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I have delved into my archives to find today’s guest picture sent by my Somerset correspondent, Venetia last October.  It shows a footpath that is not totally welcoming.

cows in the way

We woke to an altered view from our upstairs window.

whita fron befroom window

The snow hadn’t got down as far as the town though and I was able to walk to our corner shop on surprisingly ice free roads.

Sandy, who had missed the camera club last night, came down for a cup of coffee and Mrs Tootlepedal combined having coffee with us with putting more coats of gesso on the rocking horse.  The horse has been brought in from the cold and is enjoying life in our spare room.  More importantly the gesso is going on a lot better and by the end of the day, the horse was looking a lot smarter…

rocking horse gesso progress

…although there are several more coats to go on before it will be ready for painting.

When Sandy left, I did the crossword and kept an eye for action outside the kitchen window.

I got an unexpected chance to catch a regular visitor…

sparrowhawk on feeder

…which doesn’t usually sit quietly for long enough for me to take a picture.

In spite of the snow, it was a reasonably pleasant day with occasional bursts of sunshine and although the temperature was only 3°C and it had rained overnight in the town, we were mysteriously free from ice so I went for a walk half way up a hill.

I went up the Kirk Wynd and onto Whita, stopping before I came to any serious snow. The sun had been out when I started but sadly clouds had intervened and it was a pretty grey day.

trees on whita snow

Even on a  grey day though, there is usually something to cheer a walker up and there was a good show of lichen on a wall….

lichen on mossy wall

…and the view up the Ewes valley always lifts the heart whatever the weather.

snowy view up ewes

I was on the very edge of the snow line as I walked along the contour of the hill towards the Newcastleton road but the going was very good and I had sensibly taken my walking poles with me so I enjoyed myself.

whita track snow

And when I got to the road, I was rewarded with a sparkling display of moss among the snow on a wall…

moss on snowy wall

…and a wintry view through the pines.

pines in snow

Looking back up the hill, I was glad that I hadn’t been tempted to climb up to the monument as it looked decidedly chilly up there.

monument with frosting

I followed the road down to the A7 and walked along to the Kilngreen past this fine display of holly berries.

holly berries whitshiels

On the Kilngreen, the light seemed perfect for capturing the sinuous patterns of this picnic bench…

kilngreen bench

…and I was very happy to see Mr Grumpy on the bank of the Ewes Water.  I haven’t seen him for some time and was getting worried about his health.

heron

There was more agreement about the way to go among the mallards today.

mallards on esk

Looking back towards the Sawmill Brig and Castle Hill, it was hard to imagine that I had been walking in snow not long before.

kilngreen no snow

I got home and sat down to a nourishing plate of soup.  Mrs Tootlepedal returned from helping out at the Buccleuch Centre cafe and I watched the birds for a while…

january greenfinch

…being pleased to see a greenfinch and by accident I took a picture which shows how small our garden bird visitors are in the great scheme of things.

bird among the bushes

Whatever it is that is causing me to have discomfort when walking at the moment hadn’t been made worse by my walk so I decided that the roads were probably ice free enough to risk a few miles on the slow bike to see if that sort of exercise would help.

The sun came out…

snowy whita from wauchope road

…which was a bonus and I pedalled very gently for seven miles without meeting any icy patches or making my leg worse so I was very happy.  I will try a longer ride next time when the weather permits.

In the evening, the ever busy Mrs Tootlepedal laid down her crochet hook and went off to act as front of house for a screening of the Queen of Spades at the Buccleuch Centre and stayed to see the opera.  As Tchaikovsky is not my favourite composer, I stayed at home and did a little more work on learning the Carlisle Choir songs.  Like putting gesso on a rocking horse, this is a slow business.

A chaffinch is the flying bird of the day as the visit of the sparrow hawk didn’t keep the birds away from the feeder for long.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture come from Mike Tinker.  It was sent to him by the owner of a cottage in Wales where Mike and Alison often spend a week on holiday (but not when it is as snowy as this).

Highbrook snow 2017

The deep snow in Wales is a reminder of how lightly we in Langholm have been touched by winter so far this year.

It was another dry and occasionally sunny day here today but once again the thermometer only just crept over zero and any chance of gardening or cycling remains in the future.

Still, the chilly weather gives me a good excuse for getting up late and idling about.  I did fill the bird feeders and look out of the window.

The blackbirds were very prominent again today.  I thought this one looked rather shifty as it searched for seed in the tray under the feeder.

blackbird

There was a discussion on the radio about Christmas round robins but I don’t think they had this one in mind.

robin

There were a lot of goldfinches flying in and throwing their weight about…..

goldfinch and chaffinch

…and generally looking appalled at the behaviour of lesser breeds.

goldfinches and siskin

I was pleased to see a sparrow on the feeder.  Although there are a lot of sparrows in our area, they don’t seem to like sharing our feeder with finches.

sparrow

Judging by what other people who  feed birds  have told me, there must be ‘sparrow gardens’ and finch gardens’.

 

 

After coffee, I persuaded Mrs Tootlepedal to go for a walk and we went carefully in case of ice but found the going good in general.

