Wednesday, 31 May 2017

the long days ..

Long days of late spring. Long days for work and waking bone-tired the following day. Respect for our Muslim friends for whom the fast of ramadan, wrapped around the solstice, must be especially punishing.

At the end of the shift we sat on the terrace. There were blackbirds hammering away with their alarm calls down in the Cedar Walk and along the boundary path. Amongst the insistent 'pink-pink' alarm calls was a 'whit- whit'. A tawny was probably causing some concern. We saw nothing with the binoculars but then scanned across to the box where our baby tawny owl was photographed on the end of my £1 selfie-stick yesterday. Now the fluffy bundle was perched on the ledge at the nest box entrance. This would have been its first sight of the big world. Not a sense of awe and wonder was seen. Just drowsiness. The young!!
The adult continued to call and we watched her flying between branches among the leggy Scots Pines. When she perched, her camouflage was so complete she became invisible. The blackbirds continued to 'pink' and a magpie joined the slanging match too. We'd found the remains of a magpie in the tawny nest box so the magpie could be forgiven for a sense of grievance.

The rains of the last couple of days saw the rain chains fizzing as they carried water into the open gapes of the rain barrels. Their long digestive tracts finally emptied into the pond whose level has risen above the sandstone block we always use as a high water marker. Insects buzzing all around the flowering clovers and campions. Our first broad-bodied chaser dragonfly, bold and territorial found a hornet as big as a bullet and saw it off. Two pairs of electric blue common damselflies each locked in tandem - she dabbing the water surface gently with her ovipositor laying eggs.
We visited a garden with a derelict plant sales section when we were in Shetland last year. All the potted plants had long since died but Linda spotted a pot into which orchids had self sown. We generously left a pound for the pot with eight spotted orchids. I planted them in the meadow and so far three have flowered. Short stemmed, deep purple blooms. Cammasias have sent three or four flower spikes up around the pond edge this year. Delicate, star-like flowers.
I disturbed a mallard duck on her nest yesterday. Ten pale blue eggs. Hmmm... At least two female ducks in the garden.... Ten eggs each.. Twenty ducklings and parents churning the serene pond to thick gravy again...

We were gifted variegated flag for the pond but Jill spotted the huge, ominous stem of a bullrush within the iris tubers. Bullrush - or greater reedmace - is a bully of an American plant that can quickly smother ponds. I performed surgery and put the iris into bucket quarantine to ensure that no more  are secretly harboured.

After developing the Cordwood site for the past seven years, we have finally returned to organic vegetable growing. We began in Sherwood in 1977 when our lives were a heady mix of new home, newly married, the punk revolution and the writings of organic gardener Lawrence Hills. Now, the potatoes have benefited from the rain and ranks of asparagus, leeks, shallots, onions, garlic, sweet corn, beetroot, French beans and calabrese greet the eye. Climbing beans and Crown Prince squash crouch at the foot of their bamboo tripods waiting for the starting gun. In the polytunnel (hoop house) our tomatoes and cucumbers are thriving in the warmth.
A robin has nested beneath sheets of plastic on the edge of the Vegetable Garden. Three brown speckled eggs so far.

Just as last year, a pair of bullfinches - he so beautifully pink-blushed - have joined us. They collect sunflower hearts from the feeders and then brew a seedy porridge in their crops to feed their young, secreted somewhere nearby. These aren't the birds we ringed earlier in the spring.

Our two 'hog cafes' continue to attract hedgehogs. I made a nesting box for the hedgehogs and noticed that the straw inside the box was trailing out of the entrance pipe. The trail cam picked up a hedgehog leaving the nesting box. Baby hedgehogs - that would be a treat.

These warm, sometimes muggy nights are marked not only by the calls of our tawnies, the clicking of bats through the little bat detector or the silent passing of the International Space Station but by visits to our moth light. Tired after a long shift, a more sensible man would sit on the sofa and watch sports.  This one trucks to and fro from the light having collected pots of moths that have been attracted to the light. I'm the moth wrangler in the team. The moth-identifier-in-chief purrs over the gathered moths - notebook, iPad and ID books to hand at the kitchen table.

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