Thursday, 18 September 2014

Mists and mellow (also more creepy-crawlies)

One day last week we woke to mist and an awful lot of very visible spiders' webs. The kids were delighted! As was I actually - it all looked absolutely magical. There's something very calming about walking in fog. We've done a lot of walking recently because there's some fairly epic digging-up-of-the-roads-to-lay-cables going on in our area with four-way temporary traffic lights and other such joys, so going on foot is working out as less stressful. Fortunately my occasionally charming offspring are proving quite accepting of this.

Other mornings have been damp but mild. This year the local council* planted long thin patches of wildflower seeds (possibly an oxymoron there, but I'm sure you know what I mean) here and there and the result was long strips of flowers by the roads, looking absolutely gorgeous.

There weren't many patches that I saw, but maybe there'll be more next year (and with self-seeding perhaps this year's patches will be bigger next year) and it's a good start.

Sorry about the wonkiness of the picture but I was distracted by unexpectedly wet feet - it had rained in the night, and I was wearing trainers. I always forget that the ventilation mesh bit on top of my trainers lets water in. You'd think I'd learn, but there you go.

Meanwhile (actually on a completely different day, so not 'meanwhile' at all) my sunflowers continue to attract the bees - buff tail bumblebee also approves, so I think we can label the sunflowers a success.

They also attracted this... thing: 

I don't know what it is, and it's not exactly a vision of loveliness, but it's oddly fascinating to look at. Anyone got any idea?  Update: I put the pic on Facebook and my very knowledgeable friend Wendy found out that it's a yellow dung fly (scathophaga stercoraria).  I've probably seen them loads of times before but never up close like that.

* Presumably - I remember reading of a plan to grow some pollinator-friendly plants at the roadsides, so this would seem to be it.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

creepy-crawlies (nice ones)

I'll start with a poppy which has suddenly flowered and is providing the only splash of red in our garden. They're not lasting long as the slightest puff of a breeze seems to de-petal them, but they are gorgeous.

I'll follow the poppy with something which should be red but isn't:

This appeared on my arm while I was driving back from the school this afternoon - it wandered up and down my arm and then onto my hand, but as I was driving I couldn't take more than a very quick glance and think 'ooh that's tickly' and 'funny, it looks like a ladybird'. When we got home the Boy retrieved my camera from my bag and I got this one decent picture before it flew away. Actually I got a picture of it opening its wing cases just prior to flying away but unfortunately it's blurred. Then we googled images of ladybirds, and apparently it's a larch ladybird, something I'd never heard of before. I knew there were other ladybirds than the usual seven-spot ones, but I'd no idea there were plain brown ones. Nice to learn something new!

Meanwhile the sunflowers are finally flowering and proving popular with carder bumble bees and hoverflies. When I started getting interested in bee-friendly gardening I looked at some websites that suggested that sunflowers are popular with bees and some that said the conplete opposite, so I'm glad to find out that they're popular with at least some bees.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014


This was the scene last Tuesday, the day before the kids went back to school, when I was looking for every usable pencil I could find. Fortunately there turned out to be a decent stash of my old favourite Staedtler Noris, once I got them rounded up. Those yellow and black stripes with the red end just scream 'school' at me! In a good way, of course. I love 'em, with their bumblebee cheeriness, pleasing smoothness and hexagonal cross-section. There have probably been minor changes in the look of them since I was at school, but to me they look identical. And although I didn't always like school, I always liked the stationery.

The kids were fairly happy to go back to school, though we all agreed that the summer holidays had seemed really short this year - they weren't short, they were seven weeks long, but it did just seem to fly by one way and another, yet we didn't even do an awful lot. I had plenty of ideas and backup plans for stuff to do if it was a rainy summer, but actually there was a lot of good weather and we spent a lot of time mooching around at home. Miss M has a bunch of friends from our street and the one behind so she spent a lot of time playing with them and also falling out with them, seemingly inevitable with little girls, and equally inevitably making loom bands. The Boy was mostly happy bouncing on the trampoline, playing on the computer or reading, and more occasionally playing with friends.

We had a great week in St.Andrews which I will undoubtedly blog about when I've sorted the pictures and got my brain going again. This is just a short post to get me back in the way of blogging after an unexpectedly long break. I don't really know why, except that I just didn't get much computer time or peace and quiet while the kids were at home. Not that they're noisy but I find it difficult to write blog posts when there are interruptions or someone leaning over my shoulder asking what I'm doing. I should be a hermit really. A hermit with wifi.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Raindrops keep falling on my pond

At last, after what's felt like days and days of threatening, it has finally rained today. My pond was getting a little low and I was running out of saved rainwater to top it up with. When I say 'saved' that sounds a bit planned - what I mean is that we have a home-brewing bucket standing in the garden that had filled up with rainwater and which has come in very handy.  I can't remember how the home-brewing bucket came to be in the garden but there you go. 

I was getting concerned for the one or more frogs and the taddies, assuming there any left. I know the toad is okay because I heard a bizarre squealing noise from under a plant whenever the Small Cat extended a tentative paw under it. Small Cat looked appalled and disconcerted, and seemed quite relieved to come back into the house.

