Rhubarb and compost

The rhubarb on the railway line has not been growing well for a couple of years now.  If you ask anyone about rhubarb, they will tell you about what a weed it is: once planted you can never get the thing to stop spreading!  I now have living proof that this doesn’t always happen, although I too have always believed this fact!

I think my rhubarb is in decline because the cat keeps sitting on it (breaking stems), slugs keep eating the leaves and it’s living in a rubbish area.  As such, to solve problems one and two I have rigged up a new system to protect the rhubarb.

Rhubarb patch June 2014

As you can see in the before and after pics, I’ve put a string and bamboo structure around the rhubarb.  It lifts the leaves off the ground (and away from slugs), and makes it harder for the cat to get on it.  Hopefully that will help!

Whilst I was there, I also weeded a bit and laid those last few slabs that have needed moving for months (years, probably).  I also had a look at my compost, and I have these photos for you:

Snail in compost

Every time I find a snail in the garden I chuck him in the composter.  We’ve had a problem with slugs and snails in the garden since 2012 when we grew Brussels sprouts (which got completely destroyed by pests!).

In my composter I have some pink paper at the moment, and the snails have been eating it.  As a result, their poo is pink!  I mentioned this on Twitter, and then got photographic evidence for you!

Pink snail poo

I’m not sure how healthy this is for them, but the paper needed recycling!

A mushroom sunglasses case

I bought some new prescription sunglasses this year (I can finally see in sunlight!), and they came in the biggest sunglasses case ever!  They’re Roxy sunglasses, so they really should know better.  Who has space in their already-bulging handbag for a giant sunglasses case?  Nobody, that’s who!  So, I took it upon myself to make a new one for the glasses.  I chose an inner fabric of bright orange and an outer fabric of mushrooms.  I love this fabric so much!

Sunglasses case 1

It’s basically sewn together the same way I made this bottle bag (still in weekly use!), but with a binding edge like you’d do for quilted blankets.  I used a hand stitch to do the binding which you can see in the photos.  It’s cute, I think.

Sunglasses case 2

I lined the case with wadding to protect the sunglasses, and I forgot to cut diagonally across the corners to make it easier to turn the right way round, and the result is that the case is slightly asymmetrical.  However, it only took an hour to rustle up and is perfectly useable!  A very quick and easy job for anyone to do!

Sunglasses case 3

My sunglasses now live in my bag for sunny days!

A heron in flight

A random post for you today. I caught a picture of a heron in flight last week and wanted to share it with you. It’s not great, but it’s obvious what it is!

This bird is not on my list of birds to photograph. In fact, only two are: a kingfisher and a bird of prey (I’m not fussy about what!). I keep seeing birds of prey and they keep taunting me, but one day. Hopefully! I’ve never even seen a kingfisher properly.  I saw a flash of blue once!

Heron in flightWe had a pond in my childhood home, and one day a heron came and ate all the fish.  Then we didn’t have any fish any more.  That is my heron related story.


Amazon’s 100 books to read in a lifetime

Kindle reading

Amazon recently produced a list of 100 books we should read in a lifetime. Book lists are always slightly personal to the creator, but this one is made by Amazon editors, and they have a lot of data to hand from publishers and sales.

I thought it would be fun to go through the list and offer my own recommendations (or not!). I’ve read a lot of these books, and I don’t think they’re all worth a read! Some of them deserve to be on this list, but I reckon I could cut the list down to 50 books easily! I haven’t summarised each story as you can get that on the web; I’ve just shared my thoughts.

1. A Game of Thrones – George R.R. Martin

The first in the Song of Fire and Ice series by George R.R. Martin.  The TV series is much better, so I’d recommend skipping the book and watching TV instead! This book needed a better editor, as it’s long and rambling. The TV series pulled the stories together much more coherently, in my opinion.

2. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

I’ve not read this, although it’s just been made into a film. The trailer looks good, but also sad. It’s about Jews in Nazi Germany though so I guess that’s expected.

3. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

This is such a good book. It always pops up on these lists, and with good reason. If you haven’t read it yet, do it!

4. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald

This used to be one of my favourite books, but I’ve got a bit bored with it now that it’s become super-fashionable and cool. People get so focussed on the jazz that they ignore the characters. You should read it though if you haven’t already.

5. The tiger who came to tea – Judith Kerr

Not read this!

6. The Gruffalo – Julia Donaldson

Or this – maybe a generational thing? I don’t have kids.

7. Nineteen eighty-four – George Orwell

One of the original good dystopia fictions, and definitely worth a read just so that you can understand the genre that’s boomed into existence with The Hunger Games, etc. Also, so much that Orwell wrote about has actually come true, in Britain at least.

8. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This is on my reading list and has been for years. One day!

9. We’re going on a bear hunt – Michael Rosen

Another children’s book I haven’t read…

10. The Secret History – Donna Tartt

This book has a lot of pages, so be aware of that! It is very good though, and I loved the comparison to Greek tragedy. It sort of reminds of me of the Dead Poet’s Society. It’s the only Donna Tartt book I’ve read, and is worth a read.

11. Lord of the Flies – William Golding

A weird, depressing book! I sort of feel like people should read it because it’s famous for good reason, but I will think you’re odd if you say this is one of your favourite books!

12. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole – Sue Townsend

I love this book! I’ve read it loads since I was a teenager, and it’s such a good read. Adrian Mole is a brilliant character.

13. Freakonomics – Steven D. Levitt

This book is a fascinating look into statistics. I feel like it should be compulsory reading for anyone with an interest in politics (including politicians!).

14. The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas – John Boyne

Another Nazi Germany story. I’ve not read it, and it will be sad!

15. The Hare with the Amber Eyes – Edmund de Waal

This book was everywhere recently on GoodReads! Lots of people kept reading it/adding it to their reading list. I haven’t read it, and the name annoys me for some reason. Sorry, Mr de Waal.

16. Noughts and Crosses – Malorie Blackman

I read this book as a teenager, and now I don’t remember anything at all about it except that it has a good cover design. It’s actually on my list to read again because I feel I should remember the story!

17. A brief history of time – Stephen Hawking

Unless you’re a physicist, don’t bother reading this. I did read it, and have saved you the job. Be glad it’s out there in the world, and that there are genius brains thinking about these things. I’m pretty sure that most people who claim they have read this have skipped many pages. It’s hard work.

18. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

You will notice a lack of Russian authors in my reading here. I don’t know why, although I did read some Bulgakov (not on this list) once, and it was very odd.

19. Cider with Rosie – Laurie Lee

This is another book that I enjoyed as a teen and now don’t remember anything about, except that it was an old hardback copy that I read with a beautiful red and white print pattern. I should read this again.

20. The Road – Cormac McCarthy

I saw the trailer for the film, and the answer is no.

21. Long walk to freedom – Nelson Mandela

I’ve seen this book in bookshops and it’s really long! Maybe one day (on a kindle)!

22. Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier

I’ve never read a Daphne du Maurier book. My Mum has and is refraining from commenting!

23. The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway

This is a nice story, and Hemingway is a good writer. Stop trying to make him hipster though. He was a writer with a way with words – lots are. Worth a read as it’s a good book.

24. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte

Why does this book appear on these lists? I do not like the Bronte sisters, and Wuthering Heights is rubbish. It’s depressing and pointless. Read some Austen!

25. The Picture of Dorian Grey – Oscar Wilde

This is such a brilliant novel. Oscar Wilde deserves to be famous, and this book deserves to be on this list. Read it!

26. In Cold Blood – Truman Capote

I’ve not read this and probably never will since it details a real murder story. However, I understand that it’s very good.

27. The man who mistook his wife for a hat – Oliver Sacks

This book is on my reading list, and I will read it one day!

28. Bad Science – Ben Goldacre

This book is a brilliant look at the pharmacy industry, amongst other things, and is worth a read if you want to know the truth behind headlines. Ben Goldacre also has a great Twitter feed.

29. Never let me go – Kazuo Ishiguro

Nope! All Ishiguro’s books have depressing titles which put me off.

30. The Fellowship of the Ring – J.R.R. Tolkien

Obviously this book is on the list. You can’t just read one of the trilogy though, and the second book is a bit rubbish. So, watch the film trilogy instead. It’s visually brilliant and you get to watch Orlando Bloom be an elf.

31. The Enchanted Wood – Enid Blyton

Enid blyton has been ruined for me by the BBC documentary that showed how horrible she was to her own children. As such, I don’t recommend this!

32. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

I tried to read some Dickens once, and I didn’t like it.

33. Catch-22 – Joseph Heller

This book is an excellent book, but it’s a bit like marmite.  I know lots of people don’t like it as it doesn’t take war seriously and can be hard to read in places.  However, I think the humour is the point (and so do critics!).  How else do you deal with a topic as horrid as world war?

34. The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes

I’ve never even heard of this book.  Sorry, Mr Barnes.

35. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

Finally some Austen!  The classic tale of Miss Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy… I discovered recently that one of my friends hadn’t read this and I was shocked.  SHOCKED!  You should read this just because you’re supposed to have done.

