Water water everywhere

But not in the garden.  It has been a dry summer: the Met Office reports around 50% of normal rainfall over the summer.  The past weeks have felt wetter, but literally digging beneath the surface of the ground reveals bone dry ground.  This is noticeable in the slow progress of the chicken run.  To avoid visits from Mr or Mrs Fox, we are digging out trenches on all sides, and then laying galvanised mesh wire both down, and then out, into the trench.  The top soil is bone dry and crumbly, while the subsoil is solid as a rock, though the digging bar makes light work of it, and exercise for the core muscles.  Even with the rain, the tailings remain dry and crumbly, which makes backfilling the trench easy, but tamping down around the posts nearly impossible, as powdered soil doesn’t compress.  Still it is pleasing to have one side of the run now complete at ground level.

One welcome benefit of some moisture is that the grass is regrowing, and the mole tracks on the lower lawn are disappearing (the underground tunnel must remove moisture quickly, leaving the grass to turn brown more rapidly than the surrounding area).  Sadly the grass in the field is looking long, and will need another cut before winter.  But long, wet grass can hide surprising things, including a frog I nearly stepped on.  Much of the field is left to run wild, which is hopefully good for wildlife.  A family of young pheasants made the tall grass its home this late summer, while battered down grass forms a rough path leading to a low point in the dry stone wall – not permanently low, but the top stones are constantly knocked off by the animal which makes the path.

A recent storm blew through, and this might well mark the turning point in our prolonged drought.  The leaves on the trees are turning, and the wind has brought some of them down already, leading to the garden looking ragged around the edges.  Maintenance is never over, as the wall, and two broken fence posts, reminded me.  These last were rotten through at the ground; perhaps the deer, evidenced by the camera trap, knocked them over in a mis-timed jump?  I removed them, to ease the weight on the wire fence, but digging out the stumps and replacing them with posts scavenged from elsewhere (luckily exactly two of sufficient length sit in the barn) will await another day.

In a brief dry spell this afternoon, more wire mesh was added to the chicken run.  Welly boots, old coat, wide brimmed hat: not the height of sartorial elegance, but keeping rain off the face makes working in a light shower surprisingly pleasant.  It was windy – it is always windy up here – but there is something uplifting about working at this time of year.  There is not the baking, energy sapping heat of summer.  It is bracing, and yet the trees are not bare-branch bleak, and the ground does not instantly turn to mud.  It feels worthwhile to snatch a little time outdoors from the start of the school and academic year.

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