Sunday Sevens #4

Saturday 19th March 2016 was Earth Hour, so I plunged David and I into darkness for one hour between 8.30-9.30pm. Did you partake in the hour?

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Earlier that evening, after a busy day of ‘spring’ cleaning, I made a One Pan Mexican Quinoa. I tweaked the recipe a little, omitting the avocado and lime but added a red onion and small pepper. I also 20160319_180028 (2)changed the sweetcorn to peas as David doesn’t like corn!

The meal was simple, just cut the vegetables and measure the quinoa and then pop them all into a pan with beans, stock and tinned tomatoes and cook for 20 minutes, until the quinoa releases its tails! The outcome was a fresh, tasting meal. I will definitely be making it again in the future!

On Thursday the postman delivered some lovely news. My tickets for the Hans Zimmer concert in April at the Birmingham Barclaycard Arena arrived!! I was so happy!

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That same day while making a cup of tea, I peered out of the kitchen window towards the back garden and my eyes spied a small bird flitting about the tree branches. It was a little Wren! He stayed long enough for me to video him!

The beginning of the week saw lovely blue skies and spring-like temperatures hit the NW of England. David, Artie and I spent some much needed time in the garden, cleaning away old foliage and soaking up the warm rays of the sun. I noticed that there are lots of tulips growing again this season and there are some plants I don’t even know what they are! Perhaps you recognise them?

20160317_175108It’s been two weeks since I planted my seeds of french beans, spring onions and peppers. I have hundreds of beans and onions growing! I don’t know where in the garden I will put them once they are ready to be planted outside! After some studying I read that french beans grow up to a meter in height! I am also going to need some bamboo sticks for support! How do you think my seedlings are coming along?

Do you have any spring projects on the go?

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Threads and Bobbins.

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A Teeny bit of Pottering About.

Standing firm against the gales of storm Henry, Artie and I ventured out into the back garden while the winter sun shone with the promise of longer, warmer days to come. In fact today was quite mild, dare I jinx it and say the whole season has been wet, windy and mild?!

It may have been just a brief half an hour that we were outside, but it was time well spent. At present I am feeling rather cooped up! So today when I saw the sun shining I knew that I should spend my lazy morning tending to my spring shoots.

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Hellebore

The first thing that catches the eye is the white and purple flashes of Hellebore flower heads. I love Hellebores, or Christmas Roses, they are such good growers and always a welcome colour in the more shaded areas of the garden.

With Goldfinches squeaking at me to leave the garden, so they could have their breakfast of sunflower hearts, I noticed many tips of green shoots breaking through the damp soil! There are a number of tall Tulip bulbs sprouting and I think I have some welcome Snowdrops (they never grew last year), but they seem to be getting eaten by something so I never get to see them bloom!

The Hyacinth has been going strong since Christmas and has a twin growing along side it now!

I managed to replant the sad looking Lavender. I took it from its patio pot and placed it where there is some space in the main garden area. In front of this I also replanted some seedlings of the Poppy seeds I had growing. I hope they take to their new home and flourish!

With all this replanting, I have made space now for five patio pots to be free for when I attempt to grow some vegetables later in the year.

Last year I bought seeds for Spring Onions, Green Beans and Peppers. I have not attempted to grow my own vegetables before so I wonder if any of them will survive?

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Vegetable seeds.

Have you ever attempted to grow your own vegetables? Did you get much harvest? Have any tips?

Christine x

A Lady of Leisure.

Costa treat

Costa treat

Monday was the beginning of my ‘much needed’ week off work. I started it by going for a coffee with my mum! We braved the drizzle and took the bus to Allerton and our favourite Costa! It was a nice indulgent treat but the indulgence didn’t end there! The next day Mum and I went to Liverpool One’s Odeon and went to see Jurassic World! It was an enjoyable romp and it was nice to just switch off for a change! There were some nail biting moments which had mum and I squealing like children! 😀

I spent the ‘hump’ with Artie who seemed to enjoy the company.

