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

©Giliell, all rights reserved

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

©Giliell, all rights reserved

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:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

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

Greenfinches

These grumpy-looking beauties used to be pretty common, coming to the feeder in flocks of over ten. Last year I have only seen one over the course of the whole winter. This year they returned, although not in as big flocks as previously.

All birds of genus Carduelis were rare last year, allegedly afflicted by some virus.

© 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

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size

 

 

The Art of …

… styling hair, by Macedonian artist Trendafilka Kirova

Today’s art comes from a story at My Modern Met. If you’re interested, you can see more of Kirova’s work at that link or at the artist’s Instagram, Trendafilka Kirova.

Braiding by Trendafilka Kirova. Image from My Modern Met

Braiding by Trendafilka Kirova. Image from My Modern Met

Braiding by Trendafilka Kirova. Image from My Modern Met

Braiding by Trendafilka Kirova. Image from My Modern Met

Braiding by Trendafilka Kirova. Image from My Modern Met

Breaking Ice

A photo today from the end of February. Avalus found a bit of broken ice and tells us,

really comically broken ice. I don’t know why but I really find it funny.

©Avalus, All rights reserved.

Now that my world is turning green again, I can say with a smile that ice is very photogenic, and this patch reminds me of Charlie Brown’s jagged striped shirt.

Crowblocked!

I have a fifty tits of grey post lined up, but a quick interlude about predators, social birds, and cooperation.

I think I didn’t mention it here, but this winter, I started leaving walnuts out for the crows – leftovers from years past that we found in the storage room, but still good. To be honest, this started when I noticed a ragtag group of corvids (crows, jays and magpies – not explaining the word ‘corvid’, all three were members of this loose affiliation of walnut aficionados) eating the few nuts we had straight from the tree. It was a small crop anyway, so I don’t feel too bitter about it…

Getting rid of the evidence on the neighbours’ roof…
(c) rq, all rights reserved

Thief, caught red-beaked. (c) rq, all rights reserved

Just taking a stroll… (c) rq, all rights reserved

Anyway, I started feeding them through the cold snowy months, and while the jays and magpies haven’t been sticking around, there’s a small flock of 4 or 5 crows (family group?) that regularly cleans out the (much cheaper, if buying) peanuts.

[Read more…]

Bumblebee Rescue!

The weather has been a rollercoaster these last weeks, with 20° four weeks ago and light snow over the last few days. What’s more, the weather changes every 10 minutes and 500 metres. And all of this while the first bumblebees are out, seeking nectar from the first flowers. Then they get hit by the snow and almost freeze to death. If I find them, I take them in for a snack and some warmth. They are gentle creatures and will snuggle in your hand.

Click for cute!

Look at that tongue! Like a flying ant eater.