Originally from Essex, Rosemary Green has been a member of All Saints’ congregation for many years and is a pastoral assistant. She and her husband Jim are farmers up in the hills near Newton Stewart.
Jim saw two ring ouzels last Saturday, which cheered him up for a while. We haven’t seen any here for getting on for thirty years so it was good. There then followed a frustrating time for him uploading the result to the BTO website. I have a little book which I keep buried in paperwork with all my passwords and user IDs and I get them remembered on the computer, but Jim relies on the forgotten password options, all of which work differently and take a long time. We have also seen a few late swallows this week. I suppose they are passing through on their way south from further north in Scotland. It made us realise how much we miss them. As I came home from church last Sunday I spotted some biggish birds on the wires over the byre. When I got close enough I could see they were feral pigeons- ten of them. We thought they must be the pair plus offspring that took over the barn owl box in the winter and spring. They didn’t stay so I hope the barn owls made it clear that they own the boxes. Famous last words- since writing that they had gone, they came back and are hanging around looking for opportunities to establish themselves.
Jim had a look to see how the barn owl chicks chicks were getting on and found that all but the last had flown and were now living in the box in the Dutch barn. So that is nine out of ten chicks fledged this year and the last looking almost ready to go. I hope they don’t have too hard a time of it over winter. The short tailed voles are still here in large numbers. Jim found a massive spread of holes and runs in a field that had been cut for silage so that must have been recent.
When we went off to Jim’s last appointment I was just walking round the back of the car when my foot slipped in the mud and made a skid mark over a metre long. I went down in the wet muddy grass on my bum, elbow and shoulder. I was scrabbling for the key to go back inside to change my clothes, but Jim insisted that we would be late. He swabbed me down with the old towel we keep in the byre to dry off when it is raining and assured me that it was just wet, not muddy. When I got home I found my fears to contrary confirmed and that I had been to the hospital with a muddy bum and half a jacket. Needless to say we were so early that we had time to stop at Tarff Valley and get some supplies and wait for a long time in the hospital so I could have changed….
It is well and truly autumn now. The dogwood has turned the most lovely red, purple and pink and the beech hedge turning yellow and chestnut. I was surprised to see how varied the colour changes are. In some gardens the bushes haven’t changed at all yet. We have three types of dogwood; a red stemmed one with plain green leaves, a red stemmed one with variegated leaves and a lime green stemmed one with pale leaves that goes yellow in autumn. The first one has the best autumn colour, but drives me made by spreading everywhere faster than I can cut it back. The pink geranium is still blooming all over the garden, but getting a bit scruffy now. I only had one plant originally but it has spread either with help or by seed all over the garden. That’s the sort of flower I like. One that grows against the odds without coddling.
The birds have eaten a lot of the haws already, so some bushes are looking a bit sparse now. The mistlethrushes defend their chosen bushes loudly. I think that some genetic types of hawthorn must taste better as there are some bushes that are always stripped first while others keep their haws for much longer. Either some taste better or they reach peak nutritional value at different times. There is one very favoured bush that is almost always stripped quickly and held by our resident mistle thrushes against the attempts of the newly arrived redwings, with much rattling and squawking.
After enthusiastically doing lots of grinding of nuts – why do ground almonds cost so much?- breadcrumbs and sugar to convert granulated into caster sugar I have finally overwhelmed the grinder attachment on my blender and had to buy a new one. The blade was only crimped into position with no nut or screw to hold it and it bent and came off, leaving me with a grinder full of half ground almonds. Jim thought he could mend it, but his first attempt to bang it back into shape made it jump up and disappear down the small crack between the work top and the cooker. As neither of us felt like shifting the cooker, it is still down there. It is surprising what comes up when you put ‘grinder’ into Google….
Just paused to check that Jim is awake and getting ready for yet another trip to the doctor. Poor old love, something is making him feel sick all the time. We don’t now whether it is the doubled dose of tamsulosin, the antibiotics or the radiation, to add to the nasty taste in his mouth that puts him off all food anyway. I am having a job to get him to eat anything as he will think he might manage something then not fancy it once I have cooked it. He keeps getting things out of the freezer and rejecting them, once they have thawed. He said he thought he could eat a grouse, so with some trouble I found and ordered one- only to discover that Wylie had them on the fish van that week. Of course once it had been cooked he couldn’t eat it. I didn’t like it either as it had been badly shot up and tasted of blood, so the badgers had a treat and the other one is still in the freezer. On Wednesday he wanted a sponge cake so I left him to choose one while I did the rest of the shopping and he just went off the whole idea, looking at food in the shop. Then he asked for a raspberry sponge flan. I got the butter out to soften and he asked for a fatless sponge- after a laborious explanation of how the method for making the two sorts differed. So I spent ten minutes beating eggs and got it into the oven. I had just sat down to read the paper while it cooked when he came out to say my programme was just starting on the television. He insisted he could watch it and take it out when it was done. So I gave him strict instructions on how to tell when it was done and to put the flan, in the tin, upside down on a plate AND LEAVE IT. If you do that the steam rises and loosens the sponge so it drops out. Of course he forgot the last bit and when I came back to the kitchen The flan had set firm, sitting bottom up on a chopping board surrounded by crumbs, palette knives and sharp knives. “It wouldn’t come out” he said. The raised rim of the flan case was all sliced and crumbled and generally messed up. I suppose it still tastes the same but it offends my sense of how things should be done.
Jim has a sleep most afternoons and if it is dry I get out and do an hour and a half in the garden. Not much fun in the squishy grass and mud not to mention the wind that blows everything about. I am trying to get all the herbaceous stuff cut down before it droops onto the lawn and rots away, killing the grass. Felix lurks about watching me and snapping up any voles I disturb. He was a bit annoyed when I attacked a favourite lurking place with the loppers and opened up the space where the southernwood had collapsed on the garden. The blueberries have almost finished. I have filled the last box in the freezer so I’ll probably leave the last ones for the birds. The raspberries however are going strong, despite all the rain and I am picking a double handful every other day.
I saw a red squirrel this morning, the third in two weeks so I was pleased about that. There was a request for records in the paper today so I’ll send them off when I have finished this. The kestrels are now on the farm and we see a pair flying together from time to time so fingers crossed they will stay and nest next year.