Random Ramblings

Random Ramblings: Personal observations on a wide variety of subjects. Photographs of creatures and things that are taken on seeing the unusual as well as everyday things.

Caterpillar crisis

The caterpillars are now down to four ... and they are eating almost non-stop. Over the weekend they have chewed every piece of green, both leaf and bud of the Nasturtiums - they even began to munch down some of the stems with their voracious appetites. I have to confess ... I became concerned that nothing else was to their liking - the thick green hairy leathery leaves of the foxglove was not an option. Neither was the short almost prickly heather. The soft velvet green of the Lady's Mantle ... although long ago eaten by country people was obviously not peppery enough for the little 'herd' of caterpillars. They turned their faces away from fuchsia and pansy ... so I placed a small cabbage leaf on top of one of the lower stems of the Nasturtiums - but will they find it? It would be a pity if after all this time they were to starve and fail to complete their natural cycle and pupate.

At around 11.30 pm, I thought I would see if they had found the cabbage leaf. One had clambered onto it and was munching around its edge. The others were still ambling about on the Nasturtium. Then a strange sight caught my eye. One of the caterpillars that had clambered along a stem near to the fence had something on its back. I got the torch. The something turned out to be a slug that was slithering over the top of the caterpillar. A few years ago I wouldn't have thought anything about this but recently I have noticed that the diets of slugs are changing. Over the last year I have caught them eating meat, tinned tuna, bread, biscuits and porridge oats - in fact I have seen them nibbling at anything that wasn't moving. The question that I asked myself was would a slug eat a caterpillar if they would eat all of these other things? As I was unsure, I removed the slug ...

The caterpillar of the Large Cabbage White butterfly
Sunday's caterpillar pickings ... with one solitary small snail
Caterpillars picture taken on Saturday
Caterpillars picture taken on Friday
Caterpillars picture taken on Friday

Ah more on the caterpillars

. . . I am currently sorting out the pictures of the caterpillars to show how enormous they now are. Desperately running out of food they must surely be ready to change shortly into chrysalis - I do hope as I would be quite sad if all of this munching hadn't resulted into at least one beautiful Large Cabbage White!

Vista vaulting

A little present that was added to the computer was a reader ... these are really useful little gadgets that perform all kinds of tasks including reading the camera card. I was thrilled for now I could upload my pictures in an instant ... but yesterday, quite suddenly, the computer was no longer able to recognise the reader. On the web I ventured and - - - yes you've guessed it - - - this is apparently a common problem on Vista.

Is there anyone out there who knows how to fix it?

In the meantime, I will have to use another method to upload pictures. :(

Lochness Fishbake

Two pieces of white fish - (frozen fish is suitable)
One desertspoonful of Cashew nuts or sliced Almonds
One teaspoonful of Peanut Butter
One desertspoonful of Rolled Oats
One small leaf of chopped Parsley
One cupful of Whole Milk
One cupful of Water
(Pyrex dish with lid)


Wash the fish and place at the bottom of the Pyrex dish. Sprinkle the nuts around the fish pieces. Add the chopped parsley and using a knife add the peanut butter in small knobs around the fish. Take the rolled oats and roughly scatter them over the whole of the dish. Slowly pour on the milk and water. Bake in a hot oven Gas Mark 6 or 200C or 400F for 30 minutes. Serve with carrots and mixed greens.


Ticking time bomb

As a young child I lived next door to a farm. That is to say, at the bottom of my garden there was a large five-bar gate. The other side of the gate contained a beautiful meadow with tall swaying grasses and in the Summer the field turned bright yellow with buttercups . Most of the time, I would ask for permission to climb over the gate and walk in the field ... but sometimes adventure pulled at my pores and I would climb over the wooden beams of the gate and jump down into the cool of the meadow grasses without first thinking to ask if it would be all right.

A herd of black and white Fresian cows slowly munched their way around the field ... I would walk up to one of them and pull out a handful of grass and hold it under her large dripping wet nose and feel her long, rough tongue scoop the offering out of my little fingers. Then I would lightly rub my palm over the length of her face and feel the vibration of her soft, bellowing 'moo' tingle all the way up my arm. Cows tails would slowly wave from side-to-side and occasionally flick across their backs swishing flies away. Every so often one would urinate or defecate which would crash out like a fireman's hose all hot, watery and steamy ... before long it would dry into a firm round cow pat in the heat of the Summer sun.

For some strange reason the meadow was always lush with tall grasses and flowers and no matter how much mooing and chewing the cows did it would always remain the same.

