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/

 

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.

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

Frogs And A Muntjac To Date

So, I can now confirm that the two acre wood is ours. The deeds have been signed, the monies paid, and the fat lady has sung.

It also has a name. Follow this . . . grand children = grand kiddies = griddies. That’s it. Griddies Copse.

We spent last weekend getting our bearings, avoiding rotten tree branches that swayed precariously and threatened to fall with less than the slightest touch, and trying to avoid squashing baby frogs – lots and lots of baby frogs!

There’s masses of work to be done.

The first job, and of paramount importance obviously, was to erect the two bird tables, the bug box and the seed feeder. Weirdly, nothing had found any of them by Sunday. I think the wood is so old and unattended that the birds don’t even bother looking for food in it, and seriously, why should fat balls, niger and sunflower seeds etc. suddenly appear out of nowhere?

I’ve heard a woodpecker in the distance and I understand that an owl is nesting in another part of the forest. At least one muntjac lives in the main wood because as the Land Rover crept along the path, last Sunday morning, we saw him/her dash across the track, and with a flick of a white under-tail, disappear into the thicket. I also want him/her in my little patch.

We will have left it a whole week since we were last there so I’m hoping that the tables and feeders have been found by then and everything scoffed and little ‘thank you’ notes left.

The main change has occurred in the form of crap-heap, oil-spewing Betsy Land Rover. As some of you know the old girl was off the road. Grounded for bad behaviour. She’d decided to lose her clutch . . . this is similar to a human being losing their grip, I think. She was immovable and quite proud of it sitting out there in front of the lounge window, blocking out light, dripping oil, not earning her keep. She must have really ground her nuts when her rotten, frayed, holey soft top was removed and a hard top screwed on? And then, to add insult to injury, the old wreck had to stand swaying on her tyres as a roof rack was added.

This having been said, she did succumb to Richard tickling her clutch and other bits and she did pass her M.O.T with flying colours, so the old girl is officially back on the road.

I think she quite likes being the vehicle of choice for our woodland visits. I can almost sense her fluffing up her bonnet and adding an extra little spin to her wheels as she majestically tootles down the track and through the trees.

This coming weekend is planned for clearing brambles and felling dead and spindly trees. I want to allow more light in so that it encourages ground flora to grow. Lots to do – lots of planning – but that’s fine. I like being busy and I like planning. Win. Win.

So I’m toddling off now to source a peanut feeder . . .

P.S. I’m wondering what muntjac eat? downloadHPIM4021

 

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Just Call Me Robin – Without The Hood – But With A Merry Man

Well . . . the last blog hinted that I might have something to tell you on the next blog – and I have. I mean, I’m always telling you something, be it rubbish or just plain nonsense. But this time I have something quite exciting to tell you, though I’m happy to accept that not everyone will share this excitement, each to their own, as they say.

Drum roll . . .

I’m buying two acres of woodland!

I can imagine heels of hands smacking foreheads, puzzled expressions and gentle tittering because I’ve probably just confirmed what many of you have suspected all along that I am a tad bonkers.

Can’t really argue that point or justify it.

To be honest trees scare me a bit. I’ve seen Lord of the Rings and know exactly what they are capable of. I think it’s the way they wave old, wizened branches in the wind and threaten to release an arm or two like a bolt from the blue. I always imagine being crushed to death. So, why am I buying two acres of woodland? Haven’t got a clue.

I guess it just spoke to me. “O.K. You’re pretty ancient and I can see why you might be more interested in a wooden rocking chair than a couple of acres of oak etc. but get off your fast-spreading butt and boldly go into your next adventure.”

Is excitement, adventure and something new only for the young? I think not dear friends.

I’m going to buy my little copse. I’ve already spent all day Saturday designing and instructing Richard how to assemble a two-acre-size bird table. It’s rather large – but I figure it needs to be. I mean, how many birds do you get to the acre? I’ll need to pick out a nasty old hawthorn and chop off its head to leave a natural stand on which to screw it. It’s way too heavy to hang – it would bring down the tallest sycamore. See! I’m already into the terminology – oak, sycamore, hawthorn! I’m beginning to think I was born for this? I’ll be wearing ‘The Green’ next and humming, ‘Robin Hood, Robin Hood, riding through the glen . . .dum de dum . . .’ 

Betsy, the pile-of-crap Land Rover, is now undergoing repairs, an M.O.T, and a new roof. We are going to need her to bring the logs back for the wood burner. It’ll take us half a day to get there in the old girl, she has a top speed of forty miles an hour – and that’s downhill with a strong tail wind and a prayer to Him upstairs.

Richard was a little surprised when I announced that we were buying a wood but he soon got over the shock (he’s had so many over the years –living with me) and now he’s quite excited too. We’ve already started researching fence poles and stock wire to fence our north border and that’ll be huge fun – driving in fence poles through twisted roots and rambling vegetation!

The grand kiddies were most impressed, well, Jake more so than Grace, but Grace is a girl and wasn’t too sure about the toilet arrangements. Weeing wasn’t too much of an imagined horror but when I told them that they would have to dig a hole and poo in it, and then cover it up, it was met with wide-eyes and a side-ways grin from Jake. When I added that was what Bear Grylls did it all seemed rather cool and they can’t wait.

So that’s my news. What do you think? A mad, impetuous fool, an idiot, or something else?

Take care all xx

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Photo – freepix.com