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Posts Tagged ‘vegetables’

Today’s guest picture comes from my brother Andrew.  He came across this wonderful cave on one of his walks.  Thor’s Cave (also known as Thor’s House Cavern and Thyrsis’s Cave) is a natural cavern located at in the Manifold Valley of the White Peak in Staffordshire,

thor's cave

I got up quite early for me but an early bird had got up even earlier.

partrisge at breakfast

A partridge was out after seed rather than worms.

After breakfast I drove our Kangoo down to Carlisle where I traded it in for a smaller little white thingy which we hope is going to carry us about but need a lot less in the way of running  repairs.

I checked that the new car was going to be fit for purpose by stopping off on the way home to buy a big bag of bird seed.  The car carried it well.

Mrs Tootlepedal couldn’t come with me as she had to stay at home as the garage doors were being painted and she was waiting for a gas engineer to arrive.  The gas engineer had not arrived by the time that I got back and I had time to look at a bee on a dicentra..

bee on dicentra

…the trillums, which continue to do well in a shady corner…

trillium

…and signs of good things to come.  The first flower on the strawberries, the first row of lettuces and some broad beans waiting to be planted out.

strawb, lettuce and beans

The painter finished the undercoat and the gas engineer arrived.  He came to service the boiler which had developed a fault. He discovered that the boiler needs  a new part and we need a new thermostat and as he didn’t have either, he will come back tomorrow and fit them then.

After lunch, we tested the new little white thingy to see if it was up to Mrs Tootlepedal’s requirements by going off to collect some wood chippings to cover paths between the new beds in the vegetable garden.  We filled up the boot with buckets of chippings and we were nearly home, when I forgot that the new car is an automatic and stood heavily on the brake thinking that it was the clutch.  This brought the car to a sudden stop and tipped all the buckets of wood chips over.  What fun we had clearing the chippings out.

I will have to practice driving without a clutch and gear stick.

I sat down to watch the birds for a while and to recover from all this excitement.

The birds were rather dull.  First a set of goldfinches…

four goldfinches

…and then a more varied selection.

siskin, repoll goldfinch

But there weren’t many and so I went out and looked for bees in the garden.  They were quite a few buzzing about, visiting the apple blossom…

bee on apple

…and hanging out on the rosemary with well filled pollen sacs.

bee on rosemary

Back on the feeder pole, a blackbird issued a challenge to all comers…

blackbird speaking

…and waited to see if anyone would take him up.

blackbird silent

In the early evening my flute pupil Luke came and we had a useful session, concentrating on musicality and phrasing to good effect.

After he left, I got my bike out and went off to see if my feet were up to a few miles pedalling.

It had been a beautiful sunny day but I hadn’t got far before the clouds gathered together to blot out the sun .  However, it was warm and dry so I enjoyed my ride.

clouds assembling

I stopped to look at two lambs…

two lambs

…which were bleating loudly.  I soon found out that this was because they were part of a small group of lambs on one side of a little stream and their parent were on the other side, also bleating loudly.

lost lambs

The lambs got safely back across though and by the time that I came past on my way back, the families were reunited.

While I was taking these pictures, I was passed by a couple of young ladies out for a bike ride themselves.  Seeing them whizzing up the road, I thought that I ought to try a bit harder too and although I couldn’t catch them up, I pedalled a lot more quickly than I usually do.  Luckily they turned off before I killed myself but all the same, my average speed for my little 12 mile ride was considerably faster than of late.  Pride is a great motivator.

Mrs Tootlepedal had cooked an tasty meal and I was pleased to sit down and eat it when I got home.

We are expecting the painter, the gas man and an electrician tomorrow so it will be a full day.

Flying birds were few and far between and this one nearly got a way before I could catch it.

flying siskin

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Today’s guest picture comes from Mary Jo in Manitoba where they really know how to have a winter.  Her picture shows her cat contemplating the hard life that a rabbit has when it has to scratch up the snow in order to find a blade or two of grass.

cat and rabbit Manitoba

Although we have still got two days to go until the winter solstice arrives, the days still seem pretty short so it was a blessing to get a brighter day after yesterday’s pervasive gloom.  Mrs Tootlepedal had a busy day relating to her volunteering activities at the Buccleuch Centre but I idled about, drinking coffee and doing the crossword until I finally managed to get myself and my bicycle out onto the road.

