A surprisingly colourful time of the year

20181224_151112

This was the view out of our kitchen window at dusk on Christmas Eve.

Its winter, and many days are overcast or cloudy, with fewer hours of daylight, but when you start to look for and notice colourful things you soon see that this time of year isn’t dull at all.

Brian spotted this fungus on a grey day, from fifty yards away. Golden and jelly-like, it is unsurprisingly known as golden jelly fungus or witches’ butter.

20181214_133256

Lichen is at its brightest in the winter, the backs of our garden chairs are hosting quite a community!

20181230_105034

The local trees are blanketed in it too.

20190101_141139.jpg

We had a perfect rose bloom on New Year’s Eve, fragrant as well as pristine.

20181231_113340

New Year’s Day treated us to a rainbow on our walk, and the rain stayed off in the distance so we remained dry.

img_20190101_150906

We’ve been having a super-frugal phase, resulting in some very inventive and delicious (and colourful) dinners. Often there’s enough to make a lunchbox of leftovers for the next day, too.

img_20190103_221655

 

Library bookshelf:
Anne Tyler – The Accidental Tourist
Emma Donoghue – The Wonder
David Sedaris – Lets Explore Diabetes With Owls
Elif Batuman – The Idiot
Sara Lovestam – Wonderful Feels Like This
George Monbiot – Feral
Rachel Corby – Rewild Yourself: Becoming Nature

Playlist:
First Aid Kit – New Year’s Eve
Anna Calvi – Don’t Beat The Girl Out of My Boy
Manic Street Preachers – Sequels of Forgotten Wars
The Police – When The World is Running Down, You Make The Best of What’s Still Around
The Irrepressibles – In This Shirt
Van Morrison – Sweet Thing
Imagine Dragons – Believer

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Cosy Christmas

20181209_231623

The Christmas tree is up! This year we used alder branches again as they are perfect for holding the baubles. We spent a whole day making and decorating the tree, listening to Christmas songs on TV.

It makes the living room even cosier than usual, and provides the best backdrop for eating home-made oaty biscuits!

IMG_20181212_171907

Last month, before all the leaves fell we were able to enjoy them on sunny days.

20181117_135718-1

A recent wintery walk with a dramatic sky.

20181213_134224

Its been a chilly week and we’ve enjoyed the fire glowing in our festive living room.

IMG_20181214_183101

This is our last blog post of 2018 – happy Christmas! We hope you enjoy a lovely, simple and special time.

IMG_20181209_214615

 

Library bookshelf:
Olivia Laing – Crudo
Anne Tyler – The Tin Can Tree
Sebastian Barry – The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty
Michael Donkor – Hold
Anne Tyler – The Accidental Tourist

Playlist:
The B-52s – Bad Influence
Solange – Cranes In The Sky
Prefab Sprout – The World Awake
John Grant – Love Is Magic
Sade – Cherish the Day
Blow Monkeys – It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way
Sufjan Stevens – Hey Guys! Its Christmas

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seasonal leaves and trees

IMG_20181021_144833

The last open garden of the year which we visited was a good one, with plenty of autumn colour and big lakes creating patterns of leaves and light in the water.

IMG_20181021_140129

 

We replaced the old bridge across our ditch with a new surface made of salvaged paving slabs, and it was quickly covered in falling leaves.

20181017_115628

 

One of the best things about the darker months of the year is how easy sunrises and sunsets are to see.  Many work day mornings start with an interesting sky

IMG_20181114_071011

And late afternoon walks now end with a sunset.

IMG_20181031_161219

The last full moon rose at dusk, appearing big and red on the horizon.

20181022_174318-1

 

Here’s our first new bauble of the year, a bargain at £2! Its currently hanging off the wall light and looks like a mysterious sequinned planet above the TV.

