Sunday Sevens #27

It’s that time again! Time to join in with another Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie.

Overall its not been a bad week!

A gift: At the beginning of the week David said there was a cosmetics sale on at his work’s shop. He then surprised me by handing me a large box with some gorgeous brushes, eye shadows and lipsticks. It shows he does think of me sometimes 🙂

Culture: The hump day saw David and I attend the Liverpool Playhouse for a production of Gabriel starring Liverpool born Paul McGann and Belinda Lang. Set in occupied Guernsey during WW2, the action takes place in a farmhouse where a family of women live. Their survival during the occupation is due to the mother’s fraternization with the Germans. While there are moments of humour, there is also some toe curling observations. The womens’ lives are thrown into jeopardy with the arrival of ‘Gabriel’ who is found washed ashore. He has no recollection of who he is but he can speak fluent German! Is he a messenger sent from God to smite the Germans, or an SS officer come to oversee the concentration camp at Alderney? His identity is left ambiguous, but the ending leaves you shocked and saddened.

No visit to the Liverpool Playhouse could be complete without Cheshire Farm Ice-cream at the interval. Mmmm gorgeous!!

Literature: The book I have started reading this week is the seminal piece by Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird. I’ve been reading it while on the bus going to work, stuck in traffic due to building works. While on the daily commute I have been clocking up the miles for #Walk1000 miles: My tally for the week has been 27 miles, which has taken me over the 300 miles mark! Also as I walked between bus stops I kept looking for signs of spring. One day I witnessed a buzzard soaring over the city being hounded by a brave pigeon who must have been protecting its young. Then as I passed a grassy verge I saw a flash of blue. A huddle of forget-me-nots crowded all around!

dressShopping: On Saturday I dragged poor David around Speke Retail Park looking for clothes for work. As I have been toning up with doing 30-40 minutes of treadmill, five times a week, I have dropped a dress size and as a result all my size 8’s are too big for me! Sick of wearing only a handful of clothes I went in search of spring dresses and trousers.

I managed to get two short dresses which will look ok over leggings or tights and a pair of linen trousers which will be a welcome change from Lycra!

Yarden: With the wonderful sunny and warm weather we had over the weekend, David, Artie and I managed to grab a few hours in the yarden. Its amazing just how much the plants have all flourished. I snapped a fine specimen of a snake’s head fritillary and also one plant I can’t ID. Can you?

Visitors: On arrival from work everyday this week, David and I have seen cheeky pigeons sitting on the window ledge, looking into the kitchen. They have been waiting for us to throw seed out for them! Do you have any feathered friends?

pigeon

Finally: David and I had a lovely Sunday walk with Riley. We visited my favourite Liverpool park, Festival Gardens. The air was filled with the trill of great tits, bees hummed about in the undergrowth and orange tips and speckled woods fluttered along the woodland pathways. What a perfect way to start a day.

festival gardens

That was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for stopping by,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #16

No sooner had I published Sunday Sevens #15, when more pet news occurred.

It was a lovely start to the week, with bright warm sunshine (much needed if you ask me!) When it is warm I like to sit out in the yarden, I take Artie with me. Being outside gives him more stimulation than being stuck inside the house. However I have created a nature yarden, meaning I have lots of visiting bees and butterflies, lots of stalking opportunities for Artie! While I was digging up my second crop of maris bard potatoes for my vegetarian roast dinner that evening, Artie was sitting amongst the flowers watching the bees.

I acted too slowly. I was busy marvelling at all the potatoes I had grown! From the corner of my eye I saw Artie lunge at a bee who had entered a foxglove. He must have knocked the poor bee down into the foliage as I couldn’t see her. I left Artie sniffing in the undergrowth while gathering my harvest.

On coming back into the yarden, Artie suddenly darted from the greenery, rubbing his paw against his nose. Jumping about like a jack in a box ‘You’ve been stung!’ I cried, scoping him up and taking him into the house. I called for David’s assistance. Then proceeded, a half hour long endurance, of trying to hold Artie down while David tweezed the bee sting from his nose. I got covered in scratches for my endeavour.

