Random Ramblings

Random Ramblings: Personal observations on a wide variety of subjects. Photographs of creatures and things that are taken on seeing the unusual as well as everyday things.

Cat's cream dream

It's the last day of June today - and this month is going out on a wonderfully, sunny day ... it's lovely to feel a warm breeze and see white fluffy clouds floating in the blue ... I couldn't resist taking a few pictures of the cat - she wasn't lying near to the cat mint as since the plant has grown she has not spent so much time sniffing it. I'm not sure why, it smells the same to me but perhaps it is more pungent when the plant is young. She was obviously in the mood for a well earned rest ... cat's always seem to be in the need for a well earned rest ... and she is sound asleep in yet another little den she has found that looks quite comfortable and certainly cool.

Sunday snippet

I have discovered a new way that bloggers can swap their URL information. Your visitors can leave their blog name, URL and a little message with their location and country's flag on a Guest Map! I have placed my main one in the sidebar under my Feedjit list ... please feel free to leave your details on it.

Here is a copy for you to click on to take a quick look:

What do you think? I think it's a great idea!

Little comment: I found this wonderful idea on a lovely blog called - This Is My Life

Sweet succulent Saturday surprise

Saturday arrived and with it came a welcome surprise. The Logan berries have not only turned red but have deepened in colour so that they are ready for picking - around two months earlier than usual. They are a sort of raspberry and blackberry cross and are sweet and juicy with an after bite of tartness in flavour. As they only produce blossoms on last years growth stems similar to raspberries there will not be a second crop. There is however an extra long stem that has twirled itself close to the fence and has travelled quite some distance past the honeysuckle and lilac and the berries that it bears are still green so those may well ripen at the correct time. Little note: the bees have begun their work in earnest at the insect house once more. They are using their mouths to scour along the insides of the bamboo canes cleaning every particle and leaving the inside chambers quite smooth. So far, there are no signs of any larger females and none have the bright golden bottoms that were evident with last years bees.

Second little note: the robin has been making himself known today. He has perched for long periods on most of the items of garden furniture and has spent much time overseeing his claimed ground from one of the tallest of trees ... he's still 'k-tock,' k-tock,' k-tock'ing very loudly. I hope that it's not me that he's telling off so sternly!

Split nail - cracked nail

As a young child, I can remember seeing adults with finger nails that had vertical cracks creeping down them ... not quite reaching the base or nail bed under the nail moon. A couple of years ago, whilst folding up some washing my thumb nail caught on an item of clothing which I snagged. I had the start of a vertical crack!

Every book I consulted advised rubbing either vegetable, nut oil or butter into the surface of the nail. Although I tried this, it didn't help. I carried on researching as the crack continued creeping downwards. Eventually, I did find a cure. It wasn't in any book but I discovered it quite by chance ...

the solution and cure was a supplement called Methyl Sulphonyl Methane, known as MSM for short. MSM is a sulphur compound, widely taken in its aiding in the rebuilding of cartilage within the joints. It has several useful side effects ... firstly, it strengthens nails and encourages natural growth (this part cured my nail crack) ... secondly, it is a useful aid for people that have sore or sensitive scalps.

MSM is usually available in tablets of 800mg from most health food and supplement stores.

Blue geranium

The common names for this flower is 'Meadow Crane's-bill' and 'Wood Crane's-bill' - the latter having the broader leaf ... my blue geranium is the broader leafed strain. Although classified as a wild flower it is very popular with gardeners as is has beautiful vivid flowers - flowering in June, July and August. It grows in medium sized clumps and is often placed in areas of the garden where the soil is poor but still produces an amazing display of bright flowers.

Little extra note: the robin has become lord of the bird table and was tucking in to some tasty pieces of Cox's Orange Pippin apples today ... carting little chunks of them away and on to a near by fruit tree!

Red breast

It has been around two years since we have had a robin in our garden. The first time that I saw this one was on Midsummer's day. It sat on a neighbour's fence and began to make a very cross sound a sort of 'k-tock' which it repeated over and over again. As it had been so long since having a robin in the neighbourhood, I rushed to get some items of food that I thought might attract it ... these included a chunk of cheddar cheese which I chopped into small pieces. It was evidently feeding young ones, as the next time that I saw it it had a fat juicy grub wriggling in its beak. It still had not come into the garden. I placed more and more titbits onto the bird table and even crunched up a digestive biscuit ... and I was rewarded late yesterday afternoon when not just one but two robins were scrapping over the territory which now included my garden.

