Hedgehog news!

Hedgehog Sleeping in our Garden. All rights reserved (www.owlingabout.co.uk)

This evening thunder rumbles so close overhead that we can feel the vibrations through the floor, and lightening illuminates the inside of our house like someone taking a photograph. Thick clouds cover the sky and rain pours down. Our garden bench, where we sat in the sunshine last week to do Finch’s reading, is dark with wet. 

I can’t think how old the Biff, Chip and Kipper Oxford Reading Tree books must be. I learnt to read with Peter, Jane, and Pat the Dog but I think my sister may have had the newer books. So that would be early eighties then…and still going strong! As we sat there last week, sounding out the story of Biff, Chip and Kipper’s move to a new house, we heard a funny snoring sound coming from the flower bed where we put the pond. What on earth could it be? 

At first we ignored it but the noise carried on, so we peered carefully through the flowers to find this little chap having a snooze. You can imagine the kids’ delight at a real live hedgehog catching forty winks in the sunshine, right there in front of us! We were spell bound. Maybe he liked the story or maybe he had come for our new pond. Who knows, but we were very happy to see him. He stayed for quite a while, turning over now and again or moving into the shade when he got too hot. We all hope he comes back soon. 

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Early days

carpet moth, UK, Epirrhoe alternata, day-flying moth

Here is a carpet moth I found cleverly camouflaged in the alley beside our house. Not to be confused with Tineola moths, whose larvae eat clothes and carpets. Epirrhoe alternata is called the Common Carpet moth because it looks like a patterned carpet, rather than because it eats them. I suppose they are real flying carpets! I have no idea if this is a common carpet or one of the other many carpets. Their patterns are quite variable. They are day-flying moths but you are most likely to see them flying around dusk. 

We have had golden mornings here. I am glad of the soft and mellow feeling to the days as I travel to work and get to grips with e-rosters, door codes, smart cards and a list of e-learnings the length of my arm. Everyone is kind and helpful, and aware of how overwhelming these first days of a new job are. 

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Half term

Starting a new job during half term was possibly not the best idea I have ever had. I shall return with news but for now, I’m off to bed…Zzzzzzz

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Bluebells

It’s official. I have passed! Now it’s over to the NMC (Nursing and Midwifery Council) to issue me with my PIN and I will be back on the register. I start my job as a District Nurse next Tuesday, working initially as an unregistered member of staff until I get the okay from the NMC.

In other news, Wren and I put together our pond last week. We went off to the garden centre to buy our supplies. After a very necessary detour to the café for a cup of milk and a scone to share, we made off with our purchases. There’s loads of things to think about with even a little pond. It’s great if you can site it where there’s a bit of shade but not too much. The odd over-hanging branch, dipping into the water, is helpful for insects to get in and out, but there shouldn’t be too much overhanging vegetation. It’s also great to have stones leading up to the pond, and some submerged under the water, to help wildlife access the pond. We bought a couple of ornamental plants and some elodea pond weed to help oxygenate the water too. Wren is keeping all her fingers and toes crossed for a frog to take up residence.

And lastly, look at this…blankets of bluebells! This is a place called Emsworthy Mire on Dartmoor. We went this weekend and it was just glorious. I consider those to be public service bluebells, getting you off to a good start on your Monday morning.

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Blue tits

The most exciting thing has happened. There are blue tits nesting in the bird box we put up on our gable end! We have seen the parents flying in and out, and when our bedroom window is open there is a constant chirping sound to be heard.

Blue tits. Common as mud you might say. Sadly, not for us. Some of you may remember the disastrous RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch we did when we first moved to this house. The odd seagull flew high above but other than that, all we saw was cat after cat after cat. We haven’t done one since.

Since then we have planted trees and shrubs and climbers. We put up the bird box and we have a feeder, always kept well stocked with seeds.  We now have goldfinches, sparrows and wood pigeons visiting our garden. The occasional blackbird pops in, and now the blue tits. We are thrilled to bits. We still long for a robin but we’re well on the way!

In other wildlife news there has been pooey evidence of a hedgehog visiting our garden again, and the swifts have returned. They screeched over my head between the rooftops as I walked to pick up Little Owl from Brownies yesterday evening. Summer is here folks!

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Waiting

Nursing bits and bobs by Hannah Foley. All rights reserved (www.owlingabout.co.uk)I’m in a funny period of waiting. I have a provisional start date for my job but nothing can move forward until the wheels of officialdom at the university have cranked out a proclamation of fitness to practice. In the meantime I continue to work away on various writing and illustration projects, and have been looking through my old nursing bits and pieces. Is there a word for these symbolic things that go with particular professions? Items that act as signifiers as well as having some sort of function.

In the picture above you can see my pin badges from when I first qualified and an old name badge. There’s my notebook of ‘Vital Information’ for quick reference when I couldn’t remember the difference between Prothrombin Time, Partial Prothrombin Time, and Activated Partial Prothrombin Time at 2 o’clock in the morning. It also contained all those random but essential bits of institutional information which no one ever taught you but you were some how supposed ‘know’, perhaps by osmosis, such as the times of the pharmacy delivery rounds. You can see my precious artery forceps there too. They look innocuous, but got me out of some real scrapes.

In amongst my own, I have some of my Nan’s things. She qualified from Barts in the 30s, later working at the prestigious Moorfields Eye Hospital. I can’t imagine what it must have been like working as a nurse pre-NHS. You can see her nursing dictionary, held together with bandage tape, and her belt buckle. It’s funny to think how many times in one shift I must have repeated the same tasks as she had, separated by decades.

