Tag Archives: photograph

My Mega Trip And Progress

It’s been a while since I posted here and for very good reasons. I told you I was going away to see some old friends, and on the lookout for new ideas. The trip started out just fine, going down to Chippenham in Wiltshire, where one of my oldest friends now lives. He’s partially sighted and works with the parks and gardens department there. He took me around his place of work, a beautiful park with the river Avon running through it. My dog, Daisy was thrilled, as every time we walked into town we had to cross the park, throwing her ball all the way. He lives so close I could easily take her there for more exercise. There were some interesting sculptures in the park, one inscribed by local children. I like ornamentation in the garden, especially if it can include a smile or a scream, as you’ll see from my earlier posts. Chippenham is an ancient town, and on one of the walls I spotted some ferns, proving that plants are opportunists and will grow wherever they can.

Ferns growing in an old wall

Ferns growing in an old wall

I then moved a bit further on and visited someone in Warminster, a military town. My friend there has a new allotment, where I went to see what she was up to, and ended up spending some time helping her thin out her overgrown tomatoes. Outside she grows her vegetables alongside flowers, promoting a healthier balance and keeping the pests at bay, as she’s bringing in the pollinators and the pest controllers.

Lettuce and marigolds

Lettuce and marigolds

 

She had a lovely garden, too, complete with a Buddah. It was a very tranquil space, with wind chimes, but not the high pitched twinkly type. The low, resonating sound was very calming and peaceful.

Buddha

Buddha

Unfortunately, while I was there, just after taking this shot, I dropped my camera. It broke the UV filter, but that saved my lens! The nearest place to get a replacement filter happened to be Taunton, on my way down to Oakhampton. The shop was very friendly and I soon had my replacement filter. Then the problems started. There were road works. It was a hot day. I got stuck in a huge traffic jam lasting for hours. So tired and hot, by the time I got off the motorway, I didn’t realise it, but I was getting confused. And lost. A two hour journey turned out to take ten. And while looking for my directions, leaning over the back seat whilst parked in the wrong village eight miles away, I broke two ribs. I can’t tell you how scary that was at ten o’clock at night, alone and in the dark on the edge of Dartmoor.

Anyway, to cut a long story as short as possible, I eventually made it to my friends. I proved I can still cut it independently. And this is what I woke up to the following morning.

Village pond

Village pond

I watched wrens flitting around in the climbers at the back of the pond, only feet away. They wouldn’t see me. The camper makes a great hide. I tried to get photos, but my sore ribs prevented me from getting into the right position and staying still.

Church Cottage

Church Cottage

I didn’t see as much as I would have liked of my friend or the area, as I had to cut my visit short and make my way home to recover. He grows peaches on his smallholding, keeps a rare breed of sheep and has a wonderful tepee on the land. His philosophy is the same as mine – as carbon neutral and organic as humanly possible. He’s trying forest style gardening for the first time, and I’ve asked him to keep me abreast of developments. Not many photos, I’m afraid. Walking Daisy was painful, and carrying camera equipment impossible, but I’ve included one photo of the pond on my ‘doorstep’ and of my friend’s lovely home, an ancient church cottage. With a spiral staircase and lovely deep, rib soaking bath!

My trip turned out to be one of 700 miles. It’s a shame I couldn’t see more of Dartmoor, of the gardens in the area and take more photos, but certainly showed me I’m more capable of coping alone than I thought I was. My ribs are beginning to mend, though all this only happened 2 ½ weeks ago. So I’m only just starting to do things in the garden again, starting with the blight ridden tomato removal and taking off the shading ready for winter crops. The greenhouse is getting a very thorough clean, slowly, and someone else is doing any heavy lifting, but gingerly I’m getting on with it as I want my winter salads, such as lettuce and spring onions. More next time…..

