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.

Herb ~ Nasturtium planting day

Today is the very last day of March and for those who like especially colourful gardens it is known as nasturtium planting day. My mother first introduced me to this wonderful plant as a young child and I can remember being totally spellbound when I found out that this bright shock of colour was edible. Locals would pickle the seeds, which are similar to capers, toss the flowers in salad bowls and wash the young tender top leaves and use them as they would watercress. Little girls would grip the flowers in their hair and pretend that they had been spirited away to a paradise island.

It was always drummed into me how important it was to sew the seeds on the last day of March. Firstly, the wet weather makes the large crinkly seeds swell and sprout very quickly. Secondly, planting today gives the plant plenty of time to mature so that there is a never ending supply of the beautiful bright blooms all through the colour.

The flowers are quite mild to the taste but the leaves and seeds are very peppery. A small portion of nasturtiums help to purify the blood. In the past the plant has been used to help in conditions of urinary infection and allegedly is claimed to help with the kidneys. It was also used for chest infections and even such conditions as bronchitis. The plant is purported to have aphrodisiac properties.

Nasturtium in full bloom ,,, JulyNasturtium


Widge is one of the oldest English recipes that originated somewhere in the Midlands. Some refer to it as Worcestershire Widge … so may be its origins lie somewhere in one of the old villages of the county. Of all the old recipes that I have ever made it must surely be the most versatile as it can be used as a breakfast, lunch or supper and either sweet or savoury. Those housewives of long ago perhaps invented the first fast food … may be we have taken a step backwards since those times. The Widge is easy to prepare and quick to make and there is only one simple rule needed to be followed:

Recipe of the Widge

For each medium sized egg

Take an equal proportion of full cream milk

One heaped teaspoonful of flour

One heaped teaspoonful of porridge oats

One tiny pinch of salt

Best allow two eggs per each person - place the ingredients all together in a jug or basin and lightly beat. Take a flat pan or frying pan – pour in a small amount of oil and a tiny knob of butter … place on a fairly hot stove and wait until the pan slightly sizzles. Then very slowly pour the mixture in starting in the centre of the pan. Whilst the centre of the Widge is still slightly runny – turn the Widge over and allow the other side to cook. *Note any type of flour may be used to made the Widge even self raising varieties!

If serving for breakfast or for a pudding – place the fruit of your choice on the top of the Widge and lightly roll. For lunch it may be served either on the side with some salad or with some steamed fish or stir fry. At supper it can be used similarly to a wrap for a simple village scrape. A scrape is a dish made with with five main ingredients – usually meat, carrot, swede and potato all washed and diced and a small onion finely sliced. To make the scrape put a splash of oil in a pan add the ingredients add a pinch of salt and a liberal amount of pepper. Toss about in the pan over the heat – add enough water to cover the ingredients and a stock cube. Lightly simmer occasionally stirring – once ingredients have started to soften pour in either a small portion of creamed cornflour or a teaspoon of oats. When the mixture has cooked and slightly thickens it can be poured onto the Widge which should then be lightly rolled over to keep in the heat …

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Note: Widge is a simple batter bread that is cooked over a direct flame/direct heat. As it contains all three food elements ... protein, carbohydrate and fat it is a highly nutritious part of the diet.

Summertime signature

In the last few days there have been enormous changes to some of the plants … so even though there is still a slight nip in the air the ground must very slowly be warming up.


Young Goji berry bushes and plum tree in blossom (Goji berries originated in the Himalayan mountains of Tibet and are believed to contain an enormous amount of nutrients that aid longevity.)



Young plum tree in blossom



Young damson tree in blossom (the flowers are slightly later than the plum)


Onwards, onwards move the hours

At 1.00 am on Sunday morning the clocks move forward by one hour … and British Summertime begins, at last. I have always loved the notion of the movement of the clock hands and both my mind and body welcome the change. It would enthral me as a child each Springtime how suddenly March would steal away an hour and the end of every October we gained an extra hour in bed!

