A Very Mini Pond

It all started with a bee drinker. We are always being told that bees need water to drink in hot weather and every year I put some out for them. This year I had placed it on top of the stump of a tree that had been felled before we moved here, but then I decided to put it on the ground at the base of the stump so that our regularly visiting hedgehog could also have a drink.

This got me thinking about some more permanent arrangement such as a mini wildlife pond. Now hubby is not a fan of garden ponds so this was going to have to be something acceptable to him. It needed to be fairly small, preferably in a container of some sort and then there was the problem of where to site it. After much thought I decided the ideal place was at the base of our rockery where it is retained from the patio by a low wall which the ‘pond’ could sit behind.

Mini pond trialFor a container I remembered an imitation wood (plastic/resin) mini half-barrel which had originally been a small water feature on the rockery until the pump broke, at which point I had got hubby to drill some drainage holes in the bottom so that I could use it as a planter. This year I had not planted it up with anything but there was the small problem of the holes in the bottom. So hubby squirted some waterproof caulking glue into the holes and when it was dry I set it in position to see how it would look. I left it in position overnight and during the night it rained. In the morning there was about half an inch of water in the bottom. When I next went out to look, an hour or so later it was dry – obviously it was leaking. Hubby decided that the caulking stuff he had used was probably past its sell-by date and we would have to think again.

So it was back to the drawing board and I was re-thinking the whole project. Was this container big enough? Could I find another? Was that the best place for it? etc. etc. I spoke to my daughter-in-law (they have a proper garden pond, which my son built), mainly to scrounge a few small water plants and she told me that they still had some spare pond-liner if I wanted to do a bigger project. I didn’t think it would go down well but I ran it past hubby.  The answer? No, stick to plan ‘A’ and he would fibre-glass over the holes.

One week later the project was back on track with the original container. The plan was to place water plants through the holes in the covered section where the original pump had sat. This area would also provide some shade. I bought some aquarium gravel to go in the bottom and we were in business. It is preferable to fill ponds with rain-water but meanwhile we had had a problem with our full water butt – it was leaning over where the paving slab it sat on had sunk at one side. We had to empty the butt to solve the problem and all the water was sent down the drain as we had nowhere to store it – so no rain water! Second best is to leave some tap water overnight in a bucket or large bowl in order for the chemicals to evaporate and this is what I did.

nearly finished pondLast Friday I visited my daughter-in-law to collect a couple of small water plants. I set the container in place, filled and planted it up, adding some floating weed for purification (which came along with resident water-snail purely by chance!). The stones have been added to act as a bee/bug drinking platform and also to give access for ‘Spike’ the hedgehog to easily drink.

On Saturday morning I woke up to find that a Life Guard had turned up for duty, though Health and Safety would not be impressed as he was not wearing any headgear to protect him from the sun and nor was there a life ring for him to throw for critters in difficulty. However this was soon rectified and the pond is now complete and fully Health and Safety compliant. Some landscaping around it has been done but a little more is still needed. Hopefully, despite its miniature size, some wildlife will find it soon. When I commented to hubby that it may be a bit small to attract much do you know what he said? “You could have made a bigger one!” Sometimes you just can’t win. Maybe in another part of the garden…

Life Guard on duty

 

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Watering

Much needed
gentle rain falls
watering my seeds;
wildflower meadow
for the bees.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I have been regularly visiting the patch of wildflower meadow that I have sewn in our field to water the seeds during a dry spell. It is good to have a day off today!

Meanwhile I apologise if I seem to have not visited other blogs lately, I am having trouble with WordPress either reacting very slowly or not at all. I have visited but am often unable to comment or even ‘like’ posts. Let’s hope this problem is sorted soon.

Wild Flower Meadow

I had a busy day yesterday hence no time to post here. What was I doing? Well further to last week’s post, which you can read here, about the bee hive arriving at our field and my plans to create a wildflower meadow for their benefit and that of other species too, I ordered some wildflower meadow mix online which arrived on Saturday. Although sewing is best in the spring or autumn with the infilling method I am using sewing at any time is possible, so yesterday was spent preparing the site and sewing the seeds.

You will recall that I mentioned I would start with just the bare area where a shipping container used for storage had stood. Our soil at the field is clay and the removal of the container had left a hard packed, dry and cracked surface:

 

Field Bare Patch

This patch is next to another container which is still in situ and likely to be for some time yet. When that is also removed we will also be reseeding this area with the same mix. It was quite hard work breaking up all the clay clumps and we were glad of the volunteered help from a friend. Once we had a reasonable surface broken down, with the help of a little strategic dampening of the ground, I was able to broadcast the seed.

Perpared patch

I had only got some of the seed sewn when I ran out. I had obviously underestimated the amount needed. When I say ran out I mean of the seed we had taken up there – I had left half of it at home, so it was back home for lunch and then I went up to the field to finish the job on my own. Unfortunately when I got there I found that I had forgotten to pick up the seed so had to return the home yet again for the seed! By then it had turned into a hot day and so by the time I had finished I was really sweating.

While I was at it I took the opportunity to also sew some of the seed on a second small bare patch beside the fence where an old railway sleeper (now on top of the stack pictured) had lain for some time. Then I gently watered them all in. I was rather pleased that we also had some gentle rain during the night.

As I was packing up to go home the bee keeper turned up to check his bees and to start the process of slow transition into the permanent hive by inserting the first proper layer underneath the nook hive. I left him to it as I wanted to get home to watch Johanna Konta, the last British tennis player standing at Wimbledon, progress to the quarter finals.

