Category Archives: garden

Billy One Mate

Meet Billy One Mate. He (I say “he” but it could well be a “she”) is a young starling that thinks he’s a sparrow.

I first became aware of him few weeks ago when the local starling flock of descended into my garden with all their noisy fledglings to feast on the birdseed dropped by the sparrows. The fledglings were able to fly reasonable well and most could feed themselves but preferred like most youngsters to let mum (or dad) feed them. I noticed Billy approaching one adult bird, begging for food. The adult kicked him away. Hmm, I thought, obviously wrong mum. He begged from another. She too kicked him on the head rather aggressively. This treatment was metered out by every adult Billy went too. He’d been pushed , almost trodden on, kicked and clawed away. I’d never seen birds do this to young ones before.  You couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. And when the flock finally flew off, Billy was left on his own. It was obvious he’d been orphaned.

For the next few days Billy No Mates as I christened him was in the garden on his own, sleeping in the holly tree by the fence and during the day sitting on the fence in the shade. I swear every time the starlings flew over he watched them with a forlorn look on his little face. He looked so sad. He spent a lot of time watching the sparrows darting to and fro from the bird feeder. He tried to feed from it too but was unable to get the hang of clinging to the perches. All he could do was follow the lead of the adult sparrows feeding their young on the ground with the dropped seeds or chipped nuts in the bird food. He begged from the sparrows to no avail. so found what he could on the ground.

I happened to look out of my bedroom window one morning to see him flapping about in the koi pond, trying to get out. Not a good place to take a bath and Dave had to rescue him. Billy toddled off into the undergrowth to dry out, no doubt feeling very miserable and sorry for himself. The following day he sat on the fence watching the sparrows bathing in the bird bath. Ahh, that’s where I bath, he must of thought, and joined them. The sparrows accepted him, ignored him really as he splashed and drank and shook and washed.

From then on, he flew with the sparrows. Whenever they came into the garden, you could guarantee Billy was coming up the rear. He’d seemed to have latched on to one sparrow in particular and wherever that sparrow went in the garden, Billy followed, be it among the flowerbeds to hunt for mealworms, up onto the feeder, not that he could feed from it, or into the bird bath. From then on he was known as Billy One Mate. It seemed the two couldn’t be separated. Over the course of the next few weeks, he became braver and bolder, seeing off other young starlings that landed too close to “his” food or his little friend. One morning he even squared up to a female blackbird but soon learned there is a pecking order and blackbird always wins over starling.

As the days have progressed he’s never far behind his little sparrow friend, but more and more now he’s flying with several other young starlings. I’d like to think in a few weeks’ time instead of having just one little playmate, he’ll be accepted into the starling flock and have lots of big friends to keep an eye out for him.

Good luck, Billy. You deserve to do well.

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Cornish Pleasures

Peter and I went to Cornwall this month for a much needed break, we booked a cottage for a week.  In September Peter is planning a long cycle journey, 70th Birthday Challenge to himself, so part of the holiday was to test out various starting routes so the bike came too! I’ve put a link below so you can get an idea of the perfect place we based ourselves at for the week. Our cottage was called Spring Water Barn, formerly used as a pumping station for the natural spring water on the Bonython Estate.  Sadly a phone/washing machine incident has prevented me showing most of the photos I planned to show you from Peter’s phone!  No explanations required I am sure!!

Bonython Estate is a 20 acre estate with beautiful gardens which are being restored.  Set on The Lizard in Cornwall, the southerly most point in Britain, it proved to be the most relaxing place I have ever visited.  Our luxury cottage was surrounded by woods in a private garden with sun most of the day, perfect for evenings sipping wine and bird spotting.  In fact most of the time the only sounds we heard were birdsong as the other two nearby cottages were empty all week.  Although it was difficult to leave it we went out each day to visit the beautiful coves and small towns in the area.  The first day we did a 3 mile walk to a cove called Poldhu, great walking down but luckily regular local buses ensured I didn’t have to walk back up the very steep hill back.  We had lunch at a beach cafe watching families enjoying themselves on the beach. The sea sparkled and it was wonderful. Lunch finished with a scrumptious Cornish Cream ice cream cone – perfect.  We had intended to visit the Marconi Monument marking the spot of the first Morse code communication with America but the thought of another steep climb up and down made me change my mind.  I thought of how easily we “chat” with each other so quickly today which started from this small point.

