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Today’s guest picture was provided by my brother.  He thinks there should be a counterbalance to the many white lambs which have appeared in the blog lately.  He saw these diverse lambs on a walk in the Peak Distract.

manifold lambs

We had another cold and (very) windy day today so I was pleased that my banked cycling mileage for the month would let me take a day off without feeling guilty about it.

It was brightened by the appearance of Dropscone and Sandy for coffee.  Dropscone had been shopping so there were no scones but I was able to plug the gaps with a combination of iced buns and mini Jaffa cakes so we didn’t starve.

After coffee, I sat down to make the most of the morning by putting a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database but suffered the first frustration of the day when I couldn’t access the server to put the data in.  This has happened before and cured itself so I am hoping that it might do so again. (It hadn’t by the end of the day.)

The enforced rest allowed me to spend more time than lately in staring out of the window.  There was plenty to look at.

siskin and goldfinch

A siskin and goldfinch having a discussion

The birds looked as though they were feeling the cold a bit, not to mention the brisk wind.

goldfinches

But occasional shafts of sunshine cheered things up a bit.

goldfinches

We certainly have a lot of goldfinches about at present

After lunch, the wind didn’t get any less intrusive…

wood pigeon

Not a happy looking wood pigeon

…but the sun arrived to pick out a redpoll in all its glory.

redpoll

The wind was still nippy though

redpoll

And in a moment of almost transcendental joy, it also let me finish turning the contents of Bin C into Bin D.

compost

Have you ever seen anything more exciting?

And then I had time for a garden wander.  There is plenty of colour about even if spring is creeping along very slowly indeed.

April flowers

And useful insects too.

insect of daffodil

bee on tulip

This bee couldn’t find a way into the tulip and banged round the side for some time.

The first tulips are starting to go over but they still have the capacity to delight.

tulips

The sun was a cause of  frustration though as it came out at the same time as I had an appointment to visit the physio so I couldn’t make the best of it with a walk.

On the plus side, the visit to the physio was very helpful.  She was pleased with my progress and had useful suggestions for further action and will see me again in a month for a further check.  I walked back home with a spring in my step.

After a cup of tea, I had a moment to look out of the window again.

collared dove

A collared dove paid us a visit

I thought though, that this picture of a chaffinch among the rather scanty plum blossom summed up the day best.

chaffinch

I still had time to go for a walk but I foolishly thought that I ought to try to get some sense out the Archive Group power suppliers as they had not written me the promised letter of explanation after a month of waiting.  This was not a life affirming experience and not only am I no nearly a satisfactory conclusion to my problems but it took so long that I hadn’t time for a walk.

Luckily my flute pupil Luke came to cheer me up with some excellent playing and good signs of progress.  He is a really good lad and I get great pleasure out of our duets.

A final moment of frustration to round off the day came when I got a message from the website hosting company suggesting a solution to my database problems.  It was good to get a helpful suggestion from people who know but the fact that it didn’t work modified my rapture severely.  I will see if my younger son can help me out.  He knows about these things.

The flying bird of the day is one of the flock of goldfinches.

flying goldfinch

 

 

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Today’s guest picture was taken by Santa Claus.  She is visiting us at the moment and brought our Christmas presents up with her.  She was so anxious to see our faces when we opened them, that we were given special dispensation to tear off the paper 25 days early.  She wasn’t disappointed with our reaction.

ukuleles

The perfect his and hers gift

It was just as well that we had this generous gift to bring some light into our life because there was precious little in the way of any light at all outside as we ‘enjoyed’ another excessively gloomy and wet morning.

I did look out to see if the rain had stopped from time to time and saw a welcome visitor to the feeder.

redpoll

We had been promised a warm front and true to the prediction the temperature which was 4 degrees C at breakfast, rose 3 degrees in half an hour at lunchtime and then continued to climb until it was 13 degrees when I went to Carlisle in the evening.

