The plum tree designed by wasps, for wasps

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I have a gripe with plum trees.

I have two trees, a Victoria and a Cambridge Gage, and I must say this year has been the best I’ve ever had. There are no grubs inside, which was a problem last year affecting the majority of fruit, the Victoria’s are as large as a hens eggs and deliciously sweet, and the Cambridge Gage tree is so bountiful the branches are bending over and touching the ground.

So what’s the problem? The problem is that the plums drop from the tree over two weeks and they don’t store. On top of that, I’ve been eating so many that I have developed permanent stomach ache! (No problems with constipation relating to my painful coccyx then!!!)

I hate the waste. I don’t eat jam, I’m not a big fan of chutney, and all of my friends have trees of their own. Maybe I could make plum sauce, but I am hopeless in the kitchen! So the only choice I have is to freeze them. They are suppose to freeze okay, even whole, but since it’s a new experience, I’m not entirely certain they won’t go to mush.

Having taken a very small percentage, and having given some to the very excited chickens, the rest have fallen to the ground for the wasps, a few honey bees, and the butterflies. The wasps, in particular are in heaven, and don’t even react when I accidentally pick one up in plum. At least they’re happy. Perhaps the tree is not such a poor design after all.

 

 

 

Writing and eating on the toilet seat…

My days have been thrown into turmoil. A couple of days ago I had a little accident, and as a consequence I can’t sit down. How am I expected to write, eat, drive, or watch television? Of course there’s always the toilet seat, that’s comfortable!

A couple of days ago I was walking Stilton, my one year old Standard Poodle dog and was progressing down a steep grassy slope, when in a flash, my feet went from beneath me and I landed with a THUD on my coccyx. My spine jarred and a bolt of pain rushed through me. Aside a little discomfort, I was okay. Stilton, though, seemed bemused, and looked to me with questioning eyes, puzzling over my choice of resting spot.

Back at home, my first thought was to soothe myself with a cup of tea. (Isn’t it what the English always do?) It was going to plan, until I tried to sit on the sofa. I just couldn’t do it. The pain was incredible. I could sit if my weight was forward, away from my coccyx, otherwise … ooh, the agony.

Try spending one day without sitting. It’s not easy, and certainly not for someone who spends the majority of the day resting on ones backside. I can’t eat meals in a relaxed manner, I have to watch television in a horizontal pose, and I can’t even drink a cup of tea in bed.

Woe is me!!!

So what’s my solution? Play more tennis. 4 hours yesterday, and another 4 today! Well, I might as well do something useful with my time! Perhaps that grassy slope could come in useful after all …

The kissing and canoodling pigeon

Pigeon’s are such common birds that I have taken them a little bit for granted . . . until earlier this summer. Every evening, they would sit in the same spot, upon a strip of wood above my lounge window. They were so obviously into each other that I couldn’t help but take note.

Aside from the very regular mating, they would spend much of the evening with the necks entwined and the beaks together. They looked like a couple of teenagers on a date, kissing and canoodling. It was very sweet.

I was so fascinated by their behaviour that I decided to learn a bit about them, and discovered that their entwined necks was preening, and the locked beaks was something known as billing, where the female puts her beak into the males beak. It’s all part of the courtship behaviour, and so I surmised, they were ‘in love.’

Given that their behaviour was different to many, very promiscuous, garden birds, I wondered if they were monogamous. I checked online, and discovered I was right; pigeons do mate for life and they have a strong bond. The courtship display is a regular occurrence, reaffirming and reinforcing their relationship.

Unfortunately, I’m sad to say, this story does not have a happy ending. About four weeks ago two pigeons became one. I don’t know what happened, but I fear she (or maybe he) perished. Every night, the lonely male sits in the same spot, and scans his territory, seemingly unhappy, cooing softly and looking for his mate.

Of course, she could be on a nest, but I fear too much time has past without a sighting. I can always hope . . .

A sensitive, thought-provoking and pacy family-driven mystery

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Debt and Defiance is Book 2 of the Luke Adams Series. It is an independent, family-driven mystery thriller with realistic characters and numerous subplots.

It is a great read from an exciting new author, written for the perspective of Leanne Stark.

There is romance, tension and drama. There is sorrow and rejection. There is humour and joviality. It is a great mix, written in a strong, sensitive and thought-provoking style.

Give it try. I dare you. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Click on image to go to Amazon.

