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.

Clock the clock

There is something wonderful about the Dandelion Clock or seed head. Children gently pick the long milky stems, hold them about six inches from the face and blow to see how many times it takes before all of the seed parachutes have left the stem. This is a game that is played by very young children - ‘telling the time with a dandelion seed head fondly known as a dandelion clock:

  • One blow   =   one o’clock
  • Two blows =   two o’clock
  • Three blows = three o’clock
  • Four blows =   four o’clock
  • Five blows =   five o’clock and so on and so forth

Dandelion seed head close up Close-up of a dandelion seed head ‘clock’ 

Dandelion Clock Dandelion Clock

Dandelion seed-head or clockDandelion seed-head 

Dandelion seed single  Dandelion single seed displaying the feathery pappus that aids the seed to float in the breeze with its parachute shape

Dandelion fine thread of the pappus on seed headClose-up of the Dandelion fine thread of the pappus on the seed head


I have spotted a wasp collecting material to make a nest … I hope that this is one of the wasps lost from the little nest in the insect house.

Wasp -  rasping off the preservative coating from the wood A wasp – rasping off the preservative coating from the wooden garden furniture

Lady Fern

I have a Lady Fern. It was a fortunate find as I retrieved it from an old sack of builders sand that had been purchased for a job. Whilst tidying up a few items and re-stacking tumbled flowerpots after a windy spell I happened to notice something green in the sand. I carefully drew open the flap at the top of the sack and there looking up at me was a baby Lady Fern looking all fresh and green. That was a few years ago now as I carefully prised out its roots and replanted it into an oblong planter.

It is now a prize specimen … beautiful and brighter than other fern species it magnificently stands out and takes a prominent position above other leafy plants:

Lady Fern - Athyrium filix-femina

Lady Fern with rain droplets on leaf

Lady Fern leaves - after a rain shower Lady Fern – Athyrium felix-femina

Lady Fern - close up of the top of a leaf frondLady Fern – close up of the top of a leaf frond 

Lady Fern - close up of under side of leaf frond Lady Fern – close up of the under side of leaf frond

Lady Fern - close up of underside young spore cases Lady Fern – close up of young spore cases

Lady Fern - panoramic view Lady Fern – panoramic view


Lady Fern - after rain shower in the early evening Lady Fern – after rain shower in the early evening

Lady Fern - dormant afte the Winter Lady Fern – dormant after the Winter

Turkish . . .

. . . Delight.

Turkish delight

Red rose - smells of Turkish delightThis is the most perfect rose. It is packed with petals and smells of Turkish delight … magnificent! 

A red, red rose In daylight this rose is a deep dark crimson red. The camera picks out a more lighter hue – the hue that attracts the bees.


Waiting, patiently like an old grandfather clock but still as the statue of Nelson, the cat now twelve years old, looks at the corner of the little shed hoping for movement. Her ear twitches as an almost silent rustle is picked up and her long whiskers twitch in anticipation. She is so quiet her breathing appears to be still … then in a flash faster than a lightening bolt she springs from her hunting position, three full yards and when she lifts her head she is holding a mouse in her mouth. She only has two eye teeth left and so the mouse is being held lightly and when she is told to let go she drops the mouse and backs away. The mouse scurries off and hides in the undergrowth. She looks sideways as she chews and cleans her paws – her eyes are never averted to where the quivering mouse is waiting. Eventually she saunters off and the mouse bolts out of the undergrowth and heads back under the shed.


Mouser - the cat Watching for the mouse

Mouser - the cat watching and listening

Patiently waiting and listening for rustles


The Mouser

Still waiting …

Torn down

It’s amazing to watch animals, birds and insects whenever they choose to build anything. Their precision, skill and knowledge of what works best leaves man at the very bottom of the construction master class. I was looking forward to seeing the end result of the little wasp nest that sat on the ceiling in the second compartment of my insect house. This pleasure was ruined. Something early in the morning had torn the bottom and side completely off. It may have been a bird – many, such as blackbirds and robins enjoy a fat, juicy grub for breakfast. It could have been a squirrel – there are several greys that run the course of the tree lines. It may have been a rat. Whatever it was the damage was devastating. It didn’t put the wasp off its stride it worked furiously all day and well into the night doing its best to make good the repair. It was worn out but still trying to work at 11.00 pm – I do not know what time it eventually stopped for the day. In the morning, I went to see how much repair had been completed. Sadly, the something had returned and knocked down the remainder of the chambers just leaving a mantle shell attached to the ceiling … there was no sign of a wasp … they had gone!

Wasp repairing nest Wasp repairing damage nest, early in the morning

Wasp - repair Wasp repairing damage nest, later in the day

Wasp - repair late evening

Wasp working as night approaches

The animals come in two-by-two

It is lovely to see animals pairing off and rearing young. The water birds were all paired off on the lake but there are much fewer of them to be seen this year. Whether this is due to the extended Winter season or some other reason I am not sure.

Twos - the animals come in two-by-two Mallard, duck and drake and in the background Mute swans, cob and pen

Canada geese - gander and goose

Canada geese - two-by-two

Canada geese, gander and goose

Wasp nest

We have had a long, long Winter and so it was no surprise that our little insect house looked a little battered and worn as it had battled through the Winter period. Now into the month of May, I needed to check the little wooden house out to see what if any maintenance would be required to make it usable to my six-legged friends. Disappointingly, the front door had snapped with the various frosts. I gently pulled down the little metal latches and prized down the front. To my surprise a tiny wasp nest was attached to the ceiling of the basement quarters. The nest was the new home of some German wasps, Latin name: Vespula germanica. This is the best wasp to have in the garden as it collects enormous amounts of insects to feed to its larvae and so is a highly valued predator. The wasp measures 18 mm and is easy to identify. To tell if you have this wasp in your garden – look at the wasp’s face from the front view and you will see three spots on its head.

