28 July 2014

Little Blackberry Joy

Time is scarce as my TEFL course continues - teaching English as a foreign language is a demanding business! I am not spending nearly as much time in the garden as I would like to, but I find at least a few minutes to run out and look at how things are over there in my little vegetable patch. And it's not just vegetables! Some naughty blackberry bushes starting pushing through the fence and under the ground, popping out of my vegetable beds wherever they like. On the other hand, they produce lovely sweet fruit. Every few days there are a few new pieces ready to be picked. It's not much, but it's still a yummy addition to my diet :)

23 July 2014

The Carrot-Eater Caught in the Act!

Garden snail (Cornu aspersum)
I am officially living in the UK now. I am also officially unemployed :) (big fun, right?), but spending time productively by attending an intensive TEFL (Teacher of English as a Foreign Language) course, which is really time-consuming and demanding. So far, I have come home hungry and tired every night, with a lot of homework still to be done. I tend to go to the garden to relax for a little while, to see what needs doing, what is new, what got eaten and so on - AND I happened to catch a garden snail right in the act of nibbling a carrot leaf! These creatures are very common here and they are everywhere! Several times, they have made home in the watering can in a way that they blocked it and we couldn't water.

But they are way too pretty to be angry with them, I just love them no matter what. And if a situation comes that we will have to live off our garden and everything is eaten by snails, then I believe that snails will be the first thing we will eat. Muahaha.

12 July 2014

Sunbathing on the Shed Wall

I tend to meet more and more creatures, even in places where I wouldn't expect them at all. Do you see these, soaking in the afternoon sun on a warm wooden shed wall? No? Scroll down, the next picture should help.

So, do you see them now?

What are they? Even though often confused with spiders, these are harvestmen (Opiliones), arachnids, usually with very long legs - therefore often called daddy longlegs, which I fing very amusing, but also a very cute name for a creature that many people dread. However, they have no glands to produce venom (spiders do) so they are totally harmless to us and once you look at them in detail, they are also quite interesting. Also, they do not make webs, so most of the time you will find them sitting on rock walls or similar places and once disturbed, they can run away from you pretty quickly. 

The best way to distinguish between a harvestman and a spider is to look at the shape of its body - the simple rule is that if the body is oval with no thin bit in the middle, then it is a harvestman; if it has some thin part in the middle and then the abdomen follows, it is a spider.

So - do you know these? Do you meet them often? And do they have a funny name in your language?

10 July 2014

Little Nettles Don't Sting

Hello again!! I'm very excited to be writing this post, because I am writing it from England! I have moved here (hopefully for always) and am currently enjoying a cup of tea while watching some River Cottage DVDs on our big bed!
I was leaving Prague in a huge thunderstorm, but it hasn't rained here in Woking since I arrived, which means I can spend all day out in the garden, doing on of my favourite things in the world. I haven't been here since the last time I wrote about the garden - and that was in February!

Even though my lovely man has tried to do his best, he is simply too busy to go weeding every other day and weeds do grow like crazy here. On the other hand, he used some of the long nettles to create a nettle fertilizer, which is now in a state that it smells exactly like a fresh cow poo. It feels very rural, smelling that during my gardening time and only the occasional train passing by reminds me that I am actually in a city :)

Well, back to the title of this post - they really don't!!! I am one of those people who hate wearing gardening gloves and therefore pulling out big nettles and raspberry shoots that went out of place is my least favourite job. But the little nettles - that's a completely different story! The tiddly ones do not sting and even the bigger ones, when caught right above the ground, will not hurt you. Many times, I feel something like a slight tickle of the stinging hairs, but it is not unpleasant. So I dedicated a part of today's afternoon to weeding the carrot bed, which looks much better now!

I m sure that over this summer, there will be many more garden posts to come, so if you're interested, please keep reading, follow and comment, comment, comment :)

09 July 2014

Lichen ...

Just because it is beautiful. I taught a few lessons about these amazing organisms this year and I feel they were not fully appreciated by my class, so maybe they will find more admirers here :) 

07 July 2014

Night Time in the Forrest

Did I ever tell you about the bread collecting competition at our school? probably not - well, we collected dry bread for the police horses. Our part of the city made it a competition, in which our school ended on the second place and the price was - sleepover in the forrest for two classes that collected the most! And the best part - since the teachers were not really thrilled about spending a night there, I got to go twice! They don't know what they missed!

After the long long time of being mostly in the classroom, I finally had a chance to take out my old hiking boots and take them for a walk! I also let the sentence "Maybe I won't sleep in the tent, but under the stars instead" slip out of my mouth and suddenly all the kids wantedto sleep outside the tent as well. Talk about motivation!! :-D

We roasted sausages and marshmallows and onions and apples over the fire, played games in the dark forrest, collected some fireflies to look at, saw a lot of animals and got to feed this cute baby barn owl (Tyto alba) that the forrest rangers keep. It was amazing and cute, even though a bit angry, VERY loud and slightly smelly. Everyone found it adorable though, even so adorable that nobody questioned the fact that we were feeding it little pieces of dead chicks (for which I am glad, because I thought it may be a problem for some kiddos). 

In the morning, we could even pet this really big and beautiful Eurasian eagle-owl (Bubo bubo), who was much more laid back than the young barn owl.

I learned a new way to cut up sausages and breakfast was as delicious as dinner - healthy diet goes out of the window when you need calories after a cold night in a sleeping bag, especially when some boys would not stop talking until you move your sleeping bag right between the two of them. Long story short - I got full four hours of sleep that night :) The next one was better.

Waking up with the light at 5.30 a.m., with trees above my head, bird songs in my ears and childrens's chit-chat all around was the best thing in the world. Also the fact that none of them were grossed out by any part of the natural world (there was a little incident with a slug trying to get into someone's sleeping bag at night) pleased me greatly. We had fun, we learned a lot and we need to do this more often!

06 July 2014

What Saves a Snail from Falling into the Rainwater Tank?

Surely, survival of shell-bearing land molluscs is influenced by many factors, but sometimes all it comes down to is the width of their shell :)

My landlord collects rainwater from the roof in a big underground tank and to avoid animals and tenants falling in, he covers it with a piece of fencing. I have seen bees and hoverflies getting a drink there and there are also many mosquito larvae in the water, but this little pink Cepaea snail surprised me by the choice of its location for the daytime nap. I do think it was trying to get to the water or at least climb through to the underside of the fencing, but - oopsie - it got stuck!

Had it gone through, there is a chance it would fall through and at some point land at the bottom of the tank and while snails are quite good in surviving in the water for a long time (my boyfriend once pulled a snail with a cracked shell from Woking swimming pool - chlorinated water - and it lived for more than a week after, but unfortunately it did not make it), I have seen many drowned molluscs in the pond at our cottage.

Getting the creature out was quite a job, but I am proud to announce that it has been safely moved to some nice wet soil under a plant juicy-looking leaves. Live long, snail!

04 July 2014

Aquilegia - Another Plant Loved by Bees

I noticed that another plant is often visited by bees and bumble beed in our garden - Aquilegia. We had this plant in our garden in Slovakia as well and there are many many colours and varieties to choose from and therefore it is quite popular with gardeners - which is good for bees!!! :)

The insects do not always find the right way in, but they keep coming to the flowers. Harvesting the seeds is really easy, too. The seed pods have characteristic shape and rattle when shaken. When they are ready, they will open and the seeds fall out when the wind blows and moves the plant. Well, I cannot wait to sow all of these! :)

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