2020 A Year in Review

2020 may have been the oddest year of most of our lives but it’s done now, and we have to have hope that 2021 will be better. I have, for the most part, managed to stay mentally sound throughout most of the year, which I know isn’t the same for everyone. I thank my lucky stars that this happened now and not a couple of decades ago when we would have been far more isolated that we have been thanks to Zoom, FaceTime and Teams.

I also massively appreciate the fact that we have outside space which, although at the moment isn’t at all enticing due to the inclement weather, got us through the warmer months of the year with relative ease, especially so when we were allowed to have people in our garden.

Here are some of my favourite garden photos of last year.

The garden was reasonably productive in terms of fruit and veg in 2020 …

… and we had quite a few visitors of the fauna variety!

Inside the house, we made a few home improvements. The first was pre-lockdown when, with the help of my Dad, we transformed our bathroom from dingy to sparkly clean safari wonderland.

During lockdown when I was furloughed and hubby’s workplace was demonstrating exactly how a zero hours contract benefits the employer (they still are!) we tackled first our spare bedroom/my home office making it a homage to all things Harry Potter …

… then when I was unfurloughed but hubby was still unbusy with zero hours, he decided to tackle the woodchip in our living room and we completely redecorated including wallpapering, laying laminate flooring, opening out the fireplace and hanging the TV on the wall.

Outside we built a catio on the side of the kitchen so our furry girls can get some air safely.

Away from home, amazingly we did manage to squeeze in three holidays. The first was, to paraphrase Craig Revel-Horwood A-May-zing!! A week long cruise round the Caribbean preceded by a two night stop in Orlando and a trip to Universal to go on the new Hagrid’s Magical Creatures coaster. This was pre-COVID, in fact I remember the first I heard about it was by scanning the Sky news app whilst I was sunbathing on deck, and I assumed it would be like the previous SARS disease. I never even entertained the thought that it could turn into what it has! Blissful ignorance, eh?

In between lockdown 1.0 and lockdown 2.0 we managed a short break to Norfolk which was a game of two halves – lovely to get away and see the sea, but I got bitten by a dog, we had to come home early because hubby had a job interview (which he didn’t get!) and I got a flat tyre!

In September we went to Edinburgh for my birthday. This had been booked pre-pandemic and we didn’t know until the last minute whether we’d be able to go, but I’m so glad we could because we had a fantastic time. One of the best holidays I’ve ever had.

We had a few great days out – we walked alpacas, visited confetti fields, played with meerkats, met gorillas at Twycross Zoo and we walked and cycled many times in Sutton Park and Kingsbury Water Park …

… and we also had a couple of great days in making up for things that we should have been doing. We had a non-Jamaica party for two on the day we were supposed to be flying out and we had a tennis afternoon tea on the day Dad and I were supposed to be going to watch the ATP tour finals in London.

I also did a lot of crafts – mainly crochet, but also knitting, baking, jigsaws (do they count as crafts?) model making, felting and, obviously, mask making!

So, all in all, although it certainly didn’t feel like it at times, 2020 was actually a pretty full year and I achieved quite a lot. Amongst all this, I was also working full time (apart from being furloughed for nine weeks in the summer) in a job that I only started six weeks before we were plunged into lockdown and home working, and I feel that I managed very well to learn the new job (although this is an on-going process) under challenging circumstances. It turns out that home working, while it doesn’t suit everyone or every job, works pretty well for me, and for my team. As I mentioned before, thank goodness for technology!

Now it’s time to look forward to 2021 and I’ll finish with a quote that I recently read in a fiction book, the sixth in the Seven Sisters series by Lucinda Riley but that is based in fact (the first book I didn’t enjoy as much, but I’m so glad I persevered because they got better and better and one thing to look forward to in 2021 is the release of the final in the series).Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards – Soren Kierkegaard.

Alternative Six on Saturday!

I was a really busy bee yesterday. I spent about five hours cleaning, tidying and generally organising ready for some friends to come over in the evening so our house is now sparkling, then I went over to Coventry to get my nails done.

… I went for green with glitter this time and I’m a little bit in love with them!

By the time I got home I just had time to have some tea before everyone arrived so I didn’t have chance to write a Six on Saturday post, even though I had managed to squeeze a photo mission to the garden in. Not to worry, it just means I’m not limited to six things to tell you about today.

First of all I’m going to wish our Welsh friends a very happy Saint David’s Day.

More and more daffs are popping up in the garden now and they do make my Winter-battered heart sing with hope. These ones are in the corner of my birthday planter.

There are definitely signs that Spring is in the air I the garden, apart from the daffs. My friend gave me a Crocus bowl for my birthday back in September. I planted the bulbs and then left the bowl in the dark garage as instructed. I have to admit, I had completely forgotten it was in there until hubby saw the bulbs sprouting and mentioned it to me. I took it out to the light and it’s gone from strength to strength.

There’s lots of new growth appearing around the garden.

My Hydrangea is growing little cabbages at the end of its arms.

My Dogwood is looking beautifully red and is growing lovely limey leaves.

And my Pink Damask in my birthday planter has got pretty big already. This dies down completely in the Winter and then shoots up in the Spring ready for its big blousy pink flowers in the Summer.

There’s actually some pink already doing its pretty thing out there. In the front my Camellia’s gearing up to flower already and I’m going to start appreciating it from now on because once those beautiful flowers bloom, they don’t stick around for long.

In the back the Pieris is already starting to develop its pink tips ready for the full on sunset that it will impress with soon.

And my sale table Erysimum which must surely be the most stoic plant in the garden, determined to shine even through Storms Ciara and Dennis, is waving a couple of flowers above its foliage.

Gorgeous!

