Posts Tagged ‘apple’

Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Bruce.  It shows that when it comes to Scottish sparrows, a sparrow’s home is its castle.

bruce's sparrow

I am starting this post with a cheat, as it is a picture that I took a couple of day ago but forgot to include in that day’s post.   Mrs Tootlepedal saw a most unusual visitor on the plum and I got there in time  to take its picture.  It is a meadow pipit.  You would expect to see it up on the moor not on the plum tree in our garden, so I thought that it ought to appear on the blog, even if a bit belatedly.

meadow pipit on plum tree

Back to today.

It wasn’t as warm as yesterday by a long chalk and there was no sun about, but it wasn’t raining and we are still happy to count any dry day as a good day, even if it is a bit cold and grey.

Oddly enough, the light outside suited my pocket camera very well, and when I walked round the garden, it picked out some good detail, like the rosemary flower with its tongue out….

rosemary flower

…the emerging leaves on a raspberry cane…

raspberry shoot

…and the tiny fruits on the silver pear.

sliver pear nlossom

I am endlessly fascinated by the lengths that euophorbias go to make themselves interesting.


The recent compost bin reorganisation left Mrs Tootlepedal with some rough mulch on her hands, and she has bestowed it on one of the front hedges which is now well mulched.

mulched hedge

The continuing cool weather is making flowers hesitant to emerge but every day shows a little more progress…

four garden flowers

…and the magnolia is gradually shedding its winter fur coat.

magnolia peeping

Mrs Tootlepedal filled up the third log library shelf and then made a fourth while I sawed up some logs to help fill it up.

The result was very satisfactory and some sweeping up made sure that the flags on the floor of the log shed saw the light of day for the first time for many years.

completed log library

There is a little more sorting and tidying still to be done but it looks as though we will have plenty of time on our hands to do it.

We sat on a bench in front of the espalier apples to rest after our labours, and I was pleased to see the first shoots appearing on one of the apple trees.

firs apple shoot

Across the vegetable garden, the rose shoots on the fence were standing up very straight.

upright rose leaves

I went to the corner shop to collect a jar of honey which the shopkeeper had kindly procured for me and was a bit puzzled when I saw a line of people standing several yards apart from each other in front of the Buccleuch Centre which is currently closed.  The puzzle was resolved when I remembered that a butcher’s van visits the town and parks beside the Centre on a Friday.  I realised that the queue was would be shoppers correctly socially distancing themselves as they waited to buy their pound of mince.

People are taking these things seriously and I had to queue outside the ex-corner shop until it was safe for me to go in.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal took a well earned siesta and I went out for my permitted exercise.  After yesterday’s walk, it was time for a cycle ride today.  The cooler weather and a brisk wind made sure that I was back to being very well wrapped up.  Although the wind helped to get me across the hill and down to the bottom of the Canonbie by-pass in good time, it also meant that the trip back up to Langholm on the old A7 was a bit of a battle.

Talking of battles, I noticed as I passed that Hollows Tower had lost the fight against the virus and was closed to visitors.

hollows tower shut

And as it was a grey day, I took a picture of a grey bridge.  It carries the new A7 and is much wider than the camera angle makes it seem

grey bridge auchenrivock

Whether on the cross country roads, the new A7, or the old A7, there was very little traffic about and I enjoyed a peaceful ride.

When I got home, I had another walk round the garden and found the daffodils in a mathematical mood.  They came in squares…

square of daffodils

…straight lines…

line of daffodils

..and triangles.

triangle of daffodils

As I came through to the middle lawn, I saw a jackdaw trying to creep off unobserved…

jackdaw leaving after lawn pecking

…but it was no good, I could see the evidence of savage lawn pecking which it had left behind.

lawn pecking

Checking the news on my phone when I got in, I found that in the midst of the virus mayhem, the government had released a statement saying that they are intending to reduce private motor car travel and increase cycling and the use of public transport.   This is a jaw dropping change of tack for a government and the Ministry of Transport whose only plan for many decades has been to increase roads and road congestion at any cost.  I don’t suppose that it will actually happen, but to have the government even thinking about it must be a good thing.

