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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo from Manitoba’s trip to England.  She went down to Hastings on the south coast and was rather surprised to find a reminder of home in the shape of a somewhat morose moose.

Mary Jo's moose

Although I had enjoyed my cycle ride up the hill to the bird hide yesterday, the effect of having to push hard to get up the hill hadn’t been kind either to my breathing or my feet so I wisely decided to go nowhere further than the corner shop today.

Luckily there was plenty to look at and quite a bit to do in the garden so I wasn’t bored.

One of the field beans from Mrs Tootlepedal’s green manure planting has avoided being dug in and is flowering merrily and the potatoes are just popping their heads through the soil too.

bean and potato

The front door clematis brings a smile to my face every time I pass it by.

front door clematis

It was sunny again today but not as warm as it has been but new arrivals are still appearing and we saw the first veronica and choisya flowers today.

veronica choisya

And the sun has encouraged abundance…

groups of flowers

…not least among the alliums.

allium copse

Not all the good things can be seen from inside the garden and I had to go out onto the road to see two more arrivals, a honeysuckle in the hedge…

honeysuckle in hedge

…and the first flowers on the rosa Moyesii.

rose moyesia

When I went back in I spotted two more new arrivals, a pink aquilegia and a posh geum.

aquilegia and geum

Undoubtedly though, the brightest flower in the garden wasn’t even out yet.

rhododendron buds

That is the very definition of red in my view.

I didn’t just wander about.  I did a little work too.  We recently bought a very reasonably priced half moon edging tool from the ever intriguing middle aisle at Lidl in Carlisle and Mrs Tootlepedal and I put it to use in producing some neat edges for the middle lawn.

Mrs Tootlepedal, who really likes a neat edge, was very pleased with the result.

neat lawn edging

So was I.

Then I got the electric hover mower out and mowed the drying green and the greenhouse grass.  I often talk about mowing the drying green but I don’t know whether it has ever appeared on the blog before.  Here it is….

drying green

…not the greatest expanse of grass in the world but sufficient for its purpose.

It has a fringe of nettles and other wild plants in the far corner to encourage insects.  Mrs Tootlepedal has a plan to let the grass grow freely and cut a path just wide enough to give access to the whirligig.  She intends to plant tulips among the grass so as to make the area decorative as well as useful.

Then I lent a hand as Mrs Tootlepedal fashioned a protective cage for her sweet peas.  If our peas and sweet peas are not fully protected, the sparrows nip the tops off the growing plants and they come to nothing.   It is very infuriating and gives Mrs Tootlepedal a lot of extra work, but this year she thinks that she has got the peas properly protected.

three pea fortresses

The pair of blackbirds nesting in the hydrangea are working very hard collecting food and it is rare not to see one or both of them pecking away on the lawn.

blackbird pecking lawn

Seeing them working away made me think of the front lawn which is still in poor condition so after lunch I got out one of those cheerful packets of soluble fertiliser which promise you a greener lawn in five days and used it.

For once, I believed the advertising hype as nothing could be less green than the front lawn at present so the manufacturers are on a winner here.  Mrs Tootlepedal helped by filling one watering can while I sprayed with the other, and in this way the work was soon done.

 

Over by the compost bins, the rowan is coming along nicely.

rowan buds

I was standing in the drive, thinking quietly about life at one stage of the afternoon when I was nearly run over by the partridge.

the partridge on drive

It nudge me aside and headed for some fallen seed from the feeder.  It didn’t stop long and scuttled off through a neighbour’s hedge.

And that was quite enough activity for the time being, so I went inside and watched horse racing from York on the telly.  There were some good races.

Before I settled down, I went upstairs and had a look at the azaleas round the front lawn from a window.

front lawn with azaleas

Mrs Tootlepedal has planted some new azaleas and they should add to the picture over the next few years.

This is one of them.

new yellow azalea

When Mrs Tootlepedal set about cooking our evening meal, I popped out to mow the middle lawn and had to duck my head as I went through the back door to avoid the overhanging clematis there.

back door clematis

The need for all the lawn care and pea protection is because we are going away for a week to frolic by the sea with Matilda.  There should be a lot more to see in the garden when we come back (quite apart from a much greener lawn).  While we are off, our neighbour Liz is going to feed the birds for me and Mike and Alison are going to keep an eye on the greenhouse and the garden for Mrs Tootlepedal, so things will be well looked after.

