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Thursday, 31 December 2015

Rainfall data 2014 and 2015

I didn't get to do this last year for obvious reasons so here's the last two years' data. Of course this post is just for my records!


Jan 163.5
Feb 180.5
Mar   42.5
Apr   60.25
May  53.25
Jun   31.0
Jul    70.0
Aug 136.5
Sep    7.0 !!!
Oct   92.5
Nov 144.5
Dec  85.5

TOTAL: 1,067.0

2014 has been the wettest year since I started keeping records, but I think it must be the wettest since moving here in 2004. That's not to say that I didn't need to water the garden, with only 7mm falling in September and the usual dry period during June.


Jan  97.5
Feb  91.5
Mar  35.5
Apr  79.5
May 67.5
Jun  21.5
Jul   48.0
Aug 114.0
Sep  56.5
Oct  24.5 !!!
Nov  85.5
Dec  48.0

TOTAL: 769.50mm

Back to a dry year again, but with August saving the day, otherwise I would have been watering from June through October. October's rainfall was incredibly low, as was December's. Here's hoping for a wet winter 2016 to replenish the water table. This year however the 4,000 litre ex septic tank water has been a godsend as I was able to hose the front garden from that tank using a pump.

Rainfall data since I started being geeky and keeping records:

2007:  944mm
2008:  878mm
2009:  867mm
2010:  757mm
2011:  663.75mm (over a quarter of which fell in December)

2012:  973.5mm 

2013:  969.75mm
2014: 1,067mm
2015:   769.50mm

Sunday, 20 December 2015

December bees, fungi and garden birds

We managed to beat the record this year, by two whole days, of the latest date that the lake has filled completely (18th Dec)! We now have the familiar and somewhat comforting sound of running water again. Somehow the ducks and moorhens seem more active when the lake is full, though I have no idea why.

Still there are no frosts and the weather continues unseasonally mild with plenty of flowers for the few insects still about. Yesterday when I was out I had a look around the overgrown jungle that was once a pristine veg patch and saw a couple of bumble bees buzzing around feeding on the borage! There were also dung flies on the plants too but as I had to use my zoom to try to get pics as I can't really get into this jungle to get close to the plants, I only had distant blurs of them. I also noticed the usual sunny winter day critters about, wolf spiders which come up on the wall of the duck shed to sun themselves, and Fire Bugs which also like south facing sunny surfaces.

This bumble bee is covered in mites - I cropped this shot so that you can just about see them. These are the kind that hitch a ride from one bumble bee nest to another feeding on the detritus in the nest. As far as I understand they are not actually harmful to the bee, i.e. they are not blood sucking mites, but they can weigh them down, making flying and feeding harder for them. This is called commensal symbiosis and this page about bumble bees explains more about the different kinds of symbiosis, the word meaning "interaction between two different organisms living in close physical association, typically to the advantage of both", whilst commensalism means "an association between two organisms in which one benefits and the other derives neither benefit nor harm". Having looked at many parasites and hitchikers through my macro lens I find this kind of thing very interesting.

Hitchhiking mites and so cool to see those pollen sacs -
amazing that they can get filled in Decmber!

The other bumble bee who I don't think has any mites.

Surprise! Purple Sprouting Broccoli already. Only on one plant though.

Yeah OK, look it's good for the wildlife......l

Here's a crop of the same shot showing in the centre and just off to the left some self seeded brassicas - originally I thought they were all PSB but some are actually kale. What is interesting is that the self seeded kale is not purple like the parent plant, but does have purple stems. And it isn't so curly. Anyhow I've been pulling them up and the chickens have been going crazy eating them! If there was a way to (1) herd them in, and (2) fence off the brassicas that I don't want them to eat, I'd let them in here to help clear the plot. Trouble is Blondie got in here one day and all she did was scratch up the paths. Maybe it was too overgrown even for the chooks? Hmmm!

Spot the self seeded brassicas.

Borage again in another of my overgrown plots.

The recent rain has brought forth some fungi, although most are very small and I have to watch my step! I'm glad to see the coral fungus appearing under the pine trees again - I only noticed them for the first time last year. The photos of them are further down.    

Tiny fungus, there are lots like this and yes,
I did get very wet knees taking these 'shroom shots!

Bigger fungi.

This was interesting for the gall on the oak leaf - the donut like thing is a Silk Button Gall and is caused by wasps (Neuroterus numismalis) laying eggs in the buds in spring. There are usually a number of these galls on one leaf and this species has two generations, whose eggs cause two different kinds of gall on the leaves - a better explanation is found on Nature Spot here. I found it interesting the first time I found out what it was, as I remember 'oak apples' (another kind of gall caused by another wasp) from when I was a kid, but didn't know, nor probably cared, what caused them.

A solitary Silk Button Gall on an oak leaf.