There were certain things that I was told to always remember when standing near to cows (although I shouldn't really have been in a field on my own in the middle of a herd of cows). My father gave me a magic word to say (a just in case what to do if I should at some point in my life ever be confronted with a herd of cows) ... I have to confess that I practised the word so that I would be prepared and then I felt safe. The word, one which farmers in the vicinity appeared to use was "gercha" a short word meaning 'go on with you.' On the times that I used it - it worked quite effectively ... the cows would turn and go in the opposite direction.

I felt a tremendous sadness when cows suddenly were struck down with BSE or bovine spongiform encephalopathy ... bad enough when it occurred naturally in an old animal but not when it was found in young healthy beasts. The most frightening aspect of BSE in younger animals was the fact that it was alleged that it was caused by a prion and prions it is said are indestructible.

Little note added one day after posting: for those of you who may be interested ... it was found that prions which allegedly were found in certain animal foods adhered themselves to proteins within animals that had eaten the food, especially cows but also there have been findings in other animals as well. The prion connects to the protein which is then changed forever so when a cell splits and multiplies it is the new version (protein + prion) that is created. This potentially has the ability to travel throughout the body in every area where protein cells are found. In cattle this led to 'BSE' or 'Mad Cow Disease.' It was found that if a person then ingested the meat containing these prions they could develop 'CJD' the human variation. The ingested prion can affect both the brain and the body and usually leads to death.

In certain instances it is alleged that it has taken a very short space of time from ingestion of contaminated meat and the onset of the 'disease.' It has often affected people around the age of twenty but scientists alledge that it may be lying dormant in many people and could suddenly take hold of anyone who may, at some time during their life have eaten contaminated meat.

Sunday snap - Sunday snack

Today, I thought I would check on the caterpillar family ... they are now down to seven. Six - have broken up into two lots of three and are quite sturdy munching away on the Nasturtium leaves. The seventh is a little smaller, it looks somewhat frailer, less mature ... it is a lot more active than its six brothers and sisters and for some strange reason seems to prefer to eat the more tender flowers of the plant. (I tried moving it onto a leaf but it quickly crawled back down the stem and onto a flower - I'm not sure why this one has decided on a different diet to the other six!)
Seven remaining Cabbage White caterpillars

Factoid fun: snap is a term used in Yorkshire for snack, lunch or small meal. It was primarily used when workers would take their mid-day meal in a 'snap tin' and stop work for snap (a bite to eat) ...

Harvest haul

Earlier in the year, I noticed a dog rose had established itself quite by chance between ours and next door's garden. Today, I happened to notice that it was already full of swollen rose hips and we are not yet in Autumn. The rose bushes around the garden are still, thankfully, full of bloom ...
Rose hips
For many years rose hips have been gathered and used to make rose hip syrup which is full of vitamin C. In recent times, however, many studies have been carried out that may indicate that they are useful for arthritis sufferers as they are anti-inflammatory. How times change, years ago they would have been used in a fairly natural state whereas sadly nowadays as with many other 'natural' supplements and tonics they have been made available in solid tablet form.

Little extra note: rose hips are created from the base of a rose flower that has been fertilised ... the base swells up with seeds. Rose hips are also called haws they have been treasured over the generations for their healing properties. There are many members of the rose family but one which has also been used in medicine over the years is Hawthorn also known as May. The leaves and haws used to be collected and eaten. In more recent times medicines have been produced containing hawthorn extracts to help alleviate certain heart conditions ... but please seek medical advice if you may be tempted to ingest any natural remedy!

Blog back link to Health Nut Wannabee Mom

This is a comment related to a post on Health Nut Wannabee Mom ~ 20 Cancer Fighting Foods To Give You That Extra Prevention Punch Heidi had mentioned on her blog post about curry containing curcumin and its relevant benefits - check the post out for more information. I wanted to add that I had found turmeric particularly useful. (I firstly purchased some Turmeric tablets as pain killers then on a particularly dry, hot Summer's day found that they appeared to stop the effects of hayfever which I occasionally experience. I then decided to read up on their properties and found them to have anti-histamin qualities) Turmeric can be purchased in tablet form (it contains around 95% curcumin).

Turmeric is listed as an anti-histamine and pain killer but also has anti-viral properties - in addition it allegedly has the ability to be able to mop up the unstable oxygen molecules that are commonly known as 'free radicals' which cause extensive cell damage.

