Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

Today’s guest picture comes from an outing near Derby undertaken by my brother Andrew.  He went visit the Abbey at Darley Abbey and found that all that remains of it is a public house called “The Abbey”

Darley Abbey

If yesterday was a dull and gloomy day, today was a duller and gloomier day.  It was warm for the time of year though and that made the drizzle that came and went even more annoying.

I got up early (for me) and made a venison stew for the slow cooker before we went off to sing in the church choir.  The choir was rather short of numbers and with several unison hymns and no anthem, it made for a gentle reintroduction to singing for me.

When we got back, the rain stopped for a while and we got busy in the garden.

I took a picture or two but everything was far too wet and the day was far too dark for anything to photograph well.


wet white geranium

tall sunflower

A new smaller flower has replaced the big head that we cut off the very tall sunflower.  It is even taller though.

The first gardening task was to pick a up a large number of windfalls from one of the espalier apples.  I should have thinned them out earlier and they are overcrowded so a lot of them had fallen off in unison.  I gave some to one neighbour and then went across to wish our neighbour Liz a happy birthday and ask if she would like some apples too.

She came across to fetch some and while she was there, she gave us a helping hand in the next task which was the removal of our ancient blackcurrant bush.  Mrs Tootlepedal is going to remodel that end of the vegetable garden.

Liz likes nothing better than to give an axe a hefty swing so with her on the axe and Mrs Tootlepedal on the pick, we soon got it shifted.  I worked the spade and did some heaving.

At that stage, it started to rain quite heavily so we left the garden.

We sorted out our potatoes for storage and Mrs Tootlepedal did some work on the new garage doors prior to them being painted.  Fortunately the cycling Tour of Britain has started and this gave us a perfect excuse to watch the telly and ignore the weather.

I did occasionally look out of the window at the birds and was pleased to see some interest in the big sunflower head.

birrd on sunflower

The sparrows were as boisterous as ever…

sparrows (2)

..with regrettable outbreaks of sparrow stamping.

stamping on sparrow

A jackdaw took a very dim view of this behaviour.

jackdaw brooding

Whenever the drizzle took a rest, I kept looking out into the garden to see if it was dry enough for a walk but by the time I had thought about going out, it had generally started to rain again.

I did spot a brooding presence in our rowan tree.

bird on rowan

I made some alleged ciabatta in the bread machine (we have yet to try it out) and that was about the most exciting thing of the day.

After we had eaten venison stew for our tea, we went off to a church choir practice.  Our organist and choirmaster is trialling some Sunday evening practices to see how that suits choir members.  Once again it was only a small turnout but the practice was both useful and enjoyable.

The forecast is looking a bit gloomy so I may have to sort out my wet weather cycling gear if I want to get some September miles in.

The flying bird of the day is not one of my best.



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Today’s guest picture shows an old bridge with more arches than water.  It came from my brother Andrew.  He tells me that it is the Segovia bridge in Madrid, over the river Manzanares. Completed in 1584, it is the oldest bridge in the city – the architect was ‎Juan de Herrera


The over night rain had stopped by the morning and I was able to get out for a standard twenty mile pedal down to Canonbie and back.  I hope that this will be the last on my slow bike for some time.

I wasn’t going to stop but my legs had other ideas so you can thank them for this view of bluebells in a roadside wood…


…and the first look at some wild geums and a marigold which was playing host to a lot of insects.

geum and marigold

I had a choice between a chilly early start and a warmer windier later one and chose the windier option which resulted in a very slow bike ride indeed.  Still, I was pleased to get again as it meant that my hand is not suffering because of cycling.  I don’t know what set it off last week but I hope that it doesn’t do it again.

When I got home, I found that our friends Bob and Nancy were helping to reduce Mrs Tootlepedal’s manure mountain by taking some of it away to their allotment.  That is what friends are for.

I went upstairs and looked out of the window.

front lawn may

The daffodils have almost disappeared and we are relying on tulips for colour until the azaleas and alliums come out.

middle lawn may

I took this picture of the veg garden before cycling.  It is looking well organised.

veg garden may

More is getting planted out in it every day.

The tulips are holding up well…


…though the very earliest to come out are now over.

Other things are coming along nicely.

lilac and solomons seal

It is nearly lilac blossom time.

Some flowers are so small that the camera finds it hard to pick them out.  This is berberis and rosemary.

small flowers

There was plenty of evidence of yesterday’s rain.


I had a few moments to watch the birds.  This sunny moment was before breakfast.


