Wild October – Week Three

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Virginia Creeper

This week I have been out and about a little bit more than in previous weeks. While going for a coffee with mum, doing some temporary note-taking work and meeting up with a friend for lunch, I kept one eye looking for signs of autumn.

Slowly but surely Liverpool is becoming enveloped by autumnal colours. I took a leisurely walk around the University of Liverpool campus and visited Abercromby Square. Though still looking verdant, the tree tops are slowly turning golden. I also came across a Barbara Hepworth sculpture and one by Hubert Dalwood.

Since I have been getting up before the sunrise this week, I have seen some lovely skies.

Though the days (and especially the mornings) have that bitter chill to the air, there are still plenty of honey bees visiting the salvia.

On Thursday I met a friend in town. As I was standing waiting for the bus, a robin sat atop a gravestone in the nearby cemetery and sang to me sweetly. I just wish I had taken a photo of him, his presence filled my heart with gladness.

My friend and I took in a visit of the World Museum, which boasts a planetarium among its many assets. This got me thinking of the northern hemisphere’s night sky in autumn.

On a clear night looking north most people can identify the Plough, (Ursa Major), which points to the pole star, Polaris.

Looking south, the square of Pegasus is deemed the main autumn constellation. However, for me, the most autumn constellation is Orion to the east.

October is also the time of year for the Orionids, the remnants of Halley’s Comet. This meteor shower ranges between 16th – 26th of the month, peaking on the 21st.

And finally, I have found some informative resources on the Forestry Commission website. Follow the link for activity packs, mindfulness poems and an interactive map, showing the changing colours of various forests in the UK.

I’ll end this week with a recording of Tchaikovsky’s Autumn Song. Have you been following the changing seasons? What, if anything do you like about this time of year?

Christine x

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Update on the Garden… part three!

The garden 2015

The garden 2015

The news from the garden this weekend is that we DO have Honey Bees visiting the flowers!  I saw up to seven at one time enjoying the Salvia, the Borage and the Dahlia. This year I seem to have a greater variety of plants for the visiting bees to enjoy. The Bumblebees also enjoy visiting the Dahlia and Borage as well as the Passion Flower.

Honey bee

Honey bee

The bird feeders have well and truly been ‘attacked’ this weekend! We have many species of garden bird visiting as listed below.

  • House Sparrows, have continued to visit in numbers of up to eight if not more!
  • Goldfinch charms have visited numbering over 12, most are fledglings.
  • Starlings have made a noisy return. This years fledglings are now getting their adult coats and love the fat blocks on offer.
  • Pigeons are too many to count and follow the smaller birds into the garden as they know there will be many seeds dropped.
  • The Dunnock has made a welcome return, though not the same one as visited previously. This one seems to be very bold and stands his/her ground in relation to competition from the Pigeons! A most welcome visitor to the garden!
  • I can’t say I have seen the Blue Tits this week as it’s mainly Sparrows and Goldfinches that I see, but I hope they manage to visit the feeders.

Have a pleasant week!

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!

Thank you Public Sector Workers.

While some people were picketing and marching to Downing Street. I was enjoying one of the best days I have had in such a long time! 😀

David went to work as usual, meaning I had the whole day to myself! I did the obligatory laundry before 10 am and then entertained my mum for two hours with coffee and shortbread biscuits as she shortened two dresses for me! One I hope to wear at the weekend! 😀

The sun came out mid morning. According to the BBC weather forecast the North West of England was a sun sandwich! I’d rather be in the centre than be in the cloud and rain! The sun boosted my spirits even more!

After lunch, I with secateurs in hand took to attacking the Cat Mint that had overrun the garden! I chopped and hacked at the Apple Mint and tidied up the Coriander and Wallflower. The poor bees were confused as they came flying into the yard to find no Cat Mint flowers! They had to settle for the blooming Salvia! 🙂 While pruning I managed to capture a strange looking spider. A Comb Footed Spider from the same family as the Widows!

Comb Footed Spider!

Comb Footed Spider!

After 2 pm, warm with the sun glowing overhead I poured myself a small measure of wine and settled down to listen to my favourite actor, Jonathan Firth in a radio play, Farran at Bay set in Jerusalem before the British lost their control of the region. I really enjoyed the production, though it was about a rather sombre event and Jonathan had the most air time, which is always nice to hear! 🙂

Afterwards I continued with the wine while listening to Classic FM, and in bikini sunned myself in the yard before David came home.

The garden

The garden

It’s back to work tomorrow, but it’s only for one day! I raise a glass to the coming weekend and hope it’s an enjoyable one! 😀

An Update on the Garden.

I’ve not written for a while as:

1) I don’t think anyone reads what I write, so why bother… and

2) I have started a new position in Knowsley, in a day centre for adults with learning difficulties, strokes and degenerative illnesses. It’s an admin job supporting a blind receptionist (she even has a guide dog!). So my days are now filled with travelling, (almost 3 hours in total daily), and working 3-5 hours a day, filing, taking phone calls, helping with general admin work. It doesn’t seem hard work, not as taxing as the work at the Royal was. The people all seem nice and it’s a job. It may only be 18 hours a week, but it’s better than the dole!

Every day I come home and wander around our small garden/yard. The Phlox that I have recently bought is starting to flower. The Sedum is ‘huge’ and is ready to ‘pop’ at any time and my Salvia is growing again! The Salvia was a prolific grower last year, it had flowers well into October!

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The biggest anticipation for me is the blooming of the Passion Flower. The plant has loads of buds on it and some have now turned purple. I keep looking daily to see if one has flowered but it is keeping me waiting! 😀

Passion Flower Bud

Passion Flower Bud

The Cat Mint is still choking up the garden and attracting Bees, but different Bees than the first influx of Bumblebees. I think the picture below shows a Honey Bee enjoying the flowers?

Honey Bee?

Honey Bee?

There have been new baby birds visiting the feeders too. There have been two baby Blue Tits, (that I could see). Baby Great Tits but I could not see how many, (they make quite a racket begging for food.) There have been up to three baby Sparrows who only come for the food and then once fledged they bugger off! And now the Goldfinch babies with their brown heads are visiting. There must have been about four the other day flying from the feeders with their parents!