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nature

Recent paintings

Since writing Jenny Wren to the rescue and and illustrating the book with my paintings, I decided to paint for fun rather than for a specific purpose.

I’ve been experimenting with both watercolours and gouache. Looking back over some of my earlier works I can see improvements.

Here are some of my recent works.

I regularly walk through the nearby countryside and this hollow oak always looks so good. It is a popular place for children who can go inside and maybe visit secret places…

There is a ruined church near us that caught the morning light so beautifully.

I’ve been trying to find the best way to paint bark and leaves. Here is a study of a tree with ivy growing round it.

I often take photos of birds, both from my walks and those that visit my garden.

Last year we had Great Spotted Woodpeckers bring their young along to show them where the food is. It was great to see the parent feeding the young. This inspired the painting of the three woodpeckers.

Along the river we get many waders. This is a dunlin.

And finally, here is a composite picture of several birds that I have seen nearby. Of course Jenny Wren and Bobby Robin are here, but Jason Jay was away. Can you recognise the others?

Books, nature

Jenny Wren to the rescue

Nannie RaRa has published her latest book: Jenny Wren to the rescue.

This is the tale of Jenny Wren who was looking for some tasty creatures to eat for lunch. But who will be eaten?

Gregory Grasshopper looks very appetising, but instead of eating him they become friends.  Jenny narrowly misses being eaten by a sparrowhawk while protecting Gregory from a frog.

Does Jenny eventually find her lunch? Read the book to find out.

The book is illustrated with paintings done in watercolour and gouache by Nannie RaRa, mostly from photographs she has taken.

Jenny Wren looking for a spider to eat
Jenny Wren looking for a spider to eat
The baby pigeon had fallen out of the nest
The baby pigeon had fallen out of the nest
Benny Blue Tit kept a look out
Benny Blue Tit kept a look out
Gregory Grasshopper would help Jenny get out of the soak away
Gregory Grasshopper would help Jenny get out of the soak away
The frog was going to eat Gregory
The frog was going to eat Gregory
Watch out for the sparrowhawk
Watch out for the sparrowhawk
Lunch at last for Jenny Wren
Lunch at last for Jenny Wren

It is available from Amazon both as a paperback and in electronic format.

Jenny Wren to the rescue: paperback

Jenny Wren to the rescue: ebook

Recipe

Melting moments

This recipe for melting moments is at least thirty years old. My sister-in-law gave it to me when both our children were in primary school and always hungry when they came in.

Ingredients

ingredients
  • 3 oz caster sugar
  • 4 oz soft butter or margarine
  • 5 oz self-raising flour
  • 1/2 egg
  • approximately 2 oz porridge oats

Method

Switch on oven to 180 C. Grease a flat baking tray – a swiss roll tin is perfect.

blend sugar and butter

Cream together the butter and sugar until smooth and light. Add the egg and beat well.

add flour

Mix in the flour, making sure the flour is well blended into the mixture.

roll in oats

Using your hands take golf size pieces of the dough and form them into balls. This quantity makes between 10 and 12 melting moments – this time I made 11.

Coat the balls in rolled oats.

Place on the baking tray and flatten slightly.

put on baking tray

Lightly press half a cherry into the centre. I forgot to do this and added the cherries when the melting moments came out of the oven. The cherries didn’t stick so well 😉

Cook in the oven at 180 C for about 15-20 minutes until the melting moments are turning golden.

Cool on a wire rack.

cool on wire rack

Enjoy!

Recipe

Cheese scones

A simple recipe today for cheese scones, perfect for afternoon tea in autumn.

Ingredients

ingredients
  • 8 oz self-raising flour
  • 2 oz hard butter
  • 3 oz strong cheese, plus extra for topping
  • approximately 1/4 pint milk

Method

Switch on oven to 200 C.

Grease a flat baking tray – a swiss roll tin is perfect.