In fairness, I was waiting for a text message to say when a parcel would be delivered.  They very kindly offered me a one hour slot for delivery but took four hours to tell me when that one hour slot would be which wasn’t entirely helpful.  On the plus side, it did give me time to stare out of the window in the hope of seeing some birds.

Things were very quiet again with a lone bashful goldfinch on the feeder and a single pensive chaffinch on the plum tree.

first birds

But there was more action after a while and a small flock of goldfinches flew in…

goldfinches come back

…soon to be joined by some chaffinches.

goldfinch and chaffinch reappear

I was hoping to catch a flying bird of the day at last but the goldfinches taunted me by doing their flying behind the feeder…

angel goldfinch

…and the chaffinches got in each other’s way.

scrappy chaffinches

The message about the parcel came at last and showed that I had time for a pedal so I pedalled.

It was around 6°C but the wind was light and there was even a promise of some blue sky ahead…

Callister

..though it was still grey on the top of Callister where the workers on the new Solwaybank windfarm were busy…

solwaybank wind farm workers

…preparing for the arrival of the turbines.  They are currently pouring concrete for the bases but  I read on their website that the turbines are not due until mid summer 2019 so I shall stop craning my neck to see if they have arrived yet every time I go past.

By the time that I had got to the bottom of the far side of Callister I could see a hint of sunshine at Crowdieknowe…

sdr

…and as I went along the road towards Gair, passing good looking trees…

gair road tree

…I found myself bathed in the weak sunshine which is all you can expect at this time of year,

I expect that the sheep were grateful too.

view from gair road

A clump of gorse certainly looked very cheerful.

girse near gair

Once I had got to Kirkpatrick Fleming and had turned for home, the sunlit beech hedges along the road were adding a welcome touch of colour to my trip.

beech hedge KPF road

I stopped to admire the very severe haircuts which the council men have given to the shrubs in the graveyard at Half Morton…

 

Half Morton kirkyard

…and took a little breather going up my last hill to enjoy the colour of the trees beside the busy main road.

A7 with larches

Although it was only early afternoon when I got back, the light was already fading and this was the best that I could do to capture a welcome late visit from a robin

dark robin

We also had visits from a coal tit, a blue tit and a collared dove.  This was cheering but there were still very few birds about in total and those that came didn’t linger so I am beginning to think that sparrowhawk activity might be a factor in our current bird scarcity.

My parcel arrived on time and that was the high spot of the rest of the day as by now it was almost dark.  Indeterminate indoor activity saw me through the unforgiving winter hours.

We had home grown turnips and potatoes with our tea.  This is not exactly self sufficiency but it is very satisfying none the less.

Mrs Tootlepedal has gone out to a well deserved small celebration of the work of the volunteers at the Buccleuch Centre as I write this so I shall take the opportunity to do a little singing practice while she is out.

I could only manage a very blurry flying bird of the day but any bird in the blog is better than none.

flying chaffinch gloomy

Tra la la.

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Today’s guest picture was sent to me by my friend Bruce.  As the rain poured down today, it was good to be reminded of our sunny Common Riding which this enthusiast observed from beside the Castleholm.

common riding spectator

It rained so heavily during the night that it woke us both up.  Luckily it didn’t rain that heavily for long but my scientific (even though it has a leak) rain gauge had recorded the shower(s) when I checked at breakfast time.

rain gauge morning

It didn’t take long for the rain to start again and it more or less rained for the rest of the morning and afternoon and only stopped in the early evening.

The rain gauge recorded that too.

rain gauge afternoon

Mrs Tootlepedal went to church and heard the minister announce that he is hoping to move to a new parish soon.  This is sad news for us and he will be missed

As it was too wet to do anything more interesting, we went out to visit a couple of garden centres at lunchtime and an indication of how dry the ground has been was given by the fact that the river Esk had hardly risen at all.

