Dragon lifts off

spacex

Good luck!

Elon Musk’s Space-X Dragon capsule heads for space. A joint venture between Space-X and NASA and the first manned rocket from the USA since 2011. Astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley are on their way to the ISS.

WOW! That was an impressive take off and not to mention the landing of the first stage on a ship, almost as astounding as missions like the Sputnik, Gagarin and the moon landing.

I had written a long piece about despair, which I was about to post but that will have to wait for another day.

Great work!

spacex1

Elon Musk talks to the astronauts shortly before their first weather aborted takeoff.

spacex2

Inside the Dragon capsule waiting for take off.

spacex3

Lift off! … and the Dragon capsule heads for the ISS.

spacex4

Wildflowers

wildflowers

Wonderful to see more wildflowers growing in long grass. There was a time when this was normal but the obsession with cutting grass led in recent years to just small patches being left to grow wild. A sort of token gesture to nature. Whether this present situation is intentional or the result of the corona virus lock down, it’s hard to know. I hope it signals a change, giving a boost to the insect population and creating a knock on effect.

wildflowers2

wildflowers3

wildflowers4

‘Happiness only real when shared’

Christopher Johnson McCandless

Tea time

tea

Today is international tea day and what better way to celebrate than a nice cuppa Ceylon Assam with a piece of homemade chocolate cake. As a tea junkie I am all for celebrating this wonderful beverage and find that even in the most stressful situations tea has a calming effect.

cake

Meanwhile it has been a busy week on the cooking front so here are a couple more food porn photos to drool over.

fruit

Fresh fruits of the forest (Supermarket actually) with whipped cream and my first homemade meringues using some left over egg whites. The meringues turned out perfect, light and powdery crispy. It won’t be the last time. Below a loaf I made earlier in the week, which turned out to be the best so far but there is still room for improvement.

bread

Nettle soup

As I wandered down to check on the sheep this morning a vast expanse of stinging nettles growing out of control caught my eye. Waist high they stretched for hundreds of yards. For a brief moment I wondered, ‘what are we going to do with them!’ The sheep are clearly not interested in them, having acquired a taste for brambles and yellow flowers, which I am still trying to identify (common broomweed maybe).

The wilderness here is an ever present challenge, especially as the sheep roam freely and there are many hazards, particularly the fast growing brambles. Still, I was preoccupied with a myriad of other tasks and thought no more about it. Just another thing added to my mental ‘to do’ list, which fades into infinity.

Later that day I was looking at YouTube videos on how to make meringue and came across one video on nettle soup. WOW! I thought that could be the answer. There are enough stinging nettles to start a nettle soup factory. I had heard about nettle soup but it was the sort of thing no sane person would make these days when you can buy a nice carton of asparagus soup at the supermarket. Nevertheless nettle soup seemed to have a lot going for it and not just because it was virtually free. It was supposed to taste very good and came with lots of goodness, such as vitamin C.

nettle-soup

I decided I had to try it and promptly returned to the stinging nettles to harvest some for a soup. Meanwhile I had learned that springtime was best time and to only pick the young top leaves and avoid flowering plants. Well, it’s almost summer now and most plants had begun to form flower buds. I may have been a week or two late but with such a large crop it was not difficult to find enough young leaves for the soup. I returned with a bucket full, picked out the smaller leaves and put them into a bowl of water to which I added a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda.

I then followed (loosely) the YouTube recipe: YouTube video (Atomic shrimp)

  • Sauté chopped onions in butter or olive oil,
  • Dice two potatoes
  • Boil vegetable/chicken stock and add diced potatoes and onions
  • Once potatoes are almost done add washed nettles.
  • Cook for a further 5-10 minutes
  • Puree
  • Add whatever you fancy, I added some leftover whipped cream, but sour cream, milk, non dairy products could also be used.

This recipe used the potatoes as the thickener but a roux could be used instead or corn flour.

Verdict: It was great! Three further portions went into the freezer and tomorrow I will have one and take a photo of it for this post, which I forgot to do today.

