The extra bits...(Under construction).

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Wildlife Garden, Newts & Nettles ....


     Good day ladies and gentlemen and I hope that I find you all in fine fettle. Tis been a busy week for moi in one way or another to say the very least, in fact I haven't had time to fart, pardon the expression! I have to admit to having taken time away from work as the 'Dog' has bared her teeth a little and my mind needed just to calm down for awhile. But instead of dwelling upon my low mood I have, as mentioned, been as busy as a busy thing and I have a myriad of things to blog about but for the time being I shall restrict myself to just updating you upon the wildlife garden that I'm attempting to nurture.Well there certainly have been some developments in the exceedingly small area that I have for the purpose of making a haven for wildlife. There have been a couple of new fauna additions and plenty of flora additions.

      Where I work the factory is a desert for wildlife with now close cropped grass where once there was a budding meadow and large areas of concrete. Every year about this time the concrete is a scene of amphibian carnage as Common Newts trek across the concrete only for most of them to be splattered by the endless forklift traffic. I do what I can when time allows collecting them and returning them to the haven beyond the perimeter fencing. But over the years there has been a steady and sharp decline in the numbers of Newts found un-splattered or not which has made me consider that the numbers will eventually die out due to the industrial environment which is still increasing in the area. On my last night shift that I attended only five living Newts, and four flat ones, were to be found. So going against my first instinct of not moving wildlife from its local I instead put the five away safely until the end of the shift and took them home to release them into the wildlife garden, where they all made a beeline for the woodpile. Once they were safely out of sight I was able to drag my weary body to bed for a much needed cuddle and long sleep. I doubt if I'll know if this amphibian transplant is a success or not as Common Newts are a secretive creature though maybe one day they will honor me with a visit to breed in the pond....


Common or Smooth Newt inspecting my work.....
  
     .....The other addition to garden is the long awaited frogspawn, and before there is any wailing and gnashing of teeth no I did not take this from Nercwys Forest on my last walk up there, even though there was loads of the stuff. No this small clump was kindly donated from a work colleges pond and already within a matter of days the change in the spawn is visible.....


Sorry about the hand shadow but it stopped the water's glare in the sun...

     Finally I have new visitors whom have appeared under their own steam....my first Bumble Bee (possibly a Queen by the size) made a brief visit to the flowering Dwarf Iris and the pond is suddenly teaming with Daphnia (too blasted small for a photograph), though how the hell they've got there is a mystery to me but bloody pleasing as the lower tiers of the food chain appear to be occurring in the pond...result!    

 So that's the fauna news so onto the flora, but where to begin? Well to start with in previous posts I have explained that this small patch of Eden will have to be a compromise, yes I refer to it as a wildlife garden but also it must contain a Wendy house err workshop, a place for me to work on larger projects, the planting has to also satisfy not just from a wildlife perspective but also the planted area must be a place of relaxation and appeal to not only myself but to my once Londonium living partner who has to have a say in the garden at some point (this said very grudgingly) So the plants incorporated are not always chosen for wildlife but simply because we like them. For example the list of planting this week included;- Clematis (Montana Mayleen) to help cover a boundary, Wisteria again for the same boundary, Verbena (Bonariensis) definitely one for the bugs, Rosemary for the scent and the kitchen, Lavender for the scent and the bugs, Poppy (Papaver orientalis) for bugs and stunning impact, Mint for the kitchen, Chive for the kitchen and the bugs, Hosta (Albo Marginata) for cover on the edge of the pond, Gladioli Priscilla for patio color, Viola mixed for color in the pots, Trailing Begonia again for color, Lilium Vermeer for background color, Freesia Single Pink for background color, a host of Dahlias including Mystery Day, Glory van Noordwijk, & Esther all because we love their blooms but also some chosen for bug attraction, Mixed Crocosmia for bugs and finally Tigridia Pavonia for its stunning flower and bug attraction. Now this may appear to be an expensive list but some plants such as the mint & chive were donations and the rest were bought from the local supermarket at bargain prices, yes perhaps not very big or the best of condition of plants but with a tad of love and care within a few years hopefully they shall mature nicely and contribute to the garden blending and weaving together to produce a wildlife full and restful place.

