Photo Gallery: Nature

At the end of the summer I was returning to the cottage and noticed what I thought were a couple of dried oak leaves on my neighbour’s fence.

Not convinced, when I got out of the car to open my gate, I went over to have a look. To my amazement, I saw these two months locked in an amorous embrace. Oh, why, I thought do you see these things when you don’t have your camera?

I raced to unlock the house, grabbed my camera and shot back down the drive to snap them before they disappeared. I needn’t have worried, they were still on the fence happily absorbed with their amorous encounter!

Amorous moths

Amorous moths

I wonder what sort of moths they are? Can anybody enlighten me please?

Oh dearie me, too much speed ?

Since yesterday, I am on full stable duties, thus giving Nicky more time to take Max up to the meadow. Yesterday was hard work as it was ‘wet day’, that is the day that Nicky takes all his wet shavings out of his stable. I helped by removing all the dry stuff and banking it up around the edge of the stable, leaving just a big patch of wet for Nicky to cart off to the muck heap.

Proves just how soft my hands have become over the last five weeks, as, after moving all those shavings, I had the start of blisters on my hands!

Was up bright and early to give Max his breakfast before Nicky  arrived, so she could just change his rugs and take him up to his field. I mix his feed with water in the kitchen in the morning and then hook the bucket onto my crutch, and with difficulty as I am lopsided, hobble out to the stable. Yesterday, chucking around all of those shavings I found that my shower cap, over my orthopaedic boot wasn’t protection enough, so I tied a carrier bag over my boot first, then slipped on the shower cap. Felt quite chuffed with this arrangement, safe in the knowledge that I would keep the boot clean! It wasn’t until I had negotiated the stepping stones on the gravel outside my backdoor, then hopped across the yard, through the gate to Max’s stable – until I took the bucket off my left crutch, in order to open the stable door – that I could see my left foot. Oh dearie me, I still had my slipper on! Oh, how silly. Then had to hop back indoors to change into my wellie.

Fancy going outside with my slipper on!

Fancy going outside with my slipper on!

Mucking out, scrubbing manger, feed bucket and water bucket, sweeping up outside the stable, filling the hens’ hopper, was quite enough in one go for my unfit body, so decided to just fill the birdseed feeders and come in for breakfast.

I used to fill the bird feeders up every day or so. Today was the first time I had filled them for over a week. Oh, where have all my birds gone? Only seem to see great tits, a robin and the odd greenfinch on the feeder nearest the window, these days. Have they all disappeared to another garden in the village, that has a more plentiful supply? Are more people feeding them, so they are spread more thinly among the gardens? Or are there fewer birds? I do so hope it’s not the latter.

It’s a beautiful day and the sun is streaming in through the French windows. Only trouble is, that it shows up all the dust (and the dirty windows). After breakfast, before I sat down and put my foot up, I decided I would do some dusting with my super duper anti static wand thingey. Was a bit gung ho pushing it around behind a china candlestick, but, at the same time, being careful not to hit a rather precious blue and white meat charger hanging on the wall. As soon as I touched it, I knew that, with my reduced mobility, I wouldn’t be able to nip around and catch it, and it was destined to hit the floor, with a disasterous result.

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Oh dear, now that was really silly. Thinking that I ought to quit while I was ahead, I decided to sit down, put my foot up, and check my emails. Seems to me, a far safer occupation in my present frame of mind! Ho hum, these things happen, never mind, like Humpty Dumpty, I can stick it back together again!

 

Battling with modern technology

I have come to the conclusion, all things considered, that I prefer living alone. Except, that is, for one thing. Instruction manuals.

Whether for my Dyson, washing machine, tumble drier, lawnmower, TV or Nikon camera, I am really phased when it comes to reading the instruction booklets. I can’t get passed the basic instructions before my eyes start to glaze over and I start to think what I want for tea. In the past, I would pass them to my ex asking him to read them and to give me a precis of what I needed to do.

But he is no longer here, so I need to cope with it by myself. A month or so back I took delivery of a super duper backpack sprayer which has an inbuilt battery and a little trolley on which to pull it. Great, I thought, not relishing the thought of lugging around 15 litres of weedkiller, not to mention the weight of the plastic carrier and inbuilt battery, on  my back!

