Wednesday, 27 January 2016

A Gathering Storm

You can feel the presence of a gathering storm. It hangs heavy on the air.

This photo was taken while hubby and I were out walking in the countryside and it was so weird that to the left of us were clear such bright blue skies and to the right were these deep dark rolling gloomy storm clouds. It felt that it could go either way.

The air became very still and the animals around went to shelter. The deer in the far distance huddled closer together. They looked agitated. No birds sang. We were out in the open in the middle of a huge field. For us too we knew, some deep instinct within that we needed to find shelter and soon. We headed off to find it.

A few minutes later the wind picked up wild and blustery and trying to tear our coats off. We clung onto our hats! The air was heavy and damp as we walked quickly to find the cosy warm cafe we had passed on the way here. There was an air of anticipation, of something so much bigger than us.

Upon reaching the cafe literally within seconds we looked out and saw the splat of that heavy wet rain on the window pane. Heavy, lazy, big drops of splattery rain, the sort that just goes right through you. 

The wind howled around the little cafe and rattled the old window panes, cold draughts finding their way though the cracks. The waitress greeted us in typical understated fashion for these parts, "bit breezy out ?" We sat in comfort drinking hot chocolate watching the rain, glad and grateful to be dry,cosy and warm.

Within an hour the clouds blew over, the wind died down, the heavy biting rain turned to showers and the animals relaxed again. Birds started to sing. A short brief experience. No thunder or lightning this time just a normal undramatic rain storm, clearly nothing on the scale suffered in some countries and areas and no devastation or flooding. Yet nature at work, ordinary yet extraordinary, remarkable yet unremarkable.
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Thursday, 14 January 2016

The Mysterious Owl

The Mysterious Owl.

I love many aspects of nature and there are some creatures that although I hear them around I do not see them and cannot get close to them. One of these is the Owl. So when I visited an event where there was an owl and Hawk display and an opportunity to hold a tame owl I jumped at the chance!

I was honoured to be able to hold this beauty. I had to put on thick heavy gloves and hold my arm at right angles positioned by the handler until I got it just right. Then they transferred her over to me.

She was happy to sit upon my arm and I was glad of the gloves as those claws are big and sharp! Her feathers so rich and beautiful. She was heavy and self assured, taking everything in. I immediately felt her presence, her confidence.

The handler was telling me all kinds of facts about her but you know I seemed to phase it all out. I was so in the moment with that owl, just being there with her, feeling the power, the grace, the beauty.

Her eyes were completely hypnotic and if I were prey I can easily see how I would be stunned into gazing into those eyes. I could feel my heart beating fast as I held her. She was quite lively and kept trying to catch my hair which was blowing in the breeze in her direction. It was a moment in time, a special few minutes with a gorgeous creature that I will always treasure.

Walking around later I got to talking with an elderly lady and when I said how much I was in awe of that owl she told me she didn't like owls. When I asked why, she said that she was looking at one once and it stared back and she was so hypnotized she fell over ! It was so funny! However she was so serious I had to try hard not to laugh. I will never forget the look on her face, she was such a sweet person. To each his or her own.

I will continue to adore owls and marvel at the beautiful birds of prey they are. I do hear them at night occasionally now but have not seen one in my garden for years.

The guy told me that our native owls are in decline in UK in the wild, mainly due to people driving at night fast and killing them as they fly low. The other reason of course is the old problem of loss of habitat and prey as we build on more and more of their land.

So we need to appreciate our wildlife and be careful about them. We do not want to lose these beautiful hypnotic creatures in our world. 
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Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Amazing Pumpkins!

As it has not really been possible to do any gardening lately due to the extremely wet weather I am remembering some of the trips we took to other gardens in the  Summer and Autumn. One of these visits was to a lovely stately home near us that has a wonderful walled garden vegetable and fruit plot. 

It was rainy so we went in to the greenhouse for a bit of warmth and dry and there it was right in front of us! It was not promoted, they didn't make a big deal of it. We would have missed it if we hadn't wanted to get out of the wind for while. The gardener just said they were part of the crop and they had recently brought them in.

It was an amazing pumpkin crop! I have never seen one like this in my life. What a beautiful, bright spectacle of colour and shapes greeted us!

Some of the pumpkins were so small they easily fitted in to the palm of my hand and some were so enormous it must have taken several people to lift them into position.

There are many different types of pumpkins or winter squash. I don't know them all. However, I have used the Butternut squash in cooking.

There is the lovely shaped turban squash, the sweet nutty acorn squash and the wonderful Cinderella pumpkin to name a few. The field pumpkin is the one we usually see in supermarkets this time of year for carving.

Squashes are great in cooking and can be roasted, baked, or mashed. I haven't tried it but I also heard that you can carve them out, bake them then use to pour soup into as a novel dining experience!

We don't have room currently to grow pumpkins but I would be very proud of this crop!