     Other news is the delivery and installation of not one but two compost containers. I'm not a fan of the plastic type but again the word compromise rules the day. They fit brilliantly in the space allocated and they were free, one was a donation and t'other was err ah yes 'reclaimed' from a derelict garden (well slightly overgrown). The first one is already half full thanks to a kindly donation of well rotted horse poo from a Mr. Rodgers and is now being topped up with all things composty...

Compost bins one & two...

     Well I guess that covers progress so far apart from some visual aids for you all (that'll be pictures then).....

Dwarf Iris or now called Bee magnet

Lungwort

Cowslip

Dwarf Daffodils

Grape Hyacinths

Anemone

Patio pots planted under supervision..

The pond border towards the workshop

The pond border towards to log pile

     Oh and one last thing, tis funny how outlooks change. I found a solitary Nettle plant that had taken up residence, now a few years ago this would have been ragged out or killed by chemicals but 'the now' is slightly different. Compromise comes to play again and I just have not the space nor the time to have a forest of these tenacious plants running riot in this small plot but I do have a long tub, spare compost and a space where said tub fits snugly so the last plant to add to this weeks planting list is Common Nettle, for the bugs of course.


Nettle border
     So things are moving in the right direction, and I'll leave you all with a question to ponder....What are you doing to help wildlife in your garden?

Til the next time, take care all,

John



Sunday, 22 March 2015

Blog walking - Nercwys forest.....

      Friday 20th March at Nercwys woods, North Wales.

      Although suffering from 'man flu' I took Bramble along for a walk around one of my favorite local walks at Nercwys forest. Over time man has had a huge impact upon this area, changing the landscape quite dramatically. With these many changes the effect upon local flora and fauna has also been dramatic. In an evolutionary timescale the changes have occurred within just the blink of an eye which means wildlife has been hard pressed to adapt or evolve to the swiftly changing landscape. After centuries of sheep farming and open moorland the land was used for lead mining in the mid to late 1800's with some remains of the sturdier buildings still visible. There are remains of a Bronze age burial cairn and remains of more recent farm buildings tucked away along the trails. The site of what was once a large walled vegetable garden has had its dry stone wall reconstructed and now contains a wildflower meadow where old breeds of pig and sheep can sometime be seen, used to graze the area as it would have been done many years ago. 

     Then in the 1960's the area was acquired by the Forestry commision and large areas of non-native conifers such as Silver pine were planted for the timber industry. This managed woodland is pleasant enough and is home now to a reasonable amount of wildlife but I always feel that a large part of these areas should be given over to native trees which would, in my opinion, support a much larger and more diverse amount of wildlife. 

     The walk itself was a little bittersweet if I'm truly honest. I've mentioned in previous posts that this year it would appear a far greater number of trees have been felled for timber and the place has lost some of its atmosphere and its feel of a 'slightly spooky fairy tale forest'. Also a lot of the trails have been 'improved' by being flattened, widened and hard-cored, to allow easier access for people which has also had an effect upon the atmosphere by losing many of the twisty and narrow pathways. Easier access also attracts folk who have no idea of the impact on such areas they can have. I always try to abide to my rule of leaving no trace of myself being there, apart from the footprints of my walking boots, and leaving the area untouched. But even this early on in the year the detritus left by folk is alarming. I suppose it's not just folk being bone idle but also a lack of understanding of the effect of all the discarded drinks containers, food wrappers etc have on wildlife. I picked up tin cans, plastic bottles and crisp packets which filled my small knapsack by the end of the walk, with each item a potential death trap for small creatures. What really gets my goat is that the bloody things are lighter once empty than when these imbeciles started walking with them!

Just some of the detritus I picked up...
     But still there were lighter moments that still made the walk enjoyable. Certainly there is a feeling of Spring about the forest with the increased singing of birds such as Robin, Blackbird and Titmarsh. The first flowers are beginning to appear with the odd Dandelion and Colt's-foot adding a touch a yellow to the sides of the pathways...

