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Posts Tagged ‘compost’

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 daughter Annie.  She would like to take all the credit for this fine hanging basket in her garden but has to admit that she purchased it from B&Q.

Annie's hanging basket

The clocks went back an hour in the middle of the night so in theory, I could have enjoyed an extra hour in bed in the morning.  Things didn’t work out like that though.  I had resolved to make good use of the extra hour of light in the morning by getting up early and going for a cycle ride before breakfast.  Much to my satisfaction and Mrs Tootlepedal’s outright astonishment, I did just that.

I didn’t quite get up as early as I hoped but I was still out before Mrs Tootlepedal was awake and I completed my twenty mile round trip to Canonbie before she had gone off to sing in the church choir.

It was grey and the roads were damp but with the temperature just below 50F and with very light winds, it made a good start to the dark months.

It was too gloomy for pictures so I had to wait until I was home before I got a camera out.

The feeder was busy…

goldfinches

..until a jackdaw arrived and scared everyone off.

jackdaw

With the fat ball feeder enclosed in a cage and the seed feeder too finicky for its big feet, it didn’t stay long though and the greenfinches, chaffinches and sparrows were soon heading back to the feeder.

sparrow, greenfinch and chaffinch

Mrs Tootlepedal came back from church and after a cup of coffee, set about clearing the dahlias from the second of the flower beds along the drive so that she could plant more tulips.

I spent a little time practising songs for our Carlisle choir and then went out into the garden too.  I did some shredding of defunct dahlias, some sieving of serviceable compost and some wandering about with a camera.

anemone, dahlia, daisy and poppy

In the white corner: anemone, dahlia, daisy and poppy

sabius, dahlia, poppy and poppy

In the red corner: scabius, dahlia, poppy and poppy

marigold and nasturtium

In the orange corner: marigolds and nasturtium (showing that with the right disguise even a gas meter cover can look quite good)

I have sieved all the compost in Bin D and Mrs Tootlepedal tells that the rough compost that is left can easily be used for a winter mulch so it will soon be time to start the process of turning the bins again.

I made a pan of very plain and dull soup for my lunch and ate it with some freshly made bread and two varieties of cheese, which mitigated the dullness a bit.

After lunch, there was time for a little more gardening and bird watching.

chaffinch and greenfinch

Some displayed neat flying skills near the feeder

goldfinches in plum tree

Others gathered in the plum tree

Greenfinches played the tough guy.

greenfinches

A top grade snarling competition.

greenfinches

Perch bagging

Soon the new flower bed was planted and raked.

flower bed

Mrs Tootlepedal was happy.

There was no time for a walk today as we had to set off for Carlisle for our regular Sunday Carlisle Community Choir practice.

Our excellent conductor was unable to come today but he had sent down a very adequate substitute and we had a useful and hard working session.  We were in full Christmas mode as our next engagement will be our Christmas concert.  Even though I had practised earlier in the day, the many mistakes that I managed to make showed that it is by no means too early to start work on the concert pieces.

They may well write on my gravestone, “More practice required,” and they will be right.

Now that the clocks have gone back, it was fully dark when we drove home and so there were no more chances to take pictures.

I had another plate of the dull soup for my tea in the hope that some resting time in the pan and another few minutes cooking might have enlivened it….but it hadn’t.  Luckily there was still good bread and cheese to go with it.  I followed it up with some stewed apples and custard.  I mistakenly thought that my custard skills were up to being able to dispense with any accurate measuring of quantities and ended up eating apples and concrete.  It has not been my finest cooking day.

The flower of the day is one of the surviving dahlias….

dahlia

…and the flying bird is a chaffinch.

chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture shows a bridge across the River Rye in Yorkshire which my brother visited on a very hot day in an attempt to avoid the bank holiday crowds.

River Rye bridge

We enjoyed another dry day today here although the lightest of drizzle every now and again made sure that we didn’t take it for granted.   It was grey and windy and I was impressed that our neighbour Ken was ready to go off on a hilly 40 mile bike ride.

