Sunday, 10 January 2010

A bubble of springtime

I have always enjoyed feeding the birds in my garden but since our neighbours built decking in their back garden about two years ago every time I put food out for the birds a rat appears in the garden. So for long periods of time I don't put food out for the birds but every now and then I feel so sorry for the birds that I relent. I try, of course, to only put food well out of reach of the rats but birds are untidy eaters and always drop some to the ground and on one occasion a rat climbed the tree to reach the food.

Just before Christmas when the snow first started falling I decided it was time to put out food for the birds again. As it was just before Christmas it also coincided with a clear out of the fridge and food cupboards. I cut one of my small pumpkins in half, scooped out the middle and made another pumpkin bird feeder. Then I mixed some sunflower seeds, some pecan nuts past their use by and some old duck fat together and dolloped this into the middle of the pumpkin halves before attaching each half onto the string holders I had made back in October when I had made the last pumpkin bird feeder. Back then the pumpkin halves had survived about a fortnight before rotting. This time, instead of rotting, they froze and have remained frozen ever since, some 3 weeks later.

All was fine until the current snowfall. Until then the blackbird had been able to find food by throwing fallen leaves into the air in his usual untidy manner. But now he just bobbed about in the snow in a fruitless search. I couldn't stand it and dug the hanging bird table out of the shed and put it in the cherry tree. You'd think this would be OK but it was this that drove the rat to climb the tree last time so I wasn't sure. Still, I crumbled some stale flapjack onto it and scattered a few seeds on for good measure. Unfortunately, even before the blackbird had discovered it the rat was in the garden. Sigh!

Well, I have persisted with feeding the birds during the snow but the rat has left deep tracks in the snow, giving away its presence. Yesterday morning I poured some warm water into the birdbath too and was amazed by the number of birds that arrived to drink from it. The robin even braved a bath despite the sub-zero temperatures. I restocked the feeders then threw rat poison down into the tunnel the rat had dug under the garden fence. I hope that is the last of that particular rat.

Back in the warmth, watching the birds through the window, I set about stock-taking my vegetable seeds and deciding what I needed to buy ready for the new growing season. Looking at all the catalogue photos of perfect vegetables on sunny days quite cheered me up. My girls were excited too and enthusiastic about what they might like to grow. My youngest's favourite colour is yellow and I soon noticed that each item that she pointed too excitedly was yellow so I suggested to her that maybe she should try to grow all yellow vegetables this summer. She loved this idea and with a bit of careful searching through the catalogues we managed to find 11 different things for her to grow that would be yellow: potatoes, sweet corn, mangetout, climbing beans, carrots, beetroot, radish, tomato, cucumber, cauliflower and courgette. My eldest then jumped on the same idea and wanted to see if she could grow red and purple vegetables. Again we managed to find 10 things for her to grow: potatoes, carrots, beetroot, borlotti beans, radish, tomatoes, peppers, peas, basil and lettuce. I hope they find it as much fun to grow as they did to select the seeds.

Later that evening I went online and placed orders with 4 different seed catalogues for a huge range of seeds, potatoes, onions set etc. Next to me were two pots of hyacinths that we had forced in September and brought into the house at Christmas. All six bulbs are flowering right now, filling the room with the distinctive smell of hyacinths. So despite the snow and cold outside, for one afternoon I felt as if I was in a little bubble of springtime and now I'm excited about the prospect of getting sowing again.

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