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Archive for Apr, 2019

Today’s guest picture was sent to me by Bruce from his recent visit to Sheffield.  I have never seen a public bicycle pump station like this before but it strikes as me as a good idea.

public bike pump

There was never a dull moment today with no less than three visiting experts.  Ian painted the garage doors, Scott put a special socket on our outside wall and Jordan mended our central heating and got our boiler back in action.

Mrs Tootlepedal had a busy time distributing posters for the Buccleuch Centre and then helping out at the well used coffee shop there over lunchtime.  In her absence, it fell to me to do a lot of watching other people at work. This was no hardship to me as I am like Jerome K Jerome.  I like work,  I can watch other people working all day.

In between times, as it was a sunny morning, I wandered round the garden admiring tulips.

four tulips

They have come out a little early this year and they are going over a little quicker than usual but there are still enough around to give great pleasure to someone who likes tulips.  I am included in that number.

scarlet tulip

Who could not enjoy sights like these?

pink tulip

Although almost every other daffodil has now been dead headed, a stubborn clump under the plum tree are still showing well.

last of the daffodils

I wouldn’t like you to think that everything in the garden has been cultivated to within an inch of its life.  There are wild flowers about too.

garden wild flowers

Indeed we are just beginning to see a burst of cow parsley (planted intentionally) which will contrast well with the many alliums just waiting to pop out.

cow parsley and allium

Mrs Tootlepedal got hold of some more woollen packaging from Matilda’s father (it comes with a regular delivery he receives) and put some of it out on the lawn to see whether nesting birds might find it useful.

A jackdaw jumped at the opportunity…..

jackdaw pecking wool

…to collect a beakful.

jackdaw withwool

And then two jackdaws did the same…

two jackdaws pecking wool

…and collected two beakfuls.

two jackdaws with wool

…and made off with them.

jackdaw with wool flying off

I saw a blackbird on our mossy front lawn…

blackbird on mossy lawn

…and was so appalled by the state of things that I treated the lawn with this newfangled no rake moss treatment and grass fertiliser which I had tried recently on the middle lawn.   Rather to my surprise…no, very much to my surprise, it seems to be working well on the middle lawn so I am keeping my fingers crossed that it can cope with the much greater amount of moss on the front lawn.  The front lawn lives in shadow for a lot of the deep winter months so it is always the more mossy lawn of the two.

I had to sit down on our new bench after the effort of spreading the mixture and this gave me the opportunity to watch a ladybird creep across a leaf…

ladybird

…and a bumble bee get stuck into a dicentra.

bee on dicentra

I know that I put a lot of bee and dicentra pictures on the blog but I like bees and dicentras so I make no apology and on this occasion the attraction of the dicentras for bees gave me the opportunity of not just capturing the flight of the bumblebee but also…

bum of the flightle bee

…the bum of the flightlebee.

flight of the bumbelbee

I think that these are white tailed bumble bees.

Other bees were available on other flowers.

bee on pulmonaria.jpg

I think that this is a tree bumble bee visiting a pulmonaria.

Mrs Tootlepedal  came back after lunch to find all three visitors had completed their work so after a cup of tea and a ginger biscuit, we went out into the garden and erected the skeleton of a fruit cage over the gooseberry and blackcurrant bushes.

enbryo fruit cage

This may look like a simple task but it involved a hacksaw, measuring tape, a crowbar, a screwdriver or two, a spirit level and a good deal of “To you, to me”. However, we were pretty pleased with the regularity of the result and will add the netting later.

The new socket on the outside wall looks like this…

charge point

…and with its help I can now fill up our new little white thingy with electricity so it becomes a very zingy little white thingy and good fun to drive (as long as I don’t tread on a non existent clutch).

We had a second go at filling the boot with buckets of wood chips and this time I managed to get back to the house without spilling them. Mrs Tootlepedal was very pleased.  The fruit cage and the wood chips are all part of the remodelled soft fruit end of the vegetable garden and things are looking promising.  We just need the right weather now to give us enough berries to have made all the work worthwhile.

