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Archive for Apr, 2020

The guest picture of the day is another from Dropscone’s recent walk.  He passed this fine tree on his way.  It seems to be involved in an intricate ballet step.

dennis's tree

We woke to a chilly morning, so chilly in fact that the street coffee morning meeting needed coats and was adjourned early on account of freezing fingers.

In spite of that, it was a fine enough day and when the sun got high enough to warm things up, it was another good day to be out in the garden.

This was lucky because in the lockdown, after coffee we go out into the garden.

I wandered around.

Mrs Tootlepedal has some very nice tulips with subdued but rich colours and they are being joined by very slender, brighter newcomers.

four tulips april 30

There were delicate and tiny flowers…

four garden flowers

…and more robust ones too…

…but the top joy of the day for me was this espalier apple going the whole hog.

apple in blossom

I was so enthused about life after seeing the apple, that I sieved some more compost.

In view of the enormous international interest, (largely unexpressed, it is true), in compost sieving,  I thought that I ought to take a picture of the high tech kit required for the process.

compost sievinh kit

The bucket beneath the barrow is for the rough bits that don’t go through the sieve.  Mrs Tootlepedal takes them away and does mysterious things with them.   The success of the compost making is measured by the proportion that ends in the wheelbarrow compared with the amount left in the bucket.  This spring the compost has been very rewarding.

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy in the vegetable garden and I helped by tying up the runner bean poles, one of the few jobs in the garden for which I am suited by nature.

Mrs Tootlepedal planted some onions and told me that she hopes to take seed from the turnip that is flowering and get more turnips from them for this year.

turnip and onions

We were in the front garden when our friend Gavin loomed up over the hedge and we enjoyed a chat.

gavin over the hedge

Then it was time to go in and make potato soup for lunch.  While it was cooking, I watched the birds.

sparrow goldfinch chaffinch

The soup went down well with some freshly made bread and a fine selection of the cheeses which our daughter Annie had kindly sent us.

cheese board

I should have mentioned that I was very impressed that the cheese parcel came with refrigerated wrapping.

The forecast for the day was unreliable to say the least.  It promised rain at various times and finally settled on an 80% chance of heavy rain at 3 o’clock in the afternoon for an hour or so, followed by better weather.  Bearing this in mind, I settled for baking some date rolls after lunch, intending to go for a walk after the rain in the hope of catching refreshed bluebells in subdued light.

As I don’t like rubbing butter into flour, I got Mrs Tootlepedal to show me how to use the food processor to do the job.  This turned out to be a really good idea and made making the pastry a piece of cake.

I didn’t get my arithmetic quite right when it came to assembling the rolls and ended up with half the batch heavy on pastry and light on filling and the other half vice versa.  However, as the pastry turned out to be as easy to eat as it was to prepare, there will  be no difficulty in finding a home for the finished rolls.

This was satisfactory but the weather was less so.  Far from bringing any much needed rain, the afternoon was as sunny as the morning and I was forced to go out in search of unrefreshed bluebells.

They weren’t hard to find as the wood along the river was carpeted with them.

eastons walk bluebells

I wasn’t the only one out enjoying the spring colours.

beechy plains

I walked up the little path through the bluebells at the end of the wood and took far too many pictures as I went.

bluebells Apr 30 5

You can perhaps see why…

bluebells Apr 30 4

…it is so difficult to stop clicking.

bluebells Apr 30 3

At the top of the hill, I met our friend Nancy going in the opposite direction.  After some conversation, we went our separate ways but I noticed that Nancy had taken the trouble to dress in sympathetic colours for her bluebell walk.

bluebells Apr 30 2

I took a final bluebell picture in the little clearing next to the Stubholm track….

bluebells Apr 30 1

…and walked on.

There were other delights besides the bluebells and if we hadn’t needed rain so badly, this little view would have been pure pleasure.

stubholm track

At the junction at the end of the track, I decided that a larger view would be a good idea and headed up the Warbla road.

bare tree late april

Once on the open hill, I turned down the track back towards the Auld Stane Brig and  passed below my old friend Tom.

