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I’ve been away helping out with the grandkids today so this post is rather late, but I’m going to add it anyway, because, well, there are certainly things that made me happy this week and it certainly helps my happiness status to record them. I get to experience the happiness twice: once when the happy-making thing happens, and again when I tell you lot about it!

The twins make me happy, no doubt about it.  Even when they are grizzly or need their nappies changing.  Even when I empty the Haz-Mat bin*.  Being allowed to help out for the day enriches my life, and it’s nice to feel useful at the same time as having fun with the tiniest members of our family.  I’ve learned to use the steam steriliser and bottle-feed babies and everything!

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Today, when I got home, there was a small package waiting for me.  I didn’t recognise the name of the company but I vaguely remembered ordering something important recently, so I thought and thought, and eventually remember what it was – and by the way, remembering something is quite happy-making these days, too!

So, what was in the package?

Three phone socks with a carabener!  You see, my favourite way to carry my mobile phone is clipped to a belt loop.  It’s handy, I can get to it quickly, I can feel it vibrate when it rings, it never gets lost in my handbag, and having it there helps me not to put it down somewhere when I’m out and forget it.  Trouble is, my original phone sock, a neat black affair from Golla, has worn through on both corners, and been stitched up twice.   It’s gone all mis-shapen and lumpy, and desperately needs replacing.

Unfortunately, Golla don’t make them like this anymore, and could I find a substitute?  Of course not!  Not, that is, until I looked on eBay and found these three little beauties.

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They are absolutely perfect.  Lightweight, stretchy, very close in style to my beloved Golla sock, and they came in a three-pack of different colours.  Theoretically, it should take three times as long to wear them all through at the bottom, so it looks as if I’m set up for quite a while in the phone sock department!

Another order from eBay was a crochet pattern for a baby’s dress.  I like making things for the girls, and this is a very pretty thing. Trouble was, almost as soon as I ordered it, I had a message from eBay’s Trust and Safety department letting me know that the seller had just closed down their account and I might not actually get my goods.

I waited, giving them a chance to send it anyway, and lo and behold, yesterday it arrived!  It restores one’s faith in human nature when something like this happens, and it’s only a pity that I can’t leave feedback to let them know how much I appreciate their honesty in honouring the sale.

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Apparently, the colours to make this one in are intense royal blue, and deep turquoise or emerald green.  It’s going to be fun looking for these colours in baby wool, but I’m going to give it a shot.

Finally, how could anyone fail to be happy at the kind of doggy greeting I get when I come home after being out for the day?  Both dogs were delirious with joy when I rolled up in the car and were pressed up against the inside of the house door so hard that OH had to manhandle them back in order to open it to let me in.  They were so wiggly that I though Sid was going to fall over, and that Jeffie was injure himself again somehow. He seemed to be trying to velcro himself to my leg!

Sadly I don’t have a picture.  It would have been impossible, and very, very fuzzy.  Cameras tend to find it very hard to focus on moving objects smack up against the lens. But I’m sure you can imagine it.  To help you, here’s a picture of Sid from a few years back doing the excited spinning dog thing.

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So, the last thing that made me happy was the fact that I was then able to throw a decent, tasty dinner together in ten minutes flat, because I have discovered a source of fresh pasta which contains no egg!  Tonight we had trofie, one of OH’s favourites, but I can’t show you that, either, because … well, because I’d sliced open the trofie packet and thrown it away before I realised it might be nice to photograph it.  I’d also eaten the resulting meal, complete with Pollen brand fresh basil and almond pesto, so you’ll have to imagine that, too!

Here’s the nearly empty Pollen pesto jar.

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And, my goodness!  This stuff is delicious!

So there you are.  How to be happy, with very ordinary things!  If you’d like to join in, copy this little badge and paste it into a ‘How to be happy!’ post of your own, and link back here if you’d like.  The idea is to look for the small things: the blackbird warbling on your roof, the taste of a new ice-cream flavour, a call from a friend .. because these are the things which make for a happy life, not the big lottery win or the huge birthday gift, but the day-to-day ‘small’ stuff. It really is. Try it!

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* The Haz-Mat bin is a special one for the worst of the dirty nappies.  It’s a complicated thing, with a continuous liner which you can close before removing it by judicious spinning of an inner ring in the lid. But you still need scissors to cut the roll and tie it into a sausage.  It works very well and the bag is quite strong.  It was just my bad luck that when I emptied the NON Haz-Mat nappy bin (for the less-soiled, less offensive nappies, shall we say?) I was half-way down the stairs when the bin-liner split and spewed soggy nappies everywhere.  I think there was one on every step, plus a small cluster on the hall rug.  I said a naughty word.

