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Posts Tagged ‘pulsatilla’

Today’s guest picture is a triumph of patient gardening.  Mike and Alison Tinker have been tending a kowhai plant (a New Zealand native) for twelve years and this year it has finally flowered.  Alison took the picture and Mike sent it to me.

kowhai flower

I leapt out of bed, had breakfast, dashed on my cycling gear….and then footered a couple of hours away in drinking coffee, reading the newspapers and doing the crossword.  It was a perfect day for cycling and I can only put my reluctance to get going down to mental feebleness brought on by a combination of various aches and pains and possibly Brexit.  Brexit has been blamed for everything else so it might as well take the blame for my idleness too.

But I did get going in the end and enjoyed myself thoroughly.  The first bit of the ride, with more downhill than up and with the wind mostly behind me, was a treat and I soon found myself in England, in the shelter of the motorway banking, eating a sandwich and a banana after twenty miles and an hour and a half of pedalling.

M6 at gretna

There are still not many wild flowers about but there were dandelions along the the whole route.  At one point I saw a good crop of Danish Scurvy Grass beside the motorway and near Longtown, I met a nettle just about to flower fully.

dandelion, scurvy grass and nettle

In order to keep my foot happy, I stuck to flat roads and tried not to press too heavily on the pedals.  This last was quite easy to achieve with the wind behind me but when I turned east and passed a fine pine tree, it was harder as the wind was not negligible and my speed dropped.

tree near todhills

I won’t complain though because it was genuinely warm by then and pottering along was no hardship.  To avoid going as far as the busy main road into Longtown, I turned on to a track which is part of National Cycle Route 7.  These routes often have artistic trail markers.

bike route sculpture post

This particular track follows an old railway line and takes you across the river Lyne by way of a new bridge on old piers.

railway track on NR 7

It is a very peaceful place and the track is well maintained.

Unfortunately, I can’t ride the old railway all the way back into Langholm as the chance to turn it into a cycle way was lost after the line was closed and many bridges and viaducts have been knocked down.

Back on the roads again, I crossed this small bridge…

bridge near arthuret

…near the fine church at Arthuret.

arthuret church

I took the main road out of Longtown as it has recently been resurfaced and it is always fun to ride on a smooth surface for a change.  Sadly, the new surface has been done using a method that ensures that it will become very bumpy again for cyclists in the not too distant future.  Ah well, I will enjoy it while I can.

Somewhere along the road between Longtown and Canonbie, I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of a carpet of bluebells under some trees.

bluebells

This seems to be early for bluebells and is a week before they have appeared on the blog before and a fortnight before the usual time.  Still, they are very welcome as they are sign that spring is really springing.

On a stretch of the old A7 north of Canonbie, there were several butterflies warming their wings on the road and fluttering away as I got near them.  I stopped and one of them obligingly flew back and perched on a dandelion.  As I was getting back on my bike, I noticed a bonus ladybird crawling up a wall.

peacock butterfly and lady bird

My legs were a bit rusty but by stopping regularly for a stretch and a rest, I manged to cajole them into taking me round just under 44 miles.  As this was the furthest I have been since the 22 February, I regard it as very satisfactory distance.  Tomorrow will tell me what my foot thinks about it but I am optimistic.

When I got home, I had a walk round the garden with Mrs Tootlepedal who had had a busy day indoors.

The warmth had brought a new tulip out….

new tulip

…caused others to open wide….

three tulips

…and encouraged the trout lilies to lift up their skirts and dance.

trout lilies

A striking dark red pulsatilla had also emerged.  I liked it a lot….

red pulsatilla

…as did a bumble bee.

pulsatilla with bee

We went in for a cup of tea and a biscuit and when Mrs Tootlepdal went back to work, I watched the birds for a while.

Redpolls returned to the feeder…

redpoll in sun

…and one took a very dim view of the  loutish behaviour of a chaffinch.

chaffinch about to stamp

Strangely, I felt a bit tired so the rest of the day faded away into quietness, interrupted by giving Mrs Tootlepedal a little help with her project and then eating a tasty meal cooked by Mrs Tootlepedal.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch.

flying chaffinch

Footnote: The curious might want to know what Mrs Tootlepedal was so busy at during the day.