2015-07-14 22.29.24In the garden:

There has been a flurry of activity at the feeders this week. Visiting were lots of baby Starlings all greedily helping themselves to the fat balls. Amongst all the flapping of wings were four House Sparrows, two males and two females. They happily explored the garden. I saw them under the Honeysuckle and at one stage all sitting in the branches of the small Buddleia I have in a pot! However they do not stay still for long and we believe we have more Sparrows visiting than first thought. I am hopeful they will continue to visit the feeders, they have such lovely sweet characters.

There were also the many Goldfinch ‘charms’ visiting. One family must have been successful at rearing their young as they brought about four babies to the feeders. All are welcome! 😀

I had to dig up my Michaelmas Daisy as the mildew was spreading to other flowers. The vinegar spray did not help I am afraid! Looks like I’ll be heading to Lady Green Garden Centre in the near future!

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The rest of the week:

David had Thursday and Friday off. So on the first day, we went to Trentham Gardens, Stoke on Trent to see their art instillation of fairies, by local artist Robin Wright. We got in for the 2 for 1 offer via Stoke on Trent’s tourist website. Saved us nearly £10! The next four hours was spent walking along the mile long lake, viewing the many art displays in-situ and enjoying their gardens.

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While walking we came across a flash of colour! It was a small part of the lakeside given over to wild flowers. The sight was stunning!

Wild flowers

Wild flowers

One of the attractions at Trentham was their Bare Foot Walk. I had decided the night before that if I had the chance I would try it. So in anticipation I packed with our lunch a small towel to wipe my feet! 🙂 David thought I was mad, but I threw off my shoes and socks and jumped on the wooden stepping stones.

Bare Foot Walk at Trentham Gardens

Bare Foot Walk at Trentham Gardens

The wood was presently warm and comfortable unlike some other surfaces I encountered. Small stones, wood chips and coals were the hardest and most difficult to walk on. I made very slow progress!

The excitement of the day really knocked us out! So come the evening we relaxed and watched Maleficent.

Friday dawned cloudy and cool, We decided to make the most of the day and headed towards Lancashire to see the Pendle Sculpture Trail at Aitken Wood. I don’t know if it was due to still being tired from the day before or the fact that we seemed to get hounded by horrid flies for the two hours we were walking (one even tried to bite me!), I didn’t enjoy the day as much as I thought I would! The weather didn’t play ball either as it was rather windy on the hills and the sun rarely showed!

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The wood was good for wildlife spotting and we bemoaned the fact that we should have brought our ‘bigger’ cameras instead of our phones! We really were not equipped for taking any decent nature sightings. Another visit will be on the cards in the future!

On the walk we spotted:

  1. A Linnet, but not 100% certain.
  2. Tuffted Ducks though again I am not certain. I really wished I’d brought my bird ID book!
  3. Great or Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
  4. Blue, Great and Coal Tits, I recognised them! 🙂
  5. Goldfinches
  6. Three rabbits
  7. Seven butterflies, two were Red Admirals and two Gatekeepers!
  8. A few moths
  9. A hawk hunting, could have been a Merlin, though not certain! 😦

My identification skills are decent enough for when it comes to garden birds, but when I am faced with birds I don’t see regularly then I find them difficult to ID! I think many more days out in the country are needed to hone my skills!

Saturday turned out at be a busy affair as we had family around for a curry and film night! We ordered from my favourite takeaway, Saffron and the film we snuggled up to watch was The Kingsman, it had it’s funny moments!

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Now Sunday has arrived and I’m feeling blue, work looms gloomily on the horizon! I’ve enjoyed my time off work so much! Maybe too much! It’s been lovely. I have spent time with family and seen and experienced new things. I’ve spent today at home with David and Artie and tried to get my nervous finches to feed from the hand. Two already have the courage, Chocolate (Bengalese) and Rainbow (Gouldian) but poor Romeo (Bengalese) is still hesitant!

Romeo, Rainbow, Chocolate

Romeo, Rainbow, Chocolate

Here’s to the next week off 🙂

Update on the garden 1

It’s been a busy few weeks back at work so I have not had much chance to peruse the garden, well not as much as I would like! The weather has not been so great either… I am sure last year’s weather was much better than how 2015 is turning out! I am waiting for the sun to shine and the mercury in the thermometer to rise to 20° as I want to invite family around for a BBQ! As it is I am still waiting!