I made a cheese souffle today to follow the soup …

cheese-soufflee

Apologies for the formatting on this page. WordPress have introduced a new interface called ‘Block’ (exciting name) which as usual is a pain to use, never does what you want it to and screws up everything you have done.

They call it progress! These programmers need to do a course in ergonomics instead of spending all their time with their heads buried in code language.

Brambles

sheep

The sheep are enjoying their new found freedom, luscious green pastures, sunshine and warm temperatures. Sunshine is forecast for the coming week with ever increasing temperatures. Summer just around the corner. Meanwhile the brambles are an ever present hazard and several sheep have already got caught up in them.

brambles

I watched as this ewe (above) managed to tug itself free from a bramble bush taking a long piece with it, which was soon transferred to another ewe with its lamb in tow. (below).

brambles2

Update – 20.05.2020

Another ewe drags half a bramble bush behind it, thankfully the rest have endured their freedom well and for the most part seem to have learned from their earlier mistakes.

ewec

 

Wood wander

So, I decided to take a short stroll through the forest today despite the cool overcast damp weather. I took my D5200 with its 18mm-105mm lens. ‘But what if I see something interesting … nothing interesting will happen’ …

I am hardly 50m from my flat and a black bird rises from the undergrowth. At first I think it’s a large blackbird or maybe a crow but when I spot the bright red crest I know immediately its a black woodpecker!

It lands on a tree in perfect view and pose, I grab the camera. I fumble to find the back focus button, it’s positioned slightly differently to my normal camera. Damn, it will not focus … I check the camera. I’m pressing the wrong button. I try again but the bird has gone. I fire off a couple more shots anyway.

bw1

Perfectly positioned perched on a tree just waiting for me to take a perfect shot. Wrong camera, wrong lens, wrong button. WTF. (2nd of four shots.)

I have only seen these black woodpeckers three or four times in 10 years. They are huge and easy to identify being all black with a bright red crest, but they are rarely on view and this was the first time I had had an opportunity to photograph one.

bw2

This was the third shot, which caught it in flight. I was lucky to get it at all as I could no longer see it and assumed it had gone. Luckily I took another two shots on the off chance.

sawdust

Move along … nothing to see here. I continued to look out for the black woodpecker but had no more luck. Previously I had only ever seen them in pairs, so this single encounter was unique too and maybe another one was hanging around somewhere. So that was it, I had to console myself with wood textures for the rest of my blog post.

bracket1

There was no shortage of bracket fungi and some are edible, though which ones I could not say. The brown slimy one (below) certainly does not look too appetizing.

bracket2

Finally this is what happens to a pine tree when it gets in the way of lightening.

tree

 

Grass is greener

ram1

The grass really is greener on the other side and these sheep are no fools. They continue to find ways to breach the fencing despite all our efforts. Who can blame them when the grass on the other side is clearly more inviting than their own well trodden meadow. Yesterday it was over the fence and today under, but like all things in life the inviting field is not without its hazards and here it is the brambles, which snag the sheep’s wool taking them prisoner until I or someone else can free them.

sheep

The ram and a younger sheep made their escape today leaving the rest looking on with envy.

ewe

Squirrel

squirrel1c

He’s back again to join the wild life party, checking out everything that’s on the buffet. This red squirrel visits the balcony regularly but his main interest are the monkey nuts hanging off a chair on a piece of string.

squirrel2

He attempts to get at the nuts from below but they are just out of reach and when a crow buzzes the balcony, causing the squirrel a fright, he hides under the chair, frozen motionless for a while. Once the danger has passed he decides to attack the nuts from a new direction and climbs the chair via the tomato plant pots.

squirrel3c

Once on the chair he has the nuts in sight but first checks to see if anyone is at home before continuing his mission impossible.

Other party guests include: A field mouse, blue tits, great tits, crested tits, chaffinch, black redstarts, crows, magpies, bullfinch, nuthatches, robin and a few elusive night visitors.