Nature notes

Some nature observations.

This month, July has been rather cold and wet. The rain is very welcome, as the ground had become dreadfully dry and all the grass in the pastures was dead.

This week, the countryside became green once more and although the temperatures haven’t been high, the weather has been very pleasant.

The swallows have already raised their first clutch of youngsters. Once the young swallows have been evicted from the nest, they fly around the village, swooping at dizzying speeds and discover other young swallows, possibly their cousins. At night, they roost on the top of our ancient chestnut double door, huddled together for warmth.
They don’t all return each night, as I suspect that they roost where they can, but on some nights there are eight small birds cuddled together.

They swoop out, in a swift panic as my husband descends the stone staircase each morning, as he goes to do his duties, liberating the chickens, making a mug of tea for us and releasing our old cat from the kitchen and lounge, where he spends each night.
When I go downstairs, about thirty minutes later, the swallows flee from me and then spend the next ten minutes flying around the house and courtyard, occasionally colliding with our bedroom window, but rarely injuring themselves.

One day recently, I was standing in the lane outside my neighbour’s house and was talking to a few friends. One of them looked up in the sky and pointed at a group of birds that were climbing the thermals, circling higher each time. I thought that they were eagles, but then nine other birds joined them and as they flew overhead, we saw that they were cranes.
All were using the warm air, to rise to dizzying heights and as we discussed them, we came to the conclusion that the parent birds must use last year’s chicks to help raise the clutch. Either that, or the cranes lay an awful lot of eggs.

Our pear trees are covered with fruit. The pears should be ripe in September, but many are falling off the tree already. I’m not sure how many fruit will make it to September, but I hope that this nature’s way of allowing some fruit to stay on the trees until the usual time.
It’s odd though. I have picked a bowl of blackberries from the garden and they weren’t too sour to eat. I walked up a track, to see what the other early ripening blackberries were doing and they too are ripe.
We pick blackberries from the second week in August to the second week in September, after which they have no flavour.
The way things are looking, I may have to start picking this week and freeze what I can. I make blackberry jelly, using a Champion Juicer to make great juice without pips, which gets rid of the overnight jelly bag method.
I also make blackberry cordial, which is blackberries and sugar, boiled to almost jam stage and then left to cool, before diluting it with brandy and putting it in a dark place for a few months.
We pick sloes early here too. I try to get them on the point of shrivelling, which is usually September, depending on the weather.
The sloe gin is, well, sloe gin. Wonderful stuff.

I have decided that if the pears are ripening too quickly, then I’ll make Pear and Lemon Curd. It is also wonderful and rich and an excellent way of using up surplus eggs. It’s just a shame that the butter prices have risen so much, but then everything is expensive this year.

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