My new friend, Robin

Happy new month, everyone! This cute little friend has recently started appearing in the garden. The weather was glorious on the day I took this photo, so we had the back doors wide open all day. I set up my camera and tripod on the step, then sat very still. For ages. OK, not ages-ages, maybe about an hour. But my bum went numb because I didn’t have the sense to grab a cushion to sit on. I will definitely remember that next time.

It was funny to watch the robin and our regular sparrow family’s reaction to the camera. They don’t seem to mind people and will come over for some food even when we’re sitting out in the garden, but the noise of the camera shutter seemed to unnerve them at first. After a few cycles of birds arrive – I take a photo – birds fly away, they got used to it, or at least realised it wasn’t a threat. Eventually, they were fine with it. I’m convinced this little one was posing. It looks very regal, if a little bedraggled from fluffing around in the bird bath a few minutes before.

It’s amazing to be able to shoot photos like this from only a few feet away, especially when it involves patiently earning the trust of such beautiful little creatures. The more I take pictures of birds, the more I wish for a longer lens so I could get more close-up shots and wouldn’t have to crop the final image at all. For this one, I was working with a 200mm lens and had to crop the photo a bit to get rid of all the extraneous background.

I’m definitely putting a longer lens on my wishlist. Photography, the gift that keeps on taking!

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Dawn Jewels

Dewdrops on one of my strawberry plants.
Shot with a Polaroid macro lens attachment on a Sony Alpha a550 dSLR.

Visit my Patreon to find out about the rewards you can get when you become one of my Patrons. If you’d like to make a one-off payment without a monthly commitment, or add a bonus on top of your existing monthly Patreon pledge, you can do that simply and securely through PayPal. Or show your support by buying me a coffee!

Gentle lasers

These little beauties live in our front garden. When we moved in last year, they had been trampled almost to death by whoever had lived here before. We weren’t sure if they were going to grow back, but they did and they’re gorgeous.

With the shallow depth of field and the shape of the leaves behind, it looks like lasers. Or it does to me, because my brain and eyes do weird things.

Nothing to do with flowers or brains, but as I’m typing this there’s a tiny bird at the feeder and Doug Nuts the squirrel (we’ve named it that. I don’t know if that’s what it calls itself) is sitting on the lawn beneath it. The bird is taking nuts out of the feeder, eating one itself, then dropping one down to Doug. I thought it was coincidence at first, but I’ve now watched it happen three times in a row.

Nature is a source of great fascination today!

Visit my Patreon to find out about the rewards you can get when you become one of my Patrons. If you’d like to make a one-off payment without a monthly commitment, or add a bonus on top of your existing monthly Patreon pledge, you can do that simply and securely through PayPal.

July in review

July has been such a busy month! All through 2017, I’ve been getting that feeling that time is flying by, passing too quickly. July has been different. It’s the last day of the month now and the first day feels like it was forever ago.

This month, I had three major missions. The first was Camp NaNoWriMo. This is the second time I’ve taken part and I really enjoyed it. I now also have the first draft of my next novella, Car Thieves, and am looking forward to starting to edit it.

The second major mission was launching my first novella (written during April’s Camp NaNoWriMo), Stone Flowers Grow In Cold Places. This was a pretty scary thing to do, but over 200 people have read it in the last couple of days which is really exciting for an unknown author publishing their first book through their own little website and two online publishing platforms they’ve only been using for a few months! I’ve had some really positive feedback, both for the book itself and for finally publishing a thing, and it’s been trending on Tablo since a couple of hours after I posted it, which feels incredible.

The third big thing was launching my Patreon.  This was scarier than launching the book and even though I’m still very much at he beginning of my Patreon journey, I’m super excited that I’ve had some monthly pledges already. David, Peter, Spitfire, David and Roberta – thank you, you lovely, supportive people!

This month, I posted two things here on my blog that I was really nervous about posting. The first was ME and me: Living with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and the second was Five things I learned from living with a chronic illness. The reason for the nervousness was that I don’t talk about this stuff in detail online very often so it felt huge to open up about something that affects every area of my everyday life. The response to both of those posts was amazing and I am endlessly grateful to everyone who commented and shared the links on social media. As unnerving as it is to know that literally thousands of people had seen those very personal posts, it also feels really good to know that I’ve helped people to learn about an illness they either hadn’t heard of before or didn’t know very much about.

I also shared a second vlog on my YouTube channel, thanks to my wonderful friend Nicole who loaned me a camcorder so I don’t have to use the front-facing camera on my phone to make videos! I haven’t done much on YouTube since launching the channel a couple of months back, but I do intend to make more videos, hopefully when I don’t look completely exhausted and am talking a bit more coherently than I’ve managed in the two I’ve uploaded so far.

Final July thing – our back garden is almost finished! I take basically no credit for this because it’s all been my husband’s hard work, although I did do lots of driving around with a car full of wood and turf. All the raised flowerbeds are built, the lawn is an actual lawn rather than a patch of grass and a patch of mud, and we’ve started thinking about what plants we’re going to get. My strawberry plants finally got to move out of their pot on the bedroom windowsill and into their new outdoor home (see photo above). When my friend Robin gave me those plants, they were tiny stems with a couple of leaves, but they’ve grown up beautifully and I’m so excited about being able to eat my own strawberries grown in our garden.

The last day of the month feels like a new beginning. Yesterday, I was hit with a big blast of meh, the kind that happens when you finish a bunch of stuff you’ve been working on. This morning, the meh had mostly lifted and I felt excited and happy again. I spent some extra time at my altar this morning then smoke cleansed the entire flat and garden. As soon as I’d finished smoke cleansing, it rained for about five minutes – the perfect thing to wash away the last of the meh (and help the new turf bed in).

