Sunday, 25 January 2015

RSPB bird watch - did you remember.

I want to clarify something right from the off - a narcoleptic does not make a good bird watcher!

I was really looking forward to this RSPB bird watch and while I was eager to do it yesterday the weather was atrocious so I decided today would be the day.
I chose to watch the bird table round by the polytunnel because there's usually more activity there due to all the surrounding hedges. The problem with this bird table though is that I cannot hang anything from it because the Rooks arrive in their droves if I do and scare all the small birds away so there's just the one bowl of food in an area that won't allow anything bigger than a Starling to get in.

On the menu today was bird seed, mealworms, pinhead oatmeal, crushed peanuts, mixed seed, mixed dried fruit and scraped suet block.

I gathered pen, paper, binoculars and camera and set myself up in the hen house which has a good view of the feeding station although because the feeding station is so tall - 7ftish - this was never really going to be a photo opportunity.

I had quite a few regulars show up such as a lone Robin. The Blue Tits and Great Tits were of the greatest number and you could tell them a mile off because they fly so funny.
I also saw 2 Blackbirds that were cleaning up the part of the feed station they could access - the edges, 1 Starling and 2 Blackbirds and a few house sparrows. Not really a fantastical number - I thought there would be much more and I was a tad dissappointed that the Wrens weren't showing up because I know there's plenty of them around - usually in the polytunnel. Just as I was coming to the end of the hour 1 Wren showed itself on a pile of wood below the feeding station and started feeding from the seed scattered below so that cheered me up a bit.

I made various notes during this 1 hour of sitting in the hen house in the freezing cold, in fact my page consists mainly of doodles and little snippets in barely legible hand writing as my fingers began to freeze and refuse to function.
"I'm cold" followed by "I'm bloody cold" topped off with "I'm frozen".
"Even the birds are too cold to eat" I wrote that while I sat there for at least 10 minutes of absolutely no bird in sight and not even a teeny tweet.
"Hens make some weird noises" - they all decided to stay around my feet and they made some really weird sounds as they sat there talking to one another.
"Stupid binoculars" - every time I tried to look through them they steamed up within 5 seconds.

I did enjoy the process, despite freezing my do dar off and I've decided I shall do it once every season at the same time each year to compare results.

I did get a show from this little lot though - Rooks, I hate them and they arrived by the hundreds thanks to the Rookery next door. The noise they make is awful .

Also a huge flock of these appeared - I'm assuming Blackbirds or Starlings or something? Certainly a lot smaller than the Rooks and way too agile for Rooks.

So in the field we had a flock of Rooks, a flock of whatever the smaller birds are a whole load of Graylag geese - at least 200. The geese arrive every year, stay for a couple of days and then head of to wherever they go next. Love seeing them, though they seem a tad earlier this year.

Had to have a little chuckle at the hens a couple of days ago. The pond had totally frozen over and I was trying to stop the dogs from walking on it when I noticed mama hen making her way over to me

All cocky as she was the only one brave enough (or stupid enough) to attempt it and then Huntly appeared and noticed her. Mama hens courage was short lived and she turned tail and ran while I had to make sure Huntly didn't attempt to take off after her on the frozen pond. TheShepherds had been on it but I wasn't risking Huntlys weight on it.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch

Thanks to Sue over at 'Our plot at Green Lane Allotments' I have remembered to sign up for this years 'RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch'.
I've been meaning to do this for a couple of years but I always seem to forget but having seen Sues post on the subject I've registered and have put a reminder on my Ipad and phone so that I don't forget.
If you're not sure what is involved it's very simple: All you need to do is spend one hour over the weekend 24-25 January counting the birds in your garden. Then you can either submit the results live online or through the post, whichever is more convenient for you.  Couldn't be simpler!
So head over to the RSPB website, register free of charge (you also get a £5 voucher to use in the RSPB shop IF you want to - no obligation) and they'll either send you the information pack or you can download it immediately and there's even activities for the kids to enjoy if you need it.
Now all I have to do is decide which feeding station I want to sit at, the one round near the polytunnel is likely to get more variety as the Rooks tend to raid the house one so I guess my query may already have been answered.

