Not the Best Time Ever

I’ve been enjoying Twitter lately, it’s been a great place to learn about flowers and animals. I headed over there yesterday to look at what wildflowers people have found. Angry botanists were going off at Chris Packham for saying the wrong thing about which flowers were planted on a roundabout (I kid you not) then I clicked on the comments for something innocuous and was slapped in the face by a load of hate directed towards trans people. I learned Covid-19 isn’t real, and that it is real but comes from 5G masts. I despair.

Over on Facebook friends amplifying the Black Lives Matter message were shouted down by the ‘yEah buT aLL LivEs MatTeR’ brigade and there’s no discussion over the matter. People are so concerned with appearing to be right rather than what is right. And the meanest people are always the loudest. I don’t get it. If someone tells you something is problematic, but you don’t believe them, then why not do a ten second Google search to find out more? Then you could say something like ‘thanks for pointing that out, I have learned why that was wrong’. We need more of that in the world. It’s ok essential to change our minds when presented with new information!

When I go back to work I may even have an opportunity to be an equalities representative for our Union where I’ll be sent off on courses so I can learn more and maybe change things for the better. My furlough has been extended till the 1st of July, so I’ll find out more then.

In the meantime I think a social media break is on the cards.

I went out in the real world last Friday to have a little socially-distanced walk with my sister and Newton. That was lovely – Newton went bananas upon seeing me and nearly knocked me over after wrapping his lead around my legs then trying to run off in the other direction. He gives me such pure happiness! But then, as we walked along the high street on our way to the park, despair kicked in again. PEOPLE JUST AREN’T SOCIAL DISTANCING! There was enough space on the pavement to leave a gap of two metres, but they just… didn’t. They seem to think this over. At the beginning of lockdown there was a feeling of unity, that this is awful but we’re all in it together. It doesn’t feel like that now, it feels like the majority of people just don’t care. Sigh.

Last night, I watched some TV with mum. We put on a documentary about the ocean which showed a necropsy of a porpoise which was just horrific. The poor creature was underweight, lactating (which means the calf is also almost certainly dead) and pregnant. What caused this? Yeah, you guessed it. Humans, and all the shite we dump into the environment. We really suck.

Just bear with me as this post continues to be a bit grim. I’ll talk about something happy soon, I promise.

Last week I decided to get my DSLR out and take a nice shot of our resident hedgehog, Wonder. After putting it onto the computer (the same PC which is now broken as it happens) and seeing it in detail, I started to worry. The poor guy was much patchier and scabbier than I first thought from seeing him on the wildlife camera, so I called a local wildlife hospital for advice.

They said to try and catch him and bring him in as it sounded like he could either have mange or ringworm, both of which have similar symptoms and wouldn’t get better on their own. The lady said if I leave my number on the admission form I could come and get him when he’s better and release him back into his little home.

I took him in last Tuesday I think (time is passing in strange ways lately and I’ve completely lost track) and rather than ring them, on Monday I decided to pop in to the hospital to see how he was doing. On Facebook they had asked for donations of old towels so I took some along, and they were also selling seedlings to raise money for the hospital. Perfect!

Well, not quite.

After purchasing my seedlings (I got several little cauliflower and aubergine plants) I had a not-so-nice conversation with the vet. He informed me that sadly they had to put the little dude to sleep. He had a head injury, an old fracture on one leg, another leg was completely dislocated, he had maggots inside him and a fused spine from another old injury. The poor thing must have been in agony.

But I just couldn’t believe that was my hedgehog. Surely they’d got him mixed up with another one? The vet told me that people often can’t believe it’s the same animal because hedgehogs will just carry on as best they can until they expend their last bit of energy and pass away. You’d never know what was really going on just by looking at them.

I know so much is going on in the world right now that a little hedgehog may seem insignificant, yet I’m heartbroken. But also grateful he’s no longer suffering. Poor fella.

That’s twice now the South Essex Wildlife Hospital have helped us out, they also came out when my brother called them about a fox that had been run over. I’m so thankful for what they do, and they’re currently (successfully) looking after a number of rescued badger cubs which are CUTE AS HELL. See, that’s happy news! The next photo is a rare example of me sharing a photo I haven’t taken myself, one from their Facebook page.

Too gorgeous not to share.

