Saturday, 22 March 2008

March on a Highland Croft

Time for the March instalment from Wendy Wood's book about life in the Highlands of Scotland in the 1950s.

"Drip, drip - the rain tub is full and running over, wellingtons and sou'westers are the garb all day long, and the stream is suddenly visible right up the hillside among the bare trees, a series of waterfalls too impetuous to keep to the usual course, somthing that has suddenly leapt from the paralysis of a frosty trickle to a sense of power and joy. It makes a multitude of sounds as it splashes and surges, tucking dead leaves under its shining apron. All night I hear it thundering as if a line of vehicles were pounding ceaselessly along the road.

The croft seems alive with little things. The wren pops in and out of her winter nest beside the stream and I am anxious in case she is swamped out of her home. The robin that roosts in the woodshed gives a sleepy chirp at night when I go with the lantern for logs, and I see him fluffed up with his chin amongst his breast feathers on the handle of the hoe. A vole is living there too among some rubbish in a box. I am well aware of a tiny worn path from her house into mine, and no offering of cheese in her own parlour will stop her pilfering meals in my pantry."

Although the talk everywhere today is of climate change, Wendy's account of Spring is not much different from what I see around me here on the hill. In fact, in some respects, her Springs seem to have come earlier than mine. Her winters might have been colder and deeper, but she talks about lambs in March and of being woken by the cuckoo calling, but the lambs come later than March here, and I haven't heard a cuckoo yet. There is snow on the ground as I write, and more forecast next week - it certainly doesn't feel as if this part of the world is warming up much.
And Picture of the Day is this one of a wren posing like a professional for the camera in my garden.

Thursday, 20 March 2008


Well, I don't know where my brain has been, but it wasn't until I switched on my computer this morning that I realised that the Spring Equinox occurs today - in fact it occurred at 5.48 a.m. Oh frabjious day! From now on, the days are longer than the nights and, for those of us up here in the far, far north the days lengthen quicker and longer (sounds a bit like one of those rude emails that keep being sent to me.)

I don't know if you knew - I didn't until a couple of years ago - that at the Equinoxes, the length of day and night are equal - more than that, they are equal all over the world. It is quite a thought - unifying somehow. And even better to know that, soon, there is going to be so much daylight here that I am going to be heartily sick of it and wishing for the cosy, dark nights of winter again.

Here's a suitably celebratory picture for you all and HAPPY SPRING!!

Monday, 17 March 2008

An Altogether Nicer Spring Image

And to make up for the hideous wrinkled thing in the previous post, I offer you this...

...a kestrel taking a break on the power line outside my window. I am rather chuffed with this pic, as it was taken from inside through the window. Now, if I could get one of it hovering in the air...

Beware the Mushroom

I give up, I really do.

It's been feeling almost Spring-like the last few days - still cold, but dry and, best of all, steadily lengthening days. After a long, dark, miserable winter, I have refound my enthusiasm for keeping my nature journal and so have begun looking around my two and a half acres for signs of returning life.

Frogspawn in a puddle, a toad ambling past my back door late one night - nature is waking up. No wild flowers yet, so I was surprised and delighted to find a solitary mushroom-type thing on the path in front of me. Filled with this new enthusiasm, I bent down to touch it, noticed that it had broken loose of its stem and decided it woul dbe nice to bring it into the house and describe it in my nature notes.

Now as a natural townie, I have an instinctive aversion to wild fungi. I just don't see the point of risking your health by picking something that not only doesn't taste that great but which could also kill you - what's the point? So I was feeling very proud of myself as I bore it back to the house. It was a funny-looking thing - like a little brown brain - so I reckoned I'd be able to identify it without too much trouble...I did. It was the highly poisonous False Morel. Typical.

Having touched it with my bare hands, and even tentatively sniffed it, I am now expecting to die before morning...well, maybe not, but just in case I do, I wanted you, my blogging buddies, to know why I was no longer posting. I am afraid that that is an end to my fungi forays - it'll be back to the look, don't touch strategy of before.

Here's a pic so you all know what not to put in your wild mushroom omelette...

Mind you, looking at the ghastly, wrinkled little thing, I can't imagine who would want to eat it. Happy Spring everyone!