Tag Archives: insects

Snails, slippers and impromptu haircuts

Even grey mornings have their special charm when seen through the eyes of a three-year old with new wellies. Mab bless her for keeping the cheeriness quota up in the house.

The weather this year seems to have prompted a snail and slug population boom. Luckily my total lack of garden lovin’ ensures there is plenty of weedy greenery to go round.

This pleases Ida immensely and her garden investigating in between showers involves collecting the various hues and sizes of shelled molluscs. That and woodlouse herding, marigold petal picking and making secret paths in the grass which is nearly as high as her.

Other news from this place here include the successful antibiotic choice to see off the infection in my less bad hip (in that there’s still a socket) AND cortisone injections – very successful and welcome. Whoo hoo.

My mood is taking a while to bounce back up. I’m biding my time as experience tells me it’ll eventually get back on board. Until then my world has shrunk to the bare basics. I’m still spotting BT’s but the whole system feels a bit forced and creaky… still in action though.

Fathers day was  happy, Steve worked but opened cards and presents before he left and came home to a feast of jerk chicken, plantains, dirty rice, festivals and mango salsa.

It’s a pleasure cooking with Zeph now – he’s a genuine help, in fact he made the festivals and the mango salsa completely solo. Ida watches, stirs and chops herbs and a mushroom which didn’t really get used but occupied her for at least 30 mins. All we need now is a bigger kitchen…

We had a pleasurable couple of afternoons beforehand painting cards and sewing slippers; 

 

We bought the plain cheap slippers and decorated them ourselves with various beloved mini beasts including, of course:

Yesterday I did a hack job on my hair. Never a good idea – I just got incredibly cross when brushing out the dreadlocky knots I’d let build up and cut off my pony tail with the sewing scissors. Luckily Ida was elsewhere as this is NOT an example I should set her as I’m constantly finding little golden locks where she’s been unable to resist the swishing sounds she loves so much.

I did neaten it up but judging from the hair on the floor I reckon I cut off about two-thirds of the length and did anyone (including my nearest and dearest) notice?

Did they bleeding heck. Which leads me to conclude that no-one sees me.

Of course it could be because I mostly wear it scraped back and twisted up so no bugger has any idea what it looks like down anyway.

I suppose I should just be glad we don’t have any clippers in the house as it could have been so much worse.

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Wild garden

 Well all this lying around and being sorry for myself has had quite serious garden consequences…

It’s hard to mind too much when it looks so very lovely and the jungliness makes the kids so very happy. Still I feel  there is a happier balance to be achieved though possibly I’ve missed the window this year…

I can’t get over how fecund the plum-tree is

 

Can you say fecund about trees? Bearing in mind last year we had ONE solitary plum. I realise they’ll be a drop but even so we should get into double figures at least.

My valiant little apple tree is covered in fruit as well. Ida and I spent half an hour crouched in the waist-high couch grass surrounding  it yesterday. The amount of humming, buzzing hoverfly and bee life was astounding.

I am particularly fond of the vividly striped hoverflies who vibrate pugnaciously just in front of your face then dart off, satisfied you’ve been suitably quelled. There are so many different kinds we try to count them and Zeph’s collins gem proves utterly inadequate.

Lying on our backs we see bumble bees with white and red bottoms as well as a huge yellow, black and gingery striped one. Watching it ponderously investigate the opening foxgloves I genuinely wonder how it is flying. This is exactly the kind of bee Arrietty dreamed about flying on with plenty of bristly fur to hold onto. Ida amuses herself mightily by saying “No teeth Mrs Tittlemouse, no teeth!” and making spitting sounds holding her sides as she dissolves into mirthful chuckles. She is in just knickers with grass seeds in her hair. We’re trying not to attract the attention of the nice Ukrainians in the churchyard next door who have spent more than the usual amount of time leaning between their immaculate manicured conifers and shaking their heads at the chaos over here. It’s taken me half an hour to persuade her to keep her knickers on and I have no strength for anything else.

When she heaves with laughter I can still see all her ribs but she has a definite tummy now and her legs don’t go out at the knees anymore so I feel better. Down here we have a perfect view of ants and ladybirds going about their business. A tiny yellow spotted beauty sits on the end of her finger for at least a minute before shaking out crumpled silk wings from under it’s spotty overcoat and circling up into the sky.

There are sparrows nesting in our eaves and their fledglings hop all over the rubbish stacked up in the courtyard. Brash and noisy they skim over our heads and tumble from fence to rosebush. I have triple belled the cat and she sits on a branch of the laurel tree pretending their high jinks are of no interest to her whatsoever. She punishes me with a taloned paw unexpectedly in my face as I run up the stairs at bedtime. Thrumming with malicious triumph from behind the banister she stalks off tail lashing meaningfully.  

When we venture down to the compost heap there are three gleaming slow worms twined lordlike on the top of the heap. Fat and gleaming their black unforked tongues taste the air and they blink placidly at us. None of them have tails. They are surviving victims of Mittens joyful tossing of them into the air. Here they are safe from her juggling endeavors and supplied by a never-ending all you can eat smorgasboard of insect delight.

