30 Days Wild 2016 – Week Four

o0OhgWNNIt’s been a rather depressing week here in the UK. To escape the dirge from the media I have dived headlong into wildlife and The Wildlife Trusts’s 30 Days Wild. Below is an account of my fourth week, the last full week of June. I have tried to find light within the gloom!

 

Day 22: Wednesday

Sing a rainbowOn the 30 Days Wild Facebook page, someone had created a collage of rainbow colours taken from nature. I thought I’d try one. All pictures are taken from the yarden. Featuring: antirrhinum, honeysuckle, foxglove, jasmine, campanula, erysimum and lithodora.

Day 23: Thursday

This week has been National Insect Week, an initiative to encourage people to learn more about insects. In celebration of this week, I have been putting out insect pitfall traps in the hope of catching sight of the creepy crawlies that make the yarden their home. Unfortunately on both occasions, the traps were empty, probably because they were not the best traps.

Since we have had some fair weather these past few days in the NW of England, I decided to try my hand at a moth light trap. During the day we see many Cinnabar Moths, but I wanted to see what night moths we attract to the yarden. I draped a white sheet over two chairs and positioned a light directly behind and waited for the darkness to deepen.

It was almost 11.30pm when it became dark! I could see many micro moths fluttering but no hawkmoths which I had hoped/wanted to see! As the stars and planets twinkled from the indigo sky, the light trap only attracted one small moth. I think it was a Webbing or Common Clothes Moth!

Though moth sightings were thin on the ground, David and I did manage to have fun in the yarden. David took to photographing the stars and dodgy ‘ghosts,’ while I enjoyed the perfumed scent of the air. Everything feels so calm at night, unlike the madness daylight hours tend to bring.

On clearing up the equipment for the night, as David was in work the following day, a beautiful marbled moth fluttered towards the light. I was half in the house, half out as it danced around the halogen bulb. Sadly we didn’t take a picture, so I don’t know what type of moth it was. I feel I have some unfinished business with moths in the yarden. I hope to maybe fit in another observation session before June is out! Needless to say my dreams were full of moths that night!

Day 24: Friday

The weather this June seems to have conspired against us! Today was another one of those days with sparse sunshine and heavy showers! With having little ‘get up and go,’ I turned to the ‘wild’ cards for inspiration. The card I chose, search for mini wildness, suggested to look for lichens and forests of moss in pavements. So I decided to take a closer look at the liverwort growing in my yarden! (I didn’t know it was liverwort until I started researching it!)

The type of liverwort in the yarden is called Marchantia polymorpha. Apparently they like compacted, wet, acidic soils. Bad luck for my camellia, but the liverwort does look nice as a green base for the plant in its shaded pot. I shall evaluate how the plant is growing and if the liverwort is effecting it in future!

Day 25: Saturday

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I usually make lard cakes for the birds come winter time, but as I did this task for last years 30 Days Wild, I shall replicate it this year too!

I used a block of lard (it’s usually cheap in the supermarkets). I then microwaved it for 3 minutes until it was liquid. Threw in handfuls of mixed seed, (you can use peanuts and fruit also.) I then bulked it up with wholemeal flour. I used the suet holders with paper lined templates and scooped the fat mixture into these. I left to solidify. I shall hang them out tomorrow!

 

Day 26: Sunday

I never thought I was a big technophile but participating in this years, National Unplugging Day, I have discovered I turn to my computer and phone more than I care to. A typical day usually starts around 7am, the alarm on my phone wakes me up! While having breakfast, I scroll through Facebook and look at WordPress. Throughout the working day I communicate with David  via email. I text my mum, even though she lives next door! I use the timer on my phone and playlists on my laptop while I am working out. I also use the timer when I am cooking. I have many books downloaded to my Kindle. I turn to Google whenever I have a question. During 30 Days Wild I have been hooked to my blog feed, looking for new posts from fellow bloggers. I wind down to BBCi and music on YouTube. All day I have Classic FM playing in the background!

So, participating in this initiative is going to be both challenging and enlightening!

