I could start writing the storyline for a soap opera with our hens, the neighbour’s hens and Cedric in the lead roles! ‘East-henders’, maybe?
Last month I introduced newsletter readers to Cedric, a male pheasant who has been wandering around our place for some months. He is a busy chap; keeping four lady pheasants entertained while patrolling ‘his’ neighbourhood. Or so I thought! Our hens recognise our car as it pulls up to the house; and knowing that I will feed them some corn, they wait patiently on the drive to greet me. So, when I came home the other day, I saw one of ours and one of the neighbour’s hens running on the path towards the car, so I thought: ”That’s clever, our hens have told the neighbour’s hen about the free corn”. How wrong could I be! They weren’t greeting me; they were ganging up to chase away poor Cedric! And it gets even worse... the other two, slightly more timid ones, were following behind just to make sure Cedric got off ‘their’ patch! Chickens are a bit like Jekyll and Hyde; they can be very endearing one minute, then very naughty the next.
The new growing season is now well and truly underway; I’ve sowed most of the vegetables and planted out quite a few too. So, we now have tomato plants, sweet pepper plants, peas, onions and potatoes alongside tiny red and white cabbage plants, which will hopefully provide us with enough cabbage to make sauerkraut for next year. We Dutch love our sauerkraut! This month we only just finished eating the sauerkraut we made last October! Sauerkraut - because it is naturally acidic - keeps for a long, long time and that is where our ancestors got their vitamin C from in the ‘hungry gap’, which roughly runs from late February until early May. This is the time in the growing season when you have eaten all the winter vegetables, but the new spring vegetables aren’t quite ready to eat yet.
Because we had such an incredible season last summer, we still had some carrots left from last year, there is (overwintered) kale in the greenhouse, pickled vegetables and hopefully the overwintered cauliflower will have formed heads soon too, so we won’t have a ‘hungry gap’ this year. Even if we have, there’s always the supermarket we can get our veggies from! Our ancestors didn’t have this luxury - how times have changed!
What a cracking Easter weather we’ve had! I managed to start planting and sowing outside, which might be too early, but sometimes you just have to take the chance. The warm weather has also brought out lots of butterflies, bumblebees and bees; I’ve got peacocks, small tortoiseshells, orange tips and I am also proud to be the ‘host garden’ of the rare bilberry bumblebee! It just goes to show how much more wildlife you can attract and support when you don’t use pesticides, plant wildflowers and leave a small (or any size you like!) corner of the grass to grow wild.
Following these steps has helped me to encourage wildlife to thrive in every corner of the garden!