Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Personal Uniform

When it comes to winter clothing, I have developed a uniform.  Long sleeved black turtle neck sweater and jeans.  I wear this almost every day.  If it is colder than normal, I will add an additional sweater.  If I'm going out, I put on some lipstick, put in earrings add a scarf and I'm good to go.

Last month, Henry asked if I wanted to go clothes shopping. Perhaps he was worried that I had been wearing the same thing for a bit.  I took pains to reassure him that I have more than one black turtle-neck sweater and wasn't wearing the same garment every day.  I'm actually okay for clothes.  I have plenty.  In fact, I have more than I need. Because I have decided on a regular winter wardrobe, there are a lot of winter clothes that may never see the light of day again.  They'll be going into the local charity shop drop box soon.

The summer wardrobe is much more colourful as I have not formulated an opinion on summer clothes yet.  Despite wearing black a lot in the winter, I adore colour. Wearing bright orange in the summer makes me happy even if it isn't flattering.

I never made a conscience decision to just wear black turtle-necks.  It just grew over time.  Now years on, I have four or five  (I think...I've never counted).  Knowing what I am going to wear every day, takes the guess work and trauma out of getting dressed.  If one gets dirty while cooking or if I slop something on my front, I just change into a clean one and keep going.

I realised last week that Steve Jobs also did this and delving deeper there are others/  It does just release you from so much of what the fashion industry throws at a person. Find what you like, get a bunch of them and just wear that.  If you like it and are convinced that it is a flattering garment then . . . . then nuts to everything else.  

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Birds Birds Birds

When I first started this blog many years ago, I wrote a list of the bird visitors to the place.

Here is the list for 2014

Chaffinch - most common and frequent visitor to the garden
female chaffinch

Blue tit
Coal tit
coal tit
Great Tit

green finch

male pheasant

male Siskin

House sparrow
Tree Sparrow
Tree sparrows

Great Spotted Woodpecker
Tree creeper
Wood warbler
Wood pigeon
Stock dove
Pied wagtail
Grey wagtail
Collared dove

Tawny owl
Barn owl
Barnacle goose

trio of red sqirrels
 We also had visits from red squirrels.  I love them too!

 We've had an increase in the number of birds and an increase in the wildlife. We do miss the thrushes. The Mistle thrush and Song thrush have not been here in a bit and the lapwing that used to be in the field has not come back.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

New Baby - New Tree

In March and April of 2013, I became a grandmother to two exquisite children.  Lennox and Jack.  They are the delights of my life!  I adore being a grandmother.

When my daughters-in-law told me that they were expecting and that our family was going to grow, then and there I made a decision.  No advice!  I was going to trust them to raise their own children.

Even though my own children are grown, I still get advice on how to raise them.   I can't remember any unasked for advice being helpful.  This unsolicited advice also smelled of criticism.  So I am not going to go down that road.

If I don't give advice, I certainly will never criticize!  Laura and Medea are loving, smart and sensible mothers.  They are both amazing parents.  I am so thrilled that my grandchildren have such wonderful beginnings in life. If they want my input, they know they can ask.  In the meantime, I'm going to keep my damn mouth closed.

I feel my job as Nana is to provide support, encouragement, gifts and love.  The hard part is down to the parents.

When the boys were born, an apple tree was planted on their behalf in the garden.  It follows a tradition that began when George was tiny and we planted a walnut tree for him.  I planted two Bramley's Seedling apple trees in celebration of the safe arrival of the grandsons.   I already had a James Grieve and a Discovery apple tree.  Both of those varieties are pollinators for the Bramley.  The Bramley cooking apple needs two pollinators to grow fruit  So now, I've got the set.  See how it all works out?

Four apple trees is plenty for any private garden.  I've got two trees that grow eating apples and two trees that grow cooking apples.  We're set for apple trees.  Maybe one year, We'll have too many apples!   I also have a Victoria plum tree that is coming along slowly.  I bought it at the supermarket one year . . . It's still alive and fruiting so it can stay.

