Archive for March, 2013


DSC01148 DSC01149

 In some fine Heath- Robinson engineering fashion we managed to convert an industrial sized plastic shampoo carrier ( 5 X 5 X 5 feet in a metal cage (which we cunningly also converted into a frame for a fruit cage for our red and white currant patch)) into wildlife ponds for our allotment plot three years ago. We had to wash out the gloop and silver glitter first and the sawing was not exact – mine never is, to be honest. But the purpose is served; the waters are now populated with water boatmen, pond skaters, midge larvae.

Birds, wasps and bees come to drink and frogs and toads (and perhaps newts – we have them on the site) to spawn. Spiders spin their webs in the margin plants (scavenged from the ponds of friends) and oxygenating weeds provide cover for the secretive inhabitants including giddy-dancing daphnia and whirligig beetles. I dream of the day the ponds may hold dragonfly larvae – so that there will be a chance I can witness the emergence from the water and the taking to flight – now there’s a dream for you!

Some magic how or other surface pondweed (Canadian duckweed?) found its way to the ponds and carpets them both completely. So it has not possible this year to see whether there is any spawn in there. Given the unusually low temperatures I was prepared to believe that spawning had simply been delayed this year. But as we noticed this week at home our garden pond is more than filled. This is somewhat surprising: we did not notice the activity this year, certainly didn’t hear it …and the noise was certainly attention-seeking loud last year. How long it has been there this year, I cannot say. But I know last year there was spawn in both places by mid-January.  


I have great fun (and I choose the word advisedly) just keeping an eye on the developments: a truly childlike fascination with the whole now-they’ve-got-back-legs, now … cycle of metamorphosis. It takes me back to catching spawn with a stick, carrying it home in a jam- jar, or on one occasion a smaller boy’s welly, and keeping the whole shebang life-circus going in a big tin bucket usually used for chicken feed. The patience of my grandparents eh? The water itself adds to the wildlife value of the plot and I would seriously encourage any gardener/allotment holder to add a pond; it’s about adding diversity and when I have been working on the plot and settle for a cup of tea I perch on the bench by the pond and am treated to some delightful sights and sounds.

Photo source: frogs and spawn:




Skip Diving

skip     House sparrows
It’s ten to five as my fingers start to peck at the keyboard. In the flat lard slab of sky over my shoulder a pale sun seeks to clear a gap, like a Victorian schoolboy wiping at a greasy window pane with the end of his thumb.
At the back of the house sparrows have suddenly converged and are grabbing up sunflower seeds that have spilled from the hanging feeders onto the unseasonably deep snow (about eight inches in “old money”).
The snow set in on Friday, dashing my plans of moving rhododendrons and ferns, making a trip to the allotment impractical and carpeting the Midlands ever since. I have known snow this late (indeed later) in the year, but not accompanied by such a biting wind.
At work on Friday I noticed a skip with what looked like useful, let’s say, materials inside it. I spoke to the contractors and gained permission to “re-purpose”* (love that phrase) the “swaggage” inside. It is some kind of pre-formed cladding they are using to box-in heating pipes and cables in the building. Clearly they have more of it than they need, so some is in the aforementioned skip.
I recently replaced old nest boxes – at home and up on the plot – but these pieces might be perfect for “terrace boxes” which are said to be perfect for house sparrows (  )
Now I am an inveterate scrounger and the idea of finding a use for what others have thrown away is central to my character, so legitimate “skip diving” is a must.
So very often I find that people are getting rid of something that would serve a useful purpose (isn’t that what allotments are famous for?) I think back to my own earlier associations of allotments with sheds made from a motley of materials with a smile, and remind myself that, having just had three windows replaced I still have the double glazed units to carry up to the site to use, no doubt as a cloche.
There is lots of information that house sparrows are struggling and numbers dropping, so I plan to set up some boxes, maybe at home; although the walls are already home to blue tit boxes, a bat box, a metallic ornamental butterfly and two “bee-hotels”. I have been fascinating over the past two years – not to say surprised – by the industry, resilience and workmanship of the solitary bees using these home-made homes. Simply blocks of timber with holes drilled in. The bees adopt a hole and lay eggs in it (in a certain order), then plug up the entrance/exit with pieces of leaf, or more attractively – flower petals.
So, with a little bit of luck, the next few days will see the successful assembly of the next phase.  The contractors were really helpful: so far I have found that people are and can become very interested, but not certain how waterproof the material is; only one way to find out is what I’m thinking.

*Re-purpose: I suppose it means what was once called re-using or, less technically correctly, re-cycling. I came across it on a survivalist blog that opened itself up – for no sensible reason I can fathom – on my Facebook page.

Photosource: (“Your Trash, My Treasure)

and (sparrows photo)


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