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Archive for the ‘Tootling’ Category

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who enjoyed the view at Buttermere on her recent flying visit to the Lake District.

buttermere

Our fine weather continued unabated today and there were gardening and cycling opportunities as a result.  Mrs Tootlepedal seized the gardening opportunities with both hands (and a trowel)  while I rather let the cycling chances slip through my fingers.

I still had a mysteriously croaky throat when I woke up so I was happy to try to soothe it with coffee and treacle scones.  The scones were accompanied by Dropscone and came with additional agreeable conversation.

I went up to the town before coffee to replenish my stock of coffee beans and was pleased to find that a local shop had been able to source a good quantity of organic beans from Sumatra and Ethiopia.  We tried the Sumatran beans today and they were very good…though we failed to detect the overtones of apricot promised by the blurb on the packet..

When Dropscone departed, I wandered round the garden, an easy thing to do on a sunny spring morning.

The blackbird, who has been very busy feeding demanding young, was looking a bit tired, I thought….

blackbird

…and had paused for a moment before diving into the compost heap looking for worms.

The alliums are finally coming out and one or two are getting near having the perfect globe…

allium

….with all that goes with it.

allium closer

The brilliant azaleas, both red….

azalea red

…and yellow….

azalea yellow

…caught the eyes of our neighbours Liz and Ken, the pig transporters, when they stopped to exchange a few words over the garden hedge.

Liz and ken

The delights of the geums….

 

geum

…bergenia…

bergenia

…and astrantia were harder to see from the road.

astrantia

I did a little work and sieved some compost for Mrs Tootlepedal’s planting out needs.

Mostly though, I took things easy and only got my new bike out well after lunch.  The new bike is a delight to ride and I had an enjoyable hour and a half pottering round the 20 mile Canonbie circuit.

Yesterday, I took pictures of both cows and trees and to save time today, I took a picture featuring both subjects in the same shot.

cows and tree

Nearer home, I stopped to look at some ‘Jack in the Hedge’…

Jack in the hedge

…although it was actually alongside a wall and not in a hedge at all.

I had a cup of tea sitting on the new bench with Mrs Tootlepedal when I got back but it was hard not to jump up and take more pictures.

Tulips get some added colour as the flowers mature.

tulip

The rhododendrons just get brighter.

rhododendrons

The first pink tinged flowers have appeared on the white potentilla in the garden.

potentilla

The clematis at the back door is heavy with buds and a few flowers are giving a hint of what is to come.

clematis

And the bees were busy visiting the dicentra again.

bee on dicentra

After an early burst of visits from honey bees when it was still pretty cold, there have been hardly any in the garden during the good weather.  We must have had some blossom available when there was not much elsewhere but presumably, the bees are spoiled for choice now.   As you can see from the bumble bee in the picture above, there is plenty of pollen available here.

We are going on holiday for a week beside the sea with Matilda from tomorrow so patient readers will get a break from incessant garden flowers for a while.  There may be sand castles and sea birds instead.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round and Alison and I had a good time renewing our acquaintance with some pieces which we haven’t played for some years.  It was hard work but worthwhile as the pieces were good.

Mike and Alison are kindly going to look after the greenhouse and keep an eye on the vegetable garden while we are away and Liz is going to fill the bird feeder so all should be well at Wauchope Cottage.  Whether there are any blog posts will depend on the wi-fi in our holiday cottage.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch with a background of the very last of the daffodils..

flying goldfinch

 

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Today’s guest picture  comes from my brother Andrew who is working his way back south after his visit to Langholm.  He took this picture of Morecambe Bay in the distance from the wonderfully named Hutton Roof.  By the time he got down to the seaside, the tide was out.

hutton roof

Our spell of excellent weather continued and it now feels as though we have had more good days this year already than we had in the whole of last year. Long may it go on.

My throat was still strangely creaky (but with no other ill effects) so I pottered about in the morning, looking at young birds….

blackbird and baby

Dad looks a little fed up with the incessant demands of the big baby.

baby dunnock

A fluffy dunnock looked a bit unhappy….

