No worms

Up again very early on Thursday morning and feeling refreshed after a good night’s sleep I was ready for the day ahead. I had awoken at 4.20 and paid a visit to the throne room before returning to bed in an attempt to nod off again but alas as always I lay there unable. I finally left the horizontal and took up the vertical and was downstairs before six. After a quick breakfast I was outside watering the rear garden once more even though I had done it only twelve hours previously. Despite all the watering the ground has been soaking it all in as if it hasn’t seen rain before. Now you would think that the worms would come to the surface but I didn’t see any. Usually at the sound of rain falling on the ground and the water seeping downwards the worms respond by burrowing upwards. I am supposing they are too far down chasing after the last water fall. It shows just how dry the ground can get at this time of year and how much more the necessity to get the hose out. So I had finished watering the garden plants and the lawn and went to do the weekly shopping. As it happened I didn’t need to buy as much this time for E and I had been out the previous day to purchase other items and had called into the supermarket too. On my return home and after packing everything away I made myself a coffee and sat on the bench in the rear garden. As I sat there I noticed movement to my left, a squirrel had appeared on the lawn and was busy looking for something to eat in the damp grass. I didn’t know that squirrels ate worms and I am not sure they do but I know they eat insects. I guess that is what it was looking for. I sat perfectly still though I know only sudden or deliberate movement toward them will frighten them away. It skipped across the grass and climbed up the bird table to get at the seeds we put there for the small birds. At the moment we have the seeds from the melons we purchase and both the birds and the squirrels eat them. After a short time the squirrel climbed back down and skipped across the grass to run up the holly tree and on toward the taller trees behind. We have days when we almost never see squirrels and then other days when there are many. Squirrels eat a variety of things besides nuts but I still don’t believe they eat worms.

Shirley Anne


End of year

It may be the end of the year, the last few days, I write this on 28th, but life doesn’t stop. Creatures of habit like me continue on as normal. A day is a day just like any other so I do pretty much the same as I do at any time throughout the year. I have been working on a very small plot in the garden and wanted to add some natural stone as I had done in the much larger plot we call the west bed. That simply means the bed is on the western side of the garden. This one however is on the opposite side. I had over the months gathered many stones from the beach to cover that plot and recently collected more to put in this one too but a small bucket-full is far from enough as you can see….(click on image to magnify)

They barely cover the soil around the plant, the new fan palm at the end of the flowerbed. I did realise I would need more but the idea is not to fully cover the soil as there will be some small flowering  plants placed there later. Maybe another bucket of stones will be enough. On my morning walk on Thursday (28) I collected enough to half-fill a bucket so it shouldn’t take long to collect what I want. These stones I might add are what were left behind after the construction of the sea defence wall many years ago. The construction company I suppose couldn’t be bothered to remove them else were unable to remove them all. Already I have been digging out some montbretia plants from the main flowerbed in the garden on the north side. They are the ones I missed when I cleared them from the bed at the beginning of the year along with bluebells. I have no doubts I shall be digging more out as the new year begins. It isn’t that I don’t like the flowers, it’s just that they grow like weeds and want to take over the garden! E and I have been putting seeds out on the bird table and some ‘fat balls’ in the feeder but it isn’t just the birds who eat them, we have a small family of grey squirrels who like them too. They eat the fat balls through the wire cage and the birds peck them in turn. A few days ago I made some alterations to the bird table in order to keep the larger birds such as pigeons, jackdaws and gulls from feeding there and leaving nothing for the many smaller birds such as tits, wagtails, and the robin we get here. We do put seed and other food on the grass to accommodate the larger birds. However, the squirrels can and do climb the pole to reach the table and can still enter the protected table to feed. This picture was taken before I altered the access but as I said, they can still gain entry which is fine.

