Early spring flowers

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One Sunday in early March, Simon and I went for a countryside wander and it was cheering, after the winter, to see the early spring flowers starting to bloom. We saw snowdrops (above), which start to flower from February, and daffodils (below).

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A flowering elm tree was also spotted. This was an interesting find as many of Britain’s elm trees were wiped out by a strain of Dutch Elm Disease, caused by bark beetles. In 1967, Rock elm logs were imported from the USA. No one knew the timber harboured the virus caused by bark beetles. By the mid-1980s, 25 million elms had died. So an elm tree these days is a much rarer sight than it once was although, over the years, there have been attempts to repopulate the elms.

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Periwinkle (above) and common dog-violets were also spotted. Dog-violets flower from March to May and sometimes from July to September. They are seen in woods, hedgerows (where we saw it), and heaths in Britain.

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Fact of the Day

Did you know that there is an area and tube station called Seven Sisters in London? It derives its name from seven elm trees which were once planted in a circle in that area.

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Our World: The Road to a Healthier Earth

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Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

I was at my book club a few months ago and they had a charity book sale. Amongst the books, I picked up The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I had watched the dystopian film some years ago and fancied reading the novel.

And I picked up Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo by Michael McCarthy.

It was only later I thought, oh, how strange, two books by two authors with the same surname. It was much later when I realised that the apocalyptic novel and the nature book had something else in common.

The Road, in my view, is a great novel.

Although if you suffer from depression or anxiety, then it’s best to avoid.

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It is grim.

But it is hauntingly beautiful at the same time.

It tells the story of a father and son who are trying to survive a post-apocalyptic world. There are blood-thirsty cannibals (some of the scenes made me squirm in horror), there are remnants of meat or drinks in scavanged tins or cans or long abandoned kitchen cupboards.

There is no nature.

All the trees are dead.

It isn’t clear what caused this miserable world, a nuclear incident is my imagined belief, judging by what is said.

But whatever happened, there is now no nature – nothing to grow, nothing, it seems, to hope for.

I had given Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo to Simon, but from what I gather, that too is about the threat to the natural world.

So maybe the surname isn’t the only thing thing these books together?

The environment isn’t a particularly ‘trendy’ issue but it’s an important one. It affects us all, our planet is our home and every time we mess about with Mother Nature, we increasingly make life more difficult, if not for ourselves, for the future generations.

Even if we don’t believe in climate change being affected by humans, the evidence is there that humans are cutting down rainforests, driving other animals to near extinction and destroying wildlife habitat. We are to blame for plastic pollution, air pollution, water pollution…

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And I believe that all this vandalism of Planet Earth will impact on our health, mentally and physically.

Personally, I don’t feel as if I am doing enough for nature. I need to do more, much more, such as looking for palm oil ingredients, stop buying so many unnecessary items, stop driving so much, making my garden more wildlife friendly… The list goes on.

But politicians and big businesses are the ones who really could make a difference.

Oh, how I wish the powers-to-be in this world were wiser and thought more of the long-term, of nature, wellbeing and health, rather than worshipping at the altar of Profit.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

 

Tribute to Loco

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Cosy Cottage was saddened by a bereavement recently when Loco, a popular boar, passed away, probably because of old age. How old was he? I do not know except to say I adopted him more than three years ago and I have no idea what age he was then.

He first came to Cosy Cottage with his companion Bugsy, from a Pet Adoption section at the pet shop, Pets at Home. The boys already had their names and were apparently looking for a new home because there were two other boars at their last residence and they didn’t get on together. Personally, I think the easy-going Loco would have got on with everyone but Bugsy – well, that was a different story entirely…

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Loco and Bugsy had a rather argumentative relationship, Bugsy doing most of the quarrelling. I thought at first that maybe contrary Bugsy didn’t like his partner but if they were separated for short periods of time, Bugsy would look around and whistle for Loco.

He missed him.

On the other hand, Loco didn’t seem to mind being away from his temperamental friend!

