Marmalade, Walking and a bit of DIY – 8 July 2021

Since the morning was a bit dull, Scamp suggested we water the garden.

Sounded sensible. Why do we always wait until the sun goes down before we get the hose out. If the sun isn’t coming out to play, then there’s no chance of the plants getting burned by the water from the hose. Apparently that’s why you should never water plants in direct sunlight. Whether that applies in Scotland is not proven.

We dug the hose out and I started on the front garden, the easy one. Not so many plants and they are nicely arranged around the edge of the grass whereas at the back there are sometimes three rows of pots, one in front of the other. When I was done, Scamp took over and watered the back garden. She also managed to water the kitchen floor, but we won’t go into that here. When we were done and were putting the hose away, I unplugged the gun end from the hose carrier and that’s when Scamp had a good idea. Why don’t we put up a hook in the bin shed and hang the gun end of the hose on that.

I dug out my cheapo Black & Decker drill with the Ni Cd batteries that are always flat when you want to use them. Just to prove me wrong, today they had held their charge from about three weeks ago and proceeded to drill a couple of holes in the wall of the bin shed. I don’t know why that wall is made from. I don’t know what the wall was made from, but it was hard and quite thin. Probably a cement tile. Of course the holes were too small for the plastic plugs. So I carefully checked and got a drill that would do the job without being too big, just a nice tight fit. Put the first screw in and it started turning the plastic plug because the wall was too thin to grip the plastic. For some reason the other screw went in fine. After tightening the first screw by hand It was feeling a bit more secure. It was only meant to hold a coil of hose anyway so it would be fine. I haven’t checked it, but I’ve not heard any crashes from the bin shed, so perhaps for once my DIY skills have won the day.

After lunch we walked down to The Shops to get some veg and stuff for tonight’s dinner which was to be a Veggie Sausage Roll for Scamp and a Mince Pie for me. Both of them home made.

After we came back Scamp started the ironing and I took the Sony for a walk in St Mo’s. It was going to be a Beastie Day. There were lots of Soldier Beetles on the cow parsley and a strange little thin bodied moth with equally narrow wings. I didn’t quite get a clear shot of it, but I’ll keep my eye out for it now. PoD went to a Marmalade Hoverfly, named for the lovely orange coloured stripes on its body, I presume.

We had a dance practise tonight and went over the Waltz, Catherine Waltz, Tango and Bossa Nova. A bit of hesitation with the Catherine Waltz where I forgot how to do the Telemark Turn and Scamp misplaced a couple of Spin Turns, but otherwise not bad.

Tomorrow I’m waiting in for coffee and tea to be delivered. I discovered back in May that I had oodles of points I could use a the Perth coffee shop, so today’s purchase came to just over £7! If the delivery comes early we may go out somewhere.

The Dewdrop goes out – 6 July 2021

It was a much better day than we anticipated.

Scamp was off for coffee with Isobel in the morning and I wasn’t invited. I wasn’t particularly bothered by the non-invite because I had my own plans for the day.

I’d planned that if the day was set fair, I’d take Dewdrop out for a spin. Just a short run, nothing too strenuous because I’ve not been cycling since about September last year and I wasn’t entirely sure I’d remember how to ‘go a bike’. It was easy. Dewdrop was docile and put up with me missing gears and struggling with the SPD plates on my shoes. We soon covered the 3 miles I’d earmarked as our first day out in 2021.

I had to lift the bike over a five bar gate on to the rutted old path alongside the railway. I didn’t get all the way along the path because I could see in the distance a JCB working near the end and as this path is technically private land I didn’t want to have to explain my intentions. Those intentions were to get some insect photos. So I cut my journey short and went looking for something less interesting, but still photographable.

I found it. The ‘It’ in question was a Burnet Moth and not just one, there were hundreds of them some, three to a flower. I think they were 5 Spot although they may be 6 Spot. It’s difficult to tell because the spots sometimes merge and also somtimes you get misled and find you’re counting a spot on the underwing.  Burnet moths are day flying insects and despite their startling appearance, aren’t all that rare. However they only seem to appear around here for a few days. I must just have hit it lucky today. I grabbed a few shots of course.

