Meadows, orchids and summer refreshments

Pictures from three meadows this week. One was at a nearby open garden, where we heard lots of grasshoppers and saw skipper butterflies.

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This churchyard meadow was full of pyramidal orchids.

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And of course our own mini-meadow in the garden, which is having its best year ever. Lots of ringlet and meadow brown butterflies, hoverflies, our first ever clearwing moth (currant clearwing – on blackcurrants!) and the 6-spot burnets active every day and many breeding pairs.

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One plant that has really spread out is the bedstraw, which is an important food plant for many moth caterpillars. It’s the frothy-flowered plant in this photo, mixed in with meadow cranesbill.

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Lucy worked a long and hot day mid-week at an event, but ice cream was available which certainly helped.

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We were also treated to a family meal and some vivid colours appeared in the wine glass as the sun moved across the sky.

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Library bookshelf:
Markus Zusak – Bridge of Clay
Sally Rooney – Normal People

Playlist: from Glastonbury TV coverage!
Tame Impala – Let It Happen
Tame Impala – Borderline
Hot Chip – Melody of Love
Janelle Monae – I Like That
Christine & The Queens – The Stranger

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Moths, glow worm, spider eggs and ice lollies

The moths are hatching! This week the first of the adult 6-Spot Burnet moths, emerged and we have seen a pair mating already. The plant they are attracted to as adults is common knapweed.

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Resting on a knapweed bud

Brian spotted this glow worm larvae during a nature reserve walk.

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And back in the garden, this spider was trying to walk with the biggest parcel of eggs we have ever seen!

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The hottest day of the week had to be an ice lollies day, these were vegan and made with coconut. We don’t have a freezer so we don’t do this often, which makes it all the more special.

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The latest library haul has been a good one. The cycling books plus watching the football on TV have been powering up Lucy’s cycling commute with extra motivation.

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Library bookshelf:
Jeanette Winterson – The Gap of Time
Anna Hughes – Eat, Sleep, Cycle
Markus Zusak – Bridge of Clay

Playlist:
Antony & The Johnsons – Everglade
Hot Chip – Melody of Love
Sufjan Stevens – Love Yourself
Madonna – God Control
Bon Iver – Hey Ma
Eddi Reader – Clear
Labrinth – Miracle
Robyn – Ever Again

 

 

 

 

 

Caterpillars, spiderlings, and garden abundance

These caterpillars appeared in our mini-meadow a fortnight ago, climbing up long stems and pupating. We knew straight away that they were 6-Spot Burnet moths, our amazing colourful garden newcomers from last summer. Its wonderful to know they bred successfully and are with us again this year. We have at least 25 pupae and are keeping close watch to see when they hatch.

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Here are some other young creatures – baby spiders! These spiderlings cluster into a tight ball and then disperse if disturbed.

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On a nature reserve walk we saw ducklings and pheasant chicks, plus this evidence of a nearby thrush nest.

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We took time to watch the river flowing towards the banks.

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The garden is overflowing with plants and wildlife. Birds like to perch on our recently pollarded willow, it makes a good singing post.

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We’ve seen our first hedgehog and have a song thrush regularly visiting for snails. Slugs and snails are really vital food for these creatures and other wildlife. We don’t grow anything which we wouldn’t want to find slugs and snails on! The whole garden is just a big wildlife buffet, and summer is it’s busiest time.

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The gnarly old apple tree, which probably pre-dates our 1960s bungalow by several decades.

 

Library bookshelf:
Graham Norton – A Keeper
Jeanette Winterson – The Gap of Time
Anna Hughes – Pedal Power

Playlist:
Arctic Lake – Cherry Coloured Funk
DB Boulevard – Point of View
Rufus Wainwright – Bitter Tears
Ben Folds Five – Jane

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bicycle picnic, garden and river life

No blog last week as there wasn’t enough time to finish it before Eurovision! So this one has a fortnight’s worth of simple living moments.

Our holiday ended with a cycle ride picnic. We stopped off first at nice spot to eat the pies we’d brought with us, and while admiring the wild flowers in the grassland, we spotted a green hairstreak butterfly there.

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We cycled around for a while exploring some roads we hadn’t been down before, then bought ourselves some yoghurt lollies to eat by the river.

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The garden has been packed with wildlife. Recently we saw our first blackbird fledgling, chirping on top of the woodshed:

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Here’s how the ferns in the shady area of the garden are looking, beside the ditch catching the afternoon light:

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Bees love the cotoneaster, the whole hedge is buzzing. They are also busy on the white dead-nettles and comfrey.

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This impressive spider was hiding out in a plant pot.

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This time of year is the busiest in the garden for plants and wildlife, everywhere something is flowering, breeding, fledging or flying! We do a minimum of tidying up to ensure there is plenty of habitat everywhere, and the result is a garden that is full of life.

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In the city the Egyptian geese were together by the side of the sparkling river not bothered by people walking nearby. Later on they were grazing for food.

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Also on the river this week, swans and their eight fluffy cygnets feeding by the bank allowing everyone to get close and watch them.

