Now, though, the daffodils are fading and other delights are taking their place. The bluebells are coming out in woods and hedgerows and there's a haze of blue over everything as the forget-me-nots come into full bloom.
Another spring delight is the rhubarb. I started picking ours this week, so we're experimenting a bit. I really like it cooked with sugar and ginger and served with ice-cream, but this afternoon we just had a few stalks left over so we quickly stewed them in the microwave and then John used them instead of limejuice in a couple of delicious margaritas. It may sound awful, but they were really good! That's a picture of it on the right, along with some more rhubarb leaves that are just coming up.
Even the indoor plants are getting in on the act. Here's a picture of one of John's venerable cacti. It is smothered in little yellow blooms.
Needless to say, the bird-life is getting quite exiting too! John has been busy for the last few months making nest boxes. We think we have at least three blue tit families, one great tit and one robin in the boxes and there are numerous other nests in the hedges and shrubs around the garden. Somewhere two pairs of bullfinches must be working on a family. These are lovely colorful birds and they really add a touch of class to the garden even though I know they're eating all my apple buds! I think there are a couple of jays nesting near by too as they've become regular visitors to the garden. These are larger than American blue jays and very beautifully marked birds so we're very pleased to see them here.
We saw our first babies this last week. One was a little dunnock (or hedge sparrow) and the other was a blackbird. There is great competition for all the food we put out. The robins have been following us around the garden as we worked, coming in to within a couple of feet of us to pick up exposed insects, worms and grubs. Sometimes there are pitched battles at the feeder between robins or blackbirds from different territories in the garden and they all seem to have a feeding heirarchy which depends more on agressiveness than size.
In this third picture you can see our blue azalea. This is the first of the azaleas to come out. In fact it put out a few blossoms in November and December, too! Stalking across the drive in this picture is Mr. Magnificent, our dominant cock pheasant. See how short his tail is? That's because he has a very active sex life and he's broken all his tail feathers off!!!! This pheasant is the one we called "Darkie" last year because of his dark coloration. This year he seemed to get bigger and more pompous as he built his harem of 7 females and so we re-named him to Mr. M.
Lately he has had some competition. A new cock has appeared on the scene. This one is called "Pinhead" on account of his rather small head and neck! Pinhead is a skulker - he doesn't stalk around majestically like Mr. M. - he creeps around and hides behind the plants in the hopes of catching one of the females when the boss is looking the other way. We were mightily amused to watch him the other day. He was hiding in the Phormiums waiting for some females to come over and eat. When they did he took off after them like a bat out of hell. They, of course, rushed back into the "woods" where Mr. M. was lurking, and Pinhead followed them right into his rival's patch. The next thing we saw was Pinhead tearing out of the woods, closely followed by Mr. M. They chased around the garden for a while till Mr. M. took to the air and almost landed on top of Pinhead. This was too much - Pinhead took off and flew away with Mr. M. in hot pursuit. The last I saw was the two of them lumbering past me and over the hedge, flapping away and squawking madly.
The weather has been glorious so we've been spending a lot of time out of doors. There's a lot to do and we've probably done less than a quarter of the spring clean-up so far. We should have started earlier, but ....... oh well.
Volunteer activities have kept us busy when we've come in out of the sunshine. I've been doing mailings for the Arts Festival and data bases for Scrappies, there's Breeding Bird Survey activities for John and of course, we're both still working on the Birds Egg identification project at the museum.
We're also playing host to Her Majesty Little Miss Frankenpussy again. In fact she's fast asleep on the floor right next to me as I write. She's snoring gently and every now and then she makes a little chirping noise. She's such a delight to have around the house, we'll miss her when she goes back home.
So that's about it. If you add domestic duties and visits to neighbours to the above you have the sum total of our lives at present. I don't think I could ask for anything better!
Stay in touch please!