Apparently April is the driest of months on average in the UK. Unusually for us it has largely remained that way, though this week’s showers have topped up water butts and refreshed the garden. Our sole water source is a natural spring in the field across the road so in dry times recycling is the order of the day. I’ve regularly emptied used bathwater each morning on to newly planted leeks, onions and potatoes; transplanted shrubs and flowers in the big lawn bank, and most crucially, the many pots about the place. Most of the delicate looking fruit blossoms are fading now but they were magnificent while they lasted and, best of all, were subject to frequent visits by pollinating bumble bees. I particularly liked the graceful flower of our single three year old Bon Chretien pear.
It seems very happy with its new spot in a pot out front, stretching tall in the morning sun, with added heat reflected from the house wall. Our two young Katy trees, specimen and cordon, flower later than the other apple varieties we grow and given their red fruit boast the rosiest of matching petals. Nothing though rivals the Mexican orange blossom for scent and insect pulling power. Every variety of winged insect – bumble and honey bees, hover flies, wasps, flies – drink deep from each and every one of its neat small white flowers.
Cutting the grass recently I looked up and found the new neighbours looking in at me. The Swaledale hogs have been taken off the crags, replaced by Southridge’s half dozen Texel cross tups, parked up on our field to recuperate from their reproductive services. Unlike ewes they lie down a lot, don’t shift shy of humans and donate king size droppings for the land. Though impervious to the ticks which would finish off spring lambs they are suffering from various skin complaints and use gateposts and crags to work up a good scratch. They had no problem hoovering up the grass clippings I tipped them.
Few would deny the quiet pleasures of observing garden birds in Spring. Ever wary, they nevertheless must take calculated risks to find the perfect site to build nests where they can safely raise a family. Sometimes one discovers, quite by accident, where such secret places are…Where do you think a blackbird’s nest is here, in the newly re-ordered railway hut?
if you guessed top shelf, in the perforated aquatic plant basket with handle on the right, you’d be correct. I’d been occupied clearing and rearranging marginal plants down at the pond, had come back for a replacement container, reached up to search around in the big basket where my fingers unexpectedly combed feather and bone….Not sure who got the biggest shock, the hen blackbird or me. She escaped up and out with a great squawk. Once my heart had slowed I stepped up on the potting table and risked a look into the deep kidney shaped container, and this is what I saw.
Mortified that I might have jinxed the parents into abandoning their precious clutch it was with great relief I noticed the upended tail and head of the hen when I next entered the hut on everyday gardening business. It’s a wonder these garden birds can be so tolerant of human presence AND remain completely quiet and still, just feet away. Last night, sitting with a drink under the west end lean to, we were treated to the sight of Mr B singing pensively to the world from atop the rose covered gazebo. Later, as darkness fell, we caught him perched on the hut’s wooden gate, engaged in bright conversation with Mrs B out of sight on the nest within…Priceless.