Sweet treats in lockdown

An endangered bird is in danger in our ‘safe’ garden. The spotted flycatchers nesting in our climbing rose have successfully reared four nestlings. Suddenly, one morning the young fledglings flew to our woodland, one by one. The frantic parents are feeding them, but it is an even harder task now they are not all in one place.

Desperately looking for extra food the parents have taken to going into our greenhouse through the open window. I think that they are attracted by the plentiful supply of flying ants in there.

The problem arose when we found a flycatcher anxiously trying to get out and the window had closed. You see when the temperature drops the window automatically closed trapping the bird inside. It needed to get out to feed its young and it was desperate. It was flying with its beak full of insects. It flew from one side of the greenhouse to the other, backwards and forwards until, tiring at last, it fell to the ground.

Now we have had to leave the greenhouse door open all the time to avoid this situation again. The trouble is we have rabbits in the garden (we still have not found out how they got in) and they would eat our vegetables. A small half-gate stopped the rabbits and allowed the flycatchers free access, problem solved.

I have been ‘shielding’ and not going out, but since Monday I do not have to stay in complete isolation. I can meet a group of six friends outside and form a bubble with one household. I am taking it carefully though, and to all intents and purposes I am still mostly in lockdown. So, with plenty of time at home we decided to make strawberry jam.

We have had a glut of strawberries this year. I remember my mother making strawberry jam when I was a little girl. We always had them growing amok on the railway side. But strawberries have not much pectin, which is needed for setting. No matter how much my mother boiled, setting point was never reached. Unfortunately, she made 10lbs of jam, stored in huge earthenware pots. We were fed up because it was so runny. We called it ‘sloppy Joe’ but we had to eat it all because in those days there was nothing else.

Armed with all this knowledge I put a setting agent in our jam, sadly it still did not set properly and we now have 10 jars of ‘sloppy Joe’. It’s sweet and delicious if you can catch it before it runs away down your fingers.

The wasps have built a nest on the side of my bird box but, for some reason, have now abandoned it. Their grubs must have still been alive though, because something has broken in and eaten these larvae. I don’t think that a badger could have climbed up there but a field mouse has perhaps found itself a delicious summer treat.

(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star)

A wasps' nest has been raided, a mouse has probably has had a sweet treat



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