Afterwards when Artie was sting-less and enjoyed some cooked chicken, seemingly none the wiser for the upset. I stood shaking like a leaf. My nerves had been shot! ‘Pets are worse than kids!’ David exclaimed while I tried to regain my spirits.

Needless to say Artie is back to his ‘wild’ self again. He is siting in the last rays of the Sunday sunshine.

Have you had a pet who has had a too close encounter with a bee?

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Forgive me for returning to the great British obsession, the weather, but the UK saw its hottest day of the year (so far) on Tuesday! In the NW of England the temperatures soared to a very sweaty 31°c! The Spanish Plume the meteorologists had predicted had finally arrived! Though only for three days! On Tuesday evening as I wrote my post about the numerous animal sculptures that have graced the UK’s cities, David and I sat in the hottest room of the house. Outside the window I watched as the sky darkened as the last rays of the sun dipped beyond the horizon!

During this little snippet of summer, I was out counting the butterflies that visited the yarden, in the Big Butterfly Count. The count runs from 15th July to 7th August 2016! I don’t know whether it is because the alleyway between the houses has become overgrown with wild flowers/weeds but I have seen more butterflies flutter past this year, then any other! Predominantly the most common butterfly has been the small white. There has often been two (I don’t know if it’s the same couple) twirling in their dance of attraction before the male attaches himself to the female! They are a joy to watch!

One evening David and I were giving sugar water to this tired bee when in quick succession a small white and a red admiral fluttered crazily past! I quickly noted my sightings on the phone app before watching the satisfied bee fly off energised!

26842491This week saw me finish my latest book, Sam Baker‘s The Woman Who Raninspired by Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. At first I struggled to get into the story. It seems to me that many published novelists nowadays are or were journalists. I don’t know whether that is a good thing or not! I persevered and soon the story warmed up. The narrative was atmospheric in its description of the Yorkshire Dales. The characters were a little difficult to understand but you got to like them in the end. The finale, touted as being explosive, ended more like a whimper. I didn’t understand why the main character would act like she did in the face of opposition! Anyway, it was enjoyable. I’ve not read this author before, perhaps I will in future?

Have you read this novel? Any thoughts?

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I was going to end today’s blog with an update on Troy but there hasn’t been much improvement. Then I remembered the lovely selection of bramley apples given to us by one of David’s friends. So I decided to finish with them. I have acquired all the ingredients so next week I shall be busy cooking apple pies, or variants on a theme!

I hope you all have a wonderful week ahead.

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

30 Days Wild 2016 – Week One

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The Wildlife Trust’s, 30 Days Wild 2016 dawned on a cloudy Wednesday, a hump day! I must admit it was difficult to find my ‘get up and go!’ However the sun made an appearance in the afternoon. It shone down hotly, as I slowly eased into this June by doing the usual pottering about the yarden (yard/garden)!

I participated in 30 Days Wild last year and thoroughly felt enlivened just by noticing the nature and wildlife around me.

I do try to help the wildlife in my area. It started off by putting out feeders for the birds. Then it progressed to planting for bees, butterflies and other insects. And this year David and I have built a small pond in the hope of bringing even more wildlife to the urban back yarden.

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Day One: Wednesday.

Like last year I will blog about my 30 Days Wild in weekly installments. Thanks to Annie Irene from Trails&Tails who wrote about the many bloggers featured on The Wildlife Trusts, My Wild Life website. It is always good to read what other’s are getting up to this June, so if you are interested like I was, then follow the link and get reading!

One of the positives about reading other people’s experiences of the ‘wild’ is that you learn something new almost daily. Today, I learnt that a ‘weed’ I have ashamedly been pulling up out of the yarden (oops), is called Herb Robert or geranium robertianum. This wild flower is apparently edible and has many therapeutic properties.

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Day Two: Thursday.