So, a garden update. I applied the nematodes yet something is having a nibble at my squash. I’m not too worried about it right now, I have a few plants so something should make it, and this first year is the beginning of my learning curve. I don’t exactly have the space to grow squash so I plan to train it up, which may mean it doesn’t get eaten as much. We shall see.

Just when I think the garden will cease being quite so magical to me, something else pops up from the compost. This week my beetroot, radishes and honesty have germinated.

The stuff I planted back in April is also causing much excitement, because I don’t know exactly what I planted and certainly can’t identify much yet. These are all mystery plants, two of which aren’t too far off flowering. I can hardly wait.

Our wildlife may have taken a sad little turn, but our garden is still so full of life. The lavateria is out, the sparrows never shut up, I saw my first ever red-tailed bumblebee, juvenile starlings and great tits have found our feeders, we’ve mercifully had a good bit of rain and everything in the garden is thankful for it, and I found an enormous moth.

Yes the world is a mess, I miss my spiky friend, and my PC is knackered. Yet still the garden keeps growing.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Me and my Squash

It’s all been happening here, I hardly know where to begin! The garden continues to be the gift that keeps on giving, and it has genuinely burst into life over the last few weeks. Considering that apart what’s currently in a greenhouse and cold frame I haven’t added any plants to the garden, it’s looking remarkably lovely.

I started to dig out a little patch at the bottom of the garden for growing some veg soon, and the sparrows have absolutely LOVED it. Where I’ve turned over the earth they have feasted on the worms and grubs I revealed, but also (and this is crazy cute) they’ve been taking dust baths in the soil. I managed to capture it on the wildlife cam.

They have been driving my mum a little bit potty, because although I’ve spotted them feeding their fledgelings and teaching them how to forage by themselves, they are already getting ready for the next brood. These randy sparrows are extremely noisy, but it’s worth it because one couple have just moved into one of our nest boxes. Every day I look out the window to see them collecting more nesting material.

Another thing that has become part of my daily routine is filling up an old dustbin lid with water, as that’s where they like to drink and bathe. It’s funny how my life is currently revolving around several different animals – the evening routine involves religiously feeding our new resident hedgehog.

We have named him Wonder, because I think he might just be blind. He lets me get very close to him even in daylight but if I make a noise he will run away. Now I’ve discovered this I feed him and leave him alone, and I’m glad he found our little house. He comes out like clockwork and doesn’t even wait a whole minute after I’ve put the food out before he starts eating his dinner.

We’ve had aquilegias in our garden for years and they have been self-seeding of their own accord without us having to do anything. This is what a normal single aquilegia looks like:

But these are some of the more exciting ones I’ve been discovering:

Lockdown rules are starting to be relaxed in the UK, which for the most part I think is a huge mistake, however after a lot of thought we decided that it was time for my sister to come and visit. She stayed in the garden the whole time, and it was like the intervening two months never happened.

Of course she brought the marvellous Newton with her, and he has changed quite a bit! He’s pretty much fully grown now and he’s a lot more muscular, but also he has calmed down a lot. He’s not quite the boisterous puppy we saw last, but he’s still perfect in every way.

He very helpfully ‘watered’ the poppies for me (thanks dude) and also helped me eat my strawberries.

He takes things from you so gently, it’s absolutely adorable. I don’t think it’s possible for a dog to be more loved than this guy.

As for the things I’ve been growing, it’s been mostly successful so far. Everything in a pot seems to be doing really well even though I’ve had to improvise. I have stuff growing in old food packaging like tomato trays, plastic bottles and coconut milk cartons. Everything I’ve directly sown into the ground however has been immediately eaten by slugs before it even got going, so I’m waiting on a delivery of nematodes before I plant out my veg.

Nematodes are microscopic worms that aren’t harmful to humans, pets or wildlife, and might give my corn, beetroot, carrots, rocket, cauliflower, chard, four different varieties of tomatoes, chillies and various flowers a fighting chance. The thing I’m most excited about though, is my butternut squash.

When I last ate a squash I just threw a few seeds into a container with some compost and hoped for the best, even though you are supposed to dry out the seeds first. I just thought I’d see what would happen as an experiment, and this is what I found.

This was one squash plant at the beginning of May:

This is the very same plant today:

I’m completely invested in this plant now and rather than just sitting back and seeing what happens, I’m doing my best to look after it properly and hopefully I’ll get a harvest from it in the autumn. So exciting!