After my cycling, siskins arrived in force.

flying siskin

busy feeder

I had to refill the feeder before we went to Edinburgh.

After lunch, we set off to Lockerbie to catch the train to Edinburgh.  It rained on us as we drove across but the sun shone for our train journey and our stay in the city.

Matilda was in good form and came out to play in the garden.  Alistair had mowed the pocket handkerchief sized lawn just as we arrived and Mrs Tootlepedal took the opportunity to smarten up the edges while I played with Matilda and her mother Clare and snipped away at protruding meadow grasses with some shears.  Both the gardening and the playing were most enjoyable in the warm sunshine and we looked back down on the lawn as we went in for tea with some satisfaction.

Al's lawn

Apart from Matilda being offended when I remarked that she was a small person  (“I am not small.  I am four!”), the visit went well and Mrs Tootlepedal and I walked back to Waverley Station in beautiful early evening sunshine.

Arthurs seat

I hadn’t noticed before that the architect of the Scottish parliament building had intentionally or unintentionally echoed the line of the Salisbury Crags with his roof.

salisbury crag and parliament

Mrs Tootlepedal’s wildlife detector was working well and she spotted this rabbit in the gardens beside the road.

edinburgh rabbit

I like the way that this old churchyard has survived in a valuable piece of real estate…

Edinburgh graveyard

…but as in all the cities we visit, the cranes were very busy.  These ones were a few yards up the road.

Edinburgh cranes

Our journey home was smooth and uneventful and as a mark of the passing of the months, we got home in the remains of daylight for the first time this year.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin.

flying siskin


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Today’s guest picture was sent to me yesterday by Mike Tinker but was taken by him  in New Zealand in March.  It shows a Protea which he saw there.  This is a bit odd as it is a native of South Africa.  Perhaps it was on holiday too.

proteaWe were a bit discombobulated today as it was a pleasant day with light winds from the start.  As result, people were walking around saying, “Well. it’s all right so far….” and there was a general sense of unreality.

In the end though, Mrs Tootlepedal got stuck into the gardening again and I went out to help her.  The general business is tidying up plants that are over, cutting back bushes, digging over the vegetable garden where beds have become free and making the garden look and feel cared for.  She is succeeding in that last aim.

I took some time out to take a picture or two.  A day or two of good weather has perked up the flowers.



The latest clematis to appear, hidden behind the azaleas.


The pansies have lasted brilliantly since they were planted out in the spring.


Varied nasturtiums yawn for the camera


I was following a bee when these Ligularia curlicues caught my eye


The dahlias continue to delight me.


Those who like the music of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov will recognise that this is the Bum of the Flightlebee

We stopped for lunch and then Mrs Tootlepedal returned to the fray but I went out on the fairly speedy bike to check out the progress of my injured leg.  It has survived trips of 20 and 25 miles in the last few days so I risked a gentle 30 mile spin today.  Once again, there were no complaints.  I didn’t stop for any photographs as I was concentrating on smooth pedalling and always being in the right gear in order to keep any needless pressure off my joints.

I did stop once to eat a few dates and take a drink when I was about half way round and a burst of bright red rowan berries  across the road was hard to ignore.

rowan berriesAs you can see in the foreground, vetch is prominent in the verges.

vetchThe rowan berries were very pretty but as they are a sign of the approach of autumn, they were not entirely a welcome sight.

I had planned my route so that I would get blown home by the light breeze and this worked out well.  Mrs Tootlepedal was still out in the garden when I got back, though she told me that she had been in for a rest.

Among other things, she had tidied up the plants along the vegetable garden fence….

clematis and Bobbie James…and I thought that the result looked good.  And so did the runner beans….

runner beans…which will soon be appearing on the tea table.

In the evening, Mike and Alison came round and Alison and I played some new pieces with difficulty.  At the end we rose from our seats with co-ordinated groans (but perfectly in key of course).

As I started to write this post, the time came for the ISS to pass overhead and we went out to watch it cross the sky.  I didn’t take a picture of it today as I thought readers might still be recovering from the excitement of looking at yesterday’s effort.

In all the business of gardening and cycling, I completely forgot about a flying bird of the day until the light had begun to fade so a fuzzy siskin was the best that I could do.


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Today’s guest picture was not taken by a guest but by me when I was a guest in someone else’s garden this evening.

Jenny's gardenIt was gloomy and damp when we got up but at least the wind had dropped so it felt warmer than the 11 degrees on the thermometer indicated.

