I Spy…

March 26, 2021

Among the lovely birthday presents I got last weekend was a fun new toy: a night-vision trail cam that we hope will reveal to us any nocturnal shenanigans among the local wildlife. As well as the hares we’ve seen signs of possible badger activity and footprints in the snow earlier this year suggest we also get nocturnal visits from foxes, which we never see during the day. We’ve left it out overnight for a few nights now, and so far it’s fair to say that we’re still perfecting its placement and set up so that we can capture something slightly more exciting than us putting it up and taking it down …

However, reviewing the footage one morning, I did realise (after 3 or 4 viewings) that we’d captured something here other than the sound of the Extremely Loud Blackbird who’s been delivering our five am wakeup call with enthusiasm. Have a look and see if you see what I see (keep your eyes on the bottom left corner …)

OK, so it’s not going to turn the world of wildlife filming upside down, but it gives me hope that with a bit of fine tuning we might be able to get some decent footage.

In other news, the lambs have reached the ‘lamb gang’ stage where they spend most of their time hanging out in the corners of fields getting up to mischief and generally looking as if they’d be smoking behind the bike sheds, if only they had opposable thumbs. And cigarettes. And, indeed, bike sheds.

lambs hanging out in the field

And, from the evidence of this photo, doing a little youthful experimentation into the joys of adult life too.


Outrun

October 5, 2019

Riding back from Park Run this morning, feeling pretty pleased with myself at getting a personal best (out of only two outings, but hey), my mood was ruined by the sight of a dead hare, right at the corner opposite our gate.

roadkilled hare

Seriously, who would get enough speed on this road to run over anything, let alone a hare?

Roadkilled hare isn’t that unusual around here – although generally they have the advantage over, say, rabbits and pheasants through their uncanny ability to run away from a car rather than towards it. But our road is tiny; it’s a dead end that serves six houses and a couple of farms, and you’d be hard pressed to drive faster than the average hare can run even if it’s not trying very hard – mostly they just lope along with no apparent effort at a good 20mph, so very much not like me at Park Run. I can only assume that someone was doing a three-point turn and the hare decided to sit tight on the verge, or else that some piece of farm machinery caught it somehow – the average tractor is a pretty tight fit on most of our roads these days.

Over the three years we’ve been here we’ve seen so many wee hares grow up into bigger hares, and then get replaced by a new wee hare. Some of them have had a distinctive appearance, they appear to have different personalities (being more or less chilled about people in the garden) and they all seem to have different taste in garden plants, and choose different hiding places to hang out (indeed, the latest one has been rather too fond of hiding under our car, so I hope that hasn’t lulled it into a false sense of security when it comes to motor vehicles). Our neighbours report the same – in fact, it was only yesterday that I was chatting to a neighbour about it and we were congratulating ourselves on what a hare-friendly neighbourhood we live in. They come, they stay a while, and then they go, and I’ve always fondly imagined them fanning out across the countryside until they’ve got wee hares of their own and then bringing them back to a place where they remember being safe. It’s gutting to discover one dead, just yards from the safety of our garden, especially in a week when we learned that wildlife numbers are continuing to plummet in the UK. But all we can do is continue to operate our garden primarily as a hare sanctuary and hope that this proves a one-off.

Postscript – just as I was writing this, I was delighted to see not one but two hares come through the garden and pause at the gate before heading off up the road. Here’s hoping they’re off to make more hares …


Blooming Marvellous

June 14, 2019

Returning from Edinburgh yesterday afternoon, and doing the garden round to see what if anything had changed in the two days I’d been away, I noticed that something had been nipping the flowers off my geum and leaving them scattered on the ground.

This morning, the culprit was revealed.

hare eating flowers

It appears that the stems of geums are very delicious if you’re a young hare.

hare and flowers

Fortunately we’ve long since decided that when it comes down to flowers versus hares, the hares win every time. This one in particular takes cuteness to an advanced level, as I think you’ll agree …

hare cleaning whiskers

(Photos courtesy of the other half and his much more capable camera)

This went some way towards cheering me up after our MSPs made entirely the wrong decision in Parliament yesterday.


Habitat Management

March 6, 2019

I don’t know why I ever think this, but as I nipped out into the garden this afternoon to take advantage of a brief respite between downpours, I thought there wouldn’t be too much to do. Naturally, a couple of hours later, once the rain closed in again, all I had done was remind myself what a mammoth amount of work it’s going to take to get to grips with it all.

bed in garden

Normally I choose my camera angles carefully to highlight the good bits of the garden. This is more the reality

Today’s task was to clear up the dead vegetation that has been lying around being wildlife habitat over the winter. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered that one clump of bracken was still being wildlife habitat in the form of a young hare whose parents hadn’t read the information that says their breeding season has only just begun.

