Monday, April 19, 2010

Blue Sky and Volcanoes.

Blue skies over us! It is as rare as it is beautiful. The lack of vapour trails overhead is especially nice. We live underneath the major route from the UK to North America. This was a problem for us once when Panam Flight 103 was blown out of the sky and onto neighbouring farms. It happened years before we moved here, but the debris trail fell across our place. One of our neighbours ended up having to get his first passport as he was called to give evidence in Utrecht during the trial. He was comforted by the fact that when he wasn't giving evidence, the beer world class.

Flights from London to Scottish airports fly over us as well. They're too high up for the sound to bother us, but the sky (when it isn't obscured by cloud) is crosshatched with the vapour trails of the jets.

It is worrying that some think that the airline industry is being too cautious. Around here, the general feeling is that you can't be too cautious with safety. If there is volcanic ash in the air, don't fly. Ash turns to glass in the heat of a turbine engine and clogs important things in there. It will blast the windscreen glass to a lovely frosted effect. Nice when you're reglazing a bathroom but a bit rubbish for pilots that want to see to fly a plane full of passengers.Met Office map of the ash on 17 April 2010

The thing that worries me is the length of the eruption. Any Hawaiian will happily tell you that Kilauea's latest eruption began in 1983 and is still going! Kilauea is a different sort of volcano and has the courtesy to be the lava oozing variety rather than the ash spewing sort or the murderous pyroclastic explosion sort. We really cannot predict when a volcano will erupt and once it starts, there is no way to predict when the eruption will finish. It is very inconvenient to travellers stuck away from home. It can be crippling to business but this is a little wake up call from our beautiful blue planet. IT is in charge, not us.

Did you know that Naples is not only the current home of my dear cousin Carey who is stuck in Paris with her two sons because of Iceland's volcanic ash? I predict that she and the guys will be able to get a train from The City of Light to her home. She's resourceful and bright and will figure it out. Naples is also sitting on a big bubble of magma. Steps keep have to be added to the stairs going down to the sea at the port. It isn't that the Mediterranean is sinking, the port is lifting. I liken it to a big pimple, one of those nasty deep underground ones that take forever to come to a head and runs the risk of leaving a scar when it finally blows. Some day soon Vesuvius (in geological terms) it's going to pop. Vesuvius has been the nasty exploding, pyroclastic flow sort of volcano in the past. We have Pompeii as the evidence of what can happen if we remain ignorant or choose to ignore the earth's power. Incidentally, the last time Vesuvius had an eruption was 1944. A young British private in the Green Howards who was to later become my father-in-law was in Italy, saw it happen.

I have just heard that Scottish airports are open for a few hours. I do not envy the person who gets to say who and what goes first and what must wait until next time. While all of that happens, I'm going to walk the dog and then plant some flowers in the garden.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

When Chickens Go Bad

Do you remember that shot in Jurassic Park where the velociraptor is looking through the window and it exhales and the breath steams up the window a bit . . . . the exact same thing happened this morning with one of my hens. I wish I had been quicker with the camera so that you could see. Ok, so she doesn't hold the same menace as a velociraptor but she tried real hard.The hens were out this morning. I must not have wired the door to the chicken run tightly enough. If the door to the run isn't wired well, Polly our resident hound will push her way in to the run to see if there are any good kitchen scraps to be had. The hens then have a means of escape and will roam the place. Free range hens can wreck havoc on a garden so I don't let them be out of their run for long. This particular lot of hens are very tame. If they see me, they'll come running. One can just image them saying "Oh, there she is!" They will then stand by my feet (in what I take to be adoration). All I have to do is to walk into the run and they will follow. Any that fail to follow me can just be picked up later and tossed in. I don't have to chase these birds or trick or bribe them into the run. It's great! All chickens should behave like this.
As the days are growing longer the hens have gone into high egg production. I have given all I can to my neighbours and still have this bounty remaining. Brioche takes seven eggs . . . . . I can use a dozen egg whites in an Angel food cake . . . . custard . .. . mayonnaise. I'll have eight more eggs tomorrow. I may pickle some.

Here is what else is in the garden this fine spring morning: PeriwinkleMy favourite daffodils are blooming near the mailbox. They are my favourites as they are the most beautiful and delicate shade of yellow.A freshly mowed lawn - the barrow of clippings still to go into the chicken run. The lawn looks good from this angle. Another view shows the scars left by the visiting moles. A little lawn seed should fix this just fine. ForsythiaMy lovely rose var Elizabeth has sprouted leaves.
Parsley is hardy! It self-seeds in the gravel on the south side of the house. It's the extra tasty Italian flat leaf variety so we leave it alone. On a sad note, a pot of rosemary didn't make it through the winter. It is brown and withered in its pot. It was a couple of years old too. I guess I'll need a new plant.

So, that is what is going on in the garden this fine spring morning. I guess I'll get another cup of tea and go "do some stuff". See ya later!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

It Might Be Spring!