She has finally finished turning this…

old rocking horse

…into this.

new rocking horse

We are thinking of entering it in the Derby.

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Today’s guest post comes from our son Tony who has been having wonderful weather lately on the shores of the Firth of Forth.

East wemyss Riviera

Our day started brightly….

sunny fritallaries

…after another frosty morning but as the day went on, the clouds came over.

Dropscone dropped in for coffee, bringing treacle scones with him.  He is very excited because it is the first day of the official golfing season at Langholm tomorrow and he is the club captain this year.  It looks as though he is going to have a lovely sunny day as he sets the season  going when he drives off the first tee.

Apart from the coffee and scones, I had a very quiet morning with the occasional stroll round the garden.  The cloudy weather made it easier to photograph pale flowers and there were a number about.

Our first pulsatilla flower opened this morning.  It is an amazingly furry flower.

furry pulsatilla

The drumstick primulas are having a race to see which can produce a fully spherical flower head first.

drumstick primulas

This is my favourite of the white daffodils.

pale daffodil

The feeder was doing brisk business.  I had filled it after breakfast and it was half empty by lunchtime when a female redpoll arrived for a snack…

redpoll

…and I had to fill it again in the late afternoon.

I was very excited to receive a much anticipated parcel at lunchtime, but a great deal less excited when I found that I had been sent the wrong thing. It was my fault entirely.  I needed ‘type 2  to type 2’ and had ordered ‘type 2 to type 1’, a small but crucial error.

It was little consolation when I rang up to ask about exchanging it, to be told that lots of people had made the same mistake.  If that was true and not just said in a kindly spirit to cheer me up, then the seller’s website should be altered to make it less easy to make the mistake.

I took the parcel up to our post office and made it through the door just in time to catch the post before the office closed.  We have an outreach post office from a branch near Carlisle now because our post office closed a few months ago.  It only has limited hours and won’t open again until Wednesday, so I was pleased not to have missed out.

When I got home, I pulled myself together and went off to do twenty miles on my bike. My last ride of 20 miles, two days ago, left me with a very sore foot so I pedalled gently up and down the road a couple of times today, avoiding any steep hills and not cycling into the wind for any length of time and I only went 200 yards further than the last ride.

This seems to have been successful as my foot is not complaining as I write this.

I was limited for views but saw some life in passing.

A traditional spring family scene…

ewe with two lambs

…our resident gull looking downstream…

upstanding gull

…a goosander looking for fish…

goosander fishing

…and an oyster catcher not looking at anything.

oyster catcher snoozing

When I got back, the feeder was empty so I filled it and on the principle of, “If you fill it, they will come,”  the goldfinches  came.

They were anxious about infiltrating chaffinches….

fierce goldfinches

…but were soon able to check that they had complete control.

goldfinch gang

I had a final wander round the garden and saw more pale flowers….

pale tulips

…the very first of the trout lilies had appeared…

triout lily

…and the pulsatilla, which had opened out from this morning, stuck its tongue out at me as I passed.

pulsatilla

Mrs Tootlepedal had spent the afternoon working on the rocking horse,  She bought a little hammer this morning and I can report that she hammered in the morning and she hammered in the afternoon but fortunately she laid down her hammer and cooked a delicious meal of roast chicken in the evening.

We are promised another frosty morning tomorrow so although the weather has been very dry and generally sunny, it has been a bit nervous making for the gardener.

The flying chaffinch of the day, although enjoying the early sunshine, looked a bit nervous too, I thought.

worried flying chaffinch

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from Bruce’s stay in Aberdeenshire.  He visited Lil’ C’s American Diner near Oyne and sent me this picture.  The beer, Doom Bar, had come a long way as it is brewed in Cornwall and Bruce and I had drunk a pint of it ten years ago in a pub in Cornwall when he was acting as driver for the Tootlepedal Lands End to John o’ Groats cycle tour.

doom bar

In an effort to preserve my voice as much as possible, I didn’t go to sing in the church choir today.  While Mrs Tootlepedal went off, I stayed quietly in and cooked a beef stew for the slow cooker and checked out the garden after the overnight rain.