There is no flying bird of the day today.  This is partly because I didn’t spend a lot of time looking and partly because the chaffinches, which are by far the best at offering flying bird opportunities, have more or less temporarily (I hope) disappeared from the garden.

A blackbird, finding a wheelbarrow full of compost to dig in, is the parental bird of the day instead.

blackbird in barrow

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan.  She came across this very colourful boundary to a restaurant’s outside seating area and knowing that I like fuchsias, sent me the picture.

susans meal planting

It was another very sunny day here but not quite as warm as the last two days, presaging a slight change in the weather but probably not enough to bring some much needed rain in any quantity.

Our two resident blackbirds are busy morning, noon and night pecking at the lawn for food for their young.

blackbird family

The garage clematis is showing more flowers every day but is still not near its full glory…

garage clematis

…unlike the Japanese azalea which is opening flowers at a great rate…

japanese azalea

…and contributing to a colourful display along the back path.

back path with colour

I sat down for a moment or two on our new bench and enjoyed a purple patch with a perennial wallflower on one side…

perennial wallflower

…and many alliums on the other.

alliums in arow

Sandy is away on holiday at the moment so I got the chance to act as fill in feeder filler at the Moorland Project hide.  I went up on my slow bike, stopping as is compulsory on a sunny day, to admire Skippers Bridge yet again..

skippers in May

…and noting wild flowers on my way, including Pyrenean valerian, ajuga and another outbreak of wild garlic.

wildflowers on way to hide

The back roads are delightful at the moment and the grass roof on the hide is growing very well.

tarras road and hide

As I filled the feeders, two pheasants were squaring off with a good deal of feather flapping and barking…

pheasants squaring up

…and this was the champion of the day.

pheasant triumphant

I sat in the hide for a while with a fellow bird watcher but there was not a lot of birds to watch apart from siskins.

I did notice a coal tit…

coal tit

…and was pleased to have a brief visit from a greater spotted woodpecker.

woodepcker

When I left the hide, I cycled down the hill to see how the road repairs are coming on.  The repaired road has been completed and and surfaced so it won’t be long now until the traffic can start to flow again.  After several years of being closed, it will not be too soon.

new tarras road

On my way home, I passed a patch of what I think must be horsetail.  It had a fine contrast between its spear like head and a rather frilly tutu further down the stem.

horsetail

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal was busy in the garden.  We are going on a short holiday next week and she has a lot to do to get everything in order before we go.  I watered the strawberries as the vegetable garden is very dry and also gave the compost in Bin A a good soaking to help the decomposition.

The sunshine is bringing the flowers on well.

trree peony and sweet rocket

…and a rook popped in to enjoy the colour.

rook in plum tree

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to do some business in the town and I was sitting doing the crossword when a neighbour knocked on the door to say that we had a visitor.

The partridge was back on our windowsill.

partridge on windowsill

It stayed there for most of the afternoon, moving off at one time, only to return to another sill later in the day.

I was somewhat jiggered by sore feet and asthma after I got back from cycling up to the hide and spent the rest of the day very quietly, wasting immense amounts of time at the computer which wouldn’t behave properly so I couldn’t even get useful things done.

In the end I cheered myself up by taking up Mrs Tootlepedal’s suggestion to make some ginger biscuits.  They came out well.

She continued to work in the garden and at one stage disturbed an ant colony which was hiding under some black polythene covering a potential seed bed.  The ants got to work straight away in moving some large capsules, which I presume are eggs.  Before too long they had cleared the site and found a new home.

ants and eggs

As I sat at my computer trying to work, the partridge kept an eye on me.

partridge outside window

Mrs Tootlepedal took it some seed and water.

The day drifted to a close but I felt a lot better by the evening than I had in the morning and afternoon which was a relief.

