Monday, June 27, 2016

Just a quick update

Not much time at the moment as there's so much happening so apologies for that. Village in Bloom is looming, I've another marathon in a few days, there's crochet and knitting to catch up with and a very strange and sad situation as Britain woke up to the news that a majority of people had voted to leave the European Union leaving us with the very real possibility that the United Kingdom might be torn apart into separate bits. I felt sad just typing that never mind having to face the reality.

A quick update on the Frida's Flowers CAL:

Not in any order but there are 4 of each of these motifs (but I see I've missed off the last motifs, sorry!)

This one is called the 'heart' flower and I love the way the petals are shaped like hearts.

We've just completed the 6th set of motifs and the 7th is due next week but I doubt I'll be able to start them straight away.


I noticed that a lot of people have been viewing my recipe for Gooseberry and Elderflower jam as the gooseberry's are perfectly ripe now and the Elderflowers are prolific. I picked 3 times the amount of gooseberry's from that same bush this year and I've still got another one to pick which is a different variety.

When I'd finished topping and tailing the fruits I was struck by the contrast between the vivid green gooseberry flesh and their dark brown tails so I played around and shaped them into a heart in an arty-farty way:

Simple pleasures!

Sheep save the day

I don't think I've mentioned my horsey dilemma before so here it is: Kizzy is so old that she has no grinding teeth left and whilst she can bite off the grass she can't chew it enough to digest it so spits it out. As a result, I have to give her chopped and soaked feed 3 times a day so she can just slurp it down. Esther on the other hand is not quite as elderly and is prone to weight gain which can lead to laminitis if not kept in check, plus she has arthritis so I need to keep her weight down.

I used to put what's known as a 'grazing muzzle' on Esther but she learnt to get it off. Then I tried shutting her in her field shelter overnight until she learnt that she could get out of it if she threw all her weight at the entrance (which she did every time Kizzy went out of sight!). The only option seemed to be to divide the field into strips but that's a real nuisance and costly too!

When the last lot of ewes and their lambs were in the next field some of them found their way through a gap in the hedge to graze with the horses. The horses didn't seem to mind and so we asked Mark and Melissa if the sheep could go in with the horses and they were happy with that. This means that they will restrict Esther's grazing and help maintain a good weight.

The other day the ewes and lambs came back (looking much bigger now) and we devised a way of fixing the adjoining field gate open by erecting a small fence which is just wide enough for the sheep and lambs to get through but not for the horses. QED! 

They are all quite happy with the new arrangement and it's lovely to look out of the window and see them all together.

The cheeky lambs come and pick up the bits Kizzy drops from her feed bucket!

Marathon 84

This was the day after the results of the Referendum had been announced and I was still numb with shock. As I was driving to the venue I listened to the radio and I could hardly make sense of what I was hearing. How could this be happening in our country?  I found tears running down my cheeks at one point as it was so sad. I needed to run just to escape from reality for a few hours.

I was heading off to Jeskyns, a beautiful open space of pasture and woodland close to Gravesend. This event had to be re-routed earlier in the year due to heavy rainfall so we never actually got to run through the venue itself so I was looking forward to exploring it.

It's situated alongside the A2 road which leads into London and parts of it are traversed by these giant pylons:

Having collected my number my first stop was to join the queue for the toilets whereupon I bumped into Lisa sporting her new badge for having run 200 marathons.

Back at the registration area our lovely support team were setting up the aid station (I'd baked my usual banana cake which always seems to go down well) - Clive dear, there's no point checking your GPS yet, we haven't started!

These two lovely ladies, Kirsty and Liz, seem to be appearing on here quite frequently!

OK, why are Lisa and Ellen tying eachother together with a chain? No, they are practising for Ellen's latest ultra where she will be running 130 miles whilst attached, by chain, to another runner who she has not met before. She ran a couple of laps with Lisa and then 2 other men for variety and I ran 2/3 of a lap chatting with her but not attached. 

I should have a caption contest for this photo!

It was already hot when we set off at 8:30am but the forecast was for rain at around 11:30am and it would have been quite welcome to help cool is down but of course it never comes when you want it! For marathon distance I had to do 9 laps and on my final lap as I was well within the time limit so I considered going out for an extra lap. Thankfully the lure of chilled Prosecco and Mike at home changed my mind and I didn't as by the time I got back to my car the rain had started.

