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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s recent musical outing.  As well as singing with sackbuts, she saw an angel playing a trumpet.

venetia's weathervane

We are strictly rationed to only one fine day at a time at the moment, so it was no surprise to wake to a very gloomy morning with additional drizzle today after yesterday’s sunshine.

For some reason (Mrs Tootlepedal suggests that it may have to do with too many birthdays) I was a bit tired and took a long time after breakfast in my dressing gown to get up, make coffee and visit the corner shop.

I had hoped to go for a walk in the late morning and give my new coat an airing but the drizzle was of that particularly depressing kind which discourages enterprise.  I stayed in and spent time sorting music for church and Carlisle choirs tomorrow.

And occasionally looking at the birds.

We are not getting a lot of birds at all which is concerning.  I see that I was complaining about the lack of winter birds last year too so it is not just a passing phenomenon.  There were some birds today, goldfinches, siskins and chaffinches.

three birds on feeder

The light was poor and I had a struggle trying to get a flying bird of the day, though I thought that this effort was pleasingly reminiscent of Woodstock, the bird in the Peanuts cartoon strip

diving goldfinch

For a decent flying bird, I need to to have enough birds so that queues form for the perches.  When there are vacant perches, as was the case today, the birds arrive very quickly and I was usually too late…

rising goldfinch

…and the birds had got too close to the feeder.

nearly flying goldfinch

The drizzle eased off and I had a look round the garden for signs of life.

new growth

There is still plenty of potential leek soup out there.  Mrs Tootlepedal tries to keep exposed soil well mulched over the winter.

old leeks

She had used her new vegetable chopping device to help make some very tasty vegetable soup for lunch and after I had enjoyed eating some with bread and cheese, I went out for a cycle ride.  It had stopped raining completely by this time.

The wind hadn’t stopped blowing though and I found the first few miles straight in to the breeze very hard work.  I sensibly turned off and with the wind now across and slightly behind, I pedalled happily across the hill and down into the Esk valley.

The wind was in the perfect direction and helped back up the hill into Langholm.  It was very gloomy and I only stopped once to add another tree to my collection.

tree

Once I got home, I felt that I had done enough for the day and passed from afternoon tea and the last of the Christmas cake into an evening meal of fishcakes and broccoli without noticeably moving at all.

Because of the lack of sunshine and photographs today, I am going to break with tradition and use a photograph from yesterday which escaped from my filing system to fill out today’s post.  This was the sky at dawn.

sunset

We are going to London in a couple of weeks and I booked the railway tickets today.  The route has recently been transferred from one operator to another, and although I had received a reassuring email from the new operators saying that the changeover would be seamless as far as booking went, I feared the worst.  Oh ye of little faith!  Everything went perfectly smoothly and the tickets are booked.  This is not the same company that runs the Lockerbie train.

I gave up on goldfinches for the flying bird of the day and  looked to the heavens to catch a jackdaw in the walnut tree instead.

flying jackdaw

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia.  She was delighted to spot a squirrel in her garden.  She points out that it was so cold that the squirrel was using its tail to keep its ears warm.

venetia's squirrel

It rained heavily here over night but it had stopped by the morning and we got a relatively calm day.  Along with the gentler winds, the temperature had dropped too and it was just over 3 degrees C at breakfast time.

My back had decided to sulk and it took me some time to get it loosened up but this did give me a moment to watch the birds.

The robin auditioned for the Christmas card spot…

robin on stalk

…and chaffinches approached the feeder with great concentration…

angel flying chaffinch

…and sometimes even with suspicion.

sloped flying chaffinch

The goldfinches were eating elsewhere today and we got a siskin instead.

siskin and other bird

A blue tit proved to be less sunflower seed orientated than the other birds and tried the fat balls and the peanuts as well as the seed.

blue tit on nuts and balls

By midday I had eased off my back enough to go out for a gentle stroll.

Our new minister was going to be inducted to the parish in the evening and the church heating was on as I went by.  I could only just restrain myself from saying, “Holy smoke!” as I passed.

holy smoke

In spite of the heavy overnight rain, the river was not high when I got to it, although there was enough water going down to make a decent ripple….

water in esk

…and the line of debris on the far bank suggested that it might have been quite high earlier on.

