A Worrying Development

October 31, 2009

Walking back through the garden this afternoon, I spotted something apparently hovering in mid-air under a tree. On closer examination, it turned out to be a slug, not hovering so much as dangling from a gossamer thread. I took photos but the camera couldn’t see the point of focusing on the slug when there was lots of lovely scenery to focus on instead, and the slug was swaying gently in the breeze anyway, so you’ll just have to believe me.

As a gardener, I can only think of one explanation for this phenomenom. The slimy buggers are experimenting with parachutes. Clearly their aim needs some work, as this was nowhere near the veg patch, but it’s a worrying sign all the same. Copper rings, egg shells, coffee grounds and grit will form no barrier to para-slugs with forward air capability.  And if this works, can mortars, IEDs and tactical nuclear devices be far behind?

Be afraid, gardeners. Be very afraid.

Home, James

October 30, 2009

‘So much for their unerring homing instinct,’ I said as we stood at the falls, watching the salmon leaping. Most of the fish were doing the textbook thing of heading up the waterfall for their home tributary, but there was one that either hadn’t read the textbook or had mis-programmed its GPS and was repeatedly leaping out of the water in the wrong direction and beating its head against the cliff wall instead. I wonder whether if you stood at the right spot and caught one, it would count as poaching? ‘It just jumped into my hands, officer…’

Anyway, hopefully my own homing instincts (although not to my natal spawning grounds) will be somewhat better as on Monday we’re off to Huttonian‘s and on Tuesday I shall be here as part of my two nations (well, Scotland and England) in one day whirlwind book tour.

Trouble in Paradise

October 29, 2009

A wanted poster appears on Noticeboard Tree:


Have you seen a grey squirrel?

This is terrible news. Only this week we were going gooey over the antics of one of our red squirrels on the feeder. We knew the dreaded greys were getting closer, but hadn’t realised just how close they were. Argh.

Apparently, the Scottish greys don’t carry the pox that is so damaging to the local reds, so the two may coexist, at least until the English greys spread up from the south with their nasty southern diseases. But even so, the reds would be driven into the conifer plantations and we’d definitely be seeing less of them in the garden and round about. In some ways, that might be a relief. But in all other ways, it would be a crying shame.

While the Sun Shines

October 28, 2009


The weather’s been fairly grim these last few days – blustery, cool, raining and endlessly grey. Today looked like it was going to be no better but as the morning wore on we noticed a strange light in the sky and then – my God – enough sunshine to cast a shadow. The forecasts suggested we should get out and make the most of it while it lasted, and so we did. ‘Fancy a bike ride?’ I asked the other half, and curiously enough, he did.

There’s no other option on a day like this: the reservoir loop. I never get tired of this ride, although I do frequently get tired on this ride as, curiously, no bike lift has yet to be installed. But that’s what cameras are for: an excuse to stop and rest while pretending to take photographs of my favourite breed of cow:


We were nearly at the top when we saw this:


(and if you’re wondering, that impressive looking junction with the give way sign is actually the entrance to a farm track). Recklessly, we pressed on, pausing only to, once more, fail to capture the view from the top:


Twenty minutes of descending later and we found the roadworks, but the long delays were on their lunchbreak so we whizzed past without stopping (they were fixing the parapet on a bridge).

Then a quick stop at the waterfall to give the bikes a rest, and home for our own lunch break.

Rain forecast again tomorrow… oh well.

Actually, you can Forget Bicycle Lanes…

October 27, 2009

this is what we need on the roads round here

Via Chic Cyclists.

Tempting Fate

October 26, 2009

Sometimes I wonder if my habit of leaving the bike unlocked outside the shop is going to come back and bite me one of these days. Theoretically, I’m only popping in for a few seconds, but sometimes there’s a queue, and even if there isn’t there’s usually a tale to be told, or at least some bantering to be done, and second turn into minutes. And the bike’s there regularly enough that if it should catch someone’s eye… I’d feel a right fool if it was stolen, and I’d have nobody to blame but myself. And the person who nicked it, of course.

