Wednesday 30 March 2016

Competitive den building

I took the little people down to the woods today. We went in disguise and didn't go alone, just in case. They had a fancy to build dens, and of course it had to be competitive. The littlest boy and I teamed up together. Our den had a nature table. You have to go some to beat a den with its own nature table. The middle boy lost his prized Swiss army knife, so we spent a nervy fifteen minutes hunting for that.  After a while I offered a £5 reward to motivate those who weren't really looking properly. In the end I was the one who found it although the littlest boy tried to claim it was him.

All in all it was a good afternoon. It's not always easy filling the holidays with fun, fun, fun although I don't think it does them any harm to be a bit bored from time to time. I have a few chores they can get stuck into tomorrow. Might even offer a small payment. (You know what I'm actually saying is that I'll have to bribe them right..?)

Saturday 26 March 2016

Blue skies and Easter bunnies

Wasn't Good Friday glorious? All that blue sky and sunshine. We headed for the coast but the traffic was hideous so we changed direction and ended up in Bath. There was a funfair in the park. People were whizzing round upside down and screaming.

We wandered up the hill to some of the higher crescents. Within a couple of hundred yards it went from busy and noisy to complete peace and quiet. If you don't mind the steep climb that's the place to live.

In the centre of Bath there are a few allotment sites on what must incredibly valuable land. I'm always so happy to see them. Look at this one (in the last couple of photos). Out the back of a lovely Georgian terrace, at the edge of Bath Park. They're right next to a pub as well. The plotholders must count their lucky stars.

Back on the home front Easter is being hotly anticipated. I've done the Easter treasure hunt that I always do. It might keep them occupied for an hour if I'm lucky. There are little chocolate bunnies to be eaten at the end. I shall no doubt bake something yummy for tea.

I'm wishing you all a lovely day and a good bank holiday Monday. CJ xx

Thursday 24 March 2016

The Colour Collaborative: March: Egg

I'm rather in love with birds' eggs. That gorgeous smooth roundness and the subtleties of colour and pattern. Each egg perfectly suited to its environment both in shading and shape.

The extent of our egg collection can pretty much be seen above. We have a few more fragments, but these are our best two bits. I love the little mark on the blue egg where the chick had a go at getting out before he actually managed it.

Museums tend to have vast collections shut away in drawers, but now most of our information comes from pictures. The biggest boy has a copy of the Observer's Book of Birds' Eggs which is a favourite of mine. I never get tired of flicking through and admiring the eggs. Little speckles of grey on a
chiffchaff egg or brown watercolour stains on a willow warbler egg. All nicely done according to where the nest will be.

The shape matters as well.

Long pointy eggs don't roll as easily and fit alongside each other better. But look at the little owl's egg, almost perfectly round.

I've recently been looking at the makers of replica eggs and realising what an art it is. Each bird's egg is different, so two eggs from the same species could look quite distinct from each other. A good egg painter will capture the essence of the egg and in many cases they look indistinguishable from the real thing.

I shall be on the lookout for empty pieces of shell this year and seeing if I can identify them. The humblest or smallest birds can have the most beautiful egg colouring and patterning.

And at the grander end of the scale there is the magnificent golden eagle egg. A creamy buff background touched with dark gold and brown splotches, perfect camouflage for an untidy nest of sticks and heather.

Then there's the cuckoo's egg. It has a range of colour and marking and sometimes nicely matches the eggs of the birds in whose nest the egg is laid. The chick pushes out any other eggs or chicks to ensure it has the parents all to itself. I'm not sure I approve.

The egg I shall be looking for and hoping to find this year (only after it's hatched of course) is that of the song thrush.

To quote the Observer's book, "The ground colour is a beautifully clear pale greenish-blue - almost turquoise - and the markings consist of specks, spots and blotches of a very deep olive-green, black or reddish-brown."  That pale greenish-blue is one of my very favourite colours, cool, calm and serene.

To visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below:

            Annie at Annie Cholewa                 Gillian at Tales from a Happy House 

           Jennifer at Thistlebear                   Sarah at Mitenska                              

What is The Colour Collaborative?

All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.