There was time left after all this to let me get out for another short 12 mile bike ride in the evening.  Although the sun had disappeared behind thin clouds at lunchtime, it was still a warm and pleasant day with very light winds and even without the carrot of other cyclists to chase up the road, I managed almost exactly the same speed as yesterday.

The road verges all round us are full of dandelions and I stopped to record this contribution beside the road up Callister.

dandelions callister

We had thought of rounding off our day with a visit to the Buccleuch Centre to watch a screening of Gounod’s Faust but a look at the small print revealed that it lasted for three hours and three quarters.  That seemed to be too much of a good thing to us so I cycled and Mrs Tootlepedal relaxed instead.

I had no time to look at the bird feeder today but I did get a flying bird.

flying jackdaw with wool

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He came across this wonderful cave on one of his walks.  Thor’s Cave (also known as Thor’s House Cavern and Thyrsis’s Cave) is a natural cavern located at in the Manifold Valley of the White Peak in Staffordshire,

thor's cave

I got up quite early for me but an early bird had got up even earlier.

partrisge at breakfast

A partridge was out after seed rather than worms.

After breakfast I drove our Kangoo down to Carlisle where I traded it in for a smaller little white thingy which we hope is going to carry us about but need a lot less in the way of running  repairs.

I checked that the new car was going to be fit for purpose by stopping off on the way home to buy a big bag of bird seed.  The car carried it well.

Mrs Tootlepedal couldn’t come with me as she had to stay at home as the garage doors were being painted and she was waiting for a gas engineer to arrive.  The gas engineer had not arrived by the time that I got back and I had time to look at a bee on a dicentra..

bee on dicentra

…the trillums, which continue to do well in a shady corner…

trillium

…and signs of good things to come.  The first flower on the strawberries, the first row of lettuces and some broad beans waiting to be planted out.

strawb, lettuce and beans

The painter finished the undercoat and the gas engineer arrived.  He came to service the boiler which had developed a fault. He discovered that the boiler needs  a new part and we need a new thermostat and as he didn’t have either, he will come back tomorrow and fit them then.

After lunch, we tested the new little white thingy to see if it was up to Mrs Tootlepedal’s requirements by going off to collect some wood chippings to cover paths between the new beds in the vegetable garden.  We filled up the boot with buckets of chippings and we were nearly home, when I forgot that the new car is an automatic and stood heavily on the brake thinking that it was the clutch.  This brought the car to a sudden stop and tipped all the buckets of wood chips over.  What fun we had clearing the chippings out.

I will have to practice driving without a clutch and gear stick.

I sat down to watch the birds for a while and to recover from all this excitement.

The birds were rather dull.  First a set of goldfinches…

four goldfinches

…and then a more varied selection.

siskin, repoll goldfinch

But there weren’t many and so I went out and looked for bees in the garden.  They were quite a few buzzing about, visiting the apple blossom…

bee on apple

…and hanging out on the rosemary with well filled pollen sacs.

bee on rosemary

Back on the feeder pole, a blackbird issued a challenge to all comers…

blackbird speaking

…and waited to see if anyone would take him up.

blackbird silent

In the early evening my flute pupil Luke came and we had a useful session, concentrating on musicality and phrasing to good effect.

After he left, I got my bike out and went off to see if my feet were up to a few miles pedalling.

It had been a beautiful sunny day but I hadn’t got far before the clouds gathered together to blot out the sun .  However, it was warm and dry so I enjoyed my ride.

clouds assembling

I stopped to look at two lambs…

two lambs

…which were bleating loudly.  I soon found out that this was because they were part of a small group of lambs on one side of a little stream and their parent were on the other side, also bleating loudly.

lost lambs

The lambs got safely back across though and by the time that I came past on my way back, the families were reunited.

