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Today’s guest picture comes from learned reader Edward from Sheffield.  He has tree peonies in his garden with flowers a foot wide.

Edards tree peonies

We had timed our holiday well.  After several dry weeks, the weather turned gloomy today and it rained in the afternoon.  According to the forecast, there is a good deal more rain to come which will be welcome from a gardening point of view.

The morning was dry though and this gave us a chance to get busy in the garden, Mrs Tootlepedal doing useful things and I wandering about with a camera in hand.

New flowers have arrived during our absence and there is no shortage of bright colours.

The first iris has come out…

first iris

…and several more geraniums have joined the blue ones which arrived first.

geraniums

They are excellent value and should keep flowering all through the summer.

four geraniums

Lupins have arrived….

first lupins

…and aquilegias are popping up all over the garden.

aquilegias

A favourite flower for peering at closely with the camera is this anemone.  I love its strong colours and busy centre.

anemone close up

But probably, the stars of the show are the red peonies….

two red peonies

…even though they are too red for the camera to really enjoy.

The established flowers are enjoying the weather in spite of the lack of rain…

azaleas and rhodidendrons

…although the azaleas are going over rather quickly.  Perhaps the new rain will help them last.

The clematis at the front and back doors have increased in number while we have been away…

two white clematis

…and the front door variety is fast becoming a favourite of mine.

clematis centre

Potentillas, both salmon pink and yellow are thriving…

yellow and orange flowers

…and the poached egg plant is getting more white edges every day.  The first roses are appearing with the yellow one above joining the the rosa moyesii below.

Our poppies are becoming more international and an oriental poppy has joined the Welsh and Icelandic ones which were out before we left.

four flowrrs

A geum and an astrantia complete today’s collection.

I put down the camera and mowed the middle lawn.  It had been badly pecked while I was away but once I had mowed over the loose moss, I found a lot of reasonably green grass about underneath.  Mrs Tootlepedal intends to carry on a methodical feeding programme so I have every confidence that it will be in good order soon.

I mowed the front lawn too and found that it is still in poor condition, although the feed that I gave it before we went away has encouraged the occasional blade of grass to appear among the moss.  I will keep trying.

As I was working at a very gentle pace, and we took a break to entertain Mike Tinker to a cup of coffee, all this took me up to lunchtime.

I had the opportunity to check on the birds when I got in.  Usual suspects such as siskins and redpolls were in evidence but sparrows are obviously feeding young as they turned up on the seed feeder…

sparrow on feeder

…as well as feeding on peanuts and fat balls as well.

The siskins and redpolls haven’t learned about peaceful coexistence while we have been away.

redpoll being shouted at

Dunnocks were busy on the ground under the feeders.

dunnock

I had a quiet afternoon watching the racing on the telly, a very undemanding activity.  Most of the enjoyment comes from listening to the expert commentators telling us why their chosen horses have not won the race that we have just watched.

I even felt a bit sorry for them when their unanimous pick of a heavily odds-on favourite trotted in third in five horse race.  There was not a lot that they could say.

Mrs Tootlepedal spent the afternoon with her Embroiderers’ Guild group and when she returned, I roused myself to drink a cup of tea and check the kitchen window again.  A jackdaw, fed up with pecking at my lawn, had come to try the peanuts….

jackdaw on feeder

…and it was joined by a starling…

starling on feeder

…but sadly, it and its friends preferred to start in the lawn pecking business themselves instead of eating bird food.

starlings on lawn

If they are eating leatherjacket grubs though, they are probably doing me a good turn as I read that the grubs eat grass roots and can destroy a lawn.  This may explain why the birds always peck at the worst bit of the lawn and leave the bits with good grass growth alone.

I hope to catch up on my blog reading now that I am home.

Meanwhile, the flying (or perhaps diving) bird of the day is a pigeon.

flying pigeon

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo from Manitoba’s trip to England.  She went down to Hastings on the south coast and was rather surprised to find a reminder of home in the shape of a somewhat morose moose.

Mary Jo's moose

Although I had enjoyed my cycle ride up the hill to the bird hide yesterday, the effect of having to push hard to get up the hill hadn’t been kind either to my breathing or my feet so I wisely decided to go nowhere further than the corner shop today.

Luckily there was plenty to look at and quite a bit to do in the garden so I wasn’t bored.