Little Note: The Common Wasp is a little smaller almost measuring 17 mm in length. Identified by a curved ‘T’ shape or anchor when looking at it full-faced.

Insect house with tiny wasp nest in the basement

Adult wasp sleeping in bark with small nest in the background

Wasp nest and sleeping adult wasp

Adult wasp nestling under dry bark German wasp and small nest

When blossoms bloom on the apple tree …

May is an optimistic month. It is a time when all kinds of floral smells attack the nostrils. Some earthy and warm, some heady and luxurious whilst others are silky, soft and unassuming. The apple blossom is in this third portion. Stand under any apple tree when the flowers are open and its sweet perfume gently tumbles over you.

Every year I look at my apple trees in full bloom with wonderment and hope. How many of these blooms will grow into apples? It is often disappointing when the final crop emerges as it is so dependent on many other would-be catalysts as to how many apples will grow large enough to pick. The first problem being the shortage of pollinators – the flying insects. There are still only very few bees around and those are mostly the large varieties of bumble bee. Secondly – weather conditions. We need swathes of warm sunny weather to give the flowers the chance of a fair few being pollinated. Once this has occurred it should be followed by regular spells of gentle rain to make the young fruit swell. Thirdly – wind. If we are lucky enough to have gentle breezes then more of the fruit will have a fair chance to fully form but if there are violent gusts and gales then much of the crop will find itself flung harshly onto the floor.

Apple blossoms

Apple blossomApple blossom on the Bramley Apple Tree 

The Bramley Apple is the best cooking apple in the world as it ‘falls’ after a short while during the cooking process. ‘Falls’ is the term used in apple cooking meaning that the apple pulp becomes light and frothy in heat.

Hyacinth pink pomander

Hyacinths make the best natural pomanders for the home. At this time of year three hyacinth bulbs planted in a small tub cost £1.50 to purchase. On a cool windowsill or light corner of a room they will last at least three weeks. During this time their perfume will filter throughout the whole of the house. Once they have finished blooming and begin to die off the bulbs may be planted in spare portions of the garden for flowering the following Spring. The spent bulbs should be re-planted so that the whole of the dry crown is fully covered with soil. Many hyacinths have their crowns exposed in pots designed for indoor flowering but if they are planted this way in the garden then they usually perish. 

Hyacinth close-up1

 Hyacinth close-up2

Hyacinth close-up3 Pink Hyacinth – close-up pictures

Pink Hyacinth Pink Hyacinth – from a distance

Soporific, sweet smelling scent of Lilac

The white lilac has opened its tight little flower balls to release its soft dreamy fragrance and bathe the entire garden in its intoxicating perfume. White lilac has a faint, slightly musky ghost of a perfume that is hidden and hard to identify. Whereas its sister, the purple or lilac coloured blooms, have deep and throaty harem scents that haunt every nook and cranny of the border and float like soft dreams in through open windows and doors.

Flower balls of white lilac

White lilac flowers

White lilac bushWhite lilac

Frothy sleep of blackthorn blossoms

Blackthorn is a shrub which grows usually just short of five metres tall. It is an old and famous plant as the fruit it produces is known as the sloe. Sloes look like very tiny plums. They have a dull, almost powdery bloom of darkest purple/black when they are ripe. They are bitter and are used in the making of sloe gin.

  • Wash and prick once - one pint of sloes
  • Add 4 level tablespoons of granulated sugar
  • Pour in the gin until the fruit is covered
  • Add a light sprinkling of cloves
  • The juice of six almonds (a small amount of pure almond essence)
  • Place in a Kilner jar and seal it

Turn the jar over ten full times and wrap in a towel or cloth. Place in a dark, cool cupboard. Turn the jar ten full times each day for three whole weeks. After this time turn the jar ten full times just once each week until three whole months have passed. The sloe gin should then be strained using a fine mesh. The liqueur should at this time be a warm rich ruby wine colour. The sloes taken from the steeping may, if required, be made into a rich sloe jam or chutney that can be served with game or cold meat.

Blackthorn in blossom - produces sloeThe Latin name for Blackthorn is Prunus Spinosa

Blackthorn - sloe blossom - white and frothy Frothy Blackthorn blossoms

Blackthorn blossoms are very late this year and are all heavily covering their branches. The leaves of the Blackthorn are small, dark green and oval and only appear once the blossom has fallen. The bush is covered all over with sharp black thorns and so is widely used for tall hedging often mixed with Hawthorn to keep live stock in fields and people safely out!

May moss

May is the month when the wet and the damp from Winter show up as lush green mosses often in areas where we least expect to find them. Whilst walking through a woody area alongside a lake I came across this tree. It was damaged, possibly by a lightening strike, and is now covered in moss.

Moss covering the trunk of a tree

Broken tree covered in moss

Moss covered treeThis particular moss looks as though it could be Homalothecium sericeum which likes to inhabit the lower parts of trees and becomes slightly browner in drier weather.

Human sweat gland, sweat pores

Our skin or dermis is covered with pores these are known as the sweat pores and are positioned at the top of each sweat gland. They help to cool us when we are warm by oozing fluid which moistens the skin and reduces its temperature. The pores are precision perfect set in circles with each pin point producing a tiny amount of sebum.

Human sweat pores

Human sweat pores 2  (1)

Human sweat pores 2  (2)Human sweat pores magnified by 400 x