Getting ready

Today’s guest pictures come from our sons Alistair and Tony. Alistair got close to a caterpillar and Tony kept well away from a swarm of bees near a house where he was working.

Our weather seems to be coming in blocks just now, and after our recent spell of sunny weather, we continued in our current block of warm but grey weather, with no touch of sunshine today and very occasional hints of rain.

Having practised yesterday by going to England to see Sue, tomorrow we are going the whole hog and setting off to London to help celebrate our granddaughter Evie’s second birthday which is on Sunday.

We will not be joining the crowds who are going there to watch the football. In fact we will be keeping as far away from them as is humanly possible.

Leaving the garden at this time of year is always a sad moment, but on this occasion it has to be done. As a result, Mrs Tootlepedal spent a busy morning getting things as well prepared for our absence as possible. The forecast has a couple of rainy days in store while we are away so watering should not be a problem.

We had coffee and scones with Dropscone, and then I got busy with dead heading as much as possible. There were definitely more bees about today and between snips, I managed to catch one or two in action.

There had obviously been a bee in my favourite pink poppy . . .

. . . but it had left before I got there.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I picked about half of the currants on our blackcurrant bush as they were fully ripe, and I didn’t want to come back and find that they were all lying on the ground. The rest should be ready to pick when we get home.

I went round recording some of the flowers that are looking at their best just now.

An astrantia . . .

. . . the front door clematis . . .

. . . a freshly out clematis on the fence.

. . . and an uninvited but welcome wildflower, Lapsana communis.

I have included an early flower on the rose known as ‘the little red rose’. The camera finds it very hard to focus on it because of its very uniform colouring but it is a really lovely little thing in real life.

The bird feeder was very quiet with a few siskins in place. . .

. . . and a hopeful sparrow in waiting when I looked.

The birds are not eating much seed at the moment and they will have to find their own food while we are gone.

After lunch, I went out to tend to the grass, and mowed and edged both lawns, and then mowed the drying green and the paths round the vegetable garden. I have put pictures of these into a gallery. The drying green has been left as far as possible to grow wild, with yellow rattle planted to try to discourage the grass in the long run. The vegetable garden paths are mainly self seeded and some have little or no grass but are all neatly trimmed weeds.

Then I took some more flower pictures just to remind myself of what we will be missing when we are gone. A moss rose . . .

. . . a French marigold . . .

. . . a water lily . . .

. . . a colourful sweep of geraniums . . .

. . . and a rosa complicata.

Then I went in and made four jars of jam with the blackcurrants that we had picked in the morning.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round for music and conversation. Alison and I enjoyed the music as we played duets for recorder and keyboard, and Mrs Tootlepedal and Mike enjoyed the conversation.

Mike is very kindly taking us to the station tomorrow and Alison is looking after our tomatoes while we are gone.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin . . .

. . . and very appropriately, the flower of the day is the rose ‘Special Grandma’ which produced its first flower of the year today.

International travel

Today’s guest picture comes from none other than Mrs Tootlepedal herself. She has been going round the garden taking pictures with her tablet for her records so that she can remember what the garden looked like this year when she is planning for next year. This is her view of the front garden.

It was another in our series of generally grey July days, though it was quite warm enough for coffee outside, and working in the garden was a pleasure.

Mrs Tootlepedal was out and about pretty smartly after breakfast, but I listened to a radio programme on education and did the crossword before I joined her.

Mrs Tootlepedal has been busy trimming hedges and box balls, so I thought that I should do my bit and trimmed the two large box balls at the end of the front lawn. Mrs Tootlepedal cleared off some intrusive plants from in front of the two roses behind the balls and the results look pretty neat. The canes indicate where sunflowers will appear later in the season.

There are still more hedges to go.

The trimming took quite a bit of time, and we had our coffee break with Margaret in the middle of the job. As always, I had my camera in my pocket and took a moment to look at roses before coffee. Mrs Tootlepedal transplanted our Golden Syllabub, and we are very pleased to see that it has come into flower in its new spot. It takes pride of place on the top left corner of the panel below among some old friends.

After coffee, I finished the trimming and started on some dead heading. And took some more pictures.

A small tortoiseshell butterfly landed in front of me at one point, the first butterfly for some time to be seen on the garden.

Mrs Tootlepedal is improving the soil in a vegetable garden bed by growing some big white and red clover in it.

Another of the striking red double poppies has appeared, and along with the campanulas, Icelandic poppies and alstroemeria, it is contributing to a good range of bright colours at the moment.

