In other newts*

…the frogs are back!

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We’ve missed seeing them in the pond since last summer but the sunny weather has brought them back. We spotted at least two but I am sure there are more lurking in the undergrowth. We also have newts, dozens and dozens of them. They are harder to photograph as they flit about just under the surface rather than sitting still like the frogs. Bella is intrigued by all this underwater excitement:

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We also have an invasion of ladybirds:

I love these tiny creatures, even more so because they eat aphids. I’ve been trying to encourage them on to the roses which seem to suffer most of the tiny greenies but it’s lovely just to see the ladybirds, whatever they are doing.

It’s been lovely weekend, spent mainly in the garden, feasting our eyes on this glorious wildlife, entertaining a random collection of relatives and passing musicians and feasting ourselves on various delicacies, including an unseasonal Christmas pudding, bought in enthusiasm at a bargain price in late December. It was eaten outside, for an Easter feast. I was looking for an edible flower to decorate with – or at least something that wouldn’t poison us – rosemary seemed the most suitable

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Happy Easter, or Happy Spring, or whatever you celebrate, I hope you celebrate it well

*Thanks to my older son for the pudding and the title of today’s post

Black and white and colour photos

Another lovely sunny day in the garden and allotment. I had been up since a silly hour in the morning, woken by bird song, so I went out when all was quiet and everyone else was trying to grab as much sleep from the clock change as possible. Bella came out with me and, sensing that her rival had been on top of the shed yesterday, decided that she would pose up there too:

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I got some help from fellow residents to cut the grass in the garden and hacked back a few bits of hedge that were overhanging the raspberries and redcurrants.

Later I saw a tortoiseshell butterfly on a daffodil – a surprising but colourful combination.  I rushed in to get my camera but came back to find Bella chasing the butterfly round the garden. She didn’t catch it but I lost my chance to get a photo.

However, in the afternoon while weeding at the allotment, we saw our first frog of the season. It stayed still long enough for a photo. I was impressed by its camouflage, almost like a black and white photograph:

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For a colourful contrast, we had rainbow curry for tea tonight, made from rainbow chard from the garden and potatoes and red onions from the local farmers’ market:

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Big garden no bird watch

Today was the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch day. I’ve counting the birds in my garden at the end of January for over twenty years and have found that the birds vary enormously from one year to the next. One of the variables has been the change in garden. My old garden attracted the usual sparrows and blue tits, blackbirds and robins but also starlings.  In this garden, where I’ve now been counting birds for nearly ten years, there is a wider variety, including magpies and wrens, but I’ve never seen a starling.  The other variables include the weather, the time of day but, most of all, whether or not I put out bird food. I used to feed the birds and took great pleasure in watching them but a few years ago I noticed that the bird food also attracted mice, squirrels, and at least one rat. The mice I can live with, the squirrels, I thought were harmless and the rat, I have only seen once when polite guests were visiting and we all looked out into the garden. ‘Oh what’s that?’ ‘There’s some kind of animal in your garden’. Cue ‘how about some more tea? let’s go into the kitchen’. I’ve never seen it since.  I  quite liked the squirrels.

Squirrel

They were fun and acrobatic but my sympathy for them disappeared the year that they broke into our roof space, ate their way through our electric wiring and built a nest above the bathroom ceiling. It’s a long story but the bathroom and the lights in the upstairs landing were out of action for months (pressure from my fellow residents meant that we had to wait until the baby squirrels had grown up before we could attend to them*) and getting all the repairs done cost a small fortune. So I stopped feeding the birds and the squirrels and the birds stopped coming into my garden in such great numbers. The squirrels also took the hint and have, so far, gone elsewhere to cause chaos in someone else’s house.

I still try to support the wildlife by gardening organically, leaving a lot of wild stuff, weeds, berries, seeds and what not in the undergrowth and providing a water supply with the pond. I’ve also got a bird bath in the front garden for any passing wildlife there.

For today’s bird watch I went into the garden, suitably dressed with several layers of thermal clothing (thanks to my lovely Norwegian friend who sends us thermal underwear every Christmas), a woolly hat, fingerless gloves and a big cup of coffee. I sat patiently for nearly an hour (until it started to rain). I heard lots of birds and I saw several seagulls, pigeons and crows soaring overhead but the only birds to land in the garden were one blackbird, one pigeon and a tiny bluetit in a tree. A pretty dismal collection this year. While I waited for the non-existent birds, I looked at my garden,  and made several plans for its development. While I was waiting for the birds, I noticed this ridiculous sweet pea, which is growing away bravely despite some recent very cold weather:

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Then I came inside and did my annual seed census from my trusty seed box:

Seed box

I did a little fantasising about this year’s peas and tomatoes, sweet peas and marrows but it seems I have nearly all the seeds I need for this year’s vegetables. I’ll just have to be patient before I can start sowing them.