The other strange sight was a black slug emerging from a puddle where it had been completely submerged. As far as I could remember, slugs can’t breathe underwater, but this one was crawling along the bottom of the puddle, before it hauled itself out and then crawled over to another puddle to cross it head just above the water. Such a strange sight. I took photos … of course (on Flickr), but now I think about it, I should have taken a short video too. Is this the true origin of the Loch Ness Monster?  Is Nessie a gigantic slug?

When I got home, Scamp was back from her ‘coffee’ outing, although she said there seemed to be very little actual coffee in her cup. Maybe it was a ‘babychino’ rather than a latte.

After lunch Scamp started defrosting the freezer. It was my fault. Last night I didn’t close the door properly after I took the last of the ice cream out. The door stayed open until Scamp was going to bed around 11pm. That would mean it was gently losing its ice for about five hours. When we opened the door this morning it looked as if Frosty the Snowman had been in the freezer all night. Everything was covered in a layer of white frost. The freezer was needing defrosted anyway, so this was the incentive we needed. That’s one way of looking at it, anyway. After about an hour this afternoon with both of us taking turns at the defrosting process it was deemed clear enough to restart the freeze process. We put back about 60% of the contents. The rest were either too old to be worth keeping or Scamp didn’t think they were safe to refreeze. I’ll check next and every time and close that freezer door properly now.

Scamp made dinner tonight, a Prawn & Pea Risotto. Really lovely. Just enough mint in it to flavour the peas without overwhelming the whole thing.

We had a quick dance practise tonight just to make sure we can do the basic rumba, cha-cha and foxtrot. After a bit of discussion we came to agree on the correct moves in the correct places!

Tomorrow we may go out for a walk if the weather stays dry. It almost stayed dry today, just a little shower to remind us it was still there.

 

 

No thunder, just rain – 5 July 2021

Rain and lots of it for most of the day.

We kept waiting for the rain to go off, but it just kept coming. Sometimes light, sometimes a bit heavier, but generally just a constant drizzle that, while good for the garden, wasn’t much good for photography.

Eventually after lunch I did make the decision to go out and try my luck because the rain had nearly stopped. While I was walking, my camera, in my bag, managed to take over 100 shots of the inside of the bag. That’s what happens when you forget to switch off the camera. Then you wonder why you have no space on your SD card and also why your battery is nearly flat. However, under MY control the camera did manage to take a few decent shots. My favourite, and PoD, was the close up of the bluebottle. If you ever wonder why you can’t sneak up on a bluebottle, take a look at those eyes. The compound eyes of flies are made up from thousands of individual receptors each one covering a slightly different, but overlapping area. So what the fly ‘sees’ is the world around it as a mosaic built up from all those thousands of cells, covering nearly 360º in every direction.

Watched an old film on iPlayer tonight Down Among the Big Boys (1993) starring Billy Connolly and Douglas Henshall. Great fun trying to work out where all the street scenes were filmed and also trying to work out who some of the bit player were. Silly story line, but interesting enough for a Monday night.

Tomorrow Scamp has a coffee appointment with Isobel and I’ve got the morning off. It might be dry, the weather fairies say, so I might get out somewhere scenic for a change … might!

 

 

In hot water – 29 June 2021

It wasn’t just the water that was hot, the thermometer was reading nearly 20º just after 8.30am

Yesterday we had a problem with the water boiler that is our kettle. The switch that’s meant to release the lid wasn’t working and the lid wouldn’t open. After poking around inside the lid, it seemed that the spring that lifts the lid had broken. To fix it would mean disassembling the entire boiler. The only thing to do would be to get a new one.

After a bit of browsing, it appears that water boilers aren’t all that popular. We bought the original one about ten years ago, we think. We thought they would be ten a penny now, but it seems that only Breville sell them, at least in the UK. In Australia they really are ten a penny (or Australian cent 😉). However, we both really like the idea of a kettle that delivers just one cup of boiling water, so we ordered one from Currys in Coatbridge. That gave us the opportunity to spend some time walking in the woods of Drumpellier while we waited for the text to say that the Breville was ready to pick up.

