Blog Header

Blog Header

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

January in the garden Part 2

I've been out this morning doing some real gardening! There's no wind and I got quite warm and ended up taking off my jacket, and then the sun came out and I could actually feel its warmth. It's clouded over again now so I'm glad I was able to enjoy a brief period of nice weather. I've pruned my black and redcurrants at long last and have started to attack the perennial flowers around the edge of the veggie patch, and will then move on to some of the flower beds. I despair looking around at all the clearing up that needs doing, but I'll just have to do what I can - at least now I am starting to feel some energy again.

The jobs I normally do in the middle of winter like attacking brambles and ivy in the woodland, and clearing the bramble swamped stream, haven't been done, and it'll be interesting to see how the apples and pears fare this year, as they are not getting pruned. To be honest it's a huge sigh of relief as it's quite an onerous task for two, taking up the best part of a week of afternoons. 10 years of pruning them with all the lugging the ladder, step ladder and tools over to the orchard and back, no wonder that in recent years we've been getting totally fed up with the job!

These photos aren't from this morning - oh no, it was serious 'attack the garden and don't be distracted by taking a camera with me' time. I shall probably pay for it tomorrow aching like crazy. I could have done more but I'm trying to be sensible!  

I just love this Dogwood at this time of year.
It's Cornus sanguinea 'Winter Flame' but I've noticed that it is
naughtily sending out stolons far away and sprouting
up to 2 metres away from the main plant!

Old apple tree full of mistletoe and you can just about see
some of the new shoots from the Dogwood that are
coming up in front of my Spirea.

A few fluffy seed heads left on one of the Smokebushes.

Some of the dead perennial growth looks lovely at first in winter,
such as the fluffy seed heads of Golden Rod.
But they are all starting to fall over and it's time to tidy up.

The day I took these photos it was very cold, despite being sunny. I clocked up one brave wolf spider and a fly on the wall of the duck shed, which is a sun trap, not that it exactly heats up in January. But when I stopped to look at some moss and lichen on a silver birch trunk I spotted a tiny beetle. What you can barely see here is another miniscule bug to the left of and slightly above the beetle (I didn't notice the beetle until I'd taken this photo), which is what first caught my eye because it was moving about. It might be a springtail, but I'm not sure.

Tiny critters not actually hiding but you have to look for them!

This is the best I can do with my macro lens - the beetle was only about 3mm long.

Interesting orange fungal stuff (?) on the old pallets making up one of the leaf mould bins.
Any ideas?

Now to some new growth. I cleared up the old tatty leaves from this Hellebore so that the flowers would show up better. I also picked a stem to bring inside along with some snowdrops, so that I could enjoy them more. The snowdrops burst open into flower after just half an hour, but the Hellebore sulked for 24 hours as the warmth was a shock to it, but it's been happy flowering on my kitchen table ever since. I need to pick flowers more often but just forget!

First sighting of Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum) in the woodland .

Hellebore - the two pictures that look very pink were taken on a sunny windowsill indoors,
which changes the colour completely.

Snowdrops! Can't beat them in January.

And here's one indoors just a little while later.

Apart from these two flowering plants, the primroses are blooming quite well and have been since December, and I can see pink flower buds just starting to open on one of the Japonicas (Flowering Quince). There are also Heartsease Violas flowering away - these plants are tough as old boots and flower all year round and are a welcome sight in the middle of winter. Daffodil buds are just pushing through the ground, but it'll be a while before spring, so I am content to have just a few signs of floral life for the moment.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

January in the garden Part 1

I have managed to get out with my camera a few times on sunny days. I'm feeling the cold a lot more than usual so I'll leave the pretty frost photos to everyone else - when I go outside to let the chickens out in the morning I'm barely admiring the white frost; just want to get back inside in the warm! It was funny because the second time I ventured out I put on my macro lens, which always means squatting down and looking at things closer up. The next morning when I got out of bed I wondered what was the strange pain in my legs - haha the lack of exercise had meant that I'd strained my hamstrings! I'll be a bit more careful next time. 

An ICM of the pond - original on left and the other two have had a few BeFunky texture
treatments for fun. Best clicked on to view large if you are viewing on a desktop sized screen.

How it really looks - don't fancy sitting on the bench eating ice cream at the moment! ;-)

Nice to see the blue sky reflected in the water, and the ducks are not affected by the cold.

Now for a bit of a veg patch update. My undergardener has been clearing up for me and has already dug over one of the five plots. This year we've decided we will only grow a bare minimum of veggies for obvious reasons, and some will have to be done by him under supervision as I won't be able to bend, squat, dig etc for quite some time after my surgery. 