It looked refreshed…

foxglove

hosta with raindrops

…although one of the delicate peony flowers had found it all too much.

peony after rain

A white spirea is just beginning to show the first of its many little flowers…

spirea

…and the mini forest of orange hawkweed is thickening up.

orange hawkweed

As we had a practice in store before the concert itself, we had to leave for Carlisle not long after Mrs Tootlepedal got back from church, packing a snack to fortify ourselves after the practice and before the concert.

We picked up a fellow singer from Canonbie and got to the venue in good time.  We were singing at a new venue for us, St Barnabas Church, and it looked a bit run down as we approached it….

choir church

Inside, it was a different story entirely…

choir church interior

…and I wish that I had had the time and a camera to do it justice.  The church was built in 1936 and has been thoroughly refurbished inside so that it may well be the most cheerful church that I have ever been in.

As is often our custom at concerts, we were joined  by a local primary school.  This has the excellent twin effect of adding variety to the programme and numbers to the audience.  The children sang very well and I was pleased to see several boys in the school choir.  Our choir was about eighty strong and the acoustic was rich so we were able to make a good sound too.

The church was packed when the concert got under way and it went off pretty well and I managed to get through it surprisingly well.   We sang a little tribute to Andrew, our departing conductor, as a final number and he was much touched.  We will miss him.

Our Carlisle concerts are never too long so we got home in good time to eat the slow cooked stew and although it had obviously rained a bit more while we had been away….

pulsatilla

…it was still, warm and pleasant when we arrived back so while we were waiting for the kettle to boil for a refreshing cup of tea, we took a quick stroll round the garden.

The irises are looking well….

blue iris

…and Mrs Tootlepedal pointed out the latest arrival, a very dark and attractive variety.

dark iris

The naked eye sees it as almost black.

While we were looking around, a blackbird paused for a moment on its way back to the nest.

blackbird with worms

There will be no worms left in the garden at this rate.

There should be some food for us later though, as the plums are looking promising.

plums

Now the choir season is over, I am hoping for some good weather to get value out of my new bicycle.  The immediate forecast is looking promising.

I didn’t get a chance to catch a flying bird but the feeder was busy while we were outing singing and I had to refill it when we got home.  It was soon in use again.

siskins and goldfinch

 

 

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Today’s guest picture shows that Mary Jo has not been wasting her entire time in London going to concerts and seeing the sights.  She has looked at interesting things as well.

Mary Jo's moss

We had another grey, cold and windy day today.  To be fair, it has been pretty dry recently and if it hadn’t been for the very chilly wind, we would probably have been celebrating a good spell of weather.

I went up to the Moorland bird hide after breakfast to fill the feeders for Sandy who is still on holiday in the sun and it was so cold that even sitting in the protection of the hide was not much fun.

There weren’t that many birds to take my mind off the chill either.

blackbirds

Different blackbirds were in evidence

robin, tit and siskin

And a shy robin, a bold great tit and a tiny siskin

unknown bird

And this bird, unknown to me, which stopped for a very brief moment.  I welcome identification from knowledgeable readers.  It might be a chiffchaff.

woodpecker

A woodpecker was very busy flitting between trees and feeders…

woodpecker

…until it finally came near to me and made sure that I got its good side.

As I say, I didn’t stop long and was pleased to get back to the town and get a  little shelter from the cruel wind.

Mrs Tootlepedal was hard at work in the garden of course so I lent a little hand here and there and wandered around as well.

New flowers are coming out, some from the soil ….

tulips

….and some from handy boxes bought from a garden centre to temporarily fill a bare patch in a bed.

pansies

Amazingly, there are still one or two daffodils waiting for the moment to burst into flower…

unopened daffodil May

…while others, like these daffodils of the day, are nearing the end of the road.

daffodil

Dozens and dozens of daffodils have been dead headed already.

