Saturday Snapshots

Last Saturday I posted a photo of the little Japanese Maple still bearing its flame red leaves. We’ve had some high winds this week and this is what it looks like today – what a difference a week makes!

Japanese Maple 23 Nov 2013Just a few leaves are still clinging to its branches:

Japanese Maple 23 Nov 2013 P1090329

The rest are on the ground or have blown away.

Autumn Leaves P1090328

For more Saturday Snapshots see Melinda’s blog West Metro Mommy Reads.

Saturday Snapshots

Autumn in the garden:

Jap Maple Nov 2013 P1090302

The leaves are falling from some of the trees now, but our little Japanese Maple is still bearing its flame-coloured leaves.

Autumn trees Nov 2013 P1090305The Wych Elm leaves are a glorious golden colour.

Autumn leaves Nov 2013 P1090313And in our little wood the ground is now a carpet of rustling brown leaves.

D up ladder P1090314

Finally, here’s D up a ladder doing repairs to the roof – I had to watch because falling leaves are one thing …

For more Saturday Snapshots see Melinda’s blog West Metro Mommy Writes.

Saturday Snapshots

It’s been wet this week – too wet to do much gardening. This has encouraged the Ink Caps to grow. They seemed to spring up over night.

It first appears as just a small white mushroom which then grows into a cylinder with a pretty black frill:

Coprinus Comatus 1

But it soon opens out:

Inkcap P1010900and eventually, having released its spores it looks like this, and then it dissolves:

Coprinus Comatus 3

It’s also known as Lawyer’s Wig and Shaggy Mane. Apparently, it is edible, but I don’t fancy eating it.

For more Saturday Snapshots see Melinda’s blog West Metro Mommy Reads.

Saturday Snapshots

I’ve been spending more time in the garden recently and so have had less time to write on my blog. The garden has definitely been looking as though it needs tidying, deadheading and cutting back to do, and weeds are getting on top of everything!

So when the weather hasn’t been too wet I’ve been out there with my secateurs, garden fork and my dumper truck, cutting, digging and pulling up weeds – nettles, bindweed, ground elder, creeping buttercups, and other weeds whose names I don’t know.

The dumper truck is one of the best things we’ve bought recently and it has made collecting and moving weeds so much easier. Here it is empty:

Dumper truck P1010882and here it is full:

Weeds P1010892These weeds all have strong roots (don’t I know it!) and spread enormously with long, white runners forming a dense network. If you simply break them off they regenerate (I know that too!!). Even though I tried to get rid of these in the spring, they are still in the ground.

The nettles are difficult to tackle earlier in the year when their stings are so painful and they’re growing next to, behind, and in between rose bushes with particularly sharp thorns. What makes it worse is that their roots are the other side of the fence. At this time of year the effect of their sting is only minor and soon disappears and I managed to get at them better.

I hate bindweed – it chokes everything within its reach. I read in Richard Mabey’s book Weeds that the vernacular name for bindweed is ‘Devil’s guts’ – how appropriate.

I think I shall have to resort to weedkiller!

For more Saturday Snapshots see Melinda’s blog West Metro Mommy Reads.


Saturday Snapshots: Wych Elm

We have a wych elm in the back garden. This year it’s been absolutely full of seeds, many more than usual:

Wych elm P1080810

The seeds have been blowing all over the garden, covering the lawn and borders. They grow in clusters:Wych elm P1080813One got caught in a cobweb:

Wych elm seed P1010780Here it is in close-up:

Wych elm seed P1080809Wych Elms are hardy trees and have greater resistance to Dutch elm disease than other elms. The name ‘wych’ comes from an Anglo-Saxon word meaning pliable and refers to the tree’s twigs. Its wood has many uses, including underground water pipes (in the past), boat building and the seats of chairs – it’s also the traditional wood used for coffins.

I love trees – and they are good for you:

A garden without trees is as hard to envisage as an art gallery with pictures. Trees soften the landscape. They provide shade in the summer and protection during the winter. A screen of trees around the house can provide enough wind-shelter to reduce by a tenth the energy consumption in the home. Their canopy of leaves acts as a highly effective pollution filter, absorbing many of the major atmospheric pollution gases, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen and sulphur dioxide. Research also reveals that we are happier and more relaxed when we are in leafy surroundings … (The Therapeutic Garden by Donald Norfolk page 105)

For more Saturday Snapshots see Melinda’s blog West Metro Mommy Reads.

Click on the photos to enlarge.

