Posts Tagged ‘rhubarb’

Today’s guest picture finds my Somerset correspondent, Venetia on the Ovango River.  It looks like a good place to be.

Okavango River

After yesterday’s gadding about all over the country, I planned for a quiet day at home today, starting with a cup of coffee with Sandy.

There was a slight hiccup in the proposed placidity when fellow archivist Nancy phoned me up to say that one of the microfiche readers in the Archive Centre wasn’t working.  I cycled up and after a great deal of head scratching, I took some advice from Sandra, another archivist, searched online for solution and found one.  Phew. I cycled home again.

Sandy was in good form when he arrived and we hope to be able to get out for a walk soon.

When he left, I watched the birds for a bit and once again there was a fair bit of action on the feeder.  Chaffinches flew in double handed…

two chaffinches incoming

…but the siskins were more than up to defending a perch.

chaffinch and siskin arguing

A collared dove was an oasis of peace and quiet in a furiously fluttering feathery world.

collared dove

The snow from last night had disappeared and from time to time the sun came out and shone on the siskins…

siskin posing in sunshine

…and I even thought of a gentle pedal.  However I went out to help Mrs Tootlepedal in the garden instead and trimmed a couple of berberis bushes.  Then I made some soup for lunch and after we had eaten it, I went out to help in the garden again.

Since we are making new soft fruit beds this year, the old ones are being re-purposed so I dug over the old raspberry and strawberry beds…

rasps and strawbs dug up

…and after some work on the gap  between them, they will become the the home for the potatoes this year.

We also put the Christmas tree in its new place…

christmas tree planted out 2019

…where it will sit quietly until next December.  It is looking healthy and sturdy so we have every hope that it will see a bauble or two when the time comes.

It is sitting beside the remains of our rhubarb patch.

early rhubarb

I saw quite a few daffodils on my travels yesterday and we are getting more out here in the garden every day now.


I went in for a sit down, leaving Mrs Tootlepedal working away outside and then Mike Tinker dropped in for a cup of tea.  He is much better after having had a chest infection and it is good to see him getting out and about again.

When he left, I went out for a  quick three bridges walk just to stretch my legs.

A dipper stood on a rock in the turbulence of the Meeting of the Waters and showed off the special white nictitating eye membrane which keep its eyes protected when it is dipping.

over the shoulder dipper

A cluster of ducks lurked behind daffodils on the bank at the Kilngreen…

three ducks

…and a bit further upstream, a second dipper was doing some lurking of its own.

hidden dipper

I was hoping to take more pictures but there was a large crowd of children and parents on the Castleholm attending a running event so I passed by and made my way home without lingering, stopping only to record two more signs of spring, a willow at the Jubilee Bridge…

willow bud

…and some blackthorn in bloom beside the Esk.


I got home in time to meet Luke for our regular flute lesson.  We had a hard working half hour, trying to develop the correct style in our playing.

That concluded the excitement for the day.

There are two flying chaffinches of the day today as I couldn’t choose between them.

There is the vertical lady…

flying chaffinch vertical

…and the horizontal gent.

flyimng chaffinch horizontal

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Today’s striking guest picture is another from Gavin’s Spanish holiday.  It shows the Funicular Railway above the Montserrat Monastery and Basilica. To reach the Monastery, he had to go up in a cable car first so I am glad that it was Gavin who was doing the visiting and not me.

Montserrat Monastery

We didn’t have anything so vertiginous to tackle today but we did drive up a gentle hill to visit the Moorland bird feeders as I was acting as a substitute feeder filler again.

I filled up our own feeders before I left as they were quite busy all day, with siskins flying in from the right…

siskin and goldfinches

…and goldfinches from the left…

goldfinch, chaffinch and siskin

…and I had a chance to select the daffodil of the day…


…admire a freshly blooming primrose…


…and look with anticipation of meals to come at the rhubarb.


Our visitor, my stepmother Patricia, came with us to the Moorland feeders and she and Mrs Tootlepedal sat in the car and scanned the skies for raptors while I filled the feeders and then sat in the hide for a while.

The ladies did well, seeing a female hen harrier, a merlin and a kestrel….


…which I saw when I came out of the hide.  It was hunting over the moor but it was too far away even for my big lens.

