Seaside, socks and sleeping geese

First trip to the seaside this week! It was the earliest in the year we have ever been.  The night before, we had watched the BBC ‘Climate Change: The Facts’ documentary and were impressed with how upfront it was. Hopefully it is part of a new recognition that lifestyles and consumption need to change. Going to our nearest coastline is the furthest occasional journey we have been doing since 2005, and even then we question ourselves for driving there and want to look at alternatives.

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Earlier in the week, these sleeping Egyptian geese were a peaceful sight by the river.

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The sunny days are good for laundry and there’s always something pleasing about a line of colourful socks.

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Today we went to the local university for a walk around the lake, where we saw a grass snake swimming across a pool and then moving along the edges before coming out of the water and out of view. The main lake was rippling in a hypnotic way as we walked round.

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The university is also home to lots of rabbits, and we saw plenty today – huge ones and small young ones. The hills where they have their warrens are covered in beautiful pink storksbill flowers at the moment. The rabbits themselves are impossible to photograph, but you can see from the photo below that they have recently been there!

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Library bookshelf:
Miriam Darlington – Owl Sense
Emma Healey – Whistle In The Dark
Haemin Sunim – Things You Can See Only When You Slow Down

Playlist:
Hot Chip – Hungry Child
London Grammar – Help
Tame Impala – Patience

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Misty walks, sun dogs, chocolate & a gnome in Ely

This week started with some grey and overcast weather. It was cosy indoors but when we did get outside, the feeling of walking in the misty air and smelling the fresh green growth was fantastic.

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When the days got sunnier there were some wonderful evening shafts of light across our garden paths.

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And in the sky, some brief but dazzling sun dogs. Hard to photograph!

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It’s thankfully much easier now to find really ethical chocolate. Although many popular brands can appear ethical, they might be owned by a multinational, or their products may still contain a plastic or foil wrapper you have to throw away. But we have discovered Vivani, which is all organic and fair trade, is independent, and uses a compostable plant-based wrapper inside. Plus they do an orange dark chocolate – something Lucy has been seeking for a long time!

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Lucy had a day off for a visit to Ely with her mum which was a lot of fun, involving a stained glass museum, lots of tame ducks, lunch in a vegan café, watching boats on the riverside, and spotting this cheerful little gnome in the sunshine surrounded by fragrant flowers near to Oliver Cromwell’s house.

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Library bookshelf:
Sarah Waters – Affinity
Anne Enright – The Gathering
Miriam Darlington – Owl Sense

Playlist:
Jenny Lewis – Little White Dove
Tame Impala – Patience
Ruti – Racing Cars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

World of watery delights

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We have found ourselves heading towards water any chance we get this spring, including deep blue fens and sparkling ponds.

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We even found somewhere where we could dunk our feet in! Next stop will have to be the seaside.

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One of the first signs of spring last month was the celandines which pop up all over the garden, reaching for the sun. We recently heard a gardener on the radio talking about how satisfying it is to pull out these ‘weeds.’ But whenever we see celandines, they are brightening up spaces which would look much sadder without them.

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The garden is growing in colour every week now.

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A song thrush has seen singing regularly and we found it’s favourite place to eat – it has been using this stone as an anvil on which to smash open snails.

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One thing which is always appealing is the idea of moving through life lightly, with the minimum of clutter. So it was very exciting for Lucy to find this on sale. It works amazingly well even on thick wavy hair. Once the supply of bottled shampoo we have has been used up (bought on special offer, so we did get quite a lot!) we can switch permanently to these bars. Zero waste, and using it makes you feel as if you are trekking in the wilderness rather than standing in your (snazzy pink 1960s) bathroom!

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Library bookshelf:
Celeste Ng – Little Fires Everywhere
CJ Sansom – Tombland
Margaret Atwood – Lady Oracle
Salley Vickers – The Librarian

Playlist:
Haydn Thorpe – Diviner
Talk Talk – Time Its Time
Solange – Borderline
Lizzo – Juice
Tori Amos – Silent All These Years
Mercury Rev – Dream of a Young Girl as a Flower
Patty Griffin – Servant of Love

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wintery Days, and Why We Live Simply

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It’s finished now, but since our last blog there was a cold spell of freezing nights and frosty, icy mornings. Nothing dramatic, compared to elsewhere in the world, just enough to make it too icy for cycling some days and give us lots of frosty scenes to photograph, such as these spider-webs.

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There were sudden freezing fogs, making the woodland very atmospheric.

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On the day of the supermoon, we went for a frozen dusk walk on a nature reserve and saw it rising over the reeds, and reflecting in the water.

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Lucy invested in a pair of merino ‘under-gloves’ to get as many days of cycle commuting out of the month as possible. These are well worth having and have made it comfortable to cycle in temperatures down to -1 (on days when the ground isn’t dangerously icy.) Its nice to warm the two pairs of gloves on a radiator before heading home too!

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Over recent weeks the reports and news about climate change and biodiversity loss have been deeply affecting  (and rarely in the headline spot where they ought to be). When the news is of protests, such as the school strikes now reaching the UK, this is inspiring but also shameful that it has been left to children to try and make an impact towards sorting out this mess they didn’t cause.

These issues are the whole point of our blog and the way we live. We try to live simply because we want future generations (of humans and every other creature) to have a home on a functioning and biodiverse planet earth. We aren’t perfect but we are mindful, and question whether our choices have a positive or negative impact. For us there is no downside because we enjoy this way of living more than we would enjoy spending, travelling or consuming more than we do now.

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Breakfast and a library book, simply perfect!

 

Library bookshelf:
Amy Liptrot – The Outrun
Sara Lovestam – Wonderful Feels Like This
Matt Hopwood – A Human Love Story
Julie Cohen – Together
Roopa Farooki – Bitter Sweets
Patrick Gale – Take Nothing With You
Alex Miller – Lovesong

Playlist:
Van Morrison – Sweet Thing
Imagine Dragons – Believer
Christine & The Queens – What’s-Her-Face
Grizzly Bear – A Simple Answer
Janelle Monae – I Like That
Squeeze – Another Nail in My Heart
Nakhane/Anohni – New Brighton
Jenny Lewis – Red Bull & Hennessy

 

 

 

 

 

 

A surprisingly colourful time of the year

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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.

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

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The local trees are blanketed in it too.

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

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

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cosy Christmas

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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!

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

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A recent wintery walk with a dramatic sky.

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

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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

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And late afternoon walks now end with a sunset.

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

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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.

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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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Afternoon walk with dramatic sky

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Great Crested Grebe chicks sleeping on the water of a broad

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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