I am sitting here, writing this Post, looking out on a very green garden -
So, we are waiting to see how Autumn will evolve …. but we know that it will require a lot of mowing, cutting and pruning given the rate of growth on all fronts!
And talking of growth rate - our vegetable garden / raised beds have had mixed results: salad crops did really well early on and then seemed to suffer from the lack of sustained sunshine. But, curiously, our peppers are doing very well, and more predictably, given the moisture, the leeks , brassicas and spinach have been excellent (the spinach variety - ‘New Zealand' - is really interesting, having been planted last year and has been cropping ever since, on a ‘more you pick, the more it grows’’ basis). But our real triumph this year has been potatoes! We sowed ten rows, well over 50 metres, expecting a meagre crop per plant …. and what we’ve got is 2 - 4 kilos per plant, so maybe 360 kilos overall!!
But fruit crops have not fared so well: a very promising strawberry crop was washed out with heavy rain and the fruit trees, pears, plums and apricots have not been able to cope with the rapid changes between heat and wet. The blackcurrant bushes were more cunning and timed their flowering and fruiting to make best use of the fluctuations in the weather - and there was a reasonably heavy crop, with very tasty fruit, which was immediately picked and resulted in some very delicious, powerfully flavoured jam and jelly, great on bread and toast, but also as a marinade for cooked meats:
So, it has been an unusual year in the garden and the countryside and we are not quite sure what Autumn and Winter will bring. The trees show little sign of Autumnal change and vegetation generally remains lush and green. If there are some Autumn storms and high winds, then the trees will be vulnerable as they retain so much foliage for the wind to buffet. The farmers and communes responsible for the 'fauchage' (mowing and clearing) of verges and hedges have got a considerable job on their hands because the growth everywhere is so thick and enmeshed. We will be watching with fascination to see how the colours change and what happens with all the usual indicators of Autumn - like the wonderful fungi appearances we witness every October onward:
And what of the wildlife these past months? Well, as you know, we are certainly not specialists in any way, but we have made some observations:
- the butterfly population seems to have been hit hard by the variable weather, with fewer butterflies in evidence and fewer varieties appearing. We started trying to photograph as many butterflies as we could, but quickly learned just what a skilled process this is .... and even more skilled is then identifying the butterfly. Here are some we have seen these last months, but they have been few in number compared to previous years:
- The bird population in the garden has been very lively and various. We have been fortunate to have two pairs of woodpeckers, a very vociferous nightingale(s), various birds of prey, and visiting herons and ducks. Also, having been largely absent for a few years, the hoopoes re-appeared, swooping and skimming around the garden in the early morning and evening. The swallows appeared very late - but now, in late September, they are much in evidence, skimming the pond and pool in the early evenings and showing no signs of migrating. Our garden has so many sources of water, and large areas of 'wild vegetation' (that's our excuse ...), that the insect population is high and so we think that it is a pretty good area for the birds, both to feed and nest.
- Talking of 'insect/wildlife populations' - we have noticed many arthropods in the garden, throughout the Spring, Summer and early Autumn .... more than we usually see - perhaps it is just that we have been more watchful; but we do feel that there is a greater resilience in these populations . The prime time to notice what is out and about is in the early morning - we have not space or time (or expertise) in the Blog Post to show/name what has been around, but as an example have a look at this wonderful spider, just emerging at about breakfast time (not sure whose!) after a heavy dew:
Perhaps the most significant events these last months have been the visits from family. We have not been able to see our families in the UK for 19 months and this has been very difficult, although FaceTime, emails and text messages have been hugely positive 'stand-ins'. So, there have been stories to send online and once again we have had a sunflower growing competition - this year children and parents have sown their own seeds and nurtured them over the Summer, with progress being shown on the 'Huge Sunflower Competition' website .... and last week the winners were announced and Certificates distributed and, of course, everyone won some category - tallest, most beautiful, most colourful, most leaves and a special award for 'courageous effort against the odds' after wicked slugs and snails did their dastardly work:
And what do the next months hold in store? Certainly, with the continuing warm/wet weather there will be much to do in the garden .... the grass needs cutting twice a week at the moment; and we are starting the 'routine' Autumn tasks .... the first of which has been to 'haircut' the virginia creeper that has been particularly rampant this year:
But other than the garden, we hope to restart some of the initiatives that were prevented by COVID: in particular we have been asked when we might start Film Club again. So, if we can take on board the Health Pass system for people attending, we are aiming for a pre-Christmas screening and then a 2022 New Year Season! It will be good to have that starting again, as it was about a lot more than just showing films ... it felt a true 'community event'.
If you are still reading this - thank you for your interest! And we now intend to get back to more regular Blog posts - news from our very little world here. Occasionally we feel we would like to write about some other topics ... and this was sparked particularly by some of the experience of what it is like to go through 'the health system' here. I started a new Blog, while in hospital and from the responses I have had, I have been encouraged to continue to write some different posts on this new Blog - you can find it here.
In the meantime, in these very demanding times, we wish you and your families every good vibe. We have a certain creature here who is pretty good at taking a relaxed view of life: