Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Spring sprang, but now it's raining!

Hello y'all!

We had quite a bit of exitement here yesterday. There was a helicopter circling the neighbourhood so we were wondering if they were watching out for someone. Suddently the garden erupted with police men and women. Once was in plain clothes, one of the women had a huge alsatian police dog and they were obviously chasing someone. The police van was parked at the top of the drive and some of the folk came running down the drive like a herd of elephants (poor things were laden with flack jackets and tons of equipment on their belts). Others came up the stream and down the bank.

We locked our doors and watched from an upstairs window while they pounded up and down looking for their miscreant. Still don't know who they were looking for and why - there was nothing in the paper today or on telly last night, but the woman with the dog plowed on up the stream while the helicopter continued to circle for sometime. If the person being chased headed upstream onto the Mynd they'd have found him/her easily as there's precious little cover up there. So much for our safe, rural backwater! I'm going out to get a padlock for the shed!!!!!

We're still coughing away, but it isn't a bad as it was and I don't have a temperature any more. However, I did give in and go to the doctor yesterday as I couldn't seem to stop the chesty cough. Antibiotics were prescribed and I'm beginning to feel better already. It still tires me to move about a lot, but at least I'm awake for a whole day now - instead of sleeping my life away!

We've just been over to Birmingham to Ikea today. This is the trip we were planning for the day after we arrived, so we're running about 2 weeks behind on our plans! We now have a cabinet to stand the telly on and three more bookshelves which are to go in my room. It will be nice to be able to put my craft and computer books away - the boxes they were in were starting to sag and crumble!

Here's a picture of our little rock garden. It's beginning to look very festive as the small daffodils come out to join the heathers and the pushkinias. It's amazing what a few days of warmer sunnier weather can do. Unfortunately it's now windy and rainy, although it's not nearly as cold as it was. Temperatures are now in the high 40s mostly.

Last week I actually did a bit of light gardening. Found all sorts of pretty things buried under leaves! There's lots of stuff coming up and coming out around the place. In addition to the small daffs, heathers and squills, there are a good few crocusses, primulas, etc. out too.

One of our pheasants is now mating with all the females that are still around (4 or 5) and seems to have chased off the other males. The last of the "inferior" males, who we called Darky because he's much darker plumaged than the others went off a couple of days ago. He was looking very mopey and had wet feathers so I think there was a big fight and he may have been hurt a bit. Finally, Mr Big chased him from one end of the garden to the other and there was much squawking and flapping of wings.

Our dominant guy is very tame. He lets me garden around him as long as I don't come closer than about 15 feet. I don't actually want to get too close - I'm scared of getting bird flu! He struts about the garden and talks all the time - a little cooing sound that sounds like a dog barking a long way away.

I guess that's all for now. Stay in touch please!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The sun finally came out!

We had an exiting time when we arrived back in Church Stretton. It was much colder in Dublin when we landed than when we took off from Chicago, and when we got to Birmingham there were flurries and a bitter wind. However, there was no snow on the ground there. As we got closer to home there was more and more and when we turned into our drive we were faced with about 3 inches of wet slippery stuff. We slid down to the house, John had to use the hand-brake to control the car! We unloaded, had a quick visit with our kind neighbours who have been taking in the mail and then we tumbled into bed.

Next morning we had to take the hired car back to the airport. John couldn't get it up the drive so we had to dig ourselves out! I never thought I'd see this in England! The weather continued to be absolutely ghastly for the next week or so. We've had a raw, penetrating wind from the east bringing temperatures just above and below freezing and snow flurries, ice-pellets and other nasty things that only we weather weanies can really get happy about!

Fortunately, it's changed for the better over the last couple of days. The sun came out and the wind died down although it's still quite cold.

Here are a couple of pictures of some of the flowers we found when we came back. There's lots more heather in bloom now, several patches of Pushkinia are out in the rockery and there's a dogwood in bloom at the eastern end of the garden. It's not one of the showy dogwoods, but it has clusters of tiny yellow flowers and I think it's the Cornelian Cherry - Cornus mas. Some of the winter flowering shrubs are fading off now. The fragrant winter honeysuckle is almost done as are the Mahonia and the Wych Hazel. However, we have some Hellebores to add interest, the Bergenias are pushing out long spikes of flowers and the Euphorbias are almost out, too.

