Testing, Testing…With Red Squirrels

Hi all,

Been mucking round with settings and just wanted to check whether my posts are still being seen. So here’s a cute pic for that purpose. This is one of our red squirrels being very cheeky and stealing some nuts from the bird feeder right outside our bedroom window. πŸ™‚ Like and/or comment if you can see this!

The Dreaded M-Word Has Arrived!

Hello all! How’s everybody? What are you all up to? Back to work, or not? Out and about, or still keeping close to home? Whatever you’re doing, hope you’re all well. Which brings me to the subject of this post…

No, I’m not ‘ill’, don’t worry. But the last few weeks of lockdown brought me an unexpected present…

THE MENOPAUSE.

Aargh!

So, over the last few weeks, I have been:

Really tired, as I was waking up three or four times a night with night sweats, and needing to pee

Breaking out in hot flushes several times a day

Headachy

Just generally achy

Pissed off, with all of the above

I’d begun to suspect what all this was, but after consultation with the doctor, it was confirmed. I spent some time dealing with the symptoms with lifestyle changes, such as reducing caffeine intake, but that only worked up to a point. So I’ve now been on low dose HRT for just over a week. I’m certainly feeling a bit better. It can take 3 or 4 weeks to kick in properly, so we’ll see how things go.

Long-suffering hubby really has earned his moniker over the last few weeks! He’s being brilliant, and dealing very well with snappy and irritable me. Big hugs to him.

For anyone else struggling with this, the website Menopause Matters is very helpful. And consult with your doctor. I know it’s one of those things that people might feel embarrassed talking about, but don’t be. Ask to speak to a female doctor if that helps (I did).

Yes, I know it’s perfectly natural, I’m just having a moan. πŸ™‚ Big hugs to the people out there who are ill with, or recovering from, or who have lost someone to this virus, or anything else.

And no, going through the menopause will not make me feel less feminine. I’ve wanted my periods to f**k off for ages. πŸ˜€ I’ve never been a ‘girly girl’, but I am definitely womanly and happy with it. But I don’t believe being feminine or a woman has anything to do with whether you ovulate. Or whether you want, or have children ( I don’t – never wanted them). Or, indeed, what body parts you were born with. (But that’s a whole other post).

There’s a whole lot of s**t going on out there just now folks, so let’s be kind to each other. (And oppose the bigots who refuse to respond to kindness. If I meet any of them right now, the M-word means I’m all out of patience, so they’ll get a right earful from me)!

Karen xx

The Foxes’ Tale

As some of you know, long-suffering hubby and I got a wildlife camera to see what was roaming around our garden at night (we knew we had hedgehogs, so we wanted to film them and anything else that might be around). Around this time, I also spotted foxes running across the field next to our house, and entering the woods behind. After using the camera for a couple of weeks, we had never seen any foxes in the garden, so we took the camera into the woods, roughly where I had seen the foxes enter. A friend who has been monitoring wildlife for years suggested putting out some cat food to encourage the foxes to hang around the camera. And so begins our tale…

On the first night, we got this:

After some adjustments of the camera position, we got this beautiful video:

This wee guy (or girl, it’s hard to tell in foxes, so we’ll say guy for now) quickly became the star of the show. We saw three foxes in total in this area, but this one seems the most bold. He has a skinny white tip to his tail, and a black smudge at the top of his tail. He is the fox we’ve seen most often. The foxes we’ve seen all look like youngsters, just becoming independent from mum and dad and foraging on their own. Next, I tried putting out food in the woods closer to our house, to see if the foxes would come. And they did!