The flying birds of the day are two swallows.  I saw them heading for holes in the bank of the Esk as I came back from my morning cycle ride.

swallows

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia, who like Dr Foster went to Gloucester but, unlike him,  found that the weather was fine.  She enjoyed a singing day in this lovely building.

gloucester

Our fine weather continued and with the breeze still coming from the south, we had an even warmer day than yesterday.  The watering seems to have encouraged the azaleas (though it may just have been another sunny day that did the trick) and there was a lot more colour about when I went out for a walk round the garden after breakfast.

azaleas coming out

Every flower had turned its face to the welcome sun.

poppy and peony

There were colourful corners about.

colourful corner

…and the clematis by the front door has finally plucked up the courage to open its buds and see what life is like outside.

front ddor clematis

Among the flowers, I found a siskin having a rest on the pond bridge.

siskin on pond bridge

I went in to make coffee in preparation for the arrival of Dropscone (with scones) and I got so excited when he came in that I knocked over the full coffee pot which was standing om the counter top, covering the counter top, my hand and the floor with a rich stream of coffee and grounds. I said a bad word and put my hand under a cold tap.

On the advice of Dropscone, I got old newspapers out and laid them over as much of the mess as I could before keeping Dropscone happy with a cup from yesterday’s coffee pot while I got everything as clean and dry.  Mrs Tootlepedal came in, took one look at the carnage and went out again.

Thanks to the good work of the much reviled mainstream media in soaking up the excess liquid, it didn’t take as long as I thought it might to get tidied up and I was soon able to sit and enjoy a fresh cup of coffee and a scone while Dropscone told me of his recent golfing triumphs.

After Dropscone left, I decided to test out some shoe advice I had received from our daughter Annie and go for a walk.  It proved to be good advice and I managed to walk a mile without too much trouble.

I went round Easton’s Walk and as I strolled through the park, I saw that a wood carver had been busy on a fallen tree.

carving in park

My main object was to see if the wild garlic was out and it didn’t take long to see and smell the pretty white flowers…

wild garlic may

…which lined my walk on all sides.

wild garlic panel

The were still some bluebells out so it was a walk to exercise the nose as well as the eye.

late bluebells

Although garlic and bluebells were by far the most numerous flowers to be seen, other plants were available…

wildflowers eastons walk

…and the first sighting of vigorous grasses…

grass seed

…were a hint of more pollen to come.

The hawthorns which are in a  position to catch the sun are coming out and it will not be long until there is blossom everywhere.

hawthorn stubholm

It was a glorious day to be out for a walk even with slightly sore feet…

stubholm track

…and my mellow mood was enhanced by azaleas and rhododendrons in the park.

azalea and rhododendron in park

We have so little rain lately that our rivers are reduced to a trickle and I could see a reflection of the suspension bridge in the Wauchope above the Kirk Bridge.

suspension bridge reflection

When I got back home, I made some vegetable soup for lunch and then Mrs Tootlepedal went off for a short course on how not to set the customers on fire at the Buccleuch Centre where she is a volunteer.

She had spent the morning slaving over her Embroiderers’ Guild branch accounts as she is the treasurer and had finished up with that most annoying of all accounting errors, a difference of £1 in the balances.  I trained as an accountant for a few years after leaving school so while she was out, I went over the books and pinned the error down to a slight mistreatment in the recording of the petty cash and when this was regularised, the books balanced and all was well.

Mrs Tootlepedal returned and before I could even show her the books, she whisked me out of the house to record an emperor moth which she noticed sunning itself on the side of a building on Henry Street.  It was worth looking at…

emperor moth

…but annoyingly, it wouldn’t spread its wings for me, so we left it to bask and went home.

Mrs Tootlepedal got her accounts ready to print and then we went out into the garden and finished off netting the fruit cages.  It was still very warm but the sky had clouded over and it felt for a while as though we might get a thunderstorm.  Happily, the rain stayed away and we completed the task and went in for a cup of tea and a moment to watch the birds.

Two goldfinches were in hot competition for the same feeder…

goldfinch competing

…and when I looked, I saw that some bad bird had made off with the perch from the opposite side of the feeder which might account for the pushing and shoving.

I just had time to go for a nine mile bike ride on the slow bike before tea and when I started out, I was very pleased to see our friendly partridge trying to work out a reason for crossing the road in Henry Street  (you can see the loss of feathers on its neck)…

Partridge and oyster catcher

…and I came across an oyster catcher nesting in the middle of the bus park at the Rugby Club near the end of my ride.  It got up when I stopped and stamped off in a huff so I took a quick shot and pedalled off apologetically.

