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Archive for the ‘flowers’ Category

Today’s guest picture is another from the eternally sunlit shore at East Wemyss.  Tony is making really good use of his dog walking time.

east wemyss seaside trees

We had a chilly (3°C) but kindly day with a very gentle wind and no rain.  The sun didn’t appear so it was dull but all the same we could have no complaints about this weather for a January day.

I am trying to get my foot back into working order and oddly enough, doing some hip exercises seems to be improving things a lot.  This proves the truth of the old song…The hipbone’s connected to the thighbone…etc, etc.

Sandy came round to combine a cup of coffee with some archive group business.  He has been suffering from sore feet and knees which is why we haven’t been on any walks lately but he tells me that he has got medical appointments in the pipeline so he is hoping for useful help.

When he left, I went for a walk round the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal.  She pointed out this…

lichen on lawn

…which may look like a jungle but is in fact moss, lichen and some blades of grass in what passes for the middle lawn at the moment.

More lichen is available in every corner of the garden.

lichen on elder

Much to my surprise, the perennial wallflower has cocked a snook at the recent frosts and produced another flower…

perennial wallflower january

…and even more amazingly, one of the the ordinary wallflowers is in the process of producing a bunch of flowers.

first wallflower

The winter jasmine continues to flourish.

winter jasmin january

The birds were rather few and far between again today, with just the occasional chaffinch…

chaffinch landing

…and some of which at least had the sense to head for separate perches today…

chaffinches

…and the even more occasional sparrow.

sparrow on gfeeder

I had some sardines on toast for lunch and then tested out my foot on a very short, flat walk.

The gulls were taking things easily too…

gulls on posts

…while the mallards couldn’t agree on a common destination.

ducks diverging

Fed up with standing on fence posts, one gull took to a rock in the river.

gull on rock

It was, as one passer by remarked to me, a very plain sort of day and I didn’t see anything worth recording until I came to a football match on the Scholars’ Field.

Thanks to the dull light, it was easier to take picture while the players were standing around waiting for the ball to arrive…

football on scholars standing

…than it was when they were running around chasing after it.

football on scholars moving

Before lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal and I had spent some time tidying out the garage and when I got home, I found that the rocking horse had taken up residence there.  This is so that Mrs Tootlepedal can cover it with gesso before painting it.   The gesso process which involves size (rabbit skin glue), is a smelly and potentially messy business so the garage seems the best place for it.

rocking horse in garage

For those interested, a description of the gesso process can be found here.

After a cup of tea and some music practice, we went off to Carlisle to go to the pictures.  We haven’t been to the films for some time so this was a treat for Mrs Tootlepedal who really likes going to the cinema.  We found that in Carlisle at least, ticket prices had gone down a lot since our last visit and at £5 each, the cinema chain must be making most of its money by selling its customers vast buckets of very unappetising looking food.  We went hungry.

The film we saw is called The Favourite and is about the court of Queen Anne in 1708.  It is described in Wikipedia as a “historical period comedy-drama”.  It was very well acted and the settings and costumes were impressive but since its message seemed to me to be that all women are either old and ugly and helpless or young, beautiful and horrible and that politicians are generally rather nasty selfish people, it seemed to chime with a rather Trumpian view of the world and I didn’t much like it.  It was extremely coarse which was amusing at first as an antidote to refined period dramas on TV but which got a bit wearing as time went on.  Finally, either ideas or money ran out and the film just stopped without any resolution.

Still, as they say, it was a day out and a change.

I just manage to collect a flying chaffinch of the day.

chaffinches landing

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from Tony.  While walking his dogs, he saw this big flock of sea birds floating just off shore.

wemyss sea birds

For some unknown reason, I was feeling a bit tired this morning so I decided to have a leisurely time and I was just standing in the garden contemplating life when Dropscone arrived in his car.