What a bargain … for British Summertime gives us seven whole months of this forward hour … and once our bodies begin to cry for the lie (the extra time in bed … when the bed pulls us back under the covers) it’s time for the clocks to once more go backwards and we get the extra time in bed!

“Forwards, forwards march to the sun,

Backwards, backwards Winter’s begun.” Anon



During the week I had a very pleasant ride heading towards the Bristol Channel. From the moment that we set off I kept noticing what I first thought were distant rookeries. The further we went the more of these ‘would-be’ rookeries I saw. As we got nearer towards one which took up at least six trees I realised that what I had first perceived as a rookery was, in fact, mistletoe. It was growing in huge balls and was rooted into so many branches of each tree it reminded me of the decorations on a Christmas tree … this was nature’s own decorations. Perfect balls all sucking the juice out of the trees – as mistletoe is a parasitic plant. In the whole of my life, I have never seen so much mistletoe growing and certainly never seen it growing all in such perfect balls!

mistletoe ball 2009

“Crackin' cheese, Gromit?”

As a child, I was brought up on Cheddar cheese … whether it was in a salad, served on a sandwich with some Branston pickle (for those who have never tried it, this is a very sweet pickle and usually a child’s first introduction apart from tomato ketchup/tomato sauce into a food item that contains vinegar) or in a ploughman’s lunch (thickly cut white bread liberally spread with butter, layered with slices of Cheddar cheese and Spanish onion). However, my maternal Grandma loved all kinds of cheeses and so I would, on occasion try out something more exotic. It was not until quite recently with Wallace & Gromit arriving on our screens was I tempted into trying Wensleydale cheese. It is very light and creamy and last weekend I discovered the very height of luxury …

Wensleydale with mango and ginger … I cannot describe how lovely this particular cheese is … other than to say it could replace the ultimate pudding! Will I be tempted to purchase some more? … Well yes I will. I bought my Wensleydale from Sainsbury’s Deli counter. It is reasonably priced and the beauty of purchasing it from the Deil counter means that you are able to buy just a small slither to try it … I must admit I bought more than a small slither!

Garden cover

In this third month of 2009 it must be noted that the garden has changed slightly from just a few years ago. Some plants relish the change in the weather patterns whilst others are apparently left struggling. One that has definitely not become shy to show itself is the Grape Hyacinth … in the picture below you can see several in loose bud just before they are about to open their many individual flowers. Slightly up above on the same picture are early Garden Bluebells (this variety are highly scented and are more like Wild Hyacinths as they form the same shape as Hyacinths that have produced one too many flowering stems).

Grape Hyacinths with Garden Bluebell leaves - 22.03.2009

Mothering Sunday

The soul of Mothering Sunday has sprung out of very unusual circumstances. A very long time ago before school was compulsory and social welfare was not even a distant dream … large families struggled to feed an ever increasing number of mouths as mothers gave birth to more and more offspring. It would often be the case that the older children in these households, still very young and vulnerable were sent away into service. It is unimaginable what kind of lives these children endured – to be away from their families, bullied, flogged and constantly shouted at. Working long hours with little sleep … cold and frightened part of the time - with chilblains in the Winter and hands raw from the water and wind.

Once every year on a Sunday these poor little waifs were given a day off so that they could go back to their homes and visit their mothers. A very few were fortunate enough for the cook to give them a small cake or some eggs to take to their mothers but most just took themselves. This time of the year has never produced many flowers but those who could would pick the odd flower and hopefully have a small posy by the time they got home.

Oh how welcome and comforting would be their mother’s embrace … this woman whose face would be one year older and her child trying to scan this picture in front of them for fear of not being able to remember any part of it. What a dreadful ache when it was time to leave and go back from this loving cocoon to the toil and torment.

Now we celebrate our Mothers, often with flowers (usually purchased and not lovingly gathered on a long laborious walk) and sometimes with small gifts, a hug and a kiss.

If you can always remember where this tradition has sprung from and remember only the living can smell the flowers.

My Mothering Sunday gifts ~ some gardening clogs and a bowl of beautiful blue hyacinths …. if only you could smell their sweet scent!

