Monday, April 27, 2009

Siskins

I've had the birdfeeder for a while now. I always try to put a variety of bird foods on it as my garden is visited by a wide variety of birds. I have a peanut feeder, sunflower hearts, suet balls, niger seed and on the table surface itself, I dump a little mound of ordinary songbird mix.
Sometimes I will add in a few old raisins and currants to the songbird mix. I found these dried and possibly ancient fruits in the kitchen and were well past their use-by date. Instead of throwing them out, I give them to the birds.

In the past couple of weeks, the goldfinches have finally noticed the niger seed. It was put there especially for finches and I was beginning to think that the seed I got was faulty. Either that our our birds are fussier than I thought. The other morning there were six goldfinches at the bird feeding station. In addition to those stunning little creatures, there were four birds (all of the same species) that I didn't recognise. When the field guide was in my hands, I discovered the birds that were visiting were siskins. I'd never seen these before.
There is one little siskin on the top of the little roof, one siskin on the table itself and two clinging to the peanut feeder. There are two goldfinches eating the niger seed.

Since the siskins showed up, I see them every day. The goldfinches are an every day visitor as well. It is so great! They are jewels!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Troon and Lady Isle

Today was my first dive in open UK water. The lovely Clyde was the spot. Our dive club planned a day diving off Troon in Ayrshire. More specifically, Lady Isle just outside Troon Harbour.
We all met up and set off from Dumfries at about 7.30. The club RIB (rigid inflatable boat) and another small private boat were pressed into service and towed up north to Troon.

A couple of hours later we were in our diving gear and launching the boats into water that was a still as a mirror. The sun was shining down from a cloudless sky and there wasn't a breath of wind. Just about as perfect as diving conditions could possibly get! Eddie and Phil getting their stuff on. As for myself, I used the very posh toilet and shower facilities provided at Troon Harbour to get ready. Here is Phil - set to go and feeling quite intrepid!Davey and Alex in the club boat. I took a few photos of the Eider ducks that seem to litter the harbour. I love their noble faces.
After a few safety checks and poses (see above photo of Paul) for the camera we were out of the harbour and out onto the glass-like water.It was hard to believe we were on the Irish Sea. The guys in the dive club all agreed that there were usually only four days a year when the weather and diving conditions are this perfect and those days usually happen in the middle of the week.Getting kitted up.Sandwiches are important!

Every dive trip has at least one or two little mishaps. Today's trip was no exception. First to go was the neck seal on Chris's dry suit. This kept our skipper out of the water and helping everybody else. It also mean that I had to find a different dive buddy.
This is Lady Isle. As it is a bird sanctuary, we nasty humans are not allowed to set foot on it. It is also home to a colony of seals.

The first dive was excellent. I have no other northern dives to compare it to, but I had a great time! In addition to the calm conditions, the visibility was fantastic. We could see the bottom of the sea quite easily from our anchor site (45 feet) and the water temperature was about 6 C. My dive buddy Paul and I saw loads of crabs (three different varieties) some langoustines, a solitary nudibranch, three different kinds of starfish and loads of other interesting beasties.
Here is a photo of what I look like after a dive. It's enough to frighten fish!

After the first dive we thought we'd go around to the other side of Lady Isle and visit the seals. One of the club members, Alistair had a go at snorkelling with them. One seal followed him around the entire time he was in the water. I wish I had gone in as well. I don't know when the conditions will ever be as favourable again.

video

It was at this point we had another little set back. The engine in our boat sort of decided to have a sulk. It would rev up just fine but then cut out when put into the forward gear. This meant no second dive and it took us ages to limp back to the harbour. As the weather was perfect and we were in no danger we just enjoyed the day and the slow return journey.
Here is me posing with Chris's poor sick boat at the end of the day. I hope the boat is better soon! It is important to rinse out your gear after a dive in the sea. Salt water is corrosive!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Easter Weekend

