While we were out we went round a garden centre, visited a bookshop (and bought no books!), saw a lot of marshes and ate fish and chips. I also found space for a syrup sponge and custard.
We saw seven Brimstones, a couple of whites and a Red Admiral. Julia has being seeing Brimstones down at the Mencap garden, so it looks like we could be in for a good Brimstone year.
Then we came home for the last of the homemade soup.
There was, of course, a bit more to it than that, but it’s not very interesting. It’s also just after 10pm and I have a lot to do in the next few hours so I’ll leave it here and take up the story later.
I have some major changes to discuss with you all.
When a man of a certain age (convinced that instruction manuals are for wimps and you can mend things by hitting them) meets a delicate piece of technology the results are rarely good. Card readers, unfortunately, tend to be delicate. One of mine actually fell apart because I looked at it sternly.
In the latest incident of Luddism yet another card reader has bitten the dust. It was a good one too, but it was plugged into the side of the laptop as I turned in my chair and caught it on the arm. Result: the two pieces of the plastic shell clattered to the floor and the remaining bits, still plugged into a USB port, sat there, bent and useless.
The red light still works. It’s a hopeful sign, but that’s not really the number one useful feature of a card reader.
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I’ve had to face facts and admit I have to buy another. I don’t buy them off the internet after the last one (the one that fell apart after the stern look) so I have to arrange a trip to ASDA, which is the only local shop to stock them.
In the 21st century you’d think there was a better solution, but the built-in card reader in my laptop is currently refusing to work. It does that periodically. I’d like to think they would last as long as the laptop but they don’t. Julia’s doesn’t work reliably either.
It’s frustrating when you can’t move photos from camera to laptop.
After a trip to ASDA I now have a working card reader again. I nearly had breakfast while I was there, which would have been bad in a number of ways, as they are both fattening and poor quality. Fortunately the service was so bad that I had plenty of time to rethink my decision whilst waiting, and eventually decided that it wasn’t worth waiting any longer for a second class breakfast. I was thinking of writing to complain, but it seems wrong to complain that they saved me from a plate of greasy calories.
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The photos are from the garden. They don’t really relate to the post, but it’s just nice to have some photos. The morning was warm in the sun and cold in the shade, but a Red Admiral flew past and settled in the sun for a while.
It’s a bit random, but I thought it would be nice to get a few pictures in. Next post will cover my trip to the Men in Sheds.
I dropped Julia off at work this morning and, as the day was briefly sunny, came back the long way round. This proved to be a good decision as it enabled me too avoid a terrible tailback and look smug. The two things were not unconnected.
The weather is forecast to be significantly less good for the rest of the day. Hopefully my luck will continue to be good.
I knocked out 350 words about volunteering on my return home, as it’s something I’ve been thinking about and there had been an item on the radio this morning. Unfortunately, despite writing and rewriting (the likely word count was probably at least double the 350 that resulted) I still wasn’t happy with them.
It took so long I was nearly late for my blood test.
Fortunately they were running late so I had time to make an appointment for the flu vaccination clinic. Between 8.00 and 9.00 on a Saturday morning is not the optimal time because it’s our relaxed breakfast morning, with Julia buying fruit from the market and starting work at 11.30. However, I want the jab so I accepted the time.
The luck was clearly starting to leak out of the day.
It took three shots to find a vein today, but it doesn’t really hurt and we had a good laugh about it. Well what else are you going to do, complain to a woman armed with a needle?
I was definitely feeling less lucky, and slightly more leaky by that time when she said:
“Would you like a flu vaccination while you’re here?”
Save a trip to the surgery and have time for a leisurely breakfast – yes I would.
I had to have a different nurse for that. It seems that when you are on Warfarin you need a specially qualified nurse to give you an injection.
You can, it seems, prod me with needles as much as you like, open veins at will and extract blood by the bucketful – that’s OK. But load up with flu vaccine and stick it in a muscle and you need special training.
I had special training in hospital to inject myself with anticoagulants. That took five minutes.
The NHS is a wondrous place.
At that point I had to admit that my luck was improving, as I was vaccinated and had saved time.
After that I called at the parcel office. An irritating family got there just before me and clogged the system up a bit, with two noisy daughters guarding the door while the scrawny father and amply proportioned matriarch blocked the enquiry window. They seemed more than normally concerned by a note they had been sent, telling them pick a parcel up from the office. As they were already in possession of an armful of packages I don’t know why one more was significant.
It was, she thought, a scam facilitated by the theft of her phone on holiday. I don’t know if it was stolen or not, if she always speaks so much drivel it had probably thrown itself off a cliff.
I’m not sure what sort of scam involves sending the victim a parcel. Possibly one where you post a parcel full of burglars, but I don’t think that’s worked since the Fall of Troy.
Back home I noted a Small White fluttering round the front garden, then a Red Admiral, then a second Red Admiral. By the time I had the camera in action I noticed a massive spider sitting in a web, waiting…
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In the end I took pictures of the spider, as it was the most unusual thing. The White flew off, and as I focused on the first Red Admiral they both became skittish and refused to settle.
