I’m never quite sure what I’ll see when I look out of the window here. I could happily gaze out most of the day; there is never a moment when some animal or other isn’t up to something.
As I was getting dressed the other morning, it was a sheep variety of animal that was wandering around by the pond.
So off I went to try and convince him (can’t imagine why I thought it was a him?) to go back home across the electric fence. Mum and sis were looking on at their tearaway as if to say, “what are we going to do with him?”.
We’ve had a few escapees this month and I do so love seeing them in the garden…within reason. The farmers are much less amused than I am!
We play hide and seek in the wildflower meadow, but they are generally too busy munching to take the game too seriously.
On the other hand, the deer seem to have moved out. We still see them occasionally, but not all day every day as before. And no babies at all this year, despite Mum looking decidedly pregnant earlier on.
I find it fascinating to try and work out all these changes. Did Mum go elsewhere to have her young this year? It seemed that young Daryl won the territory fight at about that time.
We also caught not one but two foxes racing around the garden one evening: could that have put her off, or worst still, not put her off until it was too late?
Interestingly, when we first moved here, we had sheep in the field and very few deer. We then had two years of arable crops and permanent deer. Now we have sheep back, the deer have mostly gone.
A few months ago, I’d have thought I’d be devastated at them moving on. But the sheep are such a delight and we have an unimpeded view of them just metres from our kitchen window.
Perhaps the garden needs a break: our shrubs have been eaten down to the 95cm line like never before this year. (It does have its plus points though: the striking two-tone effect of a double spring – initial and regrowth – makes for a very beautiful copper beech tree.)
Could it be the deer have gone because they have eaten us out of house and home? Or perhaps because I have moved their favourite perennials to the orchard? When we arrived there were no perennials and no deer; as we trialled masses of perennials they arrived; now the edible plants are out of sight they have gone.
It’s almost as if nature knows the garden needs a break. Somehow the balance has tipped, promoting a series of events to ensure its survival.
I was noticing how the winter heliotrope wasn’t doing so well this year: I think the late frosts set the foliage back. It’s in an area far from the house and year after year it has provided a pleasant bright green, textural ground cover, leaving no space for weeds. As I looked at the gaps and pulled a few weeds for the first time, my initial reaction was that of dismay. But then I stopped myself. It’s these little changes year on year that bring excitement and dynamism to the garden.
If it weren’t for a wet May one year, we’d have continued to mow over the orchid in the orchard before it’s pink face popped up out of the green. So often something that seems negative brings much bigger positives along. It’s simply up to you whether you focus on the negatives or the positives.
A very sad negative was that poor Harry was run over on the country lane this month. But we know that hares will return. They have been here throughout, in varying numbers.
It’s funny how in nature, I never feel properly sad. It’s very different to things caused by human behaviour. Being run over seems much more unnecessary than being killed by a fox. As if I think what animals do naturally is OK, but what we do, often is not. Perhaps it’s a perspective that animals are just driven by the will to eat and reproduce; much less so by greed or ego or anything else. Or perhaps I’m over thinking things!
We had a week in Northumberland earlier this month, watching the puffins in Inner Farne, seeing the wildflowers, doing lots of walks involving sheep and castles and visiting the odd garden.
It’s good to see our country, after all the now-exhausting-sounding long haul travel we have done over the years.
We arrived back to raspberries. Enormous stands of them with bulging fruit, just next to the compost bins. We’ve never had raspberries in all our time here and have never planted them.
And I spotted some kind of fungi I’ve not seen before in the woodland. It looks like something from the Great Barrier Reef. There is always something new.
The week we returned I also went off to Horatio’s Garden at Stoke Mandeville hospital, which is another wonderful good from bad story. Seventeen-year-old Horatio was killed by a polar bear, but his family have created an incredible legacy. He volunteered in an NHS spinal unit shortly before his death and came up with the idea of creating some beautiful outdoor space for patients to recuperate in and enjoy time with visitors.
They are now well under way with building outstanding gardens in all 11 spinal units across the UK and it was lovely to be at one of them at crack of dawn to take some photos for their publicity.
Back in my garden, I’m just starting to see a shift from the pastels of spring to the hot colours of summer.
Some things are on fairly short cycles, repeated each spring or each summer. Others are on longer cycles: the deer here for a few years, then not. Some things are seemingly random: the raspberries and the woodland ‘coral’ with no rhyme or reason.
But all of it is endlessly fascinating to me: the whys and the understanding of when the balance finally tips. Alongside the backdrop of this assumption of innocence, as if nature has the purity of a baby, no baggage or axes to grind.
It keeps my brain whirling, all day, as I garden. Trying to understand the first principles of what is going on with each plant and each animal.
But after four years in the garden, if I’m really honest, I’m not actually much further on with my investigations. I still have absolutely no idea whatsoever, of what I’ll see when I look out of the window each morning.
Perhaps it’s much better that way.