Monday, 28 June 2010

Canal Walk - Men at Work

One day last week I was coming back from shopping, and I just missed getting through the level crossing before the gates came down. With the engine turned off and the window open, I could hear an unusual noise, but I assumed it was someone mowing a lawn or cutting a hedge, until I saw a pedestrian looking down the canal. I asked her was there something there, and she said yes - it was the first time she'd ever seen a boat. So I hopped out to have a look; it was the maintenance barge that we had seen moored further upstream on on of our longer winter walks. Then a train came through, and I had to hop back into the car, so that was that. But on Saturday we saw it in action, just as we were getting to the point where we'd decided to turn back. It was dredging all the algae growing on the surface - and very happy and cheerful the two guys on board looked, too.
 We caught up with them again when they'd turned at right angles to the bank, to unload all the dredged up stuff onto the back. They cover from the Twelfth Lock at Castleknock all the way up to Kilcock, keeping the canal clear and navigable.

Along the walk we passed sites of two or three small fires. This one looks as if somebody had been celebrating the end of their Leaving Certificate by burning at least one of their books! I wonder had they a special antipathy to English as a subject...

 Wonderful, wonderful rain just when I thought I was going to have to go out and water the garden before bed.

C's work colleague for whom I made the wedding cards asked for a Christening card for her 2 year-old grandson. I don't have any suitable stamps or dies, so this is what I came up with. Just as well she likes it, because I don't know what I would have used it for if she hadn't!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Canal Walk - Flora

Plenty of wildflowers out right now too...

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Canal Walk - Fauna

No sign of the promised showers today - I shall have to water the garden tonight.
When we woke up, it was sunshine with some clouds. When a quick check of the forecast still said showers, we thought we would get out for a walk while the weather was still good. Lots of birds around - as well as all the pigeons and sparrows we saw some unidentified bird of prey, lots of chaffinches in glorious colour, thrushes and a blackbird, a little baby robin (alas for the ones I was hoping we'd have in the garden), bullfinches and a real treat - a pair of goldfinches.
Diligent thrush collecting worms.

I'd love to know why robins in particular are so fearless - this one was too far from any houses to be much used to people but we met him on the way up the path and back, and both times he sat there till we were almost on him

 The goldfinches were an especial treat as we used to have so many in our last garden before we moved here. We could have a dozen or more sitting on the washing line waiting to get at the feeder. And we haven't had one single one since we moved. The photos aren't the best because of the strong sun, but aren't they so pretty. The red and yellow are so bright when you see them properly. I used to spend hours watching them out the kitchen window. In the second one, you can see what looks like thistledown in its beak. I can tell you, I especially let some thistles grow one year, and I never once saw a goldfinch near them. The peanuts were far more attractive. And with a fine crop of thistles to weed out the following year, I decided that town ones were turning their beaks up at their supposed favourite food. But in Corfu one year we saw a field of thistles just full of goldfinches, and in Clare they love them too.

Lots of insects too, dragonflies - normal size and humongous, hoverflies, and a lot of these little butterflies.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Pocketful of Poppies

Hardly a pocketful, in fact. The red ones have grown in a border - I think from a pack of assorted wildflower seed I sowed last year. And the little orange bud is a not very happy third generation Iceland poppy that grew in a container I hadn't planted anything in, and consequently hadn't watered. Hoping for some rain tomorrow as forecast - the garden could certainly do with it.

So pleased that the car passed its NCT (National Car Test) first time round. It's the first time it has - although the first time I appealed and got a refund for the retest. That year it failed on the lights not being set properly. I took it down to the mechanic, who had a look with all the gear, told me they were perfect and in all conscience he couldn't do anything and sent me off. We took it back for the re-test and it passed with flying colours...hence my appeal, and my refund "without prejudice". As a 13-year old car that's now over a hundred thousand miles on the clock I certainly wasn't counting on it passing! A good way to start the weekend.

I made a card today with my sorbet photo, and Basic Grey's Two Scoops paper seemed an appropriate choice.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Sweet Treats

We had a neighbour round for dinner last night. I had half a leg of lamb in the freezer. As we'd had the other half roast for our anniversary, and then had roast lamb a week later when we were out, I did a curried roast leg of lamb instead, along with a split pea dal, vegetable pilau, cucumber and mint raita and little mini naan breads. For a light dessert I made Strawberry Sorbet, with meringues. It was wonderfully creamy - C actually thought that I'd opted to use icecream rather than make the sorbet.
Strawberry Sorbet
I can't find where I sourced the recipe, but it was 500g strawberries puréed with 250 g sugar, and then 2 tsp balsamic vinegar added and a lightly beaten egg white. I added a bit of lemon juice too as it tasted overly sweet. But that may have been because - in an attempt to counteract some slightly under-ripe berries  by leaving them in the sunshine - I'd almost ended up with cooked strawberries, as Monday was the hottest, sunniest day for a long time.
That's just a bit over a pound of berries, and half their weight in sugar. We have an icecream maker, which certainly makes lovely smooth sorbets. But I used to make them without: just freeze the strawberry and sugar purée till almost set firm. Then put in a processor with the lightly beaten egg-white and blitz till slush and mixed. Return to freezer.

That little glass bowl came from my great grandmother. There used to be more gold rim around the edge - I can certainly remember it from when I used to be allowed to use them to make lemon soufflés in when I was young - from tying the collars around them I remember it quite clearly. I have five, although I am sure there must have been at least six at some stage.