One of the field beans from Mrs Tootlepedal’s green manure planting has avoided being dug in and is flowering merrily and the potatoes are just popping their heads through the soil too.

bean and potato

The front door clematis brings a smile to my face every time I pass it by.

front door clematis

It was sunny again today but not as warm as it has been but new arrivals are still appearing and we saw the first veronica and choisya flowers today.

veronica choisya

And the sun has encouraged abundance…

groups of flowers

…not least among the alliums.

allium copse

Not all the good things can be seen from inside the garden and I had to go out onto the road to see two more arrivals, a honeysuckle in the hedge…

honeysuckle in hedge

…and the first flowers on the rosa Moyesii.

rose moyesia

When I went back in I spotted two more new arrivals, a pink aquilegia and a posh geum.

aquilegia and geum

Undoubtedly though, the brightest flower in the garden wasn’t even out yet.

rhododendron buds

That is the very definition of red in my view.

I didn’t just wander about.  I did a little work too.  We recently bought a very reasonably priced half moon edging tool from the ever intriguing middle aisle at Lidl in Carlisle and Mrs Tootlepedal and I put it to use in producing some neat edges for the middle lawn.

Mrs Tootlepedal, who really likes a neat edge, was very pleased with the result.

neat lawn edging

So was I.

Then I got the electric hover mower out and mowed the drying green and the greenhouse grass.  I often talk about mowing the drying green but I don’t know whether it has ever appeared on the blog before.  Here it is….

drying green

…not the greatest expanse of grass in the world but sufficient for its purpose.

It has a fringe of nettles and other wild plants in the far corner to encourage insects.  Mrs Tootlepedal has a plan to let the grass grow freely and cut a path just wide enough to give access to the whirligig.  She intends to plant tulips among the grass so as to make the area decorative as well as useful.

Then I lent a hand as Mrs Tootlepedal fashioned a protective cage for her sweet peas.  If our peas and sweet peas are not fully protected, the sparrows nip the tops off the growing plants and they come to nothing.   It is very infuriating and gives Mrs Tootlepedal a lot of extra work, but this year she thinks that she has got the peas properly protected.

three pea fortresses

The pair of blackbirds nesting in the hydrangea are working very hard collecting food and it is rare not to see one or both of them pecking away on the lawn.

blackbird pecking lawn

Seeing them working away made me think of the front lawn which is still in poor condition so after lunch I got out one of those cheerful packets of soluble fertiliser which promise you a greener lawn in five days and used it.

For once, I believed the advertising hype as nothing could be less green than the front lawn at present so the manufacturers are on a winner here.  Mrs Tootlepedal helped by filling one watering can while I sprayed with the other, and in this way the work was soon done.

 

Over by the compost bins, the rowan is coming along nicely.

rowan buds

I was standing in the drive, thinking quietly about life at one stage of the afternoon when I was nearly run over by the partridge.

the partridge on drive

It nudge me aside and headed for some fallen seed from the feeder.  It didn’t stop long and scuttled off through a neighbour’s hedge.

And that was quite enough activity for the time being, so I went inside and watched horse racing from York on the telly.  There were some good races.

Before I settled down, I went upstairs and had a look at the azaleas round the front lawn from a window.

front lawn with azaleas

Mrs Tootlepedal has planted some new azaleas and they should add to the picture over the next few years.

This is one of them.

new yellow azalea

When Mrs Tootlepedal set about cooking our evening meal, I popped out to mow the middle lawn and had to duck my head as I went through the back door to avoid the overhanging clematis there.

back door clematis

The need for all the lawn care and pea protection is because we are going away for a week to frolic by the sea with Matilda.  There should be a lot more to see in the garden when we come back (quite apart from a much greener lawn).  While we are off, our neighbour Liz is going to feed the birds for me and Mike and Alison are going to keep an eye on the greenhouse and the garden for Mrs Tootlepedal, so things will be well looked after.

There is no flying bird of the day today.  This is partly because I didn’t spend a lot of time looking and partly because the chaffinches, which are by far the best at offering flying bird opportunities, have more or less temporarily (I hope) disappeared from the garden.

A blackbird, finding a wheelbarrow full of compost to dig in, is the parental bird of the day instead.

blackbird in barrow

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo from Manitoba who is not in Manitoba at all at the moment.  She is in London and visited Kew Gardens where she took this picture.  You might think that as it was taken in a famous garden it shows a wonderful plant but in fact it is an even more wonderful glass sculpture by glass blower Dale Chihuly.

glass blower Dale Chihuly’s career KEW

We had another very fine day here today and with the wind coming up from the south, it was warm as well as sunny.