I also have a cherry tree.  It has been sickly and not right ever since we planted it almost 18 years ago.  We have never eaten a single damned cherry from this tree and every year, I say I am going to cut it down and plant something else.  That may happen now.   I need the room.  I have to plant another tree!  My eldest son and his wife are expecting child number two in June.  Yipee! More babies to love!

After getting rid of the blighted cherry tree, I will be prepare the ground for the next tree.  

Monday, January 05, 2015

Core muscles

It turns out everybody has them.  Who knew?

I took up this suggestion by one of my friends.  I am to hold this position for as long as I can. Beginning in the shallow end of the pool I am to hold the position for 20 seconds working up to a minute.
the core muscles under attack are highlighted in orange
I've  worked my way up to 40 seconds so far.  I thought it was going to be a doddle.  It isn't.  It's been almost a week now of holding this position for half a minute.  I can actually feel the muscles that were happily residing in  my body with no complaints.  Because I am now aware of muscles that I was previously unaware must mean that this simple thing is doing some good.  I am gaining benefit.  I actually like having toned muscles.  They feel good.  I just hate exercise.

One of two things may happen with this easy non-aerobic exercise. I will continue to strengthen these core muscles.  Having started I may be inspired to move more and take even more exercise or I make a half-hearted, post-holiday effort and then stop.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Start as you mean to go on

Today I ensured all the smoke detectors in the house had new batteries,  cleaned the refrigerator and
made bagels.

The Man of the Place is a creature of habit.  He has a cinnamon raisin bagel almost every morning for breakfast.  Yesterday the last one was toasted and we were officially out of bagels. (insert ominous sound here)

We have become accustomed to living out of town and prefer it to any other sort of life.  This means that we have become very organised when it comes to ordinary supplies.  I have a little method for ensuring that we never run out of toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, light bulbs and other things that make modern life pleasant.  I also have become adept at not running out of food staples.  If we ever get caught out and find we don't have something in that we need, there are a couple of choices.  We can do without, drive all the way in to the nearest town for it or make it our own damn self.

A bagel is not a staple for life.  It is a "nice to have" rather than a "need to have".  I knew there were only a few left but chose to ignore it when we were in town on Monday.  So when we sliced and toasted the last bagel yesterday, I had a thought.  I'll just make some!

It was my first attempt at bagels.  I looked up a recipe for them in my trusty Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook.  It was not good.  The instructions included sticking them under the grill! I am not Jewish but I know enough to know that part of the bagel making process includes boiling them. 

Going on-line helped.  I found a good recipe and an accompanying video on YouTube.  Better Homes and Gardens you have let me down.  Please don't do it again.  

The bagels turned out really well!  I haven't had a fresh bagel in years and they were delightful.  I loved the chewy texture of them.  I used more cinnamon and more raisins than the supermarket bagels too.  That's the genius thing about making stuff at home. Sometimes it's better!

I also opened the new bird diary.  I have retired the 2014 bird log to the book shelves along with diaries of other years to be part of the Whitelees nature archive.  A new bird watching year has begun.

I simply write down all the different species of bird that I see in the garden.  I write them down in the order that I see them. Sometimes I will indicate the number of each species. I also will log birds that I can identify by their sound.  There are a number of British birds that I can identify by sound now.  

If a bird entry is out of the ordinary I will highlight the entry in yellow.  So, if I see a swallow for the first time, I will highlight the entry.  Any new bird to me personally or the garden will also get highlighted.  

When the first sparrows returned to the garden after an absence of almost 20 years, that was given a big yellow mark.  I practically had a birdgasm and wanted to put glitter on the page when the tree sparrows showed up.  

I also log red squirrels in the diary.  They get highlighted in pink.  I will write down if it is a male or female if it is known and the number of squirrels seen at one time.  If we get a mole, deer or weasel that's worthy of mentioning as well.  

I note other things in the margins.  If the weather is particularly horrid or if there has been a big snow, I'll mention it.  I will also note when the field next to the house is ploughed, planted or harvested.