BABY DUNNOCK

…until it found a more secure place to rest.

…as well as supervising the hard working Mrs Tootlepedal, sieving a little compost and mowing the middle lawn.

And looking at some small flowers.

Mrs Tootlepedal gave the lithodora a severe haircut the other day but it seems to be thriving on this rough treatment…

lithodora

…and along with the more showy flowers on the back path, there are some nice clumps of sweet woodruff.

sweet woodruff

There were some grown up birds in the garden too.

rook

rook

Rooks are handsome birds.

Mrs Tootlepedal edged the lawn after I had mowed it and I took a picture in the late afternoon to show the effect that all this care had.

lawn with edges

I made some carrot and lentil soup for lunch and then, after a restful moment or two, I got the new bike out and went round my standard 20 mile Canonbie circuit.

I did stop for photos today and after taking a picture of the road that climbs out of the Wauchope valley…

bloch road

…a pattern developed:

tree at Bloch

A tree

cows

Some cows posing

trees at grainstonehead

Some trees

highland cow

A cow posing

trees on esk at Hollows

Lots of trees.  The Esk is fully clothed at the Hollows now.

The pattern was interrupted when I stopped off at Irvine House in an effort to capture some orange tip butterfly pictures.  I succeeded after a fashion…

orange tip butterfly

Female on left, male on right

…but I would have needed to spend a lot more time to get good shots as the butterflies were in a flighty mood.

There was time for another walk round the garden when I got home.

Mrs Tootlepedal’s greenhouse is full of plants waiting to go out….

greenhouse

…but there are quite a lot already in place in the vegetable garden with individual greenhouses.

bottle greenhouses

You may have heard of bottle green.  These are green bottles.

The drumstick primula in front of the pond was looking lovely.

candlestick primula

…and it is hard to pass the rhododendrons without the shutter finger twitching.

rhododendron

In the evening, Susan arrived and gave me a lift to Carlisle where we enjoyed a very entertaining evening of recorder playing with our group.  As an added bonus, we were treated to a very elegant new moon in the sky as we drove back.  Sadly, it was behind the hill by the time that we got home.

Although not a flying bird, the most interesting animal we saw all day was this amazing pig  in our neighbour Liz’s garden.

pig

It was having a rest on a journey from Corby to Aberdeen.

The actual flying bird of the day is a greenfinch leaving the feeder in a hurry when Mrs Tootlepedal went out to shut up the greenhouse for the night.

flying greenfinch

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Today’s guest picture is another from Venetia’s trip to France.  She met this emerging monster in the Japanese garden of Toulouse.

japanese garden Toulouse

Our spell of good weather continues.  We find it a bit unnerving but it is very welcome.

I couldn’t make the best of a fine morning though as I was in duty on the Welcome to Langholm Office.  I did a little welcoming and a lot of entering data into the Archive Group newspaper index so it wasn’t time wasted but I did look longingly out of the window from time to time.

When I got home, I mowed the middle lawn and found surprisingly little growth considering the weather.  Perhaps the soil has not warmed up yet after several long cold months.

The rhododendron is enjoying the weather.

rhododendron

And a present of cow parsley, which we got from a friend who was a wild gardener, is doing well too.

jenny's cow parsley

I had an early lunch and got my new bike out and set out to do a few miles to see if everything was still going well.

It was.  It was a treat to ride.

On the down side, the hills seemed to be still there and although the bike is new, the engine has seen a lot of wear and is definitely past its best.

