Showing posts with label winter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label winter. Show all posts

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Four and twenty blackbirds

Well, perhaps not quite so many but I certainly counted ten this morning, along with a pied wagtail, several chaffinches, a robin, a song thrush and even a tiny wren. Unfortunately, I never have the camera to hand when I need it.

This chap seems to be the playground bully, he perches on the wall and swoops down to chase off the competition.

Here he spots a few remaining berries

and polishes them off before

heading down for the choicest bits from my offerings

Friday, January 08, 2010

The day the map turned white

This picture  (courtesy of NASA) shows Great Britain from space today - almost completely covered in snow. I know that those people who are used to snowy winters must think we are very wimpish, with the whole country brought to a standstill by a few days of bad weather. The problem is that because this might only happen to us once or twice in a hundred years, we are not prepared. We don't have the equipment to shift the snow, the means of getting around in it, the right clothes, houses or temperament to deal with it. Six more days of snow and ice to come, we are told. Will we survive?

The day brought some good news:  our cricket team held on desperately for a draw in the Test match against South Africa. We are now in a position where England cannot lose the series. If we win or draw the third match, then we win the series. South Africa cannot win the series; they need to win the third match in order to draw the series. Simple really, like all the rules of cricket!

Another piece of good news - Jonathan Ross is to leave the BBC. Perhaps the Beeb will have enough money to show some cricket next year.

The country might have had a third reason to celebrate today had the challenge to Gordon Brown's leadership succeeded but he survived to lead Labour to what will probably be an ignominious defeat in the general election. (That is almost a non-partisan view as this area is a safe Liberal Democrat seat.)

Well, at least we can keep on building snowmen for a few more days. Keep safe and warm.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The snow is snowing

Yes, we have snow even here on the North Devon coast. I know it is inconvenient with buses cancelled and schools closed but it is very pretty. We usually have to go right out to the moors to see snow so we are all like excited children here today. Just look at the view from my window:

Snow makes whiteness where it falls.
The bushes look like popcorn-balls.
And places where I always play,
Look like somewhere else today.
Marie Louise Allen

My garden certainly looks like somewhere else today. I hope that those of you who are used to this white stuff will forgive my whimsy but it is just what I needed to dispel the post-Christmas gloom.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A little February cheer

February has proved to be a cheerless month this year. There have been several sad events, some awful weather, major adjustments to life now that 92 year old mother-in-law has come to live with us and, just to help matters, I have been suffering from a debilitating virus.

Then, a stroll around the garden showed some glimmers of hope that Spring will come soon. The thermometer was reading 10 degrees, tiny leaf shoots are sprouting on the wisteria
the hellebores have survived the snow and severe frosts ....

and the camellias have dozens of beautiful buds.
I have booked my train ticket to go to London for Millie's first birthday party and when I took a jacket into the dry cleaners this afternoon, I was given a £1 discount for being over 60. Life is looking better by the minute!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Carrot bread

Contrary to my prediction on yesterday's post, the snow did not melt rapidly away but continued to fall steadily. This was the scene from my bedroom window this morning. We, who never see snow, were temporarily cut off from civilisation. It was wonderful.
Taking my cue from Margaretha, I decided to concentrate on teatime treats. Among the recipes on my Must Try This One Day pile is a recipe for carrot bread, so I decided that this should be the day to try it.
Here is the recipe as given for conventional ovens. I had to make my own guess for the Aga, putting the shelf on the floor of the roasting oven, with the cold shelf on the second set of runners.


4 eggs

2½ cups flour

2 cups finely grated carrots

1½ cups sugar

1¼ cups corn oil

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking powder

1½ teaspoons baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt


Preheat oven to 350ºF, 175ºC

Cream corn oil and sugar.

Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each is added.

Blend in the flour, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Fold in the shredded carrot.

Bake in a greased loaf pan or approx 90 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack.

It was very easy to make and has a very light, open texture. Next time I will use a little less sugar and raising agent. You will notice that I intended to have the tiniest taste but I confess that I ate the whole slice with my cup of tea.

Monday, February 02, 2009

We have snow!

This little corner of South West England is usually frost-free, we rarely see ice and get even fewer glimpses of snow but this is the view from my window right now. Those of you who are used to many inches or even feet of snow will be wondering what the fuss is about - such a trifling amount, after all, hardly enough for a snowball never mind a snowman. Well, if you never see snow this is exciting stuff! We usually have to drive out to the the moors to see the stuff and here it is in my own back yard.I expect it will have disappeared by the time I finish writing this sentence but at least I have a record of the day we had snow.

Every year, I watch and wait for the snowdrops to flower. I have clumps of several varieties but I haven't yet seen them because some nocturnal visitors nibble them before I get there. I usually find the remnants of the chewed leaves. But yesterday I got to one tiny clump before the little munchers. Here are the sole survivors of this year's crop....