Ken and bike

I had decided against a ride in the morning in favour of doing some serious work.

I won’t have to tell the knowledgeable readers of this blog that the Onegesias of the title was a trusted lieutenant of Atilla the Hun.  It was my role today to act as Onegesias to Atilla the Gardener and remove a hosta that had outlived its place in the garden.

After some instruction, I got going and fairly soon the hosta leaves were on the shredding pile, the roots were laid out for drying and earth removal and a very satisfactory patch of bare ground was ready for new planting.

hosta removal

Fired up by this rare example of being useful, I set about the compost bins and shifted the contents of Bin B into the empty Bin C.   I took a break to have a cup of coffee and then finished the job.  The compost in Bin B was giving off a gentle heat and had rotted down well.

Mrs Tootlepedal was busy meanwhile tidying up our utility room and then washing all the assorted bits of smelly cycling gear and woolly hats that turned up under things.

While she had a quick burst on her bike to nowhere upstairs, I made potato latkes (using polenta) for lunch and then we went back outside into the garden.

With the bit fully between my teeth, I set about shifting the contents of Bin A into Bin B to complete the whole compost cycle.

compost bins

Bin A restarted, Bin B full and covered, Bin C looking promising.

My usual assistant put in an appearance.

robin

It is always good to have a helping hand.

Then I wandered around the garden.

There were no new flowers to see but the honeysuckle, of which I have been trying to get a good shot for ages, seemed to be in a cooperative mood today.

honeysuckle

It has lasted a long time this year

Mrs Tootlepedal has three sorts of crocsomia in the garden.  She has dug out a lot of the standard red ones but left these two.

crocosmia

The Michaelmas daisies are taking over from the cornflowers in the bed beside the drying green but the cornflowers have managed to hang on at the back.

Michaelmas daisies and cornflowers

While I was in full gardening mode, I mowed the drying green, the greenhouse grass and the middle and front lawns.  Thanks to the recent dry weather, I was able to get over the ground at a good rate and didn’t need to use a box which makes the task a lot easier.

Ken had got round his bike run safely and he and Liz came over for a cup of tea and a brownie after I had finished the lawns.  The brownie had been freshly made by Mrs Tootlepedal who had discovered a forgotten packet of Brownie Cake Mix in a cupboard while putting something else away.

We were glad that she had found the packet as the brownies went down very well with a cup of tea after a hard day’s work/pedal.

I thought about a walk after the tea had been drunk but the light was poor and the wind was still  brisk so I settled for a last look at the garden.

The yellow crocosmias are mixed with poppies on both sides of the path at the end of the front lawn…

Lawn

…and behind them, a Fuchsia is dripping with flowers.

Fuchsia

It is due to move under the remodelling plans for next year so we hope that it survives.

A lone campanula was to be seen near the front door.

campanula

By this time, I was quite ready to have a sit down so I sat down and printed out a couple more pictures for the forthcoming flower show competition.

Although I may find myself being a bit creaky tomorrow, I was really pleased to have been able to do so much work (by my standards) in the garden today.  For some reason, my joints are much better than they been for ages and I intend to make the most of it while this happy state lasts.

No flying bird of the day today thanks to the poor light but a cheerful dahlia of the day to brighten things up.

dahlia

As a footnote, Mrs Tootlepedal took down her sweet pea cage today and found this tall plant  growing up the back of the cage.  She has tied it to the telegraph pole.  It is a mystery to her and she would be interested to know if anyone can suggest what it might be.strange plant

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She visited  the Tate Modern Art Gallery’s  new Switch House yesterday and thought that I might prefer the view from the window to the exhibits.

Tate Modern Switch House 08.07.16 010

I had a rather disturbed night, being woken by the sound of pounding rain accompanied by thunder and lightning.  As a result I was more than happy to have nothing on my schedule for the day more arduous than nibbling on Dropscone’s traditional Friday treacle scones with our coffee.