IMG_20181111_144716

Library bookshelf:
Claire Morrall – After the Bombing
Sebastian Barry – The Whereabouts of Enaus McNulty
Naomi Alderman – The Power
Roddy Doyle – Smile
Colm Toibin – House of Names
Miriam Toews – All My Puny Sorrows
Ali Smith – Artful

Playlist:
The Lemon Twigs – Small Victories
Neneh Cherry – Kong
B-52s – Planet Claire
Thom Yorke – Unmade
Robyn – Missing U
Years & Years – Hypnotized
B-52s – Bad Influence
Neko Case – Pitch or Honey

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumnal Creatures

20181010_161030

Its autumn! There’s so much to see and enjoy. Colours and creatures, sunrises and sunsets, warm days with blue skies, and refreshing rain showers, like today (rainy days are blog-writing days). Its a good time for atmospheric walks. Brian saw this conservation-grazing highland cattle on a nature reserve, coat glowing in the sun.

IMG_20181013_165818

Yesterday was a warm day good for laundry and for photographing the autumn leaves.

20180926_125842-1

We recently found this spiky, spotty and stripy caterpillar eating a Devil’s Bit Scabious flower. Its a Knotgrass moth. We’d never seen a caterpillar eating a flower before.

20180926_124639-1

Then the first ivy bees to visit the garden turned up. For several weeks they were busily visiting the ivy every day and packing pollen onto their bodies, while trying to not to get caught by hornets.

20180919_125412-1

Our new little mistletoe is growing well although it won’t have berries this year.

20181010_112203

We’ve been thinking even more than usual about how we live, after the recent UN report. What else can we reduce or change to lower our impact? If everybody asked this question and acted on the answers, we could all make such a difference!

Library bookshelf:
Joanna Cannon – Three Things About Elsie
Ever Dundas – Goblin
Anne Tyler – Searching for Caleb
Sarah Moss – Bodies of Light
Claire Morrall – The Last of the Greenwoods
Anne Tyler – Digging to America
Isabella Tree – Wilding

Playlist:
St Vincent – Fast Slow Disco
Bon Iver – 8 ‘Circle’
Paul Simon – Stranger to Stranger
Patty Griffin – Shine a Different Way
Perfume Genius – No Good
King Princess – 1950
Neko Case – Ragtime
Nu Shooz – I Can’t Wait
Owen Pallett – On a Path
The Lemon Twigs – Small Victories

 

 

 

 

 

Notes from our Staycation

Its our summer staycation! We’re over halfway through and enjoying a rainy day for blogging. We’ve been for a walk every day until now.

IMG_20180819_180417

Afternoon walk with dramatic sky

IMG_20180825_173100

Great Crested Grebe chicks sleeping on the water of a broad

IMG_20180821_165122

Sparkling water on North Norfolk salt marsh

In the garden we are keeping areas of long growth into the autumn and winter. If everything is cut down to the ground, there is not enough cover and shelter for wildlife. We just take out some over-vigorous patches, leaving as much as we can for over-wintering insects, frogs and small mammals. We certainly don’t rake the mini meadow any more.

IMG_20180731_184643

While looking at the meadow we spotted that some seeds we collected from another local walk had grown and we now have Agrimony flowering. This is the food plant for snout moth caterpillars.

IMG_20180823_154920

In the driveway are a great supply of blackberries. Lucy has been picking these every couple of days to add to ‘overnight oats’ breakfasts.

IMG_20180820_221003 POTD Blackberries

We don’t mind this rainy day today and we’ve been making use of it in ways that will contribute to our simple, frugal life. Lucy has cleaned and checked her bicycle, for autumn commuting. Brian made biscuits, so we’ve had treats even on a no-spend day. And now we’re watching a documentary about waste and recycling in Newcastle, which is shocking (so much packaging is produced only to be thrown away) but motivating. We create a tiny amount of waste, and never throw away food for example, but if there is anything we can improve on, we will! But the answer has to be for more pressure to be put on manufacturers of over-packaged products to use alternatives such as compostable packaging, or no packaging at all.