David today commented that he liked the ‘purple flowers in the shaded area of the garden.’ I informed him that it was the aubretia, it has spread substantially in the past few weeks, threatening to overcome the dwarf rhododendron, but I will cut it back once the flowering has ended.

Aubrieta

Aubrieta

Other news in the garden… the tulips have faded and all 15 bluebells have flowered, they look lovely! The scabiosa is flourishing for a second year and the wallflower has bushed out so much it is swamping the beautiful pink blooms of the azalea and shadowing the French lavender that has many more buds on than last year!

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The honeysuckle is once again covered in flower buds, (it has always been a good grower). I have more bulbs sprouting… could be the orchids I planted? They are amongst the gladioli and lilies so it is just a waiting game as to what flowers.

Last bank holiday Artie and I were outside in the garden. Artie was chasing flies and other insects and I was weeding the garden, when a familiar buzzing passed by. ‘It’s a bee!’ I cried, but Artie had also seen it and darted at it, pinning the poor creature to the garden wall. I threw Artie off and watched as the poor bee, a Hairy Footed Flower Bee, staggered about. We gave her (for it was a female solitary bee) some sugar solution and let her rest. We did not find a carcass so I hope she was only stunned and managed to fly on her merry way, otherwise a passing bird could have snatched her up. I prefer the former suggestion. I shall have to keep Artie out of the garden come the time the cat mint blooms or he will have a field day with the Honeybees…who I hasten to add, sting!

Hairy-footed flower bee female

Hairy-footed flower bee female

My Week Off.

The week commencing 20th April was taken as annual leave, and the sun smiled happily as I embarked on my week off work.

Monday:

I did some weeding in the garden and watched Artie sniff and hunt for flies. I then replanted (in bigger pots) seedlings I had growing of poppy and other seedlings which I later found out were coriander. (Looks like I didn’t need to buy the one from Lady Green!)

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After working in the garden I then sat and relaxed with my Kindle and soaked up some sun while it lasted.

For dinner I made a vegetarian sausage casserole with lots of vegetables. It tasted very herby!

Vegi sausage casserole

Vegi sausage casserole

Tuesday:

First thing this morning I booked ‘our’ place on the Chester Zoo member’s event, of seeing ‘Islands‘ before it officially opens to the public. (Well I hope the booking has gone through!) There are some perks to being a member after all! 🙂

Mum and I had intended on taking a trip to the Maritime Museum but I felt a little unwell, so we decided on visiting my brother Stephen and to see my nephew Aaron.

Back home, in the afternoon I spent a little more time sunbathing in the garden and enjoyed a strawberry and Bliss desert, swilled down with a small measure of whisky. It didn’t seem as hot in the sun as yesterday and I grew cold quickly as well as feeling tired.

Bliss and Strawberries

Bliss and Strawberries

For dinner, I had bought some Jersey Royals (potatoes) so had them with smoked salmon and salad… gorgeous!

Wednesday:

A lazy day today. I sat in the garden and watched Artie chase flies. I noticed that a Blue Tit was happily gathering moss from nearby gardens and flying to a bush in another. I thought that Blue Tits only nested in boxes or crevices but after doing some research I found that their nests are cup sized and can be anywhere! I also found out that the females are the only ones that make the nests, so it was a Mrs Blue Tit who I saw!

For dinner I made a spaghetti bolognese with Quorn Swedish style meatballs. I even used freshly cut oregano from the garden! It is always a very satisfying dinner.

spaghetti bolognese and Quorn Swedish style meatballs

spaghetti bolognese and Quorn Swedish style meatballs

Thursday:

While it was St George’s Day, William Shakespeare’s birthday and World Book Day, I did very little indeed. I did the usual sweated for 20 minutes on the treadmill, had a coffee and chat with mum before having lunch.

In the afternoon Artie and I spent a few hours sunning ourselves and listened to the visiting Goldfinches and Blue Tits in the nearby trees while Classic FM played on the radio. I discovered that the seedlings I transplanted on Monday, the poppies had withered but the coriander was still looking strong!

