Sunday, 9 September 2012

Changing Seasons

September began with these happy facts:

- Wales has endured its third wettest summer since records began in 1910.

- For sunshine it is expected to be the country's second dullest.

- Across the UK experts claim it will be the wettest summer in 100 years, and the second wettest on record.

Am I wrong in reading this as meaning that Wales was not as wet this summer as other parts of the UK? Well that has to be good news. Of course, the fly in the ointment is that is also means that at some time in the last 100 years Wales had two summers even wetter than this summer. I sure am glad that I missed out on those!

Last week the BBC weather boffins claimed that climate change will make Britain like Madeira by the 2060s. At first I drifted off into dreams of living in a lemon and almond scented country made of sponge cake. Then the geography part of my brain woke up, sneered at the greedy food part and reminded me that Madeira is in fact an island not just a tasty cake that goes well with a nice cup of tea. So instead I got excited at the prospect of converting the pig field into a pineapple grove, buying a panama hat, and swanning around squeezing exotic fruit saying “yes” in a Mr Del Monte style. Then came the crushing disappointment when it out turned out said boffins were spouting a load of greenhouse gas. You can’t trust anyone these, not even the BBC.

The only true signs of changing climate or even just changing season are those I see before me. Sadly “Dave’s Nature Notebook” has scant records for 2012 so there are few facts to cross-check against the initial enthusiasm of the 2011 records. All I can say for certain is that the housemartins arrived at least two weeks later this year and are still here, that the barn owls failed to rear any chicks after successfully raising four to fledging last year, that the honey harvest was 15lbs instead of 35lbs, that the carrots are like babies of babies of baby carrots ….


… that the beetroots are like marbles, and that the slugs are just as slimy but twice as fat as last year!

The traditional signs of summer turning to autumn are already there to be seen – blackberries ripening; mushrooms springing up across the field; horse chestnut leaves turning from green to burnt orange. The somewhat less traditional signs are there too – getting a tad too chilly to wear pyjamas for the early morning animal feeding chores; shouty, egg laying, “I want out” chickens waking me at 7 a.m. instead of 6 a.m.; loading six logs in the wheelbarrow for Bertha’s breakfast instead of four; washing going from wet to dry to damp again if “someone” forgets to bring it in after tea; the sundowner “I’ve been really busy, honest I have, I deserve it” beer gradually getting earlier and earlier. But despite all this, Mother Nature is having another roll of the dice and has been throwing out summer days willy-nilly. The bees and butterflies are supping greedily and drunkenly on the late nectar flow like wedding guests at a free bar. Brush past the flowering herbs and you risk a face full of buzzing and fluttering. Inhale too sharply in surprise and you get a mouthful too!

Our third summer season may be drawing to a close, but it’s onwards and upwards here at Banceithin. In just nine days time work begins on phase one of the Boardwalk Project. The wood has been bought. The woodsman has been booked. The brambles have been cleared and grown back. There’s no going back. Unless it rains. The plan is to start with a ground level platform between the trees by the stream, over which the hammock will swing. Hammock?! Are you crazy? After the summer we’ve just had? Hey, who said that lazy summer days have to be in July or August. I’m happy to swing in the breeze any day of the year. Isn’t that what blankets were invented for? Next to the hammock platform, just a hop, skip and a few ladder rungs up will be not one, but two hideaway decks in the trees. Pour a glass of wine, grab a book and disappear amongst the leaves for some quiet contemplation.