In the evening, I went to the last practice of Langholm Sings under the direction of Mary my singing teacher, who has been our conductor for the past few years.  I will miss her when she has gone and rather annoyingly, I will also miss her final concert with the choir as we will be on holiday next week.  We had a very good sing though.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch heading towards the missing perch.

flying goldfinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo from Manitoba who is not in Manitoba at all at the moment.  She is in London and visited Kew Gardens where she took this picture.  You might think that as it was taken in a famous garden it shows a wonderful plant but in fact it is an even more wonderful glass sculpture by glass blower Dale Chihuly.

glass blower Dale Chihuly’s career KEW

We had another very fine day here today and with the wind coming up from the south, it was warm as well as sunny.

I pottered around the garden in the morning when I wasn’t drinking coffee or doing the crossword.

There was colour galore…

red flowers

…with old and new plants enjoying the weather.

purple flowers

There were more bees and other insects about today and I found two of them visiting a Welsh poppy…

welsh poppy with flies

…but they hadn’t discovered the first of the Icelandic poppies yet.

icelnadic poppy

When I walked over the pond bridge, there was a lot of tension on every side…

surface tension with frog

…but viewed from another angle, the frog seemed quite relaxed.

frog may

Nearby I saw this puzzle picture.  Was it a version of Jonah and the Whale?….

tadpole om lily leaf

….or was it just a water lily leaf half out of the water with a tadpole resting at its heart?

I walked along the dam at the back of the house to see if birds were bathing in the water there.

A sparrow had obviously just taken a dip when I arrived.

wet saprrow on barbed wire

When I came through the back gate, I passed one of the less cultivated areas of the garden.  Against all her ingrained gardening instincts, Mrs Tootlepedal is going a little wilder each year.

dandelions in garden

Blackbirds are nesting in the climbing hydrangea on the front wall of the house and this one took a moment to rest on the feeder pole before going off to collect more worms from the lawn.

blackbird

It had a wisp of nest stuck on its head which made me think how lucky we are to have hands and arms.  It twisted its head this way and that, so I imagined that it knew something was stuck up there, but it had no way of getting it off.

Although the crossword was quite tricky and took some time, I managed to have several wanders among the flowers.

This is Mrs Tootlepedal’s current favourite….

rhododendron in bloom

…and this is mine.

late tulip

I had a close look at the cow parsley and found, as so often is the case, that there is more to some flowers than you think.

cow parsley blossom

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help at the Buccleuch Centre coffee bar over lunch and when she came back she sat on a garden bench and had a snack while I scarified the front lawn and collected the moss with the mower.

It has been very dry over the past weeks and as there is no rain in the immediate forecast, Mrs Tootlepedal had been doing a lot of watering in the vegetable garden before breakfast.  I thought that I ought to do my bit, so I watered the azaleas round the front lawn and one of the hedges which we have been cutting back.  Most of the azaleas have been refusing to progress from buds to flowers and I wondered if the dry spell was the cause.

The next task was putting the netting onto the metal frames for the two small fruit cages in the vegetable garden.  This involved measuring and cutting, and a good deal of bending and stretching.  By this time, the afternoon had got decidedly hot and we had to stop before we had quite finished the job.  Although a trick of the light makes it look as though we have only done the sides, we have done the front and back of the two cages as well.  Just the front section of the top of the left hand cage remains to be done.

fruit cages netting

After a short collapse and a cup of tea to recover from the heat, Mrs Tootlepedal made a fish pie for our tea.  When we had eaten our meal, she went back to the Buccleuch Centre where she was acting as a front of house volunteer, and stayed on to watch a screening of All My Sons by Arthur Miller.

I got my natty cycling shorts on and went out for a suitably short evening ride.  I am still trying to take care of my feet by mixing rest and gentle exercise (with frozen peas applied from time to time) but at least I can cycle without pain so I enjoyed my ten mile outing.

I looked up to see a tree at one point and was surprised to see the moon high in the sky behind it.

tree and moon

It was a grand evening to be out on very quiet roads and it was good to be able to cycle far enough to get a view.

wauchope road evening

I was keeping an eye out for hawthorn blossom but I only saw two bushes in flower and they were in a sheltered but sunny spot near the town.

first hawthorn

Mrs Tootlepedal came back from the Buccleuch Centre with her withers thoroughly wring by the Miller drama and this made me quite glad that I hadn’t gone too.  I generally need cheering up not wringing out just now.

