Monday, 10 July 2017

the turning of the year

Juvenile blackbird has received its ring
There was a different feel to the garden this morning as I collected the 21 species of moth that had been attracted to the moth light. Birds are no longer singing; an almost late-summer stillness. Warm and no wind. In the cool of the early-morning polytunnel, tomato fruits are forming and we are now cropping potatoes, beetroot and beans in the Vegetable Garden. Young birds seem to all around: juvenile blue and great tits, chaffinches, greenfinches, great spotted woodpecker - and endless young goldfinches visit the feeders. So many baby blackbirds. We ringed 50 small birds (mostly juveniles) last time we set the nets up in the garden. I now give visitors a commentary as another of the ringed birds visits us. Our ringed blackbird cock - 'Andy - the pole dancing blackbird' had kept us entertained throughout the season, balancing on the tower of the 'mother feeder',  frantic flapping accompanying his staccato sunflower heart pecking.  There's now a growing dynasty of them as a female demonstrates the trick and at least one juvenile. Andy has become so proficient that he no longer flaps feverishly but has an altogether more languid demeanour as he fills up. We ringed another wood pigeon so there are now two ringed birds and I can't tell Jill whether we're looking at Ringo or Bingo. I wonder sometimes if I should get out more?

Industrious male bullfinches - rosy pink and grey- are frequent visitors.

Over on New Farm, the seed hoppers are being drained by birds. The fields of rye that will be harvested for the digester host many tree sparrows.

In contrast to the smaller birds, pheasants and mallards appear to have had an unsuccessful breeding season here. With the cessation of shooting on the farm next door, this lack of young birds will have a positive impact here. There are very few adult pheasants evident and collared doves have moved in to feed on seed discarded by wasteful finches. Another change not previously noted is that house and tree sparrows have begun to forage in the vegetation of the mounding that is our earth-sheltering.

The garden is occasionally allowing us a glimpse of what its established character will be. There's still a long way to go, but gaps are filling and the borders are floriferous. We've mixed roses into many of the planted areas and they are flowering abundantly in every shade of pink, white, red and yellow. Utter gorgeousness. Solitary bees stuff crescents of rose leaf into the tubes of the insect houses we have in the Fragrant Garden. 

And at last the meadow dances with butterflies. There seem more small skippers than in other years. I'm supposed to check the miniscule antennae of this tiny butterfly in case there are some of the Essex skippers with us. One has red antennae and the other brown - as I write I can't remember which has which.

Finding a way of making the three acre gardens manageable during our declining years is a concern. Mike suggested we consider the WWOOF scheme where those passionate about organic gardening exchange their labour for board and lodging. Our first WWOOOFers joined us in June and ended up spending three weeks with us. We were nervous about having others in our home for a long stay but this first WWOOFing experience has been wholly positive - even when they staged a vegan coup in the kitchen. I suspect collusion from the management here. We've painted sheds using Ecosote: weeded, cut the hair of and replanted the drive border; tackled 'Jill's mounding'; widened the Cedar Walk path and trimmed and weeded the 'Ivy Sea' where two new 'Mesters' now add to the atmosphere; created a seated area beneath sycamores and spent time 'sorting' some of the accumulated untidiness that had built up in the Vegetable Garden. Elle and Zak leave us on Monday having become part of the family and were one of the special parts of the summer of 2017.  Bon voyage! Our next WWOOFers arrive at the end of July.

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