Mother’s Day – Great Start . . . Crap Finish!

 

It would have been too much to ask for a perfect day, wouldn’t it?

It started well.

I’d requested a Cornus plant/shrub thingy from my son, Matt, and went into great detail re colour and size. Yes, I would have loved a tree-size one BUT I’d visited the plant centre a week earlier and saw the price of the tree-size ones, and to be frank I didn’t think I was worth that much. That’s a bit sad isn’t it? But you know me – the original shrinking violet. Shut up it’s true!

So, knowing Matt obeys my every fancy and whim (mostly) I was pretty confident that a lovely little Cornus would produce itself from Matt’s car boot come Mothering Sunday.

10.00 a.m. arrived and right on time (another quality he gets from me – always being on time) his work truck chugged to a halt outside the house and there, swaying, slightly seasick was my pressie – a small tree-size Cornus.

Obviously I was overjoyed that, A. I’d got a super-duper big plant and B. that apparently I WAS worth that much.

The grand kiddies piled in followed shortly by a plant and Matt somewhere behind it. I showered him with thanks before scolding him for spending that much on me when I would have been perfectly happy with a titchy one – well, maybe not a titchy but it is the thought that counts, you know.

The plant was placed in the garden awaiting planting. I already had the area mapped out and I told Matt that I’d be planting it when they left. At this point he said, ‘You might like to water it first?’

Good point I thought.

‘It’s been in the garage for two days,’ he added.

‘WHAT!’ I exclaimed. ‘So it’s been in the dark for two days with no water and then rattled up the motorway in an open truck?’

He grinned.

‘You lazy git,’ I said, ‘you just couldn’t be bothered to carry it round to the back of your house, could you?’

He opened his mouth to deny it but then changed his mind and continued to grin.

‘And YOU call yourself a gardener? I said.

He laughed.

This information set me back a bit, so when they had gone I watered it in its pot and then this morning I planted it. It looks OK . . . well, brilliant it fact. I think if it could talk it would breathe a sigh of relief. I don’t think it enjoyed the M1 that much?

As I said . . . Great Start, Crap Finish, because . . .

Later that day I toggled up the garden to tuck-in the greenhouse plants. A frost was forecast so they had to have their little duvets pulled-up round their delicate stems. As I was saying goodnight to the baby cosmos (Prince Charles talks to HIS plants so don’t go thinking I’m mad and alone in this), through the greenhouse glass I caught sight of a bird, on the floor, in front of Richard’s shed. It looked perfect, not cat struck at all. I couldn’t bear investigating so I shrugged down to the house and asked Richard to go and see if it was dead. He did so.

It was dead. I believe it had flown into the shed window. He described it to me (he’s no ornithologist) and I realised in was a bullfinch. Last year there had been a pair visiting the garden and only yesterday I was thinking that I hadn’t seen them this year. I was devastated really. I don’t do ‘dead’ animals very well, but then who does. I kept thinking that its mate would also be devastated. I tried telling myself that it would be fickle and find another mate, a prettier, better-at-finding-food-for-the-chicks mate. Then I told myself perhaps it would be happy knowing that its true love hadn’t had a horrible ending in the jaws of some rotten kitty . . . but none of that helped. The vision of the little thing stayed with me for the rest of the day . . . and has carried over to this morning. Yes, I’m a dick. What more can I say?

Whenever I see roadkill in the distance I have to close my eyes until we have passed it. Last year a muntjac had been hit on the busy road at the side of the wood and it had managed to make it to the gate of the wood. It had two broken legs. I still have nightmares now. It looked perfect, except for the two broken legs – and the fact that it was bloody dead. How long had it been there until shock had claimed it? How much pain did it suffer dragging itself from the road and along the grass verge to the gate? Yes, I think too much!

Last week, as we arrived at the wood, we noticed what looked like snow around the shed. On closer inspection (I sent Richard ahead to investigate) it was, or had been, a wood-pigeon. Feathers were everywhere. I never knew they had so many feathers!

Two days ago I raked the feathers together and burnt them.

So, there you go. A lovely Mother’s Day in many respects . . . I spent time with my son and grand kiddies and received exactly what I wanted but how much nicer it would have been if Mr Bullfinch hadn’t committed suicide?