Today, David had a day off work. I suggested we go to a park in search of wildlife. We decided on visiting Liverpool’s Festival Gardens. We seem to make an annual pilgrimage here, but really should visit more often. It has lakes and woodland walks. It also features the restored Moon Wall and Pagodas that featured in the Garden Festival of the 1980’s!

On our leisurely walk, there were coots with chicks on the lake. Alongside the paths David and I spotted orchids and oxeye daises, and in the woodland we saw several butterflies, one was a Speckled Wood.

We had a picnic alongside a stream, where under a strong beaming sun we sat listening to birdsong. I’ve identified (using British Garden Birds) the song of a chaffinch and maybe a wren, but is there a third song? Can you tell?

Day Three: Friday.

If you are struggling to find something ‘wild’ to do in June, then why not download the 30 Days Wild app for 101 random acts of wildness? I did and the first act suggested was something blue. So here is a picture of one of David’s rockery plants, lithodora ‘heavenly blue.’

Day Four: Saturday.

This March we planted some seed maris bard potatoes in the hope of growing our first vegetables. Today I noticed that the first flower has opened. I read that it will be soon be time to harvest these earlies! Isn’t the flower very strange looking? Well I thought so!

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Day Five: Sunday.

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Naughty Artie!

Today was World Environment Day. Nicky on her blog Too Lazy to Weed, highlighted that it was also The National Garden Bioblitz weekend! So we spent the whole day in the yarden. I busied myself with counting the flora and fauna that we have in our small space. My fellow ‘spotter’ Artie was watching the bees and butterflies for a very different reason!!!

I counted  about 60 plants. Of that number we have two trees and many shrubs, alpines and perennials. I used the Pl@ntNet app to ID some annuals and I was surprised at the results! One of the wildflower seedlings has roundish leaves so I used the app and found out it is a nasturtium!

Of the many insects that visited the yarden, a number of them were bees. Those identified were: common carder bees, a dark variant of the tree bumblebee, mason bees and white-tailed bumblebees. Thanks to UK Bees, Wasps and Ants Facebook page for help with ID-ing the bees. My skills are still not great! Below are five useful facts on each bee.

Common Carder Bee:

  1. Found widely in the UK.
  2. On the wing from March to November.
  3. Nests above ground, such as cavities, hedges, plant litter or birds nests.
  4. They gather moss or grass to cover their nests.
  5. A social bee, can have a colony of up to 200 workers.

Tree Bumblebee:

  1. Came to the UK ten years ago, under own steam.
  2. Not reported to have damaged native bumblebees
  3. Prefers wide open flowers, i.e. daisies.
  4. Nests in cavities or birds nests/boxes.
  5. The males are sting-less.

Mason Bee:

  1. One of the solitary bees, (there are no worker bees).
  2. Nests in cavities, i.e. walls.
  3. Uses mud to close their brood cells.
  4. Are non aggressive.
  5. Are just as good pollinators as honey bees.

White-tailed Bumblebee:

  1. Is another group of social bees.
  2. Nests underground, i.e. rodent nests.
  3. Has a short tongue, so prefers wide open flowers, such as daisies.
  4. Are accomplished nectar ‘robbers’. By boring holes, means they don’t have to enter the flower.
  5. On the wing from March to November.

David, Artie and I were also given a spectacular mating dance from two, small white butterflies. It was truly uplifting to see the two flutter delicately about on a hot summers day!

Day Six: Monday.

20160606_133351I don’t know if it is due to tiredness or the heat but I have been feeling kind of tired and low today. So it was going to be a lazy kind of day. After the midday heat had passed, Artie and I headed out into the yarden to sit quietly. I took out my library copy of Roger Deakin’s Waterlogged, (a tale of ‘wild’ swimming around the UK), and relaxed while the yarden hummed with bees. I am finding the book hard reading. I simply can’t get into it!  I usually like history but the historical passages in the narrative just bore me. I will persevere though!

Day Seven: Tuesday.

