Friday, 6 July 2018

The Heat

The past two weeks have been hot and dry.  The impact of this weather has been seen clearly in our garden.
With heavy clay soil, the usual problem is a very wet garden.  In drought conditions, the soil turns to a thick dusty hard crust and the plants suffer.  The side lawn is losing the lush green colour and looking very parched.
Some of the plants at the top of the garden in the shade of the trees have died back completely.
The top lawn is able to retain moisture, so the grass still looks good, but stressed trees are already shedding leaves in this area.
At the moment, there is a voluntary request not to water lawns and garden plants or use hose pipes.  Some plants, like this blueberry, have been moved into the greenhouse to protect the ripening fruits.  I have not seen a slug for weeks and all of the snails are closed down for the duration.
The foxes are spending less time in the garden, mum is coming to collect scraps of food to take back to the den.  One concession I have made is to top up the pond to keep the amphibians stress free.  The water butts in  the garden are almost empty now.  Rain is expected in a couple of weeks.  I do not recall this type of weather since the Summer of 1976.

Friday, 8 June 2018


 This evening started with a hexing look from a regular visitor. When dolly is in wildcat mode, she will not tolerate strange humans watching her.
As the light was fading, I looked out of the window and saw one of the cubs feeding from then food dish.  White tipped tail, probably male.  My camera was at hand.
 This is my first picture of a fox cub this year.  As I had the camera and the evening was warm, I decided to go out and sit quietly on the garden bench.
 The adult male fox was the first to spot me.  He hesitated and studied me from the top of the side lawn.
Shortly afterwards, mum and another cub popped through the holly hedge at the top of the garden.  They immediately fixed their stare on me - a human in our garden!  Normally when I am in the garden with the foxes, I talk quietly and gesture my intentions to them, moving away to the house.  They are not used to seeing me sitting silently in the garden.  Different makes them alert, especially with the cubs around.
The dark images have been "PhotoShop"-ed to show the details more clearly.

Monday, 4 June 2018

Tiny feet

The local foxes have had 4 cubs, two male and two female.  I was woken early in the night with footsteps on the gravel path.  When I looked out, the cubs were running amok around the garden.  It was far too dark to take photographs.
 Mum was on the lawn the next day, looking good.
She was eager to find me and ask for food.  We give her the scraps that max will not eat during the day, and add a few dog biscuits.  It is a way of ensuring the cat food is not wasted. Last year, when this vixen was a cub, her mother was proud to show her off in our garden.  She is currently keeping her cubs away when we are around.  As a first time mum, this is probably a wise choice.
The dog fox is a bit more cautious and can be difficult to spot.  He is always on the lookout for danger and does not have the trust of his partner in crime.

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Long Tailed Tits

 There are two pairs of long tailed tits nesting just beyond the boundaries of our garden.  They visit the Fat Balls regularly to feed.
 Recently they have been flying for insects on the wing, above the tall shrubs at the garden boundary.  They will hover upwards, like lethargic humming birds and snatch insect prey.  Today they seem to be taking large black and yellow banded insects, which I suspect are small wasps.  The bodies are too fat to be hover-flies when the images are magnified, but the pixilation is too rough to see exactly what they are.
 With a 300mm hand held lens at 30m away, it is difficult to get a good focus on such small and fast moving birds.  I am finding that 1 in 5 pictures are in focus.
It is delightful to see such birds doing well.  They only generally hunt like this when they have young to feed.  No doubt we will see the fledglings in due course.

Saturday, 5 May 2018

Chinos - my wotsit!

Life is not going my way.  For years I have worn Chino trousers which were designed as a cotton fabric loose fitting trouser with a darted waist.
Having searched the shops for a pair of these trousers, I now find that the usual made in China or made in India stock (throughout the stores) are now flat fronted tight trousers in regular or short leg sizes.  They are all called Chino's, but they are a mile away from the comfortable design that was a Chino.
There are still a few companies that manufacture within Europe, who produce the classic Chino trousers, but they cannot compete with the cheap imports from outside of the European Zone.  It looks like local manufacturing is now well and truly dead.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

RFC Tydd St Mary's

There are very few simulated first World War aircraft for the X-Plane 11 Flight Simulator.  Even fewer first World War airfield simulations.  Having a Sopwith Camel model, I thought it would be a good idea to try and fly it from a vintage airfield.
 My first attempt was to create RFC Tydd St Mary's airfield in the Lincolnshire Fens.  This was a small airfield used for Home Defence and it was classified as a Class 1 Night Landing Field.  It was established in 1916 as a grass field with 2 Twin Hangars.  The landing lights were a set of caged paraffin burners that could be laid along the sides of the active runway.  B flight of 51 HD Squadron from Marham moved in with 8 FE2b aircraft, 7 officers, 5 NCO's and 40 other ranks to defend against the threat of zeppelin attacks.
 In 1918, B flight were joined by the 92 USAAC transit unit for landing ground training prior to moving US pilots to the battle front in France.  They arrived with DH6 aircraft and a few Avro and BE fighters.  5 Bessonneau Hangars were erected on site.  These were French designed wooden framed and canvass covered structures that were erected like tents.  At this time 51 squadron received a flight of Avro 504K trainers fitted with machine guns for night flying use.  The Airfield was disbanded in 1919, though the last hanger was demolished in 2009.  The airfield became the Grange Wind farm in 2012, with 4 wind turbines.
 As part of the model, Tydd St Marys was created to be seen from the air, including the unusual church, which is a composite of stone and brick build over several hundred years of refurbishment.
For those who have X-Plane 11, the airfield is available at my X-Plane pages as a downloadable free zip file at

The problem with WW1 aircraft simulations is the difficult ground handling.  Early aircraft had no steering or brakes, so turning on the ground needed men at each wingtip to pull the aircraft around.  This is not practical on the simulator, so it is best to start with the aircraft at the end of a runway.

It is not easy to land on an airfield at night when the runway is only lit by paraffin lamps.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Spring weather, at last

 Now that the weather is starting to warm up, the garden is returning to its greener state.  The pond is showing signs of life as the newts emerge.  We have only seen one frog this year and there is no spawn in the pond, This is the first time in over 20 years that the frogs have not spawned here.
 The Rhubarb is starting to become suitable for picking and we have had our first taste of this fine vegetable.
 The Ransoms (wild garlic) are in full leaf at the side of the shed.  It will not be long before they are in flower.
Today, I started to reorganise the greenhouse.  Seed tomatoes are big enough to re-pot, so I have constructed a frame and planted some of them out.  Courgettes and beans are also coming on.  Now I need to turn my attention to the raised beds and other seedling crops, ready for the warmer weather.  Next job will be to plant out the potatoes.