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Posts Tagged ‘broom’

Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Bruce who is on a break in Northumberland, where he took this picture of a bridge over the River Breamish.

River Breamish near Ingram village

It was a grey and faintly drizzly day here today so it was good to have a spot of indoor brightness supplied by the  charming flowers that Sue had brought when she came for coffee on Monday.

sue's flowers

Sandy came for coffee today.  He is suffering from sore feet too and we have been unable to go for a walk for several weeks so it was good to see him and catch up with his news.

When he left, I checked to see what the birds were up to and found a brisk demand for fat balls among the sparrows.

fat ball feeder with sparrows

The sparrows are eating anything they can get their beaks on at the moment and….

four sparrows

…they are monopolising the feeder for a good part of the day.

four sparrows (2)

I went out into the garden to help Mrs Tootlepedal dispose of some of the surplus soil which we had removed from the lawn when we did the returfing. It was amazingly dry and dusty so we mixed it with some composted shreddings and Mrs Tootlepedal spread it on the front beds.

I did some shifting and sieving of the compost in Bin C and then had a wander around to admire the azaleas.  Some of them have suffered badly because of the long cool spell and the lack of rain and have not been able to develop their buds into flowers but others have put on a fine show.

orange azaleared azalea

And the alliums don’t seem to have been affected by the lack of rain at all.

four alliums

We have had an inch of rain recently but it has only been enough to dampen the top layer of the soil in the flower beds and if Mrs Tootlepedal digs down to plant out something new, it is still dry as dust below.  Looking at the forecast though, we may be about to get a persistent spell of light rain over the next few days.  Unhappily, this may turn out to be light enough to be annoying without being useful.

All the same, new flowers are appearing and the Scotch rose is developing well…

scotch rose

…and a little patch of cornflowers appeared as if by magic.  One minute it wasn’t there and the next minute, it was fully formed.

cornflower

The sparrows were interrupted on the feeder by the arrival of a starling…

starling on feeder

…which I noticed as I was making some lentil soup for our lunch.

In spite of a forecast of a 60% chance of a long spell of light rain in the faternoon, I managed to get onto my cycling gear and get out for a pedal while it was dry.

The hillsides are bright with hawthorn blossom on every side.

hawthorn on hill

I passed one of the busiest trees that you will ever see.  It had growth bursting out of every twig.  I think that it is a Norway Spruce.

busy spruce tree

The forecast was looking likely to be ominously correct as a drizzle started up before I had gone far.  I pedalled on though and was cheered up by the sight of some late bluebells on a bank bedside the road.

late bluebells

There were plenty of wild flowers to look at too…

yellow wild flowers

…and  hawthorns and lambs made the day seem nicer than it was.

hawthorn and lambs

I had a good waterproof jacket on and the drizzle was very light so I pressed on to the top of Callister in the hope of seeing some developments in the wind farm that is being built there.  There were sounds of working but nothing to see yet.

The drizzle didn’t last very long, and it turned out to be a good day for cycling with a light wind, so when I came back down the hill into Langholm, I decided to go through the town and out again to the south to see if the new road at the Tarras landslip was open for cyclists yet.

It was.

A lot of work has gone onto making the steep banking below the road stable…

landslip repaired tarras

..and the road itself was a pleasure to cycle down with a beautifully smooth new surface.

new road tarras

I was intending just to visit the road and then turn back for home but having swooshed down the new road and got to the bottom of the hill and crossed the bridge over the Tarras Water, it seemed a pity not to go on, so I cycled along a road that I haven’t used for three years or more.

old road tarras

This took me down the east side of the River Esk and having passed a splendid broom bush…

broom

…I crossed the river by the Hollows Bridge and returned to Langholm up the west bank.

The bus stop at the Hollows, is a garden in itself.

bus stop hollows

The rain stayed away and I got home warm and dry after a very enjoyable 25 miles.

As it was dry, Mrs Tootlepedal and I then took the opportunity to go and collect some more woodchips for her vegetable garden paths.  We didn’t have time to spread them on the paths as it was now time to cook our evening meal.  I left this task in the capable hands of Mrs Tootlepedal and went and had a little sit down and rest.

My cycle mileage for the month has been very poor and I have only managed half the miles that I had originally planned to do by this time of the year, so I am hoping that June brings some very cycling friendly weather and I can make some progress.  I am still quite optimistic that the worst has passed as far as my feet are concerned although I haven’t tried a good walk yet.  Time will tell.

