A grey damp May 1st was soon forgotten, as dry weather with often quite strong, cool winds swept the garden from the East and North. So, although we enjoyed lunch outside on May 2nd, the low rainfall for April of just 47.8 mm, meant that fields and parts of the garden were beginning to suffer from water shortages – a huge change from most years here. In our top hay meadow, the now ubiquitous and quite dense Yellow rattle, Rhinanthus minor, germination is going to dramatically reduce output this year from this field – what we want for floral diversity, but it has meant a re-think in the bottom meadows, where the upper wet meadow has also been “shut up”, to allow us further options for haymaking. Hemi-parasitic Lousewort, Pedicularis sylvatica, whose pale pink flowers are really enjoyed by early bumblebees, as a nectar source, is also now becoming well established in our upper hay meadow.
The hope is that the 22 ewes we entered summer with, plus just 2 lambs, identical twins, we think, will mean that we hopefully only have these two fields to worry about cutting or topping. Our two larger wet meadows, have no significant rush re-growth evident so far, since the 14 ewes grazing each field alternately, about every 7 days, are chewing off all the Sharp-flowered rush, Juncus acutiflorus, regrowth, very efficiently. The downside is that we shall have very few flowers in these fields this year, I think.
Equally, these dry conditions allowed us great opportunities to bring in much of the wood harvested from the latest overgrown hedges, which have been tackled during the last 12 months. However, we’ve noticed we really have to pace ourselves now with this sort of physical work – our stamina is definitely reducing a little as we both move into another decade.
My efforts with sowing seed and putting cuttings beneath daffodils in the bottle bank big bags, seems to have worked quite well, with reasonable success with hydrangeas, roses and even some hollies, in spite of my late timing of taking the cuttings – well into winter.
In the garden, most Narcissi were finished by the end of the first week of May, though I did find this lovely very late unnamed one in amongst our many now faded N. “Merlin”. The Camassia leichtlinii caerulea, had a fabulous year, and the apple blossom began to open by the end of the first week of the month.
Since we’ve had no honeybees in the garden this year, I’m trying with a couple of bait hives created from old butter churns, to see if there are any wild colonies around, now that our near neighbour’s “farmed” bees have been removed after apossible allergic reaction issue.
Grey wagtails, Motacilla cinerea, have been frequently sighted along the stream’s drying bed, and it’s been a fantastic year for echoing cuckoo song in the valley, even if swallow numbers are significantly reduced.Around the middle of the month, a week of rainy weather including the heaviest single 24 hour rainfall total for over a year, of 42 mm, saw all our worries about an impending drought recede, the grass in the fields finally began to grow, and the garden freshened up.By the end of the month, the rainfall total of 112.1 mm was yet again a historically modest figure, and overall light levels were fairly average, as shown by the PV inverter recording of 478 KWH output, for the month.