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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

Today’s  guest picture was sent to me by Laurie, a proud resident of the state of Maine.  While our spring is creeping over the windowsill, her winter is still being delivered…though it is gift wrapped.

laurie's ice

Sitting and singing was the order of the day which made it a bit annoying that this was also the day when we got the first pleasant and sunny morning for some time.  Even if I hadn’t had singing to do though, my foot is still stopping me from making any vigorous use of a good day.

I was able to walk to church, and without a coat on which was a relief after the sleety snow of last week.  As far as bad weather goes, there have been floods to the south of us and snow storms to the north of us so we have been very fortunate.

With only five members of the choir present this week, we had to tailor our ambitions to our resources but there was still enough singing to keep us busy.

When I got home, I checked on our bird visitors and spotted the spotted jackdaw again…

Mottled jackdaw in plum tree

…and followed that up by admiring a very smooth pigeon in the same tree.

pigeon in the plum tree

It was quite chilly but the wind had dropped a bit so a walk round the garden was enjoyable enough and there were developments to see.

The grape hyacinths are coming along nicely…

grape hyacinth back bed

…as are the euphorbias.

euphorbia first flowers

I was pleased to see new growth appearing on the well pruned branches of the espalier apples…

apple buds

…and I was quite impressed by the amount of rain that has fallen during the week (as recorded by Mary Jo’s scientific rain gauge).

rain gauge march 19

I am still in foot resting mode so I went back in and listened to the radio and watched the birds at the same time.  It is not just women who can multitask.

busy feeder chaffinches

I went back into the garden to hang out some washing and my eye was caught by the many varieties of moss to be seen beside the drying green.  There is a pile of old stones as well as some logs there and they have given the moss good homes.

garden moss with pints

The stones had a tapestry of different colours…

garden moss stone

…and shapes…

garden moss on old wall

but the log crop was the greenest and freshest looking.

garden moss with seed heads log

This is a detail of one of the mosses on the stones. garden moss stone closer

Like many things, the more you look at it, the more interesting moss becomes (in my view at least).

There was so much traffic on the feeder that I put a second one out and it soon attracted a clientele of its own.

two birds in the rian

The sharp eyed may notice a little drizzle in that last shot.  That had started as soon as I had hung the washing out of course, but it soon stopped and the washing had pretty well dried by the time that I had to take it in when I left to go to Carlisle for the afternoon choir.

Our musical director wasn’t there.  She had been held up in Belfast when her flight back to Scotland hadn’t been able to take off because of the weather, but as she had been there for a solo singing competition which she had won, we couldn’t hold it against her.

Our usual accompanist took the practice in her place and did a first rate job.  One of the choir members acted as an accompanist and we had a thoroughly satisfactory session.

I had a well cooked poke of fish and chips from our local chip shop for my evening meal when I got back to Langholm and that rounded off a good day….except for that fact that three hours of sitting in hard backed wooden church pews (our Carlisle choir meets in a church) had done my sore foot no favours, even though I had hardly walked a step all day.

I have kept my favourite photograph from the garden tour this morning back until the end of the post because I thought it deserved a special place.   Could anything look more luxuriant and inviting than this magnolia bud?  I don’t think so.

magnolia bud

The sunny weather did let me get a rather crisper flying chaffinch of the day than I have managed lately.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who saw this pink elephant but swears that she hadn’t touched a drop of drink all day.  I believe her.

pink elephant

It is going to be a rushed post today as I went to Carlisle to sing with our Carlisle choir at the local music festival in two classes and as there were eight choirs in the first class and seven in the second, it turned into a long evening and I haven’t even had my tea yet.

I had two visitors in the morning, a frog in the pond among potential frogs…

frog and tadpoles

…and Sandy who dropped in for coffee and to give me advice on getting my printer to print satisfactory pictures for the forthcoming exhibition.

His advice was sound and I spent most of the rest of the morning printing out pictures, a very slow business.

I did have time to walk round the garden.  The daffodils are looking better all the time…

clump of daffodils

…and some of the fancy ones are coming out too.

fancy daffodil

There was a brisk traffic at the bird feeder.

busy feeder

After lunch I went for a walk on my slow bike by which I mean that I bicycled slowly along a route which I would normally have walked as I am trying to rest my sore foot.