While I was taking these pictures, I was passed by a couple of young ladies out for a bike ride themselves.  Seeing them whizzing up the road, I thought that I ought to try a bit harder too and although I couldn’t catch them up, I pedalled a lot more quickly than I usually do.  Luckily they turned off before I killed myself but all the same, my average speed for my little 12 mile ride was considerably faster than of late.  Pride is a great motivator.

Mrs Tootlepedal had cooked an tasty meal and I was pleased to sit down and eat it when I got home.

We are expecting the painter, the gas man and an electrician tomorrow so it will be a full day.

Flying birds were few and far between and this one nearly got a way before I could catch it.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture comes from Irving, a keen fisherman.  Knowing that we have not got much water in our rivers at the moment, he sent me this view of the Einag Falls. They are on a tributary of the river Oykel in the Highlands where he was fishing three weeks ago.  He adds that he caught  two fish.

Einag Falls

After some showery days, the weather gods knew that we had a two choir day today so they arranged for a fine day with no rain.  How we laughed.

The flowers in the garden are having a difficult time with the changeable weather so some are starting to come out and then sticking and others are coming out a bit early and then going over more quickly than usual.

tulip and trout lily

The trout lilies are on the way out and I have dead headed tulips which should  only just be by now.

Still, there are plenty of promising buds just waiting for warmer and steadier weather.

clematis bud

And the trees have gone green in a rush.

My feet are still annoying me so after church, I went out for a cycle ride round my short three bridges walk as fortunately cycling is pain free.

Almost every tree beside the river is in leaf now…

river esk from suspension brig late april

…and the Lodge Walks are looking beautiful.

lodge walks late april

The Castleholm is surrounded by varied greens…

trees green castleholm

…and there is even a tinge starting to show on the hills behind.

trees and timoen

Spring is in full fling.

green growth castleholm

As I crossed the Jubilee Bridge, I could just see the Duchess Bridge behind the new foliage.

duchess bridge among leaves

When I got home, I inspected the Charles Ross apple on the fence…

Charles ross apple blossom

..and was very pleased to find a solitary bee hard at work,

bee on apple blossom

The Ballerina tulips are lasting well…

ballerina tulip standing

…and we are still waiting for others to open.

leaning tulip

We combined the trip to our Carlisle Choir with some shopping which included cheese, coffee and dates.  As the choir practice was enjoyable as well as hard working, this made for a good way to spend time even if it was indoors on a fine day.

The forecast is offering us a couple of warmer, dry days to come so we have forgiven the weather gods for their little joke.

I didn’t have much time to watch the birds and for some reason, there weren’t many birds to watch anyway after some very busy days at the feeder.

This didn’t stop a siskin and a goldfinch going beak to beak….

siskin goldfinch eyeball

…but the flying bird of the day turns out to be a small white butterfly instead.

white butterfly

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan.  She was very impressed by this floral hedge which she passed not far from her home.

susan's hedge

We had some thought of an expedition today but uncertain feet and a dubious forecast persuaded us that some time spent in the garden while it was still dry would be time well spent.

Mrs Tootlepedal did those things which gardeners do. She planted out Sweet Williams, planted seeds in the greenhouse, planted beetroot seeds in a raised bed, weeded, tended and in general way was productive and busy.

I dead headed, mowed the middle lawn with the blades so high that I barely touched the grass, sieved a very little compost and took some pictures.

There is a little pause just now in the garden when it comes to new delights but old friends are thriving…

six april flowers

…and there are various dicentra on all sides, though the cooler weather seems to have discouraged the bumble bees.

four dicentras

The big euphorbias get more fantastic every week and some little ones are coming to join the fun.

two euphorbias

Ferns are unrolling…

fern unfolding

…and some shuttlecock ferns in a very shady spot have unfurled completely.

shuttlecock fern

Shrubs are doing their best to add a bit of colour.

spirea and berberis

But my favourite view of the morning came while I was sitting on the new bench and looking at these tulips.