 

Decades have past since Leanne’s grandmother inherited a vast house. This fact has remained a tight secret, never broached nor discussed. Leanne grows up believing her mother is dead, that is, until her grandmother dies. She is confounded by the protracted deception, and a gnawing sense of betrayal.  

The consequences of her grandmother’s actions span generations; the locals struggle with the emerging truth; greed, death, and revenge linger.

Desperate for consolation Leanne sets herself a quest to uncover this mysterious past. For professional backup, she engages the successful team of Luke Adams and Imogen Morrison.

 

An Insect Heaven – The Privet Hedge

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Here in the UK, the privet hedge is often tightly pruned and not encouraged to flower. What a mistake! It is one of the most beautiful flowering shrubs I have come across.

Aside from the scent, which is delightful and drifts across the garden and into my nostrils, it is an amazing place to find a huge range of insects, from the tiniest flies through to the bees and butterflies. Unfortunately my snapshot camera is not good enough to capture them, but believe me, they are there, and they are in their hundreds.

The tortoiseshell butterflies are the most common, with the Red Admiral a close second. I have also seen the Privet Hawk-Moth in the garden, which is not surprising since the caterpillars feed on the leaves. As for the bees, I have, of course, seen honey bees (since I have multiple hives), and an assortment of bumblebees, from the very small to the large and furry. I’d love to know all the species I’ve spotted, but as yet, I haven’t had a chance to get my books out. However, I think I have seen the tree bumblebee, with a ginger head and white pointed tail. It’s an exciting find since it is an invasive species, arriving to the UK just 13 years ago. It’ll be great to have confirmation.

So, I’m going to get back out there, books in hand, and see what I can identify. It’s the first year it has flowered, all 100 hundred metres of it, and I look forward to for many more years.

Here’s to a beautiful and often underrated plant, The Privet.

 

 

 

Freddie’s new companion, Ollie

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Freddie, the bantam rooster on the left, has a new companion. Meet Ollie, another little rooster.

Freddie arrived a few days ago, and has been settling in nicely, although he has been a little lonely, and whilst he ventured into the extensive chicken pen, he soon changed his mind and ran away from Stanley, the full-sized rooster. That aside, he has been crowing regularly, scratching around the garden, and chasing Blake, my little black cat, across the garden . . . that’s when Blake hasn’t been sleeping in the sink or on the lawn mower.

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Ollie was hatched in the same clutch of eggs as Freddie, although he was a little bit more difficult to catch, hence his late arrival. Since they knew each other, we immediately released him into the garden, and they spent over half an hour running and fighting. They weren’t aggressive fights, but play fights, a sign of two mates reunited. It was great to witness, and brought a smile to my face and joy to my dogs who watched them from their own pen.

Soon Freddie led Ollie to his temporary house, offered him a little of his feed, and they had a rest. Maybe now I can get back to work.

 

 

 

 

 

Meet Freddie, the lonely bantam rooster

Freddie

Meet Freddie, the latest addition to my menagerie. He arrived courtesy of a friend who saved him from the chop. He is a bantam rooster, and a lively little devil, with great dancing feet. Hence the name, after Fred Astaire.

I have a flock of chickens comprising of 17 full sized hens and 1 full sized rooster. However,  I don’t fancy his chances with the flock, since the full sized rooster, Stanley, doesn’t take kindly to competition. He has been the sole male for 6 six years, and he is very possessive of his girls.

Freddie is diminutive in comparison, about the third of the size of Stanley, and should outrun any trouble. However, once Freddie set eyes upon him, he had no intention of joining the chickens, and would not enter their substantial pen. So for the moment, he is roaming the garden by day and roosting in a small cage at night. It is not a permanent solution, since he is lonely, and tries to claim anything that moves at his own, whether it is my feet, a pigeon, or even the cats. The previous owners considered him aggressive; in actual fact, he is just wanting a lady, and even searched my house looking for her whereabouts.

So, his needs are my command. I am now looking for a couple of bantam hens to keep him company. Soon, or so I am hoping, he will have a broad smile upon his face. Maybe then he will leave us all alone.

 

 

 

 

Heartache of Missing Cat

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Bobby, my gorgeous tomcat is missing. It’s been nearly two weeks now, and all hope of him returning is dwindling more rapidly by the day. It’s a horrid feeling, and something I hoped I would never have to experience again after losing Keats three years ago under the same circumstances.

