November 2020: In the garden

I’m not sure if I’m allowed to say it. Is it acceptable to have really enjoyed lockdown?

I guess I started out with such low expectations – it’s November, after all – that it wasn’t hard to beat them. There were some low points; finding out a friend was in hospital with Covid was one of them (thankfully, he is now on the mend), as was the nagging worry of all the small business owners struggling to stay afloat.

But I think it’s most constructive to actively support local businesses in every way you can and aim to keep your own spirits high. So, we’ve had take-aways from our pub down the road, had the driveway resurfaced by a local tradesman with gravel from a nearby quarry and acquired some beautiful homemade lampshades for our wall lights.

In many ways, this November has been even bleaker than usual. As I looked back at my photos from last year, it was all bright yellows, oranges and reds. In contrast, our world has been more in sepia these last few weeks, with our first frost arriving at the start of the month. Yesterday had a high of a whole four degrees, with thick fog refusing to lift all day.

But there has been much to appreciate too.

It’s been the first month of lockdown where I’ve been feeling fighting fit; which has enabled me to absorb the garden and its ever-changing ways in a whole new level of detail. Watching each corner of the garden evolve in slow motion has given me an understanding of it and bonding with it that’s stronger than ever.

And we’ve been allowed to meet outside with a friend this time, which has changed the feeling of lockdown entirely. Not only does it make those occasions feel more special than they ever would normally, but I think these interludes also allow you to further enjoy, rather than resent, the contrasting quiet times, too.

I’ve had some beautiful walks, both with Paul and friends, all of them indulgent without the normally ubiquitous pressure of time.

And whilst we have had a lot of overcast days, this only goes to accentuate the enormous skies around us on the days the grey has lifted. Skies the same size they have always been and yet with the trees now bare and the stunning low autumn light, they suddenly seem the focus of attention.

I had a first, whilst working in the woodland one day. A noise I’d never heard before. It seemed to be coming from that big open sky and as I looked up, I saw a flock of birds overhead; the noise was the sound of a thousand wings beating in unison. 

I’m not entirely sure why I’ve never heard this before. I’ve seen flocks of birds go past a million times. But I’ve only ever heard their calls, not the soft, hushed sound of their wings. I suppose they must have been especially close to the ground and perhaps the leafless trees offered no buffering effect. 

But new experiences like these, of seemingly such commonplace occurrence, have the ability to quite move you at the age of 45. It quite throws you that there are still firsts like this to be had; the miracle of their existence amplified, but comparable to the wonder of a toddler seeing something new and unknown. It’s the sheer surprise of an unfamiliar noise arising from something so familiar and such a beautiful and angelic one at that.

When the garden is pared back, it’s not just the skies you notice but many everyday details that are overlooked at other times of the year. How is it I’ve never before noticed how truly beautiful ivy can be?

There is so much of it around; it thrives where not much else survives and will hopefully keep the birds well fed for much of the winter.

We’ve also created an enormous apple pile in a corner of the garden. Every year the old Bramley proffers hundreds and hundreds of fruit to the ground – much faster than we can possibly pick, eat or give away.

And each year we hold good intentions to take them for charities to use, or for the local pig farmer, and every year we get overwhelmed with the task of even getting them across the garden to the drive.

So, this year we had a new, achievable plan. We’d lift them before they rotted and wheelbarrow them to a disused corner of the garden, to be left for the animals. There is one such perfect corner: a small section of land protruding beyond our flowing boundary due to a bend in the stream, with discreet access through the boundary trees; hidden from view, yet still within our property.

We’d pile all the apples up there, out of our way so we can clear the leaves from the orchard grass, but hopefully to a place on the edge of the fields where others could find and enjoy them. 

The apples didn’t seem to go down at all, but we thought we’d put our wildlife camera up, just to check and see. Generally, when we use the camera, we’ll get twenty photos or so: two pictures taken close together, of ten animals passing by over the course of the night. Often dull old squirrels, but sometimes more exciting visitors pop by.

After two nights, we picked up the camera, the apple pile still as large as ever. We told ourselves we’d need to be patient; that it would probably be deeper into winter when the animals first needed and came looking for this extra source of food.

As we plugged the data card into the laptop, we watched in astonishment, as the first 50 photos downloaded, then 100, 200, 500 and finally 550 photos appeared. 275 separate visits to the apple pile.

We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. Of course, the norm is to put food out by a wildlife camera, but we’d never seen the need to do this, when there is (oh, so clearly!) plenty of natural food around for them. 

Yet there was a full-on zoo in our garden. They’d all found the apples tucked away in the corner and were happily munching away.

Or were they? Why on earth wasn’t the pile getting smaller with all these visitors?

It seemed the deer loved them the most; certainly, Freddy the fox didn’t hang around long after a quick sniff told him it was only boring green stuff on offer. 

And setting up the camera to video the following night, we soon discovered there was an awful lot of licking going on on behalf of the deer, and not an awful lot of eating. The twinnies, especially, seemed to be there particularly regularly. 

Hmmm, twinnies, are you growing up just a bit too fast and just after the cider?

It seems they may have been enjoying lockdown just as much as me!

14 thoughts on “November 2020: In the garden

  1. Adriana says:

    Loved this post too Janna – such beautiful photos that perfectly capture your mood and the mood of the garden. Oh, maybe you need a trailer for your ride-one?

