The Garden of Birdly Delights

The sparrows like to eat my Swiss rainbow chard so much, in the end I decided to leave out their own special supply. It did have beautifully lush green leaves and colourful stalks, but now it’s just… stalks.

Chard is a cut-and-come-again veg, but I think I’m going to have to hide it for a bit to give it a fighting chance of coming again at all. At this rate though, we’re going to have the healthiest sparrows in the land.

It was only a few days ago that the chard still had leaves…

While I had my telephoto zoom lens out, catching them in the act no less, instead of having lunch some of the flock decided it was bath time. I’ve seen this behaviour before but until now I didn’t have my camera handy.

One juvenile starling will start having a good ole splash about, then everyone wants a bit of the action.

Our garden birds are healthy and clean.

Going back to chard, last week I was able to really start munching on my own produce. I started growing chard simply because it’s easy and generally problem free (unless you have clean eating sparrows), but I didn’t have any particular desire to eat it. But eat it I did, and it’s rather nice. A similar taste to spinach.

I also tried my first bit of homegrown kale, which wasn’t much (it’s very popular with the caterpillars) but was absolutely delicious. I’ll really try to ramp up my supply next year as it’s something I generally eat a lot of.

On this occasion I very narrowly avoided eating the worlds’ smallest omelette.

Last week’s most exciting development though was the potatoes! I have no idea when I actually planted a few old potatoes that were growing eyes in the cupboard, so I had no idea when they would be ready to harvest. Not much to do rather than dig around and have a look, then. This is what I found.

I haven’t a clue what variety they are, because I hadn’t decided to label anything at the time. More recently I started labelling and dating everything, so I shouldn’t have the same problem in future.

A friend pointed out they look like they came straight from a Tesco bag, which was surprisingly on the money.

If I remember rightly I did indeed get this hessian bag from Tesco’s.

They were really tasty taters, despite me taking my eye off the pan and boiling them to within an inch of their lives. This week I will plant Charlotte potatoes that should be ready to harvest around Christmas.

Despite having a great start (this shows them from the beginning of April to last week) my squash seems to have stalled. I’ve had buds for ages but no flowers, so I’m thinking they grew too much foliage instead of the energy going into fruiting.

I’ll be patient and see what transpires though – at the end of the day they were grown from seeds I took from a squash I ate, so I’m not losing anything if they all fail. In any case, I just love them as a plant. Check out this gorgeous tendril in the evening light.

Best of all though, oh yes definitely best of all… this week MY TOMATOES HAVE TOMATOES!!!

I started noticing them yesterday and I could not be happier. I planted them much later than is advised, so I was happy enough just to get flowers. To see the fruit though! I had a count up and I have a total of 46 tomato plants that have flowered, so even if I only get one tomato from each plant, that alone would be ace. As things stand, it’s a good job I bloody love tomatoes!

Again, I’m not sure about the varieties. I think I grew five different kinds, 2 from bought seeds and 3 kinds that came from supermarket tomatoes. It’ll be lots of fun finding out, whilst in the meantime every week I buy different tomatoes to eat and put aside some seeds for next year. Until I get my first harvest that is.

Although I’ve already learned so much about gardening, now I’m learning to be patient. It’s not something I’ve had much success with in the past, however yesterday I sowed some seeds that are going to really put me to the test.

They’re Japanese maple (acer) seeds, and first of all you have to soak them for 24 hours. Normally even that would put me off.

Anyway, stage one is complete. Next, they go in the fridge for 2-4 months, to make them think it’s been winter. It might work, it might not. If not, back in the fridge they go.

It could be a full TWO YEARS before they germinate. Please, don’t hold your breath for updates on this one!

Whilst I could go on about the garden indefinitely , there’s stuff to be done. Including gardening stuff.

Who would have guessed?

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

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

Seeds of Change

For the last few weeks, I haven’t bothered with trying to find any balance in my life. Since I finally decided to stop feeling bad about my weight, I have gone to town and have been treating every day like a holiday. It has been great. I’ve had good food, good wine, and made some irreplaceable new memories with my family.

One highlight was these immense doughnuts from Doughnut Time. I was supposed to be going to a doughnut decorating class with my sister but lockdown interfered with those plans, so I bought a couple of kits to try at home. My brother ate one and literally had to have a nap in order to sleep off the sugar overload.

They aren’t exactly cheap, but I cannot recommend them highly enough. They’re out of this world.

Another standout was toasted marshmallows on the BBQ last weekend. I had to wait forever for vegan-friendly marshmallows to be delivered (I don’t care what your dietary preference is, beef and pork do not belong in sweets) and when they did to be honest they seemed like sad, flat little things.

However, if you stick em on a BBQ and turn them slowly, they puff right up! Toasted marshmallows are delicious, but if they catch on fire? EVEN BETTER.

Me and my little bro spent the whole evening outside, and we got to see about four hedgehogs with our very own eyes. Plus we heard even more snuffling around in the bushes. Another magical memory to store away for a rainy day.

As much as it’s been fantastic not worrying about my weight, the fact remains that if I continue to eat and drink the way I have been, my health is going to suffer. So, it’s time to put holiday mode to one side and eat same damn veggies.

This isn’t my usual diet mentality though. First of all, my aspirational clothes are going. On eBay, to the charity shop, whatever, but I am DONE keeping things to ‘slim into’. I just recently bought some clothes that fit me (well they did, they’re just a little tight right now!) and it’s so freeing to try something on and think ‘yes, I like this on me now, just as I am’. Or to try something on that doesn’t feel right and assume there is something wrong with the garment, rather than something wrong with my body. It’s no longer ‘I am too big’, it’s ‘this item of clothing is too small’.