Still, there was no need to think about watering the garden today.

dahlias in rain

I had a walk round before we went out in a drier moment.

The verbascum has come to the end of the road with only a single flower lefty on the very tip of each strand.

final verbascum flower

Many of the phlox blossoms have been beaten to the ground.

fallen phlox

(Notice how nobly I resisted the temptation to say that many of the phlox phlowers had phallen off)

The tropeaeolum seems unaffected by drought or rain.

tropaeolum wet

I hope that the weather will be kind to this lily…

lily

…which looks very promising.

Our trip to the garden centres was productive as we got stuff for the garden at one and a good lunch at the other.

When we got home, it was still a miserable day with the clouds so low that they were banging on the pavements as we drove through the town.

I set up the bird watching camera and watched the birds.

Once again I was surprised by how well damp birds manage to fly.  We had no shortage of visitors to the feeder in the rain.

Chaffinches appear to be more waterproof…

perching chaffinch in rain

…than greenfinches…

soggy greenfinch on feeder

…which all had rather soggy heads.

soggy greenfinch on feeder 2

There was constant traffic while I watched.

busy feeder wet day

And this led to some more inconsiderate  behaviour.

An impatient chaffinch gave a greenfinch a kick…

chaffinch kicking greenfinch 1

…and finding that it didn’t budge, it drew back…

chaffinch kicking greenfinch 2

…and had another go.

chaffinch kicking greenfinch 3

All the birds began to look a bit bedraggled….

wet flying chaffinch

…but these two took the prize.

very soggy goldfinch

The evening turned out to be quite dry so perhaps they will have a chance to recover before it starts raining again.   At least the temperature is going to stay above 10°C overnight and the the persistent rain forecast for tomorrow is supposed to be light.

After our sleep disturbed night, we were very happy to be able to relax on the sofa in the afternoon and watch the Welsh Wonder officially win the Tour de France.

After the cycling was over, I thought about going for a cycle ride in a brisk wind on wet roads and stayed inside and put two weeks of the newspaper index into the Archive Group database instead.  This effort finally finished off the work for 1897 and if the rain continues, 1898 will soon be under way.

I made a stew for our tea and was able to make use of some ingredients from the garden for the meal.

turnip runner beans and carrots

We can confidently say that for this year at least, Mrs Tootlepedal’s battle against the carrot root fly has been won.  The rain has brought the runner beans on with a vengeance and we will be full of beans again.

It was sometimes difficult to tell the birds apart in the rain but I think that the flying bid of the day is a sparrow.

flying sparrow in rain

 

 

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Today’s guest picture comes from my eldest sister Susan, an inveterate traveller, who has just come back from Italy.  She saw this handsome church door in Ortesi in the Dolomites.

ortesi door

Like King Lear, I was going to do such things today but also like the King, I didn’t know what they were so in the end, I didn’t do them.  Instead, I took a leaf out of Brer Terrapin’s book and did a lot of lounging about and suffering.

The lounging was serious but the suffering was very slight and was greatly alleviated by the arrival of Dropscone for coffee bearing the traditional Friday treacle scones.

I had done some watering and weeding before he arrived and I did some more afterwards and as always looked at the flowers as I went along.

The first sweet peas are out…

sweet peas

…and ever more lilies appear each day.

lily

Mrs Tootlepedal planted two new roses this year and I saw that one was looking rather dry and droopy a day or two ago so I have watered it carefully and it was looking much more cheerful today.

rose Fru Dagmar Hastrup

The Queen of Denmark has responded to some water too.

Queen of Denmark

And the Common Riding rose is just sensational without any water at all.

rose excelsa

The camera simply can’t do its luxuriant growth justice at all.

While I was having coffee with Dropscone, the phone rang and a mystery voice asked if I was Tom.  I admitted to this and the voice said my wife was having trouble with her mobile phone and since I was the account  holder, he wanted to ask me a few security questions.   This was so obviously a scam that I put the phone down without saying any more.