It was a lovely day for a walk in the woods. Warm with just the hint of a breeze. Definitely shorts and tee shirt weather and that’s what we were both wearing. We walked a few of our well trodden paths and basically I forgot all about Currys until we were walking back to the ice cream van and from there to the car with an ice cream cone each. Then I noticed we’d been told we were good to go.

Picked up the box from Currys and then stopped at M&S in Coatbridge to get some stuff to make dinner tonight which was going to be either two small quiches or one large one. It turned out to be one large one and one small one. Salmon, Broccoli and Potatoes in the big one and Bacon, Cheese and Tomatoes in the small one. We’ll be eating them all week, probably. We stopped at Aldi on the way home, because Scamp had tasted Bramble and Raspberry Gin at the witches day yesterday and liked it. I got a bottle and also a few cans of beer, because, as Scamp said, it was a beer day.

Back home we plugged in the water boiler and filled it up, then rejected the first two litres, refilled it and Scamp had a coffee from it. Later I had a cup of tea and it was awful. Chemical, or maybe more correctly, plastic tasting. I washed the reservoir out a few times and the taste partly disappeared. I hope it’s still gone tomorrow or Currys will be getting their Breville back.

I went for a walk in St Mo’s with the macro lens on the Sony. Took about 80 photos of beasties, half of which were rejected in the first cull. Then a few more littered the cutting room floor after a second look. PoD went to a Common Blue butterfly. You may wonder where the ’Blue’ comes from. It’s only when it opens its wings you see that the inside surfaces are a beautiful blue. You might notice that it’s dicing with death because there are quite a few spider webs spun between the flowers. Oh yes, and I got a bonus greenfly too.

When I returned we assembled the two quiches and while they were baking in the oven we headed out to the garden and had a glass of the Bramble and Raspberry Gin. It tasted to me like an alcoholic mixture of Vimto and Ribena. That’s the closest I can make it. Quite refreshing on a hot day like today, but as this is a weekday, only one glass was allowed.

That was about it for today. Hopefully the One Cup water boiler will settle down and the taste of plastic tea will be but a bad memory.

Tomorrow, Scamp is booked for a walk with Veronica and I may take the bike out.

 

Off the leash – 28 June 2021

Scamp was off the leash today, off to a witches meeting. That left me with a day to fill and what a day it was shaping up to be.  It was going to be a scorcher.

I didn’t even have to drive her to Denny, she had a lift already arranged with Jeanette. After she left, I got the Dewdrop down from its winter pasture in the front room and after a bit of a struggle, got the tyres pumped up. A quick spray of WD40 on the chain and we were good to go, and we would have gone, but first I wanted a photo or two, so it was off to St Mo’s with the macro lens on the Sony.

The warmth in the last few days has brought on a hatch of lots of insects, but so far, no dragonflies. We still seem to be running a few weeks behind last year’s numbers. There’s nothing we can do about it, it’s just a case of making the best of the opportunities that are available. Available today were Damselflies, Soldier Beetles, Lacewings and a Grasshopper. As well as the insects there was an interesting branch of dried leaves to photograph. Yes, I can see the rolling of the eyes. Let’s just say it’s a photogs thing. The Grasshopper, because it’s such an unusual insect to find in St Mo’s, won PoD. The rest of the menagerie, and the branch are available to peruse on Flickr.

I even managed to include a quick visit to the shops halfway through my photo safari and got the ingredients for a stir-fry which would make a change from pasta on a Monday. When I got home, there was the Dewdrop looking a bit sad because I’d been off playing in St Mo’s and it hadn’t had its run. The first run of the year! Possibly tomorrow. Because I didn’t know if Scamp was needing a run home from Denny, I settled myself with my audio book and a glass of apple juice in the garden and enjoyed the peace and quiet for an hour.