Saturday Snapshot: Spring Flowers

DaffodilsIt’s spring at last!

Yesterday was beautiful – sunny, with blue skies – but still quite cold and breezy. Today promises to be the same. The daffodils are out (actually they have been for a few days now). I like to see them growing but it’s been so windy recently that I rescued these and brought them inside.

See more Saturday Snapshots on Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.

Saturday Snapshot: Snow Scenes

It snowed here most of yesterday and today it’s snowing again with  more to come for the rest of the day and the next few days.

This is the scene in the front garden:

and in the back garden;

Close-ups of the empty bird boxes:

and the wonky one:

For more Saturday Snapshots see Alyce’s blog At Home with Books.

Saturday Snapshot: Signs of Spring?

It’s still very wet here, but so far we’ve not got the freezing cold spell and snow that’s forecast for Scotland and the North East of England this weekend. And there’s new growth in our little wood – is Spring on it’s way?


For more Saturday Snapshots see Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.

Saturday Snapshot

Our back garden isn’t the usual type of garden as it’s mainly grass, a stream and woodland. At the end of January we had a tidying-up session in the woodland and a small fire burning small branches that the wind had blown down.

Further down the wood the snowdrops are still in flower.

See more Saturday Snapshots on Alyce’s blog, At Home With Books.

C is for Chaffinch

There are countless numbers of chaffinches in our garden. It’s the second commonest breeding bird in the UK, so perhaps it’s not surprising that there are so many around. They eat insects and seeds, but they prefer to eat the seeds that have fallen to the ground rather than from the bird feeders.

We have put a tray of seeds on a garden table outside our kitchen patio doors and can watch them at quite close quarters as they come to eat the seeds. Whilst they crowd together on the ground they’re more cautious closer to the house and they only come one at a time to the table. David took these photos. (Click on the photos to enlarge them.)

I think this one is so lovely. It’s a female chaffinch that has just landed on the rail of the decking and the wind is ruffling her feathers.

In this next photo her feathers have settled down:

Then a male chaffinch arrived. He likes the sunflower seeds.

I love his colours.

An ABC Wednesday post for the letter C.

Saturday Snapshot

Today we woke up to the first snow of this winter. It wasn’t forecast! My new header shows the front garden and the photo below is of our back garden. See another photo David took this morning – here. As you’ll see he wished for snow!

A Saturday Snapshot post – see more on Alyce’s blog At Home with Books.

Saturday Snapshot – In the Garden

Autumn is now well set in here. Our garden is well on the way to being covered in leaves. There are still some leaves clinging to the trees like this red maple:

whereas others still have their leaves, like the Japanese Maple shown below.

I was a bit concerned earlier this year that this little tree wouldn’t survive because its leaves were scorched by a late frost soon after the new shoots had opened.

A Saturday Snapshot post, hosted by Alyce, At Home with Books.

Saturday Snapshot

There was a loud bang the other day. I looked around the house but couldn’t find anything that had fallen down to explain the noise. Later I noticed that the front room window was looking rather dusty, and then I realised what the bang had been:

There are lots of wood pigeons and collared doves flying round our garden and it looks as though one had tried to fly through the window. It had certainly left an impression, probably seeing the reflection of trees in the window and thinking it could fly through. Fortunately there was no dead or injured bird anywhere to be seen!  We’d better get some stickers on the window!

See more Saturday Snapshots on Alyce’s blog At Home With Books.

ABC Wednesday – F is for …

… one of my favourite flowers:


Photos taken in my former garden.

A couple of commenters have asked is this a perennial. It’s a herbaceous perennial that flowers in the spring and summer and dies back in the winter. My next door neighbour grew them in profusion and I grew this one in our garden from a cutting off one of her plants.

An ABC Wednesday post for the letter F.

Saturday Snapshot: The Birds Have Flown

I’ve posted a few photos and videos of the collared doves’ nest – first the empty nest, then the eggs were laid, the chicks hatched and now we have an empty nest again. On Thursday evening the second young collared dove left the nest and has not returned. I do feel a little sad – empty nest syndrome!

Empty Nest!

Here is a video showing the final moments as the young bird left the confines of the nest behind the satellite dish for the last time and flew off into the wide world beyond. It looks quite big in the video but in reality it is still very small.

To participate in Alyce’s Saturday Snapshot meme post a photo (new or old) that you (or a friend or family member) have taken, but make sure it’s not one that you found online.

Sunday Scene – More Snow

We woke up this morning to yet more snow, as in most of Britain.

