That white thing is a squirrel - believe it or not
You will see that a week off from writing my blog has done little to improve my sense of humour but all the same it’s good to be back. I shan't try to recount the events of Christmas but the white squirrel I saw in my garden and the unseasonal warmth are certainly worth a mention. Albino squirrels aren't desperately rare but as I've only seen about half a dozen in my life they remain something of a curiosity to me. I saw the creature on the 27th, a day which was so warm, that having walked outside in my T-shirt I didn't even consider being chilly. A blackbird sung exultantly from the holly tree and with the sun streaming through the spindly ashes it felt disturbingly like a spring day. Above the dilapidated brick shed I noticed movement in the tall oaks and within seconds I saw a streak of white spiralling down the trunk. Recognising immediately what it was I grabbed the camera and went for a closer look. The white squirrel had three companions in normal attire, almost certainly it’s siblings and the four of them were absorbed in gambolling play which took them up and down the trees in hot pursuit, leaping into the canopy of neighbouring chestnuts and right down to the ground on occasions. I managed to remain unnoticed for some time but despite being rather close failed to get a decent photo with our rather small camera. The temptation to fetch my gun and turn the curiosity into a miniature rug was strong but I resisted in the hope of being able to watch it again another day. Em was also un-keen on the animal's destruction but I suspect she'll change her mind in a few months if it ends up eating her strawberries!
As already mentioned the weather has been warm, too warm and I was filled with a genuine unease to observe swarms of bluebottles sunning on the kennel door and bees flying from my hives on the same morning I saw the squirrel. It's not only that the maggots will ruin the ferret grub, or that by breaking their cluster and searching in vain for spring flowers my bees might starve, the weather simply feels wrong! The grass has barely stopped growing this winter and in the last couple of days I have seen a spring flowering Azalea in full bloom and the buds of our Camellia beginning to burst into scarlet bloom. Small surprise then, that 2011 has been announced as the second warmest year on record, with an average day temperature of 9°C.
The mountains of logs in our garden, covered with tatty tarpaulins are being eroded fast and Dad and I spent the whole day splitting and stacking Apple wood in readiness for cutting. If the image of two rustics swinging large axes sprung to mind, I am sorry to disappoint. There were two rustics certainly, but operating a mechanical splitter mounted on the back of a tractor. The machine is simplicity itself - a metal girder fitted with a wedge at one end and a hydraulic ram (a big one from a JCB) at the other. It may not be pretty but the fact it can crack a 3 foot length of knotted apple with the pull of a lever, makes it beautiful to me. Before we had the contraption made, everything was split by hand and although back then I rather relished the challenge of a four ton load, I'm afraid to say I don't miss it now.