Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Autumn Plants For The Wildlife Garden, Autumn Moths & What The V.E.T Said

It's beautiful here today- bright, warm sun, clear blue skies, birds singing, bees buzzing. You'd be forgiven for thinking it was mid-summer. It was gorgeous all weekend long too. M and I went to the garden centre and splashed out on new plants. Next to fabric shopping it's my favourite kind.

The back garden has been a work in progress for the last two/ three years. I am trying to work with the garden, listening to it, moving plants if they don't seem happy, watching wildlife visits, shifting things around. The aim is to make nectar sources available all year round, as well as cover for breeding and hibernating. We're mainly talking invertebrates here because the birds etc are catered for. At the same time, I'm trying to get interesting colours round the year for us to enjoy as well.

I have experimented, leaving patches to grow wild and seeing what happens. Cutting some things back but not others. Trying one bed for spring bulbs and another for cut flowers. That is the joy of gardening isn't it? Finding out what works and how best to do things.

We are pesticide and nitrogen free here; we don't do lawn treatments which poison everything but the grass, we like to see self-heal and daisies, clovers and speedwells and dandelions growing among the lawn and watching the insects who feed on them; we don't despise weeds or try to shoo out the bees and wasps that make their homes in little cells among the roots in the lawn or the caterpillars who munch on the plants. The garden is Open House to All The Wild Things, and as you'll know if you read the blog regularly, we are blessed with a great many wonderful residents and visitors as a result. Sometimes it's just a question of shifting your perspective a little and learning to see and love the biodiversity that a garden free of chemical treatments brings, in place of the uniformity you get otherwise.

So the new purchases had to fit in with that ethos of the garden being a place for The Wild and also for us. 

I can't resist Caryopteris, and neither can the bees. This is my second one and the bees had found it before it was even planted in the soil. I keep nipping out to check who's on it, and so far there hasn't been a daylight hour when the small buzzy folk haven't been feeding on it. I'd say that was a result.


I've long wanted a Callicarpa. The berries are the most beautiful sheen of lilacy/ purple. Birds and small mammals use them for winter survival and then in the spring it will produce nectar-rich flowers. I can't stop going outside to look at it. My neighbour would think I was completely cuckoo if she wasn't very used to me by now :o)


I've also been after a Snowberry bush, which, like the Callicarpa, provides colour in the form of plump white berries at a time when everything else is beginning to slow down. Birds and small mammals like them, and of course it will also give us flowers and nectar in the spring...


Autumn is the time of berries, and the third shrub we came home with is a Pyrancantha. Bright orange berries beloved of birds that add a welcome splash of richness to the fading border.


We also found a Rubus spectabilis olympic double, also known as Salmonberry. The flowers appear in spring and edible berries are produced in the autumn. It was on the bargain shelf and was reduced to £6. Beside it on the half price shelf were two Philadelphus, a Minnesota and a Virginal. I looked for these plants back in the summer and failed to find any, now I've got two for the grand total of £12. They will be beautiful next summer with their creamy white flowers. The smell of Philadelphus, which is also called Mock Orange, is so heavenly I can foresee myself finding it hard to not just sit beside them sniffing :o)

I sneaked in a couple of smalls to come home with us too... Viola Honeybee...


And a lovely cyclamen... 


So, the season is turning but everyone is happy. Apples continue to fall from the tree. It's become something of a ritual for me to go and collect the windfalls every morning with Poppy and the Red Admirals (sounds like a band)...



Talking of the Admirals, Ragged Robin told me about a brilliant way of encouraging them in to the garden- she places apples on sticks and puts them in the ground, so now we have four all lined up among the new plants...


The moth box was out last night and at long last a Pink-Barred Sallow has appeared...


Along with three Frosted Oranges, of varying size. Two of them played dead for well over fifteen minutes when I moved them...





Also present was a Burnished Brass, whose colours glowed in the early morning light...


I am gearing up for Merveille Du Jour Season. They usually arrive here in mid Oct, so not long to wait. I'd love to see another Clifden Nonpareil too (around the same time of year), but that might be pushing my moth luck too far!

