Wednesday, 18 March 2009

What Happens When You Kiss A Frog?


Kiss me, Froggie, Froggie, kiss me,
Thrill me, Froggie, Froggie, thrill me.
Don't care even if I blow my top,
But, Froggie, Froggie, don't stop!

I'd like to play a little game with you,
A little game especially made for two.

If you come close then I will show you how,
Closer, closer, now.

Kiss me, Froggie, Froggie, kiss me,
Thrill me, Froggie, Froggie, thrill me.

Don't care even if I blow my top,
But, Froggie, Froggie, don't stop!

We've never played this little game before,
If you relax then you'll enjoy it more.

Just settle down and let me teach you how,
Closer, closer, now.

Kiss me, Froggie, Froggie, kiss me,
Thrill me, Froggie, Froggie, thrill me.

Don't care even if I blow my top,
But, Froggie, Froggie, don't stop!

But, Froggie, Froggie, don't stop!

You kiss so well my lips begin to burn,
And I can tell I've got a lot to learn.

So hold me close and darling show me how,
Closer, closer, now.

Kiss me, Froggie, Froggie, kiss me,
Thrill me, Froggie, Froggie, thrill me.

Don't care even if I blow my top,
But, honey, honey, don't stop!

Don't care even if I blow my top.

But, Froggie, Froggie, don't stop,
Never stop!

The first official day of Spring for this year is 20th March. However, the warmer temperatures of the past few days have heated the shallows of our ponds, thus enabling the frogs to spawn one week earlier than in the previous two years. Enjoy the video of their antics...and turn up the volume to hear, amidst the cacophony of barking dogs, passing traffic and serenading birdsong, the amazing motorbike drone of the frog chorus at Barleycorn.

video

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Coming In From The Cold

An unexpected fall of snow recently caused chaos in the London area, closing many schools and offices and bringing all the traffic in the centre of the city to a standstill. However, the heavy snowfall brought pleasure to hundreds of children who enjoyed several days of extra holidays during which they built snowmen, played on sledges with their friends and lay on their backs making snow angels. Four hundred miles further north, we Scots wondered what all the fuss was about as we cope with snowstorms several times every Winter. Last night was no exception, for, as I drew the curtains before bedtime, a blizzard of snow began swirling outside. As if by magic in a matter of moments, everything in the garden was transformed as a carpet of snowflakes fluttered down. I put out the light wondering if we'd be snowed in today.

This morning, however, a beautiful blue sky greeted me and a song thrush was serenading from the top of my Swedish birch tree. Pulling on a warm sweater and trousers, I grabbed my camera, determined not to miss an opportunity. As I took a photo of the snow on the barn roof, my mind went back to a cold night in January, when an unexpected visitor paid Taz and Cookie a visit.

It was suppertime for the cats, but, instead of running to us for cuddles, Taz and Cookie were out of their cosy nests mewing, and looking more than a little disconcerted. Suddenly, without a sound, a large expanse of wings flew over our heads and crossed from one end of the barn to the other. Looking up, my hubbie and I saw a beautiful Tawny owl. Walking over to the cats, we stroked them to stop them mewing and calm them down. Clearly, they had never seen an owl in the barn before.

Although we have seen a few Tawny owls and Barn owls, and even a Little owl, during the eighteen years we have lived here, they are not seen on a regular basis. We do hear Barn owls screeching during the night. But, mostly we find their pellets scattered around the garden rather than regular sightings of them. Apart from the Little owl, which sometimes flies during the day, they are nocturnal creatures and come out to feed when most of us are indoors for the night. Tawnies are the owls which have the 'twit twoo' calls, the owls in our Nursery Stories - pretty owls with large, beautiful, dark eyes on their faces.

Once the cats had calmed down, I ran indoors for my camera. I hoped the Tawny would stay long enough for me to catch a few pictures without disturbing it too much. I need not have worried. As it turned out, it was reluctant to leave the shelter of the barn and we had to leave the doors open all night to allow it to fly free before morning. It never called out once. Apparently the 'twit twoo' is a duet between the male and female. They bond for life and both share in feeding the brood with the male going solo for the first 21 days. Our visitor simply flew forwards and backwards, across the barn. I knew there would be plenty of mice and shrews to feed on as Taz catches mice and the occasional shrew several times a week.

