Category: HABITAT

Rise of Parakeets

Parakeet in Childshill, London, photo by PH Morton

Rise of Parakeets

More and more wild parakeets are seen freely flying and nesting all around London.  I first saw parakeets on top of a tree at Hyde Park four years ago.  I thought they were not really a natural bird for cold UK.

As much as they are so lovely to look at, there are some negative implications to our local birds.

Forest Bathing @ Hampstead Heath

Wood shack at Hampstead Heath, photo by PH Morton

Hampstead Heath, photo by JMorton

I love this Manet-like impressionism photo at Hampstead Heath by PH Morton

Forest Bathing @ Hampstead Heath

Forest bathing has become an accepted form of relaxation and stress management in Japan.  It was started in the mid-80s.

But what is forest bathing?

It involves going into a woody land or forest, a green space, and hike leisurely; relax and breathe in all the freshness and negative ions, the so-called air-borned vitamins’, given off by the surrounding trees and plants.

Let all the stress of the day melt in the comparative embraces of the forest.

In London, there is a woodland called Hampstead Heath, a 320 hectares of open, green space perfect for forest bathing, among other things.  It is a place for a great family bonding.  There are numbers of ponds, there is even a ‘secret garden’ which is architecturally excellent.  It also covers a natural swimming pool for ladies and also for men, there are the Parliament Hill, the Kenwood House, Highgate pond, etc.

Be astounded at how great Hampstead Heath is, when it is just 6 kilometres away from the very busy bustling city centre of London, the Trafalgar Square.

It is a place for biodiversity: human meets natures and wildlife in a capsule of forested heath.

So Londoners, now the weather outside is no longer frightful, put on your walking shoes and have a forest bath!

 

Our Home Harvest 2016

one-of-our-potted-tomato-plants

Our Home Harvest 2016

 

When we were both still gainfully employed,  😉 it was hard to maintain our fairly long back garden, where the lawn must be mowed, the bushes regularly trimmed, the pond life fed, the garden furniture repaired, etc., the list went on.  We, therefore,  paved over parts of it, but still kept some smaller flower& plant beds and a good size lawn.

A good idea in any size garden is to use plant pots or troughs to grow plants, flowers and vegetables.

Some of the larger pots are fitted with small wheels (like castors) on the base.

some-of-our-newly-picked-tomatoes
This means that we can easily move large plants, such as the tomato plants, to follow the sun as it moves, to maximise exposure to the light and heat.

This spring, and as in previous years, Jean & I decided to try and grow some tomato plants in three of our large pots.  Tomatoes are quite inexpensive and plentifully sold in shops and supermarket during the summer, but growing your own has its own reward.  You can be sure of the freshness and they seem to taste better 🙂

 

one-of-our-small-apple-trees

 

This year’s weather has been mixed in London & SE England.

A rarely frozen and wet winter was followed by rain alternating with hot sunny days in summer, extending well into September. This combination has resulted in a nice crop of tomatoes. some have ripened and hopefully the others will soon as well.

Our two potted small apple trees have produced their ripe fruit nearly a month early this year.

They are ‘Jonagold’ apples, which are sweet and a little bitter to taste but simply delicious.

We found that If you have two potted apple trees, keep them near each other in order to get at least one good crop, this helps cross fertilisation from the bees etc.

We find each year that one tree produces more apples than the other.

However, this year both tree have a lot of apples, thanks to the weather.

our-pear-treeWe have one potted Conference variety pear tree, near the end of the garden, and as with the apple trees we also need to get another one as this lonely tree only produces a pair of pears each year.

Our wild blackberry bush has also produce a bounty of berries this year too!

We wonder if this year’s winter will be cold and wet again. Snow has not fallen to settle on the ground here in nearly the last two years, much to our grandson’s disappointment who is wishing of building a snowman in the garden!

