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Posts Tagged ‘chives’

Today’s guest picture comes from Bruce’s recent trip to the central belt of Scotland.  He found a bit of a wall there that wasn’t built by Hadrian.

Antonine wall

There was torrential rain to the south of us today, leading to serious flooding in England but it was warm and dry here when I got up.  There was no sign of any sun though as I walked down the riverside path towards the bottom of the town.

eskside path

Sue, a very thoughtful blog reader, had realised that I was likely to be starved of both scones and coffee-time conversation in the absence of Mrs Tootlepedal, Dropscone and Sandy, so she had invited me to visit for coffee with the added inducement of a probable nuthatch sighting at her bird feeder.

My route took me past the tall hedge that has been grown to disguise the fact that the sewage works for the town lurks behind it.  It is a hedge chock full of interest.

sewage works flowers

And the river bank itself was quite colourful too.

riverside flowers

When I got to Sue’s, I was enthusiastically welcomed by her three dogs and after they had calmed down, she took me for a tour of her garden.

She keeps hens and ducks as well as dogs (and cats).

Sue's hens

Her garden is mostly built on a broad shelf in the hillside which used to carry the railway line to Langholm.  Now it is a woodland glade with a waterfall….

Sue's waterfall

…views through the trees of more trees across the river…

Sue's view

…with fruits and fungi on every side…

Sue's sloe and fungus

…and more hens…

Sue's chicken

…and a very peaceful air about it.

Sue's garden

It is a garden that will have interest in all four seasons.

After the garden tour, we went in to a busy house where joiners and a plasterer were hard at work on improvements.

Sue provided us all with coffee and instead of scones, I was offered two very tasty Bakewell slices.  These were a very acceptable accompaniment to a good cup of coffee.

Sue has a very well stocked bird table outside her window, with ordinary bird seeds, nyger seed, fat balls and peanuts.  In spite of a good deal of bustle from the work force, the birds were not slow to come to the feeder.

Sparrows were the most frequent visitors…

Sue's sparrow

…and a lone jackdaw dropped in…

Sue's jackdaw

…but it wasn’t long before the promised nuthatch appeared and adopted a characteristic nuthatch pose…

Sue's nuthatch 1

…before getting down to the serious business of eating peanuts.

Sue's nuthatch 2

A blue tit looked on from a neighbouring tree.

Sue's bluetit

As we chatted, another nuthatch, or perhaps the same one again, appeared and tried a different set of nuts.

Sue's nuthatch 3

I was thoroughly entertained by both Sue and the birds but in the end, I left to get home before the rain reached Langholm.

On my way back along the river bank, I came upon these two men with a drilling rig.

drilling for oil Landsend

They are not drilling for oil.  They told me that they were going 10 metres down into the rock as part of the background work for a new flood prevention scheme for the town.

As I walked further along the river, I came across two goosanders.  They sometimes looked one way and sometimes, the other…

two goosanders

…but mostly they looked under the surface of the water.  There must have been good feeding down there because they were both very busy and quite often all I saw of them was a splash as they disappeared.

diving goosander

When I got back home, I had time for a quick look round the garden…

foxglove and creeper

…where I was surprised to find quite a few butterflies and other insects about, in spite of the increasingly grey weather.

four insects

I had my lunch and then the promised rains arrived.  It is still raining as I write this some hours later.  I decided to ignore the outside world for the afternoon and put in time entering the newspaper data into the Archive group database, and practising some flute pieces and singing.

When I did look out of the window, the outside world ignored me.

robin turning back

In the evening, I had another go at making a tarte tatin.  This was not so successful as the last effort with Mrs Tootlepedal’s help but it turned out to be still quite eatable so I ate some of it.

One forecast says that it might stop raining overnight, but that it will start raining again tomorrow.  Another says that it will stop raining overnight and won’t start again tomorrow.  We shall see.  I know which forecast I prefer.

