Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Pick the Fights You Know You Can Win

I have a new battle. Duckweed!I didn't feel I could win this war in the past. Duckweed had taken a firm hold on the pond, to the point that we had to skim holes in the solid blanket of green to peek into the water. It was our own fault. A little bit of duckweed had come in with some purchased pond plants and the pond was infected. I didn't scoop each and every little bit out when I had the chance, not realising how invasive this stuff is. It got a solid footing in our pond. It wasn't until The Man of the Place changed the pond liner earlier in the spring that I thought I had even a small hope of keeping this stuff out of our pond.

When reintroducing things back to the pond after the new liner was put in place, we wiped away all visible signs of duckweed. It still appeared. Tenacious stuff, duckweed! As I have plenty of time to keep an eye on developments in the pond, I am removing each and every little bit I see. This used to be a good kitchen sieve. I found it, crushed on the ground near the pond near the time of the big liner replacement. Being downgraded from kitchen utensil to pond sieve, it now lives on a rock at the edge of our pond. I use it to scoop floating duckweed out of the water. Every day and sometimes more than once a day, the pond is scanned for signs of duckweed. I swoop down and remove the evil green floaters as soon as they are spotted. It rained yesterday for the first time in a while. I knew that this meant there was a strong possibility that some new duckweed would be visible. Duckweed will grow between rocks and float free once the water levels rise. I scooped out about 15 little bits while still in my pajamas. I figure that by the end of the summer, I will have removed all threat of duckweed. Constant vigilance!!!In the future, any items coming from an outside source will have to be quarantined in a bucket for a number of days ensuring my duckweed free pond is not reinfected.

---------------A rosebush on the front of our house comes from my husband's childhood home. A cutting was taken from that house when they moved to a new place back in the early 70's. Decades later when The Man of the Place and I moved to Whitelees, my mother-in-law layered a portion of the same rosebush for us. We now have this vigorous climber by the door with a beautiful show of delicate pink roses at the end of June. It always is in bloom on his sister's birthday so in our family this rose is named Victoria's Rose. This year is no exception.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer Days

I have claimed there is a Roman road in the field next to our place. Sometimes you can see it, sometimes you can't.
The buttercups help to show where the road used to run. Romans were oh so fond of having their roads go in a straight line. This ones links the Roman camp on a nearby hill straight to Carlisle across the border in England. Carlisle used to be Luguvalium. The town name morphed through the years to it's modern day name. Very few places still retain their Roman names. London is the only place I can think of off the top of my head where the Roman name (Londinium) is still pretty close to the modern name.With the lovely long summer days, we like to have the windows open as much as possible. The windows have been closed enough over the years because of almost constant rain. With the open windows and our rural location, we get visitors. Moths and other flying insects. I have become a big fan of big summer moths. A number of them are really beautiful! Here's a beauty (female Ghost Moth) I found in the sink this morning. Without my glasses on, it could have easily been mistaken for a bit of pasta!
Sometimes we leave the outside back light on too see what will be sticking to the wall in the morning. This White Ermine was by the back door.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Where to Stop?

We haven't had any rain in ages! I refuse to complain. It seems as though we have had four years of nothing but rain. So to start complaining now might make me come across as a hard to please person. Having said that, no rain means that some things are drying out. I am having to water the vegetable patch in the evening. That's not a big problem. However, the grass in the back of the house is taking a particularly hard hit. It is also dying in very distinct areas. You can see the lines!I was clearing some dried grass near the water butt (rain barrel) on the end of the greenhouse and was delighted to discover that all the dry grass, and conjoined weeds are peeling away in neat little sheets. Between the felt of dried roots and crumbling concrete are fat, wiggly larvae. I am throwing the turfs, bugs and all into the chicken run. The hens are going nuts pecking out the grubs from the grass and weeds. I started peeling back more of the grass and weeds. It turns out that our lawn in the back is a big lie! It isn't a lawn at all, it is grass that has grown over old and crumbled concrete. The grass comes up like an old dried carpet. It will be very tidy once I finish, but here is the big question; Where do I stop? Peeling the dried faux lawn is very satisfying and sort of fun.If I go by the lines of dead and dry areas of the back yard, I could be peeling for a while. Do I stop now and leave the rest? I'll have less to mow in the future. Is the crumbling concrete better looking than dried grass?Polly wants me to leave that bit alone as it is very comfortable.

Thursday, June 24, 2010


My middle son Sean was graduated from Heriot Watt University this morning. He is now the proud owner of a degree (Hons) in Computer Science.
I have been full of maternal pride for most of the week and I was positively bursting today!

Well done Sean! We love you and are very proud of you! I love that you still have a wonderful sense of fun.



Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Not a Weed In Sight

I've had time this year to keep on top of garden tasks. There isn't a weed to be seen this year.
Today I found myself weeding with my thumb and index finger, pinching the little tiny weeds that only have their first set of true leaves. In the past weeding involved grabbing fists full of stubborn and well rooted weeds. I'm not giving weeds a chance this year.Here are my neat little rows.I was given spring cabbage plants by my neighbour, Charlie. I liked the little sign he made so much that I transferred it to my garden once the plants were put out. Cabage - much nicer than cabbage!The strawberry patch has been relocated to a sunnier spot. No not Cornwall, just out of the shade of the oil tank. I replaced some of the more tired strawberry plants and I've pinched off all the strawberry flowers after the move. The plants should just focus on being plants and build up their plant energy. I'm delaying my strawberry gratification until next year when I expect a full and bumper crop!
In the greenhouse we've got enough basil (on the right) to start making pesto. The coriander (cilantro) on the left is almost ready for a first cut as well!
See the little cucumber (yellow flower on the end of it)? It should be pornstar sized in no time if we keep having these lovely sunny days!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Julio - Apex Predator (in his weight class)

It doesn't look like it from this photo, but there has been a lot going on in Julio's life in the past week.The pace in Julio's life picked up last Monday when he presented us with the lifeless body of a mole.I have been documenting my war on moles in the front garden for a couple of years. I do like moles, but I don't understand why they need to make up to 85 mole hills in my front lawn when there is a perfectly good (unmolested and mole free) field just on the other side of the hedge. I had Gamekeeper Mike in last year and he got four moles in one go.Julio was rewarded with Sheba - gourmet cat food. Expensive and gravy laden we wanted to ensure that Julio understood that killing moles was something we approved of. Julio has always had a fondness for gravy and this little treat was a break from the Iams dry stuff that I give him. He likes Iams cat food and I wanted to keep him on dry cat food to keep his teeth nice and white. It's always a shame when a cat gets to the geriatric stage and his or her teeth are falling out due to a diet of tinned cat food.

The next night, Julio was howling in pain. We first thought perhaps the treat he had was upsetting his guts, but as the hours ticked by, it was clear this cat was in real distress. Accompanied by Pam (house guest featured in the previous entry) I had a nighttime dash to the vet. It turned out that our poor puss had a blocked urethra. His bladder was hard and distended. Unable to pee, Julio was in agony.

It turns out this problem is common in neutered male cats - poor guy! His bladder was drained and he was given antibiotics, muscle relaxers and was kept in overnight for observation. The next morning, he was peeing on his own again. Whew! No need for surgery.

We had to switch his diet away from the dry cat food (which can be a factor in some cats) back to tinned cat food. He's just going to have to keep his teeth clean by catching and killing small rodents and mustelids in the area.It seems we have been forgiven for the trip to the vet and the twice daily pills (antibiotics) that we poke down his throat because today we have been presented with the body of another mole! (I will not post photos of the dead moles. It may be too upsetting as moles really are great little animals.)

I really love this cat!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Hedgehog Has a Closer Look at Pam

One fabulous thing about living in the UK are the hedgehogs. They're so fun! They also eat slugs and snails which are the bane of all gardeners. Sadly hedgehogs do not have a lot of road sense and are very often seen squished at the side of the road. We love hedgehogs here at Whitelees Cottage. Before I had a dog, we used to feed the cats outside. Hedgehogs would visit the cat food bowls in the summer on a fairly regular basis.

Our dear friends Kevin and Pam are up from Cirencester to visit us for a few days. As we try our hardest to pull out all the stops for guests it was only fitting that a hedgehog should waddle under their car tonight. I saw it go under the car and squealed the information to Pam. We both rushed out (me with a camera) to get a better look.

This turned out well. That is one fearless hedgehog!
It went into the tool shed where he or she is well hidden now. Please note the wonderful weed-free status of the gravel in our drive. I am working hard to keep it this way.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

I Was Hacked!

While I was away in Yorkshire on Thursday some nasty person started interfering in my life.

At about 4 pm I got a call on my mobile (cell) phone from a friend in Belgium stating she had recieved a disturbing e-mail from me. In fact, both her e-mail addresses and her husband's e-mail address had all recieved this e-mail. The text of the e-mail stated that I had been robbed at gunpoint in London, all our passports had been taken . . . etc. I believe that the e-mail asked for money. HA! Not only am I poor, none of my friends have money either.

My friend knew that the e-mail wasn't from me as there was terrible punctuation and bad grammar.

