Monday, March 22, 2010

Big Visitor !

I still feed the bird feeders and try to notice what comes into the garden. There is a seasonal variation to what can be found in our quite little garden. Last week we had a real treat.

I have a rubbish little digital camera and I have to work with its limitations. So, when a majestic buzzard came into the garden, I was keen to get a photo if it without spooking it. (For the folks in the US, a Buzzard Buteo buteo in the UK is a very large hawk and not a vulture.)The bird was seen three separate times last week sitting on a rock at the edge of our frog pond. We have a number of them living and breeding near our house. I quite often hear them screaming. I'll look up and way above me will be a couple of them circling. In the late summer there will be entire families of buzzards soaring above the fields. This is the first time I have ever seen one get this close to the house. Naturally the photo is blurry and you can barely make out that there is something in the centre of this picture. I tried blowing the photo up and using digital photo editing, sharpen the edges. This is as good as the photo got. Certainly the mole hills that are peppering the front lawn are plainly visible. *sigh*

I have a spotting scope that is almost permanently set up in the front room with the lens focused on the bird table. One can see the songbirds and occasional great spotted woodpecker in lovely sharp focus. Knowing that digiscopes are just spotting scopes manufactured so that a digital camera can be attached I tried sticking the lens of my battered camera up to the eyepiece of the spotting scope and took a few photos. It's tricky to get it angled right among other things.

Here are a few of my first efforts. I think if I stick with it, I could get better at getting in-focus photos of the birds that come for a visit and a snack. Coal tit - looks like a North American Chickadee but has that big white spot on the back of his head. Greenfinch Great tit with a male chaffinch off to the right.Female chaffinch

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bottom of the Field

In all the years (almost 15) that we've lived here The Man of the Place and I have never walked to the bottom of the field behind the house. We've been busy or it is raining or there are bulls in the field, the sheep are in lamb, there are lambs in the field . . . pick an excuse.

We've been in the field countless times for lots of reasons. In fact when George was in primary school, on fine days he could walk home (if there were no bulls in the field and it was dry enough). We would go half way down the field and then turn south toward the school which is three fields away. The distance of about three good city blocks.

If we are going on a walk it has always been much easier just to walk on the road to the north or south of the house. The west side of the house is all trees. As time has gone on the trees that were once small and of a size we could poach for a Christmas tree are now mature with big hawks and owls sitting in the top branches. The eastern aspect just gets ignored.
Walking due east from the house and once one gets past the point in the field for the turn to school, a ditch starts to form. The old beech trees (probably well over 200 years) used to be part of an old hedge. You can see the scars on these matriarchs of the field from their time in service as part of a hedge.This tree still has a bit of old barbed wire sticking out of it.
There is evidence around each tree that there are little animals living underneath the roots. Very Wind in the Willows!
It was the call of the curlew that inspired me to ask The Man of the Place if he wished to walk with me to the burn. In the spring and then all summer long we will hear the laughing cry of the curlew as they live their lives by the side of this burn.To hear their song, please click on these words that are underlined. The link leads to the RSPB page on curlew with a button to click to hear the song. It is Britain's largest wading bird and more than one live by this burn judging by the noise. Their cry reminds me of loons on Lake Superior. I hear the sound any time I am outside doing something that doesn't involve a lot of noise; hanging clothes on the line or digging in the garden. It's nice. Recently we heard these guys too, lapwings. My neighbour saw them arrive just the other week. The song of the lapwing reminds me of a comedy slide whistle. I love it when the summer visitors start to come back. There are about six lapwings in this field. They're pairing off and getting ready to nest. We saw them but as I don't have a long lens on my rubbish little camera, you'll just have to take my word for it.

You can see by the photos that the fields aren't as deeply green as they would normally be. We haven't had a lot of rain in the last month or so. In fact, since the snow melted, we haven't had much at all. Over all this is not so bad but it is lambing time and the ewes that have just given birth would be grateful for a bit more grass.

