Monday, May 18, 2015

Nature in all its glory

I've tried to whittle my photos down to the ones I just can't miss out but there were still far to many so I tried again and these are the ones that made the list. They are from the last few weeks and have been taken on my training runs along the lanes and across the rolling Sussex countryside.

I was taking this shot because I'd spotted the seagulls following the plough, the herd of deer was a bonus! I ran across the same field on my way back via the public footpath and I had a look at what they were eating and all I could see was stubble from the previous crop which looked as if it might have been wheat.

Another herd peeping out from behind the trees

The next few photos show a favourite flower of mine, Cow Parsley. But despite it's beauty there is an issue; it is dominating our hedgerows nowadays and forcing out other native species.  Apparently I am not alone in thinking this and on checking the Countryside Survey I've found out it has increased by 53% over the last 30 years.

Why? Because of the way we manage the grass verges now. One reason is that years ago the verges would have been grazed by livestock, thus reducing the fertility of the soil but now the verges are mown by the local council and the clippings left in-situ which increases the fertility of the soil making it too rich for many of our native flowers. The other reason is the increase in the use of fertilisers by farmers which inevitably leaches into the verges. This means that the flowers which prefer an infertile soil are struggling whilst Cow Parsley, Nettles and brambles are loving it.

But it's so pretty so why does this matter? It matters because we are losing the diversity of flora and possibly fauna and our verges are turning into a monoculture. I'll climb down off my high horse now!

The wonderfully frothy flowers of Cow Parsley, Anthriscus Sylvestris, are almost obscuring this footpath

Here it is seen dominating the riverbank

It is what's known as an Umbellifera, which is its family name, and is related to carrots. I love it's other common name which is 'Queen Anne's Lace'.

Who can resist telling the time by blowing the seeds of the dandelion? I always chuckle at the French name for it; pis-en-lit (wet the bed!) which must surely have been invented to stop children from picking it?!

The flowers of Ribwort Plantain, with it's white anthers, look so pretty close-up

Running along the riverbank yesterday I spotted Equisitum Arvense, aka Mare's Tail or Horsetail. It is an invasive weed and is really hard to eradicate as it is deep-rooted with roots speading to 7ft underground. Not something you'd want in your garden but looks pretty in the wild with drops of rain on it!

I love the look of the Horse Chestnut when it's spikey flowers are out. A native of the Balkans it was introduced into the UK in around 1600. In the US I believe it is known as the 'Buckeye'.

This beautiful orchid is one of a small colony I've been protecting on a verge near our house

I was, therefore, delighted when we cleared a large area of brambles by one of our ponds and these beauties appeared this year!

This tree looked surreal with its trunk bent over. It must have been knocked over when it was young and pliable and has just continued to grow like that.

I was fascinated by the relection of this small bridge over the storm ditch

The new growth of these Willow trees stand out in the sunshine

The jam jar hanging from this cider apple tree in an orchard had me scratching my head for a moment until I spotted the tealight inside. It must have been left behind when the Bonfire Boyes were wassailing a few weeks ago. This kind of wassailing is quite different from the Christmas version when people go from door to door singing Carols. This is where people visit the orchards and sing to the trees to awaken them and drive off evil spirits by clattering pot and pans.

What's that Susie? It's an experiment! I found this pretty mitten at the side of the lane back in November 2014. It seemed a shame that it should lie in the gutter covered in mud so I put it on this branch in the hope that if it's owner came looking for it or if they passed by they might spot it and they would be reunited.

See, it's a pretty motif

As no-one seems to have claimed it I am using it as an experiment in decay. It seems to be made of a cotton mix so it will be interesting to see how long it takes to rot down or become inhabited by insects or whatever. There is already  some rather vivid green algae growing happily in the dampness. It amuses me anyway!

I could hardly make a post without the additon of our wonderful native bluebells and Wild Garlic so here they are:

I wish you could smell their scent, it's intoxicating

I love the smell of Wild Garlic too although it's too strong for some tastes

This splash of yellow from Broom shone out in the verdant hedgerow

A few snippets from home

I have more than enough to share in another post but I'll just show a few bits for now. 

Strawberry flowers hiding in the herb beds
The beginnings of the strawberry fruit. Isn't that pretty with the calyx like a ruff around the emerging fruit

This large dog fox has been a frequent visitor to the garden recently

This hen pheasant is unusually tame and will take grain from my hand. When she first arrived her right eye was very red but it's better now. It's usually the cock pheasants who will come so close and it's been fascinating to see the patterns and colours of her feathers close-up.

Here she is, standing on one leg with her feathers all puffed up against the wind. More about the wind next time as it's wreaked havoc in the garden recently.
Tilly has found her inner lion and is much braver now although I don't think she'll ever wander too far from home (unlike our previous cats who wandered far and wide).

We have had so many different visitors to the birdbath outside the kitchen window, goldfinches, magpies, wood pigeons, sparrows, dunnocks, pied wagtails, robins, starlings to name a few, but this pair of collared doves win the prize for cuteness. They must have a nest nearby as I've seen them chasing away the magpies (who would steal their eggs if allowed near the nest).

Oh no, not the compost heap again! Yes, but don't worry, I just wanted to show the potatoes that have sprouted right at the back. There must have been some small bits left and they've sent up shoots so I'll leave them there and see what develops.

Whilst I was admiring the compost heap something flashed across my peripheral vision. On closer inspection I found this grass snake hiding in an old rotting stump. I must have disturbed his sun-bathing!

As I sat on the swing the other evening I spotted this rabbit hopping alongside the pond.

He headed straight towards me……….

……….and stopped for a quick wash less than 6' from where I was sitting!