I have always wanted to try my hand at writing a Haiku (traditional Japanese poetry.) You may have guessed that I can go on a bit while writing the blog, so you’d think a three lined poem would be easy for me! Wrong! I have been racking my brain trying to get syllables to come together. Below is my best attempt. What are your thoughts? Have you tried writing a Haiku?

Bees, buzz, drunk on nectar (5)
Flowers’ scent, enticingly (7)
Pollen baskets, full (5)

Summary: The problem with this years 30 Days Wild is that I have wanted to do everything all at once! And that is not plausible. I have felt like a daemon possessed! Panicking if I don’t do something to the extent I want. For the second week, I think I need to ‘chill’ a bit more and enjoy nature instead of forcing it!

I hope you will come with me on this next week of discovery?!

Christine x

A-MA-ZING!!

Can I say that one more time?

AMAZING!!

I’ve been talking about the experience all afternoon and evening! I simply can’t get over it! It’s always only me that sees it! I’ve joked with David that I must be ‘high’ on something! That quinoa last night must have been infected with mould, as this afternoon, after preparing my Sunday dinner, I looked out of the kitchen window to see if there was any bird activity at the feeders and there it was! A Sparrowhawk!

I wish I had my camera to hand as it’s just my word to say that it was in the garden, but there it was attacking whatever was sheltering in the Laurel Bush, probably a Sparrow or Starling!

I gasped in amazement and then it turned its orange eyes towards me before it spread its wings and flew off.

I have seen a Sparrowhawk in the area before, in 2012, the day of my father’s funeral. Today, one was in the garden looking for it’s lunch!

The whole incident happened so fast that I am writing this account so as to remember it!

I have no pictures myself of the Sparrowhawk, so I have had to borrow from Google/YouTube. The below footage is by Brian Ewen.


After some reading I have discovered that if a Sparrowhawk is in your garden then it is a sign of a healthy population of birds/prey. I like to see it as a healthy micro-system. I have put feeders in my garden to encourage small birds like the Blue Tit, Dunnock and Goldfinch. This in turn has encouraged Pigeons and Starlings to visit. This movement and frenzied activity has alerted the next stage of the chain. The predator, like the Sparrowhawk.

The system is very like that of my planting for bees, butterflies and moths. Their presence in the garden has brought the arrival of Swallows to feast on the abundance of insects. It certainly shows that we are all interconnected.

I have read that some people dislike Sparrowhawks being in their neighbourhood. I have to accept that even Sparrowhawks need to feed otherwise they will starve to death.

On the RSPB website it states that Sparrowhawk numbers were heavily in decline due to pesticides used in farming from the 1950’s onwards. Thankfully, numbers seem to be on the increase due to the banning of certain chemicals. The RSPB also states that the predation of Sparrowhawks on songbirds has ‘no or little impact on songbird populations.’ The Wildlife Trust produced a report on the predation of songbirds and concluded that songbird ‘numbers over the last few decades should not be blamed on predation by Sparrowhawks and Magpies.’

In my area there are not just Magpies, but other crows and Seagulls present. Recently, there seems to be a healthy balance of numbers from the smaller birds. I counted at one time, up to, if not exceeding 20 Goldfinches, 10 House Sparrows and over 20 Starlings, mostly fledglings. Pigeon numbers seem to be increasing steadily also.

The presence of predators therefore does seem to indicate that there are a healthy number of smaller birds. Chris Mead from Jacobi Jayne & Company states, ‘numbers of Sparrowhawks are controlled by the numbers of their prey.’ I like to think that since I have been encouraging Goldfinches, House Sparrows and Starlings to my garden that I am creating a healthy ecosystem where there is enough prey numbers for a predator to flourish. Time will tell if the Sparrowhawk will return.

I have been researching the presence of Sparrowhawks in Liverpool, and have come across a number of blogs from 2010 and 2012 stating Sparrowhawk sightings. It’s not uncommon for Sparrowhawks to predate in city gardens. However, I just find it amazing that one appeared in my inner city garden, though more like a yard than a garden!! I am feeling proud that I have made a little oasis in a rather built up area. 🙂


And in other news:

I seemed to have been on a health kick recently. I have been treadmilling, doing squats and abdominal workouts daily. I don’t know whether this is the fact that I have lost an inch around the chest and half an inch from the waist. Either way I think healthy eating has helped.