The birds were flocking to the feeders – which now need replenishing. Today the woodpecker stayed long enough for me to take some photos.

The tits are bolder and come up onto the decking outside the kitchen.

This one landed in the snow and nearly sank.

Lucy, who hasn’t ventured outside since the snow first came at the end of November, sits and watches the birds as they come near the window.

This is what she wished she could catch

Teaser Tuesday: Weeds by Richard Mabey

I love gardens but I’m not a good gardener and I’ve always thought that I can grow weeds much better than any other plants. I read somewhere that weeds are just plants growing in the wrong place. My experience is that they are extremely hardy, grow exceptionally well and need little if any help from me – leave them to themselves and they’ll quickly fill any spaces and more on any type of soil.

I have spent hours, days, years even trying to get rid of bindweed and ground elder. No matter what I’ve tried – digging them out, which seems impossible, smothering them or dousing them with chemicals, which worked for a while,- they always comes back and kill anything growing in the way. The only benefit I can see is that the flowers are quite pretty.

So, when I was sitting in the café in a bookshop the other week and I saw Weeds by Richard Mabey on display opposite where I was sitting I just had to have a look at it:

I haven’t read it yet, but I’ve dipped into it. Here is an extract that caught my eye as I browsed the pages:

Weeds thrive in the company of humans. They aren’t parasites, because they can exist without us, but we are their natural ecological partners, the species alongside which they do best. They relish the things we do to the soil; clearing forests, digging, farming, dumping nutrient-rich rubbish. They flourish in arable fields, battlefields, parking lots, herbaceous borders. They exploit our transport systems, our cooking adventures, our obsession with packaging. Above all they use us when we stir the world up, disrupt its settled patterns. It would be a tautology to say that these days they are found most abundantly where there is most weeding; but that notion ought to make us question whether the weeding encourages the weeds as much as vice versa. (page 12)

Is he saying we’d do just as well not doing any weeding?

Teaser Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by MizB where you share ‘teasers’. I’ve adapted it a bit in this post, to include more information about the book and longer teasers.

Can You Identify This Bird?

The snow is still here, we’re getting a bit fed up with it, but it does make a pretty picture. Everything looks as though it’s covered in royal icing.

The field across the road is sparkling in the sun this morning – click on photo to see the sparkles:

D has been feeding the birds every day, topping up the feeders. We had lots of visitors, including robins, bluetits, great tits, greenfinches, goldfinches chaffinches, sparrows, wood pigeons and a woodpecker too.

We can identify most of the birds but this one has us puzzled. What is it?

It appeared on the decking where D had put a tray of birdseed and ventured very close to the patio doors. I tried several times to get a good photo and this is the best I could do.

Here it is enlarged:

We’ve checked in the RSPB Charts and our bird books – A Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe, the Reader’s Digest Field Guide to the Birds of Britain, and Collins Bird Guide, but I’m not sure if I can identify it. Is it a meadow pipit?

Just look at that stare?

Saturday Scene

It’s a little bit warmer today, the icicles hanging from the gutters are melting, and the sky is blue. This is the view of the back garden where the sun is shining.

The front garden all is in shade. The birds disappeared when I opened the door to take this photo, but the feeders are tremendously popular.

I had to crawl to the window in the front room to take this photo of a lesser spotted woodpecker on the bird feeder as the slightest movement and it flew away.

It’s difficult to see the woodpecker’s beautiful plumage because the tree is in the shade and the woodpecker refused to move round so I could take a photo of it’s lovely colours.

Saturday Selection

A few ‘new’ books came into our house this week.

click to enlarge

Some came from Barter Books in Alnwick. For a while now I’ve been trying to make some space on the bookshelves. I find it very hard to let any books go, but as I have a large number of unread books I decided to be ruthless and think about the books I have read and whether I would I ever read them again. I managed to weed out 25 books and on Tuesday we took them to Barter Books, one of the largest secondhand bookshops in Britain. It is housed in a huge old railway station, built in 1887 and closed to passengers in 1968. Now it’s a bookshop that works on a swap system – you take books in and if they accept them you receive a credit and can then use that to get more books. You can, of course, just go and buy books as well. They accepted 22 of our books and I came away with just 6, so I have achieved a small amount of shelf space.

The books I ‘bought’ were three Ian Rankin Inspector Rebus books to complete our set (I have read these already), and an early novel of his, Watchman, which I haven’t read. The other two books were gardening books:

  • Ground Force: Practical Garden Projects by Tommy Walsh. This was published to accompany the TV series – as long ago as 1997! I remember it well, as it was one of those programmes that actually demonstrated how to do things.
  • Collins Outdoor DIY Projects in a Weekend by Albert Jackson and David Day.