and this is one having a drink in the bird bath

Shirley Anne

I gave in

We had another bright and sunny day on Thursday but it was bitterly cold outside with an offshore wind making it feel that much colder. Despite the weather I got myself ready to take a walk, yes, you guessed it, down toward the beach. Brave as I am as far as the cold weather is concerned even I had to admit to feeling uncomfortable as I plodded along through the sand dunes trying to steer clear of the biting wind. All along the coast hereabouts we have sand lizards and Natterjack toads (  ) both of which are protected species. In among the dunes there are areas called ‘slacks’, wet places, as well as large ponds which are dotted between the dunes. These are the breeding grounds for the toads, not that I saw any toads of course as they would be hibernating out of sight until Spring. The lizards are even more inconspicuous, even in Summer. As I walked along I noticed the surface of the ponds were partly frozen in places showing just how cold it really was. The air temperature at that time was around 3 or 4 deg C but the wind-chill factor made it feel nearer zero. The ground is often frosty at this time of year despite the higher air temperature. Although there was some shelter from the wind it nevertheless made its presence felt. I walked perhaps a mile in total through the dunes and decided it was too cold there so I moved away from the shore to more sheltered places. I don’t usually feel the effects of the cold weather when I am wrapped up in suitable clothing and although I wear a skirt my legs never seem to feel cold. I wear thick knee-length stockings which I let drop to my ankles and my walking boots and it is enough. However my hands can get cold even though I may be wearing fleece-lined gloves. The main problem is the wind. If it isn’t windy, which is very rare in Southport, the coldness is less noticeable. I might have been a little tired on Thursday morning but I cut my walk short and returned home after only an hour.

Shirley Anne

Rivalry, competition and rest

I finally got up early on Wednesday after a few days of getting up so late I’d missed breakfast. It was a classical ‘cold and frosty morning’ with some thin fog hanging about but the day turned out sunny throughout. It was cold though and barely above zero degrees (Celsius) and in fact it never rose above three. I watched the blackbirds foraging for food around the spot I had left some grounded up nuts and monkey nuts (in their shells) for both birds and squirrels. At least my plant pots still had their loose bark on top intact after I had placed some sticks into them to prevent the birds from landing upon them. They had been tossing the bark all over the place beforehand. Still, they had shifted some leaves in the borders and on to the path in their rummaging for insects. The nuts I had left for the squirrels had all disappeared so I grabbed a handful and went into the garden and put them in the same spot. There was no sign of a squirrel during the time I watched from indoors but one then two magpies came down and started to sample the nuts. They had to break the shells first but that seemed to come naturally to them. I decided to return to the garden with a handful of loose seeds and spread them around whilst chasing off the magpies with their bounty. There were still enough nuts left for the squirrels should they put in an appearance. I returned again indoors and waited to see what would happen. It took some time but finally the blackbirds returned and ate their fill of seeds whilst a squirrel, probably the same one I have seen a few times recently, appeared and began eating the nuts before burying a few here and there in the border. The magpies didn’t return but a few jays or jackdaws came down to eat the seeds. They however left the nuts alone. I supposed they didn’t know there were nuts inside the shells or they were too lazy to try to break them open. The competition and rivalry can be intense when the weather is cold and the food is scarce. That’s why we like to put food out for them when the weather is cold. We haven’t used the bird table recently because of the high winds we’ve had. I want to make a slight alteration to the table in order to keep the larger birds from using it. They will be able to feed on the ground. Later in the day I watched the antics of the squirrel for quite some time as it wandered around.

Nuts (film)
Nuts (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just after breakfast I received a call from a regular customer asking if I could investigate a faulty floodlight. She wasn’t sure if I was back at work after the holiday but I told her I was taking a three-week break. nevertheless I agreed to look at the problem on Friday to fall in-line with her schedule. So much for a three-week break, it’s nuts I tell you, nuts! Later I had just finished lunch when our next-door neighbour rang asking if I could repair a faulty hinge on her chest freezer. I was there five minutes later with my toolbox. A hinge pin had simply worked its way out so it was an easy thing to put it back. When I returned home I made myself a coffee and what do you know, the squirrel was back again and running about all over the place. By now it was getting slightly foggy again as the sun sank behind the houses. It had turned colder too.