Happy bird watching!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Lazy, impatient gardener

Have I ever mentioned that the name 'The Tenacious Gardener' was not my first choice of name for my blog? Nor my second, nor even my third, in fact it was low on the list of the choices I made. My first choice was the Lazy gardener because that describes me to a tee, the second was the impatient gardener because again perfect description and my other choices included 'The make do gardener', 'The sow it and see gardener', 'The pot luck gardener' and many other similar choices that ended up either being taken or decided against.
'The Tenacious Gardener' really doesn't describe me with as much accuracy as all or any of the above, in fact pretty much every meaning of the word Tenacious is a stretch to describe me - persistant, tireless, unswerving, unshakeable, purposeful, patient - yup, those certainly do not describe me.
So I'm wondering whether it's possible to change a blog name and it's something I'm going to look into.

And it's with reference to my lazy attitude toward gardening that I show you this

These are the seed trays and propagators that I grow seed in year after year and as you can tell I have never bothered washing them between sowings - slap the back of my hand!
I give them a brush out but that's it and I then I moan and moan about the quality of seeds when they fail to germinate, or if they do germinate they get leggy and/or damp off.
Alan Titchmarsh recently did a snippet somewhere on the importance of clean seed trays and propagators - all of which I already knew of course but I really am a lazy gardener.  However I decided this year that I'm going to do the right thing so I've scrubbed those seed trays and propagators and took the time to sow seed properly (something I also usually do as quickly as possible with no real thought).
I had a carrier bag full of seed packets to sow this year but I went through the lot and chose only the ones I know I really want to grow. This year the main priority is the main garden so I'm not growing any veg and am instead using the polytunnel to grow lots of cut flowers. Here's what I was left with

There's more there than there looks but they include various poppies, Lupin, Hollyhock, Dahlia (never grown that from seed before), Sweetpea, Echinacea, Aster, Callendula and lots lots more. I also have given Phormium Tenax another go and some Pieris a first try - if these are not a success I'll buy the plants rather than try again.

Over a few days I filled trays with compost and sowed all those seeds and instead of putting them out in the PT where I'll forget about them I kept them indoors so the window sills are currently propagating benches. I also have one heated propagator which is housing those seeds that require heat to germinate, now all I can do is be patient and that's a struggle for me, I tend to give seed 2 weeks to sprout and then I throw them out. Not happening this year though, I've taken time to sow these properly so I'm expecting a decent crop form the seeds.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Storm damage!

These recent storms have wreaked havoc here in Caithness and the Orkneys and so many people have experienced damage to homes and properties. We were lucky to a degree as we didn't suffer any damage to the house (testament to MrTGs fabulous building skills) nor to 90% of the land and for that I am extremely grateful.
My garden (and therefore my own building skills) did not fair quite so well. In fact when I got up yesterday morning and noticed that despite 100 mile an hour winds the open land we have was debris free and the sheds and the poly tunnel were still standing in one piece, I was secretly smug - after all we had been told to expect some degree of damage.
You can well imagine my total shock then as I stood at the rear patio doors, crunchy nut cornflakes in hand and saw this

The wishing well that you can see on its side in the very top of the above image weighed so much that initially it had to be moved into place in 2 parts by a digger and then built on site. Yet this wind toppled it right over and as it went down it took down a Yucca that I loved. The Yucca self seeded itself a few years ago and has grown well since then - it's now disappeared from view.
The pergola was actually bolted down as well yet that has also been demolished.

This fence has took some serious batterings over the years but until this year has never actually been damaged.

Honestly, I was gutted! I seriously could have cried.

When I informed MrTG of what had happened I have to say I was unimpressed with his response - it didn't even warrant getting out of bed to take a look and then say nice things to make me feel better. OK so there was a power cut and no real reason to get up but that's not the point!
I should have realised that he understood how upset I was though because today he was out there fixing what could be fixed and helping me attempt to save the Yucca that had been flattened.

I don't hold out much hope for this Yucca because about 1/3rd of the trunk was snapped at the base but I'm not ready to give up on it when so much of it was still intact - you never know it might sprout from the base. So I held it upright while MrTG bashed a support into the ground so I could then tie the Yucca to it - the support is actually a scaffold pole and because they're hollow they go well into the ground, this one is at least 3ft down. It aint moving!
I then packed some straw round the base and held it down with the slates that had come off the wishing well roof. This is only a temporary repair but it will suffice for now.

