The garden in summertime

Every now and again it’s nice to update you on how my garden grows. I don’t know if you’re interested but I have a surplus of photos I need to share so there we go.

Right now I’m growing lots of herbs and while the spinach and chives have grown well from when I planted them in April, others are slower to take and I’m still waiting for the rosemary to show its first sprouts.

The roses are nearly all in bloom so everything is quite colourful at the moment. The sweat peas have in the last few weeks started to flower.

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I’m really impressed with this year’s display from my hosta. It always performs well but normally by this time it has been destroyed by slugs. I haven’t managed to put anything down to protect it so I’m relieved it’s still ok but we’ll have to see how long it lasts.

My so-called “hardy” fuschias did not really survive the Beast from the East and while one has started to leaf again the other has not shown any signs of life, which is a bit of a shame. I should have brought them in – I should do a lot of things I can’t be bothered with.

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Sweet peas

I’m loving the pond at the moment. The nearby fern is providing lots of wonderful shade and the marsh marigold is growing again, although still no flowers from it this year. I’ve seen a few frogs, which is wonderful as it’s what it’s there for. The cat still likes to drink from it, of course – what’s wrong with the fresh tap water we put down for her every day I do not know.

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That’s it for now. In the autumn I’m going to re pot the geranium and the erysimum as they have got too big for their boots.

Catch up on my other garden updates here and here.

Big Garden Birdwatch 2018 Results

Good morning! I’ve not been blogging very much lately because – to cut a dull story short – I accidentally removed my WordPress plan and now I have basically no storage space. As most of my posts involve photos, this is a problem. I expect I will have to rip myself off and upgrade again but in the meantime I’ll try to blog using words rather than pictures.


So the results of the Big Garden Birdwatch have been released and I’m always interested to compare how my own garden fares against the rest of the country. I posted about this in January when the event took place but I don’t think I shared my own results. So, I saw:

  • 7 long tailed tits (44%)
  • 5 house sparrows (31%)
  • 1 blackbird (6%)
  • 1 blue tit (6%)
  • 1 dunnock (6%)
  • 1 woodpigeon (6%)

It was disappointing that my goldfinches didn’t make an appearance on the day but I do see them most days. The blackbird, blue tit, sparrows and woodpigeon were obviously fairly typical sightings, but the long tailed tits are less common in the nationwide results. Long tailed tits in fact went up one place compared with last year so perhaps they are doing a bit better these days – or just moving into gardens.

Did you take part this year? What did you see?

A handy tip for my fellow bloggers

Hi guys!

I love reading your blogs and I love writing my own. I’ve looked at ways to monetize it in the past, as I’m sure you’ve had thoughts about that as well, but given my slightly obscure niche I didn’t think ads would work out (I’m trailing it them right now to see how it goes.)

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I’ve come across a way to share my content and get paid for it so I thought it’s only fair to share the tip. Steemit is a blogging and social network using the Steem blockchain; readers upvote posts they like and writers can get rewarded with a percentage of the overall Steem. If you’re not familiar with Steem, it’s a cryptocurrency – if you’re not familiar with cryptocurrency, where ya been?

Basically, you share your content – blog posts, photos, videos, etc. – with the Steem community and every week the website automatically pays out your rewards in Steem tokens, which are translated to USD. The rate of Steem to dollars fluctuates regularly because crypto is bonkers right now. It’s quite easy to set up an account – the only thing I would advise is to store the password they generate offline and never ever lose it because once it’s gone it’s gone.

The website is still in its Beta version right now so you can be ahead of the game and get paid for the content you’re already writing. It’s not going to make you a millionaire unfortunately but some people are already making a living out of this. Obviously, I’d love you to sign up so you can upvote my stuff so maybe this post is a little selfish but ultimately you can benefit too. So if you’re interested and want to know more feel free to leave a comment.

Happy blogging.

Book Review: The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly – by Sun-Mi Hwang

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There is a bit of a trend in libraries these days to display recommended books on designated shelves to help out the indecisive library-goers who want something to read but have no idea what. I always find something there that catches my eye and recently it was The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly *** by Sun-Mi-Hwang.

