Sunday Sevens #21

Since I’ve managed to snap a few photos this week, I thought I would participate in another Sunday Sevens, devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

Last Sunday was a hectic one! Not only did we visit Warrington looking for Christmas presents, we also managed to acquire four new friends for the aviary! Welcome to the Connor-Evans family, Forrest and Tarn, the Blue- faced Parrot Finches and Bill and Silvie, the Chocolate Silverbills.

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White Poinsettia

On our travels we also popped into Bents to purchase a Poinsettia. I have been after a white Poinsettia since David gifted me one last Christmas. All the shops we visited had red ones, but at Bents they had a selection of red and white! Poinsettia’s can be poisonous to pets, so I’ve kept Artie away from mine.

Taking about Artie, he has been enjoying his Advent Calendar this month, as can be seen in the video below. 🙂

Keeping with the theme of Christmas, Friday 16th December was Christmas Jumper Day. As I don’t have a Christmas jumper, I wore my winter themed t-shirt to work! I also managed to (finally) purchase a Christmas wreath for the front door. It’s festooned with pine cones and even has festive lights! I think it looks quite fetching on the door!

Earlier in the week the yarden was visited by a pair of Great Tits. I managed to film one on the feeder.

Mid-week, while out walking the family dog, Riley I counted:

  • 2 Blue Tits
  • 1 Robin
  • 1 Dunnock
  • Numerous Goldfinches and Pigeons
  • 1 Sparrow
  • 1 Grey Wagtail!

To fill the dark, cosy nights I have returned to a book I started reading last year! The Night Falling by Katherine Webb. It’s a pretty grim read but I will persevere.

On Saturday, David invited his family around for a curry night. He served his signature dish with naan and sides.

To finish off this post, I will share with you a snap I have taken of some home made mince pies. They have just come out of the oven! I will sample one later with some cream. 🙂

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Mince Pies

Have you been doing any cooking for Christmas? What are your favourite traditions at this time of year?

Thanks for reading,

Christine xx

 

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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

Catch-up!

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last post, so here’s a little catch-up!

Being Lucky!

In July to mark their new season, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra held a week long competition on their Facebook page! I was lucky enough to be chosen for their Thursday competition!! The prize was for two tickets to see Psycho with music performed by the Philharmonic, (ideally on my birthday!), and also two tickets on-board the Ghost Bus run by Shiverpool tours! I have done many ghost walks while holidaying in Edinburgh but not in my own city. So I am very excited to see what the bus tour has to offer! 😀

Culture and Sightseeing!

During one Saturday, David and I took a short visit to Birmingham to see their street art of Owls. The Big Hoot it was called! In total we spotted 33 of the 89 owls on the streets, not bad for a few hours on the trail!

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While walking around the city, we enjoyed the many different types of architecture to be found!

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Last Thursday came the news I had been hoping for, for so long! The Tower of London Poppies were finally embarking on their UK tour! It was beyond my wildest dreams that Liverpool could be one of the first few to be chosen for this unique art installation but that is what exactly happened!

The instillation of Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red by Paul Cummins Ceramics Limited, that was first seen at the Tower of London in 2014, captured the imagination of the nation! The Weeping Window will be coming to Liverpool’s St George’s Hall in November 2015 to January 2016 and the second part of the installation, The Wave will be housed at Yorkshire Sculpture Park this coming September to January 2016! I hope to get the opportunity to photograph both! You cannot imagine how excited I am at seeing them! 😀

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Wildlife:

Last week, our house was a B&B for a poorly pigeon whom we called Jack! David noticed the lethargic bird last Monday and after debate we made a box up for him (and later a cage) and brought him in of a night. He seemed generally fit, apart from green runny poop! The worrying thing was that he could not fly and even though he attempted too, he could not get any height! So for seven days we would leave him out in the garden for the day (Artie was not allowed to go outside!), and of a night he resided in our back bedroom!

Jack the pigeon

Jack the pigeon

We were going to take him to a vets to get checked out but over the weekend he seemed to be getting more strength and confidence.

This Monday while filling up the bird feeders, (we have many Goldfinch and House Sparrow fledglings visiting), Jack took to the air and landed on a nearby shed roof. He was not to be seen come the evening and we hoped that he had found his strength and flown off with some newly made friends!

On Tuesday morning we saw Jack back in the garden, this time eating seed that had fallen from the feeders and integrating with a small flock of fellow pigeons! We hope he continues to visit the garden and hopefully Jack’s story has a happy ending.

The Garden:

At the weekend David and I spent six hours in the garden cleaning, re-potting and planting. I bought a Dahlia from Grosvenor Garden Centre, Chester. I fell in love with the black foliage and the flower heads attract bees! I also bought an Anemone to replace my blighted Michaelmas Daisy and some wall art!

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And finally I’ll end with one last picture. After two months growing from seed, my Borage has finally flowered!

