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 2012...my 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:)
Daffodils in the snow at Petworth Park
9 hours ago