Sunday 20 March 2016


Amazing rocks at Kilve on the North Somerset coast. It's a Site of Special Scientific Interest and really astonishing. The photos really don't do it justice. There were all sorts of layers and so many different types of rock all in one place. I know absolutely nothing about geology, but I imagine it's even more fascinating if you know exactly what you're looking at. We found fossils galore.

It used to be a smuggling port, with barrels of spirit brought in under cover of darkness and carried away on hardy little smugglers' ponies. The story goes that when the revenue men came a-calling the barrels were set on fire. 

There was the usual selection of plastic on the beach. Leanne, I picked up this plastic ring for you to make up for the ball. (Leanne lives in Cornwall and has been out picking up some of the stuff that rolls in with every tide.) It's a big bad problem out there in the world's oceans. No doubt you've seen the photos of it all clumping together in ghastly plastic islands and of birds making their nests from it so that their chicks start their lives all tangled in it. I loathe plastic with a vengeance.

We got a bit competitive in our fossil hunting. We didn't move any of them, just looked. We left the beach as we found it, no stones removed, nothing left behind. It really was a remarkable place. Wordsworth used to come here apparently. Bit different from the daffodils.

Thank you for all of your suggestions as to what my mystery flower might be. Amanda identified it for me, it was a pink sanguisorba. I'm adding it to my list of things to look out for. It's a very long list... There's a great post about some of the best plants for pollinators on Countryside Tales if you're wondering what's good to plant for different insects.

I hope you all have a lovely Sunday. I actually have a football-free morning so I shall hove myself into the kitchen and bake something for those who have not given up sugar and pudding for Lent. (That's everyone apart from me). Lent has flown by and the jeans aren't much looser. I think I may be eating too much cheese to compensate. I actually dreamt about Stilton last night. I think's its a sign.

Wednesday 16 March 2016

Of seeds and bees

I'm all about the seeds here at the moment. Completely out of windowsill space though and still so much to plant. I need a conservatory or something I think. In so far are tomatoes, two or three cucumbers, sugar snap peas, parsnips, Tuscan kale, white cosmos, larkspur, rudbeckia, okra, oca, mustard leaves, lettuce, leeks and sweet peas.

I'm going to try and grow some pollinator friendly flowers here and there. I love having bees about the place, they really add so much to the garden, and of course they're good for the planet too. We got a little poster about the best flowers from the seed swap the other day which I've stuck up in the kitchen. I saw a lovely flower the other day that I have a fancy for but I don't know what it is. It looks like a small pale pink bottle brush on a long stem. Any ideas?

I'd like to grow an aster or two as well. I remember sitting by one last year and it was absolutely covered in bees. I'm thinking maybe pink for that too. In a house full of boys I am woefully lacking in pink. I don't mind really, but I do like pink flowers.

Do you have any garden plans yet this year? Or any suggestions for bee and butterfly friendly flowers? I sometimes imagine my dream garden, or at least a dream garden in the space we have here. It would involve getting rid of most of the patio and the grass I think. More space for plants! Less space for ball games. Bees. Chickens. Of course that won't happen. But that's fine, we can share. Something for everyone.

Saturday 12 March 2016

Mind how you go with those wings

King Aethelstan's tomb (15th Century)

In our wanderings today we ended up at Malmesbury Abbey. Begun in the 7th century, it was substantially completed by 1180. It used to have a huge spire, some 430ft, but in 1500 the spire and the tower it was built on collapsed, destroying a large part of the Abbey at the same time.

There is still a beautiful building there though, and somewhere on the site King Aethelstan is buried. He was an Anglo Saxon king and considered by many to be the first King of England. He died in 939. The tomb pictured above is symbolic and empty, a 16th century addition, although his body is in the vicinity.

I loved the illuminated bible pictured. 600 years old, made by Belgian monks. I've been imagining them poring over the letters, practising their calligraphy, mixing their inks and the colours for the illustrations. The gold is particularly gorgeous.

In the 11th century one of the monks at the Abbey, Eilmer of Malmesbury, had a go at flying. He strapped on a pair of wings and jumped off the tower. He got over 200 yards before he landed, breaking both of his legs. What is it with boys?

Outside the weather was glorious, and I think it's set fair for a while. I'm wishing you a good weekend with a little happy adventuring. I'll be watching football tomorrow. You?