I think I’d have things somewhat more under control if I didn’t have to garden around whichever bit of the garden was currently favoured as a hare resting place, but then our garden wouldn’t have hares in it, and that would be wrong. Much as I’d like a beautiful and productive garden crammed full of interesting plants, its key role in our lives is to look like the sort of a garden a responsible hare parent can leave her offspring in. So I can’t simply lay waste to all the undergrowth and patches of brambles and nettles – I’ve got to wait until I’ve got something to replace each bit with that’s a bit more garden like but also functions as suitable hare habitat.

Garden and wilderness

(This doesn’t explain the pallets, obviously, but we have plans for them and they will be put to use in the fullness of time)

Greenhouse and pallets

So I keep chipping away at the edges, clearing out bits as I have plants for them, and averting my eyes from the rest. Some of these plants even, miraculously, survive, if they are not too delicious to the hares.

lupins

I think this is the first lupin ever to last longer than a month in my care, let alone over winter…

Meanwhile, we have exciting composting news (and also another exciting delivery* lurking in the garage which I can’t blog about for non-fate-tempting reasons) but that will have to wait for another

*Not a bike, before you get too excited


Lurking

July 20, 2018

Heading to the garden yesterday afternoon to pick some beetroot, I encountered a problem:

hare hiding in the beetroot

Can’t see it? Let me help:

hidden hare with arrow

I did wonder whether I could sneak in and grab a couple of beetroot without disturbing it but it took fright (I say took fright: it didn’t so much run off as saunter so it’s possible they’re aware they would have us wrapped around their little fingers, if hares had little fingers). Fortunately the hares seem fonder of sitting on beetroot than eating it, so there was plenty for the beetroot salad* I had planned for my writers’ group pot luck dinner.

Other things lurking among the veg are, frankly, a bit less welcome:

courgette

I may have to learn to love courgettes. Recipes welcome, preferably ones that don’t end ‘and you can barely taste the courgette’ as that doesn’t really fill me with a sense that it’s worth growing.

Anyway, the salad seemed to go down well and after an evening of good food and great chat, I realised with a bit of shock that it was 10 o’clock and I had better get on my bike and ride home. I do love these long light and warm summer evenings. The heatwave may have left this corner of Scotland (it rained for most of today) but we’re still getting enough warm weather to make riding at night a positive pleasure – especially when there are no cars, and the only other thing moving as I made my way home were the bats dancing above my head.

night sky
*Beetroot, feta cheese and parsley – known as ‘Barbie salad’ because of the colour the feta cheese goes


Eating a Rainbow

July 4, 2018

Never mind all that gadding about in the sunshine in France, I hear you cry: what of the garden? How is your veg plot growing?

veg plot in july

Well, funny you should ask that – thanks to the fine weather and a helpful neighbour it’s all looking rather good, at least for now, although the hares have done their best to remove any danger we might have a glut of french beans by nibbling the seedlings as they emerge from the ground. They don’t seem to have quite the same taste for kale and rainbow chard though…

Unfortunately, as we were on our way back from France we had news of a family bereavement which means that rather than spending the next few weeks as we’d planned, going absolutely nowhere, the other half has already had to hot foot it back to the US and I will be following him for the weekend.

rainbow chard

This has left me home alone with no company but the hares, and the feeling that I ought to be at least trying to keep up with the garden’s production before it all starts to get out of hand. As someone who is not one of nature’s vegetable eaters, this is proving a bit of an effort. On the other hand, after a trip during which I struggled to eat even one serving of veg and one of fruit a day, let alone five of them, it will probably be good for me. Even if I’m still yet to find a completely convincing recipe for rainbow chard.

garden veg ready to cook

Perhaps I should invite the hares around for dinner?


I’ll See your Veg and Raise you …

March 16, 2018

Vegetable plot in March

vegetable plot master plan

Master plan. Version 1 …

As I mentioned earlier, plans are afoot for raised beds in the veg plot, which is currently home to some overwintering and just-about-to-bolt leeks and some hare-nibbled kale. Indeed, I had gone so far as to measure out the space available, work out the size of raised beds I wanted and draw up an actual plan. I was quite pleased with myself at having done this by myself, no mean feat with a tape measure that’s not actually as long as the longest stretch of the vegetable plot.