But then, but then. My London-issue U-lock weighs a ton so I’d rather not cart it about, and really what is the point of living in the country if you can’t boast about leaving your bike unlocked outside the shop to incredulous Londoners? And why bother fiddling about with keys and locks for my bike when everyone else doesn’t just leave their car unlocked, but their engine running too and sometimes – like the van outside the shop this morning, while the owner was inside having a chat – the driver’s door wide open as well.

One of these days, if it’s raining, I might just be tempted myself.

What’s Brown and Sticky?

October 25, 2009

In the midst of death etc … I was up in the veg plot yesterday, clearing out the last of the broad beans and generally preparing for winter when I found that one of the mysteriously disappeared bulbs of garlic had not, in fact, disappeared, but had gone underground, as bulbs do, and was now busy putting up new shoots, possibly in a misguided belief that it was spring. I have my doubts that they will actually survive the winter, but I have carefully separated the cloves and planted them out individually just in case (the gardening columns all say now is a good time to plant garlic, but I suspect they’re written for southern softie type gardeners, not rufty-tufty Scottish ones).

And then, when I was clearing out the hawthorn sticks that I had put in to support the beans I found one of them had done this:

Not dead, only sleeping

Not dead, only sleeping

That wasn’t in the script. I knew willow twigs would do this, but I’ve never seen it happen to hawthorn. Obviously, I can’t be doing with a hawthorn tree in my vegetable patch so I pulled it up and stuck it on the bonfire pile with everything else. And then, after a while, felt guilty and pulled it out again. It’s now stuck in the ground somewhere else where it can turn into a tree or not as it chooses. It’s hard to be ruthless with something so determined to go on living.

I’m not giving it a name, though. Because calling it Harry the hawthorn and getting all upset when itinevitably  succumbs to a late frost, or an early drought, or too much rain, or gales, or whatever, and dies would be silly.

Nope, I’m not getting fond of it at all.

Fill your Boots

October 23, 2009

It was, I suppose, inevitable after yesterday’s post, that I would set out today in what I hoped was ‘rain easing off’ weather, only to find that it was in fact ‘rain pausing in order to regroup for a more prolonged assault’ weather instead. Bleurgh. Sometimes those tin boxes have their advantages, like roofs.

Still, search hard enough on the internet, and you can always find someone who’s worse off than you.

Reasons to be Cycling

October 22, 2009

I’ve not been on the bike much this week – what with the weather, and being a bit under it, and being busy as well. But yesterday, I had to cycle down to the village in the evening, just as the last of the light was leaving the sky.

As I headed down the first hill, I became aware of something flying above me – a pipistrelle bat, jinking in and out of view as it hunted for insects in the dark. And then, as I turned the corner into the village itself, there was a great wild honking of geese, heading off to the reservoir to roost. They passed overhead, still calling to each other, only just visible against the sky, and then disappeared over the shoulder of the hill.

There’s a couple of people here who are puzzled by my insistence on cycling down to choir practice in the dark and who very kindly offer to give me a lift should I need one. I’m fully prepared to take them up on it, the next time that it rains. But when it’s dry, I wouldn’t be shut up in a tin box on that road for the world.


October 21, 2009

So it turns out – and I suppose, with a physics O-level I ought to have known this – that when electricians talk about the ‘earth’ wire, what they mean is a wire that, ultimately, ends up in the earth. Not some metaphorical earth, in some specialist electrical sense, but the actual earth. As in, the flowerbed outside our front door.

All of which would have been much better to know before I started digging the flowerbed and ended up holding a scary broken-off bit of important-looking electrical cable.

Fortunately, the other half knows about these things, in the way blokes do, O-levels or no O-levels, and was able to reattach it to its spike-thing with no harm done. Apparently (before you all rush to tell me in the comments box) it’s the belt part of a set of belt-and-braces and we probably weren’t facing imminent electrocution. But even so…