A wet start to the year with the field waterlogged and the pond almost full after the summer drought.
Happy Christmas from Tipton’s Croft. The recent freezing weather, with six inches of ice on the pond (and a frozen borehole) has given way to more familiar dark, wet weather with the occasional welcoming blue sky.
All is not quiet though. The barn owl is still around screeching at night, though isn’t roosting in either of the nest boxes. Herons, little egrets, snipes and wild ducks come to the pond where the roach and perch have retreated to the bottom, appearing only at night in torchlight.
Haws and holly are the only colour in the hedges but goldfinches brighten the edges of the meadow as they feed on knapweed seed heads.
Hopefully we will have visiting sheep soon to keep the meadow grass short until the wildflowers have a chance in the spring.
One of our hens thinks she is a cockerel. ‘Tog’ is an old Speckledy and probably not laying anymore, so with too much time on her hands she has decided to mess around. Turn up the sound to hear why!
Update 15 June. Tog has developed a much larger redder wattle than she used to and has spurs have appeared on her legs. Signs of more than just a passing phase: she does appear to be turning into a cockerel.
The recent cold spell has tried to pause life here at Tipton’s Croft but spring can never really be stopped. The hedgerows are full of white blackthorn blossom and the bright green of hawthorn leaf is beginning to show through. The growth of grass has slowed down in the meadow but wildflowers are beginning to emerge, with traces of lesser celandine the first to appear.
The ponds are full of life with frog and toad spawn hatching into masses of black wriggly tadpoles and great crested newts seeking each other out. There are pairs of mallard ducks tentatively eyeing up the new island and a not entirely welcome heron visiting to sit in the shallows ready to pounce on anything that moves.
The owl boxes are sadly empty of owls, and proving rather too tempting to the local jackdaws and stock doves, so we may need to block off the entrances to keep the boxes prepared for any passing barn owl that is looking for a nest.
Old oaks, seed heads for the birds, bees hibernating in the dark, fish somewhere deep, and in boxes high up in trees owls keep each other company and wait for the spring.
What is it?
We have lots of blackthorn bushes in the hedgerows around the field, so of course make our own sloe gin. The thorny bushes have wonderful white blossom in the spring and as the sloes develop over the summer they turn from green to a dusky purple. We usually pick the ripe fruit in September, though local lore advises waiting until after the first frosts.
Gin. Any London Dry gin will do.
Sloes. Best picked in October.
Sugar. Plain granulated sugar.
To fill a 4.5 litre (1 gallon) glass demijohn: 1.2 kilogram sloes, 3.6 litres gin, 300 grams sugar.
Wash the sloes and remove any stems and leaves. Freeze them overnight then pour hot water over them to split the skins. Add the sloes and sugar to the gin, seal the container, give it a good shake to mix the ingredients. Store in it a cool dark place for at least six months, taking it out from time to time to give it another shake.
A look back at 2020: twelve views of Tipton’s Croft: one from each month of the year.
A lovely sunny autumn day last week.
We’ve had a good crop of pumpkins this year, way too much to us or the chickens to eat so have donated most of them to local schools and they’ve proved very popular on account of being somewhat larger than typical ones from the supermarket.
A little incident today with a bonfire getting a little bigger than planned. Thanks to the amazing Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service it all ended safely with a scorched field but no significant damage. Lessons learned and someone at Tipton’s Croft has had his matches confiscated and is only allowed to use blunt scissors in the office.
Not directly related to Tipton’s Croft, though a reflection of how much rain we’ve had this winter, here are some photos we took of the recent floods.
The hay’s been cut and is drying in the sun ready for baling.
A night of thunder, lightning, and a lot of rain. Not a night for owls, and the hay’s been flattened, but the lake’s a lot fuller as a result.
It might not look like much but gushing out of the pipe is water from our new borehole. We now have an unlimited supply of free cool crystal clear fresh water!
Some spoil from the lake used to landscape a low hill at end end of the field. Seeded with a mixture of native English wildflowers and grasses, it has now blended in seamlessly with its surroundings.