Category Archives: Seasons

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.

Advertisements

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

 

A New Year

Is it safe to put my head above the parapet yet? Have all the Christmas decorations and cards come down? Is everything back to normal? Well, it is in our house, leaving me with just one thing to say:

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!

What does the new year hold in store for me, I wonder. Certainly hope a better one than that just gone. It was a year of  change and adjustments mainly centred on the man in my life: Dave underwent major surgery last April, then cataract ops (the second eye being done next Monday) and back in July he finally retired from work so lots of adjustments needed there on both parts but it has been lovely having him home. He told me the other day he’s enjoyed every minute of it so we must be doing something right. And even though my health hadn’t been top form, it wasn’t all bad and I did manage to get away for a week abroad to visit my brother for his 70th birthday.

Talking of holidays and birthdays, Dave is 70 in February and it’s our 40th wedding anniversary later in the year so we are planning a holiday once he gets his passport. His retirement gift from his boss was a four-figure holiday voucher so we are discussing where to go whilst waiting for the holiday brochures to arrive. This will be his first holiday for 20 years. We’re not into big celebrations or parties but we’ll come up with something to mark both occasions in our own little way.

Also looming is my first public art exhibition scheduled for May. I took the plunge last summer and joined an art group. There is no tutor, we do our own thing in our own medium. Some are leisure painters, others qualified and skilful in their craft. I still feel a little like the new girl in school and yet to learn everyone’s name but the discipline and concentration of being in a dedicated art group for a couple of hours each week is proving beneficial. The advice and support both received and given is beyond value and I’ve learnt a lot. So I’m busy deciding which pieces to exhibit and the best way to frame them. I had the two works below lined up but they’ve sold, which is wonderful. Meanwhile, I’m trying to decide what to paint next.

Dave suggested I paint the walls in the lounge. I don’t think he’s got the hang of this art business yet! But yes, we do have redecorating to do downstairs this year. There’s a fireplace we want removed, wallpaper to strip, walls replastered (and painted), ceilings repaired and oh dear, I have to start sorting out cupboards and decluttering as all the furniture and bits in the lounge and dining room will need to go into commercial storage as we have no garage and no room upstairs.

What else…? Oh, did I tell you I have novel due out in the next month or so? No? Hopefully, yes. And maybe one or two more during the year. Depends on how well everything goes, that’s if I can find the time between the paintbrushes and the garden spade as there’s lots to do outside as soon as the weather warms up. Roll on Spring. I did notice this morning through the rain that the snowdrops on the front lawn are in bud along with several hellebores, the daffodils are poking through and for the past week we’ve noted we’re drawing the curtains later and later of an afternoon so perhaps Spring isn’t so far away after all.

Okay, there were two things I wanted to say. The other is:

I HOPE 2018 PROVES TO BE PEACEFUL, SUCCESSFUL AND EXCITING FOR YOU TOO!

Paddington and the Burglar

I hope everyone had a happy and safe Christmas.

Looking back to my December blogs I seem to have set up a tradition by posting a video of my favourite seasonal advert. My winner this year is the Marks and Spencer one featuring Paddington Bear. It’s a bit schmaltzy, but then I’m a sucker for a bit of that, especially at Christmas-time.

Here it is:

Did you have a favourite?

September…Arachnophobics Beware!

Ah, September … leading us gently into the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness. But, of course, it’s also spider month, that time of year when the males begin to search for a mate and the little critters head indoors to find a place to spend the winter.

20170927_092530

Essential household equipment

I’m no fan of spiders and would never hurt them, but I don’t especially want to share the house with them either. Usually, the old upturned glass and cardboard removal does the trick, but so far this month these invaders have been pretty large and so I’ve been on the hunt for deterrents.

To date, I’ve tried herbs – lavender, eucalyptus, peppermint – and scattering horse chestnuts around the room, but they don’t seem to work too well, especially the chestnuts because I found a spider virtually sitting on top of one!  And they were also too attrac tiveto a certain Ms. Vivvy who thought they looked like a fun new thing to play with. But then she also finds the spiders themselves pretty interesting and pounces on them as if they are new playmates.

20170927_092400

Bad mummy.

She’s very disgruntled when we bring out the glass and cardboard and they’re removed from her vicinity.

Things I still plan to try out are citronella spray and lemon surface cleaners and polish, both of which have been recommended.

One of the things that really surprised me while researching the internet for natural deterrents was how many sites have photos of huge, and I mean huge, spiders on their web pages. Surely many people looking for deterrents are going to be mildly arachnophobic. The last thing they’d want is a massive spider looking out at them. Much the same as when I purchased a commercial spray to try. I bought a couple for my mum as well and had to cover the depiction of a spider on the bottle with a stick-on smiley face before I gave them to her.

Speaking of arachnophobia, be warned that the following video is probably not for you. Someone let loose a tarantula on a London tube train. They were lucky someone didn’t have a heart attack!

Gallery

An Apology

This gallery contains 6 photos.

My apologies, everyone, I am unable to do my blogspot today due to several domestic problems in the Domino household. Nothing to worry about and normal service shall be resumed as soon as possible. Meanwhile, for your enjoyment, here are … Continue reading

An Emotionally Uplifting Summer

It’s been a fun month, even if it has been busy. I’ve been working hard on a new fantasy story and it seems like there’s been family event after family event. We have two spare beds in our house and I’ve been washing sheets like there’s no tomorrow! But it’s all been fun.

We held a family reunion at my brother’s house to celebrate what would have been Mom’s 93rd birthday. It was a lot of fun and visiting and catching up.

Hubby and I showing my aunt how the “photo booth” worked. 🙂

And we released balloons in Mom’s favorite color (purple) in her honor. We’ve always said that when Mom passed, she was finally with the love of her life, our beloved step-father, who passed away in the early 90’s. Well, two of the balloons released knocked up against each other and their strings entwined. They stayed that way all the way up until they were out of sight. It made us smile as we thought of them as Mom and John holding hands. 🙂 Have you ever had a moment like that? Where something random happens and it fills you with such a feeling of love? It’s an amazing blessing to be able to have that happen.

Also on the fun front, we went to see Neil Diamond in concert. Again. Must be about my fifth time. Two years ago, my daughter took me for a “banner” birthday. I blogged about that here. This time, we got my husband to come, along with another daughter and her husband.

You know…that man is 76 years old now and still doing concerts. Every other day during his tour. At 76! Wow. I hope I’m that active when I’m his age! I have to admit, he was moving a little slower. But that voice of his is as amazing as ever, along with his ability to fill a crowd with joy. He made us all feel special. He is a very special man with an amazing talent and I’m so glad I’ve gotten to see him so many times.

Now we’re in a heat wave here in the Pacific Northwest. A week or so of highs in the 90’s (32’s in Celsius numbers).  That’s really warm for us in the summer. We rarely get 100 degree days, or even approach them. So this is going to be a hot, hot week. We are lucky enough to have air conditioning. It doesn’t make it easier to sleep at night, but the days are much more comfortable, and we’re very grateful for that.

I hope you are all having a fun, fun summer. And staying cool in the heat, or embracing the sunshine. Whatever you love to do, this is the time to do it.

Summer rocks!

For more information about Laurie Ryan:
Newsletter
Website