There was a bit more of a buzz about the garden today though there are not as many bees as there should be by any means. A new coral peony has come out and the snapdragons are developing well . . .

After lunch, we managed to get organised enough to drive down to England to see our friend Sue, whom we haven’t seen for well over a year. This would be our first visit to someone outside Langholm since March of last year.

Our arrival caused a bit of a stir among the locals.

Sue is in the middle of building works and we arrived just as some sand blasting was going on. It was a bit like a storm in the Sahara in her garden, so we took refuge indoors, and over tea and biscuits caught up with her news.

When the sand blaster had left, we had a walk round her garden. I particularly liked a cheerful poppy and a very fine astrantia.

Sue lives on the edge of the fells above Talking Tarn in north Cumbria, and there is plenty of good walking on her area. She took us on a two mile circular walk along the quiet lanes outside her door.

She is a great wild flower enthusiast, and if we had stopped to look at every flower and grass that we passed, we would still be there now. As it was, we stopped and looked at a lot, starting with a very blue flower which is somewhat oddly called a green alkanet. It appears in the panel below along with valerian, a hawkweed of some kind, and a wild red currant.

Sue’s walk took is through the village of Talkin and up quite a steep but mercifully short hill. From the top of the hill, we could enjoy the view . . .

. . . which was good in spite of conditions being a bit misty today.

On the nearest hilltop, a group of stone cairns stood against the horizon.

You might easily think that these were ancient structures with some deep religious significance, but they are quite recent and have been erected stone by stone by local walkers in an arbitrary way and are still growing.

As we looked at the stone cairns, more surprised locals looked at us.

While we went round the walk, we got occasional opportunities to look down to Talkin Tarn which lay below us. I took several pictures of the tarn but as they don’t fit easily into my usual square panels, I have put four of them in a little gallery. If you want to look at the top three at full size, you will have to take the time to click on one and scroll through the others.

Mrs Tootlepedal and Sue talked learnedly about the flowers . . .

. . . and grasses . . .

and I took pictures of them.

Mrs Tootlepedal spotted a dead tree which had definitely seen better days.

It was a delightful walk along picturesque lanes and we took our time going round, enjoying the wild flowers and the gently rolling countryside.

Not all the locals were surprised to see us. Some were too busy eating to notice us at all.

Almost the last thing we saw before getting back to the house was this red hawthorn, something that I have never seen before.

When we got back, Sue entertained us with more tea and biscuits, and then we drove gently home, conserving as much of Zoe’s energy as was compatible with not holding up the traffic.

It was great to go out to visit a friend after all this time, and we hope that Sue can come and visit us soon.

Between the gardening in the morning and the visiting in the afternoon, I didn’t have any time to look at the bird feeder so there is no flying bird today. A siskin is sitting in.

Uphill coffee

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew. He saw a canal bridge on his walk yesterday and, knowing that I like bridges, took a photo of it just for me.

We had a warm, grey morning, and as it was dry, I mowed the middle lawn when I got our into the garden after breakfast.

Because it creeps up the wall and gets into the gutter, Mrs Tootlepedal had trimmed the clematis over the garage door yesterday, using our long loppers. The hydrangea further along the house needed trimming too for the same reason, but this was a case for a ladder and secateurs, so I got the ladder out and made a start.

Between the mowing and the trimming, I took a flower picture or two. My favourite poppy of the moment is this pink one . . .

. . . and I am very grateful that Mrs Tootlepedal has grown an eryngium at my request. It gets better every day.

We sat on the bench beside the eryngium and considered things. Mrs Tootlepedal loves the flowers on the peonies . . .

. . . but has begun to take the view that they take up too much space in the borders, and flower for too short a time. What is needed is a separate bed where they could live happily without interfering in the borders after they have flowered. As we don’t have such a space, this is a conundrum.

I left her to ponder this and went off up the hill to have coffee with Sandy.

He is growing some good looking sweet peas against his shed.

He is a bit fed up because just as his foot was recovering after an operation, he has got trouble with a knee and his walking is quite limited. Even his legendary patience is being taxed. He made some good coffee though, and we enjoyed a chat before I left to go home and finish trimming the hydrangea.

On my way back, I stopped at the top of the hill above the town and enjoyed the view as well as admiring a good spread of wild flowers beside me.

We were afraid that the spring frosts might have affected our walnut tree, but if you look in the middle of the bottom part of the view above, you can see that it is in good health and well covered with leaves. Our white front door can be seen behind it.

