Tag Archives: pollinators

Poppies, Planning and Pottering

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.

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Orange Poppies

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.

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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.

Hoverflies and Broken Dreams

Subtitle: Poppies, Pollinators and Parcels.

I was torn between the two titles, but went for the bleaker one because I’m a shameless attention seeker.

I walked in to work this morning and found we had sixteen parcels to pack, It doesn’t seem much to do in three hours, though it’s probably fair to say that after seeing a couple of customers and queuing at the Post Office we had two and a half hours of packing. Or five hours, seeing as there were two of us.

That’s about twenty minutes per parcel, which seems OK, though when you have 100 loose coins to pack into a non-rattling parcel it can take a bit of time.

Part of the problem is that we have over two thousand items of stock on eBay and not enough storage space. We can locate 95% of the stock with ease, but we have to pack and repack the cupboards each time, which is time consuming, and the system is starting to creak.

To be fair, the cupboards are starting to creak too and I’m beginning to worry about being crushed to death in a cascade of coins and shattered woodwork. And shattered dreams. It was never meant to end like this…

Despite the somewhat gloomy thoughts, I am cheered by the poppy photos – they were absolutely packed with pollinators this morning, which validates our garden choices. They often have pollinators on them but the light and wind often work against me, and the numbers aren’t normally as impressive.

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Poppy with Pollinators

 

Polytunnel Problems

Intermittent drizzle today. Not the best start.

Julia suffered a large split in the polytunnel yesterday. It’s the one they use for growing, so is really the more important of the two. It hasn’t been re-skinned for years, if ever, and is now both opaque and delicate. All it needed was a gust of wind and it gave way. She used the last of the mending tape on it, but even so, it may not last the winter. It’s quite probable she will open up one day to find a web of mending tape and a few shreds of plastic.

There is a certain amount of suspicion about the role of the Magpie family in all this, as they do treat the tunnels as if they own them (often having to be chased out) and there are areas of damage that could be blamed on them.

The plan is to gather a band of volunteers (maybe persuading a local company to let us have some of their staff as part of their community programme) and to have a re-skinning day next spring. It needs to be a warm, and preferably windless, day, as the plastic is better when warm and flexible. . That’s only half the story of course, and the fund-raising is now looking more urgent than ever.

The other tunnel is used as a workshop and it isn’t so important that you have a proper clear cover on that. Last time we needed a patch we used some plastic sheet that had blown in from a building site. It’s not elegant but it does work and it is frugal, which is one of the guiding principles of running the garden.

We have some seeds for next year, which we have been taking off the front of gardening magazines, and I took a couple of pictures of them this morning. They will be appearing on the group’s Facebook page later, as an example of seeds donated to the group. It’s a subtle way of letting people know that we are looking for donations.

There is a little colour in the beds, though a lot of it comes from grasses, and it is a far cry from the gardens of derrickjknight and tootlepedal . (For the sake of fairness I really should point out that the gardeners are actually Jackie and Mrs T). Next year the plan is to have more flowers – Julia has already planted some rudebekia and verbena bonariensis for next year and is adding winter pansies for spot colour at the moment. . This is partly because colour is always good, and partly because flowers mean pollen, which is good for pollinators. I was interested to see the verbena is said to rival buddleia for feeding butterflies. It’s definitely attractive to them but with its poor flower density compared to buddleia I can’t see it as a serious alternative

That leads on to something we were discussing this morning – the role of the garden.

It has to provide a service for the users, because that’s what it’s there for. That is, in turn, part of the problem, as it would be nice to grow produce for use by users and the cafe. Unfortunately this isn’t a priority – they like having their own bed, they like mowing, they  like painting and they like seeing friends. They will, when pushed, work, but it isn’t a priority and it isn’t overly productive.

If there is fruit or veg to eat at some point they like that, but it isn’t really why they go.

Indeed, the garden is designed round leisure rather than production. With so many small beds and sweeping paths it’s difficult fitting productive beds in, particularly as one polytunnel is used for activities rather than growing.

It’s going to be an interesting year of reconciling different ideas about garden use. And there was Julia thinking she applied for a job involving digging not diplomacy.

Flamborough Head

Flamborough Head is a chalk outcrop on the Yorkshire coast. It is the site of the UK’s oldest complete lighthouse (dating from 1669), which is built completely of chalk.  It is also a site with an impressive variety of seabirds, plants and chalk habitat.

We haven’t been there for over 10 years, and it’s a good place for puffins so we thought we’d make the North Landing our first stop on the coast today. We were rewarded by a small flock of Puffins on the sea and several more on the cliffs. The photos were small and hazy but we got better ones later at Bempton, so will add them to that post.

I was luckier with close-ups of insects.

I also saw an optimist staring out to sea, and a wooden statue of a smuggler.

It started off overcast and hazy, but became warmer and sunnier as we sat there. Well, I sat, Julia walked down to the shore.  You can see this from the brightness of the later (insect) photos and I could also tell from the sore feeling on the top of my head, which is a lesson to all bald men.

Looks like I’ve missed another day (it’s now 00.17 on Thursday) – sorry about that. I really must try harder.

Raindrops on Petals

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.

Off to Sheffield now, bringing back Number Two son and his luggage. Will the fun never stop?

 

 

Bees, buddleias and butterflies

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.

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.

 

Bees, bugs and baking

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.

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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.

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New species for the British List

Yes, this has all the makings of a classic day on the farm.

Grey day, with a speck of gold

It’s been overcast most of the day. When it hasn’t been overcast it’s been raining. As a result there’s been a distinct lack of butterflies, though some of the other pollinators have been doing their best. The bumble bees and hover flies have been out in force despite the lack of sun. This bee, for instance, has not only been working hard but demonstrates why bumble bees make better pollinators. I’ve just edited the post to make the photo bigger – hopefully the pollen grains are now visible – there’s a lot of pollen on that bee!

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Bumble bee and pollen

The only butterfly/moth type of thing II saw were two refugees in the toilets. I suspect they had found their way in last night and had nothing better to do. One is an indistinct grey-brown that I’m still in the process of identifying, the other is pictured here.

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Ruby Tiger Moth

It seems that the name Ruby Tiger Moth is more applicable to southern specimens, as they are much redder in the south, getting duller in colour  as you get further north.

There seems to be some sort of moral there, which probably depends on which end of the country you live at. The moral I draw is  that you can find wildlife in the strangest places, and that I should wash the toilet floor more often.

There’s more information under the Resources tab on the Butterflies and Moths page.

Now I just need to ID the other one!

Good day: rubbish title!

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Interesting day. Weatherwise we had some threatening clouds, a couple of sharp downpours and some sticky interludes. In terms of visitors we had a couple of random cyclists and a group of walkers round so I did a bit of promotion and talked about pizza ovens. Then I had a potential volunteer come to visit. We’ve arranged for her to come back in a few weeks time and she’s said she’s happy to help with some gardening, despite seeing the effort that will be needed. I’m not sure whether to be happy or worry about her sanity. I must say that the prospect of some help has lightened my mood a little.

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This week has really seen the butterflies emerge. We’ve also had plenty of bees and today we had hoverflies. It’s nice when a plan works out and people have been commenting on the number of pollinators we’re attracting so we must be doing something right.

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We have a plan for some mini-ponds now. We’ve always had the idea in mind but it’s taken some time to find out how to build something we’ll be happy with. This week we had an email from  Mark Ridsdill Smith detailing exactly the sort of pond we’re aiming for. We have various plastic containers, gravel, rocks and rain water so that’s about it – no excuses now.