Wet buddleia

My Beloved is away at a (motor)bike forum barbecue this weekend, so it's just me and the kids at home. Today, naturally then, was the day that the Boy, who is never ill in term time and has three Perfect Attendance medals to show for it, got a sickness bug. As he's so rarely unwell he's completely clueless about illness and looked as appalled as the Small Cat and twice as helpless.  In fact he didn't actually get round to being sick. He clutched an empty washing up bowl for an hour and a half, whimpering occasionally, and eventually took himself off to bed and fell asleep for three-quarters of an hour. Then woke up almost back to normal. Kids are weird.  I'm quite relieved. What has surprised me about being a parent is that I can deal with vomit with remarkably little queasiness or distress of my own. However the Large Cat threw up while sitting on the windowsill the other night - and there is a radiator underneath the windowsill, and I'm sure you can fill in the blanks. Large Cat certainly did. So the less vomit the better this week really.

This evening I am entertaining myself. I have been knitting and watching a West Wing DVD. It's all very retro.

Friday, 18 July 2014

Highland River

Actually not a river but a burn, and my title is nicked from the book Highland River by Neil Gunn who was from Dunbeath in Caithness where my mum's family are from. I know I've read it (I read Highland River, Morning Tide and The Silver Darlings in sixth year English at school) but I can't remember it at all beyond that the main character is called Kenn, so I quite fancy reading it again now.

But to get back to the point, if there is one, these are a few pictures from a walk I took with my brother last Sunday. Our uncle had sadly died very suddenly and we headed up north at the weekend for the funeral, staying with Mum and Dad on Sunday night. After being rather hot and cramped in the train we both needed a good walk and as it was a really beautiful evening we headed up out of the village and along a track that crosses a burn or two and heads into the hills. I think (after consulting various online maps) that in that picture I'm looking up Allt na Feithe Buidhe but it might be Allt Laraidh, and no, sorry, I have no idea what either of them mean! Of course I had to stick my feet in the water but I'll spare you the picture. I like it, but if you're not used to very peaty water it might look a bit weird.

There are stone remains of something (bridge?) further up the track - I think this is the other burn, but the more maps I look at, the more confused I get!  I think I need to get an Ordnance Survey map of the area (any excuse - I love maps).

There were loads of tiny flowers everywhere, most of which I photographed with varying degrees of success, and many of which I can't name so I need to look them up at some point. That's a bluebell (harebell) though.

The light was constantly changing and the view towards Glen Banchor just got better and better. My brother stops to take photos just as frequently as I do (he got some excellent ones) which was great because very often if I'm out for a walk I have the kids with me and they're not very patient when it comes to photography! It was a lovely walk, though with the persistent feeling of guilt that the only reason we were there that night was a very sad one.

We walked down past an old stone wall with this impressive lichen on it. I've often seen similar yellow lichen but this was very definitely orange, really distinctive and curiously attractive considering I don't normally like orange.  See the little heart shape on the middle stone? I didn't notice that until I came to look at the pictures later.

Oddly enough, stone walls are what inspired the colours of my current (and currently stalled) knitting project, my stripey fingerless mitts. I'm very nearly finished that first mitt so I should just get on with it really.  Maybe tomorrow!

But now the cats are hinting, not very subtly, that it's food time, and as it's their birthday (happy birthday kitties!) they're getting their favourite tuna cat food, so I'm off to appease indulge them. Good night!

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Longest Day

It's been a warm and sunny week.  Little Cat has also been lounging around in the garden, and for the odd moment or two, so have I. It's nice to have the deckchair out. We checked out various weather forecasts and to our amusement rain is due from Wednesday lunchtime onwards. And when does the school term end? Wednesday lunchtime of course! Well, we'll wait and see.

I love the marigolds in the garden - most of this year's are yellow but there's also this orange one too, looking as fresh and luscious as an orange ice-lolly (of which we have several in the freezer).

I inflated the paddling pool the other day but the slight slow puncture from last summer had become two punctures and it deflated fairly rapidly. So when I was doing the grocery shopping I got a new paddling pool too. That's warm weather shopping for you - bread, milk, ice-lollies, paddling-pool.. The Boy, though a good swimmer, is not fussed about messing around in water  - too old at 11? (I'm not, at 43..)  Or too much like a cat, like his father? But Miss M adores splashing around in water and was delighted with the new paddling-pool. To be honest I'd have got it anyway!

Today was a slightly cooler day and although there was plenty of outdoor time, we spent some time playing Munchkin Zombies. Oh, and eating leftover pizza from yesterday.  My Beloved had bought the game on a whim last week, but we weren't sure if the kids would enjoy it. Miss M, at seven, proved herself capable of playing it and fine with the adding up involved, but there were tears at the end when her brother won (not because he'd won so much as because she had plans for her next turn and didn't get to play it out), so although there is quite a lot to take in and remember when you first play it, I'd say the 'suitable for age 10 and up' is really more to do with emotional maturity than anything else. The Boy suddenly got the hang of it halfway through and turned into a mini version of his gamer daddy, and trashed us at the end. I'm not very good at games like this and was fairly muddled, though amused by it.

We're gradually finding games we all enjoy - Forbidden Island, Forbidden Desert, Get Bit.. Mostly we've found about these by watching Tabletop. I'm not into board games in the traditional sense, but some of these untraditional ones are great, especially Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert which are co-operative. The Tabletop episode for Forbidden Island had me laughing because John Scalzi's rationalisation for why it was a good thing they lost was the same as mine the first time we lost at it.

I think I'll go to bed now. This morning I was woken at 4am by two men walking down the road having a fight, absolutely screaming at each other. It was a bit unnerving. That was technically just before sunrise, though in fact it was pretty light by then, so it really has been the longest day.