I had a look out of the door before he came and it was still raining lightly but it soon stopped and I went out to see how the flowers had fared.

To my surprise, they were soggy but unbowed.

dahlia, rose and poppy

The birds were out in force soon too and I had to fill the feeder twice during the day.

busy feeder

After coffee, I mowed the middle lawn.  It had dried out remarkably quickly after the overnight rain and gave me no trouble.

When I had finished, I walked round the garden.

Euphorbias

Euphorbias are a source of constant interest to me.

On the edible side of things, Mrs Tootlepedal’s turnips are very good and taste absolutely delicious and the blackcurrants are very nearly ready for picking.

blackcurrants and turnips

After lunch in an exciting development, I went out and finished sieving the compost in Bin D.  Mrs Tootlepedal uses the finished product when she is planting out her annuals.  As Bin D was now empty, I started the job of transferring the compost from Bin C into it.

compost

The sieved compost ready for use and Bin C half emptied into Bin D

My joints were a bit creaky after yesterday’s bike ride so I was happy to stop half way through the transfer and use the second half  of the latest stage of the Tour de France as my siesta.  The tour this year has been very good value and today’s stage was a gripper.

After the stage was over, I went out for a walk.  The plants along the dam at the back of the house are looking good and the first crocosmia of the year has come out to join the potentillas.

crocosmia and potentilla

I went down to the suspension bridge and my eye was caught by several splashes of colour on the gravel banks between the Wauchope and the Esk.

I thought one of the splashes was a clump of orchids but it didn’t seem likely when I went down for a closer look.  I would welcome a suggestion as to what this  might be.

Pink flower by river

Nearby was a brilliant flash of yellow.  Once again, I have no idea what it is.

yellow flower by river

Both plants are growing in gravel which the river will cover when the water gets high.

I walked along to the Esk until I came to the carved owl in Mary Street….

Carved owl

…and chatted to Ian, the owner of the tree stump from which it has been fashioned.  There is still quite a bit of work for Robin, the artist, to do – beak, eyes and claws and so on and the decoration of the base….

Carved owl

…which is in book form representing the bible is still to be completed.

The proud owner told me that he thinks that the carving is greatly enhanced by its position on the bank of the river and on a day like today, I couldn’t argue with that.

Carved owl

I crossed the Town Bridge and walked down to the Ewes Water keeping an eye out for oyster catchers.  I had seen one flying down the Esk and there was another at the meeting of the waters without a leg to stand on.

oyster catchers

I walked across the Castleholm and over the Jubilee Bridge and there was no shortage of things to look at as I went along.

tree fruits

Trees had things hanging from them

hoverfly

Flowers had insects on them

berries and flower

Berries on bushes and a tiny flower probably only 1 cm across

Self heal and a nettle

Self heal (thanks for those who told me the right name for this) and a nettle

bracket fungus

A large bracket fungus high in a tree near the nuthatch nest

Mrs Tootlepedal had told me of a forest of fungus growing on a pile of vegetable matter on the neglected site of an old mill so I finished my walk by going to check her story.  She was quite right of course.

fungus at Ford Mill

I got home in time to watch Andy Murray make short work of the final set of his semi final at Wimbledon and this rounded off a gentle and restorative day for me.

The flower of the day is not a flower at all but a very pretty patch of pale grass beside the Ewes water above the Sawmill Brig.  I don’t know whether it was a trick of the light but I don’t think that I have noticed grass of quite this colour before.

Grass beside Ewes water

The flying bird of the day is an obliging Kilngreen gull.

blackheaded gull

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Today’s guest picture comes from my friend Bruce.  He noticed this fine work-in-progress  by a local artist on the banks of the Esk.

carved owl

I had birds, but not owls, on my mind when I woke up as I had volunteered to fill the moorland feeders in place of the regular fillers for Wednesdays who have gone on holiday.  I was going to bicycle up but as I felt rather creaky after yesterday’s hilly ride, I cheated and took the car instead.