The rain stopped as the temperature went up and I out out some pellets for the jackdaws.

jackdaw

Somehow I don’t think of birds using their tongues to pick up pellets.

There were the usual queues.

jackdaw

For the second day running we got a dry afternoon, although there was no sign of the sun today.  Still, it was very pleasantly warm so we went out for a quick walk round Gaskell’s.

The zero temperature yesterday doesn’t seem to have affected the lichen on the park wall…

park wall lichen

…though the recent strong winds have had an effect nearby.

fallen trees

 We kept a wary eye for more falling trees as we walked up the track to the Stubholm.

There was plenty of water about, coming off the hill…

waterfall at new bridge

…and rushing down the valley below.

Wauchope

I was very surprised to see some fresh fungus poking out from a covering of moss on a log beside the track.  Maybe the moss had protected it form the cold.

fungus

Annie (a.k.a Santa) was busy with her camera too and posed Mrs Tootlepedal in the middle of the road for an artistic shot…

Annie snapping

…and luckily avoided being run over by any log lorries while she was doing it.

When we got home, the ladies spotted some fresh fungus on our front lawn.

lawn fungus

The plant world must be baffled by our changeable weather.

Later in the afternoon, our front room filled up with tenors when four of our section in the Langholm Sings choir gathered for a secret and much needed practice.  We have a concert on Friday and we need all the help that we can get.

In the evening, I went off to Carlisle with Susan in her car and we had a very enjoyable session of recorder quartets, ending with a rousing version of Alexander’s Ragtime Band….and some excellent chocolate biscuits to go with our post-playing cup of tea.

I spent some time during the day installing Windows 10 on my back up laptop and some more time taking it off again.

The flying bird of the day is a shadowy jackdaw, the best that could be achieved on a very grey day.

flying jackdaw

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my son Tony and shows one of his large pack of fierce  hounds.tony's dogAnother dry day, this time with added sunshine and light winds, made for a unmissable chance to go cycling and this time, I didn’t miss it.

There was a moment of distraction before I got going when I noticed a newcomer at the bird feeder.  It was early in the day and the light wasn’t good but this was the first sighting in the autumn of a brambling in the garden so I have put the picture in for the record.

bramblingThe feeder may have been in deep shadow but there was sunshine on the plum tree where a goldfinch was looking a bit put out by the newcomer.

goldfinchIn spite of the sunshine, it was a fairly nippy 6°C when I set off so I was well wrapped up.  I had judged the clothing level well though and I maintained a good temperature, not too hot, not too cold, for the whole ride.

I was helped by going at a very steady pace as I was in no hurry and kept an eye out for views which might show why pedalling up the Ewes valley is my favourite Sunday morning run.

On the way up, I stopped to look to my left….

Ewes valleyEwes valley…and to my right.

Ewes valleyThe valley is remarkable for the extreme flatness of the narrow strip of ground between the hills on both sides.

The flat ground comes to an abrupt end though and the head of the valley is surrounded by hills….

Ewes valley….I took a panorama too.

Ewes valleyInstead of going straight on up the main road to Mosspaul as I usually do, the fine weather persuaded me to turn right at Fiddleton Toll and head for the hills.  The road has been recently resurfaced and was a pleasure to ride along.

road to carretriggI turned round as I climbed gently to see the valley that I had left behind me.

ewes valleyI was headed for Carretrigg, a fine ridge at the top of  a steep hill.

carretriggI could have gone on and dropped into Liddesdale but I didn’t have time so after admiring the view to the south…..

carretrigg…and the north….

carretrigg…I pointed the bike back down the hill….

carretrigg…and headed for home.

Unlike the capricious wind of last week, the gentle wind in my face on the way up today had slightly strengthened but kept its direction so I was able to pedal back to Langholm with a light heart and twinkling legs.

When I got back, Mrs Tootlepedal and I sawed off another limb of the apple tree and Mrs Tootlepedal did some excellent trimming and shredding so that everything was tided away by the time that I had had a shower.

