Sunday, 4 August 2013

I Blame the Weather

There still seems to be a lack of insects in our valley.  The butterflies have picked up a little but numbers still seem low and there is a noticeable absence of all the Blues which are usually so prevalent in my garden and surrounding area.  There are also very few bees and not so many ants (we are usually over-run) and there is a marked decrease in the number of snails and slugs (the vegetables and Hostas are doing well though :)).

I just hope the numbers of these creatures recover quickly as it is having a knock on effect with other things that live in our garden. In the early summer we were finding slow worms everywhere; we couldn't put anything down without finding a slow worm under it the next day, but now there seem to be very few.  Also our bat numbers seem to be going down. We've had a bat roost for all the 37 years we have been here so I would be devastated if we lost them.  This thought brought it home as to how awful the situation is in North America where a fungus called the 'White Nose Syndrome,' has killed an estimated 7 million bats and is still spreading fast!!

Thankfully when we took my mother to visit a Lavender farm that is not too far away there were plenty of bees (although hardly any honey bees).

I can remember my mother telling me about bumble bees when I was a very young child as I had tried to stroke the furry back of a poorly bumble to make it feel better but it promptly stung me:) Sadly, with the progression of her Alzheimer's, it was my mother asking me what the things were that were flying around and what the spiky, purple plants were. She really enjoyed the visit though which was the most important thing, although, by the next day it was totally forgotten.

Some time ago we registered to take part in Plantlife's Wildflower Count and this week we received a map showing the kilometre square in which Plantlife would like us to carry out the count, as well as a useful little booklet on flower recognition and details off what we need to do.  Basically we have to do a 1 km walk within our alloted square, recording what flowers we see in a 2m strip, either to the left or right of the path and/or survey a plot of 5x5m or 1x20m.  They just ask for the survey to be carried out once or twice between 1st April and 30th September so not very taxing but extremely worthwhile.  Please consider doing it. To register on line go to

I was very excited to see that the plot we had been allocated was in the grassland directly behind Charles Darwin's house and garden in Downe (which is only a couple of mile from us).  He would have walked this area himself many times but it would have then probably been full of chalk grassland flowers. It has changed a  lot since his day as the field we walked through looked like it had been cultivated in the past but is now being left to recover and there is also a large golf course now in situ. Never the less we recorded 47 different plants (but sadly not many chalk indicators) and, as we foolishly did our survey on the hottest day of the year, we followed the walk with a much needed, thirst quenching glass of cold larger and some chips at the local pub. A very enjoyable day.

Now we have sold my mother's bungalow we are starting to catch up with things around our place.  The first task I needed to do was to get some control over the bit of field that adjoins our garden and was full of a block of 7ft high hogweeds, encroaching brambles, thistles, docks, ragwort and other invasive nasties.  I am fed up with these things spreading to our garden.  When I was helping to prepare the veg plot earlier this year I pulled up 22 spear thistles from area of about a square meter!!  I therefore decided that this year I would brush cut and rake the area of the field directly behind us before these plants went to seed.

Amongst the undergrowth I was very pleased to find one small bit of yellow rattle and one ox-eye daisy. They were surrounded by ragwort and hogweed but with a bit of continued care I have high hopes that eventually I can change this little area of the field for the better:)

This deer seemed to like what I had done and now frequently comes down to browse...

I get so much entertainment from my garden.  When the spell of hot, dry weather broke with a downpour of rain this pigeon immediately lifted his wing to shower his presumably smelly wing pits :))

This last month has been busy so we have not had much time to work with the conservation grazing livestock but several of the times when we have been out it was to help the assistant grazing officer by being on hand while he sheared the Project's sheep. This was no mean feat (the shearing that is, not the helping...that was easy :)  Shearing is a back breaking job especially if your muscles aren't used to it, the portable trimmers are heavy compared to professional shears and it was all carried out in extremely hot weather, not to mention that all the usual work associated with the livestock still had to be carried out.  I hope that Sean's efforts are duly recognised as it must have saved the Project hundreds of pounds. He hasn't been given the nick name of Superman just for jumping over gates!:)

Here is a picture showing Superman Sean shearing a shaggy sheep in shimmering sunshine (I am sure with a bit of time I could have come up with a better tongue twister :))

And lastly when trimming some of the sheep's feet the grazing officer found this little fellow which brought to mind a poem I had to put to music in a school exam and which I have liked ever since for the lovely feeling of summer it evokes..

Grasshopper Green 
by unknown author
Grasshopper Green is a comical chap;
     He lives on the best of fare.
Bright little trousers, jacket, and cap,
     These are his summer wear.
Out in the meadow he loves to go,
     Playing away in the sun;
It's hopperty, skipperty, high and low,
     Summer's the time for fun.

Grasshopper Green has a quaint little house;
     It's under the hedge so gay.
Grandmother Spider, as still as a mouse,
     Watches him over the way.
Gladly he's calling the children, I know,
     Out in the beautiful sun;
It's hopperty, skipperty, high and low,
     Summer's the time for fun.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I've just come back from holiday where we visited a farm that had shearing displays. The shearers were working so hard and sweating buckets. I certainly couldn't have even done one sheep. How many sheep did your chap shear? Liked the poem. Sam

Helen said...

Hi Sam...I keep meaning to ask what was the total number of sheep that were sheared by Sean. It must be between 75 and one hundred i would have thought. I also wouldn't be able to do even one or even half of one:)

Helen said...

Just for info, the first comment was deleted because for some reason it was a duplicate of the second comment. All comments are welcome:)