Signs of spring are all around, with the ducks pairing up…

two ducks

…and daffodils nodding their heads at the vigorous ripples on the Ewes Water.

dafodils beside ewes

It was sunny but windy and there was occasional rain so I thought that this little scene on the Castleholm summed the day up well.

puddle on castleholm

There were more signs of spring as I crossed the Jubilee Bridge and headed home.

tree budsanother dandelion

I liked the way that the shadows of the playing field fence lay so neatly on the path.

scholars fence shadow

When I got home, I had time to cut a couple of mounts for my exhibition pictures before I left for Carlisle and the choir competition.

I had given myself plenty of time and I had a few minutes to walk round the city centre before going to the warm up.

I noted the old town hall, now a tourist information point…

dav

…the old guildhall, now a restaurant….

dig

…and the very old  cathedral which is still a cathedral.

burst

We sang well at the music festival but the competition sang even better so we  we had to relinquish our grip on the trophy that we won last year.  My heart sank a bit at the prospect of sitting through 13 other choir performances but in the event, it was an entertaining evening with lots of variety in the choirs (everything from a male voice choir to several school ensembles) and lots of variety in the musical offerings (everything from Bruckner to ‘Blame it on the Boogie’).

The winning choir, an all ladies ensemble, was sensational and well worth being beaten by.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch with its eye on a free perch.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from the Derby shopping centre insect infestation.  My brother tells me that you can talk to the insects but I wouldn’t know what to say to a stag beetle.

stag beetle derby

I didn’t have much confidence in a weather forecast that said that it wasn’t going to rain today but I was proved wrong and the weather stayed fair until  well into the evening.

It was only just above freezing when I set off on my slow bike to see our local vampire at the Health Centre and give a little blood.  This was a check to see if my anaemia is under control.  The process was prompt and painless as usual but the health centre computer server was on the blink so I wasn’t able to make a follow up appointment.  The poor staff were absolutely flummoxed as hardly anything is written down these days and they had no idea who was coming in for appointments.  Fortunately it was soon fixed and I made my appointment later in the day without trouble.

After coffee with Mrs Tootlepedal, and with the thermometer showing 4°C, I plucked up my courage, donned as many layers of clothing as I could and set off on my new bike to see how my legs were feeling.

I hadn’t been out on my bike this month so it was a bit of a shock to the system but the sun was out….

cleuchfoot valley

…my legs were very cheerful and the snow had retreated to distant hills so it wasn’t too bad to be out and about.

The wind was strong enough to make life hard when pedalling into it but the forecast gales hadn’t arrived.  I stopped to take a picture of one of those little corners that make cycling round here so visually interesting.

three cleuchfoot trees

And then I cycled to the top of Callister to see if there was any sign of the turbines arriving at the new wind farm.  There wasn’t and as the road was very muddy from quarry lorry traffic, I turned back and pedalled down to Langholm, through the town and out of the other side.  The snow was on distant hills there too.

ewes valley with diostant snow

On my way back through the town, I checked to see if the big gull was standing on its favourite rock.

It was.

gull on rock

I was pleased to manage 20 miles at a modest pace and after a walk round the garden when I got back…

three spring garden flowera

…where the forsythia is just coming out…

forsythia

…and some of the frogs spawn seems to have survived the frosty mornings…

frogs spawn

…I went in to find Mrs Tootlepedal making a nourishing pan of bean and vegetable soup for lunch.

It went down well.

After lunch I watched the birds for a while.  Goldfinches had got in early today under the watchful eye of a chaffinch…

goldfinches on feeder

…and there was no visit from the sparrow hawk to disturb them or this chaffinch’s moment of reflection beside a puddle in our drive.

reflective chaffinch

Against my expectations, the weather stayed fine in the afternoon so I went for a walk.  The wind was still nagging but otherwise it was a good day for sauntering about looking for signs of spring…

view from scotts knowe

…which weren’t hard to find.

dandelion march

There were signs of life on the larches…

larch

…and fresh flowers on the banks beside the track…

P1170432

…and best of all, many clumps of primroses on every side once I got near the Becks Burn.

primroses

I walked through the felled wood, across the burn and up onto the road on the other side of the little valley, where I found incipient honeysuckle…

honeysuckle leaf

…curious sheep looking down on me…

curious sheep

…and any amount of lichen on different stones on the same one metre  length of wall.

lichen on wall becks road

I visited the old curling pond and wished that it could be developed into a wild life area like the one near Lockerbie which we have visited before. It needs a real enthusiast with time and knowledge to a job like that though.

curling pond

I didn’t linger for long as my foot was starting to feel sore and I soon headed down the road back to the town.