He was bringing a gift so I invited him in for a cup of coffee.  The gift turned out to be a loaf of brown bread which Dropscone had noticed lying in the last chance trolley at a supermarket in Galashiels late last night when he was coming back from a golf meeting.  There had actually been two loaves, both reduced to 11p and this seemed an irresistible bargain so he had snapped up both of them and kindly brought one round to us.  We ate several slices with apple jelly while we drank our coffee.  The bread was worth every penny.

When he left, I looked in vain for some bird action on the feeder but only spotted a single chaffinch happy to pose for a moment.

tall chaffinch

Perked up by the bread and apple jelly, and a hint of sunshine, I got my cycling gear on and set out to go round my usual Canonbie circle. The sun promptly went in and didn’t reappear but it was reasonably warm at 8°C and although the wind was strong, it was generally in a helpful direction so cycling was enjoyable.

The Highland cows in Canonbie were hiding behind each other…

two highland cows canonbie

…but a youngster was less coy.

brown cow

I cycled through the village and stopped for a second look at the carvings in the wood at the Hollows.  The artist has placed some birds in trees…

carvings at hollows

…and arranged a rather unsettling trio of heads on the ground.

heads at hollows

I cycled on and added a couple of extra miles to the trip, recording 23 miles for the second day running.  Added to my walking miles, this took my total to the month to over 200 miles which is very satisfactory for the first half of January but as the forecast is for near freezing weather for every day after tomorrow for ten days at least, the final total for the month may not be much higher.

I had a walk round the garden when I got back and noticed a little colour here and there…

january garden colour

…but the stars of the show are the snowdrops which are going well.

january garden snowdrops

I don’t have to go far to find lichens as I noticed this crop on our back doorstep.

lichen on back step

Mrs Tootlepedal had been helping out at the Buccleuch Centre coffee shop and when she got home, she started working on her rocking horse restoration, which is progressing well, and I did the crossword and went out for a short walk in the hope of seeing some birds as there were none in the garden.

My hopes were somewhat dashed by finding cheerful dogs running up and down the waterside and as a result, no birds.

I did notice that someone had come along with a saw and cut up the trees which were resting against the Town Bridge.  The trees had been removed and only a splash of sawdust remained.

cleared langholm bridge

When I got to the Kilngreen, the bird situation was no better and a  lone gull on a fence post was the only one in sight.

sole gull on post

I went on to the Castleholm and took the new path towards the Jubilee Bridge.  Looking over the fence, I could see a female mallard standing on a rock in the Esk.

female mallard on rock

There wasn’t much more to see and very little light to see it with so I only took one further picture before I got home.

laurel sprout

Mike Tinker dropped in for a cup of tea and invited us to go and view the new fence which had been erected earlier in the day on the edge of his garden by the chap who made our new bench.  I will take a picture of it next time that I go past.

Mrs Tootlepedal went out to see a screening of Richard II in the evening after cooking a fine penne and smoked sausage casserole for our tea and I settled in for some singing practice and a little late archive data entry.

As well as the lone chaffinch on the perch, only two other chaffinches appeared while I was looking today.  One was too quick and the other was too slow to appear as flying bird of the day.  Still, I am saving a lot of money on bird food this winter.

blurred flying chaffinches

Note: I am in the market for fresh guest pictures.

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from Tony’s series of perfect weather in East Wemyss.

wemyss view

We were promised good weather by noon and as it was still a bit chilly in the morning, I was more than usually happy to see Dropscone arrive (with traditional Friday treacle scones) for a cup of coffee or two.  I treated him with more than my customary respect as he has had an article printed in our local newspaper this week.  It concerned the great number of shops that there used to be in the town in the days when almost all the money earned in Langholm was spent in Langholm.

