Hare Brained

April 27, 2017

As spring (or ‘spring’, as it’s been rebranded after the last couple of days of icy winds and the odd shower of is that … snow?) advances, the garden is slowly revealing itself. Or at least, what survives of the garden after, apparently, ten years of neglect and rampant chickens, if our neighbours’ stories of the previous owners are anything to go by. Probably not plants that are going to need a whole lot of cosseting to survive.

Dicentra formosa

Dicentra formosa (according to Professor Google) which has popped up in one of the bits down to be managed by strimmer…

There’s a lot of it, so my strategy was to try and identify which bits of the garden I would try and change this year, which bits I would try to maintain as they are, and which bits would be left to be managed by strimmer until we have decided what to do with them and have the time to take them on.

hare hiding

spot the hare

Since the advent of the junior hare, however, the garden has been reclassified into ‘hare habitat’ and ‘non-hare habitat’. The hare, being downright adorable, gets to have whichever bits of the garden it likes to sit in (currently: under a pile of willow sticks that were going to be burnt, in a clump of weeds by a wall that were going to be weeded, next to the bench where we like to have our coffee in the sunshine, and tucked into a huge clump of grass beside an old tree stump where it has created a hare-shaped hole (technically a ‘form’). I’ve managed to retain the veg patch, the front lawn and, so far, the house although if it wanted to come in, I can’t imagine us denying it.

hare form

Hare-shaped hole in the grass

So the gardening will be somewhat patchy this year – but we’re not complaining. When the hare is around, and visible from the windows in the house, it’s actually quite hard to tear yourself away in case it does something extra cute like scratch its nose, pull down its ears to nibble at the tips of them, or stretch out one or more of its improbably long legs before settling down to look inscrutable again in its chosen spot.

hare in weeds

hare, what hare?

It’s also quite hard to go out to the garage for more fuel for the fire, or do any gardening, or generally do anything, without scaring it off, so we’ve been reduced to walking the long way around the house to the garage, or practising our special nonchalant ‘hare, what hare?’ walk as we skirt past it as unobtrusively and unscarily as possible.

hare running away

Sometimes this works better than others.

Hares aren’t territorial, so we know that this one is really only visiting and eventually it will move on and we will get full access to our garden again. But gosh we’ll be sad to see it go …


Badgering On

April 15, 2017

On Monday, riding into Bigtown for an appointment, I was startled to see a badger crossing the road ahead. It was 1:30 in the afternoon, and badgers are properly nocturnal, and more to the point even if they are out in daylight they don’t generally then curl up on the verge and appear to go to sleep, before only grudgingly moving into a ditch when a curious blogger on a bike approaches.

So clearly this was not a well badger, a suspicion that was confirmed when I returned a few hours later to find it now apparently asleep on the tarmac (this is a quiet road). Despite me standing over it for a good ten minutes, and someone else approaching in a four by four, it didn’t move although it was still breathing. Sick or not, I wasn’t going to attempt to move it (even a sick badger can be quite formidable if it takes exception to your actions, however well intentioned) so finally I went home, got in touch with the SSPCA who promised to send someone round, and hoped for the best.

Sadly, the best wasn’t to be, and there was a rather sad badger corpse beside the road when I cycled past the next morning. I also contacted the Badger Trust because there had been no visible marks on the badger, so I was concerned that it might have been poisoned (badgers don’t carry TB in Scotland, but that doesn’t always make them popular with farmers). Anyway, I’ve just heard that the badger in question was probably hit by a car after all. Apparently they often sustain internal injuries without appearing to hurt. This one just took a while to die. So no crime as far as the badger trust was concerned – just another ordinary death on the roads.

Which is good news of a sort – it would be worrying to learn that someone around here was either illegally poisoning wildlife, or else was so careless with poison that badgers were getting poisoned by mistake. But then again, it’s a sign of how blase we are about roadkill that hitting a badger with your car (and they are pretty solid – I’m told they can make quite a dent) and leaving it die is okay. Sad too that my best ever look at a badger (and they are extraordinary creatures when you see them close up) was one that was dying.

Fortunately that’s not the only wildlife sightings we’ve been getting in recent days though. Our adult hares have now been joined by a leveret which has taken to ambling around the garden in an extraordinarily fluffy and endearing way which makes up for its habit of nibbling on the flowers. Hopefully it will stay where it is and not venture too far onto the roads …


Hares Today …

March 14, 2017

hare outside front doorAs I may have mentioned, we have a resident hare in the garden. It has a few favoured spots where it likes to hang out, and it’s a bit fly to be photographed on a mobile phone, although today I did my best when I went into our entranceway today and found we had a visitor right outside (possibly contemplating nibbling the second of the pair of little bay trees that I had been hoping would frame our doorway; it’s already decapitated the first.)

