Posts Tagged ‘compost bin’

Today’s guest picture from my South African correspondent, Tom, shows a jackal.  Not something we see round here at all!


My day was conditioned by an awful warning of heavy rain;  one of those warnings that comes with a little yellow triangle with an exclamation mark in the centre.  We were to expect rain so I expected rain.

It was a pleasant sunny and dry morning,  a little breezy to be sure and not warm by any means but fine for cycling so I cycled; but I expected rain by lunchtime and when I saw some very dark clouds looming up, I took the hint and cut a putative 35 mile ride down to 25 miles.  Some cows took a dim view of my cowardice (or prudence).

tarcoon cows

I stopped on the Hollows Bridge to record the first turning of the leaves….

hollows bridge view

…but my camera misinterpreting my wishes, kindly slid the incipient yellows back to light greens so the effect was less impressive than I had hoped.

Still, I got home dry and warm;  but still expecting rain….the forecast had put it back to three o’clock by this time.

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help at the Buccleuch Centre and I had a slice of bread and raspberry jam and went out to mow the drying green grass before the rain came.

Bees, butter and hover flies were having fun on the Michaelmas daisies beside me as I mowed…

insects on daisies

…and the the poppies looked gorgeous as always.


The large lilies are developing and I wondered if they would attract a butterfly or two.

They did.

peacock butterfly on lily

I saw an odd thing at the other side of the garden….

peacock butterfly

…a peacock butterfly with only one pair of eyes.  It must have had its second wing tucked under its first.  I have never seen this before.

After I had finished my cycle ride, I had arranged with Sandy to go for a walk (before the rain came) and he arrived on cue and drove us to the top of Callister where we intended to walk round the forestry plantation.  We were discouraged when we found that there were fierce signs telling us not to enter on account of forestry operations but a queue of cars emerged through the gate and one of the drivers kindly told us that there were no operations going on today and that we could proceed with care.

We proceeded with care.

Although we were in the sun, there were dark clouds about….

Callister walk

…and depending on which way you looked, sometimes very dark clouds.

Callister walk

We walked on expecting rain.

I led Sandy down the middle of a wide forest ride.  It was very tussocky and hard going and if you lifted your head to see if there was anything interesting to see, you tended to fall over.   We therefore didn’t see much until we went into the forest beside the ride to see if the going was better.  There we saw fungus…


…and when we emerged back on to the ride, we saw a very unusual set of fungi, pressed like buttons on a sofa in the peaty side of a drainage ditch.


We battled on to the end of the ride and joined a track.  It is fair to say that I enjoyed plunging through the heavy going a good deal more than Sandy did.  I used to do a lot of orienteering and ground like this was second nature to me.

We came to a pond beside the road….

callister pond

…which would have looked better, I thought, without the telephone pole at the end of it.

callister pond

And it started to rain.  I was so appalled by this that it soon stopped and disappeared apologetically.

We continued our walk expecting rain.

We were walking round a small valley and crossed the stream that flowed out of it.  It dropped into a dark and mysterious pool as it flowed under the track.

callister pool

Strange spirits might dwell in a pool like that.

It was a lot brighter at the dark pool than it used to be because they are going to build another windfarm to add to our local collection at the far side of the forest and to that end, a lot of tree felling has been taking place.

tree felling callister

…which leaves a bit of a mess to say the least.  It is amazing though how the ground recovers as a look at a new plantation nearby shows.

callister plantation

There were three existing wind farms visible as we walked and we could see the offices for the soon to be built farm beside our track.


I welcome these wind farms as we have a tremendous amount of wind round here doing nothing but annoying innocent cyclists so it is good to see it being put to good use.  Each turbine must take a little energy out of the wind and this should make it easier for me to pedal about…..though I do realise that we might need a whole lot more turbines before any noticeable effect could be felt.