The flying bird of the day is one of the goosanders.  It got fed up with swimming and took to the air.

flying goosander

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Today’s guest picture is another from Bruce’s stay in Northumberland and shows a colourful view from the bridge over the River Breamish which appeared in a previous post.

river breamish view

The strong winds of yesterday continued overnight and were still blowing this morning so I was happy to stay in and welcome Dropscone for a cup of coffee though I had time to go out into the garden and see what hadn’t been blown over first.

icelandic poppy June

Dropscone arrived with a story to tell.  Thanks to an accident when he was piloting a golf buggy while he was refereeing at a big golf event on the east coast last week, he had had to have an involuntary visit to hospital over the weekend.   He was interested to discover that he was not the only person in his ward to have come off worse in a contest with a golf buggy as another patient had also lost an argument with one.  Dangerous things these golf buggies.

Luckily for me, this had in no way diminished his ability to turn out tasty scones and as he had had to drink very indifferent coffee during his stay in hospital, we were both pleased to see each other.  He was in very cheery form but still has to go back for a check up tomorrow to see that he hasn’t suffered any lasting harm.

Just as we finished our coffee, an ace reporter from our local paper appeared to ask us questions about the little white electric thingy as the paper is doing a feature on ‘green’ issues.

When she had left, I walked round the garden again.

The early lupins are nearly at their peak

luopins nearly there

…while others are just coming out.

close up lupin

In the vegetable garden the chives thrive…

chives looking good

…and the peas progress behind their anti sparrow fortifications.

pea fortress working

The wind and the rain have taken a toll on the azaleas and there are many more petals lying in heaps on the ground than on the bushes.

fallen azalea petals

I went in to make soup for lunch and watch the birds.  The soup kept me busy but there was very little bird action.  The artificial tree was home to three hopeful young sparrows…

three young sparrows

…who were waiting for father to come back with some food…

adult sparrow

…but both adult and children got fed up and flew off and no other birds came to take their place.

After lunch, I decided that my need for a bike ride was greater than my dislike of pedalling in 30 mph winds so I got my bike out and went for ride.  I was helped in this decision by the appearance of some sun, so at least it was reasonably warm even if it was very hard work pedalling into the brisk breeze.

The sun brought out the colours of the red campion and wild geraniums in the verge as I cycled up the hill out of town.

wildflowers

…and everything was cheerfully green under blue skies.

I skulked about in the shelter of the Wauchope valley and only went four miles before turning back to get a whoosh home with the strong wind behind me.   I was so encouraged by the pleasure of downwind cycling that I went back up the road  and gave myself a little diversion to enjoy the views.

green view from Bloch road

The local estate has been busy selling land to forestry companies so that there is a danger that all our hills may be covered by blanket forests like the one in this view but this particular farm has been given a temporary reprieve.

looking to cleuchfoot

I cycled a little further up the road on my second lap but as I started to climb up the hill at Callister, I found myself being blown dangerously about by the strong wind so I abandoned thoughts of going to the top of the hill and turned for home after five miles.

Once more, I experienced the joy of downhill, downwind cycling.  Pedalling along a flat stretch at 25 miles an hour makes an old man feel young again, at least for a moment or two until he has to clutch nervously at the brakes as a sharp corner comes up.

I did stop to take a picture of one of my favourite views, not least because it is all downhill to home from here and on this occasion, wafted by a favouring gale, the three and a bit miles back to Langholm took me ten minutes…

view from above Wauchope schoolhouse

…not including the brief stop for a final picture of a very green corner.

green corner

When I got back to Langholm I was seized with decimal madness and cycled once round the New Town to bring my distance up to a neat 20 miles, a very reasonable distance for such a windy day in my view.

Since the sun was still shining, I took the opportunity to mow the middle lawn and then give it a neat edge with the strimmer.  If it hadn’t been so windy, I might have sat down on the new bench and admired my handiwork but instead I went in and hoped to see some birds.

Once again, there weren’t many to watch.  It is hard to say whether this was because of the strong winds or because the jackdaws have frightened them away.

jackdaw on peanuts

A lone redpoll did appear and after perching anxiously on the sunflower stalk…

redpoll on stalk

…it spent a little time on the seed feeder..

redpoll on feeder

…but it was the only small bird that I saw.