They must be breeding as we constantly find little elver like baby ones, squirming their golden way over the path and through the grass. Bare foot and delighted Ida makes an early joke -” They should be called fast worms!” Delighted she chortles and repeats it  until it descends into a squabble with her exasperated brother.

There is a tiny frog in the washbowl pond. Smooth skinned and lightning fast he crouches under the watermint which has vastly outgrown the space. It needs thinning. I add it to the list.

Here is a bud on the peony. There were more but they rotted in the wet and neglect. This one is at the top of the bush and I feel hopeful.  My wisteria is not dead as I feared, just a little overwhelmed. I clear it some space and add some compost to the base. As well as some volcanic ash my mum assures me will make a big difference. I suspect her of muttering a desperate blessing over it. The plants need all the help they can get…

Hollyhocks

It was Zeph’s parents evening tonight. It is ridiculous to still feel uncomfortable sitting outside a classroom at my age. It’s also really hard not to assume your children are like you. I mean – I know they are their own people – just some things strike such resonant chords with me that I instantly award him the rest of my remembered woes. Clearly not the case as he already has better social skills at eight than I do.

Never mind all that – my hollyhocks have finally unfurled;

 Ignore the rusty leaves. In fact this clump is so rusty that most of the leaves have fallen off and there are just spikes of promising buds. 

 Ignore the poor savaged conifer in the background, it was not me. It belongs to the ukrainian catholic church next door who are very tidy and lean on my fence and sigh at the weeds.

 These are the sherbert lemon ones. Not the best photo known to man but things conspire against me you know. I prefer the more open flower and so do the bees, this clump is covered in humming loveliness.

Also very rusty. Oh well. These two clumps are towering over my little garden and I love it. If you lie on the ground they soar up into the sky like church towers and you can hear the vibrating bees. So worth the enormous clumps of leaves which shelter masses of snails. I hanker after delphiniums as well but they never seem to survive my rapacious mollusc population whereas the spiky leaved hollyhocks do quite well. I never seem to succeed with seedlings – maybe I should beg a well established clump from someone instead.

I finish my flowery interlude with a shot of the last lily which is doing its wholehearted best to compensate for the other sad, lost, beetle-gobbled stumps.  

 The scent this sunny evening from just one bloom made me feel all giddy. You can’t ask more than that.

Homecoming Frog Princess

Oh I’m missing posting everyday.

I know it’s important to keep things in perspective but writing every day felt really good. I might start-up another internal resolution. Although I’m not bending on the to-do lists. Much better to just do something. For me anyway – the girl who devoted a day to the most complex multi layered revision schedule you could ever dream of then never wasted a second actually revising.

It’s been flying ant day here on the grey streets of Tredworth. We went swimming after school and ants got stuck to my wet hair on the way home. I tried to embrace the BT aspect of all living things blah blah blah. I just don’t like outsized ants in my hair. Sue me.

Zeph found it all very funny. He had a school trip today to Cotswold Farm Park and was full of chat about the animals he’d seen and got to hold. Bubbling over with excitement he showed us what he’d got in the gift shop. (The pinnacle of any eight yr olds outing.) Two snap band bracelets with little beanie animals on – one lizard and a frog one for Ida.

I was really touched that he’d thought of her (although he did point out he was the actual overall owner – even though Ida could wear it all the time – all about the rules kids…) She was ecstatic with joy. It took five full minutes of persuasion for me to get her to leave it in the locker while we swam.

“frogs doooo go in water mum.”

“not beanie ones.”

She’s wearing it now in bed. It’s a frog, it’s glittery green, you snap it onto your arm, if you put it on your head you can say you’re a frog princess like in Bagpuss, Zeph gave it to her. Things don’t get better than this.

Sometimes I feel so insubstantial in the world. When you watch someone you care about hurting and there’s nothing you can do or say to lessen the pain. Just wait by their side as they move through it. Today, watching my children, I felt like I’d helped build this happy joyousness. That I’d made room in the world for this love.

Felt pretty good. Ants or no ants.

June garden wandering

Once again my garden is being swallowed by the implacable advance of bindweed. This year I feel surprisingly relaxed about that. My gardening vigour moves in cycles. I have periods of vigilance and enthusiasm which wanes and then waxes. I’m moving up into a wax now but have still enjoyed the recent waning.

What slow meandering with cups of tea in the brief dry moments has revealed is how much small busy wildlife there is among the weeds. We are very abundant in small glistening beetles, wolf spiders hefting around their eggsacks, ladybirds, grasshoppers, leaf beetles pretending to be vogon spaceships, ants casting out new trails and milking the aphids on the tips of my tree branches. There are plenty of toads and slow worms avoiding the cat and sheltering under the piece of corrugated metal we found in a skip down the road and rescued for them. Snails, grey ones and the fancy yellow kind weave silvery trails and hang like baubles from their daytime resting places. There is a pearly white crab spider on the poppies by the swing, we tease it with a blade of grass and it rears up and waves its front legs menacingly. The only thing I actively crunch are the red lily beetles. They’ve decimated my lily clumps. I took this picture of my only lily buds (I had about thirty flowers last year…)

 Look, I’ve missed two in the photo I took. They are cocking a snook for sure. Beautifully scarlet – they don’t have any natural predators in the garden, except for me and my heartless crushing foot. As you can see I’m actually pretty slack in the slaughter…

This fabulously alien lurker is a very welcome ladybird larvae. The bindweed at the end of the garden is covered in them. Another reason to appreciate it.The fleeting field poppies arch between and over all the garden debris. Even though the petals are whisked quickly away the seed heads are things of sculptural beauty.  

