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Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Poppies taking over the veg patch, our few veggies this year and some dragonflies

Lots more damselflies have appeared around the pond and from some zoomed in photos I've identified White Legged and Azure damselflies, as well as the Blue-tailed which has been around all month. Have also seen a Brilliant Emerald dragonfly which perched nicely for me, despite my reading that they rarely perch! Also seen a Clubtail, plus there is the usual big green one who refuses to ever perch, and I've seen one Broad Bodied Chaser. At least they make up for the lack of variety with the butterflies in my garden, although I've started seeing some Skippers appearing now along with Marbled Whites, and Painted Ladies back again. I've just seen a Brimstone this afternoon, which must be a newly emerged second brood one. So maybe things are looking up after all!

Finally, I think I've managed to ID this one as the Western Clubtail (Gomphus pulchellus),
which I think is different from the one in my last post.

More pics that I managed to get this afternoon.

Another view of the Western Clubtail - any experts out there who know better please let me know!

Brilliant Emerald (Somatochlora metallica) dragonfly, male.

Close up of the Brilliant Emerald - apparently my pond with overhanging willows for shade,
and leaf and twig litter on the pond bed and nearby mature trees, is their perfect habitat!

The veg patch has been looking stunning with all the self seeded Oriental Poppies flowering. It's a shame their season is so short lived though. Onto veggies, I couldn't understand why my 'new' potatoes were being so tardy and had only just started flowering, especially as Belle de Fontenay don't normally flower. The mystery was solved when I dug up the first plant and discovered large pinky red spuds that look just like the maincrop Desiree that I normally grow, but chose not to this year. Hmmmm. On closer inspection it seemed that some plants without flowers had different sized and coloured leaves, and digging up one of them revealed my B de Fs (or something similar). How completely bizarre! I bought them from the usual garden centre and I didn't notice anything unusual when putting them to chit in egg boxes. So it seems we will have some maincrops after all!

Something went horribly wrong with my spuds this year!

Our meagre crops this year - 4 whole parsnip plants germinated!
Various lettuce being successionally sown, carrots and some more
coriander has been sown. Courgettes/zucchini out of
the picture are just about ready to have the first ones harvested.

Ladybird pupa which just happens to be on a parsnip leaf!

I should mention that I have a lovely English neighbour who has been around several times and weeded my messy strawberry beds, and is going to tackle the asparagus bed next. I'm glad that she was happy to pick raspberries and blackcurrants for herself, because I hate seeing things going to waste, and it's the least I can do to say thanks!

Opium Poppies (Papaver somniferum).

The Coriander patch gone mad with Opium Poppies
and Borage growing through it -
the pollinators absolutely love all these flowers!

These Opium Poppies come in singles and doubles and all colours of red and mauve.

In the shade under the Greengage tree, with Borage
and Sweet William in the background.

Opium Poppy and a Honey Bee.

Bumble Bees early this morning going crazy for the pollen!
Love the orange pollen baskets.

Poppies going over - still attractive until the seed heads start to dry out.

Wild Poppies and Phacelia self seeded by the compost bins.

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) which has self seeded all over the place,
with a male Thick Legged Flower Beetle (Oedemera nobilis).

Scarily the temps are supposed to rise well into the 30s this week, which is just too hot, and means lots of watering.  I hope I'll feel well enough to help K - I have already done some hosepiping as I can't lift full watering cans yet. He has put shade cloth over the lettuce as my first cos lettuce had already started to bolt and it's such a disappointment waiting three months for your fave crunchy lettuce to heart up, only for them to bolt just as they are ready - or worse, before they even mature!

I meant to add this to my previous post - seen from up the lane
across the maize field, the thickly wooded area
is the end of my woodland garden.

I was missing these guys but was happy to find three final instar Swallowtail
(Papilio machaon) caterpillars in my Bronze Fennel in front of the house.

Bertie takes every opportunity to steal my cushions as soon as I stand up.....

I love you, Mummy.

Cheeky monkey!

Meanwhile Harry finds a cosy shady nest.....

I'll finish with two firsts.....our first courgette/zucchini and the first meal that I have cooked entirely by myself in over four months! This lot was slathered in olive oil, roasted for about 40 mins and then served with lots of cubed feta cheese, which goes so well with roasted Mediterranean veggies. Some baguette to mop up the juices of course (it's always better with juicy home grown tomatoes, but we've got to wait a while for them). Keith was very pleasantly surprised, and I felt so good to have achieved something! And I scoffed my share and could have eaten more..... :-)


Sunday, 28 June 2015

Lots of interesting things to share!

I'm behind with my blogging - that's not due to lack of things to talk about or photos - more that when I was feeling grotty I couldn't find the energy or motivation, and as soon as I felt well, I was far more interested in being outdoors than sitting at a computer sorting and processing photos, and writing the stories to go with them! When you only get say three or four good days in a fortnight, you've got to get your priorities right. Especially when the weather is good! Health update at the end as usual, and it's more positive this time I'm happy to say.

