Source Elizabeth Mills

Elizabeth Mills 2018-09-26 12:14:00

Posted on - In Elizabeth Mills
Autumns here and I am trying to appreciate it although all I can really think is winter is coming. Its not helped by having a bad cold for over a week and having hurt my back sneezing. We have had a couple of frosts this week so I have had to harvest the Uchiki Kiri squashes which make a delicious soup with leeks and onions. The first fire of the year has had to be lit usually we wait till October. There is still plenty of colour in the garden and on a sunny afternoon, plenty of butterflies and ladybirds although a lot seem to be Harlequins. Yesterday  I saw crows mobbing a bird above Slaidburn and they sounded pretty wound up, looked up and it was a Red Kite with really distinctive black wing tips and a deeply forked tail. The Medlar seems a bit confused about the seasons, flowering and fruiting at the same time. I think the cat has the best idea, stay in bed and forget about the weather.








Source Elizabeth Mills

Caterpillars and wasps

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We seem to have had an invasion of butterflies recently particularly Large Whites and Small Whites and now they are munching their way through my nasturtiums which to be honest I sow to distract them from my vegetable plot, although the deer and voles have mainly eaten everything there apart from the courgettes, which Barrie says proves courgettes are inedible.


Large White and Small White Caterpillars

Tree Wasp and Greenbottle

Source Elizabeth Mills

Growing Sweet Potatoes

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I never had sweet potatoes until recently and when I found out how delicious they were in soups and roasted with other veg, I naturally wanted to grow some. Then I looked in the plant catalogues for plants and like my Dad before me on seeing what to me were ridiculous prices shrieked how much and decided to see if I could do it myself, ie grow plants from the tubers for sale in the shops to eat.

My first attempts in early spring, at just cutting in half and suspending in jars of water using toothpicks rotted off. I then tried in bags of compost, again just rotted off. Then I read that the tubers sold in shops are treated with an inhibitor to stop them sprouting. So I then gave them a good scrub, and again suspended in jars of water and this time they sprouted. I'm not sure if its the scrubbing or the exceptional weather but one half at least has put out a lot of growth. I have now put them into pots of compost.

I think I will attempt to seperate the shoots from the tubers and overwinter as house plants.


Source Elizabeth Mills

Derwent Inktense Pencils

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Don't know why but watercolour pan paints always go mouldy on me. I bought myself some Derwent Inktense Pencils that are water soluble to see if they might be a substitute. I did a quick painting of a Tree Peony Flower today and I am reasonably happy with the result although I found it hard to mix enough colour at a time and with watercolour you need to work quickly so some hard edges have occurred and lifting the colour was starting to damage the paper.


Source Elizabeth Mills

Elizabeth Mills 2018-06-10 12:09:00

Posted on - In Elizabeth Mills
This is the time of year when often quite expansive areas of webs appear in some of our hedgerows. They are produced by species of small ermine moths who are seeking safety in numbers and also trying to disguise their prescence from anything that might like to eat them. I also imagine any bird trying to peck at them would get cobwebs stuck all over its plumage and beak.  The webs slowly disintegrate over the summer and usually the hedgerows recover. The adults can be found on the wing  later on and all are white or greyish with many small black dots, hence the ermine name.



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Elizabeth Mills 2018-06-10 11:48:00

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The dry spell we have been having has suited the climbing and shrub roses in the garden, most were inherited with the garden or bought from the "sick plant" sections at garden centres cheap ( usually just bone dry) so no labels. The peachy poppies papery petals (phew- glad I'm not saying that) look lovely in the sun against the fat pink spikes of the Bistort.




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Flies and Bees

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Went for a walk around Whitewell. There were lots of black flies on nettles and flying clumsily around with long legs dangling - these were the St Mark's flies. There were also lots of Noon flies sunning themselves on leaves.They mate on cow pats and the female lays one egg in a different cow pat which hatches out quickly and feeds voraciously on any other larvae in the pat. The adults  feed on flower pollen. There were plenty of Green Bottles and depending on the direction the light hit them they could appear almost bright copper in the sunshine.


Female St Mark's Fly

Male St Mark's Fly

Crane Fly mating.

Noon Fly Mesembrina meridiana

Orange Tailed Mining Bee, Andrena haemorrhoa (?)

Soldier Fly

Green Bottle

Soldier Beetle

Source Elizabeth Mills

Source Elizabeth Mills

Tawny Mining Bees

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Saturday was really warm and sunny and we had a gentle walk along the riverbank in Newton. Wood anemone , primrose, celandine, marsh marigolds all in flower and lots of Bumble bees, Red Tailed, Buff and Early flying around. Also noticed some really rich red insects flying around and finally managed to photograph one. It was a female Tawny Mining Bee, its dense, rich ginger coloured coat glowing in the sunlight, very glam. The males are usually smaller and not so densley haired and duller but they make up for it with a patch of white hair on their faces, that looks like a moustache.


This is one of the species that can be parasitized by beeflies. If you see a small hole in the ground with a little volcano of soil around it , then you may have found a Tawny Mining bee nest.

Source Elizabeth Mills

Bee-flies and spring

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As soon as the "Lollipop Primroses" (Primula Denticulata) start to flower and we get some warm sunny days, I start listening out for a high pitched whine in the garden and looking out for quickly darting and hovering golden furry flies. For me it means spring is definitely underway when the Bee Flies are back in the garden. For a start they apparently don't feel inclined to fly if the temperature is below 17 degrees c. so sunny days are a must for them. All that hovering and zooming about must require a lot of energy. It also means that the solitary bees whose nests and larvae they parasitize have had time to get their breeding cycles underway. The adult beeflies have a really long proboscis that sticks out from their face to reach deep into flowers for nectar. It looks like it could do you an injury if it decided to, but beeflies are totally harmless, to us at least.



Female beeflies look out for solitary bee nests and when they find one they hover outside the entrance and flick their egg in. Sometimes they collect dust or sand on the tip of their abdomens and coat the eggs with this perhaps to disguise them or add a bit of weight to get them deeper into the nests.When her larva hatches, its a skinny little thing that crawls in and feeds on the provisions the solitary bee has laid in for her own offspring. Eventually it changes into a larger, fatter grub that attaches itself to the solitary bees larva and sucks it dry - and then moves on to the next one as there are usually several to be had in one burrow. Sounds awful but beeflies don't seem to make a dent in the solitary bee populations and to be honest they are one of many insects that prey on them. Lifes rich tapestry I guess, and I love them all.