December began with a continuation of the lovely weather throughout November – mainly dry, light winds, a lot of bright sunny weather, and in the first week a couple of really hard frosts, with temperatures to minus 10 degrees C (using my laser thermometer). The winds then suddenly changed to the South, and across the UK, the 7th was close to being the warmest December day ever. At last (after what has definitely been one of our driest years so far) 30 mm of rain fell overnight on the 7th.
The day after we’d had our 3 ram lambs killed for the freezer, and we thought that the last major event of the sheep year had passed, tragedy struck as a result of the very cold weather, and our lack of foresight. We lost one of this year’s ewe lambs, which strayed onto the frozen lower pond, and fell through the ice. She didn’t drown, but her sodden fleece prevented her from hauling herself out of just a couple of feet of water, and so she died from the cold before we’d found her. The first adult sheep mortality we’ve had in the 5 years we’ve gone from a couple of ewe lambs to our small flock now of 22 Tor Ddu Badger face.
This is Fiona, with the older ewes of the flock, in late November, before the ram lambs were allowed a brief fling, with a few selected ones. We think we’re now near optimum levels to help manage the meadows, without overgrazing, so just a few lambs, and the occasional ewe for mutton is what we plan from now on.
An early present of a trail camera has already yielded some exciting pictures from our lower wet meadows of visiting wildlife.
And as always at this time of the year, if there are broken clouds at dawn, sunrises have been very special.
As I begin to write this up on December 9th, the first 4 snowdrop cultivars are beginning to flower, including G. ‘Three Ships’, above. The jewelled flowers of Cyclamen coum, are already illuminating the carpets of leaves in the copse.Where late Acer leaves are still littering, and lighting up, the scene, whilst the earlier fallers have shrivelled in the dry weather.
Winter proper, may not have arrived yet, and there was still much to tempt us outside, even on grey wet days. The weather turned milder and wetter for Christmas, and with both of us succumbing to a very nasty form of ‘flu, Christmas was cancelled. Christmas Day saw temperatures in the balmy mid teens, but by Boxing Day, cold, clear and dry days, with night time frosts returned. Hamamelis began blooming, and by the end of the year, 21 different snowdrops had already graced the garden with their blooms.‘Vesna’ above, and ‘Robert’ below. At long last, I’m making a concerted effort to properly photograph, curate and catalogue the snowdrop collection, though with over 250 to process, nothing will appear on the website until late 2017, I guess. Simply getting decent photos of all varieties at different stages of flowering is a major undertaking, but like all things, will be a useful record once completed. But a flavour of our early favourites are shown below.
Galanthus ‘Mrs. Macnamara’, ‘Florence Baker’, ‘Bess’, and ‘Sutton Courtenay’.
In the end, the rainfall total for the month was 124.2 mm, one of the driest Decembers on record across Wales, and this following on from last year’s wettest ever at 534.5 mm. So the violent weather extreme oscillations, which we now seem to be experiencing on a regular basis, just continue.
What can we and local wildlife expect in 2017? Who Knows?
The year’s rainfall total of 1600.3 mm was certainly the lowest annual rainfall since I began recording, yet the annual PV output was also one of the lowest recorded since our system was installed, so grey and gloomy rather than wet, was a theme for much of the middle of the year, until the fabulous autumn.