The robin flew into one of my pear trees and took up a guard position and even when I walked over to the tree it did not move. He was a cock robin that was shortly joined by another male that flew into a nearby apple tree then the pair proceeded to duel ... 'k-tock-k-tock-k-tock' the pear tree robin sounded out - shortly to be followed by a 'k-tock-k-tock'-k-tock' from the apple tree robin ... this duel of voices lasted for two-and-a-half hours. The pear tree robin won. The apple tree robin flew away.

The pear tree robin now owns the territory that includes both my garden and bird table!

Added note: I have decided to call the garden robin 'Puck' as it was first spied on Midsummer's day and Puck is the name given to Robin Good-fellow in Shakespeare's play 'A Midsummer-night's Dream.' Perhaps I could call the robin's wife Cobweb!

Robin or Robin red breast
A robin will defend its chosen territory with its life - it will not fly away from people and appears to be fairly tame when heavy gardening occurs. Robins will wait on a branch nearby and when earth is turned over, will fly down and pull up a tasty worm. Both male and female robins have a red-orange breast and a beautiful sweet and tuneful song. The female begins to search for her partner in the middle of the winter ... the cock bird will sit in his favourite tree, puff out his red breast of beautiful plumage, hold back his head and sing for all that he's worth. The female robin will begin the courtship by walking below. This usually goes on for several weeks and if the male takes to her - the male will welcome her and she will begin to go wherever he goes. The robin lays an average of four eggs, though sometimes one or two more. The eggs take two weeks to hatch and the young birds are fed by both parents. Robins generally raise more than one family each year. (The young brood do not have the red breast.)

Sweet Home Blogger Award - Special thank you to Maitri

June must be my lucky month as I have received a second blog award the 'Sweet home blogger Award!' which was very kindly bestowed upon me by Maitri at
Magic & Moments at Dragonfly Cottage So thank you Maitri for this award. It is customary with this particular award to pass it on to between one and five other blogs that stand out and on this occasion I have chosen two special blogs. The first is:

MamaFlo's Place

MamaFlo's is a blog that I visit every day and she delights me with something different and original on every single instance. Please take a look for yourselves, you won't be disappointed.

The second blog that I have chosen is:

Backcounter Buffet

I think that this blog has some lovely factual and interesting posts so please take a look and you'll discover a fresh and interesting place to visit.

Midsummer's Day

Midsummer is the period between 21st June and 24th June, the time surrounding the Summer solstice and culminating with Midsummer's Day (24th June). Many people relate with this time of the year to Shakespeare's play "A Midsummer-Night's Dream," as June is the month of dreams and in days gone by, it was sternly discouraged for any festivities (dancing, singing, enjoyment) to be held around this period. The various faiths and churches in days of yore used midsummer for a time of solumn reflection and linked their various observancies to the birth date of John the Baptist (it is claimed that John the Baptist was born on 24th June).

The large garden poppies are currently at their best and in just a few days the flowers will have all formed their seed pods ... only a vew stragglers will remain. If I am very lucky these early seeds will form a second display in late Autumn.

Devil's teardrops
The flowers on this plant are always red and become quite long as the blooms open. When I first saw one of these plants I thought that it was a variety of fuchsia - the plant was old and gnarled but with thousands of flowers festooning its branches. I happened to see one of these plants in my local nursery and bought it for the garden ... it now grows happily beside the garden pond.

Midsummer Eve

It is the day before Midsummer or Midsummer's Eve, and I thought I would see if there were any unusual insects about. The insect population appears to be quite low for the time of year as by Midsummer there is usually a gentle hum of the winged insects that acts as a percussion to the bird song. This year it's almost deafeningly quiet.
I did spot an old favourite insect that reminds me of childhood ... the froghopper. This is one of those unexpected insects that brings giggles and gasps the first time that it is spied. For those of you who may never have seen one ... it is harmless ... and is usually very entertaining to young children. The adult looks remarkably frog like which is the first reason it was probably named froghopper - the second as its name describes it leaps, jumps or hops from leaf to leaf. Sometimes it jumps remarkable distances ... hence the gasps!
A female froghopper tends to lay batches of around eighty eggs in the hollows of dead plant stems late in the year. The young hatch out in the spring time into a little nymph. They then instinctively begin to climb up plant stems ... eventually they latch onto these and start sucking at the sap this helps them to make a protective cradle of frothy slime which they sink in to. The frothy bubbles are affectionately known as 'cuckoo spit' and the nymph will stay in this until it becomes a young adult and is able to jump to safety.

Extra item: the first bees at the insect house left after filling three of the bamboo canes with what appeared to be mud. I have been watching out to see any more sightings of them and today the first one landed on the fence next to the insect house ... here is a picture of it. Shortly afterwards two were seen buzzing around the little insect house. I am still unsure whether these are, in fact the same species ... but at this stage they do look the same. None have developed the larger golden orange bottoms of the later stock of bees we had last year.