I just had time for another look at the garden, where I saw these clematis seed heads…

clematis seed head

…and a quizzical blackbird…

blackbird sideways look

…before my flute pupil Luke came.

We had another good session and it is good to see steady progress being made.

When he left, I sieved a little compost and mowed the drying green before we had our tea.

In the absence of any opportunity to take a flying bird of the day picture, the quizzical blackbird kindly consented to have its photograph taken to act as standing bird of the day.

full blackbird portrait

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Susan, who while having a cup of coffee with my sister Mary beside the canal at King’s Place, was entertained by two swans.

King's Place Swans

We spent a lot of the day waiting for it to rain.  It is very rare to find Mrs Tootlepedal roaming the garden saying, “Come on, rain!”  Usually she is to be found indoors looking out of the window saying, “Please stop raining.”  It has been a very unusual spell of weather.

We started the morning by going to the producers’ market at the Buccleuch Centre.  It was enhanced by people selling plants today and while I bought fish and meat, Mrs Tootlepedal bought a meconopsis and two geums.

Then we went home and waited for the promised rain.  We put in a lot of work while we were waiting.  Mrs Tootlepedal did planting out of her purchases and other seedlings from the greenhouse, some weeding and endless improvements to the soil.  I mowed the middle lawn and edged it too.  Then  I sieved some compost….

sieved compost

…which finally cleared out Bin D.  Then, in an exciting development, I shifted the material in Bin C into Bin D.  I must say that the weather has been kind to the compost and it doesn’t look as though I will have to wait long before starting to sieve the new intake.

Compost Bins C and D

I also took time off from these labours to wander around taking pictures.

We are not short of strong colours…

azaleas and rhodie

aquilegia

icelandic poppy

…but there are more delicate shades to be seen too.

lupin

chives

astrantia

I really feel grateful to my camera for making me look closely at flowers that might only have merited a swift glance from me not so long ago.  I would never have realised how intricate a lupin flower is and how beautiful an astrantia can be….and a bunch of chives would just have been a bunch of chives and not a carpet of jewels.

I stepped out of the front gate and went round to the dam.  A party of sparrows was enjoying a swimming outing.

sparrows on dam

A second oriental poppy has come out.  It is hard to beat for sheer impact on the eye.

oriental poppy

At the corner of the house, a fuchsia has been flowering for many years.  It got a bit sick last year and I wondered if it had come to the end of the road.  However, although it is not looking fully fit, it has got a lot of flowers on it once again.

Fuchsia

We think the the blackbirds might be starting a second family as they seem to be busy.

blackbirds

The clematis round the back door is at its peak…

back door clematis

…but splendid as it is, I am tending to appreciate the more modest front door clematis even more.

front door clematis

We are getting into the rose season and the Rosa Moyesii has been joined by Roseraie de l’Hay, newly purchased this year by the head gardener.

Rosa Moyesii and Roseraie de l'Hay

From time to time, I needed a quiet sit on the new bench and this gave me a chance to consider the curiosities of perspective.

P1100811

The green patch in the foreground on the lawn has been created by Mrs Tootlepedal who who is employing little by little stealth fertilising tactics behind my  back.

The rain finally arrived in the afternoon, starting so weakly that we thought that it would come to nothing.  But as time went by, the intensity increased and by tea time, we were enjoying exactly the steady light watering that we would have ordered.  The forecast says that it should rain gently for most of tonight and tomorrow and then we should return to fine dry weather.  The garden will be most grateful if this is true.

The rain will do no harm at all to the fruit and veg which has been enjoying the warmth..

apple, blackcurrant, gooseberry and peas

The blackcurrants are looking very perky and Mrs Tootlepedal’s pea fortress has successfully kept the sparrows at bay.  The apples are looking good and the gooseberry hasn’t got the sawfly yet.  What could possibly go wrong?

While it was just gently drizzling, I went upstairs and took some general views of the garden as I know some readers like to see these as the seasons change.  I took the three ‘rooms’ from left to right.