It was a fine cycling day with just enough breeze to keep me cool but not enough to discourage me.  The new bike doesn’t encourage constant stopping for pictures but the need for an occasional breather meant that I took a few on my way round.

hottsbrig bluebells 2

A delightful small mound sprinkled with  bluebells near Hottsbrig school

gair view

The view from the Gair road, looking back to the way that I had come

dandelion clock

The dandelions are going over

Gair road

The neatly clipped beech hedges are turning green again

Irvine House

Irvine house is disappearing behind the leaves

old A7

A welcome bit of shade ahead on the old A7

I did an undemanding circle of 31 miles at a modest speed of thirteen and a half miles per hour and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Mike Tinker had promised to come round to inspect the new bike and I found him chatting to Mrs Tootlepedal in the garden when I got home. To show what sort of a day it was, rather than sitting on the new bench in the sun, they were sitting on the old bench in the shade.  And very sensible too as it was quite hot by this time.

As well as inspecting the bike, Mike and I went to look at Kenny’s euphorbia beside the dam at the back of the house.  It is impressive.

euphorbia

Before I went in for my shower, I checked on the tulips.  A little late afternoon sun brings out the best in them.

tulips

orange tulip

And Mrs Tootlepedal pointed out the first of the ornamental strawberry flowers of the year.

strawberry flower

The azalea was ablaze.

azalea

It was a genuine Tootlepedal day because after my cycle ride, my flute pupil Luke came and we had a very encouraging play and then after tea, (another) Mike and Isabel came round and we played some enjoyable trios.

The word from the weather forecasters is that our good weather should continue for several days.  We are considering renaming Wauchope Cottage as Shangri-La.

On account of the warm afternoon weather, the flying bird of the day was having a little sit down when I took her picture.

sparrow

 

 

 

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Today’s colourful guest picture comes from my sister Mary who recently visited the Isabella Plantation in Richmond Park, London.

isabella plantation

Apart from a couple of brief showers, we had a much better day today.  It wasn’t a lot warmer in theory but a very welcome break from the recent strong winds made it feel a lot warmer in practice.

Mrs Tootlepedal had a busy morning of coffee and lunch meetings but managed to get some gardening in before she went out.  Meanwhile, I got the slow bike out and did some slow bicycling down to Canonbie and back.

Before I went, we checked the pond to see if Mrs Tootlepedal’s improvements were still keeping the water in place.

full pond

They were.

And I saw a couple more signs of spring.

willow and plum

Willow and plum

Once on the slow bicycle, it was a great relief not to have to battle against the wind for once and I enjoyed myself, although I didn’t try for any speed records.

There is enough grass growing for the farmers to be thinking about silage and I liked the rolled pattern on this field near Canonbie.

field near Canonbie

The dandelions in the verges are showing promise and I hope to be able to show some good clumps soon…

dandelion and bluebell

…and I saw my first bluebells of the year so I hope to see them in quantity soon too.

I stopped on the bridge at Canonbie to see how the ash tree flowers were coming on.

ash tree flowers

I think the branch that I looked at can truly be called an explosion of new growth.

I didn’t have to kid myself to see green leaves on the trees along the Esk at the Hollows today.  Spring is definitely springing…

Esk at Hollows

…although it has a bit to go before it is fully sprung.

When I got home, I found that the tulips were appreciating the better weather.

tulips

The euphorbias seem very popular with flies of various sorts as there is often one about when I try to take a picture of the plants.

fly on euphorbia

This is what the plant looks like when the flies have flown.

euphorbia

I went in to have lunch, soup and one of Matilda’s rolls, and took some time to watch the birds.

The siskins had gone away again so the chaffinches were getting a look at the feeder today.

chaffinches

…but there was still some waiting around on the plum tree to be done.

chaffinch and plum blossom

A goldfinch approached the feeder in the manner of one showing that he wasn’t armed and dangerous.

flying goldfinch

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal returned and found that our bench builder had arrived to cut an inch or two off the legs of the new bench.  It needed to be shifted back a bit and Mrs Tootlepedal set to work on that.  The result was very satisfactory and when she had finished,  we invited our neighbour Liz (with friend) to come and try it out

Ally and Liz on bench

By this time, as you can see, it was perfect weather for bench testing.

