Thursday, 12 March 2009

Our daily constitutional.











Tess and I set off on our daily walk immediately after lunch - it has to be then because the minute the things are in the dish-washer, Tess is waiting at the door. We set off down the lane on a mild, still afternoon - Tess on the long leash and me in my trainers as I intend to go the full two miles today!
On the lane it still looks like winter, although the weather is mild. The verges are wet and muddy, the roadside hedges have all been cut (March 1st is the last day for cutting, to give the field birds good cover for their nesting). There is a variety of birds on the tops of the hedges - mostly already paired up. We see a pair of yellow hammer, the male magnificent with his full breeding plumage, and then a pair of the unobtrusive dunnocks, grey and brown, not spectacular - I always think of them as very neat birds. Overhead there is suddenly the sound of fieldfare and redwing as a much depleted flock swoop down into the meadow in search of food. Now that all the berries have gone they find it more difficult to get food and seem to have split into smaller flocks. I notice a few red rose hips in the hedge and wonder if they are perhaps too bitter to eat - or have the birds not seen them.
There are several clumps of daffodil on the verge, all of them in bud. The clumps get bigger every year, so they must like their situation. They have been there so many years now that we get to expect them. They will be followed by cowslips and common orchids before long.
Suddenly, peeping out from behind a hawthorn bush on the side of the beck we see a violent splash of colour - the gorse is out. Gorse is the "furze" of Egdon Heath in Thomas Hardy's novels. He often speaks of the furze cutters and I ask the farmer what they would cut it for.
It is very hard and prickly and we cannot think - it certainly wouldn't be for bedding or for eating. The farmer wonders if it might be to block holes up in the hedges - it would certainly be quite impenetrable in sheep country. Does anyone out there have a better idea? It is certainly a scourge on heathland as it spreads so quickly. You often smell its musky smell long before you see it.
Further on there is a pretty clump of mauve crocus. I noticed them for the first time last year and wondered if they would come again. So often mice get the corms but, yes, here they are, opening their stamens to the weak sunlight.
When Tess and I reach forty acre wood suddenly a stoat comes out of the wood. Together we are a quiet pair and I don't think he heard us. For a moment he stops, looks at us, then continues on his course into the wood on the other side of the lane. Tess goes demented, barking, growling, straining at the leash - I am glad she is on it or she would have been after him. She may not have liked the outcome if she had caught him up for their teeth are sharp and they are vicious creatures.
Here the lane is still in its winter garb, as is the ride into forty acre - no sign of Spring at all.
On our return we stop at Red Bank to look at the milk cows. They are still inside and will not be out to pasture for at least another six weeks, but they know that Spring is coming, they can smell the grass growing and they are restless - walking about the yard. They stare at us curiously as only cows can. Tess wags her tail tentatively and they sniff at her - they are old hands with dogs.
Nearer to home we see at least a dozen fully grown rabbits - no visible babies but the fact that there are so many explains why we haven't seen the farm cats for a few days. They are adept at catching the babies, sadly, so will be sleeping off their bunny meal.
In the field next to the farm house the farmer is building a new fence while the weather is good.
We watch him for a while then go back into the house to make a cup of tea.
Then I shall try out my new yard broom I bought this morning. The farmyard broom weighs a ton and is much too unwieldy for my use. Like everything on the farm, gates, doors, fences, they are built for strength, strong farmers and great hulking animals - so I need my own. The farmer is a bit dismissive of my broom, calling it a "toy broom" just like he calls my personal hammer a "toffee hammer."
Three of the hens have found their way through the farmyard and up on to my rockery - well that'll have to stop!
If you look at Jinksy's comment you will find various uses for gorse which she has found. Thanks for that Jinksy. And while we are on the subject I neglected to mention that round here the gorse is called gorze - interestingly it seems to be half way between furze and gorse.

33 comments:

Coastcard said...

You have a wonderful power of recall (and obviously an acute observing eye in the first place). I imagine you must be writing from memory, though your piece has the immediacy of a dictaphone commentary - but this would be hard if you have Tess on a lead, straining at a stoat! I try so hard to observe carefully and to learn as I go - and have picked up numerous tips from my fellow bloggers about flora, fauna and country lore. I may be a town mouse by circumstance, but certainly a country mouse at heart (though I do love my current view of the sea)! I have looked so hard on two occasions - without success - for stoats at Mount Grace.

patteran said...