I passed this fungus on a fallen tree trunk…..

fungus becks road

…and got right out of the way as this huge lorry passed me.  It had been delivering sheep to the farm at the end of the road.

big lorry becks road

When I got home, I found Mrs Tootlepedal at work in the garden and together we put in the new blackcurrant bush and, having exhausted my gardening skills, I gave her moral support while she planted out a new lupin and pruned a rose.

Then it seemed like a good time to have a cup of tea and a slice of toast so we did.

The day was rounded off by a visit from my flute pupil, Luke and we had a productive half hour showing that practice makes you, if not quite perfect, then certainly a lot better.  This is most satisfactory.

I don’t often watch Master Chef on the TV but this season, a young lady from Langholm is one of the contestants and it was very pleasing to see her do well and get through to the next round.  We will follow her progress with interest.

The forecast for the next couple of days is for 50 mph winds so it was a good thing that we got as much out of today as we did.  There are some sunny intervals promised so it might not be a total write off.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch with a determined air about it.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture finds my Somerset correspondent, Venetia on the Ovango River.  It looks like a good place to be.

Okavango River

After yesterday’s gadding about all over the country, I planned for a quiet day at home today, starting with a cup of coffee with Sandy.

There was a slight hiccup in the proposed placidity when fellow archivist Nancy phoned me up to say that one of the microfiche readers in the Archive Centre wasn’t working.  I cycled up and after a great deal of head scratching, I took some advice from Sandra, another archivist, searched online for solution and found one.  Phew. I cycled home again.

Sandy was in good form when he arrived and we hope to be able to get out for a walk soon.

When he left, I watched the birds for a bit and once again there was a fair bit of action on the feeder.  Chaffinches flew in double handed…

two chaffinches incoming

…but the siskins were more than up to defending a perch.

chaffinch and siskin arguing

A collared dove was an oasis of peace and quiet in a furiously fluttering feathery world.

collared dove

The snow from last night had disappeared and from time to time the sun came out and shone on the siskins…

siskin posing in sunshine

…and I even thought of a gentle pedal.  However I went out to help Mrs Tootlepedal in the garden instead and trimmed a couple of berberis bushes.  Then I made some soup for lunch and after we had eaten it, I went out to help in the garden again.

Since we are making new soft fruit beds this year, the old ones are being re-purposed so I dug over the old raspberry and strawberry beds…

rasps and strawbs dug up

…and after some work on the gap  between them, they will become the the home for the potatoes this year.

We also put the Christmas tree in its new place…

christmas tree planted out 2019

…where it will sit quietly until next December.  It is looking healthy and sturdy so we have every hope that it will see a bauble or two when the time comes.

It is sitting beside the remains of our rhubarb patch.

early rhubarb

I saw quite a few daffodils on my travels yesterday and we are getting more out here in the garden every day now.

daffodil

I went in for a sit down, leaving Mrs Tootlepedal working away outside and then Mike Tinker dropped in for a cup of tea.  He is much better after having had a chest infection and it is good to see him getting out and about again.

When he left, I went out for a  quick three bridges walk just to stretch my legs.

A dipper stood on a rock in the turbulence of the Meeting of the Waters and showed off the special white nictitating eye membrane which keep its eyes protected when it is dipping.

over the shoulder dipper

A cluster of ducks lurked behind daffodils on the bank at the Kilngreen…

three ducks

…and a bit further upstream, a second dipper was doing some lurking of its own.

hidden dipper

I was hoping to take more pictures but there was a large crowd of children and parents on the Castleholm attending a running event so I passed by and made my way home without lingering, stopping only to record two more signs of spring, a willow at the Jubilee Bridge…

willow bud

…and some blackthorn in bloom beside the Esk.

blackthorn

I got home in time to meet Luke for our regular flute lesson.  We had a hard working half hour, trying to develop the correct style in our playing.

That concluded the excitement for the day.

There are two flying chaffinches of the day today as I couldn’t choose between them.

There is the vertical lady…

flying chaffinch vertical

…and the horizontal gent.

flyimng chaffinch horizontal

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Today’s guest picture comes from one of our son Tony’s walks with his dogs.  He met a fine crop of fungus in a wood.

more fungus from Tony

I had a busy morning which started with a visit to the Buccleuch Centre with Mrs Tootlepedal to attend the producers’ market where stocks of meat, fish, cheese and honey were obtained.  The cheese vendor looked at me as I packed my cheese purchases away and said, “You must eat quite a bit of cheese.”  I thought that he was very perspicacious.

