Gathering nuts in July

 

Our local Saint Mildred, a Saxon princess who had a continental education and rejected the St_Mildred,_Preston_next_Wingham,_Kent_-_Window_-_geograph.org.uk_-_325439 (1)idea of a political marriage to become a nun, had her feast this week. She reminds me to harvest the walnuts.

It’s harvest time because right now they  have not yet grown their woody shells inside those green carapaces. Off the tree they come to get pricked all over with a fork, then left to steep in brine for a few days before drying off for a few days more.

The juice has stained my fingers to the complexion of a chain-smoker, if only for a few days. But when the nuts are fully dry for pickling they will be as black as the habits of the Benedictine Sisters who live in Saint Mildred’s Abbey at Minster-walnutsgreenin-Thanet. By Christmas the nuts will be sweet-and-sour and spicy.

Only the first and third of those adjectives apply to the sisters at Minster!

Happy foraging!

Saint Mildred from a window at Preston-next-Wingham, Kent.  John Salmon

 

Extraordinary news! A village pub re-opens!

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In the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, lies the village of Bodsham: barely a village really, but once again it is blessed with a pub. Mr and Mrs Berry have moved their Kaos Blacksmith’s business up here and are reopening the pub, the Timber Batts on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays to begin with.

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On their second day of trading we found a warm welcome, cold Kentish Gadd’s beer and cold Dudda’s Tun Kentish cider, both designed for the end of a warm walk through fields of barley growing for Gadd’s future brews. Crusty baguettes were well filled and presented; we enjoyed them looking across the valley. Kent’s beauty is all its own and on our doorstep.

Two years without a pub, and now this! The quirky interior looked most inviting, but perhaps next time. The sun was shining, we sat outside. I’m sure we’ll be back.

 

Bird! Bird!

Seeing the world through new eyes: what a blessing!

Our grandson is a year old. Twelve months ago he could not focus at a distance, so a great deal of what goes on around us he is seeing for the first time. That index finger is forever pointing at something interesting; today the birds. Sparrows in next-door’s roof, arguing the toss in great excitement; starlings in family parties, descending on our tree, never silent; the cock blackbird, hidden by the leaves, but even louder in his song – or his warning notes – than the others. Louder still, the herring gulls circle, often calling though sometimes silent; magpies and pigeons stalking the playing field, but best of all a jackdaw, who leaves his group and walks beside the buggy for a good few yards, no more than five metres away, bright eye locked onto bright eye. Bird! Bird!

 

Good Morning Life!

 

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I probably should not take my mobile phone to church on a Sunday, though 90% of the time I remember to silence it – and then forget to turn the rings on again afterwards, so receive no messages.

However, the gadget serves to record, once in a while, the glories of what I might otherwise miss. This third-rate photo just gives the impression of scarlet pimpernel and purple grass heads taking over some bare soil at the top of the hill. Almost an abstract.

Lovely enough to say, ‘Good Morning Life, and all things glad and beautiful.’ (WH Davies).

Next day, somewhat dispiritedly riding home in the rain, I spotted maybe a hundred starlings, adults and juveniles, enjoying the downpour because it was bringing worms  and leatherjackets to the surface of the park. Would I have noticed them if they’d been quiet? Maybe not, but they are incapable of staying quiet! ‘Good Morning Life, and all things glad and beautiful.’

Caught again!

He still makes me look to the back door of the house if I am in the garden: the next cock blackbird up the street, with his imitation of a telephone ring – the same one that we have indoors. As well for my sanity that he is not a song thrush, singing each song twice over! I heard the same notes again this afternoon, from a blackbird near Mrs O’s garden; far enough away not to be the same bird. It’s usually starlings that work mimicry into their songs – or so I thought.

Back in our garden, three of us have seen Mrs Tittlemouse this week, even if Mrs Turnstone was just in time to see a tail whisk behind a brick, she did see her mascot. Smiles all round.

 

Blackbird havoc

Yesterday afternoon we found Mrs T’s hanging basket had been attacked. This morning I caught the culprit on my phone camera: Mrs Blackird, gathering moss for nesting! She’ll be maming a home in the hedge.

Spring, my mother said.

Let us celebrate the good done by surgeons, in particular eye surgeons. This note from my mother in Yorkshire is the result of her cataract operations giving her new sight.

Spring seems to have the upper hand at the moment.  When I was in the village this afternoon the big beech tree growing on the banks of the river and sending its great branches up, and above the bridge, was sending out its first delicate new leaves.  The sun shines through them and they are as soft as silk.  Standing on the bridge I could reach and touch them and the river below sparkled as it tumbled over stones that had been immersed in almost flood water for so long.    Even the small, brown trout were visible, and a Dipper was busy hunting for food beneath the water……………the village was busy, the traffic was noisy, but no one seemed interested or bothered with the magic on the bridge.

Spring is trying to assert itself in Kent as well. Here are a few observations from being out and about over the last week. I did not miss all the magic …

Friday, cycling along the road through the woods: an orange tip butterfly over a stand of garlic mustard, its food plant.

Saturday: Mrs Tittlemouse was on the yard, hoping to snatch a few crumbs. So were a sparrow and Mr Robin. He was so aggressive to the sparrow that Mrs Tittlemouse hid behind a flowerpot til he’d gone.

Sunday, living up to its name: Mrs Turnstone and daughter No 1 both saw the woodmouse; Mrs Turnstone feels that Spring is here.

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Monday, a trip to a cold Hastings to meet daughter No 3 and young Mr Turnstone. Bikers and pagans out in force for May Day. The latter drinking deep; the greenness round the gills not entirely derived from greasepaint. As the Jerwood gallery were inviting visitors to draw a green man on acetate for their window, I obliged.

Tuesday, back on the Brompton through the woods, this time on the track: a whitethroat singing where the path crosses a farm with the remains of a hedge still on one side.

Wednesday: a lizard in the classroom when I was visiting daughter No 2. Most of her pupils had gone home, but the one remaining had his eyes peeled. We caught the reptile in this blanket, put her outdoors – and she straightway came back in again and hid out of reach!

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Thursday: swifts screaming overhead as I ate breakfast in the garden. And so many more flowers out than I noticed on Tuesday or Saturday. Going slowly uphill means that violets, bluebells, primroses, herb Robert, stitchwort are all on eye level to a slow cyclist (who still gets up the hill!) On my way out of town in the afternoon I spotted my first beetroot-coloured blonde sunbather. She must have fallen asleep in the park.

Friday: Freddie the Norfolk terrier was being led home in disgrace, having rolled in fox manure. He was not the most popular dog in the park, but will the hosing down he was walking home to teach him a lesson?