Some photos from our weekend in London.
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Spring has taken a while arriving in our garden. The seeds have been slow to germinate but some green shoots have started to appear. The quails have realised it must be spring. In the last week they have gone from giving us 1 egg per day to about a dozen. The warmer weather also means we can put laundry outside to dry, which is quicker than using the clothes horse indoors. We don't have a tumble dryer, so everything takes longer to dry in the winter.
I think have solved the mystery of the funny looking pepper seedlings. There are similar plants growing in the garden. The compost must have been contaminated with some other seeds.
A selection of recent photos of some of our animals.
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Some photos from the Stapeley Water Gardens, near Nantwich in Cheshire.
Some kind of lizard.
A duck perching on a branch.
The chilli pepper seedlings, grown from seeds I bought from Woolworths, have been growing at different rates. That is fairly normal but what's slightly strange is that there seem to be two different types of plant growing from the seeds.
When I planted the seeds in the propagator, I divided the tray into 3 and planted one type of seed into each area. This was to help identify the seedlings when they started to grow.
The seedlings on the left look normal, compared to other photos I've seen.
The ones on the right grew in the area where I planted the chilli seeds. They weren't present in the other areas of the propagator, so it is unlikely that they were 'contamination' or present in the compost. They don't look like the other seedlings but I'll allow them to grow, just in case there were different types of chilli seed mixed in the pack.
When I made the Sloe Gin, I left the gin for 3 months before filtering and bottling it. I then poured a bottle of sweet sherry onto the sloes to see how much extra flavour could be extracted from them. I didn't add any sugar, I hoped that the sweetness in the sherry was sufficient.
Today, I filtered and bottled the sherry. It doesn't have as much flavour as the gin but it's still acceptable. Next year, I think I will leave the gin for 2 months rather than 3, so there should still be some flavour left in the fruit for a 2nd 'extraction'.
I've been told that it's possible to make a rather nice 'sloe liqueur' chocolate by taking the used sloes, removing the stones and mixing the flesh with melted chocolate, then leaving to set. I was going to do that today but removing the stones was very fiddly. I tried one of the sloes and found that it was fairly dry and tasteless. Having used them to make two drinks, I had probably removed too much of the juice and flavour.
The weather wasn't terribly good this year but at least it was only a bit damp, unlike last year when there were hailstorms.
This year's show felt like it had been scaled down a bit - there seemed to be less variety of events in the main arena. There wasn't a dedicated food tent but most of the same food vendors were there, just not concentrated in one area.
We were there for the Hamster show but we had some free time to walk around the site and see some of the events.
There were a lot of horse-related events in the main arena. This one involved riders having to pick up litter using spiked sticks. You can tell it was cold from the steam coming out of the horse's nostrils.
Ferret Racing. This was the winning ferret at the 2 o'clock race. Luckily it was also the one we bet on.
I was watching one of the falconry events and the bird landed on one of the loudspeakers near where I was standing.
All of these photos were taken using an old telephoto zoom lens on my Nikon D40. The new cameras can't focus through the old lens but it still works if I'm prepared to focus manually. I thought it wouldn't be a problem but it turned out to be surprisingly difficult to focus accurately. My old manual focus cameras had features such as the split screen rangefinder and fresnel screen. These made it very easy to see when something was in focus. The modern autofocus cameras have a plain screen which isn't as useful. The 'electronic rangefinder' has a dot which appears when focus is achieved but it isn't as easy to use as the old fashioned manual focus system.
I should probably start looking out for a newer lens but I shouldn't complain really. At least the old Nikon lenses still work on the newer cameras, even if they don't have 100% functionality. It's better than nothing.
Last week Morrison's had tofu half price so we bought a pack, then wondered what to do with it. The only times I've had it before were in things like stir fries or miso soup where it has been an unpalatable cube of bleugh. We decided that we should cook in a way to give it some texture.
I sliced it thinly and fried it until it went crispy. It still had no flavour but at least it was a bit crunchy and more pleasant to eat. We drizzled some soy sauce on it to give it a bit more flavour and served it alongside some vegetable thai green curry and rice. The curry was very green: onion, leek, courgette, curly kale as well as the curry sauce. It was tasty and healthy - everything the tofu wasn't.
We have an automatic drinker system set up for the quail, where we have a bucket and a series of tubes which take water to drinking troughs inside the hutches. Yesterday when I went into the garden, I noticed that one of the tubes had a few small holes in it. I suspected that a cat might have been in the garden and might have chewed at the pipes. I put some tape over the tube to stop the leak, and scattered some 'cat repellent' pellets in the garden.
This morning I noticed that something had chewed the end off one of the tubes. Whatever did it, it must have been frustrated by not being able to get at the birds. If it was a cat, then either it has lost its sense of smell, or our cat repellent has stopped working.
It's a bit of a pain because we will have to replace the tubing and get something to make it cat proof. I'm assuming it's a cat rather than a fox because we often see cats prowling around the gardens. The few occasions when we've seen foxes in the area, they have always been in the roads between our house and the nearby fields.