I took a picture or two in the garden while I was out there.

clematis and nerine

The low temperature in the morning had not harmed the nerine or clematis.

The feeder was now in the sunshine but there were no bramblings to be seen, just sparrows…

sparrows…and contentious chaffinches.

chaffinchesIn the afternoon, we went to Carlisle to combine a little shopping with a choir practice.  We are singing at the switching on of the Christmas Lights in the city centre next month so we concentrated on some Christmas songs today which seemed a bit inappropriate for such a pleasant sunny day but we enjoyed ourselves anyway.

When we got home, we found that a contentious refereeing decision had put the nail in the coffin of Scotland’s chances of going further in the Rugby World Cup so I was exceptionally glad that the choir practice had prevented me from watching the match.  I wasn’t very happy but I must have been the happiest rugby supporter in Scotland.  I would have been distraught if I had been watching.

We had some baked cod for our tea and then I watched a little uncontentious telly and pruned the pictures for tonight’s post before going to watch the recorded highlights of the game and cry a little.

Today’s flying bird is a chaffinch, cheerfully unconscious of the national disaster ahead.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture shows a firework display at Glastonbury Abbey which my Somerset correspondent Venetia enjoyed whether she wanted to or not.  The picture was taken from her kitchen.

fireworksAfter our brief but warmly welcomed spell of good weather, we woke up to find wind and rain again this morning so while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing with the church choir, I stayed in and put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database.  In a moment of good IT housekeeping, I also made a  back up of the 70,000 plus entries, something that I should do more often (and in more different places).

After Mrs Tootlepedal returned, we went off and did a little shopping and then had an early lunch.

The weather cleared up a little and over lunch, I peered out of the kitchen window once or twice.

sparrow and chaffinch

Two studies in concentration

busy feeder

I wasn’t the only one having lunch

I was very pleased to manage to be at the window at the same time as an infrequent visit from a great tit.

great titAfter lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal once again picked up her tools and set about improving one of the flower beds.  As this involved some very heavy work digging out a campanula which had got too big for its boots, I kept myself busy by carting off the stems and shredding them.   I always leave the heavy work to Mrs Tootlepedal.

As usual, I popped about taking pictures too. I tried to take some shots of the ‘bigger picture’ today.

phloxnasturtiums and rambler roseschimney and sedumdahlia and alstroemeriaTwo flowers that have thrived on the damp, cool days have been the lilies and hostas.  I don’t think that I have ever seen the hosta flowers looking so good.

lilies and hostasAfter I had shredded a mountain of debris from the flower bed improvements, I sieved a little compost.  I have nearly sieved all of Bin D now (the bits that don’t go through the sieve get returned to Bin C) and I will soon be ready to turn the other bins in the chain.

It was dry enough by now to mow the middle lawn….

middle lawn…and you will see how carefully I avoided those dead straight rows which are the mark of a repressed and authoritarian mind.

With expert guidance from Mrs Tootlepedal, I planted some of the wild flowers that we were given by our friend Jenny into the front lawn.  The ‘wild’ areas are beginning to take a bit of shape after a slow start but it looks as though they are going to need quite a bit of work.  I am not taking pictures of them at the moment as they just look tatty.

I couldn’t go past the roses without a shot or two.

lilian Austin Crown Princess

The Crown Princess looking well, Lilian Austin looking a bit sad.

The first cosmos has come out and here it is with a darkly handsome poppy.

cosmos poppyOften when you look at a picture on the computer, you see things which you didn’t notice at the time of shooting.  Here are a dahlia and calendula, each with added insect(s).

dahlia calendulaThere is a new clematis, winding through one of the philadelphus bushes….

clematis…which makes nine in flower at the moment.

The garden was full of the buzz of insects in the afternoon, the privet and buddleia being the chief attractions.

buddleia privetJust before I went back in, I took yet another look at the tropaeolum.  It would be my favourite red flower….

tropaeolum…if it wasn’t for the fuchsia which has finally come out at last.

fuschsiaMy legs seem to have coped with the 30 mile pedal and the two and a half mile walk of the last two days without any ill effects so I am hoping for some fine weather next week to give me a chance for a longer cycle ride.  I enjoyed my restful day today.  Mrs Tootlepedal though is feeling quite tired from all her gardening and who can blame her.

The last of the contributors to our recent photo exhibition at The Hub in Eskdalemuir came round to collect his pictures and was delighted to find that he had sold three of them.  Four of the exhibitors had sold several pictures each (even I sold one) and we felt that it had been a really good idea to take up their offer.  If all goes well, we will certainly do it again next year.  It is satisfying to have one’s work appreciated.

The flying bird of the day is a standard chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture, sent by my son Tony to annoy us, shows his villa as seen from the beach as he and Marianne enjoy the Mediterranean sunshine on a short holiday.

Villa TonyA look on the Met Office website this morning showed that the ‘feels like’ factor here was 7°C but even that felt generous as the everlastingly strong wind made life outside feel very chilly indeed.  Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Edinburgh to see Matilda and nearly got knocked off her feet by the wind there.  The wind in Edinburgh is always worse than the wind anywhere else though.

I waited at home to let the joiner and his mate in.  They did some of those little niggling jobs that need doing but never seem to get done.  Today, however, they did get done.

Even though it was cold and windy, it could have been worse because the forecast rain held off until the evening so we were grateful for a dry day.  I stayed inside and enjoyed the show out of the window.

It was The Day of the Starlings: Part ll.

starlings and young

It started with a pose for a family picture…

starlings and young

…but soon got down to business.   Watch the youngster on the right…..

starlings and young

…he just wasn’t getting enough attention so he trod on one sibling…

starlings and young

…and then his parent…

starlings and young

…and then tried to push his other sibling off the perch.

Why am I sure that this was a boy and not a girl?

Other youngsters proved that shouting really loudly does get results.

starlings and youngstarlings and youngSoon, there were so many starlings on the feeder that it was hard for a parent to tell one bird from another.

starlings and youngHow did that sparrow get in?

starlings and young

The sparrow soon left as space was at a premium.

starlings and young

And the show went on….and on….and on, all day.

I decided that I had to take some exercise so I wrapped up well and went for a walk round the Kilngreen and the Castleholm in the hope of seeing some birds that weren’t starlings.

oystercatcher and heronWalking on, I saw a flying wagtail and a pretty fern on a wall…
fern and wagtail…an impressive display of lichen on a tree trunk and fresh growth in a conifer….

lichen and conifer….some wild flowers beside the path, some pretty, some strange….

wild flowers…and got home in time to go to the Buccleuch Centre for a Patrons’ Lunch.  These lunches are accompanied by a lecture from a guest and today we got a fascinating talk, with a wealth of interesting statistics on the progress of the Langholm Moor Demonstration Project from Dr. Sonja Ludwig, the chief project scientist.  Well, it was very interesting to me and those who wish, can see what it was all about by visiting the project website.

In the afternoon, I put a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group index and caught up with my Archive mail box.  I then spent more time preparing pictures of views of Langholm for cards.  It is difficult to get them bright enough to catch the eye of potential purchasers in the paper shop without making the colours untrue.  More work is needed.  I need to develop my understanding of what my printer will produce from screen shots.  Life is much easier when you are just preparing pictures for digital viewers.

During the day, I was able to get out into the garden and do a little mowing and some compost turning and of course, to take a few pictures.

back path

The back path is reasonably colourful at the moment.

clematis and poached egg plant

Things are coming out properly in spite of the chill

white spike

This looks exciting. I will have to ask Mrs Tootlepedal what it is.  It has been a bit blown about though.

euphorbia

I was advised to keep an eye on euphorbia developments so I did just that.  What an amazing plant it is.