Shirley Anne

The little ones

Another lie-in on Tuesday saw me putting my feet on the floor at 10 o’clock and missing breakfast once again. That didn’t matter, what was more important was I had a good night’s sleep even though I didn’t actually rest easy until 5 o’clock! It’s all to do with a change in routine, not having to get up for work and not getting to bed at the right time take their toll. I have to make the effort to settle things down before I am available for work in a couple of week’s time. When I retire none of this will matter but will I like it? Probably not but I will wait until I have crossed that bridge. So I was late getting downstairs and a banana and fruit drink would have to do until lunch a couple of hours later.Red Squirrel Gazing out of the kitchen window a grey squirrel caught my eye and I spent a little time watching what it did. It was scampering about in the border and on to the lawn until after a few minutes it went over to have a drink from the bucket beneath the greenhouse which collects rain water. It comes more useful in the warm months of the year when there is little or no rain. All we do is take out the leaves that have fallen into it. The squirrel then ran up the holly tree and ended up in the branches of the naked sycamore behind it. Just then two magpies perched themselves in the tree but one flew off immediately the squirrel appeared. The other one played cat-and-mouse with the squirrel who kept chasing it off the branches. The squirrel got its way and the magpie flew off, probably for a bit of peace. While all this was going on there were two male blackbirds making a mess on the path by the lamp-post at the other end of the garden. They were doing what many birds do when searching for food, shifting fallen leaves to see what is hiding beneath them. They seemed to be having some success at my expense for it would be me sweeping up the scattered leaves later. They do the same with the bark we have in a couple of plant pots, in fact later in the day I had to put the removed bark back into the pots and take some preventative measures against it happening again. It is usually the little ones which make the most mess. I inserted some plastic sticks in the pots to deter the birds from landing on them until the flowers have grown tall enough for them to be removed. The pots contain tulip and daffodil bulbs some of which have already started to emerge. I think there are a few snowdrops in them too. When the squirrel had moved away I went outside and placed some more nuts for it to gather on its return. They were gone by the end of the day. Before I returned indoors I attached the new flag and raised it to the top of the pole but it hung there quite limply as there was hardly any wind at all. Finally I went indoors and prepared another pan of chicken and vegetable stew enough for two meals. After lunch, an hour later, I decided to go for a walk. The day was far colder than the previous day but there was hardly and wind. I was surprised how many people were out doing the same despite the cold. E had been out all afternoon and didn’t return home until early evening. Apart from my walk I stayed at home all day.

Shirley Anne

Nothing going on?

I went to bed rather tired on Saturday and though I cannot remember the exact time I nodded off it was probably about eleven o’clock but then I awoke just before two to answer Nature‘s call. I awoke again just before four for the same reason. I finally arose around eight. I don’t usually have sleep patterns like that, I usually sleep for four to five hours and that’s it, I get up. It was Sunday and I had nothing planned for the day. I’d had a busy week so it was fitting that Sunday was an absolute do nothing day for I knew that during the coming week I would be busy. There were already two electrical jobs scheduled and there was more work to do in the garden. Who said gardening was easy? It isn’t but it is pleasurable as I have discovered over the past couple of years. Sunday was a sunny day but there were plenty of clouds floating by too which blocked the sunlight from time to time. There was also an intermittent breeze which bordered on the annoying, especially when the sun was blotted out. I went out into the garden, that is the rear garden, I usually mean the rear garden when I say that as the front garden is not private and is also more exposed. I do spend some time in the front garden but it is seldom to relax there even though there is a bench to sit on. I sit on it only occasionally. I sat for a few minutes on the other bench in the rear garden before taking a stroll. Our little robin was flitting about on the lawn catching insects but no other birds paid me a visit though I could hear many of them off it the trees somewhere. Even an owl was still hooting and it was late morning! I eventually found myself sitting on the patio steps which are next to the flowerbed I have been working in lately. There is an off-cut of artificial grass on one of the steps acting I suppose as a mat. I lifted it to clear away what was beneath it before sitting down. Well what was beneath it? Wood lice, lots of them, a family to be precise for that is how they live, in small family communities from the largest to the tiniest. They all darted away as they do when disturbed and found somewhere else to hide. I knew they would be back the following day though. I sat down and watched Nature at work though at first one would think that nothing was going on there was plenty of activity. The first thing I noticed was the insect buzzing around my ear which soon disappeared when waved at. Then the hornets and hoverflies flitting about looking for a meal and the bees busy working away gathering pollen on the newly planted plants I had put there were more noticeable from my low seated position. I was admiring the plants themselves, trees, bushes, flowers and flowering shrubs all standing in the warm sunshine but I was also admiring my handiwork and what I had done recently as well as over the years too. My eyes turned to the ground and I could see ants at work and my eyes followed them as they climbed the nearest newly planted tree.
English: Lasius Niger (Black garden ant) on a ...
Lasius Niger (Black garden ant) on a plant. Getting ants to sit still long enough to make a good picture is a challenge if you don’t use bait. Here, I’ve placed a droplet of honey on the stem. That kept this worker female busy for several minutes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What were they after? Then I saw the small flowers among the trees foliage and the ants were there feeding and probably collecting for their colony. The problem with ants is that they are destructive and their populations grow to enormous proportions and they become a pest. I cannot remember the last time I was able to sit on the grass without being overrun by ants. So there are insects which are tolerable and insects which are the complete opposite! Whichever way I look at it there is always some going on, especially in the garden.