The tree felling led to some impressive piles of logs beside the track.

callister logs

Like this heap, quite a few of the piles had ‘chip’ written on them and we wondered of they were going to be chipped for use in the wood fired power station at Lockerbie.

There were some plants to be seen as we walked.

callister plants

callister plants

As we got near to the end of our walk, black clouds over Callisterhall looked threatening.


It is a pity that this is no longer an inn as our two and a half mile walk had been quite tiring with tough going at the start and some hills on our way back.  A light refreshment would have gone down well.

We had to wait until we got home until we got a much needed cup of tea and a Jaffa cake or two to restore our energy levels.

When Sandy left, I set about sieving the rest of the compost in Bin D and while Mrs Tootlepedal distributed the results around the vegeatble beds, I turned most of Bin C into the now empty Bin D.  When I flagged, Mrs Tootlepedal lent a hand.  As a special treat for those pining for compost bin illustrations, I photographed the result.

compost bins

The contents of Bin C had rotted down well.

We didn’t stay out in the garden too long as we were expecting rain but we did have time to look at some flowers before we went in.

I have picked three favourites.  Mrs Tootlepedal likes the dahlia on the left for its colour, the big bumble bee likes the dahlia in the middle for its pollen and I like the new hellenium on the right for its shape and pattern.

dahlias and hellenium

Everyone was happy.

Dropscone had dropped in before I went cycling this morning with a generous gift of a sea bream which he had acquired on his recent travels and Mrs Tootlepedal cooked it for our tea.  I don’t think that I have ever knowingly eaten sea bream before and I thought it tasted very good.  Dropscone says he will tell me all about where he found it when he comes for coffee tomorrow.

As I sat down to write tonight’s post, the rain finally arrived.  I had been expecting it.


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Todays’ guest picture shows the Monteath Mausoleum which overlooks the Lilliardsedge Golf Course where Dropscone was playing at the official opening of the Borders Golf Association season on Sunday.

Monteath Mausoleum

It was another fine day in Langholm but slightly marred by a persistent and chilly wind which made me glad that I had an excuse not to go cycling in the morning.  I was due to spend a couple of hours in the Welcome to Langholm centre so first I pottered around the garden in the sunshine….


…where the lamium, after a false start earlier in the year, has got going for real.

It lurks beneath our little silver pear tree which is just starting to blossom.

silver pear

The ‘river of blue’ has not quite swept through the garden with as much force as Mrs Tootlepedal would have liked but it is very pretty in places…

grape hyacinths

…and comes in two shades of blue.

I was pleased to find that all the moss on the middle lawn was of some use to someone.

lawn moss

It had been extensively harvested for nesting material by birds before we got up.

I went off to the tourist office armed with a laptop computer and a week of the newspaper index to enter into the Archive Group database and the combination of a steady trickle of visitors and the archive work kept me fully occupied for the two hours so I hardly minded people coming in and saying what a lovely day it was outside, hardly at all.

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal was at work in the garden, having had a busy morning catching up with business herself.

I noticed that a new fritillary had come out but it needed a helping hand to show its full colour to the world.


A fancy tulip needed no help at all.


My favourite though was the more modest pulsatilla nearby.


It packs a lot into a small flower head

However, I stopped watching Mrs Tootlepedal gardening and went composting.  I set about finishing turning the contents of Bin A into Bin B.  When that was done, old Bin A made way for the sparkling new Bin A and with the help of Mrs Tootlepedal it was made level and built up.  Compost City is now complete.

 compost city

The beauty of the system is that Bins A and B are adaptable to the needs of the composter.  At present, as it is in the process of getting filled up with new material, Bin A is kept low to make putting the material as easy as possible.  As it fills up, the extra sections from Bin B can moved to Bin A.  The compost in Bin B will have reduced in volume considerably and the bin can then be lowered layer by layer when the time has come to turn it into Bin C.    The nameless plastic bin on the left can be used for anything that we don’t want to put in the main compost and can be left untouched for as long as is necessary.

