The Beetley Pampas

‘La Pampa is a province in central Argentina, within the vast Pampas grasslands’.

Given the definition above, I might be exaggerating slightly when describing my back lawn. It is an oblong shape, around 50 feet end to end, and perhaps 20 feet across.

Due to the recent rain, it hasn’t had its first cut this year, resulting in alarming growth to almost 18 inches high. Yesterday, it was sunny and warm. Today, I woke up to similar weather. This meant bad news for me.

I had run out of excuses not to cut the grass.

Luckily, I have a large and powerful ‘hover’ mower, that has a grass-collecting box incorporated. Though when the grass is that high, it still takes considerable effort to do the job.

Ollie came out to observe me as usual, making sure to get in the way as much as possible, as that is his job as ‘Assistant Gardener (Canine)’. I was keen to get the job done before the sun moved around to the back of the house after 2 pm, so set-to manfully.

Our lawn is grass as such, though it could hardly be desribed as ‘manicured’. Only about 65% of it is actually grass, a legacy of the previous owner laying a turf lawn of the cheaper ‘Meadow’ variety. That means almost 25% of the ‘grass’ is actually dandelions, and unknown weeds of other varieties. I suppose I could treat it with weedkiller, but I am conscious of Ollie, and I don’t want him getting any nasty chemicals on his paws.

The remaining 10% consists of sticks, thin branches, and acorn shucks, all of which fall from the large Oak tree that overshadows the house at the back. Fortunately, my mower has a thick rotating blade that makes short work of any woody intruders.

Almost two hours later, I have completely filled the composting recycling bin with the cuttings, and tackled my version of the grasslands of South America. Sad to say it left me hot, and with a very aching back.

So the small front lawn and strip at the side of the house is going to have to wait for another day of ‘enthusiasm’.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Opening up England.

Last Sunday evening, we ate out in a local pub. Our first restaurant meal since Christmas Day, 2020. There were disposable paper menus, table service, and the staff were wearing masks. Diners had to also wear masks until seated, and if they left their table for any reason.

In the nearby town, every shop is now open, although customers are still asked to wear masks inside when shopping. Despite the recent rise in cases of the Covid-19 ‘Indian Variant’ in some parts of England, it appears that the government is going ahead with its plan to fully ‘Open up’ the country on the 21st of June.

This will be good news for some companies involved in the tourist industry, also for service industries like wedding venues, and organisers of similar social gatherings. Nightclubs and other entertainment venues will be allowed to open with no restrictions on numbers, though wearing a mask will technically still be compulsory in many public places.

This new policy has made a lot of people very happy of course. Coming alongside a welcome change in the weather, England looks set to go a little ‘crazy’ as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

The lockdown rules have seemed to last for so long now, any break from the restrictive routines is bound to be welcomed.

But. There is always a but.

Having fun and adding alcohol to that doesn’t usually make for sensible behaviour, and keeping to rules like wearing masks. Being allowed to visit anyone, cuddle anyone, and to mix in large crowds of strangers may sound wonderful after so long, and the fact that so many have now been fully vaccinated will hopefully reduce any serious symptoms and cut hospital admissions.

But. Yes, another but.

There are still 8-12 people dying of Coronavirus every day here. That’s around 60-80 people a week, every week. And that is after all the vaccinations, and during the time when restrictions are still in force. In three week’s time, we could possibly see an explosion of infections once again, and a significant increase in the numbers of people dying.

Yes, I know we cannot remain locked down forever. Life has to go on. People have to go back to work, the economy has to start to rise from the pandemic slump.

But. The last but, I promise.

I for one cannot help thinking it is still too soon.

A Walk In The Sun

No, not a review of the 1945 war film starring Richard conte and Dana Andrews.

This is a dog-walk in Beetley, in 2021.

After the wettest May since records began, it finally stopped raining yesterday. It stayed overcast and uncomfortably humid though, and I took my umbrella on the walk, conscious of the threatening skies.