Lentils are a great source of protein and low in calories. They lower your cholesterol and help maintain blood sugar levels. So, today I made a Vegan, Spicy Lentil Soup. I got the recipe from Cookie and Kate. Though I changed a few quantities and added a potato and green beans.

Ingredients:

  • Splash of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium white onion, chopped
  • 2 celery sticks chopped
  • 1 small potato, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
  • Handful of green beans chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 400g can of diced tomatoes
  • 200g of green lentils
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock, reduced salt. I used two cubes
  •  ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. Warm the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.
  2. Once the oil is shimmering, add the chopped onion, celery and potato and cook, stirring often, until the onion has softened and is turning translucent, (about 5 minutes.)
  3. Add the garlic, cumin, curry powder and thyme. Cook until fragrant while stirring constantly, (about 30 seconds.)
  4. Pour in the tomatoes, green beans and cook for a few more minutes, stirring often, in order to enhance their flavour.
  5. Pour in the lentils and stock. Add 1/2 a teaspoon of cayenne pepper. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper. Raise heat and bring the mixture to a boil, then partially cover the pot and reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Cook for 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but still hold their shape.
  6. Transfer 450ml of the soup to a blender. Protect your hand from steam with a tea towel placed over the lid and purée the soup until smooth. Pour the puréed soup back into the pan and warm up.
  7. Remove the pan from heat.Taste and season with more salt, pepper. Serve immediately.
Spiced Vegan Lentil Soup

Spiced Vegan Lentil Soup

The soup turned out really well. Though it looked more brown than the original recipe. (It doesn’t look very appetising from the picture, but believe me it was very appetising and healthy). It made four bowls, so have enough for tomorrows dinner. 😀

Have a pleasant week ahead.

 

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 🙂

30 Days Wild… Week Two

As I guessed rightly this week’s nature sightings were not as abundant as last week.

Monday and Tuesday were filled with travelling to and from work and the bit in-between. I am not enjoying work at present, I am feeling rather undervalued and the travelling tires me out. I really need a holiday!

While at home, I did manage to take some pictures of David’s rockery plants!

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Wednesday:

The weather changed for the better and it was a happy return to bright sunshine and warmth. After work, David, Artie and I sat in the back garden for an hour and soaked up the sun. The garden was filled with the sound of bees happily enjoying the ‘wild’ growing Siberian Bellflowers and Cat Mint. Even the small Golden Mint Moth made a glad return.

Siberian Bellflower

While potting some Poppy seedlings into bigger pots I noticed a Small White butterfly flutter by. That is the first butterfly I have seen in my area! We tend not to get too many butterflies with being terraced houses. I look forward to my Buddleia flowering and maybe will get to see more butterflies?

During the evening while calling at my Mum’s I noticed how calm the air was and looked up to wonder at the wispy Cirrus clouds drifting leisurely overhead. I read later from the Met Office website, that Cirrus are high level clouds, some 18,000 to 40,000ft. The name comes from the Latin for lock of hair. The clouds are part of a warm front, though looking at the Met Office’s prediction for the weekend, it looks like the warm spell is going to be (yet again) short lived. 😦

Example of Cirrus

Example of Cirrus taken from science-edu.larc.nasa.gov

At 10pm the results of the vote for Britain’s national bird were announced. It was not really much of a surprise as the gardener’s friend, the Robin took first place with 34% of the vote! The Barn Owl (12%) was second and my favourite the Blackbird (11%) came third. The Blue Tit came in at a lowly 8th position.

