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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Early one morning......

Here's our Charlie enjoying a few peaceful moments surveying his territory in the garden. It's early in the morning and all is quiet for now. You can just see the red brick Methodist Chapel in the centre of the photograph, and all the crates filled with plants are in readiness for our 'big' sale at the nearby market town of Stanhope this weekend. We take our plants there every year and the people look forward to seeing us, as we do them.

See our 'posh' brolly! It doesn't have a base and is merely stuck in the ground. It's there to give the dogs some shade because our garden faces south and is a fantastic sun trap. Mind you, they lie everywhere but under the brolly and we end up having to take them, puffing and panting, indoors...... and the dogs fairly puff and pant too!

The patio is full of cracks and looks like it's ready to fall apart quite soon! But if we replace it, we'll disturb all the mice, frogs and toads that live under it. Still, the house is almost 120 years old and that old stone has never been replaced so it can bide a bit longer. :D

Here's Charlie again watching one of the wood pigeons stopping by for his breakfast. If you look to the left of Charlie, you can just see him (or click on photo to enlarge).

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Whitworth Hall Revisited ~ County Durham, U.K.

It's nearing the end of the childrens' Easter school holidays and here we are at Whitworth Hall again..... at least we were earlier today; it's just after 11.30p.m. now. I love this place and it doesn't matter how many times we visit, I still get an overwhelming sense of the uplifting beauty here. Strolling round as slowly as I can, I think to myself, "This is what Heaven must be like right here on Earth."

Apple trees in the orchard

Grape vines which will start into the new season's growth soon

This is a 'folly' that was built out on the lake. The materials were taken from part of the older church that stood in the grounds (a more recent one was built in its place). The folly is lit up in the evenings.

I couldn't resist taking this close-up of a Rhododendron flower while walking in the woodland gardens

.......... and here is the woodland walk. You can see the church in the background. This is the church where family members of Whitworth Hall attended.

The church and its grounds deserve a post of its own. There are beautiful old gravestones and vaults covered in lichens and mosses and wildflowers growing amongst the grass. The grounds of the church aren't neglected and overgrown though, but well-managed with wildlife in mind, as are the woodland gardens.

In the walled garden, where the orchard is, the bees were buzzing round clumps of Pulmonaria (Lungwort). The gardeners knew what they were doing when they planted it there, attracting all those bees which will, in turn, pollinate the fruit trees. Sometimes a bee will linger in a particular flower and you can easily get a good close-up photograph but they were flitting in and out of the pulmonaria flowers in the blink of an eye and it wasn't to be. Forgive the pun! It was amusing to see them with their backs brushed with grains of pollen. I like bees. :)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Introducing Herman

Meet Herman. He (or she!) is a Leopard slug that lived in one of our compost bins all last Summer. I hope life has been treating him well wherever he may be now, since the bin was emptied in the Autumn. This is the view I get when I take off the lid and look down into the bin. Click on the photograph to see Herman in his full glory.

And here he is sticking his tongue out at me!

I'm looking forward to mid-Summer when the temperature inside the compost bins really hots up and the myriad of beasties that live in them thrive. Lifting off the lid, it's like a scene from a Hammer Horror film..... hundreds of flies emerge and hover at the surface and below, there are masses of wriggling writhing worms, as well as species of creatures too small for the eye to see. Herman was one of my favourites though and I looked forward to seeing him on my daily trip to the compost bin. I'm sure he used to wait to greet me to see what fresh goodies I was bringing him! I will equally look forward to meeting his offspring this coming season.

All of these weird and wonderful beasties are welcome in our compost bins. They do an efficient job of breaking down the kitchen waste and producing humus rich soil for our garden.

(Leopard Slugs are also known as Tiger Slugs and The Great Grey Slug).

Click here for a fabulous photograph of The Great Grey Slug and here for more information.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Jackdaw, the hunter?

I was awakened very early this morning by my husband who was upset. He'd been watching a jackdaw on one of our stone planters with what he thought was nesting material in its mouth. The bird was behaving strangely by ramming the 'nesting material' against the planter. When hubby looked more carefully, he saw that it wasn't nesting material, but a mouse. The jackdaw was bashing it against the planter just as a thrush smashes a snail on a rock.

There was no time for my husband to try to scare the jackdaw and distract it from its acivity; the poor little mouse was already dead and it would probably just have flown off with it anyway. We were puzzled as we had no idea that jackdaws hunted and killed small animals in this way, unless it was a lucky opportunity for the bird.

I've always been fond of jackdaws but was dismayed by the killing of one of 'our' garden mice. However, a little research on the internet revealed that this species of bird has a number of admirable qualities. For instance, they pair for life and even if egg production is not successful, they will not go off in search of another partner. It seems that the jackdaw acknowledges those words 'for better or for worse'! They are a highly sociable bird, protective of the members of their flock and they even share food, in fact study has shown that the jackdaw has a higher level of giving than many of the higher animals.

Saddened as I was about the incident, I will have to accept this as an aspect of nature.