Monday, July 30, 2018

Hoorah for the rain!

Oh my goodness we've had rain.  Lovely, penetrating rain all day yesterday and through the night with intermittent bursts this morning.  The garden is heaving a big sigh of relief but the hotter weather is due to reappear again very soon so I'm glad that the water butts are all filling up nicely.  The ponds are all really low though and I doubt the rainfall we've had will make much difference.

I ran a marathon yesterday and it rained quite heavily all the time but it was really refreshing and we were sheltered under the tree canopy for a lot of the time.  I did get soaked to the skin though!  I didn't take the camera with me so there aren't any photos and really it was rather unremarkable except to say it was nice to meet up with lots of running chums for a chat at the start.

The Race Director had to contend with people removing all the signs he'd put out the night before - when I arrived at what I thought was the start there were no signs at all and so I wandered along the road looking for clues only to have equally confused fellow runners pulling up alongside me in their cars!  As registration was from 7:30am onwards and it was already 7:45am it was rather worrying.  Sam and Jimi headed off in their car in one direction and I walked back the other way and spotted the RD erecting signs so it all worked out well in the end as by the time the boys had exhausted their search in the wrong direction all the signs were out.

It was interesting doing what I'd call an 'old school' marathon where the aid stations just have water on offer rather than a picnic and there wasn't a goody bag at the finish, although there were chocolate bars, jelly babies and crisps.  The medal was rather underwhelming too as it was one of the really cheap ones rather than the special bling to which we've become accustomed.  Still, it was an enjoyable route and it stretched out my legs nicely:

That was marathon 153 and I don't have anything booked in my diary for August yet because I was trying to avoid what I thought would be the hottest month - that worked well!

In other news I've finished all the hexies for Frida's Flowers:

At the moment I'm experimenting with ways of joining to get the effect I like best

On the wildlife front there's just so much going on in the garden!  A young fox keeps appearing but manages to avoid my camera.  You might be able to spot him in the orchard grass:

...or as he disappears behind the rose

One evening we sat outside on the patio to cool down.

The badger makes an evening visit to the bird feeders to pick up any bits that have dropped so we wondered if we might see him.  He makes his way up the path through the wild part of the garden, heads across the top of the pond to his latrine (yes, he's dug a pit right in the middle of a walkway - nice!) and then wends his way through the apple trees towards the patio.  I spotted him coming up the path and we sat really still and quiet as we watched his progress through the garden never dreaming he would come right up the the patio with us there.  

He appeared around the side of the fence, looked around, took a few steps forward, sniffing the grass in case there were any titbits, came ever closer until he was just 6 feet away from us by which time we were giggling like mad yet still he came!  He stopped right alongside us to finish off some stale bread we'd put out for the Rooks then made his way over to the bird feeders.  

I didn't have the camera with me on that occasion but I did catch him from the bedroom window the next night as he polished off some leftover potatoes.  We've christened him Mr Snuffles even though we have no idea if he's a male or female.

The bird feeders have been a hive of activity with the young birds learning how to get their treats, especially on the window feeder:

This young Magpie had us in stitches as he tried to work it out!

Whereas this young Starling had no trouble!

I could win a prize for boring everyone with my photos of visitors to the birdbaths!

Parent and baby Starling - we saw the whole family of 10 sitting on our TV aerial one evening.

Joined by a young Sparrow

Mr Woodpigeon is much more cautious and gets there in stages (Mrs Woodpigeon has a nest in the hedge so he's on guard duties):

He lands on a chair on the patio

I'm sure she's watching me from the kitchen

All clear and ready to go

Is she still watching me?

A quick drink

Now for a paddle (he usually has a proper bath in the dish on the ground as it has more room for such a big bird)

Oooh, that feels lovely!

Bliss!  He has such beautiful colours when you see him close-up

I took this photo of the windmill early one morning as the mist filled the valley and was making its way up our field.

You can just make out the outline of the trees in the woods

That same evening we sat outside and enjoyed the most glorious sunset.

I loved the red glow it gave to the barn doors.

I have a couple more talks about dementia to give locally in the next couple of weeks but I can't stop thinking about the London marathon next year and keeping everything crossed that I manage to get a place.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Bits and Bobs

Now where did that little saying originate I wonder?  It's something my mum used to say a lot.  In this case I'm using it to mean an assortment of unrelated things.

First there's the marathon that didn't happen.  This was the weekend before last when temperatures reached 31+ degrees on the Sunday.  The event was at the Cyclopark in Gravesend, a venue I know very well and was well prepared with my hydration, fuel and suncream.

When I arrived at the venue at 8:30am it was already 25 degrees. Hmmm, I thought knowing that I do not fare well in the heat.  The Cyclopark is very exposed and there is no shade.  Traviss and Rachel had ensured there was plenty of water etc available and also gave everyone ice lollies to help us cool down.  By the time we started at 9am the heat was beginning to make its presence known and it felt like breathing in steam as it was very humid plus the tarmac track seemed to reflect the heat up at us.

