I frequently say this, but what are chickens like? They never fail to surprise me, that’s for sure, even after all these years. The one with the rather unfortunate nickname of ‘Numpty’ (as mentioned above) is maybe not as dumb as we initially thought after all!

Harvesting is in full swing
August 2021

To help pass the time (after all the other chickens have abandoned her) I am convinced she’s started conducting her own scientific experiment! I think she is trying to work out how many stones she needs to drop into her water bowl in order to make the water overflow. I kid you not - I’m not making this up! She must have heard about the ‘Archimedes’ Principle’ which explains how the weight of something placed in water displaces the same weight of water. It really looks like she is deliberately throwing stones into the water bowl, whilst muttering away to herself. It could be she’s conducting two experiments at the same time - she seems to be working out how many stones she needs to pile up against the coop door to stop it from closing! This particularly annoys my husband, JP, who has the job of locking them in at night. Each night he has to level out the stone chips she’s piled up against the door in order for him to be able to shut it! Maybe that’s her third experiment - to see how many stone chips she has to place against the coop door before my husband blows his top! I can just imagine her on her perch, smiling to herself, mulling over her findings just as she is about to fall to sleep!

Harvesting is in full swing right now and all the soft fruit seems to be ready - all at the same time! We’ve picked lots of strawberries, red currants, black currants, tayberries and now the cherries are starting to ripen too. I can’t wait. Furthermore, we have already harvested our kale, which is really early this year, so we’ve had to freeze it. The cabbages in general are doing much better than they did last year and it looks like we’ll be able to make sauerkraut again this year. And you know how much I like my sauerkraut! Normally I enjoy the rush to get everything picked and stored or preserved, but because July has been so hot, I’ve simply not had the energy and I’ve really had to drag myself to the vegetable plot, knowing that if I didn’t pick the fruit and veg, no-one else would and it would all go to waste! At least the hot weather has given me lots of fruit, so I am not complaining. Well, I am a bit, because we were desperate for rain. And it eventually came a few days ago in the form of a torrential down pour with a pinch of thunder and lightning thrown in for good measure! How the garden needed it.

Meanwhile the bird border is also growing like crazy; so much so that I now need a machete to hack my way through it, like in this picture which is meant to be a path through the bird border! Sometimes, it feels as though I am living in the middle of a tropical rainforest - with temperatures to match! Oh my... it has been roastin’ (as they say in this neck of the woods)!

Some of you may know I study Natural Sciences at the Open University and a large part of my study is ‘nature’ and interactions between species. This is also the part of the course that I enjoy the most and am particularly interested in, as I’ve always enjoyed observing what happens in my own garden.

I sowed broad beans really late this year, hoping for a warm summer (which we got and then some!), but the downside to this is an infestation of black fly aphids that can severely weaken the plant. And yes, I did get these on some of my broad bean plants too, but I left nature to its own devices, just to see what would happen. Numpty’s not the only one who’s been conducting experiments this month! The broad beans were an afterthought anyway, so it didn’t matter too much to me if they failed or not. And lo and behold: when I checked a couple of days later, the majority of aphids had disappeared and one plant was entirely ‘aphid free’ again. I checked back a few days later and discovered that the aphids had almost entirely vanished, leaving the plants looking fairly happy and healthy as before! I think this is a good example of how nature can take care of pests as long as you have a balanced ecosystem. Simply refrain from using pesticides and beneficial insects will take care of pests for you! And if you leave some corners of your garden wild and untouched, these beneficial insects will also have a place to shelter over winter ready to carry out even more pest control the following year!

Sometimes, though, pests can be cute too, like this juvenile blue tit eating cherries. Mind you, while I just sat there watching it scoffing our cherries, my husband jumped into action, quickly picking the rest of the cherries before the blue tit could eat them all! I know, I am too soft hearted....

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