isolation has its rewards



Rhubarb growing under our old dolly tub


I have a supermarket delivery slot! Not that unusual normally, but today in these strange times it is exciting news. I have told all my friends around Shropshire and beyond.


We have an old pasting table at the gate and the delivery man puts the shopping on there. I open the bedroom window and we communicate about substitutions. My order has become a big event, now I am in isolation. These slots, as you will know, are as rare as hens’ teeth, nowadays.


Hens really do have teeth when they are ready to hatch out of the egg. The developing chick grows a temporary protuberance on the top of its beak, which it uses to break the eggshell. I recall seeing these ‘teeth’ on day old chicks, when I was a little girl living on a farm. The chicks were delivered by rail in hexagonal cardboard boxes. I remember taking the lid off the boxes and seeing these yellow fluffy creatures with pink legs and beaks with the little protuberances that had helped them hatch.


The baby blackbirds in my bay tree have hatched. I watch the parents from my kitchen window (it’s a good time waster when you are in isolation). The female has been brooding her brown-smudged, blue eggs for two weeks and now both parents are feeding their young.
I see them prodding and probing our lawn all day long. When they have a beak full of food, they fly high up in the crab apple tree. They make sure no one is looking (but I am) then they swoop to the bay and squeeze in through the leaves, like darts. I can see the tree tremble a little then out they go like a shadow, dropping low and away, so as not to catch the attention of a bird of prey.


What may have caught your attention is the migrant chiffchaff. It has been with us for some weeks now, from Africa. I can hear its endless song more clearly this year against the silence of the A5, suddenly bereft of most of its traffic in the lockdown.


The song ‘Chiff chaff’ echoes all day long around our woodland. In Germany they say it sings ‘Zip zap’. I wonder if it is bilingual! The chiffchaff is a little greenish brown warbler and it sometimes comes to drink at our pool, but hurries away nervously. I have never found its nest here but now, in lockdown, we are not mowing our grass, it may find a suitable place in the extra cover.


My vegetable plants, in pots, on the kitchen table are growing fast. I have already transplanted the tomato seedlings. I could smell tomato when I brushed the leaves and my mouth watered at the thought of eating the luscious red fruit.

It will be some time before any of our vegetables are ready to eat, but our forced rhubarb is ripe now. What a wonderful surprise it was. When we took the cover (an old dolly tub) off we found yellow crumpled leaves and lovely pink etiolated stalks. Normally rhubarb is boring, but what a treat now our shopping is limited. We pulled the stems and then cut them into chunks, ready for a very special crumble. My mouth is watering again.

Grocery delivery in these strange times
(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star)

Comments

  1. What a joy to read - I love the concept of a bilingual bird! Thank you Vicky.

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