36. Crime and Punishment – F. M. Dostoevsky

Another Russian I haven’t read and probably never will.

37. Stormbreaker – Anthony Horowitz

I have read four of the books in this series and they are all most excellent.  A young James Bond, and easy to read.  Big tick here!  P.S. The film is also good.

38. All Quiet on the Western Front – Erich Maria Remarque

If you want to totally warp your mind, read Catch-22 and then read this.  You will turn into a pacifist overnight and oppose all war.  This book is seriously depressing.  You should still read it though because war is bad (!).

39. Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami

I have not read this, and the title just makes me giggle (grow up).  I also think it was a song?  Anyway I have read Haruki Murakami’s biography on running so I’ll recommend that instead as it’s very good.

40. Frankenstein – Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

I have read this, and although the idea is novel I don’t really care for the book.  Or any film that involves this story.

41. The Selfish Gene – Richard Dawkins

I have read this book, but I do not like the way people misinterpret the title and the science inside.  Also, it’s a bit hardcore biology so like with Stephen Hawking I’m not sure why you would read this if you’re not interested in science.

42. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams

I’m pretty sure that you cannot call yourself a geek if you haven’t read this series.  Read all five books, and enjoy.

43. I Capture the Castle – Dodie Smith

This is one of the books from my teenage years.  It’s such a lovely, warm story.  It’ll only take a couple of hours to read, so go read it!

44. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson

Haha, no.  I watched the Swedish version of the film and it was very violent.

45. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

I have not heard of this book or this author.

46. Dissolution – C. J. Sansom

I have not heard of this book either!

47. American Gods – Neil Gaiman

I have tried to read this a couple of times, but I’ve never got into it.  The only book of Gaiman’s I have read is the one he wrote with Terry Pratchett (Good Omens), which is a good read.

48. Notes from a Small Island – Bill Bryson

I’ve met Bill Bryson.  I have told this story many times.  Haha.  I haven’t read this book, but I’ve read lots of his other books and he’s a good author so I’m certain this book is good too!

49. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas – Hunter S. Thompson

Gosh, I read this years ago when I was going through my modern American travel writers phase.  I don’t remember liking it though!

50. Oranges are not the only fruit – Jeanette Winterson

I’ve never read this.

51. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl

I think Roald Dahl should be a staple for all children.  All his books are most excellent, and Charlie is no exception.

52. The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck

I read this book at school.  I don’t remember it, and most my Steinbeck knowledge nowadays comes from Mumford and Sons!

53. A History of the World in 100 Objects – Dr Neil MacGregor

Doesn’t this sound like a lovely book?  I haven’t read it, but I love the title!

54. Trainspotting – Irvine Welsh

I saw the film and the answer is no.  I don’t like reading depressing books.

55. The Stand – Stephen King

I also don’t like horror books, so nope.  I’ve never read any Stephen King except his book on writing, which was good.

56. Tess of the d’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

Pretty much the same answer as Trainspotting.  Saw the BBC adaptation, and am no way reading the book!

57. American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis

Nope, no horror books here!

58. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh

I’ve read some Evelyn Waugh, but I’ve never read this even though it’s one of his more famous novels.  One day.

59. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

This is one of those books I always think I have read, but I actually haven’t.

60. The Tale of Peter Rabbit – Beatrix Potter

Major tick.  Love Peter Rabbit, and have been to the Beatrix Potter museum.  My sister and I had lots of her books.

61. The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver

We’ve got a little section of “nope, not read”s coming up.  Are you ready? Not read.

62. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

Not read.

63. London: The Biography – Peter Ackroyd

Not read.

64. Wild Swans – Jung Chang

Not read.

65. The Colour of Magic – Terry Pratchett

It’s a Discworld novel; of course I’ve read it.  Most excellent.

66. White Teeth – Zadie Smith

Not read.

67. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – John le Carre

I don’t really like crime novels unless the main character is James Bond.  So I’ve not read this.

68. To the Lighthouse – Virginia Woolf

I have been trying to read some Woolf books.  I haven’t read this one, but I like the others that I’ve read so far.

69. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

Saw the film and am definitely not reading this.  Was depressing!

70. Atonement – Ian McEwan

Same as above!

71. Bridget Jones’ Diary – Helen Fielding

Of course I have read this.  I am a British woman!  It’s a great book.

72. Artemis Fowl – Eoin Colfer

Not read.

73. Brighton Rock – Graham Greene

I’ve only read two Graham Greene books, and this is not one of them!  I recommend Travels with my aunt.

74. Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift

I have read this, and I recommend it.  I also had it on cassette tape and remember listening to it a lot.  Random!

