Blog Header

Blog Header

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Scenes from an overgrown garden

Hi everyone, I am back from my two week holiday in England. I've had a wonderful time staying with my mum in Somerset and have had some great days out. Lots of photos to share from a few of these trips but first I needed to record my jungle garden before the mower got in there! The photos don't really do the long grass justice, nor the amount of flowerheads from the tall yellow flowered plant - think it's called Hawkbit and it is everywhere in the lawn.

We arrived home on Thursday morning and in the afternoon we duly got out there to start the grand tidy up, only for it to pour with rain soon after we got outside! K ended up doing the orchard with the hand mower as long wet grass is too much for the ride on mower. Yesterday he did more mowing with the hand mower and even that struggled with the wet grass. I'm fed up with removing cleavers from my flower beds, whose seeds unfortunately have got into my compost. Even the chickens have had enough of them. I have a LOT of work to do out here!

This really amazed me - I haven't seen Horse Chestnuts self seeding before! I'm not sure how their conkers got pushed into the soil, or maybe the seeds just open up and root whilst sitting in the grass thatch and moss.

Looking towards what was once a pristine veggie patch.

The path down to the pond.

Really I was most enamoured by my mess of a veg patch which is now very colourful and really buzzing with bees, enjoying the Borage and the Phacelia which has opened up whilst we've been away. I'm always happy to see wild Poppies and it won't be long before the masses of Opium Poppies flower too. I have had to weed kill the paths though as it was getting really hard to get around in there. There are still a few strawberries but it's yet another job I never got around to, but I'm planning to root some runners and start again in a new place later this year.

Veggies! I've never left parsnips or carrots to seed before, so it will be fun to see their flowers. The parsnips are the tall plants on the right near the top, with the carrots bottom left. Currants in the background which have been tended to.

In the background here where the white flowers are is my original Pollinator Meadow and the white flowers are Dame's Rocket - another plant which is brilliant for both bees and butterflies.

First Striped Shieldbug (Graphosoma lineatum) I've seen this year but I later noticed there are dozens of them eating my Bronze Fennel and causing some damage to the foliage. The Bronze Fennel is popular as the last two days there has been a Swallowtail butterfly flitting about it, hopefully it's a female laying eggs!

I haven't been able to capture the bees very well as I really need to use my dslr and macro lens - think I'll get that out of the cupboard and see how I get on with it again. But my newish bridge camera is not bad for zooming in on them. You can click on any of these photos to view them larger - most look better that way with more detail showing.

A Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus) butterfly resting on a Verbascum leaf.

This is a phone photo - typical that I spotted this Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus) just as my camera battery died - but I had the phone as back up!

Somehow the only decent Nora Barlow mix Aquilegia that I grew from seed managed to self seed on entirely the other side of the house!

These are a few phone photos I took on 11th May just before leaving - I had intended to show them to my Mum, but forgot! So to my brother, please show her all these pics.

These are the two Ivy Leafed Geraniums which survived the winter!

Mini Health Update

I'm glad to say that I did not have a moment of depression whilst in England, nor, and far more importantly, since I got home. The fact that I found joy in my own garden again and got excited enough to take the photos of the grass and veg patch, and start to look at the insects again and enjoy the buzzing of the bees attests to that. I've also managed to sit without any donut cushions in many coffee shops and restaurants around Somerset and Devon..... well I wasn't bloody well carrying them around with me all day when out and about! :-)

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Going back a bit and catching up with the garden

I seem incapable of keeping up with my blog - in a way maybe it's a good thing that I have too many photos from too many outings to get around to sharing. Makes a nice change! Truth be told I haven't been in the mood for sitting at the big computer processing photos, and I've been out working in the garden recently and whilst I'm in the mood for that, that comes first.

A few photos of work in progress in the garden:

This has been a nightmare - weeding around my currant bushes, which hasn't been done for about two years and so the creeping buttercups had got everywhere, and there are other plants just inside the fence too which I wanted to keep, so it's taken me hours on my hands and knees hand weeding. But it's now done!

Corner shady bed having a partial revamp.