In the end I think it’s just a female Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus), and not at all rare. It is, in spider terms, quite big, and I will sleep easier tonight knowing I have something that size guarding my garden.
As I sat down to write this they came back so I went out again.
They flew off as I stalked the first one.
If I spot them again I’m taking a rolled up newspaper and a bottle of glue. That should sort out the skittishness.
And finally – they came back!
Red Admiral – at last!
No Red Admirals were harmed in the taking of these pictures. Honestly – no glue needed!
I fell asleep in the car this morning. Fortunately I was in a car park. Julia. meanwhile, was at a meeting in the building attached to the car park. She was having similar trouble in keeping awake.
While she was being trained (I wish them luck – I’ve not managed to train her despite many years of effort), I went for a walk round Beeston. It’s a pleasant place, even in the rain, with a statue of a bee man, a cheap bookshop, an Oxfam bookshop and quite a few charity shops. The Sue Ryder shop has re-branded itself as a vintage and retro shop. That seems to mean it has a lot of old brown furniture.
I’ve been watching Money for Nothing on TV. The presenter goes round tips grabbing people as they throw things out and commissioning various artist/designers to make things from them. She pays them between £200 and £500 to convert the tat then sells it to specialist shops (usually making £50 – £200 profit). Goodness knows what the shops charge.
Apart from being envious of people who charge that sort of money with a straight face, I’m telling you this because the programme seems to take a lot of unsalable brown furniture, paint it and get big money for it. If you need any of it to start making a fortune try the Sue Ryder shop in Beeston.
Call me cynical if you like, but it all strikes me as a modern version of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Everybody in the trade is happy slapping paint about and charging £500 for a £15 piece of furniture. But just let one small child ask why people don’t just paint their own…
Anyway, enough about con tricks perpetrated on people with more money than sense, let’s talk about butterflies.
When we arrived home Julia had a good look at the plants in the front garden. There, sheltering from the wind, was a Small Copper. They are common and widespread according to the books but I’ve never seen that many of them and this is the first I’ve seen in our garden. It’s also the only one I’ve ever photographed, as the previous one was pictured by Julia as it rested on my hand.
Small Gopper with phormium and red valerian
Small Copper on castor oil plant
Apparently the three white spots on the lower wings are an aberration, as listed on the website. Proper naturalists are interested in things like that.
As for the books I mentioned earlier, I limited myself to seven. This includes a book of historical craft projects and a cheap book about butterflies. These are both for Julia, so I don’t feel so bad about the others, which will be revealed in due course.
After several years looking for Ringlets, knowing that they should be present in an area like this, I finally mentioned my frustration at not being able to find one.
When Julia took one of the cameras for a walk to the woods with the group I did not for one moment suspect that she was going to come back and say “I’ve got some pictures of a different sort of butterfly. It has rings under it’s wings too.”
That is a description of a Ringlet. It’s not a rare butterfly, it’s just that I haven’t been able to spot one on the farm. I’ve been looking for years.
Dropped Number One son off in town for the second day of his Master’s degree then proceeded to have breakfast at Sainsburys, followed by shopping for crickets at the Garden Centre. It was a varied morning.
Arrived at the farm for 11.00, checked the polytunnels and managed to get photographs of a Speckled Wood. It really didn’t want to settle but I eventually managed a few decent shots. Meeting with a woman about an arts project that we’re trying to get going, meeting to teach me how to work the website and lunch. For once the meetings were quite useful.
Damson jam with camoflaged tops
Julia went of to view the tent we’re working in at the Ploughing Match whilst I did various things of little consequence before making a dozen jars of damson jam. I did it with the stones in after last year’s debacle and am hoping I fished them all out. It’s saved a lot of time though I’m just dreading the first complaint about a broken tooth. Sensitive subject at the moment as I pulled a crown off whilst chewing gum last week.
Yesterday, I had a quick walk round with the camera around 4pm. It was overcast, but reasonably warm and the wind had dropped. It wasn’t ideal but having added a few species to the list in recent weeks I’m always happy to have a look round. It would be nice, I thought, to add some decent shots of a Common Blue, or to see the Brimstone come back and rest for a while.
That’s the basis of positive thinking. Because it makes you believe that doing things brings a greater chance of success you do things. And because you do things you get greater success. It’s not the thoughts that work the miracle, it’s the activity.
I’m not knocking it, just pointing out to everyone who exhorts me to cheer up and be positive that you can be negative and still successful as long as you keep active. I may write a book about my philosophy “How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success without Smiling” (Apologies to Frank Bettger).
Anyway, it paid off, though not in the way I anticipated. I didn’t get a better shot of a Brimstone and I didn’t get a better shot of a Common Blue. What I got was a mediocre shot of a Holly Blue. I thought I may have seen one by the ivy in the hedge on the day I saw the Common Blue, but I hadn’t been sure. However, it’s definitely a Holly Blue and the proof is now shown below and on the Butterflies and Moths page.