Traffic in the feeder area was brisk…

chaffinches moorland

…but there were some quiet moments too, letting me get a good look at a great tit….

great tit

…a siskin…

siskin moorland

…and a chaffinch.

chaffinch moorland

I was very pleased to see a woodpecker which approached one of the feeders with care, settling on a tree first to see if the coast was clear…


…before popping onto the feeder itself.


It didn’t get long to peck at the seeds before a second woodpecker arrived and drove it off.

They then both settled on separate trees and waited to see who would blink first.


I am not entirely certain but I think that it was the the original woodpecker which came back to the seeds.


We didn’t stay too long because as you can see from the ruffled plumage of this chaffinch…

blowy chaffinch

…it was another day with an uncharitable wind blowing.  As it was cold even out of the wind, you can imagine that it was pretty chilly with the wind factored in.

We went home for a cup of coffee and then in a brighter moment, I walked round the garden and took a picture of one of a small outbreak of grape hyacinths which have poked their heads up today.


This is the first of what should be a ribbon of blue round the front lawn.  These floral plans are in the lap of the gods as always though.

Mrs Tootlepedal made some nourishing lentil soup for lunch and we ate it with a good selection of bread, biscuits and cheese.

Buoyed up by this, I put on many layers and ventured out into the wind for fifteen miles on my slow bicycle.  I had the wind behind me on the way out but it was a real battle to make any headway on the return journey, even though it was mostly downhill.  I was pleased to get in.  I was so intent on keeping going that I left my camera in my pocket and didn’t take any pictures at all.

While I was pedalling, Mrs Tootlepedal and Patricia ventured out for the three bridges walk.

In the evening, I went off to a Langholm community choir practice and we put in a fair bit of work towards the forthcoming joint concert with our local orchestra.

The flying bird of the day is not the standard chaffinch.  It is one of the Moorland feeders’ woodpeckers.  It is a slight cheat as the bird was jumping more than flying but I liked  the result.




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Today’s striking guest picture comes from my brother who describes it as ‘dusky’.  I think  he must have been in London yesterday evening.

The thames at night

We had summer indoors today and winter outside.  They were brought to us by courtesy of the jasmine family.


A gift from our daughter Annie has come into flower in the sitting room

winter jasmine

Its winter cousin keeps plugging away outside the back door.

In the garden there are now several clumps of promising snowdrops…


…but we are still waiting to see one in full flower.

The rhubarb crumble scenario is developing.


It might have been a suitable day for a cycle ride but a slight drizzle in the morning made me more than content to be sipping coffee with Sandy rather than getting wet.  After he had left, I turned to the main business of the day which was making marmalade.

As those of you who make marmalade in the traditional manner will know, it is a lengthy process.  The oranges have to be squeezed and sliced thinly which takes quite a lot of time in itself and then the resultant juice and fruit mixture needs to be simmered for at least two hours.

When the simmering is done, the sugar needs to be added and the mixture boiled until it is ready to set.  Then it is left to settle for some time and the mixture stirred to distribute the orange peel evenly.

Finally it is put into jars and left to cool before being labelled and covered.

There may be time during the process when a moment can be found to stare out of the window…


…but today as often as not, when that moment came, the birds were lurking round the back of the feeder.

Sometimes a bird obliged though.


A goldfinch is a pretty bird, worth the wait.

As well as the cooking, marmalade makers have to spend what seems like hours throughout the process in  washing their hands to get the stickiness off and then wiping off anything they may have touched while turning on taps, opening cupboards or picking things up and putting them down.

Still when it is all done, the light might have gone for the day but the reward is there for all to see.


If we want enough marmalade to last us for a year. there might have to be another session!

I might have done something useful in the late afternoon but I was foolishly tempted to watch a bit of the Trump inauguration and found myself frozen into immobility as it unfolded and unable to tear myself away.

Finally, pangs of hunger got me out of my chair and I cooked a potato and feta bake for our tea.

It was quite a cooking day as I also made a fruity malt loaf in the breadmaker.

The evening brought sweet music as Mike and Alison came round and Alison and I played three familiar pieces which gave us great pleasure and soothed the spirit.