Library bookshelf:
Willy Vlautin – Lean on Pete
Lorrie Moore – Bark
Anne Tyler – Celestial Navigation
Chloe Benjamin – The Immortalists
Donal Ryan – A Slanting of the Sun
Alice Munro – The View from Castle Rock

Playlist:
Regina Spektor – Tornadoland
Goldfrapp – Some People
Rihanna/SZA – Consideration
Johnny Marr – A Different Gun
Janelle Monae – Make Me Feel
St Vincent – Fear the Future
Serpentwithfeet – Bless Ur Heart
Natalie Merchant – Not in This Life


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cloudburst & caterpillars

The heatwave has ended! On Friday, after the hottest week of the year and over a month without rain, the sky darkened, and started to flash in the south west. We went outside hoping the storm would reach us soon. Then five bats – usually we get one or two at a time – started to frantically zoom around the garden, coming very close to us, chasing each other and going round in circles. There was thunder, then strong winds, and at last, rain!  It was a proper deluge and such a relief. We stood and got rained on for a while, then came inside to watch it. It rained all night. Saturday was dry, and now it’s raining a bit again – this is our porch today.

IMG_20180729_105633[1]

Last week, before it got too hot to be outside much, Brian saw two big and beautiful types of caterpillar.

20180718_132732-2[1]

This is the Swallowtail butterfly caterpillar, the sub-species which only lives in the Norfolk & Suffolk Broads of the UK. They only feed on milk parsley.

Then, the next day, this was found underneath the wooden bridge over our ditch which he was dismantling due to rot.

20180719_145551-1[1]

We knew it was a hawk moth caterpillar, but there are a couple with blue spikes so it needed a bit of looking into. We found out it’s an eyed hawk-moth – if we ever see the adult moth that will be very exciting as they look like this.

We also had this Forest Bug, which we hope means our garden is like a forest.

20180717_091442-1[1]

And this capsid bug looking for aphids on the fleabane. Its name is Deraeocoris Ruber.

20180725_140111

These clouds appeared one night last week –  we’d never seen such a regular pattern covering the whole sky.

20180721_202740

IMG_20180721_203536[1]

They are altocumulus floccus – cotton wool clouds.

Clouds also stopped us seeing the lunar eclipse on Friday night, but since they gave us the storm and rain, we didn’t mind. It’s nowhere near enough rain yet – we need a few solid days of heavy rain for it to have any effect on plants and soil – but it is lovely to see something coming out of the sky at last and we’ll be going out for a walk in it very soon!

Library bookshelf:
Michele Forbes – Ghost Moth
Philip Hoare – Risingtidefallingstar
Sebastian Barry – Days Without End
Nick Baker – Re-Wild

Playlist:
Patty Griffin – There Isn’t One Way
Christine & The Queens – Doesn’t Matter
Thomas Dolby – Cloudburst at Shingle Street


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fruits, fragrance and watery places

Checking the diary, we don’t think it has rained since 2 June. This has been an exceptional heatwave and dry spell. Any rumour of rain is very exciting. Today a bit of rain was predicted on the week ahead forecast – we hope it is true!

With everything so dry, we’ve been enjoying watery places even more than usual as it’s such a relief to see them. Some of the best ones from walks over recent weeks are below!

IMG_20180701_141544

Water lilies and shimmering reflections 

IMG_20180708_131004

Sunlight on duckweed creating patterns of brightness

IMG_20180712_180206

One of six thriving moorhen chicks in a city wildlife pond

In the garden we are enjoying a harvest of the blackcurrants and gooseberries that grow with no intervention from us. A few handfuls of garden fruits with breakfast is an amazing free treat.

IMG_20180707_100029

We love pollen beetles, and they have been enjoying anything yellow they can land on, such as this native perennial sow thistle, which they are visiting more than anything else. This is the most we’ve seen on any flower.