Holiday, Wildlife, The Garden and Photography

I’m getting my final packing for my holiday done today. Once the camper is packed and my bed in the back made up, I’ll be able to do the last bit of watering, feeding and harvesting of vegetables to take with me. Thereafter, I’ll be on the road. But I’ll be looking out for inspiration, ideas for my plot. I’ll be spotting wildlife (I hope) with my camera, my binoculars and my scope. With any luck, I’ll be able to keep you informed along the way. If I can’t get an internet connection, I’ll catch up with you when I get home. The camera battery is fully charged and I can’t wait to get out there and take some great shots. I’m after wildlife, flowers, insects etc. I’m learning as I go and every shot of a creature helps me identify them, and in some instances add to general knowledge by including them in the various surveys being done by researchers. You could, too.

Home And Studio For The Next Couple Of Weeks.

Home And Studio For The Next Couple Of Weeks.

 

I’ve found some very interesting areas to survey, and we can all take part. Children would love to join in. Springwatch made the point that all you have to do is show a child a bug and they are instantly interested and fascinated by it. They want to know more. Why not help them learn by looking up the bug? Then add it to a survey, and further conservation efforts, becoming part of the solution. Here’s a list of links you can check out for yourself.

Buglife are looking for a rare beetle, an Oak aphid and more. Their site also offers links to other key wildlife surveys. Suffolk Wildlife Trust need you to record with them hedgehog sitings, anywhere in the UK. Hedgehogs are in big trouble. You’ll also find on this site information about how to help them. Their numbers have dropped considerably, but they’re a great garden friend, so this is one creature we should all be trying to help. Also, The Guardian have published a useful list of links to various surveys and ways to get involved with conservation and wildlife. It was published last year but the links are still relevant. Natures Spot is loaded with information, including great identification photos for insects, tree, birds mammals and anything else you want to find out more about. I have a photo of a fly I’m still trying to ID. It settled on ragwort, as many insects do. It’s a nectar rich plant! Do you know what the fly is? The photo’s at the end of this blog.

Hedgehog

hedgehog

One of the friends I’m going to see is working hard on his new plot of land to create as close to sustainable living for himself as possible. I’m dying to see what he’s up to. He’s on the edge of Dartmoor and has very different circumstances and problems to deal with, including rabbits and deer. I’ll let you know what solutions he’s finding.

Magpie Moth

Magpie Moth

I’ll spend a lot of this holiday taking photos. My interests happily co-exist. Gardening, wildlife, photography all come together for me now. After a lifetime of following them as separate activities, I now combine them all. The photography gives me a way to pass on my experience via my blogs, a chance to identify species that won’t hang around while I get the books out, or a plant I want to ID when I get home, without picking it. It’s also part of my income via iStock, where most of my photos are flower or insect photographs, many of them macro. I love to peer into the tiny world I can’t see with the naked eye. There is beauty in macro form! It’s amazing what can be seen through a macro lens or magnifying glass. That hedgerow or leaf can reveal some amazing detail. Bees dusted in pollen, tiny beetles you didn’t know were there. Stamens on flowers show their shape and form. It’s a whole other world from the one we live in most of the time. The gardening itself provides the material to photo, the space for wildlife to come to, so more things to photo and food for the table!

Unidentified Fly Visitor On Ragwort Flower. Can you help with an ID?

Unidentified Fly Visitor On Ragwort Flower. Can you help with an ID?

 

 

Peeling paint, Pot Plants and Charlie

It’s a mixed bag of news today. The snow is beginning to melt, but depressing for most of us. Sheep and cattle are dying, wildlife and birds are struggling and I still have cabin fever. Shopping doesn’t count as an outdoor activity and isn’t my form of therapy!

peeling-paint

So, I thought a bit of cheering up was in order. Firstly, here’s the paint I’m having to strip back before repainting my conservatory windows and door. Fun, eh?  I didn’t get to it today, as we needed to go out for bird food and us food, plus a baby gate to keep Daisy from going upstairs when we finally get her home. We’ve rung again today, had no-one get back to us and are still waiting for a home visit. Maybe tomorrow?