1

My unplugged day started at 9.30am. I had asked David when he got up an hour earlier to wake me after 9. I awoke at 9.15am and lay there waiting for my wake-up call. I snoozed and woke up again fifteen minutes later. Still no wake-up call. I was walking down the stairs to make breakfast when David came out of the living room. ‘Oh you’re up!’

‘Yes, where was my wake-up call?’

‘I didn’t know the time,’ meaning he had been busy playing GTA5! I shook my head! I took my breakfast and a hot cup of black coffee back to bed. It was a Sunday after all! While relaxing, I perused the pages of my paperback of Katherine Mansfield short stories. Though I had to fight the urge to reach out and grab my phone!

To counter the boredom I had moved the household chores from Saturday to today. The opposite was done for my session on the treadmill, which I did on Saturday as I use my laptop for motivational music! At 10.30am I climbed out of bed, got dressed and made a start on the cleaning. I dragged Henry around the house and wiped/disinfected surfaces and floors. The whole task took me three hours, with lunch in-between!

I spent the afternoon in the kitchen. I baked bread, which I shaped in the form of butterflies and made a very healthy, (and tasty) pan of blind scouse, (vegetable stew). I got David to take pictures of the finished article! I really missed my phone for taking pictures!

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There wasn’t much opportunity for communing with the wild, as persistent rain arrived in the afternoon. I watched from the kitchen window the birds visiting the freshly filled feeders, of which there were:

  • 2 House Sparrows (males)
  • 2 Goldfinches
  • 1 very disheveled Blue Tit
  • 1 Dunnock
  • 8 Starlings, (1 was a baby)
  • Many Pigeons!

I also saw Tree Bumblebees brave the rain to forage from the campanula flowers.

Come evening, I chatted to David while he cooked his lunches for work that week. All day he had been teasing me about not using technology. At one point he even came down the stairs with the laptop, and said ‘aww but you can’t watch!’ Meany! I then relaxed by reading some more Katherine Mansfield stories while enjoying a nice cold glass of pinot grigio.

10pm arrived. I cheered and ‘wooped!’ I had survived a day without a phone or laptop! (It was hard!) A text off my mum was waiting for me saying, ‘welcome back to the technological world!’ It was an enlightening initiative. One I would repeat. I find that technology is so habit forming! It’s so easy to reach out for that mobile device, have information at your fingertips. I do think that it contributes to a general lack of concentration and an inability to face boredom. I already don’t like phones at the dining table. I may encourage David and I to have technology ‘black-holes,’ times when we don’t use phones or computers, in the future.

Did you participate in the day? How did you fill your time?

Day 27: Monday

I felt a bit jaded today. In the afternoon Artie and I popped out into the yarden, to see how the plants were getting on (the lily and passion flower have flowered at last,) and to listen to wild sounds. It also gave me the opportunity to sip in the wild, I indulged in a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit.

I closed my eyes (but not for long as Artie was on the prowl) and could hear the wind rushing through the trees. A plane thrummed overhead. Goldfinches twittered, pigeons cooed, and a family of house sparrows, babies begging, flew onto a roof nearby. The yarden was filled with bees buzzing softly and the dunnock shrilled his song loudly!

Day 28: Tuesday

To end this post I took inspiration from the 30 Days Wild app. Of the 101 ‘random acts of wildness’ I chose look up at the clouds. I actually did this activity yesterday as today the NW of England is shrouded with increasing cloud and the threat of further rain!

Of the clouds gracing the evening sky yesterday, I noticed cirrus (fair weather cloud) and cirrocumulus, (could precursor rain). It shows how contradictory British weather can be!

Final thoughts:

I really don’t want to mention the EU referendum, the result made me sick to the stomach! However like many, I will make a comment.

At present the air is thick with depression! I avoid the news the best of times, but my Facebook page is full of doom and gloom. It makes one want to reach for the razor blades! But we have to endure, what else is there? (Those razor blades look inviting). We have survived plagues, famine, wars. We will endure this!

Life probably will be tough, for a while, but we will recover, (we have to). Instead of the constant backbiting, we must forego bad blood and look to a future, a future we can only make good if we work hard, together!