The blurb on the inside cover read:

“This is the story of a hen named Sprout. No longer content to lay eggs on command, only to have them carted off to the market, she glimpses her future every morning through the barn doors, where the other animals roam free, and comes up with a plane to escape into the wild – and to hatch an egg of her own.”

It sounds exactly like the books I like to read and it didn’t disappoint. I actually read it in one sitting, which I very rarely do, but it was only 133 pages so it’s an easy read. Sprout is an instantly sympathetic character – an animal whose natural fundamental desires are thwarted by capitalist exploitation. The book has a lot to say about the conditions of farmyard animals but from a perspective I hadn’t considered before: that while some are relatively well treated (the free range chickens) and some treated badly (the battery hens), both are denied their basic instinct for motherhood.

This is an existential problem.

Sprout manages to escape and lives a while in the farmyard, which from the unpleasant conditions of the coop she had idealised; now outside she finds a strict hierarchical society that excludes her. She makes a friend with another outsider, a wild duck named Straggler, who is also marginalised due to his injured wing and ‘otherness’.

Sprout escapes to the fields, where she finds an egg that she is compelled to look after until the mother returns. She doesn’t return, but Straggler does, and he guards and protects her throughout the incubation. I’ll stop there as I don’t want to give away any more of the plot.

There are obvious parallels with Animal Farm but it is not political in the same way. This novel is about motherhood, the exploitation of fertility, and the hidden internal world of sentient creatures. Vegans and animal rights activists will find this novel very interesting but it is also an allegorical tale about the human condition and the universal desire to survive and to raise offspring.


 

*** FYI this is an affiliate link to the Amazon listing of this book.

#ad

 

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Nightjar

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I’ve not blogged in a while because I have been busy with others thing (including overtime at work) and also I suppose I was waiting for the warmer weather to appear to give me an opportunity to find something to write about.

Last week we went to Lakenheath Fen on the Norfolk/Suffolk border, a reserve managed by the RSPB. I hadn’t been there before but was aware it has a variety of habitats – woodlands, wetlands, reedbeds, etc. – so I was expecting to get some use out of my binoculars.

Instead it was mostly my ears that took centre stage as there were many interesting bird sounds from the reedbeds from elusive birds that just didn’t emerge, no matter how long we waited. Bitterns booming and never appearing is an experience I am used to, but I had not expected that when wandering down the path back to the visitor centre we would disturb a nightjar!

The sound was so puzzling to a very amateur birder like me – it sounded like a computer game, or a laser, or a machine. We couldn’t spot the creature, didn’t even manage to get a recording, but when googling it days later we realised it could only be a nightjar. I know it’s unlikely and unusual behaviour at this time of year but I can’t think that we could have confused such a distinctive sound.

This was on the 1st of April, on a reserve that had no prior reported sightings. They do nest in nearby Thetford forest so I imagine this one was on its way there and stopped off to see if maybe this territory might be suitable nesting ground.

Other birds that we actually spotted that day include blackcaps, reed buntings, cormorants, marsh harriers, egrets, herons. There were also some garganeys but they were too far away for binoculars to take in.

5 interesting new species we discovered in 2016

It’s not all doom and gloom and the Sixth Mass Extinction – scientists have been discovering new species as well as pronouncing their imminent demist. As our knowledge and technology improves, researchers are able to access more and more remote areas and discover interesting species that are completely new to science – before it is too late. Here’s a round up of my favourites.

  • The Ziggy Stardust Snake – for good reason this is my favourite new species, and for good reason they named it after the late great Bowie’s alter personality Ziggy, with it’s striking iridescent rainbow head.

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  • The Seadragon – OK, so I seem to be making a list of species with the coolest names. A relative of the seahorse, it has a long narrow body, with dorsal and pectoral fins.

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  • Harry Potter Sorting Hat Spider – again, the cool name theme. It was discovered in a mountainous region of south-west India and it mimics foliage to hide from predators

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  • Four-penised milipede – such a thing exists. 414 legs, 200 poison glands, 4 penises, and no eyes. So it goes.

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  •  Klingon newt – one of 163 new species, along with the Ziggy snake, that were discovered in 2015 along the Mekong delta, a hugely ecologically diverse.

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The Cruelest Show on Earth finally comes to an end

You know who I mean.