I pottered around the garden in the morning when I wasn’t drinking coffee or doing the crossword.

There was colour galore…

red flowers

…with old and new plants enjoying the weather.

purple flowers

There were more bees and other insects about today and I found two of them visiting a Welsh poppy…

welsh poppy with flies

…but they hadn’t discovered the first of the Icelandic poppies yet.

icelnadic poppy

When I walked over the pond bridge, there was a lot of tension on every side…

surface tension with frog

…but viewed from another angle, the frog seemed quite relaxed.

frog may

Nearby I saw this puzzle picture.  Was it a version of Jonah and the Whale?….

tadpole om lily leaf

….or was it just a water lily leaf half out of the water with a tadpole resting at its heart?

I walked along the dam at the back of the house to see if birds were bathing in the water there.

A sparrow had obviously just taken a dip when I arrived.

wet saprrow on barbed wire

When I came through the back gate, I passed one of the less cultivated areas of the garden.  Against all her ingrained gardening instincts, Mrs Tootlepedal is going a little wilder each year.

dandelions in garden

Blackbirds are nesting in the climbing hydrangea on the front wall of the house and this one took a moment to rest on the feeder pole before going off to collect more worms from the lawn.

blackbird

It had a wisp of nest stuck on its head which made me think how lucky we are to have hands and arms.  It twisted its head this way and that, so I imagined that it knew something was stuck up there, but it had no way of getting it off.

Although the crossword was quite tricky and took some time, I managed to have several wanders among the flowers.

This is Mrs Tootlepedal’s current favourite….

rhododendron in bloom

…and this is mine.

late tulip

I had a close look at the cow parsley and found, as so often is the case, that there is more to some flowers than you think.

cow parsley blossom

Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help at the Buccleuch Centre coffee bar over lunch and when she came back she sat on a garden bench and had a snack while I scarified the front lawn and collected the moss with the mower.

It has been very dry over the past weeks and as there is no rain in the immediate forecast, Mrs Tootlepedal had been doing a lot of watering in the vegetable garden before breakfast.  I thought that I ought to do my bit, so I watered the azaleas round the front lawn and one of the hedges which we have been cutting back.  Most of the azaleas have been refusing to progress from buds to flowers and I wondered if the dry spell was the cause.

The next task was putting the netting onto the metal frames for the two small fruit cages in the vegetable garden.  This involved measuring and cutting, and a good deal of bending and stretching.  By this time, the afternoon had got decidedly hot and we had to stop before we had quite finished the job.  Although a trick of the light makes it look as though we have only done the sides, we have done the front and back of the two cages as well.  Just the front section of the top of the left hand cage remains to be done.

fruit cages netting

After a short collapse and a cup of tea to recover from the heat, Mrs Tootlepedal made a fish pie for our tea.  When we had eaten our meal, she went back to the Buccleuch Centre where she was acting as a front of house volunteer, and stayed on to watch a screening of All My Sons by Arthur Miller.

I got my natty cycling shorts on and went out for a suitably short evening ride.  I am still trying to take care of my feet by mixing rest and gentle exercise (with frozen peas applied from time to time) but at least I can cycle without pain so I enjoyed my ten mile outing.

I looked up to see a tree at one point and was surprised to see the moon high in the sky behind it.

tree and moon

It was a grand evening to be out on very quiet roads and it was good to be able to cycle far enough to get a view.

wauchope road evening

I was keeping an eye out for hawthorn blossom but I only saw two bushes in flower and they were in a sheltered but sunny spot near the town.

first hawthorn

Mrs Tootlepedal came back from the Buccleuch Centre with her withers thoroughly wring by the Miller drama and this made me quite glad that I hadn’t gone too.  I generally need cheering up not wringing out just now.

The flying bird of the day is the sparrow which appeared earlier in the post.  It came back down off the fence and took a bath.  The water was certainly flying even if the bird was not.

sparrow splashing

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary.  She was hit in the eye by this burst of colour on her morning walk to Kenwood House.