When we got home, I had enough time to notice a redpoll on the feeder, looking rather disapprovingly at a pair of argumentative siskins….

redpol; looks on

…before we had a cup of coffee and then went out to do some useful gardening.  It was very grey but reasonably warm and dry so it was a good day to get some work done.

We are preparing beds for soft fruit so while Mrs Tootlepedal prepared the ground and planted out a new gooseberry bush, I dug up the old autumn fruiting raspberries which have run their course and are being replaced.

It had rained overnight so the ground was soft and relatively easy to dig.

When we had finished with the berries, we turned to pruning a rose….

rose shoots with rain

…which has some promising new shoots.  We took off the old shoots and Mrs Tootlepedal trimmed and organised the new shoots until everything looked very neat and tidy.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the result.

There are signs of growth all round the garden.

spring buds

By the time that we had gone in and had lunch, it had started to rain and I took this as a hint to have a quiet day before going to Manchester tomorrow.

Out in the garden, the idea of a quiet day was alien to the siskins and they continued in full active mode.

siskins threaten siskins

And the chaffinches found time to argue with each other too.

chaffinches squabble

The rain got harder and harder, the wind got stronger and the day got darker so we were happy to sit in front of the telly while the birds got wet outside…

siskins and redpoll in the rain

…and in this way, we passed the rest of the day, though Mrs Tootlepedal found some time to work on a patchwork rug which will cover the rocking horse when it is finished.

The flying bird of the day is a suitably fuzzy siskin to reflect the miserable weather outside.

fuzzy flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture is another from my brother’s recent walk along the canals of Birmingham.

birmingham canal

We kept our dry weather today but there was no sign of sunshine so the temperature was at a more natural level for the first of March.

Following on the experience of the garden playing host to a partridge (though not in a pear tree), we saw the arrival today of two doves (though collared and not turtle).

two doves

Now we are expecting three foreign hens (though probably not from France).

In the absence of three French hens, I was happy to welcome Dropscone with some of his very best treacle scones at coffee time.  After coffee and conversation, he left to discuss the problems of installing a water meter in premises with no water supply with a man from the water company who wanted to install a water meter in the old Archive premises which don’t have a water supply.   I wished him luck.

Meanwhile, the siskins had got busy back in our garden.

A chaffinch sensibly kept its head done while two siskins squabbled…

siskin and siskin cinfrontation

…and a goldfinch did its best to ignore some challenging behaviour.

siskin and goldfinch confrontation

There were enough birds about to make putting out a second feeder seem like a good idea but in no time at all, both were being monopolised by more siskins.

siskins at both feeders

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to the Buccleuch Centre for lunch with two of our neighbours and I made some ginger biscuits to give to a friend of ours as a birthday gift.

Once the biscuits were cooked, I went out and  sieved some compost.  The gentle back exercise involved had a very beneficial effect on my feet.  They had been rather sore after pounding the streets of Edinburgh yesterday.  As a result, when Mrs Tootlepedal returned from her lunch and gave the biscuits the thumbs up, I went out for a short walk.

The pale hellebores in the garden had taken note of my complaints about them hanging their heads down and had made an effort to look up a bit.

pale hellebores

I walked down to the river and was happy to see that the trees along the bank between the bridges were bursting into flower…

riverside blossom

…and below them, the daffodils are starting to make a show.

riverside daffodils

It is beginning to feel like spring.

There were no gulls or oyster catchers about at all but I did see a dipper standing on a rock below the town bridge.

dipper below bridge

And along the Kilngree, a female mallard was doing the same.

duck on a rock

I crossed the Sawmill Brig and was impressed by the fruitful mosses on the wall.

four mosses

Instead of walking along the Lodge Walks, I headed up the hill and walked along the top of the woods, passing this gate on the way….

pathhead gate

…and seeing two unusual sheep in the field behind the gate.

varied sheep

As I walked along the top track, there was a hint of blue sky…

blue sky

…but it was not enough to bring the sun out as the blue sky was over there =>  and the sun was over there <=. along with a lot of clouds.