We found what is probably a badger set down by the burn and I look forward to going down there more often to investigate. I think it was badger rather than fox as there were about five holes, the holes were very clean and didn't smell. Fox dens really smell quite strongly of fox.To get down to the burn and home again we climbed over a part of a dry stone dyke (wall) that had been knocked over by one of the bulls last year. You can see in these photos the stones that have been pulled from the burn as they're all rounded and smooth and the stones left by the Romans when they were here centuries ago. There is an old Roman camp at the top of one of the nearby hills. As was common, the local tribes used the nice dressed stone that had been abandoned for their own houses and dry stone dykes.
I don't know if you can make it out, but there is the remnant of an old Roman road cutting diagonally through this field. Romans liked their straight lines when making roads and this road goes from the camp I mentioned earlier (you can make out the hill in the distance) to Carlisle 28 miles away which started out as Luguvallium in about 78 AD.
Here is The Man of the Place having salvaged some old fence posts on the return journey that were then cut up for kindling.

I'm quite happy to take any visitors on this walk when they get here. :-) Bring wellies!

Friday, March 12, 2010

Clipping Wings

From time to time I will have a hen who remembers what her wings are for.
This particular hen was put back in the run a couple of times today and twice yesterday. It seemed that every time I went out the door, she was there to greet me. This means that she needed to have her wings clipped.To keep the hens from flying out, one must clip her wings. This means that you merely trim the primary flight feathers on one wing. This is usually enough to keep a hen grounded.

This does not hurt the hens at all and it keeps the hens inside their run and safe from predatory foxes. The foxes are having their litters just now and are on the lookout for any unguarded and fat hens.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Being a Housewife

It's actually not a bad gig. I enjoy keeping the house clean. I like that The Man of the Place has a nice healthy lunch packed and ready for him. He and George don't have to rush around in the morning, I'm there to help. I make coffee and toast bagels while they're getting ready to start their day.During the day, I am planning and starting to prepare the evening meal. I started today's dinner last night. We're having a bean curry and it always tastes better the day after it has been cooked. I'll start the dough for the naan bread at about lunch time. It is cheaper to buy the ingredients and cook something rather than thaw something frozen from the supermarket or re-heat the convenience foods on offer.

I don't think I'd enjoy it quite so much if my work here at the house wasn't appreciated. We had become accustomed to a house where both adults work outside the home. We developed coping mechanisms and hired help from time to time. The place wasn't always very clean but it couldn't be helped.

I find I am taking pride in the fact that the place is very clean and tidy and the laundry is done properly. When George went to jujitsu, I had a small thrill when I noticed that his gi (the white kit that they wear) was the whitest in the room.I am still looking for work, but I am not at home sucking lemons about the whole situation. I'm really into being here. The dog is fitter as she gets better walks, the windows sparkle . . . . you get the idea.

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Job Search - It's Like Dating

I find myself looking at the phone, willing it to ring. I pick up the receiver and double check that there is a dial tone. Nope, no messages on the answering machine . . . . .
Wait a minute, I remember doing this years ago! Looking for a new job in this current economic climate is like dating all over again. I hated dating. No offense to anybody I may have dated that is reading this. I didn't hate YOU, it was just the process. Now there is this added compulsion to check my e-mail inbox many times a day as well. So many new ways to be rejected.
I did the traditional thing of looking in the paper. In our local paper the employment section is right next to the lonely hearts section. If you find a job/guy that looks promising, same interests/right qualifications (Non-smoker GSOH and have worked in the industry for eleven years) you send off your CV or resume. If you're serious about getting a job/date you'll sign up with an agency. Most large companies with head offices in much larger cities will not put ads in small town papers when recruiting. In my case, I have registered with a number of agencies that specialize in my field.

You'll get a few first interviews. Then it starts. You'll be nuts about them and they'll be lukewarm about you. Or you don't think they are that great, but you want the job/date anyway. The first interview went well but they never call again. What is worse is, you get a second interview that went okay too and you think, "This could be it! They could be The One!". Then they don't call you for days afterward. When they do finally call, you get the business version of "it's not you it's me".

I've been turned down for jobs for which I believed I was perfectly suited and qualified. It really saps ones confidence. You start looking at your application for gross errors like misspelling your home town and spinach between my teeth.

I've been to a couple of second interviews and been pipped at the post by somebody with more specific qualifications or experience. The last interview that I went on, I was told that there were over 100 people applied. 10 people were selected for interview and I was among them. Three were put forward for the second interview and I was there again. So I must be doing something right . . . but you wonder if you'll ever be in a relationship/job ever again.