Friday, 21 May 2010

May and the garden is full of birds, bees and blossom

Blossom on all fruit trees is transient – one very vigorous wind and it blows away on the breeze. And the colour of it is ephemeral too. Especially apple blossom, palest pink in bud it quickly opens to pastel confetti, sprinkling the lawn.

The pear blossom has been and gone – almost - but the quince tree blossom is in its prime with large open pink flowers. The largest crab-apple in my garden – planted before my time, its name unknown – is very tall and growing with a list. Like this its branches sweep to the ground and these are just one mass of blossom.

At the moment it is a buzzing mass. Best Beloved's bees think they have won the lottery. They cover it but when I try to take a photo of them I have to give up. They alight for a second, take a sip and on to the next one. Snacking. Unlike a bumble bee that will take its time over its sugary meal.

So I do hope that we will get honey this year. We had a very wet spring last year and at the end of the summer there was only enough honey left for the bees winter supply. This year, in spite of our freezing winter, the hive is thriving again. So, fingers crossed, they will keep up production.

They have plenty in the garden to feed on. The lilacs, with their pyramids of mauve and white flowers, waft their heady perfume on the air and there are even early roses in bloom. And many trees apart from the fruit trees are in flower. The most striking are the horse chestnuts – their panicles of flowers, either red or white, like candles on a Christmas tree.

This really is the most glorious time of year. Everything is burgeoning. The purple beech leaves are glossy and rich, the new lime leaves brightest green. The box hedging – waiting till Derby Day for their first haircut – are covered with soft growth. The leaves bright. On a day like today, when the sun is shining, there is not a lovelier place in the world to be.

Walking in the woods yesterday the cuckoo was in full song. Insistent. In time I’m expecting to find a few ejected chicks from cuckoos in the garden: nature in all its gritty realism. The garden birds have already produced their fist chicks.

I noticed a brown, baby bird - fluffy crown and open beak - on the table outside my kitchen window. No tail. A wren chick. Far too large. Then a robin flew up and fed it and that settled it. I thought. But it was so large - was it a cuckoo chick I wondered. Off it flew to the nearby hedge. Hours were wasted waiting for it to re-appear.

And the woodpecker has been a constant visitor. Woodpecker chicks are a hungry lot. You can hear them calling out from their tree. So the adults spend the entire day finding food and the nut feeder makes an easy and convenient store. Both parents rear the chicks – more often only one – modern parenthood.

I have just been on a mercy mission. A marauding woodpecker has chopped through the wooden roof of a bird box again – probably after the eggs. I noticed a blue tit still popping in and out of the box – strangely through the front hole although the box is now open to the skies. So when it was out I peeked in and there were dark little chicks, golden beaks open wide.

On the tit’s next foray I speedily covered the box with a square of plastic held on with a strap of lead. A bit of a mess but I had to be quick – no time for careful carpentry. Anything to save the chicks from certain harm. And I watched until the tit returned – paused for a while then went it. Hopefully they will fledge.

Earlier today there was a pheasant’s egg sitting in the middle of the gravel path. Such a lovely khaki colour, small and smooth. Where it came from I don’t know but there are bushes alongside the path so perhaps a pheasant hen had laid it there. Another one of those mysteries. But I've brought it in - rather than encourage egg stealers - and it now sits on my desk. A reminder of new life.


Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Global Warming & Packaging - first tackle what goes on in your own back yard.

The poorest peoples of the world can still teach us a thing or two. They have not got a lot of anything but make as much as they can of the little they have. We, on the other hand, have stuff coming out of our ears. Packets of it. Bags of it. Sackfuls of packaging.

Packaging was minimal up until about the 1980’s. Sweets (a treat) had been sold loose and put in a paper bag, as were vegetables and bread. Paper bags could be put on the fire or left to bio-degrade. Milk was sold in reusable bottles and butter in greaseproof. Old butter papers were kept to be used to grease cake tins of cover the joint as it roasted. Re-cycling was a natural thing.

If you saw the excellent television programme on Andy Warhol’s art the other night you would have been reminded quite graphically of when packaging became a …well, an art. Boxes of brillo, packets of crackers, tins of soup. And he made his point by reproducing the images over and over again. A whole wall of tins of soup. Like a whole shelf full in the supermarket. The trouble is, there’s even more of it now in our consumer society.

Borough Councils are finally trying to save money and reduce landfill by collecting less waste. Quite right, but if people didn’t consume we wouldn’t have an economy. So, come on government, stop putting all the blame on the consumer – it is time the producers paid up or put paid to unnecessary packaging. This is the stuff that takes enormous amounts of energy to produce and then more to dispose of. Crazy.

Every household item we buy seems to be covered in acres of plastic and mountains of polystyrene. And everything is chucked in the bin. Bring back cardboard and straw, that’s my Green answer. Or don’t throw anything away – aha – you’ve found me out: I’m a hoarder. And, hoarder that I am, child-of-the-war-generation hater of waste that I am, I wonder at how much we squander not only of our resources but our creative powers too (note: keeping to the arty theme with the photos – sorry, images).

Those of us who had parents born before the Second World War were brought up not to chuck stuff away. There wasn’t so much to chuck for a start. But also, the privations of war made our parents only too well aware of finite resources, lack of products, the need to protect and preserve what they had. ‘It is wasteful’, was a common phrase. Make Do And Mend.

Just after the war – when timber was at a premium if available at all - my father built chicken houses from scrap. Every piece was measured out to the last half inch, all of it saved from tips or begged and borrowed. Similarly, when I see those shanty towns made out of old corrugated iron sheets and bits of wood - in Africa or India or in the furthest, poorest corners of the world - I think of the ingenuity of those forced to use them.

To see a little boy with his home made car made out of old bits of metal - something made out of nothing – is to marvel at his creativity. This is recycling at it most basic. And these are not the people responsible for waste or global warming. It’s us, with our smart homes and supermarket trolleys, that should be putting our creative powers to much better use. Saving resources and recycling begins at home.