The lawn is a little unruly because we weren’t able to give it one last mow at the end of the Summer because, would you believe it, it kept raining, and I noticed yesterday that the fox run is visible.

This reminded me to check the garden camera to see what the wildlife’s been up to recently. This was a mission! I hadn’t checked it since before Christmas so there were more than four thousand photos on the memory card. It took me hours to go through them all and get rid of the blurry ones, the hundreds of pigeons and the ones that were apparently triggered by the invisible man! Do you know how many actual decent photos I was left with? Twenty! I’ll just show you the best ones.

Bit blurry this one, but look at the date! Looks like it was the pigeon Christmas party!

Just Mr Fox enjoying some chips …

… and a squirrel chowing down on a prawn cracker.

We got another hedgehog too! So pleased with this one.

Finally, how do I know it’s Mr Fox and not Mrs? I’ll just leave this here!

Garden Wildlife

Happy Saturday all. September tomorrow. I’m not sad about the end of Summer, not yet anyway. I still have a holiday to come so it doesn’t feel like it’s over. Plus, I quite like Autumn. Now come the end of Autumn, then I will be in mourning because I am not a Winter person.

Today I’m focusing on the animals in our garden, from the tiny insects up to the bigger visitors. I’ve been snapping photos all Summer with this post in mind. I’ve got so many now that I’m not sure how to narrow them down, but narrow I will. I’ve can’t tell you how many seconds, minutes and possibly hours I’ve spent, camera poised trying to get the perfect photo and ending up with blurry wings or a hastily departed flower!

I’ll start with the traditionally less pleasant critters that I’ve spotted throughout the last couple of months.

For the arachnophobes amongst you, feel free to scroll past the next section (or peek at it from behind a cushion). I’ll put a row of hearts when it’s safe to look again and I promise to move on to more cuddly creatures soon, but right now, SPIDERS!

I used to count myself as an arachnophobe, indeed, my Mum, who witnessed my screams throughout adolescence, bought me this which now proudly hangs in my shed.

294938F2-9507-43A6-8FE4-82BE9901B0B9

I have found though, since my gardening adventure really kicked in with a vengeance, that’s there’s really no place in gardening for irrational fears of anything creepy crawly. You’re in their domain, not the other way round, and they just get on with their thing. They really are more scared of you than you could ever be of them (as I found out when stalking them, camera in hand!) The beast above was stomping past my pots at the side of the house. I tried to get a better photo, but he disappeared next door (bet they were really grateful!)

💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚💚

Next up slugs and snails.

This snail was really quite pretty. It may have chobbled on my strawberries, which is unfortunate, but I liked it.

These ones were a lot bigger and not so attractive. The first I discovered in my potato bag and the second was hiding behind my Diascia Cherry Blossom.

Slugs decimated my strawberries this year! I assume it was slugs anyway, given the evidence above! The second one is on my somewhat raggedy Dahlia. Given the rain over the last couple of days, there are some humongous slugs slurping their way around the garden at the moment, but they’re icky so I couldn’t bring myself to take photos.

On to beetles and beetley type things.

A9D0DE63-51DE-420E-8B40-6B4B49EABE5D

I can’t remember where I snapped this one, and I can’t work it out from the background. Quite an impressive looking beetle.

DCC5001A-9D6D-4D77-99F9-8BE5E9AD3A11

This one was very well camouflaged on my petit pois. A quick google of ‘green beetles’ doesn’t bring up anything that looks like this, so I don’t know what it is.

A3C31AF5-B0EF-416B-AEE6-85B90A8790DB

These are Lily Beetles and it’s such a shame they’re such a pretty colour because they’re destructive! I tried picking them off, but they don’t get the hint so I had to resort to chemical means. I made sure not to spray them once the buds appeared though because that would kill any pollinators that gathered their pollen.

Ladybirds. When I first saw the lily beetles I thought they were ladybirds, but they are sans spots. These are definitely ladybirds. Ladybirds really remind me of being a child. Surely it’s some kind of rite of passage to have a ladybird wee on your hand (although it’s not really wee, it’s some kind of toxic ‘back off’ fluid!)

Now for some random flying things.

Lots of flying things in our garden, including more than our fair share of mosquitoes! No photos of those because they either get squished immediately or they get away! I’ve lost count of the number of bites I’ve had this Summer – most of them through my clothes! Yep, these supersonic mozzies can chomp on you even through jeans!

Quite impressed with these two pics, although it does feel as though we should avert our eyes from the first pair, because I’m sure they really should’ve ‘got a room!’

I tried really hard to attract butterflies to the garden. I planted a Buddleia and I hung up bananas but it didn’t do any good and I saw very few butterflies all Summer.

3F3D5FEE-EF52-477B-9BE8-17CC0AC96178

I actually saw this one land when I was in the kitchen and ran out with my phone to take a photo. Luckily it stayed there long enough. Would you believe it, in the two seconds I was in the garden I managed to miss the Amazon man knocking on the front door and had to chase him down the street!

This is slightly cheating since I didn’t take the picture in the garden, but it’s too pretty not to include.

8D9B315E-17C5-40AD-90BF-5C558CAAD89C

I saw it at the garden centre. Isn’t it lovely?

Finally for the insect/arachnid section, I have LOTS of bee (and other stripy insects) photos, all of which were taken in the garden.

I’m going to finish with the best photos that we’ve captured on the garden camera since the last post.

We’ve tried to plant even more wildlife attracting plants this year, and I’ve also been a lot less ruthless with pulling up wild flowers and/or weeds and I love all the animals that are choosing to roam round our outside space.

I hope you’ve enjoyed looking at all our lovely animals and sorry if the spiders disturbed anyone.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend!