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Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

I needed cheering up today as it is raining once again, and the crops look more sodden than ever.    So I went up to Buchanty Spout to see if there were any salmon heading back up the river Almond.

 

Buchanty is a rocky place where the river Almond narrows into a steep and fast-flowing waterfall.    Given August’s record rainfall, and little dry weather this month, there was a huge amount of water coming down.

And there were quite a few salmon doing their best to leap the waterfall to try to get upstream.    Some were managing, others were struggling.    It was thrilling to watch.   And although the path to the river had clearly seen some use, I was the only person there.

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Harvest Progress 2

This is turning into a particularly tricky year, because we are not getting much in the way of rain-free days required to work combine harvesters.

Winter Oats and Spring Barley are all cut, leaving wheat to do.    But wheat soaks up rain like weetabix soak up milk in the mornings, and it normally takes a whole good drying day before you can think about cutting wheat.    But one field down, and yesterday we started at 7pm with wheat at 24% moisture and cut until 10pm when it started raining again.   It is very frustrating, and expensive as wheat has to be dried to below 15% moisture.

Other areas of the UK are fully worse, with Northumberland being a particular blackspot.    Farmers Weekly has a UK harvest roundup  www.fwi.co.uk and loads of pictures like this one of a very submerged round baler (2/3 is underwater):

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Picking Brambles

Peter Rabbit famously bunked off family bramble picking to visit the delights of Mr MacGregor’s garden, and ended up being put to bed with camomile tea while everyone else ate fresh blackberries for their supper.

Ever since I can remember, I have picked brambles every autumn.    There is something wonderful about the big black shiny fruits which are so packed with flavour, and something challenging about struggling through jaggy thickets to reach the biggest juiciest berries.

We do cheat a bit these days, because we have trained a bramble along a wall in our garden, and get most of what we need from there.    But I do try and get along a hedgerow or two as well.    For old time’s sake.

But only this month of course, as anyone knows who has tried to eat brambles next month:   the devil spits on them in October.

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Bat Watch

The bat that we put into a tree yesterday spent all day asleep and did not move much.     I was a bit worried about it, but checking back at dusk, it had clearly flown away on its own.

It did have amazingly long ears, and I thought that most bats here were the common pipistrelli type, but this was too light for a horseshoe bat, so was probably a long eared bat.

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Do Cats Eat Bats?

We have four cats at present who live outside and make their living quarters in the farm buildings.    They keep mice at bay, but they do catch other things as well.    Our young ginger female had kittens a few weeks ago, and quite early on was bringing them live mice and voles to ‘play with’ before eating them – teaching them to be good mousers.

We do occasionally find other things killed which are not so nice, including a variety of birds.    Some things they catch, but will not eat, like moles.   This morning we found a ‘still alive’ bat on our doorstep – a small one with very big ears.   I rescued it (carefully) and put it in a tree, so we shall see how it gets on.    Carefully, because they can bite, and have been known to carry rabies.

Bats are protected, so although cats may have a go at them, it is illegal for people to disturb them, or their roosts.

Do cats eat bats?   Probably not then, but they may catch them.

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Wasp Watch

Evening has fallen.   The wasp traps have been busy, and there are now less wasps about, although there are some very determined ones left.

I was able to pick the last of the gooseberries, but had to be careful as some really ripe berries had about three or four wasps with their heads buried munching away.    Picking these ones would have been rather sore.

It will be the battle of the brambles next.

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Wasps

In the past two summers, we have found ourselves asking “Where have all the wasps gone?”     I don’t like wasps at all, and especially at harvest time where they are really attracted to combine grease.

But they are back in force this year.    We have a gooseberry bush in our garden, and today there are so many wasps at it that it is unpickable.     So war has been declared, and several ‘wasp bottles’ have been prepared and sited, and are already catching lots.

We use old wine bottles with sugary stuff inside, but perhaps a better solution is to cut the top off a plastic bottle, and invert this  http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Wasp-Trap.    

We have had over 5 inches of rain this month already, so the wasp traps may get diluted a bit.    How much rain?    Well, we bought a new wheelbarrow early last week, and it is sitting 3/4 full of rainwater.

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We have had no rain to speak of for quite a while, and have been stuck in a rather cool east wind for weeks, although the sun has been shining for the most part.    The crops are badly in need of water, and the fields are very crunchy when you walk over them.

We had a simply stunning bank holiday weekend with dawn to dusk sunshine, while the south of the UK had very wet and windy miserable weather.    This time of year, the sunsets swing right round to the north-west, and Monday evening this week had a really stunning sunset.

However, it was our turn for the rain today, and very welcome it is.    Everything smells fresh again, and there are no more clouds of dust flying out from behind traffic on the farm road.    It has to remember to stop of course.    Farmers are never happy with the weather.

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Swallows and Geese

 Just for a few days each year, our two most visible migratory birds cross over:   in mid-April the geese are still leaving in their great V shaped skeins heading north to Greenland, and the first swallows have started arriving from Africa.

Swallows are a mixed blessing:   they nest in buildings leaving piles of mess just where you don’t want it.   They can also mess washing drying outside on the line – we are sure that this is done in pure spite as our cats spend all summer trying to stalk them.   Yet their screeching and swooping on summer days as they eat insects on the wing is one of the features of the countryside.   

Cutting a golden field of oats on a hot summer’s day produces clouds of tiny insects, and large flocks of swallows perform acrobatics in a feeding frenzy.    And of course, at the end of the season, on a cooler morning, hundreds of swallows line up on the phone wires chattering excitedly to eachother.   Then suddenly they are gone.

And the geese are back for the winter.

 

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Stones

Every year they come up, and every year they get removed – for future use.

This farm has been  under cultivation for centuries.   The modern tractor-drawn ploughs do go deeper than the old horse-drawn variery, and every year produces a crop of stones.   Today was spent picking stones off the winter crops, or perhaps small boulders would be a more accurate term.   All have been liftable by one person so far this year.   Occasionally a real monster stone turns up needing a digger or forklift to shift it.

A visit to a garden centre shows how much these stones can be worth!     Today’s stones went to fill in deep holes in a gateway, and deep ruts in a track.    Dobbies will have to wait for another year.

 

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