I'll start with this Privet Hawkmoth that my OH found the other day at the base of the metal swings frame. We have actually seen it here before many moons ago but this is the first time I've got to photograph one. Afterwards I moved it to a shaded wall where it seemed happy to settle. We have no privet around here but their larvae feed on other plants including ash and lilac, which there are plenty of here.

Privet Hawkmoth (Sphinx ligustri).

Privet Hawkmoth (Sphinx ligustri), seemed happier to be in the shade on the house wall.

Then there's the story of my tadpoles. Well after we had an enormous amount of rain a few weeks back, they seemed to have disappeared! I did come across about 20 sheltering under an overhanging bramble, but last time I looked they were none there at all. I wonder if this is the culprit? I've no idea if they eat tadpoles, but the tads I last saw still only had hind legs and couldn't surely have become froglets in such a short space of time, could they? Also as sods law would have it, I was out with my DSLR and macro lens and no zoom just when I needed it.

Grass snake (Natrix natrix).

However as Keith (think I'm going to start calling him by his name now; all these years of calling the poor guy my OH seems a bit impersonal, specially as most of you know I'm Mandy rather than my nom de plume!) was mowing near the lake the other day he started noticing teeny things hopping about. Sure enough, they were tiny froglets! (Hope none got injured by the mower). So we had some fun watching them and trying to take photos, which wasn't easy as no sooner did I get focus lock but they'd hopped out of my viewfinder! I hope just a few survive - seems crazy considering the amount of tadpoles we started with but I guess tons get eaten by all sorts of things. I'm not very clued up about tadpoles and frogs to be honest. The amount of hours I've  been spending trying to ID Odonata (damsels and dragons) lately hasn't given me time to learn about tadpoles.

Teensy froglet, about 1cm long!

Back to the country lanes and Keith's cycle rides - here are some great photos he's taken. He also discovered several Melodious Warblers along the track where I went for a walk with him (I've been back twice, more about that later). We once saw M. Warblers the other side of France near the Doubs river about 13 years ago, although we were never sure if they could have been Icterine Warblers, both of which have yellowy underparts. It was rather exciting as we had no idea that eastern Brittany was within their range. They are quite easy to ID by their song, if you are away from reedbeds, as they sound a bit like a demented Reed Warbler! Wikipedia describes the sound as a pleasant babbling. Well, it's a bit of both. :-)

Melodious Warbler (Hippolais polyglotta).

And a couple more pics of Stonechats - I haven't been lucky enough to see one yet.

Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola), male.

Stonechat (Saxicola rubicola), male.

These pictures are the icing on the cake - I chuckle every time I look at the surprised expressions on both the fox cub and the unsuspecting rabbit's face! Bunny just appeared, then was off like speedy gonzales, and K was very lucky to be already in the process of taking photos of the young fox when it all happened.

One startled bunny and
one rather confused fox cub.

When I got the opportunity to get back to this track in the sunshine, I'd spotted my first Skipper before even getting out of the car! I was really happy to see both Large and Small Skippers here. The second time I was able to get some pics of the Small Skipper so could confirm that it was indeed that and not an Essex Skipper. Also saw something minute and blue grey which flew into a clump of Greater Birds-foot Trefoil (Lotus pedunculatus) and promptly disappeared from view. After searching in vain we touched the plant and it flew out and in between K's legs! By a process of elimination, I think it could have been a female Short-tailed Blue, which are often found around said plant it landed on as it's one of the host plants, and I know it was smaller than a Small Skipper as I'd just been looking at them. We don't have chalky soil here so I don't think it was a Small Blue. It may forever remain a mystery. Also saw my first Marbled Whites of the year. Back to my photos again.

Large Skipper (Ochlodes sylvanus), male.

Small Skipper (Thymelicus sylvestris) - the tips of the antennae showing red differentiate
it from the Essex Skipper, whose undersides to the tips are black.

This lovely dragonfly was accomodating and happy to pose for a number of photos - how often does that happen? :-)

I think this is a Clubtail of the Gomphus genus,
but unsure as to which one just yet!

Yours truly Skipper spotting.

I'll finish off with a few woodpecker photos from home taken through the kitchen window. I have more garden photos to share and various damsels and dragons but I'll make that another post, because nearly two weeks of photos is quite a lot to whittle down to one blog post!

Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis).

Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major).

Dad feeding juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major).

Health Update
Things are getting better - my non abscess is properly healing and the hole in my perineal scar has shrunk enormously and I have hardly any pain from there at all. After three months of that I'm breathing a sigh of relief, I can tell you! I'm now more bendy and can do some garden jobs which involve bending down low. The worst is getting down on one knee though as I've lost so much weight and muscle that it's hard work getting up again!