The weather wasn’t much of a factor however, as I spent the morning driving Mrs Tootlepedal to Dumfries so that she could have a consultation about a cataract in one of her eyes.  The hospital was very well organised and everything went on schedule and the upshot was that Mrs Tootlepedal will have a corrective operation sometime fairly soon.

We stopped at a garden centre on our way back for a cup of coffee and found that two plants had been mysteriously purchased when we got back in the car.  As one of them is a buddleia, I am hoping for many butterfly pictures in the future.

We had left our daughter Annie at home, as sitting in hospital waiting rooms is not much fun, and she had made a fine pot of soup for our lunch when we got back.

After the soup, I took a walk round the garden.  The rain had finally stopped but things were still wet.

wet rosesiris and clematisA Turk’s cap lily had come out.  It was wet too.

turk's cap lilyI know that I have shown them before but I can’t resist the coral peony’s seed pods.

peonyThe garden was full of blackbirds, both old and young.

blackbirdI don’t know if any new late broods are on the way but this blackbird had a beak full of good things.

blackbirdWe watched a bit of the Tour de France but the stage seemed likely to be quite dull until the finish so Annie and I went out for a walk.  Mrs Tootlepedal couldn’t join us as she was still feeling the effects of her eye drops from the hospital but she did suggest a route for us and we took it.

We went through the park to the Stubholm and up the lower slopes of Warbla before dropping back down the track to the Wauchope road and then went home by the Auld Stane Bridge and Pool Corner.  There were  wild flowers all the way.


On banks and walls


In yellows…


…and whites

Some were delightfully complicated at the stage of their life when we met them.

wildflowersAnd some were attractive not just to us.

wildflowers with insectsThe most interesting insect was lying flat out on a leaf.  I have no idea at all what this is.

insectI couldn’t go past a gate with a view without taking a picture of it.

gate on WarblaAs we walked, the clouds began to lift off the hills…..

view from warbla…and by the time we were at the Auld Stane Brig, it was very hot and humid and we were pleased not to be going too far.

As we came down the track, we could see very clearly the layers of sedimentary rock that underlie our green hills.

rockI am not a geologist at all and would love to know how many years of deposition this snapshot represents

I couldn’t pass the Auld Stane Brig without looking at the lichen.

lichen…and shortly afterwards, we saw young and old slow worms at Pool Corner…

slow worms…and a bramble flower hanging over the water.

bramble flowerFor a walk of a little over a mile, it was very good value.

On spite of incessant photo pauses, we got back in time to see the mighty Cav win the TdF stage and this almost made up for the comprehensive defeat of Andy Murray at Wimbledon later in the day (which thankfully we didn’t see).

The reason we didn’t see the tennis was that it was time to say goodbye to our daughter and take her to Carlisle to catch her train back to London.

After we dropped Annie off, we continued south to Dalston.  Jenny, a friend of ours who is in the Carlisle Choir, had heard that we are trying to grow a mini wildflower meadow on our front lawn and had offered us some plants which she was digging out of her wildflower garden.   This was a kind offer and as we were keen to see her garden, we were delighted to go down to pick the plants up.

Her garden is small but perfect and the picture at the top of this post shows part of it.  As well as making it as ecologically sound as she can, Jenny has put a great deal of thought into the the design and colour scheme of her planting.

Jenny's gardenIt was a great pleasure to sit sipping tea in her conservatory and look out on her work.  She is going to save seeds for us later in the season.

We couldn’t stay too long though so we packed up her gifts and made our way home in time to have a light supper and greet Mike and Alison who came round for their customary Friday night visit for conversation (Mike and Mrs Tootlepedal) and music (Alison and I).

I was a bit tired after two days of driving about and made more than one mistake as we played away but as always, even if not quite playing perfectly, communal music was a great joy and a good way to end an interesting week.

For some reason the number of bird visitors to our garden has taken such a dive that in the short time that I had to look out of the window today, not a single opportunity to catch a flying bird was on offer.  I can only assume that the recent warm weather has produced a bumper crop of food for the birds in the woods round the town but it is odd, because the seed level in the feeder has been going down very steadily until the last few days.

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Today’s guest picture shows Matilda enjoying a train ride while returning from seeing her other grandparents in Cambridge.  It is planned that we shall see her visiting her great granny here at the weekend.

Matilda on a trainIt was a day of unpredictable and very heavy showers which made planning any cycle rides or walks very unattractive.  Instead, I waved goodbye to Frankie and Mike on their journey north while Mrs Tootlepedal, after providing us all with a good breakfast, went off to a church choir practice.

