Thursday, 22 December 2016

opportunities on the shortest days ..

Dusk in the darkest time of the year. The shortest days, when tools are away by 4:00pm. The hens have put themselves to bed early too.
We woke this morning to a good frost and this clear evening sky - already with pin pricks of starlight - suggests we may have the same again tomorrow.
But these days, when the colour has been washed from the plants so that we live in a sepia world, present opportunities to do garden development that wouldn't be possible in the verdant months.
We completed our ground preparation of the recreated vegetable and fruit garden beds last week. This part of the garden will now rest through the winter, awaiting spring with its four year organic cycle ready to roll.
By the house, we have been developing what I am calling 'The courtyard'. Framed by our existing greenhouse, we will add a large potting shed and workshop in the New Year. A log shed will be built to screen the car parking area. A large 'dipping' pond will be constructed to hide a fall in levels. And Dave worked hard to lay a path of recycled sandstone slabs over the weekend. The surfaces will be golden gravel to match the drive and the Fragrant Garden paths. I found a black metal lamp post on the auctions and bought it for £30. When it's in place, I'm hoping it lends a Narnia-esque feel on snowy evenings.
The small birds have been hammering the bird feeders all day, emptying tubes of sunflower hearts and a tray of peanuts. Goldfinches, greenfinches, chaffinches. Great, blue and coal tits. A nuthatch. All feeding apparently insatiably. The ground feeding birds - pheasants, wood pigeons, stock dove and dunnock - trammel the soil as food rains down. Robins flick their tails and 'tick' in energetic competition with rivals.
A hullabaloo of cock pheasants crashes into the branches overhead as blackbirds strike the end of the day. It must be a male thing - the hen pheasants are much quieter when going to roost.
The silhouette of a buzzard, heavy winged and mewing passes over. Then fifteen wagtails 'chiswick' to one another as they bob south to their roost. Starlings have already flown into neighbours' conifers and chatter like children having a sleepover.
Darkness closes around. I wait for the tawnies to
begin to call.

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