Well the end result was that by the time I got home on Thursday night, my husband and I had fielded a number of calls from many countries from frightened friends who were worried about me. A pal in London was going to come and collect me. It would have been nice to see that friend, but there was no need. The same goes for the friend who lives here in Scotland who offered to put an extra helmet on the back of a very cool motorcycle and venture down south.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everybody for their kind concern. I'm fine and you were all darlings to be worried!

Logging on to my profile on the computer, I discovered that I could not access my e-mail acount, I could not access my Facebook account and my dear blog had been taken off line!

I've managed to claw my Google account and my Blogger account back to my own control. I must say getting the language on the e-mail account switched from Korean back to English was a challenge! Did this happen in Korea? When I went into settings, I had to switch the country from Nigeria back to the UK. Did this happen in Nigeria? Though the account was returned to me, I discovered in the settings that all incoming e-mail were still being forwarded. I disabled that! I'll be sending the forwarding e-mail address along to the police.

My Facebook account is still off-line. I am hopeful that I will have it back today sometime.

It was a particularly MEAN scam. Anybody I ever sent an e-mail to during my job search and all my family and friends were told I had been robbed.

Getting the account re-set, I have lost all my old e-mails. The carefully undeleted ones. Recently a photo of my great grandmother had been sent to me and I failed to save the photo somewhere else. I had never seen her face before and now I'll have to have it re-sent.

All the passwords have been changed. This is SUCH a pain in the neck but as I know now, quite necessary. The new ones are quite strong and will be changed from time to time.

I hate having to change passwords and when I am not forced to do it, will let the password stay the same. . . . until now. Why oh why do I always have to learn the hard way?

Friday, June 04, 2010

More Life

Yesterday another creature returned to our pond.

Two newts!! Common newt - not my photograph

I think newts are so interesting! I hope there is enough for them to eat in the pond. It's still pretty barren in there despite the return of the diving beetles and the pond skaters.


After a look in the pond after dinner - there seems to be a water boatman in there as well!

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The Cuckoo

I heard one calling last week and then again two days ago. The call I heard sounded to be a few fields away, though distinct, was faint.

This morning at about 10:00 while walking the dog one few overhead, landed on the top of a nearby pine and stared to call. It was LOUD!I was thrilled to not only have one calling so close, but I actually saw this secretive bird. One of the nests that cuckoos like to lay their eggs in is the nest of the dunnock. We've got a lot of dunnocks around here.

I hope we always have cuckoos near us. For a number of years, I didn't hear a cuckoo at all and I feared that Rachel Carson's prediction in her book Silent Spring was coming true. Bird numbers keep falling and every year we hear that another species' numbers are plumetting faster than expected.

A few years ago the number of sparrows dropped suddenly. The bird that was so common throughout my life became a rare visitor at our bird table. The year before it could be counted on that there would be a cloud of them near the local dairy farm where they would take advantage of spilled cattle feed and nice hedges to hide in. The following year there were about ten where there had previously been hundreds. It may have been a virus that had run riot through sparrows. Having witnessed the drop in sparrow numbers I worried that I had heard my last cuckoo. You will be happy to know that the local population of the common sparrow is rebounding nicely and today I heard a cuckoo and I saw one!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

What? June Already?

June has started with a walk in the woods with my daft dog, Polly. The air around our place is particularly wonderful at the moment. Its all fresh, warm and piney with the occasional waft of flowers. It is the sort of fresh air one wants in the house and compels me to open all the windows.
The gorse is in full bloom at the moment. It smells of coconut!The hawthorn is in bloom too. It makes hedgerows look as though they've been decorated for a June wedding. Old folklore says that hawthorn or Mayflower is unlucky and should not be brought into the house. I'm not bringing it in because there seem to be loads of tiny little flying insects crawling all over the blossoms.
There were lots of deer tracks in the soft mud. In one dried puddle I found deer, fox and pheasant tracks. When we first walked through the gate of the protected woods where the duck ponds are, we found loads of broken pheasant egg shells littering the road. It looks like crows have found a couple of unguarded pheasant nests and had an eggy feast.

Back on the road home and about 200 yards from the house I saw movement in the grass right next to the road. It was the wrong time of day for a hedgehog . . . It turns out it was a young rabbit. It froze and went very still in the grass, trying to not to be seen by us. As you can see, this rabbit didn't do a very good job of hiding. "I'm hiding! You can't see me!"
I managed to get very close. Polly (who isn't very bright sometimes) finally noticed the rabbit and went to have a sniff. When the dog got too close, the rabbit bolted. I called Polly off and the rabbit went unmolested into the woods. I hope this isn't a garden-eating rabbit and it stays well away. I must say that our garden is safe from rabbits as we have Polly the dog and Julio the cat. Both of these pets keep wild rabbits out of the garden. Our pet-free neighbours are less fortunate and have had to replant things a number of times already.