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Posts Tagged ‘composting’

As well as looking for fossils, my Newcastle correspondent Fiona likes to take her family to interesting places and today’s guest picture shows the ruins of Finchdale Priory which she visited with them a week or two ago.

Finchdale Priory

We had a warm and calm day today, ideal for cycling.  Hmmm.  I didn’t even have company for coffee as both Dropscone and Sandy were away from home.

As a result, I had a lot of time to watch the birds and fortunately, there were a lot of birds to watch.

Although we mostly had the usual suspects seen here hanging around in the plum tree…

birds in plum tree

Finches on the top branches.

great tit in plum tree

A great tit further down.

dunnock on ground

And a rather fierce dunnock on the ground below.

…we did get some unusual visitors too.

A small brown bird with an unremarkable back view….

redpoll from behind

…revealed itself as a redpoll when it turned round.  They are winter visitors and cheer the gloomy days up.

redpoll on feeder

There were a few of them around and while some sat in the plum tree looking demure…

redpoll in plum tree

…others got on with the business of terrifying chaffinches…

redpoll attacking

…which are much bigger than them.

However the real surprise of the morning was a visit from a greater spotted woodpecker which suddenly appeared in the plum tree as if by magic.

greater spotted woodpecker in tree

Although I often see them up at the Moorland feeders, we hardly ever see one in the garden and especially not one so happy to pose for me.

greater spotted woodpecker in garden

However, it didn’t pose for long and soon flew off, not to be seen again.

A curiosity of looking at pictures of the birds when the feeder is busy is to see flying seeds everywhere.  How did the seed in the top of the picture below get there?

flying food

I got a visit from my part time neighbour Ken, a fellow cyclist.  He is in the opposite situation to me and after being poorly earlier in the year, he is now getting some good miles in.  I was very envious of him as he had been of me in the spring.

The morning drifted away but after lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal set to work in the garden and that galvanised me into action, or at least into as much as I could manage without flexing my leg.

I took a leisurely photographic tour in search of colour.  There are flowers about if you look hard enough.

november flowers

The perennial wallflowers in the bottom left frame above started flowering in April and been in bloom ever since.  That is what I call value for money.

The warm summer has encouraged roses to produce hips this year.  Although the rosa Gallica (on the left) always produces some rather subdued hips, we have never seen hips on the Goldfinch (on the right) before.

november rose hips

In the absence of flowers, the spireas are a source of pleasure at this time of year.

november spirea

I did a little shredding and sieved some more of the compost from Bin D as Mrs Tootlepedal is planting out bulbs and needs compost.  I know that readers have been eagerly awaiting compost pictures so here is the result of sieving Bin D.

bucket of sieved compost

And if that wasn’t exciting enough, I also turned a very full Bin A into Bin B and took a picture of Bins A to D.

compost bins a to d

Mrs Tootlepedal is responsible for the plastic bin on the left of Bin A and I have no idea what is in it.  It is a closely guarded secret.

The next task will be to finish the little bit of sieving left in Bin D and turn Bin C into it.  It is good for a man to have a purpose in life.

While I was having fun, Mrs Tootlepedal was preparing for next year.

fern dug up

She removed a fern from a spot where, if all goes well, a fine display of tulips will appear in spring.

I had made a lamb stew in the slow cooker in the morning and while I played duets with my flute pupil Luke,  I left the sous-chef to fettle up the gravy.  She did an excellent job and we had a tasty evening meal.

To end the day, I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel.  We played Mozart, Telemann and Quantz and that was the perfect way to forget the many little inconveniences that come to all of us with advancing years.

The flying bird of the day is another ‘just-in-time’ chaffinch.

just flying chaffinch

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from regular reader, Edward Winter from Sheffield.  As is appropriate to someone from that city, he likes metal sculptures and has recently acquired this Jason Heppenstall work created mainly from saw blades (the wings) and eating forks (on Eagle’s head).  I can see shears lower down too I think.

Eagle Jason Heppenstall

The weather gods finally lightened up a bit and we had a fine but chilly day today.  I was still taking things gently so most of the morning passed without anything to record other than the standard crossword and coffee routine but after coffee, we ventured out into the garden to see what was still standing after the recent frosts and a night with some heavy rain.