A basket of summer pickings

Allthough it is only the second day of summer there are so many things happening both in the garden and with the surrounding wildlife. There are armfuls of flowers everywhere and the birds are at their most tuneful, especially the male blackbird. He starts singing at around 3.30 am each morning and is the lead vocalist in the dawn chorus. He is also, probably, the loudest of all the song birds and will find a high point in his territory and sing as though his life depended upon it. The song changes to a loud, 'tocking' cheap if another male ventures anywhere near his mapped out territory. He will also make a similar noise if any of the carrion family or other predators approach near to his nest site.
June is the month for listening . . . the cuckoo (the size of a small dove) arrived in April and lays one egg at a time in a host's nest. The cuckoo has the ability to change the colour but not the size of its eggs so that they resemble the eggs of the host's. The cuckoo's egg takes 12 days to hatch. Around this time of the month, the adult bird changes its tune. Some say that this is in preparation for its long flight back home to Africa to spend the winter months. They usually fly away in late July or early August and the juveniles follow in September.
An old verse about the cuckoo is:
"In April Cuckoo sings his lay, In May I sing all the day, In June I change my tune, In July away I fly, In August go I must."
Little note: after the cuckoo has hatched and as it begins to grow it pushes out the hosts babies one-by-one until it is the only offspring remaining in the nests. As the cuckoo often chooses small nesting birds in which to lay her egg the 'foster' parents wouldn't be able to rear their own young plus the extra large cuckoo chick. Survival instinct makes the large cuckoo chick instinctively 'murder' the little 'foster sister and brother' offsprings that share the nest.

The above pictures are the Iceberg floribunda rose and were taken in my garden. I have had this plant for years and it rewards me every year with hundreds of blooms that flower from late spring through to the first frosts.

Summer Solstice - first day of Summer

Today, the 21st June is the Summer Solstice, the longest day - the first day of summer. It was welcomed in by a gentle rainfall that washed over everything freshening up the garden (including the cat that insisted on continually going out in it only to return and twirl her soggy fur round and round my legs until I gently dried her with a towel - I can't tell you how many times she repeated this exercise!).

I had looked around the strawberry patch on Friday and the first of the fruits were well on their way to ripening. They all had white tips but will hopefully be ready for eating on Sunday. The strawberries are earlier than ever this year . . .

Little note: from this day the nights will now get longer (the nights draw in and the days get shorter).

Today is followed by the shortest night . . .

Today, is followed by the shortest night of the year. The garden is now full of double-flowered honeysuckle blooms often called woodbine - this is a later variety to the sweet English scented honeysuckle that bloomed earlier in the year. The perfume of the double-flowered is a little more harsh and not as sweet. We have two varieties of it, the yellow which is rather rampant and a slower growing pink. They both still attract the bees and many other of the flying insects. The first lily is also in bloom today!
Double-flowered honeysuckle pink variety

Double-flowered honeysuckle yellow variety

The first lily has arrived

Arte y Pico Award

I have received an Arte y Pico award. It was awarded to me with much thoughfulness by a lady who is inspirational in her words of wisdom and advice so may I say a special thank you to Debbie who has a wonderful blogspot called MamaFlo's Place

"The "Arte y Pico" award was created and to be given to bloggers who inspire others with their creative energy and their talents, whether it be writing, artwork in all media's. When you receive this award it is considered a "special honour". Once you have received this award, you are to pass it on to at least 5 others." The special blogs I have chosen to pass this award on to are as follows:

The first blog, Health Nut Wannabee Mom is a place a visit that is both informative and interesting and I delve enthusiasitcally into her many rich posts. The second blog, Eastcoastlife always has something new and is festooned with so many photographs. The third blog, Patsy's Words of Wisdom has some interesting glimpses of life. The fourth blog, Chica and Pumuckl is a wonderful mixture of two beautiful cats. The fifth, ReenaShwina is an extensive mixture of so many things and you only find out her daily topic by a visit.

And please if you have a few moments to spare and enjoy a good read visit Debbie's blogspot by clicking onto her link below:

Cat nap

On a hot, sunny day last week - the cat was looking about the garden for somewhere cool to lie. Eventually, she decided upon a muddy patch and curled herself up for one of her well earned cat-naps. Sometimes, because of her colouring, I find it difficult to see her in amongst the garden plants. Even though she stood out a little better on the soil - it still took a while to discover her hiding place. The patch must have had a little moisture in it as some of the soil was deposited onto her tail - imagine if the ground had been damper!
The cat's little snooze
Little note: for people who have wheezing and coughing attacks around cats (asthma, runny eyes and general irritations) - it is the cat's saliva (the general grooming by licking action) that often causes these reactions. To aid such problems - take a clean cloth, rinse it in clean water and gently wipe over your cat from nose to tail. This may need to be repeated on a daily basis to help alleviate symptoms . . . I hope that you have a very patient cat!

