Valentines day came and went and Keith , Lachlan and I celebrated with the new tradition of a romantic dinner for three plus dog. Keith was slightly non plussed by the particularly romantic, and rather too large, highland cow hat I had knitted for him but Ishbel was impressed and, following some photo sharing on an especially dull night shift, she feels I could make my fortune with a hat menagerie product. I am not entirely convinced but as I have now got past the tricky bit on my sheep jumper (three colours at once is a bit of a fag, I got horribly fankled and was always having to untwist myself) I might try another, somewhat smaller, version. Knitting though is on the back burner as the snow disappeared overnight a few days ago revealing a riot of colour. The aconites and snowdrops had been sneakily growing away under the snow just waiting for the great reveal. I have spotted a few crocus and some early iris too so it is now all hands to the pump to get the garden weeded, pruned and mulched before everything goes berserk.
The first job I tackled, which was by far the most horrendous, was replanting some water lily plants I had grown from divisions last year. The pond guys had come just before the big freeze and emptied the pond to clear up the bottom (they are over zealous I think and I fear my carefully cultivated oxygenating weed went into the compost heap. This however is a battle for another year). We were unable to refill the pond from the old well in the shelter belt as it has mysteriously emptied so had to take the slow route from the tap and the refill was therefore thwarted by the pipes freezing. This is a long way around to explaining that on the day of the thaw the bottom pond had 2 feet of water in it with an inch thick layer of ice on top. Resplendent in the best wellies, long johns and climbing trousers I slithered in, broke the ice and spent several hours constructing two new lily beds from assorted boulders, a dumpy bag, two barrow loads of mud and an old potato sack. It was strangely satisfying. Anyhow the lilies are rehomed and I have also expanded the area for marginal planting and ordered some new butomus (flowering rush) as this also appeared to have been cleared out…………
Next up, over the following two days, I took the opportunity to weed the stream margins without having to stand in two feet of water (the stream won’t fill up again until the bottom pond is refilled and it still has a foot to go). The amount of grass that finds its way between the stones is astonishing. There were a few areas of couch grass which is a nightmare to get out. I’m fairly certain there are still bits of root under some boulders I couldn’t move, so it will doubtless be back. Keith has been manning the shredder and disposing of the apple tree pruning. I have been steadily weeding round the hot garden (so named for the colour scheme and most definitely not for the ambient temperature) and using the shreddings as mulch. I must be half way round and have run out. However, by pruning one of the orange buddlieias (globosa) I think I may have generated a new source……..
Lyra and I went off for a long walk yesterday to see what was to be seen along the lanes now the snow has gone. Just at the top of the hill we spotted a buzzard flying up and off from the fence below, giving us a glorious close up of its wings. Beautiful. Next up were a pair of partridge in the hedge. As we passed one fat little item burst out with its strange wheezy clunking sound, like a wind up steam punk flying machine . The other one had forgotten where the exit was and bounced up and down in a frenzy inside the hedge. Lyra was fascinated but the poor thing was frantic so I wrestled her away. Opposite the first shooting wood, home of Mr and Mrs Nutkin, a prodigious horde of rabbits and the Katniss Everdean of the Pheasant and Partridge world, we found a perfectly round little birds nest in the hedge. I think this may be one of last year’s rather than a new one but I shall keep an eye on it to see.
Our first stop was Tom and Sue’s magnificent bonfire, which was disposing of the remains of a shed from Leitholm (there was a long and complex explanation of the reciprocal favours that ended up in Tom importing a broken shed which he then had to burn). Whilst it was tempting just to stay in the paddock shoving things in the fire, Lyra was keen to complete her rounds. We turned back to the road and then down in to the fields just before Simprim. I let Lyra off the lead and for all of five minutes she strolled nicely beside me. Then, exuding “so long sucker…” she was off. I was able to locate her by observing four white deer bums bouncing swiftly in the opposite direction to the desired walk. Cue much bellowing and brandishing of treats – all to no avail. However she did eventually deign to resume the designated route, whilst remaining well out of lead reach. This was fine by me until the hare emerged. It was also going in the wrong direction. Much charging up and down the hill, whistling and bellowing followed. Madam eventually reappeared but my patience was by now somewhat tested. Like Baldrick I had a cunning plan. I laid a trail of cheesy treats up to the fence (she was one side I was on the other). When she got to the last one I pounced with surprising speed and nobbled her. We turned again to the west and resumed the homeward route more sedately.
Thank goodness for the lead. At the end of the penultimate field I could see something moving about a foot from the ground. I thought it was a hare sitting up, but when we got a little closer I realised that it was two fawns, lying in the long grass. We got fairly close before they unfolded themselves, peered at us curiously and then made for the trees. I took Lyra up to admire the new young Rylands before we went home. The young ones are less wary than the old lags and were almost receptive to her “oooh woo oooh” serenade. We ran the gamut of various partridge salutes on the final stretch home and the final walk tally was nine deer, six partridge, one hare and a buzzard.
I celebrated with home made tomato soup and a cheese roll with copious butter. Food of the gods.