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ducklings settled in the shade
It has been a long, very hot mixed bag of a day, but a good one.  Himself woke me at a time I thought was only reached by staying up late, this morning – I may have mentioned I am a night owl, these early hours really ought to be banned. Himself is more an early riser, and, during this dry spell,  has taken to watering the garden in the morning (and he doesn’t expect me to – for which I am very grateful!), the theory being that the water doesn’t encourage the slugs out as it would at night.  That and there never seems to be enough time to water in the evening AND do anything vaguely entertaining/social.

So anyway, after the watering moment, and the making me get up at daft o’clock (I did ask him to) off we went to market, where we magically changed some pullets into some ducklings.  It is the rule of smallholders that generally you should leave a livestock auction with more birds than you brought.  Fortunately it was our intention to sell some chickens and buy some ducklings, and I vaguely remember explaining to himself that if we were going to have some, we might as well get a few… and …well my hand went up a few times and we have nine new ducklings.  It was very hot, so I gave them water before we left, and when at home  we settled them in the pen they were delighted at the mini pools and set about playing, washing and generally getting very wet.   I admit we spent a fair bit of time watching them too.  We shall set up the big paddling pool tomorrow, which will delight them no end.
nine ducks nine
The rest of the day was spent on general chores, though very slowly as it was so very hot and humid. Early evening we went out for a short test cycle as finally, after some years, have retrieved our bikes from the barn we had stored them in,given them a service (ohh gears not rusted together? there’s posh!) . It was a relief to discover that yes, it was like riding a bike, and it all came back really quickly, and we are all fired up about cycling again, although maybe on some nice cycle-paths to start with…
sea
Then, finally, we nipped out for an evening swim in the sea, given that sea temperatures are high at the moment, and although there was some shrieking on getting in the water (from himself obviously), it was just lovely.

butterflies

comma 1

The garden and lanes seem to be constantly bouncing with butterflies now,
comma2

And we have clouds of ringlets – they may be brown, but lovely anyway.
ringlet2

ringlet1

even the whites are pretty close up (and if you are not growing any brassicas this year!)
small white

As well as the comma, ringlet and small white shown here, we have also recently seen  fritillaries, gatekeepers,small tortoiseshells and red admirals. I expect to see plenty more yet, nothing startlingly rare, but still a nice range. And today I removed a female emperor dragonfly from the growers pen.  No mistaking it with the bright green head and massive size – nearly 8cm long – I didn’t photograph it as it was trying to kill itself beating pathetically against the roof netting, all  the while young cockerels whose job it is is to fatten up eyeing this tasty snack.  The wings were surprisingly hard to the touch – I know as I had to help it out – the open door being way too tricky…  How it got in, or why, I cannot imagine.

Not surprising we have plenty of small tortoiseshell, red admiral and comma butterflies as all depend on nettles to eat as caterpillars,

nettleeating

I believe these are small tortoishell, you have to wonder at them strolling casually through the poisonous barbs of nettle, nevermind eating it too.
nettle eating caterpillar
If you like this sort of thing, take at look at Mandy’s page, she has some fabulous pictures, particularly of swallowtails at every stage.

I like taking time out to photograph the butterflies, and we have take great care (ok neglect)  let a hedge become overgrown with bramble – popular with swarms of butterflies, bees and other critters – and it is a win win, as I get to enjoy the butterflies whilst they pollinate the bramble, then I get to enjoy the blackberries.

new sheep

new sheep
We have way too much grass.  We meant to buy some more sheep at auction, but with the roof and kitchen renovations and general life stuff getting in the way, we sort of missed our moment,  and when we finally got our act together and went to the market, we saw some nice looking  ewes with lambs, only they were still heavy with wool, and ours had been sheared.  It would have been a pain to organise shearing again, and add to the expense.

Whilst I was looking at the lambs a nice lady came over to us and chatted to us.  Turns out they were her sheep.  And furthermore she keeps her sheep on our neighbour’s field.  We exchanged numbers, has a good sheep related chat and now her sheep have been sheared and we have bought a ewe and her lambs.

The ewe is a little unsure, but regards humans coming into the field as a potentially good thing. Hopefully we can win her over.  She has light grey wool, and it will be interesting to see how that grows out.

So we now need to think of some names – F for this year – we are still only beginners, our neighbour is on her second time through the alphabet.

Plymouth

Plymouth Hoe
When you ignore the forecast, and go out anyway.

Plymouth sound

vineyard

river Dart
Knowing the nice weather is due to break, himself suggested a walk and lunch out at Sharpham, an estate on the river Dart, that has it’s own vineyard, with award winning wines, and a dairy that produces some of our favourite cheeses. I didn’t take much persuading!

vineyard

It’s been a few years since the last time we visited, but I think we should come more often as the views are spectacular. Last time the dairy wasn’t even built, and the estate manager sent his dog with us to show us the walking route, and we have fond memories of the old labrador, who clearly enjoyed taking visitors around and making it clear the longer route was the one we would be taking. The dog is now gone, and the dairy building and cafe in place, but the river and walk and the vines are much the same. A really beautiful place

tide out

down by river

estuary

It was all a bit fraught this evening, in the limited time before playing taxi for my son going to a social thing.  Himself unloading animal feed from the car, us talking over an elderly hen who looks a bit iffy, and the rapidly emptying waterbutts, son  announcing he would like fried egg for his tea, and could we show him how to cook it, a quick check around the animals, and get the washing in, and all the while discussing what we should do since the weather is nice,  then bundle out of the house into the car and off, late, we go.

Then, a short while later, son delivered, we find ourselves at a pub by the river, and a sense of calm descends
moors from thr estuary

We sat and watched the sunset. And there in the far distance, are the moors, where we sat and watched the sunset at the weekend.

loganberry pavlova and a sunsetWe celebrated the solstice, yesterday, at a party, and it was lovely.

We normally have a just-the-three-of-us picnic… a guilty take-away one.. and not wanting to miss out of any of the good weather opportunities, moved that to today.

It is a real treat, to pick up the take-away on the way,  so no long winded picnic preparation, and the food is still hot when we sit down to eat.

My lad pointed out his rights.  Sunday is pudding day.  What to take that wasn’t too heavy after a curry, that could survive the journey, that used some of our homegrown produce, and that wouldn’t take too long to make. I settled on meringues and, having little time, tried the microwave version, and it works really well.  Bit crumblier than convential meringues, but really good. (see below for recipe).

The moors were perfect, the sun was throwing beautiful shafts of sunlight through the clouds.    I don’t know why more people don’t head for the moors in the evening, I’m not complaining.  It was very still, and apart from the occasional passing car, really, really quiet.So apart from us, there was silence broken only by the distant barring of sheep, and a cuckoo calling in the valley below us.

We are lucky to hear cuckoos, as they are becoming rare, but still around on Dartmoor, and we hear them at home from time to time  – this is the latest I have heard one, there is something in a rhyme about cuckoos changing their tune in June… but this one had obviously never heard it and was still calling his normal cuckoo call.

microwave meringues

1 egg white

300g icing sugar

Sift the sugar and mix in the egg white.  This will seem unlikely but keep going, using your hands to pull it into a really thick paste.  Shape pieces of this paste into walnut sized balls. Line the microwave plate with kitchen towel and place three of the balls. Nuke for about a minute on full power  – watch them, as timings may well be different with difference microwave ovens.  Once the first batch is done, and you are happy with the timing,  slide them out, reline the plate and do the next three.

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