Firefox 3

If you want to speed up your action in the Internet it is well worth considering downloading Firefox 3. It is magnificent and operates at a much faster speed than the previous Firefox editions.

Click for Firefox download . . .

*Extra note: if your mouse has got a wheel/middle mouse button, it will give you a speedy feature. Why? The middle button or wheel (click on it) allows you to open up pages in a new tab.

Dark in the dark, old garden - Shhhhh . . .

Very late - last night ... well past midnight, there were some strange noises outside. It was pitch black as I ventured out into the dark, dark garden and there half-way down the path, near to the fence was a fairly young adult hedgehog. I couldn't help myself but to rush back inside and cut some small chunks of cheese off a block of Cheddar and grab the camera in the hope that the beautiful little hedgehog hadn't run off. Luckily, it was still there snuffling at the floor ... not a slug in sight. I scattered the cheese and soon the little creature was gobbling it up.

I heard a second noise, a sort of scraping sound ... I had to see what it was. Near to the base of the bird table I had left a little tin (originally used for the cat's dinner). I use these tins again to make little dinners for the blackbird. The tin had been stuffed with a variety of things including fat, scraps of meat, rice, boiled vegetables and lastly I had stirred in some rolled oats. It was all packed down nicely and had set - not too hard. During the day, the blackbird had managed to eat about a third of the contents - but this lovely full size hedgehog gradually demolished the rest of the meal. It stuck its nose and its tongue into every corner of the tin and by the time it had finished licking it out, the tin was clean.

Any minute now . . .

Any minute now . . . This is a picture of my visitors to-date. My map is about to be archived. As I have never had this done before I wanted to retain a picture of where all of my visitors originated from as I have such a diverse amount from almost every corner of the world! Any minute now - the map on the left will change and my red spots will go . . . all but those who have visited me very recently. So thank you . . . every red spot is appreciated - if you can see any place on here that I have not had a visit from and you know someone on the Internet from that place, then please pass on my blog address to them so that I can reach more people. Between us may be we can cover my map in red. Could this be done? Would it be possible? I would like to think so.

The Fly

It may well have been all of the rainfall that we had in 2007 or just plain luck for the whole of last summer we did not have one house-fly. We have one now ... so far it has resided for three whole days and I haven't been able to chase it out. My attempts to swat it have also been in vain. It is a very agile, active specimen!

Why would I want to be rid of it? Well, firstly this little fly type that resides all over the world in any human habitat, loves to paddle in excrement (any variety will do), then it will walk across food stuffs ... whether it is fresh in someone's house or rotting in an open wastebin or tossed aside on waste-ground. Finally, it will land on human skin ... bringing a variety of germs with it. The female house-fly will lay her eggs in any rotting material, refuse, animal dung or manure. Within a fortnight (fourteen days) the new generation has formed and taken flight. Each female house-fly will continue laying several clutches of her eggs throughout the warmer parts of the year.

The common house fly - Musca domestica

Additional note: it has been found that people who eat Marmite (Vegemite) rarely if ever get bitten by mosquitoes. (May be someone will produce a tablet version or inoculation ... or even the odd pomander for those who try but just can't manage to eat it!)

NHS - National Health Service

The NHS is 60. Many people do not realise that before the National Health Service came into being people had to pay to see a doctor or to have any treatment - anything to do with health was expensive, very expensive. Britain leads the world in free treatment for all - it is wonderful and we should never knock it.


Paper pink petal perfection

June presents many both beautiful and fragile flowers as annuals begin to bloom. The tall grey-green, dark pink, single petal poppies are now not only common features in traditional English country gardens but also may be found growing wild on the way-sides of wild, winding country lanes. Their seeds are often used to sprinkle on top of crusty loaves and bread buns and sometimes thrown into cakes to make them a little extra crunchy. They are probably the most easiest seed to grow as they adapt to any rough piece of ground. To ensure success when planting - wait until after a shower of rain and lightly sprinkle them where you would like them to grow and watch how fast they shoot up. The heads and long stems may be dried and used in flower arrangements . . . but remember to tip out all of the seeds first!

Snap dragon

This wonderful specimen of a snap dragon or anthirinum is self-set. The original grew beautifully in my front garden last year. Occasionally, if you are fortunate - some snap dragons will last for years and they will change colour. A plant could begin as a flame red and change another year to a mellow coral. It will be interesting to see if this plant lasts more than one year and, if so, whether it will hold its colour.

Common garden poppy sometimes referred to as opium poppy