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Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Sheep, winter jobs and birds' nests

In other words a bit of general waffling!

I was pleased to see my neighbour's sheep back in the paddock across the lane that borders my orchard. There usually are sheep there from time to time but as this particular paddock and attached old barn and derelict house have recently been sold, I wasn't expecting to see any back. But as no work has started on the renovation I guess my neighbour was given permission to put her sheep there, as she doesn't have that much grazing land at her place and the grass here is going to waste. I can see most of the paddock from my bedroom window and it's not so much the sheep that excites me (they aren't the most attractive of breeds, whatever they are), it's the imminent arrival of the lambs I want to see. There's only two breeding ewes and one has a rather large tum, so we shall see. Not a great photo as it was taken through my rather grubby window but it's nice to see life in the empty paddock for a change. There are often horses in the fields behind this one too. Note though that when I say 'neighbour', I tend to mean anyone in our hamlet of 14 houses!

Right where was I? Oh yes, the waffling. Well that brings me to one of the winter jobs that I really enjoy doing, that is the attacking of ivy and brambles which always threaten to take over and I can only really find enough time to keep the brambles at bay rather than actually get rid of them. Some places I just leave them be as little wildlife havens - they do after all have their uses although on my land where it is dry, and in shady places, they are not really producing much in the way of blackberries. They also serve a purpose where they grow down by the water's edge because it stops the ducks from eating the lake bank in those places. 

The ivy on the other hand has been getting out of control over the last few years and it's all I can do to try to cut it back at the base of my bigger, better trees and not let my perimeter fence get taken over. It's a job that really needs doing before about the end of January, as to my horror and shame last year when I was doing a last bit of clearing up I disturbed a tiny little bird nest, only about a foot off the ground, nestled in the fork of a multi stemmed elm in amongst the ivy. Thank goodness no eggs in it but you can imagine how awful I felt :-((( 

This next photo is NOT that nest - this one blew out of a tree a couple of summers back and it was just so beautiful I had to photograph it.

What is so remarkable about it, aside from being a perfect work of art, is all the local materials used to make it. The lichen, moss and bits of dried grass are woven together with the tail hairs from my neighbour's two mares, one chestnut and one black. The soft inside is lined with wool from the sheep across the road and the soft downy feathers from my white ducks. In fact that's another reason for getting more ducks - I'm sure half the birds in the neighbourhood collect these feathers to line their nests! Nature is just wonderful.

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