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Posts Tagged ‘plum blossom’

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother’s expedition to Wales.  Having left Chester, he headed for Anglesey but found Snowdon in his way….so he walked up it.

snowdon

I wasn’t very happy with the colour that my pocket camera found in the lithodora’s blue flower or in the mystic Van Eijk pink tulips so I took my Nikon out today and shot them in RAW to stop the camera’s software making decisions that I didn’t agree with.  I think that the results are more true to what the eye sees.

raw lithodora

mystic Van Eijk poppies in sun

And while I was there, I took the real Van Eijks….

Van Eijk poppies in bed

…some very pale grape hyacinths…

pale grape hyacinths

…and a stream of standard blue ones.

row of grape hyacinths

The main business of the morning though was not footling about with cameras, but putting in the second of the two new veg beds.  Mrs Tootlepedal likes to have things right so this involved not just digging and shifting soil, but using gardener’s string and a spirit level too.

After the bed was levelled and settled, I left her to sort out the soil and mowed the middle lawn.  This involved stamping on a lot of moss but there was enough grass growing there to fill the lawn mower’s collecting box.

Mrs Tootlepedal called me over when I had finished as she had come across something unusual.  It was very green.

green caterpillar

I am not at all knowledgeable about caterpillars but some research says that this might be an angle shade caterpillar.  I would be happy if a reader can put me right.

I went in to make some potato and onion soup for lunch and had a look at the birds while it was cooking.

goldfinches on feeder

The plum tree is making a very picturesque background for birds waiting to visit the feeder.

two chaffinch with plum blossom

After lunch, I inspected the tulips.  It had been a sunny morning, although it hadn’t felt very warm because of a chilly east wind, and the sun had been enough to open a few petals.

pale yellow poppy heart

yellow poppy heartred poppy heart

I deadheaded the first of the daffodils to go over.  This was the first of many dead heading activities to come.  It is a bit tedious but it keeps the garden looking neat and it encourages the daffodils to come again.

I checked out the veg beds.  They are both the same size although the camera angle makes one look a lot shorter. Mrs Tootlepedal likes the slightly wider paths between the beds that the new layout had created.  The wire netting covering is to protect the soil from cats.

two veg beds

I will have to sieve more compost as there has been quite a lot used lately.

I had time to spot a dunnock lurking in the shadows below the feeder…

dunnock in shadow

…before I got my bike out and went for a pedal.

It was a lovely day as far as the sun went….

Wauchope valley tree

…but the wind was hard work when I was pedalling back into it so I was pleased to stop and admire a couple of oyster catchers on a wall at Bigholms.

oyster catchers on wall

When I looked across the wall, I could see the windfarm on the horizon and I reckoned that this must have been an ideal day for ‘green’ energy with the combination of bright sun and a stiff breeze.

view of windfarm

Now they need to get busy on working out the best way to store it so we can have some to hand when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining.

I had enough personal energy left to cycle through the town when I got back to it and go a couple of miles out along the road north.  I was very surprised by the colour of the soil in this field beside the Ewes Water.

ewes valley field

You can see the edge of the field in the bottom of the picture that I took looking up the valley.

Ewes valley April

I managed to add a couple of miles to yesterday’s trip and got home after 16 miles.  If the weather permits, I will try to add two miles to my journey every time that I go out for the next few days until I have got back some of the fitness that I lost in an almost cycle free March.

I am taking things steadily as my foot is still tender but the gel insoles for my shoes have been very successful and I would like to thank those who advised me to get them.  I haven’t tried a walk of any length since I got them, but the ordinary walking round the house and garden is very satisfactory and limp free.

The slow cooked lamb stew made its third and final mealtime appearance tonight, this time in the form of a light curry with rice.

The dry cool weather with sunny periods seems set to last for a good few days so I hope to be able to continue to get out and about (as long as my foot continues to be co-operative).

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from our friend Bruce who had been touring the border hills country when he stopped to take this picture of the waterfall known as The Grey Mare’s Tail.grey mare's tail

It was a theoretically warm day today with the thermometer registering 10 degrees but a very chilly northerly wind made it feel much cooler.  Still, it was dry as we cycled to church to sing in the choir so we weren’t complaining too much.

