Sunday, 31 July 2011
An early Autumn?
I can' help feeling that we are in for an early Autumn this year. The signs are all around up here in North Yorkshire and, let's face it, it has been an odd kind of year seasons-wise, with that very dry early Spring and very chilly early Summer.
The sides of the lane are full of grass seeds and dead and dying foliage. All the wild flowers are finished - only the heather still shows purple on the moor in the distance (and that is an Autumn touch).
But there were more signs yesterday evening when the farmer and I went round the fields for a walk with Tess and our sheepdog, Tip. There were harebells everywhere in the hedge bottoms - the blue bells of Scotland - those delicate purply/blue flowers which are so clear and pretty.
In the hedgerow the hawthorn berries are already turning orange and will no doubt be red in a short time. The berries on our rowan tree just outside the kitchen window are already orange and the blackbirds - and today a pair of bullfinches too - are gobbling them down like there is no tomorrow. What a pity that birds do not have the sense to leave the berries on the trees until there is nothing else to eat. I noticed it last early winter with the fieldfares, who stripped the hawthorn berries so early that later in the winter when there was nothing else, they were desperate for food. And if they drop a berry on the floor they don't fly down and eat it. Still I suppose it is left there and food for the field and harvest mice, so nothing is wasted. Also, because there has been hot sun for a week and no rain, the ground is very hard and unyielding, therefore it is hard to get at the worms.
This no doubt accounts for the fact that we saw a young hedgehog out in the field. It is rare to see them out in the daylight, but this one was eating something in the middle of the pasture. And when we arrived home and went into the shed to feed the farm cats, what should be eating the cat biscuits but another young hedgehog. He kept his beady eye on me as I took the photograph, but had no intention of moving away. I hope he gets enough meat on him before it is time to hibernate, so that he snuggles down in our hay for the winter and survives. From today we intend to put more cat food out, so that hedgehogs can help themselves any time they want. They are really the gardener's friend as their favourite food is slugs and we have plenty of those about.
The sloes on the blackthorn are already filling out and in some places beginning to turn black - at least a month early. It will be sloe gin time again before we know where we are.