Latest posts by hypercharleyfarley

Big garden bird watch

Posted: 25/01/2014 at 20:00

Hi Higgy - thanks for the pics - I couldn't be sure but thought "dunnocks" in that they are what I often see here.  I have several bird books + binocs handy in the kitchen but find some species hard to differentiate when I only catch a glimpse!  I have quite a few bird feeders hanging from various trees/shrubs in the garden, and as it's in open countryside there are all sorts of things visiting but not on a regular basis.  For instance, I've not seen a nuthatch this winter, nor any woodpeckers, which I usually do.  There are peregrines nesting a mile or two away, and I often see/hear buzzards overhead when the crows attack them.  Kestrel missing this year.  It was only when the pheasant "shouted" today that I noticed he was there!  Don't think I've ever seen a bunting here, and the bullfinches I used to see seem to have disappeared these past few years, as have the starlings, thrushes etc.  Haven't seen an owl for several years - there used to be little owls + tawnies nearby.

Things have changed such a lot since I first began to notice birds (as a little child & used to have those I-spy booklets) and I can't remember when I last saw a plover or heard a skylark round here.  Sad, isn't it........

Big garden bird watch

Posted: 25/01/2014 at 19:17

Haven't submitted a count, because I've not been counting consistently!  However, today these have been here in the garden:

at least twelve blue tits

four long-tailed tits

three coal tits

four great tits

one jay

one cock pheasant

two magpies

one crow

one robin

one male blackbird

two "sbbs" - couldn't identify because they were half hidden in the shrubs (sbb = small brown bird)

a pair of chaffinches

one greenfinch

one wren


I've not been at home all day, so there  must have been other visitors too - the jay and the cock pheasant aren't "regulars"!

The most unusual sighting here - only once in 20 years - was a red-footed falcon a few weeks ago.  If only it had been here today!


Covering an Unsightly Fence

Posted: 16/01/2014 at 16:25

I think you need to bear in mind that at some time or other the fence will have to be painted or coated with some preservative or other - and this could affect (or even kill off) things you plant very close to it.  With that in mind, perhaps you'd be able to leave some space between the fence and any shrubs you decide to plant.  If, for instance,  you were to make two semi-circular beds - with the fence at the back of each one - it would mean you could leave enough room to get to the fence itself when you needed to.  

  If there were - say -  a couple of fence panels between the two beds, you could attach some wooden trellis to the panels/posts to enable you to plant some climbers.   The trellis could be removed to enable the fence to be painted - it could be supported temporarily whilst any painting took place and the climbing plants left in situ  if they'd been planted some little distance away from the fence itself in the first place.


Bird feeders

Posted: 04/01/2014 at 17:19

I don't think it matters if you use pure vegetable oils such as peanut, sunflower, rapeseed etc - after all, birds eat sunflower seeds & peanuts!

Bird feeders

Posted: 03/01/2014 at 21:33

I think you could use it so long as it's mixed with other drier ingredients.  If you Google something like "home-made wild bird food" I bet you'll find some recipes which would include peanut butter.

It's not too expensive to make bird food at home & use up left-overs such as stale bread, crackers etc which you can mix with some vegetable oil or melted suet.  It helps to have some sort of liquidizer to grind any large seeds or peanuts, and if you use suet the resulting feed will set hard so you can make it in a mould or something which you can then hang up for the birds to perch on.

If you are going to use whole seeds of any sort, it's best to microwave them for a few moments before using them in any mixture - that way any which fall on the ground won't germinate & grow into anything you might not want to have in the garden!

Repotting new Christmas tree

Posted: 30/11/2013 at 18:26

The tree sounds lovely!  However, it wouldn't be a good idea to change too quickly from the sort of temperatures you'll have indoors to the outdoor mid-winter cold.  If you're going to add decorations or fairy lights, the idea of "misting" could cause you a bit of shock/problem!  One thing you might be able to do is to keep it somewhere relatively cool in the house - i.e. certainly as far away from a radiator or open fire as you can.  Maybe only bring it into the living room (?warmest place in the house) only when you really feel you want to.  Otherwise it'll be happier somewhere cooler, and you'll maximise its chances of survival.

Tudor Monastry Farm

Posted: 21/11/2013 at 10:52

I enjoyed the cookery programme much more than the Monastery Farm one!  Nigel and Adam work really well together as presenters, don't they?