Mrs Tootlepedal got home safely, having battled the fierce winds in Holyrood Park while pushing Matilda around and then after tea, I went off with Susan to play recorders with our group in Carlisle.

We had  a hard working practice sorting the final programme out for a forthcoming concert and working through the pieces.  I say it is the final programme but Susan thinks that we might have too much material and further slimming down may be necessary.  Still, it is better to have too much and discard some than to have too little and add an unpractised piece at the last minute.

The flying bird of the day is that oyster catcher leaving the Kilngreen.

flying oyster catcher

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It was a grey and gloomy day today and I needed a very cheerful guest picture.  Matilda kindly assisted by sending me this picture of her teaching her dad how to swim.  He seems to be enjoying it.  She takes her teaching task seriously.

matilda swimmingThe forecast offered Dropscone and me a window of opportunity for a dry cycle ride after breakfast but in the event it was more like a arrow slit than a window and it started raining lightly on us after eleven miles.  Luckily we had just turned and put the wind behind us at this point and light rain is much less of a nuisance if the wind is following you rather than in your face.  The rain was a bit half hearted anyway so we got back dry enough to enjoy our coffee and scones without having to change.

The rest of the day remained mainly dry but very grey and photography was not really among the recommended pastimes.  I did go out into the garden to try to take as many of the remaining flowers as I could. To have such a big choice was a delight this late in the year and is a tribute to the continuing mild weather….though some of the pictured flowers are the very last of the crop.  The list starts with some that are just hanging on.

sweet peas

Sweet peas

Icelandic poppy

Icelandic poppy

Japanese anemone

Japanese anemone

Lamium

Lamium

Cotoneaster

Cotoneaster, not a flower but very colourful

honeysuckle

Honeysuckle

sunflower

Sunflower

Nicotiana

Nicotiana

And continues with the ones doing well.

Sedum

Sedum

Marigold

Marigold

Special Grandma

Special Grandma

Astrantia

Astrantia

FuchsiaAnd ends with a cheat.

Winter Jasmine

Winter Jasmine

I failed to take a decent picture of one of the many nasturtiums that are still out and one or two other flowers defeated me as well.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal suggested a walk but I had given my bad knee a bit if a twist, ironically while walking back from a visit to the Heath Centre after coffee, so I stayed in while she went out.  I put the time to good use though by updating the Langholm Walks website which has been a bit neglected.  The Walks Group have produced a very snazzy new pack for their walks with a separate card for each walk and an OS map extract printed on the back of each card.

The walks are well used by people who come to the town especially to try them and must have brought quite a bit of business to the High Street over the years since they were started.  I noticed that the photo page of the website was rather outdated and needs to be redesigned.  The pictures are quite old too and  when I get my new knee, I hope that I will be able to get about some of the walks and take some fresh photos.  If any local reader has some good ones taken recently, I would welcome a contribution to the page.

It was really too grey to take pictures of the birds and they weren’t very co-operative either.

chaffinch

Either turning their backs to the camera…

Goldfinch

…or arriving too early for me.

If I did get one in the right place, it was raining and gloomy.

chaffinchIn the evening, we went off to a practice for our local choir, Langholm Sings.  It was better organised than usual and we did a lot of work on a new medley of well known Great War songs.  As with anything new though, there was a lot to learn and we were far from having mastered it by the end of the evening. Home study is required.

At the end of the practice, our choirmaster, who has not been at all well lately, announced that he was giving up his post.  It was quite a relief to us in a way, as it was obvious that trying to get us to sing properly was getting to be too much for him and we were fearing for his health.  Happily, he is still going to come and sing with us which will be a bonus.

The flying bird of the day was another one that was too quick for me.  It was only still flying because some avian hooligan had knocked one of the perches off the feeder but it was the best that I could do.

goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture shows a fine mountain view taken by my brother Andrew in NZ when he was tramping to Silica Rapids at Whakapapa at the beginning of this month.  I may have remarked before that he is an exceptionally active chap.  The building in the foreground is a hotel.