I saw my Oncologist on Weds after having an abdominal pelvic ultrasound where nothing out of the ordinary was found. I told him I was concerned about my weight and muscle loss and that I couldn't see myself coping with another six sessions of chemo without ending up being hospitalised as I was bound to lose a load more weight. I asked for a two week extra break between round 7 and 8. At first he wasn't happy to give me more than one week, but then when he checked my blood test results from the day before, he was happy with it and agreed to the two weeks. All my red blood cells and platelets are still going slowly up in the right direction since starting the jabs and meds for anaemia. And my cancer marker test was in the normal healthy zone. They don't check for this at every blood test so the last one was pre the start of chemo and it hasn't changed, so that's good. He's also prescribed some new stronger anti nausea meds to take for five days during/after chemo and so far so good, no nausea and whilst I'm not hugely hungry at least I am eating three meals a day, even if they are on the small side.

Hopefully with this two week 'holiday', I'll get a chance to pig out, do some gardening, help K with some housework, and better yet, maybe even get out for a meal (preferably up at the coast). And get in some walks and try to put on some weight and a bit of muscle. My brother is coming over during this time which will be a lot better than if he'd come later in the summer as planned whilst I was feeling tired and grotty from the chemo! :-)

Will catch up with your blog posts now - I'm behind with that as well, and I know you are all finding exciting things too so I'm looking forward to what you have to share. xx

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Wildlife seen around the lanes, mostly my OH's photos this time

I mentioned in my last post that my OH has been making regular cycle rides around the lanes in the early evening, for both fitness and wildlife spotting reasons. Most of the photos in this post are his, although as I was getting a teeny weeny bit envious, I suggested that perhaps we could take the car out and go for a slow drive around to see what we could see. Luckily there are a few tracks where there is space to park and we can have a bit of a walk, so last Weds evening we went out together, despite it being overcast and not great for photography. 

I just enjoyed the magic of getting out for the first time in over three months and having a potter somewhere that's not my own garden. I did see a couple of Meadow Brown butterflies, but want to come back when the sun is shining and a bit earlier in the day when I hope there will be more butterflies about. I also got to see one bunny, who was lying flat in the grass in a cow field, amazingly camouflaged as a cow pat (no photo as it took off the moment I raised the camera), and a Roe Deer and her youngster in a field, who gambolled off as soon as they saw us. It was a great experience for me, and just goes to show there's plenty of wildlife still around, I'm just not seeing it so much in the fields around our property.

This first photo is nothing to do with wildlife, but it's been a year since the new septic tank was installed, and it was time to clean out the grease trap. Only it was clean! Very little pong so it seems to be working like it should. You can see how brown the grass was getting over the tank area, as there is only a few inches of soil over gravel, ditto the filter bed, which although has about eight inches of soil, seems to dry out rather quickly too. Thankfully we had about 50mm of rain over four days which got the stream running again, and all this grass has greened up again nicely.

He seems to be enjoying himself.......

Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens),
male. OH's photo.

Dirk gets fruity with Rachel. OH's photo.

Meanwhile, out in the country lanes and fields.....

Looks better when the sun is shining!

He's seeing quite a few foxes. The one top right is a mangy one that he's seen in the field
next to the veg patch AND chicken run - lucky there is a 6 foot high fence in between!

I took the rubbish photo of the Goldfinch on the right, he got to see the Stonechat on the left.
I'm jealous!

Stonechat (Saxicola torquata). OH's photo, but shame about the bramble stem!

Black-tailed Skimmer (Orthetrum cancellatum), either a female or juvenile male. OH's photo.

A photo that I took! Wild Foxgloves growing on the field margin.

Himself wandering up a track.

Bunnies - OH's photos.

Roe Deer, including bambi, but very far away. OH's photos.

I'll leave you with the little tinker, aka Bertie, who just loves to sneak onto, and into, my round cushions and make a nest for himself, the moment I stand up. He's so skinny he fits in the hole whereas his rather chunky brother wouldn't!

Health update

Since I got these photos prepared my OH has come back with more interesting photos, but they can wait until the next post. I haven't even been in my garden for five days, due either to rain or (mostly) a rough time after my last chemo which left me feeling pretty wrecked. I even threw up this time, which actually is pretty good going seeing as it was my sixth round, so I'm now half way through! I had managed to get some energy and appetite back in the few days before the chemo sessions and did some cooking for the first time in months. Suffice to say after the chemo it's a different story, and hard to eat anything at all for a while. Hopefully it will pass soon and I'll feel a bit more hunger and energy.  Things are still looking better in the perineal wound department, although it does still flare up every now and again, but it's a lower level flare up, and in general it seems to be healing. My latest blood test shows a slight improvement with four things related to blood so hopefully these weekly jabs for anaemia and the iron tabs are starting to take effect.

I haven't been keeping up with other blogs as some of you post practically every day so no way can I read and comment on all these posts, especially when I'm feeling like carp. I'll leave the carp in as my Kindle's predictive text just changed that. :-)

Edit: Since I wrote the above I did get out in the garden this morning, and can't believe how much things have grown - mostly the weeds/wildflowers in the veg patch but also the lettuce - this cooler weather has been good for it so my Cos has not bolted before hearting up. There are flowers on the courgettes now too! Not many butterflies about and they are nearly all Meadow Browns. I'm going to have another wander outside now but it's rather breezy so carp for photography ;-)