Pop had her V.E.T visit this morning to talk over the funny turns she's been getting from time to time after walks. I deliberately took her straight after our morning walk today, but of course she showed no signs of the problem. I stopped to collect conkers on the way home because they are natural spider-deterrents. I put handfuls in organza bags and hang them in all the rooms :o)



The conclusion from the V.E.T is that it is some plant, pollen or grass-based allergy. I am going to try giving them both evening primrose oil and will get an oatmeal conditioner spray for their coats and we'll see where we get to. She's tickety-boo today anyway....


With a stance like that she could win Crufts, no? :o)

I'll leave you with some eclairs I made over the weekend. So far I have made five batches. I turn my back and they evaporate. I suspect House Elves....


Hope all are well?

CT :o)

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Apple Picking With Red Admirals, Rescuing A Lesser Stag Beetle & A Long-Winged Cone Head Calls....

My concussion is at long last receding. I plan a run later to prove it, and also because my husband has cut through my prevaricating and entered us both for a five mile race in October.

A nice, gentle, flat race? I asked, hopefully.  
It's a bit lumpy, he said.
Lumpy....? 
There are a few hills, he admitted. But you're tough: you'll be fine. 
I checked the map. It is more a question of all hills with a token flat thrown in to prevent complete and utter despair taking hold. And this is my first five mile race. My husband believes in a Baptism Of Fire. I believe in walking the bits I need to.

Sunny and warm here. The apples have been flying out of the box by the gate and I have been replacing them, aided by three beautiful Red Admirals who have been fluttering about my ears and settling on the fruit and gorging themselves....

 




They were joined by a Comma...



I found a Lesser Stag Beetle on the carpet covered in fluff (says a lot for my house keeping skills, eh?) yesterday. They tend to be Autumn People and are becoming increasingly rare (largely because of the lack of dead wood- we're all too tidy in our gardens and park managers are only just realising that leaving dead wood is crucial for beetles. The big Stag Beetles have lost something like 95% of their population over the last hundred years). Anyway, I know we have a population of Lesser Stags here because I usually find at least one a year in the house. I picked him up and put him in the wildflower patch which has a pile of wood and a couple of old tree stumps hidden away at the back by the nettles. Lovely, no?





After Beetle Rescue had occurred, we popped into Romsey and went to the market for cheese. I came back with a bag of greengages and spent the afternoon baking. I made a pie with the wild plums we picked last weekend and the damsons Lucy brought over and threw a few of the greengages from the market in for Good Measure....






I made meringues with the egg whites left over from making the custard for the pie and raspberry jam tarts with the pastry edges, a Dorset apple and sultana cake with some of the apples from our garden, and a chocolate pudding out of a cake base drizzled with brandy, a meringue in the middle and a chocolate mousse on the top (the top is dead easy- melt some choc in a bowl and add to whipped cream)...


We ate some of it while watching the rugby last night. It was a Bit Yum :o) Pop was allowed on the sofa while the rugby was on because she got cold out running round the stubble fields and sat looking all miserable and shivery. Under the velvet shawl she soon warmed up, stopped shivering and wagged her tail when I looked at her... 



Sofa-and-shawl-medicine obviously did the trick because she's right as rain this morning....


The Admirals were back up feasting on the apples this morning, in between giving the seal of approval to my new dish clothes :o)


As I was wandering around the pond I heard a cricket whirring and for once managed to find him quite easily. He's a long-winged Cone Head- marvellous name!



They used to be quite rare, but have expanded their range since the 1970s and are doing well. They'll be out in gardens and damp places now so keep an ear out and you might hear them. The wings vibrate to make the soft churring sound.

I'll leave you with a pic of the hounds enjoying a warm spot of sunlight on the carpet yesterday....

And wish you all a pleasant Sunday.

CT :o)

Friday, 25 September 2015

A Post By Ted

Well, Hello Everyone!  it's been a while, hasn't it?