An enjoyable little travelogue. I'd like to feel that a walk around here would flush out yellowhammers, fieldfares and redwings. The last yellowhammer I saw was dead at the edge of a newly-sprayed field! I remember back in the late '70s being thrilled to see dunnocks, but whilst they're not common around here, I've seen them in the garden from time to time. Interesting about the furze/gorse. No ideas on that one, other than its being cut back from land in use. I'm looking forward to the cowslips. Again, something of a rarity 30 years ago; much more in abundance now.

Gwen Buchanan said...

Our rabbits are still pure white...
and the dogs do like to sniff them out but they get so confused and excited the rabbits have plenty of time to escape..
and daffodils in bud.. a dream we will be waiting for..

Soon, oh soon I want to take a walk like yours!!!

Poet in Residence said...

Well, I must say I enjoyed that walk. I was glad you had Tess on the leash. We get a lot martens, a relative of the stoat, round here. They like to climb inside car engine compartments and chew through electric cabels with their sharp teeth. I saw one running across the road yesterday evening.

Adel and Robyn Kadis said...

Wow, what a life... that is my dream. I would love to take a walk like that but sadly in Egypt, it is just piles and piles of rubbish and lots of dirt. I really enjoyed walking with you and would love to see some pics of the birds as I am a keen birder. My personal list for SA is at about 320 odd. Here in Egypt, about 20. The rest have been eaten! nuf said.

Teresa said...

'morning, Weaver! Enjoyed your countryside walk and commentary. It's so interesting to read of what you see on your walk... so different from what you'd see if you walked where I live. On my little country road you'd see perhaps deer, a fox, signs of a bear in the neighborhood, rabbits and of course, the birds: cardinals, mourning doves, blackbirds, wrens, sparrows, finches, blue jays, robins, woodpeckers and others that I see but can't name. You'd also frequently hear an owl.. but you wouldn't see him!

EB said...

Very enjoyable. Now to make my adventures with the compost heap sound equally entertaining...!

Derrick said...

Another lovely stroll, Weaver. What is the secret; a good memory, a dictaphone or jotted notes?

Vicious though it may be, I love the vibrant colour of Gorse. We had a lot in the Highlands but we also have a hillside field here with a swathe of it.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Yes Caroline - it is from memory but I do tend to scribble it down immediately on my return. Often I do a commentary in my head on the way round. I would love to live where I had a sea view.
I once saw four young stoats at Mount Grace, playing around a broken drain pipe - absolutely lovely.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Dick - cowslips are definitely making a come-back - when I first came to live up here, twenty years ago, it was quite rare to see one, now they are everywhere. Travelling to London by road we see masses on the M1 verges.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Gwen - your spring is obviously much later than ours - we are coming to Montreal in late April, so am hoping spring will have arrived by then!
When we were in Maritime Canada three years or so ago, there was a huge amount of sea fog - is that pretty usual. We arrived in St John in very thick fog - when we drew out hotel curtains the next morning we had a wonderful view out to sea.

The Weaver of Grass said...

When you say martens Gwillym, do you mean pine martens? I have never seen one but would love to.
Don't fancy them under the bonnet of my Honda Jazz, though.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Adel and Robyn - pleased you have called again - I just cannot get to leave a comment on your site, yet I find it so interesting being a retired teacher of English as a second language. I love reading your blog, so rest assured I am visiting even if I can't leave a comment.
Interesting about bird life - I understand that in SA the bird life is wonderful.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Teresa - your wild life sounds marvellous - not sure I would like to meet a bear (presumably a black bear?) on our lane though.

The Weaver of Grass said...

EB - compost heaps can be very thrilling! We once had a hornet's nest in our compost heap and frequently have hibernating hedgehogs.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks Derrick - no dictaphone, just a good memory and instant recall as soon as I get back indoors.
I am in two minds about gorse - it is a bit like oilseed rape - a little of that bright colour goes a long way.

jinksy said...

Found the following info:-
"Gorse flowers are edible and can be used in salads, tea and to make a non-grape based 'wine'. Gorse was used as animal feed in Scotland and Wales within the UK. It was "bruised" (crushed) by hand using mallets, or through hand or water driven mills and mixed with straw chaff to make fodder."
... also the names 'furze' & 'whin'

Leilani Lee said...