I went off to look at the Euphorbias which grow more fantastic every day.


This one is like some crazy hat worn by a fashionable lady on Ladies’ Day at the races.


And this one has stuck all its tongues out

It is hard to imagine the small gains that have led the process of natural selection to come up with these elaborate designs.

Then I went in and had a toasted cheese sandwich for a late lunch.

After lunch, we went off to Carlisle to buy a hedge trimmer.  We have been impressed by the new Li-ion batteries so we laid out good money to get a hedge trimmer with one.   On our way there, I went into the bird food place and bought another big bag of birdseed and two new feeders.  On our way back, we went into a garden centre and Mrs Tootlepedal bought a Spirea so we both came home feeling pretty cheerful.

Unlike yesterday, it was a really clear day today and from the garden centre car park, I could see the northern fells very clearly.

Northern Fells

It would have been good to be out among the hills but you can’t do everything.

I tested the bird feeders on the birds when we got back.  The old ones had got rather tatty and battered and have now gone in the dustbin so I hoped that our garden visitors would appreciate some better eating arrangements.

A chaffinch gave one a very wary look…

chaffinch new feeder

…but soon both feeders were being fully used.

goldfinches and a chaffinch


A chaffinch gave a slouching goldfinch a lesson in how to sit up straight at the dinner table.

goldfinches and chaffinch

In the absence of siskins, the goldfinches were the biggest users and approached the new feeders with verve.


Though some waited calmly among the plum blossom.


While it was not the most active day that I have ever spent, it was enjoyable and fruitful and it was rounded off by a very good plate of rhubarb crumble and ice cream. Mrs Tootlepedal had forced some rhubarb under a bucket as an experiment and used the resulting crop in her recipe so perhaps this was why the dish tasted so good.

The flying bird of the day is one of the goldfinches giving the new feeders a hard stare.


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Today’s guest picture is another from Dropscone’s eldest boy Dennis who works at Biggin Hill Airfield.  He recently had the opportunity to see a wonderful display of second world war aircraft.

biggin hillIt was a fine but breezy morning and I had to put aside the chance of a pedal until later as there was quite a lot to do in the way of business.

I did have time to walk round the garden in the sun though.


The sedum has dried out and is looking ready to burst into flower

Japanese anemones

Japanese anemones are flowering freely now


My favourite dancers

A newspaper article yesterday said that 50% of those asked couldn’t name a single bee.  I certainly can…..

bee on dahlia…this one is called Archibald.

After a good run, the ligularia has gone over but it has left an interesting tangle behind.

ligulariaThe tropaeolum has also finished flowering but it still has lots of ways to please the eye, not least its multicoloured pawnbrokers’ signs.

tropaeolumThe sweet peas are rather subdued this year but still elegant.

sweet peaOver lunch I had a chance to watch the birds.  The brisk wind slowed the chaffinches up as they approached the feeder and gave me many flying opportunities….

chaffinches…and after lunch, I went out into the garden.  It was still fine so I took another picture or two…..

dahlia and water lily

In front of the pond and in the pond.


A view over the hedge from the front lawn to the garden bed across the middle lawn

colourful corner

Phlox, astrantia and special Grandma making a colourful corner

…and then I mowed the drying green and the paths on the front lawn.  I couldn’t resist another look at the cornflowers.

cornflowersThey appeal to me immensely.

Next I picked some more of the blackcurrants.  The blackbirds are generously helping me finish the gooseberries but they have left a lot of blackcurrants untouched. I am cutting the blackcurrant bush back as I pick and perhaps the birds will be able to see the fruit better now and I may have more difficulty in keeping the remaining fruit for myself.

I am progressing with turning Bin B into Bin C while Mrs Tootlepedal is producing ever more material for Bin A.  Luckily the warmer weather is helping the composting process and the bin is going down as fast as she puts more in.


Bin A and Bin B

It is always annoying to get well down a bin of steadily rotting compost and find a layer of box leaves as green as the day that you put them in.  Such is life.