There are pages in the old diary with nothing written down. Those are the days when I haven't had time to record what I've seen or we have been away on a holiday.  There are also a couple of days, when I just plain didn't want to do it. Those sorts of blank entry days are rare.

So today there weren't many birds to write down as the weather is so bad.  The wind, which was strong all day is really howling now.  I fully expect to find the feeder on its side in the morning.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Blogging Fail

Well, . . . in 2014, I told myself that I was definitely  going to post more on my blog . . . and I didn't.  I used to put something up on the blog almost every day.

I have not given up on my dear blog, but I certainly suck at posting regularly.

I've had a very mixed year.  I've had some wonderful high points and with one or two sucky low points.

Let's see if I can put this right.

I predict 2015 will be the year of the "do over"

I already know that I will be trying to lose weight.  After losing my job in June - I know, I never said a word on here!  The weight has started creeping up again.  It got worse in October when returning from a trip to visit my son in Chicago, I found that my dog, Polly was lame.  She has surgery scheduled for the 15th of January and is not to go on any walks until after she has healed.  This means that since October,  I have gone on far fewer walks.  I guess I knew that me walking the dog was good in theory, but I actually got more benefit from it than I realised.  Since I can't walk my dog, I've put on loads of weight.  I needed those daily walks as much, if not more than she did.

So, goals for the upcoming year are:  Have a better vegetable garden.  I was given a Rotavator for Christmas to help with this.  That will help with the bulk of the heavy digging.

Get a new job.  It would be nice to have a job that I like and does not cause me quite so much anxiety.

Get back in shape

Post in the blog more

Let's see how we get on then.  :-)

I hope you have a safe and sanitary New Year.  I am probably going to ring in the new year at about 10:30 in my pajamas.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Ringing Our Birds

The swallows who have made nests in our tool shed have produced two broods this year.  Three cheers for a successful breeding season!

In a related note, I was delighted to discover that my friend Sybil is part of a program to ring birds for the British Trust for Ornithology or BTO.  Sybil and I have been having conversations about birds.  She's been telling me her tales of ringing house martins and sand martins and taking field trips out to Bass Rock to ring gannets. I had mentioned that our swallows had a second brood on the go but I don't know how big the nestlings were.   She came yesterday with her tiny little leg rings and notebook and we got this second batch of four swallows ringed and recorded.
Here's how you ring nestlings:
1.  Have a terrific trained up friend who knows what they are doing.  She gets on a ladder and sticks her hand into the nest and grabs the baby birds one by one and puts them in a cotton bag that draws close with a string.
Sybil gets the birds from the nest 
Record the number of the ring in a notebook and place it in the clamping pliers. Ensure that the number is the right way up so that it doesn't go onto the bird's leg upside down.  Once it is on the bird's leg you can't take it off to switch it the right way round so . . . don't make a mistake!
These numbers are TINY
Write down the number and clamp the number onto the nestling's right leg..

Clamping onto the thin little leg
We had four nestlings to ring.  Both Sybil and I agreed that if we had left the ringing another day, these birds would have been gone.  They were just moments away from leaving the nest.
The proper way to hold a bird for ringing
Once the ring is on the bird, you have to ensure that the ring can move freely and is closed completely.  After that has been done, place the young bird into a second bird bag.  One bag for unringed birds and one bag for birds with leg rings.

Back in the nest it goes!
Then it is back to the nest for our little birds.  Here's a weird thing you have to do when putting swallows back in the nest.  You have to spin the little guy around in a circle a couple of times (to make it dizzy?) before placing it back in the nest.  Once you've put the bird in the nest, you have to keep your hand there and gently hold it down as a mother bird would do for a bit.  Nestlings that have been put back in the nest this way are less likely to hop out again.
Holding the bird down so it won't jump out
Now I have some properly ringed birds!  If any birds come back to the place next year, I can record and report back to the BTO.  

Now that I have had four birds ringed, I am keen to get more of our birds ringed so that their movements can be recorded.