It’s the absence of news that is the most difficult to deal with. If I had found his dead body by the road, at least I would have some closure. Instead, I have to live each day with a permanent ache in my heart, not knowing if he is alive, injured, or dead. Anyone who has experienced this will know exactly how I feel. I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone.

It’s very frustrating. Earlier in the year Bobby came home terrified and with puncture wounds around his head and neck. After some contemplation, I decided he had been attacked by a fox. Could this have happened again, but this time with a different outcome? It’s a very real possibility, especially since, I now suspect Keats was predated by one.

It’s a horrid feeling, and whilst part of me wants to move on and accept he is no longer part of my life, a greater part keeps hoping and wishing for his return. I have even considered getting another cat, or possibly two little kittens, which would undoubtedly ease the burden, but I’m not sure it’s something I want to do. I don’t feel strong enough to risk another heartbreak in the future, nor am I sure I want to put their lives at risk. If Bobby doesn’t return, I will be labeling my land a Fox danger zone.  Not good news for my little cats.

Still, life goes on. We are told what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. I don’t feel stronger for the hurt I have suffered in the past, and I don’t feel as though losing Bobby will make me stronger in the future. I feel like one of life’s punch bags.

Signing off . . .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A wound failing to heal is not always bad news

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If you have ever lost a loved one to cancer you probably understand me saying that you can become a little paranoid and believe everything slightly amiss is potentially that dreaded disease. I lost my beloved dog, Bella, to canine lymphoma almost two years ago, and I still find myself thinking such things. A limp is potentially bone cancer, and a wound without an obvious cause is skin cancer.

Of course, most things have a simple explanation.

Let me go back about 7 years. It was late August, and Bella developed a wound on her foot. It was swollen, there was a small hole between her toes and it was weeping sanguineous substance. It must also have been painful, because she carried her sore foot, refusing, except in extreme circumstances, to put weight on it.

After a few days we realised it wasn’t healing and so took her to the vet. They checked it out, prodding and poking, and prescribed a two weeks supply of antibiotics. There was no improvement, and the vet had no solution, so we had to sort it out ourselves.

Dried garlic came to our aid. We didn’t add it to her food but sprinkled it on her foot. After about 24 hours, healing had commenced and a scab had formed. It seemed like we were beating it … finally.

Wrong! Days later the wound exploded, opening back up and squirting out more sanguineous substance. Only this time it opened in a slightly different position. We were at a loss what to do. The vets were of no help, and poor Bella continued to limp.

One day, 3 months after her problem started, I was examining the hole when something shot out. Once I had cleaned it up, I discovered what it was … a grass seed! Finally, her foot healed, permanently this time.

So don’t forget. After walkies check your dog’s feet. It can save you and your dog a lot of heartache.

An amazing story of survival

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Being a backyard chicken keeper is not for the faint hearted. During the last six years I’ve had all kinds of things to deal with, some of which have been extremely unpleasant, others which are just plain sad. However, I have one amazing story of survival which I would like to share. It involved a hen suffering from flystrike.

It is a horrid, horrid condition. The flies lay their eggs close to a healthy chickens anus, and within hours, they hatch. The maggots immediately get to work, wriggle inside of the hen and have a feast, eating everything and anything in sight. All the time, the bird is still alive!

Even though we found the girl early, the sight of the maggots and the hollow they had created was not something I wish to describe. I am not especially squeamish, but this was horrendous and I could not look for longer than a fraction of a second. It turned my stomach. Doug, being the kind of man he is, began his work.

One by one he plucked out the maggots, until he could reach no more. Unfortunately, there were still some inside of her, so he sat her in a bowl of strong salt water. Dead maggots floated out of her, every last one of them.

I swear, I could hear the hen’s relieved sigh!

We decided to name her Holly – a play on holey.

We still didn’t really believe she had a chance of making a full recovery as during all of this time she had been lifeless. In addition, we didn’t know the extent of her damage. However, to our amazement, within hours she was animated and demanding food.It was just the boost we needed; days earlier our dog, Bella, had lost a nine month fight with cancer.

The following day Holly was flapping her wings and squawking. She hated been kept in a small cage and wanted to return to the flock. We knew there was a risk of infection since she had a hole in her back-end almost the size of a tennis ball, but we still considered it the best place for her. So we took her home.

Guess what! She made a full recovery. Even the hole disappeared.

What a result! Sometimes, a little effort is worth it. You just never know what might happen.