Last year, around this time, Bugsy passed on to the Dandelion Paradise where all good – and mischievous –  guinea pigs go, possibly because of age but I suspect more due to a horrible freezing cold spell (nicknamed ‘The Beast from the East’).

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It was then I realised how much the companionship meant to Loco when he slowly deteriorated. Yes, he was still eating, still drinking, but his energy levels had dipped. I would leave his door open and he wouldn’t go out and explore. He acted as if he was deaf. As if he was blind. Or maybe it was simply that he was not as interested in life as before.

It looked like he was grieving and missing his friend.

He might get over Bugsy in time, I mused. Otherwise I would have to go through the ‘boar bonding’ ritual, where introducing one boar to another takes time and patience otherwise fights could break out.

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But one day, I came across an internet appeal from my book club friend Liz. She was looking for a new friend for her recently bereaved male pig Blaze. I got in touch and agreed that if it didn’t work out – that is, if they didn’t take to each other – Blaze would go back to his original ‘pet parent’.

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Blaze was small, dark and handsome – he was also calm, relaxed and tolerant. Following a week of careful introduction, they moved in together and, apart from a mad parsley-related moment from Blaze, all went well. Although there were a couple of ‘disagreements’ over who was to get that last slice of apple.

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They would play Follow My Leader in the living room, Loco usually being the leader while mild-tempered Blaze would follow.

Food was Loco’s greatest love. A talented beggar, he would demand parsley and lettuce from what he viewed as his human servants. Simon was Dandelion Man, who would bring up tasty dandelions (although he also insisted on cutting the pigs’ nails so Loco had mixed feelings about Dandelion Man). The sound of chopping meant carrots and, once again, Loco would loudly insist on being given a choice morsel.

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Another of Loco’s friends was Teddy, the Jack Russell, who would go and say hello. Loco would always go to the bars to see him. Loco may have trusted our Ted but I certainly didn’t and would always take Teddy away from Loco’s surroundings.

Loco was a big lad, after all, he loved his grub. But towards the end, he became thinner and became fussier about what he ate. He would beg and then leave the once tasty morsel behind, looking for something else. But somehow that wasn’t quite what he had in mind either.

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I truly believe that, without Blaze, Loco would have gone months ago. Blaze was a real comfort to him and gave him a reason to live after his first companion died.

But one day, as will happen to us all, his time came to say goodbye to his loved ones. I like to think that there is a little part of heaven reserved for guinea pigs and it is full of dandelions and parsley and old friends.

Lawrence and The Freemasons

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Does luxury and East Lancashire go together? Well, in the case of The Lawrence, it does. On the outside, it looks like a normal large house, sitting on a corner of an ordinary looking street.

A guesthouse or B&B maybe. Attractive Grade II listed building, certainly (it’s actually 200 years old), but it doesn’t necessarily look like a fancy spa or boutique hotel.

However, the minute you enter the hall – adorned by quirky animal wallpaper – you know you’re somewhere special.

High class.

Along the hall, to the left, is a small reception where we met Hannah, she was very friendly and helpful. The hotel prides itself on providing a bespoke experience for its guests. After filling in a short questionnaire asking what we would like to have for our breakfast in the morning, she took us on a short tour, showing the breakfast room, unmanned bar (it has an honesty box) and sitting area. There are also function and conference rooms and an outside courtyard.

Upstairs was the Tolkien suite – luxurious, elegant and extravagant.

 

There was an enormous television (which we discovered had Netflix, neither of us has this subscription channel but we took full advantage by watching The Outlaw King, about Robert the Bruce, and Alliances, a spy thriller starring Brad Pitt). A luxurious dark blue velvet settee faced the TV, with a massive bed behind – actually the room was huge, much bigger than what I am used to in hotels and B&Bs. Elegant wallpaper adorned the wall, there was a sweets jar, biscuits, bottles of water, tea, coffee, kettle… On the side of the bed was a pile of Tolkien books, a nice touch.

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Am I missing something? The bathroom, ah, the bathroom.