It was just getting to the time when a pedal was in order when first the garden centre rang up to say that they were just about to deliver a load of logs…..and then it started it to rain.  The pedalling plan was abandoned.

Luckily Mike Tinker dropped in just as the logs were being delivered and with his help, we had them out of the big bags and into a very neat pile in no time at all.

logsWe did the labouring and Mike, who is an engineer at heart, built the pile.  It really was a case of many hands making light work as it would have taken us ages without him.

The day went downhill from there on as the rain became persistent and the composting, mowing and log heaving took their toll on my small stock of energy.  Sitting down quietly and sighing became the order of the day.

The grumpy pigeon was back again, surveying life in the rain with its usual disapproving air.

pigeonI know how it felt.

Today’s flying bird is yet another chaffinch, this time caught just before it put the brakes on.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s picture was sent by my Newcastle correspondent and shows her son on an outing to the Soutar Lighthouse near Sunderland which happily coincided with a kite festival.  I would have liked to have been there.

soutar lighthouseMy morning was a bit less exciting.  After a late breakfast, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing in the church choir and I pedalled the gentle 21 miles to Mosspaul Hotel and back.  A light wind gently pushed me up the hill and didn’t do too much to hinder me on the way back so I was able to achieve a satisfactory but not startling average speed.  I didn’t have to stop too often to try to take a picture of a view as I went along because there were no views available.

FiddletonFortunately it was low cloud rather than mist so visibility at road level was not too bad and the traffic managed to avoid me.

I arrived home  a few minutes after Mrs Tootlepedal and was happy to enjoy a fresh cup of coffee which she had kindly made.  I took a walk round the garden with her and we were able to pick up quite a handful of fallen walnuts.  This is easily the best crop that we have ever had from the tree.

I also took a picture or two as we went round.

hosta and delphinum

Contrasts in blue from hosta and delphinum

Mrs Tootlepedal thinks that the late flower on the hosta may be the result of it being transplanted earlier in the summer.

Special Grandma and the rambler are still doing their best….

rosesBut just to show that not everything is coming up roses, here is a more seasonally appropriate sunflower.

sunflowerWhile we were picking up walnuts, the sharp eyed Mrs Tootlepedal spotted another sign of autumn.

fungusThe tiny fungus was easy to miss.

I went inside to have a relaxing bath and Mrs Tootlepedal continued to work in the garden.  By the time that I got out of the bath, she had cleared off the bed at the end of the drive.

empty bedShe has been very busy in general and when Sandy and I were at Lockerbie yesterday, she installed this handsome home made cover for compost bins C and D.

compost coverYou can see that the compost is working well as this left hand bin is full of stuff from the second half of this summer which  has been recently turned.  I am sure it will do even better under its new lid.

As well as flowers to look at, there were the usual perching birds in the plum tree….

chaffinch…and some unusual ones in the walnut tree.

rooksThey were very vocal but didn’t stay long.

Then it was time to go to Carlisle to combine a little shopping with a choir practice for the Carlisle Community Choir.  Our usual director was absent but his substitute was a very competent young fellow of immense charm and a wonderful tenor voice so we put up with him gladly.  Because we have a number of engagements coming up, we are working very hard and I was pleased to find myself sitting next to a new member of the choir on his first day who turned out to be an excellent music reader and a fine singer.  He was warmly welcomed.

We drove home in warm evening sunshine but the days are already so short that the sun had almost disappeared by the time that we got home.  When we got in, we found that our central heating had disappeared too but we have been able to get an engineer to come tomorrow morning so we hope that it can be easily fixed.

During the day, in a dull moment, I took a couple of pictures to show the windows that I spend so much time staring out of.


The kitchen window with sedum and bird feeder on the left and the sitting room window on the right.

I couldn’t choose between the two flying chaffinch pictures that I took today so in a reckless mood, I have put them both in.





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