There were still a few rather battered flowers about…

four flowers November 1

…and plenty of raindrops among the petals.

four flowers November 2

It was pleasantly warm if you were in the sunshine and Mrs Tootlepedal’s field beans have thrived in all weathers and are growing well.

field beans Nov

The nasturtiums were finally condemned as over and in spite of one or two valiant flowers defying the odds, the whole lot got the heave-ho and ended in the compost bin.

This stimulated me to do a bit more sieving of the contents of Bin D and the results were very satisfactory as it has been a good year for compost.  I will have to think about starting the whole bin transfer business soon.

When we went in, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to work on her winter project, the restoration of our rocking horse, and I watched the birds.

As soon as I put out a couple of fat balls these days, the jackdaws get to know and are on the scene within minutes.

This one was waiting patiently in the plum tree while others nibbled away.

jackdaw in plum tree

The jackdaws don’t bother with the seed though, which leaves plenty for the smaller birds like this coal tit.

coal tit in the sun

A great tit looked interested too.

great tit on the pole

The strong low sunlight makes getting ‘clean’ shots of flying birds a lottery unless you have plenty of time to spare.

shady chaffinch

After lunch, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to Edinburgh to visit Matilda and I tested out my leg with a very flat and short cycle ride on the slow bike.

I cycled over three bridges and then round the New Town, stopping very occasionally for a picture.

There are still spots of autumn colour about….

November tree colour 1

…but for every tree with colour, there are two or three with bare branches.

November tree colour 2

The trees on the banks of the Esk below the mission hall show every stage.

 

November tree colour 3`

I cycled up to Pool Corner but the sun had gone in and the larches were dull…

pool corner Nov 1

…but a few minutes later, the glow was golden.

larches in November

The cycling went very well as far as my leg went and was pain free.

I was encouraged.

Walking was still tricky but at least I could get about now.

I had promised to prepare some of the Archive Group’s ‘Mills and Railway’ heritage DVDs in readiness for an event later in the day so I put my bike aside and copied the disk box labels and then cycled up to the town to use the disk copier in the Archive Centre.  This would have gone better if I had remembered to take some blank disks with me.  As it was, I got some extra cycling in as I had to go back home to get the disks.

At one stage on this double trip, a sudden halt in the traffic flow made me stop and put a foot down.  Without thinking, I pushed off when things got going again and as soon as I had done it, I realised that I had used my wrong leg and in an instant, I was back where I was two days ago.

I was discouraged…

…as much by my foolishness as by the discomfort.  Still, I was still able to cycle home and then walk along to the Buccleuch Centre to the official launch of a book about Langholm’s Textile industry’s history.  This was based on the work of my sadly departed friend Arthur Bell, a mill owner himself and an enthusiast for the industry in Langholm.

There was an excellent turnout for the launch and as everyone present seemed to have bought at least one copy, the two editors of the book must have been very pleased.

I shall be more careful about my movements tomorrow.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch with its head and body in the sun and its wings in the shadows.

flyinch chaffinch with dark wings

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Today’s guest picture comes from my Newcastle correspondent, Fiona and shows her resident garden hedgehog on the left with one of four new hoglets on the right.  She thinks that the hoglet is three or four weeks old.  We are very envious.

fiona's hedgehogs

We had a slightly cooler but still sunny day.  With our final concert of the season due tomorrow and a brisk breeze blowing, I decided that once again a reasonably restful day would be sensible with the added advantage that it would give me time to keep looking at the songs which we have to learn by heart.

I wasn’t entirely idle.

I started the day with some shopping at the Producers’ Market at the Buccleuch Centre and then went on a bee hunt with my macro lens.  I haven’t by any means mastered using the macro lens and the results tend to be very hit and miss so although I got quite a good fly picture…

fly

…I managed to get a sharper picture of some of the petals of an allium than I did of the bee that I was trying to catch as it approached the flower.

bee and allium

And I managed to take a wonderful picture of the bees knees….

bees knees

…when I was trying to capture its head.

I was sometimes a bit more successful…

bee on azalea

…but I hope that I will get some more sunny days soon to hone my skills.

I had two goes at an orange hawkweed with variable results as well.

orange hawkweed

orange hawkweed

Still, there are obviously a lot of possibilities and I will stick in.

I had a cup of coffee and went back out for more floral fun.

tropaeolum

The tropaeolum has survived the drastic pruning of the yew and is looking promising.

The white spirea is covered in flowers with what look like rather spotty petals…

spirea

…but a closer look shows that the spots are not on the petals but floating on front of them.

spirea

Once again, I am in awe of the amount of varied detail Mother Nature has put into designing her flowers.