Shirley Anne

Out of sight

Blackbird (Turdus merula), singing male. Bogen...
Blackbird (Turdus merula), singing male. Bogense havn, Funen, Denmark. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I promised myself that I would take some respite from my work at home for a while and so I took the whole weekend off. If I can extend that I thought to myself I might just do so but knowing me it wouldn’t be long before I found something to do. As I said in the previous post there is work to be done anyway. Saturday was one of those days when the weather was very changeable, one minute warm and sunny and the next cooler and overcast. There were just too many clouds being blown in from the west. There was always the treat of rain but it didn’t materialise. The following day however was to be different, rain all day long according to the forecast. I potted about at home during the morning but in the afternoon I decided to sit out on the patio with my guitar for a time playing quietly and listening to some bird song. All was pleasant and peaceful until I realised the bird song had suddenly changed. I looked in the direction I thought the sound was coming from and I saw a blackbird flying about and squawking as if in a panic. He kept flying in and out of an ivy-covered tree over the wall in the next garden and then as I watched I saw him dart into the ivy chasing out a magpie in the process. I watched as the magpie flew across our garden and out of sight between the houses with the male and female blackbirds chasing close behind. The magpie had one of their young in its beak. Its fate was sealed, there would be no chance of a rescue by its parents. I thought how sad but that is nature that is the way things are. A couple of weeks ago whilst sitting on the patio I saw a few seagulls chasing a sparrow hawk and on another day four or five jays chasing a seagull. It appeared they were all trying to protect their young. On Friday I noticed there was a lot of black bird feathers lying about on one corner of the lawn. They were presumably from an unfortunate (black) bird having been caught by some predator, probably a cat! It all goes on in the background usually out of sight but sometimes in full view.

Shirley Anne

Don’t leave it

The once well-kept lawn and the borders filled with an array of shrubs and flowers of different colours have all but disappeared. A wood lives there now and has crowded out the gardener’s hard work. The garden is no longer recognizable, its former glory and beauty is a thing of the past. Weeds grow everywhere beneath the thickets and young trees have taken their opportunistic places and even threaten themselves through overcrowding. Over the last few days E and I have pulled out many of these things (shown in the picture) from the lawn and borders…Sycamore seedlings Yes, they are Sycamore seedlings and there have been lots of them. I must have plucked eighty or more and I know E has plucked a similar amount. It is an annual thing which must be done else the garden will end up in a similar way to the scenario described above. It doesn’t take Nature long to revert to its wild state does it? The motto is, don’t leave it! It is something we have to live with unfortunately if we have gardens surrounded or even part-filled with trees. We are in that situation, in fact we have a sycamore tree standing in our own garden. That tree however tends to shed most of its seeds in a neighbour’s garden because it stands against the eastern wall of the garden. The prevailing wind direction, especially in Autumn is from the west. The real culprits are the trees in another neighbour’s garden on the north side of our garden. Their seeds tend to fall into our garden as well as the garden in which they stand. I personally love trees but they can be a problem. Mowing the lawn frequently in Spring helps to keep things in check but during the intermittent periods we must keep a lookout for the dreaded seedlings. They can be difficult to recognize as the young leaves look nothing like the mature onesSycamore leaves. Compare the pictures. If you have a garden and want to keep it neat and tidy it takes work. A garden is a living and growing environment which needs constant maintenance to keep it the way you want it else it will gladly tend to do its own thing if left unattended too long. I think it is worth the effort though and besides which it is good exercise!

