Monday, 24 February 2014

Frog and Toad

After several weeks of terrible weather Spring seems to be arriving in Exeter. The only insects I've seen so far have been a few caterpillars and a red admiral butterfly, but the amphibians are out in large numbers. As usual we've had around 50 to 100 frogs in the larger of our two ponds. We've also been lucky to see some toads on our daily walks, although we've yet to have one at Frog End. Toads have a lot of trouble on roads at this time of year when they migrate to ponds to spawn. There are volunteer toad patrols across the country to help carry them across safely, but our local toads don't appear to be crossing any of the main roads.

Tonight I spotted a newt with a (presumably) broken leg on the opposite side of the road from our house. It's now safely in the mud by our pond and seems to be much more responsive than it was on the pavement.

Frog End frogs (is it just me or is the last one smiling?):

I visited our newts down at the pond yesterday evening - they come to the surface more at night. They're still hard to photograph because they're underwater and swim quite fast, but at least you can see that it's a newt:

Common toad on Hart's Lane:

Friday, 7 February 2014

The wombles of Exeter

I have always been concerned about man's impact on the environment and to an extent it has determined my career and interests, but I openly admit that I have not done as much as I would like for our local environment.

A couple of weeks ago I watched a video. It was simply a link from someone's facebook page or twitter account. I can't even remember whose. It made me cry. Not just a little tear in the corner of my eye, but properly cry. It also made me want to do something. I asked Ian to watch it last week and he instantly felt the same way.

Most days in the winter we go for a 45 minute walk. Usually we follow the same route, leaving the city of Exeter via a walk along the railway line, going through the village of Pinhoe and returning via the leafy Hart's Lane (which no longer has deer, but still has plenty of other wildlife including mice, rabbits, foxes, owls, toads, crickets, butterflies and dragonflies). In the summer we may do up to three walks in one day, depending on the weather and how busy we are with other things. This video has prompted us to join Litter Action. We have bought a litter picker and as soon as the weather has improved a little we shall begin taking it (and several bags) on our walks with us. We shall start by clearing Hart's Lane and then will probably move on to the area by the railway line (which being like most such areas could take some time to clear).

Speaking of the weather, in case you're wondering if we're flooded, the answer is no. Unfortunately that doesn't mean that we haven't suffered any damage. Nine weeks of rain and storms culminated in an horrific storm last Tuesday night. We woke up to find that most of the fence between us and one of our neighbours had disintegrated, there was a lake on the field just behind our back fence and, most disturbingly, water had come through the wall into the study. We now have a huge damp patch right above my desk. I can only assume that a combination of the gutter not being able to cope with all the rain and possibly problems with our pointing? are to blame. We're going to get the gutters cleaned asap, but will have to seek advice as to whether we need any other work done on the outside.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

I'm going to cook a meal

It's no secret that Helen does most of the cooking and baking. Now that we don't eat processed meals I rarely take the lead and instead I tend to focus on fulfilling the unskilled role of a skivvy.

However, this year I'm aiming to start to learn the art of survival cooking.

My plan is to prepare a meal around midsummer time without the support of modern conveniences such as water, food and energy from the house. This will require distilling rainwater,  cooking over a fire and washing up using a suitable water source.