8 tulips

Mrs Tootlepedal made lightly curried parsnip and carrot soup for lunch (with croutons) and while she was cooking, I watched the birds.

More siskins than ever turned up today and places at the feeder were hard to come by…

siskins and goldfinch

…even for other determined siskins.

siskin arriving amid siksins

Once again, some siskins took to the peanuts, a sound policy in my view.

siskin on peanuts

After a while, redpolls turned up.  They are determined birds too…

redpoll sees an opportunity

…and one saw a chance to nip in while two siskins were fighting each other.

redpoll sneaking in

Another took a calmer view of things while it played a waiting game.

redpoll on feeder pole

In the afternoon, we went up on to the hill in the hope of seeing some hen harriers but all we saw was some very heavy rain as we had chosen to wrong time for our trip.

Once we decided to go home the rain stopped of course and we could at least get a view across the Tarras Valley…

View to Cronksbank

…but there were still clouds behind us….

Tarras cloudscape

…and more in front…

Whita cloudscape

…so we went home anyway.

In the evening, we went down to Canonbie to hear a choir of Ugandan schoolchildren sing in the church there.

The children, most of whom were very young, did tremendously well, singing, dancing and clapping with great vigour.  The concert was nearly two hours long, had no interval and was frequently punctuated with appeals for financial support for the religious charity which had brought them over to the UK.  This left us with the slightly uncomfortable feeling that the children were perhaps being made to work a bit harder than would have been ideal.  Still, we were glad that we had gone to hear them and they sang one beautiful African song which warmed the heart with its harmonies.

The flying bird of the day, taken when the light was poor,  is one of the many siskins.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture comes from my occasional correspondent Elaine.  She and our neighbour Liz were visiting a garden centre when they met some unexpected customers in the aisle of the polytunnel.

big pigs

We had another day here that started with sun but turned rainy in the afternoon.  I had a very quiet day as I was recovering from an outbreak of very sore feet (for no reason) yesterday.  I did think of going for a gentle bike ride in the afternoon but the rain put paid to that.

I had a wander round the garden in the sun after breakfast, dead heading almost the last of the daffodils and some of the first of the tulips, while keeping an eye out for colour as I went.

The orange wallflower was too bright for the camera in the sunshine so I had to stand in front of it to put it in some shade and tone it down a bit.

orange wallflower

The aubretias were fairly bright too.

aubretia red

Both the pink and the blue.

aubretia blue

All three espalier apples have now got blossoms on them and as there are very few bees about, I will get busy with my pollinating brush when the weather permits.

three espalier apple blossom

Another pale flower caught my eye.  This is the very first potentilla flower of the year.

first potentilla

I had a doubly sunny morning as Dropscone dropped in for coffee.  In a salute to the changing season, he didn’t bring the traditional winter Friday treacle scone but came with a good pile of eponymous drop scones instead.

dropscone and coffee

In case anyone is wondering if there were too many drop scones for two grown men to eat with their coffee, don’t worry.  We managed to dispose of them all with the help of some home made raspberry jam.

After Dropscone left, the clouds wasted little time in covering the sky and the first drops of rain arrived just as I cycled round to our corner shop.  Luckily they stopped while I was in the shop and the rain didn’t start seriously again until after lunch.

I looked at the hymns for Sunday’s service and then I looked at the birds.

Everyone was busy getting stuck into the seed…

birds eating

…and then chewing it thoroughly.

redpoll and siskin munching

Siskins, goldfinches and redpolls were keeping chaffinches away from the perches…

chaffinch hoping for a seat at the table

…but as the rain started and the traffic grew heavier, the siskins began to have trouble with more siskins…

more siskins in conflict

…and goldfinches.

siskins in conflict

A sensible siskin deserted the sunflower seeds and turned to the easily available peanuts instead.

upside down siskin on peanuts

Despite the rain, Mrs Tootlepedal and our neighbour Liz went off to plant out Mrs Tootlepedal’s little oak trees.  They returned having accomplished the task, thoroughly wet but remarkably cheerful.

While they were out, I made a batch of ginger biscuits.

As a contrast to the rain falling from above, the water coming out of our taps decreased in volume quite alarmingly in the evening and a call to the water company revealed that there is a leak somewhere nearby.  We are keeping our fingers crossed that they can fix it promptly, because not having running water is very boring.

Thanks to the quiet day, my feet are feeling much better as I write this and I hope to be out and about again tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is one of the chaffinches who couldn’t get a seat at the table.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture of her allotment was sent to me by our daughter Annie, and shows that she takes after her mother…and then some.  She did get some help.

annie's plot

The day started with lovely sunshine and steadily got greyer until it was raining in Edinburgh  when we got there.   We were not complaining as the rain is needed.

I took the car up to the garage to get one of those annoying warning lights that appear on the dashboard checked out and went to get it back after lunch.  There was nothing wrong with it.  Grr.

In between, I did a lot of pottering about the garden.

The strawberries which we moved yesterday, seemed to be quite cheerful about the transplant..

moved strawberries

…and Mrs Tootlepedal has begun to construct a new cage to keep the birds off them.

The rain overnight had been light and the soil was generally quite dry again though it was possible to see that it had rained.

rain on leaves

Mrs Tootlepedal has got her potatoes in, most of them in the new bed which has got the greenhouse foundations under it.

potatoes

She planted some acorns a couple of years ago and the resultant small oaks have grown to a stage where they need to be planted out,  She and our neighbour Liz are going to find a spot for them.

great oak

There are white bluebells in the back border…

white bluebell

…white drumstick primulas…

drumstick primula

…and beautiful white pear blossom too…

pear blossom

…but in general, we are not short of colour.

The day of the daffodil is done and we are in the time of tulips now.

time of the tulip

Mrs Tootlepedal has some really ‘pinging’ examples about, like these…

four bright tulips

…and this…

bright red tulip

…and there are more to come.

unopened tulip

In the pond, as well as tadpoles and pond skaters, there was a lot of tension.

surface tension in pond

Our neighbour Liz dropped in for coffee and biscuits and while a rook looked on from the plum tree….

rook in plum tree

…we had a very lively but very good natured airing of our different views on the political situation of the day.  There is nothing I like more than a thoroughly good argument and as we rose from the table, we were still arguing but agreeing to differ so it was disappointing to find a partridge outside insisting on sitting on the fence.

partridge on the fence

I watched the birds later in the morning and saw more action in three minutes than I see in the whole day sometimes.

four busy feeder panel

The partridge came off the fence but didn’t linger and soon walked away.

visiting partridge

After lunch, we went to Edinburgh to visit Matilda.  She is now five and was busy writing thank you cards for birthday presents.

We were able to admire the many presents she had received and after much conversation and another delightful meal, we made our way home again.

The rain as we drove home was alarmingly heavy at times, severely affecting visibility, but only in short bursts which was a relief.

The forecast is for some typical April showers to come over the next couple of days..

The flying bird of the day is a questing redpoll.

flying redpoll

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Today’s guest picture shows one of our son Tony’s dogs enjoying the sunshine on the East Wemyss Riviera.  It’s lip-smackingly good there.

Tony's dog.

Our spell of dry and sunny weather started its drift to normality today as the temperature dropped a degree or two and the sun became rather shy as the day went on, but it was still a remarkably nice day for the time of year.

The morning was made even brighter by the arrival of Sandy for a cup of coffee and when he left, I had a look for new flowers and found that the Limnanthes douglasii, better known as the poached egg plant had come out….

poached egg flower

…though there was not much evidence of the white of the egg in most of the flowers.

