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Sunday, 29 June 2014

nips, tucks and nuptials

rosa rambling rector
Due to a wedding in their original field, the horses are back again in the yurt field. It's like they are on a piece of elastic. I'll keep them there for a while now - the grass has got so long they are nibbling in to it as if they were eating asparagus tips. I can only give them such a tiny piece at a time as there is so much of it - but Harry is so greedy he is tucking into the hedgerow and all that is sprouting from it. Glad to see he's eating  the nettles. He must be desperate.

And talking of weddings -  the other day hundreds of these moths flew into the dog's room through the French windows - fluttering around as if they were confetti. I have never seen so many of them. Perhaps they all hatched at once and had been hiding under the computer table.

The house is full of the heavy scent of perfume at the moment with these Dianthus Mrs Sinkins(see below) which just have to be picked as they sprawl all over the place -  and the continuing sweet peas and lilies and branches of Philadelphus Belle Etoile. We have a friend staying with us who suffers from hayfever (and animal fluff) so we 've tried to keep the perfume isolated but you can't really - it just wafts around going where it pleases.

 I love this onopordum acanthus which is towering at about ten feet. They are only biennial but once you've got one you'll always have them and Nature - who I think is the best garden designer of all - sets them up in perfect places. This one is a little close to the washing line but what's a snagged cardi when you have something so magnificent? It's also known as the Scottish thistle and it does look as if it could be sprouting from the head of the Monarch of the Glen.

 This is one of my favourite pelargoniums - Lord Bute. He's such a great colour and with any luck will have surpassed all other pelargoniums by the end of the summer. Of course it isn't only luck - I have to remember to water it. We haven't had rain for weeks and things are very hard and dry but we had a downpour yesterday which made everything look like Glastonbury festival. We did get caught out in it taking the horses back to that yurt field. I had some waterproofs on but Beezle hates getting wet and has to be towelled down. Still, as he and Alexander Woolcott (1887-1943) would say " I must get out of these wet clothes and into a dry martini.

I expect Lord Bute would have said it too.

 I must say I'm really missing my poly tunnel ducks. There are loads of slugs and snails there now even if my labels are still where I put them. And these naughty boys in the garden are really into big nips on the back of your legs as you battle with the onopordum acanthus to de-snag the cardigan.

Wedding (1996)
Alice Oswald

From time to time our love is like a sail
and when the sail begins to alternate

from tack to tack, it’s like a swallowtail

and when the swallow flies it’s like a coat;

and if the coat is yours, it has a tear

like a wide mouth and when the mouth begins

to draw the wind, it’s like a trumpeter

and when the trumpet blows, it blows like millions…

and this, my love, when millions come and go

beyond the need of us, is like a trick;

and when the trick begins, it’s like a toe

tip-toeing on a rope, which is like luck;

and when the luck begins, it’s like a wedding,

which is like love, which is like everything.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

foolish young badgers

I write this post to the humming of the incubator. It's been a week involving predatory wildlife and bucket loads of sweet peas.
A few mornings ago I went to open the lady duck's house and was surprised not to be greeted with the usual squawking and reprimands "what time of day do you call this" and "Come and look at my egg" . When I opened the door the cupboard was bare and there was a huge hole in the side of the house where something had pushed through and one by one removed them. I think it was a fox, my neighbour thinks it was a pine marten, a friend's son thinks it was a badger. My money's on the fox.

 It was a sad, hollow feeling, whatever had taken them, and I'll miss their joyful antics around the poly tunnel area, their eating of all the slugs and snails and of course their delicious eggs. I felt I should have kept the last ones they laid for posterity rather than put them in the tortilla.

 My boys are still ok in the wendy house - here is one of them having just checked himself out in the washing machine window and on the prowl for snacks. Needless to say I was straight onto E Bay where I purchased six eggs from black Indian runners and a further six from white Indian runners. Heaven help us if they all hatch but they don't normally and anyway about 70% of them will be boys which I won't want and will have to find homes for - though no one really wants boy ducks - they don't give you eggs and give you a nasty peck on the back of the leg.