When Scamp arrived home we shared a bottle of Bitter & Twisted, one of my best favourite beers. She took over my garden seat and I started dinner. This stir-fry thing is great. No real skill needed. Chop up the protein (chicken) and fry it. Chuck in some veg and fry it. Chuck in some noodles and some of the sauce and heat it through. Bingo, almost instant dinner.

Beautiful sky tonight. It started off gold and gradually segued through hot orange into pink. It was much more complex than that with at least three different layers of cloud, all changing shapes and colours at different rates.

Tomorrow looks even hotter than today. More Shorts and Tee Shirts and maybe a drive somewhere.

Dad’s Day – 20 June 2021

A lovely day for Father’s Day.

A fairly relaxed start to the day, waiting for the Zoom call at 1pm. Unfortunately I got a message from Hazy, who had organised the Zoom call, to say she wasn’t feeling well and would speak to me later in the week. That was a pity, but some things cannot be avoided.

I was having lamb neck fillet for dinner and it needed a bit of preparation. Crushed Rosemary, Pepper Corns, a Garlic Clove, some Thyme, a pinch of Salt and a drop or two of Olive Oil in a mortar and pestle. Then rubbed the mixture into the meat which was left to marinade in the fridge. With the messy stuff done I could concentrate on typing up more of the blogs from the last few days. Then I needed a walk, so I took the Sony and the macro lens for a walk in St Mo’s.

There wasn’t much sun in the afternoon and as a result not a lot of insect activity. I focused (no pun intended) on some tiny wee flies sitting on grass flowers and also on some umbellifers like wild carrot. The one that became PoD was the wee fly on the grass stem, mainly because it was Scamp’s favourite.

Back home Scamp was tidying up after her flowers! The massive flower heads of the peony roses in her latest bunch of cut flowers were casting all over the floor. Such beautiful flowers leaving such a beautiful carpet of white everywhere. They really should be more careful!

Soon it was time to start the dinner. Scamp was having Trout as her main and we were both sharing potatoes and cabbage. I used my fancy grill pan because the lamb had to be browned first on the hob and then cooked in the oven. Both meals turned out fine.

Dancing tonight started with a Rumba One then a jive version of the same thing. Next was the Foxtrot with its complicated (for me) step routines. We just don’t have enough space to complete the dance. Not enough length and not enough width in the living room. However, I think if we practise the new part of the routine we might be able to fit it in to the space we have available. A quick reprise of the Cha-Cha finished off the torture lesson for tonight.

Spoke to JIC later and complimented him on his strawberries. We might get two berries form our hanging baskets this year. Not a lot else happening down south, it seems.

Watched a F1 GP from Paul Ricard circuit in France that started with a mistake by Verstappen and ended with a tactical error by Mercedes. Between those events it was a pretty dull race, but an exciting finish by Verstappen was worth waiting for.

Tomorrow we’re getting our next four-weekly visit from the lady who offers us the chance to stick a cotton bud down our throat and up our nose. Oh what fun!

A dull Saturday – 12 June 2021

Not a day for doing much or going anywhere, although it did brighten up later.

Scamp did a bit of tidying up in the garden and moved some plants around to give them more sun and also to put them in places where they could be seen better. I deadheaded some of the aquilegia plants to, hopefully force them to produce more flowers. Scamp also cut the grass at the front and edged it I am now reminded!

We had the other half of yesterday’s quiche for lunch. I think I prefer it cold, while Scamp definitely prefers it hot. After lunch I took the camera for a walk in St Mo’s. Snapped a few damselflies, but because I hadn’t lifted the macro lens, none of them were acceptably in focus. I walked out behind St Mo’s school and disturbed a bit dragonfly. It flew around for a while before almost crashing into me. It seemed to perch in a tree, but when I looked I couldn’t find it. PoD turned out to be a little fragile looking damselfly that seemed to be playing hide and seek with me hiding behind a stem. Every time I moved, it moved too. I took some photos of it and left it to its game.

When I cropped the damselfly photo in Lightroom later, it was really a small image. However, this new Lightroom has the ability to enlarge a photo to four times it original size without losing definition. That’s what I did. The process is called ‘Enhance’ and that’s what it does. It takes a fair bit of processing power to do it and the PoD took almost 30 seconds. The wait was worth it, because the quality is quite amazing.