When I got back, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal had gone to our neighbour Liz’s garden for coffee and I was invited in for a blether. I took up the invitation.

When we got back to our own garden after some good general blethering, I finished off the hydrangea. The gutters are safe for a while.

There was an opportunity to take some more garden pictures.

I may like the pink poppy, but Mrs Tootlepedal’s current favourite is a double red poppy, just out.

Her new clematis has produced more flowers . . .

. . . and the greater knapweeds have joined the party.

It was getting near lunch time, so I filled the bird feeder and went in to finish the crossword and check on the birds from time to time. I was pleased to see a greenfinch by way of variety today.

I was intending to go for a cycle ride in the afternoon but a bit of rain made me look at the forecast. It suggested that we were in for heavy rain and possible thunderstorms, so I had a rethink and watched a bit of the Tour de France while I did so.

A look out of the window after a while suggested that the forecast might have been a bit pessimistic. I got my rain gear on and went off for a pedal. I didn’t want to push my luck so I opted for a brief trip round my familiar Canonbie circuit. There were some threatening clouds about but they drifted off and I got a clear run. On the down side, the wind was in a very unhelpful direction and I took nine minutes longer to get round than I had done last week.

I stopped to check on some bright yellow flowers in the verge soon after I left home. They turned out to be Lady’s Bedstraw.

When I got to the spot where the hemlock was growing in the ditch, I found that it had finished flowering . . .

. . . and the verges are now full of vetch.

The vetch is well concealed though and the predominate picture is grass, grass and more grass.

I found the ride back up to Langholm was hard work, so I kept my head down and didn’t look about much. I was glad to stop for a breather though when a good crop of foxgloves on a bank caught my eye at Irvine House.

I stopped for one last time to look across the main road just before I rejoined it at the end of the bike path.

When I got home, I was able to watch the very end of the Tour de France stage, and then I had time for a walk round the garden before I went back in for the regular sibling Zoom and an evening meal. Any threatening clouds had long since disappeared and it had turned into a lovely evening.

The roses were glowing.

. . . and the day lilies had decided that as far as they were concerned, this was the day.

Mrs Tootlepedal thinks that I haven’t paid the calendulas enough respect so I tried to remedy that.

After tea, preparing this post was somewhat interrupted by casting occasional glances at the telly to see how England were doing at the football. While I won’t be betting the house on them being able to beat Italy in the final, it certainly was a treat to see an England side playing well as a team and showing as much technical skill as their opponents. They had some impressively quick players too.

The flying bird of the day is a distant pigeon . . .

. . . and the flower of the day is another shot of that red poppy which Mrs Tootlepedal likes.

Light rain

Today’s guest picture comes from my New York correspondent, MaryJane. She was out walking when she saw a cormorant and several weed covered turtles beside a duckweed filled pond.

As had been forecast, we had another grey day here. It had a tendency to start to drizzle every time we went into the garden. However, as it tended to stop again soon afterwards, we spent quite a lot of the morning gardening, and in my case, taking photographs too.

Before I went out, I filled the feeder and checked on the birds. There was not a lot of traffic . . .

. . . but Mrs Tootlepedal spotted a pigeon that looked a class above our usual visitors . . .

. . . and when it moved its foot, we could see that it was a ringed homing pigeon having a rest on its way home.

It hoovered up all the fallen seed it could find under the feeder and went on its way.

In the garden, Mrs Tootlepedal was wielding the shears with abandon, and many underperforming plants bit the dust. I ferried the remains to the compost bin and chopped them up to speed up the decomposition.

In between times, I looked for new flowers and found quite a few. Spelling checks were required in some cases such as alstroemeria . . .

. . . and leycesteria . . .

. . . and antirrhinum, though I could manage French Marigold quite well without help.

Mrs Tootlepedal is worried that our Martagon lilies are not doing as well as they should. They look OK to me . . .

. . . but they are not lasting as they should, and Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that the soil is not right for them. I nod my head wisely.

We have another lily out at the moment, but it requires an eagle eye to see it, as it is completely hidden in the back border and other plants needed to be held aside for me to get a view of it.

I took the opportunity to shift some of the compost in Bin B into Bin C. I was interested to find out how well the cardboard which we have been adding to the compost has been rotting down. The answer was, pretty well. More will be added to the fresh stuff in Bin A to get variety into the mix.

There were new roses out as well as plants with tricky names. Bobbie James has put out the first few of many flowers . . .

