The honeysuckle at the bottom of the garden was, according to Julia, heaving with bees and insect life. It’s down two flights of steps, due to our hillside location, and I decided not to risk it, so there are no photographs. I really must find my spirit of adventure and start getting out again.
The poppies are doing well in the front and there were plenty of insects in the rosemary and valerian, though the rosemary flowers are tailing off. It is a much under-rated shrub, being able to survive a drought, grow in poor soil and shrug off neglect. This is fortunate, as that is precisely the way I look after it. I will be rooting some cuttings this year as I am feeling the need for more rosemary. There is plenty of room in the back garden for more plants and I do hate buying things if I can grow them.
From a poetry point of view, today has been a productive day. I have lacked focus and direction, but have produced in quantity. Before going to bed, I will be looking at this month;s deadlines and dividing some of the work up to ensure I am working towards making submissions.
Last month was poor for submissions, but sometimes you just need to allow yourself to slack a little. I’m now feeling fully recovered. The strange thing is that if you’d asked me in February, March or April I would have said I had recovered. However, it’s undeniable that I felt a lot better last week – whether due to time, season or just getting more sleep.
We have been averaging 14-18 poppies each day. They make a good show in the morning but the petals fall by lunch, so they aren’t the best at providing a showy display. On the other hand, they did drift in free of charge. Others, which I have paid for, have failed to prosper. I keep saying I will have another go with the big red oriental ones, but never get round to it. Perhaps I will simply buy some cheap seed and sprinkle it in the gaps between flagstones. We established a massive drift of Californian poppies on the farm by emptying some seed packets onto newly dug earth, so it’s worth a try.
Bee on Welsh Poppy
There are some wonderful drifts of poppies on the ring road where they are letting the grass grow for the pollinators, with Californian and red poppies. They still have their petals when I drive home, so I’m thinking they may be better than the ones we have which, I think, are Welsh poppies. I always thought the yellow ones were Welsh poppies but when I looked them up I found these were an orange variety. There are yellow ones along the street, one of my gardening clients used to have them, but they don’t seem to have spread this far.
Hoverfly on Welsh Poppy
At one time we had a lot of marigolds. I was given them by a customer, and they spread well and kept coming back, but then declined over a couple of years. We still have three or four of them, but they are not showing any signs of recolonising the garden. It is strange how some things flourish and others don’t. The alyssum isn’t doing so well either, though I’m fairly sure that is being shaded out by the red valerian. That could be the reason why the marigolds have gone, as they would have been overshadowed by the valerian, which is a real thug of a plant, but I always think of them being tough enough to fight back.
Bee on Red Valerian
That’s the trouble with gardening the way we do in the front garden – you get what you’re given, which in our case is red valerian. I’m thinking it might be time to cut some of it back and give other things a chance. The only thing that stops me is that it attracts hummingbird hawkmoths, which are always a pleasure to see.
The last bee is on Red Valerian because it would stay still in the morning when it was on the poppies. By 4pm there were no poppies.
I’m wondering id the black bee is a Field Cuckoo Bumble Bee because of the all black colouring. I’m not sure what else to look for to ID it, or if there are any other similar species. I’m hoping the hoverfly is a Marmalade Hoverfly because I like the name. It’s common round here, according to the ID guide, so I feel safe with that ID.
The lockdown continues, though in a much diluted form, and Nottingham’s uncut verges continue to be good for bees. I noticed this on the way to work, where the Gas Board continues to dig up our frontage and block access to the shop. I spent all day listing medals of Edward VIII and forgot to move so my legs seized up when I tried to get up.
We had saag paneer last night using the spice kit Number One Son arranged for us. We didn’t quite have all the ingredients, so we used some kale in place of the spinach. It had a notably different texture but worked quite well. I checked up, and it seems that saag is not, as I thought, spinach, but, depending on who you believe, either a mix of spinach and mustard greens, or simply mixed greens.
Always so much to learn.
We still have three spice mixes to use and will reconfigure the week’s shopping to use them all this week. Unfortunately Julia can’t find out how to cancel the spice subscription. As with so many of these offers (£1 for four spice kits) they make it difficult to cancel. Even worse, if you don’t order your next lot in time you have to take what they send you. That’s how Number One Son ended up making moqueca. I had to look it up – it’s Brazilian Fish Stew. I think I can do without this.
Number Two Son, still in Canada, applied for, and was turned down for, a job as a dog groomer. As he has no experience of dogs or grooming this was not unexpected. However, he has had a call back and they want him to work in some sort of management capacity. He has an amazing capacity for getting strange jobs. If he ever writes a book he will not be short of material for his biographical notes.
I think I’ll leave it there for now. Dog grooming and fish stew is quite enough excitement for one day.