He was sitting on a handy bench, recouping his strength before the final assault on the lofty summit of Warbla.  You can see the communications mast on the top of the hill in the background to the picture.

Tom on a bench

I enjoyed the view that I had come to see…

view from Warbla

…and dropped back down into the Wauchope valley.  I crossed the Auld Stane Brig and headed up the road towards Becks Farm.

I saw some wild geums in the hedgerow and didn’t think that they were out until I saw a bee proving me wrong.

bee on wild geum

I crossed the Becks Burn and took the track back to the town.  I have been along here quite a few times recently so I won’t add to the pictures that have already appeared on the blog.  (I am over my limit for the day already.)

When I got home, I had a cup of tea and several date rolls.

After the daily Zoom chat with my siblings, I made cauliflower cheese for tea and while it was cooking, I had a final walk round the garden to enjoy the tulips again.

azalea tulips evening

It may or may not rain tomorrow.  The forecast is not committing itself definitely.  After that it says it is not going to rain for another ten days.  We will be seriously parched if this turns out to be true.  Rather annoyingly, it seems to be raining almost everywhere else.

Still, the sunny weather is making the lockdown more tolerable than wet weather would make it so I should look on the bright side.  There is no other side to look on as far as the weather goes.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch looking for a free perch.

flying chaffinch

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary’s permitted walk yesterday.  It was raining, but she didn’t care as it kept other walkers away, and the fresh green colours it brought made her happy.

mary's park walk

The gloomy weather from the second half of yesterday’s walk carried over into this morning and it was cold and grey when we got up.

The day was serially brightened up though by two unexpected arrivals.  First our friend Marjorie, who had obviously been reading the blog, arrived with a gift of dates.  This is the sort of friend a man with no dates needs.

And then, as if that wasn’t good enough, the doorbell rang and a delivery man left a mysterious parcel on our doorstep.

This turned out to be a present from our daughter Annie, who had obviously been reading the blog, and contained a wonderful assortment of fine cheeses.  This is the sort of daughter that a man with a lack of fine cheese needs.

How thoughful people can be.

There was enough chill in the wind to discourage the street coffee drinkers from meeting but a forecast of “rain later” got me into some winter biking gear and out for a ride on the shopping bike.

I didn’t stray far from home as I wasn’t anxious to battle the wind for long or get caught out if the rain came early.   Basically I cycled up and down the same roads twice.

The blackthorn was looking lovely near the Glencorf Burn.  This is a favourite spot for sloe gin drinkers when the fruits come.

blackthorn cleuchfoot road

Spring proceeds slowly with a green tree on one side of the little valley and bare branches on the other.

hawthorn and alders

I cycled over the Sawmill Bridge on a little diversion to add some distance to my ride and thought that I would take a picture, before any rain comes, of the Ewes Water just to show how dry it has been .

very low ewes water

I managed to rack up 20 miles and enjoyed my ride more than I expected.

When I got home, I watched a collared dove battle with the feeder..

collared dove panel

…while chaffinches had to wait until it was finished.

I had a wander round the garden but it was too cold to do anything useful so I admired the ‘wild flowers’ in the back border….

honesty and cow parsley

…and greeted both the winner in the first rhododendron stakes…

first rhododendron

…and the first azalea stakes too.

first azalea

The grape hyacinths are going over but there are white bluebells…

white bluebells and fading garpe hyacinths

…tiny lily of the valley…

first lily of the valley

…a second flower on the garage clematis…

early clematis flowers

…and a geometrical Solomon’s Seal…

solomons seal

….to look at instead.

It wasn’t much fun outside so I went back in a watched the birds.

Goldfinches managed to share perches but greenfinches were not so caring.

greenfinches and goldfinches

Alarmed by the greenfinches, goldfinches took off to eat their seeds in peace.

goldfinches coming and going

We added the gravy from last night’s chicken stew to the remains of my brown lentil soup and it made a delicious dish to be enjoyed at lunchtime.  It went down particularly well with some bread and first rate cheese.