In the mean time, I spotted a fox in the garden earlier in the week, when we had a heavy frost:

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So we may not have so many birds but we do have foxes and some silly sweet peas.

*no squirrels were harmed in the eviction – we just chased them away before destroying the nest and getting the ceiling rebuilt.

Advent calendar update

It’s been a bit of a long week but keeping my eyes open for snatches of winter joy has helped me get through. So here’s an update:

Day 8 – I was walking along the street, not feeling very festive, when I heard workmen singing Christmas carols as they worked. This prompted me to photograph some festive holly:

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Day 9 – tiny signs of spring. Snowdrops peeking through the soil outside my mother’s new flat

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Day 10 – frosted oak leaf lying among the frosted clover in my lawn

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Day 11 Chelsea sitting under a broccoli plant

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Day 12 Lovely morning light

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Day 13 – glorious sunrise – one of the small advantages of the short December days

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Day 14 I walked to work and heard birds singing in the trees. In this picture there is one fat pigeon but also lots of tiny sparrows, cheering me on my way

20181214_090843So, another week with no gardening but some tiny glimpses of joy in nature around us. I am constantly surprised by these beauties. Some days it has taken a real effort but there is always something if you look.

Wild and wonderful advent calendar

The first week of my wild and wonderful advent calendar has gone rather well. I set out to tweet something that struck me as wild or wonderful every day. This has forced me to go outside at least for a few minutes in the morning or in the middle of the day when there was still some light and to try and notice the world around me. Some days this is easy but others I have to really pay attention. So for your enjoyment, here is the first week of wildness and wonder:

Day 1 – the Viburnum in the front garden, in full flower and with a scent to knock your socks off

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Day 2 – Chelsea decided to climb the apple tree, her wondrous colouring only just managing to not merge with the red berries on the cotoneaster

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Day 3 – was a little gloomy but I made myself walk to work to look for wildness and wonder. I saw lots of things but I was waiting for something to strike me. The wonder came from a bush full of sparrows. I couldn’t see them but the bush was alive with chirping;

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Day 4- frost was forecast, so I nipped out to the back garden to catch the frosty rainbow chard

20181204_082327Day 5 – was another glorious frosty morning. I went out into the garden to see if there was anything new and I hear a wren in a tree. Again, I couldn’t catch it in the photo but rather liked the dawn light through my neighbour’s apple tree (much bigger than the one that Chelsea tried to climb):

20181205_075130Day 6 – I caught the light at the end of the day. I’m usually stuck in an office at this time but yesterday I happened to be out and about and saw the light begin to leave the sky at 3.30pm:

20181206_153319Day 7 – my work took me out around central Scotland by train. I spent some rather chilly moments waiting on railway platforms. But the sun came out and struck one of these little wooden trains which often cheer me in these small town stations:

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So my first week of looking for wildness and wonder in December has gone rather well. It has been more challenging than the 30dayswild challenge in June but has proved to be possible and perhaps even more joyful. It is easy to find joy in nature in June when the days are long and everything is at its best. It’s tougher in December, with such short days and plenty of gloom. Look out for more on my twitter feed and an update on here next week.

 

Sheds

After a little twitter discussion on #gardenshour the other night, which ended up with more information about deceased vermin that I really wanted, I got to thinking about sheds and their contents. I had commented blythely that I had spent the weekend clearing out a shed (part of my mother’s moving house project) . The shed contained joys of all sorts of other kinds, including: enough plastic pots to keep any gardener going for at least 50 years, the stand for my now 21 year old baby’s Moses basket, several trowels in a range of states of usefulness and decay, several broken bird feeders, some random bags and jars of plant food, bird food and cleaning products, string, cardboard, newspaper, useful plastic thingies, useless plastic thingies, useful wooden thingies, useless wooden thingies, a chimenea, a box of partly rotten cooking apples, a wasps nest, more garden tools in various states of decay, more plastic plant pots, a few rather nice clay pots…

but actually not any dead mice. Someone on twitter asked if there had been any dead mice in the shed. I confess that my twitter response was a tiny white lie – the dead mouse was in the house. Sorry to remind you dear sister but these joys are side effects of cat ownership and I’ve got used to it over the years.