Top right is unknown fungus on fallen dead wood, probably oak,
and the rest are Coral Fungus.

There have been a couple of new visitors to the bird feeders so I've managed some quick, grab the camera and shoot, shots. These are all taken through filthy double glazing so I'm quite pleased with them.

The first time Goldfinches have deigned to visit our peanut feeder!

And then a second one came along, sharing the peanuts with a Blue Tit.

Goldfinches and Blue Tits.

We haven't had a Marsh Tit visit for quite a few
years so it's nice to see one back again.

Nuthatches are back again too.

To be honest we probably see more birds in winter -
top left is an annoyed Blue Tit, top right a Great Tit,
bottom left a Song Thrush, and bottom right a male Blackbird.

A cute Blue Tit, again taken through dirty double glazing!

I don't really want to mention that C word because this year I couldn't care less, probably even less than I did last year when I was suffering radiotherapy burns. I'm not sending C cards this year either; if people who know about my health problems want to know how I'm doing they can either search for my blog or email me. There are a few people who I am not in touch with except for at C time who don't know the situation, so I will send a couple of email greetings with my not exciting or interesting news, and one that'll involve a snail mail letter, but I'll do it all in good time, when it suits me. I feel a bit guilty for these people as I know what it's like when you don't hear from someone, then wonder if something happened to them (particuarly if they are elderly).

It's not just my depression/lethargy which is making me want to forget this time of year (which I hate anyway), it's all the deaths and illnesses that have befallen our family and friends this year - more than I have mentioned on this blog - which make both of us not give a toss about a superficial commercial load of rubbish. Bah humbug to you all. :-)

P.S. I might make some mince pies though! 

P.P.S. Thank you to those who have sent cards, I do appreciate it. xx

Friday, 11 December 2015

Au revoir chemo port and December flowers

Not only is this one of the mildest autumns (and Decembers so far) that I remember since moving here eleven years ago, it's also one of the the driest ones. Looking back to when I started this blog in Dec 2011, that year the stream didn't start flowing until the 6th December and it wasn't until the 16th that the lake was full again. This year we've had 'enough' rain for the ground to be damp through and sodden at times; the stream has flowed now and again and refilled the pond up to about 2 foot below the overflow. Then it stopped. So it will be interesting to see if we beat 2011! Here's a link to the post way back showing how low the lake got that year - it was only a pool left in a nearly empty lake bed.

This year there is nothing to worry about as there is plenty of water in the lake itself, but it's a general guideline to how much rain is falling overall and obviously points to a lot more being needed to replenish the water table. Interestingly I found a website that allowed you to put in any French commune and it gives you the climate conditions for that area - the average driest month in my village is April! I would have said September, but then I've only being noticing the weather here for 11 years. November is the wettest month apparently - sounds about right - normally! Here's the link and it does the whole world and you can change the language. I have no idea how accurate it is but it sounds about right for my area.

Autumn 2011 was also very mild and I had geraniums still flowering on Christmas Day - but there is probably more in flower this year than back then, so I went around the garden with my camera of course. There are a few more flowers in the overgrown jungle that is the veg patch, notably corn marigolds still looking pristine, and a few worse for wear cosmos, but I won't share any more nasturtiums and borage right now as I've done them to death!

Heartsease Viola which flowers all year round.

My lovely Prunus subhirtella.

And again, plus another view of the lake (any excuse).

Feverfew self seeded up against the house wall.

Only a few Phacelia have started to flower out of a mass of new plants.
Shame there are so few bees around!

All my roses are flowering and top right are Hellebore buds already.

Surprisingly this unknown plant is flowering
again in my alpine trough.

There are a number of plants flowering out the front of the house where it is quite sheltered from north winds and not included here is the Black Eyed Susan (Thunbergia alata) which is still flowering away happily against the house wall.

The odd Lavender and Thyme flowers still keep appearing, whereas the Erigeron flowers
all year round where it is sheltered at the front of the house.

This however is several months early - it's Japonica aka Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles).

The Hollyhocks just keep on flowering.....

...and there's no stopping the Calendula (until we get below zero!).

Back to leaves again, but I can't help it!

Berberis looking amazing right now.

Leaves on the ground given the ICM treatment.

Sorry, it's that pond again....
it's at its most photogenic in spring and autumn.

Sleepy ducks - when the lake is full the water will come up
to just above the green growth top right.

Leaves floating on the water.

Oak leaves - I can't stop taking leaf photos!

Oak trees and leaves.

My handsome seasonally coloured Harry.

My chemo port has come out this afternoon and I'm hoping that will give me the closure that was missing by never having had that final chemo session. At times the port, which is a lumpy chamber implanted under the surface of the skin and is linked to a major artery, was uncomfortable and felt like it was pulling on my skin, but recently having put on a bit of weight I haven't noticed it. I think being thin doesn't help when you don't have any excess flesh.