. . . and the rose always known as ‘that little red rose in the corner’ has put out flowers too. It is the one in the top left corner of a panel of otherwise familiar roses.

Crown Princess Margareta had flowers today which neatly show her progression from youngster to mature princess.

A new lupin has arrived . . .

. . . and I completed my photographic morning with a shot of Mrs Tootlepedal’s favourite white foxgloves.

I recently sharpened and tightened the garden shears and Mrs Tootlepedal was so pleased by the result that she gave one of our box balls a neat haircut.

Along with the garden activity, I managed to fit in a visit to the corner shop where I paid my bill, a cup of coffee with Mrs Tootlepedal (Margaret was on a visit to Carlisle today), and a most enjoyable crossword all before lunch.

When I looked at the birds after lunch, there was still not much action, but I did note that several of the willow withies that Mrs Tootlepedal stuck into the ground to proved shelter round the feeder have rooted very well . . .

. . . although some have not, as this sparrow showed when it perched on a bare twig.

Mrs Tootlepedal settled down to watch today’s stage of the Tour de France, but I resisted the temptation and went for a cycle ride of my own. The forecast was a bit equivocal about the possibility of rain but it was fairly warm and the wind was very light, so I put a rain jacket in my pannier and set off.

It turned out the rain was a bit equivocal itself, and although it drizzled for twenty three of my thirty three miles, I didn’t have to get my rain jacket out until I had done fifteen, and I was able to put it away again after another ten miles.

A lot of the verges remain uncut so there were many chances to stop and take pictures of wild flowers. I didn’t want to get my camera wet so I only took a few of the chances.

I saw agrimony not long after I had set out . . .

. . . and meadowsweet all along my ride.

I couldn’t pass the Korean pines at Half Morton without another look at the cones . .

. . . and while I was there, I photographed the steps over the wall which let visitors into the church without letting the minister’s sheep out of the churchyard.

The rain stopped as I left Half Morton and the roads dried up so the last part of my trip was most enjoyable. The verges on the old A7, very little used now since the new road past Auchenrivock was built, are rich in wild flowers . . .

. . . but the highlight of the outing was a grand display of orchids along the Canonbie by-pass. This was one of the best.

When I got home, the stage of the Tour was over but Mrs Tootlepedal was kind enough to wind back the final kilometres which she had just watched so that I could share in another win for the remarkable Mark Cavendish. He pedals quite a lot more quickly than I do.

More potatoes, beans and turnips from the garden added flavour to our evening meal, and that brought a cheerfully active day that contrasted with the rather gloomy weather to a satisfactory conclusion.

I simply couldn’t catch a decent flying bird today so readers will have to settle for a flower of the day, but it is a good one in my view.

Some business and a little stretch

Today’s guest picture comes from my South African correspondent, Tom. He came across this tense stand off between a cat and a hadeda. Tom tells me that he sided with the bird and chased the cat away.

We had a rather grey and windy morning here after more overnight rain. When I went out into the garden at midday, it wasn’t hard to see that it had been raining.

All the same, when Mrs Tootlepedal dug up a potato to give to our neighbour Margaret when she came round for coffee, the soil an inch below the surface was still dry as a bone.

I didn’t get out earlier because I had a newsletter to produce for the Langholm Initiative. There wasn’t much fresh news this month so it wasn’t a big task, but as I am not used to the program that I have to use to produce and mail the newsletter out, it still took some time. Next months’s issue should be full of news.

I took a few pictures when I was out before lunch.

I picked some rhubarb and took it in to prepare for cooking, and while I was in, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal had brought in some peonies that had been affected by the weather. They were sitting in Mrs Tootlepedal’s refuge for battered flowers.

Back outside, I found that there was a good deal of sheltering going on behind other leaves and flowers . . .

. . . and I had to reach over numerous shrubs to catch a glimpse of the Crown Princess in the bottom left picture above.

There were quite a lot of bumble bees about today, in spite of the rather damp conditions, but I wasted a lot of time chasing around without being able to get a good picture of them. I got a lot of mediocre pictures though.

When I went in for lunch, I had a look out at the birds. The feeder was quite busy today with sparrows . . .

. . . and siskins.

Unsurprisingly, the siskins took to fighting amongst themselves.

Beneath the feeder, I spotted yet another blackbird.

After lunch, I got the newsletter finished, updated the list of subscribers and sent it out. The weather had definitely improved by the time that I had finished, and I was hoping for a cycle ride. When it came to it, I had left things a bit late and the wind was a bit too strong for comfortable pedalling, so I went for a short walk instead.

