Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year

2011 was full off BIG ups and BIG downs but it was never dull and as such I am sorry to see it go. Thankfully there were more ups than downs.

One of the things that stood out for me in 2011 were the wonderful wild flowers of the Spring and Summer, particularly the Bee Orchids.  I know they are not particularly rare but they are very beautiful and at one point last year, they were so prolific, we were discovering a new one nearly every time we went out.

Unfortunately there was also a profusion of Ragwort.  This is a plant that is very poisonous to grazing animals so much of the summer was spent digging it up.  Unbelievable, even after all that effort, with this mild weather there are still Ragwort plants flowering on Saltbox SSSI, so that will be one of the first jobs to do in back is already aching at the thought of it.

Another highlight of 2011 was, of course, being involved with the lambing.  It was hard work and stressful as I was worried that I would do something wrong but it was also very, very rewarding seeing the a new generation of little conservation grazers gambling around the fields full of the joys of life.  Even now when I see them, all grown up, it still gives me a buzz of satisfaction.

The biggest down of 2011 was having to face the reality that my mother had Alzheimer's and then having to make her face the same reality so that we could take her to the doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment to slow its progress.  Even with the drugs, her condition has deteriorated a lot over the year.  This was brought home to us particularly when her Christmas cards arrived from friends and relatives and she couldn't remember who they were. Sooooooo sad, but as usual she put on a brave face and Christmas was a particularly lovely, happy family occasion...very special as I suspect this will be the last Christmas she can enjoy knowing all her grandchildren and her great grandchild. Maybe she won't even remember me next year:(

Unfortunately my three friendly pheasants weren't so happy or festive as they had the most almighty fight with each other on Christmas morning.  It went on for several hours with them ferociously pecking at each others necks and lashing out with their claws and growling (well that's what it sounded like) menacingly at each other.  The cause?  A male pheasant who stood by watching them for the first hour or so and then got bored and marched off, obviously deciding he didn't fancy any females that behaved in such an unlady-like fashion:)  All is calm in the garden again now, but it shows Spring is on its way.  I think it will be early this year.

As soon as we get in to the new year, I can't wait to get the Christmas decorations down and return everything to normal, but unfortunately the family won't let me, saying it must be done on the 12th night.  I am beginning to think I know why.  Forget all the traditional reasons for decorating the house with Holly and Ivy.  Whilst reading my favourite book, Culpeper's Complete Herbal, I found that he refers to Pliny observing that Ivy berries are good for 'preventing drunkenness' and also saying that, 'the speediest cure for a surfeit by wine, is to drink a draught of the same liquor wherein a handful of bruised ivy-leaves have been boiled.'  He also says that the berries of Holly 'expel wind.'  It seems they are the perfect plants to have draped round the house over the 12 days of Christmas, although personally, I wouldn't like to risk any of his cures:)))))

And so to 2012.  It's going to be a great year because life is too short and too important for it to be anything other.  My New Years resolution is the same as it was the New Year following the birth of my first child, 33 years ago, and has been every year since... that is to get fit and lose weight:) I think this might be the year I actually succeed as everything in the shops is sooo expensive and I don't want to have to go back to work so it will be half portions for everyone:)

Have a Happy New Year and instead of joining the gym please consider joining your local conservation groups for some volunteering.  It is needed this year more than ever as all the councils are having to make big financial cut backs and our precious countryside with its special flora and fauna is going to suffer if we don't get out there and help maintain it:)


Lesley said...

What a lovely post Helen, and I love the photo of yourself. You look so happy! Sorry to hear that your mum's health is deteriorating. I hope you and the family find the strength you need to cope.

I've never seen a Bee Orchid. I don't think there can be too many of them around up here in County Durham. I had to laugh at the girlie pheasants fighting - always happens when a fella appears on the scene!

Fantastic post for the New Year Helen and you've inspired me to give the conservation groups some thought.

Happy New Year to you and yours! :)

Helen said...

Hi Lesley..lovely to hear from you. I don't think the Bee Orchids have reached County Durham yet but I believe that they are gradually spreading north. Someone told me that they are one of the plants used to gauge climate change because of this. I hope you do give conservation volunteering a go. I love all aspects of it..the work, the beautiful locations, the company of likeminded people and I also feel it helps to keep me a bit fitter. Have a great 2012:)

Martin said...

Another lovely post. Wishing you all the best for 2012, especially where your mother is concerned - sending you kindest wishes for the challenges ahead.

Helen said...

Hi Martin...Thanks for the good wishes. Have a fun 2012:)

Orchids and Nature said...

Love your post, We never tire of finding the Bee Orchids on our walks, last year we had some real surprises they turned up in some very unusual locations.

Helen said...

Hi David...It was such a good year for Bee Orchids, each trip out was a bit like going on a treasure hunt with the Bee Orchid as the prize...lets hope 2012 will be just as good:)

Midmarsh John said...

It's a few years since I saw a wild Orchid and that one is a beauty. Love the sheep cartoon.

Helen said...

Thanks John...enjoy 2012:)

Anonymous said...

Great blog as always.... glad you had a good year and Happy New Year!
Lots of good things to look forward to, lambs and orchids and a hot summer, what more can we ask for except, maybe, more blogs like this!