We are promised a sunny day tomorrow which will be most welcome.

I did find a flying bird among the orange peel.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest pictures come from my occasional correspondent and Langholm exile, Irving.  He sees these buzzards regularly in his garden and thought correctly that I might be interested in seeing them too.


There wasn’t much to see in Langholm today, apart from very low cloud and occasional rain.  It was still reasonably warm at 7°C but the dank conditions didn’t make it feel very pleasant.

Dropscone complained about the weather when he came round for coffee but I didn’t complain about the scones that he brought with him as they were very good.

Birds were mostly notable by their absence and often the ones that did come looked a bit miserable to say the least.


Oddly, some goldfinches seemed less bedraggled than others.


Perhaps the one on the right had been sheltering somewhere dry

A small flock of ten goldfinches was the largest crowd of the day and they weren’t very polite if a chaffinch intruded…

goldfinch and chaffinch

…but no one seemed to mind when a lone siskin turned up.


We haven’t seen numbers of siskins in the garden since late summer and I don’t know where they have been.  Mrs Tootlepedal is generally quite happy not to see siskins as they are very messy eaters and this leads to untidiness and odour.

After Dropscone had gone, Mrs Tootlepedal and I took our Christmas tree out and replanted it in the garden.  It was less of of a chore that we thought that it might be and it looks quite happy to be back where it came from in December.

Christmas tree

Nearby, the first shoots of rhubarb could be seen.


Some way to go before we can think of crumble though

When Dropscone and I had been drinking our coffee, we had been reminiscing about cycling in past years and I was reminded that we used to pedal quite often in pretty poor weather conditions.  I have got a lot more picky lately which cuts down cycling opportunities so when Mrs Tootlepedal went off to help out at the Buccleuch Centre cafe, I thought that I should brave the damp conditions and go for a cycle ride.

The forecast had said that there was a possibility of rain over lunchtime but I hadn’t gone far before the possibility turned into reality and I had a soggy time while I was out.  I was well wrapped up though and with a peak on my helmet to keep the worst of the drizzle off my glasses, I managed a steady 21 miles in relative comfort.

Mike Tinker dropped in for a cup of tea later and that concluded the excitement for the day.

Well perhaps, not quite because after he had gone, I got the second half of the dough out of the fridge and made another batch of rolls.  In spite of my best efforts, they wouldn’t win any prizes for looks but they cooked perfectly well.

As I am still struggling to throw off my husky throat, I was quite pleased to have had a quiet day.  I am cutting down on cheese for the moment because that has been implicated in throat troubles and I am inhaling salt vapour through a cunning device that my daughter gave me and either  for these reasons or just through the march of time, things are beginning to get a bit better.  Whether cycling twenty miles in a chilly drizzle is part of the cure is perhaps open to question.

The flower of the day is a cheerful winter jasmine to offset the general greyness…

winter jasmine

…and the flying bird is one of the goldfinches, ploughing through the morning drizzle.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from Venetia in Somerset and shows a bluebell wood that she stumbled upon recently by accident while taking a break from electioneering.  That’s my kind of accident.

bluebell wood in SomersetI had no time for morning photographs as Mrs Tootlepedal and I had to up early for the 60 mile drive to St Bees on the Cumbrian coast where I had foolishly entered for a fifty mile cycle event.  The mileage wasn’t a problem but the climbing was.

elevation profileAs you can see, there were not many flat moments on the ride until the last ten miles,   An additional handicap for me was the steep descents.  I am a very cowardly descender for three good reasons: one – bad eyesight makes me slow to spot problems ahead, two – my bike handling skills are poor and three – I fell off going down hill a few years ago and it hurt.  This means that having laboured to the top of the hills, I couldn’t get full value from going down the other side.  As a result my average travelling speed for the run was a sluggish 11.8 miles an hour but I was pleased, and my knee was pleased too, simply to have got round such a challenging course as I am by no means match fit yet.

The result of the climbing was some magnificent views along the way but I didn’t dare stop to take pictures in case my legs refused to get started again.  Dropscone and Scott, the minister also took part but as they both started and finished behind me, I will have to wait until coffee time tomorrow to get their full stories.

I had to get back promptly because of a camera club meeting in the evening so when I finished the course, there was just time for one picture of the coast at St Bees….