After lunch, I poked my head out into the garden again.  The lack of sunshine made it possible to take some pictures of flowers that are overwhelmed by bright light.

primrose and lady's smock

Even the bright red fancy tulip looked better to the camera with no glare.

three tulips

I went back in and spent some frustrating time working on a music program which unkindly crashed before I had saved my work. I have got so used to programs which silently back up my work as I go along that I had forgotten to take that basic precaution.

I went and had a cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal, and a ginger biscuit calmed me down.

Light rain began to fall in the afternoon but it didn’t come to much and more is needed of the garden is to get the drink that it requires.  But the rain did encourage birds to come to the feeder and it was busy.

A blackbird dived down to get some fallen seed….

diving blackbird

…while a sparrow contemplated life in the rain…

sparrow in the rain

…and a starling got tucked into the feeder.

starling on feeder

The gloomy day reinforced how lucky we have been with our good weather during the lockdown.  If it had been like this every day, we might have got very gloomy ourselves by now.

There is a choice of flying birds today, both chaffinches.

head banger chaffinchflying chaffinch

Footnote: Moaning on the blog has been so productive that I am wondering if I should mention that I am seriously short of gold nuggets.

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Today’s guest picture comes from Dropscone.  On one of his permitted walks, he found a friend.

deniis rabbit

As far as light for taking photographs went, it was a day of two halves with some good sunshine to start off.  This brought the best out of the tulips…

tulips and azaleas

…and got us quite excited about the coming of the age of azaleas.

In a break with tradition, the street coffee morning never got going as our neighbour Liz was out on a longer walk than she had intended and Mrs Tootlepedal was on a conference call regarding the proposed moorland buy out.  (There will be no living with her now that she has been on a conference call.)   I chatted with Margaret, the other participant for a while, and then we gave up.

As well as colour in the garden there are promising green shoots too.  The hostas are coming, the ferns are chatting and the alliums are getting ready to burst out.

three green garden things

I sieved some more compost.  I am reaping the benefit of trying to cut things up well before putting them in Bin A last year and doing my best to layer green and brown materials.  The present material in Bin C and D is the easiest to sieve that I have ever achieved.  (The dry spell helps too.)

I then scarified the front lawn and managed to take some pictures to record the results.

A run over the lawn with the electric scarifier left a lot of loose moss on the surface.  I raked it up into two heaps of a good size and Mrs Tootle[pedal took the moss away and made use of of it….

scarifying the front lawn

…leaving the lawn still looking rough.  I ran over it with the mower and collected another wheelbarrow load of moss which went in a bin.  The process left the lawn looking like this.

scarified lawn

(I mowed round in ever decreasing squares until I met myself coming back in the middle.)

There is still plenty of moss left in the lawn….to say the least.

I had time to appreciate the apple blossom…

apple blossom

…before going in for lunch and a chance to watch the birds at the feeder.

A rook was a surprise.

rook on bird feeder

…and two argumentative goldfinches were a delight.

super goldfinch

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal persuaded me to accompany her on a circular walk round Whita Hill.

This is Walk 10 of the Langholm Walks Project and the website says: It is on road and good tracks. Boots not needed in dry weather.  It adds: A long circular walk round Whita Hill. It is pleasant walking with a good variety of environments as you go round. At the far corner of the walk there is a real feeling of remoteness.

This is all true.

The only potential fly in the ointment was the appearance of some dark clouds in sky as we set off.

blossom and clouds esk

They held off as we walked up the track to Broomholmshiels and as I have walked this way a couple of time recently and put a lot of pictures in posts, I held off taking any pictures on this part of the walk….

…except this one.  The light was right.

yellow nettle

…oh, and this one too.

juniper

When we got to Broomholmshiels the clouds were covering more and more of the sky…

clouds over whita

…and by the time that we got to the bird hide, a few hundred yards up the road, the sun had gone for the day and it turned rather gloomy.

The larch trees at the bird hide have been felled and the hide looks rather lonely now with a forestry track where the glade used to be.

bird hide trees felled

However, the road down to the Tarras Water from the hide looks as inviting as ever and we continued our walk.

road from bird hide

We walked through a delightful wood on our way to the bridge over the river and having crossed over, we passed a small forest of horsetail and a boulder well covered with lichen…

birch horsetail lichen

…on our way up to Cronksbank.

