Thursday, May 23, 2013

Puddle ducks and other creatures

In the garden

One day last week we had some sun and so I got out the pressure washer and attacked the patio.  It's amazing how dirty it gets over winter.

From green to clean
As soon as I'd finished the ducks appeared.  No puddle is too small to investigate.

Tasting the waters!
I've written before about their ridiculous habit of sticking their heads into the hole for the washing pole but I've never managed to catch them in action before;

I'm going in
Ah, that's better!
The sun made everything come to life and these tulips looked so vibrant in the sunshine.

Later in the afternoon, when the sun had disappeared and the tulips closed up, we had a little visitor; this cheeky little chappy hippety-hopped all over the patio then went down the steps to dig some holes in the lawn!

Cheeky bunny
I moved the pedestal birdbath from the far end of the patio to be nearer the house so we'd have a better view of the bathers.  It was funny watching the little wagtail come for his afternoon bath. He arrived, as usual on the edge of the garage roof, down onto the fence, over to the dining chair then onto the rosemary bush which is next to where the bath was before. He looked around, flew onto the table and then another chair and finally made his way onto the bath in its new position.  

The white tape in the background is from when the horses came in to graze the grass - we do that every year to keep the fertility down and encourage the wildflowers. As I look through the window now the whole area is covered in buttercups and not only does it look wonderful, the insects love it too.

Found it!

I like to have a paddle before I go right in
Then I fluff up my feathers and have a good preening session

The same day I spotted Mrs Bunny in the orchard.  If you look closely you'll see she has a mouthful of grass.  She was scrabbling around to get lots of dry grass in her mouth and then scampering away into the undergrowth by my potting shed to emerge a few minutes later and repeat the process. Nest building methinks - as if there aren't enough rabbits on our land already!

Busy bunny
Speaking of nests, here's one that was ill-advised.  This large rubble sack, half full of aggregate, is in a shady part of front garden. I noticed a pair of robins flying in and out one afternoon and I realised they must have babies in there.  

Robins are notorious for building their nests in strange places (in agricultural machines, sheds, buckets and other odd places). The next day there were busy again but the day after I didn't see them.  Or the next day. 

So I went to investigate and was very sad to see 3 little bodies, all limp. I think that it was probably too hot for them in there as the nest was in the front lefthand corner, completely under the plastic which would have been far too hot for them. I removed the nest and placed it in a shady area under the big oak tree.

I've seen the robins flying in and out of the hedge with building material in their beaks so hopefully they'll have more success with their next brood.

The nest of doom

Rosettes for the horses

I'd brought back two beautiful ARUK rosettes from Badminton Horse Trials with the idea of taking a photo of the two ladies wearing them.


As I'd brought them round to the barn I decided to try it after the farrier had been. Esther was feeling very mellow and it didn't take much persuading to let me attach it to her headcollar.

I'm too sleepy to care what you're up to!
You can just see Kizzy's hooves behind Esther and if you could see her body language she was saying 'no way am I having one of those near me!' But I tried to show it to her from a distance which resulted in much snorting.  

I went a step closer and she lunged backwards, breaking free from the barn, thus illustrating why you should always tie their lead rein to a bit of baler twine rather than directly onto the ring! You can just see her ring and the orange baler twine behind Esther's head. If her lead had been tied directly onto the ring it would have remained rigid and she'd have panicked even more and possibly hurt herself but as soon as she broke free she stood still again.

From my last run

Here are a few new friends I met on my run the other day.

Young mares
A gorgeous Burmese cat
A peacock with a rather bedraggled tail

Last but not least

Here's a our lovely Tinker who was so poorly for several weeks after his operation. He's fully recovered now, thankfully, and has started to go outside again but only for short spells at a time. He seems to have lost his confidence and we suspect that his hearing isn't as good now he's getting older.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Where do I begin?

Here I go again, playing catch-up.  There really aren't enough hours in the day to do everything I want to get done so this is going to be a long post.

