Saturday, 17 November 2018

A SCRUFFY TIME OF YEAR


Clearing up, clearing away, digging up the last of the carrots well infested with carrot root fly, and the builder is here. Leaves everywhere - got out the blower, blew them to one side and the wind blew them all back again - give up! So bagged up some to rot down to leaf mould. Then dug up the parsnips and made soup for the freezer, if there is room. If not will have to have it for lunch for a whole week.

Last apples in a trug outside the kitchen door - these are my daughter's.




 As are these crab apples. Our crab apple tree had a very poor crop this year. You can make jelly with them if you do not mind the after effects (a moving experience) but better tasting then rowanberry jelly. (Which you eat with venison.) (First catch you deer.)

We are getting into  the "Aren't the ornamental grasses attractive in the frost" season. The teasels are ok but R is not into grasses. Anyway the step gigantic has not "flowered" this year so . . .

So the quince flowers more and more- all topsy-turvy. 

 I have moved the bird feeders from outside my window as the builders will be there. Now I have only three outside the kitchen, all squirrel proof - the grey tree rats have gone but one feeder full only lasts about three hours before the tits have emptied it. The pheasants still wander about hoping in vain for dropped seed.



Down by the veg beds, just a few parsnips, some chard and the purple sprouting broccoli left compost has been spread and the bottomless pots with the copper slug tape on are slotted on a post.
Damson suckers pulled out to tidy things up (more will come)
The sweet peas are now six feet high up the poles on which they were trained but not a flower. Should I dig them up and give up or see if we have a very mild winter. There seems to be no harm in leaving them for now.

The nights are closing in, 5 weeks or so to the shortest day and Christmas to get through - not a fan of all this stuff - like Halloween which is just and excuse for companies to sell tons of tat   and make a tidy profit. Commercialism!! It is almost as bad as Grandfather's day - why not second cousin twice removed Day? How long before we, in this country, are celebrating Trump Day? In the past the US elections got a short mention on the radio, now it is endless.   

To finish, builders here, paving up, autumns last blast over who here are a load of colourful autumn images -

Beech


Birch

 Leaves and bark of the red currant











 Cotoneaster





 Cherry

And finally finally I have dug out the streams, removed the dead leaves and walking up the back field I saw these berries in the hedge - not planted by me but a wild introduction - Berberis vulgaris - not common here in the wild.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

THE WRONG ARTICLE

R came across an article on a Magazine and thought I could write something for it - so I did - and then read the article and realised that what I had written was totally inappropriate for that magazine so now you have got it. For those who read my blog some of this will be familiar I am afraid. ( It is really a lazy way to do a blog but as I had gone and written it . . . )

THE NOOK


It is a crystal aired morning and I wander up towards the small copse at the top of the garden, past alchemilla leaves filled with jewels of dew into a carpet of red campion and pignut.
The place is full of birdsong, then a blackbird clatters a warning and a guided missile comes hedgehopping in search of prey. The sparrow hawk is back. Over the mossy dry stone wall at the west end a jay laughs.

Almost twelve years ago, after I retired, we built a house in a mixed plot of nearly two acres. The "garden" was a scrubby area of grass, much waterlogged, steep bankings and a small wood. The mature trees were ash and sycamore with an under scrub of hawthorn, hazel, holly and a couple of rhododendron ponticum.

At the lower side was an old hedge - blackthorn, hazel, oak, sallow, holly and wild plum, no ten yards the same, thick with male fern and brambles, penetrated occasionally with an animal run.
A small stream, really nothing more than a drain from the back field, floods after heavy rain and dries up in summer and runs diagonally across the plot.

I dug out a small pond which we had enlarged, planted it with bogbean, flowering rush and water lilies. Paths were made through the woodland and surfaced with local slate chippings. Drains were put in the grass and didn’t work. I say grass because we have mown field, not tended lawn. Plantain, daisies and buttercups thrive.

When I was younger I had a dream. I would be rich and buy up land, put a fence around it, (with gaps for wildlife), and let it go. This was long before rewilding was popular.

