Friday, June 05, 2009

Nature or knitting? Nature, I think. Knitting will keep. I worked on the Child’s Surprise while we were away, and made some progress. Today is the first real day of the New Scheme: work on the Princess until I have finished an edging repeat, then switch. We’ll see how it goes.

Nature Notes

The year took its Great Leap Forward during the ten days we were away. Instead of a struggle to coax it out of hibernation, it’s now all hands on deck to keep it under control.

The bats are back. They swoop silently and mysteriously about in the long, light night, after the birds have gone to sleep. We put up a nesting box for them years ago, high on the garage wall, with a cut-out bat on it to make its purpose clear, but they don’t use it.

The cuckoo, when it first turned up, uttered its characteristic call once or twice and then shut up. Now, it shouts interminably until one wishes someone would come out and shoot it. I wondered – is this fanciful? – whether it was singing to its children. Its interesting domestic arrangements mean that it is at leisure, while everyone else is working his or her feathers off feeding the nestlings. Does a cuckoo perch nearby? and sing to its child, “You’re not really a blackbird. Just wait. I’ll explain everything.”

We’ve had crows nesting in one of our chimneys the last two years. We don’t like them. Last winter we sent a man up a ladder to block access with wire netting. The crows turned up in the spring, bewildered and cross. But they continued to hang around, and we became increasingly suspicious. This time, there was no doubt – both of us heard the baby crows in the chimney, shouting for cheeseburgers. We have been outwitted.


More good news than bad. Start with the bad:

The seedbed roll is a complete failure, I think. The seeds have shrivelled up inside it. The first lesson of gardening is, don’t give up just yet, so I left most of it down and even watered it, but I begrudged it all that space so I dispensed with some and planted the seeds it was supposed to produce for me: carrots and beets and chard.

No salad stuff yet. I re-sowed, like our dentist.

No salsola soda, either, or very little. I am cherishing a few very small tufts of “chive-like leaves”, but they could turn out to be grass.

A promising row of spinach has gone to flower, only three inches high.

And the good:

Peas, broad beans and potatoes continue to flourish. Why do I bother trying to grow anything else? These are the mange-tout peas. There are some ordinary ones somewhere else, also doing well:

The transplanted courgettes have done splendidly in their plastic water bottles – they even have flower buds. The directly-sown ones have germinated abundantly.

The transplanted climbing beans, both runner and Cherokee Trail of Tears, look a bit shell-shocked, but they have survived transplanting, too. And the directly-sown ones are coming up nicely.

The French beans suffered the most from my injudicious exposure of them to the doorstep winds. Only three, at best, now survive. But the directly-sown ones are doing fine. I see from my notes that the one year I had a decent crop, they were sown in the open ground on June 6.

The Great Fear for the next ten days or so, is frost.


  1. I remember the cuckoos in Japan being the same way ... slow to start out at first and then once they got going I would happily have strangled everyone of them. I didn't realize that they were there too ...LOL.

  2. Interesting to hear news of your vegetable growing. We have tried all sorts over the years, most notably when "The Times" ran a promotion with the Heligan Gardens, the upshot being packets of rareties such as salsify and scorzenara arriving month by month. Now, we settle for onions, runner beans, a few potatoes, sweetcorn, courgettes and pumpkins with a couple of rows of parsnip, swede and fennel. Even then, climactic variation will give a bumper crop of something one year and nothing the next.

  3. A definite struggle for green things, this year. I wonder if the amount of dust kicked up from drought-striken Australia as affected the winter and summer in the northern hemisphere - a little like a volcanic winter.

    We've finally embraced winter and it's been wonderful. Til's consented to wear woolLen hats and I'm actually having cause to keep the heater on during the day!

    Best of luck with the re-sowing.