We had a cheerful set of hymns to sing today which made up for the grey weather.

When we got home, I took a general view from an upstairs window of the middle lawn which is currently surrounded by daffodils.  The shrubs are adding a bit of colour to the borders too.burst

 

Then I had a look at the birds while I drank a cup of coffee.  The sunflower hearts are quite big for the small birds’ beaks and there is a lot of spillage.

goldfinch untidy eater

There is always a ground squad about to make sure that none of the fallen seed is wasted.  I counted fifteen chaffinches waiting under the feeder for manna from heaven today.

Some of the chaffinches tried to get onto the perches but this one waved its wings ineffectually and didn’t shift any of the incumbents.

chaffinch waving at feeder

There was a steady churn of birds coming and going with some strong sentiments expressed along the way.

chaffinch in busy scene

There is not much happening in the garden at the moment so rather than walk around it, I went off for a pedal on my new bike.  I was well wrapped up and with the wind behind me, it was an unalloyed pleasure to cycle up to the top of the hill at Callister.  It was quite a bit harder to battle back down the hill into the town but I managed to go a little bit further than I did yesterday and a little bit faster too so I was quite happy.

When I got home, I found that Mrs Tootlepedal had recovered her health well enough to have moved one of the new vegetable garden frames into place.  The new frames are intentionally narrower than the old frames so there will have to be some digging before they get fully settled in.

new bed in place

I noticed that more blossom had appeared on the plum tree so I recorded that fact before going for lunch.more plum blossom

After lunch, I had time to go through a few of the songs that we are doing with our Carlisle choir before it was time to go off to Carlisle to sing.  I spotted a goldfinch trying out the peanuts as I was getting ready to go out to the car.

goldfinch on nuts

It didn’t look very happy but it had a good nibble before it flew off.

Our choir practice was excellent.  Our conductor was in very good form and the choir was responsive so we got a lot done.  The current set of songs have a lot of good singing in them and are difficult enough to keep me working without being so hard as to make me depressed.

With two concerts, a church service and three practices since Tuesday, it has been a full week of singing and it is very heartening to find that the combination of speech therapy and singing lessons helped my previously creaky voice to survive.

We drove home in a sort of hazy sunshine but by the time that we got back to Langholm, it was all haze and no sunshine.  As we parked the car, I saw that the first of the Lithodora ‘Heavenly Blue’ flowers had appeared.

lithospermum

My camera resolutely refused to show just how blue the flower is so I will have to try again in a different light.

It had no problem even in the dim light with the glorious colour of the cowslippy things which are going from strength to strength….

cowslippy

…and it enjoyed the fresh green of a philadelphus by the hedge.

philadelphus

Although the light was fading now, there was enough left to show a redpoll visiting the feeder. It was just in time because although I had filled the feeder twice during the day, the seed was almost all gone again.

redpoll

I had made a slow cooked stew with a rolled shoulder of lamb in the morning before going to church and Mrs Tootlepedal cooked some mashed  potatoes and cabbage to go with it and the result was entirely satisfactory.  The slow cooker is a wonderful thing.

Looking at the forecast, an easterly wind is set to continue for several days so spring may remain on hold for a while.

The flying bird of the day is two chaffinches, looking a bit uncertain of which is the best way to go.  You can’t avoid Brexit metaphors these days.

flying chaffinches

Footnote:  I don’t generally use a photograph if I haven’t taken it on the day of the post but I found that I had overlooked this one from last Wednesday.  It was too bright to waste.

It shows the eye popping display of flowers at the Houghton Hall Garden Centre.  This is where Mrs Tootlepedal found her cheerful primrose for the chimney pot, though hers came from a subsidiary bench where bargains were to be found.

dav

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Today’s guest picture comes from my sister Mary who took a trip to Greenwich Park and enjoyed the view on a sunny day.

View from Greenwich park

I started the day with a visit to Dropscone to return his hat and gloves which he had left behind after coffee yesterday and then pedalled on to the producers’ market in the Buccleuch Centre where I stocked up on necessities such as honey and cheese.