We've decided that new/early potatoes are too good not to grow but the plot they need to go in is the one which contains the Pollinator Meadow. It doesn't seem worth digging out all those perennial plants though when there will be so many empty areas in the other plots. So I thought we could move the rotation along by two years which shouldn't have any harmful effect as I have a five year rotation cycle. The rest of the space will have a couple of courgettes (probably the easiest veg to grow as it practically looks after itself and just needs harvesting), a few lettuce and some leeks. Cross fingers by the time the leeks need transplanting and the kale and PSB needs sowing/planting out I'll be OK for doing those jobs by then. And we'll buy a few cherry tomato plants and grow them in pots along the house walls where blight doesn't seem to hit. The rest of the space will have annual flower seeds sown so they'll help keep the weeds at bay and it should be a colourful bug and butterfly filled place! 

A bit of a mess but at least the purple kale was upright - now after heavy wind it's leaning somewhat!

But look! I discovered the PSB has started to sprout!

This variety is 'Rudolph' which is a very early one - the rest won't start sprouting until March/April.

And here's why so many things self seed - top are nasturtium seeds all over the
path, botton left are physalis seed pods (I'm still trying to eat all the harvested fruit),
and coriander which is the only thing left edible after temps of minus 5c.
That self seeds everywhere too.

Two blackberry plants in front of the chook shed - we are going to take out some of the
others elsewhere as we just don't need that many plants - two is more than enough!

And now for a few cat snaps - Bertie doesn't appear in these.

Hallie posing nicely for a change and looking at the camera.

And away from the camera.....

She's put on weight and looks odd without a tail!

Harry having a good old stretch....

.... and hugging a tree. :-)

Next lot of photos in a separate post otherwise this one would have been too long!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Butterfly count 2014

A somewhat different year last year on the butterfly and moth front from previous years. The spring seemed to be fantastic for butterflies, with far more species around and in larger numbers than I normally see. However the high summer butterfly numbers and species seemed very poor, with the exception of the Gatekeeper which appeared in huge numbers this year. The later season butterflies which usually appear in large numbers i.e. Peacocks, Red Admirals, Commas etc were thin on the ground, and the biggest oddity is that very few butterflies seemed interested in feeding on my Verbena bonariensis, which I've been pushing as the best butterfly nectar plant of the lot since I started this blog! All in all though, not a bad count, totalling 36 different species of butterflies seen in Brittany last year.

Garden List:

Family Nymphalidae

1. Peacock Inachis io
2. Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta
3. Painted Lady Cynthia cardui
4. Comma Polygonia c-album
5. Marbled White Melanargia galathea
6. Map Araschnia levana (2nd generation)
7. Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria
8. Wall Brown Lasiommata megera
9. Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina
10. Gatekeeper Pyronia tithonus
11. Small Heath Coenonympha pamphilus
12. Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae
13. Silver-washed Fritillary Argynnis paphia

Family Pieridae

14. Orange Tip Anthocharis cardamines
15. Clouded Yellow Colias croceus
16. Large White Pieris brassicae
17. Small White Pieris rapae
18. Green Veined White Pieris napi
19. Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni

Family Lycaenidae

20. Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas
21. Common Blue Polyommatus icarus
22. Holly Blue Celastrina argiolus
23. Purple Hairstreak Favonius quercus (New! and first Hairstreak I've seen in my garden; sadly no photos) 

Family Papilionidae

24. Old World Swallowtail Papilio machaon

Family Hesperiidae

25. Mallow Skipper Carcharodus alceae
26. Lulworth Skipper Thymelicus acteon
27. Large Skipper Ochlodes sylvanus
28. Essex Skipper Thymelicus lineola (New for the garden)

2013's tally was 32 species seen either at home or in my hamlet, so down a few, with the notable absence of the Small Skipper, and fewer Lycaenidae (blues and coppers) last year.

Daytime flying moths:

Of the colourful moths which fly during the day and/or spend time feeding on flowers, I've seen at home:

1. Hummingbird Hawkmoth Macroglossum stellatarum
2. Broad-bordered Bee Hawkmoth Hemaris fuciformis
3. Jersey Tiger Moth Euplagia quadripunctaria
4. Silver Y Moth Autographa gamma 
5. Cinnabar Moth Tyria jacobaeae 
6. Five-spot Burnet Moth Zygaena trifolii
7. Cream-spot Tiger Moth Arctia villica (New!)
8. Oak Eggar Moth Lasiocampa quercus (New!)

