Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Predator


East Enders and Emerdale are no match for the dramas around Woodlouse House. A couple of weeks ago a young Sparrowhawk sat in the field for a few hours waiting for a parent bird to return.  It was too far away to get any good photos but it was great to watch it, especially when two Buzzards flew by and gave it a bit of a fright.

Yesterday we returned from a trip to Thirsk (lovely place ... highly recommend it!) and found a pile of feathers at the back of the garden.  A plucked sparrow. Had the Sparrowhawk paid us a visit? 

Today I opened the door for the cat and discovered a very shocked Collared Dove on the lawn.  It was barely breathing but we put it in a safe quiet place to recover or die .... unfortunately it was the latter .... Again there were feathers around it.  It could have been a cat (NOT mine as she was definitely inside).

Anyway, I was busy in the kitchen about half an hour ago when the villain returned. With a swift body blow and a claw to the throat a second Collared Dove was dispatched. I now have a second pile of feathers on the lawn.  In a way this is good news for the garden.  We are feeding the birds regularly and encouraging wildlife to visit.  Bird numbers in the garden have steadily increased and the feeders are in constant use.  The Sparrowhawk is just another bird using the feeders!

 
Buzzard numbers have also increased recently.  We counted over 20 birds soaring above us a few days ago; a flock of eleven all at once was a sight to see.  A Red Kite was another visitor over the field and it was wonderful to see a Weasel running along the hedgerow.  I am quite concerned for the young Partridges and Pheasants though.
 
 
The allotment has served us well.  We have far too many potatoes and onions and the freezer can't take any more peas and beans.  This year I have grown lots of flowers as well as veg.  It has been wonderful to fill vases without emptying the borders ... and I have lots of seeds collected for next year! 
 


While the Sparrowhawk was putting me off my tea I was making the most delicious ketchup ever!  I know it is wonderful because I made it fit my ideal of ketchup.  I wanted it to be sweet so I used soft brown sugar and included eating apples; not too much vinegar and just a touch of ginger.  My Tomato Chutney is tasting okay too!    
                                                              



Monday, 30 June 2014

End of Month View - June 2014


Time to cut back spent flowers and watch new colours take over.  The foxgloves and poppies are dropping their petals but I want the seeds for next year so the tall bare stems have to stay for a while ... well some of them.

 
The house smells of Sweetpeas as small posies sit on every surface.  I read about a woman who left bunches of flowers for strangers to pick up.  She labelled them with a tag saying 'Here's a free smile for you!'  Sounds like a nice thing to do but I think I will pass mine to my friends and neighbours first.




I spent the day rediscovering a path.  It went from this:
 
 
.... to this:
 
 
We visited Norwell Nursery yesterday (more on that later) and they had a glorious enclosed walk.  This one has the makings of something FAR better if I dig up all these odds and ends and copy the nursery's  planting scheme ... just need to buy fully grown rambling roses from somewhere to hide that fence.
 
 
For more End of Month views visit The Patient Gardeners blog.
 
 

Sunday, 29 June 2014

East Bridgford Village Show


East Bridgford Village Show took place yesterday.  It was their 150 year anniversary so they pulled out all the stops. 
 


The main marquee was filled with cakes, crafts, vegetables, fruit, flowers - and lots of silver cups.


There were Scottish Pipers, school bands, Morris Dancers, the Wye Valley Axemen and Bernie Bennett Superhero riding a cycle across a tightrope. We had a tug of war competition, a Dakota fly past, a fancy dress parade, a dog show and an egg throwing contest. Bee-keeping, tractors, sheep shearing, old cars, stalls and refreshments.  The best attraction of the day though had to be the Punch and Judy Show - it was such a joy watching the reaction of the small children as they yelled "He's behind you!" to the puppets.

 
The committee obviously put hours, weeks and months of planning in to it - it was well worth their efforts.  Every one had a great afternoon and I came home with yet more plants!!!
 
 
The photos (by Andy Mason ... yes, again!) are the winning entries in the Vase of Mixed Flowers Competition.