Recycled Water

London city hall recyled water., Photo by JMorton

London city hall recycled water., Photo by JMorton

Recycled Water

Peter and I recently visited the City Hall of London.  It has a fantastic view of the Thames and the many buildings of various shapes and sizes, which are wowing locals and tourists alike.  (I have never seen so many people taking selfies at any given time.)

Whilst inside the building, we used the toilet after having had lunch at the ground floor cafeteria, where we had a brief encounter with Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, which is another story! LOL

I digress, anyway, at first, I was really annoyed that the previous user of the toilet bowl seemed to not have bothered to flush the toilet as the water is rather yellow, in a urine-yellow way.

So I flushed it but it remained yellow.  It was only afterwards that I noticed a sign confirming that the water was from a recycled source.

Apparently recycled water or reclaimed water comes from sewage water, which has been treated to remove the solid bits as well as impurities.  In some cases, recycled water is purified that it is suitable to for drinking. 🙁

Though it was rather off-putting to see yellow water in toilets (takes getting used to, I must say), at least the idea behind it is, of course, admirable. Recycling promotes sustainability and water conservation in our ecosystem.  GRRREATT! 😉

 

London Sunsets

Sunset over NW London 30 June 2013

Sunset over NW London 30 June 2013

London Sunsets

As I have blogged before, 2014 the English weather up to mid-August has been generally wonderful. Now in early September after a couple of weeks of mainly rainy wet weather we may have an extended hot summer (also called an Indian summer here) with sun and high temperatures for the time of year as Autumn is near.   London sunsets can be amazing whether viewed from tall buildings open grounds etc.
 When I worked at Tintagel House, located along the Albert Embankment SE London, near the Houses of Parliament, the sunset views from our office windows  overlooking  the River Thames and the iconic Battersea Power station in the near distance  were wonderful.
Astronomy is a keen interest of mine, I like to watch the sky day or night!
 
Jean & I have seen some wonderful sunsets.
One of the best sunsets in the world to witness is over Manila Bay in the Philippines. I had this privilege in 2013.
Sunset over Manila Bay Jan 2013
 Manila Bay The Sunset of sunsets!
The best view we get locally is over the allotment gardens, simply called an allotment, which is a community garden( mainly used to grow vegetables etc), for the neighbourhood to use, especially those with no gardens of their own.
 
Our local allotment is across the road from where we live.  As no tall buildings are near it, there is quite a wide expanse of western sky to view.
 
I like looking at clouds and find the many shapes, sizes and colours fascinating.   The best clouds are seen when not a grey leaden cloudy over cast sky with cloud covering all the sky, but the clouds that compete with a blue sky at dawn during the day and at sunset. When I see what looks like a potential scenic sunset, I get my trusty camera and wander across the road and walk down to the allotment.
 
Sometimes, Jean has come with me when we take our lively and lovely terrier Diesel for his evening walk.  This summer, I have been able to photograph some fantastic sunsets with amazing cloud formations, colours and hues that could have been created by a great artist, in this case Mother Nature herself!  

Dandelion

Through whayt fierce incarnations, furled
In fire and darkness, did I go,
‘Ere I was worthy in the world
To see a dandelion grow?

– G k Chesterton

DSCN9645

Dandelion
Photo by Jean Morton

April 2014 032

Dandelion Flower
Photo by Jean Morton

Yellow Dandelion Photo by PH Morton

Yellow Dandelion
Photo by PH Morton

 Dandelion "Clock" By PH Morton

Dandelion “Clock”
By PH Morton

Seeding Dandelion By PH Morton

Seeding Dandelion
By PH Morton

Dandelions are perennial plants, which are treated more like pernicious weeds in British gardens.  Dandelions grow wildly in lawns and pavement cracks.  They can be hard to uproot as they anchor themselves into the ground with unbelievable tenacity.

Dandelion got its name from the French’s dent-de-lion which literally means ‘lion’s teeth.  The lion’s teeth, of course, refers to the shape of dandelion’s serrated leaves (see topmost photo).

Did you know?

