Thursday, 15 February 2018

THAT BRITISH WEATHER, WINTER FLOWERS?


Glad not to be at the Winter Olympics - minus 20C. Siberian weather. 
I have bought some nyger seed to see if I can attract those birds who like the finer things in life, particularly goldfinches. 
The messy strawberry bed calls for a complete tidy and make over and I must stir myself, but first another coffee, hands wrapped around the mug.
Then outside and I find the strawberries are not worth keeping - scrawny and old - so up they come - well, half the bed and by then my fingers were numb. Returned with a barrow load of compost and finished top dressing the long bed. Have pruned the roses, black currants and red currants between sleet showers.
Had to come in to thaw and began to make mushroom soup - Crank's recipe. Will make about 4 or 5 pints (3 litres). Just onion, potato, mushrooms and milk with butter and thyme. I have left out the parsley.

So there I was with a blog written (almost) and then it snowed. Well, I could not ignore it so - 


out with the camera, the magic tracery of trees under snowfall, the green of the daffodil leaves, even a frozen looking wood pigeon on a high branch all captured with the lens. Fortunately snow, when the sun is not shining, is easier to take. So not a lot of gardening done. In fact, as we do not have a greenhouse, just sheds and a clapped out cold frame rate his is a quiet sort of compost spreading time of year.


but given a hour or two


the sun was out and the snow thawing hard in sunshine even though it was still very cold with ice around. The garden glowed in the crystal clear air and colour, such as the witch hazel, glowed.

Is had to nip down to the pond and take a panorama shot up the garden, rake some moss off the path and pick up sticks shed by the trees.


And next morning I looked out of the bedroom window and we were above the could level in thick mist and steady drizzle.


Our weather is ever changing and this can make gardening a challenge, especially with the rain we now have with global warming - I read that all but one of our record wettest years have been since 2000! Of course if we had the same weather every day we would have nothing to talk about (except this Brexit mess 😒).

To move on - what brightens up the garden in winter? In a way the birds are like winter flowers filling the place with colour and variety - 

 

 

 

 

 


So just like I feed the plants, I feed the birds, our own little dinosaurs.

Friday, 9 February 2018

GARDEN QUIRKS AND FAST JAM


Today is bright and sharp so out with camera noting the things around the garden that are not growing - small odds and focal points, personal quirks.


Metal dogs under the feeders by the kitchen spattered with bird droppings,


the moss sporangia on the stone with the sundial highlighted by the sun,


Doc is fading as the years pass (aren't we all),


and Roy's little house under the magnolia needs a little repair.

Up the garden the chimes are still hanging in the ash tree above the snowdrop, and later, daffodil banking. I had thought the branch to which they are attached would have fallen off by now but not so.

On the windowsill outside the living room are odd pebbles brought back from distant travel, inside a sculpture bought at Workshop Wales in north Pembrokeshire.



 Down by the pond are Adam Booth's metal birds and Linda's falcon. The broken pot in the background is there for a toad shelter. (Whether they use or not I do not know but it is a nice idea.)
And, of course, the useless faded plastic heron I got from my brother peers into the water.


There is rubbish around too - the decaying log pile, a haven for creepy crawlies and a cd up a damson tree. I think I had been using it as a bird scarer to keep the pigeons off the veg. It never worked so I stuck it up the tree and it has been there for several years.

 There is a cracked pot under the downpipe at the shed as the pipe was too short to reach the ground and I couldn't be bothered to buy a longer one and a robin nest box on the big sycamore. There are several tit boxes up in the wood.

Back up at the house rattling birds hang from the roof over the paving outside the kitchen. The duck from my son and the strange one in a nest from my sister-in-law. Come a breeze they clatter away.
The duck has been blown off twice but I have repaired it. When the swallows nested nearby the young fledglings used to sit on top of the duck.

And feeding stations - there are two. This is the one outside the kitchen with a plethora of feeders. For some unknown reason I get them as Christmas presents but they are very welcome. It is just that it takes more and more stuff to fill them.

Now, just because it is February and raining does not mean that it is not jam making time - the wonders of the freezer!
So today was Raspberry Jam time - a super easy quick recipe.