There has to be a life outside of the EU. We had one before, there will be one now. Though many of us did not vote to leave, we have to make the most of this decision. Perhaps we can learn from the EU and build a better Britain, with transparent laws, human/worker rights, wildlife protection and a more uniformed distribution of wealth throughout the kingdom? Perhaps I am dreaming, maybe not with this government! I have not followed any of the hype surrounding the referendum. I have felt disgusted that we have been placed in this position! But the unthinkable has happened and we have to deal with it. Not with a culture of blame but one of acceptance and action.

I don’t know why but the whole farce calls to mind a soliloquy in Hamlet. To be or not to be!

Hamlet:To be, or not to be–that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep–

No more–and by a sleep to say we end

The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to. ‘Tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep–

To sleep–perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub,

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,

Must give us pause. There’s the respect

That makes calamity of so long life.

For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,

Th’ oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely

The pangs of despised love, the law’s delay,

The insolence of office, and the spurns

That patient merit of th’ unworthy takes,

When he himself might his quietus make

With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,

To grunt and sweat under a weary life,

But that the dread of something after death,

The undiscovered country, from whose bourn

No traveller returns, puzzles the will,

And makes us rather bear those ills we have

Than fly to others that we know not of?

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,

And thus the native hue of resolution

Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,

And enterprise of great pitch and moment

With this regard their currents turn awry

And lose the name of action.

Only two more days until the end of June! Come with me as I approach the finale of 30 Days Wild 2016 and see what wonders I find!

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

30 Days Wild 2016 – Week One

o0OhgWNN

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

Sunday Sevens #5

The fair weather on Good Friday, here in the UK, lulled us into a false sense of hope that it would last the duration of the long weekend. I have recently heard the term yarden and thought it was apt to my green space. It is a yard but not quite a garden. David and I made use of the sunny weather and planted out the french beans.

I also scattered a packet of the free wildflower seeds I received from Grow Wild. They are a national outreach initiative from Kew Gardens which aims to transform local spaces into wildflower havens. Visit their website if you would like to request your free pack.

On the radio, I have been enjoying 12 hours of music each day this weekend, as Classic FM count down the top 300 pieces in their Hall of Fame. It started on Friday with the piece at number 300 being the theme from John Williams’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. I wonder where the pieces I voted for will be?

While relaxing to the music I took the opportunity to sit and devour Melvin Bragg’s novel, Grace and Mary. It is about a son who is coming to terms with his mother’s dementia and also follows the story of her birth mother. It is a sad read. The narrative started slowly but it soon picked up speed and I read it in a few days.

Recently I was recommended a book. The Shadow Hour by Kate Riordan. She is a new author to me. I referred to Amazon so I could put the book on my wish list, but I accidentally pushed the Buy it Now button and the message on the computer screen read: your order will be delivered to your Kindle. I hadn’t intended on buying the novel, but perhaps it will be a happy mistake as I begin to read it this weekend? Have you bought anything that you didn’t intend to? 

Earlier in the week I watched David Tennant’s version of Shakespeare’s Richard II. Previously I had enjoyed his Much Ado About Nothing with Catherine Tate. I found that play hilarious! Richard II was a different beast entirely. In Act three, scene three Richard is talking to the Duke of Aumerle about the impending loss of his crown. The nihilistic attitude of Richard struck me to the quick! I pray I won’t be so defeatist in the face of my struggles!

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Richard II: What must the king do now? …
…must he be deposed? … must he lose …
I’ll give my jewels for a set of beads,
My gorgeous palace for a hermitage,
My gay apparel for an almsman’s gown,
My figured goblets for a dish of wood,
My sceptre for a palmer’s walking staff,
My subjects for a pair of carved saints
And my large kingdom for a little grave,
A little little grave, an obscure grave.

 

The fourth year anniversary of my father’s passing will be on Monday, so David decided to cook a curry. My mum and my youngest brother joined us. It was an evening filled with food, laughter and cava, and where we talked the world to rights! It’s always nice when the family can get together. For the table’s centrepiece I bought some spring flowers. My father liked tulips so it was a fitting commemoration.

I’ll sign off now by wishing you all a very happy Easter, and if you don’t celebrate it then have a happy Sunday.

Christine x

Sunday Sevens was devised by Threads and bobbins.

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.

 

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!

My Week Off.