Kenwood colour

After breakfast, I cycled up to the town to do some business including paying in a handsome cheque kindly sent to me by the government.  This was a refund for the very expensive road tax which I had paid on our old car.  One of the benefits of the little white zingy thingy is that it is tax free to put on the road, part of the inducements to go electric.  These benefits will doubtless disappear when more people start buying electric cars but judging by the published figures on the rate of sales, I should be safe for a while yet.

Then  I drove off into England for the third day running, this time to see my singing teacher Mary.  My ambition is to be able to sing a simple song more or less in tune and in a pleasant manner so she has her work cut out on both fronts.  However, she is a first rate teacher and I came away feeling that with work, I might be able to achieve my goal.

An added bonus was being able to watch a small flock of lapwings flying around in the field opposite her house after the lesson.

It was another fine day so when I got home, I took a walk round the garden in the hope that more azaleas would have come out.  They are very reluctant.

not out azalea

This one has been covered with  promising buds for ages but it is still strangely reluctant to burst into flower.  Our warmer weather is set to continue for a day or two so I am keeping my hopes up.

When I went in, I found that Nancy, the Archive Group treasurer and chief data miner for our local newspaper index, had brought round the sheets which will mean when they have been entered into the database that we have reached 1900.  Three cheers to all involved.

It was soon time for lunch and after I had eaten my soup and cheese and done the crossword, the downside of the little white thingy came into play.  The crucial word here is “white” and some pointed remarks from Mrs Tootlepedal drew my attention to the fact that a white car shows the dirt.  For many years now I have avoided washing our car because in my view, it just encourages more dirt, but even I could see that the new car is going to require regular washing.  Ah well, nothing in the world is quite perfect.

After I had washed to car, the middle lawn called to me.  The moss eating mixture which I applied a few weeks ago seems to have had an effect but there was still a very mossy patch in the middle of the lawn so I got out the scarifier and gave the whole lawn a going over.  When I had collected the moss with the mower, the lawn looked quite potential…

scarified lawn

…though my assistant thought that there was still work to be done.

scarifying assistant

…and to be fair, there is still quite a bit of moss about.

As you can see from the lawn picture, we are between colour at the moment with the tulips and daffodils past but there is a lot of green about…

green garden May

…and there are spots of colour here and there.

The sweet rocket is coming out…

sweet rocket

…the tree peony is very nearly out…

tree peony flower nearly out

…and the Japanese azalea is doing its best too.

japanese azalea

The cow parsley in the back border is beginning to look really impressive…

rampant cow parsley

…and Mrs Tootlepedal has a purple stemmed variety in another bed.

purple stemmed cow parsley

I went round to the back of the house, to check what flowers could be seen along the dam…

flowers along dam may

…and found daisies, potentilla and the first of the aquilegia, one of my favourite flowers.

I came back into the garden and found that the white polemonium…

white polemonium

…had been joined by a blue variety…

blue polemonium

…and the first geraniums have arrived too.

cranesbill

I took a view from an upstairs window which showed that only two of the five azaleas in the bed along the road have come out…

azaleas in sun

…and then went off for another short and gentle therapeutic pedal on the slow bike.

I passed the bluebells on the hill again without walking up to visit them this time.

bluebells on hill

When I had been down in England in the morning, I had noticed that quite a few hawthorns had come out and I was interested to see if ours were out too.  They weren’t….

hawthorn not out

…but they are going to make a good show when they do arrive.

Although most of our trees are now green, the alders along the river sides are still waiting to join in, as this picture of the Glencorf Burn shows.

leafless alders glencorf burn

Normally, if I have a good bike ride, as I did yesterday, I would try to go further the next day but as I had my sensible head on today, I went slightly less far than I did yesterday and my ankle thanked me for it.  I was very happy to find my sensible head as often it is well hidden away.

I didn’t have much to time watch the birds today but I liked the concentration shown by this pigeon…

concentrating pigeon

…and checked out the usual customers on the feeder.

redpoll, siskin, goldfinch

My flute pupil Luke came in the early evening and I was able to use a tip which I had picked up from my singing lesson to help him get over an awkward corner in one of our pieces.

I also introduced him to Scott Joplin as a change from baroque sonatas.

As the sun sank after a full day’s work, I resisted the temptation to take a sunset picture as I already had too many for the post and so all that is left now is the flying bird of the day.  Or rather, in today’s case, the fleeing bird of the day.

fleeing siskins

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Today’s guest picture is another from my brother Andrew’s cycle ride through Duffield.  As well as the pub, he saw a fine bridge over the Derwent  there.

duffield bridge

I had a subdued day today.  I was meaning to take a bit of exercise, but cold wet windy weather once again suggested that more rest for the feet was the best policy.

