Seasonal Differences

Bluebells in ‘Happy Valley’

Mark gets very bored with my exclamations over flora and fauna, never more so than when we set out to travel south to see the family. It is (to me anyway) fascinating to see how things change as we get “across the water” – i.e. the Pentland Firth and start the journey. And I just can’t hold back the comments. I try but it just doesn’t work!

When we left Orkney on our marathon trip to welcome Magnus to the world, we left a still quite bleak Orkney, but with the daffodils starting to come out along the roadsides. It is a lovely custom here to plant masses of daffodil bulbs along the roads and outside peoples gardens, all of which serve to welcome the spring. Chickens were starting to come into lay, but the sheep were still wandering over the fields looking rather pregnant, with no sign of lambs. No cattle in the fields and the grass still quite brown after dying back over the winter.

Our rosa rugosa at the back of the house had some leaf but not a lot but our tress (yes we have TWO !) didn’t have so much as a bud.

And off we went. The roadside daffodils continued to enliven the trip as we wandered down towards the Cairngorm, and when we came across trees – the first “real” trees are really by Dunrobin Castle, – they were starting to show signs of spring and some leaves.

Heading down towards Edinburgh we were now on motorway so the daffodils had vanished from the sides of the road but were still evident as we flashed past a few gardens, and the trees were showing distinctly more leaf.

Heading into Northumberland and we came across the first lambs – they were mostly reasonably chunky, not little skippy ones so had obviously been around a little while. To diverge for a moment, if you haven’t driven the A68 from North to South on a fine day, add it to your bucket list, especially in the spring because it is fantastic !! Just hold onto your hat as you go over the hills !

However, once we got down to Suffolk it was a very different story – any daffodils left definitely needed dead-heading. Trees were that lovely bright green that comes with spring. And the lambs (dare I say it) looked almost ready to eat! By the time we got across to Bristol, trees were in full leaf, daffodils a thing of the past, tulips going over and bluebells out .. ladies smock too I noticed and bees, even the odd butterfly.

Then … back north we headed. And arrived back on Orkney to find the daffodils still out, though just starting to go over. Tulips still in bud. Rosa Rugosa in full leaf but even today – 16th May – our trees still aren’t showing any sign of leaves. The woods at Binsgarth are starting to green up though, our rhubarb is all ready and delicious. The farmers have done more ploughing and are harrowing and seeding like mad – I noticed one field had a shimmer of green today. The grass is growing fast fast fast and the garden is covered (and I mean covered) in dandelions (lioney-dans to my daughters). Our bluebells are in full swing – yes and the pink and white ones too – and hopefully we will get our mower back soon from being serviced before the grass is knee-high! And there are some bumble bees buzzing around.

In the fields there are masses of baby lambs, doing what baby lambs do best and gathering in small groups making mischief. You can just see them discussing the best way to annoy mum by rushing up behind her for a feed! Because the grass is growing at last, some of the cattle are out, together with their calves and usually a massive bull watching benignly over them (but don’t go in and challenge him – he may look benign but I bet he isn’t)

Birds are flying hither and yon with beaks full of nesting materials or for the “early birds” food for the babies. Nimbus (horrid cat) chased a baby duckling under the boiler and couldn’t get it out so hopefully it escaped. Hope it wasn’t one of the tufted ones like in the picture – bred on Orkney and raised by the friends we used to rent a cottage from! When I go out I am greeted with a lot of very bad language from the starlings who have nested in the dyke (dry stone wall to those of you who don’t know) and who have babies to protect. Move away a bit and you can hear the babies yelling for food.

The long evenings are wonderful, putting my “cooking timer” out as I keep thinking it is too early to cook then finding it is 9 pm, but hey – it doesn’t matter does it !! It’s still getting sort-of dark around 10.30 – 11 pm and the sun has moved around so far that it now shines into the north facing windows of the kitchen in the evening treating us to wonderful sunsets. And – as a great side effect – our PV panels are generating lots of lovely electricity for us.

It’s VERY changeable of course – a glorious breezy morning today meant getting the washing hung out to dry. Into town for an appointment and lunch, and …. Back home to find there had been a TORRENTIAL downpour, the sheet was (nearly) in the burn, and the rest was soaking. Seriously dripping and very heavy. So back into the washing machine for a rinse and spin and … back out onto the line where it was now glorious sunshine again. With, of course, plenty of pegs.

It’s a wonderful time of year and we are so so lucky to be here to enjoy it. Jealous ? Well, visit Orkney – and keep your fingers crossed for nice weather but bring your waterproofs and thermals just in case!

So far this May : snow; rain; hail; mist; sun; warmth; cold; windy; still. Never, ever, boring. And remember there’s no such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing (not my saying … can’t remember who said it but it was someone else !)