I'd better divide it into sections so people searching for a specific bit will find it easily - I'm always fascinated by the searches that bring people here and my favourite one this week was 'smouldering Redhead on Tower Bridge'.  That took them to my write-up for the London marathon back in 2007 when my friend Ruth had taken a photo of me running across Tower Bridge.  Not sure I was smouldering though!

Knitting and Crochet

My neck and shoulders have now fully recovered from the London marathon knitting escapade and so the needles are clicking away again.

First we have a special project and I can't show much of it as it's a present for someone who reads my blog occasionally.

All I shall reveal for now is that it's a baby knit, using 4ply yarn and I'm making the pattern up based on an existing pattern for the garment.  I just had a look at a few baby garments and decided on the style I thought would be nice for summer, found a stitch that looked interesting but was simple and then added cables into the mix.  I did a swatch to work out my stitch count and based the measurements on other patterns I have for the age group.

Next we have some crochet bits and bobs.  First I need to crochet some more baby bootees for a lady in your village who is about to become  a granny for the first time.  I showed her the crocodile stitch bootees and she loved them so I'm going to surprise her with a pair for the new arrival.  I have to get them done in the next few days as I want to give them to her next week when she's organised a coffee morning to help raise funds for Alzheimer's Research UK so they are really a 'thank you' present.

Then we have this bundle of yarn:

This is for the same lady but she asked me if I'd make something for her. Although she can knit she hasn't fully mastered crochet yet.  It's from this book of cute baby cocoons -

The one she likes is the brown bear one with the ears.  As the baby is a girl I thought it might be nice to do the edging in pink rather than blue so I bought the pink yarn to show her.  If she doesn't like that then there's the caramel coloured yarn instead which would make good bear inner ears and tummy.  

There isn't the same rush for this, as baby isn't due until September, but I think it looks like a quick project anyway.  We've now agreed on the caramel colour for the ears and tummy.

I won't be catching up on my Jane Crowfoot Crochet Club until the baby things are completed by which time I'll be in the mood for something more challenging.  Speaking of which.........I mentioned previously that I was planning a scumble project for the summer months and this is what inspired it - the cover of this Russian crochet magazine.

I absolutely love the vibrant colours and the flowery motifs interspersed with random shapes.  There are no pattern instructions to make the jacket, just a few patterns for the scumbles, in Russian but with diagrams so I could follow some of them.

This is my sitting-outside-on-a-summer's-evening-with-a-glass-of-wine crochet project and will give my creative streak full rein.  Very exciting.

I made a selection of dmc petra 3 (just look at those colours!) and I shall have a good rummage around in my crochet flower patterns to find some unusual shapes to start me off.  I am well aware that some of the items I've seen made of crochet scumbles can look messy, and that's putting it politely, but I think that using the same yarn throughout should help unify it and make an interesting fabric.  It's worth a go anyway.

I'm really fond of this yarn for crochet garments.. The last thing I made using this yarn was this skirt for a party.  I didn't have a pattern and just chose a pretty shell cluster stitch for the front and back and then had some fun by adding a sort of train at the back consisting of lots of flowers.  It was a bit see-through and so I made an underskirt in a contrasting colour which looked really effective.  I'll try and take a photo of it as I was very proud of it and got loads of compliments.

Running Update with Asthma notes

I've just completed day 32 of my 111 day running streak and my total mileage is now 213 .73.   Only 79 days to go!

To celebrate I treated my feet to some new running shoes in my favourite colour - purple.  I love them with my zebra print socks.

New shoes

Asthma?  Where do I begin?  It was all going so well and then wallop, it flared up with a vengeance.

The hay fever season went from nothing to full-on within a matter of days as suddenly the weather warmed up a bit and nature played catch-up.  So we were faced with tree pollen, pollen from early flowers, mid Spring flowers and late Spring flowers plus grass pollen all at the same time.  Oh my, it has been a challenging time!