The scene was frosty again….

Meeting of the waters

…but with none of the sparkle brought by a good hoar frost.  There were some examples…

frozen holly

…but they were few and far between.

As we crossed the Sawmill Brig, I recorded the fact that the new stones built into the parapet after the damage caused by a falling tree, are already showing an admirable tendency to provided a home for lichen.

lichen on sawmill brig

I was glad that Mrs Tootlepedal had come on the walk as her sharp eyes spotted some hair ice on a branch in a ditch.  I debated the wisdom of clambering into the ditch for a close up but decided to walk on.

Avoiding the ditch was a sound idea because we saw lots more hair ice as we went along.

hair icehair ice

It looks as though it is made of threads but touch it and it melts in your hand as it is pure ice.

It wasn’t hard to spot as there was an example on a fallen twig or branch every fifty yards or so but we were bowled over when we saw this magnificent display cascading down the trunk of a rotten tree.

hair ice

Nearby, a patch of frozen fungus caught the ye.

frozen fungus

Although the tree branches are not covered in white, for some reason the local gates are very attractive to Jack Frost.

frozen gate

I was thinking of another walk after lunch but our neighbour Liz told us that she had a chimney sweep coming and we asked her to see if he would come across the road when he had finished with her chimneys and do ours before he went.

She did, he would and he did.  He was amazingly quick and efficient and left without leaving a speck of soot behind him.  We will see him again next year.

While I was waiting for him, I looked at the birds.

If the goldfinches are going to be as bossy as this one, you can see why sparrows might look for somewhere calmer.

goldfinch and chaffinch

We had a flying visit from some starlings but they only stayed for a few seconds before moving on.

starlings

When the sweep had gone, I lit a fire to celebrate and then  settled down to putting some music on the computer to practise as we are going to a competition in Manchester in February and it will be hard work again.

Meanwhile, Mrs Tootlepedal was gainfully employed making potato and parsnip gnocchi for our tea.  Like the sticky toffee pudding, this was a first go for her and like the pudding yesterday, it was entirely successful so we had a very good evening meal of gnocchi and baked beans followed by a second helping of the sticky toffee pudding.  Once again, that banging noise you can hear is pampered billionaires banging their heads against the wall and wondering why they can’t eat as well as us.

In the evening, we went to our parish church to listen to a concert by Emily Smith, a very talented singer from Dumfriesshire with two friends to back her up on fiddle and guitar.  The trio were delightful and gave us a varied programme of carols, Christmas songs and a nice mix of her own and other writers’ world.

I may have remarked before that we are very fortunate to have constant treats in Langholm and with the community pantomime last night and this excellent professional performance tonight, any thoughts of cold, dark days have been put away for a while.

By chance, I managed to catch a flying chaffinch outlined against the frosty lawn and I was pleased to be able to use the shot as flying bird of the day.

flying chaffinch

 

 

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Marianne, who was actually our guest today.  She took this picture of her partner Tony and his dad as they were walking dogs this morning.

IMG-20171209-WA0000

It was another bright but chilly day with 1.5°C the best that we could do all day.

The colder weather has brought the birds back to the feeders and there were robins…

_DSC9653

…and any amount of chaffinches about after breakfast.

_DSC9657

_DSC9658

I didn’t get too long to look at the birds though before we were invaded by two boisterous dogs who brought our son Tony and his partner Marianne with them.  They had driven down from Edinburgh to bring us a very handsome hamper of goodies for our Christmas present.

Unfortunately, Mrs Tootlepedal had an engagement with her Embroiderers’ Guild branch’s annual festive lunch so after providing coffee and drop scones for our visitors, she had to go off to have fun.

The dogs, Tara and Milo thought it would be good to take Marianne, Tony and me out for a walk so we wrapped up well and set off to stretch our legs.

The dogs were very good at rounding up the walkers and making sure that they went in the right direction.

Milo and Tara take Tony for a walk

It was a sparkling and crisp day and the the layer of icing on the hills looked very pretty but I was surprised to sheep grazing so high up the slopes of Whita.

Whita with a little snow

This horse seemed a bit surprised to see us.

horse

There was more snow left on the north facing shadier slopes of Warbla.

Warbla with snow

The green on the trees at this time of year is provided by moss and lichen.

P1050929

Our walk took us along the fields on the Murtholm…

Meikleholm with snow

….where sheep grazed beside ice covered puddles.

sheep with ice

A little seasonal colour was on show.

holly berries

I liked the way the sun caught the smoke from a barrel burning rubbish at one of the stables along our way.

incinerator

In spite of the cold, the dogs plunged into every pool and stream they could find and needed a last visit to the river to get their feet clean before we went home…

Tara and Milo at the waterside

…where they displayed a lively interest in the food which we were eating for our lunch.

Tara and Milo in the kitchen

After Tony, Marianne and the dogs left for the drive back to Edinburgh, I had another look out of the kitchen window.

Two goldfinches were having a competition to see which of them could drop the most seed…

goldfinches

The one on the left won.

