Home from holidays


A surprise welcome party was waiting when we arrived back home from our holiday. Speckles, the hen, had grown tired of waiting for us to return and had somehow escaped. She was on the drive to greet us. She has everything she needs in her pen, plenty of food and water and an automatic little door to her shed, which lets her out at 7.30am and locks her in at dusk. A friend visited to see all was well but Speckles got out, all the same.

The young robin was there too, on the field gate next to the drive. He has not yet fully developed his red breast and still has a pale brown front. He followed me to the door and then flew off. I expect that I will soon see him again in the fruit cage where he searches for some juicy berries.

As I looked around the garden everything was so familiar and yet so new. One of the obvious changes was that our blueberries were cropping at a phenomenal rate and needed picking. The robin, who came into the fruit cage after me, does not seem to have developed a taste for these. So, a fresh bowl of blueberries will be on the table every morning for us to eat with cereals.

I had hoped to add hazel nuts to our breakfast menu, later in the year, but I saw that this hope has been dashed. When we were away nuthatches invaded the nuttery. I could hear their sharp ‘click, click’ as they searched for food. They are a small bird, not much bigger than a sparrow, but with a long sharp beak. Their back is slate blue and they are pale orange underneath. Black bandit-like stripes cross their eyes with ‘straps’ towards their ears. The eye mask gives a clue as to their character, in our garden, because when we were away, they started stealing our hazel nuts.

I have just seen one bird snatch a nut and take it to a crevice in an old trunk and embed it in a hole there. Then, with the nut wedged firmly in the bark, the nuthatch began to hammer its beak against the shell. I could hear the repeated hits. Eventually it was able to break through and eat the nut inside.

Our tomatoes ran riot too, when we were on holiday, and apart from the odd peck hole from Speckles the hen, on the lower trusses, they have not been attacked in our absence. The trusses are hanging heavily and we have far too many. There is only so much tomato soup that you can slurp. We have frozen some juice and some tomatoes have been given friends at the gate.

When I was a little girl, I never tasted the luxury of tomatoes. Our vegetable garden was strictly for cabbages and Brussel sprouts. How things change, they never stay the same for long, especially these days.

(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star.)

The nuthatch has wedged the hazel nut in tree bark, ready to eat.


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