Heatwave

It’s day forever of a heatwave that’s been ongoing since last week, and it’s been getting worse. The temperature over the past few days has hit the mid 30s and we have been sheltering indoors until things start to become bearable, which is not until after 7:00pm.

I’ve not been for a walk for the past couple of days because it’s been too damn hot. Even when it’s bearable to sit outside, it’s still too warm to try exercising — especially as I’m supposed to be wearing a face mask when on the street.

We did have a bit of a shower last night which has cooled things off that I was able to enjoy a decent night’s sleep. It’s not over yet, though, and the temperature is forecast hit 35° this afternoon.

I’m thinking I should go and sit in the basement until the weekend when the thunderstorms arrive.

Of frogs and beetles

Another heatwave is upon us and I should probably be staying in the shade rather than obsessively meeting my daily exercise target. But if I had stayed indoors, I wouldn’t have seen this guy sunning himself.

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This sent me down something of an internet rabbit hole. While the French are normally famous for eating frogs legs, I remember seeing somewhere that archaeological evidence points to the English having come up with this idea first — by a few thousand years. While trying to confirm this, I came across something much better.

When This Beetle Gets Eaten by a Frog, It Heads for the ‘Back Door’

Here’s the proof. You have been warned.

Aglais io

Aglais io, or the European Peacock, is a striking but reasonably common butterfly found in Europe and Asia.

The eye spots on the butterfly’s wings are to deter avian predators, which is all well and good when it’s outdoors in the summer. During the winter, though, when the butterfly is hibernating in the dark, they aren’t much use at all against mice and other rodents. In these cases, it will hiss.

I had no idea that butterflies could make such a noise.

Feeding the caffeine addiction

Many years ago, we treated ourselves to a new coffee machine. We have, in fact, been through several, but this one was a combined espresso and filter machine.

Trying to add too many functions to a single machine can be a mistake — especially when the machine in question was relatively cheap to start with — and so it proved with this one. The espresso part was okay, but the filter had an annoying tendency to leak all over the place.

Eventually we gave up on it. We replaced it with a dedicated filter machine and I treated myself to a stove top moka pot.

Since I had a bit of time yesterday I thought that now would be a good time to bring the espresso machine back out of retirement. Partly because it was there, but also so that I could make coffee without having to fight for stove space as mealtimes approach.

Now it’s all set up and working well. I will probably use it on occasion but nothing beats the moka pot when I want a really decent cup of coffee.

Summer camp and baby orange trees

I nearly forgot to mention yesterday that, as well as the berries and vegetables in the garden, William took it upon himself to attempt to grow an orange tree.

I helped him a bit with getting the seed to germinate and with potting it, but once it was warm enough for the plant to go outside, it has been entirely William’s responsibility.

It’s still alive.

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I am under instructions to keep it an eye on it for the next week. Although most of the youth group activities the boys normally attend have been cancelled due to the corona virus lockdown, the restrictions were eased soon enough for them to attend the annual summer camp.

It’s a bit different to usual, of course, as the kids have to remain in contact bubbles so they are less able to freely mingle than usual. Also, the Sunday barbecue is cancelled, for obvious reasons.

As ever, the older kids make their own way to the site on Thursday and the following Sunday is when the younger groups are dropped off by parents. Normally this is quite a big event, with a barbecue, drinks and a chance to catch up with how things are going so far.

This year, there’s no barbecue, no mingling and no catching up with anyone. We had to turn up, drop the kids off and leave.

On the other hand, this did mean that Eve and I were able to hop on our bikes and go out for mussels.

Mussels

Next time, though, I will check the tires are properly inflated before we set off.

Wild blackberries

When I go walking I pass a lot of wild blackberries. Clearly it’s the climate for them in this area — even the carefully cultivated berries in my own garden are thriving.

We also have vegetables, and these have not done as well as in previous years. A large part of the problem was that the garden centres were still closed when we were getting ready to plant and consequently I ended up attempting to germinate whatever seeds we had to hand.