In the park, I encountered a young blackbird who was more interested in me than frightened of me, and a busy wagtail collecting food.

I walked up to the Stubholm and took the track towards Warbla. There was a fine variety of white flowers on either side.

Mike Tinker tells me that the one in the top left corner is a plain valerian and I know that the ones in the bottom right corner are elder flowers. I don’t know what the other two are.

I didn’t go up as far as the open hill, but I was still able to enjoy the view of Castle Hill as I climbed higher, especially as the sun had come out and it was now a fine afternoon.

When I got to the gate to the hill, I turned off and walked through the Kernigal wood . . .

. . . enjoying the dappled light and shade, the wild flowers . . .

. . . the views through the trees . . .

. . . and the trees themselves.

I walked down the Hungry Burn, along the Beechy Plains, back through the park and then went down to the river at the Meeting of the Waters below the Town Bridge.

In spite of the rain, there was not much in the way of waters meeting . . .

. . . but there was a delightful honeysuckle when I walked back up to the road.

I got back home in time for a quick cup of tea before the regular sibling Zoom.

It was beautiful outside after we had Zoomed and eaten our evening meal. The wind had dropped and it was a treat to walk around the garden with the scents of honeysuckle and philadelphus wafting about.

The forecast for tomorrow is a bit gloomy so I may have to wait a bit longer before I can get back on my bike.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin swishing past the feeder . . .

. . . and the flowers of the day are a selection taken when the sun came out just before my walk this afternoon.

A song and a stroll

Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Caroline. It shows a delightful vegetated shingle beach where she took a seaside walk today.

We had another day with rain and thunder in the forecast, but happily, there was no sign of either as we cycled off to sing in the church choir in the morning. In spite of a rather indeterminate sort of service, I thoroughly enjoying the singing. There were only five of us in the choir so there was a question as to whether we added much to general gaiety, but we did our best.

We got back in time to have coffee in the garden with Margaret, and then we got busy on some more hedge trimming. When we had finished a section of the box hedge round the front lawn, Mrs Tootlepedal set about some chicken topiary while I went in and had an early lunch.

The reason for the early lunch was the forecast which was now saying ‘rain later’. I reckoned that there would be time for a walk and set off to go up Meikleholm Hill and then Timpen.

There is a lovingly and carefully curated ‘wild flower’ garden beside the track past Holmwood, which a local gardener has made for the pleasure of passers by. I was very pleased by it.

When I got to the hill, the temporary absence of livestock meant that there were wild flowers to be seen everywhere. The hillside was carpeted with bedstraw, tormentil, buttercups and clover and there were many orchids to be seen too, along with yellow rattle and foxgloves.

The flowers had encouraged various butterflies, but I only managed to get rough pictures of a meadow brown and a small heath as the others would keep flitting about.

There was a hint of sunshine on Warbla across the valley . . .

. . . and another hint up the Esk valley when I got to the col between Meikleholm Hill and Timpen.

. . . but it was generally cloudy, and when I looked to the south, I could see some really dark clouds

It was still dry when I got to the top of Timpen and looked around . . .

. . . but there was now definitely rain on the way when I looked back towards Whita Hill.

I went on along the ridge for a few minutes, looked up the valley again . . .

. . . weighed up the amount of cloud versus the little rays of sunshine and decided to take a fairly direct route off the hill and down to the road. This decision may also have been influenced by seeing grazing cattle further along the ridge.

The ground is still very dry, so the walk down the hill was enjoyable, with little danger of slipping, and I was soon down by the wooded stream near the road.

I went down to the gate onto the road and was pleased to see that the cattle down there were securely behind a fence on the other side of the road.

The road verges have not been mowed and they are full of wild flowers . . .

. . . and lush grasses.

I got to the Potholm road, a mile away from home, and had a triple choice. I could go straight home along the road, take the more adventurous path down to the Duchess Bridge, or take the long way round and go back via Potholm.

It was a very good day for walking, warm and with light winds, and there was no sign of rain as I got near to the junction . . .

. . . and it looked as though the darks clouds might have passed overhead.

I decided to take the long way round, turned off towards Potholm, got about ten yards down the road and then felt the first drops of rain.

It wouldn’t last, I thought, and walked on. It was still raining quite steadily when I got to Potholm Bridge after a mile. However, it was warm, I had a light rain jacket in my bag, and the rain was persistent but not heavy so I was quite happy in my decision. By the time that I had crossed the river and got to the top of the hill past Potholm farm, the rain had stopped and the sun had come out.