Having sourced some locally made recycled plastic raised beds, and realised how expensive the whole thing was going to be, I then effectively parked the project to think about it for a while, until I either made a decision or some raised beds miraculously fell out of the sky, but with spring approaching and no alternatives magically presenting themselves, I ordered a single raised bed unit to see whether they looked okay in real life.

This arrived yesterday, about 3 hours after the email telling me it would be coming in 3-7 working days (always good to manage your customers’ expectations), so today I went out to do one last check of my measurements and set the bed up where it was likely to end up. Hmm. Top tip for gardeners: always best to ensure you have included the widths of the paths between the raised beds in your masterplan…

After recruiting the other half, a bit of re-measuring, the removal of one buddleia bush (don’t worry about the butterflies, the garden is currently about 30% buddleia by volume), the demolition of the hare defences, and the remeasuring of the space, we worked out that we did have space for everything, got the trial raised bed up and had a look.

recycled plastic raised bed

It is quite shiny, although I suspect that won’t last. Much as I like the aesthetic of wooden beds, I like the thought of adding to the market for recycled plastic products even more, so we’ve decided to go for it and buy 10 more to complete my master plan.

The master plan also includes better hare defences, and I’m thinking we can move our bay trees into the plot as well, as they seem to get fairly heavily nibbled by the hares, especially in the snow. But then again, there wasn’t much else in the garden they could eat during the snow apart from the kale. Obviously it would be ridiculous to have extra bay trees elsewhere in the garden, just for the hares. So we definitely won’t be doing that. Definitely. Ridiculous idea.

hare outside front door

Anyone know what other plants hares particularly like to eat?


The Best Thing about this Snow …

January 19, 2018

still snowy

… is that we definitely know the hares are back. One picked its way down our path this morning at first light and settled in a little hollow it has made for itself above the pond. It’s not as chilled as past visiting hares have been – I suspect it knows it’s a bit more conspicuous than usual (it not being one of the mountain hares that goes white for the winter) so its ears keep swivelling around like a radar dish and it takes flight at the slightest movement from the house, leaving only a hare-shaped hole in the snow.

hollow in the snow

Place where hare was, sans hare. You’ll just have to use your imagination

Some clearing and ploughing from neighbours with way better toys than we have (our retired lawyer neighbour up the hill has not one but two diggers and relishes any opportunity to use them) means our road is somewhat passable; postal deliveries have been resumed and I was able to cycle almost all the way to and from our door, thanks to the magical ice tyres.

snow on the hills, green below

We walked in the woods today and our footprints from two days ago had been completely obliterated by the snow since then. Apart from a glorious bullfinch, looking even more gorgeous than usual against the snow, the only signs of life were the tracks of badger and deer, foxes and squirrels. There’s something a little strange about coming out of the woods, having waded through pristine foot-deep snow, to see the cars back up to speed on the road across the valley and the green of the fields reappearing down below us, while everything around us remains buried in snow.

single green field

(except this one field, mysteriously, which doesn’t seem to have any snow on it at all. What do you think the farmer has done to it? Extra potent slurry? Underturf heating to make it a luxury sheep spa destination)


Harey Christmas?

November 15, 2017

So I was all set to write another grumpy post today, having received yet another unsolicited letter from a legal firm that wants us to enrich them by agreeing to sue the electricity company over the fact that there’s a cable going over our property, something we should apparently see as a dreadful imposition rather than a source of free tree surgery.

So there was much muttering about parasitic capitalism as I cycled into Bigtown to brave the Christmas music,* cheered only moderately by encountering a chap out birdwatching by bike and then only moderately more by the silver flash of fieldfares’ wings as they flocked in the hedgerows on the way back.

But then, looking out of my study window on my return I was restored by the sight of not one but two hares sauntering about the garden. We have not had hares in the garden for ages – possibly too much gardening going on, with the construction of the greenhouse and other projects – and I was beginning to wonder if we had chased them off altogether. So it was encouraging to see them back, and hopefully more more than just a passing visit…

* It turns out that the source in the shop is in fact a life-size animatronic singing Santa which interrupts its renditions of Winter Wonderland with the occasional cry of ‘Merry Christmas everyone!’ Frankly, if it makes it through to Christmas without ending up beheaded and crucified in the local primary school playground, then that end of Bigtown will not have lived up to its lawless reputation.


Tuckered Out

June 9, 2017

When you were going to go to bed but then you caught the news about the exit poll and you ended up staying up way past your bedtime waiting for just a few more results to come in …

sleeping hare

not dead, only sleeping

… I think this young hare speaks for the nation today. And yes, it is genuinely fast asleep like that, not dead. It just crashed out like that on our patio. It’s nice that they feel that relaxed about being in our garden …