The non-flying bird of the day is a ‘shopping trip’ goosander having a nap beside the river this morning.


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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who came across this boat, The Ship of Tolerance, an artwork on the Thames by Ilya and Emilia Kabakov. The sails are made by children from 40 London primary schools.  You can out more about it here.

ship of tolerance

Today we said goodbye to summer after a great week of sunny weather.  The contrast with yesterday’s cloudless skies could hardly have been more stark.  The only sun available was just outside the front door in floral form and that was as far as I cared to go as the rain was pouring down.

soggy sunflower tower

Then I got out my umbrella and walked to church in the rain where a choir which reached double figures and some good singing hymns injected cheer into a gloomy day.  (One of the readings was from the prophet Jeremiah who was even gloomier than the weather.)

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal and I were able to walk round the garden in a sloshy sort of way as the rain eased off for a while.  The non scientific rain gauge showed how much rain had arrived overnight.

unscientific rain gauge

The Charles Ross apples are well protected by their foliage and should provide source material for future tartes, chutneys and pies.

charles ross apples

We have been well supplied with turnips lately too.


Squelching across the lawns and paddling among the puddles soon lost its charm though and we went back in.

dahlia in rain

After lunch, we drove to Carlisle where Mrs Tootlepedal caught the train to London to visit our daughter and our new grandchild, and I went to sing with the Carlisle Community Choir.

The train was on time and even reached London a little early, so Mrs Tootlepedal was happy.  At the choir, we had a very good substitute conductor who got through a power of work, so I was happy too….or at least as happy as I could be in the absence of Mrs Tootlepedal who will be gone for a week.

With rain forecast for most days, and with Mrs Tootlepedal away and both Sandy and Dropscone on holiday, it looks as though it is going to be a quiet week ahead.  Still, the temperature is holding up well, so if there are any chances for a quick pedal or a walk, I should be able to take them.

No birds at all again today but an argyranthemum sportingly agreed to pose as the flying bird of the day for me.

argyranthemum in rain

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Today’s guest picture is another from my sister Mary’s sunny visit to Bath.

From canal towpath looking towards the boatyard

We got up to another grey and miserable morning here although once again it was unseasonably mild.

Mrs Tootlepedal is partially recovered but by no means back to full working order.   She is very touched by the good wishes expressed by readers of the blog.

The grey morning was much improved by the arrival of Dropscone for coffee and his already excellent scones were improved in my case by adding some of Mary Jo’s gift of saskatoon jam to them.  In my view, Dropscone’s plain scones and saskatoon jam are a match made in heaven.

After he left, Mrs Tootlepedal and I set about getting to the bottom of whatever it was that had made our phone line go dead and our internet flicker intermittently. By using our powers of deduction and a small screwdriver, we found the problem and cured it, probably just in time for the town’s power supply to be knocked out be the coming storm Ophelia.

Ophelia has been wreaking havoc in Ireland but it was extremely calm here in the morning and early afternoon.   Our neighbour Liz popped into to ask if we had seen the sun.  We went to have a look.

It was very odd.

The camera found it hard to record the clouds and the sun both in the correct shade but this is definitely how the sun looked.

red sun

It kept changing colour as the cloud of dust passed and I had several goes….

red sun

…until finally it got too bright for both me and the camera to look at.

red sun

It was sufficiently striking to make the news later in the day and the experts say that it was either Saharan sand or Portuguese wild fire particles or both that had provided the film of rusty colour.

After lunch, I had a look round the garden.  The light had improved and the bees and hoverflies were back on duty again.

bees and hoverflyhoverfly on poppy

A late astrantia has come out to join the poppies.

astarntia and poppy

Lilian Austin and Special Grandma add a delightful feminine touch.