And it stayed out for most of the rest of my walk.

In the rain, I had passed some cattle sitting in a field which had been mowed for silage.

By the time that I had walked along the Langfauld and got to the Castleholm, it was a really lovely afternoon . . .

. . . and a game of cricket was in full swing at the cricket club.

I walked round the ground and saw that they have mowed the race course in preparation for a horse race meeting later this month.

I had been thinking that it was about the time when I ought to be able to see hedge woundwort, so I was happy to see some beside the Langfauld track, and at other times on this section of my walk, I saw a wild rose, even taller grasses and fine cones on the Noble fir.

We can’t complain if it rains, because some rain is sorely needed as this shot of the very low water at the Langholm Bridge shows.

I was nearly home by this time, but there was still a chance to see melancholy thistles beside the Ewes Water, the two hills that I had walked up earlier, an oyster catcher on a rock beside the Esk, and some very blue forget-me-nots on the riverside path.

In spite of the rain shower, I was in a very cheerful mood when I got home after seven and half miles of very varied and enjoyable walking. The sunshine had pretty well dried me out and my camera had recorded over a hundred pictures. There must have have been a lot of interest on the way.

My feeling of well being was enhanced when I found that I had got back early enough to watch the final kilometres of todays’ stage of the tour.

After the stage had finished, we went out into the garden and I was able to admire the Wren and Lilian Austin roses again, along with a perky Sweet William and Mrs Tootlepedal’s topiary chicken.

It started to rain so we didn’t stay out long and when I went in, I had a look at the birds on the feeder. There was a good selection today, with siskins, goldfinch, sparrow and chaffinch all present.

We went back out into the rain to dig up some more new potatoes to have with our evening meal, and that rounded off what had been a much more satisfactory day than yesterday.

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

Instead of a flower of the day, I have put in a map of my walk. I went round clockwise.

Totally lacking lustre

Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony. He spotted a small tortoiseshell butterfly today.

We had a definitely gloomy day here today, with either a hint of rain or the real thing always on hand. As the forecast was for floods and thunderstorms, we got off very lightly with just the occasional shower.

It was still comfortably warm but I was extremely lethargic all day, even though a walk or a cycle ride would have been quite possible.

Whether it was the weather, old age or weakness of intellect I couldn’t tell, but I wasted the whole day and ended up feeling quite grumpy with myself.

I made a few token gestures in the garden by way of dead heading and shredding and I took some pictures too. When I looked at them later, they turned out mostly to be pictures of flowers that I had often taken before, so I hope that patient readers in search of floral novelties will forgive me if I put them in anyway.

Mrs Tootlepedal’s current favourite rose, the Goldfinch.

My favourite of the day, a young Crown Princess Margareta. I think that she is at her best before she comes fully out.

This picture of three Lilian Austin blooms appeared yesterday . . .

. . . and by today they had aged gracefully.

Mrs Tootlepedal has expanded the reach of the Queen of Denmark and she is popping up in several different places now.

I did a little dead heading and some shredding and took more pictures of familiar flowers. There are bright red poppies on every side now, and I was pleased to see a bee in one of them.

We don’t grow strawberries to eat any more, but the ornamental pink strawberries flower all summer long.

There are pinks and musk by the pond . . .

. . . and the yellow dahlia, still the only one out, has lifted its head up a bit . . .

. . . but if it is horticultural bling that you want, then the Sweet Williams are the ones for you.

They really light up the view of the garden from the front gate, even on a grey day.

We had morning coffee with Margaret in our neighbour Liz’s garden, but we had to shift to her sitootery when it started to drizzle. There is a very comfortable chair in there, and I was accused of nodding off to sleep. I had to explain that I was just closing my eyes so that I could concentrate more fully on what was being said.

There was time for another leisurely stroll round the garden after coffee.

Mrs Tootlepedal had already dug up the first very new potatoes of the season . . .

. . . and now we found a couple of decent sized white turnips and a handful of broad beans to go with them.

We ate the potatoes for lunch and had the turnip and beans with our evening meal. In between the two meals, I did nothing except watch a stage of the Tour and occasionally keep an eye through the window on the birds outside in the rain.

Starlings visited the feeder in search of food for their young . . .

. . . and then sparrows got in before the siskins could assemble in numbers.

A wise sparrow got on with eating seed while ignoring a rude siskin shouting at it . . .

. . . and another checked on possible siskin reinforcements arriving.

Sometimes there were just not enough perches for one each.

