Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Christmas spirit in the village.

Our house with Christmas lights.

This was our third Christmas in the village and as in the previous years we had decided to spend it together without visitors. We had done all the family visits in the preceding weeks to enable ourselves to have some time alone. Waking on Christmas day is a lovely experience as the village is even quieter than normal, the only sounds are birds and the sound of horses bing led to the fields along the lane.

We took Boris out for his walk about mid morning and saw a couple of the other villagers doing the same and after talking to them we returned for Christmas lunch, this year we opted for a vegetarian meal which was excellent, we did go for roast beef on boxing day mind you.
Boxing day was so nice I even got out and did some gardening in the afternoon.

The social highlight of Christmas was on the 27th when our friends at the farmhouse opposite invited us and a lot of other villagers for a post Christmas drinks party. It was a really enjoyable evening in spite of the heavy cold I had developed over the holiday. The only bad news was that we found out the New Years celebrations at the village hall had been cancelled, never mind within 12 hours we had been invited to 3 New Years parties in the village.. never had that when we lived in London!

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Post Christmas reflections

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas, we did even without a kitchen! Victoria asked me the other day if we would be sitting down for dinner in front of a large log fire, well this was the best we could do.

I was very pleased with myself over the holiday as I managed to supply Lettuce, Parsnip, Leeks, Carrots and Jerusalem Artichoke from the garden and the greenhouse for the Christmas meals.

I also managed to get out in the garden for an hour or so on Boxing day and plant my garlic, normally I would do this in November but I forgot! I also turned over the soil in one of the veg beds, I have been growing field mustard in it as a green manure and I thought it was time to dig it in as it was getting quite large.

My sister in law bought us an interesting present. It is a selection of organically raised vegeatable seedlings. Basically you send off a form and when the seedling are ready they dispatch them to you. I think this is a great idea and although I normally raise my veg from seed they do tend to take over the greenhouse. This will mean I have a lot more space in the greenhouse this spring to raise other plants for the garden. I look forward to being able to report back on the quality of the plant when they arrive.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Wordless Wednesday, A gate in the frost

The gate to the horse field one frosty morning.

Wishing everyone a Happy Christmas.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Christmas is coming, let's demolish the kitchen!

Hi all, sorry i have not been around for a few days, but as you can see from the photo I have been busy on a little project. Since we moved here a couple of years ago we have been renovating the house and last week we moved onto the kitchen. I have spent the last week gutting it, removing the ceiling, work units floor and anything else I could hit with a hammer. It is now ready to begin reconstructing, but that won't be until the new year.

I have however also managed to get into the garden a couple of times, mainly to escape the dust! I finally got my broad beans planted out, i like to get them in early as this gives a crop before the dreaded blackfly appears. My sweet peas are also doing well in the greenhouse, i have now pinched out the growing tip so as to make them bush out a bit.

I was amazed on Sundy while sitting under our willow tree to find a large bumble bee probably Bombus terrestris crawling across the lawn, I picked it up and moved it somewhere out of the dogs reach for it's safety! I wonder if anyone else has seen one on the shortest day of the year, it really shows how mild the weather was over the weekend.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

A tree I miss

One of the winter sights I miss here in Cambridgeshire is the flocks of Siskin and Redpoll that used to feed in stands of larch Larix at a reserve near my old home.



At this time of year these birds flock together to feed performing acrobatics to get into the cones.

Sadly around here we don't have any larch stands and my garden isn't big enough to plant my own wood! Oh well I feel a birdwatching trip coming on!

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Echinacea with Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta

Monday, 15 December 2008

Winter wildlife Pt 2

First of all I would like to say thank you for all the comments for my first 'Winter wildlife' post last week. As everyone seemed to like the Owl picture so much, everyone loves owls I thought I would share another one with you. This is a Tawny Owl Strix aluco and we have several pairs around the village. On a clear night frosty night like last Thursday you can here them calling with the famous toowit toowoo, this is in facy made by 2 owls one calls and the other answers.
As I said in my last post at this time of year the fields play host to a number of wader species. in the last couple of weeks we have started to see flocks of Lapwing Vanellus vanellus ( see photo) also known as green plover in the fields to the East of the village. It is great to see them as they are quite a threatened species nationally.
We also get flocks of Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria in the fields. It is a beautiful sight in the late afternoon with the sun low in the sky when the flock takes to the air, as the change direction the whole flock shimmers in the light, truly one of the sights of winter.

Other visitors include Snipe, Woodcock, Curlew and Dunlin all making use of the food supply the fields provide.

If you enjoy my wildlife photo's do vist my other blog: Painting with light where I will be posting more of them.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Blooming Friday

Common Poppy Papaver rhoeas

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Winter Wildlife pt1

One of the main reasons we moved out of London to live in Cambridgeshire was love of wildlife. Where we live in Cambridgeshire or to be more accurate the old county of Huntingdonshire is famous for being very flat, we live on about the highest point about 250ft above sea level. This means that in the winter we are prone to very cold winds heavy frosts.

The land around here is principally used for arable farming and at this time of year next years wheat and oil seed rape are begining to show in the fields.

So what about the wildlife, well we get lots of wader flocks on the fields which I will talk about another time but also birds of prey. We have a very good owl population locally with Barn, (see photo) Tawny and Little owls. These have a tough time at this time of year, firstly their food supply the small mammal population is very scarce at this time of year retreating underground or into nests to keep warm. Owls will tend not to hunt in wet weather as their plumage lacks the waterproofing of other birds, this allows the feathers to remain very soft allowing silent flight.