I took a few photos to try to capture the feel of the place. It was very popular with dog walkers and families, which was nice to see, and there is a bridle path too with some fabulous gallops. As I was nearing the end of my final lap I saw a young girl on her horse cantering around a bend and then galloping down the long straight stretch. The look of sheer joy on her face made me smile as I remember that feeling of freedom.

Our route was undulating and very pleasant, passing through wildflower meadows, sometime son grass, sometimes on wide gravel paths. Some areas had signs indicating dogs must be on the lead, probably because of ground-nesting birds. Even though the loops were just under 3 miles long I always spotted something new on each one so I'll just let the photos do the talking:

Storm clouds gathering!

I was pleased to finish in 5:23:42 and received another medal with slightly different colouring than the one from earlier in the year.

I also got a birthday badge which they'd run out of when I ran on my birthday last week! Such a nice touch.

Next up is marathon 85 in a few days and it's at the place where I bailed out after 2 laps earlier in the year because it was just too muddy. I'm hoping it isn't as bad this time but the forecast is for rain...........

Thursday, June 23, 2016

After the rain

The weather has been rather challenging of late, one minute baking hot, the next torrential rain and we Brits, me included, have been whingeing about it as usual!

There is however a good side to a rainy day in that it makes you look at things differently and that's exactly what happened the other day after I'd checked on the horses first thing. I was struck with how beautiful everywhere looked, with colours intensified, raindrops on petals and leaves so I thought I'd share some of the photos that made my heart sing:

Beautiful Rose Veilchenblau climbing around our front porch

The colours were so intense and the scent was sublime!

Seen next to a golden Jasmine

Reds, yellows & silvers really shone in the dreary light

The deep red leaves of this Cotinus seemed even darker than usual

It's common name is the 'smoke bush' because of the froth of flowers it produces (seen here bejewelled with water droplets)

Luminous, heart-shaped leaves of Catalpa biginoides aurea glowed and the wet leaves seemed to reflect the light.

The leaves of Melianthus major look as of they are studded with diamonds

The strappy leaves of Leymus (which will take over the world if you let it!)

Beautiful ridged leaves of this hosta, 'blue boy' I think (with a few nibbles by slugs!)

Euphorbia 'Humpty dumpty'

Dark red Sedum (I think it's 'Matronalis'?)

The ubiquitous Alchemilla Mollis, beloved by flower-arrangers

The fluffy leaves of Stachys byzantina aka 'Lambs Ears' contrasted with the deep red leaves of Acaena 'Purpurea' (one of my favourite ground-cover plants) and a bronze-leaved Ajuga.

Raindrops on a spiders web

The intense mauve of this geranium stopped me in my tracks - wow!

I was fascinated by how the raindrops dissipated on the needles of this pine

Although the raindrops were pretty, it was the gorgeous new leaves of this Corylopsis pauciflora that caught my eye!

Whilst I was out there I spotted some seeds forming on my beautiful Tragopogon (aka Salsify) so I was quick to capture them in  a paper bag and took them indoors to save them for sowing later:

The seeds each have a parachute attached to them and are carried away by the wind (collectively they look rather like a Dandelion clock but I forgot to take a photo)

Seeds, cleaned and ready to be sown asap to get some plants for free

Ladybird, ladybird.......

A few days ago I spotted this little ladybird larvae on my variegated pineapple mint, which I use for pot pourri. When he was still there a day later I decided to document his transformation as best I could:

Day 1. The grub prepares for the transformation.

Day 3 - starting to shed his old skin

The rest were all taken on day 5 over a period of just over 1.5 hours before he made his first flight. I was pootling back and forth from my potting shed so each time I passed I took a photo and it was fascinating to see the changes:

As I type this there is a massive thunderstorm raging across the UK. On the day in which we are voting to either stay or leave the European Union it feels rather like a portent. Whichever way the vote goes I hope that the hatred which has been generated doesn't flare up again. Yet again I am reminded of John Lennon's words in 'Imagine' - "Imagine all the people living life in peace". If only!

Time for a bit of therapeutic crochet to calm my nerves (which of course reminds me that I must take some photos of what I'm working on at the moment).