Magnolia Flush

Magnolia flush;
blossom both bold
and delicate, late summer


Steam Up

Continuing on from Monday’s post…

Chugging up the yard;
big boy’s toy railway engine
has its first steam-up.

Steam Up

One of my husband’s hobbies is Model Engineering, predominantly steam engines. More precisely 7 & 1/4 inch gauge railway engines; the ones you can actually use to pull a train of passengers along ground level tracks. His most recent build is a  model called ‘Bridget’; for the technically minded among you she is a 7 & 1/4 inch gauge 0-4-2T, but don’t ask me what that means. I believe the numbers are something to do with the wheel arrangement and the ‘T’ stands for Tank Engine but don’t quote me!

He has been building this for several years now and it hasn’t been without its problems which have seen much head scratching in the workshop. However now it is pretty well finished. This model is somewhat similar in looks to ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ so my husband has painted it ‘Thomas-the-Tank-Engine’ blue and named it ‘Thomas’ after our grandson, who was a fan of those stories when the build began. (Originally we were going to call it ‘Tiny Tom’, which was his nickname at the time but he is not-so-Tiny-Tom now!) The first time Tom saw it assembled and painted he asked “Where’s the face?” but, of course, we can’t paint the face on the engine without paying a fantastic amount in Royalties.

Thomas Steam-Up

‘Thomas’ Steam-Up

Now ‘Thomas’ has passed his boiler test and his hydraulic test and all that remains is the steam test before he can go into potential service pulling passengers, probably at the local Model Engineering Society’s track up at the County Show Ground, where they ‘steam-up’ for private club sessions and also occasionally for the paying public when events are being held.

Yesterday saw ‘Thomas’ having his first ever steam-up and run along a length of temporary track laid along the back of our house. This was mainly a success, although it did throw up one or two minor tweaks that are needed before the engine is submitted for its official test run. Our son and his family came along to watch and grandson Tom got to squeeze behind Grandpa onto the small tender which provides the driver’s seat, to also have a few runs up and down the track, followed by some time spent scooting up and down the track on the tender alone. He is too young and the engine too complicated for him to drive just yet but the tender rolls freely and has its own brake for him to apply at the end of the track.

The engine is now back in the workshop for the few minor adjustments to be attended to. Perhaps next time I write about it I will be able to show pictures of it chugging around the club track at the Show Ground. I was hoping to post a video of the engine chugging across our yard but for some reason WordPress will not let me load it here so I have had to make do with a ‘still’. Meanwhile, if anyone can tell me how to post a video I would be most grateful!


thinks he’s
a meerkat, stands
alert on the lawn.

Wildlife Restaurant (Elfje Sequence)

Restaurant open
twenty-four hours.
Come, eat and drink.

Sparrows twitter
at bird feeders,
splash in mini pond.

Mouse darts
from under shrubbery.
Warily nibbles fallen seed.

Three hedgehogs
eat from bowl,
drink from mini pond.


Oh the sweet fragrance —
clothes fresh from the washing line
full of summer air.


I have mentioned previously that we have a visiting hedgehog and that he is part of the reason that I have created my mini pond (which you can read about here). I have not seen him every evening, but then I don’t spend all evening looking out for him. What I have noticed however is that he makes a beeline for the bird feeders.

One of the things I regularly put out at the bird feeding station is mealworms and I had taken to sprinkling some on the ground for the ground feeding birds. This is what the hedgehog was after, the ones missed by the birds! Hedgehogs love mealworms and although there is some benefit to hedgehogs from eating mealworms apparently eating too many is bad for them. One evening I managed to take a photo of him although it is not very good and a bit out of focus. Spike, as we have come to call him, obligingly stood still (or should I say froze in fear) and scuttled away as soon as I backed off.

Hedgehog Spike

Spike the hedgehog

Last Wednesday whilst shopping for more bird food I noticed some hedgehog food on the shelf nearby so I bought some. I put a small quantity out that evening. When I looked out later there was my hedgehog ambling away from the feeders. I did not see him feeding and I could still see feed in the bowl I had placed nearby, where I was sure he would find it. In the morning it looked as if some of the food had been eaten but quite a bit of it was still there.

