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The blog banner photo has changed. That can mean only one thing: we’re in a Swiss Spring.

 The spring is sprung

The grass is riz

I wonder where the boidies is?

The little boids are on the wing.

No that’s absoid – the wings are on the boid.

 Thank you Ogden Nash – or someone! I see this Bronx Spring Poem’s authorship is disputed. 

Actually – the birds are  all here, in our little garden. It took no more than two minutes after we’d hung the birdseed feeder up before the Meisli (our great friends the great tits) and sparrows had discovered we were back in residence.

These are the familiar old rituals of settling in. First the welcome banner, stuck up by Roman and Margrit before they came to the airport to pick us up. Then a decent pause while we got the water and gas on, took a little nap, got the bird-feeder up, and suddenly the gang’s all here.

and so it begins... and so it goes...

and so it begins… and so it goes…

Next step – get mobile. A Christmas gale had whipped the covers off the car, even though we had wrapped it tighter than a parcel all tied up with string – so we had a slight worry that it might have taken cold and not want to start. You know that kind of background niggle that you don’t express for fear of making it real? No worries! Mani connected the battery, turned the key, and the little old Rio started as if it were not seven months we’d left her standing there. There’s a great system here: when the car’s going to be off the road, you take its number plates off and hand them in to the insurance company. Insurance suspended. You get your plates back when you want to put the car back on the road – and a refund for the unused portion of your insurance premium.

Under the kiwifruit vine, the Lane Patented Compost Maker

Under the kiwifruit vine, the Lane Patented Compost Maker

Next step – beautify! Refresh the soil in the pots and get planting. Compost-making here is a breeze: the winter does all the work.

While we’re here, the kitchen and garden scraps go into the improvised compost-maker, which is just a couple of metres of weed-mat inside a piece of old wire fencing. Come the end of the season I tuck it up with a nice layer of fallen leaves. In spring – voila – compost!.

Tip it out onto a tarp – add last year’s pot-soil and a bit of fertilizer – mix well… and get planting again.


But – amongst all these familiar rituals, something new!

IMG_9869_1A squirrel has discovered the bird-feeder. It’s a little red squirrel, and it is making itself at home.

I’d only seen squirrels as a furry blur streaking up trees as we bike through the woods, so when this one appeared, sashaying out on a branch of the gingko and reaching for the source of the sunflower seeds, I was tiptoeing and whispering to Mani to come and see.

No need. This is a squirrel that knows what’s what, and wants what’s to be got.

Easy pickings are the seeds the birds have dropped on the ground. Equally easy – being such a delightful surprise that friends and neighbours rush off and get walnuts and peanuts to add to the banquet. But when the easy pickings are done, it needs to go out on the limb, and try to extricate the seeds from the feeder.   IMG_9856_1


Or knock the lid off the feeder and try to reach inside.

Or knock the feeder off the tree and spill the goodies on the ground.IMG_9881_1

We got mean. We rewired the feeder on a wire much longer than the squirrel’s reach, so the birds would get their share. They’ve got demanding young to feed. I watched yesterday as our furry friend tried several paths of attack: out this branch – out that. No – it couldn’t reach.   Yet today when we came back to the house, the lid was on the ground. There’d been no wind.

I suspect a leap from branch to feeder. This is going to require some serious deck-chair time, watching.

People are not a problem... except when they're more interested in a book than offering food!

People are not a problem… except when they’re more interested in a book than offering food!

The ingenuity of little wild things amazes us. A couple of winters ago, mice got into an outside cupboard where we keep the sunflower seeds. As we uncovered the bikes in spring, we found Mani’s possum-skin bike-seat cover had had some fur plucked. Then we found a number of sunflower seeds under the bike-seat cover. Imagine… a mouse climbing up the frame of a bicycle – not many claw-grips there – and smuggling a supply of food up inside an elasticised bike-seat cover. And not once, but several times. I hope it had a totally luxurious winter, snuggled in possum-fur, supping on sunflower-seeds. It deserved to.

First visit ... and realisation that this visitor wasn't going to rush off without getting what it had come for.