Kalanchoe

Kalanchoe

Indoor plants of course don’t know spring hasn’t arrived, and can give you gorgeous colour for weeks on end. Here’s my latest star performer, a kalanchoe I bought as a very small plant last year. I potted it on, fed it and now look! Cheering me through this horrid weather. They are easy to grow. A succulent, the way to kill them is by too much watering, especially in the winter. Keep them on the dry side, with plenty of light. But do not attempt to grow on a south facing window in summer. It will scorch their leaves. They can be stood on the patio in summer, but for the first week or so you try this, bring them in at night until they’ve acclimatized. And don’t try until AFTER the last frost.

Charlie On His First Birthday

Charlie On His First Birthday

Last, but by no means least, a couple of weeks ago I went to visit family and as I’ve told you saw my grandson learn to walk. He also had his first birthday. I took lots of photos, as you can imagine. Here’s my favourite.

What are you doing to stave off the cold and misery of our absent spring?

Rare Plant Find In The Garden

I’ve watched it for weeks. It looked like a tagetes or marigold at first. Then it began to mystify me. The flower spikes didn’t look right. I took photos. I looked in herb books, wildflower books and finally in horticultural books, but couldn’t find it. I waited. I watched. Finally some sign that flowers might be opening happened, but they appeared to be so tiny I got the macro lens out. I contacted an expert. He was mystified too.

Eventually, I went through an ID list on The Botanical Society of the British Isles. Now I know what it is! I’m so pleased! It’s a fairly uncommon find here in the UK, but is listed as a ‘noxious weed’ in North America. It apparently is the worst hay fever plant, producing masses amounts of tiny pollen grains that cause symptoms. So, despite being pleased to have found it and identified it, once I’ve gathered the photos for it to be included on Wildflower Finder by Roger Darlington I will have to remove it. I want British natives, and I don’t want a major pollen problem propagating itself as I suffer hay fever myself!

It’s been interesting, though. I assume the seed has been sitting in this previously neglected garden just waiting for someone to bring it to the surface, which is what I did when I planted my herb bed.

By now you must be dying to know what this mystery plant is, and see some photos of it. Well, it is Ambrosia Artemisifolia or Ragweed. Here are some photos should you ever come across it.

Ragweed

Ambrosia Artemisiiflolia

Ambrosia Artemisiifolia

Ambrosia Artemisiifolia leaf detail

Ragweed

Macro shot of flower head on Ambrosia Artemisiifolia

Spanish Bluebell Invasion Hits Home.

Well, the weather has been fantastic for the garden, and I’ve been out there trying to tame ten years or more of neglect. I had looked forward to the bulbs that are prolific in one large, overgrown bed, thinking I had bluebells I could move down into the hedgerow. But it turns out they are Spanish bluebells. Gorgeous, but dangerous for native English bluebells and very invasive. They are bigger, stronger and out-compete our native species. Not only that, but they cross-pollinate the English type to produce hybrids. This would eventually mean the demise of our own native, charming English bluebells. Not something I like to contemplate.

Here’s a photo of our  English bluebells growing with anemones. Charming! If you want to see them closer, just click on the photo.

bluebells

English Bluebells

So the huge job of removing them has begun. They throw out underground runners, seed and tiny bulblets, so it’s going to be several years before they are completely eradicated, even with a little help from glyphosphate.

If you have bluebells in your garden, then it’s worth checking yours are native, too. English ones have flowers down only one side of the stem, causing them to arch beautifully as they open. Spanish ones have flowers all around the stem and stand upright. The leaves are much broader than English bluebells, too. English are only about 1cm wide and the Spanish much more (mine measure 2cm on the larger plants).

If you want to find out more about the problems associated with Spanish Bluebells there’s a BBC video here. For clearly explained and illustrated differences between the two species, have a look at this site.

Bees and Butterflies fed on the cheap

I’ve been out shopping. Not my favourite activity, but this time I enjoyed leafing through the choices available at a local shop. Flower seeds. At 89p a packet, I’ve come home with two packs of seeds. One is a butterfly mix, the other is called Mixed Field Flowers.

