Grumpy Redstart

It is very rare that I get an opportunity to take a picture of male black redstart. I see them all the time, but they are restless and they never come to the feeder. This one was moving around the feeder, although he did not eat the seeds – he used the surroundings for vantage points to spot insects in the grass. And he stayed a few times in one place long enough for me to take a picture.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

That last picture gives me the impression of an old grampa looking disapprovingly at me. Something about the line between the black and grey feathers above the eyes gives him that look.

Baby, it’s cold outside

In one of Pratchett’s best novels, Nightwatch, Sam Vimes travels back in time and takes part in the “Glorious Revolution” (twice, actually), with its motto of Freedom, Reasonably Priced Love, and a Hard Boiled Egg, and its symbol of lilac in bloom, which happens on the 25th of April. I remember Caine being very fond of that day, posting pics of lilac. For me, living in a place where spring comes earlier than North Dakota and wherever Pratchett lived in the UK, by that time, the lilac had already bloomed, taking its sweet perfume with it.

Except this year, with its extraordinarily cold April. This year, the lilac has not yet dared to open its flowers.

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Most nights still had freezing temperatures and lots of plants are four weeks behind their usual schedule, which creates a problem for your dedicated hobby gardener: I planted the seeds according to the usual timeline, and most beds are also ready, only that it’s way too cold to plant anything outside:

©Giliell, all rights reserved The garden as o two weeks ago. The lower terraces are ready for planting, but the weather isn’t.

This means everything is still inside, although I usually carry about 50 plants outside in the morning and carry them back inside in the evening. Say hello to the cocktail tomatoes.

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I’m also running out of pots, because most of them have now been replanted three times and had to ask my mum for planting pots. What I really couldn’t keep inside for longer is the squash, so I planted it outside, hoping it would survive. By now, none of the plants look happy, some of them also don’t look alive:

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I can only hope that it will regrow those leaves, otherwise the squash will be entirely shop bought this season. As they were last year, when all my plants insisted on having male flowers only.

In the meantime I’m taking joy in the growth of my corn. Intellectually I knew that in order to get that high, it had to grow like mad, but knowing and seeing are two different things.

The two upper terraces in the garden will become “milpa” beds, also known as the “three sisters planting”, an old central American planting technique where you plant corn, beans and squash in the same area (hopefully the squash will survive…). The corn provides stability for the beans to grow on, the beans provide nutrition for the ground, and the squash protect the soil from drying out and being washed away. This was the little one’s idea and I must say, the idea of fresh corn on the cob is intriguing. So, cross your fingers for warmer weather and surviving squash (also the fucking slugs have been at it already. There’s a whole garden for them to eat, they can’t tell me they need to eat my squash).

Through my lens

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It’s been a while since I’ve been around, but I thought I’d pop in to say hello and let you know what’s up. Several weeks ago, Mr. V had a health crisis that’s kept me busier than usual. A lot busier, and I admit that I’ve been feeling stressed, exhausted and depressed. We’ve come through the worst of it, for now, but it’s left me feeling behind in just about everything, with worry nibbling at the edges of my days. Add to that the lingering grief of losing Jack, the fact that my best friend has moved to Nova Scotia and the continuing isolation of Covid, and it becomes a recipe for getting stuck in a not-so-good place.

It’s always been my vision to provide a positive type of blogging. This channel is full of serious writers who provide important content that I value, but what I have to offer is simpler. I want to share my vision of the beautiful, simple things in life that nurture us and give us reason to continue the fight for equality, justice and a livable planet. I think that has value, and I hope you do too. So, today I am kicking myself in the ass and saying enough of the feeling sorry for myself. It’s time to stop and lookup.

It’s Springtime, and tender green plants are being born. Colour is creeping into the grey landscape left behind by winter, and leaves are painting in the spaces between bare branches scratching at the sky. There’s a riot of green trailing streamers of red and yellow tulips, blue forget-me-nots, purple violets and pale blossoms of apple and plum. I’ve thrown open my windows, and the passing breezes bring in the sweet earthy scent of spring.

I’ve taken stock, and now it’s time to take a deep breath, count my blessings and with intention, begin again.

A Dandily One

Dandelions in the vegetable patch are a nuisance, but in the lawn, they are a delight to see. For me anyway. They bloom soon after snowdrops and narcissuses and continue to do so well into the fall. Thus they are an important source of food for bees, butterflies, and all other kinds of pollinators.

This is not the first dandelion of this year in my garden, but it is the first one with multiple blossoms opening at once. Unfortunately, there were no insects to be seen anywhere right now, although I did see bumblebee queens scouting the garden for nesting places.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

Spider Justice

It’s a fabulous shot from the camera of Avalus, who says

PZ’s post (Pharyngula) https://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2021/04/07/spider-deaths/ reminded me of a photo I took last weekend.

Tiny spider eats really big spider, somehow this really surprised me. I wonder how she was caught. The photo does not really give the bulk of the prey justice.

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That’s a great capture, Avalus. I apologize for the delay in posting it.