The flying bird of the day is the sparrow which appeared earlier in the post.  It came back down off the fence and took a bath.  The water was certainly flying even if the bird was not.

sparrow splashing

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She was hit in the eye by this burst of colour on her morning walk to Kenwood House.

Kenwood colour

After breakfast, I cycled up to the town to do some business including paying in a handsome cheque kindly sent to me by the government.  This was a refund for the very expensive road tax which I had paid on our old car.  One of the benefits of the little white zingy thingy is that it is tax free to put on the road, part of the inducements to go electric.  These benefits will doubtless disappear when more people start buying electric cars but judging by the published figures on the rate of sales, I should be safe for a while yet.

Then  I drove off into England for the third day running, this time to see my singing teacher Mary.  My ambition is to be able to sing a simple song more or less in tune and in a pleasant manner so she has her work cut out on both fronts.  However, she is a first rate teacher and I came away feeling that with work, I might be able to achieve my goal.

An added bonus was being able to watch a small flock of lapwings flying around in the field opposite her house after the lesson.

It was another fine day so when I got home, I took a walk round the garden in the hope that more azaleas would have come out.  They are very reluctant.

not out azalea

This one has been covered with  promising buds for ages but it is still strangely reluctant to burst into flower.  Our warmer weather is set to continue for a day or two so I am keeping my hopes up.

When I went in, I found that Nancy, the Archive Group treasurer and chief data miner for our local newspaper index, had brought round the sheets which will mean when they have been entered into the database that we have reached 1900.  Three cheers to all involved.

It was soon time for lunch and after I had eaten my soup and cheese and done the crossword, the downside of the little white thingy came into play.  The crucial word here is “white” and some pointed remarks from Mrs Tootlepedal drew my attention to the fact that a white car shows the dirt.  For many years now I have avoided washing our car because in my view, it just encourages more dirt, but even I could see that the new car is going to require regular washing.  Ah well, nothing in the world is quite perfect.

After I had washed to car, the middle lawn called to me.  The moss eating mixture which I applied a few weeks ago seems to have had an effect but there was still a very mossy patch in the middle of the lawn so I got out the scarifier and gave the whole lawn a going over.  When I had collected the moss with the mower, the lawn looked quite potential…

scarified lawn

…though my assistant thought that there was still work to be done.

scarifying assistant

…and to be fair, there is still quite a bit of moss about.

As you can see from the lawn picture, we are between colour at the moment with the tulips and daffodils past but there is a lot of green about…

green garden May

…and there are spots of colour here and there.

The sweet rocket is coming out…

sweet rocket

…the tree peony is very nearly out…

tree peony flower nearly out

…and the Japanese azalea is doing its best too.

japanese azalea

The cow parsley in the back border is beginning to look really impressive…

rampant cow parsley

…and Mrs Tootlepedal has a purple stemmed variety in another bed.

purple stemmed cow parsley

I went round to the back of the house, to check what flowers could be seen along the dam…

flowers along dam may

…and found daisies, potentilla and the first of the aquilegia, one of my favourite flowers.

I came back into the garden and found that the white polemonium…

white polemonium

…had been joined by a blue variety…

blue polemonium

…and the first geraniums have arrived too.

cranesbill

I took a view from an upstairs window which showed that only two of the five azaleas in the bed along the road have come out…

azaleas in sun

…and then went off for another short and gentle therapeutic pedal on the slow bike.

I passed the bluebells on the hill again without walking up to visit them this time.

bluebells on hill

When I had been down in England in the morning, I had noticed that quite a few hawthorns had come out and I was interested to see if ours were out too.  They weren’t….

hawthorn not out

…but they are going to make a good show when they do arrive.

Although most of our trees are now green, the alders along the river sides are still waiting to join in, as this picture of the Glencorf Burn shows.

leafless alders glencorf burn

Normally, if I have a good bike ride, as I did yesterday, I would try to go further the next day but as I had my sensible head on today, I went slightly less far than I did yesterday and my ankle thanked me for it.  I was very happy to find my sensible head as often it is well hidden away.

I didn’t have much to time watch the birds today but I liked the concentration shown by this pigeon…

concentrating pigeon

…and checked out the usual customers on the feeder.

redpoll, siskin, goldfinch

My flute pupil Luke came in the early evening and I was able to use a tip which I had picked up from my singing lesson to help him get over an awkward corner in one of our pieces.

I also introduced him to Scott Joplin as a change from baroque sonatas.