After he left, I looked for some bird action on the feeder and although I did catch a robin…

robin on feeder january

…and a coal tit…

coal tit on feeder january

..it was a very quiet day birdwise with only the odd bickering chaffinch to show.

squabbling chaffinches

The temperature crept up to 7°C but sadly the sun did not make its forecast appearance so I had to wrap up well again for my cycle ride.  On the plus side, the wind was very light so I was able to do 33 easy miles, but on the minus side, both the weather and my route were pretty dull so the camera stayed in my back pocket except to take notice of this handsomely decorated concrete bus shelter in Eaglesfield.

bust stop at eaglesfield

The bus shelter is utilitarian and perfectly serviceable without its decoration and Plato may have taken the view that utility is beauty but then he was probably sitting having an ouzo beside the beach in Greece when he thought that and not standing in the cold on a gloomy day in Scotland.  I like the decoration.

The only other picture I took was a colourless view up the River Esk at Irvine House just to show how grey the day was….

esk at irving house

…and I had to wait until I got home to get a glimpse of something more encouraging in the shape of the first daffodil bud of the year.

daffodil showing

Mrs Tootlepedal was working in the garden when I got back and she tells me that she has potted on our Christmas tree into a bigger pot.  It is still getting conditioned to life outside by sitting in the greenhouse for the moment.

There are snowdrops about but to save me crawling about on my hands and knees, I took a picture of two that the gardener has brought into the house.

two snowdrops indoors

It didn’t take long for darkness to fall outside and I settled down to looking at the hymns for church on Sunday while Mrs Tootlepedal made further progress on her crochet blanket.

crochet blanket part two

She has two winter projects ongoing, the blanket for the hours of darkness and refurbishing her childhood rocking horse for the short daylight hours.

She has taken the whole assembly to bits and cleaned, sanded, repaired and varnished the base.  She has fashioned an ingenious method for holding it all tightly together as the glue dries during re-assembly.

rocking horse repairs

You can see the cleaned and sanded horse waiting patiently in the background for its turn to come,  This will involve gesso I am told.

During the day, I did my vocal exercises with the straw and a glass of water a couple of times and I think that they are already having a beneficial effect.  I will persevere.

There was no Friday evening music as my accompanist is still getting treatment for her damaged shoulder which is taking longer to heal than expected.  Still, as I have had five pedals, two tootles and a choir this week, I can’t complain.

I didn’t get a very satisfactory flying bird of the day as what chaffinches there were insisted on approaching the feeder from the wrong direction.  Some birds have no gratitude.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She has been suffering from a bad cold but has recovered enough to walk up to Kenwood House to have a coffee and a mince pie in the cafe.  She found a very fine day for her excursion.

kenwood house in sun

We had another calm and sunny day here today but we paid the price for a clear night by having a frosty morning.

frosty chaffinches

The chill encouraged a few birds to come to the feeder and it persuaded me to go for a walk rather than a cycle ride after coffee as the the thermometer was still showing a meagre 1°C at 11 o’clock.  This may have been too cold for pedalling but it was ideal for walking as the ground was nicely firm under foot when I got on to the hill.

I walked up the track to Whita from the town.

I was surprised to find a dandelion out as well as a garden escape on my way up the Kirk Wynd but the blooming gorse on the hill was no surprise as it is out all over the place.

dandelion, shrub and gorse january

There was no lichen looking cheerful on the wall at the top of the track but the moss was remarkable.  I don’t think that I have ever noticed it looking quite like this before.

moss heads

The view up the Ewes Valley did not disappoint and the weather seemed set fair for a stroll.

ewes valley from kirk wynd

When I got to the open hill, I didn’t continue straight up to the monument but turned right along the face of the hill following the old quarry track along the contours.

Looking across the town, I could see the Craig Wind Farm turbines rotating very lazily in the light breeze.  It was a pleasure to be out on such a day.

craig wind farm

I had a look at the trig points on the top of Warbla and Timpen.  In these days of digital mapping, they serve no useful purpose but I am glad that they haven’t been taken away as they provide a punctuation mark at the summits.  Both of them were dwarfed, the one on Warbla by the communications mast beside it, and the one on Timpen by a blade of a turbine nearly a mile away behind it.

two trig points

Three sheep pondered on my activities.

three sheep

When I reached the wall at the end of the track, I paused to look over the town.

town from quarry track

Below me, a field lined with tall trees vividly showed the difference between sunshine and shade.  I was glad to be in the sun.

shadowy frost

There are many photo opportunities round Langholm and this stile over the wall at the quarry is one of the most popular and I hardly ever cross it without stopping to take a picture.

quarry track stile

Today, this turned out to be slightly embarrassing for a gentlemen who was having a pee behind the gorse bush and hadn’t seen me coming.  He soon drifted out of shot though, muttering as he went.