I walked down the river and came to my favourite piece of fencing at Land’s End.  The fence itself is unremarkable but it is home to a beautiful lichen which is really enjoying the present weather.  This little patch, about an inch across, was on the edge of a  bottom bar…

fence lichen land's end

…and a few yards further on, I found a bigger patch covering the whole width of a top bar.

fence lichen land's end 2

I approached Skippers Bridge from the north…

skippers in December

…and when I had crossed over and begun my walk back up the opposite side of the river. the sun came fully out and lit up Timpen Hill.

timpen from murtholm

Everything looked more cheerful in the sunshine and I marvelled at the intricate tracery of oak branches on one side of the track….

oak banches

…and the intricate tracery of the iron gates of the farmhouse on the other side.

murtholm gate

The sunshine even made a big puddle in the field look quite beautiful…

murtholm puddle with fence

…and the bare trees at the far end of the Murtholm looked delightful too.

trees at end of murtholm

As I came into the wood, a pigeon stood frozen under the trees.  It was quite happy to sit still and let me take its picture so I suspect that it may not have been very well.

pigeon in wood

I had a quick lunch when I got home and after checking that the temperature was still safely above freezing (it was 3.8°C), I went out for a short cycle ride.

I had originally planned to go a bit further but the late start to my walk and the brief afternoon light kept me down to 11 miles.  The light was still good for a while and gave the bulls at Wauchope Schoolhouse a golden gleam.

bullocks in golden sunshine

It began to cloud over though and as I passed Westwater, only a patch of larches was getting any sun.

larches at Westwater

I didn’t hang about as it was pretty cold with the sun behind the clouds and I was satisfied that I had least got some stretch into my legs.

When I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal had pruned the roots of the Christmas tree and put it into its pot.  We will let it rest in the garage now until Christmas Eve.

christmas tree in pot

When I went inside, I spent about quarter of an hour on my bike to nowhere in the garage to make up for my short outdoor excursion.  To be honest, I could quite easily have done the extra quarter of an hour outside if I had wanted to as Mrs Tootlepedal went out and cycled about the town quite happily for a bit of exercise after we had had a cup of tea.

In the evening we went to church for the service of induction for our new minister.  The small church choir of nine, enhanced by four members of Langholm Sings, sang the Hallelujah Chorus as a processional to start the service off and all things considered, it went pretty well.

The induction service itself was a serious business and a lot of ministers from other churches in in the presbytery had come along to lend their support.  I had never been to such an event before and didn’t realise that both the minister and the congregation had to make solemn promises about belief and good behaviour before the minister could start work.  I hope that everybody sticks to their word.

We are keeping our fingers crossed that the weatehr and train services will let us go to Edinburgh tomorrow and visit Matilda.  Neither are very reliable at the moment.  There is even talk of snow.

The flying bird of the day is a curious chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest comes from our son Tony.  In spite of the endless sunshine, Christmas does come to East Wemyss and Tony likes to make good use of a log or two to welcome it.

Ant's snowman

The day started with a trip to church where we sang some cheerful hymns chosen by a visiting minister and followed that with a practice of the Hallelujah Chorus with which we are going to welcome our new permanent minister on Wednesday.

Mike reported that the Langholm Sings concert last night had gone well.  I had missed it because I was in Carlisle with my other choir, so that was good to hear because I don’t like missing concerts if I can help it.

We had a coffee when we got home and then I had a moment to look at the birds.  A goldfinch pointed out the the feeder was not in a satisfactory state after all the rain so I went out to shake it down and fill it up…

hollow in feeder

…after having had a conversation with our resident robin about which was its best side, this….

robin looking right

…or this?

robin looking left

When I had filled the feeder, goldfinches were slow to return.  This was a bit annoying because…

lone goldfinch

…the light was slightly better today…

goldfinch close up

…and there were a lot of goldfinches perching on our walnut tree and not coming to the feeder.

goldfinchs in waknut tree small group

And I mean a lot.

goldfinchs in waknut tree large group

I made some potato soup for lunch and while it was cooking, I had a damp walk round the garden.

