Day 17: For today’s RAW or Random Act of Wildness, The Wildlife Trusts’ 30 Days Wild app has chosen: inhale a wild scent – take a few seconds to inhale a wildflower, plant or leaves.
So, I spent a leisurely couple of minutes pottering about the yarden.
I have a few herbs growing in the yarden so I made a bee line for them. Crushing some leaves between my finger and thumb I sampled the scents of fennel, lavender, rosemary and mint. The feathery leaves of the fennel released a very potent scent. Whereas the lavender was much easier on the nose and Artie loved the mint!
What’s your favourite wild scent? Mine has to be the headyness of hawthorne flowers.
This past week I have embarked on the You with Jamie Oliver app. It’s all about positive changes you can do, one little step at a time. You are set daily/weekly challenges. Previous one’s I have had were, ‘the best part of the day‘, ‘what makes you happy‘, and ‘think positive.‘ You take a picture to symbolise the topic. One was to show ‘beauty around you.’ So I took a picture of a Passion Flower.
Honey Bee and Passion Flower
This past week however I have found it rather difficult to be positive, what with the boiler being serviced and a leaking pump found! It made us £300 the poorer, though come the winter we will hopefully be toasty!
This weekend has been fun. We had planned on going to Chester Zoo before our membership ran out, but the weather was dodgy so we spent the weekend at home.
It was Saturday after 4.30pm which I really enjoyed. With the radio cranked up as Classic FM’s Saturday Night at the Movies, celebrated Hans Zimmer’s music. I embarked on chopping vegetables and cooking the evening dinner. I used and adapted Jools Oliver’s Wholesome Vegetable and Bean Soup. My volumes are to serve three people.
1 large leek
2 cloves of garlic
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 x 400 g tin of borlotti or cannellini beans. (I used borlotti beans)
1 litre low salt vegetable
Hand full of barley
35 g baby spinach or kale (I used kale)
150 g frozen peas/ green beans. (I just used a handful of peas and 75g of green beans)
Freshly ground black pepper
Start by preparing the base of your soup. Peel, roughly chop the carrot and potato, trim, wash and roughly chop the leek. Peel and very finely slice the garlic, chop the onion and then pick and finely chop the rosemary.
Heat a lug of oil in a large pan on a medium heat, then add the rosemary. Fry for a few minutes, then add the chopped carrot, leek, onion and garlic. Cook gently for around 15 minutes, or until soft, stirring regularly, with the lid on.
Add the beans (drained), chopped potato (small,) and a hand full of barley. Then finally add the stock. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes – add a little more stock or water if you think it needs it. (Leave the lid on.)
Finally, add the spinach or kale and chopped green beans/peas, and cook for a further 10 minutes, or until the greens are cooked but still vibrant green. (Keep the lid on.) Have a taste and season, if needed, then tuck in.
Serve with bread… I was requested to make Focaccia.
Wholesome Vegetable and Bean Soup
The recipe for Focaccia was taken from an Asda seasonal brochure.
250g of Strong White Bread Flour
1 level tsp salt
7g of easy bake yeast
2tbsp of reduced fat olive oil
On red onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
Chopped sprigs of fresh oregano, (I used some from the garden!)
Mix the flour, salt and yeast in a bowl
Pour in the oil and used 15ml of tepid water, mix the ingredients together to form a soft dough
Turn the dough onto a floured surface and begin to need, adding more flour until the dough is of a smooth texture.
Place the dough in a bowl and put somewhere warm for 45 minutes, until doubled in size.
While the dough is proving, chop and fly the red onion and garlic. Leave to one side once cooked.
Chop some oregano and leave to one side
Once the dough has risen, knock back and then flatten into required shape.
With your finger press small indentations into the top of the dough and then sprinkle the onion, garlic and oregano on top.
Put in a pre warmed oven at gas mark 6/200° and cook for 30-35 minutes, until golden.
Remove from oven, and serve.
Sunday was a lovely early Autumn day. The sun shone and David and I spent over three hours in the garden, cleaning and pruning. I planted some of my bulbs, of Aliums and Snake Heads for the coming spring. Fingers crossed they grow!
Artie enjoyed spending time in the garden and in between terrorising the bumblebees and honey bees, he relaxed taking in the sun.
We still have many birds visiting the feeders, and not an hour goes by that numerous Goldfinches are seen feasting on the Sunflower/Nyger seeds.
