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.

Skate, date, mate

Nature produces some wonderful creatures. One that is especially loved by little children is The Pond Skater. This little flying bug moves across the surface of water of ponds, canals and slow running rivers. It skates or walks on the water’s surface with ease. They appear to be quite at home on the surface of our garden pond.


Pond skater

Pond skater 2 

Pond skaters .. two or more

Pond skaters .. 2 GerridaePond Skater sometimes called a Water Strider


Over thousands of years China has always been the country of the beautiful finger nail. In recent times though it must surely have been dozing. As China is embracing the Green Society and is making huge inroads into achieving cities that are all green, I always thought that it would be they that would produce the all pure natural make-up ‘tip-to-toe’ selection and export it to the rest of the world.

Women today are looking at their cosmetics with their ever growing list of ingredients, mostly of chemicals that only a scientist has heard of. And these same women are emptying their cosmetic bags and seeking natural minerals to apply to their skin. The most popular products are those with the least ingredients.

Amazingly, for those like me who are also going down this route there is now a nail varnish/nail polish that is in this same natural format. So now there is one more item that can be binned forever as green nail varnish must be the way forward ..

There are several brands on the market but I have only found one with just three ingredients it’s called ‘Scotch.’  I believe it is referred to as a water-based nail polish and contains only the following ingredients: “water, acrylic polymer emulsion, and non toxic colorants.”


Scotch nail polish 

There are several places that sell Scotch nail polish but I have only found one that has FREE WORLD WIDE DELIVERY and that is Naturismo:  http://www.naturisimo.com/

Leaf-cutter and Mason bees and bamboo homes

Since having our first insect house with its bamboo insect nesting homes my love of bees has increased like an explosion in space. During the early years, I wondered why some of the holes appeared to be blocked with mud whilst others were packed with leaves. Since that time I have found that the mud-packed entrances were made by a Mason bee. A slightly smaller bee although similar in shape to the Leaf-cutter bee. The Mason bee lay their eggs and fill their chambers in late May and throughout June. So when the Leaf-cutter bees arrive in late June and early July there are only a few stragglers of Mason’s remaining. These however do compete for bamboo holes and sometimes bomb each other. One bee will fly on top and try to push the bee underneath downwards sometimes quite violently.

The Leaf-cutter bees will try and pull out the mud from unfinished Mason bee homes and the Mason bees will try to remove any leaves to holes that they have initially cleaned out. Eventually one bee will give in and the victor will continue to make their nest along that particular length of bamboo.

Insect house made from bamboo for bees

Leaf-cutter bee close-up

Carrying the leaves - Leaf-cutter bees

Flying Leaf-cutter bee

Leaf-cutter bees sharing the insect house with Mason bees

Leaf-cutter bee close-up as she shores up a chamber

Filling the bamboo and making chambers - Leaf-cutters

Leaf-cutter bees making nest chambers

Leaf-cutter bee

Leaf-cutter bees and Mason bees July 2013

Leaf-cutter and Mason bees sharing the Insect House and using the bamboo chambers to lay their eggs

Poke it in

Times are hard, plants are extremely expensive, so in order to achieve a most wonderful, colourful paradise of a garden for free quite simply:

    • break off a small branch of a woody plant that you like and poke it into the ground (3 inches/7.5 centimetres).

Most woody plants root very easily. Those that are a little more difficult usually require to be gently pulled back on an elbow or join and dipped into sand. Sand irritates the stem which causes roots to form. Simple plants, ones that look closest to their wild form (those with less fancy petals) are the most easiest to root. Remember to give the branch a good soaking every other day in the beginning and it will soon establish a healthy root system.

Collect seeds whenever the opportunity arises, keep them dry in a twist of paper and if you must, label them but if you really want a cottage style garden then just sprinkle them over the ground and what will be, will be .. flowers will flourish and splashes of colour will be anywhere and everywhere. For just a few moments of time it is easy to create a garden of Eden.

It is often worth keeping a few seeds from fruits when you eat them – wash them dry them and poke them into gaps in the soil. Stones from fruits readily grow into little trees and produce masses of fruit. It is worth trying everything and anything. It is possible to even grow pineapples if you have a warm, sunny windowsill, veranda or sheltered sunny spot (simply cut the top off before eating and gently press the top with the leaves exposed, into the soil and firm down) and in most cases a new pineapple will grow. Try everything and have fun!!

Poke it in - Rose cutting now a full plant

Poke it in - Rose

Poke it in - Rose plant cutting

‘Poke it in’ rose cutting – amazingly healthy and without fungus or attack by aphids – a better plant than the original from which the cutting was taken.

If you want to have a bash at growing a nut tree then remember to always use the whole of the nut. Never crack it open. They grow from just leaving on the ground but this rarely happens as there is always a little robber waiting to take them away and eat them. Best results in a garden are to bury the whole of the nut just below the soil’s surface. You can start them off in a flowerpot or on a windowsill if you wish but they easily root and sprout in the ground where you most want them to grow. Certain nuts (usually those which also will comfortably form a bush plant) will grow from a cutting. Use the same method as any other woody plant – simply poke them in the ground. Most of all enjoy your garden however small it might be. Enjoyment comes out of getting your own plants to take whether from cuttings or seeds. The overwhelming feeling that you get from your very own plant is indescribable!


