Sunday, 21 August 2016

The Closing Of Summer

There is still heat in the air but the days are turning now. The wind is blowing, buffeting the leaves, reminding them that ahead lies the tumbling time, when they turn golden and drift down from the bough.

Yesterday, I went out searching for Dormice. Of the fifty boxes checked, not a single one yielded a Dormouse. Apparently, numbers are down this year so far. Perhaps due to a long wet cold Spring. It is a worry. We did find a Pygmy Shrew though (see pic above). Relatively rare, I have never seen one, so it was a joy to find him, scurrying about inside one of the boxes. They are smaller than regular shrews with longer, more triangular snouts. Shrews have to eat their bodyweight in a 24 hour period to stay alive. They are busy, busy, busy.

We found a couple of Dormice nests in the boxes. These are told apart from those constructed by Woodmice by the addition of green hazel leaves among the brown. Nature leaves so many clues to help us understand things, if only we take the time to listen and to learn the language.

The Cinnabar caterpillar was a pleasure to find. I have been searching Ragwort and not found any until this solitary chap appeared.

The Pheasant is by middle son F. A gift for his grandparents who, this September, celebrate fifty years of happy marriage. My ma in law is an artist and my pa in law spent his working life on the land, so they will both feel the specialness of the gift.

I have been sewing steadily through the summer and my sewing area has evolved along with my ability to tackle more complex projects. I like to stand and admire all the fabrics in their boxes. So many colours and patterns. It inspires and encourages and draws out creative energy. I am far happier giving vent to this than trying to fit life into rational squares. I am writing too, the book I metioned at the start of the year. It comes, slowly, but well I think and I am enjoying doing it.

I've picked what look like the last of the Sweet Peas today. They have given me huge pleasure this summer; their scent, shape and colours. I feel quite sad that the bush is now curling into dry, crisp, brown leaves and the blooms are fading, even though it is timely and right.

Two weeks left here of school holidays before I turn my face properly towards Autumn.  Swallows are lining up along the telegraph wires and all the birds have fallen silent, apart from the Robin who began to sing again a handful of days ago, a sure sign, if any were needed, that the Wild knows the season is turning. However blissful the long relaxed days of summer are, I am always glad of the change into cooler days. It feels like a reaffirmation of life; the changing Earth energy opens up fresh beginnings and new opportunities, and that is Good.

Hope all are well?

CT x

Monday, 15 August 2016


I wandered out onto the lane this afternoon to photograph the Light, which is bright and hot and vibrating today.

Our lane winds down through trees that were once, long ago, part of an ancient forest. As far as they are concerned, they still are. Owls live among them, badgers tunnel beneath them and the wind sighs through them in the same way they did before the trees at their backs were cut down.

The lane is a mile and a half long, with a handful of houses scattered along it, and it has its own entry in Domesday Book, which records it in 1086 as being 'once worth 10s but now waste'. Traces of the ancient forest remain in the trees that line the tarmac, in the botany that grows along the verges and in the old forest boundary ditch that can be traced through gardens about half way along the lane.

I know the plants that grow here well, having spent many happy hours in their company, but as is only right and proper, they still have the capacity to surprise me. Witness the Star of Bethlehem which opens briefly before 5pm and is invisible at all other times, giving it its country name of 'Betty Go To Bed At Noon'. That one was a surprise when I saw it earlier in the summer as I walked up the lane after checking on the badgers. I took M back to find it an hour later and it had disappeared. I haven't seen it since.

The plants that grow along the lane are all woodland plants, dark green and leafy, for the most-part close-coupled to the earth with the exception of a few willowy beings, and faithful to their forest past. I suspect, if we were to stop managing what grows in our garden, the forest fauna would reassert itself there too in a year or so. It holds to the edges where I am very happy to see it, and where it draws like-minded souls to its company.