Normally, the bathroom is a much overlooked although necessary component of a hotel room. Toilet, tick. Shower, tick. Sink, tick. But this was different.

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For a start, it was upstairs. Yes, this guest suite sits across two floors. A floating bathroom atop a mezzanine balcony. There was a separate shower and toilet cubicle, while the sink and roll top bath was in a more open plan setting.

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The whole vibe was contemporary luxury, unlike many chain hotels though, The Lawrence oozes character. It is no surprise to learn that the 14-room boutique hotel was been renovated last year. It now has one suite, three signature rooms, three superior rooms and seven snugs.

The luxury doesn’t end there. Relaxation treatments are also available if booked in advance and afternoon tea is served on a weekend. Again this requires booking.

We went for a short walk in Padiham, a small attractive town, located next to the River Calder. In the 1900s its industries were coal-mining and weaving and by 1906, there were 20 cotton mills. Of course, all this is gone now.

Eating at Freemasons at Wiswell, in the rural Ribble Valley, was a gastronomical treat. It’s a venue full of refined rustic charm, a combination of country pub and shooting lodge.

We sampled many dishes on the Taste of Freemason menu, which highlights chef Steven Smith’s work. Many of these, if I’m honest, I wouldn’t personally have chosen but was happily surprised. The dishes were just the right size, none were too filling.  At the end, we were both full but not unpleasantly bloated.

Our wine was a Painted Wolf chenin blanc 2017, which was very nice. Our 30-year-old dessert wine at the end of the evening was sweet and delightful. Booking a taxi there and back turned out to be a good choice so we could both sample the wines!

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Where to start? I’m a cheese lover and I found the Lancashire cheese and beetroot tartlet very creamy and moreish. The salmon scallops and pine nut sauce was scrumpish, as was the brioche cooked in goose fat and rosemary.

The duck liver was neatly presented on toast, cooked Yakitori-style (Japanese type of skewered chicken), sitting upon a bed of Wiswell Moor brambles, alongside smoked eel.

Simon didn’t think the taste of the brambles would go with the rest of the dish, but it did and he was very impressed.

 

The native lobster dish offered Butter poached Tail, tempura claw, crispy chicken wing and sweetcorn among lobster sauce infused with Thai Flavours.

Now normally, I wouldn’t choose lobster or duck liver or smoked eel, but on this occasion I tried them and I liked them.

The menu also offers a Winter Blues Menu, a la Carte, Vegetarian and a Sunday Family lunch.

 

The following morning we had cereal and our cooked breakfast in a very pleasant room adjacent to the garden room. We met the hotel’s dog, Hetti, who was very charming indeed!

It would have been delightful to have stayed another evening, but alas, we were only here for one night. So after packing, we left for witch country, aka Barley and the Pendle Hill area, which isn’t far from here.

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I’ve been to Barley a few times, twice last year when walking up Pendle Hill. I opted for what seemed a never-ending bowl of potato and leek soup (no complaints though, it was very tasty) in the popular cafe at the car park (only £1 to park!) Rather than hike up the steep hill, we had a pleasant meander to the reservoir and back.

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Barrowford, a short distance away, and its Pendle Heritage Centre was the next stop. The last time we came here, we did not have enough time to look around so we took full advantage today. The centre is a Grade II listed farm building known as Park Hill, restored using traditional building skills. It actually dates from the 1400s and the museum takes us on a journey of the evolution of the building, from the medieval farmhouse to today’s museum. I found the 1600s hearth display particularly fascinating. We also learn about the families who lived in the house – the Bannisters and the Swinglehursts. According to the museum, the famed runner Sir Roger Bannister is a descendant.

And of course the fascinating but disturbing story of the Pendle Witches, who came from surrounding parts and were executed in 1612, is explored here.

The fine Walled Garden, which dates from the 1700s, wasn’t looking its best as it was November but it promises an array of plants to wander amongst in the spring and summer. And Cruck Frame Barn is an example of early building construction.