Once there, I filled the feeders and sat in the hide for a happy hour of bird watching.

There were no unusual visitors but the usual suspects were entertainment enough.

Greater spotted woodpeckers came to feed all through the time that I was there.

woodpecker

woodpecker

They were joined by a lot of small birds.

blue tit

A young blue tit

great tit

A young great tit

There were a great many blackbirds about.

blackbird

Some of them were feeding young but although I could hear them I couldn’t see them as they were up in the trees to the side.

I spotted a robin which perched for a moment before disappearing.

robin

And a jay arrived and proceeded to scattered my carefully put out seed in all directions.

jay

I had a look around when I left and was pleased to see a fine crop of orchids near the hide.

orchids

On my way down, I stopped to look at the chicken-in-the-forest fungus on the oak tree which Sandy and I had noticed before.  My interest was to see if the oak tree looked poorly as the fungus should be an indicator of illness in the host.  The leaves did look a bit spotty.

chicken in the forest fungus

It was one of those days when it was always threatening to rain so when I got home, I mowed  the front lawn while the going was good.

We watched a programme about the Hampton Court Flower Show on the telly last night and one of the presenters visited the Rose Garden tent.  She picked out a couple of good roses to have in your garden and I am happy to say that Mrs Tootlepedal is well ahead of the game and has them here already.

Bobbie James and Crown Princess Margareta

Bobbie James and Crown Princess Margareta

We had a lot of blackbirds in our garden too today.

young blackbirds

They were old enough to feed themselves.

Mrs Tootlepedal has been busy in the garden and that always means a lot of stuff to dispose of so we were intending to get the petrol shredder out and get rid of the pile in one go after lunch.  Before we could start though, it started to rain and so we retired indoors and enjoyed a stage of the Tour de France.  When it finished, the rain obligingly stopped too so we got the shredder out and set to work.

The plant material had got so soggy in the rain that after we were half way through it, the shredder clogged up and we stopped to clear it out.    We took the hint and postponed the other half until a drier day.

Mrs Tootlepedal took the opportunity to point out a new dahlia to me.  It is one of her secret plants, blooming in seclusion behind several others.

dahlia

The shredding pause left us handily placed to watch the struggles (eventually successful) of Andy Murray at Wimbledon.   They lasted so long that we had no time to do anything else.  I was not unhappy with this.

The flower of the day is my favourite among the Sweet Williams….

Sweet William

…and the flying bird of the day is one of our resident siskins.

siskins

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture shows you-know-who enjoying a chocolate cake.  It was sent to me by her proud father.

Matilda

The day didn’t start quite as I had planned.  Instead of leaping up and cycling into the middle distance, I staggered up, had breakfast and retired back to bed to read a magazine for an hour or so.

When I finally got up, I was just in time to help Mrs Tootlepedal.  We had accumulated a very large pile of clippings from the front hedge and the two smaller hedges in the garden which she had clipped.  We have a small electric shredder which is usually quite adequate for our needs but this pile would have meant a very long time standing and feeding the little machine.  Hidden away in the garage, we have a large petrol driven shredder which we stopped using years ago basically because it was very noisy and smelly.  But needs must so it saw the light of day again.

petrol shredder

Mrs Tootlepedal was very pessimistic about the chances of it starting after being inactive for so long but much to our surprise, it started easily and the large pile of hedge clippings  were turned into usable  composting material in a quarter of an hour.

After the machine had been stowed away, I had a look round the garden.

peonies

Peonies are bursting out all over. They look gorgeous seen from the side….

peonies

….and from above.

New roses are appearing every day.

roses

The Queen of Denmark and Goldfinch

There were bees on all sides.

bees

Brilliant clusters of flowers.

sweet william and onion

Sweet William and what Mrs Tootlepedal describes as ‘another onion thingy’

I like these two quite a lot….

lupin and foxglove

…but not as much as I like the astrantia.

astrantia

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal expressed a wish for a cycle ride somewhere new and as we have cycled round pretty well every road in the vicinity over the years, we packed the bikes in the car and drove thirty miles north and parked the car at the visitor centre at Harestanes.

