Thursday, 30 August 2007

Fennel and Hoverfly

Picture of the day - a rather beautiful hoverfly on a head of bronze fennel. To see the hoverfly properly, click on the picture to get a full screen view. Hoverflies, apparently, love fennel and in late summer you can see dozens of them covering the scented yellow flower heads.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

A little gem

I was thrilled to catch this palmate newt on camera this Spring. I have a couple of small natural ponds - i.e. I dug out a couple of pond-shaped holes and then left nature to take its course. Because they don't have artificial liners they tend to dry out periodically so the animal life tends also to come and go. But the ponds were nice and full all Spring this year and so the newts hung around long enough to mate. I couldn't believe it the first time I saw a newt in my pond - I felt so honoured. But like all the wildlife in this garden, the newts are elusive, so I would see one for a day or two then not again for months, years even.

This Spring I took more care of the pond, kept it full and clear and lo and behold a newt arrived, then another. I've only seen two but there may be more - I'm not a very assiduous naturalist and if the midges get too bad I leave! These are, I believe palmate newts. You wouldn't believe how tiny they are - only about 2 and a half inches long. The one in the picture above was female I think, as she was greener than the other one that turned up. Bliss to have them in the garden.

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

A bit about two and a half acres

I thought it was time I described this bit of land of mine. It is on a north-facing hill, about 500 feet up. Around the house we fenced in part of the land to make an inner garden that would keep the dogs in and the deer and hares out; this part I try to keep as a conventional garden.

The exciting stuff happens in the outer garden. Here I try to let nature have her own way with a minimum of interference from me. In fact, most of the last few years has been spent trying to return this part of the ground to a more natural state after the horses and quad bikes of the previous owners. My late husband, aka the Golfer, tended to want to keep things neat so that he strimmed everything to within an inch of its life, which kept things a bit minimalist. Since I took over responsibility I have left things to grow and simply cut paths as the mood took me, but cutting back any thuggish plants that threatened to take over, like the dreaded gorse. I'll come back to this in later posts because it has been fascinating to see what wild flowers have come up when given the chance. Last year I was thrilled to see my first orchid in the outer garden; this year bluebells have appeared.

This outer garden falls into three main areas: the woodland, the field and the burn and pond area. Each area is developing its own character and I hope over the next year or two to describe as fully as I can in words and pictures what it's like here and how it got this way.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Hare, chilling

I am very chuffed to have caught the hare on camera, taking some time out under an apple tree, because although I suspect they are in the garden most days, they are much shyer than the deer and I can go months without seeing one.

Hares are much bigger than rabbits, with lovely long ears and surprisingly long legs.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Roe Deer Mother and Baby

This unbearably cute pair turned up in the garden a month or so ago and have made regular daily visits ever since, strolling along my paths and browsing happily from any tasty trees and shrubs within reach. The youngster has grown noticeably since I took this picture and has now taken to racing madly about the lawn at incredible speeds. I've tried to capture it on my video camera but with no results good enough to share yet - you never know, maybe tomorrow...

Maddening but Magical

Now, don't get the impression that this two and a half acres is heaven on earth. I hated it when we first moved here. It's on a north-facing hillside, it's surrounded by stands of tall forestry plantation; the soil is hard to work; we only moved here because we were moving to the area in a hurry and couldn't find anything in town that we liked. Yet, even on the day we moved in, when we were clapping our collective hands to our foreheads and saying "What have we done?" the magic of the place began to work on us. There's a public footpath that runs along the back of the property and, taking a break from the work, we wandered up the path for a while. It was a hot August afternoon. Whenever we placed our feet on the path, clouds of fritillary butterflies rose from the path before us. Coming from the town, we'd never seen so much nature all at once. It was breathtaking. The scent of the gorse and the pine and the sight of those butterflies on the hot air have stayed with me ever since and have got me through some of the tougher times in this maddening but magical place.

Friday, 24 August 2007

Mist in the Wood

This is the woodland looking particularly spectacular. Early morning mist, early autumn sun, load of pine trees - grab the camera and wow!

My other blog

Those of you who read my other blog,, will know that I am widowed. I live in a family-sized house in a far-too-big-for-one piece of land: two and a half acres or thereabout, and I love it. I love the space and the peace and most of all I love the wildlife and the plants and the rocks in my little bit of world.

Trouble is, I don't know how much longer I'll be able to stay on here. It's a struggle, staying on top of it all, and I will probably move on in a couple of years - sooner if things keep breaking down the way they have been! So until I have to give up on it I decided I'd record as much of the magic of this place as I can and I thought a blog would be as good a place as any to share the small wonders I see around me here on this north-facing bit of hillside.

Living here, after forty years of being a townie, has been a revelation and, frankly, the thoughts I've had on atheism and the meaning of life that I write about in my other blog would not have occurred to me if I had not moved to the country. So this plot of land has been, and is, very special to me. (I an also hoping it'll help produce the great novel but that will be another blog!)