There is almost always something to see.  Today it was a pulsatilla, the first of many I hope….

pulsatilla

…with some pretty ferns unfolding in the back border….

fern

..near the first Solomon’s seal of the year…

solomon's seal

…and on the other side of the garden, a fuzzy willow bud, defying the cameramen to take a sharp picture.

willow bud

And if there are no bees about, there is usually a fly on the euphorbia,

fly on euphorbia

If you get really fed up with the chilly wind, you can get your camera to take silly pictures…

tulip picture

…and go inside for a cup of coffee.

tulip picture

Once inside, you can look out of the window and see that the goldfinches have taken over the feeder…

goldfinches

…with such total domination that you can see a chaffinch banging its head against the pole in frustration in the picture above.

A pigeon cast a beady eye on proceedings from the plum tree.

pigeon

When I went out to tell Mrs Tootlepedal that coffee was ready, a blackbird demanded to have its picture taken.

blackbird

We were rather alarmed to see a man up the telephone pole behind the house as the last time that this happened, he accidentally disconnected our internet.  All was well today though as you can tell from the fact that this post has been posted.

After lunch, we went off to see Matilda and her parents in Edinburgh and had a constructive afternoon making scones, getting nails painted (some of us), playing a very non competitive form of snap and some Pelmanism.

We had a delightful evening meal and tested the scones (very good) before we walked up to the station to catch the train home.  Slightly unnervingly, both the up and down trains were precisely on time.

Mercifully, the forecast says it is going to get warmer over the next few days and as my thumb is now nearly cured and my new bike should appear either tomorrow or Saturday, things are really looking up.

The flying bird of the day is one of the goldfinches, losing a bit of seed in its anxiety to shout abuse at a friend.

goldfinch

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my brother, who was on one of his outings.  It shows the Old Bridge at Hereford across the Wye.

Old Bridge at Hereford across the Wye

We had a very pleasant day here today with lots of sunshine but with a wind just brisk enough to make me think of several reasons why going cycling might not be my best option.

It had rained overnight and the plants in the garden were holding on to some of the raindrops.

willow and pulsatilla

Willow and pulsatilla unwilling to let go

There was plenty of buzzing to be heard in the garden…

bees

…and plenty of new flowers for the bees to visit.

Star of Bethlehem, tree peony and iris Siberica

Star of Bethlehem, tree peony and iris Siberica

After coffee, I persuaded Mrs Tootlepedal that a short trip on our bikes up the Wauchope road might be worth while and so we went off to see the bluebells that I had noticed on my bike ride yesterday.  We left our bikes by the side of the road and walked up the hill.  The view down the valley without the bluebells was very good….

Wauchope valley

…but it was even better with bluebells.

Wauchope valley with bluebells

And there was no shortage of bluebells on the hill side for us to enjoy.

Up…

Wauchope valley with bluebells

…down….

Wauchope valley with bluebells

…and along.

Wauchope valley with bluebells

I could have filled a whole post with bluebells.

There weren’t a lot of other flowers among the bluebells but there were some of these tiny yellow flowers.

yellow wild flowers

As we cycled home, I stopped for a look at some fresh hawthorn blossom…

hawthorn

…and an orange tip butterfly which kindly rested for a moment or two on a bluebell beside the road.

orange tip butterfly

After lunch, I mowed the front lawn, chatted to blackbirds…

blackbirds

…who were keen to share the lawn with me, enjoyed a whole hearted tulip…

tulip

…and then went off on an outing with Sandy.

We drove up past the bluebells but the sunlight was in quite the wrong place so we drove back through the town and went to visit the Moorland Project bird hide.  When we arrived, we found that others had beaten us to it so we left the car there and walked down the road…

Rashiel road

…to the banks of the Tarras Water.

Tarras water

We crossed the bridge and walked along the bank of the river for a few hundred yards and stopped to be amazed by a forest of horsetails which Sandy spotted…

horsetails

…growing in a very soggy patch beside the river.

I will have to come back and look at these again as they are interesting plants.

One of them had a friend.

horsetail

We walked back up the hill to the hide and found yet again that someone else had got in before us but this time we went in too and shared the viewing windows.

