Loveliness

I saw this as I was coming home this afternoon… it’s good to enjoy the loveliness in this world…

The colours were even better in real life.

The birds and the bees

Finally, after a very wet and cool few weeks, the world seems to be waking up again and we are starting to see productivity.

On the chicken front, Lorna seems to has realised that it is spring and is laying most days now. Esme has laid right through the winter with a break of no more than two days between eggs. Gytha, however, is not participating in this abundance and is standing around looking glum, puffed up like a football – she perks up for slugs, but otherwise she seems to be waiting for the sunshine (she loves sunbathing and is often found on the back doorstep doing her impersonation of roadkill when the sun is warm). Like Chicken Nuggets, our girls like to lay in the same box, even when two of them need to do so at the same time…

Always using the same box!

There is another perfectly good box, but they are not interested… they don’t even use it for sleeping in!

But they are not the only birds laying in our garden. A couple of years ago we had the fascias replaced on the house – there was a corner where they were rotting and blue tits had been nesting in the gap under the eaves over the summer. Of course the workmen cleared out all the nest material (long since vacated) and the hole was sealed. Not wanting to make our visitors homeless for the next breeding season we put up a nest box close to the old gap. Mr Snail-of-happiness loves electronics and installed a tiny infra-red tv camera so that we could see what was going on in there. We had residents last year, and I’m pleased to say that we have them again this year:

Nesting Blue tit

There (s)he is, on our tv screen… Mr S-o-h managed to count six eggs as she was rearranging them and the nest yesterday. I’m not sure when they will hatch, but once they do, watching them on the tv will be another way to waste lots of time!

I’m also pleased to begin seeing insects again – an Orange-tip butterfly yesterday in the sunshine and a few bumblebees (one so large it was having problems getting out of the fruit cage!). However, the clouds are gathering again, so I think that we’ll have to wait a bit longer for spring proper to begin.

(Earth and People) Care in the Community

Sustainability may begin at home, but it’s also good to get it out in the community. With this in mind I give my support to a local environmental education charity, Denmark Farm Conservation Centre. They are working on a great project called Wildlife Where You Live, which aims to help build robust rural communities through conservation and biodiversity work. It’s not just experts coming in and telling the community what to do, it’s about engaging all sorts of people in environmental activities.

The newly installed wetland water treatment system is just awaiting ground flora planting

DFCC also run environment-related courses, many in conjunction with Aberystwyth University. Whist I was up there today there was a beginners’ bird identification course going on… by lunchtime their species count was up to 16, they told me. It’s a lovely place to go to learn and teach (I run several courses there each year), with great habitats (ponds, scrapes, woodland, rhos pasture, wildflower meadows) and increasingly more examples of sustainability in action (a new wetland water treatment system, solar water heating, solar pv, rainwater harvesting, compost toilet, compost heaps and – coming soon – a biomass boiler). All-in-all a great demonstration site.

As well as being used as a venue for courses DFCC is open to the public, with a network of freely accessible paths: free leaflets describing the site are available. So if you are near Lampeter in Ceredigion, why not call in? And if that’s not near you, why not support your own local charities that are encouraging sustainability?

Sowing the seeds

It’s that time of the year when we place those little packages of energy into the soil and watch as they emerge – transformed into growing plants. In my greenhouse there are courgettes, squashes, peppers, chillies, leeks, tomatillo, even a few tomatoes (which I am hopeless at growing). But I have been thinking about the other sorts of seeds that I have been sowing… giving away plants and seeds to encourage other people to produce even a little bit of food, sharing ideas about sustainability through this blog and other electronic media, teaching permaculture and ecology. I wonder what will germinate from those activities and whether I will ever know.

Perhaps I am most delighted by my sister – a confirmed non-gardener until a few years ago when I started supplying her with small plants: just courgettes, tomatoes and peppers at first (all things she loves to eat). Then a friend in France gave her pumpkin seeds, and now she is growing raspberries and rocket, strawberries and squashes, potatoes and plums and much, much more.

So if you have spare plants, extra seeds or good ideas, share them out and watch as they grow!

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