This I guess is the balance of life, hey?

Right, dashing off to sand some wood. A craft fair looms and I must focus on making stock.

Stay Happy xxx

 

Busy, Busy, Busy . . . Not Expired!

O.K. first things first . . . I’m not dead. This news will either be met with whoops of joy or total indifference, I suspect the later.

So, where have I been? Nowhere really. Just around and about doing my own thing.

To be honest that probably isn’t honest, you see, I think my ‘hermit’ tendencies are now running parallel with my ‘can’t-really-be-bothered-to-do-anything-that-I-don’t-want-to-do-just-to-please-people-that-don’t-warrant-it.’ So I’ve been doing anything and everything that I WANT to do, and although there were quite a few odd moments when I thought about bashing out another blog something else always got in the way.

Health issues have been at the top of my agenda – well, they are aren’t they, once you step over the line into ‘a certain age?’

I don’t think it helps that I won’t give in to them (health issues) or accept that I’ve crossed over that line into a ‘certain age?’

I’d list my health issues but I’m trying to keep this blog under 20,000 words!

I’ll move on.

So what do I do all day . . . besides Netflix? That’s a joke by the way . . . kinda! Well, I don’t write novels anymore . . . the retinal migraines put paid to that, (see how a ‘health issue sneaked in under the radar there?) but I do other things.

Remember I told you about the small woodland we bought two years ago this May, well that takes up a considerable amount of my time, and rightly so. We have titivated and tidied, erected insect hides, bird nesting boxes, bird feeders (18 to date) and loads of other stuff too numerous to mention, and it has been great. Wildlife has returned. We now have woodpeckers, tits of all kinds, squirrels, muntjac, squirrels, nuthatches, squirrels, foxes, pheasants, wrens, robins, a rabbit (only ever seen one) hares and did I mention the bloody squirrels!!! Such little sods. They carry screw drivers and wire cutters and take down the bird feeders, most of them never to be seen again. It’s an ongoing war with them. I’ve made it my life’s work to outsmart them – the jury’s still out on who’s ahead to date! If I had to hazard a guess I’d say 70/30 . . . in their favour. I do know one thing – after all the food they’ve scoffed over the winter their dreys will be bursting with squirrel babies this year and I’ll need even more bird-feeding stations!

Then there are the craft fairs.

I make all things rustic from the fallen, and trimmed wood – fairy houses, fat ball feeders, other very clever things (?) and toddle off to craft fairs with them. The money I make goes back into supporting the wildlife. Can you imagine how much it costs to fill 14 bird feeders and 4 bird tables? So if anyone wishes to make a donation into my PayPal account go right ahead? Actually, I’ve had a break from the fairs since Christmas but they are starting up again now and in fact I did my first one of the year last weekend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also . . . my first love – the garden.

Spring has almost sprung and I’ve already got the garden and greenhouse in good order. Green things are springing up everywhere and today I actually SAT in the garden for one whole hour! A bloody miracle for me. You see, I love it but I always find something to do and can never sit still for a minute. I watched the birds coming and going. We have a wren nesting in the recently trimmed conifer. She makes one hell of a noise when Chea (kitty) is around. She really needs to be a bit more discreet – the wren not Chea.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So there you go. The wood, the garden, making the wooden things and the craft fairs. Oh! And I’ve just dug out my sewing machine and I’m having a bash at dressmaking – though they aren’t dresses that I’m making, they are tops. That’s going O.K. except for the first top looking like it would fit an elephant. I cast it to the back of the wardrobe telling myself I could wear it in the garden but then, being O.C.D and knowing it was stuck there, imperfect and as a constant reminder that it was wrong, I retrieved it and altered it. Now it would fit a hippo, so job well done, hey?

I’ll toddle off now . . .  you can probably only digest so much crap in one sitting?

I’ll catch you soon – I’ll add blogging to my nice list of things to do . . . possibly.

