Monday, 16 September 2019

Entry into autumn ...

View of annex through prairie beds
The early evening is dark now. Juvenile and adult tawnies in call and response. Another, distant, tawny joins in from the fields. The repeated notes of a little owl nearby. During the day a raven grunting in frequent overhead passes. A steam plough turns the earth a mile away, chuffs and punctures the air with its' whistle. From bed, the scampering feet of noisy early morning carrion crows can be heard on the cedar shingles.

Birds are wakening after their annual moult. Robins feisty - one wearing a leg ring. A tribe of long-tailed tits moves among the shrubs and trees. Male sparrow hawk on the feeders. No swallows. Five house martins . No starlings. Our house sparrows have deserted us.

Comma butterflies nectaring on the Joe-Pye weed. Red admirals, speckled woods and painted ladies too.
Blackberries ripen sweetly along the Cedar Walk paths.

Sweetcorn harvested before red ant
'tax collectors' took their share
Boots are needed early morning in the heavy dew. The first be-wigged shaggy ink cap appears. I mow the unkempt lawn, but not close, leaving 10cm of sward - it's more like a 1970's shag pile carpet these days. Many invertebrates use grass for overwintering, for eggs and pupae. If boosting invertebrate numbers is our aim, this is one way of trying.
There's still plenty of mown grass for our insatiable compost. Layered up, it quickly reaches 70C.

The Vegetable Garden keeps on giving: almost 100kgs of food into the kitchen or freezer since March. No food miles, no packaging, no chemicals. Not bad for a space considerably smaller than an allotment. Squash and pumpkins expand by the day. Pheasants scrump ripening tomatoes. The red ants started to harvest our sweet corn before we did. I caught sight of a rich ginger fox there this morning. Nature's tax collectors.
Planting wild daffodils

I have placed black mats and small pieces of corrugated roofing as 'refugias' around the garden. Most are now home to red ants but their tiny black cousins are also present. One juvenile slow worm and some toads there too. And a second smooth newt eft. As well as voles. After rain, Lamins Lane became a toad highway.

Invasive parrot feather has begun its slow strangulation of the pond again. An aquatic boa constrictor: I need to get in in my waders. Thanks to uncle Alan we've planted wild daffodils around the pond. Let's hope they prove as successful as the purple loosestrife and snakehead fritillaries he'd given us in previous years.

We have been working through the Woodland Garden. Many Cyclamen hederifolium flowers from white through to dusky dark pink now populate the floor. Erect, fruiting lords-and-ladies with sticky orange seeds. Grey squirrels shred conker cases. We're clearing 60m2 of black plastic we've used to suppress weeds since the autumn. Jill peeled the plastic back and coincidentally the dry spell ended with good rain for the sandy earth. I'm now pushing barrows of chippings to mulch the area before shrubbing and bulb planting.

Homeacres open garden
Dad was keen to help with maintenance work on Rosa's border. Having spent five hours with mum at A and E the previous day, we were nervous that his poor balance would see him falling, injuring himself and us having another lengthy spell as guests of the Queens Medical Centre. I quietly removed tools to discourage him but he improvised by moving the mulch about with his walking stick. This week, a further step backwards when he attempted to eat his buttered roll with a knife and fork at lunch. As teachers, our lives were built on the certainty of cognitive development. Viewing the process in reverse is really saddening. My sister cares for him so tenderly.

We visited Homeacres open garden in Somerset at the end of August. This is no-dig gardening central and the home of Charles Dowding - the Pep Guardiola of lettuce. We explored his vegetable plots, peered into his vegetable store and admired the tomatoes in his polytunnel. Such inspiration but no mention of gardening for wildlife. Hmmm.

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