MrTG then set to on refixing the pergola that I built a couple of years ago.
I guess he did understand my dissappointment and sorrow after all - love him!

He did straighten it up I promise lol.
Of all the things that got destroyed in the courtyard area of the garden there was one thing that got blown about and yet still managed to stay in one piece.

That is the birdbath I made a couple of years ago from old vases and bowls all stuck together with clear silicon. Glass held together with silicon and not one bit of it breaks - bizarre!

I hope you guys all got off lightly in the recent storms. I have to admit we were lucky - garden damage is nowhere near as devastating as damge to life or home and for that I'm grateful.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Remember the summer

We have had some real mild weather over the christmas period but I've been recovering from a chest infection so haven't been able to really do anything out in the garden despite me raring to get going. I ventured out today with my camera but the snow was falling periodically and I forgot to put the memory card back in the camera so hot footed it back indoors - cold, snowy weather always looks nicer from inside a warm house huh!

My chest infection actually began at the beginning of December pretty much as soon as we landed in Mexico - it was followed by two weeks of struggling to breathe, coughing and an inability to sleep. The infection also kick started a pretty awful asthma condition that flares up during times of a cold or allergies etc etc. Not to be selfish though - I passed it along to our friends that we went away with and they too suffered, my feelings of guilt that I had also ruined our friends holiday was slightly soothed by the fact that said friends are off to the Caribbean again in 3 days - yes, I'm jealous and wish we were going with them. Sseriously though, I did feel bad for them because we had an awful time of it and were actually glad to be going home so I do hope they have a great time in the Dominican Republic.
Anyways I took a few pictures of some of the plants in Mexico - the gardens were kept exceptionally immaculate and the gardeners were working every single day.
Not many were in flower at the time but the greenery was awesome all by itself

 It would be amazing to think that my Oleander would ever grow up to be this size but I doubt very much that it will based on the fact that it's still the 24" it was 3 years ago.

I have no idea what plant these leaves are from but they were huge and I'd love to grow some myself.

I have no idea what all this purple is but Mr TG really liked it and I must admit it certainly had some impact when grown in large areas.

The two together really did look lovely.

The coconut trees shed their coconuts regular and seeing the splatter mess on the concrete paths made me dread to think what damage one could do to a person.

 Here is a Mexican Coati, a member of the Racoon family but it's face is more doglike in my opinion, was amusing to watch them digging grubs out of the grass.

Iguanas were everywhere, often coming out during the day to warm up and would tolerate a person getting really quite close. I always tried not to annoy them but if they got uncomfortable they just scooted back into the hidey hole.

These Racoons (we referred to them as bandits) were a highlight for us, they are so funny to watch and were surprisingly respectful of certain boundaries such as the main dining halls. They had learned what was acceptable and would stay their side of the wall until a scrap was offered. Unfortunately American vacationers didn't understand the fascination of other holidaymakers and were really quite nasty to them, we had to tell a few people to back off and leave them alone - adults and children. I understand that they probably view them as vermin but for many of us they were lovely to see and watch and they really didn't cause an ounce of trouble unless you sat at the snack bar and deliberately encouraged them with scraps. One Racoon quickly turns into 30 when food is on offer and apparantly it can be a tad intimidating. The solution to that problem is quite obvious though really - don't feed them!

These dolphins were a bit of a quandry for me. In my opinion the pool, although large, was not big enough for 5 of them and I felt that the hotel should be making a larger area for them - they certainly have the ground space to do so.
Obviously the hotel makes money from tourists swimming with and learning to train with the dolphins so it was good to see that they were given proper relaxing time and playing time in between jobs - we jokingly referred to this as a policy of the dolphin union.
After 15 mins or so of playing they willingly appeared to return to where they knew they would be needed and they were very very well trained and all handlers appeared to be kind and knowledgable and insisted they were only touched in certain areas (not that I got to touch them but a friend did).
Like I said I have mixed feelings about intelligent mammals such as Dolphins being kept captive and I deliberately avoided going anywhere near the dolphinarium until the last day but I felt much better once I saw how well kept they were and was kind of glad I didn't return without seeing that.