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Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

Today’s guest picture comes from my cycling reader Paul. He lives in Lancashire and he sent me this picture of a reservoir to show that we are not the only ones having a dry time just now.

I am starting today’s post with a picture from yesterday. I almost always only use pictures in a post which I have taken that day as this blog is a daily diary, but I had this one ready to put in yesterday’s post when the new block editor made me forget about it. The blackbird had made such a good effort to pose nicely for me that I thought that it would be a sin not to reward him.

Back to today.

It was another day of wall to wall sunshine but with a brisker breeze to keep things a little cooler.

Neither of us had slept well in the heat last night so we had a quiet start to the day. Then, instead of street coffee, we enjoyed Zoom colour bingo event curated by our granddaughter Matilda. Through the wonders of technology, it involved all four of her grandparents, two of her aunts, a cousin, and her own parents (and three of the four countries of the United Kingdom). The rules were simple enough for even me to grasp and the method ensured the games ended in good time so we had space to chat and catch up as well as play.

After Zooming, we went out into the garden, where Mrs Tootlepedal did useful thinks and I wandered around, a bit at a loss to find something to do. In lieu of anything more productive, I looked at flowers.

There are new arrivals, an orange hawkweed…

…the first of many Sweet Williams…

…a beautifully dark pansy…

…and the first bud on a rose.

I was passing the bird feeder and noticed that a greenfinch was ignoring me. I didn’t ignore it and got the benefit of photographing a bird on the feeder in good light and not through a window.

I was happy even if it it was not.

Our neighbour Kenny, who gardens the far bank of the dam, has produced a really lovely lily there…

We went back in to have lunch and then Mrs Tootlepedal took the sensible view that it was a good afternoon to sit quietly indoors out of the heat. I was restless and split my time by being bored indoors and doing nothing useful outdoors. As usual, when left with nothing better to do, I pointed cameras at things. The bright light was a problem so I looked for shady corners with Welsh poppies…

….ranunculus…

…and musk.

And I found an ornamental onion.

At one stage, I went for a shady sit down on our new bench and was joined for some quality time by a blackbird on a nearby hedge.

I checked to see what had captured the bees’ fancy today. It was chive diving.

I went back in to get set up for my second Zoom meeting of the day and while the computer was warming up, I looked out of the back door at the dam to see if any birds were cooling off there. Starlings were making use of the facilities…

…but they flew off in a huff when I got too close.

The afternoon Zoom meeting was the weekly Carlisle Choir virtual rehearsal with our energetic leader Ellen. Once again she was well prepared with a really good grip on the technology. All the same, the current technology will still not let everyone sing at the same time so it was more of a chance to get together and keep the spirit of the choir going than a great singing experience. About 50 members signed in and I enjoyed it.

There was another gap in the day now, with nothing much to do so I made a batch of 30 ginger biscuits as the last lot of 30 biscuits has mysteriously disappeared.

Then I had to time to check to see if there were more birds swimming in the dam. There were none but a white clover by the back door caught my eye instead…

…and I had to look out of the front window to see some birds. The feeder was half full and the bottom layer had been taken over by three greenfinches…

…who weren’t going to let any other bird get a look in. This led to some wistful flying birds, hoping for a perch but not succeeding in dislodging the incumbents.

And then it was time for the third Zoom meeting of the day, the usual get together with my siblings. My brother was absent but my sisters were in good form. I didn’t stay for the whole meeting as I wanted to get out for a cycle ride in the comparative cool of the early evening and still be back in time for our evening meal.

it was 25°C but the sun was down in the sky a bit and a cooling breeze kept conditions ideal for the elderly cyclist. I headed north up the main road out of town, hoping that there would be little traffic on the road and that the wind would be helpful as I headed uphill.

Both hopes were fulfilled. There was hardly any traffic and the wind was not only helpful up the hill but by some fluke of meteorology, helpful to me on the way back down again. As a result, I was home in plenty of time for a delicious meal of liver and onions prepared by Mrs Tootlepedal.