A mountain of moss with spore cases just starting to appear.....


Something so primitive about Lichens,  probably why they appeal to me...

Sometimes the minute can look scary...


Colt's-foot, the flowers appear before leaves...

Early Dandelion....


      Of course Bear was not to be out done by a few photographs of flora....

On the walls of the old mine buildings...


In her natural habitat once again....

Nope I'm not coming out yet dad......

      Another sign of Spring was the vast amount of frogspawn found in one of Bear's favorite watering holes...


She just has to get in on the act.......

     All in all Nercwys forest still holds some magic, especially when the sun is shining through the trees and the paths are free of people.....






Old breed sheep in the wildflower meadow......

     I hope you enjoyed this stroll around Nercwys forest, till the next time take care....

John

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Busy Bee....

     Well that's my four days off from the grind over so quickly once more, been so busy I've not had time to post nor to catch up on other blogs! I'll be sure to redeem myself later this week once I'm finished in the Fun factory but for now I'll leave with a pic of my little garden helpers taking a well earned tea break.....

Till the next time, take care....


John

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Terry Pratchett 1949 - 2015

      
Pratchett - Reaper Man


     Tis not in my nature to write upon these pages concerning the death of others, especially the famous others, but today I learnt of the death of someone whose words have been a constant in my life ever since I picked up and read 'Reaper Man' a tale of an imaginary place called 'The Discworld', a place that reflects so many of our own flaws with sharp insight and a very dry humour. The central character of this particular book was the Discworld's Death who spoke in capitals and rode a white horse called Binky. Only special people, mainly wizards, would receive the 'personal' touch from Death, usually to their surprise and befuddlement! But all hell breaks loose when Death decides to quit his job and people just won't die! 

      There are many tombs written by Mr. Pratchett upon the Discworld with all the characters being so well crafted I always fall into the stories and am lost to world whilst so engaged. Death has always remained my favorite character in all these tales, even when he only had a bit part.

     So it was with some sadness that Mr. Pratchetts demise was brought to my attention but with a wry smile I thought that at least he will get to meet Death and Binky, after all to me he was a wizard of the the written word. Rest in peace Mr. Pratchett.


Monday, 9 March 2015

Wildlife garden and rewilding....

      It certainly felt that Spring had indeed sprung this weekend just passed. The wildlife garden has definitely started to awaken with the early bulbs, mainly Crocus & Snowdrop, and primulas planted last Autumn added splashes of color here and there. Patches of Bluebells are pushing through and, along with the Daffodils, Tulips, Lungwort and Anemones that are being tempted to rise by the lengthening hours of daylight herald the promise more color to come. 

Dewy Crocus

Cyclamen, almost done...

Thrusting Bluebells...

Lungwort, soon to be tempting Bee's I hopes...

     The daylight has also brought forth some encouraging signs from plants that were already here long before I finally found the courage to set root myself in the village. What was a very poor looking honeysuckle that lay buried under a right heaped tangle of badly matched planting, seems to have benefited from a 'rustic' bit of trellis that I threw together and is covered with healthy looking buds. A dark leaved Elder is also tentatively pushing its buds out and they're a delicious deep purple in color and an old and beautifully flowered climbing rose is starting to awaken,. So things are indeed gathering apace.


Honeysuckle breaking forth...

Purple Elder showing promise of it's glorious foliage to come (Also flowers are major insect attraction)

Old climber with a new lease of life...

      The feeders I'm having to top up on a regular basis now as Sparrows, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Robin, Collared Dove, Wren and Blackbird have now become regular visitors. They are even beginning to ignore the troublesome twosome as they hurtle from the back door of a morning to empty full bladders. Tis just a pity that they're not as yet comfortable enough with this here lumbering oaf of a caveman to allow him picture the little buggers! Either that or I get myself a new camera which will probably happen well after Hell freezes over, as Simple Red put it..."money's too tight to mention".

     The break in the weather has allowed me to make a small amount of progress though.  Firstly I dug out from the shed this...  