Before my visit, I never thought of Padiham as a place to stay but apart from The Lawrence being a splendid venue, just perfect if you’re celebrating a special occasion or looking for a romantic retreat, the town is ideal for a convenient stop-over for East Lancashire. Explore the beauty of Pendle Hill, visit Clitheroe and its ancient castle, learn about the witches in the heritage centre in Barrowford or wander around the historic Gawthorpe Hall, there’s so much to do in this often over-looked area.

The Lawrence Hotel

http://www.thelawrencehotel.co.uk

26-28 Church Street, Padiham.

07921 684742

Freemasons

http://www.freemasonsatwiswell.com

8 Vicarage Fold, Wiswell, Clitheroe

01254 822218

My previous Pendle post can be found here:

https://cosycottageandthequestforthegoodlife.wordpress.com/2018/03/24/trek-diary-part-3-february-march-pendle-hill/

 

Versatile Blogger award

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I was delighted when I was nominated for this award by the Arty Plantsman. Thank you, Darren. His website is a wonderful mix of plants, beautiful art, humour and much more. Please go and visit him at https://artyplantsman.com/

The rules of the Versatile Blogger Award are as follows:

  1. If you are nominated, Congratulations – you have been awarded the Versatile blogger award!
  2. Thank the person who gave you the award and include a link to their blog.
  3. Select 10 -15 blogs/bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly.
  4. Nominate those bloggers for the Versatile Blogger Award.
  5. Tell the person who nominated you 7 things about yourself.

My selected bloggers:

This is simply a thank you to a few of the fantastic bloggers out there. Some of them are particularly supportive of other bloggers, some are particularly versatile with their blogs but all are entertaining. Please pay them a visit.

https://silverbells2012.wordpress.com/

https://chomeusewithachou.com/

https://itsgoodtobecrazysometimes.wordpress.com/

https://aguycalledbloke.blog/

https://familyfurore.com/

https://diaryofawouldbenovelist.com/

https://amandaonline.blog/

https://therapybits.com/

https://mesmotsbysazz.com/

https://anitashope.com/

https://blessingsbyme.wordpress.com/

https://revolutionarymusings.wordpress.com/

There is no obligation to take part!

 

7 things about me.

  1. I love castles, cathedrals and old buildings in general.
  2. I wanted to be a vet when I was a child. Unfortunately I was, and still am, too squeamish and impractical.
  3. I think the world would be a much better place if there was less greed and more wisdom.
  4. I used to go horse riding when I was 14.
  5. My favourite colour is green.
  6. I used to read and collect Bunty comics when I was a child.
  7. I’m a Taurus.

 

 

 

The story of the angry 😔 face

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Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

My friend came to visit recently and we had a fantastic time catching up and visiting scenic places near me. But she was preoccupied and the reason behind it was an angry face.

Users of Facebook will know that, a few years back, they changed the reactions to posts from just ‘like’ to emojis depicting ‘sadness’, ‘anger’, ‘laughter’ and so on.

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Well, my friend, H, posted a comment on her Facebook friend’s post. The comment, seemingly innocuous, received an angry face emoji.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Why had Mr Angry appeared? My friend responded with another comment, fearing she had upset her Facebook friend. After a silence, she added to her response, and then feared she was making the situation worse and offending more with each new comment.

We discussed and went around in circles, debating the potential reasons behind the worrying emoji. Had H offended? Was the Facebook friend easily offended? Could she have made a mistake? (But then why the silence, queried my friend). Was she referring to a previous comment and was actually agreeing with a statement H had made?

A few days later, the riddle was solved.

A mistake, a simple mistake. Mr Angry’s face had been pressed by accident, unleashing all his fury and bringing confusion and concern into the world. 😡

Easily done.

And I wondered if there were two lessons here. Was it too easy to press the buttons on our technology, our social media and text messages, not realising how a tiny mistake can lead to misunderstanding, miscommunication and potential break-up of friendships.