Shirley Anne

A frolicking

The Douglas Squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii) ...
The Douglas Squirrel (Tamiasciurus douglasii) is an example of wildlife. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sunday I guess was the best day of the week just passed though Saturday came a close second. It stayed sunny all day long and for most of the day I sat out on the patio, only returning indoors for lunch. Later in the afternoon E joined me. She said she had things to do which kept her inside the house but I took that with a pinch of salt. I keep telling her that she should make the most of being outdoors whilst the weather permits. We sat and chatted which is nice. It has been a long time since we chatted together for any period of time and it was always a bone of contention with me that we didn’t talk enough. E was always too busy but lately she seems to have changed and is more open to just sitting and chatting. Anyway we were out on the patio, she was facing the sun and I was facing the opposite way looking into the garden as I’d had enough of the sun in my face. I mentioned quietly that a squirrel was hopping about on the perimeter wall beneath the trees. She turned around slowly to look. After a minute or so it disappeared into the ivy growing up the tree. Now I eat nuts and every day I have a handful of them and E suggested I get some and put them on the wall then sit back and wait to see what happens. However, I went indoors and brought out a packet of hazelnuts which E had bought some time ago with which to make something but they had now passed their sell-by date. I wasn’t going to use nuts from the packet I eat! I put some in a couple of places on top of the wall and returned to the patio. We sat there for a minute or so then the squirrel appeared, ate a nut then disappeared only to return again a minute or so later to repeat the routine. After a while we didn’t see the squirrel and we went back into the house but soon after E called to me to see the squirrel again appear on the wall then another two appeared up the tree frolicking and playing about. There were three of them, then four, then five. We were beginning to think there was an army of them. We watched them from inside the house for around forty minutes as they darted about among the branches. We knew there was a nest in one of the trees and we often have seen a squirrel in the garden, on the walls or up in the trees but to see so many at once has been a rarity. There are quite a number of trees in the area behind the house so I suppose it shouldn’t be unusual that we have so many squirrels too.

Shirley Anne

Taking the time

English: Flowerbed at Clough This flowerbed is...
Flowerbed at Clough This flowerbed is on the verge beside the Newcastle/Dundrum road at Clough. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was a patch or two of the flowerbed next to the patio which was beginning to change colour between the plants from brown to green. Over the last few days I had thought about doing something about it but other things kept getting in the way. On Sunday morning I was out on the patio with my Bible and a cup of coffee enjoying the morning sunshine. When I had finished reading I began to let my eyes wander as usual and I was admiring and appreciating the wonder of God’s creation in nature. The sun lit up a little more than half the garden and was forcing its rays through the branches of the tall trees towering on the northern perimeter which face the rear of the house. I was sitting facing  east and the sun shone directly upon me. It was beginning to get warmer though the temperature hadn’t dropped much below 18 deg. C throughout the night. It was humid too and that made it feel even warmer. I glanced over to the flowerbed on my left and finally decided to get out some gardening tools and get down to making the soil brown again. Grass had decided to grow there and was becoming out of hand. I got down on my hands and knees using a gardening stool designed for the purpose and began the slow process of removing the grass. After an hour it all looked fine but I was beginning to wilt! I tidied everything away and went indoors for a drink but had to return outside to cool off. I was hoping I would get the chance to mow the lawn before the rain set in once more as was promised by the weather forecast. However, the lawn was still damp with dew and the rain we had the night before and because the humidity was high it wasn’t drying off as fast as I would have liked. I went indoors and prepared lunch and later returned to the garden to check the lawn. It was almost completely dry so I took the mower out from the garage and set about mowing it. It took me a mere fifteen minutes. The petrol mower has been a real help in mowing the lawn which used to take me almost two hours to do with the electric mower. That was only because I had to use extension leads and re position them constantly and also because the mower was much smaller too. Finally I was done. I put everything away then spent some more time out on the patio for it was still warm, though less sunny and by now there was a slight breeze blowing from time to time. August is the month for ants and also for dandelion seeds floating about and looking for somewhere to land so that next year we can be sure to have them growing out of the lawn and flowerbeds. We cannot do much about the annual cycle of events, we can only hope to keep things in check. I sat there thinking about God’s wonderful creation again and how diverse it is. I can see God’s hand in everything and feel privileged to be a part of it. How anyone can think it all came about by chance and evolution defies logic. Despite it all appearing to be chaotic and without purpose it is far from that. When you come to know God for yourself it all becomes quite clear. I am taking the time to appreciate it more and more. It did rain later, a lot. Whilst I was sitting on the patio thoughts about making changes there crossed my mind and I have made some preliminary plans to hopefully make them happen in the future.

Shirley Anne