Posts Tagged ‘heat wave’

Close Encounters.

Everything is suffering in this heat, especially plants. Our lawn, deliberately not mowed to help the grass conserve moisture, is showing brown patches and sinking to reveal the roots of trees in both our own and neighbouring gardens. The “wildflower island” is doing somewhat better, evening catchfly, mayweed, campions, foxgloves and hawkbit showing prettily.

Up on the allotment even determined “I-never-water-my-crops” diehards like Alan and Mrs Alan have been seen with watering cans.

Our plot is the furthest it is possible to get from the stand-pipe (though some long standing plot holders can remember a time before these taps were installed) and we have to wrestle two anaconda minded hosepipes (one pale yellow one rescued from a builder’s skip) and fiddle-faddle with in-line connectors before filling up the water butts. We can then dip in a number of watering cans and splash water onto desperate crops (especially the carrots, leeks and squashes – all in raised beds) while the butts fill up. Each of the butts has a piece of scrap wood drifting in it: a refuge for any insect (but especially bees and other pollinators that might end up “in the drink”, recognising that these often un-noticed companions need water too.

We try to do this watering at least every two days and, in truth, often end up giving everything a drink. Water butts hold enough for three heavy waterings, then it is time to pipe-up again (though, conditions being as they are, if the tap is not in-use, we fill up on any occasion we have the time to manage the task. The soil is dry, dry and dry. And our plot usually benefits from water tipped on the uphill gardens which runs down-slope to our ground. Incredible, but correct. Our ground, plied with water retaining home-made compost for the past twenty plus years soaks it up – and our plants – usually – benefit. The potato tops have keeled over so we do not bother with them. Nobody is expecting a heavy crop of spuds this year, it seems.

But animals, inevitably, are also finding it hard going. There is a mention of hedgehogs  – one of our seriously endangered species* – on the Local news programme.  No sooner have we digested the advice (leave out food, leave an untidy area in the garden where they might snooze, put out water in shallow containers) than we are resting in the cool night just after the sun has gone down, than we detect a couple of small hedgehogs, snuffling around in our back garden. They don’t seem weak, are able to climb out of the tray I have filled with water, but ignore the contents of the wormery I provide for nutrition (I know that worms are part of their diet!). My hopefully-educated guess is that these are independent explorers, perhaps the off spring of a pair I spotted earlier in the year. Their food source of slugs, beetles, worms, small frogs and minibeasts has retreated deeper into the soil, rocks, between logs – or simply expired due to the weather. I quietly wish them luck.**

 

Small midges that emerge from larval stages in our water butt at home attract bats each evening. But most surprising is the encounter I have one evening.

There are a number of us as the air cools down (relatively that is) to around 22 Celsius. It is about nine o’clock. We are there to water. Myself, Mr Molineux, Cool Hand Luke, Alan and The Gaffer. We have gathered for an allotment parliament (there are, after all, things in the world that only such a gathering can put right) and, having cooled down a little, I draw away to turn off the tap, before reeling in the hoses.

As I approach the stand-pipe a tall, thin fox emerges onto the path. It is walking, tongue out, along the path between Asda Dave’s plot and Jim’s.

We both pause. Look at each other. Taking stock of the situation, sizing each other up. Risk assessment on the part of the fox. It doesn’t look in great condition: fur dry and lacking in colour and shine. Ribs visible and heaving  the beast pants: it has either woken up from cover between  Asda Dave’s shed and the roadside hedge or just dodged across the road, avoiding traffic. Eyes not bright, reactions and senses not as keen as might be expected (or it would have known I was there and, simply, hidden. I am sure that, preoccupied as I was I would never have seen it.

It steps backwards, carefully. Once. Twice. Our eyes locked. Another step, then it spins and is gone. Slowly, but silently.

Now it is possible that this is a usual patrol for the fox. This time, this route; although foxes are opportunists, they also follow routines.

And none of us is – usually – on site at this time.

It is also – equally – possible – that this is a new area for the fox,; forced to explore by the period of heat, drought and, presumably, lack of food.

“Did you see that … ?” I have to ask the others, of course. Not one of them had. They were too busy, too deep in conversation. My moment of communion with wildlife had been a private affair.

* Much more detailed and useful information, advice and contacts at https://www.britishhedgehogs.org.uk/

**When we go away to Dorset for a break, we leave our good neighbour a note – she waters the tomatoes and pots for us – to keep the water stocked up “for the hedgehogs we have seen”. Clearly she thinks us deranged; leaving a note, when we return that says 

“Your eyes have gone! I didn’t see any hedgehogs!”

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Heat Wave? No Thanks, We’ve Got One Already.

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The sky is summer-generous high. Held up by the promise of a warm, dry tomorrow and the gentle sighing of traffic that has survived rush hour marmalade and now veritably purrs along the no-corners road in the middle distance. Hushed by the laburnum-green filters  arches overhead.

Ambitious spiderlings lower themselves on invisible drag-lines from the outermost branches of the small-leaved lime tree. Dangle, planning, then anchor threads to the back of the bench I’m sitting on and make hopeful, cunning traps of the very air.

The big star faces, sun centred of ox-eye daisies tremble and nod in the meadow level breeze; small fuchsia fireworks display their slo-mo ballet over the fence. Sun – down, back garden peace ushers in friendly shadows.

On something of a whim today we headed to Charlecote Park. Somewhere in Warwickshire. Traffic packed motorways. Stole into an almost-parking space: the last and least available on the packed car park and spent a fine half day at the property.

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All of the magnificence and eccentricity of a British institution. A credit to the National Trust, especially to the unsung-hero army of volunteers. Under-staffed, under pressure and none of it showed, bless ‘em all.

Red-brick building, lineage back to pre-1066 (depicted wonderfully in stained glass windows throughout the rooms). Very cool inside, the exact opposite outside. But a steady walk in Place’s meadow, the river Avon flowing by: swans, meanders and rushes ; cattle on the banks in the shade of willows. Back through the meadow with Disney-spotted fallow deer in and via a much-needed ice cream to the oven of a car.

And home to sit in our own back garden.

But the allotment’s gonna need watering tomorrow. Never mind, it seems like a long time away.

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