Critters Gardening Top Photos

Baby Pirates

Cryptolaemus larva

Since introducing Cryptolaemus and Leptomastix to my conservatory three weeks ago I have been fretting constantly. The problem is that after releasing 9 of the former and about 50 of the latter into the room, they dispersed rapidly, and I didn’t really see much of them after that. I was worried that they had all disappeared entirely, either by finding a fissure somewhere that leads to the outside world, or at the hands of some unknown predator (eg a spider).

You can imagine my elation this morning when I spotted three or four of these creatures meandering amongst the mealybugs. A quick google confirmed my suspicion – they are Crypto babies!

About Me Photos

Man bag

I’m the kind of guy who likes to have his diary on him during the day, so I have used a man bag for many years.

First man bag

My first man bag.

My first man bag was bought for me by my sister on my 18th birthday. It’s a black Kangol bag, quite a simple affair with one main pocket and a zipped internal pocket. It was perfect for my University years – if memory serves correctly, I could fit my pens, diary, wallet and mobile phone (when I eventually got one) neatly into that zipped pocket. It lasted me for a good six years.

Second man bag

My second man bag.

Up until recently, I carried a grey bag from Next which was purchased back in late 2004, I think. Karen saw it in a catalogue or something, and so we bought it one day from the store on Oxford Street. I offered to carry it home for her, and she never really managed to get her hands on it after that.

As well as the main compartment (large enough for an A4 folder) it has similarly sized zipped pockets, located in front of and behind the main compartment. There’s also a zipped pocket inside the main compartment, same size again. The flap is held down with two large buckles, which come down on top of the two smaller pockets at the very front. There is also a small mobile phone pocket inside the main compartment.

Problems that I had with this bag were:

1. It’s made of canvas. Though it is light and foldable, this also means that it doesn’t really hold its own shape, and sometimes trying to extract an item from one of the larger pockets feels like you’re fighting through a sea of loose material.
2. The pocket sizes aren’t ideal. Apart from those two pockets at the front, all the pockets are large. Once those small pockets are full up, anything else has to go into one of the larger pockets, from which it can be hard to retrieve small items (see above).
3. The two front pockets don’t have a secure closing. This can be an advantage at times, because you can fish things out without having to undo anything, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that this is a potential risk when you are on public transport &c. The main pocket is also less than 100% secure, for the same reason.

The bag itself is also much larger than I need, and on the vast majority of days I would just fill up the two small front pockets, and put my Moleskine notebook and diary in the front zipped pocket.

Third man bag

My third man bag.

So I decided to look for something with the following criteria:

1. Smaller.
2. More variety in the pocket sizes.
3. No pockets that can be easily violated by a pickpocket.
4. Able to stand up by itself and hold its own shape.

Allow me to introduce my new man bag. I fear that I’m getting dangerously close to “handbag” territory, but I’m very much a form-over-function kind of person, so I’m not going to let that bother me.

This new bag fits all the criteria, and even though it is smaller, I have actually put more things in it (because it’s easier for me to get things out of it). In addition to the things that I used to carry before ((keys, wallet, phone, diary, notebook, pens, car stereo fascia)) I have put in some other useful items ((compact camera, mini-tripod, compact binoculars, USB pen drive, lip balm, mints)) and it is now looking quite full.

I’m keeping the old Kangol bag on reserve, in case I ever find myself in a situation where I need the extra capacity. But the grey bag has now returned to its rightful owner, Karen.


Cute things that Bernard does right now that he probably won’t do forever

He is still at the crawling stage (he stands, and very occasionally takes a step or two, but crawling is still his primary means of transportation). No terrain is too challenging for him – he can crawl up and down stairs, he can climb down from sofas and beds, and I’ve even seen him climbing onto the sofa once or twice. He also climbs out of the front door if you leave it open.

He’s aware that to climb down from something, you need to do it backwards. So he’ll turn round and reverse into position. Sometimes, he gets into reverse a little early. So you’ll see him crawling backwards across the sitting room towards an open front door that’s about twelve feet away. This gives you plenty of time to close the front door, before tousling his hair and saying “You are so *cute!*”

Another cute thing that he will do is to bring me a book, and then climb up onto my knee to read it with me. Rarely do we read the entire book – generally, he cherry-picks a page or two, and then goes off to find another book or do something else entirely.