Gardens are our homage to The Wild. A way of keeping faith with our past, an expression of an unconscious need to have the reassurance of The Wild nearby, even if we no longer live quite so cheek-by-jowl with it. We are, after all, only a thousand or so years away from living very cheek-by-jowl with it indeed. It's not long, in the great scheme of things. Not long enough to erode the need away at least.

To sit in a garden is to know Peace and Comfort and Joy, but to walk out in The Wild is to commune with Earth Magic and to feel through it, Alive, to have your wits sharpened and perhaps, sometimes, to feel just a tiny bit Afraid and a little less certain of the rightness of our dominion over the world we live in.

Wandering down the lane time did that thing it always does to me in Woods, where it ceases to operate normally and instead holds you in a sort-of spell that remains unbroken until you leave the fringe of the trees.

I felt irritation with the cars that drove past, as if they were intruding and didn't belong there. I became completely absorbed in the world of trees and plants and dappled light coming through leaves. I was mesmerised by the bright green of the Hazel leaves; by the small blonde circles of paired nuts on the boughs, their elfin green hats perched jauntily on their heads; by two Speckled Wood butterflies twirling around one another as if joined in a permanent Catherine Wheel dance; by the ancient trickle of water as the brook tumbled down the lane; by the took! took! took! alarm call of the Thrush in the bank warning of a fox or a weasel unperceived by my dulled human senses; by the thousand small rustlings of tiny things making their way through the vegetation.

I emerged some time later and came back through our gate slightly mystified as to where the time had gone and to how little I had registered its passing. It does the soul good to escape modern life once in a while and to become submerged in places that still heed the call of The Wild and haven't lost touch with it. We need it more than we realise.


Thursday, 11 August 2016

Ted's Diary

Inspired by the Olympics, Poppy and I have been playing more football. I think you'll agree that I have the more adventurous style. It's thanks to me that the ball gets off the ground at all. Poppy just chews it and makes her gremlin noise.

We've also been doing lots of running with Mum. Ten miles last week. I'm in good shape, apart from my wet eczema which has returned in a patch on my back. This is a) annoying and b) itchy.
Mum has shaved the hair off my back so the air can get to it. Dad calls it my tonsure (which I know is wrong because Monks have tonsures on their heads, not their backs, so really he's just displaying his own ignorance on that one).

UNFORTUNATELY, the return of the WE necessitated a visit to the V.E.T. yesterday. Even the fact that it was the Lovely Louise didn't help and I got the collywobbles as soon as I got on the table. Mum had reassured me there'd be no injections because it wasn't bad enough, but there was! I ended up having my inoculation as well 'to save time'. I ask you! I made friends with a ten year old Westie in the waiting room who had gooey eyes. I didn't like to get too close to be honest. And there was a small fat black puppy who looked very happy to be there. I didn't like to tell him the V.E.T would soon disabuse him of that misapprehension.

After the V.E.T I had to go to a parcel depot to collect some Hobbycraft stuff for Mum. I stayed in the car. And then we went to Waitrose, where Mum did the most speedy in-and-out shopping you've ever seen because she was in a panic I'd get hot in the car (even though all the windows were open and it was cloudy).

When we got home we went out for a walk round the fields to make up for the morning. I got my own back by rolling in some Very Ripe Poo. I made sure I got it on both sides, on my tail, on ear and my nose. I was orange and piquant (my new word. Poppy's new word is antidisestablishmentarianism, which sounds impressive but isn't nearly as useful as piquant because it's much harder to drop into sentances).
Mum was so impressed with the caking effect that she was struck completely silent for quite a while. Unfortunately, I can't repeat what she said when the words come back because I am a polite dog. She lifted me into the car inside a towel (no idea why) and when we got home I had a COLD shower in the garden and a real scrub of shampoo.

It was worse than the V.E.T.

Poppy didn't help by lying on her back with her legs in the air clutching her stomach and laughing till she cried.