Britain’s National Bird results

  • Robin 34% (75,623)
  • Barn owl 12% (26,191)
  • Blackbird 11% (25,369)
  • Wren 9% (19,609)
  • Red kite 6% (14,057)
  • Kingfisher 6% (13,922)
  • Mute swan 6% (13,480)
  • Blue tit 6% (13,123)
  • Hen harrier 5% (12,390)
  • Puffin 5% (10,674)

Thursday:

It was yet another scorcher of a day in the NW of England. I rushed home from work to enjoy my garden. The garden is a bit of a sun trap so as I reclined under the sun’s rays I listened to the Goldfinches visiting my Mum’s garden and I smiled at the comical begging of their young. I have still yet to get good footage of the baby Goldfinches this year, so a clip from a previous year will have to do.

I was grateful to see that the Swallows were in full force today. I watched in awe as they swooped between the rows of houses chasing bees. They were that close you could see the blue sheen on the Swallow’s body. They are beautiful creatures and quickly becoming one of my favourites.

Later, David (who had been snapping pictures of bees) and I enjoyed our dinner al fresco! It was nice to relax with the setting sun and to feel the calmness of evening after a hectic day!

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For dinner I attempted to make a Turmeric and Lentil Soup as seen on Deliciously Ella’s webpage. I followed the recipe to the letter however it will not be a soup I will make again. I think it had too much mixed herbs in the recipe and ended up tasting very earthy. It was much like taking a mouthful of soil! However, I did enjoy the preparation of the cannellini beans and button mushrooms in spices such as turmeric, cumin and mustard seeds.

Turmeric and Lentil Soup

Turmeric and Lentil Soup

You can obtain the recipe and method here: http://deliciouslyella.com/turmeric-and-lentil-soup/?fb_ref=Default

Friday:

The morning started off brightly but the weather soon changed to a dreary, heavy day. Alas there was not much ‘wildness’ going on! Yesterday David brought home from work a play tunnel for Artie. It’s huge but Artie seems to like it! Here he is in his ‘cube’. 🙂

Artie in his play tunnel

Artie in his play tunnel

Saturday:

The rain that the Met Office predicted did not arrive. 😦 I was a bit peeved as I had wanted to (if the weather was fair) taken a drive to Lancashire to follow the Pendle Sculpture Trail, however, the day trip will have to do for another day. I ended up staying at home and after shopping, did some house work before spending two hours in the garden. The weather was overcast but the cloud broke occasionally and the sun briefly would peak through. The temperature was mild and so I planted my Foxglove seedlings into bigger pots (I hope they survive!) while keeping an eye on Artie as he stalked flies and enjoyed the outside space. I am quite blessed that he does not look to climb onto the wall.

Artie smelling the chives!

Artie smelling the chives!

I spent a good time trying to photograph the bees visiting the garden and noticed some Tree and Garden Bumblebees, (there were also many Red Mason Bees!) I also snapped a Cinnabar Moth resting on the Salvia and a Harlequin Ladybird, though they are an invasive species it was fun watching the little fella fly about the garden plants!

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As Artie and I were in the garden for a long time, the poor birds could not come in and taste the seed on offer. We have up to three House Sparrows visiting the feeders, (they have adapted to feed from the hanging feeders), though they were thwarted this afternoon! They sat on the roof and called angrily for me to leave the garden, as too did the numerous charms of Goldfinches! A poor confused baby Goldfinch even landed on the back door and chirruped before spotting me and flying away! Poor thing!

Every now and then the calls of the Swallows filled the air and they would dart acrobatically through the air! At one stage a Magpie swooped past the garden and beneath it the body of a Swallow! It energised me seeing their flight! 🙂

Around 4pm it grew cooler, the wind picked up and so I took myself and Artie back indoors. It was good timing as I had to prepare for the evenings dinner!

I planned to make a Roasted Vegetable and Pearl Barley Risotto. I wanted to make something ‘healthy,’ and pearl barley is a wonder food! It is helpful in lowering cholesterol, protecting against heart disease and diabetes! I couldn’t find one concise recipe for what I had imagined, so I made my own! Once cooked however it needed a few tweaks, which the recipe below has! I at first used sweet potato which in additional to the other ingredients seemed too much, so I have reduced the amounts!