While Mrs Tootlepedal was gardening and working at the bench area, I mowed the front lawn and walked around with my camera.  I had the macro lens on.

white flowers

Tulips are popping up everywhere…

tulip

…and I spotted another colourful corner.

colourful corner

The plants in the foreground are dicentra and they were attracting bumbles bees again.

bee on dicentra

As were the paler variety in the back border.

bee on dicentra

Liz came in for a cup of tea and then, while Mrs Tootlepedal did some more gardening, I stayed inside to get some computer business out of the way.

I took the opportunity to look at last year’s cycling stats and found that I had done 500 miles more by this time last year so it is not surprising, considering the lack of decent cycling weather,  that our spring is quite a bit  later than usual this year.

I hope we get a good summer to make up for it.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round and Alison and I had an enjoyable music making session while the other two chatted away.  After playing, Alison and I joined the conversation and Mike, who is a retired doctor, made us all rather gloomy with a very downbeat assessment of the shortage of general practice doctors and hospital consultants in our area.  We will have to try our best to keep ourselves healthy.

The flying bird of the day is a female chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary, who saw this copy of the Lamazzu – a winged deity looted from the Iraq Museum – made of empty date syrup cans, on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square.

Trafalgar Square

Our weather descended from the recent summer heights to slightly below the seasonal average, the feeling of slight chilliness compounded by a stiff wind which reminded everyone of the long cold months since Christmas.

The weather in the morning didn’t bother me much as I had to spend a couple of hours in the Welcome to Langholm office where I caught up on some Archive Group work.  I didn’t do quite as much as I had hoped though as I had to provide a welcome and information to no less than three visitors in the two hours.  I was fairly rushed off my feet.

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal was busy in the garden, having reorganised the greenhouse while I was out.  She is planting things out and improving the soil as much as she can so I sieved the last of the compost in Bin D and then set about shifting the contents of Bin C into the now empty Bin D.  I then emptied the contents of Bin B into Bin C.

I know that there is an insatiable desire for compost  pictures among the readers of this blog so here is the result.

compost bin shifting

The picture does show graphically how compost reduces in bulk over time.  The small amount in Bin D was the same size as the current amount in Bin C when it first arrived from Bin B and Bin B was full to the level of six of the wooden frames when it was first filled from Bin A.

This was quite heavy work so it was now time for lunch.

Mrs Tootlepedal provided me with a delicious dish of fried eggs and fried cabbage as a reward for compost shifting.

It was far too windy, with constant gusts of 25 mph and above to think of cycling so after lunch, I went out into the garden with my camera in hand.  Windy weather makes it hard to shoot flowers but I did my best.

white flowers

Mrs Tootlepedal is not certain what the pretty white flowers above are but I know what these ones below are.  They are potential plums if everything goes well.

plum flowers

The dog’s tooth violets are springing up all over the place.

dog's tooth violets

This clump of cowslip like things is enjoying the weather whether it is hot or cold and is getting larger all the time.

cowslips

The tree peony is looking very healthy.  Last year its flowers were hidden behind its foliage so we are hoping for a better show this year.

tree peony

The madness of the crab like flowers of the euphorbias is well advanced. I hope for a calmer day to take a better picture.

euphorbia

There is little pool of pale blue in the river of muscari.

muscari

And this is the start of our own clump of marsh marigolds in the pond.

marsh marigold

Once again the cold wind was causing the tulips to purse their lips but there is very promising red one waiting for some sunshine.

tulip

The daffodil of the day is a muted example.

daffodil

I put the camera down and mowed the front lawn with a great deal of huffing and puffing because the lawn is so spongy with moss.  There was a heartening amount of grass to cut even if the end result was a very patchy looking lawn.

Then, since it wasn’t really a very inviting walking day, I finished the composting job by emptying Bin A into Bin B so all is ready for Mrs Tootlepedal to start the process going again by filling up Bin A.  I may even have some grass to add to it myself.