But today, we finally woke up to bright sushine, and by 1 pm the temperature was approaching 20 C. (68F)

After weeks of miserable weather, cold mornings, and chilly evenings, it felt rather exotic to see blue skies and feel some real heat in the air.

I could finally ditch the Wellington boots, get my shorts back on, and head out with Ollie wearing some comfortable lightweight shoes. I had almost forgotten what it felt like to feel the heat of the sun after just fifteen minutes of walking. Ollie had too, and he was straight into the river to cool down, the first of three lengthy dips he enjoyed this afternoon.

Over on Hoe Rough, the muddy paths were already drying out, and as long as I kept away from the boggy areas in the shade, the ground was firm enough for brisk walking. Ollie slipped under the fence and down the riverbank for his second time in the water, standing watching children playing in the river by the picnic tables, including a few who had brought along an inflatable boat.

After two full circuits over there, we headed back to Beetley Meadows to complete the walk in the woodland area. But Ollie diverted into the river once again, obviously still feeling the heat. By the time we had been through the woods and he had checked out some deer tracks, he was ready for home, and a big chicken dinner.

Squirrels In The Garden

Despite having large Oak trees front and back, we never had any squirrels visiting our garden. For nine years there were only birds seen on the grass, or on the shrubs. I used to think it was because of Ollie, and that he might have chased them away. Then next door got Alfie Cat, and he was often seen prowling under our large hedges.

There were many squirrels to be seen nearby on Beetley Meadows, so I wondered if they were reluctant to cross the road to our house, though it is hardly a ‘busy’ road.

Then one day recently, Julie spotted one sitting in the garden, eating a chunk of bread I had thrown out for the birds. He/she started to visit on a daily basis, so Julie bought some peanuts in shells for him/her.

When the squirrel started to sit on the fence separating our garden from our neighbour’s, the lady who lives next door went out and bought squirrel food. She placed it in small pots on top of the fence posts, and watched as the squirrel enjoyed a feast.

Recently, I began to leave a dish of bird seed out on a small garden table. That proved to be a big hit with the birds, and increased the numbers visiting our garden. Then I saw another squirrel picking up seeds that had fallen onto the grass and eating them, at the same time as the original (larger) squirrel was eating more bread six feet away.

Yesterday, a third squirrel appeared, and we had three feeding at the same time.

I have no way of knowing if the first two are a pair, and the new arrival a youngster they have reared. They could be unrelated, just taking advantage of the easy pickings.

But it is nice to finally have squirrels in the garden.

A Woodland Burial

Waliking around with Ollie yesterday, we managed to avoid the rain that had been hammering down all morning, and which started again just as we got home.

I gave him a good walk; twice around Beetley Meadows, then two full circuits of Hoe Rough.

When we got back across the river, Ollie wanted to go into the small woodland area, so I opened the kiissing gate for him and followed. After all the rain, the trees were dripping water, and it felt humid and uncomfortable in there. Ollie had the scent of a deer that has been living in there, so he scampered off, nose to the ground.

When I caught up with him on the small back path, I saw him sniffing something intently. On inspection, I discovered a tiny field mouse, dead in the middle of the path. It appeared to have no injuries, and I guessed it had died very recently, as its colouring was still perfect, it wasn’t wet, and the body still soft as I turned it over with a stick.

It didn’t seem right to leave it on the path, so I dug a small hole at the side with a stick. It didn’t have to be very deep of course, and I flicked in some leaf litter to line the little trench. Then I rolled the dead mouse into it, and laid it to rest by covering it with more leaves, and a few stones.

When I had finished, I looked up and saw Ollie looking at me with a look of complete puzzlement.

But it had seemed to me to be the right thing to do.

Thinking Aloud On a Sunday

Not feeling it.

I woke up not thinking about much at all today. Hardly surprising, as for the past week or so, I am just ‘not feeling it’.