A moment or two later, Mrs Tootlepedal rang up to say it wasn’t a scam and she was having trouble with her phone and I was the account holder for it.  I checked for a reputable number for the phone company, rang it, got a really helpful human on the line with minimum delay, talked the problem through and solved it within minutes.   The shock of getting a sensible and prompt  corporate response was so great that I had to have a sit down to recover.

Then  I watched birds for a bit.

A greenfinch arrived to take advantage of the sunflower seeds.

greenfinch

Greenfinches are a lot bigger than siskins but don’t always get their own way.

siskin and greenfinch

On the ground below the feeder, a blackbird with an elegant grey feather was finding its own food.

blackbird with grey

I had lunch and thought of a walk or a bike ride but actually did some more lounging instead and had to suffer by sitting through much of a Tour de France stage and two simultaneously  never ending tennis matches from Wimbledon.

Mrs Tootlepedal rang up to say that although her phone was working, now she was having trouble reading her emails on her tablet although she was properly connected to her brother’s internet router.  This was a puzzle.

I popped out from time to time to do more watering and weeding and dead heading too.

The melancholy thistle is looking more  cheerful every day…

melancholy thistle

..and looming over it, is the prettiest sunflower that I have ever seen.

tall sunflower

In the vegetable garden Mrs Tootlepedal has planted many small sunflowers and they are blooming freely with a great heap of honeysuckle on the fence behind them.

sunflowers and honeysuckle

Also in the veg garden, the French marigolds are thriving and time will tell whether they have helped to keep the carrot root flies of the carrots.  I thinned out a test carrot the other day and it looked straight, clean and promising…

french marigold

…but it was rather small still.

A new potentilla has come out.

new potentilla

In the course of time, I dug up another potato, picked lettuce, peas, beans and gooseberries and a large turnip for my evening meal.

broad beans

There are many more beanfeasts in store

The turnip was so large that I cut it in two and gave half to Mike and Alison when they came round in the evening for their customary Friday night visit.  Alison and I enjoyed some good playing of sonatas by old English masters while Mike, in the absence of Mrs Tootlepedal to talk to, watched the tennis.

I had further talk with Mrs Tootlepedal on the matter of her internet connection and suggested that although she was connected to the router, maybe the router was not connected to the internet.  This turned out to be the case and the problem was solved by the time honoured method of turning the router off and then on again.  I wish all problems were as simply solved as Mrs Tootlepedal’s technical glitches were today.

The flying bird of the day is a sparrow.

flying sparrow

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Today’s guest picture comes from Tom in South Africa.  He thought that we might need a touch of snow to cool us down.

south african winter

I have had a long day and I am pretty tired so although I am back at my computer, this post will be another brief one as I need an early night.

I left London by train and thanks to a fire along the side of the track ahead of us which held us up a bit, my train managed to get in after the bus to Langholm had departed and I had a hot and unwanted forty minutes to kill in Carlisle before the next one came.

I finally got home about five and had time to walk round the garden to do some watering, pick some peas and beans and gooseberries, dig up a potato and of course, take a picture or two.

I cooked the peas and beans and potatoes and had them for my tea and then went off to a choir practice at the church.  I thoroughly enjoyed this and feel that my voice may be recovering a bit.

I got back home and did some more watering.  We have been asked to try to avoid using garden hoses during the dry spell so there is going to be a lot of to-ing and fro-ing with watering cans until it rains.   The current forecast says that this is unlikely to be in the next ten days at least.

I had  stewed the gooseberries earlier and I ate them after choir practice.

The garden has survived our absence surprisingly well, perhaps because our friend Mike has kindly been doing some watering while we have been away.