75. Casino Royale – Ian Fleming

I have read a lot of James Bond novels, including this one.  I was a big fan of Bond in my younger days.  The Sean Connery adaptations are the best, but Daniel Craig is nice and brooding.  Bond was proper grumpy in the books.

76. Do androids dream of electric sheep? – Philip K. Dick

I haven’t read this.

77. Watchmen – Alan Moore

I haven’t read this I don’t think (dredging my memory, but I don’t remember buying it).  However, I loved the film!

78. Little Women – Louise May Alcott

A classic.  I have read it, and I cried.  Pretty much the standard response.

79. London Fields – Martin Amis

Not read.

80. Venice – Jan Morris

Not even heard of.

81. Knots and Crosses – Ian Rankin

Not read.

82. Watership Down – Richard Adams

Saw the animation.  Cried.  Not going to read the book!

83. Murder on the Orient Express – Agatha Christie

Seen the TV adaptation… Not reading any Christie as not interested in crime books.

84. The Mill on the Floss – George Eliot

I have never read any Eliot.  I probably should.

85. The Hound of Baskervilles – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I’ve never read a Sherlock Holmes book, that I can remember.  Tsk.  Love Robert Downey Jr’s version though.

86. The English Patient – Michael Ondaatje

This is a film, isn’t it?  And I think it has Liam Neeson or Sam O’Neill in it?  So maybe I’ll just watch that instead. [N.B. It's Ralph Fiennes.]

87. Schlinder’s Ark – Thomas Keneally

Gah, this film.  Not going to read the book unless I feel like crying for days.  But the film adaptation is good.

88. The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank

I have read this, as all girls should (and boys I guess!).  An important book.

89. High Fidelity – Nick Hornby

Love the film with John Cusack and Jack Black.  Haven’t read the book.

90. Winnie-the-Pooh – A. A. Milne

I love this book and have it in an illustrated hardback edition.  A staple of any childhood.

91. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – J. K. Rowling

Of course.  And by now surely everyone has read this?!

92. Goodnight Mister Tom – Michelle Magorian

This book is appropriately depressing, etc. (it’s set in WWII).  However, for a true Magorian gem I recommend skipping this book and reading Back home instead, which is about an evacuee who comes back to England from Connecticut as a teenager after the war, and has to learn how to be British again.  A very good book.

93. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

I’ve never read any Margaret Atwood.  I probably should get on that.

94. The Story of Tracy Beaker – Jacqueline Wilson

I used to love Jacqueline Wilson books when I was a young teen.  Between us my sis and I had most of them, but I see that she’s still publishing and there are a lot of new titles I don’t recognise.  I’ve read this one though, and I used to watch the BBC show too (I was probably not as young as you think I should have been to watch that!).

95. Birdsong – Sebastien Faulks

This book is rubbish, don’t read it.  I got half way through, and it was the first book I ever abandoned without finishing!

96. Last Orders – Graham Swift

I have never heard of this book.

97. The Time Machine – H. G. Wells

I have read this.  And I think I’ve seen the Samantha Mumba film as well. Haha.  Of all the times he could travel to, the Time Traveller chose an unfortunate period in Earth to visit.

98. My Man Jeeves – P. G. Wodehouse

I’ve read a lot of Wodehouse books.  They make me chuckle.  I recommend them for a laugh if you need cheering up.

99. The Commitments – Roddy Doyle

I think I know of this author, but not the book.

100. The Worst Witch – Jill Murphy

I read this book years ago.  I’ve actually been trying to get a copy to read again, but although my local e-library has all the sequels it doesn’t have the first one available.  [N.B. I found it on the Kindle for £2.99 so I have it now!]

I’ve counted the books as I’ve written them up here, and I’ve read 45 of them.  I feel like it should be more.  How many of them have you read?  If you do a similar blog post, share it below so I can visit and have a look!

Selling my Nikon D60 camera and lens

Camera body and accs for sale

I’m selling my Nikon d60 on eBay. I’ve umm’d and ahh’d over this decision for months, because it’s a lovely camera, but I just don’t get full use out of it and I prefer my other Nikon.

I’ve never been able to completely relax with a DSLR, despite much reading and practicing, and I’ve accepted now that I will probably never go full manual. I’ll stick to bridge cameras, which give me what I want without demanding that I understand the technical aspect of photography!

If you’re interested in the listings, they are below. It’s only open to UK residents on eBay, but if you are outside the UK and are interested please send me a message and I’ll sort it out for you.