Back to our anniversary: I'd done a big supermarket and butcher shop the previous Wednesday. Wednesday night C made an arrangement for us to go to friends for dinner on Friday. On Friday we were invited out for Sunday. So I had stewing beef sitting in the fridge that had to  be used, and no need for a big meal. I tried a recipe for lamb with mint and coriander that was very different to the Hyderabadi one I gave a recipe for a while back. That one was light and zesty and summery. This one was rich and spicy and aromatic. It reminded C of his favourite spicy tomato and apricot chutney. I'm not surprised - that has fennel seeds, vinegar and tomatoes, and this has aniseed,  vinegar and tomato. For me the whole point was that it needed marinating overnight in yoghurt, which gave me a day's grace to deal with the meat. And of course, I used beef instead of lamb, as that's what I had.

Lamb with Yoghurt, Mint and Coriander

1/4 pt  2/3 cup yoghurt
3 tblsp chopped fresh coriander/cilantro
2 tblsp chopped fresh mint
1 tsp each garam masala and ground roast cumin
1/2 tsp each ground mace, nutmeg, cayenne and turmeric.
18 oz diced lamb
3 tblsp oil or ghee
pinch of asafoetida - optional
1 tsp each mustard seeds and ground aniseed
1 chopped onion
2-4 cloves crushed garlic
1" ginger root finely chopped or grated
8 oz canned tomatoes
3 1/2 fluid oz  / 6 1/2 tblsp wine vinegar and the same of water.

Blend yoghurt and fresh herbs together to a smooth paste. Add the ground spices, and then put in a suitable dish for marinating the meat for several hours or overnight.
Heat the oil in a large pan and  fry the asafoetida, if using, for just a few seconds, and then add the mustard seeds and fry till they start popping. Add the aniseed and fry till browned. Add onion, garlic and ginger and fry till golden brown, reducing heat slightly. Remove the meat from the marinade and fry till lightly browned. Stir in the remaining marinade and continue cooking for five minutes or so till it's getting a bit dry. Add the tomatoes and cook again till the liquid is mostly absorbed. Add the vinegar and cook again till the liquid is absorbed. Add the water and simmer till meat is tender. C likes wet curries, so I added more water, as this made a very dry one. Serve garnished with with chopped fresh coriander and green chilli and a pinch of gara masala.

Monday, 21 June 2010


Just a last few photos. I am sorry I don't have any worth sharing of the hornbeam cloisters - they are so wonderful, but at this time of year they are so leafy that you don't see the structure as well as you would earlier and later in the year.

72" reflecting telescope, originally constructed in 1841 - 1845, and restored in 1997.

Fagus Sylvatica "Aurea Pendula"  - always a striking splash of colour.


The lake - again!

The  meadow land in front of the castle hasn't been ploughed for a couple of hundred years - it used to be grazed by sheep. It's full of all sorts of wildflowers. I didn't see it this time, but in the past they have mown a path through part of it in the shape of the spiral nebula  as observed by the 3rd Earl of Rosse who built the telescope.

The Castle - not a good photo, but I think I have to include one.

Saturday, 19 June 2010


I said that one of the constant sounds last Wednesday was water. These few pictures will give you an idea why.

Reflections 1

Reflections 2

Reflections 3




Swirling Scum - well, what else do I call it?

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

One Hot Day!!

It was such a treat to be able to go to Birr today, even if means that I haven't really had a day off this week, as I had to get up early on Monday to go to the doctor and early today to travel with C. We went a different route to our usual one, and now we've found a way that only takes an hour and three quarters to get there, I am sure we will go again soon  for a day together. But goodness, if it was hot in the car going down, it was even hotter come back. So I am pretty tired from the heat and the long day, and have just picked a few photos that didn't need anything except resizing and don't need to go together.
Seeing the dipper was a real treat - we've seen it there once before, the same time we saw a Pine Marten. I wasn't that lucky this time. At least I was lucky in that the dipper started out on my side of the river, making my first photo the best.

When I sat down at a picnic bench to have a drink and change the lens on my camera to take the view across the lake, there was the greatest rustling in the reeds at the edge - you can just see a duck flying up. He wasn't actually meant to be in the photo at all.Obviously they are well used to being fed by people at the picnic bench, as a pair of them stood around hopefully quacking away gently till I moved on.

This, the lady I was talking to who works there, thinks is some type of Chinese bird - a goose, I guess.

Most of the morning the only sounds were water, birds, insects, more birds, more water and the sound of my feet on the paths - so relaxing. And the scents - green grassy, woody, roses, azaleas, mock orange...wonderful.

We are treating friends to a meal out tomorrow - a long-standing tradition when they come home on holidays from Africa, so I don't know if I'll have time to get any more photos sorted out till the weekend. And it's hard to capture all those  wide open meadow spaces and trees with photos, they just don't do it justice.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010


This morning I was hanging the wash out before work and thinking how much we miss our little robins. I wish I knew what had happened to them. I was thinking that now there are no birds that will come to the feeder unless I am in the back porch -  and promptly on cue a little scruffy juvenile coal tit flew across and started digging into the feeder. He kept flying off and coming back, so when the wash was all pegged out I stuck the big lens on the camera and sat in the back porch for a few minutes.

There must be something good in here.

Ah, a nice sunflower seed.

How do you get into this darned thing!!

(He really was having trouble with that seed, he was pecking away at it for ages).

It was lovely and sunny in town too. I am so happy that it's good weather this week. C has to go to Birr for a meeting tomorrow, and as it's a day I'm not scheduled to work, I'm going to go down with him and visit the Demesne. It's almost three years since we were last there - too long.

The Liffey at low tide - looking almost rural!! The sunshine really  makes the green look so green.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Odds and Ends

A last few photos from last Saturday...
At first sight I thought this was spider's eggs hatching, but on a closer look at a more advanced cluster it turned out to be little caterpillars of some description.

I loved the shape of the seed heads from this, which I think was a Crown Imperial lily.

Complete with its own cargo of insects on a leaf...

Winter casualties...