There was a lot of woodpecker activity and for the first time ever, I saw a woodpecker on the ground pecking away at the grass.  Of course there were plenty of pheasants doing that too.

pheasant and woodpecker

There wasn’t a great deal of other activity so we made for home and had a cup of tea and a couple of mini Jaffa cakes with Mrs Tootlepedal.

Sandy went off and I mowed the middle lawn and had a look round the garden.

Alliums

Mrs Tootlepedal tells me that these are Alliums

The garden was alive with sparrows feeding their young…

sparrows

One even sat on Mrs Tootlepedal’s bicycle handlebars

…but because the feeders are not up, it was hard to be sharp enough to catch them in the act.

I had a last look round…

Garden

…and went in to practice a few songs and look at the many, many pictures which I had taken on my outings and in the garden.  It is very hard not to take too many pictures in spring time.

I noticed that I had seen quite a lot of unfurling ferns here and there during the day…

unfurling ferns

…so I put some together.

I was feeling pretty tired by now and I let the chance of an evening bike ride slip through my fingers and settled for eating spaghetti with tomato sauce cooked by Mrs Tootlepedal and having a little snooze.

It is not a good picture but I feel that a flying bee of the day is the way to end this post.  It was a flying bee sort of day.

flying bee

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Today’s guest picture shows another fine waterfall seen by Dropscone on his holiday in Skye.

Skye waterfall

We had the second bright but slightly chilly day in a row and once again, musical activity got in the way of cycling.

I did get out for a morning ride but only after I had put a lamb stew into the slow cooker and time limited by the need to be back in time to go to choir in the afternoon.   I nipped round my standard 20 miles down to Canonbie and back and, as it was London Marathon day, I was pleased that I had managed to go a little bit faster than the elite runners even if I didn’t go quite as far.

I didn’t take my camera but got it out as soon as I got home to celebrate the brilliance of the tulips which were enjoying the sunshine in the garden.

tulips

tulips

tulips

tulips

I think that they were at their best today and as we have a week of chilly weather with north winds to come, I may not see them as generously open again for some time.

tulips

tulips

My favourite tulip of the moment is the Ballerina…..

ballerina tulip

…and they looked so good today that Mrs Tootlepedal resolved to buy some more and plant them out for next year.  I am in favour of that.

The tulips rather overshadowed the other flowers but this little pulsatilla did its best to get into the act.

pulsatilla

I filled the feeders when I got back from my ride and after lunch, I took a moment to watch the birds before we went off to Carlisle.

We have a steady supply of redpolls at the moment.

redpolls

This one stared rather haughtily at me when I took its picture but soon went back to eating

redpolls

They had an active day

siskins

As did the siskins

The feeders are always busy at the moment and my supply of seed is disappearing in double quick time.

busy feeder

Representatives of our present customer base, chaffinch, goldfinch, siskin and redpoll

The choir rehearsal started badly, as our conductor and our accompanist were delayed on the train again.  The Sunday service from Glasgow is most unreliable.  However, they made up for lost time when they did arrive and we had an extremely brisk practice with a little extra time added on to the end.

We are working on a new modern song and it is one of those, as Mrs Tootlepedal remarked, where if you get to sing a note which is actually on the beat, it comes as a blessed relief.

Because of the extra time taken at the practice, we didn’t stop to take photographic advantage of the sunny evening as we went home but bustled on as quickly as we could and settled down to enjoy the lamb stew from the slow cooker when we got back.

While the potatoes were cooking, I watched some of my lawn care assistants at work on the middle lawn.

jackdaws

There should be no moss left at all soon, thanks to the jackdaws

I have still got a few miles to do on my bike if I am to keep up to my schedule for the month so I am hoping that there are a few kind days left in April.  This month is traditionally supposed to come in like a lion and go out like a lamb but having seen the forecast for next week, I don’t think that this will be a traditional month at all.  I am keeping my fingers crossed for a few calm moments.

The flying bird of the day is a traditional chaffinch in the best of the sun.

chaffinch

 

 

 

 

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Todays’ guest picture shows the Monteath Mausoleum which overlooks the Lilliardsedge Golf Course where Dropscone was playing at the official opening of the Borders Golf Association season on Sunday.