Lilian Austin and Special Grandma

Mrs Tootlepedal is going to make more of the ornamental strawberry next year.

ornamental strawberry

But the most exciting thing in the garden is the new tray under the bird feeders which means I can start feeding the birds again.

feeder tray

It is a heavy duty plastic cement mixing tray and Mrs Tootlepedal drilled the neat hole in the centre of it to let the feeder pole fit through.

It was warm (66°F) and fairly still so I took the opportunity to go for a short cycle ride in my outdoor gym and stopped for pictures on my way.

It was rather gloomy as I came back to town on my first lap….

Manse Brae

…but I headed down to Skippers Bridge to take a couple of pictures because I feared that if the storm is as windy as predicted, there may be few leaves on the trees when it is gone.Skippers BridgeLangholm Distillery

On my second lap, there were a few drops of rain and then the sun came out.Glencorf burnHawthornBlochburnfootAuld Stane Brig

Nowadays, the gloomy predictions of storm and tempest are often worse than the reality so keen are the weathermen for us not to be caught unprepared for bad weather so it will be interesting to see what scenes like these will look like in a couple of day’s time.

I looked round the garden when I got back.  I found some more colour.

charles ross applesclimbing hydrangea

…and then went in to see how Mrs Tootlepedal was.  She had been well enough to do a little work in the garden while I pedalling but she is still a bit fragile.

Although the light was fading, I looked at the bird feeders through the windows.

sparrow and blue tit

A gloomy sparrow and an astonished blue tit consider the sodden pink pellets

blue tit

A blue tit sits and thinks

A sparrowhawk flashed through the garden without it catching anything or me catching it.

It astonishes me how quickly birds find out that food of one sort or another is available.  I said to Mrs Tootlepedal only yesterday that I hadn’t seen a sparrowhawk about for weeks.

In the evening my flute pupil Luke came and we had a productive time.  He played at a practice of  our local orchestra yesterday and felt that he had been able to play quite a bit of the music.

In the evening, I went to the Camera Club meeting.  Ten members turned up and we were treated to a very interesting and varied selection of photographs from winter scenes to remind us of what is coming, through stunning local wildlife portraits and action shots and striking black and white studies to a record of a recent African safari, complete with lions, rhinos, hippos and elephants.  We were very well entertained.  One member had brought in some very beautiful large prints which led to a lot of discussion.

The flying bird of the day is having a rest.


It is blowing hard as I write this. Fingers crossed.







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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan, who has been kind enough to send me this massive but hungry looking  figure which is currently hanging around at the British Museum.

skeletonWe woke to another grey and wet morning but we weren’t downhearted because Dropscone was due to come round with treacle scones and the forecast was for an end to the rain well before lunch.

Both of these happy events came to pass.

I even got to see a short  video of Dropscone practising his golf swing under the eye of his golf professional.  What a great start to the day.

After coffee, I took a stroll round the garden.  It is getting very near the end of its flowery life but there are still bits and bobs about.


The chives are still brightening up the vegetable plots.


The orange crocosmia is very durable and I was surprised to see a honeysuckle blossom


The yellow crocosmia arrived late and is staying late

clematis and nerine

There are a few clematis flowers and a lot of nerines.

But the prettiest thing in the garden today was this Charles Ross apple….

Charles Ross…and some of them went down very well in the evening when stewed and taken with custard.  The cool summer and the relatively good autumn have left the apples tasting as good as they have ever done this year.

While Mrs Tootlepedal busied herself with some apple branch sawing, I made some potato soup for lunch.  She was frequently visited by a robin while she worked but my only glimpse of one when I had a camera in my hand, was this one out of the dining room window later on.

robinI saw several jackdaws when I put out some pellets…

jackdaw…but sadly the best one flew past a telegraph pole just as I snapped it so I couldn’t use it as flying bird of the day.  The chaffinches were in a kinder mood…

flying chaffinchflying chaffinch…though I did catch one making off with a pink pellet that should have been reserved for blue and coal tits.

chaffinchAs well as all the flying birds, there were some standing around too.

dunnock and blackbird

A dunnock and blackbird, frequently seen in the garden but not feeder users.