Borage flower

Borage flower

What events are you looking forward to seeing?

Christine x

30 Days Wild…Week Three!

Well it’s half way through The Wildlife Trust‘s 30 Days Wild and I have to admit, I am loving it! The two weeks have gone so fast, though it really has made me look extra hard at the nature in my environ and made me value what’s there.

Monday and Tuesday:

As I made my ‘merry’ way to work I noticed that some wild poppy plants had seeded themselves between the cracks of flag stones in my road. I saw today that they had bloomed! They have huge, crimson heads! They grew in the same place last summer and Mum harvested their seeds. I now have some growing in my garden! 🙂

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One of the 101 things ‘wild’ to do over the 30 Day’s of June was to plant Borage for bees. Two weeks ago I bought Borage seeds. I had tried looking in garden centres for the actual plant but none had any, so seeds had to do! While watering my garden, I discovered that the Borage seeds I had planted are now starting to grow! The plant seems to be a quick grower, so I have high hopes they will flourish, though perhaps I have one too many growing! :p

Many Borage seedlings

I also noticed tiny seedlings popping through the soil in the other planters where I planted Teasel seeds, I hope some mature! Fingers crossed!

Teasel seedlings

Teasel seedlings

We had another bee visitor to the garden to add to the numerous, Garden, Tree Bumblebees and Red Mason Bees already visiting. It was the first sighting of a Wool Carder Bee. To be honest I have never heard of one, until now! But I am amazed at how much diversity of species is found in just one small garden! My planting for wildlife has really been a great success!

Wool Carder Bee

Wool Carder Bee

I also spotted while in the garden the visiting Swallows. I was honoured to see one had finally settled and sat on a TV aerial! The footage isn’t great, I couldn’t keep my hand from shaking, but you can clearly hear his song!

Wednesday:

R.I.P Pearl

R.I.P Pearl

Today was a grim day weather wise and while I stopped for lunch at work, it also became a dark day emotionally too. I always check my phone during lunch break and today noticed three text messages all from my Mum! I read them in ascending order and my stomach knotted after reading the last. My Mum was home on her own. Pearl, one of the three remaining of the 15 cats we once had, had a turn. It was not totally expected, Pearl had become frail over the passing weeks, she was 17 years old!

I later found out that Pearl was found unconscious and Mum hastily took her to the vets. On arrival the vets checked Pearl out and could have attempted resuscitation. However the decision was made that resuscitating Pearl wouldn’t be beneficial after the vets found that she had a tumour in her stomach and shrunken kidneys. Mum bravely went in to be with Pearl, though Pearl was unconscious and oblivious. Due to Pearl’s lungs shutting down she had a gas mask over her mouth. The vet said that Mum had done the correct thing in bringing Pearl to the vets, as if she had left her at home, she would have died there! Mum said Pearl passed away peacefully. The vets at Adams veterinary Centre were fantastic and cared both for Mum and Pearl. Whenever we have been to Adams vets, we have had immaculate service, it’s just a shame that most of the time we go because one of our cats is ill!

On a lighter note, once David and I were home from our respective employment, after dinner we noticed a lethargic bee sitting on the Cat Mint. I noticed she hadn’t moved for over half an hour! We decided to pop out into the garden and see what was wrong!

As soon as David placed his hand by the bee it sauntered towards him and sat contently on his hand.

Tree Bumblebee on David's hand

Buff Tailed Bumblebee on David’s hand

I rushed inside to make a spoonful of sugar, (as the Disney song goes) and water. With the solution, David placed a droplet before the bee. The bee walked about his hand and then it smelled the sugar. It was almost as if the bee sat up! Her proboscis shot out and she started lapping up the solution. It was indeed fascinating to watch as inside her proboscis it looked like the bee had a little tongue also! After a few droplets of solution the bee seemed to get more energised and she eventually started to fly, a little laboured to start with. David described the bee as flying a circle around us as a ‘thank you’ before she flew over the wall! I hope she was just tired after foraging and that there was nothing more serious, she indeed had a full basket of pollen!

Thursday:

On a mid week shopping spree I bought some lard as I had run out of fat balls and did not know when the next time I could get to B&M. I decided to do another suggestion from the 30 Day’s Wild challenge and make some food for the birds!

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I used a 250g pack of lard (I warmed this up in the microwave for 2 minutes). I sprinkled some bird seed, dried meal-worms, and plain flour into the mix. I then found the mixture was too runny so I added some dried oats and then spooned the concoction into plastic cups (I bought 50 for £1) with string fitted so I could hang them on branches. I also put an A4 piece of paper into a fat ball feeder and spooned the mixture inside to make a fat block! I left them to one side to solidify! Once hardened, I hung in the garden. It didn’t take the Starlings long to notice the new food!

Fat column I made for the birds

Fat cake I made for the birds

In the evening I attempted to watch the setting sun, however the clouds (I couldn’t tell what type even after half an hour trawling through the internet,) were not best placed and all I got was a slight tinge. I will have to keep trying to capture a good sunset!

