E has been her usual self, winning prizes seems to come naturally for her. I have lost count of the things she has won over the last few years, holidays, tvs, cameras, books, furniture, the list goes on. It was Monday morning the second day of the month and we were in the dining area alongside the kitchen just talking and looking out the window at the garden when the doorbell rang. I went to see who it was and it was the postman delivering a parcel, two parcels to be precise for he called a minute later with the second. E had no idea what was in the parcel though it was addressed to her. Eagerly opening it she discovered it was the prize she had recently won in a competition, a bird box as we call them here. It had been manufactured in Holland and was labelled a three level bird ‘flat’ (apartment). It was my job to mount it on the wall, the only place suitable for it to go given the preferences….
…and the close-up showing access panels on the side for each level should they need to be cleaned out…
We are hoping the box will get more cover as the plants below grow taller. Now that I was out in the garden I decided to do a couple of small jobs one of which was to sweep up the enormous piles of leaves that always accumulate by the cellar door leading out to the garden and in one or two other places around the house building. My other job was to shave off a little wood from the new passageway gate I had constructed a couple of months ago. It had expanded in the cool, humid weather as wood does. In the warmer and dryer months the wood shrinks a little so the gate fitted perfectly when I made it. I had forgotten to allow for the normal expansion of the timber. Despite the high winds we were experiencing on Monday it remained pleasant and warm throughout the day.
Did you know that squirrels like beer? I did not know that. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Usually a term used to describe (in the dictionary – as a noun) ‘an act or instance of surveying or of taking a comprehensive view of something’. I am applying it in reference to my amble around my garden: amble: a verb – ‘to go at a slow, easy pace; stroll; saunter’, something I do quite often in the gardens throughout the year. I’ve grown to love and appreciate my gardens in the last few years whilst reflecting upon all the work I have done to get them to where they are now. My little surveys reveal the things I need to do to keep on top of things. Currently my thoughts are centred around spotting bluebells which have escaped my notice especially in the areas in which I have been working to remove them but also in other places they might appear. It was late on Saturday morning when I took a stroll along the path by the greenhouses and the first thing I noticed was a bluebell growing in the patch in front of the small greenhouse. I fetched the small garden fork and dug it out. Then I saw another and some more in the same general area. I have been expecting more to show as the weather gets warmer and I’ve not been disappointed! Having dug about thirty and removed them I thought that would be the end of it but no, there were some growing in the small plot nearby too. I removed them. I checked over the whole flowerbeds by the greenhouses to make sure I had removed all that had shown themselves. I spent a little time digging out a few more bluebells in the unfinished part of the corner plot where I have been working recently. I went indoors to prepare a meal. It was around three o’clock when I decided to take another amble around the garden and my keen eyes spotted a couple of bluebells in the flowerbed by the patio. I didn’t take any immediate action but noted where they were for the next time I would be working in the garden. I hadn’t much intention to work in the garden on the day because I wanted a rest from it and the weather forecast had been for rain anyway, though it didn’t rain until much later in the day. I spent a little time filling the seed dispenser for the birds as E seems to have forgotten to do it. On Friday morning I saw the strangest thing when looking out of the window into the rear garden. I saw ‘our’ little grey squirrel running along the top of the garden wall holding a slice of bread in its mouth! I never knew squirrels liked bread (and beer apparently) but I guess they will eat anything if hungry. We had been putting out nuts for them but hadn’t seen much of the squirrels lately due to the cold weather. Anyway the squirrel was being pursued by a jay who wanted a piece of the action but the squirrel was having none of it and kept out of the bird’s way. Funny what you see in the garden if you take the time to look.
I finally got up early on Wednesday after a few days of getting up so late I’d missed breakfast. It was a classical ‘cold and frosty morning’ with some thin fog hanging about but the day turned out sunny throughout. It was cold though and barely above zero degrees (Celsius) and in fact it never rose above three. I watched the blackbirds foraging for food around the spot I had left some grounded up nuts and monkey nuts (in their shells) for both birds and squirrels. At least my plant pots still had their loose bark on top intact after I had placed some sticks into them to prevent the birds from landing upon them. They had been tossing the bark all over the place beforehand. Still, they had shifted some leaves in the borders and on to the path in their rummaging for insects. The nuts I had left for the squirrels had all disappeared so I grabbed a handful and went into the garden and put them in the same spot. There was no sign of a squirrel during the time I watched from indoors but one then two magpies came down and started to sample the nuts. They had to break the shells first but that seemed to come naturally to them. I decided to return to the garden with a handful of loose seeds and spread them around whilst chasing off the magpies with their bounty. There were still enough nuts left for the squirrels should they put in an appearance. I returned again indoors and waited to see what would happen. It took some time but finally the blackbirds returned and ate their fill of seeds whilst a squirrel, probably the same one I have seen a few times recently, appeared and began eating the nuts before burying a few here and there in the border. The magpies didn’t return but a few jays or jackdaws came down to eat the seeds. They however left the nuts alone. I supposed they didn’t know there were nuts inside the shells or they were too lazy to try to break them open. The competition and rivalry can be intense when the weather is cold and the food is scarce. That’s why we like to put food out for them when the weather is cold. We haven’t used the bird table recently because of the high winds we’ve had. I want to make a slight alteration to the table in order to keep the larger birds from using it. They will be able to feed on the ground. Later in the day I watched the antics of the squirrel for quite some time as it wandered around.
