Category Archives: Hobbies

A Summer of Firsts

This summer has certainly been sweltering so far, and I love it. But it has its downside too, for keeping the garden thriving has been a major task. Thankfully we’re not on a water meter or a hosepipe ban so the new flower border is more colourful than ever.

But despite our best efforts our vegetables have been a failure – a first for Dave. The broad beans cropped well but of once shelled were all covered in black spots and consigned to the compost bin. We managed about three meals from the runner beans before they withered. Dave has cut them back in hope they’ll reshoot. The peas were a non-starter and the sweet peas although flowered had stems no longer than 2 inches and soon died in the heat. That said, the onions, carrots and potatoes are cropping, so at least we’re not starving. But therein came another first for us.

We kept finding the onions pulled out and scattered around the vegetable patch, we’re talking here about the whole matured, fully grown and ready to harvest bulbs. Then some of the dahlias were pulled out of the ground. A few mornings on we found tattered and chewed children’s soft toys discarded amongst the veg. Big holes were appearing in the ground, too big to be cats and we have no wild rabbits here. The culprits were seen one evening when I spied them coming into the garden through the adjoining hedge – foxes, a family of 7. Urban foxes have always been around but we’ve never had any damage. They’ve even dug large holes under a neighbours’ new fence.

But there have been some lovely firsts too. We haven’t seen many butterflies here this summer apart from the pesky cabbage whites. One appeared that I hadn’t seen before – a marbled white. Not as troublesome as the cabbage whites.

Marbled White Butterfly

The butterflies might be scare but there have been plenty of moths. One was  a privet hawk moth, with a wingspan of approx 4 inches, these moths are the largest in the UK. I haven’t seen them since moving away from London so a first for my garden. It was also unusual in that there are no privet hedges locally!

Privet Hawk Moth

Another morning I noticed a strange-looking black and white butterfly sitting on one of my flowers. A closer inspection showed it was a moth. I grabbed my camera and tried to take a photo. As I did, it opened its wings and took flight revealing the most beautiful orange wings as it fluttered over the fence into another garden. Research told me it was a tiger moth, and that the unknown hairy caterpillars I kept finding on a rose bush were in fact tiger moth caterpillars. More firsts. As always, I’m too slow with the camera so I’ve had to obtain these 3 ref photos.

Tiger Moth

Last Wednesday as Dave and I were enjoying a coffee on the patio, he noticed a very fat, long (at least 3 inches!) green caterpillar making its way across the slabs. It looked rather like those stuffed draft excluders we all had years ago to keep the wind from blowing under the doors. He took a photo and ran inside to look it up on the internet as neither of us recognized it. Whilst he was gone, I spied another happily munching away on a fuchsia bush. They turned out to be elephant hawk moth caterpillars – I never knew they also came in green, I’d only ever seen the brown ones. We found out that they start off green and over the course of a few days slowly turn brown.  Two days later, trundling along the patio heading for the undergrowth along came a brown one. At least they shuffle along slowly so I was able to capture them on camera. (As I’m writing this post, Dave has just come upstairs to show me another green one he’s found chomping on a plant!)

Another first is a sunflower growing in the new border. In all the 40 years I’ve been gardening here, I’ve never grown one. I’d popped a few sunflowers seeds from the birdfeed into the ground out of curiosity to see if they would grow. Two of them I must have pulled out when weeding but one has grown into a beauty, almost 6 feet tall with lots of buds coming out.

But the best first of all wasn’t a moth, butterfly or caterpillar or a flower. It was a pair of goldfinches settling on the birdfeeder to enjoy a feast of nyger seeds. I knew goldfinches were in the area, I’d seen and heard them about them since last winter, so I’d put out the nyger seeds in the hope they would come into the garden. They did, and a few days later two youngsters joined them. Now we often have 7 or 8 around the feeders. They take no notice of Dave or me or of the resident sparrows.

Talking of sparrows… Billy One Mate still pops into the garden for a feed on the ground but he’s now with a small flock of his fellow starlings. I know it’s him as he has a white flash down his chest. He’s thriving, bless him, after such a shaky start.

And with summer still not over, who knows what other firsts might appear.

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Follow Your Dream

I wonder if we all have dreams but some of us never realise them for one reason or another, a bit like bucket lists.  My husband Peter’s dream is to complete the challenge of cycling the whole length of England and Scotland alone, a challenge known by several names but he calls it LeJog.  Land’s End to John O’Groats, an approx 950 mile journey.  There are several routes but Peter is in the process of finalising his preferred route, it all comes down to stamina and strength of will to achieve this dream.  I will be logistics support in my small Skoda car!  An important responsible role but at least I am not on a bike!! I find the idea exciting but challenging and think lots of humour, as well as providing refreshments and a comfortable night’s sleep, to be part of my role.  The whole thing depends on an all clear for me in August from the Breast Clinic at my two-yearly check up. Peter also must be sure his health is up to the task too. On 4th September Peter will celebrate his 70th Birthday so this trip will be his personal fulfilment of a dream.  Many people undertake the journey but often in groups with lots of support.  My husband has always been a loner so why change the habit of many years.

