Friday, 26 August 2016

mellow moments of late summer ...

"Let me enjoy this late-summer day of my heart while the leaves are still green and I won't look so close as to see that first tint of pale yellow slowly creep in. I will cease endless running and then look to the sky ask the sun to embrace me and then hope she won't tell of tomorrows less long than today. Let me spend just this time in the slow-cooling glow of warm afternoon light and I'd think I will still have the strength for just one more last fling of my heart."
- John Bohrn, Late August

I cut boughs from the crab apple to bring indoors.  The pale green blind is pulled down and the shaded sunlight seeps through, throwing a soft light on the fruit.

I love the colours of late summer in the garden; yellows and golds

The fruit is bountiful on the trees, with more to harvest than I could possibly need or use.

The rowan has red clusters of berries hanging low; winter food for blackbird and redwing

But the blackberries are still hard and green

Yesterday the weather was  softer with a light sprinkling of rain - a welcome relief from the heat of the past week.  Summer is slowly ending, the leaves gradually yellowing on the trees.

I do love this time of year when there is still heat in the sun and the days are tinged with cooling breezes; the nights slowly draw in but the evenings are pleasant; skies are streaked with peach and lavender and the winds ease; it is very still; not a movement in the trees; just two crows pecking the ground for their supper and a few wasps buzzing round the maturing apples and plums.

We visit the lake in the afternoon and watch the sun dancing on the water; the level is way down creating a beach where once there was none.

The fields have been harvested, just the stubble remains

Sloes begin to dominate the hedgerows

And grasses idly wave as we pass by

And so ends another fruitful week of toil in the garden; harvesting tomatoes, beans and courgettes; flowers planted  in the newly weeded and tidied beds - creating order out of chaos - very satisfying.

“I cannot endure to waste anything so precious as autumnal sunshine by staying in the house."
   ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

Friday, 19 August 2016

meeting nature halfway ...

I woke early to a grey, misty dawn.  After a week of glorious warmth and sunshine, rain is forecast.  I dressed and went to the top of the garden to harvest runner beans before the rains came.

 The cows in the back field were starting to rouse themselves from sleep. Light rain was spritzing the air; it will take a lot more than that to refresh the garden, which is in dire need of a downpour.

Whilst I worked I could hear the excited chirruping of a flock of long-tailed tits, flitting about in the branches of the apple tree, keeping me company in the quiet of the morning.

It has been a tiring week of garden drudgery.  Ridding the borders of couch grass and ground elder; an almost impossible task.  Plants (what remained of them) were lifted and the soil dug and sieved to removed the worst of these perennial thugs.
Now, the borders look bare; barren, but tidy.  The urge to fill them with plants again is strong; common sense tells me to wait a while; to enrich the soil with manure; then replant.
I am in charge of my neighbours' garden this week while she is away, always a worry to keep someone else's garden thriving; hopefully the forthcoming rain will do the job for me.

Dave cleared an untidy border; it had become clogged with a ground cover plant that had taken over.  Once it had been cleared, he built a seat out of decking to cover it; and with some plants in containers and a couple of cushions it now looks presentable and pleasing to the eye.

Maintaining a garden is not all about wandering around picking fruit and flowers - it is blooming hard work - but I guess it is worth it in the long run.

Here are some pictures we took this week.


A garden requires patient labour and attention. 
Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfil good intentions.
They thrive because someone expended effort on them.
~ Liberty Hyde Bailey

Friday, 12 August 2016

all creatures great and small ...

Being a country dweller I am familiar with the every day comings and goings of cows, sheep and horses.  I see tractors trundling up and down the fields, or pulling great wagons loaded with hay and straw bales; sometimes huge tanks of liquid manure to spray over the fields.

These things are common place; part of the every day life in the country.  Sometimes though, odd things catch the eye; something you haven't noticed, or been aware of before.  I often go to the top of the garden to watch the cows in the back field.  I find their presence calming; they just get on with the business of being a cow; ripping at the grass or just resting, all angular bony shapes; cudding peacefully.

Most of the cows are black and white Friesians; but there is one brown and white young lady who caught my attention the other day.  She came right up to the fence; lowered her neck under the barbed wire to reach some fresh morsel of grass, when I noticed her markings.  Her hide was covered in dark, snowflake type patterns.  I have never, ever seen that on a cow before!  I can only imagine that they are blood vessels beneath the skin; marks that don't show up on the black cows.  I have never seen the like - quite beautiful, but at the same time quite weird.