Here is the evidence.

nasturtiums

Nasturtiums in a shady spot by the front door

rose Wren

The Wren, showing the dead heading is needed…

rose wren bunch

….but unbothered by the eager dead header, it has produced a fine bunch of flowers.

poppies tired

The poppies have come and gone while I have been away.   I dead headed them and hope for fresh flowers soon.

moss roses

The moss roses are in excellent shape

stachys

And I don’t think that  I have ever seen the stachys looking better.

delphiniums

The delphiniums are less tall (on purpose) than last year and are standing up well.

rambler rose

The Common Riding rose is looking very charming but it is a lot earlier than usual

calendula

Marigolds are coming out in various parts of the garden

special grandma rose

Special Grandma is a fitting tribute to both the gardener and her mother, two special grandmas.

small sunflower

The sunflowers in the vegetable garden have come out while we have been away.

dutvh iris

This Dutch iris couldn’t look any better if it tried.

red poppy

One poppy didn’t need dead heading

I am due to go to Edinburgh to visit Matilda tomorrow but that might depend on the heat.

No flying bird of the day today but I was pleased to see that we still have blackbirds in the garden.

blackbird

 

 

Mrs Tootlepedal is staying with her mother for a week or two.  Both the garden and I will miss her.

 

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Today’s guest picture is another from my sister Mary’s visit to the Isabella Plantation at Richmond Park last week.

Isabella Plantation, Richmond Park 29.04.17 004

Our welcome spell of dry and often sunny weather continued today, although once again it came with enough added wind to make my morning pedal down to Canonbie and back quite hard work on the return part of the journey.

I had a quick look round the garden before I set off and was pleased to find another bee hard at work on the apple blossom.

bee on apple blossom

Nearby, the strawberries are just beginning to flower….

strawberry flower

…and I saw a strangely static wasp which looked as though it was glued to a rhubarb stalk.

wasp on rhubarb

I was a bit pushed for time on my cycle ride so I only stopped twice for photographs, once to look at the river near Byreburnfoot….

River Esk

A lot of leaves, not much water.

…and once to look at the bluebells in the wood at Skipperscleuch.  They looked potential from the roadside….

bluebells

…so I left my bike and walked up into the woods.  I was a bit disappointed because although there were bluebells…..

bluebells

…there wasn’t the complete carpet that I was hoping for.  Mrs Tootlepedal thinks that I am looking a bit too early and they will come out fully soon.  I hope that she is right.

I got back from the ride and as usual, I found Mrs Tootlepedal at work in the garden.  She was in the greenhouse, preparing things to plant our later….

plants

…although, as you can see on the left of the panel, some things are already out in the vegetable beds under cloches.

She is enjoying the dry soil which is much easier to prepare than the more usual heavy, soggy stuff we get in spring.

I had another quick walk round the flowers and saw the first blossom on the clematis by the back door and a potential allium giving notice of a fruitful flower future…

strawberry, hyacinth and allium

…while the grape hyacinths are beginning to wave goodbye.

The apple bee was really getting down to business and filling its pollen sacs.

bee with pollen

Although Mrs Tootlepedal and I have dead headed a host of golden daffodils, there are still quite a few standing.

daffodil

The cool weather has helped them last for a long time this year.

The geums under the feeders are looking superb.

geums

After I came in from the garden, I had time for a shower and a light lunch and then we got into the car and drove to Dumfries where we visited the Infirmary and I had a small and painless operation to remove a skin tag from my eyelid and then Mrs Tootlepedal drove me home again.

Always keen to combine business and pleasure, she worked in a visit to the council civic amenity waste site (The Dump) on our way and dumped some of the wood from our old compost bin and several buckets of unwanted stones from the garden.

We arrived home in a cheerful mood.

My lawn co-workers were busy excavating the moss from the middle lawn.

jackdaws

They are jackdaws.

jackdaws

While I was out thanking the jackdaws for their tireless toiling, I took a look into the mystery of the dark heart of one of Mrs Tootlepedal’s Alnwick tulips.

tulip

I was just about to cook my tea when Sandy rang up and suggested that I should go out into the garden and look up.  I did.

This is what I saw.

strange cloud

The oddest cloud that I have ever seen was rising from behind the trees…..

strange cloud

…and stretching half way across the sky.  It was so long and thin that I couldn’t get it all in one shot.