Nikon D60 black camera body

Sigma 70-300mm Lens Nikon compatible

Lego Moleskine week 23 & 24

2014 Moleskine Week 23

Week 23

My June goals are going ok, I guess!  This is the week I had my first cucumber of the year and my first strawberries.  Yum yum!

2014 Moleskine Week 24

Week 24

Beeeees!  I also watched Orange is the new black season 2 (LOVE) and started lots of books, which I always regret!

Flies and things

My photos have been a bit lacklustre recently.  I haven’t been out much which doesn’t help.  There are horse flies EVERYWHERE – has anyone else noticed this?  It’s not worth going into the woods and fields for photos, just to get savaged by horrible flies.  Plus, their bites last longer than bee stings (I can say this with authority!).  It’s a bad year for plant and tree pests, because last winter we had no snow and so the weather didn’t kill off all the bugs and insects that usually die in the cold.  I assume the same rule applies to the horse flies.  I hope we have a month of snow next Christmas!

Here are a few pictures I have taken in the last week or so.

Kneel before me, human!

Archie sitting on the patio table, which she isn’t allowed to do!

Dunnock on birdfeeder

A dunnock on the bird feeder. There haven’t been many birds on the bird feeder lately. I’ve slowed down a bit with food as I have an infection in my bird population and am trying to reduce the risk of spread. I don’t want food lingering on the feeders as I’m cleaning them frequently, so there is less out than usual.

Male meadow brown butterfly

This is a male meadow brown butterfly. There should be more butterfly photos from me later in the month as the butterfly count is in July and I have a secret spot where I know there are loads!

Damselfly in meadow

A blue damselfly. There are quite a few different blue damselflies, so I have no idea what this is!

Xanthoria lichen

I bought a new lichen guide, FINALLY! Identifying lichens is hard, so at the moment I’m just narrowing down my IDs to genus. This is a Xanthoria member lichen.

So there are my photos from the last week or so.  I hope you’re all well!

(In unrelated news, I have a new contact form so feel free to use it!  I was getting too much spam.  I also have a new comment system for the same reason, so feel free to use that too!)

My commonplace book

Commonplace notebook 3

I don’t think I’ve ever written a full post on my commonplace book before, so I thought I’d share it with you today.

Commonplace books aren’t really in fashion any more and not many people keep them, but in the 17th – 18th centuries they were all the rage! They are basically notebooks where you collect knowledge, usually in the format of quotes, sayings, formulae, etc. In the olden days this would have been how a lot of people learnt.

Commonplace notebook 2

I use my commonplace notebook to collect quotes, phrases from books and poems that I like. It’s a mix of things I’ve printed off, cut out and written by hand.

It’s a nice way to collect words that mean something to you. If you think about those published quote books, a commonplace book is like your own personal quote book, full of quotes you’ve selected and like. It’s very enjoyable to flick through it and commit things to memory.

My notebook is a large Paperblanks notebook.  I love the ornate covers of Paperblank notebooks, and the quality of the paper inside.  This one also has a magnetic closure, which is a great addition.

Commonplace notebook 1

I think we should revive the fashion for commonplace notebooks.  They’re great; they give you a reason to use a nice notebook and pen, and mean you can write down passages you like from books in a nice safe place for future enjoyment.

Archie and the lavender

When Archie is bored or grumpy, she turns into a little vandal. If she is inside, this usually means pulling up the carpets and generally being naughty. If she is outside, this usually manifests itself as flower pulling. She will stand next to a flower that’s in bloom and pull the flower heads off one at a time with her teeth. She won’t eat them: they get pulled off and dropped on the floor. When you go in the garden sometimes there’s a little heap of flower heads where Archie has been naughty and damaged the plant.  Here are some photos of her de-heading the lavender last weekend.  Her face is funny.

Archie pulling lavender

Early morning sun

My garden faces to the east, and there is a giant conifer at the end of it.  Although I refer to this as my tree, it’s actually on the railway embankment so I have no control over its management (I like it, but accept that one day Network Rail may get the urge to chop it down.  There’s no reasoning with Network Rail!).  This means that in the early morning most of the garden is in shadow, and often covered in dew.

I like having a stroll around the garden in this early morning light to see what is going on: which plants are growing, which look like they’re struggling.  I also check the bird feeders and make sure the cat hasn’t dug anything up during the night.

Morning sun

Shaded potatoes

The potatoes look lovely in the dappled early morning light.

Cucumber flower

This photo is unrelated, but I thought you’d like to see what a cucumber flower looks like.  I assume some of you won’t have seen one before.  Underneath the flower, you can also see two baby cucumbers starting to grow.  They grow behind the flower head, which withers and eventually falls off.  You can see the withered tuffs at the ends of the baby cucumbers.