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Library bookshelf:
Ottessa Moshfegh – My Year of Rest and Relaxation
Bob Boilen – Your Song Changed My Life
Yiyun Li – Dear Friend

Playlist:
KT Tunstall – Silent Sea
Grizzly Bear – Southern Point
KEiiNO – Spirit in the Sky – the Norwegian Eurovision entry!
Suede – Life is Golden

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our simplest holiday ever

Over the years we’ve had many staycations, which to us means staying in our own home. (We’ve never been abroad together and neither of us has been out of the country since the 1990s! We choose never to fly, as it has such an environmental impact.) Out of all the staycations, this week must be the simplest yet. We barely used the car, spent very little, cooked easy meals, and made the best use of every day – sunny or rainy.

Our most exciting day out was by bicycle. A new cycle path has opened up which could help us reduce our car use significantly as it connects us with the supermarket, cycle shop and local walks.

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It was wonderful having a day out this way, so relaxing using a dedicated cycle path especially when it was entirely separated from the road, and we got our bicycles checked over and did our grocery shopping as well.

When you have a staycation, understandably everyone hopes you will have sunny weather so you can go out every day. But we really didn’t want this, we were hoping for at least one good rainy day for wildlife, and we weren’t disappointed!

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We enjoyed watching from the window, seeing the birds coming out to flap their wings in the raindrops and get a wash, and even one brave bee was seen venturing out for pollen. We also used the day to do some research into the top priorities for making a home more energy efficient, which has given us lots to think about.

After the rain everything was very lush and refreshed.

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We’ve spent a lot of time wandering about in the garden, pulling out the odd few types of plants we don’t want. We only ever weed by hand, and never use weedkillers as they are poisonous for wildlife and the environment and totally unnecessary.

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Wandering about in the garden is also the best way to get close to creatures. The colour combination of the ladybird and the lithodora flowers was stunning.

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Our holiday ends with a weekend of more simple days and local walks, today we’ve been to the library and around the village. After a couple of no-spend-days, we’re being more creative with what we eat as well, and today’s treat was a home-made cake (lemon drizzle Victoria sponge) and a cup of lemon balm tea – made with leaves from the garden!

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Library bookshelf:
Helene Hanff – 84 Charing Cross Road
Otessa Moshfegh  My Year of Rest and Relaxation
Betty’s Wartime Diary edited by Nicholas Webley
Bob Boilen – Your Song Changed My Life

Playlist:
The National – Hairpin Turns
REM – Begin the Begin
KT Tunstall – Silent Sea

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blossom, books, a birthday & climate action

This week we’ve been following all the words spoken about the climate emergency and waiting for the first thing that could really be called an ‘action’ being taken as a result. Surely, there must be something soon! As for actions we can take, our almost-10 year old car has increasing malfunctions, and so we’ve been looking into the world of second-hand electric cars. We’re lucky to have a private driveway space where we could charge one, so it seems like the best decision for now so we are saving up. The ultimate wish for the future is to have no car.

There has been lots of weather in the last few days including short but heavy hail showers, and a decent amount of rain to help our plants and wildlife.

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Blossom is now coming out on the hawthorns, transforming the garden.

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Our lilacs in tubs are flowering for the first time ever.

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Lucy had a birthday this week involving sausage sandwiches, including organic ‘vegan wieners’ which were a bit bizarre but nice! We hadn’t been able to find any organic veggie sausages until recently. There was also an unplanned llama / alpaca theme, the below things are from different people who hadn’t been in touch with each other!

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Then we had a nature reserve and churchyard walk and admired the wild flowers that are left to grow there, amongst them was this hybrid Primula (a mix of cowslip and primrose).

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Today we went for a walk to the local library, hiding under a hedge when one of the big hail showers came through. It’s so satisfying to go out and bring back a big heavy haul of goods for free and with minimal environmental impact! Libraries really are the best shops. Brian has started ‘Betty’s Wartime Diary’ and what is most striking is that people are now starting to talk about the climate emergency in a similar way to a war effort, pushing governments to act at the highest level of urgency. In the memoir it is clear how much the sharing of resources, skills, time and support was part of everyday life. That’s what we need to see more of in our lives today, if we are to bring communities together.

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Library bookshelf:
Graham Norton – Holding
Helene Hanff – 84 Charing Cross Road
& the above selection!

Playlist:
Tame Impala – Patience
Hot Chip – Hungry Child
B-52s – She Brakes for Rainbows

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cakes, clouds, oak leaves and a tiny moth

Today is wet and windy – and we’re very grateful for the rain as we’ve been in a drought. This is the best kind of day to spend cosily indoors, especially as last bank holiday weekend we were out every day. Today we’ve made a banana loaf to enjoy at home, whereas last Saturday we made a lemon Victoria sponge to take out for a sunny picnic.

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It was home haircut time for Lucy. It feels and looks much better now this has been chopped off!

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This swan is one of a nesting pair which we saw on Monday, and later in the week Brian saw the female lay an egg, which prompted the male to trumpet triumphantly!

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Oak trees are coming into leaf, one of the most stunning colours in nature.

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We are starting to see one of our favourite insects in the garden for another year, the tiny Mint Moth. They must like our garden because we let the mints romp around, and they never become a problem plant (despite what some gardeners say!)

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There have been so many bright blue skies during the week, and on this day the clouds seemed to be lining up.

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Looking out of the window now at the cloudy sky and dripping leaves, this is as joyful to us as a sunny day, as it’s what the plants and animals (including humans!) need, and over recent weeks it seems like an increasing number of people are starting to realise that we can’t take the functioning of our climate and weather systems for granted. We need for there to be action now – and no more talk of ‘business as usual.’

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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