… till May be out. So I took my jacket and woolly hat … (Click a thumbnail for gallery)
There was a certain amount of complaining going on today. I grumped round the grass with a struggling mower for the third time in a week (that’s how bad it was) and grumped at the slugs that have had a go at the baby rudbeckia. There was also a fair bit of Flufferscussing as by some inspiration she managed to deposit in any doorway I was about to walk through. She did some cussing of her own as I refused to let her sit on the sofa.
By the pond I found this poor tiny relic. Surely not a victim of predation, as even its little paws are still attached; maybe caught out by the icy weather we had a few weeks ago, and freeze-dried on its way to the water?
I settled for half an hour on the paving, pretending to be a tree stump, and watching for little plips and swirls.
The more fortunate newts were fossicking about; always difficult to know how many, but I saw one with a pale spine sprinkled with freckles, two with yellow or cream stripes all down their backs, one olive brown with leopard spots, one plain olive with a fine dark dorsal stripe, and one almost black and nearly invisible, plus a couple of juveniles.
Newts don’t seem to have red-eye problem so much as golden eye problem when the light reflects.
This is not what newts are meant to do. Assuming it was another corpse, I scooped it out, upon which it leapt into action and squiggled off my palm. If not moribund, it must be one of Nature’s eccentrics.
I took the car to pick up a bag of coal and then on to stretch its legs. The roads were still dry but the sky was thickening steadily. Close observers will note that I clung to the car’s interior.
The land was bleached of its colour by the cold and darkened to dun by the flattened light.
“This season’s daffodil, she never hears …”
and it’s all been one too many even for the Christmas rose. As for the primroses, the images of their shrivelled and blighted flowers are just too sad.
Keeping water liquid for the birds required multiple visits with jugs of hot water. Seagulls came down in a mob on the breadcrumbs, and were so famished that they wouldn’t fly away until I was standing among them, able to physically touch them. Hitchcock, anyone?
The small garden birds did have time for a bite and a drink before dry hard snow began to sweep in, blown hissing down the road like sand, in vicious gusts. It was a relief to know all the nearestsanddearests were in their respective residences.
Currently working from my old laptop, as slow as treacle (and cold treacle at that). Buffeting and banging outside, and the sound of sleetiness; not sure what will be lying tomorrow, but it won’t be cosy.
It has finally come in useful.
The week’s events have been insufficiently minute to describe, so I went looking for some smaller ones. It’s not exactly the season for pond dipping and the water fleas aren’t as fat and frolicsome as summer ones, but still quite a good population. Looking for small dishes for the microscope platform, the egg poacher fell victim and was scissored into convenient modules. (Click a thumbnail for the gallery)
Once they had done their unwilling duty, I liberated the beasties back into their larger world.
I’ve been looking through some photos from last week. There was little time to go anywhere except the College itself, or a quick doddle round the Close for fresh air. Luckily, there was a fascinating exhibition in the library, and the cathedral always rewards. (Click a thumbnail for the gallery. If you want to see texts properly, click on link from gallery to full size.)
With a few gleams of sun on a good drying day, I raced the mower up and down the soggy grass, one eye cocked to the sky for the next shower, and the wind blowing my hair out of its pin into witchiness.
Having got round before the rain, there was time to visit a few neglected perennial pots.
Because they have all gone home. Whew.
Leaving me with time to take a survey of the perennials whose seeds I planted back in the early spring. Some have done well, some started well and then sulked, some looked pathetic and then changed their minds and went woosh. I’ll never understand plants.
I have been particularly taken with the agastache. They have a pleasing aromatic foliage, and the bees LOVE them; there’s a continual buzz of bumbles around them (already in progress by six this morning), which has to be good for all of us.
Then there are these rich, dark rudbeckia. At the moment the plants are a bit on the spindly side, but on this showing I’m really hoping that they live through the winter and fatten up next summer.
The garden in general and chicken pen in particular look as if a vigorous pillow-fight has taken place. One of the guest chooks has decided to do a moult (at least, I hope it is just a moult), and every time she flaps or preens a few more bits detach themselves. Already she only has half a tail, with a patch of – quite frankly – repellent bright pink flesh showing through. I keep imagining that one morning I’ll open the roost, release a small puff of quills and down onto the breeze, and a sort of horrid oven-ready bird will come pacing beadily out.
I’ve trained them too well: every time I walk out into the garden they rush under my feet, looking for breadcrumbs. So far I have managed not to stand on them (much).
You would think I had stamped them all flat when they are lying in their favourite dirt bath, squashed down, spread out, heads extended at bizarre angles, feathers cocked inside out, feet projecting improbably, squirming their wings as if dismembered. In fact, of course, they are just superbly relaxed.
I was not as relaxed as they were, having undertaken a maddening hunt for a pin. I’m careful with pottery tools, but I’m always losing pins. After half an hour looking in every drawer and receptacle, likely or unlikely, I found a brand new one. Where the others have gone, who can tell?
Today was the start of one final collection of beach clay pots, from six or seven different small batches of clay, hoping for some good colour variations after firing. Then I’m going to call a halt – at least until I have grown some new skin on my fingers and the palms of my hands. Exfoliation? Ow!
The second batch of beach clay pots went in for a v e r y s l o w f i r i n g, and I only lost one, cracked at the rim. I’m surprised how pale some of them came out – one of the grey clays must have had scarcely any iron in. Also rather oddly, the blue-green clay fired to a quite strong terracotta, and not surprisingly at all, the dark orangey brown fired to dark orange-red. I think they will look better when dirtied and algaed up a bit. Going in raw:
The third batch are drying out ( v e r y s l o w l y, of course). Meantime I have had an outbreak of porcelain bud vases, which is about as different a throwing challenge from the big rough beach clay pots as you could possibly get. I do make the little vases quite chunky though – my excuse, so that they will be stable if heavy-headed flowers are put in them.
It was difficult to achieve the zen-like concentration needed for good throwing, as the wretched guest poultry, which are allowed to forage on a large patch of grass, a partly-dug vegetable bed, the wild-bit-at-the-back, a neglected border, and a long gravel path, have found the one bit of garden I don’t want them in. Naturally.
They waited until I was well settled at the wheel, and then tip-toed down the grass, carefully not making eye contact with me, to the forbidden territory. I added a new game called broomfrighteners to my sporting repertoire, sweeping the invaders up the garden with gratifying flutters and flaps and squawks. The chooks then stood about ten yards off, doing chicken things with their necks and complaining, waited for me to sit down to the next bud vase, and immediately started doing grandmother’s footsteps back down the garden for the next round. So far, I reckon they are winning on points.
On the other hand: egg and lettuce sandwiches; swiss roll; baked custard; omelette; quiche …