Friday, 30 September 2011

The Butterfly and the Bee

... with a frog and a ladybird thrown in too!

Last Sunday I was pottering in the garden, clearing up and getting everything ready for winter when I noticed the biggest Red Admiral butterfly I have ever seen on the blue scabius.  When I went past to get my camera he fluttered away but came straight back to partake of the sedum instead. 

At this time of year the sedum is in full flower and is covered in bees but the butterfly did not seem to mind.  While I was taking the pictures a frog came to see what I was doing but did not stick around for long.

This may well use up half of my picture allowance but I had to share the pictures.


Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Blogs and bees

If you have been wandering around here over the last few months you will have noticed my tardiness in updating this blog.

Unfortunately bees, cheese, the garden plus the unhappy circumstance that I must also go to work to afford to do all the first things on the list, have meant that I have just not got around to it.

Here, then, is a summary of the months since May.

The beekeeping courses are over and I have loved every minute of it. Paul is running a build your own bee hive course next year and I will be doing that with the intention of filling the hive with bees in May.

The cheese making course was brilliant and I make a batch of cheese every weekend now. I have also started making my own bread and feel much better for it.

The growing year has had some brilliant successes and for the most part the heritage seeds have been very good. Failures were the peas (grew really well but had little flavour), melons (too cold for them, I think) sweetcorn (look great but nothing to eat on them) and the Purple Ukraine tomatoes (rot before they ripen).

Successes were the Purple Rainbow Chillis, White Volunteer Courgette, Czar Runner Beans, Longpod Broad Beans, lovely yellow Galina tomatoes, Sanguina beetroot and the outright best crop was the nearly extinct Tamra cucumber. I have had more cucumbers than I could eat and the flavour was fantastic.

I have saved three as seed cucumbers and I will be giving the seed to everyone and also returning some to The Real Seed Company to pass on to other people themselves.

Elsewhere in the garden there was less frogs than usual owing the the frogspawn disappearing, probably down the throat of a local heron. The big pond was happy host to its newty guests again this year and I have seen loads of little efts as I was giving it an occasional clean.

A lot of my planting for next year will be particularly aimed at providing food for the bees and I have already started a special bed of marjoram and hyssop, two buzzy favourites. The tall crops of peas and runner beans will be grown in containers instead and the remaining veg beds can be left for beetroot and onions.

Lastly, I have invested in a dehydrator and am having great fun making lovely dried snacks out of my left over produce.

Although I hate the dark I am almost looking forward to winter this year because I will finally be able to stop and put my feet up! Maybe there is a point to winter after all.

The best thing is planning the year ahead and then in the early spring planting the seeds to begin the whole wonderful cycle all over again. And of course, hopefully there will be a hive of bees to share in the fun.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Bee Keeping - Day One

The first day of the bee keeping course was absolutely brilliant. The course is being given by Paul Peacock, who has been keeping bees for over fifteen years. He also writes books on sustainable living and is a regular on Gardener's Question Time.

He is also a thoroughly nice chap!

After learning about the life cycle of the bee and about the hive, we suited up and went to investigate our first hive.

Claremont Farm has four hives and in the morning Paul inspected two hives while we watched. Interestingly, even though they were side by side, the temperaments in the two hives could not have been more different.

The first hive was made up of placid bees who seemed unbothered by the inspection of their work. The bees in the second hive however were much more aggressive and Paul got stung several times (although that was through gloves so thankfully it was not the full effect!).

After a lovely lunch we suited up again and were allowed to inspect the two remaining hives ourselves.

Being so close to the bees was amazing and I did not feel threatened in any way by them. Unfortunately it was then that the rain set in and we did not want to get inside the hive wet so we put everything back and left the bees to it.

Altogether it was a lovely day and I can't wait for day two now in June.

I have also signed up for Paul's cheese making course!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Bee Keeping

Fully intending to embrace the natural garden ethos as much as possible, I have enrolled on a bee keeping course at a local farm.

The course finishes in September, too late to get a hive before winter but I intend to be fully hived up by late spring next year.