It said that it came charged, but I thought I had better check. Read the instructions, up to the point where it said ‘charging the battery’. Didn’t read any further, of course, no need. Found all the correct holes to push leads into and, hey presto, a constant green light lit up, which the instruction booklet said meant that the battery was charged.

Okay, so I put some water in it. Needed to check that all the seals were tight and there were no leakages… Now to turn it on. Oer, nothing but a high pitched whining noise. Quickly turned it off. Perhaps I needed to turn the pressure knob up? Tried that, still no joy. After checking the ‘trouble shooting’ section in the instruction booklet, I discovered that the high pitched noise was indicating that the battery wasn’t charged. ( I could have seen that, if I had taken the trouble to look at the battery level dial – ho hum.) Oh, buggerations, I thought just my luck to have a faulty battery charger.

I had resigned myself to phoning the ebay supplier the next day when I heard my neighbour in his shed next door. Er, Andy, I said, do you think you could help me? He too, at first, was puzzled by the constant green light when we put the battery on charge. That is… er…. until he .. er.. read further into the instructions. At some point further on it said, “sometimes the charger will show a constant green light when it is on standby” (i.e. not charging). Say no more!

Last year, another neighbour, another Andy, funnily enough, promised to cut my beech/hornbeam hedge for me each year if I would lend him my cutter for his hedges. I was thrilled because my only means of cutting my hedges was with the hedgecutter attachment on my strimmer. The petrol strimmer, with this attachment on the end of its long arm, is very heavy and beyond my powers to use for more than 5 minutes at a time. So I readily accepted his offer.

(Starting the strimmer also seems to be beyond my powers at the moment. Twice this week I have been all set to strim off the paddock as it has been two weeks since the buttercups had been sprayed. But could I get it started? Nope.)

Anyway, not liking to be beholden to people, the independent creature that I am, I decided to buy a battery operated hedge cutter so I could cut my hedges when I wanted. After humming and haaing over two, I settled for the Bosch.

It arrived yesterday, and late last night I started to read the instructions. Er, not a good time to attempt to read instructions!  Looked at the diagram and learned what everything was and where it all was. Now, how do I charge the battery? Read the instructions and it said ‘press the battery unlocking button to remove the battery’. Eh? Went back to the little diagram. No, I wasn’t imagining things… no ‘battery unlocking button’ was shown on the diagram. How could they miss that off ? Mmm, I thought, why don’t they get a woman to write the instructions? Then, and only then, we might be able to understand them!

After a good night’s sleep I picked up the instructions again. They were no further help than they had been the night before. So I had to guess that the red button above the battery was what was needed to remove it. Wrestling with the cutter on the floor for several minutes I managed to, finally, unlock the battery and put it on charge. Hurrah, I thought, another battle won!

Next job this morning was to do some washing, as I see that insertions on Ebay this weekend are foc. Want to clear out office clothes from my wardrobe and this is a good weekend to sell them.

What’s that on the washing machine? A red light that I haven’t seen before? It’s not clean filter or empty water tray (it’s a condenser drier). Er, clean condenser? What’s that? That’s new. Now, where is the instruction manual? Oh, clean condenser every month? I didn’t know that. Only had the drier 18 months. What’s that? Failure to do so could result in a malfunction. Oh dear.

Another five minutes wrestling with the drier this time. It’s in a corner, up against a cupboard, so there is a finite angle it has to be in, in order to pull out the long condenser drawer. I won’t go into details here about the amount of gunge there was in it and how it blocked up the bath plughole.

Lesson is to read instructions from beginning to end, and then again. I wonder if I will next time?

 

The first cuckoo and a very lucky mouse!

The day started badly. Was dragging on my clothes when I noticed Minnie scratching under the bedroom door. Thinking that her sister, Maisie, was on the other side I closed the door to have a look, but was surprised to see a little mouse scurrying away under the dressing table. Eeek, I thought, bleary eyed, I can’t catch that now! I sighed, fearing yet another corpse on the dining room floor later in the day.

As I went downstairs, I congratulated myself  that I had decided to put a wooden floor down in the dining room, rather than a new carpet. Much easier to clean up behind  the trophies that the cats seem to  be bringing in with sickening frequency.