As the sun sank after a full day’s work, I resisted the temptation to take a sunset picture as I already had too many for the post and so all that is left now is the flying bird of the day.  Or rather, in today’s case, the fleeing bird of the day.

fleeing siskins

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Today’s guest picture has gone all Instagram and shows a rather dainty meal that my two oldest sisters enjoyed on  a bank holiday outing last Monday.  It is only here because I have run out of up to date guest pictures again.  I thank everyone who sent me pictures that I didn’t use because I had too many at the same time and if necessary, I will delve into the archives to retrieve one or two.

sisters' lunch

We had another frosty morning here today but things warmed up quickly and with a light wind and some sunshine, it turned unto a very reasonable day.

I echoed the frosty start by applying a pack of frozen peas to my ankle and this had the effect of enabling me to walk about a bit more comfortably than I had been able to do yesterday evening.

All the same, I kept pretty quiet and cycled very carefully up to town to run a couple of necessary errands.

When I got back, the sun tempted me to walk round the garden.

There are Welsh poppies on every side now…

welsh poppy in sun

…and it is lilac blossom time too.

lilac in shade

Edible and decorative strawberries are showing new flowers…

two straberries

…but the alpine clematis looks as though it has had one too many chilly mornings and seems a bit depressed.

droppy alpine clematis

Generally though, the garden looked a bit more cheerful in the sun and there were more bees about…

three purple flowers

…though not nearly as many as we would like.

The house was in some confusion as we had the joiner in doing repairs but I found a quiet corner to do the crossword and catch up with the news in the paper and when the joiner had finished, I made some lentil soup for lunch.

I wasn’t the only one thinking of food…

jackdaw on peanuts

…but at least I got something to eat unlike the sparrowhawk who flew through without success and turned its back on the feeder in disgust.

back view of sparrowhawk

I don’t know whether this is a young bird but we have have several visits from it without losing any of our smaller friends lately so maybe it needs practice.

After lunch, I had another wander around.  With a forecast of warmer weather to come, perhaps the rhododendrons and azaleas will at last come fully out.  They are ready.

early rhododendron

I lied this composition of straight lines provided by alliums in front of the vegetable garden fence…

starightlines with alliums

…and I was very pleased to see the first pair of Dutchman’s Breeks of the year.

dutchman's trousers

It is also known as Bleeding Heart and I would call it a Dicentra but I see that I should really call it Lamprocapnos spectabilis now.   It is easier to spell Dicentra so I may keep calling it that.

The sun had persuaded the last of our tulips to stop being so straitlaced and relax a bit…

late tulip

…and in the pond, this tiny little creature was whirling round in circles creating waves.

small circulating pond creature

I think it may be the aptly named whirlygig beetle.

With a walk being out of the question, Mrs Tootlepedal came out with me for a short drive.  We started by visiting a very fruitful conifer a little way up the Wauchope road

red cones

It is very colourful sight with its mass of cones, some red and some brown.  I would welcome information from those who know as to whether the red cones are flowers and different from these cones on another branch…

cones in plenty

or whether they just the first stages and in the end they will all look the same.

We turned and drove back through the town and then up the hill onto the moor in the hope of seeing a hen harrier for Mrs Tootlepedal.  And on this occasion, her hopes were fulfilled as she was able to track a harrier flying across the moor and then soaring into the sky.

She followed it with binoculars but it was too far away for a photograph so I settled for a scenic view instead.

view up Tarras valley from Whita

The moor is not being grazed by sheep at the moment and this has led to young trees being able to take root and grow without being nibbled and I liked the symbolism of fresh trees growing in a disused sheep pen down in the valley below.

sheep pen on moor

Driving our new electric car is a roller coaster experience and as we went up the hill, the gauge which shows how many theoretical miles we have left dropped like a stone and we lost many more miles than we actually travelled.  However, as we came gently back down the hill, the gauge rose like a lark and we got back all our lost miles.  From a purely driving point of view, the car floats up the hill effortlessly.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round and while Mrs Tootlepedal and Mike discussed gardening, Alison and I played a few sonatas.  We haven’t played for a bit and I found my fingers were very rusty but we had an enjoyable time nevertheless.

