We’ve always been a five. At least that’s the way it seems. I can’t very much remember what things were like before we had children and though I remember them coming along and becoming who they are one by one and enjoying every moment of it, I can’t really remember being a father of one or even of two children. I seem always to have been the father of three and I like that very much indeed.
And now all three live their own lives away from home and that is very nice as well. Particularly nice on a week when we are likely to be re-united for at least part of the Easter weekend.
Their places seem to have been taken though. We still seem to be a five. Three children have been replaced by two cats and a dog. If I’m keeping a food diary of the years then they shouldn’t be missed and neither should all the animals and birds who live in the garden.
We’re lucky to have a rather lovely cherry tree in the centre of our garden. Behind it are some conifers which I’d probably remove if they weren’t both home and refuge to at least two dozen birds. Sparrows and wrens nest in there. So do robins. Blue tits, great tits and coal tits (chickadees), feel safe feeding from the food we hang out, if they have a sheltered safe haven nearby. Chaffinches, gold finches, green finches are also regular visitors. Wood pigeons, collared doves, starlings, sparrows, dunnocks and blackbirds can also be seen daily. A song thrush comes to pay us a call at least once a week and a mistle thrush is an infrequent visitor. We can go weeks without seeing a long tailed tit and suddenly they swarm into the garden. I’ve seen as many as thirty in the tree at one go.
Hedgehogs find their way into this quiet little haven. The garden is hardly busy and the area around the garden has become something of a nature reserve. There are shrews in there. Foxes patrol the local paths in the early hours and grey squirrels raid the bird feeders. Some see them as vermin. I see them as rather successful opportunists. I bought a squirrel proof feeder but it didn’t take them long to find a way to get at the peanuts.
I’m not an expert on butterflies but I plant butterfly friendly plants and shrubs. I’ve seen gatekeepers, peacocks, red admirals, tortoiseshells, cabbage white, orange tipped and no end of little brown fellows. I keep meaning to become better at recognising them but instead have remained happy just to sit and watch them.
The garden is neat enough to enjoy sitting out but it is designed to be as wildlife friendly as we can make it. We don’t use weedkillers or pesticides. It’s quite simple to grow flowers together that attract natural pesticides. Planting candytuft and marigolds attracts lace wings and ladybirds. These keep down aphids and the birds and the hedgehogs do a pretty good job on many of the other pests. If you sit out at night then we have no shortage of bats in the neighbourhood and these are friends of the natural gardener.
Neither of the cats go out of the house. Stewart will venture into the garden to nibble grass but returns at the first sign of danger (such as a car door shutting a few hundred yards away). Percy would be off and out and we’d never see him again. He’s afraid of nothing and wouldn’t think twice before walking in front of a car. He’s got acres of room in the house and gets his hunting kicks from sitting on the window sill and watching the birds through the glass. Most of the time he is entranced. If, however, there is a wood pigeon out there he is immediately into the crouch and pounce positions. It’s almost like watching a cat playing on a Wi.
The real highlights of our lives are when the children come home, but in the meantime we have enough dependents to keep us on our toes.