On Saturday two of my good friends, Margaret and Elaine came out to the house. It was a gorgeous day to get out and stretch the legs with my pals. We went on one of my favourite walks, the duck ponds. I haven't been up to the ponds since we had all that snow. There was so much evidence of spring . . . starting with the new lambs in the fields.Toads copulating in puddles, in the grass . . . . everywhere really.
With all the prey around there will be predators. Lots of badger prints in the soft mud.
One can make out the marks that the badger's formidable claws make in the soft mud. The badger set that is up there must be getting bigger, there were lots of tracks around. There were deer tracks in the mud as well. I haven't seen the big buck tracks in the mud just yet but he's around (or at least he was here in October) as there were dainty fawn tracks next to the adult female tracks.
We saw this deer in the distance as we rounded the bend. The three of us and my bouncy dog got quite close before it ambled off into the trees. I think it knew it was in no real danger from us. I got this photo and enlarged it a bit so that you could see it more clearly.

Cleaning the greenhouses today and yesterday, I came across a lone ladybug, a white butterfly and a couple of bumblebees. The greenhouses are especially dirty this spring. I wish I had self-cleaning greenhouse glass as there is a lot of algae on the glass this year.

We had a huge wasp show up in the house. It buzzed along on the inside of one of the windows until The Man of the Place swatted it with a rolled up newspaper.
The daffodils are starting to bloom . . . I guess it can safely be said that winter is over!

Monday, April 05, 2010


The only way to loose weight is to burn off more calories than one consumes. I know that. For years I have been monitoring what I eat, counting calories and counting Weight Watcher points (another form of calorie counting). I've been doing okay. I lost some weight last year and until recently when I lost my job, I've kept it off.

The weight is creeping back on. We don't have a lot of junk food in the house - in fact, very little junk food in the house. I just have unfettered access to my oven and a LOT of time on my hands. I've been doing a lot of sitting in front of the computer with the job hunt. So, yesterday I started running.

I don't know if the few hundred meters I ran yesterday and today would really count as a proper run, but I was out of breath and my heart rate was increased. It's a start.

I could do with some improved lung function, improved resting heart rate, and weight loss so I am going to try to get out and run every day. I'm starting with short distances. When I can manage these short distances without gasping for air, I'll lengthen the distance.

Polly loves the faster paced dog walk. She thinks the improved speed is fantastic.

I have stepped on the scales and dragged out the measuring tape. I'm not going to tell you what I weigh or how big around the various measurements are . . . .that info is for my eyes only. I will however let you know if these measurements change.

My first goal is to get to my neighbour's place and back. Baby steps people baby steps!

Sunday, April 04, 2010


We've been having nice weather today. There has been a bit of sun, no wind and mild temperatures. The bird table has seen some action. In fact, I think I'll have to refill things over there tomorrow morning.
The peanuts were the big favourite today. We had a couple of siskins visit. They're pretty little birds. They remind me a bit of the winter version of American goldfinches.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Knowing When to Quit

The large houseplant - Jade plant or Crassula ovata - that I had taken from my neighbour is gone. It really was too far gone.It spent the first couple of days in my house dropping it's shrivelling leaves across the tiles. Any time a person walked by they ran the risk of snapping more leaves or even small branches off this poor plant. I gave it a trim, cutting back all the shrivelled succulent branches. There was a BIT of hope. One branch was not shrivelled and the four leaves that clung to it were quite healthy looking. There were even signs that new leaves were forming at that spot. In the end it was a huge plant with four leaves on it. I didn't want to wait more months to see if it would sprout from other areas and I took the decision to chuck it out.
I am glad of the decision I made. If I had some nostalgic or sentimental reason for keeping it, I would have kept it alive and indeed brought it back from the brink. But there was none of that, so out it went! The plant isn't gone completely, I had a cutting from this plant a few years ago when it was in its full and vibrant glory. This scion is growing away quite well and will soon reach the size that the parent plant was.

I am glad that the jade plant is gone. It took up a lot of space and was quite ugly. The space vacated by the old rescue plant was very quickly filled. A new rescue plant has taken its place this week. It is commonly called a Cheese Plant - after Swiss Cheese due to the holes in the leaves - Monstera deliciosa.

This beauty was sharing office space with The Man of the Place. When he was told that he was moving his office to another floor, this neglected specimen was left alone . . .It got sparing amounts of attention and from the rootbound looks of things, I bet it has been sitting in the same soil for well over a decade.

I took it out of the pot, knocked out some of the potting soil. The old potting soil didn't smell all that fresh and a bit moldy. I suspect that the plant had been overwatered and the soil allowed to get rank at one point. New potting soil was put in the bottom of the pot and more new material went on top of the root ball. The soil on the top of the root ball will work its way down as I water it.
As it is a very large plant, maneuvering it out of its pot was a very physical job. I managed to snap a bit of it off (Sorry plant!). The bit that snapped off had a number of arial roots and I've just potted it up using the pot from the recently vacated jade plant. With all the new soil, regular care and lots of sun, this new specimen will flourish! I'm really looking forward to seeing some new leaves.