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And is it also too easy for us to fear other people and their reactions to what we say or write or do? So often, I have worried that a late text, message, email or letter meant that the person concerned did not like me or I had offended them in some way.

So many examples of my fear yet so few times I can definitely say, I upset so-and-so and they are no longer speaking to me.

It is a balance, I think, between trying to be considerate and compassionate and also being oneself and not worrying what other people think. I’m still on that learning curve!

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Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Fitness Challenge 2019: January round-up

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

So for my new year’s resolution to get fit (the same resolution I’ve had for the last 10 years!), I decided to break it down into monthly chunks, each month would have at least one challenge.

January was Red January and is an initiative organised by mental health charity Mind. Red originally stood for Run Every Day but I prefer Random Exercise Every Day, a phrase I spotted on the internet!

My second challenge for this month was to reach 100 miles by walking. This is to contribute to my overall 1,000 mile target by the end of the year.

Challenge 1: Walking 100 Miles

By the end of January, I had walked 74 miles, not what I aimed for but still more than what I would usually do in the month of January. This was what I would call coat-on walking. Coat-on for me means every mile is counted outside, via a pedometer. However, as it’s January, it’s cold and dark and I was aware of how easy it was for me to find an excuse not to go on a proper country ramble.

But I still:

Frequently walked to work and back (1 mile. I sometimes drive as it’s on my way to other places I go to after work).

Frequently went for a walk at lunchtime (2 miles)

Walked the family dogs (Various, 1 mile to 5 miles)

On two days out with friends/Simon, we ambled around the cities of Lancaster/Chester (about 3/4miles)

One canal walk with Dad (2 miles)

One walk into city centre and back (7 miles)

Nothing spectacular but it all adds up.

Challenge 2: Red January

This challenge was primarily for me to get into the habit of becoming more active. I included any additional walking in this but there were days because of snow, a headache, a stomachache or perceived time restraints when it wasn’t as easy to venture out. So I lifted two dumbells and did 100 arm curls on those ‘lazier’ days. It won’t get me fit or strong but it still keeps me thinking along the lines of ‘doing something every day’ and only takes a couple of minutes.

Red January aims to help people’s mental health as well as physical health and raise awareness of the charity Mind (https://www.mind.org.uk/)

(Exercise is believed to be good for mental wellbeing).

So overall, a mixed month. I don’t feel particularly pleased but I don’t think I’ve let myself down too badly. It is only the first month after all!

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February

So my next set of challenges for February is:

1. Aim to walk 100 miles again. I failed this month but maybe I might do better in February?

2. Continue to do something active everyday – even squats or arm curls if nothing else.

3. Aim to set aside 15 minutes five days a week for yoga.

4. Start planning at least one long-distance hike this year.

5. Buy trainers for exercise classes.

I will see if February is a more successful month! 🙂

 

 

Meet the neighbours at Cosy Cottage Garden Cafe

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Long-tailed tit. Photo by Michel Berube on Pexels.com

I often have neighbours popping into Cosy Cottage Garden Cafe. It is a self-service restaurant where customers can just help themselves to the regularly replenished supplies.

Fat balls are supplied, a delicacy favoured by the tits. The long-tailed tits come as a large close-knit family, the blue tits and great tits venture in by themselves or in pairs.

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Blue tit. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Robin is a regular, a nosy fellow, he likes to keep an eye on any gardening being done. Unfortunately, he is a jealous loner too, and doesn’t like to see others in his café.

There’s plenty of room for you all, I say, keeping the peace as cafe proprietor.

But he ignores me and shouts abuse at a larger blue tit.

Luckily, when the argumentative Robin flies on to another cafe, my customers come back. But despite his bad behaviour to other clients, he is a favourite regular and is always welcome here.

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Robin. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Blackbird prefers the ground seating to upstairs. As well as scatterings from the bird table, he may be lucky enough to catch a juicy worm for dessert. He too comes by himself, but is happy enough to share the edibles with the other birds.

