Wednesday, June 16, 2021

A Wee Day Out

I never used to worry about leaving this place unattended. Just get in the vehicle and drive away with never a thought. These days it is all careful locking up, anxieties about the pigs and hens, maybe somebody coming on to the yard, stealing tools, equipment, plants. It must be something to do with getting older. And it is part of the reason that Nellybert outings are too few and far between.

But today we went out for breakfast, a plant delivery to Montrose, a trip to the supermarket and a jaunt to McNeill's in Broughshane for bird food. 

As I remarked to Bert the other day, the wee boys' grocery bill is nearly as much as our own - the amount we are spending on mixed seed, nyger seed and sunflower hearts and that's us with a field full of grasses going to seed at the front of the house, it is little wonder the wee boys are becoming so numerous.

This one has just left the nest. Both parents spent half an hour toing and froing from the fat ball cage feeding it titbits. Bert wondered about the other nestlings but I reckoned this one, the first out, was their pride and joy, their big hope for the future and they were going to put the effort in. Even if it killed them.

We returned from our jaunt to find the place unburgled, unburnt, and unflooded. The wee boys had their feeders loaded and it seems that they prefer the grub they get from Ronnie in Portglenone to Jimmy's in Broughshane. They'll have to get used to it though as we bought 20kg.

The only thing was, we seem to have lost a hen. Maybe Foxy. I'll know for sure at bedtime.

Tomorrow I'm going out again, first to pick up Jazzer and go to lunch, then pick up the schoolies. It's going to be a fun day.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Two Wrongs Don't Make A Right...

 ...or do they?

I decided to move my primary bird feeder. It had been placed in the position that Pearlie had enjoyed, just outside the window that she could view from her hospital bed. I don't know which she liked the most, watching the wee boys eating the peanuts, or bossing Bert to keep the feeder full. Back in Pearlie's day, it was all about peanuts and fatballs but I like to provide a variety of seeds and mealworms too. 

The problem with a feeder close to the house is that it makes life easier for the cats. They are both old now and not such active hunters but if there are going to be small birds strolling around the front door gathering up the overspill from feeders, and especially if those birds are this year's breeding and short on sense, then it is much easier pickings for Holly and Fred.

Still, we got to June before we had a fatality. I'm not even sure what it was as Fred had the head and breast devoured before Bert alerted me to his crime. I went out to him, caught him in the act and as there just happened to be a vat of rainwater and a bucket sitting handy, I filled the bucket and drenched the murderous bastard. That disturbed him at his repast.

I did try to identify it by the wings and tail feathers but not sure. Possibly some sort of a tit. I thought of posting a picture of the remains on Facebook but decided against it as,

(a) it won't bring it back and

(b) it might depress someone.

So I moved the feeder to the shepherd's hut. High enough to deter cats and close to a big thick hedge.

It was only there moments before the birds found it. The first caller was a great tit.

Quickly joined by a goldfinch.

Then my current favourite birds...

Two baby tree sparrows.

Sunday, June 06, 2021

The Wee Boys


Oh! I wisht the wee boys were here!

Which is something Bert’s mother probably never said but it has been attributed to her and oft-repeated so she might well have said it. The wee boys were the swallows and Pearlie was expressing her yearning for the summer, for longer evenings and warmer days.

The warmer days and long evenings with us and I am determined to enjoy them. The wee boys are here too, nesting in the shed, the same place as last year. The spotted flycatchers have arrived too but aren't nesting in their usual spot behind the trellis at the front door. We think the nest is in a hawthorn tree, still near the house but it’s unlikely we’ll see the young ones until they’re flying. I don’t mind, just glad that they’re here.

Yesterday evening, Bert and I were relaxing in the polytunnel, remembering what Saturday evenings used to be like. We’d be so excited for company, maybe the Wees, or the Banjos. Possibly Swisser, always Ian. Who knows who might call in for we were a party house. And if we weren’t having people round we’d be going out ourselves. Good times.

I said to Bert,

I never gave birds a thought back then! They must have been around but I paid them no mind. 

When Matty retired she told me that she could spend ages, just watching the birds from her kitchen window. I remember thinking that she must very little to do with her time. But I get it now, for what could be a better use of our time?

 A swallow flew into the house this morning. I was making coffee when I heard the noise of it. Went into the sunroom and it was flapping against the windowpane, desperate to escape. It was being observed with great attention by Holly de Cat. She was chased off and I caught it (gently) in two cupped hands, straight to the door for release. I only held it for seconds, yet time enough to take it all in, it was so light and delicate, all glowing colours. A jewel of a bird. It was a sweet encounter for me, much less so for the bird. I thought about it all day. 

Young swallows from a few years back.

I just looked out the window. There is a collared dove out there, a chaffinch, a blackbird and a great tit.


And a goldfinch.

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Bert's Birthday Cakes

Bert's birthday cake is traditionally served on Zoe's gardening day which is the day I make everyone supper. This has been going on for some years now and there are photos to prove it. It doesn't matter whose birthday it is for everyone gets to eat cake.

Back then Martha would always get involved in the blowing out of candles. She has since learned to hold back.

The icing had to be pink as Martha informed me that it was Bert's favourite colour. Evie is beginning to take an interest in the proceedings. She always liked cake.

Bert is wearing his best birthday boiler suit. 

