Countryside File - September 2020
It's here - the much valued Countryside File formerly included in the Parish Magazine.
Here below is Jane's latest update which covers the month of September. If you wish to download the complete file as a pdf, which also contains some of Jane's photos, please click on the 'Download' button below.
A fine day with a blue sky full of lenticular clouds, so called because they look like ‘flying saucers’. There are still lots of butterflies around, many at a time on the purple Verbena Bonariensis. This has been such a good plant for bees, moths and other insects – the first time I’ve grown it and it’s been a joy watching all the activity through kitchen window. Fruit is doing very well. The autumn raspberries are ripe – not as many as the summer ones, but each one is huge. We also have a fantastic red apple which grows in a pot in front of the house. It has 20 apples this year and each one looks like a Snow White fairytale apple, with a deep red shiny skin and the whole flesh inside is red! There’s also an unusually large crop of acorns this year, which when ripe bounce on the garage roof with a ‘crack’. Harvest is getting underway everywhere, taking advantage of a forecasted settled spell of weather. We’re providing a temporary home for 12 Shetland sheep in the field, now that the wild flowers are done. They’re trampling down the long grass, fertilising the ground and eating all the nettles and brambles, actually seeming to prefer them and the overhanging oak trees to grass!
The second half of September is turning out to be fine and today is one of those incredibly hot, quiet autumn days we sometimes get at this time of year. There’s no breeze and everything is still. The field of beans behind the house was combined yesterday, so Paul takes advantage of the space to fell and burn an old elder tree that was getting in the way. The smoke rises vertically and the faint smell of woodsmoke adds to the atmosphere. It’s good to see a dozen swallows still very active, hunting for insects at the farm – evidence that summer’s not quite over yet. I’m still in the midst of processing home produce – Today I pick the last of the sweet corn, blanch them and freeze them as whole cobs, while the chickens get all the reject ones. They’re very happy to have them and there’s great competition, one hen grabbing a cob and running off with it, chased by the other three. Lily must have one too, as she’s jealous of anything the chickens get. She plays with it on the lawn, then settles down to nibble to sweet corn off with her front teeth. There are herbs to be frozen, apples to be stewed, tomatoes to be roasted and pureed ready for the freezer, and raspberry and rhubarb jam to be made as there’s a glut of everything. It’s always a busy time and I can’t bear to waste anything! At 5pm we get a call from our neighbour – two of the sheep have escaped and are munching the brambles round the edge of his field! Paul and I head out to get them back, giving them a wide berth so as not to panic them into running. We have no idea where they’ve got through the fence, but they’ve cleared a lot of the thick brambles up to it, so there may be weak places that have previously been hidden. They see us and dive back through the hedge, showing us exactly where to look! From inside the field Paul plugs up the gap with a wooden pallet and checks for any other obvious escape routes.
Another beautiful hot day and we’ve had a call from our neighbour on most mornings to say that the same two sheep are out again! Today is no exception and as Paul plugs up more and more gaps it <span style="font-size: 1rem;">becomes difficult to find a place to send them back through. Today they’ve pushed up the stock wire where a badger has sneaked through, but from the far side of the fence they can’t find the way in. Paul decides to cut a small ‘bobby hole’ in the wire between two posts and fill this with a removable mesh ‘gate’ so that at least when they get out again, which they surely will there’ll be an easy way to drive them back. Counting the sheep twice a day becomes a ritual now, but being all shades of scrubby brown they totally blend into the long grass and brambles. However, now they’ve realised that a bucket means feed and at the sight of it there’s a stampede, making it easy to count if we have the full 12.
Gale force northerly winds today, sending watering cans and garden furniture flying and recycling bins into the lane! Looking out of the kitchen window I see a triangular section of the conservatory roof lying among the vegetables, so we spend a freezing 20 minutes fighting against the wind, me holding the ladder while Paul manages to fix it back. Our neighbour has been disc-ing and is now power-harrowing what had been the rape field in front of the house. We notice hundreds of little birds flitting and bobbing about across the field, obviously catching insects released by the soil disturbance. It’s actually a massive flock of pied wagtails dashing about to feed. As winter comes, pied wagtails come together and are known for communal roosting overnight, often being so numerous in a tree that they actually look like the tree is in full leaf. One year I saw such a tree in the car park of Wheatley Hall road shopping precinct. I wonder where these wagtails are roosting at night? The nights are drawing in now and temperatures dropping (only 4 degrees last night) so they’ll need to huddle together for warmth. So will we!
© Jane Mawson
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Jane Mawson: [email protected]