Do you like growing, cooking or carving pumpkins?

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Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Growing And Using Dogwood

I have two bushes of dogwood in our garden. There are many variants of dogwood. In the summer the species I have in our garden is a large yet unremarkable plant. It does get tiny white flowers and small white berries and the leaves are quite pretty, but there are certainly more beautiful looking plants around. 

So why does Dogwood deserve a place in my garden?

For me with dogwood its all about the stems. I grow red stemmed dogwood as we love the colour red. In the late autumn when most of the leaves have fallen I cut about half of the stems. These stems are now very tall some are six feet high or more. Many are very straight, some are twisted or curved it depends how they have grown.

So these stems are cut to size and in winter I use them to decorate our home. Some of the more unusual shapes and curves go in to clear vases where the red stems and shapes really shine through.

Others I tie up into a rustic bundle and place in a natural wicker basket by the fire. They look gorgeous there. At Christmas I add colourful baubles, tinsel, put lights around them or even glitter sometimes!

Outside in the garden the remaining dogwood stems shine out a vibrant gorgeous red and look wonderful when dew forms upon them, or after a frost. They especially liven up the winter garden when snow falls white against red... beautiful.

In early spring I start to plant out climbers like sweet peas and I use the Dogwood sticks as supports. I also want to protect young plants from damage so put a few sticks around them with garden twine or string. The sticks also help to keep the neighbourhood cats from using the pots freshly planted with bulbs as a toilet! I use the same Dogwood stems that have decorated our home all winter to act as plant supports and protective sticks. 

They last all year and meantime the new dogwood stems are out there growing away needing little attention from me in our garden. You do need a spot with a fair amount of room in order to let them grow large and somewhere perhaps that is not centre stage in summer but will be noticed in winter. 

Dogwood, so beautiful in winter, so versatile, so very useful - I love them. 
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Friday, 8 January 2016

Springtime Flower Photographs!

I just wanted to share these springtime photographs with you. 

The weather here is grey and dismal and has rained, rained, rained for days. It feels like weeks with little sunshine. The hours of daylight are increasing gradually, but it is still dark early.

This photograph was taken last year and I just love the life and colours and beauty of the flowers on a lovely warm day.

I can even recall how relaxed I felt, the fresh air, the scent of all the flowers, the gentle touch of the leaves and the rippling movement of the water- safely in the lake- from a light breeze. Amazing how a photo can evoke such memories and feelings.

I do like to live in the moment and appreciate all of the days whatever they bring, when they are here, as they will not come again. 

There is much beauty to be found in winter too. Today though I just needed to have the experience and memory of the spring colours! 

So these photos are just a wonderful memory and reminder of things to come, which they will. Times of warmer, brighter, lighter days while we still appreciate what we have today.

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Thursday, 7 January 2016

January Days In The Garden

I do hope your Year of 2016 has started well for you. I am looking forward to a year of more flowers and more vegetables and being outside. At this time of year I long for Spring and yet know that I need to appreciate January for what it is in the life cycle of nature. 

The short hours of daylight always start to get to me around now. However I  know that each day we get a little more daylight and that gives me hope. We have had so far had such a very mild winter. It has however been extremely wet and rainy and on our heavy clay soil it has been like a wet soggy swamp! My wellies easily get stuck in it and walking in the grass just makes it a mud bath !  

Before all the rains came we did get quite a bit of trimming and cutting back we needed to do in the Autumn so I was pleased that is all done now. Every time I went out our resident Robin would join me and several blackbirds  roamed around the grass. 

Today and I suspect for the days to come I am not venturing into the garden much. It is very windy, I can hear the wind literally whistling around the house ! There is a chill in the air today and has been raining hard! Apart from restocking the bird feeders and cleaning the birdbath, I prefer to ponder the seed catalogues and gardening books indoors with a nice cup of hot chocolate :) 

However we are very lucky. Many northern parts of UK have flooded very severely, homes, gardens and businesses badly affected. Many people left their homes at Christmas and are still not back. In some parts animals and wildlife have suffered loss of their homes and grazing as well.

Nature has responded to the recent very mild weather. We have had our Elephants ears flowering beautiful pink blossom way too early. Our Magnolia tree buds are much further out than they should be. If they do not stop now and get a frost it could affect the blossom this year. 

I have even seen birds apparently checking nest sites and I saw a sparrow with moss and twigs in its beak and a Woodpigeon carrying a large twig. I just hope they are simply checking sites rather than laying eggs as it is simply too early and could be disastrous if we get a cold snap soon.

However the mild weather has meant food is more plentiful and most of the birds visiting our garden look very healthy and sleek. I saw a rather plump Squirrel yesterday sitting somewhat lazily on the fence who has clearly done well through the Autumn and early Winter!   

So due to the weather I am taking a break for now from doing any actual gardening but the planning is all going on :) Onward with the gardening year and to living and gardening in harmony with our friends in nature.

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