Same total as 2013, although some species are different.

Elsewhere in Brittany:

1. Sooty Copper Lycaena tityrus (both male and female)
2. Brown Argus Aricia agestis
3. Grizzled Skipper Pyrgus malvae
4. Dingy Skipper Erynnis tages (New!)
5. Chequered Skipper Carterocephalus palaemon (New!)
6. Glanville Fritillary Melitaea cinxia (New!)
7. Green Hairstreak Callophrys rubi
8. Wood White Leptidea sinapis

So that kind of makes up for it, having seen 3 lifers (new species never seen before) plus the Green Hairstreak which I've only ever seen once before decades ago.

Here are a few photos of some of the new species seen last year, plus a few other favourites. They have all been shown on my blog during the year so I have been saved having to do any processing, just had to search for them!

Chequered Skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon)

Chequered Skipper (Carterocephalus palaemon)

Dingy Skipper (Erynnis tages)

Glanville Fritillary (Melitaea cinxia)

Cream-spot Tiger Moth (Arctia villica)

Cream-spot Tiger Moth (Arctia villica)

Oak Eggar Moth (Lasiocampa quercus), male

And a few oldies but goodies....

Painted Lady (Cynthia cardui)

Essex Skipper (Thymelicus lineola)

Lulworth Skipper (Thymelicus acteon), male

Map (Araschnia levana), 2nd generation

Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia), both male and female

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)

Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

Small Copper (Lycaena phlaeas)

Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus)

Last year's butterfly count is here. Roll on butterfly season again!

Monday, 12 January 2015

Peeking over the parapet to say hello

This is a quickie post with no photos just to let you know I am still in the land of the living. 

I have been to hell and back since Christmas with radiotherapy burns and spent two weeks in bed since Boxing Day. In fact I've spent most of my time since then in bed, because even when the pain finally subsided I've still felt unwell, rather like having flu and feeling really weak with no energy, just thankfully without the aches and shakes, and still getting bouts of nausea and lacking appetite. I guess there's a lot of crud to get out of my system from the strong chemo drugs and the battering my body has had from the radiotherapy. But I'm just beginning to have some good days at long last and I've managed to get outside a few times in the last week.

What I found the most interesting learning about radiotherapy burns for my particular kind of cancer and the same treatment ranged from a website that said to ignore the people who talk about excrutiatingly painful burns because that is just a myth spread by sensationalists!!! Even the radiotherapy tech told me as soon as my last session was over I'd start getting better straight away (wrong). The intern told me the burns would last about 3 weeks after the end of the treatment but wouldn't get any worse (wrong).  The truth is in various cancer sites' forum posts where I found many people had suffered the same as me. It gets worse before it starts getting better. And we are not talking about burns just in the anal region where the radiotherapy is targeted. We're talking about the whole area down there, from the top of my butt crack to my female parts and all. :-(

I ended up having to take the morphine I'd been prescribed which itself is a horrible drug making me feel like a complete zombie. I only took the slow release tablets even though I had some other fast release ones to take on top if needed, but I felt so drugged and weird I wasn't going to add to that. It did dull the pain a bit which made it bearable. Because I couldn't sit I have been eating lying down with my OH who has taken over the entire housework situation including cooking, cutting my food up into bite sized portions so I could eat my food with just a fork. 

This is the first day I have turned on my Mac and I'm finding I can sit here now reasonably comfortably so I wanted you to know how I'm doing.

I saw the surgeon last week and the date for my operation (which will be the full Monty with the bag an' all) is the 24th Feb. Apparently it's a 5 hour operation and he said I'd be in hospital about 12 days! If they cannot remove every trace of cancerous cells then I will have to have six months of chemo via drip, every fortnight for two days (no idea if that means staying in hospital overnight); I'll be asking him about that but there is no point worrying TOO much about this just yet..... although if that happens then that stuffs up our proposed plan to visit our relatives in England in the spring after I've got over my surgery! Hey ho. 

I've only been using my Kindle to access the internet so was able to chat to friends on facebook who have been helping me get through this awful time by bucking me up, telling me butt jokes and generally making a difficult time easier by the amazing support system I have there.

Fellow bloggers - I've looked through a few of your more recent blog posts but sometimes I have not the energy to comment. I hope you understand but now that I'm able to sit (even if somewhat gingerly) I will try to catch up eventually. 

Also hope to start taking some photos again soon! 

Take care. xx