I took two pictures just to show that I had been out. The first was soon after I had set off, and shows the Ewes valley at its best…

…and the second was at the head of the valley as the shadows were closing in on the road to Mosspaul.

I was passed by two cars in the ten miles back home. Cycling heaven.

Looking at my cycling spreadsheet when I got home, I see that I have cycled 15 times this month and covered 450 miles, my best month this year by a good distance. As I have gone for a walk on the other 16 days, it has been an excellent month for exercise.

The flying bird of the day is a duck who was passing over the garden while I was wandering about.

Footnote: As an experiment because I am using the new block editor, I have put the pictures in at a larger size than usual. I don’t know if this will make any difference but if it does for good or bad, I would be grateful for any feedback.

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Today’s guest picture is another from Tony in sunny East Wemyss. He passed this delightful garden maintained by OAPs for the benefit of passers by.

We had another lovely day here with the only worry that it might get a bit too hot for us pallid northerners. One sign of the easing of the lockdown was the sight of several aircraft con trails across our otherwise blue skies. Like the increase in traffic, this is an unwelcome side of the return to ‘normality’.

I had a walk round the garden after breakfast and the crossword had been disposed of, and although there is not much startlingly new to be seen, it is always a pleasure to wander about among the flowers. And a white butterfly shared my enjoyment.

The blue lupins are going from strength to strength each day.

In the absence of the gaudy colour of the frost damaged azaleas, we are appreciating the more subdued corners in the garden.

I went back inside and noticed a goldfinch and a sparrow having a chat on the feeder…

…before Mrs Tootlepedal and I started a WhatsApp chat of our own with our son Alistair and our granddaughter Matilda in Edinburgh. Their south facing house is very hot at the moment but they found a cool spot where Matilda could read an amusing story about ‘Mr and Mrs Brown who are upside down’ to us. We also used another app that lets us play games at a distance and we passed a most enjoyable time with them. Alistair revealed that he had used technology to give an online Power Point presentation to 50 of his work colleagues. We were impressed.

After our chat, I made a beef stew for the slow cooker and then made lentil and bacon soup for our lunch. While it was cooking, I went out for another look round the garden.

Another rhododendron has started to come out in a shady spot in the back border…

…and a pink tinged rose caught my eye in a bush of otherwise white roses.

After lunch, I decided to brave the heat and go for a cycle ride. The temperature had hit 20°C which might have been a bit hot for a walk but cycling brings its own breeze with it. In the event, conditions were kind enough for me to enjoy a 30 mile ride. This was apart from the first five miles, where bad road surfacing had left the tar melting in little bubbles making the road very sticky and hard work. From then on, things improved.

The countryside is looking very green…

…and a calf had found some long grass to rest in.

I didn’t stop a lot as it seemed much warmer as soon as I lost the breeze of my own making. But I did want to record that the damage to beech hedges from the fateful late frost extends far beyond our Langholm.

There were brown patches on almost all the hedges that I passed. But plenty of buttercups in the verges made up for some loss of leaves in the hedges.

Mrs Tootlepedal had suggested that it would be wise for me to take things slowly in the heat and I had no difficulty in following her advice. My legs were content just to fill up the gap between my shorts and the pedals rather than to give me much help in the pushing department. Still, they have done a fair bit of work over the past few days so I can’t complain.

I got back in good time to join in the daily Zoom chat with my brother and sisters and then I had another chance to watch greenfinches on the feeder…

…and take another walk round the garden while the vegetables were cooking to go with the slow cooked stew.

I like the flowers in the late afternoon/early evening sun. It seems to sharpen them up.

…and bring out the colours better than when the full sun of the day is on them.

Especially on my current favourite lupin.

After our evening meal, we had a special treat, the better side of the easing of the lockdown, when Mike and Alison came round for their customary Friday evening visit for the first time for many weeks.