After she came back, I put in some time practising my flute and singing and some time staring out of the window.


A siskin in one of the sunny moments.


A goldfinch dogfight.

I made some soup for lunch and after the meal, took a walk round the very soggy garden in a dry moment.


The first rhododendron flower of the year.

The sound of bees made me look up to see that the berberis is flowering well.

berberisThis plant is a great favourite of the bees but none were to be seen where I could catch them today.

Since a walk looked to be doomed to end in a soaking, I peered at some of the mosses to be found in our own garden.

garden mossgarden mossgarden mossThere were plenty to be seen.

Then I crumbled a little bird feed and put it on the ground outside the window.  It drew in a blackbird first…

blackbird…but it was soon chased off by jackdaws…..

jackdaws…who in turn started to fight among themselves….

jackdaws…and in the end they were warned off by an even bigger bird.


The rook was too late though, as all the food had gone.

The feathers on the rook gleamed like metal armour in the sunshine.

rookIn order to entertain Granny and get some garden necessities, we went off in the car to visit a garden centre.  We drove down in sunshine but there were immense black clouds on the way back and we had to drive through a couple of really deep puddles, big enough almost to count as floods,  By good fortune though, we missed the worst of the actual rain and got home in good order.  Granny was very entertained by our beautiful scenery, the lack of traffic and the good Scottish weather.

In the early evening, my flute pupil Luke arrived and we practised some little duets that we are going to play in public in a fortnight.  Luke was sent off with a stern injunction to practise a little harder this week.  I am sure that he will and we can always squeeze in an extra practice session if we have to.

After tea, I went off to play trios with Mike and Isabel and although we had an enjoyable play, I came home with a stern injunction to myself to practice a bit harder.  I will try.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch in some light rain.


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Today’s picture is another from Mike Tinker’s recent visit to NZ.  It shows an elegantly silhouetted shag (he tells me that all cormorants are called shags in NZ).

NZ cormorant or shagAfter a spate of cool, windy days, we had a calm and warm day today and with my back well rested by some well judged idleness, cycling was an obvious choice.

After two days of aches and pains (and considerable groaning and moaning since I haven’t mastered the art of suffering in silence), I started cautiously.  However, I was happy to find that the two hilly 50 mile rides that I did last week had put quite a lot of stuffing in my legs and the warm dry weather suited my breathing well and as a result, I felt really good.

For the first time this year, I was able to push on a bit without having to have a big rest straight away.  I had also chosen a very flat route and with very light winds, I was able to roll along at a much better speed than of late.

My target was the little seaside village of Powfoot on the Solway shore and my aim was take some moody pictures of the sea.  I should have read the tide tables.

Powfoot solwayThere was no sign of the sea at all.  The extensive mudflats made it look as though you could walk across to the English shore in your slippers.

There was plenty of sky though so I took a picture of that.

Powfoot solwayThe old houses by the shore looked very pretty.

powfootIt was a perfect day for cycling.  The lack of sun meant that I didn’t  have to bother about sun cream or glare or about getting too thirsty and the wind was obliging enough to strengthen just a touch when I turned for home and had it it at my back.  These beneficial circumstances and my largely hill free route meant that I managed to get my average speed above 15 mph for the 50 mile tour and this was easily my best effort with my new knee.

Since I was quite busy pedalling, I didn’t pay too much attention to the wild flowers in the verges as I went round but I enjoyed these dandelions at the border, where I stopped for a banana before the final push for home.


The verges have been covered with dandelions for weeks. They must enjoy the present weather.

The curious can see the route details here.

Mrs Tootlepedal had spent the morning altering some curtains while I was off cycling and was relieved to be able to get out into the garden in the afternoon.  The lack of new flowers which should be out by now made us all the more grateful that the primulas have enjoyed the cool weather a lot.

primulasprimulasprimulasI was very pleased to see some bees visiting the apple blossom….

apple blossom with bees…but we will need more if we are to get a good crop.

The tulips are nearly over but not quite.

tulipstulipI was going to put some buck-u-uppo on the middle lawn but the ingenious bottle, which should be attached to a hose so that it can spray the fertilizer, was so old that its fittings were jammed tight and I couldn’t get it to work.  For some reason, the thought of lugging watering cans full of water all over the garden didn’t appeal to me much so I picked up a camera and went on a brief cycle tour instead.

Mr Grumpy was in hunting mode at the Kilngreen.

Mr GrumpyHe wasn’t looking in the water but in the long grass on the bank.  He plunged his beak into a hole but only came out with a very small insect.