Creature spot

It is Friday and leading up to the bank holiday I have spied two creatures: the first was a Peacock butterfly (my first sighting of one of these this year) ... which was sipping nectar out of a Buddlhea flower but for a few brief seconds before it flew off over the roof tops. The second was a green Shield bug ... these are one of my most favourite little bugs. It flew into the kitchen and I had to place my finger in front of it so that it could climb on board and be helped back outside into its natural habitat. I first tried to help it onto a Nasturtium leaf which it would not go near and climbed half up my arm to escape this choice. Then I tried helping it onto a Lady's Mantle plant but it obviously didn't like the velvety leaves and again began a walking race up my arm. Finally, it settled onto a Fuchsia leaf ... I took pictures of the Shield bug but sadly not one was in focus ...

Shhhh! Secret sowing

Every day I place a variety of bird food outside on the bird table. All sorts of different things which include chopped apples, dates, currents, nuts and 'the amazing mixture of seeds' labelled "wild bird food" that is available in most British hardware shops, supermarkets, corner shops, nurseries and even fancy goods shops. Each contain a wide choice of various seeds which escape and lodge themselves between the paving and in amongst the flower beds as various birds drop them hither and thither. I usually manage to pull most of these would be 'weeds' out before they get too large but I noticed that one such seed looked remarkably like a sunflower and I had forgotten to plant any this year to I left it to grow. I thought I'd take a picture of it ... and whilst wrapping myself around the bird table to take it ... down buzzed a most beautiful bumble bee. (I have allowed another 'weed' to grow alongside the sunflower - as I didn't recognize the leaf and thought I'd like to find out what plant it would turn into!)
Today, a heron came into the garden and stood, longingly looking at the fish in the pond ... thank goodness that we have a net over it at present ... or we might have ended up with a somewhat empty pond!!!

Safe sibling snugglers

The caterpillars are now down to nine ... they have moved up from the flower buds at the end of the leaf (which were thoroughly munched through) and up to the next leaf. They have grown quite a lot over night ... and as the rain came down they all made small piles of green excrement (the size of pearl barley or pudding rice grains) then crawled to safety on the underside of the same leaf sheltering from the wet.
Nine caterpillars

Tuesday tuckshop tease

Fortyeight hours of foraging and the little Cabbage White caterpillars have demolished the leaf that they were born on and have migrated down the stem and found the tasty flower buds ...

Migrating baby Cabbage White caterpillars

Sunday streakers

It may be the floods that engulfed wide areas of the country last year or perhaps the changing events of the planet (greenhouse gases, global warming, changes in the very air that we breath) but this year there is a definite shortage of butterflies.

The young of the Cabbage White butterfly are perhaps the most destructive of all British caterpillars and normally are cursed by gardeners but I was pleased to see this little family munching on my nasturtiums. They are the first caterpillars that I have spied this year ...

Cabbage White caterpillars

Soft, sweet, scented Summer beeswax

The leaves that seal the bee nursery chambers are changing. They are now beginning to ooze with soft, sweet beeswax (you can smell its distinctive perfume). Some parts of the top leaves have crisped and curled away from the seal leaving the thick wax coated ones beneath. There was one guardian bee deep in one of the chambers and another rather aggressive bee circling and buzzing loudly around me whilst I was taking this picture - I took no more. I did return to the little insect house, late in the evening and lightly brushed the few cobwebs off the chambers. It would be a shame for the newly hatched baby bees to become embroiled in cobweb!
Beeswax chamber seals
Factoid fun: the ground underneath your feet (the earth) increases in size by a metre (just over 39 inches) every century. This is due to dust continually settling on its surface. Therefore, every day - every step that you take is a brand new one slightly higher than the step that you took yesterday. Imagine the scientists and mathematicians that are continually probing into the weight and measurement of the earth with sums that are continually changing every day ...

Worrying, whittling, wasps

It is now well into August and although there haven't been many wasp sightings they have been busy. This time of the year they begin to gnaw at the wood preserver on the garden furniture. Every year they come into the garden and gnaw lines into the wooden furniture removing the preserver. They can't be using it to make their nests for those were constructed along time ago. So this must be for another reason. I wonder, if like the honey bee they are under attack from a nest or hive mite? I know that currently the honey bees are being killed off in their millions by these little mites ... could the wasps be facing the same crisis? Could the wasps have found the answer to eradicate the little mites? Has anyone else had similar activity on their wooden garden furniture?