After lunch, while Mrs Tootlepedal did more tidying and bulb planting, I went off for a pedal.

Because I don’t like taking medicine if I don’t have to, I have been experimenting with cutting down on my asthma puffers over recent days but after feeling rather gloomy yesterday and very cold and tired while I was pedalling, I returned to the full dose today with very beneficial results.  I was much cheerier all day, I was much warmer when I went out for my bike ride and I went quite a bit more quickly too.  “Keep taking the tablets,” as they say.

I even had the energy to stop and take a picture or two of the larches along the Wauchope road which are probably at their autumn best.  A little sunshine would have helped but they looked good anyway in my view.

Pool CornerlarchesApart from the larches, it was a bit gloomy and wisps of cloud were still sitting on the tops of the hills.

CleuchfootWhen I got back, we had a visit from Mike Tinker who came to tell us that his wife Alison was a bit poorly and so wouldn’t be coming to play duets in the evening.  This was a disappointment as they have been on holiday and I was looking forward to a tootle on their return.

It did give me some time to practice some choir music so there was an upside.

The flying bird of the day is a blue tit who was legally carrying off a pellet from the new feeder.

flying blue tit

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by Venetia and shows a green woodpecker visiting a hornbeam in her garden.  DShe says that it made a tremendous amount of noise.

green woodpeckerMrs Tootlepedal spent the day visiting Matilda in Edinburgh while I made the most of a second sunny day at home.  To make the day even better, there were no threatening clouds or passing showers.

I was very good though and spent the first hour after breakfast putting a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database.  This post finished off 1890 and it is always a great moment when another year is tucked away.

Luckily Dropscone was on hand with freshly made scones to go with a cup of coffee (or two) when I had finished.  Fortified by this, I went out on the fairly speedy bike to test my creaky knee.

I did walk round the garden first though.


The sun had brought on the two new dahlias


A nasturtium’s mouth looked like rather a dangerous place.

apple and rose

There was promise of further delights to come

nicotiana and lupin

The first nicotiana and the last lupin

Polemonium and musk

Two lasting old friends, polemonium and musk. I like the way that little footprints lead into the heart of the musk.

I put the camera away and got started.  It was a wonderful day for cycling….

Kerr…with light winds which were behind me on the exposed parts of the route and against me when I was in the sheltered sections.

Sensibly I slowed down a bit as I got onto the gently uphill section back to Langholm and this gave me a moment to enjoy the wild flowers in the verges.

Old A7

There is still plenty of colour left on the old A7

Old A7

A closer look

I got home in very good order and after a light lunch, set about some garden tasks.  I mowed lawns and I sieved compost and felt very virtuous.  So virtuous in fact that I had to sit down in an easy chair to recover.

Mrs Tootlepedal got back safely from Edinburgh, having had an enjoyable visit to Matilda.

It was Summer Fair today in Langholm, the eve of our annual Common Riding and it is celebrated with music so after tea, Mrs Tootlepedal and I walked up to the High Street and joined the crowd in the Market Place who were listening to the Langholm Town Band playing a programme.

Langholm Town band

It was a glorious evening

After the band finished, we walked back home but I was soon out again to watch the Flute Band march round the town.  The flute band meets the last train of the day into Langholm,  greets returning emigrants and then leads them through the streets.  The fact that the last train arrived in Langholm nearly half a century ago doesn’t make any difference.  They still go to meet it.

Flute band

There seemed to be about 50 flautists in the band tonight

…and even more people following along behind it.

Shortly after the Flute band had passed by, the Langholm Pipe Band also marched through the streets of the New Town.