Although the individual snowdrops are going over fast, there are still enough about at Holmhead to make a delightful scene.

snowdrops Holmhead

There was not a lot of peace and quiet on the walk as the birds are getting the spring spirit and I was serenaded all along my route.

black bird

The many hazels along the river bank as I walked back to the town were dripping with catkins and covered in the tiny red flowers but I resisted the temptation to take yet another hazel flower picture and settled for this white flower growing on the wall at the top of the Scholars’ Field.

wild flower

As I passed my old school, I was saddened to see that the windows are not being maintained.  Although it is unoccupied and unused, it is still sad to see a building going to seed.

school window

I dropped in on Mike and Alison on my way home to enquire about their health and was offered a cup of tea and a ginger biscuit, which I accepted.  When I left, Mike came out into the garden to show me his dog’s tooth violets which are looking very pretty.

dog tooth violet

After tea, Mrs Tootlepedal and I set off in the car with some of our home cooked ginger biscuits, tastefully wrapped in a special bag which Mrs Tootlepedal had sewn while I was out walking.  They were to be a gift for our recorder playing and choir friend Sue who was having a birthday meal with her daughter.  Her daughter had secretly organised an after meal invasion by Sue’s friends and Sue took it very well when more and more people kept appearing through her daughter’s front door.

We had a very enjoyable and social time talking to Sue and her friends and eating the snacks provided by her daughter.

In a break from the endless line of flying chaffinches, the (only just) flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

just flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew who visited Birmingham for an organ recital and took some time out to enjoy the canals while he was there.

Birmingham canal

We had what was possibly the last of our run of fine sunny days today and once again we started off with frost on the ground.

The frost was melting away when I crossed the suspension bridge on my way to visit the shops after breakfast…

suspension bridge frosty moprning

…and was retreating from the front lawn under the assault of the sun when I got home again.

lawn defrosting

I checked on the frogspawn in the pond and found it hard to tell whether it had been damaged or not…

frogspawn after frost

…but the early daffodils are certainly made of tough stuff and are standing up well to alternate bouts of warmth and cold.

daffodils after frost

I noticed that Mrs Tootlepedal has made use of some surplus woollen packaging as a mulch round one of her roses.

woollen mulch

My morning coffee was enhanced by the presence of Dropscone bearing scones and I enjoyed mine with some two year old blackcurrant jelly which Mrs Tootlepedal had found in the back of the jam cupboard.

Dropscone revealed that he had won a golf competition at the weekend but he was honest enough to admit that as it was in a  field of three, it wasn’t the most hard won victory of his long and successful career. Still, a win is a win.

When  he left, I had a moment or two to watch the birds where an incoming greenfinch was racing  a chaffinch to a vacant  perch….

two incoming birds

…and two greenfinches, having won a place at the feeder, were putting the wind up a siskin.

#greenfinches scare siskin

Then I sat in front of my computer and had a remote session with my speech therapist.

We decided that the exercises that she had given me had worked well enough for me to be discharged from her care and after giving me some sage advice as to how to proceed in the future, we signed off.  The remote consultations have worked very well and saved me a lot of time and expense which driving to see her the hospital in Dumfries would have entailed.

When I had finished, Mrs Tootlepedal took me out into the garden to show me some intriguing green bubbles that had grown on a bucket of sieved compost. The bucket had got very wet as it had been standing under a drip for several weeks which might account for this result.  We have never seen anything like it before.

mould on compost bucket

After lunch, I lent a helping hand in the garden, getting the hedge clippers out and giving a spirea a haircut…

clipped spirea

…while Mrs Tootlepedal prepared the soil and planted the new ground covering rose which she had purchased a day or two ago.

ground cover rose

Although the sun was out, it wasn’t by any means warm and I wrapped up well before going off for a cycle ride.

The reason for the lack of warmth became clear as I cycled along.  There was a thick layer of dirty mist in the air acting as an insulator and limiting any views to my immediate surroundings.

no view

From the top of Callister, I should have had a clear view of the wind farm on the hill three miles ahead but today I could hardly see the hills, let alone the wind turbines.

no windmills

As I am mildly asthmatic, I did think for a moment or two of turning round and going home but in the end, I stuck to my task and pedalled on, keeping my efforts well below the level that required heavy breathing.

I read a  newspaper report which said  that the light winds of recent days combined with the dry weather and some Saharan dust, which may have floated up on the southern airflow that has brought our warm weather with it, may be the cause of this concentration of airborne particles.  It is not often that I think a bit of rain would be a good thing, but I hope that it rains soon.

I managed 27 miles and this took my mileage for February to just over the magic figure of 300 miles, which is my monthly target for this year.  Thanks to the cloudy conditions, I didn’t stop to take any more pictures on my way.

In the evening, I went off to sing with Langholm Sings, our local community choir and we had a very enjoyable session with our regular conductor, who is also my singing teacher.  I did my best to show that I had paid attention during my lesson on Monday.

I didn’t have long to watch the birds today and as a result, I caught my only flying bird of the day just as it head went into the shadow of the feeder.

flying chaffinch

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