The laughter had gone the next morning though, because she'd found something dead in the woods and ate it while mum was talking to a Golden Ringed Dragon she'd found on a nettle leaf who climbed on her finger, and by evening Pop wasn't feeling well at all. By morning she was doing Very Strange Poos Indeed and now she's getting fish for breakfast and supper, which isn't fair AT ALL because it's all her own fault AND what's more, she hasn't even had to go to the V.E.T. I ask you :o(

She's a bit better this morning so I ate some of her fish before Mum could stop me :o). I also tried to cheer her up by catching a rat, but she didn't even want to lick it, so I know she isn't feeling well. I had to lick it instead and Mum made a 'eww' noise when she picked it up to remove it :o).

Things are looking up today- we've already had a delivery and I barked at the delivery man, than a van went past so I had a good shout at that, and finally two people went up the lane so I also barked at them. And now I see a pigeon has landed on the fence so I must quickly tell you about one other thing before I go off for a spot of Pigeon Watching.

A stray dog turned up at Granny's house last week. She was a little white Jack Russell and as Granny's garden is dog proof, it looks like someone might have deliberately put her in there. She had quite big boobies, so Mum and Gran think she may have been used for breeding and dumped when she got too old to have any more puppies. Apparently, the V.E.T said people drive dogs they don't want anymore into the forest (where Granny lives) and abandon them there :o(
She was very sweet and friendly and affectionate and we really hope someone comes to the dog's home to give her a new forever home soon. Granny took her to the V.E.T (poor thing) to check if she'd been microchipped (which is the law here in the UK) but she hadn't. As I came from a rescue centre I know all too well what it's like when no-body seems to love you. Poor little thing.

Right, that pigeon is still there so I must dash.

Hope all are well?

Best regards,

Ted x

Sunday, 7 August 2016

My Own Private Soap Opera

Among the wisteria that grows over the pergola a small drama was played out this week. An ant got hold of a harvestman's leg. The ensuing tug-of-war went on for fifteen minutes. I was convinced the ant would win. It held the leg firmly in its jaws and dragged the harvestman ever forward with grim determination, heading for the leaf stalk where other ants waited. The harvestman seemed powerless to do anything but yield, slowly and inexorably, heading towards the inevitable demise.
Occasionally, there would be a brief remission, when the harvestman gained ground. Once, he managed to drop down beneath the single leaf that provided the setting for this drama. He hung, briefly suspended beneath it while the ant prowled on the top trying vainly to heave him back over. You can see this in the top right picture. The ant got his way and the harvestman was dragged over the leaf and on to the stalk. I steeled myself for the finale, thinking surely now he must give in, exhausted and unable to resist. But then suddenly the game changed, the ant let go and the harvestman scuttled for all he was worth over the leaf, across the stalk, under another leaf, dropping down out of sight of the ant who spent another ten minutes searching for him, futilely as it turned out.
I don't like to interfere, because everything has the right to life and how do you judge? But I have to admit I was rather relieved. It was such a valiant struggle.

In other news, leaf-cutter bees are everywhere in the garden at the mo. We have Willughby's (bright yellow tummys) and Patchwork. We've also got Wool Carder Bees (top right photo of the four below). The Leaf-Cutters are responsible for the all the sickle-shapes that have been removed from the leaves for nest-lining purposes.

Butterflies have also been visiting. Lots of Whites, a few Brimstones and, today for the first time, a female Common Blue :o)

And just in case you needed evidence of the benefit of keeping a patch of nettles in your garden, today I discovered Comma caterpillars of various ages on the nettles we've left up by the pond (top left photo in the set bellow).
The long grasses are also proving their worth, providing shelter for the Common Blue and also home to Speckled Crickets and Short-Winged Coneheads (the female of which you can see on the lily leaf in the bottom left below).

I can feel Autumn stirring in the land. The harvest is on its way here, with combines kicking up plumes of dust and golden burnished stubble fields open again for walking. And in the gloaming the air tastes of change. We ate our first blackberries from the hedges this morning while out for a walk with the dogs, and in the garden, the blackbirds are feasting on apples. It's warm here, but the land is turning.

Hope all are well?

CT :o)