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Saturday, 30 November 2013

Overgrown kitten update

At what point do I stop calling them kittens? Harry and Bertie are just over seven months old now, and about 3/4 the size of Hallie. They are like teenagers, in and out and treating the house like a hotel, somewhere to sleep and expect food whenever it suits them. But they are still very kittenish and great fun. They have practically identical markings and are the same height, but Bertie is very skinny and appears very long and lanky, whereas Harry is a chunky boy with enormous paws and great thick tail. He's going to be a big lad when he's fully grown.

I didn't take many photos in October due to going away, but have made up for it in November. 

Hallie and Bertie, early in October.

Mid October and three could just about fit in the large basket. But only just.

Whereas as few weeks later Bertie still looked very little in it on his own.

Hallie, just because I have a tendancy to take
pictures of the kittens rather than her, poor girl!

Harry on our bed with his little seal toy.

And being given a good wash and brush up by Bertie.

Bertie gets the hang of this tree climbing business now.

Harry blending in with the autumn leaves.
(and spoils the picture because his collar keeps coming untucked - time for adult collars now.)

More recently. Two overgrown kittens just fit the large basket.

But it's a tight fit in the small basket!

Which often gets used in unusual ways.

It's been a long time since we had this many cats and now the youngsters are a lot bigger it's not always so great when they want to sleep on the bed with us.... on us..... or start fighting on top of us.... oh and not to mention that apparently they have been escaping under the fence somewhere and all three were spotted by a neighbour in their garden. Little tinkers! And of course as all cat owners know, all those times they come inside dripping wet and decide that your clothes (especially fluffy dressing gowns) are a great place to sit on to dry themselves. But it's great having three cats - I really missed having more than one. :-)

Happy Caturday!

Monday, 25 November 2013

Tree surgery

The tree man has been and gone and we have finally cleared up and all the cut wood has been collected and stacked. I was rather disappointed at missing him cutting down nearly all the trees as I'd had to go out that first morning - this guy works so fast! I did however get to watch him dealing with the damaged weeping willow which was the most exciting to watch.

It was rather exhausting for us as we'd agreed with him that we would drag all the branches dotted about the garden/woodland up to his chipping machine - orginally he had quoted for hire of a tractor to haul it around the woodland to where the trees had been felled, but this was really not practical, let alone the fact a tractor would completely trash the lawn. Only you don't really realise quite how many branches there are, even off the tall and spindly trees that were being felled, until you start to clear them up.

Sadly but with good timing, one of our apple trees decided to uproot and fall over during windy weather whilst he was here, so again we made use of his chipper and hauled all the branches over the road from the orchard and up our steep sloping drive. That was killing! One good thing was that we had a 3 day break before he came back to finish off the work.... oh to be young and fit! He also cut our huge Leylandii hedges, a job that my OH used to do but eventually gave up as some parts are about 3 metres high and really deep, and unless you do this kind of thing for a living and/or are built like Arnold Schwarzenegger used to be, it's rather too much!

Most of my photos are pretty naff as I had little time and only took snaps with my compact camera. I was also in a hurry as I wanted to keep some of the chippings and was lucky that he had some really nice ash chips in his truck from a previous job which were not full of leaves. So I gained muscles shovelling them out of his truck and I've spread them all over my veg patch paths hiding all the mud and weeds, so for the moment it looks rather smart!

Except the darn peach tree and currants are now dropping leaves over my smart paths!

These machines cost a fortune but they are amazing to watch and so quick and efficient
and all the chippings just shoot into the back of the truck.
That pile of branches is a fraction of what we dragged around the garden.

We also had two sycamores taken out of the chicken run - this one in particular that was right up by the shed was getting far too big and all the rain water that is collected off the roof into a 500 litre water butt was always tainted by something from the tree (aphids?) and the water was brown and stinking.

Bye bye sycamore.

The poor old Granny Smith apple that is no more. I collected even more
apples from it as my OH cut off all the branches!

Oak - seems a shame but these trees were so overcrowded
and all growing into each other and other trees which
I wanted to preserve and allow them space to grow,
not to mention allowing more light in.

The following are the pictures I took of him working up in the weeping willow. It's hard to take pics when the sky is grey and not end up with silhouettes. In this picture it's hard to see but the broken branch is to the right of his head just balancing on another branch (which also had to be pruned because that had a lot of damage too), and the branch it had split from, to the left of his head, had such a long rip he had to cut that off too. So it now looks a bit bare and odd shaped and I just hope it will regenerate. I have seen weeping willows after radical pruning grow new branches so fingers crossed!

I was glad to see he'd tied himself to the tree
but I think a fair amount of balance was needed as well.

Eeeks! That branch was wobbling too!

The mess!

Afterwards - nice clean cuts but with a rather bare bit which of course is the
bit that used to hang out over the pond.

And here is just some of the wood stacked - one and a half stacks behind Hallie of wood that doesn't need splitting, and a fraction of the big logs (lichen covered) to the right that do need splitting. There's tons more piles of wood dotted about the place waiting until my OH's back recovers enough to get the hydraulic log splitter out. But no rush as this wood needs to dry out for several years. So we gained about €200 worth of firewood, mixed oak, sycamore, elm and willow out of what we spent having this work done.