I’m looking forward to what August brings, beginning to edit Car Thieves, finding out more about how to promote my Patreon and enjoying the rest of the summer. I hope you’re having a wonderful summer (or winter, for my friends in the southern hemisphere) ❤

Visit my Patreon to find out about the rewards you can get when you become one of my Patrons. If you’d like to make a one-off payment without a monthly commitment, or add a bonus on top of your existing monthly Patreon pledge, you can do that simply and securely through PayPal. Or show your support by buying me a coffee!

The Yule tree lives!

Last Yule, I decided I wanted a real tree. Not like a cut tree but an actual living tree. So we got one. It was a bit of an impulse buy from a supermarket so probably not the highest quality tree in the world, but I fell in love with it, sitting there wrapped in net, looking tired and worn out. I couldn’t go home without it.  Because it was so small, it sat on a shelf instead of on the floor, and I decorated it with tiny white fairy lights. I watered it and talked to it (yeah, I talk to plants, shut up) and it started to show new growth.

Then we repotted it into a bigger pot and moved it outside…and it started to look SICK. My husband, who has always had some weird kind of plant magic in his soul and fingers, kept saying it was going to be fine, it was just adjusting to being outdoors and not to worry. I gave up hoping that it would get better and kept waiting for it to die. I didn’t even want to look at it because it made me so sad.

Then today I saw it had new growth again! The top has dried up, but the rest of it is still green and new little brighter green bits have started to appear. I honestly nearly cried. I’m so attached to that tree. It sat beside me through a couple of really rough months, when I wasn’t sure where I was headed or what I needed to do. It was there when I struggled to let go of things, and people, that had hurt me, and when I decided to finally dedicate myself to writing after years of wanting to but not having the guts to do it.

I have some weird spiritual stuff happening at the moment which isn’t clear enough to put into words, at least not in public, and finding signs of life in something I cared about but had already resigned myself to having lost is kind of perfect right now.

I realise I haven’t mentioned Camp NaNoWriMo since the month began, so here’s the world’s quickest update – I’m at 11,267 words of my 20,000 word goal and have found some awesome new writers to follow through the #CampNaNoWriMo tag on Twitter 🙂

The Intrepid Explorer

Now that we have a secure garden, Shai the ancient cat (she’s 17!) can be an outdoor kitty for the first time in her life. She isn’t interested in chasing birds but she loves wandering around and exploring the new parts of her little world.

We picked up some pallets earlier in the week so raised flowerbed building is underway. At the moment, there’s a large pile of earth next to the lawn and Shai was very excited to climb around on it.

Seeing her all happy and kittenish again, even at her age, always makes me smile.

Garden progress and feathered friends

It’s been a while since I’ve done a garden update so it felt like time.

Our back garden is still very much a work in progress as a lot of the heavier work is on hold until my husband is 100% healed from surgery. We now have  a gate, thanks to a local coffee wholesaler who was giving away pallets and a lovely person on Gumtree who was giving away wood from an old fence on her property that had blown down. We even have enough of the fence wood left to make a start to the raised flower beds soon, once we get the stakes we need to anchor everything to.

The main reason we’re using reclaimed materials where possible is cost, but it’s also really nice to turn something that would otherwise be thrown away into something beautiful and useful. The downside is having to keep checking Gumtree for relevant adverts and then having to be able to go and pick things up in our tiny car with very little notice, but it’s only a minor inconvenience and it’s making us very resourceful.

The only thing we aren’t making from reclaimed materials is the shed that should be arriving over the next couple of weeks.  It was supposed to be here last week but there was a delay with the supplier. We will have to assemble the shed when it gets here (thankfully it’ll arrive pre-dipped so the wood doesn’t need treated until next year) but we’ve already got the base prepared so the 5x3ft space in the corner is ready and waiting.

It’s all part of the adventure though and the birds don’t care that the garden is only half finished.

This is Boss Pigeon, the supervisor. She (I think she’s a she anyway) hangs out under the bird feeder to grab any seeds that the smaller birds drop. We keep a small bowl of water on the patio so the cat can have a drink when she’s outside and Boss Pigeon seems to have some sort of authority when it comes to letting other birds get at the water when the cat isn’t about (not that our ancient cat has any interest in chasing birds). I watched a delightful stand-off between Boss Pigeon and a brazen magpie the other day. The magpie was eventually permitted to access the water, but only for a minute.

This little cutie is one of many. I’m not sure what kind of bird it is, but there’s a group of them that visit the feeder regularly throughout the day and have dirt-baths in the soil we’ve got piled up for the flower beds. They’re a bit more nervous about people than Boss Pigeon so it hasn’t been easy getting clear photos of them as they tend to scarper as soon as there’s movement anywhere near the back door. We were blessed with a really sunny day earlier in the week so I lay outside on an airbed soaking up some sun and the tiny birds tolerated my presence enough to visit the feeder even though I was only a few feet away, as long as I stayed still.

My head is a bit all over the place at the moment after the sad news of a friend’s recent death, so part of coping with that has involved reminding myself as much as possible of all the good things in the world. I had planned to have already made headway into Patreon research, outlining Car Thieves for July’s Camp NaNoWriMo and finalising Stone Flowers Grow In Cold Places so I can set it aside until I’m ready to publish, but I haven’t been in a place to do anything that complex.

I treated myself to a new notebook and pens because I’ve been really missing bullet journaling as a creative outlet since using a diary-style planner, so I’m going to spend the rest of the evening setting that up and ease back into work next week.

I hope your weekend is going well. If you’re spending time with loved ones, give them an extra tight hug ❤