For dinner while David had a pizza, I made do with Quorn bacon, beans, egg and chips.

Quorn bacon, eggs, beans and chips

Quorn bacon, eggs, beans and chips

In the evening as the setting sun washed everything golden, I sat listening to my favourite performance of Mahler’s 6th Symphony, the andante.

Friday:

Was the last of the ‘good’ weather of the week. It has been simply splendid to have such lovely summery weather for the week off work!

David had taken a day off work and so we headed the 1.5 hours towards Wakefield to Yorkshire Sculpture Park.  We arrived after 10.30 am and paid the £8 for all day car-parking. We then spent the next five hours walking the fields that were filled with sculptures of bronze, stone, wood, all kinds of materials. We walked literally miles, my poor feet ached!

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The sculpture park is amongst the grounds of Bretton Hall Country Park which has nature trails as well as art instillations. We took a leisurely walk around the Upper Lake and spent some time amongst a Bluebell wood and old Victorian ruins.

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With gloomy looking clouds encroaching, David and I headed back to Liverpool, tired but having thoroughly enjoyed our day out in Yorkshire!

I am already planning the next day out!

The weekend came and went too quickly and it was time for me to head back to work. It has been slow for me to get back into the old routine but a long Bank Holiday weekend is near which sustains me!

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary…

…how does your garden grow?

I’ve not written since Easter when Vaughan William’s The Lark Ascending was voted no.1 in the Classic FM Hall of Fame. (N.B. I did not vote for it!) Since then I have been pottering about the garden and seeing how things are growing. I am quite proud with the plants I have, all, whether new or old are flourishing, so much so that I thought I would share some pictures with you.

The tulips have all grown from their bulbs and the rhododendron and hellebore give much colour/definition to the shaded area of the garden.

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The magnolia and acer trees are looking fantastic and the flame of the forest has sprouted!

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Older plants, such as the primulas and aubrieta have flowered again, and the wallflower has not stopped flowering all winter!

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I have also bought some new plants too. I have bluebells sprouting for the first time, come May I hope they flower.

Bluebells

Bluebells

This Saturday I went to my favourite garden centre, Lady Green and bought another coriander. As this herb is only an annual I am having to buy it every year, but I will keep the seeds and hopefully be able to grow it again next year! In addition to the coriander, I went a bit ‘mad’ and bought a camellia. I have seen some recently and thought they were beautiful, though they are not great for wildlife, I bought one to see how it fares in my garden!?! I also bought a fritillaria which looks bizarre and smells even worse!

My mum kindly gifted me with some lovely orange lilies the other day, which I planted alongside the other newcomers to the garden!

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I have seen my first bees of the season flitting though the blossom of my mum’s tree next door and I took some lovely photographs of a visiting common wasp happily pollinating the laurel bush.

Common Wasp

Common Wasp

On Saturday I had a visitor from a ‘Hover fly, or Drone fly, (true fly)’ who flew about my dining room before trying to exit from my kitchen window (which I opened). I am rather saddened to say that I was hoping it would be something more ‘exotic’ like a solitary bee, but I guess a fly resembling a honeybee is something unique as well.

Hover fly, or drone

Hover fly, or drone

I was listening to podcasts of Alan Titchmarsh on Classic FM the other day and he said something I thought was profound. He said, ‘half the fun in gardening is anticipation, looking forward to things coming out, rather than them being there all the time.’ I agree with the statement wholeheartedly. These past few months while awaiting for bulbs to grow and other plants to awaken from winter has had me peering out of the windows daily.

I have Lily, orchid and gladioli bulbs planted so come summer I will be continuing to peruse my garden to see what has stood the test of nature!

Bulb gowing

Bulb gowing

Spring Promise.

Today I managed to venture out into the garden! It was warm enough that I could stay outside for over an hour without being frozen to the bone! The garden was in much need of attention. There was a lot of dead material to remove and I wanted to assess the toll winter had on the plants. Sadly the Phlox did not survive the mould blight and I had to dig that up!

