Tuesday, 9 July 2013


Liz's phone picks up the Twitter feed from Irish weather forecasters, Met Éireann this morning reading "Sunburn Index for Tuesday, High Country- wide" and we know we are on for another scorcher. I am going to start setting myself an 05:00 alarm so that I can get out and do useful stuff in the garden and poly-tunnel without passing out quietly from the lovely but oppressive heat. I was just asleep and now Liz has gone for a nap in the shade of the caravan (her preferred location) and I think as of now, at 2:30 pm, every animal and bird we own or manage is lying up in the shade. The horses are in the deep shade of the Secret Garden, the geese are under my hay-making frames, the '8-Ball' (young chickens) are under the caravan, the grown up hens in the car port or the woods out front, Rolo is lying on the 'pick-axe' bank, rabbits are in their shaded bits of run and dogs are stretched out on furniture or dog-beds indoors, here where it is coolest. We love our thick concrete (18") walls and insulation panels today.

Broody Betty is hanging in there on her duck eggs but does tend to come off them for half hour escapes feeding and scratching. Today she came and visited us out on the front table while we were stopped for a coffee, hopping up onto the table to see if there might be a cake crumb to scrounge. Her 'house' also has the thick walls so is reasonably cool but for the corrugated iron roof. We just worry that these long 'skives' might be signs that she is losing the humour. Ah well, can't be helped if she does, you can't force a 'hin' to go broody, so we hope that Mother Nature knows best and it's OK to leave eggs in a heatwave.
Betty is easily our best looking hen at present. By going broody twice she has avoided a lot of the attention of the rooster, getting grabbed by the nape feathers when he bites, scraped by his spurs and claws as he pushes his 'romantic' notions, or muddied up from his feet on wet days. She is clean and white, fully feathered and with her tail in perfect condition. A Sussex Ponte to be proud of.

We are currently delighted with a couple of things. One, the superbly gin-clear pond we have finally achieved, and we spend a while each day kneeling on the banks gazing in to the water watching the tireless activity of the many species of pond animals which have arrived and are now breeding and multiplying in great numbers. We very quickly 'got' half a dozen adult types we recognise; pond skaters, water boatmen, diving beetles, whirligig beetles, etc. We are now finding miniature, immature versions of these and a variety of nymph stages of other stuff; we find new ones all the time.

The latest is, we think, a damsel fly larva. It is roughly the size and shape of an earwig but delicate and more transparent. It has breathing tube(s) at the rear which it swims to the surface to open, and swims by passing a rapid succession of 'beats' down its 3 pairs of legs in sequence. We also have many tiny baby water snails, presumably from the egg-masses we noticed on the undersides of the water lilies we bought from Mimmack's. My book (amusingly an old 'Observer's Book of Pond Life' from my "LVI Sc" (Lower Sixth Science) school days which we still have!) indicates that this is a "Zygopterid type" nymph. A Baby Damsel Fly to you and me.

We also have new leaves and flowers coming on many of the aquatic plants we bought from Mimmack, most recently the tiny white buttercup shaped flowers of water crowfoot (Ranunculus aquatilis) which poke above the surface. This plant has, in theory, feathery frond leaves below the surface and a more recognisable flat, lobed, floating shaped leaf at the surface though, as delivered, we had half a dozen posies of 'bits' which we weighted down at the lower ends and 'sank', so some of our lobed leaves are currently submerged. I expect R. aquatilis can sort itself out; it must be able to cope with "changes" in water level.

We are delighted too, with progress in the garden and, in particular with the produce. I may well become a bore on the subject of this being the best I have ever grown of various things including all my time allotmenting in Kent (and certainly compared to 2012's wash out and crop failures). We are enjoying superb broad beans at present from our over-winter stands and now lovely, well-hearted, lettuces which were stuck rather carelessly into a sandy-soil raised bed when I ran out of proper intended space. They were pretty much neglected but also (unlike the planned lettuces) ignored by slugs but have plugged away at it and grown into wonderful, clean fresh heads which we are enjoying daily with our supper.

The various flowers on this post are just some nice hot colours to go with a hot day; from the top then if you don't recognise them, a dwarf lily, a Calendula marigold growing with perennial wallflower in one of our tractor tyres, a nasturtium, some pale yellow snapdragons in one of our cauldrons out front, and a gift (Thank you, Mentor Anne) Campanula in the front terrace bed.

Stay cool in the hot weather. Plenty of sun block!

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