Mrs Tootlepedal has two perennial wallflowers and the second one is just flowering…

perennial wallflower new

…and it has so many potential flowers that I have a feeling that it will appear many more times in posts before the end of its season.

The chief event of the morning though was a visit to Mike and Alison Tinker’s garden.

This charming acer brillinatissimum welcomes  visitors to the estate.

acer brilliantissimi

I reported a few days ago that after waiting twelve years, Mike and Alison’s Kowhai plant from New Zealand had produced a flower.  I can now report that it hasn’t stopped producing flowers since…

kowhai

…and it was looking very impressive indeed.

Mike showed Mrs Tootlepedal another of his Antipodean guests.

wollemi pine and gardeners

This is a wollemi pine, a plant so rare that it was thought to be extinct until a few specimens were discovered in a remote valley in Australia in 1994.  In order to preserve the species, the original plants were the subject of a scheme of propagation and material was distributed round the world.  Mike’s daughter, a professional gardener obtained this plant for him and it is now thriving in his garden.

wollemi pine

There were several other interesting plants to see.

There was a snowflake, a bulbous perennial of the Amaryllis family.

snopwflake

And a wine and rose rhododendron.  As it is an early flowerer it had to be carefully protected by Mike and Alison with fleece during the recent frosty nights but the trouble they took was well worthwhile.

wine and rose rhododendron

As well as white trilliums, they have these striking red ones too.

trillium

And as he knows that I like fuchsias, Mike pointed this Fuchsia Thalia to me.  It is certainly unusual but I don’t think it is my favourite Fuchsia.

fuchsia thalia

We may have white and red pulsatillas, but Mike and Alison have purple ones.

pulsatiila

Their garden may not be the biggest in Langholm but it is probably one of the most interesting ones.

We went home and I sieved some compost and then went in to do some business which involved phoning a large insurance company.  We are on a roll just now and after the very satisfactory visit from an engineer yesterday, I got straight through on the phone to a competent and courteous young man and resolved my business satisfactorily in just a few minutes.  What are things coming to?  I won’t have anything to complain about soon.

Then we had lunch.

After lunch, we were visited by the representative of the power company who had come to weigh up the scheme for replacing our old and rickety electricity pole which sits in the vegetable garden.  After some discussion, it was agreed that they would bring in a mini digger to dig the hole for the new pole and that company agreed to make good any damage to the vegetable beds affected.    This meant moving our present strawberry bed so Mrs Tootlepedal gave the strawberries a very good watering and while this soaked in, we went off for a short bicycle ride to view the bluebells which she hadn’t seen so far this year.

I couldn’t help taking a few pictures while we there.

more bluebells 5

They have spilled over from the top of the hill and the whole banking is now going blue.

more bluebells 4

Wall to wall carpeting was to be seen on all sides.

more bluebells 3

Mrs Tootlepedal was thoroughly pleased that she had made the effort to visit.

more bluebells 2

We pedalled home by the long route, going along the Murtholm, across Skippers Bride…

distillery with leaves

…and back to the town along the other bank of the river.  I stopped on the suspension bridge to admire the cherries and remark on how low the river was.

cherries by esk between bridges

And looked downstream too.  The trees are green.Down river esk from suspension bridge

When we got home, we moved the strawberry plants to their new bed and gave them another good watering.  They look healthy enough so we hope that they will not mind the move too much.

I went to our corner shop to buy some eggs and came upon the travelling fishmonger’s van on the way back so I had smoked haddock kedgeree for my tea and Mrs Tootlepedal had hot smoked salmon.

After tea, I went off to sing with Langholm Sings, our community choir, and it was good to be singing together again after the Easter break.  We have a concert coming up in a month so we worked hard.

The weather had finally broken and it was raining as I walked home.  Fortunately, I had checked the weather forecast before going out and I had a brolly with me.  The rain is welcome  but the drop in temperature is not so welcome.  We may even see the return of the vest.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch creeping up on a redpoll.

flying goldfinch and redpoll

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