Nuts (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Just after breakfast I received a call from a regular customer asking if I could investigate a faulty floodlight. She wasn’t sure if I was back at work after the holiday but I told her I was taking a three-week break. nevertheless I agreed to look at the problem on Friday to fall in-line with her schedule. So much for a three-week break, it’s nuts I tell you, nuts! Later I had just finished lunch when our next-door neighbour rang asking if I could repair a faulty hinge on her chest freezer. I was there five minutes later with my toolbox. A hinge pin had simply worked its way out so it was an easy thing to put it back. When I returned home I made myself a coffee and what do you know, the squirrel was back again and running about all over the place. By now it was getting slightly foggy again as the sun sank behind the houses. It had turned colder too.
Another lie-in on Tuesday saw me putting my feet on the floor at 10 o’clock and missing breakfast once again. That didn’t matter, what was more important was I had a good night’s sleep even though I didn’t actually rest easy until 5 o’clock! It’s all to do with a change in routine, not having to get up for work and not getting to bed at the right time take their toll. I have to make the effort to settle things down before I am available for work in a couple of week’s time. When I retire none of this will matter but will I like it? Probably not but I will wait until I have crossed that bridge. So I was late getting downstairs and a banana and fruit drink would have to do until lunch a couple of hours later. Gazing out of the kitchen window a grey squirrel caught my eye and I spent a little time watching what it did. It was scampering about in the border and on to the lawn until after a few minutes it went over to have a drink from the bucket beneath the greenhouse which collects rain water. It comes more useful in the warm months of the year when there is little or no rain. All we do is take out the leaves that have fallen into it. The squirrel then ran up the holly tree and ended up in the branches of the naked sycamore behind it. Just then two magpies perched themselves in the tree but one flew off immediately the squirrel appeared. The other one played cat-and-mouse with the squirrel who kept chasing it off the branches. The squirrel got its way and the magpie flew off, probably for a bit of peace. While all this was going on there were two male blackbirds making a mess on the path by the lamp-post at the other end of the garden. They were doing what many birds do when searching for food, shifting fallen leaves to see what is hiding beneath them. They seemed to be having some success at my expense for it would be me sweeping up the scattered leaves later. They do the same with the bark we have in a couple of plant pots, in fact later in the day I had to put the removed bark back into the pots and take some preventative measures against it happening again. It is usually the little ones which make the most mess. I inserted some plastic sticks in the pots to deter the birds from landing on them until the flowers have grown tall enough for them to be removed. The pots contain tulip and daffodil bulbs some of which have already started to emerge. I think there are a few snowdrops in them too. When the squirrel had moved away I went outside and placed some more nuts for it to gather on its return. They were gone by the end of the day. Before I returned indoors I attached the new flag and raised it to the top of the pole but it hung there quite limply as there was hardly any wind at all. Finally I went indoors and prepared another pan of chicken and vegetable stew enough for two meals. After lunch, an hour later, I decided to go for a walk. The day was far colder than the previous day but there was hardly and wind. I was surprised how many people were out doing the same despite the cold. E had been out all afternoon and didn’t return home until early evening. Apart from my walk I stayed at home all day.
Blackbird (Turdus merula), singing male. Bogense havn, Funen, Denmark. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I promised myself that I would take some respite from my work at home for a while and so I took the whole weekend off. If I can extend that I thought to myself I might just do so but knowing me it wouldn’t be long before I found something to do. As I said in the previous post there is work to be done anyway. Saturday was one of those days when the weather was very changeable, one minute warm and sunny and the next cooler and overcast. There were just too many clouds being blown in from the west. There was always the treat of rain but it didn’t materialise. The following day however was to be different, rain all day long according to the forecast. I potted about at home during the morning but in the afternoon I decided to sit out on the patio with my guitar for a time playing quietly and listening to some bird song. All was pleasant and peaceful until I realised the bird song had suddenly changed. I looked in the direction I thought the sound was coming from and I saw a blackbird flying about and squawking as if in a panic. He kept flying in and out of an ivy-covered tree over the wall in the next garden and then as I watched I saw him dart into the ivy chasing out a magpie in the process. I watched as the magpie flew across our garden and out of sight between the houses with the male and female blackbirds chasing close behind. The magpie had one of their young in its beak. Its fate was sealed, there would be no chance of a rescue by its parents. I thought how sad but that is nature that is the way things are. A couple of weeks ago whilst sitting on the patio I saw a few seagulls chasing a sparrow hawk and on another day four or five jays chasing a seagull. It appeared they were all trying to protect their young. On Friday I noticed there was a lot of black bird feathers lying about on one corner of the lawn. They were presumably from an unfortunate (black) bird having been caught by some predator, probably a cat! It all goes on in the background usually out of sight but sometimes in full view.
