Thursday, 9 May 2019

where my priorities lie ....

At last, rain. Good, steady rain that will penetrate the hardened soil. White noise in the leaves. Half an inch of water in the rain gauge.

Young tawny owl
A grateful cuckoo calls: similarly welcome. Our cuckoos are in serious decline in England. They face the increasingly challenging migration from Africa and then return to our uncertain summers where insect supplies for them and their parasitic hosts are shrinking. For three days the male cuckoo with his familiar two-note call has been around the edges of the garden. I'm listening for the strange, bubbling call of the female. I'm guessing that if he finds a mate they will be looking for dunnocks nests so that the female may deposit one of her eggs in amongst the sky blue ones.  The male cuckoo calls after having formed a pair bond. His calls alarm host birds who leave their nests to pursue him. And his mate slips in to deposit her egg. I would so love to find one.

Hot borders in the cool rain
Yesterday, the garden was scented with burning paper. Linda and Trev were tending their bees in the garden apiary and smoking the hives to calm the occupants. They'd anticipated a swarm and have set up a third hive to accommodate the newly-hatched queen. Each hive may have as many as seventy thousand bees. Not only does this carry the potential of lots of gorgeous honey and plentiful pollination... the number of bees in the air must provide biomass for many birds, mammals and invertebrates.
I wonder whether bees that are late home are taken by bats? Pipistrelles have been busy at dusk.

The vegetable garden is steadily filling. We've added mange tout, lettuce and brocolli plugs, multi-sown beetroot - and radish and carrot sown as seeds. Our potatoes will respond well to todays rain - as will our oh-so-coy asparagus. We continue to crop from broccoli, kale and spring cabbage planted in the polytunnel. My kale, coconut milk and fresh coriander soup received very good reviews.
Beans are on plates soaking in readiness for tomorrows planting into modules: climbing Blue Lake, Cobra and Borlotti; dwarf Sprite - and an intriguing oriental climbing bean for the polytunnel that promised yard long beans. Summer is definitely on it's way when the beans are planted out.

Another mowing of the lawn. I don't use any fertilisers or weedkillers. And don't scarify. I keep the mower blades high so that the lawn is never shaved. This allows good root growth so that the grass out-competes the broad-leaved weeds. This should happen - but an evil starfish army of ribwort plantain is massing in the lawn by the annex.
This lawn regime is to help the invertebrates that make the lawn their home. Ribwort plantain alone supports nearly twenty species of moth.
The grass cuttings have been incorporated into the compost and the resultant aerated mixture has already accelerated from 16C to 35C. It's what passes for entertainment in these parts.

In the the orchard and in the meadow, the first signs of annual yellow-rattle (Rhinanthus minor) are emerging. Rattle parasitises grasses, reducing their energy and allowing space for native wild flowers. There's a kind of magic and mystique to rattle and I love to see it. Its' flowers are nettle-like and its' seeds rattle when ripe.

Fulton's Strawberry Surprise rhubarb has vigour and bright red, flavoured stems. It was voted the best rhubarb when the RHS did trials and makes an excellent jam when combined with vanilla. Our Fulton's will really get a wriggle on after this rain and we've ordered vanilla pods in readiness for some serious jam production - soon...?
Bless my lovely dad. A gardener throughout his life until the dementia eroded all he'd known, I was talking about rhubarb.
'Rhubarb dad, in the garden...'

Last night an abortive attempt to put out the moth light. A fine drizzle in the air. All evening a tawny 'whitt-whitted' in the Woodland Garden where they have a nest. A young owlet peep peeped. We do a nest box check on Saturday. I'm hoping the young owls haven't already left the nest.

My night time cameras have been busy. Seven sightings of hedgehog and a vixen, clearly lactating. She was in the Woodland Garden this morning - we'll keep the hens in their run. The video shows her undeterred by the moth light, having a sniff at the hedgehog hotel.

We've been short of storage space since mum and dad moved into the annex. Work on a garage begins next week.
The builder said 'These plans seem to have a lot of information about bird and bat boxes but nothing about dimensions..'
This probably shows where my priorities lie.

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