Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Picture Perfect

This summer's hot sunny days transformed our local towns and villages from grey and dull to  Mediterranean luminosity. The holiday vibe was everywhere and so we downed tools at La Petite Maison and headed off to the coast.

The sea was azure blue, still as a mill pond except for the little waves lapping lazily against the clean white sand. 

We picnicked upon the beach - summer food and a glass of wine. 

The beach was deserted save for four children and their dog who could almost have been straight from the covers of my old Enid Blyton books, 

as they wandered slowly along the waters edge towards the wooden stile separating the little bay from the dune meadow full of wildflowers, butterflies and birds, 

and rocks that tumbled gently to the sea.

There are hidden coves and bays - one of where a lone yacht lay anchored.

Later we travelled a short distance around the coast to the picturesque, quaint old-time fishing village which I would describe as "Cornish-style".

The village is tiny - consisting of one main street with charming cottages off to both sides and larger pastel shaded Georgian houses on the upper-side with spectacular views and an old castle.

At the small harbour a ferry connects to the village on the other side of the lough.

I wandered down to the little quay and for a while sat dangling my feet above the water, soaking up the sun's rays and gazing at the little boats and the shore side cottages - which I see every time I look at the two oil paintings (both by the same artist) that hang upon the walls at home depicting this very scene.

(I remember another sunny afternoon - sitting on the quay twenty-five years ago when this was being painted)

As the day stretched towards a balmy evening we ventured inland around the lough, 

the red and pink valerian looked stunning growing in tiny cracks along the old stone walls.

At the lightship we stopped briefly 

before ending our day at the little restaurant on the island and for me another glass of wine - well it was a holiday after all!!


Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Wildlife - Birds; Butterflies and Bunnies

The allotment provides ample opportunities to observe the wildlife and be close to Nature. As I listened to the birds tweeting in the Hawthorn hedge above the shed

something caught my eye in the plot next to mine belonging to Mr Production.

Amongst the Brassicas and the Broccoli - a movement - a little flash of brown. For a moment it disappeared before emerging beneath the raspberry canes in my plot and into full view on the path.

A little brown bunny - could it be the same one that I saw hiding in the Columbines?
Unhurriedly the little rabbit hopped up the step and into the herb beds

where he disappeared from view again,

re-emerging under the boundary fence 

beneath the thornless blackberries.

Unperturbed at my presence 

the bunny settled down to nibble contentedly at the grass.

A rabbit dinner that my fellow allotmenteers could not complain about.

I have always endeavoured to ensure that the plot is a haven for wildlife and thus Teasels and Verbena have swarmed with bees. However despite constantly monitoring the Verbena I have only ever witnessed Small Tortoiseshell and Cabbage White butterflies perched upon the flowers. 

But today at last I saw a Peacock butterfly. Amazingly though it was not attracted to the Verbena or the Teasels - but was instead taking time to admire itself......

on the front grill of my Mini


parked in Sweet Pea Lane outside the plot.

Later as I drove home from the allotment I noticed something perched high upon the lamppost at the end of the road.

A squirrel

But is it a red or a grey squirrel - or a bit of both?


Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Wildlife - The Birds and The Bees

Chatting to one of my fellow allotmenteers he made the comment that my plot was much more in the style of a French potager than the usual run of the mill allotment. Of course I was delighted, although admittedly I know that my plot is a lot more eclectic than an orderly French Potager; but the combining of flowers and edibles means that the allotment is an absolute mecca for wildlife.

Pause for a moment and the air is full of the murmur of bees and bird-song.

Butterflies flutter daintily upon the Verbena Bonariensis that I grew from seed last year.

Opening their wings and basking in the heat of the sun.

Around the Teasels, bees drone lazily as they indulge upon the nectar.

The glowing yellow sunflowers have acted as a beacon for the bees

as has the jewel-like calendula

and the brightly coloured nasturtiums.

The herb beds swarm with Bumble and Honey bees in their droves, attracted by the Nepeta, Fennel, Bee-Balm and Lavender. 

Intoxicated and dripping in nectar the bees stagger across the carpet of Thyme at the foot of the herb beds

and the Borage is alive with bees hanging from the fragile star-shaped flowers

Foxgloves scattered around the plot and the Hollyhocks beside the shed provide a bountiful supply of nectar also.

The swarms of bees ensure that pollination takes place as they buzz busily in the flowers of the runner beans.

The abundance of fruit has provided a well-stocked larder for the birds, and the raspberry bushes along the boundary of the plot are full of the sound of the chuck chuck of blackbirds as they plunder the fruit and then fly off with a flurry of feathers as they hear me approaching.

The blackbirds have feasted upon the raspberries, gorging themselves and even making off with the plundered fruit.

The Thieving Bird
(he moved just as I snapped him caught in the act - red juicy raspberry in beak!)

Fat Woodpigeons that nest in the ancient tall trees on the old country estate bordering the allotments use the greenhouse roof in the neighbouring plot as a viewing platform to eye up brassicas and lettuces.

The plot has also seen wildlife of the not so appealing type - pulling back the polythene covering the compost heap revealed an unwelcome discovery of a large dead rat.

Picking strawberries I was aware of a rustling noise amongst the columbines beside my foot. Fearful of another rat, I stopped in my tracks and remained motionless. Two soft brown eyes peered up at me and I found myself looking at the sweetest little baby rabbit. (Oh why did I not have my camera?)

Another unexpected creature appeared recently. My neighbouring plot-holder heard a distressed shrieking noise from one of his fruit trees. Peering into the branches he found a little black scrap of fur and two large green eyes staring down at him. A Kitten!

With the kitten safely retrieved the question for my plot-holder was now what to do with it. Thin and hungry the indication was that it was either lost or abandoned. Of course the solution was obvious - and that was how I found myself with a little feline companion at my plot.

The little kitten was famished and devoured a tin of salmon and then some proper cat food.

Once fed the kitten gamboled behind me like a little lamb - long and leggy before flopping down and resting.

She was a little slip of a thing, but very friendly and so adorable.

As I sat watching her she sidled up to me asking to be petted. Then eyeing up the skirts of my old maxi dress I was wearing that swept the ground where I sat

she curled up on them, gave a contented sigh and a somewhat noxious little poof from her rear end and proceeded to have a nap.

Obviously I was not going to get anything productive done as long as my attire provided a soft bed for the kitten. (A quick inspection had ascertained that she did not seem to be carrying any fleas - I sincerely hoped this was the case anyway!) 

The question remained what was to be done with her? If she remained at the plot all the birds who flourished at the allotments would be under threat - especially the young thrushes, wrens, tits, finches and blackbirds. As much as I wanted to I couldn't bring her home - I have enough cat issues at home without adding to them!

Eventually another neighbouring plot-holder offered to take her home and the little cat - now named Poppy from The Plot soon found herself in a cat carrier

mewing her goodbyes to me and the plot

before arriving at her new home.

Somehow the plot now seems empty without her, although I am content knowing the birds can sing sweetly without being in danger of attracting the attention of a very cute little feline predator.