The flying bird of the day is one of our flock of sparrows.

flying sparrow

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There may be serious concern about the lack of insects in general but today’s guest picture from Venetia shows that there is no shortage of them just now in Somerset.

somerset flies

We had a typical April day here today, breezy, cool and occasionally rainy but it was just warm enough to allow for gardening and the breeze was just steady enough to allow for a little cycling so in the morning, Mrs Tootlepedal gardened and I went for a cycle ride.

Before I left, Mrs Tootlepedal drew my attention to a small patch of violets tucked away against a fence in a corner of the garden.

violet

Although the theoretical temperature was not too bad, the wind seemed to carry the chill of winter in its wings and I was well wrapped up again as I battled into the breeze.  When the sun was out…..

Wauchope road

…I was in a green and pleasant land, with the fresh green of the new larch growth…

larch

…very prominent.

But mostly, I was in the shadow over here and the sun was over there in the distance.

View from the Bloch

I looked more closely at one of my favourite trees.

Bloch tree

There were masses of flowers to be seen on my way.

flowers

By lurking about in the valley bottom for the most part, I kept out of the worst of the wind but even so, cycling back down to Langholm with the wind behind me was enough to make the slow bike feel like Pegasus.  I fairly flew along.

The twenty miles that I managed brought up my target mileage for the month and as it has all been done on the slow bike, that was very satisfactory.

I joined Mrs Tootlepedal in the garden on my return and mowed the drying green.  This was a painful experience as it has almost as much moss as Mary Jo’s Danish lawn.

I had a look round and tried to get a better euphorbia picture but only succeeded in catching a fly.

fly on euphorbia

The tulips are growing all the time but still keeping themselves to themselves.

tulips

And I found a daffodil of the day standing still enough to photograph.

daff

Then  it was time for lunch, the crossword and a look at the birds.

I very much enjoyed a little action sequence that took place over two seconds.

A chaffinch approached the feeder quietly…

busy feeder

…suddenly there was pandemonium as birds flew off in all directions and a lone redpoll was left to wonder what all the fuss was about.

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off on business and I stayed in to greet the gas man who came to give our boiler its annual safety check.  In a sign of the crazy way businesses are organised these days, it turned out that he had come all the way from Glasgow to do our check, which was already well behind its scheduled time, because the local engineers were too busy.  Having finished, he was ready to drive back to Glasgow (90 miles away).  It must make sense to someone.

While the engineer was busy, it started to rain and it looked well set in for the rest of the day.    Mike Tinker dropped in for a cup of tea though and he must have had some good vibes in his pocket because when he got up to, the rain went too.

Mrs Tootlepedal and I walked round the garden.

There was plenty to see.  A bee was buzzing about in the pulmonaria…

bee on pulmonaria

…and a blackbird was busy collecting more  worms….

blackbird with worms

…and things were busy growing.  Flowers on the gooseberry and on the silver pear.

gooseberry and silver pear

I look forward to eating gooseberries (if we can avoid the sawfly) but the silver pear fruit is inedible.

The rain looked as though it might hold off so I went for a walk.

I hoped to see waterside birds and I did but the light was pretty gloomy and the birds were far away so although it was a pleasure to see the birds, it was  a problem to get good shots of them.

oyster catcher, dipper, wagtail and goosander

From top left clockwise: Oyster catcher, dipper, goosander and pied wagtail.

I also saw a grey wagtail and I took a wonderful picture of the rock from which it had just taken off.  I haven’t posted it here to avoid excessive excitement among sensitive readers.

I was doing the three bridges walk and I passed a lot of ladies’ smock which has appeared like magic on the banks of the Esk near the suspension bridge….

Ladies smock

…a grand show of colour in the Clinthead gardens…

redflowers

…some striking male flowers on the noble firs on the Castleholm….

male noble fir flowers

….a very colourful tree (which I can’t identify.  Is there a helpful reader out there?)…

Castleholm tree

…and the first broom flower I have seen this year.  It was in the minister’s garden.

broom flower

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal was back out in the garden so I took a look round and was struck by this jewel on a leaf.

raindrop

I had a little Archive business to catch up on as one of our members is kindly helping out a lady who wishes to visit the town for some ancestral research and then it was time to sit down and have a tasty curry for my tea.

The weather is set to continue in the present cool, showery mode for several days but if we can make as good use of the days as we did today, it won’t be too bad.  Those three magically warm and sunny days last week have spoiled us though.  Everything looks and feels dull by contrast.

