Autumn,and time to start tidying the vegetable patch at Mrs O’s garden, harvesting beans in the process.
The goldfinches were active and noisy in nearby gardens, but hidden in the conifer next door there was a blackbird, singing under his breath a long, complex song; not, to my uneducated ears, the song of a novice. I look forward to hearing more from him as winter progresses.
I was reminded of another blackbird who lived maybe 25 years ago in a garden I maintained in town, behind a lawyers’ office. His subsong included a ‘warbler’ phone ringing tone, but he never, in my hearing, used this in his full song. A starling would not have been so conservative; we had a very accurate phone mimic a couple of years ago. More than once Mrs T or I have got up from tea in the garden – and realised it was the starling.
Tidying the planting troughs in our own garden showed why our canine visitor Melba was interested in the corner where they stand. When the bedding petunias were removed there were small heaps of grain husks, suggesting that Mrs Turnstone’s woodmouse friend had been raiding pet food supplies and bringing grain there to enjoy under cover. Melba clearly knew about this well before we did.
Faversham’s Food Festival gathered us, including Mrs T, NAIB, and HDGB. NAIB and I were lagging behind when we spotted Turnstone Ales’s stall in Preston St. Before we knew what was happening we were testing the samples the Brewer thrust into our hands, brew by brew, till we’d tasted them all.
It was not just the name that was impressive; so were the beers. We brought some home where they can stand a while to clear their heads. We could hardly avoid shaking them up a bit as we carried them round town.
A treat to look forward to.
The picture comes from Turnstone Ales’s Facebook page:
Mrs T brought bags to church on Sunday, intending to gather pine cones for winter fire-lighting. This happens every year, you could almost set your watch by it. And then we got sidetracked.
Following the success of her apricot jam, Mrs Turnstone has caught the preserving virus from her daughters and husband. She gathered sloes on the way home, while I threw in rowan berries; with bramley apples the latter made a tart jelly that will go well with lamb or venison (fat chance of that, but I had to pass by on the other side when I saw a road-killed roebuck whilst on holiday!) The sloe and apple jelly will go well with meat – turkey or goose or duck.
Then while I was at work Mrs T went out to gather blackberries and elder to add to apples and a few sloes for a hedgerow jelly. Even on her own, she reported, she thoroughly enjoyed herself. Purple fingers! Making this jam 12 years ago in Shropshire started NAIB’s addiction. We threw in rose hips and haws on that occasion; the recipe is flexible.
Oh yes, we gathered pine cones too. It’s as well my brother Chris was not with us; I recall his ambushes over at our old blackberry patch, with cones whizzing part the ear, and knocking pots of berries over; but he did help make the jam when all was gathered in.
Michael McCarthy, writing in The Independent on Monday, commented on the lack of birdsong at this time of year:
This happens across the bird world, and the reason is simple: the business of mating and breeding is over and done with, and song is no longer needed. (An exception is the robin, which carries on singing as it defends its territory right through winter).
Well, as we walked up Abbot’s Hill to church this morning, we passed audibly through at least four robin territories. Fence posts and hawthorns seemed to be favoured singing posts today. But there is another bird that’s singing – though maybe McCarthy would not call it singing – the starling. These sociable creatures caught my ear last November (see ‘Children of the Sun’) and again one evening this week, on my way to post a letter. Nothing, so far as I could tell, to do with territory, for they were in a group of twenty or more on roof-top aerials and happy enough in each other’s company. But singing they were, alleluia!
Hanging out the washing is supposed to be done in the company of blackbirds, but when I looked up it was a buzzard that caught my eye, ‘making lazy circles in the sky’. No chance of a catch for him in town, he was enjoying the thermals and making up-river, minding his own business.
There was a tremendous chattering from next-door’s magpies: all bravado, as neither one nor all three of them had any intention of engaging with the predator. He soared away in his own good time.