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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Just a quickie post to get into the festive season and post my first ever attempts at shooting Christmas lights. I tried mostly ICM shots as I knew without a tripod I wasn't going to get sharp shots of the lights as is. Well they weren't great individually but collaged up I don't think they look too bad. The first is the shop/home of a retired electrician who I guess started putting up lights as advertising for his business, and has continued doing so ever since. It's rather fun to see. The second picture is a Christmas tree in the village square.

I'll finish up with some kitty pics as these are all the new photos I have left. You can see how it's hard for me to relax on the sofa - there is not enough room for all four of us. Bad enough with just one of them! Yet of course, when I retire to my bed to get a bit more room to stretch out, you can guess what happens. :-)

My OH bought a footstool some years back to put his feet up on when he was suffering with plantar something-or-other, but of course that got taken over too..... really there is not a chair/bed/sofa/anything that humans may want to sit or lie on in the house that is not then deemed belonging to the cats. But if you've got cats, then you know that this is entirely normal. Probably much the same with dogs too. :-)

I think I will sign out for the rest of the year as I doubt I'll be spending a lot of time sitting at my desktop computer, let alone get out taking photos. I need to rest and heal now that (woohoo!!) my radiotherapy sessions are over. So I'll see you in the New Year and I wish you all the very best for the festive season and may all your wishes come true in 2015. xx

Sunday, 21 December 2014

December insects and fungi

Even in December there are still a few insects about. A bit of sunshine and even when it's cold there will no doubt be a few flies and other creatures about, and after three years of bug hunting I know the best places to look to find a few insects during the winter months on a sunny day. This hoverfly I found one morning in earlyish December and it seemed rather chilled (as was I), so it allowed me the chance to take many photos of it, as it was too cold to fly off!

Hoverfly (or Drone Fly?) with another teeny fly sitting 'chilling out' (ho ho) on a Calendula.

It may be an Eristalis species but I can't spot any markings on the abdomen so not sure.

And another view - nice to have one sitting fairly still for a change!

Another common bug I can usually find in the depths of winter is the Firebug, of which there are tons in the garden. These photos are all taken near the base of a lime tree (Tilia, not the citrus fruit), one of their favoured spots as they eat lime seeds. They will huddle together in amongst the lichen on the tree, and in the grass at the base of the trunk, and come out when there is a bit of warmth to sun themselves.

Family group of Firebugs (Pyrrhocoris apterus) near the base of the tree, where there was
a long clump of grass for shelter (that's what the bits of strawlike grass are which
I couldn't remove for fear of disturbing them).

A little fly came along for a moment. I don't/can't do this kind of fly ID!

Showing how they mass together in amongst the lichen - presumably they keep warm like this.

If you are spider phobic then quickly scroll past the next two photos!

Somebody with very long legs left some of them behind after a moult in the ivy.

Even after a -2c frost, there were still a few Wolf Spiders sunning themselves on the wall of the
duck shed! Not the greatest of photos but I prefer to post the ones of now rather than
cheat with better pics taken during the warmer months.

Not very in focus but I found this large slug about 5 foot up on
my Silver Birch tree; and it was moving quite quickly too!

It's been several years since I saw a bubble blower so had a good watch of this fly
sucking the goo back up then blowing the bubbles back out again. Non bug lovers find this
sort of thing gross but I think it's really fascinating and great fun to watch!

I've come across clear bubbles as well as coffee coloured bubbles like this.
There is much speculation as to why they do this - and it's not just flies either.
I've seen (and got an image of) a harvestman blowing a bubble too.

Now on to the fungi. I don't find the most exciting or pretty of fungi at home but these next three photos are of something which I'm told is a kind of Coral Fungus, which I've never noticed before. Loads of it came up in an area where several pine trees are growing. I have no idea of what any of the other kinds of fungi are but if anyone knows, I am happy to be enlightened. Bugs are much easier to ID. :-)

Coral Fungus just starting to appear in amongst the leaf litter.

It starts off like this with tall spiky bits.

Then bushes out and now you can see why it's called Coral Fungus!

