June began with us desperately hoping for rain after the driest start to a year we’ve ever experienced. Only February was a wet month. But the garden and meadows all headed into June in surprisingly good shape, probably since temperatures have yet to hit even the high teens, and there’s not yet been a vast amount of sunshine. The Met Office summaries for spring 2022 highlight this.
After 3 sunny days, the weather turned cloudy, showery, and cool until the 12th, which was a blessing since I was afflicted with Omicron Covid, so couldn’t do too much for 10 days. Although I could manage the critical time-sensitive June job of cutting back Pyrenean Valerian, Cow Parsley, and Sweet Cicely, before too many seeds blew around or dropped, and thinning the apples down to about 1 per 4 inches.
I was beginning to improve when the wonderfully busy Swedish butter churn honey bee hive, swarmed mid-morning on June 10th. Although they actively checked out one of my vacant hives, by 4.30 p.m. no move had been made, so I decided to shake off the swarm and relocate the initially lung-shaped swarm cluster into a prepared, insulated National hive, behind the upper hay shed. This went surprisingly well since I’d not shaken a swarm before, but the whole process set me back a couple of days.
3 days later, I was cutting our first hay, with a benign forecast for the rest of that week. In the end, it turned out to be perfect haymaking – cutting a light crop, on dry ground and having the luxury of 3 full dry days to rake it in. But avoiding all the most floriferous parts of the meadows for now.
June has been enlivened by the near-constant sound of Redstarts around the yard and meadows, which has been some compensation for the absence, so far, of any swallow chicks in the barn. If this isn’t remedied with a second brood, it will mark the first year ever that no swallows have been reared here. We do have swallows, but fear some predator – hawk or magpie has cleared out the eggs or chicks – a fate we know befell the Grey Wagtail pair which made a far too exposed nest on the shelf of the cowshed in May. Rather too late, we opted to limit the open top door of the barn to just a narrow crack, and have been rewarded with the swallows sitting on a second clutch of eggs.
A day of light rain just after we brought the first hay in was followed by yet more warm sunny breezy weather so we cut all of the remaining lower meadow, and also 4 swathes of green hay for a garden visitor from last year, from the upper meadow – they’ll return in about 6 weeks for another batch to complement with later flowering seeds. Green hay wilted for about 2 hours, is the best and most cost-effective way of kick-starting a meadow project, large or small, so long as it’s spread out quickly onto the already cut recipient site.
The molehill mountain was looking lovely by the end of the month, with mainly Dahlia merckii, Echium ‘Blue Bedder’, Cosmos, and Opium poppies, all grown as seedlings grown from saved seeds from last year.
By the end of this period, things were seriously dry, and we were desperate for some significant rain, as was the wildlife
The honey bees continued to keep me busy, with an external swarm moving into the copse hive, and then a second, cast swarm moving into the last vacant, re-purposed German butter churn hive, which I’d re-located in late March.
Thinking this was the end of things, a third cast swarm was found 8 days later at the end of the month, which I was still filming in the hope I might catch the cluster taking off for pastures new, but increasingly fearing it’s doomed to fail where it is.
We enjoyed some wonderful cloudscapes at the end of the month, and finally had some very welcome heavy rain during the last 7 days of June which pushed the rainfall total into 3 figures for only the second time this year, with a total of 124.3 mm. Despite this, the PV inverter reading of 470 KWH shows it was a lovely sunny month too, with just a few really gloomy days. The Met Office summary for June confirms that for our part of Wales, it was close to the average for a typical June month in recent decades.
Finally, I can include for the first time ever a picture of some overflying Swifts, which fleetingly appeared overhead with House Martins, chasing insects as a storm front moved in. Many years ago Swifts were regular annual visitors, nesting on our neighbour’s gable wall, but we haven’t seen them since we moved here permanently.