On the more colourful side of things, large poppies are popping up….

poppy

…and Lilian Austin has spread her wings.

lilian austin rose

I liked these two irises in a shady corner…

iris

…and in complete contrast, these two Sweet Williams blazing in the sunshine.

sweet williams

I found a snail hanging upside down on the surface of the pond, perhaps trying to keep an eye on the tadpole below.

snail

I quite often see snails like this and I don’t know whether they have had an accident or are just warming themselves in the sunshine.

Two final flowers for the day, an allium on the way out but still looking very pretty…

allium

…and a climbing hydrangea on the way in.  It will soon make up in quantity for what it lacks in individual interest.

hydrangea

After lunch I mowed the middle lawn and the drying green and then settled down to some serious composting work.  I finished sieving the contents of Bin D (the most mature of the bins) and distributed the results on various vegetable beds and then I surprised myself by turning Bin C into the empty Bin D, then Bin B into the empty Bin C and finally Bin A into the empty Bin B.  When I had finished, it all looked like his….

compost Bins

…much like it did before but now with all the compost shifted a metre to the right.  Bin A, on the left, is empty and ready for fresh material to be created by Attila the gardener.

Some people may well wonder why I don’t just leave the compost to rot where it is and stop bothering it all the time.  This is a fair question but then what would I do for fun?

Actually, turning the compost speeds up the decomposition process and beaks up any stubborn layers of material that are refusing to decompose properly and are just sitting half way down the pile in a sullen, soggy lump.  Big systems using continuous turning methods can make compost in seven days.

To add to our composting joy, Mrs Tootlepedal received a gift of three bottles of liquid worm compost from Mike Tinker’s wormery.

worm pee

In a suitably ecological way, she collected it by bicycle.

Suitably diluted, this is very good stuff to add to the garden.

The flying bird of the day is a bee with a prominent proboscis.

flying bee

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Today’s guest picture comes from our older son Tony.  He thought he saw a Mad March Hare when he was out walking his dogs this morning.  When he looked again, he realised that he had been stumped.

Hare stump

We had another springlike day today and once again, I was rather regretful because my fairly speedy bike was still at the bike menders.

Still, I cheered myself up by making some dropped scones and then entertaining both Dropscone and Sandy to coffee and scones. The scones weren’t as professional as Dropscone’s scones would have been but they were voted, “No too bad,” so that was praise indeed.

Our neighbour Hector, is going to build a fence between our properties as the present hedge requires a lot of clipping.  He is a hard worker and set about removing the hedge first thing in the morning and he was finished in no time at all.

No hedge

Mrs Tootlepedal was not unhappy to see the hedge go as it had a lot of holly in it and was very hard to handle.  I was a bit sorry because it means less places for birds to lurk before visiting the feeder but Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that she will grow all sorts of good things against the new fence.

With all this activity, there weren’t many birds at all in the garden in the morning and this coal tit was the only one that I caught on camera.

Coal Tit

At midday, I got out the slow bike and set out on a 15 mile circular ride down to Canonbie and back with photographic stops in mind.

I had hardly left the town when I made my first stop for a shy tree peeping over a hill.

Harry's hounds field

I took a few more before I got to Canonbie but they didn’t come out well so the next one shows my route home up the Esk valley taken from the road down to The Hollows.

View of Esk valley from Hollows

I usually use the old A7 rather than the main road to get home and  my next picture literally shows the end of the road.

Old A7

Luckily, as you can see,  they have left a gap for a small cycle path to take us round the corner before we join the main road for the last mile down to Skippers Bridge.

I stopped on the cycle path and walked down to the river bank.

Fisherman's Hut

I take it that this elegant hut is for the convenience of fishermen

Broomholm Island Bridge

This is the Broomholm Island bridge

I liked it so much that I took another picture.

Broomholm Island bridge

The island is on the left.

As I walked back up to the road, I noticed this little bridge…

Gaber Gill bridge

…which takes the Gaber Gill under the main road.  I have cycled over this bridge hundreds of times without ever noticing that I was doing so.  I was pleased to add it to my collection of bridge images.

When I got home, I found Mrs Tootlepedal hard at work in the garden.  After a light lunch, I came out to join her.  While I had been out cycling, she had made me a set of mandarin jellies….

compost and jelly

…so I was happy to be able to sieve some well rotted kitchen waste and fill up the compost bucket for her.