We walked over to Condorrat tonight to pick up a Golden Bowl dinner we’d ordered. Two Chicken Chop Suey and two Fried Rice. Just as good as it always is. It’s great that some things don’t change in this world.

After dinner, Scamp and I watered the garden, just the front garden and just with watering cans. If the warm dry weather continues we may hose back and front gardens tomorrow night. We had a quick practise later for tomorrow’s class. The routines are a bit rough, but we have most of the steps in the right place.

No plans for tomorrow. We’ll see what the weather brings us.

 

A busy day – 7 June 2021

Scamp was off to meet her sister. I was head gardener for a while.

Lots of things I could have been doing, but I chose to put my free time to good use and scrubbed out the bird bath then refilled it. My chilli plants have been desperate for more space and some real compost, not the floor sweepings B&Q seem to think they can foist off as ‘peat free’. What is this sudden panic to make everything peat free? Crofters up north have been digging it up, drying it out and burning it in their fireplaces for centuries. Suddenly they are virtually criminals because apparently that peat has been storing carbon and saving the planet. It seems strange to me that all these activists use the same terms like “locking away the carbon”. It’s as if this new jargon explains everything, when in actual fact it’s more like The King’s New Clothes. Everyone seems afraid to ask them what that means in Topsy and Tim language. How does it lock it away? Where does the peat put the carbon? I think it’s all smoke and mirrors, but probably not peat smoke. Anyway, I used some general purpose compost which may or may not have peat in it and the chillies are probably better off in it than in the B&Q floor sweepings. Rant over. After that I soaked the plants in the bird bath, muddying the water and undoing all the good work I’d done there.

Before I started the gardening I’d made a pizza dough and left it to prove in the warm living room. When Scamp came home I’d just finished rolling and stretching some of the dough to a rough circle and put it into the proving oven (the grill that had been preheated for about five minutes) to puff up. It was just a simple tomato base with extra chopped up fresh tomatoes and some grated mozzarella on top. Baked for about fifteen minutes at gas 6 – that was just a reminder for me. It was very successful.

Next Scamp wanted to wash her car, but couldn’t reach the roof, so I did that and then gave it all a bit of a soapy wash while Scamp scrubbed off the sticky sugary stuff that drips from the trees in late spring. Then I set up the hose for her to wash it all off and started on my car. It made sense to just get it all done at the same time. Thank you Bobby Flavell for the use of your outside tap again.

With the cars sparkling in the sun, Scamp decided to water the garden. Easier to use our own water for that, so I fixed up the hose and let her get on with it while I went for a walk in St Mo’s. Not a lot of movement, but one little Common Blue damselfly sat and watched me while I carefully dragged my camera out of the bag and took its picture a few times.

After dinner the Amazon man dropped off a parcel I’d ordered last night. It was a Samyang Lens Station. Basically the 18mm lens I use on the Sony camera is crap at focusing. However, Samyang will sell you a piece of kit that connects your lens through the computer to their website where you can download a new firmware file that will improve the focusing. It’s a neat scam and it certainly works! Thankfully, so did the lens afterwards, because I’d read horror stories on websites to the effect that the software could wreck your lens. Maybe it could, but it only improved mine. I’ll do a field test tomorrow just to make sure.

Finally wrote to my brother. The last email I sent him was in March! So much going on? Not really, just bad time management on my part. Must get better organised.

The last thing to do on a busy day was to have a quick dance practise just to make sure that the muscle memory was working properly. It was, after a false start!

No plans for tomorrow. We’re waiting to see what the weather will be like.

Wall to Wall sunshine – 6 June 2021

Long may it last, even if we do have to water the garden!

After lunch we went for a walk round St Mo’s pond and stood watching the damselflies. I managed to capture one or two of them, or it could be that I caught the same one once or twice. Who knows with damselflies, they all look the same, don’t they? Well maybe not, because occasionally you can spot slight differences in their wing structure, some also have defects that mark them as different from the rest, just like humans, I suspect. Anyway, I was using the Sony camera and the Sigma macro lens and I did manage to get a PoD.

