Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Slow going

The great thing about a blog is that it becomes your memory. Mine isn't great, and I lose track of time. So, I can remember taking out the last of the Leyandii, but couldn't say which winter I did it in.
I thought it was a couple of winters ago, but looking back at the posts here it was actually 2011/12. Time flies.
With the last of them gone I was left with a 45 degree bank of bare, forbidding soil with tree stumps here and there. I decided to seed it with a meadow mix and bought seed with a good range of flowers added in.
Of course, it was a disaster. After a couple of rainy days most of the seed was washed downhill, so by mid-summer of 2012 the bank was still mostly bare but with pathetic patches of grass here and there.

But Rome wasn't built in a day, so I've stuck with it and I reckon this year could be the one that comes good. Early signs are very promising.
It's still very patchy, but it is getting better. I 'm particurly pleased that last year's single cowslip now has company. This spring there are half a dozen cowslips here and there among the rotting remains of the conifers, which is a real treat to see. 

Monday, 5 January 2015

And counting

Over the last few days we've had long-tailed tits coming to one of the bird feeders. They come early in the morning to a little cage feeder that has fat balls in, taking it in turns to chip off tiny fragments of food.

It's all done in a very wary way. One bird sits close by keeping watch while another feeds and then they swap places; if other birds turn up they fly off to safety - even if that bird is only a blue tit.
The visits are something new. I've seen LTTs in the garden plenty of times before, but never so close to the house.
So, I've decided to resurrect my garden bird list and honour the LTTs by making them the first entry. The only question is, what rules I should set myself for my list?
Obviously, a bird in the garden should go on the list. But how about one flying over? And if I see a bird on the far side of the valley should that count?

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Colour scene

What a difference a month makes. Way back in (warm, dry) October I took this picture of my walnut tree with the idea that I was going to post it here. The yellow of the leaves was so intense - somewhere between lemon or butter.
The tree is a slow-grower, but is coming along. I can't remember exactly when it went in, but it was probably the winter of 2002/3. More than 10 years ago anyway, and what was a stick is now two hand-spans around at the base.
Since the walnut picture was taken there have been weeks of rain and wind, and I never got around to taking the other leaf-colour pictures I'd intended to post with the walnut ones. Today was brighter though, so I went out with the camera.
The walnut is now completely stripped and bare, and most of the ash trees are too. But where it's more sheltered in the hedge some leaves are hanging on in there.
My watched tree, an oak sapling, is green and gold. The beeches that I used to plug a gap have grown quite well and their leaves are now crisp and brown, but for me its the field maples that are the most eye-catching.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Going strong

Me and my followed tree haven't go together that much over recent weeks. I blame the good weather (before Hurricane Bertha, that is) because I've been celebrating the sun by letting it get to my legs.
And wearing shorts doesn't mix well with nettles, does it?
The problem is that my little oak has disappeared behind a wall of big, tall stingers, so I've not been able to see it. But today I've put the legs away and fought my way through to  my tree.
Suprisingly, it looks as though it's doing really well. Its leaves are robust and it looks like its grown to nearly double its height, despite being shaded out by the opposition. Young oaks are clearly tougher than they look.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Crash landing

I didn't notice it on the way to the dustbin, just walked straight by. But on the way back to the house I couldn't miss the swift that was flattened face down on the concrete drive.
With plumage that was a dusty sort of grey I assumed it was a fledgling whose maiden flight had ended badly. It was about 9pm, so I guessed it had plucked up courage to leave the nest, but then failed its first (and last) flying test.

I decided to put the bin back in the kitchen before clearing away the body. Heading to the backdoor I spotted our cat watching from a distance and couldn't help thinking he had some part in it all.
But yes, you've guessed it - when I did pick the swift up it was far from dead. It's struggling took me completely by surprise and, as I straightened up, it wriggled from between my hands.
It crashed to the ground, but its flapping feet got it a few vital inches back up into the air. With its wings going at double quick time that was enough to get it off over the pond and away down the valley.
Our cat looked as surprised by the outcome as I was, but a little disappointed too. I'm sure he would have loved to have got to the downed flier first.
And half an hour later the little screaming party of swifts that have been out each night were doing their thing again, racing up and down over the houses for the sheer hell of it. This year I've only seen four each evening, but last night there were seven - hopefully my fledgling was one of them.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Tree following

I love the tree-following concept, as invented by Loose and Leafy, but have come to a following very late this year. It's not that I didn't know which tree I was going for, but that I haven't been able to get a decent photo.
This one isn't great, but it gives an idea; the problem is that my oak is more a sapling than a tree. Just a twig really.
It doesn't really register on my camera's auto focus and becomes bashful when faced with a camera - seemingly disappearing into its surroundings. But now it has tiny, new copper-coloured leaves and looks a bit more like a tree-in-the-making.
One boundary of our garden is a proper Pembrokeshire hedge, which I'd guess dates back to a time when it surrounded a field and there were no houses in the area. It's an earth bank that's about waist height into which hedge shrubs were planted, in the Pembs way.
Those shrubs (or their offspring) are now massive, contorted old ashes and the hedge is full of gaps. With ash dieback in mind I've been putting new plants into the gaps using any self-seeds I can find - a mix of hazel, holly and blackthorn.
And, since February, my tiny oak. I came across it last summer growing in the middle of a patch of grass that was growing long and spared it from the strimmer.

Their are no oak trees close to us, so how my little tree got where it was is a bit of a mystery. Perhaps the acorn was part of a food cache hidden away by a squirrel or a jay. 
Oaks are great trees for earls (or oligarchs), but I don't really have the acreage for one, so it had to move. Then it occurred to me that an oak can be cut and re-grow just like any other hedgrow plant. It now sits in place up on the hedge bank and is a 'followed' tree. And, so far, it seems to enjoy the attention.     

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Away days

April seems to gone by in a blur. I've had so much to do away from home that I haven't been able to spend much time in the garden. And it's changing so quickly this year - it's as though spring is happening on fast-forward.

I'm just back from a trip to Snowdonia with photographer Drew Buckley for a book-in-the-making for the publisher Graffeg. We went to the mountains to the east of Harlech, known as the Rhinogydd or Rhinogs, which I reckon is the most exhilarating bit of National Park. 
We needed pictures of feral goats. So far, they've eluded us but this time the visit didn’t end up as another wild goose chase and Drew managed to get a first-class set of images of billy goats in the setting of the range’s peaks and lakes.
My camera wasn't up to getting a good goat picture, but I like this one of Drew closing in on his 'prey'. It gives a feel of how unforgiving the countryside the goats live in really is.
What made the outing that bit better was that down in Cwm Bychan, where we left our cars, a cuckoo was calling. Sunshine, the oaks in new leaf, lambs everywhere and a cuckoo - it couldn't have been better.