When I got home, I found the birds in a rather subdued mood after some frantic to-ings and fro-ings at the feeder in the past few days.

stately chaffinch arriving.

Even the threatening behaviour seemed strangely  gentle.

chaffinch and siskin

Our neighbour Kenny appeared with some grass cuttings for Mrs Tootlepedal who was going to lay them as mulch on one of her beds.  I purloined some to make a green layer in compost bin A.

While I was out, I had a look round the garden.  The recent cold spell has put new growth on hold without discouraging the plants that were already out…

april garden flowers

…but there were a few promising tulips to whet the appetite for things to come.

first very pale tulip

No one could say that they were fully out…

first pale yellow tulip

…but it is better than nothing.

firsy yellow tulip[

In the pond, tadpoles are beginning to break away from the crowd.

tadpoles

I liked this blackbird which came to listen to our conversation with Kenny.

blackbird on chair back

Mrs Tootlepedal was well enough to do a little light gardening like digging up an old potentilla from beside the dam and I gave her hand and shredded the plant when it had been uprooted.

I got the mower out and had a test go with it on the middle lawn but there has been so little grass growth that it was a pointless and I put it away again and had another walk round.

The Christmas tree has thoroughly settled into its outdoor situation and is developing well…

sprouting christmas tree

…as is the rhubarb growing beside it.  I am dreaming of crumble.

growing rhubarb

I took a picture of the first plum blossom of the year…

first plum blossom

…and we can only hope that a few bees show up soon or I will have to get busy with the pollinating brush again.

Mrs Tootlepedal planted out a very cheerful primrose, which she purchased recently, into the chimney pot beside the feeders.

new primroses in chimney

The fact that it had been on offer at a very reduced price made it all the more attractive we felt.

The euphorbias are showing their claws.

crab euphorbia

I got my slow bike out again and pedalled back up to the town to buy some gel insoles for my shoes.  I had received some sage advice from arthritis sufferers to the effect that some padding in the shoe could only be a good thing so I am resolved to give it a try and see how it goes.

When I got back, I went in for lunch and had another look at the birds…

siskin landing among goldfinches

…and among the usual suspects, I was pleased to see a coal tit paying the plum tree a visit.

coal tit in plum tree

It soon came down to the peanuts and had a check out and a nibble.

coal tit on peanuts

It didn’t stay long but I hope it comes back soon and brings some friends.

After lunch, I put my new insoles into a pair of shoes and went off on my new bike to do a few miles and see what life on the road was like.  Now I know that there is no structural  damage to my sore foot, at least I can can give it as much exercise as it will take and cycling is a very stress free activity.

I haven’t been out for ages so I stuck to doing ten miles but it was a great pleasure just to be out and about and turning the legs over in a meaningful if steady manner.

This view from my turning point may not be very scenic but it was welcome all the same.

the open road

It was a grey day and there were no wild flowers in the verges so the only other picture I took as I went along was this diagonal procession of sheep.

diagonal sheep

Mrs Tootlepedal was recovered enough when I got home to go for a shopping expedition to Gretna and we were organised enough to get home in good time to watch the Grand National steeplechase.

After the race, I went over the hymns for tomorrow’s church service and cooked some sea bass, which I  had bought at the market in the morning, for my tea.  Mrs Tootlepedal had hot smoked salmon, a favourite dish, for her meal.

I am hoping that my new foot regime will let me get out an about a bit more and a look at the forecast shows that it should be cold but dry which will help, though a bit of warmth would be even more welcome.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture shows the world’s greatest small person in reflective mood at a party.

MatildaAfter breakfast, I waved good bye to Mrs Tootlepedal as she set off to Dumfries with three colleagues from the Ewes WRI group to take part in a competition for 15 minutes of prose and poetry readings on the theme of childhood.  This competition covered groups from the whole of the South of Scotland and was a new venture for the Ewes group who were asked to enter to represent their larger local area.

I got a text from her in the afternoon to say that the group had won the handsome trophy, surprising no one more than themselves.  However, having heard all the other entries, Mrs Tootlepedal did feel that there had been no luck about the outcome and the four ladies were quietly pleased that their hard work had borne fruit.