In the woodland we spread the bluebell seed, cleared brambles, nettles and carpeting ivy. Elsewhere we planted cherries, fruit trees and a small group of white birches, shrubs and lots of buddleia. (Perhaps too much buddleia?) Of course mistakes were made - pendulous sedge is a thug and seeds itself everywhere, and we had/have weeds - bindweed, horsetails, nettles, vetch, creeping buttercup and so on but there could not be a wild garden without them.
I had always wanted a mixture of the unkempt and tamed, my wife was more keen on clipped bushes and order, so we compromised. She does most of the weeding.
Nesting boxes and feeders were installed. I decided to limit the food to peanuts and black sunflower seed. Later I added nyger seed for the goldfinches.
We have resident pheasants nesting by the top fence, one cock will wait for me by the feeders, seemingly unafraid. One day I was wandering up the garden in a thunderstorm examining the bursting stream when I was startled by a loud flapping of wings. I was face to face with a mute swan that had landed to escape the torrential rain.

The house sits on a hill, the last place up a road and then a field with views across Morecambe Bay to the sunrise and ebb and flow of the tide. After a few years my wife bought me a Bushnell camera, one activated by movement. I set it to twenty seconds of video and waited.
Early on I captured a heron catching a frog. (We have toads and common newts as well.) My brother gave me a plastic heron to put by the pond saying that it would deter other herons. After placing it I went to bed and next morning rose, drew back the curtains - there were two herons by the pond, side by side.
A pair of mallard arrived, she nests at the mill dam up the field and brings her ducklings down in the summer. In winter there are a pair of moorhens. 
We have now counted sixty different birds not including fly pasts - geese, cormorants, a kite and gulls. A sign of change came last year in the form of a little egret at the water’s edge.

One of the delights of the camera is infra red night shots, wood mice moving like Norman MacCaig's ring plover, immobile and then flat out, then static again, shrews and voles, endless grey squirrels and rabbits.
Then there are our special visitors - a fox with a lame back leg, badger in the rhubarb and once a fragile young roe deer under the white barked birches.
One visitor my wife does not like is the brown rat. I have attempted to trap them but all I caught was a blackbird and a jay. On one video the was something swimming in the pond. I hoped it was a water rat but it was just another brown one from the stables next door. (A great source of manure).

I began to write a blog in 2010, (http://darbishire.blogspot.com), and it still trundles on - not how to garden but what is happening, week on week, a scattering of recipes and poetry, an occasional diatribe on the world in which we live. 
I am also an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society so much of what happens is recorded in photographs.

For me the spring really gets going, not with the daffodils but with the golden saxifrage carpeting the steam sides with its yellow/green flowers, the emergence of insects, bees and early butterflies, frogspawn, damselflies and common hawkers over the pond.

But this year has been strange, snow, the severe cold then several weeks of heat and drought. Now, in the late autumn, confused by the seasons, the quince, potentilla and eucryphia are flowering. 





I sit in my room looking up at the wood, watch leaves come and go, the ash last to come, first to go; a greater-spotted woodpecker, almost as skittish as the jays sees me though the window and heads for a high branch. A robin is on the windowsill watching me type and one cock and two hen pheasants prowl under the feeders hoping for dropped offerings. Coal tits carry seed off to be buried and forgotten whilst the fussy great tits discard onto the ground any seed not just right. The pheasants are not so particular.

When the leaves have fallen I am always surprised by the number of nests in small trees and bushes, places I have walked past many times unaware of their existence.


And now as winter approaches and the fieldfare and redwing flocks arrive I still hope for that lottery win and the chance to return land to its natural chaos - no that is not right - to its natural order, its wildness - as long as my wife with her shears will leave it alone. In a way that wish is in conflict with the Cumbria Wildlife Trust of which I am a Life Member (but an inert member) as I would not want to manage my wilderness just return it to entropy and watch.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

JUST A LOAD OF CHUTNEY


Time slows, winter comes, darkness creeps in, moss grows over the little boy up in the wood.

So, there I was, making a load of apple chutney, sneezing at the apple vinegar fumes, when R showed me a Facebook post of a man saying, re Brexit, that it will be could to get back to the British Empire! (He was with N Farage). Give me modern dental treatment any day. There is no going back, only heading off in a different direction to ????
Anyway, there has been a lot of compost spreading since last blog, (not verbal compost), pulling up of slug chewed beetroot, yet more apples off the Bramley, and the pond is overflowing. The sparrow hawk has taken to zooming through the garden causing mayhem with the pigeons and blackbirds and I have given up with the squirrels, they are too clever for me.


There are still flowers in the garden - the Michaelmas Daisies continue to burst from the shadows.

Leaf colour, not autumnal, still exists with the magnolia, poplar and eucalyptus to name but a few. I wonder if we have hedgehog in the bonfire and move it to make sure. Of course, having badgers nearby means, almost certainly, we do not have egodges.