Many germinated, some didn’t. Of the seeds that germinated, a fair few didn’t survive being transplanted into the garden itself.

Still, we will have plenty of courgettes this year and the one pumpkin plant that has survived has just sprouted a flower — hopefully there will be more to come. We also have a fair bit of sweetcorn growing. No cobs yet, of course, but the plants themselves are growing very strongly indeed.

We also have weeds. Far too many weeds. I really do need to start getting these under control otherwise nothing is going to survive until autumn.

Wish me luck.

Life’s too short for bad books

I should start of by noting that the title of this post is a little unfair. The books in question are not necessarily bad, just not for me. And no, I’m not going to name any of them.

The thing is, I can be quite a terrible acquirer of freebies. In the case of ebooks, this means public domain classics from the likes of Project Gutenberg (which tend to be well worth reading) and promotions from the free eBook section of the Kobo store (which often aren’t).

As such, I have managed to create a rather silly situation for myself in which I am not reading the books I want to read because I feel somewhat obliged the get through at least some of the free-but-uninteresting books before I start paying to expand my to read pile still more.

This realisation was triggered when James recently proclaimed on the pain of being lost in a bad book and was compounded when I noticed that Goodreads are celebrating my preferred genres with Science Fiction & Fantasy Week this week.

I have already read many of the novels mentioned and there are many more that I want to read. So now would be a good time to get over my aversion to paying for digital content, resist the temptation of free shiny stuff and start catching up with the books and authors that I can reasonably expect to actually enjoy.

Smeagol

During the course of my evening walk, I pass a small lake which the Flemish conservation group Natuurpunt has spent most of the spring draining. This has been in order to remove debris from the bank and improve the connection to the Grote Nete river in order aid the spawning of fish such as the burbot.

The cleanup appears to have been completed, the lake has been refilled and the path around it has been reopened. It’s clearly not completed yet, but it is coming along very nicely and I shall look forward to seeing how it progresses from here on in.

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My purpose in mentioning this, however, was to post the above photo as an excuse to crack a series of weak jokes about hobbit holes, river folk and the fact that The Shire can be found in the vicinity of Kasterlee.

Yes, I am massively stretching things, both geographically and in terms of fictional small folk, but the Kabouterberg is well worth a visit — with or without kids — even though it’s not as close to us as I would like.

There are, of course, no hobbits in the above photo because it was raining.

While on the subject of hobbits, it’s worth mentioning that I am currently reading The Hobbit with the twins and it’s going down a lot better than I expected. Bilbo, Gandalf and the dwarves have just left Beorn’s hall and are heading towards Mirkwood and the boys won’t stop talking about it — which I am taking as a most excellent sign.

When we started the novel, I was assuming that they would soon get fed up with Tolkien’s incessant songs but I have been proven to be very wrong about this indeed. It probably helps that I never make any attempt to actually sing any of these songs.

Little Bee

I meant to post this a couple of days ago, but time still has a habit of getting away from me. Still, even I can recognise a bumblebee when out walking.

That said, I hadn’t realised that there were over 250 species of the things.

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There is an urban myth about the laws of aerodynamics proving that bumblebees can’t fly. This is, of course, nonsense and the origin of this myth is somewhat unclear.

I did hear an anecdote some time ago (which after a bit of digging, I should note is probably wrong) claiming that an engineer at a dinner party performed some rough calculations and concluded that, according to his equations, bumblebees cannot fly. He later realised that he’d failed to take into account of the fact that bumblebees don’t have fixed wings.

Or, as Karl Smallwood puts it for Today I Found Out:

Basically, if you calculate it all assuming bumblebees fly like airplanes, then sure, the bumblebee shouldn’t be able to fly. But, of course, bumblebees don’t fly like airplanes.

Smallwood also notes that the fact that scientists are still having to repeatedly prove that bumblebees can fly in order to counter such an obviously nonsensical myth says a lot about the gullibility of people.