But how to record this in a blog?
My brother Mark has told me that Ted Hughes urged his fishing friends not to photograph their catches, lest they hang onto just that image, and forget the complete atmosphere, environment and experience of the hunt, and eventual capture.
But it seems to me after just 3 years of producing this blog, that photographs provide a really good adjunct to words, in recording how much seasons vary from one year to the next, and also how the garden morphs and develops as a truly organic microcosm of Gaia, (albeit with a very concerned over fussy mentor and tender). There are regular events to look forward to, for sure, but no two years are ever remembered for the same things.
This fortnight I glimpsed, for only the second time, a raptor (probably a goshawk) flying fast and low as a swallow over the sward, close to the turkey run (indeed the “Look Out, Look Out” from the swallows alerted me to it), before pausing in an overlooking ash tree.How do goshawks hunt and capture their prey? With extraordinary speed and agility, even amongst woodland trees. So you’ll see why we’ve used high fencing, newly planted saplings, willow wands and panel baffles, to give our turkeys a fighting chance. A goshawk would, hopefully, be unable to negotiate such physical barriers, at least at speed.
But I’ve been struck by how inadequate still images, and my accompanying words, are to capture the real thrill of it all.No Orange-tip butterflies, Anthocharis cardamines, at all last year. Several already seen this April.
It’s often the missing senses which can’t be captured (yet?) on screen, and certainly not with rural broadband connectivity.
The movement of wind through emerging, or retained shrivelled leaves; the playing of light and shadow on mossy surfaces; or the sudden sensual hit from an unfamiliar scent. This fortnight I was moved by the unusual fragrance from a Corylopsis pauciflora bush. I’ve grown two from seed, and the one which usually flowers well had lost most of its flower buds after being hit by a late frost – we obviously should have planted it under more mature tree cover.
But the second shrub is further from a path, and so whilst the mass of pendant primrose flowers was obvious visually, I kept getting a localized hit from the indescribable, to me anyway, aromatic scent at a different point on the nearest path, depending on the wind direction. As I set up to photograph this, the first swallows which arrived on April 11th, paused for breath and their excited chatter on the dead upper twigs of a small hawthorn bush above the croquet lawn completed the sensory experience. Happy moments.
More lambs have arrived, more names have been chosen with the annual letter prefix.And the turkey hens are all now sitting with determination, feathers ruffled for warmth.Whilst late last night, a single poult hatched from the eggs we’d placed in the incubator exactly 28 days earlier.
Not knowing what to expect we’d watched and waited.
Was that a faint cheep, audible above the constant low whine of the incubator’s computer fan?
Were those little cracks and shell fragments above the smooth contours of some of the eggs? It seems that this is known as chicks or poults ‘pipping’ (we’re focusing on the egg to the left of the red dot below).And then, most definitely, one, but only one of the eggs started to wobble. At first imperceptibly and intermittently. After an hour and a half Fiona had seen it.
We went to bed late and set up the camera on time lapse. A disturbed sleep had me creeping out of bed at 3.50 am. A single poult had made it into the world (about an hour earlier). Following the advice to leave the poult alone where it was for several hours (since opening the incubator would lose the humidity vital to keep the egg membranes soft and more penetrable), I returned to bed. Interestingly the camera records that the process started with a sudden burst of egg wobbling at about 2 am, then a double line of shell cutting, with emergence around 2.40 am. Not that different to the 45 minutes or so which the typical ewe takes to deliver a lamb once regular abdominal expulsive contractions begin.
The following morning there was considerable disappointment as this was still the only visible poult.
Then as the morning wore on, we spotted 3 more eggs wobbling. The whole process of artificial incubation seems very alien, and what must it sound like to the poults to hear the constant whir of a fan, and the smell of plastic rather than feathers? Can they smell, or experience any other senses whilst inside the egg?
We started making occasional encouraging cheeping sounds, and often this seemed to elicit a response in sound or movement from the remaining eggs. But it’s clear that Fiona has the edge here. She can reach a higher register and to my ear at least sounds entirely convincing. Which may of course mean that the poults bond with her, and not me.
But will this single emerged poult be the limit of our success from 15 eggs, and if not, how long will the hatching process continue for?
As the first rain of over 2 weeks arrived, I’d just managed to complete another topping of the rushes in our 2 lower fields, in a fraction of the time it took us last autumn. Already they are looking more like meadows than rush forests, but such continued effort behind the BCS power scythe has left the body pummelled and in need of some therapeutic keyboard recuperation. The cleared fields and a powerful LED torch meant that the other night I shone the beam from our magic terrace garden into the lower (then sheep-less) field to be met with two pairs of reflective eyes following my moves. Worried about lamb predation by foxes, I moved down into this field, and the ever watchful eyes backed off, before slinking out of the field to the South. Just as well, since our twin lambs had chosen this moment to escape the watchful protection of mum and get themselves stuck between the double fencing of the hedge boundary.
But how well will the goslings fare, when they hatch from the nest that a Canada goose has now created close to where I found the large submerged egg a few weeks back?An additional BIG issue of late has been continuing internet access issues. Using a satellite hook up is inevitably limiting in terms of speed, but for the last few months we’ve had major periods of access outage, or speeds so slow that it’s impossible to achieve even the simplest of tasks. Being a naturally impatient fellow, this has proved very frustrating, the more so since our service provider’s level of interest in resolving the issue seems pretty minimal. But then I guess they know that we don’t have many alternative options for now.
Then came the news of the Heartbleed security issue, and sure enough a few days later an email from WordPress that they used SSL open source software, and had experienced an issue which had been speedily resolved. Passwords were changed, and briefly things did improve, though not completely.
But this seemed an appropriate link to mention another favourite plant group for this spring season. The Dicentra spectabilis, (now Lamprocapnos spectabilis) or ‘Bleeding Hearts’, ‘Dutchman’s Breeches’ or even ‘Ladies In The Bath’. Though I see that this is yet another genus where scientific nomenclature changes have seen the genus renamed and adding to this ordinary gardener’s confusion. Most seem to be plants of moist shady environments, from Asia and North America and whilst some like ‘Bacchanal’ below will flower for quite a long period,our favourite Dicentra spectabilis alba is more ephemeral, flowering if it escapes frost damage for perhaps 6 to 8 weeks, before gracefully fading from the scene by mid summer.
Finally it was a great surprise and delight to recently be listed as one of 10 ‘Secret Gardens of Wales to visit in 2014′ by the Western Mail media group who also produce the widely read Wales Online internet pages. Click here for more.
Blog readers can enjoy virtual visits to the garden anytime through these pages. I do hope that the aforementioned internet access issues don’t wear me down and drive this to become simply a private record of our experiences here.