I've some older photos here I wasn't going to post but I liked the photo of the wren and didn't know how to fit that into another post. So here are a few taken way back in March when we made our annual visit to the Marais de Sougeal, which is a water meadow which is purposefully flooded in late winter and is an important stopping off point for migrating water fowl. As usual all the birds are a long way away, although this time we caught the Marais just as the water was draining and there was a nice selection of birds, and some not as far away as usual. We could also get to the newest hide which is actually inaccessible when the water level is really high - duh to the planning of that one!

There are always a lot of Pintails here.

What was that I said about never seeing Canada Geese here? This is a first I think for us in France. There are abundant in the UK as they have been introduced, but as we are not that far away I guess sometimes they fly over the channel!

I tried to get a bit closer as this is shot from the footpath, but they weren't having any of it and wandered off to safety further away.

Do you spy the distant Great White Egret? We saw a fair few of them this spring; even on the way to the supermarket twice we saw one standing in a field near a lake! And another time we saw a flock of them in a field near a lake, including some flying towards them which was great to see.

Yet this is supposed to be their distribution in Europe! It's the map at the bottom and blue is their overwintering distribution. Now my book is 20 years out of date, but I checked a recent book and it hasn't changed. I'd say they need to update both Little and Great White Egret distributions as they are becoming more and more common here in Brittany.

On the way back to the car we were rewarded with this Wren quite close up, however I only had time for two snaps before it was gone.

Some phone photos here from the day we went out shopping to get me some new 'fat' jeans and trousers - having an impromptu lunch afterwards. I enjoy applying different filters to people and flower photos to get fun effects. :-)

We don't see Herons by the pond as often as we used to - they would hang around often when there were baby Moorhens around as they make great Heron food. This was taken through the kitchen window and is at the far end of the lake.

A baby Blackbird having a preen and demanding food.

A Thrush (Mistle Thrush?) - yup I still can't tell the difference!

In the garden all is pretty now it's blossom time. This ornamental cherry by the pond has looked fabulous but its time is so, so brief.

Another photo given a bit of treatment.

Forget Me Nots - it's their season now and I love how they self seed and appear in amongst other plants with a lovely touch of bright blue.

It's been bluebell time here for a while too and although they are thugs which take over somewhat they are so pretty - here with Euphorbia characias.

Aquilegias are starting to bloom - here with bluebells in the background.

And eating cherries are now in full bloom; with the lovely weather we are having at the moment their blossom looks fantastic.

Here's a little video I took with my phone yesterday. I only discovered there was a video on it recently, when I was looking at a photo I took of my hens and I could swear I saw the hen's bum wriggle. Thought it was my eyesight then I realised I had taken a 1 second video by mistake! Duh, the words Smart, Phone, and Mandy do not go together. :-)


I don't know what happened to the quality of that video - I tried to show it larger but the quality is rubbish - yet it views larger on the computer much more clearly. I didn't bother with YouTube but just uploaded directly from my Mac. Oh well. :-( 

I still have moths to share, not to mention a four day MoHo trip....... will try to get it together but as we're off to England next week (and gazillions more photos will be taken) don't hold your breath! :-)

Monday, 25 April 2016

MoHo trip Sarzeau Part 2

Our third and last day dawned bright and sunny and we had already decided to go and check out the marshland around the Chateau de Suscinio which was not far from where we were camping; indeed we had had a glimpse of it on our wet and bracing walk the day before.

Very handily in the car park for the chateau there were motorhome spaces, so we nabbed one of them and set off past the chateau to the marshes which surround it. Had to take a few photos along the way, of course. 

We passed a few gardens and could see how far advanced spring was here - this was the first week of April yet bearded irises were already flowering. Mine are still only showing some buds all these weeks later!

This plant fascinated me and I don't have a clue what it is. Unless it is a stubby looking allium? It was beautiful, whatever it was.

We had been given a fairly decent map by the campsite owner which had the paths marked on it, so off we set on one of these around the back of the marshes. The track turned a bit damp and we only had our trainers on, having stupidly chosen not to wear our hiking boots, so we were glad to discover a boardwalk. That little butterfly is a Holly Blue; it's a very zoomed in pic but I wanted to get a record of it. The other pic is a bumble bee on willow catkins and you can see it properly if you click on it if you are on a computer with a reasonable sized screen. Otherwise you'll just have to take my word for it!