It is going to be next spring before we can hope to see the results of our labours but I can’t wait. I shall be monitoring the sight carefully, especially during dry periods in order to prevent the clay from drying and cracking up again, so that the seeds have a good chance to get hold. Once I am sure this project is going to be successful I will see about creating patches a bit at a time in the existing grassland to reseed with wildflower mix and gradually transform the fenced off area of the field into a wildflower meadow – at least that’s the plan!

Little Things

Clothes drying in the breeze,
the dappled shade of trees,
the gentle hum of bees.
Little things like these
never fail to please.

In Place


Bee hive

Bee hive now in place
in the corner of the field.
Anticipation.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

This morning my local bee keeper brought his ‘nook’ hive up to our field and set it up. A ‘nook’ hive is a small temporary hive in which to establish a colony. In a few days he will return to check on progress and then, if all is well, begin the transfer to a proper hive. On being let out the bees circled around close to the hive to familiarise themselves with their new surroundings and by the time of his next visit he will be able to see if they are returning to the hive and bringing in pollen. He expects to be able to tell if it is going to be a viable location within a few weeks so fingers crossed.

I had a good look round while I was up there with him and I am pleased to say there are a few brambles in the hedge along the roadside and may be more along the edges of the cattle/hay field, so hopefully if I take up some cuttings to plant they should take hold. I also noted that there were a few butterflies and hover flies settling on the clover and buttercups that are already in the field and this too is a good sign. Next job is to order the flower meadow seed and plan the sewing, although it will take at least until next year for positive results so I’m hoping there will be enough to keep the bees on site while the meadowland becomes established.

Bees

I have mentioned here before that we used to run a small-holding. Several years ago we ‘down-sized’, selling the house and some of the land whilst retaining a 9-acre field with a big new barn. We moved a mile down the road into the nearby small town. In the 9-acre field we fenced an area from the road gate down to behind the barn plus a bit and the rest of the field we now let to the neighbouring farmer for cattle gazing and hay making. The fenced-off area has an opening (which can be closed off) into the field that we sold with the house so that the sheep that graze there from time to time can also graze around the barn to keep the grass down.

Over the last few years I have often thought of finding a beekeeper to keep one or two hives on our field. We are always hearing how much the bees need our help and have been keen to do my bit – short of learning to keep bees myself! Earlier in the year I turned this idea into action and advertised to see if anyone was interested in having a hive or two on our land. I eventually had one reply, from someone with whom we are already acquainted but who I hadn’t thought to ask directly! After various communication problems, not helped by our long absence in the spring, we eventually managed to get together and meet up at the field last Friday to discuss the proposal.

To say I was a little disappointed in that he didn’t seem over enthusiastic about the possibilities is a bit of an understatement. It just shows how naïve a lay person can be. We had grassed the land many years ago after it had been used for a cereal crop and the grass mix contained clover – ideal for bees one thinks. No. Apparently the clover in modern grass mixes is good for fixing nitrogen in the soil but does not produce the right sort of nectar that bees like. Modern farming methods and grassland management are bee sterile and I do have to admit there is not much in the way of wild flowers in and around our field. He was not particularly hopeful that the bees would do well there, but he has a hive that is about ready to move onto a site and is prepared to give it a go for a season.

The upshot of this is that this morning my husband and youngest son have been fencing off the bottom part of the fenced-off area so that the sheep will not knock over any hives that might be there and with a bit of luck the first hive should arrive within a week, although the honey season is practically over for this year.

I have now been giving much thought to how to make the area more honey bee friendly. To be fair there are a few houses opposite and up the lanes near-by that have nice flowery gardens and I know that some the occupants of at least one of these houses has had a beehive in the garden in the past. Our field has damson and elderberry in the hedge which should provide some spring foraging and I noticed that in the hedge between our barn and our previously owned field there is some dog-rose growing. The beekeeper bemoaned the lack of bramble, which apparently is good for the bees, so I am thinking of collecting some bramble with roots from our home garden (where I can’t get rid of it!) and planting it in the hedges up at the field. Will it take? I don’t know. I don’t know why such a ubiquitous ‘weed’ doesn’t grow there anyway, so this will be something of an experiment.

Additionally I am researching into ways to turn the fenced-off area into a wildlife meadow, starting with the smaller area we have just fenced round for the hive and expanding it if it works. It looks like this is the right time to do it as September-October, I understand, is a good time to sew the seeds. I can order mixes on-line for the clay soil of our field which can be sewn in existing grassland (no need to plough up and prepare the soil). However you do still need to create ‘bare’ patches by raking or harrowing over the ground.

As it happens we already have a bare patch where, until recently, an old shipping container used for storage was standing – I just need to loosen the soil and, before any unwanted weeds get hold, sew the mix there for a quick and easy start-up. I can’t wait to get started and am really excited about the idea of creating a new area of traditional wild-flower meadowland for birds and butterflies as well as, of course, the honey bees.

Bees

September.
Bright sunshine,
warm as summer.
Bees gather late pollen.
Harvest.

Busy Bees

Bees busily buzzing
around the Cotoneaster blossom;
contentedly murmuring the promise
of honey filled hives.

Clover

Bees work the front lawn
attracted by clover patch.
Mowing put on hold.

Early Bees

In the strong wind
the spring flowers tremble
as if to shake off the attentions
of the early bees.

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