Put the flour into a mixing bowl.

butter and flour plus cheese

Cut the butter into small pieces and add to the flour. Rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips until no lumps are left. I use hard butter as it rubs in better than using spreadable butters.

flour, butter and cheese mixed together

Mix in the 3 oz of grated cheese. Strong cheese gives a better flavour – mine was classed as having a strength of 6.

Add the milk a little at the time using your hand to blend it into the flour and butter mix. Gradually collect the mixture together into one piece. Knead lightly to form a soft dough.

cheese scone dough

Roll into a thick sausage shape, about two-inch diameter. Cut into 8 pieces. Knead each slightly into a round about an inch thick.

Add grated cheese on the top of each scone pressing gently so that it sticks to the scone.

add grated cheese on top

Place the scones on the greased baking tray and cook in the oven for fifteen minutes until well risen and golden.

When cooked, cool the scones on a slatted tray or trivet.

cooked cheese scones

You can either eat these warm or cold. If you like, spread butter and jam in the middle. Perfect with a cup of tea.

sliced cheese scone

Enjoy!

nature

Garden rambles

I was given a gardener’s day book as a gift and it has inspired me to write about my garden. I won’t write every day but will jot things down and share them every now and again. Firstly, a look at the garden in August 2021

It was a cold spring this year but the wild greengage plum in the front garden has yielded over 30 lbs of plums despite the blackbirds feasting on them even while they were being picked.  Previous years have only produced a handful of plums.

Date pickedWeight plums in pounds
25/07/202113
26/07/20219
30/07/20212
03/08/20217.5

The plums have been cooked and frozen, made into a plum pudding cake, given away and eaten as soon as they were picked.

damson

Some of the first ones were underripe so they were left in the garage. They have ripened extremely well and were then eaten raw.

Stoned fruits should be pruned while the sap is still rising, so just after they have fruited is a good time. I’ve now pruned some low growing branches on the plum tree so that I can get the mower underneath.

I’ve also pruned a few branches on the damson tree. This was grown from a seed from the previous damson tree that was in the garden. It doesn’t usually have many damsons – only two this year.

The fourth of August was my flying ant day. There are a couple of ant nests in the garden and the flying ants always seem to happen on the same dry sunny day. They only appear for about an hour or two, then they are all gone.

On 6 August 2021 the rain gauge showed 0.3” rain from the previous night. It was a warm day, 22 C, but with a strong breeze and occasional showers and downpours.

pink oriental lilies

In the garden at the moment are the lilies in pots on the steps – some are already past their best but the pink ones are still wonderful.

They looked magnificent. I bought a collection from Harts Nursery called ‘Colourful Chelsea’ Lily Collection. They were a mix of Oriental and Oriental Trumpet lilies.

They attract both flies and wasps. But beware getting the pollen on you as it stains yellow.

As the petals fall off I cut off the flowering heads but left the leaves to continue to feed the bulbs for next year’s flowers.

bumble bee on lavendar

The English lavender is in full bloom. I have seen various bumble bees on there but only one honey bee. Honey bees have been scarce this year although there were plenty on the orange buddleia early in the year.

rebell, crocosmia, toadflax

The gazanias are closed today as the sun is hiding behind the clouds. They are so bright when the sun is out.  There are a couple of harebells flowering under the hawthorn hedge which were self-seeded. They had flowers earlier in the year which I cut back and more have now bloomed. The crocosmia is a lovely dark red. There is an abundance of common toadflax (Linaria vulgaris) with the yellow flowers like miniature antirrhinums.

The hollyhocks are in flower and the tall stems of the purpletop vervain (Verbena bonariensis) are blowing in the wind. They attract the bees.

The fuchsias in the front bed are doing well. They were moved earlier this year from a west facing fence in the back garden. They are now in a bed facing north and seem to like it better there. They are not over fond of hot sun.