Next day we drove around the coast to Mousehole, where we stayed in November and unfortunately Peter had taken ill.  This time we managed to walk two miles back to Newlyn a centre for artists since the turn of the 18th Century.  A small gallery enabled me to view local art students’ graduate work with sea views through the windows providing Nature’s art work. Lunch in a local cafe of fresh crab provided a welcome break and revitalised we walk along the seawalk back to Mousehole.  It felt a bit emotional as Peter has recovered well and is dealing with his condition amazingly. My big pleasure was the next day when we went Park and Train to St. Ives and the Tate Gallery.  Traffic is so awful in the narrow streets of this popular seaside town that measures are being taken to restrict the volume of cars.  For a small charge it was possible to park all day at Lelant and catch the regular train to St Ives, this branch line is one of the most profitable routes in England.  £10.80 for two adults all day (not worked out dollars sorry) but cheap.  I had two hours of art whilst Peter searched out a lunch spot and explored the town. A Patrick Heron exhibition was interesting, but my favourite works are by Barbara Hepworth. Barbara worked and lived in St, Ives with her husband Ben Nicholson and their children.  Her house is a wonderful place to visit too but sadly I was too tired to climb the hill up to visit this time. I have seen it several times and love the mix of her works and plants in the garden outside her studio.  No room to talk more about her but please look her up.

A wonderful quote by her about her aim as an artist: “…to infuse the formal perfection of geometry with the vital grace of nature.” (Ref. Barbara Hepworth’s Sculpture Garden by Miranda Phillips & Chris Stephens).

The visit was completed with crab sandwiches and a glass of Rosado blush in a cafe on the Porthmeor Beach below the Tate.  As we walked back to the station Peter treated me to another gorgeous Cornish Cream ice cream, I couldn’t understand why he’d just bought one for me – but his chocolate cone had been snatched by a huge seagull before he even managed a lick! Gulls are a bigger problem for St. Ives than traffic, despite copious signs and warnings people will feed them titbits.  They are becoming a danger as they fly down and steal whatever they fancy.  I did share mine with him!

On our last day we visited Porthleven, a small fishing port where the catch is landed daily and then served in the many cafes surrounding the harbour.  Our lunch was in Amelies, next door to Rick Steins, where I had Crab Soup followed by Moules served with home-made bread.  Half a carafe of Provence Rose Blush – heaven. My photo doesn’t do justice but suffice to say one of the best meals I have had, do check out the website.  I hope to return to Porthleaven for a few days In October. The day ended with a walk around Bonython Gardens, one of the treats of staying there is free access and after the public leave it’s one’s own secret garden for a few hours. The highlight for me was the Yew Chapel shown at the start of my blog.  Yew Trees have been trained and trimmed to form a chapel complete with alter and pews with a cross above the altar.  I found it so spiritual, surrounded by beautiful woods and utterly peaceful. So many Cornish Pleasures.

 

 

http://www.bonythonmanor.co.uk/

http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-st-ives

http://www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate-st-ives/barbara-hepworth-museum-and-sculpture-garden

http://www.ameliesporthleven.co.uk/

 

Opening the Back Door

First, apologies for being a day late. What I had intended to write about has been delayed, so at the risk of boring you I will once again open the back door and reveal the back garden. We’ve been working hard and so thankful for the brilliant weather experienced here in the UK lately which has meant we’ve been able to get practically everything done we intended to do. Everything is growing well, and we can at last enjoy sitting on our new patio admiring our efforts as it all slowly grows and flourishes. In the space of a four to five weeks the long border has gone:

And a bird’s eye or rather bedroom view:

There is still the other borders to transform but they are going to have to wait. Two plants are been particularly stunning at the moment: my ever-faithful perennial aquileiga and a new clematis bought for £1.69 from our local Aldi supermarket.

In preparing the groundwork last November, Dave smashed two of the blue bowls on the new water fountain but, bless him, he bought me another and rather than waste the old, transformed it into a new pot feature.

Yesterday, I counted the pots around the rear garden, patio and front garden – there’s 85 of them! And that doesn’t include the old kitchen sink next to the water fountain. Plus he’s planted up and hung 20 wall baskets. So you can understand why we’re so impatient for it all to grow. We’ll have to wait. Let’s hope this marvellous weather continues.