The situation has been further enhanced by this delightful crop - oil seed rape.  The pollen from this ghastly stuff makes my head pound and my throat close up and the whole plant smells vile at every stage in its development; a sort of rotting cabbage smell.  The acid-yellow blocks of colour may look eye-catching en-mass but I hate the stuff.

I'm mentioning this alongside my running because it has had a big impact on it.  When the pollen count went really high my Peak Flow, that's a measure of how efficient my lungs are, dropped dramatically so  I had to up my dosage of medication.

I also started taking Cetirizine as an allergy reliever but all it did was give me massive leg cramps so I've stopped taking it - the other night I woke up with my whole right leg in spasm.  My calf was hard as rock and it felt as if someone was twisting red hot pokers inside my leg.  Mike spent ages trying to stretch out my muscle to ease the pain but it was agony for several minutes.  Later that day I could still feel  a very sore spot deep in my calf and although I managed my run it was rather uncomfortable and I was glad when it was over.

To make myself feel better I've been taking loads of photos out on my runs.

At the edge of a bluebell wood just starting to come into flower
But this wood's full of Ramsons - the smell was amazing!
Bracken coming to life - such a decorative shape and a possible idea for a scumble 
The enormous leaves of Burdock - the root is used to make the Dandelion and Burdock drink
Beautiful orchids
Part of a young hazel coppice
Another part of it in the process of being cut - it may look drastic but the trees soon send up new shoots and the whole wood comes to life as the sunlight reaches the ground again allowing the flowers to bloom
The croziers of ferns unfurling in the hedgerow
Grass pollen - such a pretty pink
Mrs Sheep taking a break in the midst of a field of buttercups and pretty grasses
The pink glow of pine needles on the forest floor
Deep pink sheaths on the newly emerging leaves of Hornbeam
Hoary plantain - it looks as if it's wearing a tutu of pollen!
Pink apple blossom

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Badminton Horse Trials Part 2

Saturday 4th May, at Badminton Horse Trials

I had been looking forward to this day for so long as I was going to join a course walk lead by Richard Meade which was a dream come true!  But first I had to go for a run.

I left the hotel really early having had a very quick brekkie so I could arrive at the showground as soon as it opened, which I had been told would be 8am.  As it happened I was even earlier and I arrived there at 7:30am fully expecting to have to wait 30 minutes but all the marshalls were there already and I just went straight in.

Some of the stalls were busy opening up, especially the food stalls who were doing a good trade in breakfasts.  It was cold, wet and a bit windy but not too strong then - it certainly was later though.  By the time I'd run across the car park my feet were soaking wet and I was glad I'd brought a long-sleeved base layer to wear under my running vest and some lightweight gloves.

I set off in a different direction this time, towards one of the practice arenas where several horses were being put through their paces.  The man in the first photo very kindly struck a pose for me - he sounded as if he was a Kiwi but I don't know his name.   Gorgeous horse and a lovely mover.

This person chose an arena far away from the crowds and I stopped to watch the pair for a few minutes.

Here's a view of Badminton House, the ancestral home of the Duke of Beaufort.  It has been used as a film location.

Although it was nice to run around the grounds I found them a bit boring as the bits you are allowed in are all laid to grass, with a few large trees dotted around.  Also, it was very flat and I actually prefer the undulating/hilly countryside where we live.  I would have loved to look around their formal gardens but they are only open to the public at certain times of the year.

I wasn't alone in my early morning run either as I saw 8 other people out for a morning run - all men.  I ran 5.62 miles and then headed back to the car to dry myself off and get changed.  

I'd brought my jodhpurs and dubarry boots as they seemed appropriate for the occasion.  These boots are so comfy and look good as new even though they are 10 years old and have been used for mucking out the horses, riding (on occasions), walking short distances and even gardening.  I use Renapur leather balm to keep them looking good and to maintain the waterproofing.  It's great on saddles too.  I carried the scarf around in a carrier bag in case of further photo opportunities.

Striking a pose at the ARUK stand

This dog had brought his own version of a rucksack - how ingenious.

By the time we set off for the course walk it was blowing a gale and pouring with rain.  Sarah nearly took off as her plastic cover-up was blowing around so much!

