Bright spots in the midst of a gloomy winter
get to work on time.
But at weekends and days off we can start a little later. And over the past few days we have been treated to a magnificent song from a thrush atop a hawthorn bush at the top of the lane. He has found the highest branch and sits there, singing at the very top of his voice. A harbinger of brighter and warmer weather, if ever there was one.
In the orchard behind the house the windfalls are still providing a feast for the birds. Each apple that proved too damaged to pick up for freezing or bagging up for the cidermaker now bears the beak marks of hungry blackbirds, pigeons and a whole host of smaller birds. Most of them make a neat job of taking out the soft flesh from half an apple leaving the skin pretty much intact. In all we collected almost 300 kilos of apples for pressing through November and December. And we are already enjoying the cider made from the crop from the year before – the payment for apples delivered.
The other big “crops” from our little orchard are holly berries from the small bank of trees next to the shed. Many boughs ladened with berries were pressed into service as Christmas decorations – but plenty remain to feed the birds, although they seem to be a last resort for many.
The oak in the hedge has produced fewer acorns than usual, I’d say, but still enough to bring in the raucous jays. The bright plumage of a jay can still be a surprise, brightening up the gloom of winter. It looks almost exotically out of place in a Westcountry garden, as if it belongs in the tropics. This winter I have seen more than ever.
It is months since we picked the blackcurrants and the bushes need a bit of a prune. They will definitely benefit from a bit of hard weather, if it comes. A freeze-up is said to be beneficial for blackcurrants, giving them a ‘rest’ before they burst into life when spring finally arrives.