Langholm Pipe bandThey too have their followers….

band followers

Pipe band enthusiasts on the left and flute band fans on the right

It is one of the best things about the Common Riding and its proceedings that the streets of the town, for  short time at least, are reclaimed by its inhabitants from the grip of the motor car.

Although my camera makes it look as though it was still quite light, a full moon was looking down benignly from the sky above the town as the bands went by.

full moonThe end of a very good day.  It looks touch and go as to whether the weather will be as kind to us tomorrow.

I did look at the birds in the garden from time to time and the sparrows were as hungry as ever…

sparrows…even to the extent of sharing a perch.

sparrowsIt will come as no surprise that the flying bird of the day is another sparrow (though I should have been able to get a better picture on such a sunny day).

flying sparrow

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Today’s guest picture shows the elegant ceiling of Bath Abbey.  Venetia took the picture when she was there with my sister Mary recently. I always think that these places must take a lot of dusting to keep them clean.

Bath AbbeyIt was a day of questions.

Would I do anything useful after breakfast?  Yes, a little dusting and cleaning.

Would Dropscone come round for coffee?  Yes.  Hooray.

Did he bring any scones?  No.  Boo hoo.

Was there anything new to see in the garden?  Yes.

Berberis and peony

Berberis and peony flowering

Were there any other plants worth a look?  I thought so.


Mrs Tootlepedal’s new rhododendron is as red as red can be.


Allium bulgaricum also known as Nectaroscordum siculum var. bulgaricum.

Are we going to get anything to eat?  Yes.

apple, bean and plumAny interesting birds about?  Not many, just a dunnock.

dunnockThis questioning mood was brought on by having to prepare a quiz for the choir social in the evening.  It is amazing how much time writing sevehty questions takes.  It is not just thinking up (or stealing) questions and answers, there is worrying about whether they are too hard or too easy and considering whether the questions are interesting in themselves.  And then there are the questions to which you think you know the answer but because it is a quiz, you have to double check,

Still, it got done in time for me to sieve a little compost, shred some prunings and go out with Mrs Tootlepedal for a bicycle ride after lunch.  It was only eleven miles long but it is probably the most interesting short ride round here.  There was one question left.  Was it going to rain?  The forecast said that there was a 50% probability of rain but luckily we got the other half and it stayed dry.

The route starts by going up to Wauchope School but then it veers off up a little valley.  The last time we cycled this, the road to the farm at Cleuchfoot was in terrible condition and full of enormous potholes.  Today we found that the council have been busy and it is now as smooth as a baby’s bottom…

The road to Cleuchfoot

The road to Cleuchfoot with a perfect surface.

…and a pleasure to ride on.

Once through the farm, the valley gets narrower and the road rougher….

Arrisgill…but it too has been repaired so there were no potholes….and there were floral consolations.

ArrisgillThen the route turns and leaves the valley floor, following a timber lorry trail over the shoulder of the hill.

The timber trailThis road was also in good repair and we were soon able to look back to the road that we had come along.

CleuchfootWith one last push…

Timber trail…Mrs Tootlepedal floated over the summit and we looked down the long (and bumpy) straight on the other side.

Timber trailThere were floral delights here too.


One of a very bright bunch of red clover that caught my eye.

We got back to the Wauchope road and stopped for a moment at the new bridge at Westwater.  It seems no time at all since it was built but already the bare banks of the burn below are getting blanketed by a meadow…

Collin Bridge…and on the bridge itself, the shiny new sandstone parapet is covered in a ghostly pattern of lichen.

lichenThe journey home was aided by a brisk following wind and as a result of the new and improved surfaces and the push home, we were very pleased by the whole outing.

The hawthorns are just turning a little pink along the road side.

hawthornThere wasn’t a lot of time after we got home before we were on the go again, this time off to the Cricket Club for the choir social.  There was a smaller than hoped for turnout of members but there were enough to make for a convivial evening.  The quiz was received in a good spirit and the scores were very close.  There was a good spread to follow (Mrs Tootlepedal’s contribution was a tasty flapjack)  and then we had a little singsong to round the evening off.