As to what else has been happening… for those who haven’t seen or heard – two weeks ago some of my paintings were in a public exhibition held by my art group. The full story can be read over on my art blog, but I was delighted that one of my works sold. On top of which, I was asked to do a commission, and I won a prize in the exhibition raffle. All in all, a brilliant weekend.

 

On the downside, now the garden is done, we have no excuse not to start on the major living and dining room makeover and that’s going to be a very messy, dusty job. Not looking forward to it and I may have to escape for a few weeks whilst it’s going on.

Have a great June, everyone.

Kit’s Website and Blog , Kit’s Kitchen  Kit’s Art  Site

Late for a Date…

Apologies for being a little late with today’s post but I had a very important date that couldn’t wait. With my garden.

I had hoped to show you the finished article but the weather here in the UK has been dreadful. Two hot days in April, which meant we could finally make a start on bringing the back garden back to some semblance of prettiness. Two days! The rest of the month has been cold, wet, blowing a hoolie and even colder still – we even had to put the central heating back on.

Today the sky is cloudless, the sun shining and joy of joys, we have been promised good weekend’s weather, which is something of a miracle as it is a bank holiday weekend here. So Dave and I pulled on our gardening shoes and gloves, and with him in the front garden, and me out back, we set to work. I’ve the long border to widen, which is tough going as the ground is still very wet, but I’ve managed to get some plants in, the three obelisks erected and the border almost dug.

You may be able to spot a white slab in front of one of the obelisks – this is where the new birdbath is going. I spent almost a year trying to find the one I wanted, couldn’t, so we improvised and purchased a tall blue glazed pot and a matching saucer, and placing the saucer on top of the pot – voila! One new birdbath. As you can see on the patio, we have lots more to plant although all of the hanging baskets are done. Can you spot the new bird bath among the plants ? The birds haven’t as yet, but hopefully once it’s moved back to where they are used to one being, they’ll make good use of it.

Despite all the rain and cold last month, Dave has been busy laying a new path in front of the new fence along the front side garden. He’s also kept himself occupied in making six wooden planters. These this morning he planted up with lots of colourful annuals and massive of sweet peas to grow up the netting he’s erected along the fence. It should look fab once they all grow.

We’re slowly getting there and hopefully by next month we can sit back and relax a little to enjoy it all. Meanwhile the rest of the borders and pots have provided us with some welcome spring colour.

So forgive me for being late today, hope you think my excuse was worth it!

Kit’s Website and Blog , Kit’s Kitchen  Kit’s Art  Site

Where did that come from?

I love spring. It’s my favourite time of year. Not that you’d know spring had arrived yet in the UK as, after a short warm and sunny spell last week, we still have chilly days and some strong winds. But, all that aside, the garden seems to be springing (ha) to life.

One of the best things about this time of year are the colourful displays in the garden. Not only bulbs I remember planting, and those lovely little spring shrubby flowers, but a few surprises, too. I don’t know how they get here, but every year there seems to be something I don’t remember planting or seeing before, obviously courtesy of the birds dropping seeds? Or seeds flying about on the wind? I’m not sure, but I’m very happy to welcome most of the new things in the garden. And the best things is they always seem to plant themselves in exactly the place where I would have put them. Spooky.

20180421_162211For instance, this beautiful flowering shrub/tree arrived a couple of years ago. It sprung up right where we can see it from the kitchen window, and we love it. Don’t know what it is, but it’s so pretty.

20180425_132234This year I’ve noticed some lovely ground geraniums popping up in a space by the window, so again when they flower we’ll have a good view from the living room. Of course, Ms. Vivvy had to investigate this new arrival to check out if it’s edible or just for show. She wasn’t especially pleased when she discovered it was the latter.

As spring morphs into summer I’ll be keeping a check to see what other new delights await. What about you? Any flowers ever arrived in your outside space that surprised and delighted you?

Rain, Rain, Go Away…

At last April is here. Spring! Except here, spring is rather slow to get going, thanks to all the rain and wind and snow. Even this past weekend, Easter (I hope you all had an enjoyable one), parts of the UK experienced a white Easter, though not for the first time. Here where I am in the West Country, we didn’t have snow but it rained like it was never going to stop. Which means… what I had hoped to enthral you all with on this post hasn’t happened.