..... and here are a few words from William Wordsworth .......
To a Snowdrop
Lone Flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they
But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
Thy forehead, as if fearful to offend,
Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day,
Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay
The rising sun, and on the plains descend;
Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend
Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May
Shall soon behold this border thickly set
With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing
On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;
Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,
Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,
And pensive monitor of fleeting years!

Please excuse me now, I need to go out to play in the snow; tomorrow it will be just a memory.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

January in the garden

It has been a glorious crisp, sunny day today, a wonderful change from the recent winter gloom.I went out into the garden to see how well the spring flowers are progressing. There are lots of shoots to be seen.
I can't remember the name of this little shrub but it provides this lovely splash of colour all year round.
I think this hebe is putting out its flowers unseasonably early. I hope it won't suffer in the next cold snap.
I have several varieties of euonymus in the garden but this Silver Queen is my favourite.

I missed the first of the snowdrops, they obviously don't mind being out in the wind and rain as much as I do.
This camellia is called Little Bit. It has been showing off its lovely flowers since the end of November but has lots more buds ready to open.

Debbie is much more sensible, just peeping out to see if the time is right yet.

And, of course, there are the hellebores. They look far too fragile to be in bloom in the middle of winter but it is very cheering to see them. This one is actually a much deeper shade of lilac than appears in the photograph.
The forecast is for a return of wintry gloom tomorrow so it was good to have this glimpse of spring.

Monday, January 21, 2008

January in the English Riviera

Torquay advertises itself to tourists as the "English Riviera". That description may apply in the summer but it took a huge stretch of imagination at the weekend, when the beaches were deserted, the sea grey and shrouded in mist, the wind howled and the rain never stopped. It wasn't quite a Mediterranean weekend but we Brits like our bracing walks and I defied the elements and spent Saturday afternoon walking along the seafront. I've had to take this picture from the tourist board as it was too grey and grim for me to use my camera. My hotel was on the clifftop above the second cove in this picture, with stunning views across the bay.

My conference turned out to be far more interesting than I had anticipated and,if I thought anyone concerned with it might ever read RD, I would apologise profusely for suggesting I might be reading about Mma Ramotswe instead of listening. I m
et lots of old friends, made many new ones, heard some brilliant speakers, attended seminars and discussions and generally had an interesting and informative weekend. It was good to have the little grey cells stimulated after more than a year in retirement.

Of course the high point of such gatherings is THE FOOD. My good cyberfriend, erp, has asked me for details so, just to make you all envious, I must say that the food was excellent. We ate in the beautiful, candlelit Edwardian dining room to the accompaniment of a selection of popular classics played on the grand p
iano. I did have a little dilemna because I have bought lots of new clothes for the wedding party we will all be attending a couple of weeks from now and I had to work my way round the menu very carefully so as not to pile on the pounds. Even so, I had two fantastic evening meals: on Friday I chose melon, followed by sorbet and then a beautiful steak with vegetables. I skipped the bread, soup and potatoes but no-one would expect me to miss out on the dessert trolley now would they? I did choose the smallest confection with no added cream! On Saturday I kept to the same wardrobe-conscious routine but with sea bass as my main course. It was all cooked and presented superbly. I hope you are impressed, e!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Not such silly geese

Our winter visitors have been arriving in ever-increasing numbers in recent days. We love to walk across the field in the evening to see the geese devouring every ear of grain missed by the harvesters. At first we get groups of twenty or thirty, the early birds eager to get the first pickings? Then, over a period of a few weeks, the numbers increase until the sky is blackened and the noise is almost unbearable as the main flocks arrive to take advantage of our mild winter weather.

I really like to watch the stragglers coming in. A weak or injured bird will be escorted by a small number of geese. The bird at the rear honks fiercely, is it encouragement for the weakling or to let the main flock know they have arrived, I wonder? The rest fly in a tight formation to provide a strong slipstream for their exhausted member; as each of them tires, they fall to the back of the guard party and others come forward to take their place.

When I worked for the County, I had to attend the dreaded annual 'corporate team-building' days. We endured 'inspiring' talks from psycho-babblers, silly games, hand-holding, foot-massaging and other similar ways of wasting the taxpayers' money and our time. I found the following among my papers from those days, it isn't a bad description of the behaviour of geese, I'll let you judge whether you need to have its lessons spelt out so clearly:

Not such silly geese!

By flying in formation, each bird flies in the slip-stream of the bird in front, and the whole flock can increase its flying range by 71% over a single bird flying alone.
People who share a common direction and a sense of community can get where they are going quicker and more easily because they are travelling in trust with each other.

When the lead goose gets tired, it rotates back into the formation and another goose takes up the lead position.
It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks, and sharing leadership interdependently with each other.

Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it quickly gets back into line in order to take advantage of the ‘lifting power’ of the bird immediately in front.
If we have as much sense as a goose, we will step in formation with those who are heading where we want to go.

The geese in formation honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
We need to make sure that our honking from behind is encouraging and not something less helpful.

When a goose gets sick or wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow to help and protect. They stay until the goose is either able to fly again or dies.
If we have as much sense as geese, we’ll stand by each other and give our life and support to those in need.