I was consoled by the arrival of Dropscone with scones warm from the pan to go with morning coffee. We had a short competition to see who was in the worst condition and although it was a close thing, I think that Dropscone just won.  He has got a lot of trouble with a knee.  I easily won the moaning competition though.

When Dropscone left, I did the crossword, lounged around a bit, had some soup and waved Mrs Tootlepedal off on a trip to Edinburgh.  She was going to listen to our church organist’s degree recital in St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh along with other supporters from the town.  I would like to have gone too but I felt that I needed to go and sing with my Langholm choir as a concert is looming up.

I did a lot of useful work on the computer during the afternoon but took time out to look at birds.  A greenfinch appeared…

greenfinch may

…and became one of a quartet of four different birds on the feeder…

mixed feedr

…although it wasn’t long before things had reverted to type.

siskin feeder

Siskins were everywhere.

siskin heading for feeder

I put another week of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database and have now caught up with my backlog.  I imagine that the data miners will have been busy behind my back though and more sheets will soon arrive.

There is often something interesting in the Eskdale and Liddesdale Advertiser of 1899 among the reports of temperance meetings and rugby matches.  Today’s nugget was a visit to Langholm by a champion cyclist who was in the process of cycling 100 miles every day for a year.  His name was Teddy Hale and I found this entry in Wikipedia:

On the 30th of July of that year he started a record attempt to ride a 100 miles daily on British roads. This attempt was sponsored by Acatène, a company that produced a shaft-driven bicycle. One year later, at the 31st of July 1900, he completed a total of 32,496 miles with which he set a first mark for this endurance record. Afterwards Hale ended his cycling career. He died in 1911, only 47 years old, leaving behind a wife and five children.

You can find an interesting article about him here if you have time to spare.  He won a big race in America too.

Sometimes, when I am looking out of the kitchen window, my eye is drawn away from the birds towards the flowers round the feeder…

wallflowers through window

…and today they were drawn even further afield by the sight of devastation on the middle lawn.

pecked lawn

Those pesky jackdaws had been at work again.  !!!

I put my jacket on and went out into the garden and though I was delayed by finding a third flower out on the garage clematis…

three clematis flowers

…and a tulip…

ballerina tulip

..or two…

pink tulip

…I managed to get the mower out and combine a quick cut with collecting the pecked moss.

mowed lawn after jackdaws

I mowed the front lawn too.

An hour and half later, I looked out again.

Jackdaws on lawn

!!!!!!

The sparrowhawk might have felt the same when it arrived on a fruitless mission shortly afterwards.

sparrowhawk head

It just couldn’t believe that there were no birds down there.

I am happy to report that at least one pigeon regained its focus today.

focused pigeon

After tea, which consisted of the farewell appearance of Mrs Tootlepedal’s quorn sauce, this time in the guise of a mild curry with rice, I went out to the choir.  In spite of resting pretty seriously for several days, things did not go well on the way.

My feet may be fairly considered to be items of great aesthetic beauty by connoisseurs but as aids to actual walking, they are still pretty hopeless at the moment.  I am confused as to whether rest or exercise is the best thing and I really hope that I get to see the physio soon.

Still, the singing was both enjoyable and useful so I hobbled home cheerfully enough.

The house was rather empty as Mrs Tootlepedal went to stay with Matilda in Edinburgh after the recital.  I will see them both tomorrow if the new car and the trains run as scheduled so that isn’t too bad. And, as a Tottenham Hotspur supporter I was mildly surprised but not entirely displeased with the result of their match against Ajax this evening.  (This an example of litotes.)

!!!!!!!!!!!!! (It was a day of !!!!)

The flying bird of the day is one of those siskins.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture is a look back at Venetia’s African trip.  There are so few bees in our garden that I wondered whether a relative of this handsome carmine bee eater might be responsible for the dearth….but it is probably just the cool weather.

carmine bee-eater

A cold and sometimes drizzly day made it easy for me to persuade myself that another more or less complete day of rest might be good for my feet so it was fortunate that we had plenty of visitors to brighten our day.

