Wednesday, 28 August 2013

How to contact me

I've been away from the blog for a while simply because I've been busy with the web site.  My feedback page in the web site got hacked and was being used to send spam email.  Then I tried to make a feedback page with a captcha (sorry to anyone who doesn't understand all this - I wish I didn't have to learn it all, but I do).  Anyway after learning about captchas and making a feedback page with one and getting it to work (not easy for someone as useless as me) I read that the bots are now able to spam captchas too!  So, new idea.  If anyone wants to contact me about the website they can do it through the blog.  I trust Google will be able to stop the spammers better than I can and this will mean I don't get scary emails from my web host threatening to remove my site forever and ever and ever (I exaggerate slightly).

So post any questions you have in the comments box below and I'll post them and answer them as best I can.  For me to answer your question it helps if you can let me know as much as poss., location, time, plant the animal was on, etc.

Friday, 8 March 2013

Male mine, male carpenter, female miner, menage a trois

The photograph above was sent in to the site by Allen H. in Tennessee in the USA.  To find out what's going on you'll just have to visit the Other bees page.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Happy New Year

Happy new year to everyone who reads this blog.  We are currently overweight from all the eating and drinking done over Christmas and New Year, so I skipped lunch today.  My dog refuses to skip lunch.   She is just 2 kilos overweight (I'm not letting on how much I am overweight, so don't ask) according to the vet, and assures me she is big boned, so there!

Last night I read a fascinating paper by Nassim Nicholas Taleb and George A Martin (not the Beatles George Martin, but you never know) called How to prevent other financial crises.  It is really good, and I was amazed that I understood it.  I found it while trying to get the correct title to Taleb's book Black Swan which I have just started.  Who'd have thought a few years ago I'd be reading such stuff?  Who'd have thought I'd care.  But I feel I have no choice.  I am terrified of ending up a bag lady after years of being careful and never getting into debt, and always saving so I'd have enough to retire on.  Now I sit and watch my hard earned savings dwindle in purchasing power because the government is debasing the currency, and not allowing failed businesses to fail, but giving them shedloads of money.  Why don't they give me shedloads of money?  I wouldn't hoard it up against the day when my bad debts do go bad (I don't have any) - which is what I believe the banks are doing.  I'd spread it around by buying good stuff from good businesses who employ tax-paying workers, who would have a huge chunk of it taken back by the govt.

Oh well, rant over. I'm off for a walk in the lanes.  It's fairly mild for the time of year, but cloudy, and the woods are still ankle deep in mud in places, so I don't venture far in, just far enough to watch the squirrels who torment my dog with fir cones.  She cannot understand why they don't want to come down and be chased, or chase her - she doesn't mind.  They see her teeth, and do not know that with my dog the worst that can happen is she will stand over you and bark until I come and tell her she's good.  I think all the hedgehogs in our woods must be deaf by now.  They just ignore her, but she has to tell me they are there, and I have to come and have a look.  I don't mind as a few years ago she found a young one that would never have made it through winter.  It lived in my greenhouse, under the staging, through the winter, and we let it out the following spring.  When we found it it was just 450 g, but it was over 750 g when we let it go.  It feasted on slugs and anything else it could catch between long naps.  I also gave it some dog food, berries, oatmeal and honey and mealworms.  I would have liked to have found out what sex it was, but didn't want it to get too used to me, so it always rolled up or scuttled away when it heard me.  The sun has just poked through a grey blanket of cloud so I'm off.

The coffee bean spider, Steatoda bipunctata

I have just added these photographs on the web site of Steatoda bipunctata, the Coffee bean spider.
I found it on a log that I had actually put into the stove.  I saw something move and hauled it out again, just in time.  I don't know how many times I've done this even though I do brush everything off the logs before I bring them in.  The spider was OK, and I recognised it immediately.  I've seen this one or another of the same species many times when I've gone to bring in logs from the wood pile.  I've tried to catch it, but as I always have on gloves, by the time I get them off it had disappeared.  So finally got one to photograph.  She's a female, and was very friendly.  She walked all over my hand and never attempted to bite, but she wouldn't stay still enough for me to photograph, so I put her in a jar, and went out for a walk.  When I came back she had settled down to make a small web, so I was able to take this photograph.  

I wanted to put her back in the wood pile, but the weather was so horrible that I kept her for another day before putting her back in another stack that will not be disturbed until at least the end of this year.  We are having a mild winter this year, so she should be OK, and who knows perhaps I'll disturb her or her young next year.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Bush cricket, Tettidoniidae

This is the Great green bush cricket, Tettigonia viridissima.  When we were in the Dordogne last month the grass was full of crickets, and this was the easiest one to catch.  They tended not to fly away, just to walk all over you and jump in short hops.  I could quite understand people making pets of them.  The smaller crickets were another matter; they were hard to catch, and did try to escape as soon as you opened your hands.

Back in Scotland we are having a dreadful summer, thank goodness we have had the Jubilee and the Olympics to cheer us up.  And didn't the olympics go well?  I think we all expected it to be a disaster, as we always do.  So it was wonderful that it was such a success, not just in wining so much, but more as the whole event itself.  I think we are all still a little bemused by it all, and wondering where we went right.  If only we could do other things just as well. Perhaps the Queen to take to parachuting a bit more often.  She's up here now, so she missed the closing ceremony.  It is a comforting feeling to know we have a queen who would rather be out in the rain and mud of the moors with her dogs than down in the lights and glory of London with the posh folk. 

Anyway no strawberry jam this year as the strawberries are either not ripening or going to a mouldy mush.  The potatoes so far have been good, and the lettuces too, but everything else has been a disaster.  In the Middle Ages we would be facing a famine.  

On a brighter note we will definitely not be cold this winter.  The old man who used to deliver our logs has retired, so we ordered some from another source.  Now the unit in which logs are delivered is a "load".  So we ordered 4 loads, as we still had a lot left over from last year.  We were a little surprised at the price of a "load", but had been warned by our old supplier that we might have to pay more.  So anyway the first load turned up and it was twice the size of the "load" of the previous supplier.  Consequently we have filled all our log storage and have some under tarpaulins.  What's the betting we are in for another mild winter?   

Well my dog is telling me in no uncertain terms that it is time to go out into the mist and wander round the muddy woods. This morning when we got to the top of the hill the mist was all around and it felt like we were on an island with vague shapes of land in the distance - a bit like a Chinese painting.  Mist feels lovely on the skin, but makes a right mess of your hair, and it turns my black dog into silver till she shakes it off.