Into the second half of the year already!
Potatoes in flower (soon to be harvested), outdoor cucumbers ready to eat, first courgettes and broad beans to be picked. Needed to get the red and white currants in, before the blackbirds snaffle them.
Speaking of blackbirds, the little pile of feathers near the bird feeders one day early into the month suggested that the sparrowhawk finally caught and plucked its prey. A few days later she tried again but the quarry-tit was inside the supposedly squirrel-proof bird feeder and got away unharmed. I say the bird feeder is "supposedly" squirrel-proof because although the little beasts can't get at the feeding ports they have learned that if I fill the feeder to the very top, they can lift the lid and scoop out food with their fore-paws!
In the first couple of days I met our new frogs by the pool – 1/4" long (6-7mm for those educated post-1970) at most, but no longer tadpoles. A pair of them hopped into the water and hid under the duckweed when I came close.
Heavy overnight rain during the early few days caused the big field-flood to increase in size a bit – cattle having a paddle from time to time.
Lawn mowing became complicated – there were many tiny frogs who waited until the mower was almost upon them before fleeing towards the pool. I don't think any were harmed.
Second week of July and serious summer arrived with wilting plants in containers! A trip to the Millennium Green revealed a whole new scene on the wildflower area (my remit). I had been worried at the Jubilee weekend that there was no knapweed – but suddenly there came a huge pinkish-purple flush, covered in bees. Butterflies were busy too – meadow browns, speckled woods and small whites. Last year Musk Mallow appeared near the sundial – this year another has come up nearby and in addition to the Ladies Bedstraw (yellow) there is Hedge Bedstraw (white), both behind the sundial. In mediaeval times these were literally "bedstraw", used to stuff mattresses. In and around the bog area meadowsweet and hemp agrimony are flourishing. Harking back (again) to mediaeval times, meadowsweet was so-called because the Anglo-Saxons and later generations used it to flavour their tipple of choice, mead (it is referred to in Chaucer's Knight's Tale as "medewort").
A deliciously cool walk through the wooded area beside Pepper Street reminded me of the phrase "grasping the nettle". One of our party tricks as (almost) feral children in Suffolk was to challenge others to pick the top off a nettle plant – those not in the know were fiercely stung. The trick – thumb and forefinger grip the stem between leaf nodes and are then jerked rapidly upwards over the leaves until the tip breaks off. The secret – the stinging hairs on nettles are on the upper surface of the leaves only. I reverted to my 8 or 9 year old self for a moment and proved it still works!
On a very hot evening I was cajoled into picking the redcurrants that grow almost wild at the "bottom" of our garden – not my favourite job. Between us S and I got around another 4lbs (about 2lbs previously picked) and there is at least the same amount to come again if the birds don't snaffle them (in a perverse sort of way I hope they do). Dot the Dog was quite nonplussed at our foraging in the undergrowth when she came home after her first day at her "Club" following her injury. Even so, senior daughter makes a demon redcurrant jelly and I wondered whether redcurrant gin might be an alternative to the damson and sloe varieties... Could be good – verdict to follow!.
One (hot) morning at about 9 am we heard the unmistakeable croaks of a pair of ravens (again presumably visiting from Alderley Edge). One I saw perched in one of the tall trees behind Moss Cottage. The other was hidden from view but its call was from another direction somewhere near the school. They were certainly having a conversation, the cadence of their utterings sounding just like human speech with the upward inflection of a question responded to with a downward inflection of reply. I am reminded of a trip with our grandchildren to Gauntlet Birds of Prey the other side of Knutsford several years ago, when one of the captive ravens on hearing the phone in the office ringing said in a perfect mimic of its master's voice "Hello" even before the boss had answered.
A day or two later Dot and I were surprised to see and hear a pair of oystercatchers flying over at tree-top height (she barked enthusiastically at the high-pitched "peeps" and danced a quick haka), shortly followed by a third. They headed for the remains of the big field flood. A long way from the seaside but perhaps resident at Redesmere!
Then the weather warmed up! Early morning walks with DtD and no adventures in the afternoon. She was seriously grumpy when wouldn't take her ball – but even after a sedate (by her standards) walk over the fields she flaked out on "her" settee in the kitchen, blasted by an electric fan. We have an elderly "portable" air conditioner (about the size of a Mk I Mini) which has been pressed into service in the best (and coolest) bedroom. I ordered a replacement but as dictated by Murphy it will only arrive just as things cool down,,,
The garden hose was deployed as not only the containers wilted but also things firmly planted in the ground did too (no sprinkler used). The front lawn has always suffered from "builders blight" – you can tell where each bit of rubble was turfed over in 1960-something. A few years ago I dug out the bed under the lounge window and got enough reasonable stone to make a loose-laid low stone retaining wall along the drive – and enough "Cheshire" bricks for my daughter to do something similar. No doubt the eventual residents of "Weavers' Bog" will have a similar experience judging by what Dot and I see as we walk. Interesting to read that at Chatsworth the browning lawns have revealed the outline of a lost 18th century parterre that was turfed over in the 19th century – same phenomenon.
One or more leaf-cutter bees at work on our rose bush. We haven't seen it or them in action this year but the unmistakeable semicircular cut-outs are there on the leaves. I am amazed at the accuracy with which they cut a perfect shape of same exact size each time.
At last the rains came – but not for long. Even so the front lawn began to green up, albeit in a very untidy way.
The waterlily came into flower and the juvenile frogs moved on towards the end of the month. The big field-flood did not completely dry up (prospective house-buyers beware...) and briefly the Canada geese came back – I counted 18 for a couple of days.
The wasps appeared. Two nests on the path to the fields – if another on the track to Anderton's Lane the cottages would be surrounded! Then we spotted activity at the apex of our roof at the back of the house – swiftly dealt with by a local pest controller. Dot the dog very wary – if they get entangled in her coat the results can be very unpleasant! Brock the Badger seemed to have effectively dealt with the one behind Henbury Rise.
Containers wilting – reluctant to use hose but dragging cans of water round is hard work...
Horrid of Henbury