The Seasons Outside My Back Door: Week 8 February 2016
A gentle frost last night sucked the remaining water out of our makeshift pond. It did that a few weeks ago too, but then we had rain and it refilled. I walked down to it this morning and looked at all the little holes the ducks had made in the side of the bank. Their little rooting holes, searching for delicious treats with their beaks. And then I saw something else. Something white shining out from the gloopy mud. I stepped gingerly onto the mud. The mud was incredibly soft, the frost hadn't hardened it, and I had visions of me being completely sucked into it. From my sinking position I could reach out and grab the object.
It was a duck egg. Honestly, ducks. They just don't care. They'll lay anywhere. I've found one on the stream bank, one in the middle of the lawn and now in the pond.
The ducks love their pond. We're thinking of building them a more permanent pond using rainwater off the stable roof. It is a project to plan.
But that is a few months into the future. Right now it is all about the willow. We have two willows that have beautiful silvery catkins on them. The Goat Willow (Salix caprea) has large, green silvery catkins. And the Cricket Bat Willow (Salix alba Caerulea) has smaller, red silvery catkins.
We bought about 12 goat willow setts when we first moved in about three years ago. They were a couple of feet long. The largest is now probably twice my height. This tree is great for bees and caterpillars.
The Cricket Bat Willow we bought as a standard tree. We wanted a tree to remember a dear departed friend who adored his cricket. Both these trees are looking stunning. Especially when the sun catches the catkins.
We also have four other willows.These four willows are still sticks at the moment with the promise of what's to come hiding behind their leaf buds.
We have a Hybrid willow which we bought for speed of growth. We had visions of coppicing it for firewood. We're hoping it is going to make significant strides this year however as at the moment other willows are growing much faster.
Which brings me to the crack willow. We have two large crack willows by the front pond. These two mature trees are certainly living up to their names and great cracks have appeared in them. When we had them pollarded a few years ago we used some of their off-cuts to create a perch for the chickens. Small but sturdy, bare branches they were. We dug a hole and secured two vertically and lay one one horizontally between them. The two vertical ones now have shoots coming off that are taller than me.
Down the bottom of the field we have the Common Osier willow (Salix viminalis), the willow traditionally used for basket weaving. Apparently this is also a vigorous willow so I'm looking forward to see how it gets on this year. At the moment they're like long, thin, yellow sticks.
And finally, the Scarlet Willow (Salix alba 'Chermesina' or ' Britzensi). A sapling we bought for their striking colours. Sadly only one took, so I'm going to try and take cuttings for new trees.
In fact, I'm constantly taking cuttings for new trees. So easy to do. And, you can't have enough willows, right?