July Days

Temperatures have been taking wild swings, from sizzling to chilly. More thankfully rain revived the greenery and topped up the near empty water butts. We continue to save bath water and fill the zinc trough in the yard. Very pleased to source and fit covers for our other open top tubs thus ending the accidental drowning of summer songbirds. Being permeable they let the rainwater in and will keep falling leaves out. A real win-win and only regret I didn’t do it earlier.

Sitting on the deck, reading or writing, I hear the whirr of wren wings as the parents nurture a second brood in their moss mounded nest high above the log stack. At the other end of the stone paved deck the second set of swallows swoop in to their mud thatch home in the rafters. We thought this pair was about to produce young but despite much coming and going and general twittering nothing’s happened so far. Do they go through the reproductive motions only to then prove barren I wonder?

Wren’s nest above log store

This year’s swallow babies, now in the avian stage of teenagerdom, have taken to hanging together out on the telephone wire running the length of the lane between us and Southridge. Our crew and the much larger kin group up at the farm number in excess of 30 juvenile birds. Insect activity is high, especially on humid windless days, and all our resident bird species – wagtail, wren, robin, dunnock, tits – are actively feasting and foraging on them, some to raise a second brood. From my study window I see the swallows beating the air in freeze frame, picking off the assorted bugs that get corralled under the glass pitched roof of the porch just feet across from their nest.

Delighted to spot the elegant shapes of willow warblers – delightful melodious summer visitors – insect hunting on the garden foliage. Even more delighted to eventually distinguish them from their near identical cousins, the chiff chaffs.

Another wild animal that likes what our summer garden has to offer is a brown hare. It turned up the other evening in the fading light, cautious yet fearless, making a leisurely circuit round the gravel paths and steps, sampling plants as it lopped along. Kim thinks it was probably responsible for dispatching some of the kale plugs she planted earlier in the season. That doesn’t stop us from being thrilled that it’s gracing our patch. Laden with symbolism in most human cultures, such a beautiful creature will be forgiven almost anything.

Any guest at the corner house this time of the year might well be invited to help pick a seemingly endless supply of fruit from the laden branches of our blackcurrant bushes. (If only we could get raspberries to thrive in the same way!) What isn’t turned into jam gets packed away in plastic bags for the freezer.

The meadow as it matures produces new flower species each year. Making a welcome debut in 2022 is that pretty wayside plant, musk mallow. More common in the drier south this plant originated from the shores of the Mediterranean. The French name for mallow is ‘mauve’ and is where the colour name came from.

Having the two youngest grandchildren (Max 7 & Lois 5) in residence with their mum for five days recently was lovely. Did lots of stuff together and got the two little Londoners that little bit closer to nature. A walk in the nearby woods, following the stream, worked a treat. Especially when we came upon scores of tiny froglets making their intrepid way across the path, hopping through the grass to reach water. 

Another time I gave the children jobs to do in the garden (under close supervision) like lifting potatoes, deadheading spent roses or watering plants in pots. Hopefully this may give them both a taste for gardening in future…

Max adores his miniature version of ‘Floss’ while Lois has long been in love with Seymour and Henry and the two little ducklings that were Kim’s models for the picture book were never far from her side during the children’s stay with us.

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