As we went up the hill, we looked left over the Tarras Water to Rashiel and Whita…

view of rashiel and whita

…and straight ahead up the Little Tarras Water Valley…

little tarras valley from bottom

…before coming to the well sheltered farmhouse at Cronksbank itself.

cronksbank

We followed the track to Peterburn where we had a choice between crossing the Tarras Water again by a bridge or using the ford.

We chose the bridge…

perterburn bridge

…which was just as well, as the ford would have entailed us getting very wet shoes or taking  our shoes and socks off and paddling.  The water has not warmed up yet!

perterburn ford

Once across the water, we got to that remote corner of the walk….

view of the moor from middlemoss road

…and had to walk up this steady hill track to get to the road back to Langholm.

 

road from Middlemoss

We had an excuse to stop for a breather when we met the local farmer on his quad bike on his way to check on the lambs.  He was in a very cheerful mood as the recent spell of good weather has been perfect for his lambing season.

We were able to look back down the Little Tarras Water Valley towards Cronksbank as we walked along the road to the White Yett …

little tarras valley from top

…but the light was very poor by now and I couldn’t do the landscape justice.  Mrs Tootlepedal was hoping to see hen harriers in the sky on this section of our walk but although we saw several grouse and two curlews, we didn’t see any harriers.

We walked back down the hill enjoying trees, lambs and tiny bridges…

trees lambs and mini birdge

…and then turned across the hill to get to the top of the golf course and the Kirk Wynd.

A burst of white blossom among the gorse just before the gate was a pleasant surprise..

gorse and blossom

…but the Wynd itself has been so savagely cleared of growth of all sorts, that it is rather dull to walk down.

The steep slopes back into the town slowed us down as we find going down more troublesome than going up these days, but we finally made it to the suspension bridge where we were greeted by the welcome sight of swallows, both perching on the electric wires…swallows

..and flashing to and fro under the bridge as we crossed it.  I will have to come back with my bird camera to try to get a picture of them in better light.

This was a nine mile walk with a fair bit of up and down in it, the furthest we have walked for many years, so we were more than pleased to sit down to a cup of tea and a ginger biscuit or two when we got in.  We had a feeling of a job well done.

Between us, we had enough strength left to cook and eat an evening meal but we may well be a bit creaky tomorrow.  As it is due to rain at last, this may not matter too much.

The flying birds of the day are two goldfinches going this way and that.

two flying goldfinches

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Today’s guest picture is another from East Wemyss.  Our son Tony was supposed to restart work today but thanks to an administrative mix up, he had leisure to walk the dogs and enjoy this very clear view across the Forth instead.

sunny forth

We keep being promised a change in the weather but it was another glorious morning today and instead of lounging about and doing the crossword, I got up quite promptly and walked round the garden.

We have bluebells there too.

bluebell in garden

There were a lot of sparrows about but they were in flighty mood and this was the only one that stood still for long enough to get its picture taken.

sparrow on lawn

I strolled along the back path and was impressed by the trilliums (do we have milliums of trilliums?) and got very excited by a the first hint of colour on a nearby rhododendron.

trillium and rhododendron bud

In a break with lockdown tradition though, the main business of the morning was not loafing round the garden but heading off into the wider world.

If I am to keep riding my bicycle for my daily exercise, it needs servicing so I checked to see if the bike shop in Longtown was open and expecting my bike.  It was and they were and for the first time in what seems like ages, I got into the car and drove out of the town.

It felt rather daring and dangerous doing a journey by car that I have done many times recently on my bike, and I wondered if I would remember how to drive.  All went well and the bike was delivered to the bike shop and will come home with everything tightened up and a change of oil in the gear box.

I got back in time for the end of the morning street coffee gathering and while we were sipping and chatting, a passer-by presented Mrs Tootlepedal with large bag of horse manure.  I was quite surprised but Mrs Tootlepedal seemed pleased.

The horse manure was being ferried in a push chair and the designated occupant of the chair was running ahead and crying out, “Look at me, I’m running.”  I might have been running too if the alternative was to share my ride with a load of horse poop.