As well as the poppy seed heads Ida and I admire the foxglove seed whorls. Their purple spikes are pretty much over but my hollyhock clumps are gathering themselves for blooming;

Marigolds are on the brink of opening up their burning orange petals;

My unpromising patch of lambs ear is surprisingly pretty when it flowers;

 I’m going to do a bit of bindweed unsmothering tomorrow and plant the rest of the pumpkin seedlings. If I have the will after early morning swimming with the kids I’m going to try sawing down the ash sucker sapling growing out of the side of the conservatory. I’m pretty sure it’s bad for the house… although I do like the leaves… after all weeds are just plants in the wrong place.

Flowery thoughts

Never mind green fingers – I am green with envy. My parents are, at this very moment, wandering around the Chelsea Flower show. I hope they’re having a great time. On Saturday, the last time I saw them, I kept interrupting the talk over our meal with blurted injunctions to make sure they look at things. Mostly in the show tents because I never see them on the TV coverage. They always swoop past the stands in a tantalizing fashion before focusing on Titchmarsh wittering on. Gah.

Steve is hoping my Dad may snap under the pressure of the crowds and go for him [A.T.] with a bamboo cane or whatever sharp object is to hand.

Does this mean I’m irredeemably middle-aged? Daydreaming about flower shows and banks of pristine alliums and sweet peas? (Not about Titchocide.) There’s something fascinating about all that strived for petal perfection. Balanced perfectly on the brink of something for a couple of days. The artifice of items, by definition, natural.

I like watching flowers decay. People may think my withered vases are down to being too lazy to sort them out but I genuinely enjoy the process.

Today I’ve been hovering around one of the foxglove clumps in the garden attempting to get a photograph of a bee. It wasn’t very successful but Z and I had a lovely time…

My poor little camera just isn’t up to the action. It’s just a point and click one but I’m sure if I was more patient I could get a better shot. Trouble is there’s so much good stuff to see.

The washing up bowl is teeming with life. There are, what we are reliably informed are, midge larvae squirming around in its clear water. The water mint has doubled in size and the thyme and salvia are covered in bees and hoverflies.

My lilies in their pot have burst triumphantly open;

and I love this dear little daisy, grown from a cutting from G’mas garden. She says it’s from a plant her mum grew from a cutting from her Grannie’s garden in Northumberland. This makes me happy. We’ve guarded it from slug attack by a bank of saved and baked eggshell. It seems to have worked. The unprotected lupin seedlings alongside it are goners.

Many, many beautiful things. I love them all. The kids shriek about collecting ants and dandelion heads. I wander in and out while cooking a roast chicken for dinner when Steve gets home. Our half term holiday starts this evening. While I wash up with Ida’s help I am relieved to feel the bluebird on my shoulder but am very careful not to look at it. In case I scare it away.

Garden treasure

 The woodlice have competition. Ida has discovered caterpillars.

Today we found this beauty:

He did tickle but Ida was perfectly still, careful and gentle with him. (Don’t know why we’re so sure it’s a he, but we are…)

After a  certain amount of googling I think it’s one of these;  The Lackey.

This is him returned to his leaf after I finally convinced Ida he did NOT want a sausage, icecream or a gherkin or a piece of cherry pie. Eric Carle you have much to answer for – all of it good    🙂

I’ve done a certain amount of bindweed battling and we’ve dutifully peered at all the new flowers and righted a few overturned woodlice. My peonies are nearly over, a final bedraggled sepia-rose hue;

but more of the foxgloves are budding;

The rain hasn’t beaten them all down and the ground is gorgeously wet and soft and wormfilled. I’ve got another hazel sapling to transplant and a curry plant to put out. The beans getting leggy in the conservatory could do with being planted out as well.

Everything takes longer with an Ida helper but equally is rendered more interesting. I think maybe this is the key of managing long toddler days. I always felt I was missing this dreadfully when Z was in nursery and I was miserable at work. Now I have flashes of unbearable longing for work, lunch hours and autonomy. I guess the grass is always greener. As I replant the teasel seedling Ida has helpfully “weeded up” for me I consider my living in the moment resolutions.

This is my thyme and mint in the space made by prising up  a paving stone. Close enough to the back door so you don’t get that wet when procuring mint for tea in a downpour. 

Inside the house resembles a Life of Grime montage. I’m about to do some basic sorting and clearing tasks. I’ve made a bolognaise sauce for tea. Z has swimming tonight after school. He has his first school swimming lesson this morning and I’m hoping it went well. Must buy another towel as well to ease the pain of double kitbags… I did just cast my eyes over at my scrap mountain but think even I draw the line at fashioning a patchwork towel out of rags. Also can’t think it’ll help with the weirdo teasing at school.