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Sunday, 22 February 2015

Kiss my arse goodbye!

Well the time has come.... tomorrow I'm off to the hospital after lunch and my surgery is on Tuesday. I haven't been in the mood for blogging or even reading your blogs this last week. Instead I've been perusing blogs and youtube videos relating to my surgery* and what happens afterwards, and getting inspiration from young slim pretty things with bags, who are happy to demonstrate publically how easy it is to change the bag and to wear all your favourite clothes, plus lots of tips and hints. I hadn't even realised that it's not just people with cancer who have colostomy and ileostomy bags, but many people who suffer from Inflammatory Bowel Disease too. The more I look into the subject, the more I know I'm not alone. It's still scary but when I see that twenty somethings can live with it and look cool and sexy it does help tremendously!

I'm sharing a picture that one of my photoshopping friends did for me a little while back which made me laugh. Just so you know it's not ME who forgot the apostrophe! ;-)

I shall catch up with you all during my convalescence as I won't be doing a lot else - the craftsters amongst you will be pleased to know that I have dug out my chunky cardigan that I started knitting a few years ago and haven't touched since! It'll be good to be able to do something constructive rather than just read and watch TV. I've no idea when I'll be able to sit comfortably again so blogging may well be on hold for a while - I may be able to write a few lines via my Kindle to update you but I won't be taking photos for a while or doing any proper blog posts from my desktop.

So for now I'm signing out and I'll see you on the other side. xx


Sunday, 15 February 2015

Garden birds and a surprise moth

Yesterday I heard the first bird song of the year - a chaffinch singing. I don't count robins as they sing all through the winter. Other birds are getting more noisy in their calls and it's a nice thought knowing that in about four weeks time, not only will we be hearing the dawn chorus of the all year round birds, but the summer residents will be returning and we'll be hearing the chiffchaffs, followed by the return of the swallows in about five weeks, and then the blackcaps towards the end of March, whose melodic song is my favourite.

I've been attempting some bird photography but trying to get close enough to the bird feeders to get shots is not easy, and only the tits would brave feeding with me anywhere nearby. So I managed to persuade my OH to move one of the feeding stations closer to the kitchen window, so I could watch the woodpeckers and hopefully get some better shots. He grumbled about the lawn being trashed and having to move it every couple of days to prevent this, but I won out!

A Dunnock which actually sat still in a willow tree and posed; unfortunately in willows
(and many other trees) there are always branches in the darn way!

Mostly shot through double glazing - clockwise from top left:
Blackbird, Nuthatch, Starling, and the Dunnock again which was shot outside.

A Jay.

Before moving this bird feeder this is best I could get at max zoom as it was miles away....

And now.... Great Spotted Woodpecker. There is room for improvement if I clean
the windows and better still when it's warm enough for me to open them,
though the birds might see me then.

Woody again, this time with a tripod, but still through double glazing.

No need the caption the following which are lots of blue tits. We have so many of these little cuties there must be eight of them for every great tit. They are the most abundant bird in the garden, and even outnumber the sparrows! What's interesting though is that since we moved the feeder, there seems to be even more birds attracted to it!

After moving the bird feeder, I can get the dogwood in the background which adds an interesting colour to the bokeh! The next two birds are great tits which I find much harder to capture.

Finally managed to get a decent one of a Blue Tit and a Great Tit together!

Since taking this photo my OH has fixed the wobbly metal holding up the feeders and we bought a new fatball holder, which is bigger. The old one has been hung up from an arch near where this home made feeding station originally was. I was feeling a bit worried that I'd moved the food further away from trees, and the birds were still flitting backwards and forwards to the trees for cover whilst eating their beakfuls, expending their precious energy, just so that I could see and photograph them better. But now that there's another lot of fatballs near the trees I feel better. We've also got another feeding station with a seed dispenser and a hanging table, elsewhere in the garden, not far from our boundary hedge and my wiggly hazel tree, which is the one the sparrows like as they like the hedge. I've also counted up to 15 tits on this feeding station at the same time, but six birds is the best I've managed so far in a photo!

The feeding station is basically a broom handle stuck into an outdoor
parasol base, with a piece of metal put through the hole
and bent to fit and to hold up the feeders. Voila!

