Saturday, 28 November 2009

A peachy November morning,

frosty and still.

As the sun warmed up, the loch was briefly filled with mist.

This weekend I've been able to stop for breath and look around. I planted Mum's teasels on the bank at the back of the garden some weeks ago.

You can't see them?
There they are. They seem to have established OK. This bank is always a bit of a mess and I'm going to leave it that way. There's a pile of broken planks and fencing under those cut rushes to the left, which I hope is providing winter shelter for assorted wildlife. I'm going to plant more native species to join the teasels by gathering seeds from hedgerows, starting with red campion. I also have a beautiful deep red buddleia which I'm going to put in next to the hebe. I was disappointed that the butterflies didn't spend more time in the garden this Summer. I hope the buddleia will rectify that next year. I was standing, thinking and planning and basking in the joy of a garden, when this little lady flew down and started feeding right in front of me.

I should know what these plants are, they've been a familiar sight since childhood, when we used to run the stems through our fingers to pick the dried seeds off but I have no idea of its name, some sort of plantain? I have thought of it as a pest in the garden. It springs up everywhere, is a real bully, swamping other growth when it gets going and is difficult to remove. I didn't know the finches fed on it but this little girl was tucking in and fearless even though I was standing very close by. I think she must be one of this Summer's fledglings there is something shiny and new about her. It looks as if I am going to have to let those bully boy plants stay, at least on the bank, if they feed finches.
She left when the blackbird flew onto the fence post to ask why he hadn't had his daily apple. I reckon it counts as one of my five-a-day if the blackbird eats them. Apples are bought, apples are eaten, job done.
Grumpy old Smudge came and sat on the compost bin and glowered at us both,

looking like a little furry ET. She doesn't like cold mornings, the frost nips her toes and freezes her bum when she sits down. I tell her it's not my fault but she won't listen.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Just the cat

I'm taking liberties with a garden blog by posting just about a cat. I could justify it by saying she shares the garden with me but "share" is the wrong word when she views me as some sort of inadequate servant/prey substitute.
She insists she has to drink outside. Water inside, from the tap, is not good enough. I suppose, she has a point, tap water is chlorinated and probably offends her delicate taste buds BUT she has rules for what she drinks outside. It has to be water from a particular plastic jug. There are plenty of vessels, bird baths, plastic buckets around the garden and even a water bowl especially for her, all filled with exactly the same rain water but none of them are good enough.
If I haven't kept her plastic jug filled with water, she sticks her head right to the bottom and makes a huge drama about being Very Thirsty, in fact Dying of Thirst, trying Really Hard to lick a few precious drops from the bottom. All this with a massive water feature two inches from her parched head and a water bowl right beneath her.

As I've mentioned before, her other garden pleasure is ambushing me. It doesn't seem to matter that the larch has dropped all it's needles, she still thinks she's invisible. I watched her doing the head wiggle that means she's about to pounce but wasn't quick enough to catch her taking off , so here she is just coming in, ears back, tail arched, for a quick ankle swipe.

Finally she may think she's Queen of the garden but the birds have other ideas.

What self respecting cat walks round with bird poo on her back?

One nil to the birds I think.

Monday, 9 November 2009


My poor neglected blog. I’ve been swamped with work and avoiding the internet as it seems to exist in a different timeline; you drop in for a couple of minutes and two hours vanishes.
This weekend I cleared my desk for the first time in four weeks and got out into the garden. As if in reward Sunday was a beautiful crystalline Autumn day. The first serious overnight frost gave the air a lung scrubbing clarity. My lovely hydrangeas were singed but they’d been well warned. I’d told them they shouldn’t be putting out new buds in November, they needed to hunker down and get ready for winter.
The birds were hungry, even the dunnock was bolder than usual. Silly to get excited by an LBJ (little brown job) but they are so shy, they scuttle around in the bushes like little mice, which, I suppose, is how they earned their other name, the hedge sparrow.

The blackbird has long since stripped the rowan of all its berries and has now started on this shrub. I think it’s a cotoneaster but, as I didn’t plant it, I’m not sure. It has tiny pink flowers in early summer which the wasps and red bottomed bumble bees adored.

He has also been scrubbing around under the trees and collecting grass. I wonder if this is for a winter roost, he can’t be nest building.
I pottered around doing late autumn tidy up tasks, followed, as usual, by the robin. He is convinced that one day I am going to morph into a proper gardener and do some serious digging that will turn up the worms he loves. I stopped for a moment to look down the loch, breathing in lungfuls of the crisp clear air. The robin, impatient with my inactivity, flew into the weigela and started to sing. I’d never noticed his song before, only his “dik dik dik” alarm call when I put out the food, (which I always thought was a bit ungrateful, what’s alarming about someone feeding you?)
It was so unexpected and beautiful and quite melancholy, the essence of a frosty Autumn day.

It got cold very quickly once the sun went down. I came inside switched the radio on and they were discussing this poem by Edward Thomas:

Yes. I remember Adlestrop---
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.

The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop---only the name

And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.

And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.

Different bird, different countryside, different season and a different time but it evokes beautifully the still moment when you stop and hear unexpected birdsong.