Monteath Mausoleum

It was another fine day in Langholm but slightly marred by a persistent and chilly wind which made me glad that I had an excuse not to go cycling in the morning.  I was due to spend a couple of hours in the Welcome to Langholm centre so first I pottered around the garden in the sunshine….

lamium

…where the lamium, after a false start earlier in the year, has got going for real.

It lurks beneath our little silver pear tree which is just starting to blossom.

silver pear

The ‘river of blue’ has not quite swept through the garden with as much force as Mrs Tootlepedal would have liked but it is very pretty in places…

grape hyacinths

…and comes in two shades of blue.

I was pleased to find that all the moss on the middle lawn was of some use to someone.

lawn moss

It had been extensively harvested for nesting material by birds before we got up.

I went off to the tourist office armed with a laptop computer and a week of the newspaper index to enter into the Archive Group database and the combination of a steady trickle of visitors and the archive work kept me fully occupied for the two hours so I hardly minded people coming in and saying what a lovely day it was outside, hardly at all.

When I got home, Mrs Tootlepedal was at work in the garden, having had a busy morning catching up with business herself.

I noticed that a new fritillary had come out but it needed a helping hand to show its full colour to the world.

fritillary

A fancy tulip needed no help at all.

tulip

My favourite though was the more modest pulsatilla nearby.

pulsatilla

It packs a lot into a small flower head

However, I stopped watching Mrs Tootlepedal gardening and went composting.  I set about finishing turning the contents of Bin A into Bin B.  When that was done, old Bin A made way for the sparkling new Bin A and with the help of Mrs Tootlepedal it was made level and built up.  Compost City is now complete.

 compost city

The beauty of the system is that Bins A and B are adaptable to the needs of the composter.  At present, as it is in the process of getting filled up with new material, Bin A is kept low to make putting the material as easy as possible.  As it fills up, the extra sections from Bin B can moved to Bin A.  The compost in Bin B will have reduced in volume considerably and the bin can then be lowered layer by layer when the time has come to turn it into Bin C.    The nameless plastic bin on the left can be used for anything that we don’t want to put in the main compost and can be left untouched for as long as is necessary.

I went off to look at the Euphorbias which grow more fantastic every day.

euphorbia

This one is like some crazy hat worn by a fashionable lady on Ladies’ Day at the races.

euphorbia

And this one has stuck all its tongues out

It is hard to imagine the small gains that have led the process of natural selection to come up with these elaborate designs.

Then I went in and had a toasted cheese sandwich for a late lunch.

After lunch, we went off to Carlisle to buy a hedge trimmer.  We have been impressed by the new Li-ion batteries so we laid out good money to get a hedge trimmer with one.   On our way there, I went into the bird food place and bought another big bag of birdseed and two new feeders.  On our way back, we went into a garden centre and Mrs Tootlepedal bought a Spirea so we both came home feeling pretty cheerful.

Unlike yesterday, it was a really clear day today and from the garden centre car park, I could see the northern fells very clearly.

Northern Fells

It would have been good to be out among the hills but you can’t do everything.

I tested the bird feeders on the birds when we got back.  The old ones had got rather tatty and battered and have now gone in the dustbin so I hoped that our garden visitors would appreciate some better eating arrangements.

A chaffinch gave one a very wary look…

chaffinch new feeder

…but soon both feeders were being fully used.

goldfinches and a chaffinch

goldfinches

A chaffinch gave a slouching goldfinch a lesson in how to sit up straight at the dinner table.

goldfinches and chaffinch

In the absence of siskins, the goldfinches were the biggest users and approached the new feeders with verve.

goldfinches

Though some waited calmly among the plum blossom.

goldfinch

While it was not the most active day that I have ever spent, it was enjoyable and fruitful and it was rounded off by a very good plate of rhubarb crumble and ice cream. Mrs Tootlepedal had forced some rhubarb under a bucket as an experiment and used the resulting crop in her recipe so perhaps this was why the dish tasted so good.

The flying bird of the day is one of the goldfinches giving the new feeders a hard stare.

goldfinch

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