The doc showed it to me after it came out (gen anaesthetic to put it in, local to take it out). I knew there was something like a tube coming out of the port as I could feel it under the skin just beside the port, but I was amazed to see that the tube was about 5 or 6" long! The doc said it went into a heart vein (or near to one, my French doesn't always 'get' every word said) but not knowing vein or artery anatomy I don't understand why then the tube was pointing out towards my shoulder. Maybe a vein/artery does a loop around back towards the heart?

As far as my doldrums have been going, when I have managed to drag myself out of bed this last week I have not only had a great session attacking brambles by the side of the pond (was good that I could get into the dry lake bed itself to pull up the ends which had rooted in to the soil), and because I had some shortcrust pastry that K brought back from England, I made a pumpkin pie. Bit late for Thanksgiving but as I'm not American I can make it any time I want to. :-)

To my British friends - can you no longer get those blocks of shortcrust pastry which you roll out yourself? This ready rolled Tesco stuff was square!!! and way too small for any of my (round of course) flan or pie dishes, so I had to cut bits off the square edges and fill in the gaps with these odd bits of pastry. And then the pastry went rather brown before my pie filling was cooked. Tastes nice though. More weight gain I reckon after that as I'm eating twice as much of it as K, who is trying to lose some weight! :-)

Saturday, 5 December 2015

It's all about the leaves

It feels like the last few months has been all about watching the changing landscape via the trees and their changing leaf colour - autumn moves slowly in these parts when winter weather holds off, which seems to be becoming the norm these last three or four years. It's now December and although all but one of the photos were taken in November (you know me, always trying to catch up), there are still quite a lot of leaves on the trees even now, albeit the vast majority are on our native oak, Quercus robur. And there are still plenty of flowers about!

Always expect lots of photos of my Liquidambar!

Back of the house.

Leaf mould bins, there is a three year cycle here!

Sycamore leaf.

Now there is more light, the lichen and moss
covered trunks show up more.

Sometimes just one leaf shows out from the crowd.

Or they all look wonderful together.

Smoke Bushes through the Lime leaves.

Butterflies were about regularly until mid November -
one of the last to be seen has been the Red Admiral.

And as always (also one of the first to appear in spring), the Speckled Wood.

Red Admiral again.

Liquidambar leaves again, with an oak leaf or two.

However the Liquidambars can't beat the native oak
with regard to the majesty of the tree itself.

Taken 1st December, the Prunus subhirtella is flowering like crazy,
but it's hard to get a photo of it against grey skies.

And to finish, my friends down the bottom of the garden.

Health Update

A mixed bag of good and bad - however any goods mean a step in the right direction! I had a colonscopy on Wednesday and I'm glad to say that nothing untoward was found, so I don't need to have another one for three years, which is great. To be honest the thing I find the worst about having one is the three days of bland low fibre diet beforehand. I had wondered quite how the laxatives and ensuing violent diarrhoea was going to work with a bag, but in fact it was a lot easier than I remember when I had an anus; there was no burning bum this time! Sort of amusing - after taking the first lot of laxatives the evening before, I fell asleep on the sofa for two hours, only to find upon waking the most enormously full to bursting bag.... phew, thank god the glue stuck, that could have been rather nasty! I told my OH off for letting me sleep so long! I also didn't have that worry about needing the toilet on the drive to the hospital - the previous time I had taken a bucket in the car, I kid you not!!

I'm taking a drug called Lyrica which is often prescribed for neuropathy, but in my case was prescribed for the nerve damage in my buttock and perineal scar area by a doctor who was unaware of my neuropathy (my body is a bit like pass the parcel at the hospital, I'm always being passed from one doc to another as no-one wants to take full responsibility, it seems). Anyhow I'm interested to see if it helps the neuropathy at all. I've had a few days here and there where it seems a bit better than others, and the last three weeks it hasn't actually got any worse. However typing this is a pain because I am having to edit so much.

There is good news though - I am sitting a lot easier, so something is working! Still using my donuts, but sometimes I can sit with just one, and I'm generally more comfortable and can finally sleep on my back again. Whether it is the Lyrica or just time that is working, it doesn't really matter, but it's coincided with taking the drug so I assume it's that which is helping. This is a really big step forward. :-)

But the bad news is that I am still down in the post chemo doldrums. Not sure what to do about that as it's seriously pissing me off! However yesterday as the sun shone all day long I did more than I have done in weeks - as well as wandering around taking photos, cleaning out the chooks and feeding them and the ducks (my old chores which I've taken over again to force me outside), I also spent a couple of hours gardening, and then came in and made scones. That's because Keith had been over to England again to sort through his parents' house, meaning he could hit Tesco again, this time bringing back, amongst other goodies, a tub of clotted cream. Bliss! 

Oh and I have put on a whole stone of weight (14lbs/7 kg) since I was at my thinnest in June/early July!