Our recent trip to Cornwall was part of our research into the enterprise.  We checked out Land’s End (the start) but from a distance as it was £6 to go into the area around the famous signpost – more of that if we manage the trip.  Land’s End seems to be a theme park now but remains the iconic starting point for many such challenges.  My role is to book suitable overnight stays, meet up regularly to refresh Peter and be a general factotum.  I hope to use the time in between meetings to explore some of the areas we pass through.  I am not familiar with Scotland so am looking forward to new places, albeit fleeting visits.  I hope to update you all with our plans plus possibly raise money for a charity.  What I don’t want to do is put extra pressure on Peter.  I anticipate other challenges to be the weather, possible injuries and bike repairs so my little car will be a hub for all eventualities.  Communications may be a trial at times but we will overcome as the song says. Now Peter does daily training rides when he finishes work, usually 25 miles plus 80 mile rides most Saturdays and Sundays. Occasionally I persuade him to take a day off to recharge his batteries!  We have a family nickname OMIL for him (Old Man in Lycra!) based on a term MAMILS (Middle Aged Men in Lycra).  His outfits are quite distinctive but a necessary extra safety measure.

I realise I’ve not shared my dream, at the moment I just want him to succeed.  If any of you wish to share your dreams please do so.  I anticipate a couple of interesting months ahead! Watch this space!!

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

To Puzzle or not to puzzle. That is the question…

Do you like working jigsaw puzzles? I do. I don’t do it often enough, but when I do, it’s almost always a family or friend affair, which is most often the best part of puzzling. 🙂

So, when I open a new box, I start by sorting out all the edge pieces. (I know people that do those puzzles with no straight edge, but I like the definition of corners and size.) In a 1,000 piece puzzle, that takes some time. My friend’s daughter suggested, when done with a puzzle, putting the edge pieces in their own baggie. Is this cheating? I don’t think so. You’re not leaving them together, you’re just eliminating that initial sort. I like that idea!

The first puzzle was designed back in the 1760’s. John Spilsbury, an Englishman and cartographer, mounted a map on a thin sheet of wood and cut around the county boundaries to form “dissected maps” for educational purposes. But, I read that adult puzzling for entertainment didn’t become a fad until the early 1900s. Wood puzzles were cut manually using a jig saw. Hence the name.

Nowadays, the puzzles are cut with a die. A sharp, metal ribbon bent into the correct formation. It can take 400 hours to shape the die, then the cardboard adhered picture is sent through the die cut press and the die is forced down under high pressure, making the puzzle cut in one pass. The puzzle “sheets” go through a machine that breaks them up and they get packaged.

Of course, the future seems to be moving toward digital puzzles, but I like the tactile feel of physical puzzles. Not just because they help me clear my mind and think (great for problem-solving), but also for the times I work them with family (like at our winter cabin each year) or with a friend.

Speaking of which, this puzzle is one a friend gave to me. She and her husband visited this town, Manarola, one of the five towns that make up Cinque Terra in Italy. So, as we got together over the course of a week or two, I got to learn more about their travels and the town and area, along  with the usual discussions about kids and life. These are the life memories I love, spending time on a project like this with someone who’s friendship I treasure.

Manarola. Photo courtesy of Doug Benedetti

So I highly recommend grabbing a big board and a puzzle. Invite a friend or loved one to join you and start sorting. It’s good for the blood pressure, for the brain, for dexterity, and, well, I can’t see a down side to doing jigsaw puzzles at all. Except maybe the time suck. They can become addicting. 🙂

Happy puzzling!

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

Snap Happy

Untitled design(5)I’ve just taken up a new hobby – photography. Well, it’s not technically new since I’ve had an interest for many years, but lately I’ve been doing more of it and find it increasingly enjoyable.

Creatively, writing has become all consuming, so I wanted something I could pick up and put down as a kind of switch-off from the head-pounding that comes from battling with plot holes and building character arcs. Photography fills that role and takes me out of my head and into the lens, so to speak.

In the past, whenever I took on something new or got enthused about it, I headed straight for the how-to books, or the search engines, and threw myself in at the deep end in an effort to learn everything possible about it. But not this time. I want to learn organically. So, no books, no courses, no internet searches (well, maybe the odd one). It’ll just be me and the camera. Learning together.

20170820_113332Doors and gates have always fascinated me. They beg the question ‘what’s behind there?’ and off goes my imagination (yes, the writer is never far away). Playing around with visual effects is fun, too. This gate from a neighboring village, found while out on a walk with Vivvy, is pretty romantic, but change the hue and tone and it becomes almost spooky. Two potential stories in the offing for the price of one snap. That’s not a bad investment of time and effort.2018-03-27 15.58.00

Of course, if I’m ever in any need of visual inspiration there’s my stalwart companion and favorite photographic subject always ready and willing to oblige. Especially if there’s a treat in her immediate future. 20180326_174036

Gallery

Rock Painting

This gallery contains 2 photos.

Last month, I talked about our annual family winter cabin adventure. One of the things I forgot to mention is that we painted rocks. A while back, in my walks at a local park, I began seeing painted rocks in … Continue reading