Pixie and the Bat Box

The good thing about the shortening days is that I can listen to the bats coming home to roost from the comfort of my bed. Before the sun gets up,  I can listen to the clicks and whistles of the bats as they make their last hunting swoops in the gloom, before folding their wings into the corner of the eves to sleep the day away in peace.

Pixie the cat is perplexed by this. She ignores the back ground hiss of the box, but when it picks up and amplifies the sound of a bat, she pats the box, pulls back her ears and meowls!

As the sky lightens and the chuckling of the blackbirds over take the sounds of the night, she relaxes, jumps off the bedroom window sill and vocally demands to be let out again, to take her place as undisputed queen of the day time garden!

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Tasty Titans.

Normally the bathroom scales provoke sighs of irritation when I use them and occasional vows to eat less chocolate, but this morning they elicited whoops of delight.

No, I have not been on a diet and I have not lost weight.  The whoop was in admiration for the weight of my first pumpkin of the season!

As I have lost one pumpkin to mould I thought it was time to bring the rest in and put them on the sunny back step to colour up.  So, I cut my first pumpkin:  bent down to pick it up and could hardly move it as it was so heavy!  This was a wonderful surprise, as this is a new variety that I grew from seed for the first time this year and I was unsure how they would turn out.  I need not have worried!  The plants rampaged across the lawn and six flowers set seed.  One was lost to slugs and mould and then there were five and they grew and grew in the sunshine and the rain.

I have grown larger pumpkins, but none so heavy.

I hauled one on to our rickety bathroom scales and these beauties average a magnificent 10 kilos  each!

If they taste as good as they look, I will be in pumpkin soup, risotto, and roast pumpkin all winter long.

Who said September is shabby?

Shabby September

After a riotous summer my garden is looking decidedly shabby. I like to think it is shabby chic, but it really just a bit worn out and yellowing around the edges.

My green beans look on the verge of collapse, but every other day produce another handful of tastey beans. There are tiny cauliflowers hiding amongst the woody beetroots, a few gherkin cucumbers are lurking in the weeds and some monster pumpkins are showing a tease of orange beneath the mildewed leaves. Nothing is as plump and fresh as it was, but my seemingly exhausted garden just keeps giving!

Hungry birds and missing caterpillars.

Having cleared out the earthquake emergency box and taken out everything that was out of date, I still can’t throw food away. So I continue to cook unwanted food for my colony of sparrows!

Having proven that house sparrows, blue tits and great tits will eat instant noodles, my latest experiment proves they will also demolish a packet of mini macaroni in 24 hours flat!

The bad news concerns the caterpillar living on the geranium on my desk at work, which grew visibly hour by hour . I did wonder how it would fare over the weekend with no one to admire its hairy plumpness and unfortunately my misgivings were well founded. On Monday morning he was gone. He may have crawled out the window;  he may have metamorphosed  into a butterfly and flown away in record time; or he may have squished by the cleaner. I leave you to decide.

On the upside a swallowtail caterpillar is eating the fennel in my veg patch safe from    offices and zealous cleaners. I am banking on this one making it to butterfly!

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Autumn Crocus

In my first spring in Switzerland I explored a scrap of meadow, waiting to be built on behind our tidy apartment and found a plant with broad green leaves and long swollen seed head. I had watched every flower appear in the spring on this patch of green and absolutely none of them had preceded this strange seed. The mystery was not solved until a few years later when I moved just over the border into France.

Around my village are lots of parcels of land that obviously belong to different farmers. They mostly support a few fruit trees and lots of grass that is cut at different times for the animals. In this patch work of cut and uncut grass, at the end  of August large beautiful pale purple crocus appear. The flowers push up without any protective green sepals and no leaves of any description. They seem to appear over night and some are mowed down the next day, but many survive long enough to be pollinated.  Autumnal crocus would be better called August Crocus as this is the month of their  glory.

So what is the connection between the mysterious flowerless seed and the leafless flower? Well, the pollinated ovary goes down into the corm underground, where it waits all winter long to make a seed. In the spring the swollen seed head appears with two sturdy green leaves to feed it. Once the seed heads bursts, it disappears until the flowers surprise us again at the end of summer!

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Keeping it real!

 

I am now firmly back in the toad land of work, the long  day stretches ahead and the sky can just be glimpsed through the bars of the firmly shut blinds.

My garden is another five days away and only a few pot plants on the desk remind me of the green I am missing.

A few unexpected specks of spherical black, dot my desk and I realize they are insect frass.  On close inspection of my rose scented geranium, I spot eaten leaves and more frass.  There can only be one explanation.  A caterpillar has hitched a ride from the garden and is slowly devouring my plant, utterly safe from all predators on my desk.

I think it is a garden tiger moth caterpillar and as I write, its hairy body is swelling as it ingests the perfumed leaves.  It doesn’t mind being here.  This is safe and profitable for a caterpillar.

Time to take another lesson from nature, I suppose: but when it turns into an extravagantly patterned moth, I will need to find a way to set it free!

Gertrude Bell – The Ketrun – Desert Queen — Stephen Liddell

I reblog this fascinating post about a very important woman and her legacy. We all have those day dreams about who we wished we had been in another life, well Gertrude Bell is mine. Thanks to Steven Liddell for this excellent read.

From time to time, I have written about iconic and pioneering women in relative recent history, well recent by British standards 🙂 I also sometimes write about the Middle-East which is actually the one area of life that I can actually claim to have some academic expertise. So I have finally taken the opportunity to […]

via Gertrude Bell – The Ketrun – Desert Queen — Stephen Liddell

A cautionary tale .

This photo shows sparrows eating a mound of instant noodles on my bird table. They don’t believe in clean eating and would turn their beaks up in righteous disgust at a spiralised courgette . This doesn’t mean however that I normally cooked up such preprocessed junk even for the birds, so why this heap of quick cook gunk today?

The answer lies in tectonic plates and inescapable caution. We live on a fault line, the Rhine Valley, which may have been dormant for 700 years, but you can never be too careful. If the faults should shift and the house should fall, and we should some how escape, we would be ok, as we have an emergency box in the garden shed.

That is a lot of “shoulds”, but if we managed to drag ourselves out of the wreckage and dig through the flattened wooden shed, we would discover a large trunk of life sustaining goodies.

We have a tent, sleeping bags, first aid stuff, water purifying tabs . We also have basic food that could be cooked on wood from the wood store. These delicacies include tins of hot dogs and instant noodles.

Assuming we survive the nuclear power plant melt down, the zombie apocalypse and final release from the internet, we could get by for a few days. There is even cat food in the box.

This monument to hope/stupidity was assembled some years ago. This summer we opened it again, to find many out of date cans and a lot of mice nests. The mice were evicted, in date food replaced the old, and voila the sparrows got to eat the old noodles!

I hope in a few years time to repeat the exercise, use the next batch of out dated food to feed these sparrows off spring and continue to hope for peaceful times, a quiet earth and a cautious approach.

Slip, slop.

IMG_1984Larkin’s “Work Toad” is slowly, slip slopping his way towards me. With webbing and slime he makes his heavy, warty and unwanted way towards me, slowly, inexorably muttering bills, and health insurance and pension and taxes. And then plop! He is in my lap, heavy and inevitable. I wriggle, but there is no escape and we must share each other’s cold burden for another long year together.