You can see the background is different to the first two clips. This is much nearer our back gate, and saves fighting through some pretty dense woodland! I also thought if they are around when winter comes, it will be a lot easier to put out some food to help them in this new location. And that was as far as I went…until a few nights later, when we had the camera back in the garden to film the hedgehogs…

The foxes had found our garden! Although obviously wary, first our wee bold one, and then another turned up. They are snuffling up dry cat food (intended for the hedgehogs, lol) and peanuts for the birds. It’s not a problem them being in the garden, as the cats are in at night – well, meant to be. πŸ˜‰ Although our cats MUST have encountered the foxes if they’ve been around in the woods a while, as occasionally one or other cat stays out all night, refusing to come in. Foxes and cats who are not competing for food rarely fight, as they are too evenly matched and anyone could come off worst, so it’s not worth the risk.

So that’s the story of our foxes! I’ll be interested to see what happens as the year goes on. Will they stick around? Will we see others? Will we see them earlier in the garden, especially as the nights draw in? There will certainly always be food of some sort out, and foxes eat pretty much anything! We also have a pond now for drinking water. Watch this space! πŸ™‚

The In Strange Times Diaries (Week Goodness Knows What)

Well I kind of lapsed with my diary of lockdown, didn’t I? I confess inspiration left me a few weeks ago, which was weird because there was lots happening to blog about, I just couldn’t be bothered. πŸ˜‰ Still, better to be actually doing stuff rather than stuck sitting around, right? I’ve actually just started a separate post about one of the things I’ve been doing. Here’s a wee pictorial clue:

Isn’t he (or she, actually not easy to tell with foxes) cute? More on him and his family soon…

I confess, a lot of what I’ve been doing involves either wildlife, or the garden. I’m sure my younger self would be horrified about how boring I’ve become. πŸ˜‰ In the hunt for more exotic creatures, I visited Flanders Moss National Nature Reserve, just a few miles from my home and one of only a few intact raised bogs left. I met an obliging common lizard. πŸ™‚

I’ve also been attending a weekly zoom lecture by our local archaeologist, and inspired by that I’ve visited a few new historical locations nearby (also within the COVID-19 permitted travel radius, of course)! Here is Old Kilmadock Church and Graveyard, reached by a couple of miles’ walking along the River Teith.

And here are some of the remaining parts of Stirling’s medieval city walls, which you can follow the route of.

Apart from foxes, we’ve filmed lots of other wildlife with our new trail camera, which I’ll also post more about soon. To finish though, here’s a daddy Great Spotted Woodpecker feeding his baby. πŸ™‚

Hope you’re all surviving out there. Let me know what you’ve been doing. (Don’t worry if it’s crying and eating your own weight in crisps – I’ve been doing that too)!

Karen xx

Hedgehogs On Film (The In Strange Times Diaries Week 7)

Hello! I mentioned a couple of posts ago that we’ve now got a wildlife camera in our garden. We’ve been using it mainly to track our wee hedgehog visitor. This has been a fun thing to do during lockdown. We got this footage of him (or her, not sure πŸ˜‰ ) on the very first night.

Clearly on a mission! We have seen sometimes one, sometimes two hedgehogs over the course of this spring. We first saw one last year, over the summer and early autumn. Our garden is ideal for them, as it’s rural, has no solid fences, and has lots of hedges for them to hide in. We also put out food for the birds, some of which our hedgehogs are also partial to!

We introduced some extra food (dry chicken cat biscuits, recommended by various hedgehog groups) for bribery. Sonic slowed down a bit this time to have a munch.

Hedgehog numbers are much lower in the UK than they used to be, due to their habitat disappearing, accidents on roads, and everyone keeping their gardens too damn tidy, and having solid fences that hedgehogs can’t get through to meet other hedgehogs – kind of essential for the continuation of the species! I’m hoping that the two that we saw together might be a pair, and maybe we’ll see little hoglets?

Here is ours speeding between the two bird feeders to see if there’s anything better food-wise at the other one… πŸ˜‰

If you want to find out more about helping hedgehogs, visit Hedgehog Street!
(The pic at the top is courtesy of them).