This really is the last of the summer flowers…

last daisy

…though there are welcome signs of things to come next year…

new shoots

…and in the absence of flowers, there is always the chicken to admire.

topiary chicken december

Inside the house, Mrs Tootlepedal’s African violets continue to thrive.

african violet december

There was neither the time or the weather for a walk after lunch, as we had to go back to Carlisle, picking up a fellow choir member on the way, to sing in the second of our Carlisle Community Choir concerts.

This was a repeat of yesterday’s concert so I was able to correct yesterday’s errors and make a completely new set of mistakes today.  Nevertheless, it was enjoyable and well attended so the double concert was justified as it let more people enjoy the music than would have been possible with just one performance.  All the same, with three concerts and a church service in the past three days, I was quite pleased to get home and have a quiet sit down without having to worry about what I was going to sing the next day.

There is still a promise of sunshine tomorrow in the forecast so I am keeping my fingers crossed for an outing of some sort.

In spite of all the goldfinches in the walnut tree, this was the best that I could do for a flying bird today.

flying goldfinch observed

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Australian correspondent Stephen.  Having read about the Langholm Christmas tree illumination, he sent me this shot to show that Australians can do Christmas too.

australian Christmas tree

Talking about Christmas, our resident robin is working hard to get us into a Christmas mood.

sunny robin

As you can see, we had another sunny day today but once again, it was pretty nippy and the thermometer didn’t get above zero all day.

The odd goldfinch braved the cold and made it to the feeder, but they didn’t stay long.

goldfinch departing

Mrs Tootlepedal had a quiet morning in after yesterday’s very long day, so I went off to sing in the church choir by myself.  Our potential new minister has been voted in by the congregation but will not start work for ten days so we had a visiting minister today who chose cheerful hymns and gave us an interesting sermon.

When I got home, the feeder was still quite busy but the bright sunshine is a mixed blessing when it come to taking pictures of the visitors and I settled for a flying chaffinch…

flying chaffinch

…and a sitting greenfinch…

greenfinch on feeder

…before getting ready for a walk.  The robin appeared again before I could go out…

sunny robin 2

…but I managed to resist the temptation to take even more pictures of it and went out into the cold.

Out of the sun, it really was cold in the garden and this was the side window of our car.

car window ice

After three days of frost, the leaves in the garden are no longer just fringed with crystals, they are covered with them.

garden leaf ice

…and even our wooden heron has got signs of a runny nose.

garden heron drip nose

A box ball summed up the two sides of the day…

half frozen box ball

…and Lilian Austin was frozen stiff.

frozzen rose

The chilly conditions had turned every leaf on one of the golden box balls into little ice flowers.

frozen golden box leaves

I left the garden and walked up to Pool Corner where a lone larch tree has retained some its needles.

last of the larches

I liked this contrast in tree shapes as I passed the Wauchope graveyard.

three trees wauchope

Expert navigators are supposed to be able to tell the points of the compass by looking at moss growing on tree trunks.  Today, the ice on fence posts gave a pretty good indication of East and West.

frozen fence post

Who needs diamonds when its frosty?

fence post ice

I crossed the Auld Stane Brig and walked back towards the town along Gaskells Walk.  I was keeping an eye for hair ice and I was pleased to find an example beside the path.

hair ice gaskells

The track runs along the side of the hill and was in shadow so it was occasionally icy underfoot and always chilly.

 

icy gaskells

My hands had got pretty cold from taking my gloves off to use the camera and I had to keep a good eye on the where I was putting my feet so the camera stayed in my pocket and I concentrated on walking fast enough to keep warm.

I added Easton’s walk to the end of Gaskell’s walk and found another example of hair ice as I walked back along the river.

hair ice eastons

I was pleased to get back into the warmth when I got home.

When we drove to Carlisle after lunch to go to our Carlisle Choir, the temperature was -5°C and we hit a fairly thick patch of fog not long after we started.  I wondered how the electric car would enjoy these conditions but it seemed unworried, although the battery charge went down a lot more quickly than it does in the summer.