The big top tent of Ringling Bros circus will come down for the final time, at long last, after 146 years of well-documented animal cruelty and abuse.

Of particular attention to animal welfare activists has been the ‘breaking’ of elephants and the cruelty they suffer at the hands of their ‘trainers’; training which, by the way, is not required to submit to any legal welfare protection agency.

The happy news comes 5 years after the last British circus to exploit wild animals, the Great British Circus, drew to a close in 2012. Ringling Bros finally retired their elephants in 2016 to a conservation centre in Florida, losing their star attraction.

The company cited economic reasons for its closure, claiming that the train travel business model was no longer viable. Ticket sales have been dwindling, as they have with Seaworld since the truth of its cruelty towards wild animals became public knowledge because of documentaries such as Blackfish.

Animal activists can I think be more optimistic and see that people’s tastes in what classes as “entertainment” are certainly changing and fewer people are comfortable with bearing witness to animal humiliation and abuse for human amusement.

Hickling Broad, Norfolk, is being sold to the Norfolk Wildlife Trust

Hickling Broad is one of our most famous and internationally important broads in Norfolk. It houses a significant proportion of the UK’s common crane population, along with resident marsh harriers, bitterns, pochards, water rails, Cetti’s warbler, and the infamous beared tit.

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A large area of the estate has been managed by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, which is this year celebrating its 90th birthday. At the end of the second world war, the Mills family, who have owner the estate for over 200 years, decided to hand over the management to the NWT. Now more than 1,400 acres of the important ecosystem have been agreed for sale to the charity, which is now campaigning to raise £1m to buy the land.

It’s not just birds that enjoy living on the broad – Hickling is also home to the rare swallowtail butterfly and the Norfolk hawker dragonfly. You can also spot otters and barn owls, if you’re lucky, as well as the hilariously teddy-bear-like non-native Chinese water deer.

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And it’s not just animals – the broad is the largest reedbed in the UK and contains three rare species of stonewort, milk-parsley and the holly-leaved naiad.

The current owner of this vast estate, Hallam Mills, said:

“The Hickling estate has been in my family for 200 years and during that time this lovely Broad has survived in fine style, despite the pressures of the modern world.  The family is delighted that, out of many expressions of interest, the Broad is going to Norfolk Wildlife Trust, who in many ways were the Broad’s natural owner.  The wildlife and conservation interest of the reserve will be very safe in their hands.”

You can donate to this appeal for the NWT to buy the Broad by texting LAND26 to 70070, including the figure you wish to donate. You can also visit the Just Giving page. At the time of writing, over £3,400 has been raised in just a few days but they need to get to £1m by March.

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TripAdvisor to stop selling tickets to cruel animal attractions

Some rare good news in animal welfare! TripAdvisor has announced this week that it will no longer sell tickets to tourists attractions that profit from animal exploitation and cruelty. Instead of profiting from sales to such attractions, the Viator owned company plans to promote animal welfare.

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National Geographic explain why and how animal attractions like elephant rides, dolphin encounters, and tiger zoos are cruel to wild animals:

When being trained to carry visitors, elephants go through a “crush,” which often involves being beaten with nail-tipped sticks and immobilized in small cages. Tigers and lions often are drugged to make them sedate and safer for tourists to pet and take photos with. Dolphins kept captive for tourists to swim with are unable to hunt, roam, and play as they would in the wild, which raises their level of stress and can result in behavioral abnormalities.

Other tourism agencies have already moved away from supporting venues that profit from the imprisonment and maltreatment of wild animals, so it is hugely significant that the biggest company in this business has rejected the idea of exploiting wild animals for profit. It used to take the position that it was not TripAdvisor’s job to steer users to or from any type of attraction; now, the company has realised it has a responsibility to no longer support and profit from a business model that involves animal cruelty, especially at a time when the public has defiantly turned its back on SeaWorld.

A lot of people taking elephant rides and visiting tiger temples or dolphin shows don’t realise that the animals are maltreated; that they have suffered horrific abuse in order to perform tricks for tourists; that wild animals are drugged so tourists can take selfies with them. This is an important step in highlighting the practices behind these attractions and educating tourists to be more responsible and consider the treatment of the animals before they give their money to supporting these businesses.