In her absence, I spent a second very peaceful day, lazing about the house and only going for a short walk after lunch.

I had all the time in the world to admire the blossom on the plum tree.

plum tree with chaffinchI set up the camera on a tripod at the kitchen window and sat at the table with the wireless remote to hand doing the crossword and snapping birds simultaneously.

wet feederThe rainy morning helped me to avoid any strenuous activity.  The rain stopped from time to time and the light was reasonable.

chaffinchThe rain had brought a few siskins to the feeder and they were as rude as ever….

siskinsiskin and chaffinch…though not always successfully.

The weather took a turn for the better after lunch and when the sun threatened to come out, I went for a stroll round Easton’s Walk.  We have some way to go before everything is green….

Stubholm track…but I was delighted to see a bluebell (completewith insect visitor) in the woods beside the track…

bluebell…the first of a multitude to come I hope.

By the time that I got back to the park, the sky was blue and the poplars beside the river looked very fine, both when I was looking up to them….

poplars…and when I was walking along under them.

poplarsWhen I got home, there was time for a garden inspection.  Mrs Tootlepedal is aiming for a stream of hyacinths flowing through the flowerbeds round the front lawn.  The plan is developing well.

stream of hyacinthsI inspected the potential fruit crop and was happy to see gooseberry, apple and blackcurrant all looking promising.

fruitThe sound of bees was reassuring.

I chopped a few more logs for our wood pile and then mowed the grass round the greenhouse and on the drying green.

I had one last look at the plum blossom….

plum blossom…and a blackbird….

blackbird…before it was time to welcome Mrs Tootlepedal home, have a cup of tea and set out for a visit to Cockermouth in Cumbria.

We were going to see a performance by an amateur group.of a version of the Beggars’ Opera, with music adapted from the version written by Benjamin Britten.  The reason for our interest in this show was the presence of  no less than three of my fellow tenors from our Carlisle choir among the cast.

The drive down in the evening sunshine was glorious with the Lake District hills looking at their best so the forty miles passed very pleasantly.  We brought a sandwich to sustain us, admired the blue clock faces on the handsome church beside the car park…

cockermouth church…and went into the small theatre for the show.

The small size of the stage was a definite handicap to the production which lacked a bit of pace as a result but my three choir colleagues all did their bits with enthusiasm.  I can’t say that I think that Britten’s approach to the songs suits the show and the musical director’s rather careful tempos didn’t help.  The end result was a certain lack of out and out gaeity in the satire which is probably needed to contrast with the more sentimental moments.  The cast worked really hard though and the audience appreciated their efforts wholeheartedly.

The drive home in the dark was accomplished safely and unsurprisingly, Mrs Tootlepedal was quite tired when we got back.

The flying bird of the day is a down to earth chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Fiona, my Newcastle correspondent.  She has been forced to go and work in Malta for a while and is having to put up with surroundings like these.

MaltaWe had another lovely day here today, genuinely warm and with gentle winds.  I would like to have used it to go cycling but the pressing need to have a lie in wasted the early part of the morning and then the pleasure of entertaining Dropscone, who was also recovering from yesterday’s efforts, took up the next hour.  This was followed by a visit to the health centre for some regular maintenance and before I knew it, the morning had gone.

After lunch, my plan was to have a quick visit to the Moorland bird feeders and follow that with a bike ride.  As a plan, it wasn’t one of my most successful.

When I got to the road to the bird feeders, I found that teams of pothole fillers were hard at work and while this is a very welcome activity, it put paid to my scheme for a little bird watching.  Watching men filling potholes is not so much fun as spotting woodpeckers so I came home.

Once home, something in the air got my asthma interested and far from cycling, I needed a quick sit down.  This was enhanced by a good snooze and the desire for a pedal had evaporated by the time that I woke up.  I was some what recovered though and managed to mow the middle lawn and sieve a little compost so the day wasn’t entirely wasted.