Luckily the fog didn’t last for long and we got to the choir in lovely sunshine. This was the last practice before two concerts next weekend so we worked hard to polish up some of the awkward corners that had remained a little rough.  Mrs Tootlepedal and I agreed as we drove home (-6°C) that time will have to be found during the week for some final homework on the songs.

The temperature should get above freezing tomorrow (fog permitting) and we are due to get up to double figures by Friday.  I hope we do as I have done very little cycling lately and I am getting distinctly tubby.  Two mile walks taking pictures are fun but they don’t burn calories.

The flying bird of the day is a rather dashing chaffinch, showing great determination in the pursuit of a seed.

flying chaffinch lunge

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Today’s guest picture shows a real trouper from Manitoba.  Lucie sent the picture to me and tells me that on the day that she took it,  Manitoba was at -8c, and the little pansy was still going strong despite having been covered in four inches of snow and suffering several below freezing days

Lucie's flower

We had another frosty morning here but a generally sunny day so after coffee, while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Carlisle to make some purchases relating to repainting our hallway, I brushed the leaves off the lawns, collected another good handful of fallen walnuts, checked out the floral survivors of the frosts…

four after frost flowers

…and went for a walk.

The falling of the leaves has let more light into the river bank near Pool Corner…

Wauchope above pool corner

…but there were still some bright leafy moments here and there along my walk…

manse brae tree

…although we are also well  into the ‘bare tree’ time for taking photos.

leafless tree

As you can see, there are some grey clouds in the background of the picture above and for a moment, a light drizzle threatened to spoil my walk.  It was a false alarm though and the drizzle fizzled out after only a minute or two, and the sun shone again.

It lit up a couple of characters who were as interested in me as I was in them.

balck cow

grey cow

The frosty mornings haven’t affected the lichens on the fence post at the Auld Stane Brig.

lichen fence post

Why this particular fence post out of the thousands around here should have such a flourishing lichen garden is one of life’s little mysteries.

My stroll took me along Gaskell’s and Easton’s Walks.  There were fungi to be seen along Gaskell’s…

three gaskells fungi

…and the sun penetrated through the trees to light up the arrival of the Becks Burn into the mighty Wauchope.

becks burn meeting wauchope

I looked across at Meikleholm hill…

Meikleholm hill autumn

…before plunging through the autumn tunnel to the Stubholm and Easton’s walk.

stubholm track

It was definitely autumn in the Beechy Plains…

beechy plains

…but there was still plenty to look at as I went along.

acorn, script lichen and leaf

This fine bunch of daisies on the river bank at the park bridge made a cheerful end to my walk.

daisies by park brig late october

I made some lentil soup for lunch and Mrs Tootlepedal got back safely from Carlisle in time to have some for her lunch too.

The temperature had risen to 8°C by the time that lunch was over, so I wrapped up warmly and got my bike out of the garage.  I very nearly put it back again when I looked up and saw this.

rainbow from garden

That was the direction from which our weather was coming today.  I checked the forecast and it swore that it wasn’t raining in Langholm so in spite of the evidence of my eyes, I had faith and cycled off up the Wauchope road.

My faith was justified and it didn’t rain on me at all.  In fact it was more or less sunny the whole way.

There were no leaves left on the trees when I passed the Glencorf burn though.

glencorf burn october

I was doing an out and back ride, so I took this picture at the far end of Callister before I turned back towards Langholm

view over winterhope

…and this one at the other end of my ride, where in spite of some impressive cloud formations…

clouds up Ewes

…the top end of the Ewes valley was bathed in sunshine.

Ewes valley october

When I got home, after twenty gentle miles, I was greeted by these cheerful argyranthemums which had perked up in the sun after being rather droopy in the early morning frost.

last argyranthemums

Mrs Tootlepedal roasted a chicken for our tea and as I polished off the rest of the tarte tatin as pudding, any calories burned during my cycle ride were more than amply replaced by the evening meal.