So last night (Thursday) I put out some more hedgehog food in the same place. When I looked out after dusk, just as it was going, dark, I saw a shadow by the bowl, so I quietly opened our French Window to get a better look and could hear a small crunching sound. A hedgehog was eating the food. I quietly shut the door again and carried on watching. Soon I saw another shadow and a second, bigger hedgehog ambled round the back of the bird feeders and went to share the bowl with the first one – mother and offspring? They ate for a while together then the larger one trundled across the lawn towards the fence. The smaller one carried on eating for a while longer before following the same route and I stopped watching.

Later, just as I was about to go to bed I decided to look out again and as I did another hedgehog appeared at the bowl of food and stayed for a couple of minutes polishing off what little bit remained. Then, much to my delight he bumbled his way the few feet through the rockery and down to my mini pond where he stayed to drink for a minute or two before trundling off in a totally different direction to the first two. Success, my pond, created with the hedgehog in mind, had been discovered!

Then my thought was; have I got two or three hedgehogs? Was the later one the larger one returning or a different one? Which is Spike? Since the one on its own was a good while later in its visit and approached and left in different directions to the first two, who had come together, I’m inclined to think that it is a third hedgehog and this was probably Spike. I find this especially exciting as hedgehogs are considered to be in decline, yet here am I with at least two and probably three visiting my garden. I’m thrilled to bits!

August Tandem Ride

What a busy weekend I had. On Saturday I finished my mini pond (see my last post) and on Sunday it was our monthly ride out with the local branch of the Tandem Club.

You may remember that when I wrote about our last outing with the club only a couple of weeks ago (here) we used the new tandem that my husband built. We had a few slight mechanical problems on the ride and the terrain was rather hilly around Ludlow in Shropshire so I did complain that it wasn’t the most enjoyable ride I had ever been on. This time the ride started at Audlem in Cheshire, about 15 or so miles from home. We took our trusty Longstaff tandem for this ride and, being Cheshire, the terrain was somewhat flatter, very gently undulating with only a few steeper climbs and on this bike my view of the scenery is not quite so restricted from my back seat.

In addition hubby has since bought and fitted an ‘Add-e’; a device that adds a small electric motor to a bicycle. This is an alteration he has been considering for some time and after the Ludlow ride he decided that he would bite the bullet despite the rather costly price tag! The tandem is quite heavy so going uphill can be a problem and a strain on his poor old knees. Normally people choose to buy a purpose built electric bike or adapt an existing bike by buying a new back wheel with the motor already fitted. These alternatives make the bikes very heavy and so people end up using the electric assist most of the time. The ‘Add-e’, by contrast, can be fitted simply and easily to any bike without the need to change anything and does not make any significant weight increase. The small motor  is fitted to the bottom bracket and works by engaging with the back wheel when turned on and peddling, disengaging when turned off of you stop peddling. The battery is also quite small and light and fits into a specially designed holder that looks just like a drinks bottle holder.  As we like our tandem the way it is, Longstaff tandems often being considered the Rolls Royce of tandems, we didn’t want to change anything so this device seemed ideal, especially considering it was required only to give us the occasional boost. The device can also be removed at any time returning the bike once more to its ‘original’ condition.

The club ride was our first proper ride out with the extra assist of the ‘Add-e’, although we had done a 18 mile ride on the Friday just to try it out. It worked very well and helped ensure we did not get left behind this time – although I doubt we would have done anyway as the pace of the ride was a bit more in our comfort zone and, as I said, the terrain was not so hilly.

Picnic lunch at Beeston Castle

Our ride took us in a big loop with a lunch stop at Beeston Castle, where I remember going with my grandmother to pick bilberries in my childhood (Beeston not being far from Wilmslow where I was born).  It has rather changed now. In the old days you could freely scramble about among the scrub land. (Somewhere I have an old photo I meant to look out!) Now it is owned by English Heritage and access is more restricted. It is also a lot less like scrub land than I remember, although perhaps we were at a different part of the site, we didn’t actually go up to the castle at the top of the hill. We all took a picnic on this occasion and picnic tables were available to use, so we were very lucky with the weather – the forecast had been rather worrying right up until the last minute. In fact we had wonderful day, warm and fine but not to hot.