Our first visitor was Sandy, who came round to enjoy a cup of coffee and some biscuits.  He has been very busy in his garden organising new fencing and a sitting area in front of his garden shed.   He is also about to fly away from our cold climate and visit the Canary Islands with friends.  All in all, he was very cheery as a result.

Just as we had finished the coffee pot, Scott our ex minister turned up with his wife Jane.  Obviously living in a big city has slightly blunted his coffee radar but it was easy enough to brew another pot and we sat and caught up with their doings.

While we were sipping and  chatting, the third visitor of the morning arrived in the plum tree.

rook peering

It was a rook demanding attention.

rook shouting

Always eager to please, I picked up my camera and took two profiles…

rook right profile

…showing the rook as both sensitive and serious….

rook left profile

…and then, happy with the result, the rook flew off, leaving the centre of attention to a blackbird.pecking blackbird

When Scott and Jane left, I took a moment to wander round the garden. There is little novelty at the moment because of the cold mornings and grey afternoons.

Such tulips as are still around are in a state of suspended animation…

 

thin tulip

…and only one more flower has appeared on the garage clematis.

two white clematis flowers

I went back in and when I looked out of the kitchen window, I saw the power of a pigeon’s stare.  The one on the left had caused the one on the right to completely lose its focus.

hard stare pigeon

A chaffinch, though larger than  the tiny siskin, still thought it wise to nip round the back of the feeder rather than try to oust the sitting tenant.

chaffinch nipping round the back

I made some vegetable soup, with added turmeric which is rumoured to benefit arthritic joints, for our lunch, and having eaten some, I went out and mowed the middle lawn in a very gentle way.  While I was out, I noticed that the very first astrantia of the year had appeared.

first astrantia

Regular readers will know that they can expect many more shots of this flower before summer is over.

I went in and put a week of the newspaper index into the Langholm Archive Group’s database.  I am a bit behind the data miners and will have to find time to put in more weeks soon.

When the week was entered, I went out to see what Mrs Tootlepedal had been doing in the garden all afternoon.  She had done a lot of tidying up of the early spring growth and is busy getting ready for the next stage.  Because of the stop start nature of the weather, the first azalea is now nearing its full glory before the others have hardly produced ten flowers between them.

red azalea out

It will be a pity if it goes over before the rest have come out as it will spoil the picture which the gardener has designed.

The marsh marigolds in the pond are out of my reach and so escape dead heading but the seed heads look quite pretty in their own right.

marsh marigold

The bergenias are reaching up and still putting out new flowers…

bergenia

…but this is just about the last of the trout lilies which have come and gone quite quickly this year.

last trout lily

I was just looking at a sturdy row of pea shoots growing in an old gutter in the green house…

prize peas

…..when our fourth visitor of the day arrived.  This was Mike Tinker and as it was four o’clock, we went in for a cup of tea and some ginger biscuits.

I am adding the shreddings and sawdust from his felled cherry tree to compost bin A in judicious amounts with other materials to try to get the perfect combination of green and woody layers which will result in rich compost later in the year.

After Mike left, the fifth visitor of the day was my flute pupil Luke.

We have been working hard on improving his breath control and today I finally managed to get my thoughts about this into an order which made sense to him and we made good progress.  It is always useful for a teacher to remember that if a pupil isn’t learning something which has been explained clearly to him, then it is the fault of the teacher and the explanation not the pupil.  Don’t just say the same thing again, try something different.  This is sometimes a hard lesson for a teacher to learn.

Mrs Tootlepedal has a way with quorn mince that makes it very tasty so we enjoyed a good meal to round off an interesting day.

I did spend a few minutes before tea on the bike to nowhere in the garage just to make sure that my legs won’t drop off entirely from inactivity.

The flying bird of the day is a siskin, one of our most frequent visitors of the day.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture is a weather vane from the Somerset Rural Life Museum sent to me by Venetia, my Somerset correspondent.  The weather vane is a memorial to a long serving volunteer at the museum, a nice idea.

weather gauge somerset

The weather here was warm and sunny but not quite as warm and sunny as yesterday as the wind was stronger and the sky a bit hazier.  Nevertheless, it was a great day to be out in the garden, and after an early visit to the town for a bit of business, I spent a lot of the day in the garden.

Before I went out into the garden, I took the advice of a correspondent and tried applying some ice (in this case, a packet of frozen peas wrapped in a  tea towel) to my tender Achilles tendon.  It gave me some relief and I repeated the process a couple more times through the day.

