Blog Archives

You get out of it what you put into it

Heading into June I can’t help but beam with a big smile as the hard work put into the garden is finally starting to give back. In early Spring we were blessed with the Daffodils and these were followed by the Purple Tulips at the end of April. This was their first appearance since I planted the bulbs in the Winter. I’d even decorated the garden with Plum Slate Chippings and these were pushed aside as the bulbs revealed their green tips.

   
 

We have been truly blessed by the wildlife that have used our garden as their Kitchen. The birds didn’t take residence in our nesting boxes however we are now starting to see their babies feed. Last week we had the baby Starlings join us which is quite fitting as we love Game of Thrones!! 

We created a hotel for our Solitary Bee and are pleased to announce the babies survived and emerged from their little tunnels. This was put back out in the same place last month and this week the same bee has returned to start this years batch. On closer inspection we actually have two bees both using the homemade hotel. This is pretty exciting, I love it when nature appreciates what humans try and do to assist in their lives.

   
 

At the beginning of May we dug up the worst part of the lawn and lay some new turf. It was one of the most knackering of Bank Holiday Weekends experienced but that was purely down to the Clay. The benefits of this hard work are now clear especially as I gave it the first cut, this means it is actually growing! We spent the best part preparing the ground with sharp sand, ground purifier, feed, and fertiliser with top soil. The photo below shows it from before we started to the first lay right through to its first cut.

   
   

The BBQ’s have started and we even bought the Chiminea that I’ve been desperately after. These are the moments that you truly enjoy what you have. As I reflect back to the title of this post it’s clear for all to see. Understand that the hard work you put in to whatever you do in life, will eventually pay back. As I walk around the garden I think back to the work put into it over those many hours. 

   
 

Right before I wander back out into the Sun we are currently enjoying I must apologise for the long absence. If truth be told I’m finding life is very busy right now but please be assured I will still be writing and when I get the moment to write then I’ll be here again.

Thanks

Mark 

Birdwatch Update Spring 2015

We have had some fantastic birds visit our garden throughout Winter and Spring this year. They are certainly busy in their own little world as we are starting to head into the nesting season. The Blue Tits have already inspected our bird nesting boxes as we hope this is the year they take up residence. I thought it was only fair to share some of the amazing photos that we’ve captured to show the variety of feathered friends we have sharing our garden.

  

Our Blue Tits are busy sharing the suet coconuts together.

  

The original Robin regularly feeds off the ground around our feeding station.

  

The Dunnocks love a wander hopping amongst the plants.

  

The Bullfinch proudly puffs his chest showing off his prominent colour.

  

One of the Starling family are always around eating the suet and worms.

 

We love our Pied Wagtail always bopping along the ground being scatty as ever.

There will be further photos as we head into the Latter Spring months.

Mark  

RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch 2015

This weekend (24th – 25th January) was the weekend for all those interested in nature to do their bit and watch for those birds who enter our gardens across the United Kingdom.

For those readers familiar with me and my blog, you will understand how important I value the wild and nature. Last Spring we tried our best to encourage birds into our garden by providing them with feeders and nesting boxes. Since then we have stepped it up a notch and have provided our gardens birds with a nonstop supply of seasonal food throughout 2014 and into this year.

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It is hoped that by doing this it will also give us a better chance of seeing birds nest this year. I was lucky to receive a present of a new bird feeder stand which allows for numerous treats to be displayed prominently in our garden. In the lead up to the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend I’ve kept it full to maximise our viewings over the weekend.

The RSPB guidelines for a successful and accurate Bird Watching experience is to time yourself for an hour and to only count the birds you see at any one time or snapshot of your viewing parameter. This will ensure you don’t duplicate birds seen and also give you a better chance of counting what you see accurately.

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We did a couple of Bird Watching sessions, one mid afternoon on the Saturday and one this morning as I write on the Sunday. It is quite interesting and exciting to see the birds habits by breed and type. Some are very much on a timetable and the regulars in our surrounding trees find the best moments to swoop in and grab their treats as the day passes by.

The results were really quite interesting and we’ve seen numerous different breeds of birds over this weekend. Some I knew we had visited before and some that surprised me. The spot of the weekend was a beautiful Chaffinch with its blazing maroon chest proudly displayed. Our cheeky Robin made a couple of appearances chasing away the Blue Tits and Sparrows whenever possible.

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So what were our weekend Bird Watching results? I’ve taken the highest figure of each variety to ensure accuracy and as per the RSPB rules. The results are as follows: –

3 x Blackbirds
6 x Blue Tits
1 x Chaffinch
1 x Coal Tit
2 x Great Tits
5 x House Sparrows
2 x Long Tailed Tits
1 x Robin
1 x Song Thrush
1 x Wood Pigeon
2 x Starlings
1 x Pied Wagtail

As the list confirms we have a garden full of activity and as I write up my blog I can’t believe the amount of Starlings I’ve just seen swoop down and snap up all of the Meal Worms I put out this lunchtime.

