It's that time of year

It’s that time of year again and it always comes sooner than I think. The rhubarb is ready! We have not quite finished our blackberries, frozen from last year, but Mr T noticed that the tub covering the rhubarb was at a tilt. He had protected the plant with our old dolly tub, used for washing in the olden days – I am old enough to remember. It is a big grey zinc metal container that sat in our washhouse ready to soak dirty clothes. We use ours now as a water butt but in the spring, it is used to force rhubarb.

I know that you may not think highly of rhubarb (stringy and sour), but I think that if you ate my crumble with these forced thin, pink tender stalks, you might change your mind. When we removed the tilting tub out sprang these sticks each with a pale curly leaf attached – like the hair from the head of a half-buried monster. They are a delicacy at present but will not keep that way now they are exposed to the weather. We must eat it all quickly. But that is no hardship.

The wisteria has sprung to life again too. One minute it was a mass of twiggy fingers clinging to the front of the house and next minute light purple racemes are tumbling about spraying a sweet scent. It is the branches that have attracted the little, long-tailed tits this year.

These long-tailed tits have been feeding on our bird table all winter. They have tiny little rosy golf ball bodies with long tails. What I like about them is that they look after each other. They gather in flocks when times are hard and feed together and sleep together. They are like a little family group working in and out of our trees looking for food in the winter. If you see one you will soon see some more. But now they are paired off and attracted to our wisteria.

I soon found out why. They are nest building and are only interested in the wisteria as a perch. They are looking for cobwebs for their nest made of lichens. My window surrounds and sills have not been cleaned for a very long time (luckily for the birds) and they are covered in fine triangular webs. I watched as the tits spent all day pulling them off and then flying to the corner of our orchard hedge where their domed nest must be hidden.

They have lost interest in my cobwebs now and are searching the chicken pen for little white feathers to keep the next generation safe.

(Taken from my column in the Shropshire Star)

The dolly tub started to tilt!



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