Another local bird of prey has worked out his own strategy. we have a Common Buzzard Buteo buteo that spends his day hunting from the top of a large muck heap just outside the village. This gives him several advantages. The muck heap is the highest spot in the field which affords him an excellent view of any rabbits stupid enough to venture out. A local farmer has told me this is an excellent year for rabbits. The other advantage for the buzzard is the heat the heap generates, Not only does this keep him warm, meaning he has to expend less energy but it also attracts rats. Buzzards are lazy hunters happy to take carrion rather than hunt. So it must really suit this one if his lunch is litrally running around his feet.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Monday, 8 December 2008

Silene dioica Red Campion

This picture of a Red Campion is just to remind me that summer is only a few months away and it won't be -2c forever!

I didn't get to do a lot in the garden this weekend, not because of the cold but because we had a lot of commitments in the village. I am on the village hall committee and as part of that we organise a village quiz night at this time of year and this year Sharron and I offered to do the catering. This would mean making a Chilli con Carne for about 80 people, which we would have to cook in the village hall. Before this however it being the first Saturday of the month it was the church coffee morning. Once a month a couple of the ladies in the village open the church up to serve coffee, it's a chance to meet up with a few people and have a chat. We normally go along to lend our support. It a great idea as we do not have a shop or pub in the village so there is not a lot of chance to meet other villagers.

Now those of you who study this photo more carefully will notice the decanter on the table. This contained vintage sloe gin, not what you normally get at a coffee morning (except in this village!) but a very welcome addition on a cold morning!

Once we had finished our 'Coffee' we walked round to the village hall to start the cooking. Neither of us had ever cooked for this number of people before and we were under strict instructions not to make it to hot. I got the job of chopping the onions and mushrooms which you can see in the photo. We also had to bake about 80 potatoes this mean't distributing bags of potatoes to various other committee members around the village as we needed several ovens.

Anyway it all seemed to go O.K. and the quiz was a great success although by the end of the evening we were both really tired.

On sunday after retrieving the car which we had left at the hall overnight, we went to buy our Christmas tree. One of the local farms sells them and another friend in the village was going there with a Landrover and trailer and they offered to bring ours back. We got a very nice traditional tree about 8ft tall. I will of course be adding a photo once we have decorated it.

Hopefully I will get out in the garden at some point this week as I have a couple of tasks to do, I get withdrawl symptoms if I can't do something at least once a week.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Blooming Friday

Poppy 'Fluffy Ruffles'

Well this is my first effort for 'Blooming Friday' obviously it was taken earlier in the year.

I took the dog for a walk across the fields and around the village this afternoon. After the rain and other winter weather of the last couple of weeks the fields was a bit like sticky brown porridge. Whilst I slid and tried to move my clay clad boots across this morass, Boris (the dog) was running around like an idiot, he loves it when it is like this, in fact he likes it so much he has to keep jumping up you to show his pleasure. Luckily today I managed to get him back on the lead before we got to the flooded ditches, a small victory for mankind over canine!

As I came back into the village I saw a friend working on one of his hedges. Alister is trying to cut back and remove some of the Elm and replace it with less vigorous species. I stopped to have a chat as the piece of land I am going to be working on for the Village in Bloom is at the end of his lawn. I want to make sure we don't do anything there without informing him first.

As we carried on around the village the school bus had just emptied its young passengers out. The kids all know Boris and came over to make a fuss of him, the kids in this village are really good, there is never any trouble here. One of them was telling me that he is going flying tomorrow from the local airfield and will be overflying the village(might go out tomorrow a long way away!) have told him to take some pictures and sell them to the locals, knowing Barney he probably will.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

A frosty Wednesday

Woke up to a bright frosty morning , grabbed camera and thought I would share these.





Grass panicles

Willow and bench

I love the monochrome tones of this time of year.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Brrr it's cold

Bulrush Typha latifolia

It's cold here today and looks like it could get colder! it doesn't help that I am ill. My wife has passed on her cold to me which of course has developed into full blown man flu ! So it was lucky that I had a days leave yesterday. Actually I hate being ill and need to be pretty bad before I take to my bed (like I had to with the Kidney stones earlier this year!) I feel the best thing is to work it off, so yesterday was a good day to do some tool cleaning. I have a good selection of tools in the potting shed but my favourites are the good old wooden handled ones. The best of all are hand forged, such as Sneeboer or the bronze PKS ones, (I have lost my PKS castor Trowel somewhere in the garden, and am heartbroken!) as they are the only things tough enough for our soil. I have bent 2 stainless steel spades and a fork in a year. So yesterday I got out the linseed oil and treated all the handles. This is a lovely job, I know this is a cliche but it does always remind me of preparing my cricket bat at the start of summer when I was a kid ( For readers in USA cricket is a game that can take 5 days and still be a draw, for any readers in Australia, bring it on next year!). The other thing I remember about Linseed oil is my mums story about when she was a teenager and she wanted some suntan oil but could afford any, my grandfather gave her linseed oil telling her it was the same thing, you can guess the rest!

The other big event yesterday was the Autumn editions of Hortus and the RHS Plantsman arrived. If you enjoy reading about gardens, gardeners and all things gardening Hortus is a wonderful publication, full of short essays and no adverts. So once I had finished my cleaning I lit a fire in the living room and curled up on the sofa with the dog (who I suspect knows where my trowel went!) for a good read. The only problem with reading is you start getting ideas, for instance I am now thinking of growing Molopopermum pelopnnesiacum does anyone know how it gets on on heavy soil