I am getting a bit addicted to crocuses…

crocus

…which are really enjoying our spell of good weather.

As are the bees which like the crocuses too.

crocus with bee

Crocuses are available in other colours.

cream and white crocus

The white crocuses are so white that they posed quite a problem for the camera.

As the afternoon went on, the birds began to return to the garden and as I was a bit tired after cycling and composting, I was happy to spend a while inside looking out.

To begin with, there were  a few siskins hanging about…

siskins

…but they and some greenfinches were soon heading for the seed…

greenfinches

…while a pair of goldfinches held a watching brief.

goldfinches

They were followed by chaffinches flying in all directions simultaneously.

chaffinches

I had planned to go for a walk with Sandy later in the afternoon but I was quite pleased when he rang up and called off and I took the opportunity to do some serious sitting down with the feet up.

In the evening my flute pupil Luke came and we did some work on breathing.  I have been doing a lot of singing lately and it has helped my flute playing  quite noticeably so I was trying to pass on some of the breathing tips that I have learned to Luke.  Whether I was successful, only time will tell.

Once again the garden was full of the sound of frogs all day so here is the frog of the day….

frog

…and here is the flying goldfinch of the day.

flying goldfinch

Mrs Tootlepedal is off to visit her mother for a week tomorrow so my posts make take on a slightly doleful air for a while.

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Today’s guest picture comes from my friend Bruce who is on an elephant hunt in Sheffield.

Sheffield elephant

We had another lovely day today, with wall to wall sunshine accompanied by gentle temperatures ideal for those who don’t do too well in the heat.  The only fly in the ointment was a brisk and bullying wind  which put any thoughts of cycling out of my mind.

I was quite happy about this in one way, as it let me sample the traditional Friday treacle scone couriered in by Dropscone on his bike while taking a short break from his incessant golfing activity.  He joined me for coffee while we disposed of the scones. They were very good.

When he left, I went out into the garden and enjoyed the sight of butterflies hanging on to wildly waving buddleias for dear life.

peacock and red admiral butterflies

I was amazed that they had the strength to hold on.

After the usual dead heading, I set about compost Bin D with a view to sieving as much of it as I could over today and tomorrow because the constant activity of Attila the Gardener over the past weeks has meant that Bin A is full to overflowing and a transfer process needs to be put into motion very soon.

Luckily, the compost is in good condition and sieves well so I made good progress both before and after lunch.  Our robin took a close interest in the garden activities.

robin

Mrs Tootlepedal dug up a couple of potato plants and the robin took advantage of this…

robin

…checking to see if we had any objection to worm hunting.

After I had done enough sieving, I had a wander round the garden clipping off all the hosta flowers which are now over, leaving just a set of new white ones under the plum tree.

hosta

The plums are looking very good and supplying us with a steady stream of ripe fruit to eat….

plums and golden syllabub rose

…and Mrs Tootlepedal has been cosseting the Golden Syllabub rose with good results.

At the other end of the garden the curiously named lobelia is also doing very well.

lobelia siphilitica

The warm sunshine had encouraged enough grass to grow to make it worth mowing the front and middle lawns for the second day running.  Mrs Tootlepedal was impressed by the amount of grass that came off as she thought that perhaps I was wasting my time. Regular mowing works wonders though and both the lawns are looking good.

We sat for a while on a bench in the garden, enjoying the sunshine and feeling that life wasn’t too bad at all and then after a cup of tea and a biscuit, I went off for a short walk.

I took a familiar route down by the river and enjoyed the large number of wagtails that were flitting about over the water or standing on rocks on the shore.

wagtails

I crossed the Town Bridge and came upon bigger birds flying along the Ewes Water at the Kilngreen.

herring gull

A herring gull going

Black headed gull

A black headed gull arriving

I looked in vain for any oyster catchers but they seem to have moved on, probably fed up by being harassed by paparazzi.

I walked over the Sawmill Brig and up the Lodge Walks, keeping an eye out for fungus.  One of the conifers that is being felled had many fungi growing in its cracks and crevices.

fungus on Lodge Walks conifer

I think that perhaps the number of trees that blew over in last winter’s gales have made the estate keep a close eye on the health of their woodlands.  The Lodge Walks are much used by both cars and walkers and although only the Sawmill Bridge got slightly damaged by falling trees last winter, there might easily have been a worse outcome.