Both these books were my husband’s choice. They are full of practical things to do and make such as making a bird table, building a cascade, making a compost bin, laying paving stones and decking etc.

And he  found this book on Amazon, The Stream Garden by Archie Skinner and David Arscott, all about creating and planting your own natural-looking water feature. The reason behind his choice is that we want to improve the little stream that runs through our garden. I posted a video of its current condition on my other blog Margaret’s Miscellany last Sunday. I’d love our stream to look something like this:

Books to read next:

I finished a couple of books this week – The Rain Before It Falls by Jonathan Coe, which I wrote about earlier and Salmon Fishing in the Yemen by Paul Torday, which I’ll write about soon. Reading Coe’s book reminded me of Mary Webb’s Gone To Earth, so I got that down off the shelf and I’m thinking of reading it this week. I read it several times as a young teenager and loved it. I’m curious to find out what I think of it now.

I had to move all my to-be-read books out of the living room this week because we’re having a wood-burning stove installed and I didn’t want the books to get covered in brick dust etc. This got me looking at what I have in waiting, as it were, and I think I’ll choose one of these books to read next:

A Plethora of Plums

We have an old plum tree in our garden. This year is the first year we’ve been here and we didn’t know what to expect from the tree. It’s been absolutely blooming, full of fruit. The boughs are weighed down to the ground with the weight and I’ve picked many kilos of plums. I don’t have any jam jars so I’ve been cooking the plums and either eating them with ice cream, or making crumble, or freezing the fruit.

I made crumble with some of these, a simple recipe made with plain flour, sugar and butter, rubbed in until mixture resembles breadcrumbs and then cooked on top of the plums for about 30 -40 minutes at 190°C.

Check out the other entries this week at Weekend Cooking.

Sunday Scene

Yesterday it was my birthday and as well as books D gave me a new camera. I’ve been trying it out today: here are a few photos I took in our garden and

Back garden
Back garden from the decking

of the front garden

Front garden

and the field across the road where the rapeseed was being cut this afternoon.

Cutting rapeseed

(Click on the photos to enlarge.)

Lucy and the Snow

Lucy has now ventured outside. We kept her in the house after we moved in, as you’re supposed to (the vet said so)  and we didn’t have an address tag for her anyway. Then the snow came and she didn’t want to go out. If she had I think she would have been buried in the snow, as she’s so small.

She has a tag now, so we thought she could go out into the garden. She didn’t really want to the first day, just looked very warily out of the door. Yesterday she had a walk along the decking, which extends round the back and side of the house. She didn’t stay out long – well it was cold – and she hasn’t gone down on to the grass yet. She’s getting to be an indoor cat!

Today the snow has nearly all gone and there’s just this patch left on the decking.

Is it just my imagination, or does it look like a cat running?

Winter Wonderland

It’s been snowing here, but not as much as in the south of England and I do find it odd that we’ved moved north where it’s supposed to be colder and it isn’t!  This snow is the best kind – crisp and even. The roads have been gritted and are clear so we’re still able to get out and about. We haven’t had time to do anything but shop so far, except for two visits to our family in Scotland, now much nearer than before. We’re off there today for a school carol service with the two older grandchildren. They have had more snow than us, so I hope we’ll get there and back ok.

We’re still emptying boxes and trying to find the best places to put things. I can’t imagine how I fitted everything into the wall unit for example, but what came out should go back in, shouldn’t it? And will we have the bedrooms ready for the family to stay on Sunday – I hope so?!

The computer is in a room overlooking the back garden – this is the view from the window.

View from my desk
View from my desk

Amazingly, there is an apple tree out there that still has its apples. The birds love it!

Close up of apple tree
Close up of apple tree

 The garden has a small stream runing through it going into a small coppice.

Stream at the back
Stream at the back

Here is a view of the front garden as seen through the lounge window 

Front garden as seen through the lounge window
Christmas tree in the front garden

Still not much time for reading. Drood is proving to be a test. It started off really well with the train accident that Dickens was in at Staplehurst, great descriptions of London and so on. But Simmons’s inclusion of great tracts of background research is slowing down the story interminably. It reminds me a bit of Les Miserables!

Flowers on Friday

I may not be very good at gardening, but I love sitting and admiring the flowers. Today it’s raining so I can’t get out there so here are some photos I took on better days.

