Freedom at last

It is official, it can help with your health and wellbeing! Connecting with nature has made it easier for many of us to cope with the pandemic. We have noticed new wildlife that we have never been aware of before. We have seen and heard more birds and have caught sight of more butterflies and bees. We have used and appreciated open spaces more than ever. And now the RSPB is doing a survey to find out how much nature has helped us. Watching wildlife, in my prolonged isolation, has certainly given me a focus.

The smaller songbirds are quieter now and some have finished nesting, while others will go for a second brood. Our larger birds, though, are still making their presence felt. The big pink breasted woodpigeons are still constantly cooing, while the magpies have been cackling loudly. Most of all, I have heard the mistle thrush.

The mistle thrush’s Latin name is Turdus viscivorus, which doesn’t sound very nice and Its behaviour seems to match. It is bigger and more aggressive than our gentle song thrush and there has been quite a battle today. There are four young mistle thrushes in the willows overhanging the pond and their parents are swooping in the sky, fearlessly attacking, with military precision, any bird that goes near. Their harsh machine gun rattle echoes over the meadow as they try to protect their young.

Sadly, one of our hens has died and there was nothing we could do to protect her. She died at night in the nest box and in the morning only the black speckled hen came out of the pop hole. She was old and it was inevitable but the black hen misses her and is alone.  ‘Speckles’ (we have given the remaining one a name) was pining, so we let her out to wander the garden. Now, she follows us everywhere. And when we come in for a cup of tea, she sits outside the sunroom staring at us and pecking gently on the glass.

Of course, now we have lost a hen we are not self-sufficient in eggs. At best we get one every other day. But we have constant supplies of fruit and vegetables from the garden. We can’t cope with them all and are freezing a lot, as a treat for the winter.

One pleasure I have re-discovered is the old-fashioned jelly. You can still buy the jelly cubes for cutting up and dissolving in boiling water.  I can remember begging my mother to cut a cube off for me to eat – she usually did, but then you don’t get so much jelly in the dishes. Raspberry is my favourite now, especially if I put in a handful of our freshly gathered fruit.

I know you can buy this dessert in individual pots from the supermarket, but the thrill of picking the fruit and making the jelly is a welcome joy from the past.

(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star)


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