On The Bend

Early this morning we drove to Lymington to buy birthday presents, and continued into the forest on this cooler, leaden skied, day.

We stopped at Crockford Clump where small pine cones littered the bone dry ground

on which lay two striking mandalas side by side, one composed of droppings from the trees probably crafted by human hand, and the other consisting of feathers plucked by beak and claws of a predatory raptor. (The first black and white picture of the Clump is by Jackie).

This birch tree was one of the many already shedding autumnal leaves.

Just as I wandered into the murky landscape

rain began to fall.

The Assistant Photographer waited, camera poised, for my dampened return.

Visitors are now, mostly sans masks, dominating the supermarket queues. For that reason we seek out local shops which are largely less crowded and safer. We tried a Farm Shop near Beaulieu which normally has few customers. Today, even in the rain, there was a line outside it. On we travelled to the East Boldre Community Shop which was a much better option.

Oblivious to what may be coming round the bend further along the road dexterous donkeys clipped the hedges with precision.

Nearby a group of ponies obtained what nourishment they could from the very dry grass.

Closely followed by the ponies, the donkeys ambled across the road. Fortunately nothing whizzed round the bend.

The rain continued until midday. This afternoon Elizabeth visited and we had a stimulating and enjoyable wide-ranging conversation. Interestingly she has, throughout the lockdown, been, by use of mobile phones, reading to Ella a Jill Murphy story “Peace at Last”, to which we had introduced her to when Sam and Louisa, contemporary with Elizabeth and Rob’s Adam and Danni, were small. Our great-niece now quotes from it.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s superb sausages in red wine; boiled new potatoes; and firm broccoli with which the Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I drank Motepulciano D’Abruzzo 2018.

Owling With Attitude

The blackbird still sits on her nest. Peering through shrubs at a safe distance, sometimes her bright little eyes are visible to the viewer, sometimes her upturned tail.

Today’s task for me was to clear one bed of brambles and other unwelcome growth. Simple enough for a day’s work. I thought. In fact the wild blackberry bushes were the least of my problems.
As I began to feel my way into the undergrowth I came across a number of previously unseen plants. One was a heavily-budded passion flower which had become entwined in a hebe, and, of course brambles. The necessary disentanglement was a most delicate operation. Having carried out the surgery I gave it a leg-up by means of netting attached to a metal post set in concrete that Jackie had found elsewhere in the garden. Another such climber had clung to the weeping branches of the birch tree, but had many stems trailing in and out of the bed grasping at anything in its path. Further similar treatment was required. This time the netting was strung between two wooden stakes.
Two types of tree that are abundantly self-seeded in this garden are hawthorn and bay. There was one of each in this bed, their roots, as always, taking shelter among those of  other plants; in this case the weeping birch and some lilies that have not yet flowered.

I had no chance of reaching them unless I removed the wooden bed head nailed to the tree. No doubt this once had a decorative purpose of sorts.  I couldn’t prise it off. Once the rust had been scoured off the nailhead it turned out to be a screw, so dilapidated as to be bereft of a slot. I tried to make one with the trusty hacksaw. I couldn’t get it deep enough.
Then along came Superwoman, who saw that if we removed the rickety slats and the other end, we could leave the post where it was. D’oh!
That is what we did. I dug out the offending trees and replaced the rest of the bed head. Two of the joints had by now disintegrated, so nails will have to be used, when I have bought some of sufficient length. In order that it does have a decorative function, I optimistically fed a passion flower stem through the secure bit.
Jackie speaks of the June gap, which is that unproductive time between the finishing of the spring flowers and before the arrival of those of the summer. The planting here has been so well planned that there is no such hiatus.

I took a break after lunch and photographed water lily, philadelphus, roses, petunias, diasca, pelargonium, begonia, poppies, verbascum, rodgersia, and clematises which are just a few of those we currently have flowering.

Our blackbird is still awaiting the emergence of her chicks. Not so the owl in my friend Hari’s tree. Her two are about three weeks old, and able to reach the ground, but do need to be returned to their Mum. If I am able to photograph our fledglings I am confident that my pictures would not be as striking as the one Hari e-mailed me today. She believes the creature was displaying a mind of its own when it stared back at its rescuer. I rather like her term for a baby owl, especially one with attitude, which has provided today’s title.
This evening’s meal was Jackie’s beef and mushroom pie with mashed carrots, swede, and potatoes; and crisp cauliflower and broccoli. Tiramisu ice cream was to follow. Jackie drank Hoegaarden and I finished the tempranillo.
If you have a shop that can sell you ready prepared pastry and have saved enough beef casserole (recipe) you, too could make the pie. Simply drain off the sauce from the casserole and use it as gravy; roll out the pastry, insert the filling into it, and bake it in the oven for about half an hour on 200. The chef, when pressed for her timing, said: ‘Oh, I don’t know, I didn’t time it, I just stood and looked at it until it was the right brownness’. I don’t expect she did this for the whole time, but I think that gives you the idea.