Monthly Archives: October 2014

A Photo a Week Challenge: Livestock

Longhorn Cattle in snow
Longhorn cattle in snow. Tractor tracks lead to the winter feed supply.
Three curious cattle posing for the photograph.
Three curious cattle posing for the photograph.

I couldn’t resist creating an entry for Nancy’s challenge this week. I loved her image of the Scottish Highland cattle. We see a lot of cows and sheep in the fields around us and often enjoy photographing them when we are out walking.

The two images I have chosen to share with you are taken within a few yards of each other – looking out across our valley. However, weatherwise they could not be more different – one from the depths of winter, the other with the lush Summer grass of June.

Do take a look at the other entries in this week’s A Photo a Week Challenge on the theme of livestock.

J Peggy Taylor

Autumn in the woods

England’s Tree Of The Year ~ PLEASE VOTE NOW!

Our woods were beautiful at the weekend as we took in the Autumn colours and swished our feet through the deep carpet of leaves along the paths. Trees and woods are such a pleasure at all times of year, but in Autumn they have a special appeal. I’ve shared a couple of images from our walk in this post.

As many of us in the northern hemisphere are enjoying the beauty of our trees and woodlands in their Autumn glory, here in England it’s time to vote for our favourite tree to be crowned England’s Tree Of The Year.

An Autumn walk along the old road
An Autumn walk along the old road is always a treat to the senses

After receiving over 200 nominations from tree-lovers around the country for some of the most amazing trees in England, the Woodland Trust has drawn up its shortlist of 10 special trees. Now we can vote for our own personal favourite from the shortlist. The chosen tree will represent England in the 2015 European Tree of the Year contest.  Why for England only and not the UK? Don’t worry, Scotland, Ireland and Wales are not missing out here, as each country chooses its own tree.

What is the European Tree of the Year contest all about?

“We are not searching for the oldest, the tallest, the biggest, the most beautiful or the rarest of trees. We are searching for the most lovable tree, a tree with a story that can bring the community together.”

European Tree of the Year

There are some wonderful and historic contenders on the shortlist for England’s Tree Of The Year – what they do have in common is that all of them are well-loved:

  1. The Big Bellied Oak in Savernake Forest, one of Wiltshire’s ancient ‘Royal Forests’ dating back to Norman times. With a girth of 10.8 metres, this ancient oak lives up to its name.
  2. The Allerton Oak in Calderstones Park, Liverpool, another contender dating back to medieval times when it is believed to have been used as a court of law.
  3. The Whiteleaved Oak in the Malvern Hills, Herefordshire , thought to be 400-500 years old. This tree is considered significant by the Druids.
  4.  Kett’s Oak in Hethersett, Norfolk, named after Robert Kett, the leader of the Norfolk Rebellion in 1549 who mustered his men under the oak before marching on Norwich.
  5. Newton’s Apple Tree at Woolsthorpe Manor, Lincolnshire. This is the tree under which Isaac Newton was sitting when the apple fell on his head and from this experience he subsequently developed his theory on gravity.
  6. The Ankerwycke Yew at Runnymede on the River Thames in Surrey is possibly the oldest contender in the list, believed to be over 1400 years old. This tree would have seen King John signing the Magna Carta.
  7.  The Shugborough Yew in Staffordshire is a relative youngster at around 350 years old. But its claim to fame is that it is the tree with the widest span in the UK, with an amazing circumference of 200 yards.
  8.  The Ickwell Oak in Bedfordshire is believed to be 350 years old and is highly regarded by its local community.
  9.  Old Knobbley is an ancient oak in the Essex  village of Mistley and is thought to be at least 800 years old. This tree has inspired a picture book, telling its story.
  10.  The Major Oak in Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire is the tree associated with the legend of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. This tree is thought to be 800-1000 years old.

You can see the images of all of these fabulous trees on the Woodland Trust’s website here, where you can also vote for your favourite from the shortlist. Voting closes on 4th November so do take a look and choose your nomination for England’s Tree Of The Year.

Autumn in the woods
An Autumn experience – the beauty of woodland colour and our feet swishing through Autumn leaves

Our ancient trees and woodlands are very precious and I am always keen to support or celebrate these living monuments. Now all I need to do, is to make my mind up which one to choose as Tree Of The Year …

J Peggy Taylor

Autumn Green Beans

Autumn Green Beans – harvest time

Growing green beans in Autumn has been a first for me this year. Buoyed by the success of my initial air-pruning planting experiment earlier in the Summer, I was keen to keep up my air-pruning experimenting momentum.

Here in northern England we would normally sow green beans in May and harvest them through July and August. I decided to sow my green beans in early August and see what happened.

Primavera Dwarf Green Bean - DT Brown seed packet
Primavera Dwarf Green Bean – DT Brown seeds

The beans I am growing are “Primavera”, which is what we call a French bean – a long,thin and round stringless green bean. As I was growing my plants indoors, the variety I’ve chosen is a dwarf bean – the plants only grow around 2 feet high (60cm). In my earlier post I showed you how I’d sown the beans in their upcycled air-pruning plant pots and their progress up to the end of September. So, how have they fared in the last month?

My first green beans ready to harvest on 7th October
My first green beans ready to harvest on 7th October

On 29th September the two plants in the more successful of the two plant pots had grown to their full height and there were several promising-looking green beans on these plants. I decided to give them another week of growing time before my first ‘harvest’ on 7th October, almost exactly two months after sowing. After I’d picked my first beans, there were still several developing beans left on the plants, plus there were now a few beans growing on the plants in the second plant pot. The two plants in the second plant pot have never quite caught up with the plants in the first pot. In my earlier post I explained that light levels were the issue that made the difference between the two sets of plants. The plants have been growing in a bright, west-facing window.

