Summer’s lease hath all too short a date

28 August 2023

  Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

 

As August draws to an end I find myself wondering where the month has gone and what lies ahead.

As Shakespeare says, “Summer’s lease hath all too short a date”. Schools are back, children have swapped toys and the carefree days of the summer holidays for early-morning school journeys and endless lessons in class.

But, nevertheless, August brings its own surprises – ripe apples, cropped fields full of  hay bales and the beginning of a wonderful hedgerow harvest of brambles, rose hips, crab apples, hazelnuts and seeds. For many of our wild animals this wild harvest is a time of plenty and a chance to build up reserves of fat for migration or for hibernation. Only a handful of butterflies and moths actually hibernate.  Late-summer caterpillars are more likely to spend the winter in their cocoons, as they metamorphose into butterflies or moths, and so they are ready to hatch out anew once the warmer Spring weather returns. Last week we were lucky enough to find several large, well-fed ‘Elephant Hawk Moth’ caterpillars marching about the gardens, looking for safe places to spend the winter. If you haven’t seen one before, they are huge – the size of an adult’s first finger, greyish-green or brown, with two enormous, black eyespots towards the head. When disturbed, they swell up to show these spots and scare off predators and they do look like an elephant’s trunk!

Ungloved hand holding a large caterpillar
So far, our fruit and vegetable harvest for the Ladies of the Rock Foodbank this year has been abundant.

You see, all this rain is useful and, consequently, we have a massive courgette harvest and our potato yield has been extraordinary. In mid-June I was despairing of the ‘drought’ that we were undergoing but there has been a regular rainfall since Midsummer and the vegetable garden has certainly benefitted. Unfortunately, the weeds have also flourished and in common with many other gardeners, we have agreed that this Summer is the worst by far for weed-growth. If only we could package them up and sell them, we would have a healthy business! Of course, many of the weeds can be added to the compost heap so long as it is built correctly. The trick is to add lots of different layers of fresh green material, brown, woody stems and some cardboard to keep it from getting too wet. Cover it to keep rain out and it should build up a terrific heat, the bacteria should work their magic and in a few months we will have rich, crumbly, nourishing compost to feed the soil for next year’s crop. Here is a photo of some of our healthy, red cabbages and ‘Cavolo Nero’ kale.

Landscape showing Green vegetables of Kale and Cabbage
‘Drummond’, our rescue cat, has continued to settle into his job as Chief Animal Trapper.

We are seeing him out and about a lot more, even when we are working in the area, so it is a sure sign that he is gaining confidence and beginning to trust that we are not going to try and chase him away. The other day he came within a couple of metres and sat quite contentedly watching us as we tried to pick some of the apples from a very high tree. Any time we turned to look at him, he pretended to be washing himself and feigned indifference towards us, but we knew that, secretly, he is enjoying the company. It is important that we gain his trust as there will be times when we might have to remove a tic, dispense worm remedies, or possibly even have to take him to a vet. So, I am gradually getting him used to an all-over body massage to check there are no problems and soon I hope to be able to lift him up without causing too much stress. We will shortly be making him a warmer, winter home, but for the time being he is enjoying the warmer weather.

Black and white Cat laying on the ground ground.
Written by Margaret
Margaret is the Head gardener and leads the Gardening team.

 

Catherine Bradley.<br />

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