Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sunshine!

Yep, we saw that beautiful yellow globe for a short while last week and what a difference it made to our spirits!  I spent every dry day out in the garden trying to play catch-up interspersed with some maintenance runs - I have another marathon next weekend on the same day as the London marathon which I'm not doing this year.  I also needed to do some preparation for a talk I'm doing in our village next week about my association with Alzheimer's Research UK (I can hardly believe it's been 13 years!).


Carbeth Cardigan


As soon as the sun peeped out the daffodils burst into flower with a vengeance and we used the opportunity to take some photos of me wearing my Carbeth Cardigan standing next to a clump of daffodils, as you do!  I was surprised to see a whole load of traffic coming to my blog from Ravelry and when I checked I found that Kate had included me in her blog post entitled 'Carbeth Colour'.  Thanks Kate.


Yep, still showing off my 100 mile buckle!






I used just under 4 skeins of Artesano Alpaca aran (no longer available but gorgeous) and used 5 & 5.5 mm needles.  I made the 2nd size which has just the right amount of drape.  I made the sleeves longer than usual so that I can leave the cuffs rolled down to cover my hands in cold weather - I have arthritis in my hands and spend most of Autumn and Winter wearing fingerless gloves around the house.

It's an absolute stunner and I'm really pleased with it.

I love this cardigan even more than the jumper version and I'm sure it will be a firm favourite.  By the way, Kate has now released her pattern for the longer version with lacy stitches.  It's called 'Carbeth Swan Dance' and yes, I'll be knitting that ready for the autumn. 


Into the Garden


We've had so many visitors recently, all getting prepared for their respective broods:


A pair of Jays spent hours gathering small twigs from the orchard

Mrs T. Duck, wife of Titch (of Titch and Quackers fame who have lived here for about 5 years now) started to take a great deal of interest in the pot by the front door.  She kept flying up into it and pushing all the soil aside to make a nice hollow.  I carefully gathered up the bulbs she pushed out and planted then elsewhere!  It isn't the first time she's laid eggs there but they were more exposed until I planted a small conifer in there which seems to make the eggs less visible.














Her preference was to lay an egg first thing each morning after breakfast, sit on it for a couple of hours and then leave it alone until the next morning when she'd lay another one.  They don't lay them all at once 'cos it would be impossible as we've seen nests containing 15 eggs before.  When she's satisfied that she's laid enough she will start sitting on the eggs which are then called a 'brood'.  Last time I checked she'd laid 8 eggs and she seems to be spending much more time sitting on them now and when she leaves the nest to get food she covers them with down plucked from her belly.








As she's right by the porch door we try to leave as quietly as possible and she just watches us carefully but doesn't move.  We're praying that the Magpies don't spot her as that's how previous broods have met their end.

Another welcome sight was this beautiful Greylag Goose who landed down by the pond one morning. I'd seen 3 flying over earlier so assumed he'd just lost his friends momentarily and had stopped for a rest.  He had a good look round and then came up towards the house so I got a wonderful view of him:













Then I turned my attention to some tidying of grasses and pruning in the front garden.  Getting rid of the dead grass makes such a difference to their appearance so although it's not the most glamorous of jobs it's well worth the effort.






This one had the added bonus of a young Natterjack Toad hiding in its midst!  Thankfully I didn't hurt him and I still left him plenty of dead grass to hide under.






Next it was the turn of the Pampas Grass which is much more tricksy as it's quite tough and you need to use leather gloves or it can cut your hands.  You also have to get right inside it to pull out the old stuff in the middle and the strappy leaves are quite strong and can hurt any exposed flesh.



First I cut off all the dried stems


Then I pulled out as much dead/dry material as possible.  After 1.5 hours I'd removed 2.5 barrow loads!


Aah, that looks a bit tidier!


I also cut down the massive stems of the Cardoons (you can see their silver leaves in the photo above right) and took all the stems round to the compost heaps.  Why?  Because they provide excellent nesting material for the birds who we keep seeing flying off with their beaks full of beautiful soft lining material for their nests!











I was also way behind with my pruning regime so there was a massive pile of sticks when I'd finished so I made a bonfire, as you do, and kept adding to it as I cut more branches.






These beautiful stems from the dogwoods are far to pretty to burn and I use them as plant supports:






I also did a bit of remodelling of the Pittosporum at the side of the house as it was getting too big for the space:








I stood back and looked at it for a while before deciding on the shape I wanted and settled for a ball as I could see the perfect place to start shaping.  That's much neater!









I have loads more to show and tell but not enough time so will save it all for later.  I also have a secret I'm bursting to share but have been sworn to secrecy for a while longer (which is agony as I've known about it for nearly 6 months already!).

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Back to normal

Now the euphoria of having finished such a big challenge has worn off life is very much back to normal, except for the weather which has been anything but normal!  A few months ago we were told that the water levels in Bewl reservoir was so low (25% of capacity I believe was the figure bandied around) that we'd be looking forward to a hosepipe ban in the Summer.

Ha, not now we won't as it has rained and rained for so long that everywhere is saturated and our ponds are overflowing.  This of course has meant that it's been impossible to get much done outdoors and so the garden is in urgent need of attention. We gardeners are never happy are we!

My legs seem to have forgiven me and I've been running as normal and even headed off for a marathon last weekend. I didn't think I'd entered it as it was so soon after the Viking 100 but apparently I did and I'm so glad because it was a celebration of 100 years since the RAF was founded. The other bonus was that one of our regular runners, Jon Ward, who's in active service and would be celebrating his 100th marathon there so I just had to do it.

