Thursday, 28 May 2009

Empty nest

My son made this nest box for an environmental project way back in Year 8 and every year since a family of Great Tits have raised a family inside.  For the past few weeks we have been able to hear the chicks inside and last weekend I took these pictures of the parent feeding the young.

Unlike Blue Tits, the Great Tits only have one brood a year, timed to coincide with the availability of a particular caterpillar that feeds on young oak leaves. It was difficult with my camera to get close enough to the box to take photos without frightening away the parent birds.  The pictures won't be very sharp if you click to enlarge but in the one below you can just see the youngster's beak wide open to receive a meal.

On Tuesday afternoon I noticed that the garden was very quiet, the birds had fledged and I'd missed it.  Often once they've left the box we don't see the birds again, perhaps they venture into the woods, but this morning I could see the family in the garden, the young birds still being fed by their parents.  Difficult to count them as they were all flitting about but at least four or five babies from this brood. I wonder how many other nest boxes from this school project are still providing nesting sites in the village.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Summer yellow

The oilseed rape is in full flower around here. 

This is a crop that wasn't grown much when I was a child and even though its widely grown now, each year I still marvel at just how bright it is.

Its definitely summer when the countryside starts turning yellow.

Sunday, 24 May 2009


Its a bank holiday weekend and we have bright sunny weather.  We are enjoying the weekend at home, well those of us who don't have exam revision or a job to go to.  It is unusual and rather nice that this weekend it is my husband and me who have the freedom to do as we like and the boys who have things they should be doing.

Yesterday after taking my eldest to work for 7 am we went for an early morning walk.  We went to Ladle Hill, one of the few hills around here. It is the site of an unfinished Iron Age hill fort and there are interesting earthworks.

There is a clump of beech trees which I always photograph.  They are very striking at all times of the year.

This was taken on New Years day when they were covered in hoar frost,

in early April, bare branches against the grey sky

and yesterday, coming into leaf.

Its a lovely place to be at all times of the year but I think yesterday, early morning, early summer surrounded by wild flowers was one of the best days.

The last photograph shows a view of Beacon Hill where there is also an Iron Age fort, it must have been quite busy around this area back then.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Blog award

I was given this blog award a few days ago by moonroot.  Thank you very much, I was so pleased to be given something with the word creative in the title because I've spent most of my life thinking I'm not creative at all.  

Isn't it funny how we form opinions of ourselves when we are at school and these stay with us for years. In my case, I was good at science and hopeless at art, so science was what I did, O levels, A levels, degree, job, all science with no artistic or creative thoughts at all.  Its only just recently as I've become more interested in my photography and started knitting without following a pattern that I have begun to wonder if there is just a little bit of creativity hidden somewhere inside that might surface one day!

Anyway, here are the award rules,

  • Copy and paste this award to your blog.
  • List seven of your favourite things and pass it along to at least seven others.
Here are seven random favourite things,

Early mornings but only in summer. In winter I find it really difficult to get up in the dark but in summer I'm always the first one up - a few minutes peace and quiet at the start of the day.

Shetland.  Of all the places I've visited this has to be my favourite, absolutely beautiful, very friendly people, lots of history, lots of knitting and spinning and never more than three miles from the sea. Of course it is a collection of islands and it would be difficult to pick a favourite but Fair Isle and Unst are very special places.

Coffee, freshly ground and served in a cup or small mug - I'm not keen on large American style mugs.  I grind my coffee beans each morning and the first cup of the day is the best.

Bluebells.  This blog has been full of photographs of bluebells over the last few weeks, they are my favourite flower and this seems to have been a good year for them.

Rock pools.  I love the coast particularly beaches with rock pools to explore.  I like watching the tide come in over the rocks and watching the sea anemones unfurl as they become submerged once more.

Apples. I like all types of fruits in season but its apples that I eat almost every day of the year.  My favourite are the early apples, Discovery and the Worcesters but I like most varieties.  I try to only eat British apples which at this time of the year starts to get a bit more difficult but still possible.

Photography. I love taking photos and have a camera with me all the time.  I would like to learn more about photography some time but at the moment I just enjoy taking lots of pictures.

As always its very difficult to choose seven blogs to pass the award on to so I'm going to duck out of this one and say that I think all the blogs in my list of favourite reads are worthy of this award - please play along if you want to.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

A day in my life

Yesterday was the 14th, the day of the month I write my "day in my life" posts.  