Clogs2 Clogs1


First day of Spring

The first day of Spring has arrived at last and with it the promise of so many new and interesting arrivals …

celandines and wild garlic 21

I spotted these Lesser Celandines and in amongst them are some leaves of Wild Garlic ~ both these plants can be added to salads. The young leaves of the Lesser Celandine are claimed to be good for the blood (note: this plant should only be eaten in small quantities as it contains protanemonin). Wild Garlic also known as Ramsons is a perennial member of the lily family – it is a useful herb to have in the border as every part of the flower, stem and leaf may be used for all manor of dishes (especially useful in salads and stir-fries). Take extra care if you have Lily of the Valley in the garden as the early leaves look very similar and Lily of the Valley is poisonous. In general it is better to grow herbs in a special plot designed for plants to be consumed!

Extra note ... the Equinox arrived early this year on Friday, 20th March - one day before the start of Spring!

Catkin fever

It may not be a sign that our planet is surging forward and changing at a speed that is frightening to those who open their eyes to the changes in nature … but this year is heralding some major changes that are affecting both people and animals. Catkin fever or early hay fever has arrived weeks before it was due. Caused by the pollen of the birch tree blossom which looks like small tails hanging from the trees. This year not only have these blossoms opened up extra early but they look as though they have been dipped in pollen and with every slight breeze or movement from birds landing on or flying off from branches -clouds of it spirals upwards into the atmosphere. Every morning and evening the pollen slowly descends and sprinkles itself everywhere …

These minute particles cause eyes to stream, sometime becoming itchy. Often this follows with fits of sneezing.

More people than ever are feeling the affects of catkin fever this year … best solution … if possible purchase some local honey made from birch blossom and take a teaspoonful every day. Try not to take coats too far into the house as the pollen is easily transferred. Wash hair and put towels directly for washing – do not get the towel that you have used to dry your hair near your face. Be careful not to take outdoor wear into bedrooms! Some people swear that using a tiny smear of petroleum jelly around the nostrils prevents much of the pollen from being breathed in.

100_1116Twilight at Arrow Valley Lake, Redditch in Worcestershire ... view of the lake and lake house in the distance, the feeding platform and some Silver Birch catkins in the foreground

May your shamrock be forever green …

It’s St Patrick’s day … time to gather some shamrock. Shamrock, of course is clover and given special meaning to today because of it’s three leaves which are interpreted to represent the holy trinity.

It has long been claimed that St Patrick was born in Scotland some time around 400 AD. It is know for definite that he actually existed and was enslaved in Ireland at around the age of sixteen. He managed to escape when he was about twenty-two and threw himself into becoming a Christian priest. He went on to become a Bishop and returned to Ireland to convert the Irish population to become Christian.

There are reported to be two original writings by St Patrick that are still surviving after all this time … the first is a letter written to Coroticus (an ancient king of a small area of land which is most likely to be within the area of Northumbria), the second is known as the Confessio (The Confessio is a piece of work whereby St Patrick is said to have written down a dream. In the dream he received a letter from someone called Victoricus – the letter begins with a heading entitled ‘The Voice of the Irish.’ During the dream he is said to have heard voices imploring him to go back and walk amongst the people of Ireland … he apparently never finished the end of the letter in his dream.) The dream is said to have spurred him on to return to the land of his enslavement … which of course, he did.

Shamrock ~~~Shamrock (three-leafed clover) – a lucky charm said to grant wishes~~~

Spotify = free music

I had heard mutterings about access to free music with no strings attached for quite a while … but thought it’s probably illegal … to find out that it isn’t is wonderful for someone like me who likes all types of music. Spotify offers well over FOUR MILLION SONGS by all different artists free to listen to on your PC. Is there a downside? Well only one little one and that is an advertisement that is run for just over a minute once every twenty-five minutes.


It gives its customers the option to either buy one day for $1 – presumably if they were using the station for the purposes of a party or if they really can’t stand adverts then they can pay a small fee to listen to their own choice of music without interruption.