    • jannaschreier says:

      The low light does make it quite ‘moody’, doesn’t it? It is pretty though. Yes, we do have a trailer that we use sometimes, but for various logistical reasons it sadly doesn’t seem to speed things up very much!

  2. Gillian says:

    Loved the photos Jana. I too have enjoyed lockdown. Here in Victoria, Australia it is has been for most of 2020 and we are just recently getting more freedoms. My diary has appointments in it and I’m finding that I am feeling too busy now. I don’t think that I will go back to all of the classes etc that I used to do. More time in the garden has been wonderful.

    • jannaschreier says:

      Thank you for taking the time to leave a message, Gillian. You’ve had such a very long time in lockdown over there, haven’t you? Paul’s mum is in Melbourne so we’ve had all the updates. It’s funny how we do adapt though and then find that actually we didn’t necessarily have the balance quite right before this all happened. Hopefully some good will come out of it (including more time for our gardens!).

  3. Louise says:

    It’s lovely to read of your life over there amongst nature. Sometimes a slower way of life can remind us of all the things we often don’t focus on. Good to hear you are feeling much better. Heatwave here and fires have started. Winds blowing a gust. My garden looked magnificent this spring after all the rain. I’ll send some photos.

    • jannaschreier says:

      Thank you, Louise. Gosh, you seem to have gone from very wet to dry fires in such a short space of time. I think that is Australia though, isn’t it? Nothing if not changeable. We’re a bit more consistently cool and grey here!!! Would absolutely LOVE to see some photos of your garden this spring. I bet it looked amazing with all the rain. Really look forward to seeing those – thank you.

  4. rusty duck says:

    The output from the wildlife camera is fabulous. You have prompted me to find where we put ours and get it set up again. The squirrels had all of our apples while they were still on the tree! I’m sure there is plenty else around to draw in the critters.
    Yes, November. Brrr. But as the door on one gardening year closes so the next is opening up. New shoots already in bud. And only three weeks to the shortest day!

    • jannaschreier says:

      Oh, goodie, I look forward to seeing what you capture on yours. It is a lot of fun! Funnily enough the squirrels don’t seem to touch our apples. Too busy with the walnuts and hazelnuts, methinks! They spend hour after hour for weeks on end, carrying walnuts from one side of the garden to the other, for reasons we haven’t quite fathomed. And thank you for that reminder of it being only three weeks until we can try and pretend we are over the worst. This hanging around these climes in winter really isn’t for us, is it?!

  5. Suzanne says:

    Gosh you cover a lot of ground in your blog posts and your photos, as usual, are stunning. I’m so glad you found some positives during your lock-down.

    The slowing down of our mad 21st century life-style has definitely been one of those benefits of COVID for many of my older friends and for me. For us it has brought back memories of the much more leisurely pace of our youth. Way back during my primary school days we had to learn the poem “Leisure” by William Henry Davies, which even then struck a chord with me. The stanza “No time to stand beneath the boughs and stare as long as sheep and cows” has often slipped through my mind throughout my life and I’m grateful that I’ve had many opportunities to be bovine-like (I’m not a ‘sheepies’ fan!) during my leisure.

    November for us was also a ‘funny’ month. Last year it was hot, dry, full-on summer. This year was our wettest on record and the coolest in 12 years (oddly following one of our warmest and rather dry September). My garden is looking the best it has ever been and I’m having LOTS of ‘cow’ opportunities.

    I’m glad you’ve been able to support local small businesses. It’s something Peter and I have always been very passionate about, perhaps because we have a family history of small business. The owner of our local IGA, which we have patronised for over 40 years, is a very generous supporter and benefactor of our local community. It seems to us to be a win-win relationship.

    Now, with regard to supplying alcohol to your local residents, especially the still juvenile ’twinnies’…hmmm…I’ll need to ponder this situation during my leisure!

    Pleased to hear that you’re feeling fit and well again. Please say hello from me to your delightful walking friend. Best wishes. Suzanne XX

    • jannaschreier says:

      I looked up your poem, Suzanne, to be utterly surprised that I was already familiar with it (I just didn’t know its title, or, umm, author!). They are such poignant words. I love the simplicity of it, too. Since we’ve lived here I have perfected the art of standing and staring! How on earth can you not be a sheepie fan though, Suzanne? Honestly!! Wonderful that your garden has had such a lovely soaking this spring. Please, please send me some more photos! I always love to see them. And funnily enough, my ‘delightful walking friend’ is a HUGE fan of both poetry and ‘cowsies’. Did you manage to discover this during your time together?!

  6. Suzanne says:

    Our ‘honeymoon’ period of mild weather is well past. We had our first 40 degree day for summer on Tuesday and high 30s since, not to mention almost gale-force hot NE winds yesterday – so very desiccating. It’s forecast to be back in the low 20s this coming week – crazy! No, that information about your delightful walking friend hadn’t been discussed; nature and history being the topics of the day. I’ll see what I can do re photos. 😉

    • jannaschreier says:

      Oh gosh, stay cool. Not too cool though. If there’s one thing you can say about Australia’s weather, it’s that it’s one of extremes. And only one thing for it re poems and cows: we’re going to have to somehow get you together again!

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