20180629_082855

This summer the jasmine is having its most floriferous year. When the day cools down towards the evening, and we can have a comfortable look round the garden, it’s fragrance is rich and delicious and makes us feel very privileged to be experiencing it.

IMG_20180704_154719

Library bookshelf:
Sheila Heti – Motherhood
Patrick Ness – More Than This
Michele Forbes – Ghost Moth
Philip Hoare – Risingtidefallingstar
Deborah Levy – Black Vodka

Playlist:
First Aid Kit – Rebel Heart
Van Morrison – Warm Love
The Beta Band – Dry the Rain
Sheryl Crow featuring Annie Clark – Wouldn’t Want to Be Like You

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer solstice moth & meadow magic

A few weeks ago we showed the moth pupae that we’d found in the garden. On Friday 22nd June, the first moths were seen, and by Saturday 23rd we could see six or seven of these stunning creatures flying, feeding, resting and mating.

20180623_135150-1

20180623_135302-1

They are Five-Spot Burnet Moths, named because they have five spots on each wing (although their spots are often fused, as in our moths). They appear very strikingly black and crimson, but in certain light their wings have an iridescent greenish shine.

20180623_135300-1

They arrived in our mini-meadow because we had planted a food plant of their larvae (caterpillars), meadow vetchling. The larvae also feed on bird’s foot trefoil. In these photos the adults are feeding on nectar from knapweed. They stayed for a couple of days, and have now gone to find new habitats, but at least two pairs mated and we hope they have left some eggs so we can enjoy the next generation.

IMG_20180615_184311

Elsewhere in the garden our foxgloves have been busy with bees, as accidentally captured in this photo! In the last week they have mostly finished flowering and have a promising amount of seed pods – we hope for more foxgloves in the future!

We try to keep our garden as wild as possible, actively increasing the food-plants and habitats. This can be done on a larger scale in the wood and meadow, where Brian has now been re-wilding to as great an extent as we can for the size of the site. This view shows the meadow with many willows and alders planted in the last 5 years.

20180625_172013

Creating better habitats for wildlife is one way that we can take action and do something with a positive impact. Although we cannot introduce the large herbivores which bigger re-wilding projects use, we have two species of deer moving through the site, and Brian is also acting as a “keystone species” (one that by its natural behaviour makes the site better for lots of other species). Most important is not to over-manage, but to enable the site to be dynamic and changing over time. We get lots of inspiration from the Knepp Estate’s films and posts.

Brian made the annual pilgrimage this week to see a site where he planted many trees as a volunteer in the 1980s-90s. The trees now have real presence, and there is still a large honeybee colony active.  Its not only the trees which have grown – this photo shows an oak tree with a massive ivy growing up it! Ivy does not kill trees and it provides food and habitat for all kinds of wildlife. And a natural wonder for humans to enjoy too, when it grows as big as this!

 

20180627_135403

Oak tree with huge woody base of an ivy, known as an ‘ivy bole’ or ‘ivy todd’

 

 

Library bookshelf:
Mark Cocker – Our Place: Can we save Britain’s wildlife before it is too late
Paul Kalanithi – When Breath Becomes Air
Neel Mukherjee – State of Freedom
Sheila Heti – Motherhood
Patrick Ness – Release
Michele Forbes – Ghost Moth

Playlist:
The National – England (It’s not a football song!)
Perfume Genius – Alan
St Vincent – Sugarboy
Nakhane – Clairvoyant
First Aid Kit – Rebel Heart
Van Morrison – Warm Love

 

 

 


Mini-holiday moths & more

Taking a few days holiday recently was a really good idea. Often the summer can rush in very quickly and suddenly you realise it’s the middle of June. We’ve been able to slow down and appreciate it this year, especially when we got to give a woodland tour to friends visiting for the first time. There were lots of small creatures on display in the woods and there has been plenty of activity in the garden too.

20180609_132549-1

We’ve had this moth before but never caught it for a photo, this is a Blood-Vein moth.