My neighbour has already said that he does not mind a hive next door so apart from the (considerable) expense of setting up, I'm raring to go.

The first day is next Sunday, 15th May, followed by a day a month and finishes with two days in September.

I have already read two books on bee keeping and am more fascinated than ever by the workings of a colony of bees. The thought of learning hands-on is both daunting and fascinating but over all I can't wait!

I will keep you posted.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

March Roundup

Great excitement! Overnight the frogs have done their thing and my pond has beautiful glistening clusters of spawn nestled in the underwater plants. When I went past to open the greenhouse this morning the two paramours were still there so I did not linger. Hopefully there will be more tonight.

After the hard winter and the somewhat late spring the bulbs have been a little disappointing this year. So far there has been no sign of the fabulous parrot feather tulips but here are some pictures of the ones who have been brave enough to poke their heads up.

Ah, lovely.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

They're back!

I was just on my way up to the greenhouse this morning to take the fleece off my baby tomato plants when I saw ripples in Pondy and two little heads looking very disconcerted at the thought of company.

The frogs are back!

Delighted that they had once again chosen my pond to lay their eggs I retreated and left them to it. After all, I would not like an audience at such a delicate time.

I'm sure the tomatoes will survive a day under the fleece.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Is it Spring yet?

What could make anyone happier than a carpet of crocuses? When the sun comes out they open their little heads and drink in the warmth.

Even last year's pansies are joining in.

This little primrose is tiny but so pretty.

But look at this back wall, crowded with tulips. The whole bed is full of tulips of different colours but the ones at the back are all vibrant red.

Long ago across Europe tulip bulbs were so expensive and valued that they were almost used as currency. If that were still the case, I would be very rich indeed!

Monday, 7 February 2011


Sadly, cleaning out the bigger pond yesterday I discovered five dead frogs. I was netting out the leaves that had fallen from my neighbour's apple tree in the autumn and brought up the five little froggie bodies.

According to Amphibian and Reptile Convervation this is sad but quite normal.

They write:

In particularly heavy winters, when ice forms over the pond for prolonged periods, frogs may suffer from 'winterkill'. Essentially, the ice forms a barrier which stops toxic gases (naturally caused by decaying pond detritus) escaping from the pond. In some ponds this can kill common frogs, males of which may choose to lie dormant on the bottom of the pond over winter.

I tried as hard as I could to keep both ponds with air holes during the awful frosts we had in December but it seems that it was not enough. At one point the ice was about four inches thick and nearly impossible to get through.

I know that nature takes care of her own and if there are any dead frogs still in the pond where I can't get to them, they will become food for many more of the pond's inhabitants. Still, I can't help but feel responsible.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Let's have some colour

I've been saving these for a day just like today - dull, wet, cold and rather miserable.

These were all taken at Newby Hall in North Yorkshire in September and are just the ticket for a dull February day. Let's smile and remember the warmth and let's have some colour.

There now, isn't that better!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Is it Spring yet?

Looking back on last year's posts I was just as eager for the arrival of Spring as I am this year. Winter, with its long cold and horribly dark nights, is my least favourite time and by February I am absolutely stir crazy and desperate for it to end.

Some activity is going on however. There is no sign yet of the daffs (not that I would have really expected it) but there does appear to be some bulby type shoots appearing in the bulb bed. It doesn't look very crocus-like and there are no snowdrops in there so I am not sure what it is.

The most important thing is that it is green and growing and a sign that beloved Spring is not that far away.
Wandering through the garden on Saturday I noticed that mossy frog, a lovely little statue that my neighbour very kindly gave me last year, was looking very pretty. He sits on a slate at the edge of the pond and his beautiful coat of moss seems unaffected by the frosts.

I thought I would end with my little boy, Elliot Button. Whenever I go out into the yard he comes with me (obviously to check that I am safe) and another of his kitty duties is to sniff the air and check if Spring has arrived.

"It's not here yet," he told me afterwards, "but it's close."