As they are not allowed to come into our house yet, there was no music playing, but there was beer and conversation (socially distanced) on the lawn. As it was a beautiful evening, with virtually no breeze, and as it has been too dry for the midges to breed, sitting out in the garden was very acceptable and we enjoyed this slight move back to life as it used to be.

Alison thought that the clematis over the garage was looking well.

The good weather is set to continue but with a bit more breeze and the temperature down a degree or two, it might be a good day for a walk tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch again.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Sheffield correspondent Edward Winter.  He has a fine six inch wide tree peony flower in his garden which he thought that I might appreciate.  I do.

TreePeony2020

It was another grey, blustery and chilly day today here so once again there was no urgency in the getting up department.

Indeed, I got up so late that there was no time for a wander round the garden before our street coffee meeting, and it was only afterwards that I got to check to see if our peonies are out yet.

They are still trying.

peony trying

A quick check on the frost damage revealed that the Japanese azalea may have have enough surviving flowers to make a bit of a show at least.

japanese azalea

And to make up for the lack of azaleas, the first iris has put in a welcome appearance.

first iris

Tulips and poppies make sure that we still have some colour….

tulips and poppy

And thriving Limnanthes and Aquilegia will soon be joined by…

flowers old and new

…other promising flowers.

We are quite blue at the moment….

four blue things in garden

…in a delicate sort of way.

I mowed the front lawn in the hope that we will get some rain and warmer weather to make the grass grow again.  Mrs Tootlepedal got to work improving the soil in one of the beds along the lawn so I sieved the last of the compost from Bin C to give to her to add to the bed.

I didn’t watch the birds on the feeder in the morning as we were busying about but there were birds in the garden who weren’t bothered by us.  The blackbird and the thrush are both feeding young so they are often to be seen about.

blackbird an thrush panel

I did a little shredding of disused box bushes and then went in for lunch.

We had a Carlisle Choir Zoom meeting scheduled for mid afternoon at what would have been our regular choir practice time, so I sneaked out for a short walk after lunch.  It was grey and almost drizzly so I walked on at a brisk pace, hoping to get home before any rain started.

I was pleased to see that the big rhododendrons in the park seemed to have escaped frost damage, but the bluebells are fading away and going over…

rhododendron,bluebells and garlic

…leaving the wild garlic to cover the ground.

I walked along the Murtholm track towards Skippers Bridge, passing quantities of ribwort, lambs and spring things on leaves…

three things at murtholm

…and crosswort…

crosswort full

…at which I took a closer look.

crosswort close

I paused on Skippers Bridge to record just how low the river is.

low water in esk from skippers bridge

It will be interesting to see if we get enough rain to raise the water level noticeably as the ground is so dry that it will surely soak up anything less than a downpour.

I took a picture of this view a few days ago but it is still so beautiful to my mind, that I took it again today.

skippers bridge from north

As I walked along the river bank back to the town, there was plenty to admire.

six things beside the river

I saw two contrasting birds as I got up the suspension bridge, a very noisy thrush singing fit to bust on a rooftop on one side of the river and a very quiet oyster catcher sitting on her nest on the other side.

thrush and oyster catcher

When  I got back, Mrs Tootlepedal had just about finished her work on the flower bed.

bed improvement

I like the big red poppy at the back of the house so I went for a look at it…

big red poppy panel

…before getting ready for the Zoom choir meeting.

While I was waiting for the meeting to start, I made a mixture for some chocolate biscuits and put it in the fridge to cool.

When the appointed time came, lots of choir members attempted to join the meeting but unfortunately, there was a glitch in the Zoom technology (not our fault) and the meeting had to be cancelled.  We are going to try again next week,

The fault, which also affected a government briefing later in the day, must have been partial as I had a one to one meeting on Archive website business with my younger son and a family meeting with my siblings later on with no problems at all.

After the failed choir meeting, I baked the biscuits and while they were cooling, our neighbour Liz rang up to say that a starling was feeding its young in her garden if I was interested.