In the absence of any adventures, my exploring was limited to the garden.  There was enough there to keep me fully entertained.

pink and yellow tulips

Multicoloured tulips are brightening the garden up.

tulips

Plainer ones still have plenty of ping.

tulip

Plenty of ping.

There was activity in the pond.

pond skater and frogAnd in the dam at the back of the house.

little fish in dam

I was surprised to see a shoal of tiny fish there.  Perhaps some expert can tell me what they are.

aubretia

And delighted to see the flourishing aubretia.

I always keep an eye for new flowers and although I am not entirely happy to see them in the middle of the front lawn, these daises looked very cheery.

daisiesThe marsh marigold in the pond was more suitably placed.

marsh marigoldAmong the established plants, the pulsatillas are going great guns….

pulsatillas…and the magnolia is looking better every day.

magnoliaAlthough we always nervous about late frosts, it was very pleasing to spot the first plum blossoms on the year…

plum blossoms….and even more pleasing to hear the buzzing of many bees in the garden.  They were very keen on the hyacinths today.

bees on hyacinthsbees on hyacinthsOther insects could be seen too.  Although they didn’t seem ready to spread their wings open and enjoy a little basking, I did see both a peacock and a small tortoiseshell butterfly.

butterfliesSo in spite of not getting much accomplished, I was able to enjoy the sunshine and not dwell on missed pedalling opportunities too much.

In the evening I went off to our local choir practice and had a most enjoyable sing.  Mrs Tootlepedal spent almost the whole day working on the floor in the front room and was still working in the evening and as a result, she missed the choir.  Still, her work is paying off and the floor is going to look very good when she has finished.

The only fly in the ointment of the end wall development is to be found in one of the old sandstone blocks which we saved from the old fireplace and re-used in the new one.  The plaster beside it is not drying and when our project manager came round with his nifty damp-meter, the reason for this became clear.  The old block is still very wet after years in a leaking end wall.  We will just have to be patient while it dries out but it does mean that the decorating won’t be finally finished for quite a bit yet.  The room will be quite usable though and Mrs Tootlepedal plans to start moving the furniture back in tomorrow.

Mr reason for wanting to visit the Moorland bird feeders was the lack of birds in our own garden but I did manage to find a flying bird of the day as the shadows lengthened in the evening.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture shows a view of Amsterdam.  It was sent by my sister Mary who has just come back from a visit there with my brother Andrew and my sister Susan.  They get about.

Amsterdam April 2014 022

I made an effort to get about a bit myself today as for once it was a completely dry day and, for a while at least, the wind had dropped.

The downside was that the temperature was decidedly chilly in the early morning and I didn’t get going until nearly ten o’clock.  The sun was shining as I set out with a couple of bananas and an egg roll in my back pocket and no particular route in mind.  My plan was to see how I felt and cycle accordingly.

I started out along the Wauchope road and, as I was heading into what wind there was, I went at a steady rate, dropping into a comfortably low gear any time a hill approached.  This method took me the ten miles to Paddockhole without any stress and here I had a choice of routes.  I settled for heading north into the rolling hills and climbed up to Corrie Common where the moorland is wide open with skies to match.

Corrie Common

A bit of down and up took me to the edge of the Dryfe valley….

Above Boreland

…and here I could either head east into more hills and back to the Esk valley for a 40 mile strenuous round trip home or west into the broader, gentler country of Annandale with the opportunity to extend my tour as I felt able.  The sun had gone in but I was feeling well and the bike was rolling smoothly so I went west and followed the Dryfe Water.  I  didn’t go into Lockerbie but headed straight on towards the motorway.  I was passed by several log lorries who were heading towards the wood fuelled power station at Stevens Croft.

Stevens Croft

This is UK’s largest wood fired biomass station. With an output of 44MW it supplies the electrical needs of 70,000 Scottish homes, displacing around 140,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases.  There was certainly a huge mound of sawdust and vast acres of logs on every side round the building.   In the distance I could see another approach to energy production.

windmills

This was the third windfarm I had seen since starting my journey.   The wind may be a pain for cyclists but at least it is good for something.

For the rest of my journey, I could almost always see the sun shining but it was almost always somewhere else and not where I was which was a bit of a disappointment and meant that I took less photots than I had intended.