Changing the subject completely, I had an unexpected surprise in the form of this pretty moth. I found it in the spare bedroom where I overwinter my geraniums. I can only guess the pupa came in with the pots and the relative warmth inside (even though they are in an unheated room) caused it to eclose? I believe it is a Plain Golden Y (Autographa jota) although the Y shape marking is more of a blob. These moths should be on the wing from about June to August, not in February!* It must have been thirsty because I had been watering the plants and had some water on my hands, and when I picked it up it started to drink the moisture, and I could feel its proboscis moving around over my hand, which was fun! So I tipped a little more water into my hand and it drunk deeply. As I didn't know what to do with it (putting it outside wasn't an option as it would have died from the cold) I made up some sugar water which I blobbed on a saucer, but I never did see it again. 

Thanks to Countryside Tales, who knows a LOT about moths, the correct ID of this moth is the Golden Twin-spot (Chrysodeixis chalcites), which flies as late as November. It is classed as a pest as the larvae eat a number of food crops as well as other plants. Thanks CT! 

I've about given up with the gardening now as being active again has caused my tendonitis to flare up, in a new place (from lower back down into buttock! My bloody bum, I won't say it will be the death of me because that's chancing my luck but it's pissing me off!!!), as well as niggling in the old place (thigh). Dammit. It actually got better when I was unable to garden much through the late summer and autumn. I need to review the way I garden as I do far too much squatting and gardening low down as I like to see what's going on, like plants that have self seeded, but the enforced rest period after my op should at least mean it all eases before I attempt gardening again. With a hoe and/or my kneely pad thingy which reverses into a low stool! Though I've just discovered these really cool low garden stools on wheels which also hold your tools, which might be a great idea..... 

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Meet Randy!

We have a new addition to the menagerie - a cockerel! It's been a bit quiet since Freddy died and I always said I'd be happy to take on another cockerel, especially if I was saving it from the pot. Well guess what, last week I luckily noticed a plea on facebook from a friend of a friend who I'd met once at a party. She has lots of chooks and breeds Buff Orpingtons and had a six month old cockerel who needed a new home, or else her husband was going to turn him into pie, and they only live about 20 minutes away. How could I resist?

As soon as we let him out at home, he jumped straight on top of one of my little red hens so it was hardly difficult to find a name for him! He dwarfs my bog standard 'red hens' and is a good size match for my enormous North Holland Blue. I hadn't noticed how big he is at Sue's house, because all the Buff Orpingtons were large including the females, so neither he nor his father seemed particularly big. 

Randy's father is the one in the foreground on the left. His name is Coq au Vin!

Glad I wore my old gardening jacket as I didn't know
I was going to be holding him for a photo shoot!

Back home and all is going very well. He's settled in fine and the girls seem perfectly happy and going about their henny business as usual. Randy is a little timid with us at the moment and is a bit wary when he sees one of the cats, as he's used to dogs, not cats. But this is so much easier than introducing new females and none of that pecking and being mean, as I think given his size the pecking order was established straight away! Randy is not 100% Buff Orpington as they don't have white feathers in their tails, but I think he's more interesting looking because of it.

With the girls - Marleen the North Holland Blue is the large grey speckeldy one.

Blurred action as Andrea gets a seeing to! ;-)

Where am I?

Only decent picture I could get of one of the hens - not sure if this is Gaby or Carly as they are
very similar and I can't tell them apart! She's been stuck in a half moult for a while but
at least she is still laying.

I've taken a few more photos of Randy since but it was on one of the days when the icy NE wind was blowing so he looks amusing with his feathers all ruffled.

Windswept wattles!

Oooh that wind's a bit chilly up me bum!

Ahh I thought that was water for the dogs!

Tastes good enough to me!

When he's a bit more settled I'll let him out into the garden with the others so he can have a good roam around and eat grass, and it'll be interesting when he gets to meet the cats properly...... it might actually teach the cats - particularly Bertie the hunter - a lesson if Randy gets aggressive, and hopefully they'll leave the chooks alone in future.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Our pathetic excuse for snow, garden jobs, flowers and getting out a bit

First of all Harry would like to say thank you for your healing vibes as he is feeling much better now. It certainly took a few days for the medication to really kick in but he's now bright eyed and bushy tailed and by tomorrow I expect he'll be back to racing around like a loony with the others. Phew! As for me I've been feeling fine this week and have been getting out and about. We had a teensy bit of snow on Tuesday morning, the most pathetic excuse I've ever seen. I could see photos all over facebook from people in Brittany and they all got far more than we did (not that I mind! I like a good snow cover once a winter but that's about it because we can't get anywhere when it snows here).