Front lawn from above

Left: The front garden, home to the azaleas

Middle lawn from above

Centre: The middle garden with the new bench

Veg garden from above

Right: The vegetable garden looking busy.

Because the plum tree obscures some of the middle garden, I took a picture of the hedge that divides the two rooms from a different angle.  Ally’s Allium Alley runs along behind the back hedge past the rhododendrons.

Azaleas from above

And I looked down on the little flower garden round the chimney pot where the bird feeder is.

 

sundial garden from above

The sharp eyed will be able to spot the new bright red geum that Mrs Tootlepedal bought this morning just in front of the green box ball.

This is a good time of year.

We both had to spend some time looking at the songs for the summer concert of the Carlisle Community Choir which takes place tomorrow.  This will be the final time that we will be taken by our excellent conductor Andrew, who is moving on. As a farewell gift, he is making us do four of the songs from memory. …with gratuitous clapping in two of them.

I did find time to catch a flying bird of the day but as the light wasn’t very good by the time that I came indoors and set the camera up, it is a rather fuzzy siksin.

flying siskin

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew and shows Great Malvern Priory.  He tells me that when Henry VIII’s men came to sell off Great Malvern Priory, they accepted £20 from the parish for the Priory church (after removing the lead from the roof!)

Great Malvern Priory

We had one of those days which the weather gods must have found very amusing.

In the morning, when I was free to go for a walk and see nuthatches and wonderful wild flowers, it rained persistently.  The rain stopped as we were having lunch and then the day cleared up very nicely just as we had to head off for Carlisle for our weekly choir practice.

It was still very nice when we got back but by that time the light had faded and I was too tired to make any good use of a lovely evening.

The reason that we were both tired was that after whizzing up to Glasgow on the main line (in 90 minutes) late yesterday afternoon and enjoying a wonderful performance of Verdi’s requiem by the Bearsden choir (of well over a hundred singers) and the Orchestra of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland with top quality soloists under the direction of our choir conductor Andrew Nunn, we then had to catch a very slow train back to Carlisle.

Nothing condescends to go down the main line on a Saturday night so we found ourselves on a two coach local train which trundled through the wilds of Ayrshire and Dumfriesshire at a very sedate pace (150 minutes) and in the end, we got back home at half past one in the morning.

The train was packed with young and youngish people returning home after a good night out in the city and a flavour of the journey can be gathered by the fact at one time, in the midst of some serious unrest, the nice lady sitting next to me leant over and said, “You’ll be all right dear, I’m a trained martial arts instructor.”

This was in fact, very reassuring.

Still it all passed the time well and we got home safely.

So as far as today went, I never got further than the far end of the garden with my camera.

The Japanese azalea is coming out.  It is a wonderful colour.

Japanese azalea

The last of the other azaleas is about to join the party too.

azalea

Geraniums are popping up all over the place but my current two favourites are these ones.

geraniums

I like the detailed work that the designer has put into these flowers.

What is better that one Camassia?  Three Camassias of course…..

camassias

…though I see that from a photographer’s point of view, these are one of those annoying plants that start dying at the bottom before they are finished at the top.  This is definitely one of those cases when you can’t have everything.

It fell to us to pick up Andrew, our conductor and Gillian, our accompanist  from the station in Carlisle today.  They come down from  Glasgow every week for our practice and I must say, Andrew’s energy seems inexhaustible and far from being a mere shadow of himself after last night’s concert, he was in excellent form and put our choir through our paces without flagging.

We are very fortunate to have the services of such an accomplished musician (even if he does give the tenors a hard time).

After the practice, we dropped Andrew and Gillian off at the station and then made our way home.

I had prepared a lamb stew in the morning while Mrs Tootlepedal sang with the church choir and in a moment of supreme efficiency, I had not only put the stew into the slow cooker but I had also turned the slow cooker on  so this week we were able to enjoy a hot meal when we got in.

I had time for a last walk round the garden before we ate.