Thursday is a work day and it was a busy morning as eldest son was working an early shift and I had to drive him to work for seven. So, up early, drive him to work, back just a few minutes before my husband left for work, just time to give him his packed lunch  and say good-bye.

It had rained in the night and the front garden was full of slugs. I don't like using slug pellets but I did buy some "suitable for organic gardens" last year when I lost so many small plants at the allotment.  We have a tiny, half barrel pond in the front garden with some frogs so slug pellets are out of the question at home and this slug and his friends lived to munch another day.

Out into the back garden to let the chickens into their half and pick some salad leaves from my half to make a salad roll for lunch.

Youngest son is on study leave at the moment and wanted me to make sure he was up before I went to work.  I woke him at 7:30 and then again at 8:00 and finally just as I was leaving at 8:15 when he hauled himself into a sitting position to prove to both of us that he really was awake.  Teenagers, bless them, living in a completely different time zone.

The day of work passed and then back to family activities.  Drove to pick up eldest son after work and we both arrived home just after half past three.  The front door was opened before we had even got out of the car, younger son desperate for conversation and distraction after a day of physics revision.

The three of us had a drink and a chat for half an hour then I took a second mug of tea and a book out in the garden for some quiet time with the chickens.

I watered the potted plants, these are in the mini greenhouse until I am sure we won't be hit by frost

and my pot of salad leaves which is getting a bit old now but has been brilliant for weeks.

Its nice to see that in the non-chicken part of the garden the flowers are beginning to recover

I may get my cottage garden flowers back again after all.

The day continued in its usual routine way, a mountain of washing up from breakfast and yesterdays late evening snacks that I didn't have time to tackle in the morning then cooking the meal.  Sausages and potato wedges tonight, simple favourite foods at the moment for the exam boy.

A little bit of television (Kirstie), a little bit of blog reading, packed lunches for the next day, the usual routine family evening and the end of another day in my life.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Jam-jar dyeing

I have been playing around dyeing small amounts of fleece with food colouring. Its the first time I've tried this and it is quick, easy and great fun.

My current knitting project is a garter stitch shawl in natural Shetland colours, cream/white, moorit and Shetland black.  Unusually for me I decided that some bright colour was needed to brighten it up.  

I only wanted very small quantities of coloured fleece so after reading a few tutorials on dyeing with food colours and some experimenting I found that using a jam-jar in the microwave was a quick and easy way of dyeing .  

First I filled the jam-jar about half-full with a 50:50 water/white vinegar solution, added a small handful of washed fleece and left for about 15 minutes to make sure it was thoroughly wetted.

Then I added a few drops of food colouring, this one was yellow but I was a bit enthusiastic and added a few too many drops - you really need very little.

The jar was covered in cling film and then pierced to let the steam escape. It was then heated in the microwave to set the dye.  I found that after 5 minutes at medium power all the dye had been taken up by the wool leaving the soaking solution completely colourless.

The jar and contents was were left until cool enough to handle and then rinsed in clean water and left to dry.  The rinsing water should be the same temperature as the fleece, a sharp change in temperature could cause the fleece to felt.

The resulting colour was a very bright orange but the next time using less food-colouring I got a nice golden yellow.  this would be a very easy way to get a range of colours just by varying the amount of colouring used.

I've since bought a bottle of blue food colouring and have combined the yellow and blue to give a clear green colour.  I can see I am going to have a lot of fun mixing lots of colours together!

The first colour to be added to the shawl was the orange. It looked extremely bright amongst the browns and beiges as I spun it,

but once knitted, I think it blends in well.  The shawl is still small at the moment but I think as it gets bigger it may well contain a lot of different colours in amongst the natural Shetland shades.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Little Visitor

This little hedgehog has been rustling around our little front garden for the last couple of days.  I don't know if he is supposed to be active during the day, I thought hedgehogs were mostly nocturnal.  He has a very sweet face and didn't seem to mind posing for a photograph which worries me slightly as I expected him to be more timid. I hope he is ok.

Friday, 1 May 2009


Bluebells, if I had to pick a favourite flower, it would be bluebells.

I've walked in this woodland several times over the last week or so watching the blue colour develop.

This year the bluebells are a little later and the ferns are growing through them. The colour is less intense, instead there is a lovely tapestry effect of blue and green.

The flowers are so graceful,

all slightly different shades of blue

and they fill the woods with a lovely soft scent.

There must be hundreds of flowers here,

a very special time of year in the wood.