Just a very ordinary sunset. Of course, we won’t get sunsets like this once the sun has burned out and the earth is plunged into darkness, so I figured that I should preserve an image of it while I still have the chance.


I am a failure, and I can’t deny it any longer

All winter long, I yearned for summer. For all the usual reasons, but also because we’d just moved into a new house and I was looking forward to getting out there and spending lots of time tending our fantastic new garden.

Things didn’t exactly turn out as planned. I was doing okay for a little while, and I even did a bit of fence maintenance, but on the whole, things haven’t progressed perfectly smoothly. Let’s compare what I have and haven’t done, shall we?

Have done

* Dead-headed all the roses (mostly)
* Repaired a couple of fences
* Kept the place clear of Japanese Knotweed (mostly)
* Kept the paths clear of overhanging branches (mostly)

Haven’t done

* Replaced the rotten planks in the gazebo
* Severed the thick trunk of the wisteria that is currently prising my gazebo apart
* Kept the gravel free of weeds
* Kept the borders free of weeds
* Fixed the water feature
* Removed lots of dead branches ((there are lots of places where plants have been cut off at the base as a drastic pruning method, but the dead stems have not yet been removed. It is not a trivial task, as they are tangled up with the roses etc))
* Pruned the wisteria properly (should have done that in July)
* Replaced the rotten garden chair
* Disposed of an old fence post

In summary, my garden terrifies me. It is an oppressive force in my life which I try to forget about whenever possible.

The problem is that it used to be such a nice garden 12 months ago, before we moved in. I was really looking forward to maintaining it at the same level. But I have been unable to, and I have found myself in a downward spiral where my fear of “ruining” it has prevented me from being as assertive as I should have been. Plus, I’m also quite lazy, when all is said and done.

As I see it, I have a couple of options.

1. Hire someone to come in and do the work. A gardener, if you will.
2. Cut everything back down to ground level with a chainsaw and see what survives.
3. Napalm.
4. Combination of chainsaw and napalm, because they’re both awesome, and I can’t choose between them.

What are your thoughts? Graybo, you must be around here somewhere. Tell me what to do.

Computing TITGIG

Spam-proofing my contact form with Akismet

For a while, I’ve used a contact form (written in PHP) instead of publishing my email address on this site, to thwart spammers. However, recently I’ve noticed an increasing number of spam messages being submitted through the contact form.

My first thought was to add a drop-down box where the user can select what their query is regarding – the default selected option is “My desire to sell you discount pharmaceuticals” and any messages submitted with this option would not be sent. However, the spammers (or the scripts that they use) would generally submit the form with a random selection from this box, so the majority of spam was still coming through.

I didn’t want to make the contact form difficult to use, so I looked into ways of filtering out spam using Akismet, the same application that protects the comments forms on this site (and a very good job it does, I might add).

You will need to download akismet.class.php and upload it to your web server. Rather than rewrite all the instructions here, I’ll point you to the perfectly adequate documentation that already exists.

Food Photos



This was the best latte in the world. It’s such a shame that you didn’t get to taste it.

About Me Photos

My new mountain bike

Today, I bought a mountain bike. It’s nothing special, just a very cheap, second-hand, lowest common denominator mountain bike. Never been ridden on the road, apparently. The guy that I bought it off had gone into hospital for a knee op soon after buying it, and was now unable to use it.

I was somewhat surprised that the rear gear dérailleur did not work at all, but figured that it was probably just a configuration issue, so didn’t let this stop me from forking out £30. When I got the bike home, I got my tools out and flipped the bike upside down. I was most impressed to discover that whoever had installed the kick stand had managed to trap the gear cable, and so the problem was easily fixed. There was also a lot of configuration required, but this enabled me to learn how bike gears work, and it was an educational experience.

I haven’t ridden a bike for about ten years, and I haven’t had much exercise for the last year, so you can imagine how exhausted I was after just a four mile round trip. I’m looking forward to getting my form back.

I also wore one of my brand new t-shirts.

Puppy-driven kiwinaut

This shirt, and many others like it, are available from Dr Pockless on Bountee. Truth be told, I’m not a huge fan of Bountee, but if you want Pockless on your chest, it must be endured.