Mrs Tootlepedal suggested that we should cycle to the village of Roxburgh about 6 miles away and make a circular route by coming back past the Waterloo Monument.

This turned out to be a very good plan indeed. The weather was perfect for cycling, the roads were quiet and well surfaced and there was something interesting to look round every corner.

We saw a huge fungus at Nisbet….

fungus

…the Cheviot Hills in the distance…

Cheviots

…white campion and strikingly blue comfrey in the verges…

white campion comfrey

…hares chasing each other through the fields…

hares

…a picturesque lochan complete with many waterfowl…

lochan at Mounteviot…and if we had stopped for every photo opportunity, we would never have got round the thirteen and a half miles at all.

The roads were varied and the views often spectacular both to north and south.

Mrs Tootlepedal was very interested in visiting Roxburgh, as the original town was once a thriving market community but it has been written out of history and can no longer be seen.  She was hoping for signs of ruins but rather disappointingly for her, it turns out that the name has been passed on to the little village that we visited today and it is two miles away from the site of the ancient town.

I was more excited by the modern village…

Roxburgh

…which had an ancient ruin but more interestingly had the remains of two substantial railway bridges which once crossed the road which we use to enter the village.

It turns out that Roxburgh was a junction where the branch line from Jedburgh met the line from Kelso to St Boswells.  As a result it also has a splendid viaduct where the Kelso railway (long shut) crossed the River Teviot.  I love a good viaduct.

Roxburgh Viaduct

We cycled down Ferry Road from the village to the river and walked along to the viaduct.  There is no need for a ferry now as there is an excellent footbridge attached to the viaduct.

Roxburgh Viaduct footbridge

As far as I can find out, the footbridge was part of the original design of the viaduct which is most unusual.  You can see that it is perched on the piers of the viaduct.

I walked onto it and looked upriver.

River Teviot

As you can imagine, I spent a good deal of time taking pictures but in the end, we pedalled back up into the village and took the road back towards the Waterloo Monument.  It can be seen from many miles away and one day (soon, I hope) I will come back and walk up the track to the monument itslef.  Today, though, we cycled past it….

Waterloo Monument

…and I had to use the zoom on the Lumix to get a good view of it.  The views over the Teviot valley as we came down the hill back to Harestanes were outstanding.

Teviotdale at Harestanes

That is a potato field in the foreground.

All in all, we thought perhaps that it might be  the best value thirteen miles that we have ever pedalled.   The  mild weather, light winds and occasional sunshine all helped of course.

We enhanced the drive home with some serious shopping in Hawick and arrived back in Langholm tired but happy.

I had no time for staring out of the kitchen window today so the flying ‘bird’ of the day is my cycling companion floating up a hill.

Mrs tootlepedal

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Today’s guest picture arises from some coloured wools that Dropscone gave to Mrs Tootlepedal.  She converted some of them into a colourful edition of Shaun the Sheep and the picture shows Leo, Dropscone’s grandson, giving Shaun a warm welcome.

Leo and ShaunThere has been some wet and windy weather in Britain over recent days but by and large, we in Langholm have escaped unscathed and today was no exception, with occasional sunshine and light winds.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Edinburgh to see Matilda and I put the day to good use at home.  I started by putting a week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database and then went out into the garden to enjoy the pleasant weather.

I stood back from the flowers for a picture or two.

rudbeckia

Mrs Tootlepedal has several clumps of Rudbeckia about and they are thriving.

salvia

She loves the blue of the salvias

I took closer looks too.

nasturtium and astrantia

A contrast in loud and soft between Nasturtium and Astrantia

I couldn’t go past the poppies.

poppy with astilbe

Poppy with astilbe

poppies

And poppy with poppy

I had just gone in again when Dropscone arrived bearing scones.  He has fully recovered from his mountaineering exploits and is back playing golf in good style.  He hasn’t lost his touch with the scones either.

