Monday, 22 March 2010

Froggie came a-courting

The frogs and toads are out and about – and not just in Frog Lane. The warmth, the rain and a new moon around the time of the Spring Equinox all seem to have combined to bring them out of their hidey holes under rocks and in the damp, cool earth along the banks of the streams and ditches along the sides of the fields. The evidence is all around – sadly all too often in the form of a squished little splayed green shape on Winkins Lane or halfway across the Dauntsey Road as they hop and wait and jump along from where they’ve been overwintering towards their breeding grounds in the lakes up at Broadfield farm.

Kind folk have been popping out with buckets and bowls to help them over the road – it always happens about the same time of year over the course of a week or s0 – but all too many just aren’t quick enough. Nature seems so wasteful sometimes. How do they know when to come out? Or remember where to go?

It’s actually a huge problem countrywide, as tens of thousands of frogs, toads and newts get squashed on the roads each springtime. Visit Froglife to find out what you can do to help.

“Look,” said Alex. “That one’s giving one of the others a piggy back.”

It’s nice to think of frogs with an altruistic streak.

* * *

Meanwhile, down on the allotments, John and I are gearing up for our great Beetroot Challenge. We’ve been preparing our seed beds, and I’m eagerly waiting for my copy of In Tune With The Moon to arrive. We’ve chosen beetroot, because they’re supposed to be pretty easy to grow, and I’ve been told the circles in the centre correspond with each new and full moon. We’ll keep you posted.

Saturday, 13 March 2010


There’s one day in the year when you suddenly realise that Spring has arrived. That day was today. And not before time. It’s been a long, cold winter and it’s about time we saw some sunshine. Although we’ve had a few sunny days lately, it’s been jolly cold, but this morning was appreciably warmer, birds sang louder, people were out and about without their coats and as the day wore on I became distinctly aware of that emblematic sound of approaching summer: the distant – and not quite so distant – hum of lawnmowers. Even though the clocks haven’t yet gone back, already the evenings seem lighter. I’m not sure it’s time to put the potatoes in just yet, though.

* * *

We’ve had a weird series of unfortunate – and apparently unrelated – events with our plumbing over the past week. What started with a small leak in the shower quickly turned into a burst radiator on the landing, then the water softener started to make a strange roaring sound – so much so, I had to turn the water off at the mains every time I wanted to make a phone call. On Thursday morning I came downstairs to a distinct damp patch on the kitchen ceiling, and an ominous dripping sound outside. This week I’ve seen more of Erik the plumber than I have of my own husband. It doesn’t look good.

“I can’t ring Erik again,” I said to Paul as he disappeared off to work, “he’s going to start thinking I’m stalking him.”

Thankfully, I was on Erik’s list of house calls, and he disappeared up into the loft to sort out the pipework, reappearing again to sort out another problem with the shower and fix another radiator valve that had inexplicably gone wrong, probably wishing he hadn’t popped round in the first place. It seems we’re not the only people in the village to be suffering an unexplained rash of plumbing problems at the moment – another symptom of the relentlessy long, harsh winter – and Erik’s services are much in demand.

Erik is tirelessly cheerful and efficient (and thankfully he doesn’t whistle, unlike the plumber we had at our last house. Whenever Tony came round to fix something or other, this eerie whistling sound would echo and reverberate spookily around the house through the copper pipes. I used to think to myself that, if the plumbing work dried up he would always be able to find work providing soundtracks for Spaghetti Westerns). Still, every cloud has a silver lining – even plumbing-related ones. I’ve now learnt how to fix recalcitrant radiator valves (you give them a swift tap with a hammer) and get stubborn limescale stains off a shower cartridge (boil it up in a pan of Sarson’s White Vinegar), and I can now find my way confidently around the plumbing section of the Screwfix catalogue. But that’s probably enough about me and my plumbing…

* * *

The allotment is beckoning. At the moment, it looks a bit bleak and sparse. I’ve given up trying to dig all the weed roots out, but I went out for some more seed potatoes from Nurden’s Garden Centre in Malmesbury (excellent cafe there, too, if you ever find yourself feeling peckish on the A429) – if you haven’t already got yours, I suggest you nip down there pretty sharpish, they’re nearly all gone – and I’m ready to go with my onion sets if I get a chance amid all the doubless lavish Mothers’ Day activity my family has doubtless got in store for me tomorrow…

And it’s the annual Allotment Inspection on Tuesday, April 6th – a time-honoured tradition enshrined in Great Somerford's Enclosure Act of 1806, when it was laid down that the allotments should be allocated Yearly and every Year on the Tuesday in Easter Week.

I’d better get my spade out, then.

And some more good news – I’m going to be a Compost Ambassador for Wiltshire Wildlife Trust. Well, let’s face it – it’s probably the only kind of ambassador anyone will ever ask me to be. The allotment holders are probably finding it difficult to contain their excitement at the thought of the Ambassador spoiling them with news of new and improved compost containers, ways of avoiding embarrassing ‘compost slime’ and getting tiptop compost out of even the least promising bits of garden rubbish.

Don’t ever say there are no perks to having an allotment in Great Somerford.

* * *

PS I’m afraid it seems I was misinformed about the would-be shop robbers – it turns out the Police didn’t catch them after all, but at least they didn’t get away with anything, and I guess it’s unlikely they’ll be back in a hurry.