I went diagonally down the hill towards the oak wood and followed the track through the wood down to the road…

oak wood round house

…passing an elegantly decaying tree trunk….

tree trunk

…and some fine hair ice on my way…

hair ice skippers

…to Skippers Bridge.  It was far too good a day to miss the photo opportunity there.

skippers bridge reflection

I walked back along the river without seeing anything exciting enough to make me stop again and got home after four miles just in time for lunch.

I was reflecting as I got back to town that I had just crossed moor and mountain and passed field and fountain and as it is Epiphany, I thought that  perhaps I ought to bring Mrs Tootlepedal some rich gifts.  I stopped at our corner shop and purchased milk and honey.  These would have been a pleasant surprise for her if I hadn’t met her cycling home from an errand just outside the shop.  She came in with me.  Still, she appreciated the thought.

Over lunch, I looked out of the window and saw some sparrows.

sparrow eating seed

The males have rich colours on their backs which show up well in sunshine.

sparrow in sun

Once again, there were not many birds about so I let my lens stray towards the sedums round the feeder.

sedum

After lunch, I had an appointment with the speech therapist in Dumfries, 35 miles away but once again, thanks to the magic of the internet, I was able to see and speak to her online which saved me a lengthy drive and a lot of time.  It is a very efficient system which has worked perfectly both times we have used it.  As a result of this week’s consultation, I will be humming down a straw into a glass of water for the next seven weeks.  She assures me that it will work wonders.

Later in the afternoon, I settled down to putting a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group’s database and finished putting the choir songs onto the computer.

This took longer than I expected and when I finally finished, it was time to cook some corned beef hash for my tea.

I have decided this year to keep a record of my walks as well as my cycle rides, partly to stop feeling that I should be cycling even when the conditions are not suitable and partly out of interest to see how far I walk.  I am only counting actual expeditions like today’s, not the ordinary pottering about house and garden.

As a result, I find that I have walked or cycled every day in 2019 so far, cycling 77 miles and walking 20.  That seems like quite a good balance.

I did find a flying bird of the day today as a chaffinch, some sunshine and a camera in hand all appeared at the same time for once.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is another captured by our son Tony’s new camera, showing that it (and he) can take close ups as well as the larger picture.

oznor

It was bright and chilly when we got up and after breakfast, I went out to look for the lost perch from the feeder.  I found it easily enough and screwed it back in place and then sat back and waited to see some obliging bird land on it.

I waited in vain.

empty feeder

It was a very quiet bird day indeed and I had to look hard to see a single chaffinch in the plum tree.

lonely chaffinch

In the end, I gave up bird watching and had a cup of coffee with Mrs Tootlepedal and then went out bicycling.  The thermometer had scraped up to 5°C but the wind was light so I took a more adventurous route than usual and headed up the road to Bentpath.

This involves a sharp climb at the start of the ride but does provided some excellent views like this favourite, looking towards the Gates of Eden just after the first climb.

gates of eden

Our hills are generally rounded and smooth but there are occasional outcrops and those who know tell me that if I was patient enough, I might see a peregrine falcon on this crag near Bentpath.

crag at benty

I continued on through the village and headed up the Esk valley towards Bailliehill.  There are hundreds, if not thousands of the tree planting tubes which the foresters use to protect deciduous trees when they plant them and I was interested to see how well they do their job.  Almost every tube in this group seemed to have a healthy tree sticking out of it.

new trees in tubes

Conifer forestry was very evident too as I cycled up the river and I took this shot to show the impact that farming has on the view.  Where there is a flat place by the river, a ‘holm’ as it is called round here, there is always a field on it, usually with added sheep….

filed beside esk near king pool

…but where there is no holm , the uncultivated ground runs right down to the river and is often planted with spruce and/or larch.

esk looking back to lyneholm

I took these contrasting two shots from the same spot, looking first up and then down the river.