It is important to ensure that those like me who encourage wildlife into their gardens maintain the food supply throughout the year. It is obvious to see that these birds are now relying on our garden as a source for food. Stopping this will only harm them and potentially reduce the numbers and species that live on our planet.

#RSPBBigGardenBirdwatch

It’s been one fun weekend and I’ll be helping the RSPB with their amazing efforts.

Mark

2014

Sitting down in our local Tap House me and my fiancée were enjoying The Mills Winter Ale. The background, a buzzing atmosphere as many chatted away. It wasn’t long before we asked each other the standard New Years Eve question.

Now before I go into it, I must add that this was the first time since we’ve been together that neither of us were struck down with a cold and we were away from our house on New Years Eve.

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The question?…. “What are my highlights of 2014”

Immediately I dismissed it as a pretty standard year, 2014 appeared quiet and a lot calmer to that of previous years. It wasn’t until I thought a little harder about the question that it became apparent that 2014 has had its fair share of positives and some sad chapters as well.

In a year that saw a fantastic family wedding, an intimate In The Woods festival, camping trips and glamping in York, a birthday weekend away in Canterbury and many disappointing sporting woes from my beloved Leeds United it was hard to really answer this question with so much going on.

For those of you who have followed my blog since I started it in 2013, I’m hopeful that you’ve started to paint a picture of me and my life. I will always share what I feel comfortable with sharing and it’s because of this I feel that my followers understand how valuable I rate life. I will therefore answer this question honestly.

One of my main highlights of 2014 involved me and my fiancée moving into our first house together in February. I initially moved in with Lisa when I left Stratford and despite having a lovely place together then we made a decision to get a bigger place with our own garden. We have certainly benefitted from this and have spent most of the sunny days out in the garden cooking BBQs, growing plants and encouraging wildlife in to enjoy it with us. We have done many jobs to make this house our own and have just agreed an additional 2 year extension to our contract which is fantastic news.

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The bird feeder was one of my Christmas Pressies and despite the return of our resident scatty Wood Pigeon, it’s clear he isn’t afraid of heights and is giving it a go. Unfortunately he is just a bit too big to use the feeders. The scattered seed on the grass from other birds is his reward.

On a professional level 2014 saw me secure the biggest promotion to date in my working career. I became a Branch Manager in August and have been responsible in ensuring the Branch has finished the year in an excellent position. I work for a Builders Merchants and 2014 has seen the Banbury depot succeed at its highest level in recent history. Five months into my new job and I am fully aware of the numerous challenges that await, however it’s important at times like these to enjoy the successes and ensure I benefit from the welcome festive break. Time to recharge these batteries!

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With my new job I enjoyed my first Managers Christmas party and was very fortunate to be treated to a weekend around Cheltenham Races. It gave me the perfect excuse to get smartened up in a year that saw my fiancée improve my style and construct a far more fashionable wardrobe for me!

It is from this that 2014 sadly saw the passing away of one of my biggest influences in my professional career. In 2000 I started working in the Building Industry for a company called Underground Supplies. I was interviewed by the MD, a gentleman by the name of Andrew Bygate. I recall the meeting I had with the Recruitment Agency prior to this interview as if it only happened yesterday.

The lady at the Recruitment Agency advised me that Andrew was a positive man who admired forward thinking and driven individuals. I arrived with this in mind and following the interview Andrew simply said to me that he would be back in touch via the agency to let me know if I was successful. It was at this point I simply asked Andrew for the job. He looked at me, slightly perplexed by my forward nature before smiling and simply saying “ok then, the job is yours, well done”.

This was the start of nearly a decade working with Andy (Andrew was far too formal, once I started working for him!) Andy was diagnosed with a Brain Tumour in 2006 and undertook the biggest fight and challenge in his personal life. Andy fought hard and carried this on throughout 2014. Unfortunately Andy lost this battle in late 2014 but fought so bravely and inspired many people who crossed paths with him, this included me. Thank you Andy for inspiring me to succeed and play a major part in where I find myself today.

2014 saw one of my biggest personal challenges and one that me and Lisa were able to complete together. We had more than a few personal battles to overcome but on a bright dry day in Wales, we climbed and descended Mount Snowdon. If ever there was a challenge and one that needed team work of the highest order then this was it. Towards the end of the decent my legs packed in and I needed some heat pads and assisted stretches to keep me intact until the end. The important thing is we got through it and loved the breathtaking views and experience we shared together.

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So as we head into 2015 another book starts, one thing which is pretty certain is that we will be asking ourselves this same question again on future New Years Eves.

All I can say is I hope my readers and followers can take a moment to reflect and look back on 2014. It’s always nice when you can recall some stand out memories. Have a great 2015 and I look forward to sharing some more moments with you as I head into a big year!

Mark

Natures surprises

There have been some strange sights and also some wonderful sights in our garden these last few days. We decided to clear out the old pots and get our garden in some shape ready for this Summer. Where we have grown our own vegetables in the past, this year it’s a lot simpler with focus more on plants and nature. We have had our fair share of birds in the garden, but sadly following on from my previous Blue Tit update I am sad to confirm that our nest boxes are empty this year. Despite this there have been some interesting developments within our gardens walls.