At least there is grass over the septic tank now!

Despite the cold I've managed a bit more garden clearing up and you can see from the following photos the sort of mess you get that needs tidying up before new growth starts to sprout. There's a fine line though between tidying and leaving shelter for the bugs, but I reckon most of the tall dead stalks can be cut off without that being a problem for the overwintering insects. And the reason I'm trying desperately to do as much as possible now? Because I saw my surgeon last week and he told me I wouldn't be allowed to do any gardening for THREE MONTHS!!!!! I nearly fell off my chair, I was horrified. :-(

Irises and Golden Rod.

Taken through double glazing but my front bed has been irritating me for ages cos it was such a mess!

I haven't finished but after a couple of hours out here the day before the snow
(yes that's snow) it looks a lot better.

One plant I won't chop back yet are the Sedums,
as they still look really decorative.

And I need to leave some of the Verbena bonariensis. I was amazed to see these Blue Tits still
eating seed as I'd imagined the seed would have long gone after months of rain and wind!
Not good pics as it was about an hour before dusk and I had to take these through double glazing.

Just another pic taken through the living room windows.
It's warmer indoors. ;-)

OK I did brave the cold and took a few photos of new flowers and Hydrangeas which always look great when the flowers have dried out.

Japonica or Flowering Quince.

Heartsease Viola, Primroses and a Hydrangea petal.

Dried out Lacecap Hydrangea which is another plant
I don't prune back until about April.

Snowdrops under my Wiggly Hazel.

And some bulbs coming up in pots.

Just for fun, this is what happens when you've got a macro lens on and a cat comes too close...

I said I'd been out and about. What I got up to on Thursday afternoon I'll tell you about in another post. Today though we went to Decathlon which is a large sports store because it occurred to me it would be a good idea to get some more trackie/dance pants for after my op, because I'll want something nice and loose and soft around my middle! The fact I came out with another fluffy fleece and a tee shirt has got nothing to do with it, and quite how my OH came out with a bag full of clothes and shoes when it was me who was supposed to be shopping I do not know..... and they say it's us women who are shopaholics!

And because in about 10 days I've got to go on a really boring low fibre diet for a week before my op, and who knows when I'll be able to get out again after, or even when I'll be able to eat spicy food again, I've persuaded my OH (it wasn't difficult, funnily enough) that we should eat out a couple of times beforehand. This Chinese resto is an all you can eat buffet place and we always come out absolutely stuffed. :-)

Left is my starter and right my main course. I forgot to take a pic of my dessert, but most of it
was that Chinese nougat which I always steal and bring home in a napkin to munch on at home
in the evening, as I don't need any dinner! As you can see, I've got my appetite back.

And this is just a church taken through the windscreen
in the small town of Melesse on the way home.

I still have most of last year's fruit in my freezers, most of which can go hang as I really can't be bothered with making any jams and jellies. But we do both love blackcurrant cordial which is easy to make, so I'm currently simmering 2.5kg of currants with some water which will be hung in a jelly bag overnight, then the juice reheated with sugar tomorrow. I follow the River Cottage recipe, although if you use the amount of sugar they suggest it is overly sweet and sickly, so I only add about half the amount in the recipe. As I'm freezing the cordial I don't need the sugar as a preservative - but even if I was bottling and needed extra sugar I still wouldn't add as much as they suggest!

(from River Cottage cookbook)

2kg Fruit

Place your fruit in a large saucepan. For each 1kg blackcurrants add 600ml water. Bring to the boil crushing the fruit with a masher or wooden spoon.

Cook gently until fruit is soft and juices flowing - will take anything up to 45 mins depending on fruit. Remove from the heat.

Scald a jelly bag or fine tea towel and suspend over a large bowl. Tip the fruit in and leave to drip overnight.