At last, we're both starting to feel a bit better although we're still coughing, snuffling and wheezing a lot. This last week has been rough with both of us having nasty colds (mine with a fever for 4 days, too).

The combination of bad weather and bad colds has kept us indoors most of the time. We've missed meetings and field trips and we had to cancel our trip to visit Georgie and Peter. No gardening was done, of course, although it's in desperate need of it now. I've got to get some of the leaves and other garbage off the beds otherwise the new stuff can't get out of the ground.

Someone is actually doing some gardening for me. Every day there are more and bigger holes in the lawn as the badgers continue to dig and hunt for worms. AAAARRRRRGHGHGHGH! That's what you get for wanting to live near wildlife!

The cold has really retarded a lot of the bulbs. We have very few crocus, the snow drops are still in full bloom and the daffs haven't opened up yet although the flower buds are there and ready to burst as soon as we have a couple of warm days. There are clumps of daffs everywhere in the garden (in some cases there are swathes of them) and they seem to vary in size and type, so I'm really looking forward to seeing them when they finally come out. I'm glad we didn't miss them while we were away - I was afraid that we would.

What I was forgetting was that the spring is a much more leisurely season over here. It takes a long while to progress through the sequence of spring flowers because it's cooler and takes a lot longer for the ground to warm up. Over the next couple of months I hope to keep you posted as the various things appear. Stay tuned for pictures of lots of spring flowers from my garden and perhaps from the surrounding hills.

Well, that about sums it up for our trip and the dreadful aftermath. Send us an e-mail when you can to : joanarnfield@gmail.com.


Here are some images from our Chicago trip. We drove up there from Columbus at the end of our holiday. We stayed at the Palmer House, an art nouveau palace downtown inside the "loop". It was very luxurious and pricey, but that's normal for AAG meetings.

Of course we saw a lot more of our friends at the meetings. For me, the highlight was meeting up with Vicky Rivizzigno who went through breast cancer treatment last year at the same time as me. There were lots of late-night e-mails and phone calls last year as we compared notes, made suggestions and just kibbitzed away the long hours of chemo-induced pain and misery.

We arrived a day early and spent a whole day at the Art Institute. Wow! what a collection! You'll have to see it for yourselves to appreciate it. Chicago has some wonderful museums and a lovely lake shore setting.

On our last day we wandered along Michigan avenue looking in some of the shops and then meandered back along the lake shore. It was cold and windy, but the sun was shining and it was a very pleasant walk. John was able to add several water fowl to his list and we ended up at the Navy Pier where we took a look at a very nice stained glass exhibit. This sculpture is outside the Children's museum on the Navy Pier.

Unfortunately, by the end of the day I was starting to cough. This was the beginning of the nasty "lurgy" that has been bothering me ever since. Next day we coughed our way out to the airport and started our long journey home. The planes were on time, but there were long waits at Chicago and in Dublin for our connections.

Hello Folks!

Hi there folks! I'm a screech owl. I live at the Ohio Wildlife Center. John and Joan visited me there along with Julie Breeding. Their friend, Darlene Sillick, is one of the volunteers who looks after me. She feeds us, takes us on walks and spritzes us with a mist of cold water. I like that, it's like a rain-shower - she'll even "do" my armpits if I raise my wings!!!!!

Here are a few more pictures from that visit. This is me on Julie's hand. I had my mouth open because I was hissing at her. Don't know why, really - she's a very nice lady!

Now, here's Darlene showing John a Red Tailed Hawk. That bird could eat me for a snack!

And here's Blossum the Possum. Some people don't like possums. I think it's the scaly tail, but they're really quite sweet and VERY good mothers.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Home away from Home!

Our trip out was smooth and uneventful and we arrived in Columbus on time. While in Columbus we stayed with Bill Fenner. The picture shows him relaxing in his newly decorated den. It's a truly comfortable room, and we found ourselves joining him in there on several ocasions when we returned late from a visit.