Remember my overgrown hedge at the bottom of the garden? It’s almost south-facing, and is almost bare earth as it’s had rubbish on it for a long time, so I’m going to clear it completely and simply scatter the Field mix on it. The farmer that owns the fields uses them only occasionally for grazing ponies and certainly doesn’t pay any attention to the hedgerows along his site. I can tell that by the fact that other household have dumped their rubbish (including wood that we scavenge for our fire) and none of it is ever moved, and I am the one picking beer cans up out of his fields. So I’m sure he won’t mind seeing a few native wild flowers along my stretch.

The butterfly mix is going to be sown in a flower bed in the garden, and should be fabulous insect food and photographic opportunity for me, plus flowers for the house. This is a win, win, win situation if you ask me! Ecology, aesthetics and lifestyle all satisfied in one go.

poppy-bee-food

Poppy loaded with food for the bees

I can see in the photos on the packets poppies, Calendula, scabious, cornflowers, Rudbeckia, daisies, Echinacea, corncockle and cosmos. Sarah Raven has pointed out that the simple flowers, especially cosmos, are excellent bee food. I’m also planting simple, open dahlias. Not the big, multi petalled blousy ones, but the ones where you can see the open flower centre with pollen. They make great late summer food for bees and cost very little, even grown from tubers. I’ve also found a cheap clematis, which also has open flowers and lots of pollen so that will be trained through one of my trees. If you want to find out more about this whole topic, Sarah explains it in her series Bees Butterflies and Blooms, just click this link.

clematis-bee-food

Clematis

Sunflowers are also going in. Last year I did an experiment in my much smaller garde. I grew tall sunflowers, then trained runner beans up them It worked and I got two crops from one space. The bees loved the sunflowers. Each one has a large amount of food for them so they don’t have to fly so far to get a good meal. I’ll do this again this year in my new garden, and we’ll see if it has the same response. Of course, once you’ve enticed the bees in, they’ll pollinate your crops for you while they’re there.

sunflower-bee-food

Sunflower. Bee food and climbing frame

It doesn’t have to cost a lot to help nature out, and ensure my grandson (due in the next week or so) will enjoy good food, courtesy of our insects pollination, and the beauty of a buzzing environment.

Where’s Our National Pride?

I haven’t done this before. That is, I haven’t used my blog to vent frustrations. I care about the environment. I care about our wildlife. And I care about our country. England has a climate to be envied, flora and fauna that’s unique to us and threatened. We have species going extinct and others under massive decline. It’s all over the TV, it’s all over the net yet so many of us fail to act.

Rubbish! That’s what’s bugging me. Rubbish thrown out of car windows, wrappers dropped wherever folk are, regardless of provided bins, people’s private property or any regard for the countryside. When I was little, being taken out to the countryside on a Sunday for a picnic was a regular treat, and I clearly remember those trips. I loved looking at the hedgerows and fields full of cattle, sheep, birds and other animals. I was the kid with her bum sticking out of the hedgerow, intently watching a spider or woodlouse or field mouse.

Now I sadly look out of the window on trips to see piles of rubbish. Bin liners, carrier bags, crisp packets, beer cans, bottles, plastic strapping, oil drums. You name it, I’ve spotted it somewhere on a verge. Driving down any dual carriageway or motorway is a horrid sight and illustrates our contempt for our outdoor landscape.

What made me write about it today? The 80+ bits of plastic and other rubbish I found when tidying up my new front garden and clearing away the winter leaves etc. All inside half an hour. I’ll spare you photos of rubbish except for one photo, which I’ll explain later. No need for more. Just look out of your window, or windscreen next time you go out.

So come on, folk. Put that rubbish in a bin, take it home with you, put it in a pocket until you find a bin. And how about a radical idea? Pick up rubbish when you see it. The council won’t do it for you. They don’t have the resources. Anyway, would you rather the housing problem was addressed, or elderly people taken care of etc or all their money  spent on cleaning up other people’s sheer laziness?

