Two of our grandsons, Angus and Hector, stayed with us last night. We thought that we would walk them down to Stoke by Clare to watch the fireworks. Jennifer had seen an announcement online of a display in the grounds of Stoke College, an independent school at the bottom of the hill from us, on the Suffolk side of the river. Gates were opening at 6.30, and the first blue touch-paper was to be lit at 7.00. We strode down the hill, fashionably late as usual, but we would make it in time for blast off. We were surprised by the lack of vehicles,or any other activity as we entered the school grounds, but onwards we forged. I forgot to say that we had to climb over a fence to gain entry, but we had gone in the side gate, and had reasoned that the public were being ushered in via the main entrance round in the village. There was no sign of a bonfire having been ignited, and it was still deathly quiet and very dark. A bright torch pierced the darkness and a eastern European security guard, whose vicious companion was a wire haired Jack Russell terrier, appeared before us. In extremely broken English he told us “no firework”, so we thanked him and headed for the main gate…..which was padlocked, so once again we had to scale a fence to make our escape. We walked home back up the hill, disappointed and mystified by the non-event. Once back inside, Jennifer found the listing on her tablet, and discovered that it was several years out of date! What had thrown her was that the listed event was staged on the 3rd of November, the same date as yesterday. One could say that it was a damp squib; but how we laughed…..not.

The non-event meant that I had plenty of time to take my telescope out in the garden so that Angus could take a look at the night sky, which was pretty good last night. He was suitably impressed by what he observed through the eyepiece, and his imagination was fired by the mind-blowing scale of the Universe, to the point where he was firing dozens of questions at me about all things cosmic, and he clearly thought that I would have the answers….wrong! Most of what I know was learned about space was from watching ‘Lost in Space’ in black and white on the TV. I blagged it a bit, but with no real conviction, and at 13, and bright with it, he probably saw right through my feeble explanations about dark matter and quarks; I just hope that he doesn’t repeat them to anyone.

We had some proper cold weather last week, which was nice in a way, and an absolutely ghastly wet and dismal day on Thursday; it put me in mind of the conditions that Frodo Baggins faced as he headed towards Mordor. I know that it means that I get shorter working days now, but I really don’t like these dark evenings, and the benefit in the morning doesn’t seem that significant. The shorter daylight hours are really affecting the growth rate of most things, and because of that I am withdrawing chard and perpetual spinach from this week’s ‘shop’, because having cut it hard for the past few weeks it now needs longer to recover. What there will be this week is: curly kale, broccoli, leeks, onions – red and brown, parsnips, beetroot, carrots, garlic, and potatoes. Salad is another casualty of the colder, darker weather, so that’s it for a while I’m afraid. There will be some from the greenhouse, but that’s well in to the future. Mushrooms are listed as ‘mushrooms’, because for a couple of weeks now I have been promised that things will be back to normal with the chestnut type, but so far this has not materialised….though once again I am told that they should be available this week. The good news is that the European citrus season has kicked in, so there will be lemons and oranges from Italy to go with the kiwi fruit. There are still some eating apples available too.

Talking of apples. Today, accompanied by Dud, I picked the last of the late ones; so unless I glean some for a small batch of cider for personal consumption, that is that for another year. Having said that, what now lies ahead of me is a long stint of pruning. Because of my knee trouble I didn’t do any last winter, so the trees badly need some attention, otherwise the fruit will be so high that picking will become problematic. The worst thing about pruning is dealing with everything that is lopped off, a mountain of prunings is created, but at least the deer enjoy stripping the bark from the branches, which will hopefully keep them from doing the same to the trunks of the trees.

You know that I told you about the sounds of the rut going on in the woods last week? Well the ‘proper’ deer are still at it…..but it’s not only them! Last Wednesday I was down the bottom half of the garden inspecting the growth of the cover crop, standing in the middle of the field, when a pair of Muntjac appeared on the other side of the fence that makes up the furthest boundry of the garden. They were travelling from left to right, hugging the fence line, the doe in front with the buck following, his nose virtually touching her bottom. I’m not sure if the doe spied me, but the buck definitely glanced at me as they made their way along the fence; this was all within 20 metres of where I was stood. Not waiting for her to stop he mounted her momentarily, then after another few yards he did the same again, and it was at that point that I’m sure he turned his head towards me and gave me a knowing look; it did me feel like a grubby voyeur. I wonder if I will get to see the offspring next year? So long as they stay their side of the fence I am happy for them to keep doin’ a what comes naturally.

We will be at Ridgewell farmers’ market on Saturday, as well as Wyken, where we will be joined by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, which will have a stand there, and personnel to discuss any nature issues that you have. The Trust will also welcome any new members with open arms; do come along.

Have a splendid week.

Phil

 

 

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