An aquilegia turned its head and winked at me as I went past.

aquilegia

Our tree peony is thriving but its flowers are deeply and darkly buried among the leaves….

tree peony

…and need a helping hand if they are to be seen.

tree peony

In the vegetable garden the chives are flowering….

chives

…and the rosemary continues to do very well.

rosemary

With a busy day ahead tomorrow, it seems like a good night for an early bed.

No flying bird of the day today but a young sparrow stands in as ‘bathing bird’ of the day.

sparrow in puddle

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Today’s guest picture is something Dropscone saw in the moat when he was visiting Hever Castle  last week.  He is pretty sure that it is a bird.

goose

It was a miserable soggy, grey and windy day in the morning and I wisely found things to do indoors.  With seven songs to have off by heart for our Carlisle concert, any time spent going through them is valuable so it wasn’t a wasted morning.

I even shifted more old photos off my computer onto an external drive which is good in two ways.  It makes my computer run a bit faster and it puts them in a safe place in case of computer disaster.

It wasn’t raining in the afternoon so I went out into the garden.   There is a lot to see there even on a rotten day.

The Icelandic poppies were able to hold up their heads today but I had to hold on to the stalk of this one to stop it swaying in the wind for long enough to get a picture of it.

icelandic poppy

The vegetable garden is coming on a bit each day.

Blackcurrants, strawberries and gooseberry all look as though they will be fruitful.

soft fruit

Chives….

chives

…and potatoes are progressing well too.

potatoes

Mrs Tootlepedal is busy constructing a pea fortress against the marauding sparrows and I hope to have a picture of that when she has completed the edifice.

From the vegetable garden, I walked along the back path and found plenty to enjoy there too.

colourful corner

Definitely a colourful corner

rhododendron

The wow factor

I read in an informative blog that trilliums have three of everything and when I looked, this turned out to be true…..

trillium

…although our two little plants are sadly quite a bit worse for wear.

Moving onto the front lawn, I was surrounded by azaleas.  We transplanted this yellow one last autumn and Mrs Tootlepedal cut it back quite severely.  As it is an old plant, we wondered whether the move and the haircut might be too much for it but we need not have worried.  It is thriving in its new place.

azalea (3)

Another one was moved and placed beside it and it too is doing well.

azalea (2)

If I can find a sunny day, I will try to get a pretty picture of the lawn surrounded by azaleas.  This is the third development of spring after the daffodils and tulips.

I went onward, out of the front gate and round the back of the house where I could enjoy the first of the potentillas along the back wall.

potentilla

There are more to come out and they will last for months.

I went back into the garden and took a picture of two of the remaining tulips.

potentilla

The wind and the rain have knocked a lot of petals to the ground and there was quite a bit of tulip dead heading to do.

I had to leave the garden then and go off up to the health centre where I had a very minor operation on the side of my neck .  This left me with a few stitches covered in a theatrical sticking plaster so I look not unlike Frankenstein’s monster but in a modest way.

The whole affair was quick and painless and I was quite able to mow the greenhouse grass when I got back.  The weather had improved a  bit by this time but I thought it was sensible not to go for a pedal or a walk so I contented myself with a few more flower pictures.

Mrs Tootlepedal pointed out a striking blue flower in the back border I had noticed it before but I had passed it by, thinking that it was just another bluebell.  It was in fact a camassia…

camassia

…and well worth a proper look.

There are Welsh poppies popping up all over the place…

welsh poppy

…and I have put one beside a white potentilla in the frame below.

welsh poppy potentilla

The last flower of the day is a nectaroscordum, another flower that blushes unseen…

nectaroscordum

…unless you lie on your back and look up.

)

Or hold your camera facing upwards and hope for the best.

The rhubarb was badly affected by the lack  of rain but I managed to find enough stems to pull to have rhubarb and custard for pudding at our evening meal and that made a dull day end on a brighter note.

The flower of the day is one of our neighbour Liz’s plants, a really stunning azalea on the banks of the dam…

azalea

…and a singing blackbird on our front hedge is the bird of the day.

blackbird

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