Yes, I’m talking about the garden revamp. It has been such a horrible winter, far too cold and wet for either of us to do anything out there apart from pruning my buddleia and a fuchsia and pottering in the new greenhouse bringing on new seedlings and plug plants. The ground is so sodden and heavy it’s going to take a lot of drying out before we can even contemplate putting a fork or spade in. So far this spring we only been able to enjoy a morning cup of coffee out there once. Usually by now I’m out there every morning having my early morning cuppa. Thus, apart from cursing the weather, it’s been a month of more planning and ideas and thoughts as to what we intend to do both outside and indoors. We keep putting off the dreaded downstairs makeover, at least until such time as the garden is good and the central heating can be switched off.

Last week saw my mother’s 92nd birthday, so a jolly family get together to celebrate ensued, with my brother coming over from Spain for a few days’. It was a small gathering this year, just Mum, us for children and husbands. It’s so good for us all to be together sharing a lot of laughs and memories along with the chocolate birthday cake. I do wish we could get together more often.

I do want to share with you is the latest update on my great nephew, little George, only he’s not so little any more. Following major hip surgery two years ago, you may recall he needed further intervention late last year as bone on one side of his hip/leg hadn’t fused properly, causing him pain and a reluctance to walk or do his exercises. I’m pleased to report the second surgery went far better than expected. All the metal inserted on the right-hand side has been removed and a small plate inserted on the left side to encourage the last bit to mend. Now there’s no stopping him. He asks to walk himself most of the time, using his walker instead of the wheelchair, becoming more and more independent, although he’ll never be totally and will always need the walker. And he’s just as mischievous and cheeky as ever!

Later this month he’s off to Florida, one of eight lucky children, for a 2-week vacation to Disney World thanks to a local charity that has been doing this sort of thing for disabled youngsters for 25 years. He is going to have one amazing trip.

Kit’s Website and Blog , Kit’s Kitchen  Kit’s Art  Site

A Daffodil for a Dreary Day

So, that’s dark and dreary January over. Thank goodness. February here may still be dreary but at least the days are getting longer in soggy England. February hasn’t gone well so far for us. Only three days old and already three bad things have happened. First, a close family member on my husband’s side has passed on. Next, we hear some other bad news, upsetting us both. And this morning, though nothing as bad, nonetheless annoying, my dishwasher decided it’s had enough and promptly went bang, knocking out the house’s electricity.

The power’s now restored (hence why I’m a little bit late with this post!) but it’s back to dishpan hands and soap suds for me this weekend. (Dave, where’s the handcream?) One bright start to the month was having a lovely lunch with Tricia. The okay food was more than made up for by the company, conversation and laughter – it’s the reason why we meet, after all. Thank you, Tricia. Looking forward to the next time.

It’s been so wet, cold, windy and miserable here in Britain, that it’s been impossible to do anything for the last three months in the garden to restore it to normal after last November’s major overhaul. Instead, we’ve filled the house with flowers and bulbs, rooms filled with the scent of hyacinths and the amaryllis a giant at over 3ft tall with three magnificent blooms.

The gardens are now springing back into life. (Pun there, did you notice?) The front lawn a riot of snowdrops and crocus and first of the daffodils in flower.

Out back, primroses are brightening the pond and the hellibores up and coming. During the dark days of January, I’ve been plotting and planning and ordering new plants. I want the garden to be a blaze of colour this summer, in fact all year round if I can achieve it, and if the winds don’t take it all down.

I mentioned last time the birds are returning. I was so pleased, until… Last weekend was National Birdwatch Weekend in Britain, organised by the RSPB. As several of our birdfeeders were damaged, we bought new ones and stocked up with plenty of bird feed and treats. I was looking forward to spending a happy hour or so watching my delightful garden visitors. I think the birds must have known something was going on as both Saturday and Sunday, not one single bird arrived. It wasn’t just in my garden either. For some unexplained reason we saw none in other gardens, or in nearby trees, and none flying overheard except one solitary gull, and they don’t count. Low and behold, this morning they are all back, so I’m one happy bunny again.

PS: I was just about to publish this post when I received a bit of good news which has also cheered me up. Hope you don’t mind me sharing it with you?

Silly question, really…

Kit’s Website and Blog  and  Kit’s Art  Site