I am blogging today because Mum is under Strict Instructions from Dad NOT to do anything except rest. She tends to do what she's told when he puts his foot down. I know you all tried to tell her but what can I say? She's stubborn as old boots, my Mum. I asked her how her head was feeling this morning and she said 'like very small fairies have been relentlessly tapping away at it all night long with tiny weeny hammers.' 

She hasn't made much sense in general this week. She ordered two more Father Browns (which we like watching too) only to discover when they arrived that they were Dutch imports. She also ordered Dad some new pants, and now he's very worried about what might turn up. He has taken the computer away from her now until she's better :o)

Anyway, Poppy and I have had something horrible happen to us this week. We have been to see Mrs Danning. Not that Mrs D is a nasty person- she isn't. In fact we really like her. We wag our tails like mad when she appears and jog off into her house happy as larks. Mum has got over the lack of woeful goodbyes.

No, the problem is that with seeing Mrs D comes the dreaded bath and hair cut. You may remember last week I was looking like a member of 1970's Glam Rock Band Slade crossed with Jeremy Corbyn gone bad....


Setting aside the fact that I couldn't see out of my eyes, I was happy. The weather is getting cool and a dog needs his fur in that type of low temperature. But Oh No, mum said I looked a mess and so off to Mrs D we went. 

Now I look like this...


Oh My God! I have been bouffanted! It isn't funny. I wouldn't be out of place on a calendar, for Heaven's Sake. And the smell! I can't describe it. Mum tried. She told Gran on the phone I smelt like a Tart's Boudoir (whatever that means). 

At least Poppy has been trimmed all over and doesn't have a huge fat face to go with her new hair cut. What on earth was Mum and Mrs Danning thinking?! (although Dad did say this morning that Poppy's face looks extremely small now and Mum told her she keeps thinking she's got three eyes because her nose looks like one- but then, she's got concussion so no one is taking what she says terribly seriously right now).


We got home after the Hair Cut Horror (Mum nearly choking on the floral fumes in the confined space of the car) and rushed into the garden to get rid of the pong and try and tone-down the whole shiny thing by getting mud on our paws and wiping it on each other. Poppy forgot this was the aim and got Carried Away as she does by chewing my ears instead. On The Wall for Heaven's Sake! How many times do I have to tell her it isn't safe to play those games On The Wall. She never listens :o(


In the end, I pulled my Most Ferocious And Terrifying I-could-be-a-wolf-at-a-glance snarl...


Which seemed to work as she shot off onto the patio with me in Hot Pursuit...



I think my Wolf-Snarl may have been a bit too convincing....


Mum says she's never seen Poppy looking so worried before :o) Still, nothing keeps Pop down for long (although I'm not sure I deserved a stuck out tongue as a response, especially considering she started it all by biting my ears on the wall in the first place)...


The long and short of it is that we did get rid of some of the clean, and some of the smell, but I fear only time will restore our lovely long, dirty, scruffy coats. And I am very much afraid that I overheard Mum making me another appointment for eight week's time.Eight weeks? Heavens! That's barely long enough to grow a small sprouting eyebrow!

We were exhausted after the bath, the hair cut and then the attempts to put right some of the damage so we fell asleep in our beds for the next hour or so...


When we woke up Uncle Bulgaria was here looking at moths with Mum and dropping off some Apple Chutney in exchange for a big bag of apples, and then Aunty Lucy turned up to pick up yet more apples and drop off Damsons by way of an exchange. I watched Mum tip some sugar in a glass bottle last night, then drop the plums through the rim one by one and finally pour in some clear liquid before screwing the lid on and putting it away in a dark cupboard. Poppy and I shared notes on how strange human behaviour is sometimes.



Before I go, Mum asked me to show you her new shawl which has arrived. It's not my cup of tea AT ALL being a) male and b) a dog, but as it's her blog and she did bang her head giving me a cuddle last week and hasn't been right since I suppose I shall go along with it to keep her quiet....


We haven't been allowed anywhere near it, even though it looks very warm and snuggly. Poppy is planning to sit on it tonight when no-one is looking.

Hope you're all well? 

Love from Fluffy Silver Ted (Grrrr) and Skinny Clean Pops :o) xx