The flying bird of the day is a reliable chaffinch.  They should give hovering lessons to the other birds.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture shows a very nice bridge that my sister Mary met in the Lake District last week.  You can see Lancrigg Hotel in the background.  She tells me that Wordsworth used to sit and write poetry there.

Lancrigg Hotel in the background where Wordsworth used to sit and write poetry.

After our brief burst of unseasonably warm and sunny weather, we were promised a day of continual rain and temperatures of no more than 13°C to start the new week off.  I was prepared to spend a day indoors, well wrapped up, doing those useful tasks which had been neglected while the great outdoors had been so tempting recently.

However it seems that changing weather patterns have made it harder than usual for the big predicting computers to grind the data accurately enough to give a reliable ‘day ahead’ forecast and in real life, we enjoyed a dry-ish day with occasional bits of rain and a  very tolerable 17°C temperature.

As a result, I only did some of the useful tasks that I should have done and not quite as many as I would have liked. Walking round the garden and getting out further afield kept interrupting my work flow.

I did spend most of the morning putting a couple of weeks of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database, catching up with correspondence and memorising songs for Sunday’s concert and I only got out into the garden just after midday.

I took a few pictures with my phone camera to see how it took to flowers.  I tried it on a wide view…

lupins

…and a close up…

geum

A fancy geum

…and on a decorative shrub…

spirea

A spirea

…and I thought that it did quite well.

My Lumix is getting quite unreliable as the zoom keeps sticking and I am thinking about a replacement.  An article I read suggested that compact cameras have had their day now that phone cameras are so good and it is true that when conditions are perfect, a phone can do a good job but you don’t have anything like the control that you need when things are not so helpful.

I couldn’t take a satisfactory picture of some white flowers with it at all.

I made and ate some potato soup for lunch and then went out and mowed the middle lawn and took some more flower pictures with the Lumix.

I found a pretty flower in one flower bed just the like the wild one which I had found beside the road a day or two ago.  I was very pleased…

vetch

…but Mrs Tootlepedal was most unhappy.  “That’s vetch,” she said, “It’s a pest, get it out of there.”

I pulled it all up as best as I could and realised that it was indeed a bit of a problem as it had crept and crawled all over the bed.

I turned my attention to safer plants.

spirea

Another spirea showing an elegant curve

chimney pot

The chimney pot has just got its annual implant

There were a few bees buzzing around.  This one was sampling the comfrey.

bee on comfrey

In spite of the forecast, the weather seemed to be set fair for a bit so Mrs Tootlepedal and I ventured out on an unexpected cycle ride.  Once again we went up the Wauchope road but on this occasion we added a little extra by visiting Cleughfoot and did eight and a half miles.

I got some additional exercise by stopping to take flower pictures….

geraniums

Wild geraniums lining the roadside near the Auld Stane Brig

…and then racing to catch up Mrs Tootlepedal who, as you can see in the picture above, wastes no time in disappearing into the distance.  Still, when I do catch her up, she is a very useful extra pair of eyes scanning the verges.  She spotted this fine thistle.

thistle

I spotted one of those dandelion-like flowers which are not dandelions.  It is probably a hawkbit….

hawksbit

…and I was not the only one to have spotted it.

Mrs Tootlepedal doesn’t spot lichens but I do.

lichen

Wall art

It wasn’t very windy so it was very enjoyable cruising through the countryside looking at nature.  The scenery was sometimes pastoral…

Cleuchfoot valley

The road to Cleughfoot

…and sometimes watery.

Wauchope Watery

Wauchope Water at Bessie Bell’s

We stopped for a while at Bessie Bell’s so that Mrs Tootlepedal could marvel at the changes that time and rushing waters have brought to a favourite picnic spot when the children were young.

I looked at wild flowers.  They weren’t hard to find.

broom, geum, crossowort and buttercups

Broom, geum, crossowort and buttercups

The broom has just come out so it can be described as a new broom, I suppose.  It is very yellow indeed.

broom

The birdsfoot trefoil nearby had a lot of red about it…

birdsfoot trefoil

…and was looking very pretty.

When we got home, we were joined by Mike Tinker for a cup of tea and a biscuit and by large numbers of sparrow families who were enjoying the fat balls outside the kitchen window.

sparrows

After tea, i went back to the song learning and put one into the computer which helps by playing the music for me so I can’t cheat and look at the words which  I tend do if I am picking out the part on our keyboard.

