Thursday, 31 March 2011

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.....

Well, a wet and dreary week so far. Still, it beats the seemingly endless sub-zeros of Sweden. And, as a bonus, no snow hereabouts.

Charlie came into the bedroom and wailed loudly this morning at about 09:00. A late enough hour, so I got up to see him, only to find he'd already exited again via his catflap. Little booger! But not before harassing his old buddy, Jack, of course. J was prepared and snapped the action:

The temperature is a healthy 12 or so, predicted to rise to about 18 later, with 23 on the cards for tomorrow. Yesterday was much the same, although it rained here much of the time.  Back up North in Fun City they had a low of minus 21 - so, no change there, then. And it's supposed to be Spring!

We had a squirrel cavorting in the garden this morning; though difficult to spot, hiding behind fruit trees and skipping around constantly, it looks like a red 'un. I hope so, and would expect that in this region. We have a good range of fruit trees in the garden: Mulberry, Quince, Pear, Apple, Cherry and Sloe. Some need TLC and pruning but the blossom is out and hopefully we'll have a fair crop later. Always good for freezing, jams, chutney and pickles, not to mention gin - so long as we beat the wild things to the harvest! We have a friend in Kent who makes an interesting and highly slurppable Quince Brandy!

I've just removed the bird feeders - I don't believe in Spring/Summer feeding - there's plenty of tucker around for them at this time of year, and less threat of choking for young birds in the nest if the parents can't dump seed and nuts down the immature throats of their offspring. I know there's a debate about this issue, some favouring all year round feeding and others only winter provision.  I think the RSPB recommends the latter, so I have followed that course for many years and will continue to do so.

We have large numbers of Greenfinch (a firm favourite of mine); Great Tits, Blue Tits and Wagtails around. The racket at dusk is ear-splitting at times. A neighbour, another Brit, tells us there are also Nightingales, though I've yet to see or hear them: should be interesting later in the year, say, July/August, when the evening sounds should be enjoyable. When we lived in Spain, the Alpujarra region, in Andalucia, (Driving Over Lemons country), the village barrancas were the favoured roosts and nesting places of the resident Nightingale population, shy, retiring birds with a distinctive, piping whistle as they flit from bush to bush.

Looking forward to sitting outside with a glass or two (or more) of Rosé and sunny warmth, bathed in the sound of the resident birdlife.

There are also some very noisy Woodpeckers nearby. Most days they spend their time drumming on tree-trunks, presumably hoping to lure mates. There are both Great Spotteds and Greens, it seems. I've also heard, but yet to see, a Tawny Owl that warbles to itself - and as a territorial warning to others - most nights in fringes of the back garden.

We have decided to get a couple of hens - always pleasant company, I find. Yesterday we drove to Parthenay, where it was market day, in the hope of finding some for sale. But, there were none available, which was probably for the best, as we don't have housing or fencing/plot arranged for them yet! Though we have designated a sheltered corner of the garden for their use. Not sure what breeds will be available here, but would like Marans or Rhode Island Reds, if possible. RIRs are usually pretty reliable, hardy, colourful, sizeable brown egg layers. We kept them many years ago when we had a small-holding in the Welsh hills, Brecon Beacon National Park, near Crickhowell. And Marans produce the most strikingly beautiful blotchy eggs imaginable.

We tried a couple of Marans in Sweden but they were some dwarf cross breed (it transpired to our surprise and disappointment!), extremely nervous and hopeless in the egg department. In addition, they were terrified of, and hen-pecked by, our principal hen, a Warren called 'Lady' - a real harridan, if ever there was one. She amply illustrated the true meaning of the expression, 'Hen Pecked'. Although, that said, she liked nothing more than to sit alongside us on a summer evening, eating the odd crisp or peanut, wittering merrily to herself - and, I like to think, to me -  all the while.

Lady was a real character. She would wander off to visit the neighbours, often hiding behind the logs at Kjell's place:

However, she would come racing back from her hiding place when called by name. She was always an optimist in the quest for nosh. It would be grand find another hen like her.

Having just paused for lunch, I looked out of the kitchen window and spotted a smallish, nondescript warbler-type bird perched on the edge of a plant-pot. It eyed me warily before flying off with a flash of russet-red tail. At first I thought it was probably a dowdy female Redstart, but on reflection - and having checked me bird-books - it was a female Nightingale. Nice to get such a clear view, they're usually too covert and not keen on exposure, in my limited experience.

No rain today, so about time to get into the garden and start digging some veg plots. The garden is somewhat neglected but we spent a day or two clearing it up and Frank, our neighbour, mowed the grass a bit for us, so there's no real excuse not to get down to it. The reward will be later in summer and autumn, when we can feast on the fresh produce we hope to have: aubergines, tomatoes, chillis, peppers, cucumbers, courgettes, beans and peas, and anything else that looks to be a likely runner in the region.

The neglected garden, ready for treatment:

The general view out front - different from Sweden -No Snow!

J is busy in the kitchen today, making Marmalade, that old UK favourite, from a batch of Seville oranges bought in late January in London and stored in the freezer till now:

`Jack remains ever-hopeful.....


  1. That


    Quince Brandy sounds good-would one have to cook the Quinces beforehand atall?

    Heard a woodpecker drumming in the woods here two days ago

  2. No need to cook the fruit, as I understand it. Just roughly chopped, into container with cheap French Brandy and left for 3 months or so. It is really very good indeed, and dangerously 'moreish.'

  3. as is the crab apple vodka, which takes 2 years, and the alpine strawberry which is ready as soon as it is pink and the fruit not!