Still, the manure acted as a stimulant when we got back into the garden and I sieved a barrowload of compost from Bin D, and then shifted the contents of Bin A into Bin B, layering in the horse muck as I went.

Having done that, I scarified the middle lawn and produced mounds of moss.  Mrs Tootlepedal took most of it away to cover exposed soil in the back border and I mowed the remains off.  The result looked surprisingly good and a blackbird turned up to look for worms when I had finished.

scarified lawn april

Then, it was lunch time and there was a moment for gold and green finches to stare accusingly at me.

goldfinch and green finch

A siskin turned up and, as is usual when a siskin comes in, manners flew out of the window.

siskin and chaffinch

After lunch, I had a walk round the garden and turned my attention to the tulips.

white tulip panel

It is no hardship to look at tulips.

two tulips

In the back border shuttlecock ferns are unfurling.  They looked uncannily like a collections of penguins having a serious discussion.

shuttlecock ferns

There are things to look forward to…

aquilegia buds

…but I couldn’t wait and went out for a bike ride.

With my road bike in the bike shop, I turned to my shopping bike and went for a shorter ride than usual.

Just as I was about to set off, some drops of rain fell so I had to take the washing in first and then reconsider my cycling apparel.

I crossed my fingers and hoped that the rain wasn’t serious, and although there were some heavy clouds about….

clouds over langgholm

…in all directions…

clouds over the kerr

…I had a dry ride with only the smallest amount of rain to make sure that I didn’t dilly dally too much.

It was brighter over in England…

view of english hills

…but the wind turbines were only turning gently…

view of skiddaw

…and there was enough sun to show off cow parsley and a very interesting little green plant beside the road at Tarcoon.

cow parsley and another

As I dropped down into the Esk Valley, things looked gloomier, with the sun over there…

canonbie sunshine

…and not where I was.

This stand of trees at Brookwoodlees sums up the time of year, green but not totally green.

Brockwoodlees trees

What wind there was blew me home from here and I rolled in after 14 very enjoyable miles, with a scattering of raindrops to speed my final few rotations of the pedals.

I got home in nice time for the daily sibling Zoom and then I had a moment to appreciate a full turn out on the feeder which I had refilled…

busy feeder

…before having two lightly boiled eggs for my tea.

After  the excitement of actually going somewhere today, I aim to have a quiet day in tomorrow.

The authentic flying bird of the day is a sparrow with its eye on the prize.

fling sparrow

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony who found this very unexpected thistle pie while out on a walk.  He may have had a hand in its creation.  The things that people do during lockdown.

(He says that the recipe for the pie can be found at http://www.thistlehurtyour hand.com.)

thistle cake

The weather changed this morning and the hills were misty when we got up.  Jackets were required for the morning coffee as the temperature had dropped to more normal April levels.  Luckily I had made a batch of ginger biscuits after breakfast so the gathering was not entirely without warmth.

Following the advice of our son Alistair and his wife Clare, I visited out local shop and asked the owner if he felt that I was old and frail enough to warrant getting deliveries rather than shopping in person.  “Undoubtedly,” he said, looking me straight in the eye.  He is an old friend and he is under pressure from his children too so he understood.  I was very grateful.

After coffee, we went into the garden.  There were still many daffodils to dead head, there was compost to sieve, and things to water so I was quite busy.

I checked on the fruit.  Apples, blackcurrants and gooseberries are all looking quite potential…

blackcurrant, apple, pear and gooseberry

…and the silver pear is looking lovely but sadly it does not produce eatable fruit.

In spite of the cool, cloudy weather, flowers still looked pretty as a picture…

trillium, daffoidl tulip, brunnera

…and there were riotous scenes all over the garden.

tulips, honesty, doronicum, cowslips

A trout lily is the flower of the day.

trout lily

In the pond, pond skaters were busy.  I like the way that they slightly dent the surface of the water.

pond sakets

I cooked some lentil soup for lunch and Mrs Tootlepedal made bacon butties to go with it so we were well fed when we set out on an afternoon walk together.

