As we head into June and towards Summer, we look back at Spring 2020, which has proved to be very unusual in more ways than one!
Hit by the global Covid19 pandemic, the country went into lockdown at the Spring Equinox with the message to "Stay At Home". Peter worked from home for the first three weeks and then went on to be furloughed, which he continues to be until the end of June. That has been a great opportunity for us to tick things off our long to do list: we have re-done the roof of one of the wood sheds (Peter), turned one of the pigsties into a hen house ready for the chicks to move into, finished the honesty stall at the top of the drive, worked on the tractor (Peter), moved the compost bins/bays, edged the flower beds with old bricks (Peter), done some maintenance at the shepherd's hut which, sadly, was not going to get guests staying for a long time, pointed and painted brickwork (Peter), done plenty of weeding and planting... We have been used to doing these things at weekends only but suddenly we found ourselves with two of us available 7 days a week!
The weather has been glorious and the garden is looking amazing (if you ignore the dry patches of grass due to lack of rain!). Spring is naturally the season when growth is fast and plentiful but this year's warm temperatures, a lot of sun and little rainfall have meant that, provided we water regularly, plants in the flower beds or the potager have thrived. We are now in serious need of rain as our water butts are all empty, which is very early in the season. The forecast says, however, there is a chance of some decent rainfall this week. If that doesn't happen, then we will need to do a rain dance!
As well as eggs, I have been selling salad bags, chard, spinach, peas and herbs, as well as young veg plants, from the honesty stall at the top of our drive from where people can collect safely, with zero-contact. We are having some groceries delivered weekly ourselves and our neighbours and us help each other out with shopping too (they get things for us and we get things for them) to limit trips out into town.
With a background of restrictions, uncertainty and sudden loss and change in our lives at this time, much has remained the same in that the natural world has continued its cycle regardless of what us humans have been going through as a result of the pandemic. In fact, many reports indicate that it is faring better with improved air quality, fewer aeroplanes and cars, fewer of us out and about. It is clear from this sudden reduced human activity that the lighter we tread on this Earth, the better for all who inhabit it. Perhaps, this will enable us to seize the opportunity to make the changes we need for the survival of our planet, our and all species. But that is a big hope and scope for a future blog post, in time, when the heat of the pandemic is lessened and we can reflect and rethink. Of course, on our little patch in the hills of Mid-Wales, we are lucky to live close to nature and it is not at all difficult to self-isolate here, especially at Springtime. The redstarts arrived on schedule in mid-April and a pair made their nest in one of our boxes. We watched their comings and goings and last week, the bables fledged. Our other bird boxes have produced good broods of great and blue tits too. Young squirrels, emerging from their nests too, full of cheek, boldness and curiosity, have found the strawberries and the chicken food and are frequent visitors. We have had a pair of ducks visiting our pond daily (not so much now that it has dried up to wet mud!), a couple of pheasants and some red legged-partridges visiting the hen peckers regularly and becoming very tame around us. In the garden, the Spring bulbs have been replaced by aquilegia, iris and lupin, all creating a stunning display in the flower beds. Our meadows are growing tall grasses, seedheads, buttercups and ox-eye daisies. Trees, shrubs and hedges are full in leaf now and the landscape in our parts is taking on its summer look. The honeysuckle smells divine and the clematis is in flower. A blue sky most days sets such a summery scene that we can easily forget we have only just stepped into June. We are enjoying beautiful sunsets most evenings from up here and we often go to bed before it's completely dark now that nights are nearly at their shortest. Mornings start early though as our feathered friends want to be out by 6am!
Our sixteen chicks are now 8 weeks old and have been free-ranging for the last three weeks. They have their own hen house and they now take themselves to bed each night. We are working out who is a hen and who is a cockerel and it is proving tricky at this stage so all sixteen will stay with us until we know for sure. They love exploring the place and we have had to find extra chicken wire to block holes small enough for them to go through. A mob of sixteen chicks can eat up a square of lettuce very quickly, we found out!! They are not shy at asserting themselves with the big hens who, on the whole, have tolerated these new fluffy additions about the place.
The polytunnel and the potager are now all planted up for summer and autumn crops. We have extended our main veg plot some more this year, slowly transforming a paddock of grass into a productive area of food growing. We have started eating some strawberries, peas and mangetout as well as plenty of salads. Artichokes are also very nearly ripe for picking, maybe for tomorrow's lunch. We spend so much time watering all this each day that we will be glad of some rain this coming week. The garden needs a better soak than we can provide with only watering cans!
It is such a pity that we haven't been able to share any of this beauty with anyone at the moment. No family to come and stay, no guests in the shepherd's hut, no visitors to fire up the pizza oven for... that's been the hardest part of lockdown. Technology has enabled us to keep connections going and a regular video call is better than nothing but, my goodness, we are due some proper hugs and quality time with our children, family and friends. For now, we share this picture gallery of our Spring 2020 with you all.
Hope you are all safe and well xx