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

Monday:

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

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

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

Vegi sausage casserole

Vegi sausage casserole

Tuesday:

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

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

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

Bliss and Strawberries

Bliss and Strawberries

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

Wednesday:

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

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

spaghetti bolognese and Quorn Swedish style meatballs

spaghetti bolognese and Quorn Swedish style meatballs

Thursday:

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

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

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

Quorn bacon, eggs, beans and chips

Quorn bacon, eggs, beans and chips

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

Friday:

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

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

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

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

I am already planning the next day out!

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

Big Garden Bird Watch 2015!

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

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

The tally from Mum’s yard was:

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

From my yard:

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

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

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

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It’s all About the Pheromones!

Recently, I have noticed that the insects have been enjoying the plants in the little ‘garden of Eden’ we have created for them.

Garden of Eden.... on a small scale

Garden of Eden…. on a small scale

When the sun burns down brightly, the visiting bees have a riot! Today I counted at least five bees in amongst the flowers, feeding at one time.

bee on honeysuckle

bee on honeysuckle

We visited Lady Green Garden Centre this May Bank Holiday Monday and I came away with a Phlox and Polemonium! Amongst the display of flowers for purchase there was a bee keeper attending to his hives! 🙂

Back at home, sunbathing in the sunshine before the clouds came. I spotted many bees on the Cat Mint. Amongst the visiting bees there was one I thought had become trapped in the mints foliage and then she popped out with a male on her back!! I was shocked! I did not know bees ‘mated’. I always thought they laid eggs and then the males fertilized them afterwards! What do I know!! You learn something new everyday! 😀 Anyway, the male clung to her for over half an hour. I was fascinated! I took some photos, (as you do!) and then left them to it. She was still foraging amongst the Cat Mint flowers while he was ‘doing his thing!’ lol 😀

Mating Bees!

Mating Bees!

I had my eyes closed enjoying the sunshine, while David was painting the yard floor! Then I opened my eyes and saw coming towards me, the female and her mate! She was buzzing at me and tried to land on my arm! I freaked out! I don’t mind buying plants to feed them, don’t mind them buzzing around the garden and merrily mating, but I do mind when they try to include me in their antics! lol. I am rather ashamed now, but I stood up, screaming as they tried to land on my back! Why come to me? I am no flower!! David came to the rescue and herded them away! I was left shaken and embarrassed for screaming like a girl! I did not want to become The Bee Dancer!

I later found out that the bees may have been Bumblebees. The female a Queen, (or a new Queen). I was sad to read from The British Bee-keepers Association, that the male, a drone, usually died after mating! Poor little chappy! He was far smaller than her!

Poor male and Queen Bumblebee

Poor male and Queen Bumblebee

The whole incident made me think of a poem by Sylvia Plath, about bee keeping. She and her husband Ted Hughes when they lived in Devon had attempted to keep bees. It doesn’t sound like she was that ‘fussed’ with the whole idea!

The Arrival of the Bee Box, by Sylvia Plath. 4th October 1962.

I ordered this, clean wood box

Square as a chair and almost too heavy to lift.

I would say it was the coffin of a midget

Or a square baby

Were there not such a din in it.

 

The box is locked, it is dangerous.

I have to live with it overnight

And I can’t keep away from it.

There are no windows, so I can’t see what is in there.

There is only a little grid, no exit.

 

I put my eye to the grid.

It is dark, dark,

With the swarmy feeling of African hands

Minute and shrunk for export,

Black on black, angrily clambering.

 

How can I let them out?

It is the noise that appalls me most of all,

The unintelligible syllables.

It is like a Roman mob,

Small, taken one by one, but my god, together!

 

I lay my ear to furious Latin.

I am not a Caesar.

I have simply ordered a box of maniacs.

They can be sent back.

They can die, I need feed them nothing, I am the owner.

 

I wonder how hungry they are.

I wonder if they would forget me

If I just undid the locks and stood back and turned into a tree.

There is the laburnum, its blond colonnades,

And the petticoats of the cherry.

 

They might ignore me immediately

In my moon suit and funeral veil.

I am no source of honey

So why should they turn on me?

Tomorrow I will be sweet God, I will set them free.

 

The box is only temporary.