Start of the week and what job to do first? Well the gardeners had taken down the timber art work in the gardens and put it up at Cobbs Wood Farm. Not wishing to see it disappear we said we would re-install it in some form or another. We had to clear out the timber stack area as there is a lot of wood to cart from all the forestry work we did this winter and make way for a bit of artistic license.
The best piece to my mind was ‘Black Blocks’- these were easy to install- on the other hand we just incorporated the ‘Yellow ?’ into the existing stacks of timber. Then we turned our attention to ‘White Thicket’ – here it was decided to make it look like a mist in the meadow (plus one hopes the willow will grow thus providing us with willow rods for hedge binding in a few years time, one can but hope).
Next job was to hang the ‘Red something or another’ but alas, on inspection of the wire ropes used to connect the three red pieces, it was obvious that they needed to be beefed up. This bit of art work will have to be installed at a later date.
Back to the South Avenue to remove some more of the stock fence. Horrid job really- coiling barbed wire and high tensile wire is very awkward but, instead of just coiling one wire at a time, I did three… it worked!… and speeded up the work although the tensile wire was quite tricky- it has a life of its own but, with some bailer twine, it could be controlled to some extent.
After coiling a few kilometres of wire it was time to remove the stakes and transport them to a place were they can be left until a skip can be brought in. We still have a another day’s work to clear the South Avenue but that’ll wait until next week.
The Hairy-footed Flower Bee aka Anthophora plumipes can be seen flying around vertical soil/soft rock or lime motor brickwork where it makes its nest this time of year, it is a solitary bee and collects pollen for its young when they hatch.
Unlike the fiendish solitary bee that goes by the name ‘Melecta albifrons‘ ( a very striking black bee with silver/white spots on the sides of its abdomen). M. albifrons is a solitary ‘cuckoo’ bee. The adult females sneak into the host bee’s nest (in this case the Hairy -footed Flower Bee) and lay their eggs alongside the Flower Bee’s eggs. M. albifrons eggs hatch first, and the larvae eat the pollen that has been carefully stored for the Flower bee larvae by their mother….a fiendishly clever way of making sure your offspring get food and develop into new adult bees without you having to do any work whatsoever!
Another job that needed finishing off was the West Avenue park rail fence. The timber crane was really handy and so was Paul at using it to extract the posts (which, I might add, were set in concrete -aaaaagggghhhh! I hate the stuff, we don’t use one drop when we put up the same type of fencing, it doesn’t need it).
So, as the posts came out we broke the concrete off, stacked the posts and carted the broken concrete away for disposal into the farm tracks at Cobbs Wood Farm (and what a fine job that did of recycling).
It was the last few days with the Jagdterrier puppies- they’ll soon be gone to their new homes- and these last few days have been really pleasant in the back garden with the summer-like evenings. Couldn’t help but take a few photos of the things you sometimes forget to notice.
Then, what do you know? We kept seeing Chinook helicopters flying by, with, guess what? Land Rovers under slung and hanging from them! Told Jess that the council had got fed up with people green roading in the countryside and asked the MOD to clamp and tow-away 😉
Then two hot air balloons drifted by soon followed by a World War II USA bomber flying quite low, what a treat.
Back to work! With rain forecast over the weekend (it has been very dry of late) we needed to get the compacted ground around the Folly cultivated and that’s where the Farm (aka Albert and his tractor with the Knight) came to the rescue. Blimey, in less than an hour the ground was busted, disced, harrowed and rolled- perfect, but not quite. Some of the soil was so compacted that it was like concrete blocks, I suspect we won’t get the seed bed right until after the rain has been past.
Not to worry, most of the ground was ok but there was quite a bit of brick rubble, metal and other debris lying on the surface. Set about stone picking which, incidentally, was a job for the children some hundred years ago. They would be sent into the fields to pick up stones which were then put into heaps so that they could be picked up and carted away for use in courtyards and roads, much the same as we do now actually- quite surprising how you can cart away stone, brick and rubble in small amounts but, over time, it amounts to a substantial quantity that helps fill the worst of the ruts and holes. Better than skipping it especially as it can cost £40-£50 per ton to get rid of rubbish.
Still too many pigeons around the Folly and the carpenters were getting a bit fed up finding quite a lot of pigeon poo on their oak staircase that has been made to give access to the Folly. Not nice stuff to work with- it’s slimy and gets on everything. So we brought the air rifle up on Friday to trim the resident pigeon population and that meant pigeon breast for supper- sprinkled with a little salt and pepper and lightly fried and served with a simple affair of boiled potatoes and veg they made a handsome meal.
Some people hate dandelions but for me they make a drab green landscape come alive with colour and, after the willow blossom and blackthorn, these flowers provide a valuable nectar and pollen source for insects.
A few snippets from Wiki:
“Dandelions are found on all continents and have been gathered for food since prehistory, but the varieties cultivated for consumption are mainly native to Eurasia. A perennial plant, its leaves will grow back if the taproot is left intact. To make leaves more palatable, they are often blanched to remove bitterness or sauteed in the same way as spinach. The flower petals, along with other ingredients, usually including citrus, are used to make dandelion wine. The ground, roasted roots can be used as a caffeine-free dandelion coffee. Dandelion was also traditionally used to make the traditional British soft drink dandelion and burdock, and is one of the ingredients of root-beer. Also, dandelions were once delicacies eaten by the Victorian gentry, mostly in salads and sandwiches.
Dandelion leaves contain abundant vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A C and K, and are good sources of calcium, potassium,iron and manganese.
The dandelion plant is a beneficial weed, with a wide range of uses, and is even a good companion plant for gardening. Its taproot will bring up nutrients for shallower-rooting plants, and add minerals and nitrogen to soil. It is also known to attract pollinating insects and release ethylene gas which helps fruit to ripen.
Now this is a new idea- maybe we could start a tyre company at Wimpole!!!!! Dandelions secrete latex when the tissues are cut or broken yet, in the wild type, the latex content is low and varies greatly. Using modern cultivation methods and optimisation techniques, scientists in the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology (IME) in Germany developed a cultivar that is suitable for commercial production of natural rubber. The latex produced exhibits the same quality as the natural rubber from rubber trees. In collaboration with Continental Tires, IME is building a pilot facility. As of May 2014, the first prototype test tires made with blends from dandelion-rubber are scheduled to be tested on public roads over the next few years.”
Adder’s tongue: Ophioglossum vulgatum is so-called because the spore-bearing stalk is thought to resemble a snake’s tongue. Once a common plant but with modern farming it is much diminished and this has been so at Wimpole however we do have small areas of meadow where it still exists. Mainly up inside the Folly area and down at the bottom of the South Avenue between the lime trees at the side. It used to be in the gardens but I have not seen it there for many, many years. Each plant typically sends up a small, undivided leaf blade with netted venation, and the spore stalk forks from the leaf stalk, terminating in sporangia which are partially concealed within a structure with slitted sides. When the leaf blade is present, there is not always a spore stalk present, and the plants do not always send up a leaf, sometimes going for a year to a period of years living only under the soil, nourished by association with soil fungi. The plant grows from a central, budding, fleshy structure with fleshy, radiating roots. Traditionally European folk used leaves and rhizomes as a poultice for wounds. This remedy was sometimes called the “Green Oil of Charity”. A tea made from the leaves was used as a traditional European folk remedy for internal bleeding and vomiting.