Monday, 12 April 2021

Vatrushka Take 2

With the gardening on hold during the recent cold weather I have turned to baking some comfort food.  

After my last jam filled vatrushka I plucked up the courage to go for the more traditional farmhouse  cheese filling.   

I thought they were better but not everyone shared my preference.  Another failsafe favourite is challah: 

Thursday, 1 April 2021

Cold Night - Hot Cross Buns


After a settled period of above zero temperatures the overnight frost has returned.  Currently it is -2C outside and a snug +2 in my greenhouse.  I had the foresight to deploy the paraffin heater last night and am feeling rather smug about it.  
The other thing I did last night was to bake the annual batch of hot cross buns.  Just what you need on a cold Good Friday morning. The other Good Friday tradition of planting potatoes could be delayed this year.  The seed potatoes would be happy enough six inches under but why push it when I have other things to do.  (At the school the nursery class have planted a row of earlies this week already!)

Sunday, 21 March 2021

Bumblebee Food

 Following my recent post featuring willow catkins I have been  on the lookout for bumblebees.  Sure enough, with the recent afternoon sunshine they have appeared in numbers.

And boy those willow trees are just covered with catkins now.

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Spring Arrivals

Mahonia aquifolium - Oregon Grape

Following the appearance of the colstfoot and lesser celandine featured in my earlier post, I have been alert to other new flower arrivals along the canal bank.  You don't have to look too hard to spot this  - one of the first to flower in the hedgerow.   And once I have spotted that I know to expect this too:   

Ribes sanguineum - Flowering Currant 
I have mixed feelings about this because whenever I have tried to grow this in my garden it has succumbed to a fatal shrivelling disease. 

Another plant I have grown in the garden - as an early source of nectar for the bees is willow.  It was only after planting two Kilmarnock willows that I noticed this resident of the canal bank right across the road, doing the job in the wild already!  It is a large sprawling specimen - quite the opposite of the vertically curtailed Kilmarnock. 

Salix caprea - Goat Willow

And while I was on the lookout I spotted this early flowering prunus. I don't think it is a thorny sloe or a wild plum (prunus domestica).  Given the early flowering I think it is a Cherry Plum.  I may revisit that once the leaves have fully emerged.

Prunus cerasifera - Cherry-Plum

It looks like spring is underway - with a little help from our imported species.

Monday, 15 March 2021

Bee & Bee

It won't be long now until the bumblebees emerge and start prospecting for homes.  I have now set up a new motel made of bricks and slates concealing chambers lined with feathers from an old pillow.  The design is based on one promoted by bumblebee guru Dave Goulson Here.

And as for the solitary bees I have added a new wing of wood with holes drilled into them.

I do hope these prove attractive to the intended residents.  

Monday, 8 March 2021

Early Emerging Stars

 Yesterday I came across these two, the first wildflowers of the year.

Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna), also known as pilewort.  William Wordsworth's favourite wildflower, he devoted three poems to it and even chose it to be depicted on his gravestone.  (Sadly the stonemason's template was for the similarly named but unrelated Greater Celandine - Chelidonium majus. To this day the imposter persists.

The second new arrival is the flower of Coltsfoot. Tussilago farfara. In this case the flowering stalk emerges from unseen rhizomes before the leaves.  It is the shape of the leaves that give it it's common name. The latin name comes from its reputation for easing coughs. Tussis = cough. 

Both have a foothold on the grassy bank of the Union Canal that links Edinburgh to Falkirk.  

Thursday, 4 March 2021


 These oven baked Russian doughnuts are rather fun.

Traditionally they have a cream cheeses filling, but when I read that blueberry jam is also a common choice I had to go for that.  They have caused a bit of a revolution in our house.