One feature of the garden at the moment is the large number of blackbirds about. This one represents them all today.

I was still intending to go for a walk when the tour stage finished, but will power was seriously lacking when it came to actually putting my boots on and leaving the house, so I found something to do indoors instead.

I am hoping that I will be a little perkier tomorrow, but the damp weather is set to continue for a day or two so I will have to make a real effort.

The flying bird of the day is a siskn . . .

. . . and the flower of the day is a Butter and Cream iris. They will soon be over.

Footnote: I broke off in the middle of writing this post to watch the last quarter of England’s football match against Ukraine when Mrs Tootlepedal told me that England were leading 3-0. It was very good to see them playing in a composed and thoughtful manner with good skills on display. I hope that they continue to do well. They deserve to. The implications for a rapid spread of the virus among the unvaccinated section of the population sitting in pubs while the team plays at Wembley on Wednesday are a bit alarming though.

Gardener’s boy

Today’s guest picture shows the handsome church of St Michael with All Angels at Stanton-by-Dale, Derbyshire. My brother Andrew walked past it on his walk yesterday.

Summer here was interrupted by some overnight rain, and the day dawned cloudy. However, normal service was soon renewed, and we had another fine day, especially in the afternoon.

Entirely by accident, I had a day at home and didn’t leave the house and garden. Mrs Tootlepedal was the very opposite. She had a busy morning and afternoon talking to a journalist who had come to collect material for an article on the community buy out. I wasn’t left on my own though because Dropscone came round (with scones) to have a cup of coffee or two. He hadn’t been able to source any treacle on the open market, so the scones were plain but none the worse for that.

I had a look round the garden before he arrived and found the roses looking very grateful for the rain during the night.

…and the flowers in general, looking well

(The picture in the bottom left corner of the panel above was taken much later in the day when the sun had come out, but I needed it to pad the panel out.)

Dropscone had been for a five mile cycle ride round Potholm before he came for coffee, but he had had to go carefully as the track was slippery in places after the rain. He told me that he had recently won a golf tie but that his glory in this victory was somewhat diminished by the fact that he had had a walkover as his potential opponent had contracted Covid.

After he had cycled off, I got to work in the garden, sieving what was left in Compost Bin D and then transferring the rough rejects from the sieving back from Bin C into Bin D. You can’t turn compost too often.

I took a moment to look around.

Hostas have a marvellous capacity for holding onto raindrops. You wouldn’t know that the rain had stopped three hours ago.

The fuchsia on the back wall of the house is getting more flowery every day . . .

. . . as are the potatoes.

The sun came out and there was some nice light in the garden, although the honeysuckle stayed in the shade.

The weigela goes from strength to strength, and having looked to be on its last legs during the long frosty spell, it has confounded all expectation.

Mrs Tootlepedal came back as I was chatting to our neighbour Liz, and we marvelled at Liz’s plant which appears as today’s header picture. It turns out to be called Goat’s Beard and was very popular today with both bees and me. It has a lot of flowers on it.

After lunch, I planned to go for a walk or a cycle ride, but it had become quite hot again so I had a stroll round the garden with a view to cycling or walking later on. I did some dead heading in between taking pictures of a blackbird in the vegetable garden . . .

. . . noting the first nasturtium of the year . . .

. . . and being pleased to see a lone butterfly and many bees.

A water lily in our little pond opened up as the sun shone . . .

. . . and I couldn’t resist the charms of Lilian Austin.

I sat for a while on the bench under the walnut tree in the hope of seeing an interesting bird flying overhead. I saw an interesting bird creeping about under my feet instead.

All this excitement was too much for me and I went back in and watched the second half of the longest stage of the Tour de France. Tradition has it that long cycling stages are boring but this 250km stage was far from dull, and produced a lot of good viewing, so I had no trouble in staying on the sofa until the very end.

Mrs Tootlepedal joined me when she came back from her meeting on the moor, and after a cup of tea at the end of the stage, we went out into the garden. As there is a forecast of fairly regular rain showers next week, I thought that I should mow the front lawn while the going was good. Mrs Tootlepedal went round with the edger as I mowed and the lawn looked quite neat when we had finished.

To celebrate, I took a picture of the eryngium which is getting more blue every day . . .

. . . and then, in response to a request from a correspondent, I went indoors and looked out of an upstairs window at the front lawn and its surrounding beds, where the sharp eyed may see the gardener resting on a bench . . .

. . . and then moved to another window to overlook the middle lawn with the plum tree in the foreground.