Our primary target was to see if the bluebells were fully out yet.  They were almost but not quite at their best and it was a treat to walk along among them.

bluebells april panel

It is difficult to stop taking pictures of bluebells because you always think that your next effort is going to be the best yet…

bluebells april 1

…and I had two cameras with me and used them both freely.  In the end, I think that once again, this path down the hill is my favourite.

bluebells april 2

I will be back again in a few days time to take the same pictures all over again!

We walked on down the hill and on to the Murtholm Track towards Skippers Bridge.

There was plenty to see besides bluebells including English plantains, uncurling ferns, brilliant dandelions and incipient geums.

fern dandelion geum english plantain

And having seen a lesser stitchwort…

stitchwort

…we saw these too.  They all look different.  There must be a greater stitchwort in there but is there a marsh stitchwort too?  I am sure knowledgeable and helpful readers will tell me.

three stitchworts

I can recognise a horsetail.  There were a lot at one spot beside the path.

horsetail

Even without the sun, it was a lovely walk.

 

murtholm view

We came to Skippers Bridge and instead of crossing it, we walked along the same side of the river using the path in the woods between the river and the main road.

We had come to see a heronry which a friend had told Mrs Tootlepedal about. We hadn’t walked along the path for many years and never before in this direction, so it was a novelty to us.

The dry weather meant that it was in good condition for elderly walkers and we enjoyed a fine blackthorn bush…

blackthorn

…and when the sun unexpectedly came out, the walk through the trees was a real pleasure.

path between esk and A7

We saw several herons’ nests and one or two herons as well.

heronry beside A7

The bank of the river is rather steep at this point  but we found a place where we could scramble down onto the river bed.  There is so little water at the moment that we could get well out into the river and look back to get an unusual view of Skippers Bridge at a distance….

Esk very low water

…and, thanks to the zoom on the Lumix, from close up too.

skippers bridge from A7 side

I can’t tell you how life enhancing it was to be able to sit for a moment in such a beautiful spot.

Mrs T in middle of river esk

We were completely sheltered from any wind, and the light was gorgeous now that the sun had come out.  As we walked further down the river, it was hard not to stop every few yards…

esk from riverside path

…to watch ducks on a rocky promontory and some thick and luscious sedge.

sedge

Not to mention flotillas of ducklings….

ducklings esk bromholm

…and the fine metal bridge that crosses to Broomholm Island from the far bank.

broomholm island bridge

It was a peaceful scene.

esk at Broomholm

Everything was so fresh and green that it was hard to tear ourselves away from the river bank but in the end, we followed this path up to the main road…

path up to road from broomholm island

…and walked along the road back to Skippers Bridge.

I looked at one of my cameras at this point and saw that I had already taken 100 pictures with it since breakfast so I thought that it was now time to stop. We walked home back along the river bank to the park without pausing for more photo ops on the way.

In the end, we walked just under four miles but because of the many stops to admire our surroundings, it had taken us a long time and we were more than ready for a cup of tea and a ginger biscuit (or two) when we got home.

After the cold and cloudy start to the day, the warmth and the sunshine of the afternoon were even more welcome than they would have been if the recent good weather had continued unabated.  The morning made us realise just how lucky we have been with our weather.

We are promised 1°C for early tomorrow morning so the winter wear may have to be dug out again.

I didn’t have time to look for a flying bird of the day today and a curl of poplar leaves in the park, my final shot of the day, is standing in.

poplar leaves park

Sorry about all the pictures but what with bluebells and river scenes, it just couldn’t be helped.

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Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s recent walk.  She met a nesting swan and was very careful to keep her social distance.

venetia's swan

Our spell of dry weather continued today and it has reached the stage that talk of drought and water shortage is appearing in the national press.   Certainly it has been dry enough for cracks to begin to occur in Mrs Tootlepedal’s flower beds.  Considering that we were suffering from incessant rain and floods only two months ago, the change has been remarkable and a little disturbing.  We should have changeable weather, not weeks of one thing at a time.