Hope you enjoyed the little videos. It was a learning curve working out what to do to get them onto WordPress! Good old Google eventually told me that creating a YouTube account would be the easiest way. (I believe Vimeo also works, for anyone who wants to know). We have also got footage of various birds being amusing, so be prepared for videos of them in the future. πŸ™‚

Stay safe everyone!

Karen xx

Lockdown Ups and Downs (The In Strange Times Diaries Week 6)

I must admit, the last week has been a bit harder. And I will qualify that with: harder for me, not nearly as hard as some people are having it right now. I feel a bit guilty whinging on about it, I admit. I’m sure there are many others out there who feel the same, so if you still have a job and a roof over your head and aren’t having to homeschool kids or any of the other really difficult things, and are still a bit fed up, then this post is for you.

Halfway through last week I and many other staff from our company were furloughed. But we will still get full pay – the company is covering the 20% not covered by the government. This is very fortunate and again I have no right to be moaning. But I do feel a bit directionless now that I’m no longer working. 😦

However, I was partway through a project when I was furloughed, so I will finish that. And I was also brushing up my French, so I’ll be continuing with that, in spite of funny looks from long-suffering hubby and the cats. Bonjour! Le chat est dans la boite. πŸ™‚

I felt kind of weird when I woke up on Monday and realised I didn’t really have to do anything. I did need to pop out for a few supplies, and found myself nearly in tears in Tesco’s car park for no reason at all. Cue a sharpish drive home and some chocolate!

Today I’m feeling better and have a little schedule of things to do. Today was: French practice, online ballet class, and write this blog post. Tomorrow: more French, online lecture on the history of Stirling, and do some editing. I like having a plan, but I won’t mind deviating from it now that I’ve got one. That’s just me. πŸ˜‰

In other news, our new wildlife camera arrived yesterday, and we set it up in the garden. Still some perfecting of position and settings to do, but we have already got video of our hedgehog! Unfortunately I can’t post the videos here at the moment, as WordPress annoyingly doesn’t accept the two types of file I’ve tried so far. If anyone knows how to get round this problem, please let me know in the comments! In the meantime, here’s the one and only photo I have of the wee beastie. πŸ™‚

Now to add insult to injury, our broadband signal is playing up (this is quite common because we’re so rural), so I’ll finish this post and publish it using the 4G on my iPad instead! Look after yourself folks, and if anyone wants to have a moan or a rant please do so in the comments.

Karen xx

The In Strange Times Diaries Week 5

So as I write this Scotland has gone back to its usual rainy April self. We did get a last few days of sunshine, so I managed to snap a few nice pics before the weather changed. The mountain in the distance in the first pic is called Stuc a ‘Chroin, which means something like ‘Hill of the Little Sheepfold’ in Gaelic. It is a Munro, which is a mountain over 3000 feet high.

At the weekend I made ginger cake for the first time. It’s a simple recipe but I’m not a great cook, so I was pleased it turned out really well! Next time, slightly longer in the oven, and a wee bit more ginger.

Lastly, an update on the cats. All is well with Cleo and Sooty.

But…silly Sam cat has gone and got himself bitten. On the foot, of all places. Probably fighting with the tom cat from the farm. He’s much better already, having got an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory from the vet, but this was him two days ago, feeling very sorry for himself…

Life under lockdown here moseys along much as it has done for the past few weeks. A bit of work, a bit of walking, a bit of gardening…and too much food! I’m not sure having all this time to bake is good for me. Oh well. πŸ˜‰

Hope everyone out there in the blogsphere is surviving. Big virtual hugs to all!

Karen xx

The In Strange Times Diaries Week 4

Hello everyone! How’s it going? Here in the UK we are gearing up for a good few weeks more of lockdown. But let’s look on the bright side: the wildlife is having a great time – although round here a weird woman with a camera keeps following it around and photographing it, with varying degrees of success. πŸ˜‰

It has stayed amazingly sunny here in Scotland, so long-suffering hubby and I have been pottering round the garden and the surrounding area when we’re not working. Here are some bits and pieces from last week.