Our ride continued on another loop back to Audlem with an additional stop at Overwater Marina for tea (and cake for those who wanted it). In all the ride was about 40 miles and there were 5 tandems out, one other of which was a purpose built electric bike. A couple of punctures had to be dealt with and one or two other minor problems – but not us this time thankfully. All in all a good day out. Next month’s ride is in our own neck of the woods and we are organising it.



A Very Mini Pond

It all started with a bee drinker. We are always being told that bees need water to drink in hot weather and every year I put some out for them. This year I had placed it on top of the stump of a tree that had been felled before we moved here, but then I decided to put it on the ground at the base of the stump so that our regularly visiting hedgehog could also have a drink.

This got me thinking about some more permanent arrangement such as a mini wildlife pond. Now hubby is not a fan of garden ponds so this was going to have to be something acceptable to him. It needed to be fairly small, preferably in a container of some sort and then there was the problem of where to site it. After much thought I decided the ideal place was at the base of our rockery where it is retained from the patio by a low wall which the ‘pond’ could sit behind.

Mini pond trialFor a container I remembered an imitation wood (plastic/resin) mini half-barrel which had originally been a small water feature on the rockery until the pump broke, at which point I had got hubby to drill some drainage holes in the bottom so that I could use it as a planter. This year I had not planted it up with anything but there was the small problem of the holes in the bottom. So hubby squirted some waterproof caulking glue into the holes and when it was dry I set it in position to see how it would look. I left it in position overnight and during the night it rained. In the morning there was about half an inch of water in the bottom. When I next went out to look, an hour or so later it was dry – obviously it was leaking. Hubby decided that the caulking stuff he had used was probably past its sell-by date and we would have to think again.

So it was back to the drawing board and I was re-thinking the whole project. Was this container big enough? Could I find another? Was that the best place for it? etc. etc. I spoke to my daughter-in-law (they have a proper garden pond, which my son built), mainly to scrounge a few small water plants and she told me that they still had some spare pond-liner if I wanted to do a bigger project. I didn’t think it would go down well but I ran it past hubby.  The answer? No, stick to plan ‘A’ and he would fibre-glass over the holes.

One week later the project was back on track with the original container. The plan was to place water plants through the holes in the covered section where the original pump had sat. This area would also provide some shade. I bought some aquarium gravel to go in the bottom and we were in business. It is preferable to fill ponds with rain-water but meanwhile we had had a problem with our full water butt – it was leaning over where the paving slab it sat on had sunk at one side. We had to empty the butt to solve the problem and all the water was sent down the drain as we had nowhere to store it – so no rain water! Second best is to leave some tap water overnight in a bucket or large bowl in order for the chemicals to evaporate and this is what I did.

nearly finished pondLast Friday I visited my daughter-in-law to collect a couple of small water plants. I set the container in place, filled and planted it up, adding some floating weed for purification (which came along with resident water-snail purely by chance!). The stones have been added to act as a bee/bug drinking platform and also to give access for ‘Spike’ the hedgehog to easily drink.

On Saturday morning I woke up to find that a Life Guard had turned up for duty, though Health and Safety would not be impressed as he was not wearing any headgear to protect him from the sun and nor was there a life ring for him to throw for critters in difficulty. However this was soon rectified and the pond is now complete and fully Health and Safety compliant. Some landscaping around it has been done but a little more is still needed. Hopefully, despite its miniature size, some wildlife will find it soon. When I commented to hubby that it may be a bit small to attract much do you know what he said? “You could have made a bigger one!” Sometimes you just can’t win. Maybe in another part of the garden…

Life Guard on duty


Afternoon Fun

fun, creating
mini garden pond.
Now waiting for wildlife

* * * * * * * * * * * *
This is a project I have been preparing for a while. I will write about it on Monday and will include photos.

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