After coffee, he went off to play golf with a friend and I watched the birds for a while.

A coal tit is never absent for long these days.

coal titSometimes they may be seen in concert with a blue tit.

blue tit and coal titOn the old feeder, the traffic was heavy.

Busy feeder

An incoming sparrow considering its options in the face of full perches and combined siskin hostility

siskins

A siskin competing with a siskin…

siskin and chaffinch

…and chatting to a chaffinch

I generally take pictures of flying birds on the right hand side of the feeder where there is space.  On the left hand side, careful navigation is necessary.

chaffinchI put down the camera and went out to sieve a little compost and mow the drying green and the grass round the greenhouse.  I should have mowed the middle lawn too but I got distracted by a crossword and then lunch and never got round to it.

The crossword proved quite tricky and it wasn’t until well after lunch that I finally got some cycling gear on and took the fairly speedy bike out for some exercise.

Following my policy of being a bit less timid about my route choice, I cycled over the hill to Newcastleton.  This has an energetic start to a ride with a climb up onto the Langholm moor right at the beginning.  Having climbed up out of the Esk valley, the road promptly drops down to the Tarras valley and then just as promptly climbs up to the county boundary at 1100ft. I started at 250ft in Langholm and the drop into the Tarras valley cost me 250 hard earned feet so the total climb was 1100ft in six miles and I was happy to stop and take a picture or two when I got to the summit.

Langholm Moor

Looking back towards the monument on the horizon.  The hills have turned brown now.

Liddesdale

Looking forward into Liddesdale.

As you can see, there were some threatening clouds about and I was beginning to worry about the wisdom on my route choice but the next four and a bit miles were 750 feet straight downhill to Newcastleton on a road with a good surface and few bends so I whizzed along hoping to beat any bad weather.  My first six miles took 42 minutes, the next four and a bit took 12.

Once at Newcastleton, I turned south and headed for Canonbie.  This is an undulating road with lots of ups and downs so once again I was happy to stop near a minor summit to take a picture or two.

Quarry

Large portions of this hill are now lying under the M6 extension from Carlisle to Gretna.  The have chopped the top of the hill right off.

Liddesdale road

I had fortunately left the bad weather behind me.

I was quite enjoying the hilly ride so I turned off just before Canonbie and took the strenuous route home.   At 26 miles. the trip was more or less the same distance as yesterday’s jaunt but the climb was nearly double so I was quite pleased to get home in good order.

I had time to make  a sausage stew and have a shower before Mrs Tootlepedal got home and then we had to get ready to go out again.  This time we were going to Australia….but only via the Buccleuch Centre where they were showing a ‘live’ broadcast of a production of Aida on Sydney Harbour.

I love Verdi’s music and I thoroughly enjoyed the evening out but it was the weirdest production I have ever seen.  The singing was fine but being an outdoor production on a huge stage with a vast audience, it was a bit unrelenting in what should have been the quieter moments.  The big ensembles however were tremendous.  Mrs Tootlepedal was particularly delighted to be treated to real camels in the Grand March but I was disappointed not to get elephants.

The production values were odd.  The costumes were a mixture of kitsch Nazi, ancient Egyptian, modern European and fantasy Ruritanian, with the Ethiopian King looking like a bizarre cross between one of Santa Claus’ elves and Bruce Springsteen.  There was a totally mesmerising appearance of a chorus of disco dancing ladies at one point.

Still, any amount of wide eyed amazement at the production values couldn’t diminish the power of the music.  Some of the staging worked really well and the singing was good enough to get us thoroughly involved in the twists and turns of the plot.  What a treat.

My cycling outing got my total distance for this year up to 2500 miles so what with that and scones, lawn mowing and a Verdi opera, I really couldn’t have asked for a better day…not to mention the sausage stew.

The flying bird is a chaffinch going flat out for a vacant perch.

flying chaffinch

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