When I walk on the field behind my home I pick up bottles and cans etc and put them in my recycling. The ponies that graze there then won’t be harmed by it, nor will the other wildlife. And the place is more beautiful without ‘Stella’ twinkling in the grass or ‘Walkers’ blowing about. On the plus side, I found a large water container that will help drip feed my tomatoes this season for free!

Last summer on holiday, I was disgusted to see a lot of rubbish on a small Cornish beach packed with tourists. They watched in amazement as I went round picking it out of the rock pools. That’s the one picture. It doesn’t look as good as the rock pools, does it? And the animals that live on that beach can easily be killed by this plastic dross. Of course, I was there with my camera. So I spotted this stuff more readily than others. I collected two carrier bags full in less than half an hour, walked back up the beach to the bins provided and deposited the lot. To my surprise, others then did the same, and I heard one set of parents making their kids pick up what they’d dropped. I like to think I pricked a few consciences. Have I pricked yours? Can you persuade others that rubbish is rubbish and shouldn’t be part of our landscape? Can you set a good example? Don’t we deserve a clean, gorgeous environment? Doesn’t our wildlife deserve a break?

beach rubbish

Beach rubbish

seaweed

seaweed

Cornish-beach-rubbish

Cornish-beach-rubbish

Take a closer look at the last photograph. If you click into it you can enlarge it. In the foreground you can see white plastic strapping wound in the seaweed. It shouldn’t be there and will harm the beach’s rightful inhabitants. THINK before you drop it.

TAKE PRIDE in our countryside.  Preserve what we have, don’t destroy it. Please. Then spread the word. Share this blog. Thanks!

Gardening Begins Now the Ice Has Melted.

ice hebe

Iced Hebe

At last the snow and ice has melted and the temperature is above freezing. So the last couple of days I’ve been able to relieve the cabin fever that had struck me. I’ve made a start on pruning the native hedging growing down one border of the garden. It has been neglected and needed a hard prune to help thicken and strengthen it. Not to mention the increased light levels in the rest of the garden now it’s been brought down to about 6′ tall instead of double that! I’ve also taken courage in both hands and done some pruning on a fairly mature apple tree. It was leaning far too far into the centre of the garden, and perilously close to where we want to site the greenhouse.

My poor hebe has also defrosted and is looking good. How about those brave crocus, too, flowering in the snow? I had to get photographs of them. Click on the pictures to enlarge.

ice crocus

Iced Crocus

We’ve erected a ‘man shed’ for all Jon’s tools and clutter which I’ve also painted in the last day or two in ‘forest green’ to help it blend in. I’ve discovered that the birds don’t notice me at all when I use it as a hide, so as soon as I can cope with sitting out there with the camera, I hope to get some good close-ups of them raiding the food I put out daily.

My son started on the greenhouse base but then the snow came, so now it’s gone I’ll get him back to finish the job. I’ll then have an 8′ x 12′ greenhouse for all my growing needs! Currently, there are seeds coming through on the windowsill in the conservatory. So far parsley, sweet peas and tomatoes are making their entrance into the world.

I’m doing several types of tomato. There’s one called Roma, which is a plum type like the tinned ones we cook with. Why buy tinned if you can have fresh?  I reason that as long as I can bottle or freeze  a surplus we will save money and the use of tins. Then there’s a cherry variety for salads. They came through first. Lastly, I got some tomato Marmade – big slicable Italian ones that you can grill, eat raw or cook with. I’ve not grown those before so I’m looking forward to sampling them. I’d better get the basil seeds on to flavour all those lovely toms!

Incidentally, toilet tubes are great for any deep-rooted plants when sowing seeds. I’m using them to sow sweet peas, french beans, broad beans and carrots. I’ve had to ask friends to save empty tubes for me. More recycling, less pots to store as they rot down when you plant them, tube and all, and no root disturbance for the seedlings. As I want to grow everything organically, this method is perfect.

potato

Odd Potato

Growing your own sometimes has unexpected benefits, not just environmental and financial ones. In this case it was amusement. Here’s a potato that grew last year. I wonder what I’ll dig up in this years crop?

