Inspired by BBC’s Autumnwatch I headed into the garden to listen for the sound of migrating redwings passing over head on their way from Scandinavia and stumbled into a meteorite shower, if such a thing is possible.
A shooting star flew overhead and I wished on it, automatically, a human thing to do but then, overhead I could see lots of tiny meteors whizzing around and ran out of wishes.
My neighbour Bill came into the garden for a smoke followed by his loyal sidekick, his chihauhau, Blue. I lay still on the bench in the garden trying not to alert Blue’s ferocious guard dog instincts. The neighbours think I’m weird enough and I didn’t want to add to the list of tales they could tell their friends.
“We found her laying in the dark, in the garden, staring at the sky!”
I lay there, waiting for the security lights to dim, wrapped in winter layers and Russian hat and watched the sky fall apart overhead. Laced with twenty first century debris of satellites and airplanes, stars fell, flashing green and streaking white tails across the sky.
One hour later, shivering with cold I’ve ventured inside to find that what I’ve been watching are Taurid fireballs, trails of ice and dust from the comet Encke as it orbits the sun.
The shooting stars are set to peak over the next few nights so turn off the tele, forget the whispers of your neighbours and head out there now.
Just had a buzzard fly over my house, in the middle of urban Medway. It circled above on a rising thermal, hunting for what, I do not know.
I wanted to shout out across the gardens.
“Look, a buzzard, the wild is back in town.”
but restrained myself knowing that the neighbours already find my antics strange enough.
My blue tit babies are out! They were in the box at 6.30am this morning but by the time I came out of the shower they were fluttering around my garden like bits of coloured cotton wool blown by the wind. I feel as nervous as a parent watching a child head off for their first day of school. I want to watch over them and chase away the neighbourhood cat who has taken an unhealthy interest in proceedings, waiting with endless patience until I spot him and go haring down the garden in my dressing gown.
The first few days out of the nest must be the most dangerous time and I curse that I have to go out today and can’t help out these parents who have worked so hard for success. Their industry has inspired me. Round the clock they have flashed in and out of the box like winged jewels drawn, drawn, drawn by the endless begging calls. Now life gets even harder for them. They dash around after the babies, who tumble between tree and box and window pane on wings which seem to short to support them.
This morning two blue tits and two great tits vied for position in front of the bird box in my garden. One great tit hung onto the hole checking it out for size while its mate swung amongst the willow buds waiting for the verdict. On top of the summer house two blue tits twittered angrily, after all the box had been there’s last year.
Incensed by this intrusion the two blue tits tried to assert some authority, dive bombing the great tits. For a moment all four birds chased each other back and forth in front of the box until I wanted to go out into the garden and say.
“Hold on, break it up. Look behind you and you will see another perfectly good box. We can all live in harmony here.”
But I didn’t. There is no point in being logical in such arguments, it is all about territory. They spun around each other, fuming and wasting precious energy, reminding me of the fights for the best parking space in the supermarket car park. Finally a shiny hub capped, 4 wheel driving magpie swooped in and everyone else scarpered.
It would be indiscreet to show them together and probably break some internet law.
Spring is here and to mark the start of a season of mating and loving, two male blackbirds are having daily battles on the roof of my summer house. It is a parade ground, a boxing arena, a prized territory or, possibly, the border between two.
They follow each other, day after day back and forth across the roof of the summer house, bouncing now one way, now the other.
“I’ve seen you off.”
“No, I’m back and I’ll see you off.”
It’s been over a week now and still no one is the victor.
This ritualised marching, like the soldiers at the gate between Indian and Pakistan involves much ferocious glaring and head shaking.
Occasionally, an airborne battle erupts, a spiral of black wings and extended claws, gaping bills and gleaming eyes and, then, silence. They vanish to seach for worms, cocking an ear at the soil and ruminating on which tactic will finally settle this score.
a blackbird stand off
1st annual gardening garden party team
The title of this Beatles song has swum through my head all week following the 4th annual gardening garden party, which saw 15 people cram into my tiny house and garden in order to paint fence panels, weave willow fences, construct little hurdles around the flower beds, put up bird boxes, prune everything in sight and, blessed be, fix my garden gate (technically belonging to my neighbour) which has hung off it’s hinges in various states of disrepair ever since I moved in and collapsed all together in the spring. Now my gate is swinging freely and my garden looks lovely, lovely, lovely once again.
We finished the day by cracking open a bottle of champagne, cutting a ribbon to officially open the gate and cramming into my kitchen to eat baked potatoes and chilli, standing shoulder to shoulder.
On days like these when a bunch of lovely people are willing to turn up my house and spend the day working in my garden on the promise of a baked potato and a glass of mulled wine I feel that I am a very lucky girl indeed when it comes to friends.
Another attempt to turn my Lithuanian housemate into an environmentalist leads to more confusion when I show her the list of tasks I am hoping will be tackled tomorrow as part of my gardening garden party.
The gardening garden party is a fabulous idea dreamt up by my solicitor when I first bought my house. The idea is that a bunch of people come to your home and do the gardening and, in turn, you feed them. It works like a dream and has been running now for four years, the first year my solicitor came too.
This year, as well as weaving a willow fence panel, fixing bird boxes and cleaning the pond I have written ‘turn the compost’ on the list.
“What is this compost?” Erika says
I show her the bin of peelings. “You keep your old vegetables and tea bags and it all rots down. Then you spread it on the soil.”
She looks suspicious. “You are putting rotten food on the garden?”
“Yes,” I say, “but it’s not disgusting. It’s like food for the plants. It will help us get more flowers.”
“More flowers means more bees,” Erika says. Erika is allergic to bees and is, understandably, not a fan.
Still, she has taken to recycling with gusto, even keeping a graveyard of old shoes in the garden.
“You can grow plants in them,” she tells me.