*I personally don’t mind the one-off advert and the free music and this is surely the future in music downloads and certainly better than worrying about whether the music that is being listened to may not be illegal.

Dead fish …

The day started out with a blush of promise. There was a watery sun wanly pushing its light through the window pane. I opened the door to allow the cat out to do her toilet and got smacked in the face by a cold wind. I was a little excited as the frogs had been mating and I was anticipating frogspawn and so made my way over to the pond. The birds were dutifully calling … it’s time to look for a mate. The path gave way to crunchy pebbles which usually brings the fish to the surface of the pond looking for breakfast, lunch or supper. Today, I could see no sign of them until I got right to the edge and they were all gathered in a small circle with the bottom feeders. On the far side by a small rock one fish was at the water’s edge. I walked round to it ……. it was upright and motionless. It was dead.

I have seen many dead fish before – in rivers, brooks, streams, the sea and in my garden pond but I have never seen one die in a perfectly upright position until now. I think it had been dead for about four or more hours as there was a slight coating about its corpse.

This particular fish was in some ways non descript apart from having a wide and long tail fin and top and bottom fins that fanned like soft seaweed peacock tails. It was a fifteen year old goldfish that I had purchased as a baby when it measured just three centimetres long. The strange thing about its death was there were two depressions one at each gill point. The gill had appeared to indent or compress and either side of its head there was a dip as though it had been pressed in with a marble. I have never encountered this before.

Has anyone seen a fish death like this? Does anyone know whether this is a disease? Do I have to worry about the rest of the shoal?


Finny (the dead goldfish - at the bottom of the picture with the large tail)

This particular goldfish remained a medium sized fish all its life and was buried under a shady Bramley apple tree near to the gooseberry bush.

Bright blooming cactus

All of the flowers had died down on the Christmas cactus and I allowed the plants to dry out until the leaves looked a little more leathery than normal. By this time the soil was bone dry. I then gave all the plants a good soaking and within about a week small flower buds began appearing once more on the ends of the leaves.

This weekend they have rewarded me with the most magnificent blooms …





Christmas cactus (flowering once more in March)

Red to yellow dandelion

Finally by mid afternoon the rogue dandelion that started its life as red or russet buds changed to the more recognisable bright sunshine yellow!

Dandelion 25.02.2009

The dandelion in the border as it first began to open up in February – red or russet in colour


Dandelion from red to yellow 03.02.2009

Red to yellow dandelion 03.02.2009.1

The same dandelion in the border – first picture taken on Monday the second picture taken late afternoon today


It was worth leaving it in the border just to make sure that this was a normal dandelion – it could have been a new variety, perhaps deep orange, russet or red triggered by the change in the climate. Many frogs have taken on a red hue which some naturalists believe is due to the warmer conditions we have been experiencing.


Red frog taken in back gardenThis is a picture of a red frog sitting in my pond

Crying at crazy, cruel crimes on creatures

It is terrifying how far some people will go to enlarge their egos. The latest craze in pet accessories is the ‘pet’ tattoo. To tattoo an animal can at best be described as cruel at worst a type of blasphemy. For no matter whatever a person’s beliefs may be … we live on a truly magnificent planet with a wonderful mixture of wildlife that are all very beautiful in their own right. The human race appears to be riddled with all kinds of insecurities some induce a type of morphing of perception of shape and form which induces many to either indulge in plastic surgery, body piercings or tattoos. To carry these insecurities by performing the same onto pets is an abomination … surely there cannot be many people who actually think that this is a good thing to do? Tattooing animals can only be done when the animal is anesthetised – they are kept asleep for approximately three hours – not only does this put their lives at risk but what about the pain and soreness endured afterwards?

cat tattoo copy

Poor, poor animal – I hope that when this kind of cruelty occurs, people are reported and their animals siezed … perhaps a stay in prison for the owners to reflect would not be unjust?

St David’s Day – White Rabbits!

The first day of March not only brings St David’s Day when all true blooded Welshmen/women wear either a buttonhole of a daffodil or a leak in celebration … but also a reminder that this is the month when flowers start appearing in the borders to brighten up the garden.