I was late rising as I had stayed up to watch the new BBC2 detective series. It promises to be good, and was pleased that I had made the effort. But it meant that I was later to bed than usual with the obvious result in the morning. I need 8 hours sleep and my internal clock always wakes me up eight hours after I have gone to sleep.

Max, my horse, is very patient and accepts my irregular hours with equanimity. Always happy to greet me, with a nicker and a smiley face! I turned him out in home paddock as the weathermen said that it was to be really windy and rainy in the afternoon. He can be quite a handful bringing him back from the meadow with wind and rain driving into his face!

After taking delivery of a large number of bales of bedding for the stable, two men from the roofing company that installed my new roof last week, turned up to clear away the rubbish.  I have to say that I would highly recommend the company, Anglia Roofing Solutions. Have never had such polite, tidy workmen before! They were a pleasure to have around.

At last I got into the garden and carried on with flowerbed number two. For once I didn’t have my headset on, listening to Radio 4, so I was lucky to hear it. A cuckoo heralding summer, as it started to rain ! How wonderful, was so pleased as they have, sadly, become a rarity these days. Though I expect the local bird population are pleased at their decline, as, without them, they will only have the magpies, and my cats to contend with.

As I looked up from my toil, I saw Maisie sauntering past with a fledgling blackbird in her mouth! Oh my goodness, did I shout at her! But she didn’t drop it, just bolted off down the garden. Five minutes or so later, one of the roofers clearing the rubbish, who had heard me scream blue murder at her, called out to say that he saw her drop the bird on the drive at which point…. it flew away! Phew, I thought, one less little corpse on the dining room floor!

My poor garden, after night time temperatures of -14 degrees this winter,  so many shrubs seem to be dead or dieing. My bay tree looks decidedly dejected, as does my honeysuckle halliana and I think a well established variagated wigelia, in the bed I was weeding, has seen better days, too.

Distressed bay tree

Distressed bay tree

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Fortunately my spirea arguta is flourishing.

Spirea arguta

Spirea arguta

So many plants can’t cope with such low temperatures. Last year I lost a ceanothus, so planted another in a different place, but the new one looks as though it’s struggling. Will have to research carefully the new plants needed to fill all the spaces in the borders.

Well, here I was sitting writing this post. Max had his tea and my supper was in the oven. There was a rustling under the desk. Thinking that it was one of the cats, I peered into the gloom. Nothing there, only a cast-off cellophane wrapping, that had missed the wastepaper basket. So I carried on typing. There’s that rustle again. Strange I thought, I hadn’t moved my feet.  So I looked under the desk again and eeek, guess what, little mousie was sitting there looking up at me, as bold as brass.

Eeek (again) what could I do? Looking around I picked up an old shoe box and scooped up mousie, before he had time to think and whacked the lid on. Phew, saved him. I rushed downstairs, got into the kitchen and realised that there were two mouse-sized holes in the ends of the lid (presumably to help the shopkeeper to pull the box out of a stack). Eeek, did he jump out on the way down the stairs? Scooping up the kitchen towel I draped it over the box, grabbed a torch, as it was getting dark outside and rushed down the drive to the long grass area on the corner.  Took the towel off and then the lid and shone the torch into the box. Little mousie, dazed by the bright light was looking up at me. “Go on scoot,” I said as I tipped him out. He didn’t waste any time to say thank you and charged off into the long grass. As I walked back up the drive I had a big smile on my face! Ahhh, a happy ending, I thought.

A memorable week #R2BC

Monday evening last week I was busying myself in the feed shed mixing Max’s tea, when I heard it. Could it be, I thought? Straining my ears, I stopped what I was doing. There it was again. My heart soared. They’re back, I thought. Then I heard it again… the unmistakable chattering of swallows. My swallows, back from Africa to spend the summer with me. I went out into the yard and there they were, a pair of them swooping and soaring,  chattering away. What joy, I was thrilled.

They have staked their claim on the stable next door to Max’s. The more dangerous one, I feel, where marauding cats are concerned, as the nest is on the gable end right in front of the door. Whereas Max’s door is on the left of the stable, the opposite end to the nest up in the pitch of the roof.

