Today’s guest picture comes from our son Alistair in Edinburgh. He found a heron standing on the ice when he visited his local park this morning.
For once we didn’t have an icy start to the day here, with the temperature staying between 2 and 4 degrees C all day.
There was ice about though. Mrs Tootlepedal has a bucket of water to help her wash gravel on her drive project. It has been thoroughly frozen for weeks, but when I looked today, it had thawed round the edges and I was able to lift a disk of ice out of the bucket. It was remarkably heavy, being at least a couple of inches thick, and I thought that it was worth a picture. The series of thaws and frosts have left it with an interesting pattern of bubbles going down deep into the ice.
It may not have been freezing but it was raining, gently but persistently, so this seemed like an ideal morning to get to work on a cheese making kit which our daughter Annie had very thoughtfully sent us as a present to help pass these lockdown days.
We started with a simple goat’s milk cheese, The goat’s milk was provided by courtesy of our admirable corner shop. John had got it in specially for us.
The instructions were very clear and included the wise words, “Read the whole method before you start.” We read it twice. Then under the supervision and with the assistance of Mrs Tootlepedal, I made the cheese. It turned out very well for a first effort, looking like this…
…and as an added bonus, I was able to use the whey as the liquid in making some leek and potato soup when the cheese making was finished. So we had home-made soup with home-made bread and home-made cheese for lunch.
The cheese was young so it was a little light in flavour, but the whey added a tasty tang to the soup. I am using some more of the whey to make a loaf in the breadmaker as I write this post. It will be interesting to see how that comes out.
We put the cheese in the fridge to firm up and when we tried some later in the day, it had a much better flavour.
The cheese making did allow a little time for bird watching and I saw a couple of siskins on the feeder. They didn’t waste any time before getting into arguments with themselves and others.
Our resident robin was back, delving deeply into the peanut butter jar.
After lunch, I was given the eye by a pigeon and a blackbird…
…spotted two soggy goldfinches on the feeder…
…and saw a female blackbird on Mrs Tootlepedal’s subsidiary seed table outside the kitchen window.
As you can see in that final picture, the rain was very light by this time and I decided to go for a walk. It wasn’t at all windy, so I didn’t need heavy rain gear and just took a light jacket and my umbrella. Unlike yesterday when the mist seemed to be lying low and moving up, today it seemed to be sitting on top of the hills and occasionally coming down. I therefore chose a low level walk and went ’round Potholm’.
It was never going to be a day for lovely views. I kept my eyes down as I walked along the road out of town and saw moss, fresh brown fungus and several scarlet elf cups, still a surprise for me at this time of year, though I learned when I looked it up that it does grow at this time of year and likes to flush after a thaw. Perhaps I should stop being surprised and look a little more carefully.
When I turned off onto the Potholm road, the rain eased off, but as the clouds came right down to ground level at the same time, this wasn’t as beneficial as it might have been. The mist wasn’t as thick as on my cycle ride yesterday and I could see quite well if things were close…
…but views across the river were not quite so good.
However, I was walking beside an excellent wall…
…and as regular readers will know, where there’s a wall there’s a
whey way of passing time. It’s called ‘looking at lichens’.
The lichens are really enjoying the weather at the moment.
I passed a group of sheep eating turnips. It was hard to tell if they were enjoying themselves.
I crossed the river and walked up the hill to the track back to Langholm on the other side. Finally, the icy patches along the track have all disappeared, and I was able to stroll along with confidence for the first time for ages.
Nothing grows under beech trees and I took a picture of this patch just to show that the moss doesn’t always win, though it keeps trying.
The day didn’t get any brighter as I went along…
… but it didn’t rain all the time and I was frequently able to furl my brolly and tuck it under my arm. Looking at the hills, I would say that I had made the right decision in keeping to the lower ground.
I noted a few things on my way back…
…but the cheeriest thing that I saw was this row of beech leaves on branches that have been pruned and regrown..
I got down to the Ewes water at the Kilngreen and looked around for dippers. I saw one which perched on a rock in between several long dives. I followed it down the river until it suddenly got quite agitated and flew back upstream. The reason for its agitation emerged from a mess of twigs at the water’s edge. Two dippers for the price of one.
The top left picture in the panel above shows just how small dippers are in the great scheme of things. It is a tribute to the amazing zoom lens on the Lumix that I can get any pictures of them at all on such a gloomy late afternoon.
Mr Grumpy is bigger and easier to spot.
Once again, I had timed my walk perfectly and got home just in time for four o’clock tea and toast.
The fives miles I had walked took my walking distance for the month up to 100 miles so I feel a bit better about only having cycled 60 miles. It is not often that I will walk more than I cycle in a month, though this will be one of several months recently when I have cycled and walked further than I have driven.
Curiously, I have just had to take a break in writing this post because I was overcome by the need for a cream cracker with freshly made goats cheese on it. I found that Mrs Tootlepedal was watching Winter Watch on the telly and as I passed by, they were discussing lichens. Yesterday I had a picture of a gorse bush on my blog and they were discussing gorse on Winter Watch; today I have lichens on the blog and they are discussing lichens on Winter Watch . What is going on? Are they checking my every move? If they have goat’s cheese on tomorrow’s programme, we will know the truth.
There might be a chance of a bicycle ride tomorrow if the forecast is to be believed. I am keeping my fingers crossed.
I am afraid that there is yet another chaffinch as flying bird of the day as I missed the chance to catch the dipper flying up the river this afternoon.