Owing to the need for frequent pauses to admire the work in progress or chat to the gardener, it soon turned out to be time for a cup of tea and a sit down indoors.  This gave me a chance to look at the birds.  As it also started to rain, I was very happy to be inside.

The siskins really seem to have gone elsewhere although there was one on hand to join the queue for a seed today.

queue at the feeder

Mostly it was goldfinches and chaffinches again, with the goldfinches concentrating hard on the job in hand….

goldfinches

…and making sure that incoming chaffinches knew who was boss.

goldfinch and chaffinch

But the goldfinches are no match for a really angry redpoll though.

redpoll

The evening was given over to music when first my flute pupil Luke came and cheered me up by playing very well.  Then I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel after tea for what seems the first time for ages.

It was good to get back to playing and our lack of practice didn’t seem to matter as we played some familiar pieces with a good deal of verve, all things considered.

The flying bird of the day is one of the goldfinches.

goldfinch

Strong winds and showers are on the menu for both tomorrow and Wednesday so getting out on my bike to knock off the last few miles of my monthly target may be a bit of a battle.

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo from Manitoba who has been visiting Denmark and was impressed by this ratty mural in Copenhagen.

copenhagen rats

We had rather ratty weather  here today, grey and occasionally drizzly but it was warmish and the cold winds had dropped so we made the best of it.  Fortunately, yesterday’s sore rib had miraculously cured itself so that helped a lot.

The birds made the best of it too and arrived at the feeder in droves all day.

I spent five minutes after breakfast looking out of the kitchen window to get the following sequence of avian activity and I could have taken roughly the same scenes at almost any time of the day.

Goldfinches threatened siskins….

goldfinches

…siskins scared the feathers off other siskins…

sisknins

…and more goldfinches shouted at more siskins while a redpoll looked on…

busy feeder

…and once in place, the redpoll ignored the goldfinches…

redpoll and goldfinches

…even when they got up close and personal.  They are the most imperturbable birds I know.

redpoll and goldfinches

A study in how to ignore a goldfinch.

The goldfinches had to resort to being beastly to each other.

goldfinches

But generally there was mayhem.

busy feeder

That was five minutes of action between 9.47 and 9.52.  Mrs Tootlepedal looked out of the window and remarked, “There are just too many goldfinches.”

Then Dropscone arrived with treacle scones for coffee.  There won’t be any treacle scones next week as he is off on holiday again, this time to what he hopes will be the sunny shores of Majorca.  He is an enterprising traveller.

After he left, we went out into the damp and gloom and Mrs Tootlepedal with the aid of a spirit level and some help from me got the first two of the four new vegetable beds into their final position.

new veg beds

Two down and two to go.

I took a picture of a clump of miniature daffodils as ‘daff of the day’ but when I looked at the picture on the computer, I found that they are so tiny that some heavy overnight rain had splashed mud all over them, rather spoiling the picture.

daffs

Leaving Mrs Tootlepedal to make fine adjustments to the levels on the new beds, I went in and made some potato and onion soup for lunch.

After we had lunched on the soup, Mrs Tootlepedal went back out into the garden and I got the slow bike out and did my standard short 20 miles circuit down to Canonbie and back.  It was nine degrees and the wind was light so pedalling was undemanding but the conditions were gloomy and views were not available….

misty view

…so I didn’t stop to take any.

I did stop for livestock beside the road though.  Lambs are everywhere and all carefully numbered to comply with livestock traceability regulations.

lambs

…and the Canonbie cows were conveniently grazing right next to the road.

canonbie cows

I am surprised that they were able to see me as I passed.

canonbie cows

But I was pleased to see them.

I was also pleased to see a very fine crop of willow flowers on a tree at Canonbie Bridge.

willow at canonbie bridge

willow at canonbie bridge

I had parked my bike at the lay-by beyond the bridge and walked back to take the willow pictures.  When I went back to the bike, I noticed that I had parked it by a large patch of butterbur on some rough ground.

butterbur

In spite of the cold and the gloom, spring is creeping in on us, almost by stealth.