2.5 pounds raspberries, 3 pounds granulated sugar and juice of half a lemon. (Say 1.25 Kg fruit to 1.5 Kg sugar.) Put sugar in oven to warm.
Do not wash fruit. You want them dry if possible. If frozen thaw then bring to the boil and  boil rapidly for 5 minutes. Add sugar warmed in the oven and stir until dissolved. Bring back to the boil and boil hard for 1 minute only. Skim and put in hot jars and cover. I use old jars with metal lids which seal themselves as they cool - you can hear them popping.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

SNOWDROPS




Geoffrey Grigson in his Englishman's Flora lists many other regional names for this plant - Candlemas Bells from Wiltshire, Death's Flower, Dewdrops, Dingle Bell, Drooping Bell, Drooping Lily and Eve's Tears from Somerset, Fair maids from Hampshire, Naked Maidens from the German Nackte Jungfrau or Dutch naakte wijfjes, Peace-Snow from the French perce-neige and there are others - Snowdroppers from Gloucestershire, White Bells or White 
Queen. 
I like the name Eve's Tears best.

In 1659 they were still referred to as early white bulbous violets by Sir Thomas Hanmer.
John Gerard in his herbal, page 147, Chapter 88, calls them bulbous violets but when it comes to what medicinal use they might have he only says - Touching the faculties of thefe bulbous Violets we haue nothing to fay, feeing that nothing is fet downe hereof by the antient Writers, nor anything obferued by the moderne, only they are maintained and cherifhed in gardens for the beautie and rareneffe of the floures, and fweetneff of their fmell.
Culpepper does not mention them at all.




 You can see, here by the woodland path, how splitting and replanting whilst still 'in the green' is spreading the plants. They are also self sowing themselves and each bulb clump is dividing and multiplying to form, we hope, a carpet.

But they are not the only flowers in the garden - apart from the odd rose the Corsican hellebore is coming into flower as is also the winter honeysuckle, odd crocus and witch hazel.
But it is the snowdrop that is the harbinger of hope to come.

To move on - The path to the veg beds is carpeted with thick moss. This is due to the wet weather we have had for the last few months. Today I have been scraping it off, a tedious laborious business.
I thought I might attack the moss with a vinegar spray but the sprayer is broken and corroded - I should have washed it out last year. Now I will need a new one.

And finally a poem - 

SNOWDROPS
(nothing is perfect)

i

Silently,
newborn
out of
woodland 
debris,
rise
optimistic
petals,

shining 
nonpareil
of
white,
delightful
rampant
oracles of
spring

spread
numberless
over
what was
dead, a
rapture 
of opalescent
pearls.

ii

And, in January, when first they came,
she would walk the garden,
bend, pick a few short stems
and place them in an egg-cup
by the clock that chimes the hours.

And now, each year, he takes that journey
up the woodland path she trod.
He stoops, takes the snowdrop buds
and puts them by the clock,
a small white sign of love.


Thursday, 25 January 2018

BIRDWATCHING


This weekend is the Great British Garden Birdwatch https://www.rspb.org.uk/get-involved/activities/birdwatch/ 
so get counting.

One of the arts of wildlife photography lies in good timing!




Whilst much pecking and feeding goes on above, blackbirds, chaffinches, bramblings
 and our resident mice scavenge on the ground.












Meanwhile above their heads we have a plethora (like that word) of visitors.
 
 Bullfinches and Greenfinches

 House Sparrows and Cock Chaffinches

Starlings and Goldfinches


 Woodpeckers and more Goldfinches







Hen Chaffinches and Siskins










 
Blue Tits and Great Tits







Tree Sparrows and Nuthatches

And then of course the dreaded Grey Squirrel, not to mention Pheasants and Moorhen and Jays and Magpies and so on.


So to other visitors at or near the feeders -

Wood Pigeons and Linnets



Robins and Rabbits




Pheasants of both gender 




Thrushes and Jays






Foxes and Rats





Even big toads.


So to the pond - no, enough! I hear. (And what about the videos of Badgers and Deer and so on.)

And the digging over and weeding and compost spreading goes on, when I can . . .