When I got to the top of the hill at Bailliehill, I turned south to go over the watershed between the Esk and the Water of Milk.

I stopped at a cattle grid for a drink and a banana.

cattle grid

The cattle grids are necessary to keep stock in the right place on unfenced roads and they can fairly rattle your teeth if you go over them too fast.

There were no cattle about today so I didn’t have to worry about bumping into one on the road but I had to keep an eye out for potholes, though the road was in better condition than this view back along it makes it look.

road from bailliehill

Although it looks a bit desolate on the top of the hill, I had not gone more than a mile further before the countryside had changed and I was cycling among pleasant green pastures and there was enough water about to make the Water of Milk recognisably a river in the making.

water of milk

I was able to look across at the Ewe Hill wind farm and check the wind direction.  Happily it showed that I would be helped home by the breeze.

ewes hill windfarm

I left the Water of Milk when I crossed the bridge at Paddockhole….

paddockhole bridge

…and headed back towards Callister Hill and Langholm.

I stopped on the way up Callister at a spot where a good view up towards Winterhope and a chance for a breather on a steep climb are equally welcome.

view from back of callister

I was now looking at the wind farm from the other side.

The last time that I took this route was on a cold and sunny day early last year and on that occasion, I made a choice to extend my trip by taking a diversion from the direct route home, met an ice filled pothole and hit the deck.

Under the circumstances, I thought long and hard about taking another diversion this time but as the temperature was a couple of degrees higher, the roads were drier and my legs were very cheerful, I risked turning off three miles short of Langholm and going over the hill to join the main road at Canonbie, adding ten miles to the journey.

Needless to say, I hadn’t gone far along my diversion before the sun ducked behind some clouds….

looming clouds

…although it was by no means as gloomy as the camera makes out.  All the same, once the sun went in, it felt a lot colder so I didn’t hang about taking any more pictures but pedalled steadily on.

The ride added 35 miles to my skimpy total for January but as I had done the last 15 miles in just under an hour, I was quite satisfied with both the views early on and the pace towards the end.

There were still no birds about in the garden when I got back but the sun came out as soon as the bike was safely put away in the garage and the sky was full of fluffy pink clouds.

fluffy pink cloud

In the absence of interesting birds and garden flowers, I took a picture of the bowl of hyacinths which our friend Liz had given Mrs Tootlepedal at the new year.  They are flourishing.

hyacinth in flower

Although the days are just beginning to get noticeably longer, they are still don’t last very long so I lit the stove in the front room and settled down to putting two of the Carlisle choir songs onto my computer so that I can start learning them.  Learning words and music is a protracted and sometime painful process, full of small steps forward and giant leaps backwards.

The flying bird(s) of the day are the only two chaffinches which approached the feeder when I was looking out of the window before cycling so I feel very lucky to have captured them at all. They have been carefully balanced for gender and left and right tendencies in the pursuit of political correctness.

two flying chaffinches

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Today’s guest picture comes from our younger son Alistair.  He came across these Christmas baubles in the Botanical gardens in Edinburgh.  As they were the size of footballs, he was quite impressed by them.

baubles botanic

We didn’t have much sparkle here as it was another grey and chilly day.  Any brightness was provided by the arrival of Dropscone (with scones) for coffee.  When he left, he was thinking about going to play golf as the temperature was around 5°C and I thought that it was just warm enough for a pedal.

Although it has been cold, it hasn’t rained recently so the roads were dry enough for comfortable riding and I had a calm pedal round my customary Canonbie route.  I had thought of going a little  bit further but was happy to settle for just the twenty miles as hands and feet were getting quite cold by the time that I got home.