However, before I could go off and play I had some Easter baking to finish. I love making Hot Cross Buns as shop bought ones just aren't as nice.  This year I included some dried cranberries along with the sultanas and they were scrummy.






As I was preparing them I noticed a Wood Pigeon sitting on the patio looking rather forlorn in the rain:


He was a bit wobbly on his legs and kept taking a drink from the puddle at his feet.


Then he started stretching out his wing and when he stood up he fell back down so I wondered of he'd been attacked.  I was just reaching for the telephone number of Sussex Wildlife Rescue when he flew off - what a relief!


The RAF Challenge


This was another of Traviss and Rachels events and was based on quiet roads and tracks outside the Cyclopark at Gravesend.  It's a good venue for me as it's much closer than their usual events on the other side of Kent.

There were a lot more entrants than usual with around 200 people taking part, not necessarily for the marathon distance as it was a 'challenge' event in which you could run one lap or as many as you liked within the time limit.

There were lots of active servicemen and women taking part which made it extra special for Jon.






That's Jon on the left together with a fellow serviceman who was the first active serviceman to reach 100 marathons many years ago.





Now for my running bit.  When I set out I wasn't sure if I was going to do a marathon or go a bit further for another ultra so I set off at a comfortable pace which I actually maintained until the last lap when I walked a bit when Mike phoned for a quick chat.  I'd left him some clues for an Easter egg hunt which had kept him occupied nicely and he even managed to save me some chocolate for when I arrived home.

It was really nice to catch up with my running family after a few weeks break and lots of people were still congratulating me on the 100 which seems such a long time ago now.  There was lots of hugging, high-fiving and chatter to help the miles fly by so I'll just share a few photos to give a feel for the route which was undulating - each lap was 5.25 miles divided equally into uphill and downhill sections.  All the paths were in good condition and we were blessed with fair weather which made a pleasant change as I don't think I can remember ever getting quite as wet as I have this year since I started running.



Keeping pace with Malcolm and Susannah (for a short while anyway!)
`


I'm heading up the slope as Sam heads down - he's probably a lap or 2 ahead of me!



Heading down a gentle incline which doesn't feel gentle when you're heading back up it after a few laps!



We had to share this narrow path with lots of dog-walkers although there weren't many people out and about



I got caught by Somei, our very own self-confessed 'Mad Chinese Lady' who'd been busy stalking Jon as he has what's known as "Big Guns" (ie he's very muscular) and she's a great fan of his!


When I finished lap 5, which was marathon distance, the lure of Mike and the chocolate at home was too much and I decided I didn't want to go out for another lap so called it a day in 5 hours 17 minutes and was happy with that.  Not only did I get a lovely medal but I collected my special Mega Marathoners Tee shirt for having completed 25 ultra marathons.








What Else?


There's always more isn't there.  My Carbeth cardigan is now complete and blocking but there was a small cat moment along the way!


Someone decided to play with a sleeve and pulled some stitches of the body off the needles so I had to rip back a bit.


Not me mum, the dog did it. But we don't have a dog Tilly!


Marking out where the buttonholes should go.  The buttonbands were finished using an icord bind-off which I think makes a nice feature.



Blocking and drying very slowly.  I managed to find the perfect buttons to finish it off but I won't share them until they're in place.


The West Highland Way club from Kate Davies has finished now and I'm swatching for Myrtle, a mohair jumper which you can see here.  I'll be using Kidsilk Haze as I have loads of it in my stash but can't decide on my colours so am playing around with different combinations at the moment.

I'm itching to do a bit of crochet too but can't make my mind up whether to do a large project or a smaller, quicker one.  Decisions, decisions!

There's lots of activity in the garden as both flora and fauna burst into action.  This cock pheasant is unrelenting in his pursuit of a mate, he's even been displaying to other male pheasants!






Come back, come back!

Where's she gone?

You can run but you can't hide!


Oh do go away, I want my breakfast!


Mrs Bunny has been busy digging holes in the front garden and collecting dry grass to line her nest down by the pond.   The are a few more rabbit holes down there this year so I expect we'll be seeing plenty of baby bunnies soon.  I think this one must be one of our regulars as she knows exactly where she wants to go......... 





Off to the front garden

I banged in the window and she just turned to look then ignored me!


Wash time


Did she bang on the window again?  Wotteva!


I have to admit she's very sweet!


When she'd finished her toilet she grabbed a mouthful of dried grass and hopped back down towards the pond to line her nest.

I've been enjoying doing some maintenance runs during which I didn't get wet for a change.  Just shortish runs of 6-10 miles with no time pressure or worrying about my pace.  I'm itching to go onto the footpaths and cross-country but everywhere is just too sodden at present and I'd spend too much time sploshing around in mud and water so am sticking to the lanes instead.

There's still plenty to see such as this herd of deer chillaxing on a Sunday morning:





The lambs are coming thick and fast now which always signifies Spring for me:













In the garden new growth excites me (even though I have a hundred and one jobs to get done!)  Just a few of the amazing plants putting on a Spring show now:


I never tire of Euphorbias.  Sadly I lost several of my variegated forms this Winter, probably due to the wet conditions.


I always have a soft spot for the red forms of Euphorbia


One of our beautiful Hellebores


I was delighted to see this prostrate Rosemary had managed to survive the attentions of the Rosemary beetle which devastated it last year.



Pretty Pieris


This tiny Cardoon, self-seeded, will soon be huge!

Last but certainly not least is this arrangement created by Mother Nature herself with no intervention from me:



This is part of an old laid hedge and the Golden Feverfew and a Foxglove have self-seeded into pockets of debris.  Perfect!
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