The less well-grown second pot of green bean plants with their beans ready to pick
The less well-grown second pot of green bean plants with their beans ready to pick

If you’ve grown beans before, you’ll know that regular harvesting normally encourages more beans to grow. I kept the plants well-watered and fed with my ‘Magic Potion’ Comfrey feed and this has kept the developing beans growing well. However, since early October, a few colder nights seemed to begin impacting on the foliage and also killed off the remaining flowers. I began covering the glass of the window each night with some recycled packaging I had to hand. I noticed the green beans on the plants seemed to be growing quite slowly now, although we have had a lot of sunny and warm days in October this year.

Second harvest of green beans ready to pick on 22 October
Second harvest of green beans ready to pick on 22 October

Two weeks later, on 22 October, I ‘harvested’ the second handful of green beans, including a couple from the less successful plants in the second plant pot. I would certainly say that whilst I am pleased that at least some beans did grow on all of the plants, the plants haven’t exactly been prolific! Quite a number of small flower buds developed but then fell off before flowering properly. I don’t see these as problems with the Primavera bean plants themselves, nor the fact the plants have been indoors in air-pruning plant pots, but rather that green bean plants are not built to withstand cooler temperatures.

Successful Sage plant and some of the green beans
Successful Sage plant and some of the green beans

To an extent this was not an unexpected outcome to my Autumn bean growing experiment. In the past, in my eagerness to get things growing in Spring, I’ve sown bean plants too early in May and had them fail because the temperature was too low. Getting the plants to germinate seems relatively easy, but it does seem the weather needs to be warm enough during the day and night to enable the bean plants to be productive. I’m pleased to say the Parsley, Thyme and Sage herb plants that I grew from seed this Spring and that have accompanied the green bean plants on the same window ledge are continuing to flourish.

Flourishing Parsley and Thyme plants with fading green bean leaves
Flourishing Parsley and Thyme plants with fading green bean leaves

I shall try sowing some more of the Primavera dwarf green bean seeds next May and see how they do in Summer … making sure I don’t sow them before it’s warm enough of course!

With all of these green beans and green herbs, I decided to link this post to Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week, on the theme of ‘green’. Do take a look at the wonderful greens others have found for the challenge.

J Peggy Taylor

Chinese New Year - Dragon Dance

Vibrant Colours for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Chinese New Year celebrations in Newcastle upon Tyne
Chinese New Year celebrations in Newcastle upon Tyne

We like to join in the Chinese New Year celebrations that are held in Newcastle upon Tyne each year. There’s always a colourful parade through Stowell Street in the centre of Newcastle’s ‘China Town’. Happy crowds of people line the street and follow the parade as it dances energetically on its way.

Vibrant yellow of Coltsfoot in Spring
The vibrant yellow of Coltsfoot telling us that Spring is springing

The bright yellows of Coltsfoot are always a welcome sight in early Spring. I loved the way these ones were emerging through last year’s dry Beech leaves.

Poppies by the stones
Poppies brightening up the field near my house

The gorgeous crimson red of these poppies really brightened up the edge of the field near my house this Summer.

Vibrant pink Cyclamen flowering
My ‘rescued’ Cyclamen in all its flowering glory this Summer

When I first ‘rescued’ this Cyclamen plant from a plant stall a couple of years ago, it looked very sad and bedraggled. With some loving care and attention, I have managed to transform my Cyclamen into a more respectable-looking specimen. The magenta flowers really do have a bit of ‘zing’ and certainly brighten up my kitchen window ledge. I took this photo outside to be sure the colour looked its best!

… and don’t forget to take a look at all the other vibrant colours for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week 🙂

J Peggy Taylor

Beautiful places for Cee’s Black and White Challenge

View to the Pennine moors - black & white
Our breathtaking view to the Pennine moors … especially after we’ve climbed the hill 😉
A Summer's day at the river- black & white
A beautiful place to relax – a Summer’s day by the river

“What is beautiful to you?” is the theme of Cee’s Black and White Challenge this week. There were probably so many things I could have chosen, but I decided to choose two of the landscapes that provide us with endless pleasure through the year’s seasonal cycle. The first photo is our beautiful, everyday view to the North Pennine moors, and the second is a regular rambling haunt that we love so much, down by the river. Whether we walk uphill or down – we are always certain of a beautiful view.

J Peggy Taylor

Dreamy landscapes for the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Misty day on the Stoney Road - monochrome
Waiting by the old road in swirling mist – is this a dream?

Imagine – you’re waiting here alone. Darkness will fall soon. Suddenly you begin to hear galloping hooves approaching through the mist. Your heart leaps, but you’re also trembling. You know soon you will be escaping from the lurking dangers of the night …

A Summer's day at the river
A time to dream – Summer on the riverbank

Imagine – you’re sitting on the sunny riverbank on this warm Summer’s day. Shafts of sunlight stream through the tree boughs that overhang the slow-moving river. Your eyes are mesmerised by the river’s kaleidoscope of gentle swirling green reflections as you drift into your sun-warmed dream …

You can find more interpretations of this dreamy challenge on this week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge.

J Peggy Taylor

Pastel pink wild roses for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge

Pastel pink wild roses scrambling over the hedge
Pastel pink wild roses scrambling over the hedge

Memories of warm Summer days are welcome on cool, damp Autumn days. The pastel pinks of wild Dog Roses Rosa canina scrambling over a field hedge are certainly a sign of Summer for me. I love the gentle pinks in this photo of the wild roses my son took when we were out on one of our Summer walks this year.

Do take a look at what soft pastel colours have inspired others this week in Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge.

J Peggy Taylor