Yesterday it was coins, today it’s poppies. My life is varied if nothing else.
I spotted these bees in the poppies as I walked to the car yesterday. I did not have a lot of time to spare, and didn’t want the neighbours to think I was mad, so I just took a few shots as the poppies blew in the wind as I passed by on my way to work. As a result, the shots aren’t great, or varied.
That’s the story of my life. Rush, rush, rush and never time to stop and get a grip. After a three month holiday I really should be more organised. In fact I should be so organised that everything is perfect. It isn’t, and I will probably look back on this time with deep regret. Not that such thoughts are unusual, as I find I have them more and more. I thought you were supposed to be at your most depressed in your 40s, and that you became more cheerful as you age. It hasn’t worked out like that.
I suspect that like “Life begins at 40” and “60 is the new 40” this is aimed at making old people feel better about themselves. In fact one of the links I followed, whilst saying positive things about old age, also mentioned that hearing loss could be a burden in old age. It mentioned this several times and I wasn’t surprised to find a big button at the end of the article linking it to a site to sell hearing aids. I may be old, and slightly deaf, but I can still spot when someone is blowing smoke.
Last night I started planning for my retirement. It’s less than five years before I can draw my pension and I’m looking at all my options.
A time machine would be good, as I could go back, correct my worst decisions, save more money and look forward to a comfortable retirement, Ditto for winning the lottery. Logic says that I probably have more chance of inventing a time machine than I have of winning the lottery. I have made some plans for that. My theory is that if you buy enough longcase clocks and set them all running at the same time they will, because they are old and unreliable, all start to show marginally different times. When 12 o’clock comes round a few days later the cacophony of clocks striking at slightly different times will set up a temporal vortex and I will step through it. Now I come to think of it, I might have got that from an episode of Doctor Who…
I’ve just been looking at the WEA website (Worker’s Educational Association) looking for things to do in retirement. I hadn’t thought of them for years and now realise that some of their courses might have been useful during lockdown. Unfortunately the ones I want all have waiting lists. I’m sure I will manage to do something along those lines in the next few years.
Bee in Poppy
I had always imagined that retirement would be spent pottering around, but I’m already pottering, so I need another ambition. As I’m already becoming noticeably more curmudgeonly as time goes on I can’t save that for retirement either. It really does seem like I’m becoming old before my time. I should, according to the internet, be out learning how to skateboard, not sitting at home moaning. As I can’t even balance well enough to put my trousers on without introducing a frisson of jeopardy into the proceedings, so I’m certainly not risking a skateboard.
As a retirement project I may write a book about getting old. With any luck I may manage to sell it as a a TV script, so I will ensure that bathing in asses milk, driving sports cars and drinking red wine are prominent in the book so I can travel the world enjoying myself. According to this article I will need to drink 180 bottles of wine a day to get the full benefit. If I ever work out how to function without a liver I may give it a go.
Last night Julia went on line and arranged an upgrade for me with our airtime provider. Though you do have to pay for it somewhere along the line, it seems like a free phone and is not too bad.
The problem was that they set the ball rolling by sending me a code in a text. It’s tricky receiving a text on a touch screen phone when the screen is in pieces and stabs you in the fingers when you try to use it. Even when you try to use it carefully.
The new one is bigger than the old one, which seems to be the trend. It is also more complicated. I haven’t finished setting it up yet, but I have managed to fit the screen protector and insert it into the protective case. Yes, definitely a case of locking the stable door after the horse has bolted.
(Did you know screen protectors come with their own screen protector protectors? I didn’t.)
I have also activated the fingerprint security system. Time will tell if this was a good decision.
Call me a pessimist if you will, but all I can think of at the moment is various ways I could lose my finger, and how I would unlock my phone if that happened.
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The photos are from the Mencap garden this morning. There was no group in, and Julia needed someone to hold the other end of the tape measure.
It rained yesterday while we visited the farm, which put an end to thoughts of blue skies and panoramic nature photography. This grey end to the visit was a suitable background to a slightly depressing visit (though Men in Sheds were all cheerful) and an excellent example of the pathetic fallacy. That, in turn, is an excellent opportunity to apply the word pathetic to the way the farm is run. However, I really should rise above that sort of thing. So I will rise, and I won’t make further comment.
As one door closes another door opens, and so I took some pictures of water drops on flowers. Same goes for projects – Julia will be starting work with MENCAP next week and is already making plans, while her permaculture course is in its final third and she is planning our garden redesign.
Here are a few flowers from the front garden, including a potato that has grown from one of the pots. It’s depressing to have to start again, but such is life. We shouldn’t have put so much effort into a garden where we didn’t have a proper tenancy agreement, and we shouldn’t have neglected our own garden. I’m sure there’s a moral in that, if not an entire homily.