Friday, 27 June 2014

Bugs


 
I'm a real wimp when it comes to killing things.  Some gardeners talk with relish about squashing bugs and salting slugs but I can't do it.  I once found a spider covered in varnish on my newly painted windowsill - I realised he faced an awful death if the varnish set and he was encased inside.  The kindest thing to do was squash him.  Instead I knocked him to the ground and threw water over him in an attempt to wash him clean.  He was swept away and probably drowned!

The first time I spotted a Lily Beetle I was enthralled by its colour. I had never seen a more beautiful bug.  I had absolutely no idea how much damage it was going to cause.  I know now but I still can't kill them.  They are collected up and taken on a short walk to the field.  They don't eat corn so they probably fly straight back to my lilies once I've gone inside.



Another attractive unwelcome visitor is the Harlequin Ladybird.  Farmers in Europe imported them from Asia as natural predators of aphids.  They were VERY effective at reducing the aphid population but they ate lots of other insects too - including other ladybirds!  According to Bill Oddie they are totally out of control and come in at number 7 the Top 10 of  Alien Invaders to Britain.


Harlequin Ladybird Survey is underway to monitor the spread of this insect across the UK.

So what else have we been up to? There is a 40 acre Wild Flower Farm near us - Naturescape - it is lovely to wander round this time of year.  Flowers and insects abound; the pond is patrolled by beautiful dragonflies; the café supplies tea and cake and, best of all, they sell plants.

Broad Bodied Chaser

Broad Bodied Chaser

Common Darter

Broad Bodied Chaser

Four Spotted Chaser


Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Oscar the Grass Snake



Are we attracting more wild life to the garden since taking up gardening or are we just outside more so we notice the visitors?  A bit of both I think.  We are certainly improving the plot with wild life in mind: we have added insect hotels; hedgehog boxes and plants for bees and butterflies (birds were already amply catered for!) but we didn't do anything to actively attract a snake!



It was only a young one but wonderfully exciting to see!  I named it Oscar ... grass snakes play dead when they sense danger ... his performance was perfect for about twenty minutes.  He had obviously seen us first because he was on his back with his mouth open when we spotted him.  His eye gave him away as his pupil dilated when the camera flash went off otherwise he stayed completely still even after we walked away.  I watched him from a distance for a further five minutes before he decided to make his escape.

 
He was near the front pond and appears to have been meeting our insect population. An adult grass snake will be 27 - 39 inches in length - this one was about 9 inches.  Adults eat frogs, newts and small mammals. They are predated by foxes, badgers, cats and some birds.  They have been added to the list of priority species for conservation as their numbers have declined.  This is mainly due to a lack of suitable habitat so they are turning to garden ponds more frequently and using compost heaps to lay their eggs.
 
 
They are not venomous and they cause no damage to gardens,  I hope this one hangs around so we can watch him grow for a while .... 39 inches does seen rather large though so maybe not!
 

Monday, 23 June 2014

Blooming Art

I spent a wonderful day in the garden.  I've been tidying up, pulling up weeds, dead heading and planting.  Andy, on the other hand, spent a wonderful day in the garden with his camera.







Sunday, 15 June 2014

Bingham Town Fair and Open Gardens


 My PC gave up the ghost this week.  Bit of a disaster really because I NEVER back anything up so all my photos and all my passwords .... gone!! Luckily the computer shop man managed to read the hard drive and bail me out. Just need a new computer now!

It was Bingham Town Fair this week and the Garden Club asked for plants for the stall.  As you can see the members happily dug stuff up and handed it over.  Still I am surprised the stall was so full .... I drove down at 8.30am with my plants and immediately started filling my car boot with new ones.  I picked up a fuchsia, salvia, lambs ears, lily of the valley and a couple of ferns. When I called back at the end of the day to help clear up everything had been sold: a good day all round. 

Bingham became a market town 700 years ago so lots of people dressed the part:

 
We spent a lovely day with friends last weekend visiting ten open gardens in a nearby village.  Always a treat to wander round other folks' gardens on a warm sunny day.  These were LARGE gardens and LARGE properties with names like 'The Manor House' or '------ Hall': the stable blocks had been turned into cafes for the day - the cream teas were delicious!  I came away from there with a boot full of plants too!  Well, they were selling peony roses for £1 .... how could resist! 






One of the gardens was a magnet for bees.