoyed a glass of wine and conversation instead.

All in all, a dull, damp day passed as pleasantly as it could.

A final goldfinch in the morning drizzle is the flying bird of the day.

flying goldfinch

 

 

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