Roasted Vegetables and Pearl Barley Risotto

Roasted Vegetables and Pearl Barley Risotto

Roasted Vegetables and Pearl Barley Risotto

Serves 4.

Risotto:

  • One onion chopped
  • Two cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 1 chilli, de-seeded and chopped (leave out if you don’t like heat)
  • 250g Pearl barley
  • 1.5 litre of reduced salt vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper to season

Add the onion, chilli (if using) and garlic into a pan and sauté. (I put in the onion and then chilli and cooked for a couple of minutes before adding the garlic as it tends to burn easily.) Then add the barley and stock in increments until all soaked up! (I put in half a litre at a time until the barley was cooked!) Cooking could take up to 40 minutes so leave plenty of time, no need to rush! Salt and pepper to season.

Once the barley is cooking turn your interest to the vegetables.

Roasted Vegetables:

  • Two peppers (any colour), de-seeded and cut into strips
  • One small carrot, peeled and chopped
  • One small red onion, peeled and chopped
  • Cherry tomatoes halved
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper (leave out if you don’t like heat)
  • Salt to season
  • (You can chose your own type of vegetables to roast, the above is just a suggestion!)

Place the chopped vegetables in a roasting tray, drizzle some olive oil and season with a pinch of salt and cayenne (if using). (I got my hands in and covered the vegetables with the seasoning.)

Then on an oven, 200°/gas mark 6 setting, roast vegetables for 20 – 30 minutes.

Serve barley on a bed of wilted spinach and place the roasted vegetables on top! (I also quickly fried some chopped button mushrooms and added to the roasted vegetable topping.

Enjoy!

Sunday:

Another overcast day. A day that David say’s is a ‘headache’ kind of day! The usual suspects visited the garden feeders today and below is David’s footage of baby Goldfinches being fed by it’s parent!

I wonder what ‘wild’ things I will see or get up to in the following week? Bring on week three!

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

People Should Visit these Places More Often!

With David taking the last two days off this week to join me in a nice break from work. We took to visiting some old sights of Liverpool.

I know with being a resident of Liverpool it sounds like I am blowing ‘my’ own city’s trumpet, but there are some good places to visit in Liverpool! Some places you may not even think would be nestled inside an urban conurbation!

One such place is Croxteth Hall and Country Park. It was always a staple place to visit for schools in the region when I was growing up. I remember visiting as a child but couldn’t remember much about the hall! It only cost David and I £14 in total to visit the hall (we were the only ones there!), the walled garden and farm. That’s cheap compared to other country homes!

The Hall itself has about 20 rooms open to the public. I presume that the other 100+ are left for public functions. They do cater for weddings! I was hoping to see a ball room, but the closest to this was the dining room!

Croxteth Hall dining room

Croxteth Hall dining room

David and I spent a leisurely half an hour walking from room to room, looking at the set displays of Kitchen and living quarters of the once residents, the Molyneux family. There was no tour guide or other visitors. It was lovely and peaceful. I had a riot on the elegant stairs. If only I had brought my evening gown!

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I had wanted to visit Croxteth Hall as I had been writing my ‘Jane Austen-esque’ novel… though at present it has gone by the by! However on a glorious ‘heatwave’ day, I thought where better to visit than a stately home with glorious grounds, where we could picnic under a blue sky!

The walled garden was awash with colour! Bees and butterflies milled about lazily and crops of artichoke and fruit graced wooden arches. The farm would appeal to families with small children. They had an array of cattle. David liked the Clydesdale horses.

David and Clydesdale Horse

David and Clydesdale Horse

We enjoyed a happy couple of hours at Croxteth. In the afternoon, David had an idea to take his Mum, Sister and Sister in Law with us to visit Liverpool’s Festival Gardens, made famous in the 1980’s! Now the site has been given over to the people of Liverpool to enjoy as a park! Though when we arrived there were only a handful of cars. Maybe due to the schools not ‘out for summer’ yet?