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As you may or may not have heard, much of the world is currently experiencing a bee crisis.  Beekeepers here in the UK lost more than 30% of their hives over this last winter, partly due to the weather, but there’s also this thing called Colony Collapse Disorder.

Colony Collapse Disorder is a huge problem.  The worker bees from apparently healthy colonies go out one day and never return.  Their bodies are seldom found, and the hive is left with the queen and a bunch of immature bees who can’t sustain it, so the colony is lost.

It doesn’t just affect honeybees, either.  It’s been estimated that the US has lost 96% of its wild bumblebee population in the last few decades.

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It’s a huge problem, because bees are responsible for pollinating a vast amount of our food crops, so at the very least, some quite ordinary foods (from almonds to broccoli) will become luxury items without them.   It may in fact be impossible to produce crops on the scale that we do at the moment unless we can solve this conundrum because the vast majority need insect pollinators.

There have been various theories:  there is the varroa destructor mite, there are genetically modified crops, there is a parasitic fungus that bees get called nosema ceranae, there is the stress caused by renting out hives for pollination and there are insecticides and pesticides and the loss of wildflowers through ruthless tidying of common ground like roadside verges, and the disinclination of gardeners to have ‘weeds’ in their gardens.

Not one of these possibilities have been thought to be sufficient on its own to cause this problem.

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Varroa mites weaken bees but tend not to kill off whole colonies on this scale.  Same for the fungus.  The same may be true of genetically modified crops – there has been one suggestion that the proteins from ‘terminator seeds’ block the bees intestine and another that the bacteria which has been introduced to many GM crops produces a toxin called Cry1Ab which has a sub-lethal effect on the bees, weakening their immune systems (and probably ours, too), and exacerbating other problems like the varroa mite and the fungus and that maybe, two or three of these factors together are the problem.  Pesticides and fungicides etc have also had the finger pointed at them, but even bee-keepers have not thought them to be the cause of this particular disaster.  This article discusses various possible causes of CCD, including the presence of mobile phone masts.

However…

In the news a couple of days ago was a very disturbing story.  It seems that in Wilsonville, Oregon, over fifty linden (lime) trees in a car park were sprayed against aphids, and almost immediately, bumble bees began falling out of the trees, dead or dying.  At first the estimate was that 25,000 bees had perished, representing more than 150 colonies, but later news items put the estimate at twice that number.  Fifty thousand dead, in a single incident.  Among the bumble bees were honey bees, ladybirds and other beneficial insects.

The linden trees had been sprayed with an insecticide which the EU has just voted to ban because of the concern over the bees.  These are the neonicatinoids, which are classified as neurotoxins.  The banning of neonicatinoids has been controversial because many ‘experts’ do not believe that they are to blame.  The UK, in fact, was one of the EU countries which voted against the ban.

The local authority in Wilsonville have netted the trees in an effort to prevent more deaths, but in how many other places has this happened?  We know that honey bees collect honey from the same plant until the supply is exhausted, so on the basis that all the workers would have gone out to collect from the same field at the same time, could this be the truth behind Colony Collapse Disorder?

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We need transparent honesty from the developers, distributors, users and proponents of insecticides and GM crops, and we need it now.  The vested interests of those who stand to make money from them must be revealed, and the influence of such interests blocked.

Good grief – if these insecticides are being sprayed on our food crops, and on fields through which we walk with our dogs, could they – along with the contribution from GM crops – be behind the host of new health issues we are all struggling with right now?  The so-called ‘invisible’ diseases like fibromyalgia, ME, MS, CFS etc?  What about cancers and metabolic disorders – things like thyroid disease?  Even acid reflux which is almost an epidemic but was practically unheard of when I was young, and which is the result of the malfunctioning of the valve at the top of the stomach – controlled by the vagus nerve?

OK, let’s drop the scaremongering and speculation.  We have quite enough to worry about with the inexplicable death of our honeybees.  Let’s just hope that the disaster in Wilsonville will lead to the halt of CCD and the recovery of the honeybee populations.

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I’ve been concerned about this issue for some weeks, and have been out photographing the bees in our garden, and out and about.   Until three days ago I had not seen one single honeybee, but I’m happy to say that I have now seen some visiting ceanothus in one of the village gardens.