I was interested and went out and leant over her wall to see the group in action.

liz's starlings

I took the biscuits out of the oven and left them to cool and then I had time to watch a blue tit coming to the feeder…

blue tit in garden

…before chatting to my brother and sisters with Mrs Tootlepedal.

We tried the biscuits after our evening meal.  There was an initial shock when they did not taste as we expected them to, but we enjoyed them enough to have another each.

The rain, which finally started shortly after I came home from my walk, has persisted in a mild and desultory way all evening.  There is some more in the forecast over the next two days but as it is only a few millimeters, whether it will be enough to do some good is still a moot point.

All the same, any rain, after two dry months when at times it seemed as though it might never rain again here,  is to be welcomed.

The flying bird of a day is a bee.

flying bee

 

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Today”s guest picture comes from our son Tony.  He saw deer on one of his walks with his dogs.  The deer saw him but didn’t run away at once.

Tony's deer

To say that today was another uneventful day would be rather overstating the excitement.  The recent frost has put a damper on the pleasure of walking round the garden in quite a big way, and as it was another grey morning, there was not a lot of incentive to get up and go.

In the end, I managed to finish the crossword and get up in time for a walk round the garden before coffee.  The only photograph that I took was of these ill matched Icelandic poppies, and I couldn’t get a very good shot of them as they were blowing about in the breeze.

ill matched poppies

I don’t know why some of the orange poppies have white tips this year.

After coffee, I shredded more of Mrs Tootlepedal’s uprooted box bushes and then went inside.

I watched the birds through the window for a moment or two.

A greenfinch felt that I was intruding on its privacy.

sad greenfing

A sparrow watched while another greenfinch and a chaffinch arrived simultaneously, luckily heading for different perches.

greenfinch and chaffinch arriving together

And there was room for two sparrows too.

sparrow joining sparrow

Mrs Tootlepedal had suggested that I might like to try a recipe for a boiled cake.  This sounded very strange to me but on investigation it turned out that only some of the ingredients were boiled and that the cake was actually baked in a standard way, so I gave it a go.

It tuned out that it makes a small cake and the process was quite simple (which is probably why Mrs Tootlepedal suggested it).  You take butter, syrup, sugar and water, melt them together and add currants and sultanas and then boil this mixture very gently for a few minutes.  This is cooled and then added to flour and spices with a beaten egg and the whole thing is poured into a cake tin and baked.

Some time later, it comes out like this:

boiled cake

While it was baking, I made leek and potato soup for lunch and we had time to eat the soup before the cake came out of the oven.

After lunch, I had another walk round the garden and found a rhododendron flower which looks as though it might have survived the frost.

surviving rhododendron bud

The tree peony and the standard peonies in the flower beds are in a race to see which comes fully out first and at the moment, the tree peony is the slight favourite.

tree peony almost out

The alliums, unaffected by the frost, are going global.

global allium

In the absence of azaleas, I am probably going to spend more time looking at Welsh poppies than usual.  They have acquired some pinkish tinges this year, another mystery but quite pretty.

Sometimes the tinge is in the middle…

welsh poppy red middle

…sometimes in a line across the petals…

welsh poppy red stripe

…and sometimes round the edge.

welsh poppy red edge

Mrs Tootlepedal thinks that it is damage of some sort.

She has completed her hedge cut back and you can see the more open view of the house that this provides.

hedge clipped

I will be interested to see how the planting changes to reflect the new vista.

There was a tremendous racket in the garden caused by baby sparrows demanding to be fed by their long suffering parents and this blackbird in the plum tree was joining in with gusto.

hopeful blackbird

It looks a little old to be needing to be fed but it wasn’t getting any attention and that didn’t suit it at all.

A starling had been doing some successful foraging.starling with food

I went in to change into my cycling gear and then went off for a short cycle ride.  Mrs Tootlepedal had looked at the clouds and brought the washing in ‘just in case’, but the forecast hadn’t got any rain in it so I set off with confidence of a dry trip round Canonbie.

My confidence was well founded and with the wind coming from a generally helpful direction, I enjoyed my ride and went a bit more quickly than recent efforts.