Sarah and Dione huddled together to keep warm.  Dione's carrying a bucket to collect money from people who join the group for the course walk.
These doggies very sensibly wore their jackets (you can tell it was windy 'cos their ears are blowing to one side!)

The ARUK team at the start of the walk.  From left to right, Sue, Sarah, Richard, me, Dione with Mick peeping out between us (a thorn between 2 roses!!!)

Richard gave a short introduction and then we were off.  I haven't taken photos of all the jumps, just those that interested me.  The course designers had fun with each one and you had to look carefully to spot their clever little touches.

Look at the squirrel disappearing into the tree

Dione with a tree halo!
Richard was very good at explaining how he would approach each jump and pointing out interesting things en-route

Gorgeous dog and a sensible owner who brought his shooting stick to sit on
Love the hounds

Now for some real hounds!

The photo of the hounds reminded me of one of the jumps,  the Bullfinch (photo from Niamh's blog).  It is made up of a solid base with bush on top that is several feet high and is meant to be jumped through, rather than over.  It is a test of the horse's trust in the rider as he cannot see through to the other side and therefore does not know what he is jumping into.  It replicates the uncut hedges that a horse would encounter when going cross-country when out hunting.

Each fence had a different corporate sponsor.  You will notice the red and white flags on some of the jumps.  This tells the riders that there is an alternate route they can take - one way is more tricky but faster, the other is easier but slower.

Thankfully the sun came out about half way round and so we all had to start peeling off the layers we'd worn to keep warm.

Anyone for a pint?

The jumps into the lake 

I liked the barge floating around in the lake

This was one of a series of jumps all decorated with assorted vegetables like  horticultural show

It's amazing to think that the horses will jump through this, but they do

Richard explained that  he would jump this at the joint of the knife (halfway up on the right) rather than through the middle

The 'staircase' tests a riders skills as they will have been galloping apace towards this but need to collect the horse to slow them for the first step whilst maintaining momentum to get them over the last step

The ARUK jump is hidden in the middle of here and was a series of logs

Here we are at the end of the course walk, joined by Vicki, and looking much happier in the sunshine
With my poster-boy near the ARUK jump
From a different angle (thanks Sarah) - you can see one of the log jumps to Richard's right

Oh my, that was just a fabulous experience on so many levels!  

For ARUK to have such a massive presence was fantastic and the coverage will hopefully encourage more companies to help.  I don't know how much money was raised there yet but I'm pretty sure it's going to be a good total.

It was lovely to meet up with some of the ARUK Champions and it was especially nice to spend some time with Dione and Mick in a more relaxed atmosphere than when we usually meet (at conferences etc).

Now, back to the serious business of fund-raising and running.  I'm now up to Day 19 of 111 of my running streak with a total of 138.90 miles run so far.  My legs are holding up OK at the moment and I'm enjoying running across country now the ground's dried up a bit.

Knitting?  Haven't done any since the week before the London marathon as I needed to make sure my neck and shoulders were nice and loose to cope with the strain and I'm still a wee bit stiff so won't be doing anything until Monday - next project will be for Lisa and Andrew's baby, Edmund but I'm not going to reveal what I'm knitting in  case Lisa reads this.  I've been promised tea and cake when I take it round so that's a good incentive to get knitting!

Crochet?  Ditto to knitting but also because the base of my left thumb joint is especially sore at the moment, with arthritis, and crochet really aggravates it because of how I hold my yarn .  I didn't do my Crochet Club pattern for last month so I'm a bit behind but will soon catch up - I'm a much faster at crochet than knitting.  

Also, I've just splurged on some gorgeous DMC Petra Cotton Perle No.3 (I'll take a photo tomorrow) in some stunning colours 'cos I fancy doing a bit of scrumbling, or scumbling depending on whereabouts you are in the world, to make a summer cardigan or jumper.  It's just the sort of thing to pick up in the evening when sitting outside watching the sunset whilst sipping a glass of wine.