Although the feeder has been out in the garden for two days now, no bird has visited it at all while I have been watching, so a dunnock is the standing in as flying bird of the day.

dunnock

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Somerset correspondent Venetia who took it while  flashing past Stonehenge on a double decker bus.  There was no time to stop as she was off to London for a march to demand a second referendum.  One of my sisters, my brother and his two sons also attended the march so it was an important affair.

stonehenge

It was a bright and calm morning here today but it was also decidedly chilly and I was in no hurry to get my bike out until the temperature reached at least 7°C.  This gave me time for coffee and the crossword as as it was after eleven o’clock before the target was reached.

Mrs Tootlepedal advised me that blackbirds were bathing in the dam behind the house and there might be a photo opportunity.  I went to check but found a blackbird that was waiting on the edge but not willing to take the plunge.

blackbird by dam

I put on a great many layers of cycling clothing and finally got going.  When I got to ten miles and stopped for a drink of water, I noticed that a tree which had had leaves last Friday but which had lost them now.

tree no leafs

But it was a fine day and as you can see there was so little wind that the turbines at Minsca were not turning at all.

still windmills

I had a lot of clothes on and just turning my legs over was quite a task in spite of the still conditions but I plugged away and passed trees with leaves on near Eaglesfield….

trees with leafs eaglesfield

…and stopped for a buttered roll with honey under the cavernous motorway bridge near Kirkpatrick Fleming (my bike ignored the no parking sign)…

motorway bridge KPF

…and paused for a smaller bridge near Gretna.

bridge over burn near gretna

The bridge’s arch was framed with bright red berries.

red berries

As I got back on my bike and was just getting going, another fairly elderly cyclist passed me without stopping for some civil conversation.  Just to annoy him, I caught him up and pedalled along silently a few yards behind him.  He knew I was there and occasionally pushed a bit harder to try to shake me off but he couldn’t and in the end I passed him …with a few civil words about the lovely weather.  I could see him in my mirror, hanging on about twenty or thirty yards behind me even when I pushed a bit to try to shake him off.  Mercifully we took different routes at the first junction we came to, and we could both relax.

I had taken my route in the hope of seeing migrating geese near the border and a loud honking directed my attention to a big flock foraging in a field.

geese at Englishtown close up

There were a lot of them.  I think that they are greylag geese

geese at Englishtown

I waited for a while, hoping that they might take off and give me a flying shot but they remained firmly on the ground.  Resisting the temptation to say boo to a goose, I pedalled on home.

The wind had got up enough to make the wind turbines at Gretna turn very slowly but it was mostly behind me by this time so I was able to do my 40 miles with two minutes in hand before the three hour mark arrived.

I had put a mixture into the bread maker earlier in the morning and Mrs Tootlepedal had taken it out while I was pedalling.  The bread maker had done a fine job and some vintage plum jam was on hand if needed.

bread machine triumph

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy gardening so I heated up a mug of celery and Stilton soup and went out to see what was going on while i drank it.

In spite of the chilly morning, the roses were going on very well.

Crown PrincessRosy Cheeks

A rudbeckia was looking a little part worn but as it has been looking like that since it first started flowering several weeks ago, I think it deserves credit for trying.

rudbeckia

I saw a dunnock…

dunnock on edge

…and nearly caught a flying dunnock of the day but it was too sharp for me.

flying dunnock

Honeysuckle berries and nasturtiums caught my eye…

honeysuckle and nasturtium

…and the perennial wallflower and the lamium look as though they will never go over.

perennial wallflower and lamium

My flute pupil, Luke turned up and mindful of the truth that if a pupil is having difficulty with something, it is the fault of the teacher, I upped my game a bit and we made some serious progress in counting.

After tea, I went off to the camera club meeting where Sandy helped me to set the projector and screen up.

Once again we had a rather small but very select group of keen photographers and once again we had some most enjoyable images to look at.  With pictures from a royal palace in St Petersburg and raptors from a park in Keswick, local wild life and memories of our trip to Beamish in the summer, we were well supplied with things to enjoy.  One of our members had been having a very creative time with his photo editor and he produced results which defied belief.  All in all, it was a satisfactory meeting and we agreed to meet again next month, with the hope of a few more members turning up.