After taking far too many pictures in recent days, I resolved not to take too many today and was reasonably successful.  The theme of the ride was hedges and wild flowers.

The cow parsley is coming on well along the Tarcoon road…

cow parsely tarcoon

…and the tree over the hedge is now fully clothed.

tree tarcoon

A little further on, I was happy to find a beech hedge in very good condition.  My friend Nancy had sent me pictures yesterday of a beech hedge badly affected by the frost but this one was untouched.

beech hedge tarcoon

I stopped at Canonbie Bridge for a conversation with Simon, a Camera Club member who was out for a walk.  His normal work involves sporting events and international travel so he currently stacking shelves for supermarkets instead.   He doesn’t know when he will be able to go back to his real job.

When I got nearer Langholm, I found that the Pyrenean Valerian is beginning to line the roadsides.

pyrenean valerian clump

The boiled cake went down very well with a cup of tea on my return and the normal sibling Zoom and an excellent pasta dish for our evening meal rounded off another routine day of lockdown.

Looking at the forecast, I see that things are going to warm up a bit and there may even be a bit of rain in the next day or two but the promise of very high temperatures next week seems to have faded away, for which I am grateful as I don’t like it when it gets too warm.

We will believe in the rain when we feel it actually falling on our heads.

The flying bird of the day is a greenfinch leaving the feeder.  It avoided the pole.

flying greenfinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Sandy.  He has attached a bird box to his shed and is very happy to see that it is getting used by blue tits.

sandy's blue tit

The day started with a WhatsApp conversation with Annie and Joe and our granddaughter Evie.  Evie is ten months old now and very grown up.

We had another chilly morning here but it was sunny again and when I went out into the garden, I was happy to see a hoverfly visiting and allium.

hoverfly on allium

All seemed reasonably well with the world until I went across to look at the azaleas with the intention of getting some colourful shots.

Alas, it had been just too cold in the night and the azaleas (and rhododendrons) were ex azaleas (and rhododendrons) now.  Pretty well everyone of them was  damaged beyond repair.  We were told that it had been -3C overnight and that had been enough to finish them off.

six dead azaleas

Mrs Tootlepedal was very sad, to say the least.  Her garden comes on in a succession of spring waves; the snowdrops, the daffodils, the tulips and then the crowning glory, the azaleas.

Not this year.

Annoyingly, some of the tulips, which are at the very end of their useful gardening life, survived the frost.

last of the tulips

I didn’t really have the heart to look round for other flowers but the sight of iris buds was at least a promise of something to come…

iris bud

…and the magnificent poppy on the back wall of the house laughed at frost.

oriental poppy out

Instead of having a cup of coffee with the regular street gang, I took some Garibaldi biscuits up to Sandy and got some of his flapjack in return.  His foot is very slowly on the mend after his operation, but it is a slow business and he has been cooped up in his house for far longer than the rest of us.  Under the circumstances, he is still remarkably cheerful.

I met a butterfly on my way.

white butterfly

When I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal was increasing the wideness of her wider view and more box bushes had bitten the dust.

cut box

I gave a hand with some of the tugging and pulling needed to uproot the toughest of the bushes and had a look round while I did so.

A sparrow was on the look out for tasty vegetable shoots to plunder.

sparrow on fence

I tested out the new bench and found some lily of the valley nestling beside it.

lily of the valley

The morning slipped away and I went in to make lunch and watch the birds.

I saw a siskin socially distancing itself from a sparrow.

socially distanced siskin

After lunch, we had a video conversation with Clare, Alistair and our other granddaughter, Matilda and then we downloaded a clever app that let us play games with Matilda in real time.   It was nowhere near as good as seeing Matilda and her parents in person, but it was a lot better than not seeing them at all.

Then Mrs Tootlepedal went off in search of some more horse manure, and I went  for another very slow cycle ride round my Canonbie circuit.