Even Sandy, who was a bit further away, couldn’t quite get it all in.  He sent me this shot.

strange cloud

The cloud ended rather like a feather just to the right of Sandy’s shot.

The conditions that could cause a cloud like this are a complete mystery to me.  I thought that perhaps it might be a con trail from a long departed aeroplane which had condensed as the temperature dropped in the evening but Mrs Tootlepedal, and others who saw it, were of the opinion that it definitely was just a cloud, although a very strange one indeed.

Apart from it, there was not another cloud in the sky.

Once again, I didn’t have much time to look at birds and this goldfinch was the best that I could manage as flying bird of the day.

flying goldfinch

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Today’s guest picture shows a very fine bridge over the River Ouse near which my brother Andrew had a cup of coffee recently.

Bridge over Ouse

We were blessed with another day of unrelenting sunshine but, in the morning at least, it came with a bearable temperature and very light winds so when I went out on my bike after coffee, it was a perfect day for pedalling.

I had cleaned and oiled my chain before I started so it was happy and I had chosen a fairly flat and unchallenging route so I was happy but sadly, the only dissenting members at the party were my legs which for some unknown reason were on a go slow.  There is no arguing with legs when they are in this sort of mood so I calmed my expectations down and pedalled gently about the countryside for thirty miles humming cheerfully to myself.

P1050246.jpg

There was a lot to see.

Before and after my ride, I had strolls round the garden.

Wren and poppy

dahlias and cosmos

Flowers grown from seed flourishing in light or shade

butterflies

The butterflies were back

After  a shower, some lunch and a bit of gardening, I went off for a walk with Sandy.  By this time it had got very warm so it was lucky that we had chosen a short walk by the river as if we had gone any further, we might have melted.

We parked at Hollows Tower….

Hollows Tower

…and walked down through the fields to the Esk, stopping on the way to record anything that caught our eyes.

Sandy at Hollows

Sandy has an unfair advantage. He can crouch down…and then get up again.

I was looking at seeds and fruits…

bramble, acorn and winged seeds

The first blackberry of the year up here.

..and wild flowers.

wild flowers

The river was looking very peaceful…

River Esk

..and in the distance we could see a heron perched on a caul.

heron

The caul provides water for a mill stream that powers the Archimedes screw which has appeared on the blog before.

On the far bank of the river we could see strata of rock. perhaps 300 millions years old, making me think of just how recently human beings have arrived on the scene.

River Esk strata

We walked down the river to look at the sluice gate for the mill stream…

sluice gate at hollows

…and have a closer look at the caul.

caul at Hollows

The sluice is on the left of the river as we look.

We did think of going on down to look at the bridge at Hollows but by this time we were nearly roasted so we pottered back to the car and drove home.

I had a last look round the garden when I got in.

lily, anemone, cornflower and marigold

Mrs Tootlepedal had dug up one of our main crop Hungarian potatoes and the crop looked to be slug free which is always a relief.

potatoes

The onions are drying in the greenhouse.

onions

A blackbird caught the evening sun…

blackbird

..and above our heads, a butterfly got some late warmth on the roof tiles of the house.

butterfly on roof

During the day, I mowed the front lawn and having looked at the front and middle lawns, I think that this might be the one day of the year when they look quite good.

The lawn seasons starts in about February when the lawn master walks around sucking his teeth and saying, “Oooh, the moss is very bad this year, there’s no hope.”  Preliminary work, scarifying, fertilising and if necessary a little weed killing starts in April or May and then a programme of regular mowing is put into practice while the lawn master walks around saying, “Oooh, it’s not looking very good.”

Then one day in August, it looks like this.

middle lawn

front lawn

And the lawn master is happy.

And then of course it is all downhill again.  Worm casts, rain, cold, moss, moss and more moss and then the lawn master walks round saying, “Oooh this looks bad”….and the whole thing starts again for another year.  But today makes it all worthwhile.

The flower of the day is a poppy at its its poppymost.

poppy

 

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