Our first weekend found us at the Buckeye Bash. This is the 3rd annual event of this name. It's a retreat for the Columbus and Dayton Polymer Clay Guilds. We get together at a hotel for 4 days of polymer clay - demos, sales, swaps, eating, drinking, talking and working on our own projects.

I spent my time working on some experiments in head sculpting - trying new types of clay - and in helping others who are working on their sculpting skills. This year there were several people who are miniaturists. It was interesting to see what wonderful things they can make and all at 1/12th scale. Marla Frankenberger put in a return appearance, and it was great to see her again and this year's main guest was Marie Segal. She has encouraged me to contact the British Polymer Clay Guild and get involved again. I've already looked at their site and guess what! They do a lot of miniatures too!!!!! The picture is of my picture frame. We all swap cane slices and "doo-dads" and put them on a frame for the group picture. There was a competition of frames - some of them were lovely. Hopefully, more pictures will appear at the Columbus Polymer Clay Guild Web site eventually.

John had a good time too! Apart from dining with 30 lovely ladies, he took off during the day and did some bird watching. It was cold, but sunny and I think he was quite successful. The results of this are posted elsewhere in this blog.

After a smashing weekend - so good to see all my old friends - we returned to Columbus for a couple of weeks of mad socializing. I'm not going to name everyone we saw on this trip as they are so numerous. However, I do want to apologize to all those we didn't manage to see or spend any time with. We needed more than two weeks to catch up with all the friends we've made in the past 35 years! They will get priority next time.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Goodbye Ken!

The first two days of our stay were mostly spent at the funeral rites of our dear friend Ken Breeding. The picture above was taken at Picnic with the Pops last summer.

His death came as a terrible shock to all and we're all still trying to come to grips with it. However, we tried to give him a good send off culminating in a party where the Toll House Jazz Band played in his memory.

Ken and Julie were our companions on our famous 1993 narrow-boat trip, on many evenings at home or out on the town, and on various excursions and adventures. The picture below was taken at a dinner party in our old house in Columbus. My mum and twin aunties were visiting at the time and we had a very convivial evening with them, the Breedings and the Rayners.

We're going to miss you terribly, Ken.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Home Safe!

Hi - this is just a quick note to let you all know that we're home safe. I have a filthy cold and am not doing much except sleeping. As soon as I feel better I'll get on-line and post some stuff about our trip.

In the meantime, here's John's bird-list:

SPECIES SEEN From 2/15/2006 to 3/10/2006

GREBES: Pied-billed Grebe, Horned Grebe
CORMORANTS: Double-crested Cormorant
DUCKS, SWANS, GEESE: Trumpeter Swan, Canada Goose, American Wigeon, Green-winged Teal, Mallard, American Black Duck, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Merganser
HERONS, EGRETS AND BITTERNS: Great Blue Heron. Black-crowned Night-Heron
HAWKS, EAGLES AND KITES: Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Cooper's Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk
FALCONS AND CARACARAS: American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon
RAILS AND COOTS: American Coot
GULLS AND TERNS: Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull
PIGEONS AND DOVES: Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove
OWLS: Eastern Screech-Owl, Barred Owl, Short-eared Owl
KINGFISHERS: Belted Kingfisher
WOODPECKERS: Red-headed Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker
CROWS AND JAYS: Blue Jay, American Crow
THRUSHES:Eastern Bluebird, Hermit Thrush, American Robin
STARLINGS: European Starling
NUTHATCHES: Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch
CREEPERS: Brown Creeper
WRENS: Carolina Wren
KINGLETS: Golden-crowned Kinglet
CHICKADEES, TITS: Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse
LARKS: Horned Lark
SISKINS, CROSSBILLS AND ALLIES: American Goldfinch, House Finch
BUNTINGS, SPARROWS, TANAGERS, ALLIES: Song Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Savannah Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Northern Cardinal
BLACKBIRDS, GRACKLES, ORIOLES: Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle

Species seen - 73

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Test Posting

This is a test ... I want to see if this map looks ok on a web page and this is the only page I have access to!

While I'm at it, let me just say that we're both ok but very busy right now and we'll get back to you soon!

Please keep up the e-mails, I PROMISE to write back as soon as I can.