Here is a very short video of a worker gathering honey, just in case, now that we have so few, you’ve forgotten what honeybees look like.

 

 

 

Posted on June 24, 2013 in Oddities, The Home Front by Jay15 Comments »

MacroMonday-June3

Admit it – you missed me, didn’t you? Or at least, you missed the weekly puzzle!

I know I’ve said it before, but I really will get back into the groove soon. Just as soon as I have my new routine worked out properly … up till now, I’ve been absolutely exhausted in the evenings.

Anyway. Here is this week’s Macro Monday puzzle for you all. This is a photo I took in Son No. 2′s house, but it’s something that many, many people have, and I imagine it’s something which is used across most of the civilised world.

Most of them look remarkably similar.  They can be made of different materials – or even a combination of materials – but they all have one, single, purpose. Having said that, B confided to me that day that she had recently used this one to do something for which it was never intended and that it had worked beautifully! So I suppose you could say that to a certain extent they are adaptable for different uses.

Remember that this is a macro, meaning that the object is portrayed at life-size, or larger than life. Remember too that it might be seen at a different angle to the normal view, particularly when it is in use.

Take your best guess, and pop your answer in the comments. I will be back as usual tomorrow evening (Tuesday about 10pm UK time) to reveal the answer in the form of a picture link. I’ll add it – as usual – to the end of this post, and at the same time congratulate any winners and laugh at commiserate with the losers.

Don’t forget to visit Macro Monday2 for the other entrants.   Lisa’s Chaos has passed on the torch, and the Macro Monday meme can now be found there!

Tuesday Evening is here! And so am I, with a link to the picture I promised you. Take a look and see if you were right!

Herman Turnip was the first with the correct answer, so well done you! Then Babs and Houndstooth quickly followed. Congratulations to all three of you, and commiserations to the rest – I think this one was not easy!

Thank you all for taking part – I hope to see you next week for another picture puzzle. Should I try to make it easier? Mmmmmm …. I’ll think about it!

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What can I tell you about this week?

There have been a lot of things that have made me happy in ways which fit in with this theme. For instance, those peonies! I love these peonies. I bought them from a supermarket checkout where they were marked down to a mere £3 and they have been such great value. They have lasted a week already, and look as if they’ll last a little longer, too – and every time I glance up from my chair and see them, they do lift my spirits and make me smile! They also have a faint perfume, which is really lovely.

There have also been big happy-making events, like spending the day at my younger son’s house, with his partner and their new twins. Such sweet, sweet babies … and I’m finding that all my baby skills have not completely disappeared, but were only lying dormant. They already feel very comfortable in my arms, so that I’m able to do other things while carrying one, and – while it might not be something people usually love to do – it’s good to know I can still change a nappy!

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But lets go back to this meme, and look for the small things.

My vegetables are doing well. I have little rows of sprouted seeds for lettuce, radicchio, peas and beans of several types. I also have older seedlings of radicchio and a few bought plants and – here’s the wonderful thing – not one of them has so far been nibbled by a snail!

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I do not use poisons of any type in my house or garden. I’ve seen far, far too much of cats and dogs being accidentally poisoned by house and garden chemicals and perhaps I’m over-sensitive, but I think it’s best to do without them if you possibly can. So how am I keeping the snails from my plants?

The plants are in pots, grow-bags and raised vegetable trugs. Of course, raising them off the ground is not enough, because snails are very good at climbing up things and can smell lettuce a mile off. Last year I lost a lot of seedlings to the menace of the Roman Snail, because we are overrun with the things. I do pick them off when I see them, and give them a short but effective flying lesson into the field next door, but what’s really working for us right now is copper tape.

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Copper tape disrupts the mechanism by which these little molluscs ‘walk’, and it seems to give them a mild electric shock, while harming other forms of life not at all. We’ve had a couple of very damp days and nights, and I’ve seen a lot of snails about, but our veggies are safe so far! I must see if I can get a video of my snails and my copper tape, but here’s a link to one on YouTube, if you’re interested to see what happens.

I hope the magic copper tape continues to work, but so far, so good!

Lastly – here’s one plant which is quite safe from slugs and snails:

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It’s my Captain Jack Sparrow rhododendron. It’s going to be wonderful this year because it’s absolutely covered in these tight, red buds!

So, what’s made you happy this week? Join in by writing a post of your own, and add this little badge if you like, then link back here.

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I’d love to read what’s made you happy.