Sunday, 28 April 2013

Bumble Bees

This afternoon we went Bee Walking as we do every month between March and October to survey an area for the number of Bumble Bees there.
We are really lucky to do our walking in one of Gwent Wildlife Trusts beautiful reserves, which come the middle of the summer is thigh high with wildflowers, so normally finding bees is not an issue, but the very slow start to Spring means that there just aren't many of our stripy furry friends about yet.  On our March walk we saw no bees at all and today despite there being far more foliage and blossom we saw only 3 queens, probably searching for a place to set up home for the summer.
Coupled with concerns about pesticides - in particular the recent publicity around neonicotinoid pesticides ( see here for info about the EU vote in Brussels tomorrow:, you could be forgiven for thinking that we are heading for a summer of Bumble Bee crisis. In his blog on the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust website, Anthony McCluskey sounds a positive note suggesting that the Queen Bumbles are instead just continuing to hibernate waiting for the right conditions to present themselves. Lets hope so - we really need our bees!

More signs of Spring and 4 tons of top soil

  I think we can confidently say now that it's Spring - there's signs all over the garden, with some early blossom, the Wisteria about to burst into leaf, bulbs popping up all over and a carpet of primroses pouring down the bank and onto the lawn, things are beginning to look quite hopeful.  The trees are still a bit behind though - not a lot of green fuzz to be seen, but it surely can't be long now.  My raised veg patch is ready - which took some doing as it needed a bit of soil to fill it up - 4 tons of a bit to be precise, with every spade full shoveled by H - I really hope I manage to grow something edible now to make it all worthwhile (panic).  Yesterday I planted some first herbs,  carrot seeds, and some sunflower and garlic plants that are already hardened off, but its still too cold for anything much else - despite the better weather it was still -1 last night, so it would be daft to go mad for the sake of a week or so.   I am going to read up on symbiotic planting arrangements to see what I can mix into the planting scheme to give everything the best chance of flourishing - carrots with onions and marigolds and that jazz.  However, this is very much an experiment year so be prepared for reports of disaster, ravenous deer and invasive bugs as the year goes on!

Monday, 15 April 2013

Signs of Spring and a little progress.....

Well, it's finally happened, the temperature has been above ten degrees for two consecutive days and I can hardly contain myself! 
Yesterday I finally sowed the wild flower seed amongst the trees in our embryonic orchard, an mix suited to heavy clay soils, which that area has become due to the building work last autumn, and because I'm told perennial mixes are hard to get established in the first year, I've added a cornfield annuals mix that should grow quite easily and look pretty. 
The trees are just beginning to come into leaf, the bulbs are coming out on the verge, the raised veg bed is just waiting for its soil and all is good in the world.

We are very happy with the terrace now that its finished -  over the last few months H has dug up lots of beautiful flagstones that had been artfully hidden in the garden, they are possibly from an old floor in the house or maybe the original stones from the terrace, but in any event they were obviously banished at some point in the past - probably when the house underwent a 1970's type sterilisation process and was turned into a holiday cottage.   Why would anyone hide anything so beautiful I will never know, but hidden they were.  Thanks to H's vision and imagination we have given them a new lease of life by setting them into limestone chippings, and I think they look fab:

A familiar mewing sound filled the air yesterday as our what we think is a  Honey Buzzard returned.  We haven't seen it over the winter, and everything I've read suggests migration to Africa for the Winter so its appearance made us feel even more spring like.  Last week a flock of Long Tailed Tits spent a few minutes feasting off insects on the wisteria that grows over the house, they were so tiny and industrious and  fast moving that I couldn't get a photo, but imagine about 15 of these little chaps in the photo at the top of the page and you get the picture!

We also spotted a Tree Creeper last week on an old apple tree behind the house.  So come on Nature keep it up we're so nearly there.....!