So in 28 days (watch this space dear Readers) these beauties should start to hatch with luck and diligent handling. You have to be mother duck and turn the eggs every few hours so they don't get stuck to one side of the shell when they are developing. They are lovely looking eggs I must say - much bigger than the ones my ladies used to lay. It was very tempting I must say when one of my daughters came down and said "Oh haven't you got any eggs? I feel like a cooked breakfast." Fortunately the postage had been rather high and stopped me reducing their numbers  to eleven.

There have been rather a lot of foolish young badgers by the side of the roads recently - just learning the dangers of those tarmaced rivers I guess. Or farmers have dumped their bodies there - though I guess this is unlikely. Last night when I went to check on the horses who are now down in the yurt field, I noticed lots of mounds of chalk in the corner of the next door field. The field backs onto a wood and I could see they were badger sets. I crept there and stood quietly for ages watching the little chaps busying themselves at the edge of the wood. It was a joyous sight. They are so funny and very noisy. There was a lot of activity going on and the ones you couldn't see you could definitely hear.
There was a mass of grunting, snuffling noises and the sound of breaking twigs as they lumbered around in the clearing. I stood there till it got too dark to see them. Fortunately they are no where near a road. I'm keeping it a secret - just hope that gamekeeper doesn't do something horrible.

This is the beginning of a very long poem by John Clare about a badger. Apart from the fact it is too long to type out it is also very sad. People have been cruel to badgers for centuries. They are lovely creatures - even if my friend's son had been right about who the culprit was.

The badger grunting on his woodland track

With shaggy hide and sharp nose scrowed with black

Roots in the bushes and the woods, and makes

A great high burrow in the ferns and brakes.

With nose on ground he runs an awkward pace,

And anything will beat him in the race.

The shepherd's dog will run him to his den

Followed and hooted by the dogs and men.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The Boy with the Tiger's Heart

 About a year ago I was lucky enough to be signed up by Hot Key Books (}
who wanted to publish my story The Boy with the Tiger's Heart. I can't tell you how thrilling this is for me after years of writing stories and not only did they buy that but another book I'd written - The Dog Ray- which has been published in China and Taiwan but not in the U.K. So a double joy. I thought it about time I announced it as it will be published on 28th August. Fear not dear readers - I will remind you on this blog nearer the time. You can read about it on Hot Key's website. I am particularly thrilled by the cover design which I absolutely adore.
 Here is another potential cover design - The dog with the clown's nose.

 As you can see there's been a lot of extra lying around in the garden since the sun came out and I was drawn to removing the copious quantities of ground elder which is secretly strangling everything in the garden. The Dog Ray - (about a twelve year old girl who dies in a car crash and comes back to Earth as a dog but with the memories and attitudes she had as a girl - more about that next year when it will be published} - was encouraged by Beezle (beige dog) whose antics and musings on the world have been inspiring.
When the weather has a nip in the air I've taken to wearing my daughter's camel coloured duffle coat when I walk the dogs and it is exactly the same colour as Beezle. I feel I've morphed into a relative of his but hope that people looking at us don't think I'm doing that awful matching thing. You know when parents dress their children the same way as them. I remember when one of our girls was a baby she went to an event in a dark blue and white spotted dress with a matching hat. Her godfather happened to be there wearing a dark blue and white spotted shirt. Joyously he picked her up and carried her around - fortunately unaware of the comments of "Oh God look at that.How could they?"
 The angelica is towering up to the sky
 and this is the last of the tree peonies - but the border ones are about to open

Oooh - back to the book! There were many factors that inspired the writing of The Boy with the Tiger's Heart. One was a news story in America a few years back of a man who kept a quantity of exotic animals. {I gather there are more tigers held in captivity in USA than in the wild.} One day he let them all free then took his own life. It was a shocking story because the police slaughtered them all as they roamed around the countryside. Most of them endangered and extremely rare.
 One of the other factors in the writing of this story is my loathing of Health and Safety. I heard the other day that girls have been banned from wearing frilly socks to school incase they trip over them! Aaargh!

Here is the quote I've used at the beginning of the book.  I couldn't have summed it up better.

When all the dangerous cliffs are fenced off, all the trees that might fall on people are cut down, all of the insects that bite have been poisoned – and all of the grizzlies are dead because they are occasionally dangerous, the wilderness will not be made safe. Rather, the safety will have destroyed the wilderness.

                                         R.Yorke Edwards.