Take care lovelies x

If you’d like to take a look at my Woodland Crafts Page over on Facebook, and possible give it a like, a share or whatever, it would please the squirrels no end! (and me) xx

https://www.facebook.com/GriddiesCopse/

 

Into The Wilds Of Derbyshire

This Sunday I’m popping over the border and entering the wilds of Derbyshire. I will have the car loaded to the roof with fairy houses and all things wooden as we make our way to a craft fair. I’m not expecting to have a fortnight in Hawaii off the back of this one but it is for a good cause and we all need to support those from time to time, don’t we? It’s at The Cat’s Adoption Centre.

This, you realise is tricky. I fear selling two tea lights and coming home having adopted eight cats and a litter of kittens! Chea (existing family feline) would do her fruit and we would never hear the last of it. No amount of Purina Gourmet Gold would swing it back round to our favour. She has principles. She is the one-and-only and there is only ONE in one-and-only.

I had a brilliant idea for changing the staging on the table – until I realised that it was less of a brilliant idea and more than likely a stupid idea. I don’t know what table they are providing but it would have to hold a small elephant if I stuck to my brilliant idea. Even my super-duper table in my craft shed would be on its knees so “brilliant idea” has been shelved.

I have a few new things to take to this one.

The Shabby Kinda-Chic Dwellings have extended into Shabby Kinda-Chic Cottages and are due to extend further, towards the Christmas fairs, as Shabby Kinda-Chic Snow-Scene Cottages – a suggestion from a friend of mine, Claire Chambers. I might have to seriously rethink the name though.

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Shabby Kinda-Chic Dwellings

Another newbie is the Weathered Wood Fat Ball Feeder. This has been home-tested and I can vouch that it will hold a flock of flapping jackdaws in a feeding frenzy, the weight of which put my homemade rose frame thingy, under great pressure.

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Weathered Wood Hanging Fat Ball Feeders

Along with the fairy houses I now have the Hobbit Homes – originally named Gnome Homes until I realised that the younger generation probably doesn’t have a clue what a gnome is, so I’m playing safe with Hobbit Homes. Everyone has seen Lord of the Rings, right?

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Fairy Houses
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Hobbit Homes

This week there has been a slight problem with something entering the closed outside run (ex chicken run) where I keep the mossed fairy houses so that the moss won’t dry out. Something has been in and removed the moss from one of the house roofs. It now looks like it has a case of galloping alopecia. I can only suggest a wren because I know of nothing else that could squeeze through the wire. Initially, I thought that I might have left the outside door open and something had accessed it that way, so blaming myself for my oversight I closed the door, top and bottom, closed two catches, two bolts and padlocked it. Nothing was going to get in this time. Yesterday morning I went in after having lost the key and taking ten minutes to realise that it was in my shirt pocket, in the wash basket, and lo and behold – the alopecia had spread. More moss had been taken. I do know wrens make their nests with moss and I do know we’ve had nesting wrens in the garden most years so . . . Jenny Wren is the main suspect as I write. Today I will repair the missing moss.

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Wren Wreckage?

Another new item – the Weathered Wood Succulents. These are made with the same kind of wood as the Hanging Fat Ball Feeders. I particularly like these and having recently removed a spider plant – that would look more at home in the jungle – from my kitchen window sill, I’m planning on nicking a couple for myself.

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Weathered Wood Succulents

So, that’s me for now. I’m off to repair the wren’s wreckage and see if I can come up with a better idea for the staging. I probably won’t. The thing is I have so much staging and backboards etc. that last time we had to take the trailer. This goes down like an arrowed balloon with Richard but, as he is from Derbyshire and knows where he is going, I’d better try to keep him sweet. Yes, it’s a hard call and quite a novelty to be honest but perhaps you can teach an old dog new tricks . . . possibly . . . or not!

Wish me luck? Mainly – NOT to come home with twelve cats!!

Find me at https://www.facebook.com/GriddiesCopse/

A Wood For All Seasons

It’s been almost a year now since we bought the small woodland and I have to say that it has been hard work. It probably wouldn’t have been such hard work if I was not of the ‘everything has to be done immediately’ mentality. But I am and so that’s that.

Initially, our time was spent clearing the border alongside the track. Heavy machinery had cleared a way through the wood and had pushed everything from wispy branches to massive old tree roots on to the border. This was a massive task and most of it was performed around late spring and summer last year. The hot sun combined with a raging bonfire was exhausting to say the least.

