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Posts Tagged ‘blackthorn’

Blackthorn Hedgerow

Blackthorn Hedgerow

I don’t know if it’s just me, or if anyone else has noticed, but the Blackthorn flowers seem particularly splendid this year. The blossoms appeared early but they’ve been in full flower for a good few weeks now, lining the hedgerows in white while the other trees are just coming into bud. The Blackthorn is, of course, the plant that gives us sloes (and last year’s sloe gin has been particularly fine, incidentally).  There’s a lot of folklore attached to it: it’s wood is hard and dense and traditionally used for shillelaghs and cudgels.  My tracking stick is made out of Blackthorn, and a good sturdy stick it is too. Now, the flowering of the Blackthorn means that we should be in the ‘Blackthorn Winter’, the cold snap that traditionally accompanies the flowering.  And today it’s certainly felt like it.

Scarlett in the Vegetable Garden

Helping in the Vegetable Garden

I’ve been in the vegetable garden for most of the day, planting peas and beans. Scarlett helped – I dug the holes and she put in the seeds.  And we’ve been shifting loads of manure.  We are on sandy soil here on the Greensand Ridge of Bedfordshire.  It’s easy to dig, free draining and warms up quickly in the spring, but nutrients tend to wash out quickly so the vegetable beds need all the help they can get.  Luckily we have a friend with a horse, and the stables have an inexhaustible supply of manure.  It’s a bit of a shame to be using my executive motor to carry dustbins filled with poo, but it’s worth it for the garden.  And I do clean it afterwards, of course.
Steaming manure on the vegetable garden

Steaming manure on the vegetable garden

The weather today has certainly been changeable.  The day started with a frost and a thick coating of ice on the car, but has been mostly sunny and bright, apart from sporadic squalls of hail and cold rain that have sent us scurrying for shelter.  And the wind has been bitingly cold.  Looking out of the window it’s been a lovely spring day, but at times I was secretly glad to be next to the warmth of a steaming dungheap.  The Blackthorn Winter indeed…

Mucky Girl in the Vegetable Garden

Luckily this was before the manure was put on, but I'm sure Mummy won't be impressed when she gets home from work...

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Blackthorn in flower

Blackthorn in flower

In Britain, the spring weather follows a fairly consistent pattern.  The warmer days of February and early March tend to be followed by a short cold spell at the end of March.  This cold snap coincides with the flowering of the blackthorn, hence its country name: the Blackthorn Winter.

This year has followed the tradtional pattern.  The last few weeks have been sunny and relatively warm, but yesterday we had squally hail showers and today there was a ground frost in the morning.  The Blackthorn Winter has arrived.

I’ve been working a fairly hectic schedule recently (as usual!) and I’ve also been on holiday, so I took the chance of getting out and about on one of my Sunday dawn walks.  Getting out of bed wasn’t so easy, as dawn is now about 6.30am, although because the clocks went forward this morning that translates to 5.30am in real terms.  Nevertheless, it was good to get out again.  It’s become quite a comforting routine for me.

Despite the cold weather, there are signs of spring everywhere.  The lambs in the fields are getting quite big now.

Aww, cute

Aww, cute

Frogspawn has started to appear in the pond – not much yet, but hopefully there’ll be more to come.

Frogspawn

Frogspawn

In terms of wildlife, one of the fields had been invaded by a gang of geese.  They were mostly Greylags, with a few Canada Geese joining in.  Not a rarity, but it’s the first time I’ve seen them in the village.

Greylag geese

Greylag geese

The badgers in the woods seem to be doing fine.  Judging by the quantity of dung in the latrines they’re obviously busy at the moment.  In fact, I was able to add a few more sites to my expanding map of badger latrines in the area.  This is starting to make some sense now, and I can get a rough idea of the different territories.  Perhaps come the autumn I’ll try the bait marking approach that Pablo mentioned, putting out food containing coloured plastic pellets so I can monitor the precise latrine sites used by different badger clans.  As I always say, there’s always more to learn about badgers.

April is nearly on us, so in another couple of weeks I’ll start proper badger watching again.  Watch this space for more details.

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