From St Mo’s we went down to Broadwood Stadium to extend our walk and take in the exercise machines path, then back across the dam through the houses and the underpass before climbing the long steep hill to St Mo’s school and then home. Not a bad walk. Later I wanted to see if any dragonflies had appeared, so I went for a short walk over to the pond, but there was no sign of life and it was getting late in the afternoon, so I headed home, because tonight was a dance class and I didn’t want to be in a rush to get dinner made and get a quick practise in. I needn’t have worried, Scamp was on the ball and had my burger cooking while her scallops were waiting their turn to go in the other pan.

Dance class tonight started with Mambo Marina which is a fairly old sequence dance that we learned months ago, but of course I’d forgotten bits of it. A quick reprise from Scamp and I was good to go. The Foxtrot was going to be next and it was nowhere near as easy as the MM. Lots of little tricky bits to it and we couldn’t agree on the correct footwork, but Jane and Stewart soon ironed out our problems and it was plain sailing after that. Last part of tonight’s lesson was the Cha-Cha. It is such an energy sapping dance. Most of the moves are fine, but it’s that little cha-cha step that has to be done right to keep in the tempo of the dance, that’s the problem. However, we managed to get it completed without too much trouble. We sat in the garden to cool down after that with a couple of beers. It really was a beautiful night.

Spoke to JIC later and got the low down on house hunting in and around Cambridge, Simonne’s run today and how JIC’s ankle injury is doing. Gave him some sage advice from his gran on how to prevent birds from eating all his veg. Black thread was her secret weapon. I imagine it works equally well with English sparrows as it did with Scottish ones! I hope so anyway.

Watched a Crash – Bang, Baku GP. Not driver errors this time, but tyre failures. More like Wacky Races than a GP!

Tomorrow morning Scamp is off to have coffee with June. I’m hoping to finish my epistle to Alex.

Coffee for three – 4 June 2021

For the first time in ages we had a quorum when the call went out for coffee.

Scamp was away first to meet Veronica for a walk around Broadwood Loch. I was next, away to meet Val for coffee. We had barely sat down when Colin joined us. I’d missed his reply to my email invitation. For the first time in ages most of us were available. Fred had to call off as he was taking his wife to a hospital appointment. As you can imagine, discussions were wide ranging and interesting but without politics rearing its ugly head. Time just flew by and it was Val who had to leave first to meet his wife to go shopping. That seemed to break the spell and we all left to go our separate ways.

Back home and after lunch, Scamp drove us up to Tesco and we did a bit of shopping. Just essentials today, although I did get a few bottles of beer and Scamp selected a suitable bottle of wine, oh yes, and some ice cream. Like I said, just the essentials.

Back home, I grabbed the Sony with its big, heavy, slow macro lens, put it in a small rucksack and went over to St Mo’s on a damsel-hunt. I couldn’t find anything worth taking the camera out of its bag for, but wandered round the pond and then tried again. Immediately I found a couple of Large Red damselflies sitting on the upstand of the boardwalk. Took a few shots, then went looking for a dragonfly or two, but none were there to be found today. Walked back and found the two damselflies were now joined in the mating position with the male grasping the female at the back of her head. They sat quite patiently and gave me the opportunity to get some detailed photos. The Sigma 105mm may be big, heavy and slow to focus, but it really does resolve a lot of detail when it gets the chance. The mating pair became PoD. The rucksack makes it much easier to carry heavy kit like the Sony/Sigma pair although it is a bit more awkward to get quick access to the camera compared to the black Lowepro sling bag.

Scamp went out to sit and read in the garden later while I made Paella for dinner. It turned out really well although I hadn’t done anything different to what I’d done many times before. It’s probably just an extra gram or two of spice or herbs that tilts the flavour enough to make things taste different.

Tomorrow we may go out to get some more compost for the rhododendron and I may shovel some more earth on the potatoes which are showing their green leaves above the soil again.