Tiny Vegetable Patch Inspectors

The inspectors are tiny, not the vegetable patch. That is quite huge (over 40 square meters). It took me 1 hour to plow it all and that knocked me out for two days. Now I am breaking the dirt lumps and making the beds for the veggies which I expect to keep me busy for a week. Last year we had only one huge patch with potatoes, this year it will be split into several small ones for peas, onions, beans, and cucumbers.

And today when I had my lunch break, several small birds came to inspect my handiwork and feast on earthworms and insects brought to the surface – the redstarts are back, a sure sign that spring has really begun. These birds never come to the feeder, they are strict insectivores and they really enjoy the vegetable patches after the rain or when the surface is disturbed.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

I assume that these are all black redstarts Phoenicurus ochruros, because those I usually see around here. But there might be some common redstarts Phoenicurus phoenicurus among these four pictures this time or even all of them. These are all females and those are hard to distinguish, species-wise, for me. Today was one of the rare instances when I have also seen male common redstart, but he, unfortunately, whooshed before I got him into focus.

Kites are Back and Tempting Again

Red kites returned from their winter vacation south and are circling our house daily. Regularly staying in one place just long enough that I manage to fetch my camera, but not long enough to take a picture. So this is a so-so picture from a few weeks ago. I also hear daily their typical cries, so even when I do not see them, I know they’re there, somewhere.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

Tits in Front of my Window

Not my window, but rather a window belonging to Avalus, who says,

Now I can finally make a tit-joke posting.
The pair just would not want to get close enough to each other. Cute little critters they are.
Also, a blackbird got in on the action.

©Avalus, All rights reserved.

©Avalus, All rights reserved.

©Avalus, All rights reserved.

©Avalus, All rights reserved.

The Gardening

As you may remember, we had some (did I say “some”) work done on our garden two years ago, which left the slopes left and right to the stairs in shambles. The effort I’d made towards terracing the left hand side (seen from the garden) was undone. Last year we spent spring with building a small plateau on the right hand side where we want to put up a lamp, a project that got mostly postponed due to the fact that our friend couldn’t come over to help us due to Covid restrictions. Also, getting the area ready to put up a pool took several weeks, so all in all the gardening season was mostly cancelled.

This year, we’re working on the left hand side which is my vegetable garden. Terracing the slope means working with those nice planting stones and I must say, by now I’m pretty good at it. This is how the project looks right now:

View of a garden slope with red planting stones in rows

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You can see several things here. Number one, our ground is pretty sandy. One year I tried to plant carrots and they simply didn’t manage to grow downwards. the good thing is that it keeps moisture in the depth really well (although the surface quickly resembles the Sahara). I’ll put a layer of gardening soil on top for the young plants. The lowest terrace will be planted with chillis. The second terrace, which you can only guess from this pic is between stone rows 3 and 4. That will be for sweet peppers. the rectangular stones at the side are for flowers. We need to put them there so the side with our to be demolished one day garage doesn’t slide into the veggie patches, as there is little growth there. Now for the bigger problem:

View of a garden and a house with stairs separating two slopes

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The garden is actually a two way slope, being much higher on the left hand side than the right hand side. the perspective of the image is a bit misleading. The terraces created so far are 2/3 of the depth, but only half of the height. After the next two rows of stones we’ll run into a problem: the terrain grows wider, the stairs turn to the right, creating a triangle that sits much lower than the left hand side, which is causing us a lot of headache. Our current idea is to keep the terraces six planting stones wide, and to create a drystone wall in that nasty triangle. If you have a better one, feel free to tell me. While it all looks pretty gloomy right now, it will be wonderful and a habitat for many little critters once we’re finished and the planting has begun. On the right you can see last year’s project. That side will remain “wild”, although I always throw flower seeds there because otherwise I#m ending up with a monoculture of goldenrod.

Speaking about critters: The wild bees are alternately very happy with us and very upset. Each time we move some earth they go “ohhhhhhh, loose earth, let’s go burrowing”, only for us to destroy it again. They still got the entire right hand side where whatever loose earth we put here stays put. Here’s an ashy mining bee for you:

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And, last, but not least, some of the residents to be. Sadly we’re having a really cold spell with solid frost overnight, which doesn’t allow to plant even the more robust plants outside, so my windowsills are being overgrown…

©Giliell, all rights reserved Butternut squash, already showing flower buds

©Giliell, all rights reserved Nasturtiums and sunflowers

©Giliell, all rights reserved Hokaido squash, Mexican Honey tomatoes, orange cocktail tomatoes, and on the left some sweet peppers

I also keep carrying some plants outside in the morning and inside at night. Hopefully we’ll have left the worst of the cold behind us, but it’s supposed to stay grey and cool throughout the next week.

Birds on Snow

I will post some pretty birds from this winter in due course. So the weather in the pictures will not always correspond to the actual weather out here.

However, these pictures were taken today. The winter tried to reclaim the land and we had several days of wind, snow, and freezing temperatures. I do hope that the seeds that I have planted in the greenhouse survived.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size