Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Garden vs Yard

In the states, we refer to our green area around our homes as the yard. We played wiffle ball (a version of American baseball played with plastic bats and a plastic ball with holes) in the back yard when I was a child. We could never play any sort of ball in the garden... we would crush everything! My nephew (as I at his age) disliked the grass in the back yard. In the UK children may play cricket or football (that is soccer for my American followers) in the back yard, but they would have no grass under their feet if the were in a yard. If there were grass in the back area around their home it would be called a garden. Now in the States, a garden is an area of ones yard dedicated to growing fruits, vegetables, herbs and the likes. One may also have a flower garden in their yard. These "gardens" are typically sectioned off with a decorative border. My Great-Grandfather had an extensive vegetable garden whereas my family now only grows tomatoes with a few flower beds (small flower gardens). In the UK, many people have an allotment. This is a plot of land outside of their garden (yard) where they can have an extensive vegetable patch. This week I have tended to my garden. We mowed the lawn, trimmed back the pampas grass, weeded the cobblestone path (thank you friends) re-potted the pear tree (fingers crossed it survived the winter), basil, and parsley. I also purchased some tulips(Queen of the Night) to replant in the fall. I am hoping to grow tomatoes and maybe some zucchini or eggplant as well. I must acclimate myself to the temperate climate. So much for tropical zone 9, I was just starting to get good at it too. I hope everyone is straight now with the new definitions!! Any questions please ask!

Monday, 26 April 2010

Refuse collection

It is amazing how things that seem as trivial as refuse collection have such impact to ones life. No I suppose I was spoiled in Florida, with collection for recyclables once weekly and trash twice weekly. Yard waste was either collected by the lawn mower man, or I usually had a large yard (garden for any English reading this, we will cover that topic soon) with a corner with a large composting pile. In Pennsylvania trash and recyclables were collected once a week. Not the twice a week of trash in Florida, but, in either location, we could put out as many bins of any size shape and color we found necessary to collect our weeks refuse in. During holidays and birthdays, large boxes and bags never went uncollected. Recyclables could also be placed in miscellaneous containers and they would make an educated decision, in which they were usually correct, as to whether the container was refuse or a receptacle which could be reused. In the district in which we live now, we have one trash bin It is collected every other week. If you have extra trash, you have to save it for two more weeks, or drive it to the local "tip". Large items such as mattresses or old furniture and electronics that can not be resold are also to be taken here. Yard waste is also collected every two weeks. The bin is the same size as the refuse bin, but we must share it with our neighbors. We mowed the lawn yesterday and the bin is full, my composter is half full of grass (not the best for a composter) and we had more grass that was piled in an unused corner of the garden. Recyclables in the states did not need separated (unless you were dropping off at a large collection site after a big party!) The collectors would collect all types of recyclables that the county collected. Here, curbside recycling takes a few types of recyclables, but the district recycles much more. You again need to drive these items to different locations, and not all collection sites recycle all materials. I am afraid this is not a sound plan to involve the masses in recycling. As an environmentalist, I appreciate the limited waste collection promotes reduction, reuse, and recycling. However, as the country that suffered great loss from the bubonic plague, does twice monthly refuse collection sound like a good plan? I have been told by my fiancee that the UK is great at handling the middle of the road, not extremes. I guess in addition to weather, refuse collection is another area where they will stand on the middle ground.

Saturday, 24 April 2010


My fiancee had two days off back to back so we e took a trip to the Northeast coast. It took a couple of hours to get there, but well worth it. On our first day we stopped in Seahouses, a little seaside village, but the wind was too much for the tour boat operators. So we continued North through Bamburgh onto The Holy Island of Lindisfarne. Before crossing the causeway (which has limited cross times due to tidal fluctuations much greater than I am used to in Florida) we stopped at the Barn at Beal. This place was fabulous. We had fish-n-chips in view of the North Sea. It was very nice. Then we stopped at the Bird of Prey Center. Although we entered near the end of the day, the staff was excellent and was very pleased to be in the company of animal people again, even if only for an hour or so. We then crossed the causeway, which looked more desert like than waterway, to Lindisfarne. After parking up we walked to the Castle of Lindisfarne. The castles in this part of England were built more for military defense than royal decadence. You can see why this island was picked for such defenses. The views into the bay and back towards the mainland were phenomenal. They would have been able to see the Scotts coming from miles away if they had weather like ours. After the castle we had a few hours before the the causeway would be too wet to cross so we walked through the Village of Lindsfarne to the new church and the old priory. Saint Aiden is the patron saint of the island for he brought Christianity here and set up a priory in the early 7th century. We made it off the Island with plenty of time to spare, but the landscape had changed to that of a wetlands from a desert. You could see why they do not keep it open around the clock. As we continued north a bit further to Berwick upon Tweed picturesque views of quintessential English countrysides were plentiful. We walked around the walls of Berwick and out to the lighthouse before choosing a bed and breakfast to spend the night. From here I was able to Skype my one year old nephew on his birthday and sing Happy Birthday from 4ooo miles away. The next day we chose to head back to Seahouses for another attempt to take a boat out to the Farne Islands and we had success. The "Glad Tidings III" was our vessel for our 2.5 hour tour of the bird island sanctuaries and seal colony. We had the opportunity to explore one of the islands along well marked pathways. By staying along the marked paths, the birds were familiar with people being on the island and continued nesting behavior as normal when people were around. They even have a blog which i follow giving updates of the Islands activities. Good Stuff My fiancee picked a great location for our "weekend" getaway in the middle of the week. If we lived closer I would volunteer with the National Trust on the Farne Islands!! Northumberland is a must see for any animal lover visiting the UK!! It was a nice change of pace from village life.

Friday, 23 April 2010

A llittle background

I will let you know a little about my childhood I grew up in a suburb of Pittsburgh. My dad worked in the mills, we cheered for the Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins. My grandparents lived next door. We didn't go on many big vacations but we did lots around the city or within the tri-state area. It was an average upbringing for a child of the seventies. After high school, I went to college and studied Environmental Science and Biology. My school was in a tiny town with the population of Amish residents outnumbered faculty when school was out of session. I went home frequently I missed my family and the city. I also started my love of travel at this stage of my life. I took 4 opportunities to study biology abroad. These classes have shaped a large part of the adult I have become. Upon graduation, I moved home and worked for a year in retail. It was not long before the travel bug bit me again. This time I would not be coming home. I moved to the Gulf Coast of Florida. Again I lived in a very suburban area. I drove everywhere, had grocery stores on every corner, Malls on every other corner. I could go to a professional sporting event and a play on the same day. I lived in Florida for 13 years before meeting the man who would change my world and my address. After over a year of long distance relationship, spending more time on skype than in the same room, we decided the UK would be our home for the foreseeable future. I had visited several times over the last year, so I knew what I was getting into. I hope you enjoy it as much as am!