And this I have absolutely no idea - it's on an ivy covered fallen rotting apple tree. Any ideas?

Little fungi growing out of a tree stump.

Another kind of fungi growing from another tree stump, and top right was a large white 'shroom
growing under a conifer amongst the needles.

This was the most handsome fungi I found, but I'm stumped by the strange red thing ??
(bottom right) which was growing right near it. It's near the base of a long ago chopped down
Thuya tree (the one that's covered in ivy and ivy flowers which I featured recently).

I haven't been getting out very often with my camera, not only due to health reasons but also because this time of year the weather is often pretty miserable. I am trying to have some walks around the garden and get a bit of fresh air and exercise though, even if I don't take a camera with me. I've only got one more zap to go (out of 28!) tomorrow evening and then I guess I can collapse in a heap. Oh hang on, I've been doing that for weeks now..... well at least I won't have to get up nearly every day to go to the bloody hospital!!

I've been told the radiation burns (nasty and I'm not grossing anyone out with the details) will probably last about 3 more weeks but won't get any worse.... but I never thought to ask how long before the effects of the chemo leave my body. Having seen the results of my weekly blood tests I'm surprised I can even stand! I guess it's something I can google though. It would be nice to get some energy back and do a few little jobs outside before my op which will be around February. I still need to prune my currant bushes - I really don't need to have twice as much fruit next year and this year's is still in the freezer!

I intend to get another short post in before Xmas, so not wishing you happy anythings just yet. :-)

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The last of the pretty leaves and flowers

Frost has come and turned the nasturtiums to mush, although a few hardy annuals are still clinging on - there are odd blobs of orange and yellow here and there from calendulas and a few tough perennials still with flowers. Overall though the garden knows winter is almost here - although I wish the weeds were less hardy as I don't have the energy to do any tidying up right now. You should see the state of my veg patch (no, I'm not going to show you)! Darn chickweed everywhere. If there was some way to herd the hens in there I would, but when I let them out of the run they are off in the other direction as they like scratching around in the wild woodland areas, and under the conifer trees in amongst the fallen needles. 

Most of the pretty leaves have gone now but I got out with my camera a few times in the last week or so to get these pics before the frost. I've even found a few more insects which I'll save for my next post along with some fungi.

One of my variegated Dogwoods, name forgotten offhand.
I feel I have a great excuse not to bother looking up plant names right now
as my brain has turned to mush. ;-)

Although there are no beech trees growing naturally in my local area, I do have this little stand of about half a dozen near the pond which have been growing slowly over the years - I imagine they came from some bird pooing out the seeds. Some are now about 6 foot tall and they grow in the shade of taller hazels and other trees. I really need to thin them out, but they look so lovely at this time as beech does have pretty leaf colour, and the leaves stay put for a long time. I just don't really know what to do with these trees as there's nowhere to transplant one to allow it to grow to a majestic tree (in about 100+ years' time) without taking out some other trees.... yet another thing I'll worry about some other day or year. ;-)

Little beech trees.

With the pond in the background.

At least I'm assuming they are beech.....!

Back to the Liquidambar, sorry to bore you but it cries out to have its photo taken! :-)

I just couldn't stop taking photos of it. It's been an absolute joy and still has a few leaves left.

Here you may have a glimpse into the veg patch of dewy dill
impersonating a Xmas tree, with purple curly kale and PSB
in the background making good bokeh.

Now for a few flowers - the top is an Abelia which has pretty variegated leaves
but tiny flowers, and bottom are roses growing up against the house walls.

One of the Calendulas, also known as Pot Marigolds.

Corn Marigold peeking through the veg patch fence. Mush now!

Believe it or not the self seeded flat leaf parsley is still flowering!

Nasturtiums at the top, bottom left is Feverfew which is just about clinging on
after the frost, and bottom right I've forgotten again, but it's still fine after the frost!

A close up of inside a Nasturtium, showing those seeds forming which will self seed again next year.