For some reason, my breathing is not good at the moment, possibly the combination of pollen and dust after all our dry weather, and I didn’t have much get up and go at all so I was quite pleased to have managed to get out for a ride  however slow and I quite enjoyed it

I stopped to see a new addition to a local Belted Galloway herd…

belted galloway calf

…and when I looked up, I was rather alarmed to see a hole in the sky.

hole in te sky

However, nothing fell through it and I pedalled on unscathed.

I passed a field full of cows who were feeling much like I was from the look of them.

lazy cattle

I don’t think that I have ever seen so many collapsed cattle before.

As I got near to the Canonbie by-pass, I cycled by some fields that had been mown for silage.  I can’t feel that there has been much growth in the grass but maybe the farmer felt that it needed to be mown before it dried out completely.

mown field with crows

As I got near Canonbie itself, I noticed the first hawthorn blossom of the year in a hedge.

first hawthorn

I liked this copper beech among all the greenery as I got nearer home….

copper beech

…and there were wild flowers in the verges a little further on…

gernaium and red campion

…and fine new cones on a larch tree by the river on the bike path.

larch cones

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal was still busy taking out more box bushes and shaping some of the ones that are left.  She should finish the task tomorrow.

Near what is left of the hedge, a cheery potentilla has started flowering.

potentilla

I said good afternoon to a blackbird making use of what is left of the hedge…

blackbird on hedge

…and went in for a Garibaldi biscuit and a cup of tea.

After my regular sibling Zoom conference, I made cauliflower cheese for tea and then finished a day of video conversations by calling our recorder playing friend Sue.  Living in England, she is now able to go and visit her daughter who lives not far away, and this has cheered her up immensely.

That sharp frost and the death of the azaleas has really cast a long shadow over the day, especially as the azaleas were looking in good shape after a poor season last year.  Ah well, gardening is a vale of tears.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

flying goldfi nch

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Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony.  He found himself being watched by a troop of little monkeys as he walked round his garden.

monkey faces

We had another cold morning here, and another dry and sunny day that never really warmed up.

Mrs Tootlepedal got down to the serious business of protecting her potential peas from serial attacks from scavenging sparrows.

pea fortress

With frozen peas readily available at reasonable prices in the shops, she sometimes wonders why she tries to grow her own peas at all.  It is the principle of the thing though that counts.  She is a gardener, she grows peas and sparrows will not stop her.

It was so chilly that the morning street coffee gathering did not take place at all and I must admit that I spent quite a lot of time lurking indoors grappling with a very tricky crossword puzzle indeed.  It was one of those with ‘special instructions’  and in this case the instruction were so special and impenetrable that it took the combined might of my sister Mary and me over several days to get the bottom of them.  We managed in the end and felt quite triumphant.

I did go outside a bit.

Mrs Tootlepedal had decided that more of the box hedge should be removed to get an even wider view of the front garden and she applied herself vigorously to the task of uprooting the box plants.

I shredded a lot of the casualties and in between times, I wandered round the garden, enjoying the sunny light.

six may flowers 2

When  indoors, I looked out at the birds.  Mrs Tootlepedal is not necessarily very happy when she sees that I am feeding up sparrows.

sparrows on feeder

Another anemone is doing its best to come out and it was joined by a cornflower and a magnificent oriental poppy which added to the colour provided by geum, lamium and rhododendron.

six may flowers

After lunch, we moved the new bench into roughly the position where it will live under the walnut tree and you can see that Mrs Tootlepedal has considerably widened the view already…

wider view of lawn

…but she tells me that more widening is on the cards.

The bench can be seen sitting beside its dilapidated predecessor.  There was some hope of repairing the old bench, but so many bits fell off when we moved it, that that doesn’t seem likely now.

new bench in situ

When the bench had been moved, I mowed the middle lawn.  The moss eating treatment is working but the lack of rain and constant chilly mornings have inhibited the growth of the grass and it will be a week or two at least before the lawn begins to look respectable.

To console myself, I made a batch of Garibaldi biscuits.

garibaldi biscuits

My arithmetic and measuring was much better on this occasion.  They could be neater but they passed the taste test.