Pruned a branch off the apple and found six more apples, took out the old wood from the blackcurrants, more chipping to paths, R weeding, General tidy.

There is still some late flowering and colour - 




Even the Astrantia Major (Masterwort) with its papery petals is doing well. The builder is coming soon so all the cosmos and poppies will disappear under concrete, paving and builders' boots.
The ash trees are mostly naked of foliage though  one or two cling on despite the blast of colder weather coming down from the Arctic.
  














In this photograph you can see the Bushnell camera on its stake, well a bit of an old bird feeder support. It is pointed at a crossing of the small stream off to the right to try and catch animals - but they seem to ignore these points and just jump over anywhere.

So -
Recipe for the apple chutney (which I think is a bit sweet) -

1.5 kg Apples chopped,
750g light muscovado sugar
500g raisins
2 med onions
2 teasp mustard seeds
2 teasp ground ginger
1 teasp salt
700 ml cider vinegar (I used our apple vinegar which might be sweeter so . . .)

Bung in big pan, boil then simmer uncovered 30-40 minutes till thick and pulpy - stir to stop it sticking. (I put it in the bottom oven of our range for 90 minutes but . . )
Leave to cool, put in jars.


Finally got two of my books onto Amazon.com, for some reason not on Amazon.co.uk. They don't half mark them up though. The Spontaneous Line is a mixture of line drawings and verse, Landscapes of Light photography and poetry.

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

WHEN IT RAINS


It rains jam pots from the toolshed.

Making Damson and Rhubarb with Ginger Jam.
Then suddenly it is sunny, frosty at night, warm in the day. Out into the garden, veg beds tidied, rhubarb and asparagus beds weeded and growth cut back (yet to be compost dressed).

R continues to prepare the garden for winter.
Bramleys distributed to friends and we are now out of storage space.
Noticed our fox has a limp - sore left back leg. The rabbits, wasps, and pheasants are eating the windfall apples.
I am moving some of the slate clippings down the garden and top dressing the paths.

One of the squirrels has found the bird tray outside the kitchen and sits there brazening munching whilst I watch.



One place we like to go in autumn (or any time)(because we can get in for free as we are members of the RHS) are the gardens at  Holker Hall. 


The colours are so good at the moment like this cercidiphyllum though, I have to admit, I could not smell the toffee scent given off by the fallen leaves. Nor can I do that with our trees.













And the sorbus on the left was laden with berries, the leaf litter exhibiting all sorts of interesting fungi.

At home the Cosmos flower on and the asters have finally got going.





There is even colour in the lily pads as they die and sink to the bottom of the pond.

Overall we are progressing towards winter in a steady fashion, lots to do and not always the desire to do it. 
Sometimes a little mutter of words when I find that in the dry summer the moles have dug a run down the stream bed so the water disappears - have not yet found where it is coming up.


I give up on the seasons - just looked out of my window - it is the end of October and the ornamental quince is flowering! Can we be so lucky as to skip the winter and move directly to spring, do not pass Christmas, do not collect £200 - well you get the gist.

Mind you I have just seen the tips of daffodils poking through the compost under the Magnolia stellata!

Sunday, 14 October 2018

THE AUTUMN LEAVES


Drift past my window .... well you know what I mean.

Cosmos continue to flower, the moorhen is back at the pond as is the heron, and I have racked up 56 Bramley Apples wrapped in pages from the I newspaper. 
They are now in the shed in old photographic developing trays. 
Last year we had apples until April. Damaged apples are left to the wasps.

Just when all seems westerlies and rain mum nature sends us Wednesday, 23C and the lawns are mown before the new storm, allium seedlings out and Martagon lily seeds sown. And another huge trug of Bramleys collected.
Started to shift slate clippings myself as unable to find a gardener. The I fell over - the usual backward roll, and when I stood I realised my glasses had come off. Now there was a problem as I could not see where they had gone. So help from old pair of glasses and R and we still could not find them, not in the black currants, in the horseradish nor on the lawn. Finally saw them under the mower under the seat. No idea how they flew there.

So - autumn colours -


Acer

Cherry

Toffee tree

Spirea



Azalea


Etc







Etc



Sumac

Euonymus




Even strawberry leaves and rain on the alchemilla are attractive.








Ash


 Crataegus Orientalis berries



Bramley Apples,
Birch


 And finally the colourless beauty of Honesty seeds.