These next two photos are for Ian - they are a couple of my experiments with ICM (Intentional Camera Movement) of my silver birch tree. This was the first time I tried with a zoom lens on so I had a lot of fun(!!) trying to shoot whilst turning the zoom, rather than moving the camera to get the impressionist type of effect. I'm sure I did both as I found it very similar to rubbing my tummy whilst patting my head.... I liked both effects so here they are.

My friend who taught me about ICM (yes, you, Marianne!) does some great effects with Christmas lights, and I've found a house in my village which is all lit up like something out of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (it's actually the house of a retired electrician and it used to be his shop). So one evening I'm going to stop by there to have a bash at photographing it. There are two more houses up a country lane which are lit up American style too - I still find it very amusing to see as this was not a trend when I lived in England (although I understand it's far more popular these days), especially when the houses are in the middle of absolutely nowhere, but some French people seem to enjoy decorating the outside of their houses and as my hospital appointments seem to be early evening these days it gives us something to look at on the tedious journey, as it's dark early now. And on that subject, only 10 more sessions of radiotherapy to go. :-)

Monday, 1 December 2014

Still a November post even though it's December now....

I seem to be getting into the habit of posting photos that are about two weeks old, but I'd rather post them than not at all. All these pictures were taken around the 20th November, but now it's looking a lot more bare in the garden. Friday and Saturday were reasonably mild and I saw a Comma butterfly on Friday, but I haven't been outside as much as I usually would for obvious reasons. Now it's turning cold and having had a mild autumn and only really got around to putting away summer clothes like shorts a few weeks ago, I haven't actually even got out any winter ones; just wearing long sleeved T-shirts and fleeces - so it may be time to get out the woolly jumpers and long johns! I think it'll be goodbye to the last of the annual flowers this week and then I can start composting nasturtiums and the like, although I suspect the jungle of weeds/plants that is now the veg patch will not get much done to it this winter. But that's just how things go and there's no point worrying about it.   

The two ornamental cherries by my lake don't hold their leaves very long
but the spindly one in the foreground (Prunus subhirtella) already has
some blossom, which is normal for it at this time of year,
although the main blossom season is spring, of course.

Looking across the lake at the poplars and alders
(and a couple of ducks).

The big old cherry tree's leaves turned a lovely bright yellow for about a week.

For a brief period my Dogwood 'Midwinter Fire', which has amazing
orange stems in winter, also had fabulous orange leaves.

The foreground is my green Smokebush which looks lovely in autumn
and the good old Liquidambar in the background on the left.

This is Smokebush 'Grace', which has more colourful leaves in autumn than the
very similar 'Royal Purple'. This is the shrub I planted on Smokey's grave.

Liquidambar leaves looking colourful amongst the more dull fallen leaves.

Intentional Camera Movement photo of my Liquidambar - I think
people either love or hate this kind of image but I think it's great fun trying!

A fungi of some kind and a droplet reflecting the oak leaf
(if you can open it full size and are looking on a reasonable sized screen, that is).

Second wave of fungi appearing in the bark chippings in the veg patch paths - but this time
I have no idea what are the spiky things which appeared before the little 'shrooms.

French or Papillon Lavender - now this plant was a total surprise as it just appeared
growing beside a small Perovskia which I transplanted last year -
even more surprising that it is still flowering right now on 1st December!

And now some cat pictures..... looking at the field from the veg patch.

Harry the ginger has finally grown into his feet - he always had the most enormous paws!

I was calling them trying to get them to look at the camera -
Hallie did but Harry's obviously seen something more interesting.

Meanwhile Bertie was having a bit of a half snooze and wasn't in the mood to look at me either.

I've now had 2.5 weeks of chemo and radiotherapy with another 3 weeks to go. I'm feeling quite up and down which I guess is to be expected, so when you see a blog post from me you know I am feeling OK enough to get my photos sorted and posted! The most annoying thing last week was going to the hospital on Friday for the last 'zap' of the week at 6pm, hanging around for half an hour wondering what was going on, only to find out that the radiotherapy machine had broken down. I've actually felt reasonably well 3 out of the last 4 days, so cross fingers for more 'good' days...... and getting out with my camera! :-)