Brambling Diary June 2014

The pond is beginning to settle down and look a bit more mature.

We are seriously considering the manufacture and installation of a set of bat boxes. Ruth bought one for me some time ago and a good idea it is. Do you know that bats can eat as many as 3,000 midges a night? It sounds as if we need to make room in the woods for a whole village of bat homes. After all, they need the midges as much as we need them to eat them.

We found a bat flying around inside our bedroom the other day! It is still a mystery how it got there, as, although the door was open, the window wasn’t and the nearest way to the outside world was along a quite long corridor. Alasdair managed to catch it and let it out of the window. Ungrateful beastie bit him for doing it the favour. It chittered away whilst he was holding it, very high-pitched but audible. I didn’t realise we could hear bat calls.

We went for a walk to Kippford, enjoying one of our fair evenings, to see the spectacle of 5 or 6 herring gulls flying like a squadron of planes off into the westering sun. A very fine sight it was, and a bit unnerving. We also had a good view of the large Robin's Rigg Wind-farm in the Solway Firth between us and Cumbria (in England).

We have been twice this month to a Chinese take-away in Dalbeattie. The only time we get a takeaway is when we visit Dalbeattie library to exchange our books. We used to go on Tuesdays, and the Chinese take away wasn’t open, but then they changed the library opening hours, so the only late opening is now one a Wednesday when the Seahorse is open. It does not go in for fancy décor, minimalist comes to mind, apart from the kitchen which you can see through the open doors as the flames lick high around the wok being expertly handled by the main cook, and son of the original Chinese person who settled in Dalbeattie. However, the food is something else altogether; rich in flavours, yet subtle, with not a suspicion of monosodium glutamate. The choice is extensive with a menu that is unique in my memory of Chinese cooking, and exceptionally tasty. We have now been twice and want to work our way through the menu. A pity in some ways as the Indian take away, is very good with friendly people and again exceptionally flavoursome food. But the Chinese is little over half the price, so we will have to mix and match a bit.

The ditch has been sporting some gunnera flowers. I had never seen these exotica before and they are as strange as their leaves are large. The mock orange is covered in beautiful white blossom, but it doesn’t smell, and I thought they were supposed to be highly scented. Oh well, you can’t win ‘em all.

Alasdair found some beautiful pinky-lilac orchids in the field next door. They are not rare, but beautiful, and like getting their feet wet. We saw some when we went for a walk at Auchencairn, and there they were by the side of a small private loch, with a rocky islet in the centre inhabited a a mob of noise herring gulls.

We have had a variety of fauna visiting the garden and woodland, as well as the bat already mentioned. I saw a hare in the garden – so did Harvey & Charlie who thoroughly enjoyed chasing it up to and through the fence to the field. Well, the hare went through the fence and gently and slowly lolloped across the field. If it could have put a finger up it would, I think. I have seen the occasional deer track by the burn and sometimes Charlie especially gets very excited and disappears into the woods at great speed, nose to ground. The burn is very low, as we have had such warm weather, so when Charlie dashes off across the watter (as they say), he ends up very muddy and smelly, and has to be hosed down before we let him back in. We have had quite a flurry of Orange tip butterflies on the phlox, which I don’t recall having seen before, though the flower comes up each year.

Alasdair went for a paddle in our new pond. It is about 3-4 feet deep in the middle; he was building a structure of crates and slabs on which to stand the water lily plants we had bought, as they needed to go lower in the water. He did look very soggy. The leaves are now once again floating on the surface of the water, but no sign of flowers as yet.

We have started eating some of this year’s produce, with strawberries pretty well everyday since 17th. They are sweet and juicy and relatively slug-free – sssshhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

There are lots of little oak saplings in the woods. Makes you wonder where they come from as we have VERY few oaks locally. I can’t think of one really mature one. They say that jays are the ones which are responsible for the spread of oaks, and we have some of those, but it is rather odd. And they are most of them about the same age – between 1 and 3 years I would think.

The oaks are doing well, but the spruce are not. A lot of the lower branches are covered in brown dead needles – it may be the dry weather, I don’t know. The sycamore trees look as if they are preparing for another bumper crop of seedlings and I have been finding loads of birch seedlings too – a fertile place to live.

The grass in the wood is covered with what I used to call cuckoo spit when I first came across it. Apparently it is the home of a froghopper nymph and has nothing to do with cuckoos – a coarse habit, spitting, anyway. It is there between May and July, so won’t be long before it goes away again, I guess.

A lot of the bracken growing points seem to be developing oddly, perhaps the weather, a disease, or a beastie, but they look a bit sinister.

Alasdair has been making progress with the painting of the outside of the cottage. It is traditional white and one morning with the bright early morning sun on it it was quite blinding. Won’t last long like that which is a bit of a relief, really.

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