Taming the Jungle

I’ve taken advantage of the mild weather and spent time today hacking through the jungle that is my border.  I now have a mountain of dead growth culled off the garden. Underneath, I’ve found some little gems, in my book anyway. Sedums, bergenia (in flower!) and ferns galore adorn a badly neglected ‘rockery’ currant bun style. It will need a major overhaul, as it’s choked with couch grass and brambles threaten nearby. But with work and a change of rockery construction I’m sure will look stunning. It’s a border that backs onto our patio, so I want it to look good as well as attract wildlife. My lifestyle as well as the wildlife’s is important!

bird cam goldfinches

bird cam goldfinches

I also found, on the other border, a bird’s nest from last year. I feel rather guilty for clearing this area, as the nest site clearly won’t be available for this years birds, but as I’m planning more hedge planting and will be getting the current one into shape there will ultimately be more places for them to nest, not less. We’ve already put a nest box high in a tree and have another one to go up, making four in total.

Bird cam was left on video setting today, and caught a lot of goldfinches and greenfinches plundering the feeders. But the quality wasn’t good. We had a the distance setting a little out, and sunlight staring into the lens, so I need to think more carefully before setting it up next time. It’s all a learning experience! One or two of the jpegs came out OK, so they’re here for you, as is a photograph of the found nest. Anyone know what species made it? The secateurs are there for scale.

bird nest

bird nest found in the garden

In the trees at the bottom of the garden, I counted 30+ goldfinches. They don’t all come to the feeders at once, but I’m sure take turns in groups of six to ten at a time. A charm of goldfinches, if ever I saw one. They have to be among our prettiest native species.

bird cam goldfinches and greenfinches

bird cam goldfinches and greenfinches

6 Weeks and Counting

We’re in! Our new home is really ours. We’ve been in 6 weeks now, but I couldn’t tell you how hard the first days were. Our dream move became a bit of a nightmare as solicitors, BT and our server all caused us major delays. All our stuff went into storage for five days, as the solicitor hadn’t completed on time. She had totally neglected to see our communications about the completion date. It was a shock. We stayed in a hotel. some of my tropical fish died, despite kindly new neighbours looking after them as best they could and it took a week to get heating working properly. Not good in November, December.

But, enough of reliving the gloom. The house is wonderful! I’m so happy here. No more car parks full of rubbish, no more overhearing children being shouted at for nothing, and so much space! We’ve thrown lots of old stuff out, either to charity, for recycling or given to friends. This house deserves to be clutter free, and so do we!

Grate heat

In the garden, I’ve already counted 17 species of birds. We’ve even had a heron visit briefly, spying on next door’s fish pond. Beyond the garden in the fields we’ve watched Shetland ponies grazing and crows (a whole murder of them live in the trees outside my bedroom window) land in large numbers to feed.

I’ve discovered that I have a crab apple that holds its fruit all winter. The thrush seems thrilled as it gorges. There’s a young horse-chestnut in the boundary hedge and I have a mature fig. I’ve already spent a little time weeding one of the borders, and there are spring bulbs peeping through. Fantastic!

So 6 weeks in and I’m and counting the days until I can get on that garden and start growing. Food, flowers, wildlife havens and a pond all to come.

New Wood Burning Stove

Inside, we’ve made a start on keeping to our ecological principles. We’ve installed a grate in the dining room and a wood burning stove in the lounge, thus reducing the need for central heating and burning fossil fuels. There’s free wood around in the fields and hedgerows and a good friend bought us a paper log maker for Christmas. We’re currently taking hoarded academic paper Jon brought here for sorting and turning it into free fuel. When we get a bright enough day I’ll take a photo for you of it in action.

Anyway… Have a wonderful 2012 folks around the globe. I wish you peace wherever you are and accord with your fellow-man. And don’t forget to be happy. xxx