St Bees…before setting off home.

The most exciting moment of the ride came when I was following three ladies who had overtaken me and they took the wrong route.  Being polite I took the wrong route too but luckily we came to our senses before any great damage was done and we were soon back on track.

Mrs Tootlepedal had amused herself with a walk on the cliffs to the south of the village while I was pedalling.  She said that the path was very near to the crumbling cliff edge as she walked along so I was glad that I wasn’t with her.  She had also visited the village of St Bees and had been impressed by the devil may care speed at which the fastest cyclists whistled down the main street

I had time to walk round the garden when we got home.  By and large the tulips are past their best having been battered by the recent weather but they still have their charms.

tulipstulipsI saw a bee squeezing pollen out of a pulmonaria.

beeThe birds perching in the plum tree have lost their blossom background and are now perching amongst some fresh green leaves.

chaffinchAnd then I went in to have a shower and prepare for the camera club meeting.

The meeting had two parts.  In the first, several experienced members had brought in some of the gear that they use and we were all interested is looking at other people’s solutions to the difficulties of taking pictures.  Then we split into groups of experienced and less experienced photographers and went off to take a few pictures in the late evening light and to give and to get advice while we were doing this.

Once again, we all enjoyed ourselves and we were able to look at the projected results of our work when we got back to the hall.

The party that I was with visited our garden to take some flower shots. Here are some of the shots I took using my macro lens to show off its possibilities, even in low light.  Of course, tulips figured again.

tulips tulipsI was pleased with this picture of a group of tiny flying insects.

insectsMy favourite rhubarb flower made an appearance…

rhubarb…and one of the euphorbias too.

euphorbiaThat is a drop of water in the corner of the flower.

One of the other members lent me a very clever 24 LED lighting device.  It has variable brightness and if used properly. I can see it might be a very useful tool.  In fact, I was so pleased with its effect on this dog tooth violet….

violet…that I think that I am going to buy one to help taking pictures of fungus and lichens in gloomy situations.

The camera club has had an experimental year but the members are very happy to try it again next season so we will meet in September and do it all again.  I would like to nudge any local readers who like taking pictures at any standard to come and join us then.

I am expecting to sleep quite well tonight.

The flying bird of the day is the only flying bird that I saw.


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Today’s guest picture shows some friends which my Newcastle correspondent Fiona met in Malta.

malta turtlesAfter a chilly night, there was just enough rise in the temperature to get me out on the bike while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing in the church choir.  There was a chilly wind and I was back into my multi-layered winter gear again.  I wasn’t in the mood to climb any hills today so I settled for three laps of the seven mile trip to Wauchope Schoolhouse and back.  I met Dropscone, who had evidently got up earlier than me, just finishing his 21 mile morning tum as I was going out for mine.

It took me the first seven miles to get going properly but after that, I managed the second and third laps at a reasonable speed and got home at much the same time as Mrs Tootlepedal returned from church. I beat her by a few minutes though and had time to watch a good number of bees working hard to make plums for me.

bees and plum blossombees and plum blossombees and plum blossomThis is only a small selection of the crowd that were at work.

After a cup of coffee, we set about the chief business of the day which was relaying the carpet in the front room.  This turned out to be easier than I expected (possibly because Mrs Tootlepedal did all the skilled work).

carpet and cupboard

The room is beginning to look like a room and not a building site.

After the carpet came the two most important bits of furniture in the room, the keyboard and the computer desk.

front roomPlans are afoot to try and minimise any further wear on the carpet from my computer chair. The carpet and I are about the same age so some wear and tear is inevitable.

In the garden, the tulips were not impressed by the cold morning….

tulips…but the cold weather did bring more birds back.  There was a lot of standing about….

chaffincheschaffinch and plum tree…although the sparrows were working hard on the lawn.

sparrowsAs the day went on, the sun came out and although it never became warm, it was another bright spring day.

goldfinchI went out into the garden again and met beauty and the beast.

flowering currant

A delicate flowering currant.


And a very suspicious looking rhubarb.