My twenty miles took me over 200 miles for April so far which is very satisfactory after such a slow start to my cycling year but I am still well behind schedule.  Must try harder.

Mrs Tootlepedal was still hard at work in the garden when I got back.  She was improving her new paving area for the garden bench.  She hadn’t been satisfied with the small stepped terrace she had made for before she went down south so today she had lowered the step a bit and now felt happier with it.

Considering that we had intended to have a quiet day today, we had been quite active but that was enough and we went inside for a cup of tea and a rest.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round and Alison and I had a very satisfactory three quarters of an hour playing music while Mike and Mrs Tootlepedal chatted and drank wine.  Afterwards the conversation was general and I arranged to go on a fern hunt tomorrow, weather permitting, with Mike who is a fern enthusiast.

The flying bird of the day is a redpoll.  It is not a very good picture but it is a change from the usual chaffinches.

redpoll

*Definition of OAK:  Old and Knackered.

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture is a cheery looking cottage with a rather mournful sign.  My friend Bruce visited it in the village of Eyam in the Derbyshire dales.

plague cottage

Our spell of grey, cold and windy weather continued today and as I woke up with a pain in my side which had come from who knows where and wouldn’t go away, I got progressively gloomier as the day went on.

I started with a stroll round the garden to find the daffodil of the day…

daffodil…and then tested out the ability of the Lumix to take a bird picture through the kitchen window…

goldfinch

…and followed that by brief walk with Patricia to stretch her legs before catching the train back to London.  We walked along the river between the suspension bridge and the town bridge and then walked back along the other side.

I had hoped for some bird life to show our visitor and was pleased to see a dipper flitting about the river.  It did so much flitting that I couldn’t get a picture of it and once again had to settle for a more obliging oyster catcher.

oyster catcher

After coffee, we went off to Carlisle where Patricia caught her London train and Mrs Tootlepedal, after a brief burst of shopping and a light lunch, caught the train to Edinburgh to visit Matilda.  Meanwhile, I visited the bike shop to organise the pedal specification for my new bike (still two weeks away) and then went home, passing the cathedral….

Carlisle cathedral

…and a splendid bank of municipal daffodils on my way back to the car.

carlisle daffs

Once home, I had time for a light lunch of soup and cheese before an old friend came round to get my help in booking flights to and from Barcelona.   As she has no access to a computer, she finds it impossible to do this for herself.   With a bit of a struggle, we managed to find suitable flights and booked them but as I don’t fly, it was all new and sometimes baffling to me.

I am keeping my fingers crossed that it all turns out right.

I gave my friend a lift home and then took a walk round the garden, looking both down…

scilla

…and up…

forsythia

..and managing to avoid the outstretched grasp of the silver pear in between.

silver pear

I did think about a cycle ride but my ribs were sore and the wind was biting so I went back indoors and watched the birds in a glum sort of way.

Once again, there were plenty to watch in spite of occasional (unsuccessful) fly throughs from the sparrowhawk.

busy feeder

The siskins were not here today but there were a lot of goldfinches so the seed still went down at a good speed…

busy feeder

…and the regular chaffinches were as anxious to make their feelings known as ever…

_DSC3173

…either behind the back or face to face.

_DSC3172

We have been getting visits from quite a few pigeons lately.  They always seem to have slightly pursed lips and a disapproving air about them.

pigeon

Having discarded thoughts of cycling, my gloomy mood kept me from walking too and I just slouched about the house looking mean, moody but far from magnificent for the rest of the afternoon.

In the evening, I picked up Susan and we drove to Carlisle where the healing properties of playing recorder music with a sympathetic group came to the fore and cheered me up enormously.

I was cheered even more by going to the station after finishing playing, to collect Mrs Tootlepedal from the Edinburgh train before coming back to Langholm

We are going to have a quiet day tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is one of the goldfinches.

flying goldfinch

 

 

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