….and this provided plenty of good pickings for the blackbirds.  We could see as many as seven blackbirds at the same time in the garden on several occasions today.

blackbirds

The robin (or a friend) returned to give me a selection of poses.

robin

I took a final shot of a goldfinch in the plum tree before the sun  got too low.

goldfinch

I retired to an easy chair with a crossword to wait for the return of Mrs Tootlepedal from her festive fun.  She came back in a very cheery mood which was solely attributable to good food and good company as no strong drink is needed for embroiderers to have a good time.

We took some time to practise the songs for our concert tomorrow and then ventured out into the cold to watch the International Space Station as it trundled across the sky above our street.

_DSC9684

It was very bright tonight.  I read that they are the process of having a crew change and it seems fantastic that people can fly up to what is just a speck in the sky and actually meet it.

Then we settled in for the evening.  I made some corned beef hash for our meal and we watched the Strictly Come Dancing semi finals.

I really enjoy watching ballroom dancing but the vastly over fussy lighting effects and the frenetic camera work and constant cutting made it quite difficult to see what was actually happening on the floor.  I often wish that television directors trusted the audience to have a bit of interest in the subject matter and content of their shows and didn’t feel the need to dress them up so much.  I am definitely able to watch something for more than ten seconds without nodding off, even at my age.

Looking at the weather map, it seems that we might be one of the few parts of the country to avoid snow over the next few day.  As we have to go to Carlisle tomorrow, this will be very welcome.

Once again, a chaffinch is the flying bird of the day.  I will have to try and find a flying gull by way of variety tomorrow.

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Today’s guest picture was kindly sent to me by Southampton blogger, Marie and shows the view from her window on a recent visit to Canada.  She must be a bit fed up to be back home if her weather is anything like ours.

Canada view

On the swings and roundabouts principle, the weather gods are certainly making a full adjustment for any good weather we may have had in September and October with a succession of grey days.  Today was the second day of strong winds but at least the rain held off for long enough for me to get a short walk in.

Sandy came down for coffee on his way to Carlisle and and I made some drop scones to nibble while we sipped.  They were of such surpassing ugliness that any photogrpah of them here would have had to have been accompanied by notes on parental guidance.  Fortunately we ate them all before any pictures could be taken.

When Sandy left, I peered out of the window for a while at birds in the air looking down…

chaffinch

…and on the ground looking up.

robin

Then, as it wasn’t raining, I put on my coat and went for a walk.

After all the rain, I was hoping for some dramatic river pictures but I was too late.

Esk

You can see how high the river rose from the line of leaves along the bank

The river drops as quickly as it rises and although it had been raining all day yesterday, the slight slackening off today had been enough to let it dispose of any surplus water.

As I followed the river down to Skippers Bridge, I stopped to look at a fine display of lichen on a bench.

lichen on bench

I past the old distillery and one beneficial aspect of the strong wind and rain blowing leaves off the trees and bushes became apparent.  You can see bridges much better.

Skippers

And then I leant over the parapet of the bridge and admired the rushing water.

Esk

And standing back a bit, I admired the many different lichens on the parapet itself.

lichens at skippers

Walking back home on the other side of the river, the amount of rain that we have had recently became very apparent…

puddle at Murtholm

…although the ducks weren’t complaining.

puddle at Murtholm

Fine weather, as they say.

My way home took me once again along leaf strewn paths…up over beech…

Beech leaves

…and down over sycamore.

sycamore

I was keeping my eye out for fungus and there was quite a bit about but it was mostly very small and in the gloom good pictures were impossible without a tripod.

small fungus

Mrs Tootlepedal has promised to make me a handy tripod carrier like a quiver for an archer and if she does, I will try to carry a tripod about on gloomy days like this.

There were a few bigger fungi to be seen…

fungi at Stubholm

…as well as some  autumn colour and a surprise flower or two.

holly berriesyellow leaf

As always, the park wall was a rich source of interest.

park wall lichenIn spite of some threatening clouds, I got home before it started to rain again and counted myself very lucky.  My walk was sheltered from the worst of the wind and at 14°C, the temperature is about 9° above what might be normal for this time of year.

When I got home, I took a quick tour of the garden in search of the last drops of colour.

marigold, fuchsia and rose

sedum, cotoneaster and nerine

These are just isolated outburst in a sea of green and brown, though there are still raspberries to be had on our autumn fruiting canes.

In the afternoon, one of the tenors from our Langholm choir came round and we used the files which I have been creating on the computer to have a good practice.  We have a concert coming up sooner than is ideal and home practice is very much the order of the day.  As I can’t play the piano, having the computer play for me is very handy.  What’s more, the computer never gives you old fashioned looks when you make a mistake but just plays it again without comment.

My musical day continued after tea with a trip to Carlisle with Susan to play with our recorder group.  We were five tonight and ended our session with two enjoyable pieces by my favourite recorder composer, Anthony Holborne.

This made for a good ending to what was a surprisingly satisfactory day in spite of the awful weather.

The flying bird of the day is a jackdaw carrying off one pink and one white pellet.

jackdaw

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