all in a day

It is a good day that begins with a visit from a kestrel. It was one of those days today when,on my morning visit to let the chickens out, I was visited by a kestrel, hunting above the meadow in the clear morning sky. I have seen kestrels  regularly and sometimes they sit on the telegraph wires, but watching them hovering is always a joy.  There’s been a hobby here too this summer, plying his hunting trade amongst the flocks of swallows and sand martins, whilst the kites and buzzards soar above the valley. There seem to be good numbers of both, suggesting there are plenty of rodents about.

Beside the pond, a female grass snake has a regular basking spot amongst the long grasses where the morning sun shines. She takes to the water if we disturb her, sometimes sliding across the lily leaves before submerging.This week she sloughed her skin, leaving her old one caught in the moss and rushes by the water’s edge. We were going to turn out the compost yesterday, but the first turn revealed newly hatched baby grass snakes, and hastily recovering them, we left the job for another day.

The season is spinning towards the end of summer, and the garden is turning blue and purple again with  the flowering of the asters and verbena. Clouds of butterflies decorate the swaying verbenas- the late season stalwarts of Red Admirals,  Small Tortoiseshells and Painted Ladies. A single Holly blue visits the California Poppies. Earlier this year there was an abundance of Small Coppers and of the moth fraternity, Vapourer moths, their larvae now marching across various plants, backs topped with tiny dense toothbrush- like bristles.

The garden chores are becoming autumnal . We need to start hedging, and many overgrown shrubs need to be reduced to better shape and smaller dimensions. There are seeds to sow and plans to draw up for autumn construction. The days shorten but the job lists lengthen, as is always the way as one season gives way to the next.

At the end of  the day, returning to the chicken coop to shut them safely away, the kestrel has been replaced by hunting bats, and fat rabbits lope lazily down the bank and out of sight. The calls of buzzards are replaced by the hooting of young tawny owls , husky voices down amongst the willows, rehearsing stories of the cold to come. It is still summer, but the lease is almost up.

The disappearance of a year

image imageIt was July last year when I stopped by here last. Where on Earth has that time gone? We have been very busy around the old homestead during the absence , gradually beginning the process of claiming the garden for our own and getting to know its foibles and strengths.

So let’s pretend I have been blogging very regularly and you know exactly what is going on here and I will resume as if the 13 month break has not happened.

Moles. Lots of them. This has been the summer of the moles. It followed on from the winter when I opened one of the plastic compost bins, to be greeted by a Moley face. They moved up out of the valley during the winter -remember all that flooding?- and they stayed.  Occasionally, recently,  they have strayed across the lawn, much to the annoyance of he -who- mows, but mostly they plough through my newly created borders, eating the worms I so carefully fed with home produced compost, enjoying the easy passage through well dug soil.

We made new borders in the early spring to grow roses and perennials, stripping off the turf and piling the contents of the compost heap onto it. Much of the planting has done well, but from time to time something has wilted and started to look very sorry for itself. I watered diligently and had assumed some specimens were poor doers or disliked the soil. I soon discovered the mole mining. Plants are left high and dry and copious watering does nothing to help. Part of the daily walk now involves treading the edges of the beds to squash the soil back down. Cunning little blighters are now going back and forward across the beds rather than along the edges. War has been declared but so far we have done nothing but curse and tell them about the village mole catcher……I’m hoping they will listen and move on.