Sunday, December 24, 2006

Peace and Goodwill to All Men

As the sun starts its northward journey bringing warmth and light back to our hemisphere we wish all of our friends, wherever they may be, Peace, Health and Joy.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Embarassing but Necessary!

Yesterday was my 61st birthday and this is what I look like! It's pretty bad, isn't it?

I had my grand weigh-in:

210.5 pounds

15.04 stone

95 kilograms.

It could be worse - I could have posed naked!!!!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Weight Loss for Wildlife!

I’m hoping you can help me. I’ve been trying to lose weight this year, and have failed miserably! The trouble is that I can’t find a good incentive. I’m well aware of the health benefits of losing weight, but that doesn’t seem enough to motivate me. So this year I’m going to try something different.

I’m asking you to sponsor my slimming effort by pledging money to help a wildlife cause. In the U.S. the money will be given to the Columbus Audubon Center, and in the U.K. it will be donated to the Shropshire Wildlife Trust Lapwing Appeal. If you live elsewhere, I will ask you to donate to an environmental charity in your country.

Here’s the plan: On December 17th, 2006 I will have my first weigh-in. I will then attempt to lose 1lb a week until December 17th, 2007. I would be ecstatic if I could lose 50lb (22.5 kg or 3.5 stone), but even 20lb (9 kg or 1.5 stone) would make me very happy. Progress reports and updates will be posted on this blog. If you decide to pledge and support me, I will let you know at the end of the year how I did, and I will be asking you for your contributions in January of 2008.

Please consider joining me in this effort. Even a penny a pound will make a difference and a dollar or a pound for a pound would be absolutely wonderful. If this is something you’d like to do, please send me an e-mail to let me know the good news.

Thank-you for your support and best wishes for 2007 ….. Joan

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

.... Turn, turn, turn .....

Well, the seasons are turning again. After a long, colorful autumn winter is coming in with high winds and lots of rain. Our stream was higher than we'd ever seen it before and water just poured off the already sodden hills and down our valley in gushing torrents.

As soon as it cleared up a bit we took a hike up the Cardingmill Valley to see what it looked like upstream. The three photos on this post are from that hike. The Cardingmill Valley is the one we live in, and John has decided that it's going to be his birdwatching "patch".

However, it's the centre of the Long Mynd National Trust region and is the place where most tourists come when they want to explore the hills around Church Stretton. In the summer and at weekends it's quite crowded, so we don't often walk up there, then (unless we fancy a cuppa and a scone at the National Trust tea-room!). We usually choose walks that take us up other valleys where there aren't so many people.

This time we walked up the Cardingmill valley and then turned left to visit a side valley that has a nice waterfall at the top. The waterfall is called "Light Spout" - I don't know why. The Cardingmill valley is so called because there were woolen mills in it once. Most of them are gone now, but there is a block of holiday rental flats in one old mill building and there are lots of dams and impoundments which they used to power the mill equipment.

The bracken ferns are now dead on the hillsides and make huge brown patches, but in sheltered places and beside streams they are still green and beautiful. There's still lots of green vegetation about and the gorse is still blooming with its bright yellow pea-flowers.

Up on top of the Mynd (where we've been for a couple of walks with Ella) the heather looks pretty dry and dead and the whinberries are just stalks with no leaves. The wind up there is vicious and we were caught in an icy rain-shower when we went up there on Saturday.

But down here in the valley it's pretty sheltered. We can hear the wind up at the top of the drive and we can see the trees whipping and bending, but down here we don't get hit by it any where near as much as our neighbours do.

People round here are now turning to indoor pursuits for the long winter evenings. Quiz evenings are very popular. People form teams and get together to do quizzes, coordinated by an official quiz-master and marked by the quiz-master's partner. Usually there are refreshments (and/or you bring your own) and the entry fee is donated to a charity. Last week we went to one put on for the Food Fayre Volunteers. The quiz had a food theme and although one of the local deli owners was at my table our team came in last! It probably didn't help that people had brought along several bottles of wine!

At home we've been pottering about in the house. The weather has discouraged us from the badly needed clean-up chores in the garden. I've done some work on a size and colour look-up table for the Bird's Egg data base that should speed up our identification work in the museum. John is getting ready for a quick business trip to Montreal and we're both gearing up to send out our Christmas cards.

I can't believe it's less than 3 weeks till Christmas! They're starting to play Christmas music on the radio, the shops are full of lights and glitter, the Christmas tree in the town square has been lit and the main streets of town have coloured lights strung along and across them. It's time for me to haul out the old baubles and do something creative around the house, I suppose.

Winter is bringing changes in the local wildlife, too. The most noticable change is in the habits of the badgers. They have become far less predictable in their habits. They do come out and get the peanuts. but they've stopped digging up the lawn and we don't often see them before we go to bed. At first we were worried, but we looked it up and this is normal for the time of year. Apparently they go a bit torpid in the winter and only go out if they have to - ie. to defecate, get a dring of water and eat a little bit. They store up lots of fat in the autumn to enable them to do this.

The pheasants have begun to gather in groups. We've had a couple of stray males wandering about (there were three one day) but Mr. Dark has driven them away, we think. The females are gathering too. We get about 7 most days although the three who were here all summer tend to hang about together and don't always behave very nicely to the others! Yesterday we were amused to see one of our more tame females taking a dust bath in some dry soil under our huge Lawson cypress. She dug away all the needles, vines and roots and then scooped out a hole in the dry soil. Then she sat in the hole and kicked dust all over the place. Several times she rolled over onto her back, kicking and fluffing up her feathers. Twice another hen came over to investigate and she ran off a little ways till the other hen had moved away, then she came back. She kept this up for about half an hour. Each time she left the hole she shook herself and clouds of dust rose up around her! I think she must have been pretty itchy to do this for such a long time.

It's time to go over to visit my neighbours and cadge a cup of tea from them. I'm going to take my Jungle Band to show Marjorie. I hope she thinks it's funny and not a big wast of time!

Stay in touch, please!