Some marvellous molehills keep appearing in 2 of our fields at the moment. The ones in the middle of the photo made me chuckle as they follow the path of an animal track. Now any gardener knows that the soil thrown out to form a molehill is fabulous as it's broken into a fine crumb by the mole's digging. You can use it as the base for  a potting compost or, as I did, as a soil conditioner to break down the heavy clay we have in our garden. You can't really get the scale of them from the photo but some of them are about 10" high and 2' across and we managed to get 4 wheelbarrows worth of beautiful crumbly soil from them.

Crochet blanket update

I've very nearly finished the Sophie blanket with just the border to make. I'll be sad when its over as it's been a most enjoyable journey. Not much to show from last time but here's where it was at a few days ago:

Experimnting with colours for the next round.

Thankfully I remembered that this yarn bleeds like mad and so I soaked the skein in cold water then added salt and vinegar to act as mordants to hopefully set the dye. I have had problems of bleed with several Rowan yarns in the past so I'm always cautious, especially with reds.

Which pink to use next? The one on the right won and is now complete so just the final few rows of the border to do. Watch this space.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Poor blog

Dear Blog,
I'm very sorry for neglecting you but the sun has been shining and I've been playing out!
Lots of love,

I know, I know, this is what happens all the time in my world. I'll do a flurry of posts and then disappear off the planet for an age. It's always the same even though I try hard to be consistent in my posting. Hey ho.

This if course results in a mishmash of a post in which I try to cram in everything I should have written about but haven't and inevitably miss out some things. I have taken 547 photos in the last couple of weeks and choosing which to show is always really difficult.

Here I go then, in no particular order.

First I'd better catch up with the Sophie blanket which is now nearing completion. Here I am at work on the butterfly border with a Tilly cat accoutrement:

"I am going to climb onto your shoulder no matter what, so you'll just have to get on with it!"

When the butterflies are nearly completed they are a bit askew so just need pulling into shape
There's also a hump inbetween them but this disappears after the next round

On the next round I used Htr (Hdc in US) rather than Dc (SC in US) as stated, then Tr (DC in US) for the one after as I felt that positioned the butterfly better within the border, especially as I'd done Back Post stitches to mark the start and finish

Here it is before I started the last few rounds. The butterflies don't show up very well in the photo as the colour is too similar to the carpet!

In other crochet news I've been making something for my friend Terry to decorate what's known as the Navigator's Hat:

Terry is a member of the Hardley Runners club and last year he was awarded the hat because he got lost on his way to a training session! It is a tradition that the person receiving the hat adds a decoration to it and Terry asked me if I'd make him something. What fun I thought, I'll knit him a runner, which I did using a pattern from Knitlympics which my friend bought me. Then I wondered why on earth I'd done that as there's already a runner on the top of the hat - DOH! I gave it to a friend for her grandson. Then I started to think about how Terry is an excellent training partner for many people at the club as his pacing is excellent. I crocheted a clock face but didn't like it. 

Then someone suggested I make a metronome and that's when the solution came to me - he deserved a medal in his honour. I wanted to make it big and bold so I attacked a biscuit tin with my giant cutters and cut out an oblong shape, folded it in half and bashed it together.

I wanted it to be square rather than round so I could make a granny square to cover the back of it plus a lot of race medals are round and I wanted it to be special. Choosing the colours was frought with difficulty as I was trying to get as close to his club colours as possible which often look quite different in real life so I'm hoping these are OK.

For the back of the medal - with some holes so the silver medal shows through

A ribbon to hang it - before blocking

After a quick burst of steam to flatten it out

Then I wracked my brain to think of what to put on the front of it. Terry's name/initials/the date? Then it came to me - 'Your pace or mine?' with his initials. All I had to do was decide the best way to write it. Mike suggested punching holes, which I've done before, but the tin was rather thick and it might not have been very neat so I decided to print it on coloured paper - until Mike came up with an even better idea of prinitng it onto photo paper which allowed me to make the background blue and the lettering yellow (although it doesn't show up in the photo). Clever Mike!

I stuck it on the front of the medal and proceeded to crochet around the front to enclose it. Then I stitched on the ribbon and adorned the bottom edge with some dangly grannies.

I have no idea how he'll attach it to the hat but I'm sending him some of the purpley blue yarn in case he can tie it to something!

In wildlife news we had a visit from Mrs New Duck and her 7 ducklings, the first we've had this year which is very late. 

They were really tiny and can't have been hatched very long. The trek from the pond is about 200 metres each way and she brought them to see us twice that day - 800 metres is a long way for such little legs! 7 ducklings marched up to see us and 7 ducklings made it back to the pond.

On their second visit Mike took a short video using the camera and I've tried unsuccessfully to load on here (you can hear their little chirpings which are very sweet) but it just won't work no matter how much I've trimmed it down below the maximum file size.

After their second visit I followed them down to the pond again check they got back safely and watched them scooting around in the water.

I expected them to come trotting up the next morning but they didn't appear first thing. I wasn't worried as I thought Mrs New Duck might be waiting until the other ducks were out of the way. But then, as I was sitting crocheting with my morning coffee, there was a frantic tapping on the patio doors and there she was but with no ducklings. She was very agitated and I quickly threw her some bread which she gobbled down and then flew, rather than walked, back to the pond.

Oh dear, I thought something bad must have happened so I went to investigate. I couldn't spot her at first but eventually found her hiding in the reeds and the only reason I spotted her was that Mr New Duck was hovering around (which is unusual as they usually disappear when the ducklings are born). I watched for a while and eventually she came out with the 2 remaining ducklings. 5 little lives had been lost overnight. It could have been one of many predators or a combination of several - foxes, Magpies or other carrion, badgers. So sad.

For the last few days Mike and I have been taking some bread down to the pond and feeding them as she obviously doesn't feel it's safe to bring them up until they are a bit bigger.

Now, which photos shall I share next?………...