I had intended to use this event as a test of my pacing as I'm trying to get faster rather than just plodding along all the time.  It's an undulating route so I had to push extra hard but I found my pace was metronomic which was very pleasing.  After 2 hours and 12 miles the heat was starting to get to me and I decided there was no point in just grinding out the miles at a slower pace so I called it a day and headed for home which gave Mike a nice surprise and I got to watch the Wimbledon final!

Tilly was pleased to see me too!

At that point I left, around 11 am, it was already 29 degrees and it reached 32 degrees later with several more people dropping out whilst some others suffered bad heat stroke.  The event had an 8 hour time limit and some people were out in that heat right up until the end which I thought was ill-advised (get me with my sensible head on!).

I have to confess that it's rather liberating not to be chasing marathon numbers at the moment so I'm stuck on number 152 for a while longer.  I have another marathon booked for this coming weekend but if the temperature stays like this then I'll probably give it a miss.  I'm doing all my training runs really early in the morning when the air is cool and fresh but even then I'm struggling sometimes as Hayfever and Asthma are pesky at the moment.

Now for a bit of yarn-related stuff.

I've completed all the full hexagons for Frida's Flowers so I laid them out to see how they looked together:

It's nowhere near as big as a blanket which was intentional as it's been a great way to use up some of my stash of Rowan Cotton Glace and when finished it will be draped over the back of one of the chairs in the music room purely for decoration.

I've just got to do 8 half hexagons for the sides and then decide on a border.

It's the simplest of patterns but I kept misreading one of the rows ending up with the wrong stitch count and having to undo it (twice for goodness sake!)

Now for some knitting.  Yes, I know I don't usually knit much in the Summer months but hey, I'm complicated and my arthritis has been bearable this past week!

What caught my eye?  The Allie wrap by Jennifer Wood, that's what.  

Do I need another shawl/wrap-type thing?  Of course not but I love its quirky shape and it's a good way to use up some 4ply stash although I did need to buy a hank of multi-coloured speckly wool once I chosen my colourway (ahem!).

From left to right: Fyberspates Vivacious 4ply 'Spiced Plum',  Limegreenjelly 'Beauty' sock, Debonnaire 'Bliss', Fat Lace/Skinny Sock  in 'Stormy'.  The latter is slightly thinner than the others so I may knit it with some Kidsilk Haze in a deep grey blue but I'll wait to see how it works on its own first.

I've hardly done any gardening except very early in the morning as it's been too hot out there.  It's impossible to get a fork into the rock-hard clay and there are huge fissures in the soil.  I'm amazed that anything is managing to survive and some of the shallow-rooted plants have shrivelled up completely.  I've been saving rinsing water from the kitchen to give to any of the larger shrubs which are showing distress  but the garden is too large to water everything so I just water any plants in pots using water stored in our many water butts, although even they are getting very low now.

Our tomato plants, all grown outside, are relishing the heat, as are the courgettes.  The Aubergines in my shed are doing remarkably well. 

 I love the colour of their deep-purple stems

The plant below is an experiment to see how it fared outdoors.  It's sited at the front of the house where it gets baked for over half the day and it's doing remarkably well, with nearly as many fruits as those grown under cover.  What's interesting is that its stems are almost black and the leaves have deep purple veins which looks really beautiful.

I love their flowers too.  It looks rather like a Clematis flower.

Whilst I was watering my pots in the shed the other day I spotted this pretty butterfly flapping against the window:

It's a 'Speckled Wood', so named because it spends most of its time in woodland

It's wings look furry don't they and they were soft as silk

Last weekend we attended an event at a local farm where a Moth Trap had been set the night before and was then opened in the morning and the moths identified by a local expert.  It was fascinating and there were over 45 different moths identified which didn't include any of the micro-moths.  I'll let the photos do the talking:

Assembled and waiting for the opening of the trap

The moths took shelter in the egg boxes overnight which were lifted out individually for identification.  Some were left in the egg boxes and passed around whilst others were placed carefully into transparent containers, passed around and then released.

The lady in pink was recording all the specimens identified - 45 not including any of the many micro-moths

This Poplar Hawkmoth was the largest specimen

After a while he got fed up of sitting in the sun and went and hid under a chair

Then he sat on my hand for a while, whirring his wings to warm them up before flight

He was so soft and a magnificent specimen

Buff Tip - he looks like a twig from the side (see below)!

Buff Ermine

Large Emerald

Ruby Tiger

I can't remember all the names of these but they're pretty so I've included them anyway:

It was a truly magical experience and it really made me want to go out with a torch again one evening to see what we could spot.  I used to do that because I always grow lots of flowers pollinated by moths and it's amazing all the different ones you can see.

Now we wait to see how hot the weekend is before I make a decision about my marathon.............