I think it’s nap time now as I have to go back to work on the 16th of June. I’m slowly, slowly working on switching my body clock back to nights mode. On the one hand, boooooo, work. But on the other, yay, naps!

Gotta keep focusing on the positives.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Manual Labour

Another day, another opportunity to get out there and enjoy the garden. Yesterday it was raining most of the time, and I can’t even remember why I went out at all to be honest. What I ended up doing was weeding a little section of the garden and transplanting some wildflowers that were spreading over the grass. It’s nice to just do whatever I feel like doing at the time.

I don’t know if the transplants will work, but I thought it was a much better idea than just mowing over them. Hopefully they’ll stay healthy. I’ve also created some space to put out the plant babies when they’re ready, though I don’t think they’re quite there yet. Even so, my hand may soon be forced as I have way too many per pot and nowhere to put them. It’s fun not knowing what the hell you’re doing!

I didn’t take a before picture, and since it was in such a terrible state it’s one area I tend to avoid when I have my camera out. Once I had started I was in my happy place and forgot all about it. Here’s the after picture anyway:

After I took this picture and went indoors for a nice shower, we only went and had a poxy hail storm. I timed that just right, because although I stayed out when it was raining I draw the line at hail. Luckily it didn’t seem to harm the plants.

My task for today was to give the pampas grass a haircut, but I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. The garden has just been going wild for the last few years without any intervention from us apart from cutting the grass from time to time when absolutely necessary, and the last time I even went near the pampas was to photograph a fly five years ago.

There are a couple of viable options with a pampas grass. You can cut it right back till it’s just a stump, but now is the wrong time to do that. Or, you can set it on fire. I decided to give that one a miss. Before I started it looked like this:

I thought it would be a case of pulling out the old stalky bits from the top (technical term) and yanking out a few of the dead… leaves? The dangly bits, anyway. But when I got right into it, I saw that were a lot more dead dangly bits than I thought.

The pampas grass should be renamed the Tardis grass.

That’s not even all of it! It’s also razor sharp and the seeds are all fluffy so I’ve been sneezing like mad since I stopped. Now I’m learning about these things, it should never get that bad again. So that’s something. When it’s the proper time, it’s not just getting a haircut, it’s getting shaved.

There have been some developments as far as the wildlife cam goes. You can get up to ten different hedgehogs visiting your garden every night, but I now know for sure the little chap/chapette visiting us every night is the same one. I suspected our little friend has a leg missing, but I wasn’t sure whether or not it was just hidden in his underfluffies. After reviewing around 3 hours of footage (so far) I can now say for sure he (I’m also around 60% sure it’s a boy) only has the three legs.

A friend of mine suggested a great name for him, so henceforth he shall be known as Tripod. He seems really well adapted and he’s obviously getting along just fine, but yesterday night he had an itch that he just couldn’t scratch. If I didn’t think it would be scary and stressful for him I’d be tempted to catch him, but since he’s seems happy and healthy enough I’ll just leave him be.

I almost forgot to feed him last night but remembered just before going to bed. When I checked the camera in the morning it showed he had appeared a mere four minutes after I put the kibble out. He must have been waiting!

We’ve so far had an appearance two nights running from what I believe to be a field mouse, but on the second night it came too late and there was nothing left. It’s name is Dangermouse.

Last night we had what is possibly a house mouse, but I don’t know enough about these things to be sure. The field mouse has longer legs, and is much more nervous. And fast, too! This one, as yet unnamed, seemed much more relaxed.

The final species was our neighbour’s cat. I’m so glad it didn’t eat any of my new friends, both of which visited again after it had gone. Nothing will come between them and Hoggy Crunch, it seems.

Yesterday I found a wildflower which I think may be a common vetch. Or perhaps a spring vetch. Either way it’s delicate and pretty. Once I spotted that one I found three others, and avoided doing any more gardening around that spot. I’ll keep an eye out for when the seed pods are ready and we’ll hopefully have loads more next year.

Finally, I saw my first ever brimstone moth today after my bright gloves confused it.

In case you hadn’t noticed, I FLIPPING LOVE OUR GARDEN! I love the physical work, which completely takes me out of myself while I’m doing it, almost like meditation.

Simply marvellous.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x