The Story of our Willow Tree

Myself and Grete, we both like trees.  We were sad when we had to fund cutting down a very large tree in the garden (for various reasons) and we promised we’d plant some to make up for it.  We tried a cherry tree, but got it badly wrong and the tree it was grafted onto was the only thing grown (and would have been huge, so that had to come up).  Then we saw a miniature willow tree and that sounded perfect.

So this year we got it, planted it and cared for it, within only two days it had sprouted a load of extra leaves and branches (more than the cherry tree ever did) and we thought we were onto a winner, and then it went wrong.

We’ve got several large ants nests in the garden, and either I plant the tree in one, or they moved into the soft earth shortly after.  They swarmed all over the tree, and although I couldn’t see them doing any specific damage, they weren’t helping the root ball settle in.  We also got a spot of super-hot weather (just two or three days) and the tree didn’t get enough water.  The new foliage died.  We were sad, we were killing another tree.

But I took some corrective measures, more top soil, and some solid application of the end of a lump of wood on the ground left the tree solidly bedded in.  I watered it every day.  I tried to kill the ants (but failed, as usual).  I watered it some more.  And it stuck it out, survived a few weeks of miserable weather and made it to the long strip of hot weather we’ve had.  I’ve been out every day making sure that tree has enough water (even if the rest of the garden is turning into a desert).

I think it’s paid off – it flourished, new leaves, new branches, thickening of the branches already there.  I think it might pull through.

But now we have aphids.  Not one or two, but billions.  We’ve never had aphids in the garden that I can remember seeing in any number, so it looks like we’ve brought them in with the willow and they may well be a specific willow based aphid.  I’ve just been out to squish them, again.  The ants look like they’re milking them.

I need a ladybird infestation!

Anyway, I don’t think the aphids will kill the willow, but they do generate some annoying issues (honeydew and the stuff that feeds on it, including wasps and mold).

So I’ll be out making sure they stay as dead as I can for the next few weeks, washing them off and squishing the hangers on.

I’m rootin’ for you miniature willow (pun intended), we can do this.

Willow when we got it in April:

Willow in mid-June:

Willow now:

My hands are too shaky, I don’t own a big enough tripod and the camera is really not good enough to take photo’s of  ants and aphids, but I tried anyway.

Just aphids.

Ant vs Aphid (I think it’s milking them)

And last, but not least, more aphids.

You came in that thing

Built my birthday present.

Fewer pieces than it looks, only took an hour or so to put it together but it still looks pretty cool.  If I felt like it, I’d do a bit of glueing, filling and some touch-up painting, but we’ll see.

It makes me want to build more model kits but you can’t get Star Wars ones that are true kits, just the snap together quick ones (as above), plus, I have nowhere to put them anyway.

It’s also rekindled an urge in me to scratch build scenes / dioramas / buildings.  I’ve never tried, but always thought I’d be good at it 😉

Choosing a template

I want to change the template for this blog, because I fancy a change.  But choosing a template is not easy!  Instead of templates just changing how the site looks, over time, they end up changing how the site behaves, how you include little snippets of code, how your SEO stuff works, etc.

There are some really good looking templates out there, but they’re either too big or too small, or too fiddly or too hard coded with features I don’t want / need.

It’s pretty frustrating, mitigated by the fact that I’m not paying for any of this and it’s only thanks to other people’s freely provided effort that I have software to run a blog from anyway.

I’ll keep looking.

Dumb Software

I used TweetDeck as my desktop twitter client.  I think it’s too big (i.e. takes up too much screen space), but it’s the most reliable, feature rich client there is, and it’s easy to use.

I used to be able to drag and drop images into the text input box and it would upload them to TwitPic, after the last update it stopped working.  It’s taken me some trial and error to work out why, and it’s stupid.  If I expand the window so that I can see around 1.8 columns instead of 1, then the text input box says ‘drag links and media here’, however, if I shrink the window so that it’s a more reasonable 1 column wide then it just says ‘drag links here’ and no longer accepts images.

Why the hell does the size of the input box matter?

#tweetdeck fail

Blood sugar

I took my eye off the target (knowingly, complicit) and my blood sugar control is shot to shit.  The orange line is where I was in 2006, the red line last year, and the blue line is now.  They’re single day snapshots so not perfect, but they’re good enough to kick me up the ass.

Taking my head out of the sand and taking control is actually a good feeling.

Plastic Dwarf Tastic

Another couple of in-progress images.  The last time I gave up painting I was painting six or seven miniatures at a time, or at least had that many ‘in progress’, switching between them while paint dried, etc.

This time I’m just sticking to one at a time, even if it means long breaks while a particular coat dries, but I’m finding it easier to see the detail.

Fixed (kinda)

So it turns out it wasn’t anything I did re: the change of themes, it’s a small problem with the Mandigo theme not linking to the theme options page in WordPress v3 correctly.  I can work around it for the time being, although I am hankering for a new look for the site (but still want to keep / use some of the header images).

The new default theme is okay but it’s all so big and I much prefer small sites.  I guess I can edit the theme options and have a play.

Anyway, I finished my little plastic knight, and it’s not a half bad job considering.


I changed themes to test out the new default WordPress theme, didn’t like it and then when I switched back to Mandigo, it won’t let me edit the settings 🙂

Please stand by while I try and fix things!