The Last of the Summer Wine

10 August 2019

It was only as I switched on the kitchen light the other night, about 10pm, that I realised the long summer evenings are coming to a close as the year turns onwards through the seasons. It’s hard to think that it will soon be autumn but there are just enough warm sunny days, bright flowers and passing butterflies to convince me that it is still summer. 

First Harvest

Already there are Rowan trees with bright red berries and out and about many farmers are well on into their harvest. Our own potatoes are ripening and swelling with all this rain and we recently dug up a row of the ‘Sharp’s Express’ first earlies that we planted way back in April. Nature has done her work and we were able to gather a reasonable crop of new potatoes. However, several of them have been nibbled and tunnelled by slugs and other ‘insects’ while still in the soil. 

Rowan Tree Berries

Home Grown Tastes Best 

This is partly why you plant potatoes in ground that has lain fallow for any length of time. Various pests, wireworms, slugs and other creatures can take up residency in the earth while it is lying empty and by growing the potatoes you can lure them into your crop and so ‘clear’ the soil for next year when we should be able to grow healthier vegetables. On a happier note, some of the potatoes were intact and edible and they tasted delicious boiled and served with lots of melted butter and chopped parsley – there has to be some bonus for all the hours of hard work in all weathers.

Kestrel Family Home 

The birds have eaten all our blackcurrants and whilst this is a fruit I love, I don’t mind letting the birds have the crop as it has been a tough year for them. The changing weather patterns have made it difficult to raise chicks in the cold and rain or excessive heat so they could do with a little help. Mind you, our canny Kestrel family decided to site their nest in the ancient Doocot where some pigeons have been nesting and needless to say, they have raised some very healthy chicks. 

Ancient Doocot

Bold Buzzards

Our resident Buzzards have successfully reared a family again this year. Three weeks ago, the youngsters could be heard in the treetops flapping their wings and begging for food from the adults who were teaching them to hunt, but now they are circling around the woodlands, annoying the crows, calling occasionally and behaving for all the world to see as fully grown, confident birds of prey. Let’s hope they will survive any coming winter hardships and go on to raise their own chicks in the years to come.

The Summer Fayre 

Were you one of the people who visited the house last weekend for the Summer Fayre? It was a busy weekend and thankfully the weather was pretty good to us. I was looking after the Archaeology stand where we displayed some of the many items we have found in the overgrown gardens and wider grounds of the estate. For example; a full-size Scythe blade made by W. Tyzack and Sons, Sheffield; a set of rusting Topiary shears; a delicate pair of sugar tongs made by James Dixon and Sons, Sheffield and some rusty old keys that look like they would open a castle gate or perhaps a valuable treasure chest.

Archaeology Display Items

A Glass Battery! 

One of the slightly more unusual finds has been a glass battery or Accumulator made by Exide. It was fascinating to listen as some of the visitors to the stand recognised it from their childhood and were able to tell us lots of information. Apparently our ‘Glass Accumulator’ was tucked in behind many a ‘wireless’ with two wires attached to it and several of the men remembered being asked, as a laddie, to take the battery to the shop to have it topped up and re-charged. One man even explained that there should have been a metal collar around the battery to which a carrying handle was attached to take it back to the shop where it was swapped for a ‘new’ one.  

Times Have Changed 

I am old enough to know that a ‘wireless’ was a type of radio but I did wonder what any youngsters in the vicinity would make of the description as ‘wireless’ to them is something completely different and batteries nowadays are tiny.  I also found it slightly alarming to think how much life has changed as I cannot imagine any modern scenario that would involve young boys innocently walking along the street openly carrying glass boxes filled with acid! 

Original Braille Perhaps

Some of the visiting children were wide eyed when they read the letters POISON on a grubby old brown bottle but there again, it was explained to us that sides of this bottle were deliberately ridged so that when the bottle was held, people would know the contents were dangerous. Such a simple idea and yet brilliant especially for someone with poor eyesight. 

A Well Earned Rest 

Having worked hard to get the gardens neat and tidy for the big event, the garden team is having a little bit of a break this week. No doubt the grass will need cut by the weekend and the weeds will be gaining a hold all over the grounds as this warm moist weather continues but we can look around the House and see neat grass edges, flower filled window boxes and borders and feel that for the time being things are under control. The raspberry crop is finished, the apples and pears are not ripe yet and the bulk of the potatoes harvest is still growing. 

Weeding, Grass Cutting, Drinking Tea & Laughing

Tonight, I heard the first skein of geese overhead and counted them at 14 birds. Just a little stray band weaving across the sky but nevertheless hinting at the huge waves of birds that will soon be arriving. There will be plenty to do in the Autumn and Winter months as we intend planting trees and bushes to form a shelter belt to the east side of the grounds and possibly part of the new Orchard but our time just now is mostly taken up with weeding and grass cutting, drinking tea and laughing. 

We Need You

In a week or so the school holidays will end, and the town will settle back into the rhythm of life that is created by the hours of the school day. If you have some free time, have you thought about volunteering up at the House? It doesn’t have to be a regular commitment even just a couple of hours or an afternoon. It’s great fun, you’ll meet a whole new group of people and whatever you choose to help with, it will make a difference. 

You can contact Ross at [email protected] if you are interested in helping us.

Who knows, maybe you’ll be looking after the archaeology stall next year!

Written by Margaret in the Gardening Team