This is the Star of Bethlehem, a bulb. Where has it come from? We’ve lived here for some years now and I’ve never seen it in the garden before. Could it have grown from seed? According to The National Trust Book of Wild Flower Gardening it can be grown from seed and it would take several years to flower. It’s called the Star of Bethlehem because of its star-shaped flowers, which are sensitive to light. They’re closed up today and you can see the green stripe on the back of each petal. They’re lovely.

There are lots of these alliums in flower just now in our garden. This is Allium Gladiator, an ornamental onion bulb. They grow to about four feet high and over the years have spread themselves around the borders. I particularly like them as they don’t seem to need any attention from me and their large purple heads are made up of little star-like flowers.

I’m really pleased that this camellia is growing in the garden. I bought it as a small plant and was told it’s difficult to grow and knowing my record with plants I am amazed that it has not only survived but is flourishing. Last year it was covered in flowers, but this year there are only a few. I don’t know what type of camellia it is, but I think its deep rose pink anemone like flowers are so beautiful. This grows in our back garden, near to the house.

These tulips have shed their petals now. There are only a few of these growing in the back garden and I just leave them to grow back each year. Maybe I should dig up the bulbs after they have flowered and store them to re-plant the following year?

These are dwarf tulips which flower a bit later. I love their bright red petals.

Another plant that does well in the garden without any assistance from me is this aquilegia. Again this grows all over the garden, the seeds are spread by the wind and there are varying shades of pink and purple in both the back and the front gardens. These are growing at the front of the house.

Whilst in the back garden there is a wild patch where yellow poppies have self-seeded.

Our Cottage Garden

This is what I would like our garden to look like.

This book, The Cottage Gardener’s Companion, paints an idyllic picture of the typical English Cottage Garden:

“… where there is a feeling of freedom and exuberance, leisure and opportunity to potter, to water, to contemplate. … Flowers, vegetables and fruit are mingled together in the epitome of the cottage garden, where bounty may be gathered at every season. The cottage gardener makes salads, apple jelly, herbal medicine, plum and damson jam from her garden; there is even something in midwinter when parsnips and turnips, brussels sprouts and leeks come into their own.”

Oh, if only that were so. This cottage garden has some of those things. There are fruit trees – a cherry tree, with bitter morello cherries that the birds love. I make pies and cherry sauce, if I can pick them before the birds eat them. There are two little espalier apple trees, which last summer produced a lot of fruit (more pies and crumble) and there is a plum tree that produced so much that it was rotting on the tree before I could pick them all.

There are some flowers – the primroses are doing really well, so well that I’ve put a photo of some of them on the blog header. There is a climbing rose that seems to be dying, maybe because of my efforts at pruning, despite reading “Pruning” in the Garden Guides series and any other books on pruning that I can find. I’m doing something wrong, but what I don’t know. I’ve managed to plant and grow a lovely camellia – that had an abundance of flowers last year and a fuchsia that was quite tall and spindly, but it did have some flowers. The other plant that does well, however I mangle it with my pruning is a potentilla, covered in yellow flowers for most of last summer. And the aubretia spreads itself all over the wall in the front garden whatever I do to it – it’s just starting to flower now.

We have a rambling honeysuckle growing up the fence, mingling in with a berberis, which has shiny red berries later in the year, privet and a rampant Russian vine, which threatens to swamp everything. There are violets and aquilegia which self-seed and appear in different places in the garden. There are other plants as well, shrubs and bushes that I occasionally prune back and trees – a flowering cherry tree, a pussy willow and a couple of conifers.

But the plant that grows really well in our garden is the bindweed – it gets everywhere. We have a good amount of ivy as well, growing up the fences and throttling whatever it can find. Just now it is beginning to pop up through the soil. I wish we could eradicate it completely!

I went out this morning to try to take control and did some pruning, whether I’ve killed more plants remains to be seen. I noticed that the daffodils and tulips are coming on nicely, the bluebells in the front garden are coming up well, and there is a new little holly that has planted itself in one of the borders. The rosemary bush looks strong and healthy; it grows vigorously and I always have to chop it back.

We like herbs and in the past have failed to grow basil – not enough sun here I suppose, even the basil I buy in a pot and keep on the kitchen windowsill doesn’t do very well! We had sage and mint in pots on the patio, but as they’ve got very straggly and thin we decided to start again and yesterday went to a garden centre where we bought some pots of thyme, sage, flat leaf parsley and mint. We also bought a rhubarb plant, as I do like it. I hope these will survive.