Last year there were no end of stories in the UK’s press relating to False Widow Spiders. These stories now seem to have died down, probably because of the colder months. I joked that it would be typical if my first encounter would happen as soon as they were out of fashion. Whilst emptying out the soil I had bagged to fill up the troughs I saw my first False Widow Spider. It was about the size of a 50p piece and the body was dark with a light pattern across it. The legs were quite muscular and the shape something similar from the film Arachnophobia. I managed to be brave and removed it from the garden, however a couple of days later another one appeared in our house by the front door. My fiancé duly sucked it up with the vacuum and I disposed of the evidence once returning back from work. I do have a photo below, I wonder how many more will appear now the weather is warming up. From first appearing in Devon, it’s safe to say the False Widow has made it to Towcester, much to our annoyance.

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Moving onto a more pleasant story, the one involving our Solitary Bee. On Sunday whilst out in the garden this bee was flying into a hole on our Garage Wall. It kept returning and because of the obvious reservations of it nesting within the mortar, I blocked the hole up. The bee then tried to unblock it to no avail, it then turned it’s attentions to elsewhere. The bee flew into our conservatory and made a beeline (excuse the pun) to some bamboo we have and flew into the hollow innards. After removing the bee again we decided to read up on what it was trying to do, what we discovered was quite fascinating.

The bee was trying to find a place to collect pollen and lay eggs. The bee will create chambers within the nest area so each one contains enough pollen for the egg to hatch and grow from. Because of this frantic behavior demonstrated we created our own nest and placed it near the hole in the garage. This needs to be South facing as Solitary Bees are cold blooded which makes sense as to why it had chosen these places. The sunlight that hits the nest during the day will keep
It warm during the night.

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We used three pieces of Bamboo and glued them using a glue gun. They were then wrapped tightly in twine and the bamboo smoothed out on the inside with a file. This was secured in place so that it couldn’t fall down. Within 5 minutes of hanging this up our bee returned. Since doing this there are five chambers with obvious signs of nests in them, at least we have something nesting in our garden. Let’s see if these hatch safely, one things for sure we have helped our Bee, who still remains unnamed.

Once the pots start growing I will post some photos. I’ve decided on planting a couple of tomato plants as the corner on our patio is a sun trap. This will hopefully see us grown some red toms this year after a couple of disappointing years attempts.

DarcyB

Blue Tit Update – March

Following on from my post about putting up the bird boxes in our garden, there has been a hive of activity going on.

March is typically when Blue Tits will start to feed themselves in preparation for the busier nest building month of April. With the weather being so mild it could be easy to think the nesting season has already started. The chorus of bird songs filling our blossom trees around our garden are a pleasant reminder that we are in Spring.

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There have been some long visits to our Peanut filled bird feeder and this photo taken on Mothering Sunday confirms our local Tits are starting to feed themselves up for a busy April.

We have had a couple of the Blue Tits visit our Bird Boxes and in the early mornings there have been sightings of garden greenery being taken into the boxes. It’s not clear if they have taken residency or put down their deposit 🙂 but they are getting close to making a choice.

It’s very exciting and I hope to have some further positive updates and photos should our Blue Tits decide upon a home for their Nest Building. More updates to follow next month.

DarcyB
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Bird Boxes up ready for Spring

This weekend we took full advantage of the sunny weather and did some jobs around the house. In the UK we have been very lucky this weekend with sunshine allowing temperatures to hit just under 20c. There is an extremely positive feeling that Spring is here and we may escape the snow that plagued us last March.

One of my first little jobs this weekend was to remove the horrible buff yellow slabs we have on the front garden. I removed these and laid down a deep bedding of 20mm Gravel which will make it easier when parking the cars but also it looks a hell of a lot better.

A tip run and some moving around the garage sandwiched the main job in the garden. We are keen lovers of nature and have been impressed with the numbers of tits and other house birds that occupy our garden. It’s a colourful canvas of action and noise with them all chirping and fluttering around our suburban neighborhood and at this early part of Spring it’s important to do our Spring Watch duties.

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I’ve put three bird boxes up in the back garden. Two of them are suitable for tits and small birds whilst the other is for Robins and Wrens. The location of the one for the tits is between 3-4 meters high and in a South facing position which means they will stay warm but not too hot. These have been kept away from the bird feeder to prevent too much disruption from other birds. The open fronted type for Robins and Wrens is North facing and around 2 meters high which will be camouflaged by our hanging plants on the fence.

This Sunday evening we were amazed to see that the two hung up on our Garage were visited by a couple of Blue Tits. They went into both boxes probably having a viewing before deciding if they meet their high standards. This is really encouraging after only a few hours of being placed up. I will keep my blog readers updated with any other news.

One thing is for sure, Spring is in the air, let’s hope it’s not a false dawn!

DarcyB