Originally from Essex, Rosemary Green has been a member of All Saints’ congregation for many years and is a pastoral assistant and worship leader. She and her husband Jim are farmers up in the hills near Newton Stewart.
Well, some rain at last, but unfortunately it hasn’t made any difference to level in our water tank yet. I have been taking advantage of it by putting a bucket under the dripping gutter on the garage, but the sparrows mess there, so I still have to filter and boil the water, but at least it looks clean, unlike the dark brown river water. The plants in the garden are looking better so I only have to use dirty, three times used water for the house plants now. We have the builders in changing the downstairs bathroom to a shower room so that is out of use and dust everywhere. they kindly brought us up ten litres of clean water this morning so we are looking forward to better wash today and I have done a little bit of hand washing. Fortunately we have loads of old tee shirts and trousers so, although we look increasingly scruffy, we are still relatively cleanly clad. the backlog of washing will take and age o get through once the tank fills.
We have been busy with our hobby of hospital visiting again this week as I had to go to Glasgow on Tuesday and Jim to Ayr on Thursday. We went early on Tuesday and picked up the tiles from Ayr in case the builders needed them that day. They didn’t. We had already looked in all the places we could find selling floor tiles in Ayr and discovered that they all had the same sort of tiles which was was not what we were looking for. I looked online and all the firms I looked at had the same range of grey or cream stone look alike tiles and most of them had the currently fashionable big tiles. Jim wanted 30 x 30 and there were very few of those to be had as it now fashionable to have 60 x 60 or 60 x 30 In a small space there would be such a lot of cutting and waste with big ones. Unerringly we pick something which is out of fashion and unobtainable. Jim first wanted to go to the tile place in Heath Hall Dumfries but eventually we decided it would probably be a case of looking at more big grey slate looking tiles and a waste of day . So we went back to Topps Tiles in Ayr and had a choice of one 30 x 30 grey slate looking tile, which we bought. We remember that we couldn’t get what we wanted for the kitchen, so settled for something that would do, and then were pleasantly surprised they looked much better than we expected. So we are hoping these will be same.
I am a bit depressed that I am still walking very badly with a lot of pain and the surgeon is still saying patience. I keep thinking that I am not trying hard enough but the more I try the more it hurts. I am so slow that Jim tries to tow me along, but he pulls my top half faster than my feet can go and I am danger of pulling us both over. His last two hospital visits have been more hopeful and he is feeling a lot stronger and more positive. Mr. Nair is talking about doing the operation himself now so I shall have to hurry up and get driving again.
On our various trips up the A77 we have noticed how much the trees are suffering from the dry weather. The birch trees are really sad as they are all brown along the road. Maybe the verges are too free draining and the trees planted there are at a disadvantage compared to those growing more naturally. The rosebay willowherb is still really prominent along the roadside. Like many ruderal species it really benefits from some of man’s activities. It was really striking to see how there was a solid mass of pink right from the roads edge to the fence between the verge and the fields and then it stopped dead. Disturbing the soil by engineering or clear fell causes it to thrive, but cropping or grazing is inimical to it. The buttercups have given up and the areas which were solid yellow with buttercup flowers are now brown like most of the rest of the land. We saw the first barley crops being harvested. I wonder what sort of yield they will get from crops that dried and went yellow half way through June. The spring barley and wheat fields look like old men’s heads with the soil showing through very short, sparse crops. We noticed one field with a dome which was bald on the top and had a fringe of scanty short barley round the sides. There will be a shortage of fodder this winter with barley straw so short and silage and hay hard to find. Some of the silage fields that were cut early have just about started to green up again, but the framers will be looking for a lot more rain.
The dry weather has been making it hard for many species. Sadly our barn owl chicks have perished as the parent couldn’t find enough food for them Our small mammal sampler has not managed to find any voles for sometime now and has been catching young birds. There are hardly any slugs about, for which I am grateful, but for the animals which eat them it is a disaster. The dry soils have affected the numbers of earthworms so mole and badgers are having a hard time and the foxes will be finding it hard to get much food. There carrion eating birds are appearing in numbers as road casualties as they try to eat roadkill. Yesterday we saw gulls, crows, rooks and a buzzard dead on the road. Jim is saving any food waste and taking it up for the badgers and our bird table is keeping lots of small birds plus sparrowhawks going. The various cock pheasants are bringing their families to feed under the bird table.
We had an amusing few minutes watching Shortarse trying to shepherd his family from the back of the house round to the bird table. The stackyard extends back from the middle of the house and then there is a little bit of garden behind the far end of the house so the field comes nearer to the house there and there is a gate in the stackyard wall where the two meet. Simon has sheep in the field. Shortarse came down first and went under the gate, round the outside of the garden fence and down to the gate into the main part of the garden while the family waited in the stackyard until he signaled that it was safe to cone. He called them, but just as they reached to gate a lamb wandered up and started having a prolonged scratch against the gate. He gave one side a really good going over, turned round and did the other side, then backed up and rubbed his rump against the gate for much longer than necessary, turned and ruminatively rubbed his head and finally decided to settle down in the angle between the gate and wall. Mrs Shortarse was getting very agitated and Shortarse, unable to see why they hadn’t come round, was calling constantly. Eventually he came back through the back garden to see why they hadn’t come and tried to gather then together to go round the other way, past the Dutch barn and round the end of the byre so they could make the scary journey through the yard. But Mrs Shortarse wasn’t having that risk for her babies and flew off with them.
Stuck at the traffic lights in Girvan yesterday we were pleased to see Hissing Sid and his wife with a family of cygnets again. The swans haven’t nested in their usual place below the boat yard for a few years now and we were had worried that one of the parents was dead, but if so, the remaining one has found a new mate and a new nest site and there are still swans in Girvan. Our herons must be breeding somewhere near the farm as we have been seeing a young one regularly and now there are three juveniles about making a lot of noise and drawing attention to themselves. the fish must be having a hard time in the low, warm, deoxygenated water so fish eaters will be suffering too.
One last thing which I thought was funny, but completely failed to amuse Jim. We went up the escalator at Southern General.and I noticed it was made by firm called Schindler so I said ‘Oh Schindler’s lift’. Jim hadn’t noticed the name so was completely nonplussed.