I am almost, almost ready to say goodbye to diet culture once and for all, but before I do I just want to lose a tiny bit more weight. I have set a sensible goal, and when I get there I will be able to maintain it easily. I was ‘stuck’ at that weight for perhaps a year at one point, and it was mainly outside influences that made me want to lose even more. There was a voice in my head at the time asking if I shouldn’t just stop right then (I really could have been happy y’know), but I didn’t listen to it. Ah well, the message got through eventually!

Once the final diet of my life is out of the way, I can, for the first time ever, discover what it’s like to live a life that isn’t ruled by food. I had a taste of this during holiday mode, and although it was wonderful, I did go too far the other way. Or at least, if I were going to eat like that all the time it would be too much. As far as making the most of lockdown and some beautifully sunny days, I can say, hand on heart, that I haven’t wasted a second of it.

And then, in the very near future, I can be someone who eats sensibly during the week then relaxes with a few treats at the weekend. Imagine that, not living a life of restriction, guilt, shame, binges and purges! This is a journey (sorry to drop the J word on you there) I’m really excited about, more excited than I ever got when I was close to my so-called target weight.

Although I’m telling you my plans now, I probably won’t be saying much about weight-related things from now on. That’s because it is now taking up such a tiny amount of headspace, it stands to reason it should take up a small amount of blog space as well. Going forwards, if you aren’t interested in how my plant babies are getting on, then this probably isn’t the place for you! You can’t say I didn’t warn you.

Moving on then! The plants are doing well, and although I’d planned to plant them outside soon a sudden cold snap has scuppered that plan. For now, my bedroom looks more like a greenhouse than a place to sleep, but come spring next year I’ll have a much better system in place. I seriously underestimated how much I would care about gardening, but I’m totally invested in these little seedlings. I repotted my sunflower and it was touch and go for a few days – the leaves kept going limp and I couldn’t figure out why (I’m still not entirely sure) but it pulled through and now it’s started growing again. Crisis averted… for now.

I planted some seeds I took from a butternut squash I ate a few weeks ago but didn’t expect much to happen. I thought you had to dry the seeds out and plant them next year, but I decided I’d give it a go anyway. Yesterday, their first true leaves just started peeping out! I can hardly contain my excitement!

Last week was a busy one in the garden. I finished digging the hole for the pond which was bloody hard going. You wouldn’t even believe the amount of rubble I dug up. It’s way too exposed to attract much wildlife just yet, but I have some oxygenating plants on order then I’ll build up gradually from there. Please note the hedgehog ramps devised by my brother. You see, hedgehogs can’t swim so if they fall in they need a way to get out again. Bless them.

The area I showed you a picture of a few weeks ago has gone from looking like this:

To this:

It’s getting there! Also, these are just some of the bits of tile I have so far pulled out of the ground.

I am making new discoveries in the garden nearly every single day, but I’ll save that for next time.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x

Hog Cam

Over the last seven days I have definitely been embracing the lockdown life. I’ve meant to blog several times, but by the time I get around to it I’ve been way too pooped and have instead relaxed on the sofa in front of the TV with me mum. Plus a glass of wine (or four).

Since lockdown started I have seen whole episodes of The Great British Bake Off, Killing Eve, Great British Menu, and the new one about primates. Normally I’m rushing around getting ready for work when these shows are on but it’s nice to sit down and enjoy them with company.

Over the next two weeks I’m going to try to live a little healthier (I’m drinking more than usual for one) but for now the guilt of being safe has subsided enough for me to make the most of this rare opportunity. I always thought it would do me the world of good if I could have a break from night work (well, work full stop) and I was right. I feel like a different person, and although I already succumbed to a nap today, generally I’m waking up at about 8am without the need for an alarm and I’m managing to stay awake for the whole day. What a treat to be able to see all this daylight!

The weather has been a bit up and down, but that’s ok. I had to venture out to the chemist yesterday and since it was raining I didn’t have to queue at all to pick up my prescription. I managed to pop into Lidl’s for a wee top up shop, again without queuing or getting stressed out by other shoppers, and on my walk to and from the shops I didn’t see a single other person on the streets.

Friday was a busy, busy day, but it’s only because I keep a photographic record of everything fun I do that I’m able to tell you that. Time isn’t running like it normally does, that’s for sure, and I don’t know where the last 7 days have gone.

I spent hours clearing the corner of the garden I mentioned in my last post, which was a damn good workout I tell you. I sawed up a large portion of our old tree which was very hard yet very satisfying work. The next day my muscles were like jelly.

At the end of all that work, the area (underwhelmingly) looked like this.

We have a hedgehog house on the left, and a bug hotel on the right, however since I plan to put a pond in here too I figured the hedgehog house was too close (and a danger to the hoggies) so I’ve since moved it to the other end of the garden.

Two evenings ago I put out food and water, and I had instant success! I bought Hoggy Crunch specially which has proved to be a hit with our spiky garden community.

On Sunday, I ‘met’ my little sister for drinks (we had a video chat and got pissed) and it was great fun. Of course I would have prefered to do it in person, but it just goes to show we can still have really lovely moments in our lives.

Considering I’ve been so busy the words aren’t coming easily today, perhaps because I already had my therapy this morning and I’m all talked out. I’ll just leave you with a few of the photos I took since I last posted.

Thanks for reading,

Hayley x