Janus

The rough heart of Winter is perfectly at home in the body of two faced Janus. The UK at large staggers under the impact of snow & ice. Here we try to hunker down and not get the wrong side of it. Well insulated walks across fields or up the road to the forest edge helps. My eye is taken by a thin strip of sycamore lining the plant access track, spared the extensive clearing that has befallen the commercial timber crop behind them. I’m remembering a similar composition as painted by Sisley (or was it Monet?) Love too the frozen pines in dense rows with harvested trunks piled high waiting to be stacked on a stream of log lorries that will speed them off and away down the valley to a huge chipboard plant outside town. Big trucks have taken a heavy toll on our winding country lane that link the scattered farms and forestry settlements. The county council have been lucky in bidding for extra money from central government to fill in the worst potholes as well as resurfacing stretches of soft verge or passing places all along remote rural C roads like ours. The gang’s work has stopped now until the weather lifts. Even the log lorries slow down, so you know it must be bad. The consistent quiet stillness is comforting and a timeless quality settles like the snow itself, to blanket & cocoon. It reminds me of those lines from Larkin ‘This much I know/My mind will fold into itself/Like fields, like snow’.

Rabbits

The snow is never here for long but when it is the change is so remarkable there is always something to fascinate. It’s below freezing, though we are warmed from our walk up to the forest. The sun banished, clouds louring and running fast, a near full moon peeping through as late afternoon darkness descends.                  The rabbits have opened up a new front of attrition in the garden. With our raised beds now netted following their burrowing offensive before Xmas they’ve turned their unwelcome attention to the youngest apple trees. 50% bark loss on the Katy and some serious nibbling on the older Christmas pippin. Spent an afternoon improvising with spare bits and bobs of chicken wire, netting, stakes and plastic corrugated sheeting to rig up these Dad’s Army defences. On our last visit to the recycling Kim rescued a cylindrical peddle bin which has proved an ideal bird seed store. Up until this time I thought the sack of black sunflower seeds safe in the boot of my car but was horrified and amused in equal measure to discover shredded plastic, spent husks & droppings, clear evidence that keen smelling rodents, driven by hunger, had somehow got into the trunk via engine or superstructure to secure their supper.

Starting Over

After four years or so of nature notes on Facebook I have now migrated this activity to what I hope will be a more suitable home here on the website. Last May I finally gave up the day job tour guiding, took the state pension and moved my centre of operations from city to country. Head and heart in one place but with lots of opportunity for forays centered on work and pleasure into other parts of the UK. As a happy amateur am content to observe, reflect and report on what I experience at home and round and hope it provides as much interest to read as it does to record.

Cold snap gifts us the full aesthetic and sensual pleasures of winter. We wake up to a snow covered silent landscape. The small resident songbirds crowd the feeders in the front garden. Great tits, blue tits, resident robin, chaffinch tribe; with the bonus of a passing flock of assertive greenfinches and a pair of beautiful thrushes stock still on the wall, fluffed up, looking for food on the road outside. The metal cans in the garage can only hold so much in the way of peanuts and seeds so I keep the remains of a sack of black sunflower seeds in the boot of the car. It’s the only safe place to secure it against hunger ravished rodents who will otherwise chew through the reinforced plastic, if kept in indoors. There are avian casualties in the bitter cold. A blue tit falls out of the clear sky to lie on its back on the snow covered garage roof. I witness legs circling. Its mates fluster down to see, then fly off. They can do nothing to help. The circling slowly ceases and the little body tumbles down to the ground. I pick it up gently and wonder at the perfect, perfected form. The bright colours, delicacy, utter lightness. Even after a couple of days outside its tiny body remains feather soft, no apparent stiffening. I bury it in a marked place in the border. Next Spring I will dig up for the skeleton, so visiting waves of grandchildren can see, wonder at and learn.