What does one write about in the middle of winter? I don’t have any exciting snow or ice stories (just yet); the winter so far has been fairly dry and today in Stirling I think the temperature even reached double figures!

The middle of winter
February 2019

Even the chickens have been behaving themselves and are very healthy, thankfully - so not much to write about there either! There was one funny thing that happened involving the chickens, though. Our neighbours have just the one white hen left now which feels lonely during the day and joins up with our 3 to scratch for worms and insects, as you do. Now that the majority of our vegetables have been harvested, the chickens have free run of the back garden instead of being limited to the fields around us, helping us to get rid of all the nasty little grubs we don’t want. The neighbours’ hen however is more interested in the bird food scattered on the ground underneath the bird feeder than anything else. Now she seems to have persuaded our hens to look for food there too! Well, at least I don’t need to worry about any wheat germinating, I suppose.... At the end of an exciting day our hens go back to their night quarters, bidding farewell to the white one. Ours go to bed much earlier than the neighbours’ hen, so she patiently waits outside the coup for a while, looking lost, before turning round and trudging back home all alone. Bit sad really, isn’t it?!

Speaking of birds, do you remember last year I told you about the little robin we regularly fed at her/his special table? This year we also have another robin in the front garden with a distinct marking on her/his chest. We decided to name her/him ‘Spot’ because of this. Robins are notoriously territorial and Spot has claimed the front garden as hers/his because that just happens to be where the bird feeder is. Not daft is she/he? The other day though, another robin with no markings appeared in the garden, so I thought, uh-oh, it had either driven Spot away or that Spot might have succumbed to the cold after all. But I was wrong; Spot saw the intruder, chased it away and is now back again defending the bird feeder. Sometimes it’s like watching an episode of BBCs ‘Winterwatch’ through our kitchen window!

I have always been very interested in what happens when you leave nature to do its own thing without interference from humans. So, a few years ago I decided to leave an area in the back garden roughly 2 m2 to its own devices and see what happens. I started by sowing a handful of wild flower seeds and the only other thing I do is, once in spring is to clear away the moss. It’s remarkable how quickly plants colonise a wild area. Last summer I discovered 2 tree saplings, one a pine of some sort and the other one, I think, a sycamore. It will be interesting to see if these two trees will survive the winter and continue to grow into adult trees. Although that won’t happen any time soon, so I’ll just have to be very, very patient. Don’t worry, though, I’ll keep you up-to-date on any other plants colonising this wild, untouched area.

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