Measure the resulting juice and pour into a clean pan. For every litre juice add 700g sugar (or to taste). Heat the mixture gently to dissolve the sugar, then remove from the heat. 

Pour immediately into warm sterilised bottles leaving a 1cm gap at the top. Seal with screw-top or cork.

Will keep for several months (if want to keep for longer you will need to sterilise the bottles in a water bath immediately after bottling).

Blackcurrants before simmering.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Poor Harry is unwell (and other kitty and hen piccies)

My poor Harry, the ginger cat, is unwell. He's been under the weather since Friday morning. I'd noticed he hadn't got up and come into the kitchen for some grub when I got up, like they normally do. By mid morning he was still sleeping on the sofa by which time I asked my OH if he'd seen him get up and eat anything. By afternoon I was worrying a bit, but I do know cats, and short spells of being unwell/off their food is not entirely unusual. So we kept an eye on him. He did eat a bit but seemed very slow and not very with it, so as it was nearly the weekend we decided we'd watch him carefully and if no signs of improvement, we'd take him to the vet on Monday.

There he was checked over and the vet said he had a slight temperature and a bit of swelling in his lower abdomen. He was given 3 jabs for various things and we were told that he should start to improve within about 48 hours. Of course as soon as we came back from the vet, he legged it through the cat flap and then spent the next couple of hours in the garden! This was yesterday afternoon and the sun was shining and I'd planned on attacking my front flower/herb bed outside my living room window. I also let the hens out to play, so his brother Bertie (the skinny tabby who is the best hunter of the three) enjoyed chasing the hens around - he's a right devil. He's the one who was chasing the Red Legged Partridge with feathers in his mouth. He's even caught moorhens, the little sod, although I did manage to free them from his pitbull jaws and set them free none the worse for wear. You'd never imagine it as butter wouldn't melt and he's the most lovable of the three demanding noisy attention and the most amount of strokes of the three.

By the way I had a great afternoon out snipping and clipping and watching and taking photos of my menagerie and the garden in fairly nice weather, but more about that in another post.

Harry looking sad. :-(

From another angle, and I really need to wash that blankie
but they won't forgive me if I take it away!

And another let's take over the sofa day. Actually that's every day!

Thankfully I managed some photos of Bertie this time. He was acting loopy and jumping up the tree, back down again and repeat about 10 times. I finally managed to get a couple of non blurry photos! The trouble with winter is that you can't up the shutter speed very much due to the low light levels.

I'm about to jump up (this is Harry's hugging tree by the way)!

And up he went, only to come down and repeat this over and over.
Little things please little minds.

And here's Harry out yesterday after the vet visit.
He did seem to enjoy the fresh air.

In front of the garage - and aaaargh yet another mess as you can see - Irises needing tidying.

Bertie again in the Stipa grasses - I have pulled all the dead bits
out of these grasses so they will live to see another summer..... :-)

Hallie up on the garage roof next to my Photinia - this is not the
bog standard Red Robin but a variegated variety called
Photinia cassini 'Pink Marble', which in my opinion is much prettier.
Although it needs a prune.....

The hens running through my asparagus bed which my OH aka the Under Gardener
weeded and added compost to. Although you'd never know because
between the cats and the hens digging holes in it it looks a mess again!

And the three red hens again - they were still being chased by naughty Bertie!

Today Harry is no better; he was sick last night and is still quiet, sleepy and sad so I really hope he will pick up as I hate having sick animals. Please send him healing vibes! At least I'm feeling a lot better so only one sickly 'person' in the house. I've finally made it to the hairdressers to have my well overdue blonde highlights put in and a cut after about 10 weeks. It'd got so I barely recognised the mousey brown person staring back at me in the mirror. ;-)


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Honey Bee on Sedum

Honey Bee on Sedum

Dewy Web

Dewy Web



Broad Bodied Chaser

Broad Bodied Chaser

Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth

Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth

Cats past and present

Cats past and present

Cats Past and Present

Cats Past and Present

Holly Blue Butterfly

Holly Blue Butterfly

Swallowtail Butterfly

Swallowtail Butterfly







Marmalade Hoverfly

Marmalade Hoverfly

Peacock Butterfly

Peacock Butterfly

Swallowtail Caterpillar

Swallowtail Caterpillar