Anyway, it was a lovely sunny day and we made good progress, if not entirely finishing the job. We really have to admire my parents’ generation’s ability to keep things on the grounds that they might come in handy one day. Most (if not quite all) of the things in the shed did have potential uses. Sadly, quite a lot of it had to go to the ‘recycling centre’, a modern euphemism for the dump, but some has been spared to pass on to new homes and I’ve brought one of the better trowels to pass on to my mother so that she can do some midnight gardening in the grounds of her new flat. She’s worried that it’s not really allowed so intends to plant bulbs in the dark.

Back to musing about the shed though, and the deceased vermin. I remembered the project that I carried out with my grown up 21 and 19 year olds when they were about 4 or 5, when we painted murals on the inside of our garden shed to make it into a sort of play house.  I asked them what should be included.  Their interests in those days included dinosaurs, dogs, flowers and butterflies:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASea creatures:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGiraffes:

pb280296.jpgflamingoes and peacocks:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAour then cat, Roxy:

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and a tiny mouse, to commemorate, the inevitable deceased one which we had found when clearing it out (sorry no photo of the mouse painting) – it’s a thing, deceased vermin in sheds.

Frog update

There were a few drops of rain today and the frogs came out to play

I counted ten at one point – that’s the most I’ve seen at one time. They range from enormous

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to very tiny

 

WP_20180715_16_21_42_Prosometimes they come in pairs:

WP_20180715_15_50_31_Proand this one was worshipping the great frog goddess:

Frog goddessI could watch them all day.  Meanwhile, in other garden news, we’ve had a little rain and the peas, broad beans, raspberries and strawberries are abundant. This is fairly normal for early July. What is much more unusual is that tomatoes are fully formed:

WP_20180715_16_38_37_Prooutside, and showing tinges of yellow. We also have our first baby marrow:

WP_20180715_16_38_56_ProI’m still doing everything somewhat one-handed but, mostly, the garden is looking after itself.

Slowing down

There’s a heatwave in Scotland, too much going on in the day job, garden and allotment in full vegetable production. They don’t combine well with putting your left arm out of action with a (thankfully) minor injury. So I’ve had to slow down. The grass will stay long, the weeds will invade, the shrubs will grow straggly but the frogs and bees are in heaven.

frog in lilies

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The lawn is full of clover.

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I love it and so do the bees. I’m trying to slow down, pick the peas and raspberries and watch the tomatoes, marrows, bees and frogs enjoy the sun. Everything else will have to wait.

… oh and typing with one hand means the blog will be full of typos but like the weeds and the wildlife, they may bring special joys

 

Frog and bee paradise

This weekend has been all about the frogs and the bees.  We’ve always had frogs in the garden, even before we built the pond and we were delighted when they moved into the water.  We don’t see them very often as they are, rightly a little shy, what with cats prowling about.  This weekend though they have been sitting in the pond, poking their little noses in the air, catching flies or other delicacies.  Last night I counted six, tonight there were nine. Don’t you just love them?

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WP_20180624_15_27_32_Pro (1)There was even one at the allotment this evening

wp_20180624_19_27_31_pro.jpgYesterday I spent the whole day in the garden, planting, weeding, generally tidying up and, while I was there, noted down all the flowers that were attracting bees.  I came up with the following list: campion, clover, foxglove, raspberry, radish, thyme, sage, escallonia, cotoneaster, borage, daisy. Bees are much harder to photograph than frogs as they don’t stay still for long. I managed to catch this one on a beautiful red scabiousWP_20180623_14_04_00_Pro.jpg

Watching the frogs and bees has been part of my #30days wild challenge. They have certainly repaid my patience. Maybe it’s because I took the time to really look, or maybe it’s the warm weather. Either way, I’m delighted.

 

 

 

Cider

The thing about having your young people around for the weekend, is that, despite the piles of socks, papers, laptops and musical instruments tripping you up at every turn, the random kitchen equipment lying on your best chairWP_20180617_10_14_22_Pro.jpgthe suddenly full washing basket and the contrasting simultaneous disappearance of all the bread and milk with the appearance of enticing things in plastic boxes in the fridge, you also find in your kitchen, half-empty bottles of flat, cheap cider:

WP_20180617_10_16_42_Pro (1).jpgalongside an inexplicable bag of screws, a bottle of off milk and a very large suitcase. Your average parent might start screeching at this point but, for me, this is garden and blogging fodder. The cider has been offered to the slugs for their delectation and delight:

wp_20180617_10_26_15_pro-e1529230299438.jpgcomplete with flowery border. I’ll let you know what they think.

Everything else (except the off milk) has been left where it was dropped, in optimistic anticipation that it will be tidied up one day.  We love it when you’re at home, guys. I might just make another cake to share with you.