In the evening, my flute pupil Luke came and we started work on a Haydn trio sonata.

I was out in the garden doing some deadheading yesterday when I accidentally knocked the head off an iris.  Mrs Tootlepedal thought that it might flower indoors if she could find a suitable vase and she was quite right.  I took a picture of it on the kitchen table and we were surprised to find that two of my cameras thought that it was quite a different colour than we did.  It still looked good though.

iris

It looked a much darker purple to us.

The sharp eyed will notice that somehow or other, a greenfly has got to the flower.  How it had manged this, when the flower was brought into the house completely unopened, is a mystery.

If all the forecast cold and wet days are as nice as this one turned out to be, I won’t complain at all.

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mike Tinker’s visit to the botanical gardens in Singapore in the spring, when he was on his way back from New Zealand.  You may think that it is a laburnum walk but in fact, all the flowers are orchids.

orchids in the Botanical Gardens in SingaporeThe weather gods were afraid that we might get a bit uppity if they gave us more than two days of sunshine at once so it started to rain at midnight last night, rained all through the night and kept on raining almost all day today.  We took this as well as can be expected.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off after breakfast to read for the recording of our local newspaper for the blind and I walked up to the High Street under a capacious umbrella to buy fresh supplies of coffee beans and bird seed.  When I got home, I was fortunate to be the recipient of two of Dropscone’s celebrated Friday treacle scones.  It is the Langholm Open Golf Tournament tomorrow and he is hoping that his improved golf game will stand up to the pressure of the big time.

I spent the rest of the morning printing out ten pictures to enter in the Canonbie Flower Show photographic section which is also on tomorrow.  The special subject this year is “Clouds” so I have had plenty of opportunity to take appropriate shots this summer.

After lunch Mrs Tootlepedal came with me as I went to put in my entries at the Canonbie Hall and then we continued driving south.

Our target was a spot near Brampton where a pair of bee eaters are nesting.  It is unheard of to see bee eaters so far north and their arrival has created quite a stir.  The RSPB have thoughtfully provided a car park and set up a telescope so that visitors can see these rare birds.

We weren’t very hopeful as it was still raining steadily when we arrived but a volunteer told us that the birds had been seen so we walked hopefully off up the path.

We hadn’t realised that the nesting site was actually in a large sand and gravel quarry…

Gelt quarry…but it turned out that it was a quarry worker who had first spotted the bee eaters and informed the RSPB.

The walk up the path round the edge of the quarry was interesting in itself.  There were broom seed pods to be seen.

broombroomAnd teasels too.

teaselteaselAnd there were plenty of other wild flowers to keep our minds off the persistent rain.  We met a few people coming back down the path but when we got to the viewing site, we were the only visitors.  The two volunteers there were very helpful…and remarkably cheerful seeing that they had been standing in the rain for several hours.

The quarry is quite large….

quarry…and the nest site is just below the fence on the far bank immediately above the red machine in the centre of the picture.  We wouldn’t have known where to look to see the bird but the volunteers had a scope trained on the nest and were able to show us a bird sitting on a fence post on the horizon.   After that, between using our binoculars and their scope, we saw birds leaving and entering the nest, perching on fence posts and wires and doing a little flying too.

It was interesting to see these rare birds but a bit frustrating for me as there was no chance of getting a good picture even if the sun had been shining as they were too far away.  As it was, even with the aid of the telescope, it was hard to make out their colourful plumage on such a dull day.

Still, we were very pleased to have been part of the excitement and resolved to come back and visit the woods round the quarry again as they looked very interesting.

The rain had almost stopped by the time that we got home (after a pause for a cup of tea and a toasted tea cake at a garden centre on the way).  I took a couple of pictures of flowers to make up for not being able to catch the bee eaters.

nasturtium

A nasturtium decorating our front gate

crocosmia and hosta

Crocosmia and hosta, planted by a neighbour, make a pretty picture beside the dam

Fuchsia

Fuchsia, my favourite.

There had been a flying visit from the sparrowhawk in the morning while Dropscone and I had been drinking our coffee but it doesn’t seem to put the small birds off for long and the feeder was still busy when we got back.

goldfinch and blue tit

A goldfinch and a blue tit added a bit of colour to a grey day

We had seen Mike and Alison at the garden centre earlier in the afternoon but only for a moment as they were leaving as we were arriving but we saw them for longer when they came round in the evening.  Alison and I are working at putting two new pieces, a Partita by Telemann and a reduction of a recorder concerto by Woodcock, into our repertoire and an hour passed in no time at all as we made good progress.