As I passed the log-pile, I wondered how many insects were snug and dry underneath, for, even the snow can act like a carpet and keep bulbs warm too. Our bulbs are showing above the earth and peeping from the pots and troughs. After the blizzard I thought there would have been a heavier covering of snow, but, the storm had obviously subsided quickly.

Winter sunshine makes for great contrasts between the pristine white of the snow-laden branches against the cerulean blue of the sky. So strong was the sun, that I had to be careful to avoid the constant drip, drip, drip of the melting snow which accompanied me on my walk around the garden under the trees.

At this time of year in spite of the snow, I always feel optimistic, for, it is not the onset of dark December chilling my bones and making me dread a long Winter ahead, but, that of March, instead, with the promise of the coming Spring. The snow on the Dawn rose merely looked pretty and fresh and transient. It would be gone all too soon, so, savour it and enjoy its fleeting visit, I reminded myself.

True to form, Taz accompanied me, even walking across the frozen pond to sniff under stones. His antics reminded me of our third surprise visitor when we had had the snowfall in January. It had been a relatively cold snap with temperatures well below zero, and little sunshine to warm the days. I had been standing looking out of the window, not thinking of anything in particular, when, suddenly, there he was...a beautiful fox.

Not having noticed me at the window, he was heading towards me, quite at peace with the world. I stared, transfixed, at his white chest, his beautiful reddish-auburn coat and his long, bushy brush cocked at an angle. Suddenly, he looked up and caught sight of me looking at him. The moment our eyes met, he turned instinctively, while I grabbed my ever-ready camera...and just managed to catch on shot of him as he trotted back the way he had come. In a flash, he was over the stone-dyke wall quicker than you could say, 'The quick, brown fox jumps over the lazy dog'.

Snowdrops, true to their name, have come through the snow once again to greet the Spring. We have many posies of them, creating little drifts here and there under the birch trees and shrubs in the little area in the garden I refer to as my woodland.

The blue hepaticas are in bloom too, with their dainty little heads. they are winners in my book, though I must say their leaves suffer in the bitter winds and always looked bruised.

In an area which borders the adjacent field at the back of the house, we have a high bank which I have been filling with snowdrops for several years now. They do well here and precede the daffodils which die back in time for the carpet of poppies, cornflower and marigolds to come through. We have a never-ending battle with couch grass in this area, so the wildflowers seem to naturalise everything and compete well with the pernicious grass.

Today, the snow was heavy on the snowdrop heads. But, they will be standing to attention tomorrow again. I always feel something of the miracle of nature in seeing snowdrops surviving the blasts of Winter. In my garden they come out before the daffodils, so they tend to be my favourite Spring bulbs.

Having said that, the yellow aconites are a joy to behold each year. I particularly like to see their little, golden cups of sunshine facing upwards and outwards towards the light and the warmth of the sun's rays.

Hellebores are exciting to have in any garden. I have two different varieties, ones with pale cream petals and green centres and a second variety with deep wine petals. Regardless of snow, they also come up trumps.

We have several colours of crocuses growing under shrubs and trees. The orangey-yellows are the first to appear followed by the purple and blue-striped. Today a cock blackbird was competing with his yellow bill.

Round the front of the house, well away from the piping blackbird, giving out his alarm call to warn the other birds, Taz had jumped onto a favourite window-sill to settle down for a spot of sunbathing.

At the back of the house, in the adjacent field, a cacophony was coming from a murder of crows, no doubt squabbling over grain and insects, and whose turn it was in the pecking order.

The artesian well has filled up over the Winter months, despite the efforts of the farmer to drain it over the years, creating interest for the birds and insects bold enough to be up and about.

I looked across the fields and felt glad to be alive, to be savouring the joys of the coming Spring, relishing the sight of the bulbs which have survived the ravages of Winter, and laughing at the antics of the newborn lambs gambolling in the sunshine and bleating to me from their world across the snow.


It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade. ~Charles Dickens