Cheeky trespasser had flattened the cat mint!

I have the softest of dispositions and find empathy with everyone and all creatures. This does lead to unwanted happenings. There is a Tom cat who often frequents our garden. He is the most gentlest of cats and is almost like a dog. Our cat doesn’t know what to make of him but tolerates him with a matriarchal glance every so often.

He sings at the door for some spare supper and our cat looks, her whiskers twitching. Sometimes she is silent and other times she lets out a short motherly hiss. Only once have I seen her spank him on the backside – I am not sure why but the next time he came into the garden she rubbed noses with him.

Today this cheeky young boy has chosen to squash the cat mint. He rolled backwards and forwards and spread his legs and tail all over the mint – he must be the most fragrant cat in the neighbourhood now.

Tom cat in the cat mint 1

Tom cat in the cat mint 2

Tom cat in the cat mint or catnip

Snail - barbeque

I wonder about nature. So many questions that can never be answered and so many happenings that makes me say ‘why?’

We are having an amazing July heat wave in Britain but it is alien to everyone including all of the wildlife. Our heat is unlike anywhere else in the world. It is humid, sticky, heat. It leaves humans feeling like they have been rolled in syrup and animals lay exhausted finding refuse wherever they can. Insects appear to be happy and full of noise and percussion. Birds call sweetly for us to remember to fill their bird baths and their beaks with succulent surprises. Then we have the other creatures. Creatures of wetness and damp, who seek to ooze their way around the soil and plants. Those that leave trails and those who just hide.

So … imagine my surprise when around five-o’clock in the afternoon or should I say early evening, when the sun was still throbbing and bouncing its beams everywhere, I came across a small garden snail that had crawled half up the shed wall. Why wasn’t it on the far side of the shed in the shade? Why wasn’t it under a juicy leaf? Was it trying to bake itself to give a meal to the birds? Did it survive and live another day? I’m not sure . . .

Snail crawling to the roof of the shed This small garden mollusc is difficult to name as it may be a small version of one of the Roman edible snails. I must admit that I am stumped by the patterning, size and the colour to be able to definitively name it.

What should a poor girl do in a heat wave?

Covered in fur, the cat is beside herself trying to get as comfortable as possible. Not a lot can be done by a cat’s owner other than offering extra dishes of water and wiping their coat, including tail, whiskers and tips of ears with a damp cloth; making extra shady positions as best as possible especially somewhere where there is a breeze and hope that they do not become dehydrated.

My cat pushed herself in the undergrowth waiting the day out .. I placed a large parasol over the place where she chose to lay and did my best to keep her cool. At least she managed to take a nap!

Keeping out of the sun - cat1

Keeping out of the sun - cat 2  The cat keeping out of the sun

To bay or not to bay?

Every home at least once in a lifetime will have unwanted visitors that have six or more legs. Whether the creature walks or has wings, takes up lodgings in cupboards, wardrobes or drawers or merely are window shoppers that raid a particular item for a quick snack before sneaking out the way it came in, they’re still all unwanted. There is a solution that is cheap, reliable and natural and smells quite nice too. It is the bay leaf. Bay leaves rid a home of insects including beetles, mites, moths and other creepy-crawlies. Whether you simply wish to scatter a few dried leaves on cupboard shelves or perhaps push some into an open jar, make a shape from loose woven muslin or fancy cotton lawn whichever option you choose all are effective. Bay leaves smell lovely and fresh and so are worth using all the year round to keep the home smelling sweet and rid every nook and cranny of all unwanted lodgers!

Top tip: purchase fresh bay leaves at regular intervals.

Bay leaves Bay Leaves ….. natural insect repellent for cupboard, drawers and wardrobes

On a hot, hot day there’s nothing quite like a bath

Can’t quite believe it but we are having a heat wave. It has suddenly become very hot and this was not just a shock to us humans but also to my furry friend the cat. She got up strolled a few steps then lay down again and despite her best efforts couldn’t get comfortable so it was decided to give her a gentle bath. She didn’t moan or miaow once .. she just stood whilst the suds enveloped her back, her bib, her tail and legs. Finally her face was washed and then after rinsing off the baby shampoo (I used this just in case any accidentally splashed into her eyes as it is not supposed to sting) the plug was pulled and I hoisted her out with a large fluffy towel.

We sat in the garden whilst I gently rubbed off the water and never have I seen her sit so still. When almost dry she looked up at me as if to say she had had enough of being dried and she began to wriggle about so I placed her on the grass. She proceeded to groom herself and after having her fur brushed she went into the undergrowth in the shade of the border to have a snooze. 