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Uprooted Tree

After that came the clearing of the fallen wood, then the wood that was attempting to fall – but hanging on by the skin of its bark, then the diseased wood. Most of this was harvested for the wood burner, leaving the rotting and smaller branches for me to make into wildlife hides and retreats. I got a little carried away with this exercise and we now have a dozen or more.

BARRIERS
Stacks For Insects
WREN RETREAT
Wren Retreat
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Frogs And Toads Live Here
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Cover

I may not have made it perfectly clear but this woodland was in a horrendous state having been neglected for years and years . . . and probably even years more. The whole wood was covered in a tangle of masochistic blackberry stems. These tripped you up at every available opportunity. Richard managed to fall bottom-over-bonce carrying a petrol strimmer. It wasn’t a pretty sight but it was hilarious, if that kind of thing – a rather large, tall bloke, rigged out like Rambo, landing in a blackberry bramble patch, with a strimmer round his neck, tickled your fancy. Obviously I didn’t guffaw too loudly until I’d ran an experienced eye over him and had a quick mental check to confirm that he still had two of everything that he should have had two of and ditto, one of everything that he should have had one of.

We chain harrowed narrow paths through and around the wood, digging out the tangle of brambles where necessary. I was constantly being told that it was a woodland and NOT a garden and it didn’t need to be neat and tidy. This I understood, but I still wanted tidy mayhem.

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Preparing To Chain Harrow

I also haven’t yet mentioned that the wood had no heart. It was rare to see any form of wildlife within the boundary. No birdsong. No sign of much at all. Then we hung bird feeders and bird tables. Within no time we had a troupe of delinquent squirrels visiting. They chewed through the metal feeders, removed screws, munched on plastic and ate every peanut. They even took down, and removed, a whole jar of peanut butter that had been placed in a peanut butter jar feeder. To this day we haven’t found the empty jar.

Initially the mad troupe amused us – initially. Then it became personal. I made it my life’s work to outwit them. This, you probably think is as easy as falling off a log, something that I have also done, but it isn’t. They are smart. And savvy. And slightly adorable in their naughtiness. Feeders were wired shut, top and bottom. Adjustments were made to everything that hung and contained seed etc. We congratulated ourselves on our achievements – only to return the next time to find chewed-through wire, missing screws and every peanut and seed scoffed. Around this time we moved our base camp. We were now able to move into the middle of the wood and that is still our base today.

As summer turned to autumn and autumn gave way to winter we watched as leaves turned colour and fell, carpeting the woodland floor in a tapestry of brown and golden hues. We could now see through the wood and to the field of rape beyond. The wind howled across that field and ripped through the wood . . . still we held our ground. This was our wood, for all seasons, and we would see and enjoy it in all seasons. We made great use of a small fire thingy – we certainly had the wood to burn and there was, to us, nothing nicer than sitting in front of it warming our bones and drinking hot soup and munching custard creams.

FIRESo, almost a year since we took it on. The bird feeders have been rehung around our base camp and the once, quiet as a grave wood, is full of twittering and feeding birds, a friendly old pheasant, mice in the compost heap, buzzards soaring overhead in the up-drafts, and a couple of muntjac. I haven’t seen the delinquent squirrels for some time BUT, the homemade peanut feeder has to be repaired on every other visit and the second peanut feeder is also licked clean. I have learnt to accept them, I had little choice really, but it makes me sound like a nicer person! There are ten feeders and two bird tables. These need restocking every three days and, yes, it costs me a small fortune.

 

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Constantly Under Repair

There are blue tits nesting in one of our home-made boxes and coal tits in a holey tree, within a metre from our ‘sitting’ area. A robin has chosen to nest in the base of a close-by tree. It looks a little unsafe to me but hopefully she will be successful. I realise that if these bird numbers increase I shall have to buy even more food! At the moment the feeding frenzy has calmed. The birds have achieved what they were attempting to achieve, they are fat and healthy and up to their breeding weight. Now they are building, laying and sitting.

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Nesting Blue Tits

 

And that’s that. Here’s to the next year – if the Heavens allow it.

Memories Are Made Of This . . .

In the past I have often found that some things just aren’t worth the effort. However, when the snow came, just after Christmas, and the outside world was transformed from muddy greys and browns to perfect white I knew in my heart that driving the twenty-six miles to the wood in a snow storm would be.