Enchanting, elusive, exotic, Evening Primrose

With days of rain I thought I would introduce one of my most favourite plants. I have two of them, grown from seed and greatly treasured ... they are called Evening Primrose. These are not the wild variety that are grown for their precious oil. These have much larger flowers and have a propensity to stay close to the ground. They do not spread much and stay confined to quite small areas of ground. Their flowers open widely and greet the brightness of the day with a bright, gay, yellow face - their buds are green and deep red that form into long spikes. One of my plants has spotted buds whilst the other is plain ... both are truly magnificent, and magical and make me feel like I am walking through paradise!

There's a moose loose near the hoose!

Whilst reading through a few blogs over the last few days I popped over to one of my favourites to find that they had had a visitor ... a moose. For those of you who missed it here is the link: We are not alone

Can you imagine how exciting it would be to come face-to-face with such a magnificent, wild creature ... what sort of sounds do they make, I wonder?

Late note: yes it's 1.00 am in the morning and I apologize I have just been informed that the beautiful animal is, in fact, an elk ... and I had looked at the antlers and thought to myself those are fine and narrow antlers that that moose adorns! lol ... did the rest of you manage to spot the difference too?

Chinese puzzle

I have to congratulate China for her opening ceremony to the Olympic Games ... it was truly breathtaking and wonderful that so many Chinese citizens participated. Thankfully, all of the good points of China's very long history was encapsulated into this theatre spectacle.

The number 8 is a lucky number in China ... that is why the games began today!

Swede scandal - knocking neeps

In England they are called swedes and north of the border in Scotland they are known as neeps and they have been a favourite vegetable for hundreds of years. Slightly orange in hue with a buttery but peppery taste that make an excellent change in the diet to the potato.

But what has happened to this ancient vegetable? Over the last few weeks I have purchased a few - they are pale, flavourless shadows of the swede that we have grown to know and love. Are the ones currently available some sort of GM variety? Are they a cross breed between swede and sugar beet?

Is there anyone out there who knows what has happened to this lovely, round vegetable????

Eons of earthly evolution erupts in enterprise

Of all of the life forms that live on our planet the most successful are the insects. They have thrived from well before dinosaurs roamed the landscape and still they are here ... thousands and thousands of species of them. Many live quite selfless lives in colonies that support each other to make sure that they thrive and continue and procreate. Some species lay down their lives to ensure the continuance of their brothers and sisters. Although small their strengths lie in their continued adaptability.

The leaf cutter bees, according to all of the text books I have consulted use mainly rose leaves with the occasional fuchsia to seal their small chambers. Last year I noticed one or two pieces taken from the 'butterfly bushes' or Buddleia ... but this year this has extended to Montbretia leaves. Montbretia has reed like leaves that are tough and difficult to break. They are coarse with rough ridges running down them and they contain a heavy thick vein in the middle. The bees have managed not only to chomp their circles around these thick leaves but also carry their extra heavy loads back to the insect house and adhere them to their chambers. What amazing adaptability this shows ... but why? There are plenty of rose bushes and fuchsias all over the garden. Why do they feel the need to test out a plant that is so different from the ones that they like to use? Could they have sensed something? Is climate change going to occur at a must faster rate than scientists have predicted? Oh ... if only they could talk!!!!

Perfectly cut by a leaf cutter bee - top picture is Buddleia picture below is Montbretia


Phew!!!!!! What a week it's been, culminating in my daughter being burgled. How I despise someone who would blatantly damage and steal especially from an ordinary, hard working person. Someone, in this case my daughter, who goes out to work to earn the money and save for her needs and wants. The thought of going out to work and coming home to find that your home has been disregarded and your property damaged and/or taken by someone who treats you with less respect than a surgeon would treat a minute bacteria.

I have no time for people who would take from others ... leaving them feeling vulnerable and wondering if anyone is still in the building, perhaps upstairs in a bedroom. How could one person do this to another?

I can't listen to excuses or do-gooders - for in this day and age, there is no excuse. If a person is blessed with parents who can't be bothered to 'bring their children up properly' there is still no excuse. We are surrounded with media from the earliest twitch in the womb 'we all know good and evil,' 'we all know right and wrong,' 'we all know that there are very few people on the earth who can actually have everything that they want!'

I have always been enthralled when anthropologists tell us that we are all related ... all coming from two females who were sisters ... possibly having genes from Neanderthals running through our bodies (Neanderthals giving us the power of speech). Yes my friends, in this big boiling pot of a human race where one man will slay another it is ironic that travelling back far enough in time this could be his brother. I respect everyone, the whole wide world. I don't expect everyone to be as me and to have my views and opinions but I am angered at a person who would treat another human being so shabbily as to break into their home and steal items that they have saved for years to buy!