The young leaves of dandelions are edible.  They can be eaten as salad sprinkled with some crunchy lardons and croutons.  It is advised to choose the really young leaves before the dandelion flowers start to appear; the more mature leaves tend to be slightly bitter.

 

Pili Nut Brittle ~Recipe~

Pili Nut brittle, photo by JMorton

Pili Nut brittle, photo by JMorton

In my opinion, Pili nut is the king or queen of all nuts.  Its taste is something that you will appreciate.  It is delicious, it is actually indescribable.  It is buttery and floury with its clean nuttiness, if that make sense! 🙂  Once you have tasted it, it is almost impossible not to be hooked.

We were in Bicol when I had my first taste of pili nuts courtesy of my extraordinarily generous, angelic sister, Marilou.  She said it was delicious and it was.

We bought jars of the pili nuts and loads of pili tarts.  I am afraid I did not really like the pili tarts.  I thought there were not enough pili nuts over a rather tough and chewy dough which doesn’t really taste much as it was rather bland.

Anyway, when I unpacked our luggage from the Philippines, I found a jar of the pili nut.  I tarted eating it while watching back-to-back episodes of The Good Wife.  Well I finished the jar before the second episode of this favourite show.  It was so good; you won’t stop at just a small handful.

It might be hard to get Pili nuts from just any shop because it is not widespreadly farmed just yet. Only the Philippines do it commercially.

Lance Catedral from Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines - pili nut

Lance Catedral from Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines – pili nut

Canarium ovatum, commonly known as pili, is a species of tropical tree belonging to the genus Canarium. It is one of approximately 600 species in the family Burseraceae. Pili are native to maritime Southeast Asia, Papua New Guinea, and Northern Australia. They are commercially cultivated in the Philippines for their edible nuts. (Wikipedia)

If you happen to get lucky and find raw pili nuts, there is no better recipe to cook it with than as a Pili nut brittle.

Below is the recipe from http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Crispy-Pili

Pili Nut Brittle ~Recipe~

Pili, Photo by JMorton

Pili, Photo by JMorton

Ingredients

2 cups of raw pili nuts
1/4 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of water
2 teaspoons of vegetable oil

Part 1
Prepare the Pili nuts

1. Boil water in a saucepan. Bring the water to a full boil.

2. Add the Pili nuts to the boiling water.

3. When the skin of the Pili nuts starts to peel off, stop the cooking process.

4. Remove all of the Pili from the water.

5. Peel the skins from the nuts.

Part 2
Cooking the Pili nuts

1. Add vegetable oil to a clean saucepan.

2. Add the Pili nuts.

3. Fry the Pili nuts. Be sure to constantly stir the nuts while frying.

4. Add sugar when the Pili nuts are golden brown.

5. Caramelize the sugar. Allow the caramelized sugar to coat the nuts.

6. Remove the Pili nuts from the heat. Be sure they’re coated in the caramelized sugar evenly and thoroughly!

Let is cool; caramelised sugar is dangerously hot.

Time to enjoy (and share?!!!)

March 20, Spring 2016

Daffodils, photo by PH Morton

Daffodils, photo by PH Morton

I can’t wait for spring.  In a few more days, spring is upon us.

Though spring is supposed to start on 20 March 2016, the flowers, especially the bulbs don’t wait for the official starts.

Some bulbs in our garden have come through, our potted magnolia tree is blooming with gorgeously scented milky white velvety petals.

Our fish in the pond have woken up from their hibernation from the wintry weather.

Again, I have not noticed any sign of frog spawns this year.  This is now the third year that this has happened.  Though I do not really care much for the amphibians, I do not particularly want them to vanish from the face of the earth.  I am sure they have some role to do in this world. 🙂

Spring is my favourite season of all.  It is when darker days/ morning literally lighten up, here in UK anyway. I love to watch plants coming into life.  I like to hear the chirping of the birds which visits the garden more often.  I find that there is a feeling of positivity when spring comes.  New life, new day.  Cycles begin.  Perhaps I just suffer from this syndrome called SAD!

Spring …. bring it on.

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