After considerable blog chat, comments and email exchanges perhaps it’s time I revealed a little about the person behind shirls gardenwatch. However, first, I have to say a HUGE THANK-YOU to everyone that has visited and commented for another year. I have really appreciated it especially when there are so many blogs to follow now. After wavering a little… Year 5 here I come :-)
My first reveal is that although my blog is titled shirls, it is not how I am known outside the blogging world. I picked this name for a little bit of anonymity and because it was short and slightly quirky for leaving comments etc. Let me introduce myself… Hello, my name is Shirley :-)
Despite all the chat about birds and wildlife in my blog behind this I am a very much a gardener. I began gardening at the age of 10 by moving a rockery at my parent’s house...
I hear you asking... yes there were colour cameras then,
and yes, I'm in the group... on the right :-)
My Dad’s work van is seen in the foreground. Note the kangaroo on the side. That’s one of my earlier artworks! Lol… the kangaroo symbolised the way that on occasions the van was a bit jumpy when it drove. I don’t know if this was my Dad’s idea or mine ;-)
This van is parked in front of a kitchen window and below it was an outside tap with a hose tied up. I think there was a climbing bush there too. My earliest memory of birds was at age 8½ on the day we moved into this house and found a bird’s nest with chicks in this area.
After having no garden with our previous house this garden was so exciting! I’ve no idea what bird it was now. Nor could I have imagined some years later, with my own house and garden, that I would be watching the whole story of nesting :-)
You can read the nestbox diary and see video and photos here.
My parents grew fruit and veg in their garden and I helped out there. In the small front garden I also helped maintain the square lawn and the box hedge and clipped box balls tidy. I have some young box in my own garden just now but I don’t keep vegetables except in pots.
My second reveal is that although I know many perhaps see cutting grass a chore I do actually enjoy it. However, I hate cutting the edges afterwards so tend to cut them unconventionally first ;-)
My third reveal is that I loved drawing trees and pieces of driftwood as a teenager. I guess the plants in my parent's garden and the mature trees in the open fields opposite our house influenced that. I also enjoyed walking in local woodlands where I would see red squirrels... not knowing at the time that they were quite special.
That would make a great drawing/illustration wouldn't it?
Some years later I left this special garden and house, in a very small Perthshire village, to go to college (in a big city) to study art. That was quite a change in environment at the time. I wasn’t at an Art College. Instead, I was studying more the technical side of things. Of course, now that would be done at Art College/University.
My course included photography, where we went into the city and took then developed our own photos. I loved that. I could never have imagined then, that I could be adjusting a photo digitally in the future… and still loving photography. It was buildings and engineeering (especially old and neglected) I loved to photograph then.
Illustration, technical drawing, reprographics, design and printing techniques were also included in my course. I particularly enjoyed the illustration side of things and the designing of graphics.
My fourth reveal is that I am sad that I lost my drawing hand and I would love it back now. I know my artworks weren't perfect but I did enjoy doing them. Once I began working as a graphic designer the illustration side of things slowly slipped away.
Initially, I continued to draw favouring the pen and ink illustrations that I had enjoyed at college. Of course now, at a click of a mouse on a computer, a photograph can become a pen and ink drawing in seconds. I never imagined that.
The image above of an owl (with a very bad, head feather day) I would have copied from a book or magazine. It looked at us, framed, from the wall at the top of the stairs at my parent’s house who by then had moved to the City of Perth. When I left college I came to live here.
Suffice to say, this time in a good sized city garden, I continued to enjoy working in my parent’s garden. I was doing a lot more planting now. After having design shapes and colour instilled in my head at college, I began experimenting with planting schemes which I still do to this day.
A few years later, married and with a new build house with just topsoil and some paving to the front door, I began to experiment even more with plants and designs. Oh yes… and I had a collection of rocks to build my very own rockery ;-)
My fifth reveal is that I spent the second week of my honeymoon with a dustbin and a riddle! Lol... we were sifting the larger stones in the topsoil of our soon to be new front garden lawn! Yes, romantic it was.... as my new ‘non gardening’ husband helped me. Lol again... he is still my ‘non gardening’ husband :-D
A few years on leaving a well stocked garden, taking a number of plants and cuttings potted up, we moved to my present garden and the one that is shown in shirls gardenwatch. Little did I know then that I would be sharing it with people from around the world!
My sixth reveal is I’m shy of the camera, so I’m afraid (shown above) this first photo of me on my blog may be the only one you'll see. I don’t really wear hats as a rule but I bought a couple for this special coach trip with my Mum. We were going to the Chelsea Flower Show and come rain or shine, I was going to wear a hat. Sadly it did rain.