Now we wait for September to start another  choral year all over again.

The final question of the day: could we get home without getting bitten by midges?  Just.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.


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Today’s guest picture shows that the weather must be better in the south than it is here because my sister Mary saw this tremendous display of colour in the Isabella Plantation in  Richmond Park yesterday.

Isabella Plantation, Richmond Park 2015 032We had a nice sunny day here today which was welcome but the brisk and chilly wind that came with it was less fun.  I wasn’t very keen to cycle as I am still feeling a bit tired after Monday’s efforts so I was happy to go up to the Moorland bird feeders with Sandy, as it was his day to fill the feeders.

I was less happy to find road menders operating a noisy digger just behind the bird hide and although the road maintenance is very welcome, it did lead to a decided scarcity of birds for us to look at.  We made a note of what we saw and although we thought it was a dull morning, we still counted 10 different sorts of birds..

The pheasants were not frightened at all by a little noise though.


They are beautiful birds

I did see a woodpecker in the distance but before it could get settled, another one arrived and chased it away.  It didn’t stay long either and a distant glimpse of them was all that I could get.

woodpeckerI had a stroll round the garden when I got back.

garden flowersThe blackcurrant bush was busy with bees again and I hope that they will be just as active soon on the espalier apples which are beginning to come out.

bee and appleGenerally in the garden, the daffodils and tulips are going over and their replacements are sulking because of the chilly weather so we have a bit of a floral gap at the moment.

As it was rather chilly out, I went back in and stared out of the window,  The chilly weather may have held back the flowers but it has encouraged the birds back to the feeders and I spent quite a lot of time watching goldfinches today.








And going beserk.

They were in combative mood today.


Arguing with strangers…


…and among themselves.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help with the driving for the disabled.  She likes this very much as they have electric bicycles for the the volunteers to use when they go round as stewards with the pony traps and she can zoom effortlessly uphill on them.  I am looking to buy an electric bike when the time comes.

After lunch, I went out for a very gentle pedal on the slow bike just to turn my rather stiff legs over a few times.  I was hoping to see a few birds while I was out so I started by going to the Jubilee Bridge to see if blue tits really were using the old nuthatch nest.

The evidence speaks for itself.  A pair were nipping in and flying out…..

blue tits…and flying in and nipping out.

blue titsThey were very busy.

I cycled back to the sawmill bridge and peered over the parapet to see if there were any dippers about.  There was a pair of them too. I watched them live up to their name for a while and then they flew down nearer to me and one kept watch while the other disappeared into a hole in the banking.

dipperThey are tricky birds to photograph as the camera finds them hard to pick out against the water or the bank and the bright white breast and dark brown wings confuse it.

After stopping on the Kilngreen to snap a herring gull at the Meeting of the Waters…

herring gull…I cycled back to the suspension bridge and propped the bike against the railings and went down to the waterside to see if I could catch a swallow swooping over the water.  I couldn’t but I was able to watch a pied wagtail by the water’s edge instead.

wagtailThey don’t usually stand so still.

During the day, both Mrs Tootlepedal and I exercised our hard won democratic right to vote in the general election but It doesn’t, as I write this, look as though our votes are going to lead to return to sanity in the way the country is run.  Still, there are a lot of votes to count and the exit polls may be wrong.

In the evening, I went up to the Archive Centre with Sandy but we had a frustrating time with passwords and couldn’t get connected to the internet so I left him there too meet a visitor and came home.  I put a couple of weeks of the newspaper index into the database using my own computer.  I was doing an edition for the 18th December 1889 and was intrigued to find an enterprising retailer offering “tit bits, rare bits and dainty bits” to the discerning Christmas shopper.   More mundanely she was also offering buns, cakes and shortbread.

The flying bird of the day is that wagtail, skimming off in search of something to eat.

flying wagtail

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