I had thought of going for a walk in the afternoon, but when the time to go came, I was overcome by feebleness and stayed at home.

A couple of years ago, I bought a new pocket camera and very unwisely took it down to the sandy beach at North Berwick where we were on holiday with Matilda.  It saw a lot of sandcastle and sea bird action but it never really recovered from sand in the works and finally the zoom and focus stopped working.

It was under guarantee but as I had no-one to blame but myself, I didn’t like to send it back to the manufacturer and it lay unused for some time.  My son Tony has the same sort of camera and when his failed (not through his fault) he got it mended under guarantee, and this motivated me to do something about my camera.

I found a repairer, got a very reasonable estimate, sent the camera away a week ago and got it back yesterday.

I opened the parcel today and took the camera out for a trial run in the garden.

bee on polemonium

I thought that it coped very well…

tulips

…and since it was obviously back in working order…

aquilegias

…after Zooming with my siblings and making omelettes for our tea, I went out for an evening walk with Mrs Tootlepedal to give it the camera a good go.

We went for a traditional three bridges walk, but Mrs Tootlepedal thought it would be good to go the opposite way to my usual direction and we came to the Jubilee Bridge first.

It is guarded by two fine trees.

jubilee bridge may

On the Castleholm. the castle itself was nearly invisible.

castle in spring

I spotted one of the grasses that may have led to my earlier decision not to go for a walk. My breathing is not at its best at the moment.

grass seed

Another source of pollen was spotted too.

pine flowers

It was chilly, but all the same it was a lovely evening for a stroll, as this view of Warbla from the Sawmill Brig shows.

view of warbla from sawmill brig

The rivers are extraordinarily low at the moment and the still of the evening provided us with some unusual reflections.  We could see the mission hall both over and under the town bridge..

mission hall reflection

…and George Street in the bottom of the river.

george st reflection

Looking at the river itself, we spotted a goosander resting on a rock…

goosander on rock

…not far from a pair of oyster catchers.

oyster catchers

Instead of rushing off as goosanders normally do, this one stood up and made sure that I got its good side too.

goosander

A little further along the river, Mrs Tootlepedal, who pays attention to telegraph poles, drew my attention to the interesting patterns in the wood grain on one.

I can see a magnificently bearded wizard and a goblin but you can see whatever you like or nothing at all.

telegraph pole patterns

The walk rounded off the day very pleasantly.  There is hope that it is going to get slightly warmer as the week goes on.  This will be welcome, but I just saw a forecast of 27 degrees for the end of next week.  If this is true and there is still no rain in the offing, the garden may get burnt to a crisp.

The flying bird of the day is a thrush leaving the garden fence at speed.

flying thrush

Footnote:  Mrs Tootlepedal asked me how long our little walk had been.  I checked and found that it was about 1.3 miles but following the government policy on the statistics regarding testing, I told her that we had walked two and a half miles.  She was very impressed.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He came across this very colourful field on one of his permitted walks.  He can’t say what it is that the farmer is growing.

andrew's red field

My day started with a Zoom visit to Australia. My sister Susan’s friend Stephen has contributed guest pictures to the blog and as she was scheduled to talk him, she thought that I ought to take this opportunity to visit him digitally too.  The technology is amazing and there seems to be no difference at all in talking to someone in Edinburgh or someone in Sydney.  My sister and I had a very enjoyable conversation with Stephen and his wife and I hope to get more guest pictures from him when he is able to get out and about freely again.

It was very cold here today and there had even been a little rain overnight.  A very brisk and cold wind was making an urgent case for a return to winter clothing and this was particularly annoying as it was the 89th birthday of our socially distanced street coffee morning participant Margaret.  We had hoped to give her a socially distant street birthday party.  In the end, it was a rather brief and huddled experience but we sang Happy Birthday and ate cake so we did our best.

All being well, we will have a really good street do for  Margaret’s ninetieth next year.