In the small vegetable patch, there are two ready-to-eat courgettes – already I’ve eaten several small ones.  When the flower dies I twist the stalk to remove them from the plant. There have been a continuous crop. I’ve eaten them all while they are small either steamed or fried with tomatoes as a base for an omelette. I picked the two ripe courgettes today and steamed them with some runner beans from my father’s garden.

runner beans growing up apple tree

My runner beans have reached the top of the poles. I’ve attached a cane from the beans to the apple tree so the runners can climb further. The runner bean flowers took a while to set this year but now there are plenty of beans. I am also given lots of the ready-sliced variety from my father.

The tomatoes are ripening well. I’ve eaten several, picking them as I walk past. I usually add water gel crystals to the compost in the pots so that the plants hold the mositure better, but I must have forgotten in one pot. This tomato plant dries out more quickly than the others and it was noticeable as these tomatoes weren’t as juicy as usual. Extra water soon fixed that.

There are beetroot ready to harvest, I boiled a few and ate them with a salad. A couple had started to bolt so I pulled those up and added to the compost.

The chives have seeded so that there are hundreds of new ones growing all over the place.

The wild strawberries have berries on them. They look red but close up still have a lot of white so they need to wait a day or two longer. I forgot about them, then when I looked a few days later there were a handful ready to pick and eat. They have an intense flavour.

There was a good crop of strawberries this year although later than usual. Once they had finished fruiting, I chopped back the plants to about three inches from ground level. I did this for the first time last year, and think this helped with the good crop this year. The new leaves started to grow back and after a few weeks are the same size and height as before but look much fresher. The strawberries on the vegetable patch have sent out runners and I’ve encouraged these to be spaced apart.

The pineberry – a strawberry plant with a pineapple flavour was a huge success. The fruit starts green but is ripe when it has a pink blush. It tastes delicious. It had a large quantity of fruit and has sent several runners out.

The raspberries have finished fruiting and I’ve taken down the netting which protected them from the birds. There are many stems for next year’s fruit, some a lot taller than last years.

There are only a couple of walnuts on the tree. Last year there were plenty of walnuts. The sweet chestnut tree has several growing fruits on it. Last year they were very small but this years are starting to fill out.

woodpeckers, wren

There are two great spotted woodpeckers on the peanut feeders. Sometimes there are three of them in the garden, but then they chase each other. Earlier the adults were feeding the young.

When I returned one early evening, there were a troop of young wrens bobbing along the fence.

The blue tits are on the peanut feeders all day and have been all summer. Usually, blue tits aim to have their brood at the same time as caterpillars hatch out on the oak trees. The cold spring delayed the caterpillars so I suspect the parents fed the babies on the peanuts, hence the young blue tits now see peanuts as their main food.

The marjoram growing under the bay tree has still its white flowers which have been out for several weeks. This morning when I wandered round the garden between showers, I noticed a honey bee busy there.

agapanthus

The agapanthus is in full bloom with the blue flower heads looking gorgeous.

Cyclamen are one of my favourite flowers. I love the way the stem appears and the flowers secretly come out before the leaves emerge. They appear as the summer blooms are rapidly fading. The pink is almost a glow-in-the-dark colour. If you dig them up to transplant them the corms can be as big as dinner plates.

The first cyclamen appeared in mid-August. Not in my garden but in my fathers. I searched and searched for mine but they weren’t yet there. The next day I cut down some long grass and noticed some pink among it. It was the first cyclamen, now to go into a vase indoors.

The grass has been cut weekly this month. Oftentimes in August the grass becomes parched and dusty dry, but this year has been wetter and the grass has stayed green and growing. I enjoy cutting the grass, because as you go round the garden you can see reminders of jobs that need doing.

I was never one for taking particular care in have a neat grass edge, but having done it for a few weeks now it does make the whole garden look tidy.

I’ve weeded the garden quite regularly. Each season has its own flowers in bloom and the weeds are seasonal as well. I’ve cleared the ground around the new beech hedging.

And ready for next spring, the forget-me-nots have tiny seedlings growing in the borders.

That’s all for this month. I’ll update you at the end of September.