When I was in Inverness, I also got a text from the other half to tell me that not one but two hares were hanging out on the manky pink carpet, waiting for the rain to stop. As hares are largely solitary, two hares can mean only one thing: that the time has come when a young hare’s fancy turns to, well, other hares (the ‘boxing’ they are famous for in March is generally down to the female hare not yet being similarly inclined and reminding the male hare that hares are largely solitary and she would prefer to keep it that way, thankyouverymuch). So far we’ve seen neither boxing nor any sign that they are doing more than just tolerating each others’ presence, but we live in hope of more hares tomorrow.

hare haring off

Naturally this makes the hare-proof defences for the vegetable patch increasingly urgent, but for now we are just enjoying their presence and trying to work out a means by which we and the hares can continue to share the garden nicely.


A Little Water Otter

February 21, 2017

Cycling home from Bigtown this lunchtime with a bit of a case of the grumps because it was miserable and raining (I know, I know, it’s February in Scotland so what did I expect, but I got a bit over optimistic about this Caribbean air that was supposed to be arriving) and I’d been in too much of a hurry when I left to bring in the laundry (ditto), so not only was I going to be pretty soggy when I got home, but so would be most of my clothes.

And then as I turned across the bridge I caught a pattern of ripples on the water just out of the corner of my eye, and stopped in time to see an otter surface, dive, resurface again, then seem to catch my eye before it dove again and vanish under the bridge. I spent a hopeful few minutes darting from side to side of the bridge hoping for it to reappear long enough to be photographed, but it was too fly for me, and I cycled off again into the rain.

There are so many reasons why I ride a bike: the environment, saving money, maintaining my cake-based lifestyle – but it’s encounters like that make me happy that I cycle even on the grimmest days.

The laundry was still soaking when I got in, mind. And so was I.


Hope Springs

February 20, 2017

As the world still determinedly heads hellwards, handbasket-wise, who’s for a small amount of good news? I was cheered to learn yesterday that pine martens had been spotted fairly locally. Pine martens, as well as being desperately cute, also prey on grey squirrels (red squirrels can evade them being lighter and quicker) and have been credited with helping keep the reds going up in the Highlands where they are still reasonably numerous. Given that we have seen grey squirrels twice in our garden since we moved in, we’re clearly on the frontline here, and having a little cute furry help* to beat back the greys would be welcome. As well as pretty damn cool.

Although we have managed to get some video footage of pine martens before, they’re a bit too fly to be photographed easily even by the super-skilled photographer friend who spotted them, so you’ll have to make do with the equally hopeful but quite a bit more stationary daffodils which appear to be coming up in the garden.

emerging daffodils

Watch this space

*I assume that all of you who got a bit squeamish about us doing away with the greys last time don’t mind them being done in by other animals … nature red in tooth and claw, and all that.


Hanging in There

February 2, 2017

It shouldn’t come as any big surprise, given the time of year, but I was still pleased to see that the lane above the house has a bank of snowdrops coming through.

bank of snowdrops

At this time of year (this year of all years … remember when we were glad to see the back of 2016?) any sign of hope is welcome.

snowdrop clump

The more the merrier

lots of snowdrops

And for all you sheep lovers out there, a sheep.

lone sheep

Don’t know if this was an introverted one, or possibly an outcast, but it seemed happy away from the flock, which were all away at the other end of the field. Possibly plotting an escape, now I think about it…


You Can Keep your Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness, Frankly

October 15, 2016

‘You’ll be needing this,’ the other half said to me handing me the key to unlock the bike, before heading off with his parents. I had been having, it’s fair to say, a stressful morning: with a lot of stuff I needed to do, a duff Windows update had been causing Word to keep crashing. Eventually, with the help of Twitter and Dr. Google I had managed to back out of the changes and more or less got my computer working again, but it had effectively taken me two hours to get to the point where I could even start the thing I had meant to get done early to allow me to go out and enjoy the delights of a sunny Colorado October day. As it was, I was going to have to stay behind and let the others go out and enjoy themselves without me.

bike on path

Two hours later, I took the other half’s advice and unlocked the bike and took it for a pootle down the river trail. It was too hot to go far (fall in Pueblo is a relative thing – we’re talking 28 degrees celsius, or F hot in Farenheit – so not exactly your crisp cold autumn day) so I contented myself with taking photos.

shaded path

The path was full of grasshoppers that turn themselves magically at your approach from what look like sticks into whirring red-winged creatures, like a butterfly wearing a two-stroke jet pack. I amused myself trying to capture the moment of transformation but my reflexes are not fast enough.

grasshopper

Grasshopper in stick mode

And the trees, while not exactly the firework display you’d get in the north east, were putting on a bit of a show.

tree with autumn leaves

You’d be looking at Pueblo a long time before you mistook it for a beautiful city – but it has its moments.

And then I came back and spent the afternoon on my computer in the shade on the patio.

This is the sort of autumn weather I could get used to.

more autumn colour