There was plenty to look in the garden as well as to do so in between dead heading daffodils, sawing the sweet pea frame down to fit the new beds, and sieving compost, I admired a small corps de ballet of Ballerina tulips…

ballerina tulips

…and a single in-your-face orange variety of which I do not know the name.

bright orange tulip

Pond skaters have come to the pond in numbers.

three pond sketers

Blossoms have come out on two of the three espalier apples…

two apple blossoms

…and it shouldn’t be long before they are joined by the third one.

Mrs Tootlepedal is very pleased with her trilliums which have just come out too.  They were given to her by Mike Tinker and by coincidence, he passed the garden just as we were looking at them and came in to share the experience.  They are beginning to multiply so we are hoping for more next year.

trillium april

I am noting new things all the time and these tulips, the bluebell, the Solomon’s seal and an alpine clematis have all appeared over the last couple of days.

new flowers april

On top of that, we are getting very excited by the prospect of entering the age of the azalea.

first azalea

If you want eye catching green, then euphorbias are the thing to have.  Mrs Tootlepedal has them in flashy and discreet but they are both very green.

euphorbia panel

We had to stay at home as we  were expecting a visit from an electrical engineer who was going to do interesting things to our meter.  He arrived bang on time, was very polite and efficient, did some extra work beyond the call of duty to make things convenient for another engineer who is coming next week, complimented me on the coffee that I made for him and tidied everything up very neatly before he left.  Not everything in the modern world has gone to pot!

I was interested to see that he took photographs before, during and after he had finished his task as a record of what he had done.   That seemed like a very good idea to me.

While he worked, we stayed out in the garden and I looked at the trout lilies which are enjoying the good weather a lot…

trout lilies

…and the Christmas tree which is growing in every possible direction.

christmas tree busting out

We went in for lunch when the engineer had gone and I saw this blackbird with nesting material on the chimney pot outside.  Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that it is nesting in the climbing hydrangea growing on the front wall of the house.

blackbird wirth nest material

On the feeder itself, things were much as normal…

normal feeder

..but we did have visits from too very contrasting birds, a dove and a hawk.

collared dove and sparrowhawk panel

The hawk paid us several visits over the day without catching any of our little birds…

sparrowhawk staring

…and gave us a very exciting chase sequence to watch as it pursued a little bird across and out of the garden with many a squeal of rubber and handbrake turns on the way.

In the afternoon, I looked at the front lawn and felt that this was the day to scarify it.

The panel below shows the unscarified lawn on the left, looking as though butter wouldn’t melt in its mouth, and on the right, the very large amounts of moss that the machine lifted as it passed.

lawn scarifying

The bottom panel shows the results of going over the lawn a couple of times with the mower on a high setting to pick up the moss and one of the three wheelbarrow loads of moss that I took away.  Don’t be deceived, there is still a mass of moss in the lawn.  I will scarify it again in a few weeks time.

A poor peacock butterfly was trying to sun itself on the drive and had to keep flying up into the air as I passed with wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow.  It settled down again each time and must have been really fed up by the time that I finished disturbing it.

peacock butterfly sunning

The peacocks are appearing about a week earlier than usual this year.

While I was caring for the lawn, Mrs Tootlepedal was preparing her sweet pea fortress for the coming hostilities with the sparrows.  I predict a win for Mrs Tootlepedal this year.

sweet pea cage

As the afternoon wore on, I felt that I should make good use of the day by going for another short cycle ride and went out for fourteen miles at a gentle pace, clad in a T shirt and shorts.

The wind was gusting up to 20 mph and blew me up to the top of Callister.  I stopped on the way down to take in the view.  The garden may be springlike but it will the best part of another month until the hills go green.

callister view

I had to pedal hard just to get down the hill into the wind but I made it back to the town and enjoyed the cherry trees along the banks of the Esk between the bridges.

cherry tree beside esk

Our good spell of weather is coming to an end and it is going to get gradually but steadily cooler over the next few days and we may even see some much needed rain soon.  I just hope that it knows when to stop.  I won’t need my cycling T shirt and shorts again for a while, I fear.

The flying bird of the day was almost a sparrow hawk…

missing sparrowhawk

…but as you can see, I was too slow, so a goldfinch takes over the duty instead (no doubt keeping a sharp eye open for any hawks).

flying goldfinch

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