At the bird feeder this weekend we had a beautiful pair of goldfinches and a lovely siskin. I'd not seen a siskin before. Beautiful birds - naturally they flew away before I could get a photo of them.
I had a good look at the new hen house that was delivered by tractor by the neighbours on Saturday. I swept it out and inspected what needs to be done first. (photo taken before grass was mowed)
There is more rot than I thought. I never had a good look at the nest boxes as they were wedged against the barn when I first viewed it. The floor didn't have a big hole in it either, so that will have to be replaced. You can see the sunlight streaming in through the cracks there. I'll tack lathe between each board before I paint to make it more weather tight.

Chris (the neighbour with the tractor) accidentally put a hole in the side when lifting the hen house with the tractor. Oops - another patch needed there!

I will have a bit of job here - but if I can get the work done properly, I'll have a nice hen house on my hands that will be easier to clean out than the one that I have at the moment.

We had a glorious Easter weekend. It was all blue skies and sunshine the entire time. Henry and I got loads done around the house. Some parts of our house that get neglected (dusting baseboards (skirting boards) were given attention. We also went about finding all those hidden dust bunnies. You could call it a good spring clean. It was so nice to have doors and windows open again. All the laundry was washed, dried on the line and put away. Don't you think line dried sheets smell great? They are sunshine for the nose!

I mowed the lawn, planted two rows of potatoes, trimmed the box hedges (smells of cat pee) and cleared one of our drains.
The drain below the kitchen was clogged and the water from the dishwasher was spilling out over the back paved area. I hate going to unclog that drain because, frankly it is a smelly, nasty job. I stuck my arm down the drain and found the problem immediately. A portion of the PVC pipe came off and was wedged in the larger drain pipe. Normally this doesn't cause a complete block but when it is then FILLED WITH FROG SPAWN we have a problem.
It was the most disgusting thing to feel. Eww!

I threw the frogspawn into the pond. If the eggs are still viable, they will survive much better in that environment.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

I'm Still Here

It has been a number of weeks since my last post. Sorry about that. My story is that I was sucked into the work vortex and I'm sticking to that story. With the economy in turmoil, I thought it was best to get my head down and make some money and keep the guys at head office happy.
You didn't miss much anyway. The weather has been typical Scottish weather for spring (lots of rain). I did manage to tidy up the greenhouses and organize to have the garden dug over (see above). If you look carefully, you can see the rhubarb at the end of the vegetable patch, throwing out its first hopeful leaves. Rhubarb crumble later? I think so.
I have two tomato plants stuck into their grow bags in the smaller greenhouse. I am planting Scottish variety Ailsa Craig this year. Let's see if it copes with cold and low light levels. I have to replace some MORE glass in this greenhouse. The door blew off last week. I'll get it done after I finish writing this. You know how much I love re-glazing bits of the greenhouse!
We don't have to worry about low light levels TODAY. Today is gorgeous! See how dazzlingly white my towels are? Those are the ones you sent Mom. Thanks! Today there are only the fluffiest of small clouds in the sky that cause no dark spots to the day and more importantly, hold no rain! I got all the laundry out on the line and had some time in the greenhouse.In these pots and trays I've got some courgette (zucchini) pumpkin, cucumber, climbing beans, broccoli and two varieties of lettuce started. I found some old corn seed so I thought I'd see if it germinates. If it does, then I may have enough for a couple of small rows. I've also got the ever present sweet peas started as well. I soaked the seed for two days before sowing in the greenhouse to aid germination. There were some old marigold seeds lurking. I sowed those too. They deserve a chance in this year's growing season.

No sign of mice in the greenhouse YET. I have been quite good about mouse prevention in the past year. Any seed or bird food has been kept in mouse proof containers. If there is no food mice are less likely to hang out in there.

If we have a second day of nice weather, I may plant peas (they're very frost hardy) and get some potatoes in the ground. Heck, I may even mow the grass.