I was pleased to find that the Cat Mint which I thought had died was in fact thriving. The Honey Bees will be happy! I cut away the dead branches and exposed the new growth. I also found that my Honeysuckle had lots of new leaves on and that the Hyacinth had flowered.

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I planted some bulbs while David tidied up the Passion Flower, which had grown wildly over winter. I planted Ornamental Lilies, Orchids and Gladioli. I just hope they flower. Talking of bulbs. The most successful of the ones I planted last year seem to be the Bluebells. I have counted 15 in total, though all there are at the moment are leaves.

Bluebells?

Bluebells?

There has been no sign of the snowdrops, maybe next year?

I was worried a little when designing the garden about the shaded side as it gets very little direct sunlight. I needn’t have worried as my Hellebore is blooming with some 10+ heads open/opening!! I also discovered that the Aubrieta was looking very green and the Aquilegia which I thought would not appear again is also sprouting through the soil!

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The plants in the garden still have a lot of growing to do, but I look forward to the lengthening and warmer days to come. I am positive my garden will soon be awash with colour, and that the bees and butterflies will once again enjoy my flowers!!

Fingers crossed!

Christine x

Big Garden Bird Watch 2015!

For the past couple of years I have been partaking in the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch, and this year was no exception!

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I did the count over the weekend. I spent the first hour on Saturday in Mum’s house, next door, counting the birds that visit her yard and then did another hour on Sunday from my home.

The tally from Mum’s yard was:

  • 19 Pigeons
  • 1 Blue Tit
  • 13 goldfinches
  • 1 Starling

From my yard:

  • 1 Starling
  • 8 Pigeons
  • 2 Goldfinches
  • 2 Blue Tits

Which isn’t too bad since my garden seems to be an overflow to the visiting birds next door! Alas the Dunnock nor Robin was seen during those hours!

Since this Sunday has been the warmest for a while, I ventured outside. I have many bulbs poking through the soil and I wonder whether they will be Snow Drops or Bluebells come spring. Even my Tulips are sprouting making me excited for warmer weather! Amongst my perusal, I gasped in surprise as I noticed my Hyacinth sitting proudly in the garden. This is the second year it has grown!

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More Couples!

Well, today was a short day at work. So being back home by 11am, I had plenty of time to watch the various winged visitors to my back yard.

The Dunnock couple visited so many times today that I can’t even remember! Every time I looked out of the window, there was at least one Dunnock, sometimes two! When I was getting ready for work this morning, I saw the couple hopping about the soil and later on they were hopping about the yard and got so close to the door. They do seem very relaxed with their surroundings!

Another couple that has started visiting more regularly now is the Great Tit couple. I saw them at least twice today. One time they were on the sunflower feeders in both trees, they are looking so plump, almost as plump as the Blue Tit couple that visits.

Talking of the Blue Tits, this morning I heard the one that sounds like a children’s toy gun calling out, though later on in the evening I didn’t see nor hear them visiting. I do hope they are both okay and that the horrible wet weather we are having has not upset their activities.

One couple that did visit today, made me so overjoyed at seeing them again! It was the Goldfinch couple and they were both sharing the sunflower hearts from a feeder in the big tree, getting at least some shelter from the horrible driving rain. I do have some Nyjer seed for them, but they don’t seem to have found them as yet! I still think they are a little nervous at visiting! I did go to get my camcorder but they both flew off as I lifted the lens towards them. 😦 They both seemed so hungry, again, I hope that if they continue to visit, they will grow as plump and glossy as the Dunnock, Great and Blue Tits. 🙂

I am slightly worried for the Blue Tits, I hope they have visited when I was just not looking! I don’t think my back yard will be the same without their presence!

Our Society Finches are still sitting on their eggs. It seems like forever since Chocolate (I’m saying it’s her as she is so much bigger than Caramel!) started laying her eggs. David sent me a link saying it could be up to another two weeks before they hatch or we clean the eggs from the nest. That’s not a job I am looking forward to, lets all keep our fingers crossed that we have a male and female Finch and they have given us fertile eggs. 😀