Anyway, the street socially distanced coffee morning enjoyed the sunshine once again (and polished off the last of the date rolls).  I had a look round while I was there and saw the first Welsh poppy of the year against the wall of our house, aubretia and hosta beside the dam, and marsh marigolds in it.

poppy, hosta, aubretia and marsh marigold

Sparrows flitted about, one pecking at the mortar of our neighbour Liz’s house and they were joined by other sparrows and a collared dove when I went back into the garden.

sparrows and dove

The sparrows in the garden were doubtless hoping to get a peck at Mrs Tootlepedal’s  young lettuce but it is well protected.  They don’t seem to enjoy broad beans so Mrs Tootlepedal has been able to take the mini greenhouses off them.

lettuce and beans

She is very pleased with the progress of the cow parsley which will soon be in full bloom…

cow parsley

…and with the trilliums which are coming along splendidly.

trilliums

Because I like eating fruit a lot, I am particularly pleased to see that it is apple blossom time.

first apple blossom

And of course, there are always tulips…

tulip panel

…my current favourite being ‘Queen of the Night’ (bottom right) , a very dark variety.

Daffodils are piling up in the compost bin…

daffs in compost

…but they are not all dead and gone yet.

daffodil pair

I don’t use weed killer on the lawn any more, as it is generally a bad thing and also means that you can’t put the grass cuttings in your compost unless you leave them there for ages.  And a result, there is a bit more colour on the middle lawn than an obsessional lawn person would want…

weeds on lawn

…but I am quite relaxed about it these days.  I may dig the worst of the weeds out later in the spring or I may just let them alone.

I sieved some compost and held the cable while Mrs Tootlepedal mowed along the back of the house beside the dam.  She also mowed the drying green, trying not to behead any of her new tulips.   She is aiming for a forest of tulips but has a little way to go yet.

drying green with tulips

After lunch something on the lawn made a thrush and a blackbird find things to interest them.

thrush and blackbird on lawn

Mrs Tootlepedal had scattered some chopped up cashew nuts and they also caught the attention of a rook.

rook on wire

I left the nut hunters to it and went off for my permitted cycle ride, my third in three days after three days of walking.  I will get back to my walk/ride alternation from tomorrow.

At 65°F (18°C) it was like a summer’s day and not only the cycling shorts but sun cream were necessary for a comfortable ride.

I went for a shorter and easier ride than yesterday and stuck to the lowlands.

Marsh marigolds and dandelions lit up the verges

marsh marigolds and dandelions

Gretna was eerily empty as I cycled through it, with weddings, tour buses and the shopping village all out of the picture.  The motorway was eerily empty too.

empty motorway

Strange times.

The trees on the Gretna to Longtown road were beautiful to behold….

trees at CAD

…and the Longtown pond wasn’t bad either.

Longtown pond

I was pleased to see this handsome tree in full leaf…

tree with leaves

…and I was happy to have the opportunity to set the record straight on a wild flower I had misidentified in yesterday’s post.  It wasn’t valerian at all, but wild garlic, also called Jack in the Hedge.  As you can see, this lot was living up to its name.  (Thank you to the kind readers who put me right.)

jack by the hedge

When I got back to Langholm after 32 miles of warm and sunny pedalling, I paused as I crossed the bridge to get the riverside blossom and the river in the same shot.

river with blossom from bridge

During the outing, I did finally eat the last date in my collection and I will now have to wait, possibly many months, until I can get to the shop that sells them. The lack of dates and interesting cheese is annoying but it is keeping me relatively slim.  Every cloud….

The trip took me over 300 miles for the month and I have also passed 1000 miles for the year.  These are not great distances but they are nevertheless satisfactory with a few days still left in the month.

WhatsApp and Zoom are keeping the family well connected and neighbours are always available across a road, hedge, dam or fence so we are constrained but not lonely and count our blessings.

The flying bird of the day is that rook going nuts.

flying rook

Footnote:  As I was writing this post, Mrs Tootlepedal called my attention to a nearly new moon.

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Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony.  When he looks out to sea, he can see a rig parking lot..

oil rigs

Because we are generally confined to the garden rather than driving or cycling all over the place, there is a certain similarity between one day and another in our life, especially in this current run of good weather.  The result is a series of posts which are uncannily like the ones from the day before.  This can’t be helped.