How lovely, now my family is complete!

Swallows born summer 2011

Swallows born summer 2011

Thursday was my last day working for Orchard Toys, after 5 years plus.  It was also the last day of my working life. I am now a retired person! Wow, my life is now my own. It still hasn’t really sunk in. Will now have time to ride Max, garden, grow my veggies, take photos and sort everything out. Whether I’ll have the energy is another thing!

At 11 am on the Thursday everybody was ushered into the canteen for my presentation. My boss said some really lovely things about me and I mumbled a thank you, not having prepared anything to say. Silly me.

I was gob smacked when I opened my leaving gift… It’s a Nikon SLR digi camera. I was, and am, absolutely thrilled. How kind of everybody!  I will now have the time to leisurely snap away and maybe drive off somewhere to get some shots. Hitherto, because of time constraints, I have had to take photos around the cottage or up at the field. Now, the world is my oyster! Can’t wait.

Another surprise was my card. Especially designed by Nicki one of the company’s illustrators, which shows me in my favourite cardi holding my mug. Apparently she has captured my stance perfectly. I had no idea I stood with one hand in my pocket!  What a lovely keepsake to remember my happy days at Orchard Toys!

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Another event that made this a very positive week, happened on Friday night. I was sitting eating my dinner. It must have been about 8 pm and it was dusk outside.  I heard one of the cats trying to get through the catflap. It kept going ‘click’ but the cat didn’t come through. (It’s one of those that is operated by the cat’s microchip. So every time they get close to it, it goes ‘clunk’ and it opens.) I went to investigate and it was Maisie, with a baby bird, or a small bird, anyway. I managed to scoop it up as it wasn’t flapping around, unlike the bird she brought in the other month.

It looked like a dunnock. I put it on the tray on the bird feeder. Maisie followed me out there so I picked her up and shut her in the bathroom.  I kept watching the bird feeder until it got dark. The bird remained there. I really thought that I would find it still there in the morning, dead. The forecast for that night was for frost.

This morning I went to check and it had gone. So I hope that it flew off. I haven’t seen a sparrow hawk in the garden for several years, so I’m confidant that it is still alive. Hurrah!

Then today when I was digging bean and potato trenches on the veggie plot, I saw a peacock butterfly, the first I’ve seen this year! Hurrah again!

Lots of reasons to be cheerful, which is kindly hosted by Michelle at Mummy from the Heart

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365 #14 Photo of the week

Today, 6th April really felt like the first day of Spring. Out of the wind it was quite warm. Such a change, from the previously freezing days we have been enduring. Had I not had an appointment with a chippy and a good friend that was dropping in for a coffee, I might have, finally, saddled up Max and gone out for our first hack since last October!

So I took him up to his field instead and came back to take out all the wet shavings from his stable, the usual Saturday job.  I never have my mobile switched on in the cottage as there is no signal, so while outside I switched it on and saw that my friend that was due to come around, was in bed with the flu! My chippy dropped by to say that he couldn’t due the scheduled job until Monday. Oh botherations, I thought,  I could have ridden afterall. Ho hum.

I set to digging up a plant that must have been secretly growing in one of the flower beds for the last few years. At first, I thought that it was spindle, but soon realised I was mistaken. God knows what it was, it had no thorns so wasn’t hawthorn or blackthorn. Whatever it was, it had already thrown up three new plants from its roots. I can tell you, it was a swine to dig out, its roots went very deep, but I finally succeeded in getting it out and felt really quite triumphant. Not bad for a pensioner, I thought! The deeper I dug, the more layers of clothes I took off, it really was rather hot work! But very satisfying. Continued digging, attacking the nettles with fervour.

As ever, when I am digging in the garden, the hens aren’t far away, a few inches in fact! Of course, they are after the worms and grubs that I turn over with the fork. I feel quite sad as they gobble up the worms! The hens are enjoying their last few days of freedom in the garden, as my next job is to get the sheep netting (wire) up on the post and rail fencing so that they will be restricted to the paddock. I will then be able to get on with my garden restoration without them destroying all my good work! Hens are lovely to have, but they are garden destroyers!

Dotty and Winnie slaking their thirst!

Dotty and Winnie slaking their thirst!

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