Almost all of our garden lies in front of the house and is divided into three ‘rooms’, the front lawn, the middle lawn and the vegetable garden. The garden is longer than the house so there is no window from which I can look out over the vegetable garden. Undaunted, I got out a step ladder and climbed up that to get a view.

I came back down and Mrs Tootlepedal and I trimmed a couple of the box hedges which surround the front lawn.

I was still meaning to go for a walk, but I got my timing all wrong and by the time that we had had our regular sibling Zoom and our evening meal, it was too late to go out, so I enjoyed a involuntary day of rest. It was probably no bad thing as I have been doing a for bit of cycling recently.

I took one final set of pictures before coming in from the garden, including the last of the aquilegias and the first of the day lilies.

The flying bird of the day is a passing pigeon . . .

. . . and the flower of the day is the delightful bush rose, “The Wren”, a rose provided in 2007 to mark the 90th Anniversary of the forming of the Women’s Royal Naval Service. We have it just because it is a lovely rose.

Hot stuff

Today’s guest pictures come from both our sons. Tony’s peas are looking good, and Al is kindly sharing his leaves with the locals.

Summer continued in Langholm today. We could almost get used to this.

Mrs Tootlepedal went out into the garden after breakfast and called me out to look at the clouds. They were worth a look.

As it seemed likely to get quite hot as the day went on, I did some gardening before coffee, including some experimental work with push mower on a section of grass at the end of the drive which has hitherto only been mowed with the hover mower. It is this sort of thing that makes life really exciting.

I also watered the soft fruit, as there is no sign of rain to come for another day or two.

And I looked at flowers, in particular the Lilian Austin rose. It is doing really well this year, with flowers at all stages of development today.

We have been taking out the main shoots of the lupin near the greenhouse as they have been going over, and this has lead to a very satisfactory burst of growth from the remaining side shoots . . .

. . . for which the bees are grateful.

There were more clouds to look at with a very curious effect during coffee with Margaret.

After coffee, I had another wander about.

. . . before cycling off to the shop. I went along the river. I say along the river, but there is hardly any river to go along at the moment.

The Met office says that Scotland as a whole only had 44% of its average rainfall during June and I think that we might have had even less than that here.

The garden doesn’t seem to mind too much though. Mrs Tootlepedal has been doing some watering and everything is growing.

I enjoyed looking up at a tall philadelphus . . .

. . . and looking down at a fancy clover which I spotted in a shady corner . . .

. . . before I found myself a bit overcome by the heat of the sun and went indoors to cool down.

Even lunch didn’t fully revive me, and I didn’t go outside again until after five o’clock, choosing to let others take the exercise for me as we watched another stage of the Tour de France. It was a quiet stage, but it had a rousing finale.

When I finally went out into the garden, I tried to catch some starlings in flight. They obligingly perched on a power line but it got in the way when one flew off.

It was still pretty warm at well over 20°°C, but the sun had disappeared behind some thin cloud, so I felt happy enough to get July’s cycling month off to a start with a trip round my familiar twenty mile Canonbie route. I made a liver casserole and left it simmering and then went for my pedal.

Rather to my surprise, I found that my legs were in a very enthusiastic mood, and as a result, except for enjoying the view in today’s header picture, I kept pedalling until I was well through Canonbie and on my way back to Langholm. I was keeping an eye out for orchids though, and one at Hagg on Esk brought me to a halt.

I have previously seen some orchids on the short section of bike path nearby, but although I looked both ways . . .

. . . because sometimes flowers are only visible in one direction . . .

. . . I saw many daisies but no orchids. I did see another good example a bit later on but completely failed to take a usable picture of it.

My eager legs got me home in a new fastest time for this route this year, but as it was only a minute faster than my last effort, it wasn’t tremendously impressive for such a warm evening with light winds.

I had a final walk round the garden, and enjoyed the scent of a philadelphus beside the back path . . .

. . . viewed a selection of floral collections . . .

. . . (with added heron), admired new flowers on Mrs Tootlepedal’s new clematis . . .

. . . had my attention drawn by her to some peltigera lichen beside the pond . . .

. . . and added a nearby pink to the list of new flowers coming out.

The liver casserole, which had been curated by Mrs Tootlepedal while I cycled, turned out very well, and by the time that my evening meal was over, the active day had come to an end.

There is no flying bird of the day today as I was too idle to stand for long at the window looking out, so a sitting pigeon takes its place . . .

. . . and the flower of the day is a moss rose.