It was election night in Langholm, the time for the townspeople to chose the young man who will be cornet and carry the town’s standard at the Common Riding in July.  Mrs Tootlepedal and I had cycled along to vote earlier and as Alison and I played, the Town Band marched past our window, leading latecomers to the ballot box.  As they weren’t playing at the time, I didn’t notice them until they had gone past.

election night

I didn’t find a flying bird today and I name the guilty (but hungry) party.

sparrowhawk on garden chair

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Today’s guest picture is another from my brother Andrew’s cycle ride through Duffield.  As well as the pub, he saw a fine bridge over the Derwent  there.

duffield bridge

I had a subdued day today.  I was meaning to take a bit of exercise, but cold wet windy weather once again suggested that more rest for the feet was the best policy.

I was consoled by the arrival of Dropscone with scones warm from the pan to go with morning coffee. We had a short competition to see who was in the worst condition and although it was a close thing, I think that Dropscone just won.  He has got a lot of trouble with a knee.  I easily won the moaning competition though.

When Dropscone left, I did the crossword, lounged around a bit, had some soup and waved Mrs Tootlepedal off on a trip to Edinburgh.  She was going to listen to our church organist’s degree recital in St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh along with other supporters from the town.  I would like to have gone too but I felt that I needed to go and sing with my Langholm choir as a concert is looming up.

I did a lot of useful work on the computer during the afternoon but took time out to look at birds.  A greenfinch appeared…

greenfinch may

…and became one of a quartet of four different birds on the feeder…

mixed feedr

…although it wasn’t long before things had reverted to type.

siskin feeder

Siskins were everywhere.

siskin heading for feeder

I put another week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database and have now caught up with my backlog.  I imagine that the data miners will have been busy behind my back though and more sheets will soon arrive.

There is often something interesting in the Eskdale and Liddesdale Advertiser of 1899 among the reports of temperance meetings and rugby matches.  Today’s nugget was a visit to Langholm by a champion cyclist who was in the process of cycling 100 miles every day for a year.  His name was Teddy Hale and I found this entry in Wikipedia:

On the 30th of July of that year he started a record attempt to ride a 100 miles daily on British roads. This attempt was sponsored by Acatène, a company that produced a shaft-driven bicycle. One year later, at the 31st of July 1900, he completed a total of 32,496 miles with which he set a first mark for this endurance record. Afterwards Hale ended his cycling career. He died in 1911, only 47 years old, leaving behind a wife and five children.

You can find an interesting article about him here if you have time to spare.  He won a big race in America too.

Sometimes, when I am looking out of the kitchen window, my eye is drawn away from the birds towards the flowers round the feeder…

wallflowers through window

…and today they were drawn even further afield by the sight of devastation on the middle lawn.

pecked lawn

Those pesky jackdaws had been at work again.  !!!

I put my jacket on and went out into the garden and though I was delayed by finding a third flower out on the garage clematis…

three clematis flowers

…and a tulip…

ballerina tulip

..or two…

pink tulip

…I managed to get the mower out and combine a quick cut with collecting the pecked moss.

mowed lawn after jackdaws

I mowed the front lawn too.

An hour and half later, I looked out again.

Jackdaws on lawn

!!!!!!

The sparrowhawk might have felt the same when it arrived on a fruitless mission shortly afterwards.

sparrowhawk head

It just couldn’t believe that there were no birds down there.

I am happy to report that at least one pigeon regained its focus today.

focused pigeon

After tea, which consisted of the farewell appearance of Mrs Tootlepedal’s quorn sauce, this time in the guise of a mild curry with rice, I went out to the choir.  In spite of resting pretty seriously for several days, things did not go well on the way.

My feet may be fairly considered to be items of great aesthetic beauty by connoisseurs but as aids to actual walking, they are still pretty hopeless at the moment.  I am confused as to whether rest or exercise is the best thing and I really hope that I get to see the physio soon.

Still, the singing was both enjoyable and useful so I hobbled home cheerfully enough.

The house was rather empty as Mrs Tootlepedal went to stay with Matilda in Edinburgh after the recital.  I will see them both tomorrow if the new car and the trains run as scheduled so that isn’t too bad. And, as a Tottenham Hotspur supporter I was mildly surprised but not entirely displeased with the result of their match against Ajax this evening.  (This an example of litotes.)

!!!!!!!!!!!!! (It was a day of !!!!)

The flying bird of the day is one of those siskins.

flying siskin

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