Slow and steady

Moving slowly through the UK countryside


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Potato planting and a frogspawn update

I planted my birthday potatoes today.  The potato bag is a natty design with flaps (it reminds me of old-fashioned flap-bottomed pyjamas) so you can extract a few potatoes without digging up the whole plant.  Not sure it’s really all that useful (I’ve always dug several plants up at once anyway, as they keep) but fun anyway.

Potato bag

Flapped potato bag (flap at bottom left, velcroed shut)

The potatoes had already chitted (sprouted) themselves in the packaging. Nice strong shoots.

Potatoes

Chitting potatoes variety ‘Apache’ which are red and white in patches.

The frogs have been very busy all week, and the pond has masses of spawn. Last week’s spawn is already showing signs of developing heads and bodies – the newer batch is still small and spherical.

Frogspawn

Week old spawn on the left, fresh spawn on the right

And these are just because they’re cute and pretty.

Goldfinch and Greenfinch

Goldfinch and male Greenfinch eating sunflower seeds

Long-tailed Tits

Long-tailed Tits

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A frog he would a wooing go…

Well, the frogs were all at it this morning. They rather made me think of hippos.  I love the echoes of the reflected eyes and the frogspawn.

Frogs

I couldn’t remember any more of the frog wooing song than the first line, but found a version here:

“With a roly poly gammon and spinach, hey ho says Anthony Rowley…”  Very strange words indeed. The wikipedia article about the ‘Frog Went A-Courting’ version of this song was intriguing, suggesting various possible origins, such as that it could be (or could have been altered to be) about an unpopular royal marriage. And/or that the roly-poly bit could be a list of “four families of Suffolk notables, Rowley, Poley, Bacon and Green”. I rather like the idea of gammon and spinach being derived from Bacon and Green.

A one-minute film of them is here. You can hear them croaking, and various birds (House Sparrow, Wood Pigeon, Starling) and the church clock ringing ‘quarter past the hour’ in the background. Plus quite a few cars and an aeroplane.

I took this picture of a crocus, while looking for something to fit the them of ‘inside’ for this weekly photo challenge. What a strange stigma the flower has – saffron trumpets. Culinary saffron comes from another species of crocus. What a job to collect them it must be.

Purple crocus

Saffron stigma glowing in the spring sunshine


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Frogspawn

I went out and checked the pond for frogspawn this morning, as it was another sunny day.  I could see frogs moving about, but there was no spawn yet.

A couple of hours later, this had appeared – it’s still very dense, with the jelly not yet swollen up. I wonder whether the Pond Snail is having a jelly feast?  I put a little bit of spawn in a tank, so I can watch the tadpoles develop, and then return them to the pond later on.

Frogspawn

Fresh-laid frogspawn


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World Book Day dressing up

Everyone dressed up at school today, for World Book Day. I was the witch from “Room on the Broom”.  We took the children to see it at the theatre last term.

My hair isn’t long (or ginger, though it used to be a bit reddish), but I did plait it, and put a bow in it, made a makeshift broom, and took in my jam pan as a cauldron for the cat and a dog to sit in (couldn’t find a frog or a bird).  You can’t see my lovely black cloak (a skirt pinned to my shoulders), the bow, or my pointy black boots.  It was all really an excuse to use my purple sparkly wand, which lights up and makes magic-making noises when you wave it.  I acted the story out with a little group, and they enjoyed making a magic potion in the cauldron.  All good fun.  🙂

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 17.54.33 Room on the Broom


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Shrove Tuesday – Gluten-free Pancake Day

Gluten-free pancakes!  The sweet ones (with dark brown sugar and lime juice) were not quite as good as wheat ones, to my taste-buds (and I wasn’t too keen on the smell as they cooked), but the savoury ones were very good.

I used:

4 tablespoons of buckwheat flour (about 4 oz)

1 egg

Enough milk to make a fairly runny batter (I didn’t measure it, but something like half a mugful, maybe a bit more).

Then I fried them in hot butter.

When nearly cooked both sides, sprinkle on some grated strong Cheddar cheese, add some parsley and chopped ham.  When the cheese is melted, slide the pancake onto a plate, roll it up and eat.  I managed about half a dozen (look – they are very tiny).  Nom nom nom.

According to the buckwheat flour packet, French crepes and Russian blinis are often made with buckwheat flour – so a perfectly acceptable alternative to wheat-flour pancakes.

Pancake

Cheese, ham and parsley savoury pancake before rolling


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Bugs and blossoms

It was a day for ladybirds today. These were on our bedroom windowsill. They’ve been hibernating in the window-frames, and have woken up in the warmth of the sun today. They are both forms of the invading Harlequin ladybirds. If you want to know more, have a look here! You can record any ladybirds that you find in the UK there too.

Harlequin ladybird

Harlequin ladybird – a very spotty form (Harmonia axyridis succinea)

Black Harlequin ladybird

Harlequin ladybird, one of the melanistic forms (Harmonia axyridis spectabilis)

This native 7-spot ladybird was in the garden, trotting round the Lonicera nitida hedge.

7-spot ladybird

7-spot ladybird

The yellow crocuses were wide open today.

Crocus

A golden splash of crocuses

And finally, two greenish flowers, that need to be looked at closely to be appreciated. They both produce nectar for bees and other insects.

Clematis cirrhosa var. balearica

Clematis cirrhosa var. balearica

Stinking Hellebore

Stinking Hellebore, or Bearsfoot, Helleborus foetidus – popular with bees