I used to see a lot of them when I was a gardener, particularly in the old-fashioned overgrown gardens attached to Victorian houses, so when I saw the flash of blue today I recognised it as being slightly different from the Common Blue and was pleased to be able to prove myself correct. I’m starting to like the butterfly garden!
It’s been a fairly normal day workwise – moving sheep (selecting a few for market) and collecting eggs. I had set myself a target of a couple of hours weeding, though so far this is still a plan. There’s a lot to do at the moment removing old borage, foxgloves and forget-me-nots. We’re also cutting down dead poppies and drying them for flower arranging later in the year. Then of course there are thistles…
The wind we’re having is good for blowing thistledown around and I’ve had several lots blow past my face as I’ve walked round this morning. I have a plan for them which involves my flame gun, though I’m having to keep it from Julia after what happened in our own garden at the weekend. It involved dry grass, plastic plant pots and a certain amount of swearing (mainly directed at me by my good lady). She’s having to rethink the dried grass part of the flower arrangement she was planning and I’ve had to promise to be careful with the flame gun.
The group has been out on the field taking environmental readings for the Woodland Trust between the rows of apple trees in the agroforestry field this afternoon – temperature and wind. It’s been a good day for measuring wind as there hasn’t been a shortage. (You can tell that from the way the butterflies have been having to cling on to the flowers).
Talking of butterflies, we’ve had a Brimstone on the allotment today, though I wasn’t able to get a good picture. I took this one over the fence, then walked round to the gate, by which time it was on a sunflower. Those pictures weren’t too good as the wind rose at that point and it was difficult to compose and focus. Even if I’d managed it I’d merely have taken a picture of a butterfly desperately hanging on to a sunflower. It eventually relinquished its grasp and disappeared into the fields at high speed.
It was good to see as it was the last species from last year that we hadn’t seen this year.
One of this year’s new species – Common Blue – turned up just as we were walking up the ramp to the centre – pausing to feed on the mint. She posed, with wings half open to show the brown inner colour, and flew off as soon as I raised the camera. That’s how it goes.
As if in consolation the buddleia in the back bed produced a magnificent show – two Peacocks, a Small Tortoiseshell, a Painted Lady, a Comma and a couple of Small Whites, though the two whites acted more like a tag team, one settling for a moment before being replaced by the other.
I’ve recently resurrected my old Lumix. At the time I bought it I thought it was (a) expensive (b) technically advanced and (c) going to last me for a while.
Well, I was correct in one respect; it was expensive. To be fair, it was technically advanced for the time but, as with all modern technology, its time didn’t last long. As for the rest, Julia bought an Olympus that was far better than the Lumix and within a year I’d saved up for a new Olympus (the model that had replaced Julia’s – such is the pace of change.
Ten days ago I decided to charge up the Lumix and give it a run. It’s a lot more solid to hold and the colour is probably better rendered but apart from that the Olympus wins hands down. The zoom is better, the focus is better and the shutter speed is better. Sometimes old can be classic, but other times it’s just outdated. It’s like wine and knees. Wine improves with age: knees don’t.
The one at the top is taken with the Lumix, the lower one with the Olympus. I was standing within a few feet of the same spot both times, the Olympus shot was about twenty minutes later than the other, with light conditions being pretty much the same (as much as the human eye can tell).
The reason I couldn’t use the Olympus for the first shot was because Julia had mine to take pictures of the combine in the oilseed rape.
That’s another plus for the Lumix, it’s always available for use (which was good as we don’t get many Commas in the butterfly garden) because nobody ever wants to borrow the old camera!
Sunday and Monday we had the Humming Bird Hawk Moth, which was a real lift after four years of trying to establish the sensory/butterfly garden. It has a long way to go yet but it now feels like we’ve made a start.
Yesterday morning we saw a buzzard, just a day after I said to Julia “It must be a month since we last saw a buzzard.” It was perching on a fence post by the side of the A 46 about a mile before we turned off, a rumpled looking darkish bird with strong white flecking. – I suppose you’d call it a dark form if you were being technical, and if you were to look up “disgruntled” in the dictionary I’m pretty sure you would find a picture of this bird if you were being anthropomorphic.
Then, as we drove down the lane, a stoat poured itself across the road less than 10 feet in front of the car. Compared to the buzzard it seemed very sleek and self-satisfied. It was the biggest one I’ve ever seen since 1961, though the one in 1961 probably looked larger because I was only three. I seem to recall that the sun always shone and that butterflies were as big as my hand in those days. Butterflies have shrunk considerably over the years and, to be honest, my disappointment with life has grown in inverse proportion.
In the afternoon, whilst watching the butterflies I managed to find two Commas – one on a fence rail and one on a buddleia about 10 feet away. Couldn’t get a good shot, but the second one was a bit raggy, with a spot of damage on the left wing – I will probably recognise it if I see it again. Also got a good shot of a gatekeeper on a thistle in the polytunnel (a short one that escaped the cull). I’m getting better at little brown butterflies.
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As we watered at the end of the day we startled a Small Copper but couldn’t get a decent shot. We have a picture of one from last year but it it shows too much of my eczema, which doesn’t make for a great shot, unless you need it for a medical textbook.