 

Small rivulet moth in driveway

This is a first for the garden, a Small Rivulet moth, camouflaged effectively on the fence.

 

 

20180609_133634-1

Oedemera nobilis – Thick Legged Flower Beetle

 

These beetles caught the eye of our friends in the wood (especially as they were at just the right height for a 3 year old to spot!) and this one was in the garden contrasting spectacularly with a buttercup. The buttercups have been bright and beautiful this year.

IMG_20180606_172314

There aren’t many non-native plants in the garden, because we focus on creating habitats for wildlife. We grow lots of food plants for creatures of all kinds (and at all stages, including larvae of insects) and we don’t tidy up too much, keeping plenty of thick vegetation and big piles of prunings where things can live, hide and feed. We’ve also made this ‘hotel’ by drilling holes in a bit of tree trunk and fixing it to a sunny wall in the woodshed. Spiders have been using the biggest holes, and solitary bees and wasps like the small ones.

IMG_20180609_125345

The most exciting discovery in the garden was this:

20180608_175302

There are at least six of these, and they are Six-Spot Burnet moth pupae (or possibly Five-Spot, we won’t know until they come out!) This is a first for our mini-meadow. They need long grasses, so they are exactly the kind of creature we created the mini-meadow for. The adult moth is black with deep red spots, a thing of wonder, and we can’t wait to see them! Here is a photo from another site in 2007 –

2007_07280052

 

 

Library bookshelf:
Deborah Levy – Hot Milk
Jessie Burton – The Muse
Neel Mukherjee – State of Freedom
Paul Kalanithi – When Breath Becomes Air

Playlist:
Manic Street Preachers – International Blue
Years & Years – Sanctify
Christine & The Queens  Girlfriend
James – Better than That
Patty Griffin – Kite Song
Muna – I Know a Place
Hot Chip – Slush
The National – England

 

 

 


May Days 2018

The last couple of weeks have been brilliant for enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of nature. These ferns were showing their spore-bearing parts in the sunlight.

IMG_20180519_191131

 The hawthorn trees in the garden all have different blossoming times and this one is the biggest, frothing on top of the woodshed! It has been full of birds including fledglings which may well have been hatched in there.

20180520_121428

 Everything is growing rapidly in the woods, creating light and shadow.

20180518_155625

 Cow Parsley is one of our favourite spring plants, creating soft verges along roads and cycle paths.

IMG_20180518_165534

Lucy has been making sure to go out at lunchtime and relax. Working near a river makes this easy to do, especially when there is wildlife close by. These Egyptian Geese had eight chicks with them, many hiding behind the tree.

IMG_20180515_132408

Rivers are very photogenic at this time of year with the sun reflecting the green of plants and blue of the sky in the water.

IMG_20180515_134436

Many of our recent walks have been alongside rivers and other watery places.

IMG_20180521_133234

Every year we cast a few seeds (found wild or given by friends as this one was) of a new plant in the garden to see whether it will grow here. 2018’s is this yellow poppy, which we can enjoy while we hang out laundry or sit in the garden.

IMG_20180522_121341

In the last week the foxgloves have started to open. We watched the Chelsea Flower Show on TV, where many white foxgloves had been used, but these wild ones are our favourites.

IMG_20180525_175230

We’ve spent a lot of time in the garden so far this spring, but it was only this weekend that we spotted a second mistletoe in the apple tree. It is very welcome there!

20180527_163149

Library bookshelf:
Arundhati Roy – The Ministry of Utmost Happiness
Deborah Levy – Swimming Home
Deborah Levy – Hot Milk
Rachel Elliott – Whispers Through a Megaphone
Jessie Burton – The Muse

Playlist:
Paul Simon – Peace Like a River
Duran Duran – Pressure Off
Wild Beasts – This Is Our Lot
Panjabi MC – Mundian To Bach Ka
Manic Street Preachers – International Blue
Years & Years – Sanctify
Sigala & Paloma Faith – Lullaby