I suppose I sit there waiting to "nit-pick" with the "farm" thing - and as usual saw and heard things which made me wince.  Maybe it's not fair to attribute these solely to the programme's presenters - the producer and director must surely take the blame, so to speak, just as they would with any praise.  One of the opening shots showed a chap with a pikel over his shoulder - a relatively modern one, and not something which would have been around in the 1500s.  I was interested to see that they did in fact use a wooden one when forking the straw into the steaming pit.  The presenters should, however, know that "to blunten" and  "sheared" aren't the right words to use (!) and I don't think he really meant what he said when he sort-of explained that the vertical sticks in the pit "transported" heat either.........

However, back to the "nits"...........   I wish they would learn how to handle any livestock they deal with.  The way they dealt with the sheep was really awful, and it did make me smile when they said that the poor muddy one which finally escaped from that filthy pond would have to dry out for a few weeks before shearing. .......     did they really think the sheep would stay clean?   When it came to carding the wool, they were using modern metal-tined carders - whereas in the 1500s they'd most probably have used something made from dried teasel heads - that's where the word "teasing" comes from (in this context).  I think they could - and should - have explained that there are varying degrees of fibre quality in any whole fleece, so the sorting of the wool would take this into account.  For example, the parts of the fleece from the underside/throat/chest are finer, softer and shorter fibres - whereas the parts from the hindquarters are much coarser, and these would be separated for use in different ways.  Imagine, for instance, a rug -  and a vest for a baby - both can be made from wool.  The other thing they didn't mention is that the fleece/fibre quality is affected by something called "the rise" which is a weakening of the fibres & which happens in the early part of summer when not only is the grass quality better, but the weather's warmer too.  This combination of improved nutritiion and warmth causes a sudden growth spurt in the fleece which weakens the fibres and is part of the reason why sheep sometimes appear to moult a bit.  The ideal time to shear, therefore is at the time when this weakness is closest to the body.   Makes shearing easier & quicker and means the fibres don't have an inherent weakness.

The goose boots were a complete joke! 

Tudor Monastry Farm

Posted: 13/11/2013 at 16:33

Hello DK!  I suppose you might perhaps wonder whether Frank (aka Palaisglide) and I will be watching!  I'm not sure where Frank is at the moment - he's not posted here for ages, so I do hope he's OK.........

I'm sure you'll recall that  Frank and I felt there were quite a few occasions during the earlier series which really showed the presenters' lack of research and knowledge of the subjects they covered, so I'm wondering whether they'll continue in the same vein.  It's a pity that people were taken in by this, and misled completely at times - for example, do you remember when one of the presenters said that rats don't have a bladder?  ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,!     He couldn't explain/didn't know why they urinate the way they do, so made an utterly incorrect statement.  They made mistakes about hatching chicks/brooders etc. - and milked a cow just after her calf had suckled,  without washing her udder and teats.  There were lots of other similar "howlers" so I'll no doubt be yelling at the TV  tonight - again!   Cheers!  Ma.

Wisteria Pruning

Posted: 17/10/2013 at 19:52

It's probably best to wait a bit before doing anything drastic.  When all the leaves have fallen it will be easier for you to see those points on the stems where next year's growth will begin, from new "buds". I think that most of us who have wisterias have seen a greater amount of growth than usual this year - mine have set more seed pods than ever.  If you wait until the usual pruning time - February - you can then decide which parts you want to train and grow, and which you want to remove altogether.

If the plant is reasonably well-established, even if you cut it right back to what you might call "the trunk" it will most probably shoot from there too, even if there don't appear to be any obvious buds. You'll need to tie it to its supports and this is easier when there's no foliage to wrestle with.  It's quite important to make sure that the roots don't dry out during the autumn & winter - most wisterias seem to be  planted against a wall and the soil there is often dry and of poor quality, so some good mulch or manure will help a lot with the new growth when it finally emerges.

I hope this helps a bit - my wisterias grow like triffids all through the summer months, so I have to do regular tidying-up then, otherwise I'd not be able to see through my windows!

Poppy Fields

Posted: 17/07/2013 at 14:00

I don't think they really need winter cold for germination - it's light they seem to need more than anything, hence the "sudden" appearance of poppies in France after WW1.  In any case, imagine what happens when they're left alone:  the pods develop those little openings around the crown of the seedhead and the seeds themselves are scattered when the wind shakes the dead stems.  The seeds fall on the ground and aren't covered over.

Discussions started by hypercharleyfarley

ID please!

looks like a cross between grass and foxglove 
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