Felled tree on castleholm

In the picture above you can see the remains of another felled tree on the Castleholm but there are also several little fenced enclosures where new trees have been planted to replace the ones that are gone.  The enclosure will protect the trees from grazing sheep.

As I strolled on, I stopped to take pictures of the three different heads on a single umbellifer…

umbellifer

…a selection of berries….

snowberry and hawthorn

…and another set of aged fungus high in a tree.

fungus at the Lodge

It was a beautiful evening and the wind had begun to calm down a bit so it was a great pleasure to be out and about.

View from the Lodge

At one stage, I thought that the path I was following was covered by a thick carpet of fallen leaves.  This seemed strange as the trees round about still had leaves on them but a close look revealed that they were not leaves at all but probably the wings of lime trees carrying the seeds to the ground.

lime tree wings

I got home to be greeted by a trio of starlings sitting on the wires above the garden.

starlings

Considering that they were within a few feet of each other and I stood in the same place to take all three pictures, it is odd how different the sky looks in each portrait.

Mrs Tootlepedal made good use of the plum tree’s bounty for tea and we enjoyed a pudding of baked plums on toast, glazed with sugar and butter, made in the oven and topped off with some custard.  Delicious.

In the evening, we were joined by Mike and Alison and Alison and I enjoyed ourselves playing flute and keyboard pieces in a somewhat haphazard but always enjoyable manner.

The flower of the day is a very fine small fuchsia which Mrs Tootlepedal bought for me at the Gardener’s World show in Birmingham earlier this summer…

Fuchsia

…and the flying bird is a black headed gull.

black headed gull

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by Tom, my South Africa correspondent.  Having seen some proteas far away in New Zealand in a recent guest picture, he has sent me a picture of some proteas from South Africa itself (with other local flowers).

ProteasOnce I had worked out that it wasn’t Wednesday. a notion which was firmly embedded in my mind when I woke up, Tuesday went quite well.

After breakfast, I cleaned the chain on the fairly speedy bike, purchased two bananas and set off to see how my legs were feeling.  The council has recently resurfaced a short but hilly section of the road to Lockerbie so I thought I would go and give it a test.  It turned out be very good and I was able to get full value from rushing down the hill on the smooth pothole free surface.  This is always a pleasure.  It is very annoying to puff your way to the top of a hill and find that the road is so bad on the downhill side that you have to creep down it with the brakes on.

In the end, I continued on to Lockerbie itself and then came home by way of Kirkpatrick Fleming, a round trip of 43 miles, without any complaint from either leg so the whole journey was most satisfactory.  After a sunny start, it was overcast….

View of Annandale

A view from the hill above Lockerbie looking west

….but warm and with light winds, perfect for cycling.   I took a photograph or two as I went round.

mushroom

A large mushroom by the roadside. It looks like a field mushroom but I would have to pick it to make sure.

Tundergarth Church

The little church at Tundergarth

mysterious logs

Just south of Lockerbie there is a huge stack of logs in a field.  They have been there for some time.

dock

A dock brightened up a banana stop.

After lunch, I gave Mrs Tootlepedal a hand in the garden and took a flower picture or two as well.

sneezewort

Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that these are sneezewort

salvia

The salvia seems to get bluer every day.

dahlia

I like the hand painted look of this dahlia

clematis

The most productive of the clematis

sunflower

A glimpse of sun on a cloudy day

apples

The espalier has been cut back and the fruit revealed

The regal roses are enjoying the better weather.

Crown Princess Margareta

Crown Princess Margareta

Queen of Denmark

Queen of Denmark

At the moment, you are never far from a blackbird when you walk round the garden.

blackbirdIn the late afternoon, Mrs Tootlepedal went off for a cycle ride of her own and I finished sieving the compost in Bin D and started the task of turning Bin C into the now vacant Bin D.  It will take a few days as I am careful not to wreck my fragile back by rushing the job.

In the evening, our friend Sue, who used to play with our recorder group, came over and we were joined by Susan for an hour or so of playing recorder trios.  Sue hasn’t played for a year but soon got into the swing of things and we had an most agreeable evening.

After playing, we had a cup of tea and Sue, Mrs Tootlepedal and I spent some time enthusing about the joys of composting while Susan looked on quizzically.

All this activity didn’t leave me with much time for bird watching and once again a rather substandard flying bird of the day is the result.

flying chaffinch

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