Mr GrumpyI rather think that he may have been after a frog.

I left him to his prey and went on to the sawmill brig to see if the dippers were about.  They were.  dippersThere was a pair of them visiting a hole in the bank so I assume that have a nest in there.

dipper nest

All mod cons including a shower.

I moved on to see if the blue tits still had control of the nesting hole at the Jubilee Bridge.  I think they have as I saw a blue tit visit…

blue tit…but it came out again very quickly (too quick for me) and didn’t return while I was watching so I don’t think that there are any young yet.

I cycled on home and had a cup of tea with Mrs Tootlepedal who had finished her work in the garden by this time,

In the evening, we went to our local choir, Langholm Sings, and sang.  We have two concerts coming up with them and we are working hard.  Some of us are even watching what the conductor is doing.

The flying bird of the day is Mr Grumpy making off with his insect.


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Today’s guest picture from my brother Andrew shows that we are not the only people getting a bit of rain.  He found the Dove Walkway running with water when he visited it yesterday.

The Dove Walkway after the stormAfter several weeks of very restless nights following my knee operation, the last few nights have gone a bit better and I thought this might offer me an opportunity to cut down on my pill intake.  Accordingly, last night I abandoned the alarming yellow pill that I have been taking and went to bed with some trepidation instead.

The result though was very satisfactory and I had the least disturbed night for weeks.  In fact it was so good that after coming down for breakfast in the morning, I went upstairs and went to sleep again.

I woke up feeling quite perky and since it wasn’t raining for once, I arranged to go for a walk with Sandy.  He has been suffering from a sore toe but felt that it was well enough for a test stroll.   I spotted a redpoll on the feeder just before we set off.

redpollOur route took us up to the Auld Stane Brig and just before we got to it, we noticed a tree looking rather ghostly in the sunlight, almost as if it had been whitewashed.

tree at wauchope castleCloser inspection revealed that it was covered in lichen.

tree at wauchope castleA little further on, Sandy took some interest in a fence pole.

Sandy photographingHe was looking at one of my favourite little lichen gardens.

lichen on fence postIt always has something to interest the eye when you go past it.

After crossing the bridge, we returned to the town by Gaskell’s walk.  Here we were in the shade and as it was a raw and chilly day, we didn’t linger too long.  The recent winds have done a bit of damage and this tree, snapped off exactly where a polypore was growing, caught our attention.

polyporeI have passed that tree many time and never noticed the fungus before.  It must have been hidden behind the trunk.

Although we were in the shade, the hills to our left and ahead were bathed in sunshine.

Meikleholm Hill

You can see the hardy hill cattle on Meikleholm Hill

Castle Hill

And there are some more on the right near the very top of Castle Hill too.

When we got up to the Stubholm, we got into the sunshine again…

Stubholm…but although it looks very cheery, it was still very chilly and we didn’t hang about as there was a real nip in the wind.

Going down the track to the park, we did stop for a moment to admire the fungus on a fallen branch.  It has survived the recent frosts and sleet very well.

fungusIt is noticeable that if anything stands still for long in our woods, it gets covered in moss.  It doesn’t seem to matter whether it gets some sunshine…

Marker stone…or not.

troughBoth Sandy and I were quite pleased that we hadn’t chosen a longer walk.

After lunch, I had another little walk up to the dentist and back and that was more than enough for me and I spent the rest of the day mainly resting, though I did manage a gentle pedal on the BtN in the garage at tea time.

The sleep in the morning and the rest after the visit to the dentist were a pity in one way because apart from one short and very sharp hail, shower, we had a dry and mostly sunny day and I should have made better use of it.  Mrs Tootlepedal made excellent use of it by doing some extensive clearing up in the garden.

We were very cheered to find that it was still light at four o’clock and it does seem that that we have started get the longer daylight at last. It always takes longer than you feel it should after the winter solstice for the days to wake up and pay attention.

The clouds were catching the last rays of the sun as Mrs Tootlepedal came in for a cup of tea.

Four o'clock cloudsFour o'clock cloudsAfter our cup of tea, I put a week of the newspaper index into the database while Mrs Tootlepedal cooked a delicious cheese flan and some very tasty mini mince pies. In the evening, Mrs Tootlepedal went off to see a film at the Buccleuch Centre but my get and go had gone and I lounged around idly at home.

The gardening activity meant that there were no birds to be seen in the afternoon but luckily I had caught a flying chaffinch before I went off for my walk with Sandy.


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