Between not wanting to stand around getting even colder and the very poor light, I was intending not to stop for any stop for pictures but I was brought up short by a new sign beside the road at Hollows.

canonbie walk board

Some enterprising group has encouraged the council to put up a set of signs along a popular walking route from the village.  They are nicely done.  This one has the added benefit of being placed near a set of some slightly mysterious stone sculptures which have been anonymously placed in a little wood beside the river.

carving 1 hollows

There are disconcerting when you first see them as they are so unexpected.

carving 2 hollows far

The inscription on the helmet is quite apposite.

carving 2 hollows

When I got home, I took a picture of the first snowdrops of the year which are on the bank of the dam at the back of our house.  They have arrived a week or two earlier than usual this year.

snowdrops by dam

In the garden, the magnolia buds are looking healthy and ready to burst.

magnolia bud

I had lunch and tried to catch a bird at the feeder outside the kitchen window.  It was one of those days however when the very poor light and the flighty behaviour of the very few birds that were about meant that I didn’t take a single garden bird picture, a very rare occurrence.

In the end, I went for a short walk just for the sake of finding something to look at but I had left it too late and the already poor light had got even worse.  I pointed my camera around all the same.

This gull had found a taller spot to sit on rather than the fence posts at the Kilngreen and was on top of an electricity pole.

gull on lectricity pole

There were no gulls at the Kilngreen when I got there and after a pretty dry spell, there wasn’t much water in the rivers either.low water

I had to use the flash to take pictures of lichen on the sawmill Brig parapet…

bridge lichen

…and some spleenwort on the wall by the Lodge gates…

spleenwort back

…but there was just enough light to note that a mole had been busy down here too.

moles by lodge gates

I have a soft spot for trees that seem to have been cobbled together from small pieces.

many treed trunk

And I liked the combination of different bark colours, moss and lichen on this tree on the Castleholm.

moss and lichen on tree

But all in all, the cold and the greyness didn’t encourage me to linger and I soon got home again.

I had made some ginger biscuits in the morning and although they weren’t as successful as my last batch, they were quite suitable for dunking in a cup of tea so I did just that.

Since our Carlisle choir starts again this Sunday, I spent a little time doing some singing practising and then had another cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal and Mike Tinker who had come to call.

As Mike’s wife Alison is not back to full piano playing fitness after injuring her shoulder, there was no music in the evening and Mrs Tootlepedal and I spent a quiet evening in.

I couldn’t find a flying bird in the garden today so this distant shot of gulls flying across the Esk this afternoon is my best effort at a flying bird of the day.

flying gull flock

 

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Today’s guest picture from our son Tony shows what the sunrise was like in East Wemyss today.

sunrise at Wemyss

It was a relief to wake up to bright sunshine after the wind and sleet that had been in evidence when we drove back to our hotel last night.  We had breakfast out with Tony and family this morning and although the hotel car park was still rather icy, the roads were clear.

The breakfast was excellent but even a good breakfast and some welcome sunshine couldn’t get my adventurous spirit up to a level where I thought that driving across to Glasgow for a concert and then driving down the motorway back to Langholm in the dark with heavy rain forecast was a fun way to spend the day.  As a result, in a sensible and cautious (pusillanimous?) way, I decided that the safest thing to do would be to drive straight back home while the sun was out and it was light enough to see where we were going,  giving the concert a miss.

This decision was helped by reports of many crashes in the icy conditions on the motorway overnight.  Not so many years ago, I would have thought of the whole thing as an enjoyable challenge but now I tend to look on the gloomy possibilities of life.

The drive home was bright but in places snowy….

sdr

…although the roads were generally clear enough.

We got home safely and found that the two loyal flowers in the garden were still blooming…

wallflowerwinter jasmine

…and settled down for some serious resting.

We really enjoyed out visit to Tony and East Wemyss in spite of worries about the weather and our brief taste of the walks there made us keen to pay another visit sooner rather than later, weather permitting.

No flying birds today as the light had gone before I could get the feeder filled and the birds discovered that seed was again available.

 

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