And so I continue to wait, glad of precious time to get ahead on edits or even start a first draft of a new book (!), all the while eyeing my provisional start date with an uneasy mixture of excitement and trepidation.

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Coming or going?

hannah foley, illustrator, writer, children's author, allotment, gardening, leucanthmum, children's birthday, children's fiction, elections, pond, Wilder Future, RHS, Wild about Gardens, ponds, Wildlife TrustsI can’t tell whether I’m coming or going this week. At the weekend we hosted thirty eight of Finch’s friends in our local church hall for his fifth birthday party. There was a bouncy castle and a face painter and lots of food. I’m still reeling but he had a blast. Then school was closed today in order to host a polling station for the local elections. I took the kids over to a nearby garden centre to order a small half barrel to make a little pond in our garden. It’s going to be located in the middle of a dense flower bed so that Wren can’t accidentally drown herself in it. We have been inspired by the Wilder Future campaign from the Wildlife Trusts and the Wild about Gardens pond campaign from the RHS, asking people to take small individual actions where they are to help wildlife. If it goes well we’re may even expand and create a second at the allotment! I know, I know, getting ahead of myself again!

These Leucanthemum have appeared out of nowhere on the allotment and just settled themselves perfectly in a big bunch between my bug hotel and the weed bin. I wish more of my uninvited plant incomers were so polite.

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A single spear

I hope you all had a lovely Easter and got to enjoy some of the sunshine. We headed up to Yorkshire and sweltered in our woolly jumpers, entirely unprepared for the heatwave. We had a great time but at the back of my mind I couldn’t help worrying about was happening to my seedlings in the greenhouse at the allotment. I imagined them all limp and scorched. My dad kindly nipped over and gave everything a water so that in the end I only lost a couple of pea plants. And look what else came up over the bank holiday…an asparagus spear!

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Underground squirrels

Little Owl was wondering aloud over dinner, who was in charge of our house. Apparently they had always thought it was mummy, but then mummy got herself locked in at the allotment and daddy had to rescue her, so it couldn’t be mummy after all. Daddy then? Ha, no. God? The government? Finch frowned with concentration. This required deep consideration. Suddenly he leapt out of his chair. He had it! The underground squirrels!

He was absolutely, deadly serious, so we all stared at him for about ten seconds. Then Big Dreamer rubbed his chin, and conceded that sometimes a curveball would come your way in life, and who was to say it wasn’t thrown by underground squirrels? So there you have it. Underground squirrels everyone. If you’re ever in doubt, blame the underground squirrels.

I shall leave you with that thought and wish you a very Happy Easter.

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A peaceful lull

The children have finished school for the Easter holidays and I have handed in my last assignment for my course. I have the promise of a job with the district nursing team I have been working with, once I get my results and my registration comes through. It seemed as though I might be embarking on a peaceful lull in proceedings. Ha! Well, we can’t have that now, can we? Goodness, a lull? I might start to get complacent that I had this whole ‘life’ thing all wrapped up. I had better get myself locked in at the allotment just to shake things up a bit.

So that is what I did. I had walked over to the allotment precariously ladened with plants. There are high metal fences, topped with barbed wire all around the allotment site. It sounds awful but it really isn’t. It’s such a big site that once you’re inside you barely notice it. It’s a real shame that some people see an allotment site as an opportunity for vandalism and theft but there we are. Don’t talk to my dad about it or he’ll splutter about amputation serving as a useful deterrent. Anyway, back to the story…

I put my plants down and realised the allotment key wasn’t attached to the rest of my bundle. Big Dreamer had forgotten to put it back when he had dropped off a load of manure (of course it wouldn’t be me who had forgotten). Fortunately, someone was coming out of the gate and they let me in. There were plenty of people about and it was a lovely spring evening. I thought I would easily be able to find someone to let me out again when the time came. I went merrily on my way and got engrossed in what I was doing. When I looked up, the evening had darkened and the air had grown chilly. I suddenly realised that there wasn’t another soul on the site. Everyone had gone and I was the last one left!

Well, you can imagine my panic. My phone was on the charger at home and as I walked the perimeter I realised how high those fences really were. Just at that moment a couple of teenage girls, dolled up to the nines with false nails and eyelashes, walked past. Did either of them have their phone on them and could I use it? They looked at me with absolute incomprehension. I could tell that my predicament hadn’t registered with them at all because they were still so gobsmacked at the idea of someone wanting to grow things in. the. ground (OMG!). They had no credit it turned out, but, if truth be told, they didn’t want to get too close in case this gardening thing turned out to be an infectious condition.

I began wondering what it would be like to bed down in the shed, and what time of the night Big Dreamer might notice I hadn’t returned when a saving angel jogged past. The angel was in fact a lycra-clad, middle-aged lady called Lou, who also happened to have a very dry sense of humour. She held up the phone to the fence so I could speak to Big Dreamer and said she would be running back that way in twenty minutes. If I hadn’t got out by then, she would get me out somehow, or else feed me morsels through the wire so I didn’t starve! Thankfully, Big Dreamer turned up not long after. The wonderful Lou text later on to make sure I was alright and hadn’t been eaten by wolves. Big Dreamer reassured her that I was fine, and they proceeded to text back and forth, imagining with great hilarity, all the ways I could have potentially saved myself, including bribing the resident allotment rabbit to dig me out. How glad I was to be such a source of entertainment (I hope you can hear the sarcasm).

Here are tulip photos from my mum’s birthday outing. The displays were gorgeous and looking at them is helping me get over my allotment key trauma.

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