Bee hotel open for business

     ....it is something that I cobbled together a few years ago before my fall from the world. It's a little more specific than the general 'bug hotels' one tends to find, instead it is aimed solely at solitary Bees in the hope of attracting them to the garden and also giving them a small area in which to breed. 

     Another piece of progress is the arrival and planting of my Willow hedge. To be honest I made a complete mess of ordering the Willow cuttings. I thought that I'd ordered 25 pieces at 12 inches tall. Imagine my surprise when the postie delivered 25 pieces at 4 bleeding foot tall! Oh well I guess at least I will be getting a wildlife friendly windbreak/hedge a damn site more rapidly now, well if the buggers take that is, and if they do I'm hoping to achieve something like this.....

Not my picture but hopefully I'll be able to share something similar if the Willow hedge takes

     The wildlife pond is still looking very dormant with no sign of visitors or any hint of the plants deciding to shake a leg as of yet. I'm guessing that the water will take a little longer to warm up enough to encourage either but I'm really hoping that this small pond will prove to be a major factor in attracting wee beasties this year, time will tell.



     I also bought some very cheap plants from the supermarket that I frequently use in Wrexham. A couple more Primula for 50p the pair, 25 Montbretia Lucifer corns for a £1, a sorry looking bag of 5 Lupins for another £1, a very limp looking Rhubarb (which hopefully will look like a small Gunnera behind the pond if it does grow) and 3 Bleeding hearts for 50p. They looked a very poor collection yet just a couple of days after planting they all seem to be perking up.

     The next steps in the garden, apart from watching the place mature, will be more structural with the access point being changed, the area in front of the shed being leveled, boundaries being better defined, splitting the garden into a relaxing wildlife/meditation area and hard standing dog playground/working on outdoor projects area and finally the fish pond put in. So busy times ahead m'thinks, but ultimately worth it if the wildlife finds it a safe haven.


Again not my picture, does the Lynx have a place in our countryside that is a question indeed but it is a beautiful creature none the less...

      On a different but still slightly related note I have read that the reintroduction of the European Lynx is being strongly considered. Personally I'm tending to be in favour of this but there is so much to consider especially now with our densely populated isles these days. The European Lynx is not your cute and cuddly puddy cat but is one hell of a serious predator. The idea is to release and monitor Lynx into the wilder parts of Britain i.e. the highlands of Scotland, Cumbria, possible the moors of the South West  of England and Toxteth (oops sorry). I'm not sure of numbers but the Lynx is a wandering animal and one thought that crosses my mind is will they become urbanised? After all Foxes find our cities and their detritus very attractive and would this apex predator be so tempted? I wonder, so what are your thoughts  on the idea of 're-wilding' our countryside? Linx (sorry again) to some information on European Lynx can be found here and here.

    Well that's about all for today, hopefully Spring will continue springing. Till the next time, take care....

John

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Blog walking update.....

     
Ok guys...Lets walk!!

     Greetings and salutations fellow earthlings, just another quick post to update you on 'Blog Walking', the blog that I'm hoping will allow walkers all over walk together at the same time yet in different parts of the world and then sharing their adventures on 'Blog Walking' , more on the idea can be found here. I'm updating here for now so as to hopefully reach a wider group of like minded folk.

      So the date I'm proposing for the first walk is Friday the 20th of March and Saturday the 21st. Yes I know that's two dates but to encourage folk to join me and that this approach would be a tad easier. I thought that allowing this for the first couple of walks or until a strong base of walking bloggers join in on a regular basis then this would be helpful.

     As for timing? well I think that initially that we should keep it quite flexible and just say for the time being that the walks will be occurring on mid to late afternoons. As for myself it looks likely that I'll be walking Friday afternoon but as to where I'm undecided. Hopefully this will be well supported by your good selves and that we will have many enjoyable walks 'together'.

     One further thought was that perhaps around the Autumn time before the nights draw in too much that if people enjoy 'Blog Walking' then perhaps a walking and social event could be organised where we could actually walk together for real and swap tall tales over a meal and some grog? Your thoughts on this?