Thank you for taking me on a walk with you. Snow is in the forecast for today so I doubt there will be much walking. Why don't you post a recipe for English Trifle on your blog. There may be others that would like to try it as well. I am fighting the 10 pounds I gained over the holidays so I might not make it myself very soon... but who knows. Once a nest of rabbits was concealed in tall grass right outside the back door and all of us, including the dog and cat, were oblivious.

Mary said...

Oh how I would love to have such a wonderful place to walk! Your "running" commentary makes for a great read -- I almost feel as though I have been there with you. :) We finally have some sunshine today, but it is very cold, and my daughter is home sick from school so I'm trapped inside. :(

Coastcard said...

Thank you, Weaver, for your helpful description of the writing process. It is always fascinating to know how fellow writers go about their work. I use a small dictaphone occasionally, but find the transcription of too many notes rather wearisome sometimes (a bit like dictation!), but it does mean that the observations have been made. I am fascinated to hear from Jinksy that 'whin' can mean gorse - presumably as in whinberries which we have here in the Welsh mountains and whinchats. I tend to associate 'furze' with gorse in Ireland, but it may be a more universal term. You will probably know.

Poet in Residence said...

Weaver, I don't know for certain if they are pine martens or stone martens but I think they are called pine martens in the UK. They are called Marders in Austria. I don't think any have been sighted further south than Hawes, where they have a poster of one in the YH (or used to) so your Honda Jazz should be ok.

Cathy said...

I love taking walks with you! We had thought Spring had sprung here but now there is a forcast for snow tonight. On Tuesday, it was beautiful and the dogs and I took a walk to check out the daffodils and forsynthia blooming. I'm going to have to live on that walk's memory until the weather turns warm again. Now, I'm off to goggle stoats.

Heather said...

A lovely walk Weaver. I can't remember when I last saw a yellow hammer - they are so lovely. I remember cowslips growing in our little paddock in our previous home, and bee orchids and harebells from my childhood in Bucks. All three are special to me. I will certainly take photos of the group wall hanging and hopefully they will be good enough to post when the time comes.

Teresa said...

RE: "meeting a bear" ...me either.... good idea to keep pepper spray on hand around here!

Reader Wil said...

Lovely walk and description of what you saw and met on your walk. You see so many interesting animals on your stroll through the fields.

Woman in a Window said...

Always nice to walk with you. I wonder what you put in your pockets to draw everyone out like you do.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

Lovely walk, Weaver! I have never seen a yellowhammer - would love to!

I do love gorse, and the smell too. (And I like the smell of oilseed rape, though the sight of great expanses of it is not so good).

willow said...

Your little road is so charming! I've been doing my two daily miles, too!

Dominic Rivron said...

I found this, in an account of the life of Michael Doheny, a Fenian Leader (I added the italics):
"When their father died Doheny’s eldest brother, then in his teens, took over the working of the farm. As I have said Michael often helped at the ploughing by guiding the horses. This he did by sitting astride the back of one of them. The eldest boy must have also had a business-like streak in him since he employed a furze cutter to cut and bundle the furze that grew on the farm. These were sold to the local bakers for use in their ovens."

BT said...

How interesting, Jinksy! Well done.
Weaver, what a lovely walk and how beautifully descriptive. Our gorse is well out and I too love the bright yellow colour. It all seems to be yellow in Spring, doesn't it? We have pine martens and have seen one once on our rockery. I have never seen a yellow hammer though. I'm jealous!

Janice Thomson said...

Over here we call gorse, Broom and it was originally an ornamental plant that has become a very invasive weed extremely hard to eradicate. I read somewhere the stiff branches years and years ago were tied and used as a broom hence it's name but can't remember where I saw that. Loved walking with you again today.

Lucy Corrander said...

As a Dorset resident, I felt honour bound to find out about gorse cutters and contacted the Dorest County Museum and the Thomas Hardy Society to ask. I received replies from both today.

Gorse was cut and sold for people to use in their domestic fires. Because it was in such plentiful supply, there wasn't much profit in it which is why much is made of gorse cutting in 'The Return of the Native'. That Clym Yeobright is forced to earn the very meagre living of a gorse cutter shows how 'low' he has fallen.

Lucy

The Weaver of Grass said...

Thanks for taking all that trouble, Lucy - that has put the final piece in the jigsaw - now we all know what furze was used for.
What an interesting topic.