Perhaps it is the unseasonably dull and damp weather? Central heating still on in the last week of May. Lawn grass a foot high, but too wet to mow. Joints aching in the cold and damp. Hips feeling like they have come unscrewed, Voltarol gel on my finger joints to get them moving.

But I am definitely not feeling it.

Little or no interest in writing.

Little or no interest in watching TV or films.

Still zero interest in reading books.

Even my blog has had to trickle along with reblogs of old posts from 2013.

I try to stay perky for Ollie, but walking around holding an umbrella in high winds and driving rain is becoming really boring. The shorts have gone back into the wardrobe, and the rubber boots and heavy coat are in service again.

On the bright side, I haven’t had any mosquito bites.

Hoping to ‘feel it’ again soon, but not holding my breath.

The Dawn Chorus

This is an online definition of the dawn chorus.

The dawn chorus occurs when birds sing at the start of a new day. In temperate countries this is most noticeable in spring when the birds are either defending a breeding territory, trying to attract a mate, or calling in the flock. In a given location, it is common for different species to do their dawn singing at different times

The reality for me in Beetley is that for the last ten days or so, the birds in the garden have started this while it is still dark. The noise increases in intensity as different birds join in, then comes the cooing of the pigeons, and the squawking of the crows to cap it off.

It goes on for at least an hour until they calm down, by which time I am wide awake, far too early for my liking. On a good day, I might be able to get back to sleep for a couple of hours, but most days I am left awake, knowing it is too early to get up.

No point complaining. It is a delightful thing to have, especially as it is the only sound, and not accompanied by sirens, traffic, trains, or helicopters.

I just wish those birds would have a lie-in occasionally.

The First Cuckoo

On Thursday, I heard a cuckoo calling, over on Hoe Rough. The sound was carrying a long way, and by the time I got over there with Ollie, it was really loud. I couldn’t see the bird though, they are famously elusive.

As well as providing the sound familiar in Cuckoo clocks, these birds also get other birds to rear their chicks. They lay eggs in the nests of smaller birds, and then abandon them. This leaves the unfortunate hosts rearing the large chicks, mistakenly believing them to be their own offspring.

Country folklore asserts that Spring has not arrived until you hear your first cuckoo. There are lots of examples of this online. This one is from a birdwatching website.

Heard a Cuckoo?
This iconic sound means that spring has truly arrived!

This year, I think the cuckoo might have been calling a bit too early. It is only 6 C this morning, with a cold drizzle.

Perhaps those cuckoos should go back to sleep for a couple of weeks?

Ollie’s Eye: An Update

On the 8th, I posted about Ollie being bitten by another dog, and getting a cut under his eye.

Ollie Gets A Nip

This Tuesday, I took Ollie to the Vet about a problem with his ear. I showed the Vet his eye, and he said he would look at that too. With the social distancing still operating, I am not allowed to go in with Ollie, so had to wait in the car.

Ten minutes later, the Vet returned with him, telling me he had a mild infection in his left ear, and he brought out some antibiotics for him to take on a ten-day course. He told me he had looked at the eye, and the antibiotics would take care of any infection. I should not attempt to bathe it or clean it, just let it dry out and scab naturally.

Hopefully, everything should have cleared up by next Friday.

Tired

Do you ever get tired? I don’t mean because you worked hard in the garden, or didn’t sleep too well last night.

I get tired now. Bone tired, exhausted. Mostly from doing very little. A couple of hours dog-walking. Sorting out the evening meal.

How tiring can that be? Well, quite a lot, apparently.

Age and tiredness seem to go hand-in-hand. Everything I do feels exhausting now.

That might be just cutting the grass, or buying the ‘big shop’ at the local supermarket.

How did this happen? Where did it come from?

Okay, I am 69 years old. Far from ‘ancient’, in the 21st century.

Whatever the reason, I am still tired.

And often completely worn out too.

I have to say that I don’t like it that much, but I will have to learn to live with it.

Undoubtedly.