Visit Scotland have been running a hashtag called #AWindowOnScotland. This is the view from my living room window. If you look closely, you can see a buzzard’s nest at the top of the big tree in the middle. (That’s not my garden btw, that’s my neighbours’ much bigger property). πŸ˜‰

The blossom is out on the pear tree! Next stop, pears. Nom nom nom.

Tried to photograph this red-tailed bumble bee feeding on some early bluebells. Not the best pic, but you get the idea.

We have lots of woodland around our cottage. This is great for wildlife.

One of the visitors from the woodland is the hedgehog! We will be getting a trail camera shortly to try and get some better pics (we have actually seen two hedgehogs in the garden, so hoping for baby hoglets). Here is a lovely hedgehog poo as well. Length about 4cm, if you want to know. See, this blog is educational. πŸ˜€

Hope your week goes well, and you can find something to brighten it up while we’re all stuck in this weird world. Hang in there, folks. We got this! xx

Micro Fiction Fun – #vss365

Hello peeps! I confess my concentration has not been great in this new situation we all find ourselves in, but that’s perfect for indulging in one of my favourite things – micro fiction! I love writing flash fiction in general, and doing even shorter stuff really makes you think about each word.

Every day on Twitter there is a thing called #vss365 (Very Short Story, 365 days a year). Each day a one word prompt is provided, and you write something containing that word. Some people do prose, some do poetry. The piece has to fit into one tweet.

Mine do tend to contain my favourite things: witches, dragons, and other magical stuff. The prompt word has a #. Here are a few that folk liked:

β€˜Stop #kicking me, idiot! I’m a dragon; just ask to go faster.’

β€˜Sorry. A bit nervous since we decided to team up.’

β€˜George, there are things in this world that need slaying, and I’m not one of them.’

The new team flew on, looking for the real monsters.

**********

(Written for National Unicorn Day. Yes, there is such a thing).

The dragon landed on the #telegraph pole. The people were gone, and mythical creatures were out and about.

The pole started to shake.

β€˜Hey, stop that!’

The unicorn, blissfully scratching its rump, looked up.

β€˜Shush. It’s #NationalUnicornDay, I can do what I want.’

**********

She spoke the spell, tossing ingredients into the cauldron. The last one saw what happened to his friends, and leapt out.

The demon appeared, tapping its cloven foot and glaring at her with its one good eye. The other was missing.

β€˜A frog #short, were you?’ it sneered.

**********

Hope these made you smile! (There are a few darker ones…I’ll maybe do a post featuring those one day). Hang in there, folks!

The In Strange Times Diaries Week 3

So as I write this we have just begun week 4 of lockdown in Scotland. The last week has, frustratingly for some I know, been dry and quite sunny and warm. Especially as Easter weekend has just happened, and no-one has been able to go visit their families and friends, and spend a day egg-rolling down some sunny hill. I’m very fortunate to live where I do. There was no egg-rolling, but there were walks in the sunshine (and there were eggs involved, in the form of large Cadbury’s ones). πŸ˜‰

Here are some pics heading north-west from my house:

This is the way to the pub. The mountain in the distance is called Stuc a’ Chroin.

Ben Lomond on the far left, Stuc a’ Chroin far right.

At Easter, one set of our lovely neighbours gave us a card and a wee Easter basket (oh, and some ‘normal’ eggs because they had ordered loads), the others gave us some daffodils and some rhubarb (some for planting, some for eating). As you can see we do have our own daffodils, but they are guarded by a fearsome black beast. πŸ˜€

Also saw this amazing Peacock Butterfly on one of our walks. Beautiful!

This coming week will be spent walking even more to try and burn off all the Easter chocolate. Then I will be ruining my efforts by making jam with all the rhubarb I now have. Love to everyone out there, and have as good a week as you possibly can! I leave you with an image all the fellow crazy cat people will understand. Here’s long-suffering hubby, trying to work from home with Cleo cat ‘helping’…