The azaleas are looking promising and if they survive the promised sub zero temperatures tonight, should be out soon.

azaleasWe just had time to finish laying the carpet and moving the furniture before it was time to go off to Carlisle to sing with the Community Choir there.  Our conductor and pianist were delayed by train troubles on their way down from Glasgow but we got going after a while and had another good session.

We enjoyed the fine weather for the drive home and when we got back, I chased after some tulips which had recovered from the cold morning….

tulips…and noticed that one of them had a large patch of yellow on it.

tulipVery odd.

Mrs Tootlepedal picked some rhubarb and flowers and with these suitably bundled up, we set off for an evening meal with Mike, my cello playing friend and his wife Anne.  The company included the third member of our trio, Isabel with her husband and also Scott, the minister and his wife.  The meal was excellent and the company congenial and it rounded off a very good day.

The laying of the carpet signifies a return to normality in our household arrangements after a month of recovering from the knee operation followed by two months of the end wall improvement.   There is still more to be done but Mrs Tootlepedal was mightily pleased by the day’s work.

The flying bird of the day is a chaffinch with its wings in full use.

flying chaffinch

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Today’s guest picture comes from my friend, the clarinet playing gardener Liz and shows a fine scarlet elf cup which she met while walking the dog,

scarlet elf cupI started the day by making a lamb stew for the slow cooker while Mrs Tootlepedal went off to sing in the church choir.  I use the slow cooker on Sunday if possible so that we have a meal ready for us when we get back in the evening from our Carlisle choir practice.

Once the stew was safely on its way, I got out the slow bike and pedalled up to the Moorland project bird feeders.  This was not so quite as straightforward as it might seem, as there is a long and fairly steep hill involved.  I passed a lady jogger at the bottom of the hill and bust a gut pedalling on, hoping not to suffer the indignity of being overtaken by a runner.  Fortunately my knee held up well and I arrived at the feeders with my pride intact.

I made the trip not to fill the feeders this time but to attend the official opening of the new hide.  A promise of hot drinks and cakes had drawn a good number of enthusiasts out on a chilly but fine morning.

Moorland project

Beside the hide, a team of scouts was making the drink and serving tasty cakes.

The hide was officially opened by head gamekeeper Simon Lester and in the picture below, you can see him flanked by project leader, Cat Barlow and skilled cabinet maker, Daniel Lacey with some of the scout volunteers who together brought the dream of a hide to a reality.

Moorland hide openingOnce the hide was opened. keen bird watchers were soon ensconce inside…

Moorland hide opening…probably wondering why the idiot with the camera kept getting between them and the birds.  The hide had some smart new benches inside which will soon become a permanent feature.

The birds themselves seemed remarkably calm about the whole affair and continued pecking away…

pheasant…ignoring the crowds.

Moorland hide openingI didn’t hang about too long and cycled home before a rush of cars made the roads dangerous.  I look forward to many happy days in the hide in the weeks to come.

(I have just checked Sandy’s blog and he has a much better set of pictures of the opening than I have got.)

Probably because the better day had made feeding in the wild more attractive, there were very few birds in the garden when I got home but a couple of colourful characters caught my eye.  One not so common…

blue tit

A rare visit from a blue tit

…and the other, a frequent flier.

robinI took a stroll round the garden in search of colour there too.

rhubarb and aconite

There will be lots of rhubarb to make up for the very few aconites.

My sister Susan complains that I have too many restless flying birds on the blog so here is a calm chaffinch for her.

chaffinchIn fact, here are lots.
chaffinches in plum treeAfter lunch, we combined a flying visit of our own to Lidl with our customary Carlisle choir practice.  We purchased many items at a very reasonable price.

At the choir, our usual musical director was off on business with one of his other choirs so we had a substitute today.  he was a bit handicapped by our accompanist falling ill on her way and having to go home but he played the piano and directed us simultaneously…and with great gusto.  We worked hard for him.

The lamb stew turned out very well and as it was accompanied by a good chunk of sour dough bread (which my friend Sue had given us at the choir) and followed by a semolina pudding, the evening meal took on the likeness of a feast.  Because it was Mothering Sunday, I not only did the cooking but the washing up too.  Mrs Tootlepedal may take some time to recover.

Among all the perching birds, a flying bird was hard to find and when I did find one, it hid its face.

flying chaffinch

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