Although it wasn’t really a day for gardening, some gardening needed to be done.  Things needed watering as the overnight rain was pathetic, and things needed to be propped up and protected from the cold wind, and of course, things needed to be photographed.

I like the contrasts that Mrs Tootlepedal has between the softness of cow parsley and honesty and geums, and the brilliance of hostas and rhododendrons.

rhododendron, wild garden flowers, hosta

And I liked the prospect of lettuce and marmite sandwiches for lunch today and mashed potato in the future.

lettuce and potato

We didn’t stay out for too long and I was soon looking out of the window at the birds on the feeder.

There were contrasts there too, between small greenish birds having a nibble…

greenfinch and siskin

…and very big black birds eating us out of house and home..

rook on feeder

We went back out into the garden to check on a new bench.  It had been delivered with such expert social distancing that we didn’t even realise that it had arrived.

new bench

It will replace an old favourite which unfortunately has started to fall to pieces becuase people will insist on sitting on it.  As this one has been made long enough for Mrs Tootlepedal to stretch out and relax on it during those lazy, hazy days of summer still to come, we think that it might need another plank on the seat to stop her falling through the crack at the back.

While we were out, I noted the first flowers on a Sweet Rocket…

sweet rocket

…more euphorbia madness….

euphorbia

..and some lilac blossom.

lilac blossom

Not everything in the garden is full colour though.  There is always an element of greenness about too.

green garden

Then it was back inside for lunch and another look at the birds.

There was considerable goldfinch and greenfinch traffic…

goldfinches

…and one naughty goldfinch thought that it could hide behind the feeder pole and behave badly undetected.

goldfinches kicking

The forecast had been very gloomy and the morning matched the forecast, but by the afternoon, the sun was shining brightly enough to persuade Mrs Tootlepedal to go out for a walk, ignoring the still very chilly and brisk wind.  As it wasn’t an attractive day for bicycling, I was more than happy to go with her.

We stood on the town bridge and looked down. The rocks appeared under the clear water in the shadow of the bridge and the sun glinted on the ripples beyond giving this curious result.

reflection on bridge

We saw a gull, a small tortoiseshell butterfly and a thrush all enjoying their moment in the sun as we walked along.

gull, small tortoiseshell, thrush

We headed up the hill for the track along the top of the wood above the Lodge Walks and marvelled at the freshness of the colour…

track abive pathhead

…and the bluebells which were to be seen on every side.

bluebells near north lodge

I showed Mrs Tootlepedal the track above the North Lodge which I had followed for the first time a few weeks ago.  It ended at this beautiful tree.

bright tree

Going along the forestry road at the end of the track, we passed a lot of this lysimachia nemorum or yellow pimpernel.

lysimachia nemorum

I haven’t seen it anywhere else this year, but perhaps I haven’t been looking carefully enough.

There has been tree felling here, and as is often the case, the timber company has left one or two lone trees still standing.

tree above longfauld

Mrs Tootlepedal pointed out a particularly strong violet and it made the blues of the bluebells and bugleweed look a bit pale in comparison.

bluebell, violet and ajuga

We dropped down through another patch of bluebells…

bluebell woods longfauld

…and joined the track back to the Castleholm, passing any number of lovely trees on the way.

trees on castleholm may

If we had stopped for every photo opportunity on our walk, we would never have got home in time for a cup of tea and a ginger biscuit or two.  (I had providentially made the biscuits during the morning.)

The walk was three and a half miles of pure springtime pleasure, and it was all the more enjoyable because we hadn’t expected the weather to let us get out for a walk at all, let alone one that was so sunny and relatively warm (when we were sheltered from the wind).

I had my second Zoom conversation of the day with my brother and sisters and then enjoyed an excellent evening meal prepared by Mrs Tootlepedal (I did the washing up).

Looking at the forecast, we are due for another near freezing morning tomorrow but there is still no proper rain in sight so it looks like more watering in the garden.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch, probably searching for someone to kick.

flying goldfinch

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