However on our visit to Beth Chatto’s Garden it didn’t rain. I had wanted to visit this garden almost more than Chelsea so I was going to wear a hat there too and get my Mum to take my photo. Daughters at 3 & 4yrs stayed home with Dad for this garden visit.
My seventh reveal is that on family holidays I dragged my daughters (and husband) on garden visits. Well, not exactly dragged, you can see the are happy in the photo above. I generally tried to pick gardens that had somewhere to eat and some form of fun for children like garden trails and quizes :-D
When they got to their teens, I generally let them lose with my video camera and that did the trick nicely. Mm… perhaps their version is different ;-)
My eighth reveal is that I am a tad uncomfortable with dogs. As a baby and toddler I was more than fine with our very amenable, good natured Bulldog who guarded me in my pram and provided a step-up on to chairs when I was toddling about.
A few years on, after being frightened by a barking dog running down stairs towards me on a visit to a relative, I was bitten and that changed things a little. Suffice to say, walking into an unknown farmyard with a serious possibility of barking and running dogs as an adult was a bit of a big step... but the possible reward outweighed this fear.
has had over the last 19 years. I loved this particular day :-)
My ninth reveal is that I can’t help but admire piles of stone when I see them! I get almost as excited by them as I do new plants or bird visitors to my garden! Although I don’t use stones in a traditional rock garden style anymore I still love to arrange and rearrange them around my garden.
Driving past a pile of stones beside some local farm buildings, a few years back, had me in a bit of dilemma. They had been stored by a farmer after he dug them up whilst ploughing his fields. Oh… they looked so good to me!
The photo above tells all. I gingerly walked to the farm door, keeping eyes and ears alert for dogs, and after a phonecall we came to an agreement. A few days later, the Farmer, equally gingerly, tipped out stones on to my driveway from the bucket of his JCB digger!
Wonderfully, he had brought the digger to the pile of stones in his farmyard and we were able to fill it with the stones we wanted. I was smiling all day... and the next few!!
A couple of years later, we did this once more. The mossy rocks around my small pond were all dug up in this local farmer's field. Recycling at its best :-D
Finally, my tenth reveal is that my gardenwatching only began after my daughter was observing and counting birds for a school project the summer before I began my blog. Prior to that we had no bird feeders in the garden.
Now, I can’t imagine having a garden without a bird feeder - except on a temporary basis. I also cannot imagine not gardenwatching and blogging about it!
It has been absolutley fantastic that Waxwing sightings have ended Year 4. What great timing! They are still around too so fingers crossed they might visit my apple garlands made especially for them :-D
My garden of plants has grown and matured in a way I could never have predicted. Hedgehogs and a staggering 27 species of birds have been seen in my garden in the last four years. That includes a Pheasant walking up my lawn! Even more staggering is that I have seen 12 bird species bring in their young to my feeders.
If I were to take a guess as to why my garden has had so many visitors I would probably say that it has a lot of cover with my plants of varying sizes and shapes. I would also say that each time I saw a new species I looked up my book to see what it like to eat and provided it. Then… more birds came :-)
My Long-tailed Tit watercolour above symbolises a few things that will shape Year 5 of my blog. I am returning to my roots but in a new way. Hopefully I’ll be able to make time to pick up a pencil and paint brush too.
I will continue to blog about plants, gardens, birds and wildlife but I want to explore them all further through the many fascinating websites and blogs that can be found on the internet.
My plan is to search out and share what I find. I’ve already got something interesting for you! When time allows, I also plan to visit new bird and wildlife areas. Garden visits are a given ;-)
So, for Year 5, I am not revamping the look of my blog, as done in previous years, but its content instead. I hope my blog can act as a stepping stone for any visitor that stops by. It will be nice if new visitors browse around my posts too of course :-D
A HUGE THANKS for another year goes to my non gardening, but very technically focused, husband. In the last week he has finally finishing his programming of my blog menus which will allow me to gain access to the editing myself. My menu links are about to get a make-over now! I’m looking forward to it too :-D
Finally, for Year 5, I would really like to make a pledge that the majority of my posts will be a shorter read. I don’t know if I can keep that one though. Honestly, I’d really like to :-D
Seeing many of my postings have been published around midnight I’m aiming for that this time too - real time too. Soon the bells (PC clock) will bring in the new blogging year for shirls gardenwatch… thanks so much for bearing with me. It’s been great having you join me :-D
Wishing you a brilliant weekend!