Mike and Alison told us that they had both seen some shooting stars from the Perseid shower earlier in the week.  I had had a look in the middle of the night but hadn’t been patient enough and gone back to bed without seeing any.

It wasn’t a suitable day  for flying bird shots but here is my best effort.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture is a very nice clematis in Manitoba sent to me from across the pond by Mary Jo.  She tells me that they are expecting snow.  It has not been a good spring here or there.

clematisWe had another fine day today but with a strong and chilly wind still very much in evidence.  I spent most of the day keeping out of the wind.  Dropscone helped me by dropping in for coffee and he was rewarded with several sticks of rhubarb of which is fond.

When he left, I girded up my loins and went outside to mow all three lawns.  I had just finished when I was visited by Mike Tinker, his son -in-law, Lorne and two of his grandchildren.  Sara and William immediately headed for the pond and were delighted to be able to surprise a frog while Mike, Lorne and I considered the state of the world in general and the lawns in particular.  I was bemoaning the fact that I no longer have the capacity to properly spike the lawn when Lorne offered to come down and spike it for me in the autumn.   It would be wonderful if he did.  Having a lawn spiked by someone called Lorne would be a clear case of nominative determination (and jolly useful too).

When they left, I had a wander round the garden.

lithodoraIn spite of things being very backward because of the cool spring, there is colour be seen and my currant favourite is this lithodora.  The blue flowers seem to float above the dark green foliage.

Brasher colours are to be seen too.

king cups and hyacinthSadly a couple of very cold mornings a week or so ago have put paid to two of our azaleas and killed off every bud.

azalea and rhodieSome have survived though and a rhododendron is just about to burst into flames.

After lunch, I spent a little time watching the bird feeders.

goldfinch

A goldfinch is thoroughly disgusted by another goldfinch doing acrobatic tricks with a siskin by perching on its beak.

goldfinches

Two calmer goldfinches itting for their portraits

Then Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Canonbie, where she had one or two items entered in a WRI competition and I went for a walk.  I was looking to see if the bluebells had improved at all but there were many other things to look at on the way.

Murtholm trees

The trees along the Murtholm fields.

swallows

Swallows flitting up the Esk. It is amazing what a difference a slight turn of the camera makes to the light.

The bluebells, when I got to them, were good but not great…

bluebellsbluebells…and I thought that the walk along the main road to get to them was just as rewarding visually.

A7I walked back over Skippers Bridge and took the obligatory picture.  This time, I looked downstream.

The EskAnd then I climbed up a path to the old railway line above the river.  There is a handy rail for the convenience of elderly walkers.

Skippers pathI took the path from the railway up towards the Round House…

Path to Round House…and then strolled back down the hill into the town.  Beside the track, I saw the first broom flower that I have seen this year. It was about to open.

broomA few yards further on, I saw two that had opened.

broomFurther on still, I had another look at the flowering nettle which I have photographed before without doing it justice.  This is one of those tiny flowers that you might well pass by without noticing it, if you hadn’t had your eyes opened by walking around with a camera.  I find it hard to capture yellow flowers well but this was my best effort yet.

nettleI went down to the river in the hope of seeing some interesting water birds on my way home but had to make do with some flowers beside the water.

cornflower and pinkbellWhite bluebells are quite common but I don’t think that I have seen a pink one before.

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal had returned and I was able to eat a couple of slices of her third-prize winning tea loaf with my refreshing cuppa.  It was delicious.  The first and second prizewinners must have been really good stuff.  I was also pleased to see a bee hard at work among the apple blossom.

bee in apple blossomIn the evening, I went off by myself to the Buccleuch Centre to hear a band called Elbow Jane play.  There was much to admire about them; their sound level was very reasonable, the bass and drum players were efficient and discreet and the three front men were all good musicians.  On the other side of the coin, their set went on too long, and their singing was a bit relentless so in the end it rather felt as though you had been shouted at for two hours.  As well as their own songs, they covered Paul Simon, The Beatles, Credence Clearwater Revival and Joni Mitchell which gives a good indication of their influences and although it is music that I like, they never really managed to bring an involuntary smile to my face or get my toe tapping for long.  Still, a live concert 300 metres from your front door is always a bonus and I enjoyed myself.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.  The picture shows just how well balanced these birds are in the air while their wings are flapping furiously.

flying goldfinch

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