Last Autumn, late Autumn in fact, E and I decided to use the two ‘chimney top‘ plant pots in which to plant some bulbs. A few years ago we converted these two tops, originally part of a chimney, by setting concrete in the narrow end thus making them into containers. We included a drain hole when we poured-in the concrete. For some time they housed the two Phoenix Canariensis trees we replanted in the patio flower bed I had constructed last September. E planted some snowdrop bulbs and some tulip bulbs in them. The tulips are now in bloom and although the snowdrop flowers have gone their foliage hasn’t. You can see the tulips in their pots in this picture and you can also see other tulips in the two pots on the steps up to the patio (beneath the archway).
The other day E and I were out shopping and on the spur of the moment I bought a bird table (see previous post). We had temporarily placed it on the pathway but we had been thinking of placing it permanently on a natural stone slab set into the lawn. Well now I have done that and here it is….
That slab of stone is almost a metre square and is around 6 cm thick! Gosh it was heavy work moving it. We had it standing against the rear wall of the house ever since we had dug out all the other stone slabs and rocks when digging out the mound (in the background in the picture above). There was an unbelievable amount of natural stone buried in that corner of the garden. See entries for June/July 2014 or search ‘mound’. Fortunately we possess a sturdy trolley that enabled it to be moved to the spot quite easily. Digging out the lawn was the most difficult part of the work! Once I had the hole dug out I manoeuvred the slab to the edge and let it drop into the space. A little filling-in of soil pressed underneath from the sides and then repairing the gaps with some of the grass sods and the job was done. I fixed the table/stand permanently by drilling two holes into the slab and screwing it down. It made a change from painting bedroom walls! The birds seem happy with it anyway as they are constantly using it.
We have ‘enjoyed’ wonderful wet weather over the last few days and when it wasn’t raining it was windy. That meant that although the sun might have been shining it was uncomfortable to sit outside unless sheltered from the wind. That is a problem we sometimes face at home when out on the patio when it is windy. There are large gaps between our house and the houses of our neighbours but the larger of the two is the one facing our patio. The gap is only a few degrees south of being due west and the prevailing winds are from that direction. The gap is filled at low-level by a garage, this garage.We are working to solve the problem so that the effect of the wind is lessened. I hasten to say that it isn’t windy every day and neither does the wind always blow through the gap. Often the high wall shown on the right of the picture shields the patio from the wind. I planted some Laurel on the outside of the patio which faces the garage and once it has grown sufficiently high enough it should cut down the effect of the wind dramatically whilst at the same time make the view more pleasing to the eye. Already that Laurel is approaching a half-metre in height above the little wall, though in this picture taken earlier in the season it is slightly shorter in height. It all takes time of course. In the meantime I am considering installing a half-metre high glass balustrade on top of the patio walls which will also help in reducing the effect of the wind. We have a window in the wet room which overlooks the vegetable plot, the area between the patio and the garage, part of which is shown in the picture above. To the left of the gooseberry bushes (on the left-hand-side of the picture) there is no cultivation going on except there are persistent weeds which I keep in check and the area has become more of a dumping ground for gardening odds-and-ends, bags of rubble, roots dug out from the mound project (see last year-June/July posts) some of the rocks we dug out too, though most of those which we haven’t used elsewhere are stored behind the other garage as you can see in the next two pictures.
Anyway I was looking out of the window early on Sunday afternoon at the vegetable plot and patio and I could also see part of my next-door neighbour’s garden over the wall. She has a couple of very large Leylandii trees which are thankfully remote from the boundary wall. She had many large similar trees cut down last year and this year and her gardens look all the better for it but these two trees remain in her rear garden and the ground beneath them is always dry even when it rains heavily. I was watching some blue-tits darting in and around those trees and occasionally perching on a more open-leafed tree nearby taking not the slightest notice of the heavy rainfall. ‘Rain, what rain’? Is what I imagined they would be saying if they could speak. Rain might be a miserable thing for us to bear (though I am not too bothered by it) but for the birds, some birds, it doesn’t seem to be a problem.