The flying bird of the day is that reluctant swimmer.

flying blackbird

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Today’s guest picture is another from Simon and this time shows the inside of the covered bridge between Switzerland and Liechtenstein.  I do not know whether the light at the end of the tunnel is in Switzerland or Liechtenstein.

swiss bridge

After yesterday’s extremely gloomy weather, we enjoyed a bright and cheerful day today, although it was a bit colder than we have become used to with the thermometer unable to creep into double figures.

As a result I put a pair of gloves on before cycling off to church with Mrs Tootlepedal.  We had a ‘Songs of Praise’ service today with favourite hymns chosen by members of the congregation.  Fifty hymns were suggested and the Worship Team had chosen the eight most popular for the service.  That amounted to quite a lot of singing but as they were tuneful hymns, it was no hardship.

The sun was still out when we got home so after a look round the garden…

fuchsia, marigolds, verbena, rose

…where I was pleased to see an insect on nodding acquaintance with the Crown Princess…

rose with insect

…Mrs Tootlepedal and I set out for a short three bridges walk to enjoy the day.

There is colour about but much of it is already on the ground.

tree at suspension bridge

The lonely gull that haunts the stretch of the River Esk between the Suspension and the Town bridge was in its regular place again today…

lonely gull

…And as we watched the gull, a flash of blue speeding up the river turned our heads.  A kingfisher had flown past us at speed.  It was far to quick to catch on camera so we walked up to the Town Bridge to see if it had stopped nearby.

tree at meeting of waters

There was no sight of it unfortunately but a look back down the river was quite rewarding.

church and poplars from town bridge

We crossed the bridge and walked down onto the Kilngreen.  It was a good morning for a walk.

looking at Timpen

We were not the only ones taking advantage of the day and when we reached to Lodge Walks we could see other walkers…

lodge walks 20 Oct

…in every direction.

Lodge walks 20 oct (2)

Although we have long thought that the trees along the Lodge Walks are all beeches, looking at the trees on recent walks have shown us that some of them are hornbeams.  Although their leaves  are different to beech leaves, their trunks are so similar that it is not too surprising that we have only just noticed.

There is still no sign of all out autumn colour but the variety of shades among the trees across the Castleholm is still very attractive to me.

 

castleholm trees 20 Oct

And the felling of the conifer plantation at the far end has made the walk more scenically enjoyable.

view over pheasant hatchery

We didn’t walk far and having passed under this well established fungus near the Lodge…

old fungus duchess bridge

…we walked down the leaf covered track to the Duchess Bridge and headed home…

leafy tarck to duchess bridge

…pausing to enjoy the view from the bridge…

river esk from duchess bridge

…and also the glint of sunshine on moss covered fallen branches in the dark wood on the far side of the river.

moss in wood besode esk

When we got back, I was impressed by how vigorously the Weigela is producing a second flush of flowers after its first flowering in June.  Looking at my records, I see that it also flowered in October in both 2018 and 2017 but the last time before that was in 2011.

weigela oct 20

An insect was exploring a rather bedraggled dahlia.

insect on dahlia oct 20

Like the fuchsias in the flower beds, the ornamental fuchsia in the chimney is also enjoying the season.

pot fuchsia oct 20

We went in and I made some celery and Stilton soup for lunch which we ate with enjoyment, and then there was just time to sieve a little compost and practise a song or two before we set off for Carlisle and the Community Choir practice.

Our conductor, who is based in Glasgow, has organised a musical weekend for us in the city next week, including a joint concert with one of her other choirs so we had a good solid practice today in preparation for the jaunt.

Not surprisingly after eight hymns in the morning and a good sing in the afternoon, my throat feels as though it needs a bit of cossetting this evening.  Our conductor says there will be even more singing next weekend and we may need a lie down after it.

I had made a pasta sauce in the slow cooker in the morning and we were quite ready for a reviving meal when we got home.   There was a beautiful sunset as we drove back from Carlisle but after the clocks go back next weekend, we will be returning from Carlisle in darkness, a signal that the long winter months will be upon us.

The flying bird of the day, a black headed gull, was asleep at its post and not flying at all..

gull on post

 

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