Tramping to Silica Rapids at Whakapapa Sept 2014 - 1I was by no means an active chap myself today and the most energetic thing that I did in the morning was to make a pot of coffee for a gathering of Dropscone, Arthur and Sandy who sat round our kitchen table and enjoyed one of Dropscone’s girdle scones and a slice of Selkirk bannock while sipping.

It was a fairly dismal morning, grey and drizzly as this picture of a perching chaffinch demonstrates…

chaffinch in rain…and so it was no great hardship for me to have coffee and conversation rather than to try to keep up with Dropscone in the wet.

I am still rather upset by the failure of the independence referendum and when the conversation turned to renewable energy this morning, I found myself arguing both that when it come to renewable energy, the politicians have been made complete fools of by the big energy companies and also that people who feel that all politicians are fools are fools themselves because they are playing the game of the big energy companies who want discredited politicians to be thought of as fools so that they, the companies, can get away with doing whatever they want without regulation or responsibility.  I shall have to calm down.

After the coffee party split up, I went out and turned some compost.

It wasn’t a good day for carrying the camera so I was pleased to be able to catch a dunnock in a quiet moment.

dunnockTaking their cue from me, the chaffinches were in a bickering mood in the gloom too.

chaffincheschaffinchesI turned some more compost.

Health and safety warning:  Those of a nervous disposition should stop reading now as the next section deals with compost and may be too exciting for them.

I finished turning the compost today and here is a picture of bin C and bin D with the freshly turned compost.

c ompostThe sharp eyed will notice that bin D on the right is smaller than bin C on the left.  By the time that Mrs Tootlepedal has used the compost from bin D, the compost in bin C will have handily reduced itself in size and will fit comfortably into bin D.

compostHere are bins A and B.  By the end of the day the last of bin B had gone into bin A and it will stay there until next spring when it will be transported into bin C.  Bin A has removable sections to make getting the compost out an easy task.  The half glimpsed plastic bin on the left has been filled by Mrs Tootlepedal has got shreddings in it and will rot down at its own pace unless I feel very perky.

You can see that when it comes to elegant compost bins, no expense has been spared.

After lunch, the drizzle faded away and as it was pleasantly warm in the west wind, Sandy and I went off for a leisurely short pedal just to get the legs turning over.  Sandy has really taken to cycling and did a 34 mile circuit on Sunday which surprised even him.

It was still very grey and by the time we had got back and had a cup of tea and a biscuit, it really felt as though evening had come, although it was only four o’clock.

I took Pocketcam out when I had finished the composting just to see how it would cope with the poor light.

sweet pea

The sweet peas would brighten even the darkest day

clematis

A gaudy clematis shone out too.

Poking through the fence was a ginger syllabub rose which has been encouraged by the recent good weather to have a go at flowering for the first time this year.

ginger syllabub rose

Mrs Tootlepedal moved it which is why it didn’t flower earlier.

The Shirley poppies are slowly going over but but the Michaelmas daisies and the astrantia are holding on bravely.

daisies and astrantiaA couple of readers have commented on the marigolds so I asked Mrs Tootlepedal what their Sunday name is and she tells me that they are Calendula officinalis.  Wikipedia tells me that they have a variety of common names: pot marigold, ruddles, common marigold, garden marigold, English marigold, or Scottish marigold.   In our garden they are Scottish marigolds.

marigoldIn the evening, Sandy and I went off to the Archive Centre where we put 100 entries into the newspaper database.  We enjoyed a well earned glass of wine after that but the sad fact is that I am falling ever further behind the eager data miners who are about three months ahead of me.  I will have to pull my socks up and make a determined effort to catch up soon or I will be overwhelmed.  Too much good weather and too many cycling miles over the summer have been my downfall.

The flying bird of the day is an inevitable and rather fuzzy  chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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