Sunday, 30 August 2009

Hens, thrushes, a badger, damsons & plums


The cheeping was driving me mad. Some small bird making its presence known. Incessantly, for four hours. In the end, I opened the back door and there on the doorstep was a baby thrush, which promptly fluttered into the kitchen. It must only have left the nest that morning. One is advised not to touch fledglings that appear to be lost, as the parent birds will entice them back to safety; but not from the far corner of my kitchen. I popped this little one back under the shrub by the door, and then heard more cheeping … another much smaller fledgling huddled on a heap of stones by the barn.

Where were the parents? The thrush is my favourite garden bird and I am always aware of them in our large overgrown garden – bashed snail shells on terrace and anvil stones in various strategic spots around the place. Another hour went by; still the constant cheeping. Something was very wrong. I walk down the garden and find the tell-tale signs of a sparrow-hawk strike: thrush feathers on the orchard grass, others smeared on the trunk of a sloping plum tree. Sparrow hawks have to eat, and our garden is their occasional larder, their killing ground, but why the beautiful, shy thrush, now increasingly rare – they have enough to contend with, to survive an over-population of blackbirds that continually chase them away.

an adult thrush which alighted on our front wall last winter

I rang the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) who advised feeding the fledglings with scrambled egg. Every twenty minutes when I approached the box I had put them into, the larger baby sat, beak gaping, whilst I offered it egg crumbs. The smaller one was too weak; I had to dribble milk into its beak, probably not the right thing to do. Large baby escaped and is I know not where, little baby died in the night, for it had not eaten. I watch for another thrush to visit the garden but they are few and far between these days and after a sparrow hawk strike, all birds seem to disappear for a few days; the garden seems quiet and lifeless.


picking damsons in our orchard - we planted these trees forty years ago

All this happened whilst I was making batches of damson and plum jam from  overloaded trees – pick the fruit, feed the baby thrush, stir the jam, feed the baby thrush, stir the jam, feed the baby thruush; and then a second batch; a morning gone.

And drat it, a badger has dug a pooh hole in the new ‘eco-bed’ I must finish for  article photography, right where I had just planted a new red-berried pyracantha, alongside roses, clematis and herbs. The roots had been exposed and the plant looked sad and limp. Firmed it back into the soil; luckily it quickly recovered, watered with liquid seaweed feed.

my new 'eco-garden' which I have been working on all year - as it was at the end of July

the 'eco-garden' one month later, taken yesterday as I made the final plantings; rather raw, but birds, bees, butterflies and other creatures are already inhabiting. Over-wintering veg will go into the bed at the front, and salads into the rather ugly black box, which I can cover with a protective lid. The paler bricks in the wall indicate where our neighbour broke through with a digger (by arrangement!) - the large gap remained for almost two years and we could not reclaim this part of the garden meanwhile, for the digger had to be retrieved at the end of their building work - it was too large to go under their garage archway

On a more positive note, my four new hens bought three days ago are laying already: two ‘silver links’ and two ‘coral nicks’. They join the elderly rescue chickens that latterly only see fit to lay once in a while, when it suits them. Eggs again – I will make Raymond a fruit cake for Bank Holiday Monday tomorrow, and some flapjacks for the village fete.


our four new white hens are gradually becoming accustomed to their new home

Saturday, 1 August 2009

A new month - and writing again



Variegated Myrtle - Luma (myrtus) 'Glanleam Gold'

I wake suddenly realising it is the first of August. I feel revitalised and can't think why. It can't be the rain streaming down the window - yet more wet in this soggy summer. It must be that yesterday I cleaned all of the upstairs of the house! I am not a cleaner, a very poor housewife, and need a reason to clear clutter and lift a duster. Well I have one: my dear friend Kristin Steiner from South Carolina is coming to stay for a few days with her husband at the end of her week teaching at Oxford Summer School. We will sit and talk textiles and journals and all the things I love which have escaped me this summer. Pure therapy.

Today I clean downstairs and tackle some baking. I have found things I had mislaid; I have completed my latest piece of promo literature which Raymond is now typesetting for me; I have work in hand again; I have even begun to 'see' again - to notice little things. And for the first time for ages felt the urge to write spontaneously (a 'poetry moment') - not very good because I am out of practice. What I wrote (yesterday morning) relates to the picture above. It is as if I have been blinkered for the last two months.

"Down in the 'salad garden'
the myrtle is in flower
in celadon-blue pots
on the small terrace.
Sweet-scented white blossoms
amidst gold-green leaves;
Buds like tiny beads
waiting to unfold into
delicate, subtle blooms.
Such joy so early in the morning."

This myrtle is not as hardy here as it is claimed to be; the frost nipped it back in March and I had to clip the two bushes hard, back to undamaged growth. Maybe that did it good; the flowers are a bonus - will the rain turn them brown, as happens to so many white flowers? flowers. In theory, it should produce purple-black berries come the Autumn. Wait and see.