The setting sun

The setting sun

Friday:

David is becoming a real Dr. Bee-little. Again he saved a bee from being tired and cold! This time after the sugar/water solution did not do wonders, David brought the bee into the house for a warm! It soon revived and David said once he had taken the bee back outside it orientated itself and flew off.

Buff Tailed Bumblebee

Another Buff Tailed Bumblebee

Saturday:

Can I say ‘phew’ what an epic Saturday? I haven’t stopped, nor had time to do any house work! In the morning we spent hours shopping and in the afternoon, after lunch, we visited David’s parent’s and spent a lovely few hours with them! We got home just before 5pm and the rain that had blighted the day had cleared to leave a lovely sunny, and warm afternoon!

I rushed out to sit in the garden for a few minutes before making a start on the evenings dinner.

The Cat Mint was full with bees! I counted at lest seven on it at one time!

The numerous bees have become a food source for the visiting Swallows who I saw swoop over our garden! It was a joy to behold. I really need to get a life. I get excited at such small things of late! 😀 I said to David that to think the Swallows had come all the way from Africa to summer here! What sights they must have seen and to summer vacate in Liverpool!?! We are so blessed to have them here! 😀

I saw what I thought were Honeybees on the Cat Mint, but apparently they were just tired Mason Bees. Poor little fellas!

Tired Mason Bee

Tired Mason Bee

For dinner I made a Spicy Vegetable and Barley Soup, but it ended up more like a stew than a soup! So I tweaked the recipe for here.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  1.  Tbsp Olive Oil
  2. Cloves Garlic, Minced
  3.  Large Onion, Chopped
  4.  Medium Carrot, Chopped
  5. Pepper de-seeded and chopped
  6. Celery Stalks, Chopped
  7. Leek, Chopped
  8. Chilli de-seeded and chopped
  9. 1L Reduced Salt Vegetable stock
  10. 1 Can Diced Plum Tomatoes
  11. 50g-100g Pearl Barley
  12. Pinch of Cayenne Pepper
  13. Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Heat the olive oil over a medium heat then add the onion and sauté until the onion is soft (about 3-4 minutes).
  2. Then add the chilli, the Carrots, Celery and Leeks and sauté for another 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Lastly add the garlic and sauté for a minute.
  4. Stir in the vegetable stock, tomatoes and barley.
  5. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring the soup occasionally.
  6. Add the cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Serve immediately with bread…

The bread I decided to make was a wholemeal Turkish flat bread. However I don’t think it was very flat nor very Turkish, though it was the best thing in the meal!

Wholemeal Turkish Flatbread!

Wholemeal Turkish Flatbread!

Wholemeal Turkish Bread

  1. 500g of wholemeal flour
  2. 1, 7g sachet of dried yeast
  3. 1 tsp sugar
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. 350ml of warm water
  6. 2 tsp sesame seeds
  7. 1 egg yolk
  8. 1 tbs olive oil

Method:

  1. Combine flour, yeast, sugar and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and then add  the water. Use hands to bring the dough together in the bowl.
  2. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Place dough in a bowl and cover with a towel. Set aside place for 1-1 1/2 hours or until the dough has roughly doubled in size.
  3. Preheat oven to 230°C.
  4. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and cut in half to make two pides. Flatten slightly with hands. Place each pride on separate pieces of floured, non-stick baking paper/baking tray. Cover with a towel and set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 15 minutes.
  5. With floured hands, stretch each piece of dough into desired shapes. Leave on non-stick baking paper/baking tray. Cover with a towel and set aside again for 10 minutes.
  6. With egg yolk in a bowl. Brush the top of each pide with egg mixture. Use floured fingers to make indentations on top and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  7. Cook pides for 15 minutes or until golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Sunday:

Over the weekend our bird feeders have welcomed:

  1. Pigeons
  2. Blue Tits
  3. Goldfinches
  4. Starlings and their babies
  5. House Sparrows and their young!

Sparrows only visit our feeders for a short period of time before moving to better gardens with more variety! I managed to get footage of both Starling and House Sparrow fledglings. The Starling was eating the fat balls I had bought while the House Sparrow was enjoying a nice bath!

David also saved two bumblebees today! One he found in his rockery being pinched by an insect. He couldn’t identify what it was, though did manage to get the bug off the bee’s leg. David then placed the bee on the Cat Mint and watched as the bee happily started collecting nectar.

Minutes later Artie had caught a bumblebee in his mouth and had taken it through the house, with David and myself following after! David managed to rescue the bee from the jaws of Artie and released it outside where it flew off, lucky to have escaped!

As I said at the beginning of the post I am thoroughly enjoying my 30 Days Wild! I am loving the wildlife that frequent my garden and look forward to week four and many more ‘wild’ sightings! 😀

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!