With warnings on the early morning news of ‘Don’t venture out unless you have to,’ we joyously loaded up the old Land Rover with essentials – Jammy Dodgers, Cup a Soup, cheese sandwiches and the makings for tea and coffee for us and buckets of fat balls, mixed corn and everything else that a snow-bound woodland bird might require.

It was still dark as we set off, with the ancient headlights blearily focusing on the driving snow. We can do the trip to the wood in forty minutes on a good day, with a tail wind and in the car. In the Land Rover it takes longer, much longer, and that’s on a good day.

As we chugged round bends with the snow still falling, and now no way of knowing where the road ended and the verge began, we came across a car attempting to climb what, under normal conditions, could be classed as an insignificant rise in the road but today mirrored Everest. It appeared to be moving – and we were moving behind it when suddenly it spun into the centre of the road. Richard, with the reactions of a sleeping dormouse, swung the Land Rover hard to avoid hitting the car. This resulted in the dear thing losing its grip (literally) and jack-knifing to the right. Richard over-steered attempting to miss the car that was now stuck back-to-front in the middle of the road. This resulted in us spinning off to the left, sideways-on, to a wall that got closer and closer.

I don’t know if I stopped breathing and I won’t say my life flashed in front of me but I gritted my teeth, grimaced and waited for us to take-out someone’s front wall, all the while wondering how much it was going to cost to replace.

Fortunately we stopped with a coat of paint between the Land Rover and the wall. At this point Richard emitted a loud, ‘RIGHT!’ and clambered out of the Land Rover into a snow drift. I saw him disappear below the headlights as he fiddled with something, before returning, looking like he’d been iced. He growled his way into the Land Rover and spat, ‘that’s it! I’ve put it into four-wheel drive!’

Now, call me a woman driver if you like but I thought the whole purpose of having the benefit of four-wheel drive was to actually use it when conditions dictated? I didn’t query this, I didn’t need to because I knew he was still feeling monumentally embarrassed for over-steering in the first place (he’s a self-proclaimed super-duper driver you see) and it almost resulting in the bill for rebuilding a wall.

We continued for another half mile or so until we approached a large roundabout. There was a car about to enter the roundabout and we all know the rule – give way to traffic from the right. This we did, only to see the car enter the roundabout, lose its grip, and sail off sideways down the first exit. At this we laughed. And laughed. And laughed. Nervous tension you see.

We reached the wood without further incident and as we pulled up at the gate and saw the beauty of what lay before us we knew the journey had been well worth it. The whole wood was cloaked in white. Snow fell silently. As we drove along the track to our little copse a buzzard took-up before us and flew on silent wings into the falling snow.

The birds were beyond excited to see us as we trudged through the snow, to the shed, laden with their supplies and swooped and fed hungrily as soon as I’d replenished the 8 feeders and 2 bird tables. We have a growing collection of birds now, blue tits, great tits, coal tits, nuthatches, woodpeckers, robins, blackbirds, tree creepers – and we even have a visiting pheasant. I won’t mention the gang (or gangs) of squirrels! They are the bad boys and girls of the wood, chomping their way through everything edible and inedible. They have ruined 4 feeders to date.

Once the wildlife was sorted we put the kettle on and sat and watched the wood. That’s it. We sat and watched the wood. I can’t describe the feeling. Other than the beating of birds’ wings the whole wood was silent. No sound came from the distant road. It was perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

Some may say that it was stupid driving all that way to feed birds and sit and stare at snow-covered trees but I don’t care. We haven’t yet had the wood for a full year and I wanted to see it in snow for the first time. I didn’t want to miss that and I didn’t. Sometimes, to make a lasting memory you have to put in a little effort.

Now I’m waiting to see if the area of meadow grass that I planted in the autumn comes up in the spring. Or, if the daffodils I planted along one of the banks can out-fox the squirrels and pop-up and bloom without the little monsters realising they are there. And will the wild garlic I took from the garden and planted in a shady spot grow?

I am, now, at last, understanding the full meaning of the changing of the seasons. It is happening before my very eyes and I couldn’t be more content or happier.

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