     Oh 'Blog Walking' and its second post may be found here. Till the next time take care..

John

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Catch up .....

      Good evening my fellow mortals, just a quick post so that you know that I have not fallen off the edge of the world just yet (there be dragons in t' way).......

     Firstly after our return from the Lakes Bramble took ill. Couldn't put my finger on it but I think she'd either eaten something that disagreed, maybe had a blockage or had perhaps caught a chill in the cold waters up there. In any case the poor little bugger started to be as sick as a dog on our second day home after every meal and then went off her food completely. It was touch and go as to whether or not I'd be taking her to the veterinarian as her weight was dropping at an alarming rate. I started feeding her boiled chicken little and often and this she kept down, within 48 hours she was back on her normal diet (smaller portions) although there is a wistful look at me as I place her bowl down now, enough to say "what? no chicken!". It's a relief that she is back to herself though, although she is sleeping much more as she recovers her strength....

Must be tired, not even posing for a picture!

      At least Bertha is now performing admirably and today she even passed her MOT, thank the Northern Gods as money is tight at the moment and another expensive bill for her would have been very hard to cope with at the moment, so a huge sigh of relief could be heard across the village this afternoon. I think it is time that I tightened the purse strings somewhat, 'as tight as a duck's arse' is now my second mantra after 'small steps'.

     Speaking of financial matters I am once more dipping my toes into the dark and murky waters of the smuggling game. Oh alright I'm starting to sell on EBay with my first item scheduled to begin this thursday. I used to sell quite a substantial amount back in the day but have not bothered for the last few years due the Black Dog and leading a nomadic lifestyle for sometime, it is indeed extremely difficult to run a effective EBay service when your mind is adled and you're living with your dog in the car! Again I'm taking note of my philosophy of 'small steps' with this venture and starting in a very small way. There be two reasons for this, firstly I do not wish to put pressure upon my fragile recovery and secondly, starting small and getting into the swing of EBay, or any other venture, after time away insures that I will be able to provide a quality service and hopefully a satisfied customer base. As for my target market? well that has to be decided as of yet with me just selling unwanted possessions to begin with.

     The wildlife garden is slowly showing some signs of life with the first Crocus, Primulas and, yes, Snowdrops beginning to add hints of color in the new borders....


Told you I had planted some...


Love these old fashioned Primulas

     ..... and the wildlife pond has, well wildlife....

Lymnaea stagnalis
     .....now you may well wonder how the hell a Greater pond snail or two managed to migrate to my small wildlife puddle but these wee beasties were not removed from a wild pond as this would be hypocritical of me. No they came from a ornamental pond from which the owner was kind enough to let me take a couple, well three. They were introduced when the pond had half filled with rainwater and this is the first sighting I have had of one over the Winter. They are about a quarter of their full size and will hopefully breed as they mature enabling perhaps the introduction of them into others wildlife ponds. As for other additions well the only other fauna I might introduce will be a little Frog spawn but again not from a natural source. Finally regarding the wildlife garden I have secured a delivery of Willow cuttings that should appear Thursday, these will hopefully form a windbreak/hedge, some privacy and bird cover in due time at the bottom end of the garden behind the Wendy house workshop.....



     Oh have I mentioned my knees?, well after my last visit to the physio there has been considerable improvement and the strengthening exercises he gave me to to are beginning to reap rewards. I know that they cannot be cured but as I have said before at least they can be managed and walking is back on the menu, hurrah! In fact I've set myself a target of topping Snowdon before the year is out and also traversing Striding Edge in the Lake District.....

Striding Edge....
     Oh speaking of walking I have not forgotten my other blog, 'Blog Walking' and I am just sorting out the first walking day which I should be announcing before I head back to 'the grind' this Friday. Also I have a post to write for the 'tips' page on said blog concerning fox pooh, you know you'll want to read it don't you!

     Well that's about it for now, off to spend time helping Mr. Jones out at his motor bike workshop tomorrow so another busman's holiday! To be fair tis nothing like work and I fully enjoy my time spent there. So until the next time, enjoy yourselves and take care.....

John