Red Valerian with bee
Marigold, tarmac and concrete
Off to Sheffield now, bringing back Number Two son and his luggage. Will the fun never stop?
The last week has seen a resurgence of Small Tortoiseshells, peaking at 18 this morning when I did a count. Having read a Royal Horticultural Society article on buddleia recently, where they didn’t record a single visit from Small Tortoiseshells in 2009, I was beginning to worry.
The article, incidentally, answers a question I was going to research next year – do colours of buddleia matter for attracting butterflies? It seems not – the top four for attracting butterflies were violet (2), white and light blue. They were all at the top end of the trial for scent, which may have a bearing.
It does say that “Foxtail” (number 2 for attracting butterflies) was top in the Butterfly Conservation Buddleia trial, though the 2012 Butterfly Conservation Buddleia Trial had “Dartmoor” as its top variety (which was 12th in the RHS trial).
Yes, I am confused. I’m also slightly relieved that someone else has already done the work for me. Our two main buddleias don’t seem to have any difference between them at the moment, which suggests that any difference may be down to site rather than colour or scent (as neither of them seem to be scented).
The white and the blue are struggling to establish themselves after last year’s massacre so it’s hard to make any comment on them.
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I’ve also lost the tickets for the buddleias we planted so I can’t tell you what cultivar they are.
The mint was also doing well this morning, with Small Tortoiseshells and Mint Moths. It was also heaving with a selection of bees, which makes me wish I knew more about insects.Truth is that I’m at an age where it’s harder to learn, so I may never know much about bees. It’s a gap in my knowledge, but it’s not likely to be too much of a problem, unlike my lack of knowledge about football and horse racing, which are both deadly to my hopes of ever winning Pointless.
It feels like summer has finally arrived, though I do realise that I’ve said that before.
The weather station reports and outside temperature of 19 degrees C, the sky is clear and the wind is little more than a baby’s breath (or 2 km per hour from the south, if you prefer facts to fancy).
We tidied up for Open Farm Sunday and the farmer’s mother is having a significant birthday (and party) towards the end of the month, so there is a lot of gardening going on. She’s actually having two parties (one for family and another for people she likes, as I keep telling her) and I hope I have that sort of stamina when I’m 80.
The downside of all this uncoordinated activity is that the thistles earmarked for goldfinch food and most of the “wild” poppies have been removed. We have some great self-seeded poppies, including shades or red and mauve, and quite a selection of doubles with big pom-pom flowers. Correction, we had some great self-seeded poppies.
The paths between the “trees” in the “woodland” are cut (which means we have mowed between the sticks in the field), the wheat is beautifully green (probably the result of too much rain – you know how farmers are) and the trees in the agroforestry scheme are looking good in their rows.
The general effect is one of standing in the parkland surrounding a stately home.
When we arrived I stood and watched for a few minutes. A buzzard was wheeling overhead, the bees were buzzing in the flower beds (their first major appearance this year) and a blackbird was singing from the hedge.
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A grumpy goldfinch was twittering as it perched on a virtually empty feeder. It stared at me accusingly. I stared back, and did not refill the feeder. I do like birds but I’m not going to be bullied by something that weighs less than my watch.
It’s been a hectic day of baking bugs. The bug hunt was a bust due to the weather – the only butterfly we saw was a Large White imitating a clipper under full sail as the wind whipped it past at a rapid rate. The hoverflies are still about and the larger types of bee are also getting to grips with the serious job of feeding. .
They say (and I can’t vouch for this as it’s on the same internet that thinks Miley Cyrus is a celebrity) that a bumblebee with a full stomach has only enough energy to fly for 40 minutes and enough honey in the nest to last just a couple of days. You can see from this why they have to keep plugging away at it. I have enough energy to last several days, enough in my pantry to last several weeks and I don’t get lost when farmer’s spray neonicitinoids. Makes you realise how lucky you are.
Magic Disappearing Tree
(Update: I just took a break from typing and spotted a Red Admiral in a sheltered nook of the garden. No photo as Julia has my camera.) Two butterflies in one August day – hard to believe.
Anyway – back to baking bugs. Sadly this should read “baking bug-shaped buns” as we’re not allowed to feed insects to children. Another example of political correctness gone mad if you ask me. Not that anyone does…
We have shaped silicone baking trays, we have icing, Smarties, red fondant, black fondant, cutters and coloured icing pens. We have cake mix, we have those hard shiny metallic balls and we have a dedicated team of bug builders.
By mid-afternoon I confidently forecast that we will see several new species described in a mixture of cake and icing. Probably with fingerprints in the fondant and bite-shaped pieces missing round the edges.
New species for the British List
Yes, this has all the makings of a classic day on the farm.