So much for that path! In one place the boardwalk had rotted and about five foot of planks were missing, but there was one loose plank so we managed to get over it with K helping me. When we got to the end there was a fork in the path with a signpost, one track leading to a hamlet and the other to the beach. We decided to head to the beach but it wasn't to be, a few minutes later and we discovered the path was under water! It is obviously a seasonal path to be used only when the water level is lower. So we had to retrace our steps via the dodgy boardwalk. 

Back through the little hamlet we passed these cutesy cottages.

Then we took another path round the back of the marais (that's the French word for marsh), only to find it rather wet and boggy. This is when we really rued having not put on our hiking boots, although wellies would have been far more suitable footwear! It was the kind of path where in places you are standing on grass then look down and realise you are slowly sinking into water which is coming over your shoes..... by this time there was no point in returning and finally we made it to the beach area on the far side of the marsh.

Here it was completely different habitat. We hadn't seen any interesting birds along our walk but to be honest we were mostly looking at our feet! We did hear loads though, including the ubiquitous Cetti's Warbler, which we hear so often but very rarely see. Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were singing away everywhere where there were trees or bushes.

This grassy area beside the beach was fascinating, already full of flowers, many of which were tiny. I can imagine it full of butterflies later on. There were lots of these orchids but I don't know anything about orchids so can't tell you which one.

Here though there were birds galore. We kept disturbing Skylarks which had been standing in this grassy area - not sure if they would have been nesting here as it was not part of any fenced off bit. One flew onto the fence post and sang its face off for us. This first photo is mine with my Lumix which has a 400mm zoom.

And this is Keith's with a Canon SX40, which zooms in a lot further. I got fed up with changing cameras as I had my SX50 in my backpack, but as there were so many lovely landscapes here I kept on using my Lumix.

A view of the beach here - we'd walked as far as that point the day before.

Looking the other way - later in the afternoon we visited the area in the distance with the church.

I did manage this distant shot of a female Stonechat. There were loads of Stonechats and Linnets flitting about on low bushes.

Well as you can see, the sky was somewhat changeable and it was to become true April showery weather later on. We walked back to the MoHo via the middle path, the sensible dry one which we'll know another time to take! We had lunch in the van looking out over another lake beside the castle. We had originally thought we might visit it but after one long walk, and knowing it would be full of staircases, we decided to give it a miss until a time when I am fitter. Even K didn't fancy it saying that he too was knackered as walking uses different muscles from cycling!

The last photo sums up the afternoon weather! This little chapel, Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-la-Côte, is on a fairly flat promontory called la Pointe de Penvins. We'd been told by one of the guys working at the reserve at Sene that it was good for sea bird watching. It was sunny when we set out to walk here, and indeed we did see flocks of a wader that we haven't managed to ID, and Turnstones. However before we could get many photos the weather changed, it started to bucket down and we rushed back to the van! Wet jackets yet again to go with the already trashed trainers (and hair do).

We had a cup of tea and waited until the sun came out again. This time we decided to put our hiking boots on; however by the time I had done so K pointed to the sky behind us. Beautiful sunshine and blue sky looking out to sea, but looking like in the photo and worse, looking inland. Sighing, we took our boots off again and sheltered back inside the van. We watched with amusement a party of school kids with their teachers setting off with enthusiasm towards the chapel.... wondering if any of them would look back. Yes, somebody must have as suddenly the whole lot of them started dashing back to the sanctuary of their coach and then the heavens opened yet again.

At this point, we decided to call it a day and head home!

So that was our first MoHo adventure and very successful it was too. We loved the whole experience, despite being drenched twice! We learned lots about our van; it certainly is a squeeze at times with two people and we wonder how whole families cope in vans not much bigger than ours, especially when it comes to preparing meals. But when warmer weather comes we will have outside space to utilise so that will make it seem roomier. And by the way - what depression? It suddenly disappears when Mary MoHo is around! Brilliant therapy. :-)