Sunday, 25 August 2013

Swiftly Gone

It's been a proper summer this year. Hot days, thunder storms, and lots of sunshine. It seems only a week or so since I saw the first tower of swifts over the river near our flat. But in reality it has been months and I realised this week that I don't remember the last day I saw a single swift, let alone a tower of 40+. They have moved on; both adults and (hopefully many) young, towards warmer climates for the winter.

Other migrants are reappearing on our shores from further north and the evenings aren't quite as long, or warm, and they have been. More than that, or maybe because of all of the above, I can feel autumn settling in. It's a sense of movement, towards something different, a feeling of change that cannot be avoided.

At this time of year I have the urge to collect fruit and store away treats for the cold winter months. My mind turns to blackberry and apple crumble, collecting up warm blankets and looking for my winter boots. Even though the first crop of UK apples are a week or so from the shops and the blackberries could be left for another day or two as well I'm already beginning to prepare. What new warming soups can I discover? Where did I leave my gloves?

I know in reality I only need to plan an extra layer of clothing or two and then really my winter life is little different to my summer one. But it feels like a bigger change than that. For most of nature it is still a huge change. Hedgehogs, dormice, bats, insects, butterflies and other creatures are preparing for the long winter's sleep. Plants are having one final flowering spurt before turning to seed. And like the swifts, many of our favourite summer birds are turning their wings southwards while winter favourites are beginning to search us out again.

But it's not something to be mourned. I miss the swifts, but I look forward to the first waxwing reports, the sight of holly berries and, lots later, the first snow drop in the depths of winter. I have been told I say it about every season, but now it is almost here, I know that autumn is my favourite. Or maybe, it's the sense of change I enjoy, the knowledge that soon there will be new sounds and smells and sights and tastes to mark the passing of time and the starting of a new season. Whatever the reason, I do not lament the end of summer, I relish it. Because without winter's long nights how would we appreciate the warm summer days?

Monday, 19 August 2013

The Best Things In Life...

After watching Kirsty's Fill Your House For Free over the last few weeks I was inspired to get in on the action. Seeing all those items of furniture that needed a new home and a little love made me think of the bookcase and bedside tables we've been looking for, and not being able to afford, for the last few months.

So I joined the Exeter Freecycle group. One good thing about living in a city is that there are lots of people, and it's amazing how much stuff those people have. Every day I get lots of emails telling me what people have that they don't need anymore. From baby clothes to packs of roofing tiles, old computer monitors to lawn mowers. So far there hasn't been anything I felt I really needed although I was very tempted by the offer of assorted jam jars. There's always a use for jam jars...

But it's not just online where you can find unloved furniture. Recently we visited a family member who's just moved into a new house. The previous owner had left most of the furniture and it is now filling up the garage. There were several bookcases, an interesting looking wooded trunk, old computer desks, tables and a chest of drawers. It was all is pretty good condition and before it got sent off to charity shops and car boot sales we went through it and found a good sized bookcase and two (almost) matching bedside tables with draws. I would guess buying all these from a charity shop would have taken considerable hours of searching and about £40 minimum. Getting them for free, and as a surprise on a chance visit was brilliant! So it just shows that you should always be on the look out for potentially useful things, and make sure you're car's as empty as possible when visiting friends and family!

But it shouldn't all be able getting rid of things and bringing new things home. It's great when an unwanted piece of furniture can become a wanted piece again, but looking at what you have at home already is a good idea too. A (not very old) shower puff/sponge has unraveled this week, but a quick search online gives many ways to reuse it. My plan is to try and crotchet it back into a sponge again. Then we don't need to buy a new one and we don't have to throw the old one away, and I'm kept entertained for a few hours trying to crotchet meshing. I'll let you know how it goes!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Fluttering By

Yesterday was the final day for the Big Butterfly Count.  Did you do it? I did. Admittedly I did leave it to the last minute, yesterday afternoon, and so I didn't get the best butterfly conditions; windy and cloudy, but at least it wasn't raining. at the time of writing this blog over 37,000 counts had been done!

This was the first year  I took part in this mass participation survey. I'm much more used to the RSPB's Big Garden Bird Watch   but thankfully unlike that annual event it didn't feel like all the wildlife had fled the area as soon as the clock started ticking for the count.

Since I don't have a garden I chose our street as my watch site. Looking from our window I could see all the front garden's along our road which are normally covered with butterflies, bees and other insects. Over the 15 minutes period I saw a large white butterfly in one clump of flowers and two small whites fluttering around together further down the street. I didn't see any moths though which the count also looks for.

Being only 15 minutes long means there isn't really any excuse not to do the count. Unless you're out of the country who wouldn't have 15 minutes somewhere in the three week period to look at the butterflies and moths around them? As with any local nature watch it's a fantastic opportunity to look at the wildlife that's right on your doorstep, and discover something new. I'll definitely be looking along our street a little closer now. Rather than just thinking "oh, another white butterfly" I'll be taking note of the size and colours to see if it's a large, small or even a green veined white. What wildlife have you noticed appearing around you this week?

Monday, 5 August 2013

Swimming in the Rain

This week I made a brilliant discovery. Topsham (a small village near Exeter) has an open air swimming pool heated by solar panels! So, I spent a happy hour swimming under a cloudy sky watching starlings, pigeons, gulls and swallows fly overhead. I forgot how much I love swimming in the rain, there's something very special about swimming outside.

I normally feel a bit guilty about how much energy is needed to heat swimming pools so this one, also run by lovely volunteers, is a welcome change. I even got the bus to the pool rather than driving.

If you fancy going even lower energy swimming (for pool heating, it will still use lots of your energy) you can try wild swimming. Something I haven't been brave enough to try yet, but the idea is very appealing. To find a place to swim and relax under the open sky near you why not check out the Wild Swimming website.