Tuesday, 30 September 2014

From a safe place

The pigeon sits and watches out little tabby from a safe vantage point. Despite my feeding her each day she is still very partial to a wild snack or two!

A fancy beetle

My digging unearthed this chap who looked very smart in the sunshine with his iridescent purple border. According to the Wildlife Trust he is a Violet Ground Beetle:

The Violet Ground Beetle is a common beetle found in gardens, farmland and meadows. Ground beetles are active, nocturnal predators, chasing and catching smaller invertebrates; they are particularly helpful to gardeners as they prey on many 'pest' species such as slugs. They can often be found resting during the day under logs and stones and in leaf litter. Adult females lay their eggs in soil and the larvae hatch, becoming active predators themselves.

Rush hour

The starlings are eyeing up the ploughed fields and have taken to gathering each morning on this electricity pole - it makes an ideal lookout point!

Monday, 29 September 2014

Watering the hedge

Walking up the field last night we are very concerned at how dry the hedge area is, the poor plants are really suffering so Dave managed to rig together a length of water pipe, which along with some old hose means we can get water nearly to the hedging. Typically though it prompted rain to arrive for the first time in weeks!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

A pretty sunset

Tonight we walked up to the top field and whilst we inspected the hedge and chatted to the lad who had just finished ploughing the next field, a beautiful sunset developed. I love seeing these huge skies. Waking in the night now the stars are brilliant and I can spend ages just staring at them.

Digger at work

My digging uncovers an old stone gate post buried about two foot down. With Dave's help we finally wrestle  it out of the ground and place it in the flower bed as an architectural feature!

Morning mist

I love the layered effect that you get with morning mist, it was one of the things I particularly liked about where we stayed in Italy so I am delighted to find it here.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Butterfly posing

This butterfly decided to pose on the living room window, unfortunately it was on the inside so I carefully let it out again. We also had lots of ladybirds covering the house in the sunshine and trying to find their way inside to tuck up warm for the winter.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Bonfire time

We had a large bonfire today, burning all the nettle roots I'd dug out whilst making my flower bed and odd bits of rotten wood. It was a virtually windless day so the smoke rose straight up. For the last couple of days the neighbouring farmer has also been lighting fires as he clears some of the old wood from the neglected hedges ready to plough and resow his land.


Digging the soil is hard going, I have amassed a huge amount (a box full) of broken glass and another one of metal (mainly rusty nails). This collection of pottery shards are pretty but all the pieces are broken, I have recovered a number of old jam jars and a couple of little bottles.

Thursday, 25 September 2014


Working outside today the sound of the plough is a constant, everyone is ploughing their fields and I can see three separate tractors working on different farms. I am digging and it is hard work in the incredibly dry ground.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Elevenses time

The Robin sits on on my fork when I break off from digging my new flower bed to make a cup of coffee. All the birds are enjoying the dug over soil and dart down to find little tasty snacks.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014


At last the broken window glass has been replaced and Dave is quick to use the fine weather as a chance to get it painted.

Another 'who am I'

Dave finally managed to photograph this little rather chubby little bird which had been flitting about amongst the elderberries.

The autumn equinox

Today I heard a huge amount of noise as a skein of geese took to the sky. I'd heard a gun shot and as they've been feeding in the farmers field he obviously wanted to discourage them. They flew round and round in two huge strands. A real sound of autumn for today's equinox.

Catching breakfast

This morning the field was full of spiders webs covered in dew and no doubt designed to catch breakfast. Everywhere there are spiders at the moment - huge ones in the kitchen which I am required to remove daily. Fortunately for everyone else in the family they don't both me at all.


Another pretty dawn. I couldn't have a better place to wake up and view the sky from.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Countryfile Photo Mark II

This Robin enjoyed all the gardening that I've been doing and posed for me on the fencepost just prior to its removal!

My 'Countryfile' Photo

A very photogenic butterfly posed briefly on one of the marigolds growing in the front garden. It's a 'small copper' the numbers of which apparently increase during good summers. I have a pretty tray in my kitchen and I see the butterflies on there are the same.

Breakfast in the garden

Although it was 'brisk' I enjoyed eating my breakfast in the garden this morning. I had home grown raspberries, rare survivors from 'The Trampling'. We don't know what decided it liked raspberries but overnight last week the canes were snapped and pushed to the ground. Possible suspects include badger, fox and pheasant but whoever they were they left no evidence apart from the damage.


There was a very pretty sky this morning as the sun rose. This was taken just after 7 in the morning and it's noticeable how much later it is getting really light.


While walking around the garden photographing the sunrise I could see my breath and to my amazement I realised that there was actually frost on some of the plants. I took this photo as I knew that when Dave woke up later he would never believe me.

Morning mist

This morning it was cold and a line of mist lay across the Big Field. It is beautiful and ephemeral.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Thank you (I think!)

My friend and her husband come to lunch and brought me this lovely David Austin rose. It's called Morning Mist and is so perfectly matched to the weather we've had all week:

A striking variety with large, truly single flowers. The colour is deep pink in the bud, opening to deep salmon-pink with yellow at the centre. Each flower has a large, complementary boss of prominent red stamens with golden anthers. It is repeat--flowering but also bears a superb crop of large orange hips through the winter. There is a light clove and musk fragrance. ‘Morning Mist’ will form a bushy, very healthy shrub.

The 'I think' is because it has inspired a feverish amount of garden activity because to do it justice I need to make a whole new flowerbed. Much digging later and I'm part way there. I plan to plant it with blue, lime green, salmon pink and red flowers which will look good with all the surrounding green.