I noticed in the garden this week a Scarlet Lily Beetle, apparently it is a pest that feeds on lilies and fritillaries. The picture below was taken on a fuchsia but they only lay their eggs on lilies and fritillaries. I have lily bulbs growing (well hoping they grow) so will keep a check on any larvae activity!
Scarlet Lily Beetle
On Saturday, as the weather was nice I got out into the garden with my sheers and chopped the dying flowers from the Cat Mint and also decided to give the Wallflower a much needed trim! The bees won’t be thankful to me but they at least have the Siberian Bell-flowers to feed on!
I also chopped the leaves of the lilies that were infested. I managed to work around the larvae that cover themselves in their own excrement (nice!).
Some of my plants have not looked so good this summer (as last year). The Coriander I bought in spring is looking really limp and withered. This year I have put the annual herb in a pot but think I shall have to put next years plant in the ground! It grew so much better last year and the hover flies loved the tiny flowers it had!
Hover Fly on Coriander Flowers
However this years best grower and filling the void that the Coriander has left is the Fennel. Another herb, but this time a perennial. Last year it was overshadowed by the Coriander but this year it has grown almost three foot! Its brown feathery leaves have flower buds developing. These attract not only Hover Flies, but Lacewings and other insects too, though I have not seen any as yet!
Another flower that isn’t looking so fine is my Michaelmas Daisy. It has shot up in height but now has powdery mildew on it’s leaves. I have sprayed the leaves with vinegar in the hope that it will work better than the milk solution I used on my, sadly now demised Phlox. However it does not look so fantastic a day after spraying!! The poor Daisy is not looking too good and now has an infestation of Gastropods!
During the week I have been saddened to have missed most of my wild poppies flower. They only seem to last less than a day! However, Thursday morning, I spied the red blot of not only one but two poppy’s so I, (still half asleep) clutched at my phone and snapped the below photo! 😀
I was also happy to see that my Passion Flower has started to bud, so much so that there are literally hundreds of buds on it (and more growing every day!) I wish it would all bloom at the same time, what a sight that would be! We shall have to be content with just four this time! 😀
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!
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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
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!
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!
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 barleyis 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
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.
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.
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!
The week commencing 20th April was taken as annual leave, and the sun smiled happily as I embarked on my week off work.
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!)
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
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
For dinner, I had bought some Jersey Royals (potatoes) so had them with smoked salmon and salad… gorgeous!
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
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
In the evening as the setting sun washed everything golden, I sat listening to my favourite performance of Mahler’s 6th Symphony, the andante.
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!
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.
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!
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.
The magnolia and acer trees are looking fantastic and the flame of the forest has sprouted!
Older plants, such as the primulas and aubrieta have flowered again, and the wallflower has not stopped flowering all winter!
I have also bought some new plants too. I have bluebells sprouting for the first time, come May I hope they flower.
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!
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.
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
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!
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’
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!
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!
Over the past weekend, David and I worked on finishing one half of the garden. Saturday was a pleasant day and we spent the afternoon putting soil into the designed walled garden and then planting the flowers and herbs.
Sunday was a very different affair. Whereas Saturday was nice and gentle the Sunday was hard work (on David’s part) and long for me. With finding woodworm in the bathroom, David had to take up the infected floorboards and then replace them with brand new ones ready for Rentokil to come out and spray the house. It looks better now!
The beginning of August has seen a flurry of activity at the wild bird feeders. We have been inundated with young and adult Starlings and the Goldfinches have been bringing their hungry fledglings to the sunflower seeds. The video below is of a baby House Sparrow. The Sparrow is one of the many British birds that are in decline yet this year I have seen up to five Sparrows at one time on the feeders. The hot weather must have benefited them. I hope they continue to visit my yard as last year they only passed by on their way to more greener pastures.
Today was David’s 39th birthday!! We celebrated by going to garden centres near Chester with his mum, dad and sister.
We have purchased lots of wildlife friendly plants for the garden. I am very happy with my small collection of herbs, amongst which I bought, Marjoram, Basil and Oregano. Today I came away from the garden centres with a Jasmine and a passion fruit! David got some plants for his alpine rockery.
Amongst the plants I photographed a Peacock Butterfly, looking beautiful on a Buddleia and also spotted a Silver Y Moth!
On the way back home we crossed the Runcorn Bridge and I had to get my camera out to film the footage!