Caught In The Act

I think I mentioned a few days ago that we have the odd visit of a Muntjac or two in our garden. They’ve always been fleeting visits with little time for me to grab the camera and take a photograph but yesterday, luck was with us as we spied him the other side of our lake nibbling away on the young green shoots on our Weeping Willows.

I’ve often wondered if we don’t miss half the wildlife that come into our garden due to the way the house is positioned: for a great view of the lake you need to be in kitchen. On the other hand it means that the kitchen is rather like a hide and we can spy on visiting creatures without them seeing us.

Yesterday was extra special as it was the first time in quite a while that we had some evening rays of sunshine. The last few days were filled with monotonous rain, heavy downpours accompanied by hailstones, high winds and claps of thunder. Truly Spring in all its glory!

Some Sad and Some Better News

Disaster struck yesterday when one of Nigel’s cat (Ginger) killed 4 of Mrs Duck’s babies. I know it was him because I caught him in the act,  having been alerted to something serious happening by Mrs Duck’s insistent squawking. I buried three little bodies but couldn’t grab the one he had in his mouth. I am gutted. The problem of course is that she’s been showing them ‘the garden’, waddling around with her brood in tow who, now a little stronger, are whizzing off in all directions exploring everything. Their bravery cost them their lives.

On a happier note we have a Moorhen nesting in the reeds lovingly looked after by hubby Moorhen. This morning I thought I’d take a photo of the lake to show you how it looks before I start my long labour of love and turn it into something very special for the wildlife visiting our garden. Once outside I realised I had the wrong lens on my camera (telephoto) but in fact this turned out to be happy error as I captured Mr Moorhen bringing new nesting material for Mrs Moorhen. Not a brilliant photo but you can see the little reed in his beak!

More ‘baby’ news as we have a couple of Jackdaws nesting in one of our chimney tops. They’ve been a funny couple, falling down our chimney in the early days of nest building. This caused great excitement with the dogs (not to mention the cats) as we’d find one of the Jackdaws perched on a picture frame with soot scattered everywhere. The poor things fell down four times before they got the bottom of the nest right. Cleverly, with their nest so close to the house they’re sneakily taking advantage of the most excellent of bird tables that a kind lady (me) fills with all manner of nice treats every morning. Bed & Breakfast at its best I’d say!

Just Born Ducklings

It’s been a busy time here at Belaugh. Christmas and New Year happily celebrated with family and friends and then filming (and editing) a few winter weddings (which you can read all about on Alice Barker Images).

January and February went past in a blink of an eye, as did March, but April slowed down enough for me to sit and think how I was going to sort out the different parts of the garden and of course the lake. With so much wildlife (okay, mainly birds, ducks and the odd Muntjac or two) visiting our garden it seemed a natural step to make it as wildlife friendly as possible – with one proviso – I’d only plant British native plants and make it as bee friendly as I could.

This is when the internet is so wonderful! Sat warmly indoors well away from inclement English weather, I crawled this remarkable tool looking for wildlife plants specialists. I particularly liked The Wildflower Shop, Popular Plants and Burncoose Nurseries where I found exactly what I was looking for – after reading two super books: Gardening for Butterflies, Bees and other beneficial insects by Jan Miller-Klein and The Bee Garden by Maureen Little. As you can imagine, with 5 acres and the lake to contend with, I shall quickly become one of their favoured customers . . .

And with Spring comes babies! Mr & Mrs Duck have just been blessed with 17 gorgeous baby ducklings who are now discovering the delights of playing and paddling around in water. I’ll keep you all posted on their progress.

Home Baking, Gardening and Work

My Pyracantha bushes trained against our outbuildings

Since my return from France I have a new project: finding the perfect Shortbread recipe. This cooking quest began innocently enough last weekend after Nigel and I had polished off a batch of my mince-pies and again remarked how utterly delicious the pastry was – sort of melt-in-your-mouth like Shortbread.

Naturally, this got me thinking about making my own Shortbread. After delving into my cookbooks and trying out a number of recipes (all unsatisfactory I might add), I then did a Google search and found a super article in The Guardian written by Felicity Cloake entitled: How to make perfect shortbread. So tomorrow I’m going to try out her recipe and will keep you posted (with photograph) of my (hopefully) edible results.

Still in cooking mode, this morning I baked my third Dundee Cake – we ate the other two some time ago (sigh). However, I have a sneaky feeling that I may have to bake another one before Christmas lands on our doorstep as this Dundee Cake will be crying out to be eaten too!

Like any good tradesperson, I believe in using the right tool for the right job and, where cooking is concerned, I’m in 7th heaven. As luck would have it, Norfolk has the largest independent cookshop (The Kitchenary Limited) located in Taverham – which is not quite down the road from us – but nearly. This shop is jam-packed with wonderful utensils, pots & pans I never knew I needed. Thankfully our chimney is nice and wide so Santa won’t have too much of a hard time coming down, laden with a sack-load of cooking paraphernalia for yours truly!

Lest you may think I’m spending most of my waking hours in the kitchen, think again. I’ve also set myself the task of working one hour every day in the garden. How else am I going to work off all my cooking calories? Today I battled with a very thorny and dense Pyracantha bush which grows along the side wall of our outbuildings. Tomorrow I have the pleasure of doing battle again but, knowing how great it is for wildlife, I don’t begrudge the few scars I get while clipping him.

And of course, sandwiched between my cooking and gardening I try and work! Never a dull moment, I can tell you!

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