Flying overhead

We get a lot of air traffic of all sorts, but recently they've been coming in pairs. There were two microlights flying overhead although the camera could only manage to find them one at a time (!) a pair of hot air balloons, a pair of bi-planes and a pair of Lancaster bombers. I tried to photograph the latter but by the time I grabbed the camera they were disappearing into the the mist.

According to the BBC website:
The last two airworthy Lancaster bombers in the world have flown over the Derwent Reservoir, in a tribute to the men who practised the Dambusters raid there.The Lancasters, normally based in Canada and Lincolnshire, passed Derwent Dam in Derbyshire three times on their way back to RAF Coningsby from Southport Air Show.

Only a matter of time

Well I guess we all knew this would only be a matter of time. The little tabby has started coming here for her tea - tonight game in jelly courtesy of Tesco's. She is still very wary though.

A pair of pheasants

Looking out over the freshly harvested field this morning I saw our male pheasant looking very smart in the morning sunlight. By the time I'd got the camera though he was joined by another and two was definitely a crowd. There was a flurry of cries and both took to the air.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Forage harvester at work

The crop is leaving us and going to make silage. It's been a quick couple of days since it was cut and it leaves the field looking extremely well groomed. Dave is working hard with the strimmer and mower to cut all our bits that we hadn't yet got round to. The combined efforts are most impressive.

One man went to mow!

Give that man a medal - the seven acre 'Big Field' is looking very smart.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Who am I?

We hear a lot of little birds moving about in the hedgerow but they are extremely hard to spot and even harder to identify! I manage to grab a photo but am not sure I'm any the wiser. It looks like a garden warbler according to my bird book.

Midnight mowing

As I got ready to go to bed our neighbour began to cut the grass (ours and his), finishing at half past midnight! It's a funny life farming.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Our old dresser

We had our old dresser cut down so that it fitted into the space available in the guest living room. Dave has done a brilliant job of fitting shelves and cleaning it so that I now have somewhere to store glasses and china and to display my jams!

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Butterflies everywhere

There are butterflies everywhere in the garden making the most of the gloriously warm weather.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Chilli 'marmalade'

I decided to try and cut up some of the chillies and add them to the jelly as if I was making marmalade! They suspended fine but unfortunately it was hard to make a truly clear product and so little bits of froth suspended too. I fear I wouldn't win any prizes for my efforts but hopefully it will taste good.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Crab apple and chilli jelly

Walking down the garden I was horrified to find that the crab apples were starting to fall from the tree. Inspired by the success of my damson jam I decided to pick them and make chilli jelly. I needed 600g and laughed when I found I'd harvested 609g!! I cooked them to a pulp and let them strain overnight before they were ready to turn into jelly.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

We plough the fields and scatter ...

It was a small congregation this morning that joined together at St Peter's to sing the traditional harvest hymns. I thought of previous generations from this farm who would have gathered there and sung in just the same way. After the service we stayed in the church for a harvest lunch. In the quiet of the service I remembered the special loaf that was always by the altar in Sunbury - a sheaf of wheat with a tiny mouse at the bottom. I know it's much more practical to collect tins and dried goods but I loved the pretty harvest baskets of the past and the pleasure we took in putting them together.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Harvest produce

I am helping to decorate the church for tomorrow's Harvest Festival. It's time to cut the huge courgettes that have turned themselves into marrows and find dahlias with long stems. I also put some of our hawthorn into the barrow as the berries are looking good. Then I wheel the lot down the lane to the church!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

A new career?

I am extremely pleased with the label design for my jam,  maybe a new career in marketing beckons!

Heat from the ground

Even though I know the theory it still seems amazing that the hot water in our baths and heating comes solely from our ground source heat pump and the 900 metres of pipe buried in the big field. This week we applied for the grant funding that is available through the Renewable Heat Incentive.

Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI)

The Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) is the world’s first long-term financial support programme for renewable heat.

The RHI pays participants of the scheme that generate and use renewable energy to heat their buildings. By increasing the generation of heat from renewable energy sources (instead of fossil fuels), the RHI helps the UK reduce greenhouse gas emissions and meet targets for reducing the effects of climate change.

Domestic RHI – launched 9 April 2014 and open to homeowners, private landlords, social landlords and self-builders

The RHI is the main scheme of our heat strategy.


Enthusiastic picking

Dave forages for more damsons but this seems rather more extreme picking than I'd imagined. Ideally I'd like the branches to remain on the tree!

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Damson jam

We have lots of damsons so I set about turning some of them into jam. I've had problems in the past with over cooking but today it comes out perfectly and so I plan to make more tomorrow. I get to use my new stainless steel preserving pan (as my old one doesn't work on the induction hob). I follow Delia's recipe and make a small batch which is much more manageable using 3lb of damsons to 1kg of sugar (sorry about the mixed units) and this made 4 x 1lb jars.

Bees and a hornet or two

As I walked down the garden to look at the damsons I heard the buzzing from several metres away. The ivy above the cart shed was full of what must have been hundreds of bees. Some were large and bright orange (see middle of photo). Originally I thought these must be queen bees but now I believe they are probably hornets. Dave spent a long time trying to photograph them but they didn't settle.

Butterfly heaven

Today the garden is full of butterflies and I have to resort to books and the internet to try and identify some of them. Posing here clockwise from the top are what I think is a small copper, a rather battered peacock looking stunning against my flowers and a speckled wood. We also have lots of small tortoiseshells probably because we also have lots of nettles.
Dave is less happy with the number of cabbage white caterpillars that he is picking daily off the cabbages.