Sunday, 6 October 2019

a season of firsts .... and lasts?

The spent, spotted leaves of sycamore are brought down by heavy rain. Shaggy ink cap fungi congregate on the sodden lawn. Other toadstools now too.

The sweet smell of leeks being harvested in the fields. Jays in looping, white-rumped flight enjoying the bumper acorn harvest. Nature's own tree planters, they can harvest and hide up to 5000 acorns each year.

George's Pond
We've had a sustained period of heavy rain. George's Pond overspills twelve metres down into the Stumpery. I have cleared four fifths of the pond of its' invasive parrot feather but have been prevented by the weather from finishing the job. Another smooth newt siting during the pond clearance. A common amphibian, it is still rewarding to have four sitings in 2019 when we have only had a single siting in all the years before. 'It's not what's rare, it's what's there' - John McMeeking.
In the dark, juvenile toads enjoy the semi-aquatic conditions on the terrace.

An exquisite, tiny slow worm beneath one of the refugias. It's the smallest I've ever seen and the first concrete evidence of successful breeding. Slow worms are viviparous - they give birth to love young.
'Greensleeves' apples

In a brief half day of dry weather I mowed the lawn. Cutting blades high, I still took a huge quantity of grass to the compost bays which was laboriously mixed with other vegetation. The wetness of the thick grass reminds us how detrimental short grass and the overgrazing of animals can be on the grounds' capacity to manage heavy rains. Here, the shaggy lawn absorbs rain before it enters the soil. A healthy sward will lead to healthy root structure beneath the ground which once again controls heavy downpours, slowing its' progress.

As the sky darkens another first for us is a noctule bat rowing in the air above the birch trees. It is our largest. Below it, little pipistrelle bats flitter above George's Pond at dusk. Current research suggests that the invasive ring necked parakeets that are beginning to take over parks and woods are ousting noctules from their roosting sites.

Another first is a video recording of a Muntjac deer. As small as a dog. Asian. Introduced at the beginning of the twentieth century. The Cedar walk paths are bounded by mountainous brambles which will make excellent cover for a little muntjac to ruminate in. They're usually solitary, so we're not anticipating herds of them.

Whilst the farmer harvests healthy leeks, we are downcast about our crop this year. They've got everything going against them. This year we've changed our method of leek growing and it hasn't been successful. Instead of dropping single baby leeks into dibbered holes, we've 'multi-sown' them. They haven't liked it and many have just collapsed. Too many too close together.  Rot. Leek moth. Alium rust. It's been carnage under the covers. A fox appears regularly on the trail cams and is leaving piles of faeces for us. The least welcome was in the middle of the netting supposed to protect the leeks from pests. Poor things, they've had it from every angle.

The time of apple harvest. Keswick Codlin has had its' best year with us. A variety that began in the 1790's, when cooked it produces the best fluffy apple sauce. Greensleeves apples are an early eater and cropping well. Last years' cider came into its' own when a friend tried a pint and came back for two more. Tooth enamel intact and no permanent degradation of his nervous system. Result.

Only four of our favourite duck egg blue 'Crown Prince' this year but lots of others. The season of squash soup is upon us!

A young kestrel has continued to include the garden in its' beat..

The state of nature report is as demoralising a read as are our attempts to gather home-grown leeks. With the exception that next year the leeks will be planted again and back to their former, productive best. The chilling sentence from the report 'There has been no let-up in the net loss of nature in the UK' says it all. The consequences of abysmal custodianship of our wildlife over decades appear on every grim page. They used to say 'think global- act local' to encourage us to do our little bit in the hope that this would add up to a bigger picture of good. The evidence is that climate breakdown, intensive agriculture, over abstraction of water, the fragmentation of wildlife habitats,
plastic and the effects of invasive species are all too much for poor overwhelmed nature.

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