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Down to Earth
4th August 2023
I’m sitting on my patio blowing steam off a hot mug of tea. It’s going to be a hot one when the sun rises above the treetops, but for now I’m just feeling an enormous sense of wellbeing. My garden is alive with life.
I’m constantly tinkering in my garden. I garden with wildlife at the forefront of my mind, but I still want my garden to look, smell and taste great. I think it works best when I work in tandem with nature, rather than for or against it. My lawn looks lovely and the starlings, blackbirds, robins, thrushes and even an occasional pied wagtail agree. They all regularly parade hop, stop listen and peck. Whether a large worm, a leatherjacket or tiny bug or spider is caught, they clearly find plenty to forage. I never collect lawn cuttings and believe all this recycled organic material helps with biodiversity.
My borders are filled with all the traditional cottage favourites, but among them I allow plenty of what some might consider ‘weeds’ to grow. Knapweed, feverfew, wild carrot, yarrow, clover and even dandelions are present. Sitting here, I can hear a wren off to the left, singing ridiculously loudly for its size, while a family of blue tits are pecking at caterpillars on the perennials. Goldfinches descend in flocks to pick off small seed heads as flowers run (I don’t deadhead) to seed. A small group of Dunnocks are permanent residents, seeming to live their lives neither on the ground nor up in trees. They dell in that space from an inch off the ground to a couple of feet up. A domain all their own.
Bees are constant summer companions; I’m greeted by several species of bumblebee and dozens of solitary bees every day. They busily fly to and fro from nest to flower and back. I sit watching how they follow the same flight path over and again. No matter how many bee houses I erect on my shed, by the end of summer every tube is fully occupied and sealed with mud or leaf caps.
I see numerous butterflies in my garden but due to their more complex lifecycle, they tend to be adult visitors coming to feed, and I’m happy to oblige. I do my best to offer forage, but suspect I’d need several acres to be able to provide a full butterfly reserve. The caterpillars I find tend to be the generalists and many more moths than butterfly larvae.
A dragonfly clatters loudly across the border in from of me, hunting bugs on the wing and is a formidable predator. I maintain a wildlife pond and a few stagnant pools to encourage, frogs and newts, along with numerous hoverflies, damsels, and a couple of species of dragonflies. All these creatures will tend to themselves given water and pesticide free garden. While dragonflies win the glamour stakes, the arial gymnasts competition must be won by the magnificent hoverfly surely, being able not only to hover, but fly forwards, backwards and sideways, and always just out of my reach!
The young squirrels have just about mastered the art of ‘not falling out of trees’ now but are still entertaining in their antics. They may now be more agile and experienced, but they still run from the adults when chased. However, they are already showing all the intelligence and curiosity that has allowed the grey squirrel to become so successful in town, countryside, and city alike.
As I sit here, my tea still too hot to drink, I sit quietly taking in all these sights. It’s such a dynamic scene; every sense is alive, and I cannot help other than to be drawn in to all the drama and captivated by it all. Suddenly the peace is shattered… “Dad! There’s no hot water.” …Why do we say ‘brought back down to earth’ when we mean called to task? Surely to goodness, down to earth is where I was, not this!