I cycled over the motorway on a bridge and headed towards the river Annan, crossing it by the bridge at Millhousebridge where this curious building dominates the approach to the river.

Millhousebridge

This clock lodge was the old schoolhouse.  The clock seems to eternally pointing to ten to three like the Old Vicarage in the famous poem.

I crossed the river and pedalled downstream to Lochmaben.  Here I bought a bottle of water as I had forgotten to put my own water bottle on the bike and a cup of hot chocolate.  I would have enjoyed the chocolate more if I hadn’t put it on the ground while I took a photo and inadvertently kicked it over.  This is the photo that I took.

Mill Loch

The Mill Loch, one of three in the town.

I cycled thought the town and out past the Castle Loch, the biggest of the lochs.

swans on Castle Loch

They have a sailing club here.

There was a brief moment of sunshine but it had almost gone by the time that I had turned round to look down the length of the loch.

Castle Loch

I was tempted to visit the castle that gives the loch its name but the road was covered by farm muck as they had been spraying the nearby fields so I passed up the opportunity and headed first down to Dalston and then to Hoddom, where I stopped in a handy picnic place for my lunch of a banana and an egg roll.

Refreshed, I crossed the Annan once again….

Hoddom bridge

and pedalled home via Ecclefechan, Eaglesfield, Gair….

wild flowers in the verge at Gair

Wild flowers in the verge at Gair

…and over Callister for the second time on the trip.  For this section I at last had the wind behind me.  This was well planned as it gradually increased in strength until it was able to give me a substantial helping hand down the final hill and back home.

I ended up covering 56 miles in just over four hours of cycling time and because of the leisurely pace and the care I took to be in an easy gear whenever some uphill threatened, I ended up in very good order.  Those with time to kill can view the route here.

I noticed when I put the route into the Garmin Connect website, that Dropscone had also taken advantage of the light winds to whizz round the customary morning run at great speed.  I was glad that I hadn’t been trying to keep up with him.

After a cup of tea and  shower, I had a look round the garden.  The tulips are doing their best.

tulip

A silver pear, a lasting gift to us for our silver wedding, has charming pink tips for its flower buds but no pink at all in the actual flowers.

silver pear

We are hoping that the plum tree, as well as offering a perch to our birds, will provide us with a good crop of plums this year.

Plum tree blossom

The blossom is looking very promising so far

The rhubarb is flourishing…

rhubarb

…and we picked  a few sticks which will be cooked for the first of many rhubarb crumbles to come.

As I went back into the house, I noticed this very large bumblebee crawling up the wall.

bumblebee

As the day was still dry, Mrs Tootlepedal, Sandy and I went up to the Moorland Bird Feeders to see if we could see anything interesting.  Dr Barlow was there filling the feeders when we arrived.  She had been hoping to have a ringing session tomorrow but the winds are going to be too strong so it has been cancelled.  She told us that there were plenty of hen harriers to be seen on the other side of Whita.

We sat down to look at the feeders. I was hoping for some good woodpecker shots but I had to settle for a male and female pheasant.

female pheasant

The female pheasant, restrained elegance

male pheasant

The male pheasant, rather showy

If the female looks a bit gloomy, it may be because every move she made was dogged by at least four and often more of the males, all vigorously pressing their suit.

There was little of interest so we soon packed up, pausing only to note the arrival of a woodpecker at the very moment that we were all back in the car with the cameras put away.

Taking Dr Barlow at her word, we drove round and up onto the Langholm Moor and sure enough, there was a hen harrier floating above the hillside looking for something for her tea.

hen harrier

The weather had worsened, with a chilly and strong wind and thick cloud so after Mrs Tootlepedal and Sandy had had a good look through their binoculars, we went back home, there being no chance of a better photograph to be had.

In the evening, we were visited by Mike and Alison Tinker.  Alison had been working very hard in her garden all afternoon so we  were both a little tired but all the same we managed to finish quite a few sonatas at the same time and often in the same key.  Most enjoyable.

The flying bird of the day is a goldfinch.

flying goldfinch

 

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