Later, Dave called out that he was going out for a quick walk; five minutes later he rushed back in for his camera; he had seen a spotted fly catcher down the lane; it won't still be there I said; it will he said; they fly from a branch, catch an insect and fly back to the same branch and lay in wait for the next insect to come along.  And sure enough there it was on the same branch when he returned.

Not a spectacular bird by any means, but a good spot nonetheless.

Then another strange thing occurred; the ants that have been nesting  in one of the plant pots, suddenly starting massing on the patio.  Hundreds of them running all over the place, looking lost and disorientated.  I believe it is something to do with the queen leaving the nest to lure males into mating and swarming when she returns to the nest and births a new colony.  (I call it nest, I am not sure what you call an ants' home)?

The butterflies have suddenly arrived too, smothering the buddleia in a feeding frenzy.  I have been wondering where they had got to; it seems they arrive when the time and conditions are right for them, and not before.  Lovely to see them - Dave took this great shot of one perched and ready for take off.

So you see, life in the country needn't be dull; there is always something going on right under our noses, and if you are lucky you can capture it all with your camera; including this cheeky squirrel, who appeared and disappeared just as quickly.

And this frog who popped up in the ivy after he had been disturbed by me watering.

And what about this cute baby robin, who is hardly bigger than the apple that has dropped from the tree.

None of these things are earth-shattering or life-changing by any means, but they are the essence of nature and being aware of  everything around you - things that make life on earth just a little more rewarding.


Friday, 5 August 2016

where the wild things are ...

I went to sleep last night thinking about foxes.  Not surprising really, as I had just been reading about them.  When we first came to live here there were a lot more foxes about than there are now. Often you would see them trotting across the back field; on their way to some destination unknown to us.

The fox roamed stealthily over the fields looking for his dinner...   Moon and Fox by Carry Akroyd:
moon and fox by carrie akroyd
Before the advent of 'wheelie bins' our refuse bags would be ripped to shreds by the foxes in their hunt for 'easy pickings'.  My hens got hit quite regularly too.  Not only did we see them about; a quick glimpse of copper-coloured pelt, or their brush disappearing through the hedgerow; but we heard them too.  An eerie hoarse barking in the dead of night, a mating call that echoed around the valley.  I can't remember the last time  I heard that sound.

They are creatures of the night, but if you are lucky you may come across one in the early morning on its way home after a nights hunting.  This happened to me once; we came face to face down the lane; we made eye contact; I stood very still, then he turned and nonchalantly wandered off into a field, with just a curious backward glance.  Wildlife encounters never fail to thrill.

The thing that started this chain of thought is 'common ground by rob cowen'; a beautifully written book; part memoir; part natural history observations; part novel - I am loving every minute of it. 

Unfortunately, I have never been able to capture a fox on camera, (the photos I have shown are borrowed from the book 'The Great British Year'.)

"The smell was there when I returned at dusk to carry on plotting the next side of the perimeter, the edge-land's northern boundary.  Turning right at the viaduct, I took a rough track leading east along the edge of the meadow's curtain of trees and down into the wood.  
  Despite the onset of night, I followed the Nidd downstream, guided by the weak circle of a head torch, past drowned trees and along a muddy edge.  The water tricked and teased, appearing still, not even a ripple giving away movement.  I noticed a branch and a plastic cider bottle held in its surface overtaking me. 
  The sudden presence of the fox was just as bewildering.  Its scent, strong and sharp as cut lemons, crowded, pressed and pushed me, as though the animal was dancing between my legs, mocking my cumbersome, slithering progress.  At moments I was sure it must be right behind or beside me, but each time I turned, my beam only emphasised the wood's emptiness, silvering briefly the bars of beech and oak and bristling the banks. 
[...] The fox manifests as I kneel there trying to catch my breath and work out where I am.  I begin to right myself when a tree's shadow morphs into an ebony silhouette, a shape from another realm trotting, head raised, along the treeline, fifteen, maybe twenty metres away. 
  It is large, full-grown and winter-pelted, with a thick tail that it drags semi-submerged through the scrub like a rudder, scenting in its wake.  Seconds pass and I realise I am holding my breath, immersed in the smell, the stillness, the sheer immediacy of it all; I'm willing it to drag me under, entranced by its indifference." ( extract from Common Ground)
The town fox seems to have replaced the country fox; maybe they are still out there but have just become wary of showing themselves when they have been persecuted for so long - who can blame them!