The daffodils are almost over and the azaleas and clematis are not yet out so tulips are the main colour in the garden at the moment.    Even though we see them every day, they still give enormous pleasure and I have put in a few here even though they have all appeared before.

four tulip panel

A new fancy one has come out to join the bright red and yellow variety…

tulips and daff panel

…and the last daffodils are fighting an uphill battle to get noticed.

My favourite tulip shot of the day was this unexpected interior.

blue tulip heart

Other flowers are doing well but don’t quite have the ‘hit’ of the tulips.

Honesty (more every day), anemone (there are only two in the garden)…

four red flowers

…perennial wallflower (the start of a lasting relationship I hope) and lamium (better than ever this year) are all doing their best.

One exciting new development is the first appearance of a trillium.

first trillium

This shot of the willow in front of the hedge along the road wins the prize for the oddest picture of the day.  Do you see a cartoon character there?

willow fingers

And a bee very kindly lay flat on a leaf to let me get a good picture before it flew off.

bee on leaf

I cycled round to the shop and took this picture of the blossom beside the river on my way home.

blossom beside esk

I say ‘beside the river’ but the water is so low that it was impossible to get it and the blossom in the same shot.

The date rolls turned out better than I thought and are very tasty.  They gained the approval of the street coffee gathering.

date roll

After lunch we had a cheerful time watching Matilda – at a distance on WhatsApp – open a very sparkly birthday card from Mrs Tootlepedal and a pile of books from us both.  They should have arrived on Monday, which was her birthday, but the post is running very slowly at the moment.  The delay didn’t seem to lessen Matilda’s appreciation of the sparkle or the books.  She gave us a dancing display to show us how she is keeping fit during the lockdown.  We were exhausted just watching it.

Then I went for a cycle ride.  It was a warm day with virtually no wind and for once the turbines were not moving, so my knees were on display again.

I chose a circular route, probably never more than ten miles from home as the crow flies which ended up delivering a varied 40 mile outing.

I started by going past the Gates of Eden….

gates of eden april

…and headed for the site of a new wind farm near Bailliehill.  I liked this notice with its helpful illustration, just in case drivers didn’t know what they were driving.

sign at crossdykes windfarm

I passed new life on my way.

two youngsters

My route took me down the very top of the course of the Water of Milk and on a day like today, it did look like a land of milk and honey.

water of milk valley

I got to Paddockhole and turned back towards Langholm, passing this fine roadside tree near Grange Quarry…

tree near grange quarry

…and a surprising patch of violets in the bank at Dunnabie.

violets beside road

I didn’t go straight back to Langholm, turning off at Crowdieknowe and joining first the Waterbeck and then the Gair road.  There was a lot of gorse about near Gair.

gorse everywhere

I cut off from the Gair road and headed for Chapelknowe, pausing to admire these trees and the very rare sight of a con trail in the sky.

two trees and contrail

To the south west. Skiddaw, nearly thirty miles away, looked very close.

Lake District from Cadgeill

Although I had started the ride with little or no wind, by the time that I turned for home, the wind had got up and the wind turbines were turning gently so I concentrated on pedalling from this point and took no more pictures.  I did stop for a moment to drop in on my sisters’ daily Zoom meeting just to say that I wouldn’t be joining it.  The wonders of technology!  (If I had a phone mount on my bike, I might have pedalled and chatted at the same time, a sure recipe for disaster.)

I took a banana, some guava jelly and the last decent date that I had in the store cupboard for nutrition on the ride but when the time came, I couldn’t bring myself to eat the date, and brought it all the way home again.  I will have to eat it some time but I won’t be able to get a new stock until the lockdown ends.

In the evening, after Matilda was safely in bed, her parents, Alistair and Clare rang us up and gave us a stern lecture on the proper way to behave in the present crisis.  As we had been worrying a lot about them, it was very nice to find that they had been worrying a lot about us.  They seemed very cheerful in spite of not having been out of the house at all for a month so we will try to pay attention to what they advised.   As Mrs Tootlepedal pointed out though, it is quite hard to change one’s view of oneself from being clearly immortal to being elderly and needing shielding in the space of two months.

No flying bird today, just two doves up the pole.

doves up pole

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