Pigeon too, is a regular customer, sometimes he brings his mate and they munch on tasty leftovers, dropped by messy eaters from above.

Fat balls aren’t the only item on offer. There are coconut feeders and an array of healthier seed is also available, although the fat balls are the most popular. A drinking area with water is also set aside for my clients.

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As well as regulars, there are the more flamboyant visitors. A bullfinch and his mate have hovered in the nearby trees, a nuthatch paid a visit on a couple of occasions, sampling the goods, and a Jay has also been a colourful client, staying a short while. Sparrows, starlings, a coal tit and a shy little dunnock, who prefers not to be noticed, have all sampled the delights of Cosy Cottage café.

It is a pleasure to serve such a diversity of characters. Do you have a ‘cafe’ in your garden?

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Bullfinch. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
Facts of the Day

1. The tail of the long-tailed tit is more than half the bird’s total length.

2. The great tit is the largest member of the tit family in Britain. More than 50 distinct calls and songs have been identified.

3. Coal tits are the smallest tit in Britain. Its favourite habitat is coniferous woodland.

Information from Reader’s Digest The
Best of Wild Britain.  

Our World: Being green in 2019

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How easy is it to be green? I think it’s about being organised and consuming less and being more aware of what we buy.

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I’m not a militant green who has forgone all unethical goods. I’m just me, who can only do a little at a time. Maybe it’s not enough. It probably isn’t. And maybe I’ll get judged for still doing this or that or the other.

But surely it’s better to do something, no matter how small?

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Every year I come up with new year resolutions, usually broken by the middle of the year. But what if this year, 2019, was different? What if that was the year in which I kept my environmental resolution?

So here goes, five green resolutions.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

1. Check for palm oil in ingredients. Making palm oil as commonplace as it is these days has unfortunately come at a high cost to the rainforests – and to animals such as orangutans who live there.

For more information: https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/surprising-everyday-palm-oil-products-13588303

2. Cut down on plastic. This may mean buying fewer bottles of water and Irn-Bru. One thing I did this year was drink water from a cup at work, rather than getting plastic cups from the water machine. There is so much plastic in our seas that the less we use the better for the planet.

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3. Drive less. Get the bus, train or walk. Might do my waistline some good too!

4. Renew my membership of The Woodland Trust. They create and maintain woodland habitats for wildlife, vitally important at a time when we humans are destroying their places to live at an increasingly rapid place.

http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk

5. Start writing to MPs about green issues such as loss of wildlife habitat.

Are you doing anything green for 2019? 🙂

Too many babies *

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Aloe veras at Cosy Cottage

* Aloe Vera ‘babies’ that is.

I remember a nursery rhyme from my childhood, the first couple of lines read:

There was an old lady who lived in a shoe, she had so many children, she didn’t know what to do. 

And so it is at Cosy Cottage, okay, this is a little house and not a shoe (Thank goodness as I don’t think even the guinea pigs could fit in one).

And, yes, okay, these are not human youngsters.

They are plant ‘babies’. Aloe veras to be precise.

Aloe veras reproduce like rabbits.

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Aloe veras

My first aloe vera, given me by Simon, ironically died. Even more ironically as he claimed I couldn’t kill this plant as they didn’t need much watering.

But he persevered, giving me another. I now realise this wasn’t of the goodness of his heart but because he had a surplus of the fleshy succulents which needed rehoming.

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Aloe veras

And this aloe vera thrived, maybe a little too much as she decided to have a ‘baby’, and then another, and another.

There appears to be no ‘father’ but there are plenty of young aloe veras, and now I have lost count of how many there now are and they all need new homes.

New pots at any rate.

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Aloe veras at Cosy Cottage

Facts of the Day

1. Aloe Vera is a succulent and an evergreen perennial. Its leaves are fleshy and thick.

2. It is found in products such as skin lotion, tissues, traditional medicine (as a skin treatment), drinks, ointments and cosmetics. It is used as a moisturiser.

3. There are records of the use of aloe vera from the 16th century BC (Ebers Papyrus).