1919. Martha can now be depended upon to present the birthday cake.

2020. Best cake ever but social distancing put quite a damper on the celebrations. Martha and Evie were not happy that they could not help blow out candles.  

Is it just me, or is Bert getting smaller?

Friday, May 28, 2021

The Disappearance of Helen

 Bert and I were at loggerheads yesterday because I suggested it would be a good day to spray some of the nettles in the orchard. I hadn't mentioned this to him for ages yet he went off on one. Apparently, I should open my eyes for he’d already done it. I was raging at him. The usual passive-aggressive non-communication. He is pass-agg, I’m just agg. Called him a dick and gave off an unfriendly air.

After a few hours in gardening mode, I dressed properly and went to town where I bought cleaning stuff, including an ostrich feather duster. There was still time left before collecting the schoolies which I spent in charity shops. In Habitat for Humanity, I found two small Goebel vases, featuring Rosina Wachtmeister cats. They had a wintry theme but who cares, cat ornaments are for life, not just for Christmas. One of them had a note stuck to the bottom which read,

Bought on holiday Austria Zell am See, 17-24/6/06.

See! June! That person knew that Goebel cats by Rosina Wachtmeister aren’t just for Christmas.

At the Harryville shop, I bought two gardening books, 50 pence each and a box of magnetic scrabble tiles for sticking on the fridge. I thought that Martha and Evie might have fun with them. One pound.

I was still too early for the pickup so read my Hilary Mantel but it was so deliciously warm in the van I almost slept. Pretty much the first thing the girls said to me on arrival was, Can we get ice cream? I was happy to agree, I wanted some too, so off to Costcutters.

The girls did enjoy playing with the magnetic scrabble tiles and decided to put their names on the fridge door. Evie suggested that Martha put ‘Arthur’ as this is what her cousin James calls her. Martha protested and I don’t know for sure what she said to Evie but she received a kick for it and was most upset. Somehow it all blew over and they thought it would be funny to put different names so rather than Martha and Evie we had ‘Arthur’ and ‘Steve’ and Bert got ‘Fart’.

Meanwhile Ziggy had decided that the feather duster was his mortal enemy. I waggled it at him and he lunged and plucked one of its feathers and took his prize upstairs to worry. It was found under my bed in a very sorry state.

I told Evie that buying cleaning equipment makes me feel virtuous as if I’ve already cleaned the house. Then it occurred to me that because most of the stuff I bought comes with a recommendation from Mrs Hinch, the cashier must have thought I was a dick. Even though, for all she knew, I might have been buying it for someone else who actually was a dick.

Later on, we had a call from Clint. Apparently, there were a lot of hens wandering the road in front of the primary school. Anything to do with us? I checked and all my hens were home. Except for Helen. I spent an hour looking for her but no joy. And to think that only a few hours earlier Evie and I had been in the run hand-feeding her RJ Kerr soda bread.

Perhaps she'd turn up in the morning. Perhaps she choked on the soda and died. Perhaps Foxy…?

But she did not turn up in the morning.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

New Arrivals

Hannah's part of the yard is a Tanglewood of native trees, a few damsons and a large Chilean lantern tree (Crinodendron hookerianum). Obviously, birds love it and Hannah will usually see new arrivals before I do. Her bullfinches called with me today, for the first time this year and the spotted flycatchers were 'spotted' yesterday. It looks like the flycatchers won't be nesting in their usual spot above the front door. The roses got a hard pruning last autumn when we had the outside painting done. They're eyeing another site in the eaves of the long shed and hunting insects from the vantage point of my washing line. I may have mentioned before (many times) that we don't cut the grass at the front of the house anymore. 

A bullfinch in the sumach tree. The sumach is just coming into leaf and I feel slightly sad that in a few weeks time I will not have such a good view of the birds.

The spotted flycatcher on my washing line. I will not mind if it shits on my laundry.

The bullfinch and flycatcher are not the only new arrivals around here as there are lots of young birds around. Starlings, robins, wrens, jackdaws, thrushes, blackbirds, greenfinches and goldfinches and all the common tits. The sheds, trees and hedges are full of breeding birds. The swallows have arrived so they'll be making a start and I am hoping for long-eared owls again. Zoe and the girls camped in the woods last night and this morning she watched tree creepers feeding their young as she lay in her sleeping bag.

A young robin.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Another Rainy Day

Another bloody rainy day. I like a bit of rain now and again, as all gardeners do, but this is all a bit too much. It's windy as well. I brought some house plants to my local charity shop today as I have decided to concentrate on large plants and offload many of my smaller specimens. The plants donated were all self-propagated, an aloe vera, a tiny dracaena, a pink pelargonium and a spindly begonia. The wind blew the blossoms off the pelargonium as I was walking to the shop.

Of course, I bought stuff when I got in there. A glass citrus juicer and a James Wong gardening book.  Cost me one pound coin only. I needed the juicer as my old one was damaged and I wanted the James Wong as I enjoy his columns in the Guardian and Observer. His take on growing ones own is interesting. Why grow fruit and veg which is easily accessible and cheap at the greengrocer's? 

James Wong will be going to bed with me tonight as will Maggie O'Farrell and Tana French. Might be a bit crowded as Holly de Cat will be there too.

Fred enjoying a spot of birdwatching.

A young and rather soggy siskin.