Hallie wanted to be in the picture.

Now we await next summer to see just how more light is let into the woodland area which had become very dark; I can already see more light and openness in the beach area next to the pond which had become too overgrown with trees.

A conifer stump that the same guy cut down about 3 years ago
with Turkey Tail fungus growing on top of the stump and
unknown fungus around the outside.

Here's a link to the tree guy's website and I'd recommend him to anyone needing any of the services he offers, as he's quick, efficient, cleans up after himself and is very professional and good at what he does. And his prices are very reasonable! He is based near Fougeres.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Berkshire part 2

My sister in law took me along to a craft fair held at the fitness club (open to the public) at Wellington College. I'd never even heard of this place and was absolutely astounded by the magnificent building/s. It is in fact a public school which is not surprising! Bit different from the average state school..... For those who don't understand the British public school system, public means completely the opposite - they are private, very exclusive, incredibly expensive, and traditionally boarding, schools. Think Eton College, where all the young princes go to school! We're talking that kind of establishment.,_Berkshire

We had a great walk around the outside of the buildings and some of the grounds, which in fact extends to 400 acres. It was really quite an eye-opener as to how the other half live.

As a fun comparison, I found a picture of my old school - it was a girls only, free state school, with a good academic reputation, but with this hideous 50s or 60s 'tower block' as we called it, at the front. Just a tad different from the one above!

School's new homes plan to pay off debt
Photo credit: Bucks Free Press (photographer unknown).

The craft fair was really good with some great original crafts there and I got a ceramic pot with a lid with chickens on, which my SIL bought me as a Xmas pressie. Some more pics of the buildings around the college:

Something I really noticed in England, most particularly around the parts of Berkshire where we visited, was the absolute abundance of berries on so many plants. Very attractive and great for the birds!

My SIL spotted this fungus - I hadn't seen one for years! This is the original 'toadstool' - just google toadstool and all the images will be this spotty red and white one. 

Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria).

My sneaky SIL took a photo of me taking a photo of it. She's been into photography for years and I used to think, oh come on, for goodness sake, stop taking photos because we are taking forever to walk around this park/garden/town/whatever and I'm getting bored to tears. Errrrm. That's me now!

And to finish off, the whole Outlaw family out for fish and chips. (Inlaw - Outlaw, get it?) :-)

I'm happy because I got my fix of scampi and chips!
Brother in law on the left. OH doesn't look amused.

And BLEAGH! They sell mushy peas at this place. Double yuk. Even my Polish SIL ordered some!

And that's the end of my English trip in photos. Hope you enjoyed them - makes a bit of a change from bugs. ;-)

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Back to England - Berkshire part 1

How the time has flown this last week! We've been busy with our tree man doing some work and have had a lot to do as well, so I hadn't noticed it was a week since I last posted. I've two posts to finish off the photos taken in England and then the blog will be back in my garden again.

After rural Somerset we moved on to suburban Berkshire to stay with my brother and sister in law. They had fetched my parents in law down to stay with them/us as my father in law is not well and can't drive any more. This was our main reason for going to England to spend time with them. As my sister in law works shift work and has odd days off during the week we were able to get out for a bit of retail therapy, and the occasional times when it was sunny we went for a few walks. Luckily for us this lake featured below is only a few alley ways along round the backs of the houses from where we were staying and it's a nice place to visit. People feed the ducks and the waterfowl are therefore quite tame, as you can see from all the swan pictures, who pretty much followed us around the lake. There were seven cygnets swimming about with their parents which was rather cute. How they can be called ugly ducklings I don't know! 

The trees around here are huge and you'll see in a photo further down what it is like in the road where my brother in law lives. There are Scots Pines and other trees so tall that I couldn't get far enough away to get them in one photo, hence the two photos below!

Just to make a change there was a solitary Canada Goose which also made a beeline for us from the other side of the lake, hoping to be fed I imagine.

And a few pics of us....

The road where my brother in law lives. So when we heard about that storm that was forecast I was a little bit concerned.... in fact it wasn't bad here and no trees fell, thank goodness!

Another sunny afternoon we visited Wildmoor Heath - I was rather excited reading the noticeboard which mentioned Dartford Warblers, a bird I've never seen, and the bog area is supposed to be good for dragonflies and damselflies, but we were rather disappointed. I know it was late in the year for insects but the sum total of birds, bugs and flowers was one clump of heather, a solitary robin in the car park, one fly seen by my OH and three midges by me. :-(

But it was still a nice walk, and there's a good mix here of woodland, heathland, and marshland/bog.

Eventually I turned my attentions to fungi as there was more of that about than anything else!

I thought the following were Parasol mushrooms, but having looked at Google images now I'm not so sure. These are the immature ones and the photo below this is the more mature fungi. They were pretty cool, whatever they are.

I guess it must have been raining somewhere.... and it even looks like a double rainbow!