Cat's bath1 Cat's bath2 Cat's bath3 Cat's bath4 Cat's bath5 A lovely clean cat after her bath!

A world of healing

In the last few months, I have been surprised to find how many unusual things are available for purchase that offer the promise of better health. Many healing creams currently contain zinc so imagine my surprise at finding that it is possible to buy zinc powder that may be added to your own favourite creams to aid healing. For as little as around £3.00 it is possible to purchase powdered zinc for external use. Added to this a whole array of vitamins are available at very little cost. It is worth doing a little bit of research first but if you are one of the current trend of people who are steering away from chemicals at least there is an opportunity to produce a safe alternative to an old favourite.

Zinc Zinc powder

Look for sites that sell all natural products as these often have additional minerals and vitamins that are also for individual sale.

Additional Note:

I personally decided that it would be a good investment to purchase a small amount of powdered zinc oxide for external use. As a healing cream, especially for wet type eczemas just a small amount, up to 2% may be added to a non-perfumed emulsifier/cream or natural oil such as coconut or shea butter to help to heal the skin. Though about a third is required for protection against the sun as a sort of sun block and this is probably best dissolved in water to that it may be integrated evenly. There are recipes on sites that sell zinc oxide powder for most items that it is used for.

O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love …

There have been times when I have felt almost completely disembowelled. My lovely old cat (she is now fifteen, an old-age pensioner) quite suddenly developed a most dreadful illness. Let me tell you and you may judge for yourself.

The first thing I noticed that was different about her was a few spots that appeared on the top of her head. Fleas! I thought. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I applied some ‘Spot On’ obtained from the vets but the lumps did not go away. Instead more symptoms came. There were swathes of both diahorrea and sickness that became relentless and within just a few hours blood appeared coming from both ends. We rushed her to the vets where she was given an injection of steroid and antibiotic and we were told to bring her back the following day. She became worse and very dehydrated and she was kept in and placed on a drip. We were allowed to take her home on the following day but told to bring her back for a further check-up. She was placed on another drip and kept over the weekend. The vet was not at all hopeful of the outcome.

In the meantime, and as no-one was really certain as what the cause of the illness was, we carried on researching and quite by chance we found something that we believe may have been the culprit. We had purchased two non-slip dishes for her wet food. The dishes, it seems were not crock as initially thought, nor were they plastic but something that after careful checking looked like melamine. It appears that melamine causes health issues from a type of acne around animals faces to sickness and diahorrea. It is also known to cause renal failure. Melamine exposure may be from pet dishes to additions in food content. It is alleged by some that melamine may  also be found in gluten. Here’s what is stated in Wikipedia:


The dishes were disposed of and we started using crock saucers. It has taken months to get her weight back up over 6lbs again. We initially fed her every hour-and-a half – a little bit of dinner and some fish – she would not go near to any kibble. She is currently eating both a little bit of kitten kibbles and senior kibbles. We have tried so many different varieties but GoCat appears to be her current preference this is probably because it was the very first kibble I introduced her to as a kitten! Her favourite foods are the wet dinners and fish, thankfully her interest in food is still there.


Hiding1The cat as she is now, fast asleep in the border 

Advice: avoid using melamine. If you have a pet that is having difficulty eating try heating their food a little – not too hot – but the smell of the food tempts them to lick at it.

Extra Notes:

The one thing that I’ve learned with a cat is that there are more things that are unsafe to give them than those that will cause them no harm. Indeed, many of the things that are quite harmless to dogs may be life-threatening to cats. So before anyone tries all kinds of well-known cures on their cat always check with a veterinarian (animal doctor) to be on the safe side and not cause any undue distress to their animal.

The items that I used to help to relieve my cat’s digestive problems were as follows:

The first week I gave her one pinch of arrowroot in her dinners; the second week and for three days only, I gave her some kaolin (for cats) about three-quarters of a teaspoonful per day; the third week I gave her half-a-teaspoonful of pure powdered slippery elm (this I have been advised is the only safe ‘herb’ that may be given to a cat) use very sparingly – it is useful for diahorrea, sickness, constipation, upset tummies, flatulence (wind), etc – a very useful standby for cats, dogs and indeed humans!!!

Added to the above – change water regularly every two to three hours; keep their meals small and give them often; avoid meals with fancy sauces; avoid tinned cat food (this usually contains large quantities of water that puts a strain on the kidneys which are already under pressure when an animal is ill); make your own soft kibbles using rice flour – once cooked store in a jam jar and crumble a little into their food to aid with their digestion; never give cow’s milk to a cat and never, ever give them turkey as these are indigestible and place a strain on already poorly animal. In fact, they should always be avoided to keep a pet in tip-top health!!

The other things that I haven’t mentioned are lots of love and understanding and an unbelievable amount of tolerance – a sick animal cannot help it when they have diahorrea or sickness, it isn’t their fault and it can be a frightening experience for them so never shout or punish them. Always speak calmly and give them a reassuring stroke.

Can you see what I see. Can you see me?