Bilgen, David’s Sister in Law commented that the park did not look like it was in a city! And it doesn’t with the iconic Japanese Pagodas set against a deep azure sky! Dragonflies skittered over the ponds and a shaded woodland walk was filled with the fluttering of butterfly wings!

I hope the Merseyside people get to enjoy these beautiful places that are on their doorstep! I know I did! 🙂

 

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Flowers and Butterflies.

The past weekend proved to be busy, more so than previous weekends.

On Saturday we drove to North Wales to escape the rain. We (David, his cousin Keith and myself) did not have any ideas on a destination. We just thought we would drive for a bit, find the rain was all over the North West and come back home again. How wrong we were!

We drove on towards Anglesey and the clouds lifted and blazing sunshine and blue vistas surrounded the island! We stopped off at Holyhead and watched as the Irish ferries came into port. There was a brown tourist road sign saying ‘RSPB South Stack.‘ I checked Google and the website said it was one of the best places for wildlife!! So we decided on going there.

We spent the next three hours walking the coastal pathway, wandering down uneven steps (me, in a a dress and heels!) towards South Stack Lighthouse and spotting some butterflies flitting about the wild flowers.

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Amongst the days highlights included: A Puffin, an Osprey, Stonechats, Silver Studded Blue and a Meadow Brown Butterfly.

The Sunday was my nephew Nathan’s 5th birthday party! 5 years have gone by so quickly! David, Mum and I went to his garden party. The children all had a visit from Olaf, the snowman from the film Frozen!

Olaf

Olaf

As you all know I have been gripped with anticipation on the budding of my Passion Flower. Today, Wednesday, coming home from work. I looked out of the kitchen window and there blooming before my astonished eyes was a flower! Two flowers in fact! I can’t wait for more to flower, the plant is covered in buds! 😀

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Longer Days are Coming…

The nights are drawing out and the clocks have not gone back yet! However we have had a few ‘spring like’ days in the NW of England recently and whilst on my walk to work I have smelt the promise of warmer weather and longer days. Even the birds are getting ready for the new season, as whilst I was standing at the bus stop on Friday a Magpie flew overhead with nesting material! Spring is such an exciting time as the world slowly awakens from the cold grasp of winter.

This weekend I have been busy hunting for more ‘spring’ flowers for the garden with insects in mind.

David took me to my favourite garden centre Lady Green in Ince Blundell and I spent over £50 on plants! In my defence half of that was on a Magnolia, ‘water-lily’ tree, I just hope it grows. I have had two other Magnolias before and they have both died. 😦 Third time lucky I say!

Amongst the purchases I bought an Erysimim which I found out was a Wallflower and an Anemone which is a kind of Poppy! I went shopping with a list and came away with everything other than what was on the list! I just followed the RHS sign of ‘Perfect for Pollinators’

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The weather forecast for the UK this weekend was supposed to be warm with sunny spells. It did not feel like that on Saturday, it was cold, grey and miserable. So I have planned to plant my purchases tomorrow. Hopefully Sunday will be a brighter day?

Whilst pottering about the garden today I noticed my Sedum has sprung back to life! That was a plant which was covered with bees and butterflies last year so I hope it will be the same this year!! My Cat Mint and Oregano has ‘spawned’ again as has my Aquilegia, which is such a prolific plant! This will be the second spring it has reseeded itself!

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Amongst others, David’s Acer has started to re-bud and my Hellebore has grown, I have high hopes for that next winter. My Jasmine, though it looks a bit twee seems to have survived the wet winter and my Passion Flower has grown astronomical! I hope there are flowers this summer, it will look beautiful!!

Things are slowly awakening and hopefully once the warmer days are upon us, the garden will start to have the buzzing of insects and the chinking of wine glasses! I can’t wait to sit and enjoy my outside space. I have been stuck inside for way too long! Fingers crossed there will be at least as good if not better summer than last year ahead! We can but pray!

Christine xx