Tuesday, October 28, 2014

a nest among the prickles


IMG_1961A week or so after we got back from our winter break up north I had a mega tantrum.

I think it started when I went down to check the asparagus patch only to find it waist high in prickly weeds. The very same thing happened in the raspberries and the strawberries. After that I was a mess. I wandered around the farm with tears streaming down my face for hours. I felt overwhelmed, out of control and completely hopeless.

It felt like we had left this place in the depths of winter and while we'd been gone the sun had come out, warmed the earth and everything had shot up and taken over. It felt like in another few months we would be like Sleeping Beauty in that fairy tale where she goes to sleep in her castle and the vines and creepers grow up and cover her home until no one knows there is anyone or anything there at all. It felt like it would take us weeks and months to get on top of all the vines and thistles and that was precious time we didn't have considering it was the start of spring and things needed to be planted.

So I wandered and wept. And I wept and wandered.

And after a while my farmer boy came and wandered with me and tried to console me and make practical plans for mowing and slashing. He would put in a few days on his tractor and I would follow behind with the brush cutter. It would be hard work but he promised we would see results quickly.

But the truth is that I knew then that we were having the same conversation but thinking two different things.

In my head I was planning a war on weeds. I would spend as much time as it took to get this place in order. I would slash from sun-up to sun-down. I would prioritise it and I would be super proud when in a few months or weeks time I would stand back and look at our manicured farm.

On the other hand I knew that my farmer boy was thinking a very different thought. He would happily mow the orchards and clean up a bit around the place, but he didn't see the horror story that I did. To him weeds aren't the sworn enemy but another part of the farm's ecosystem. He certainly doesn't want them to take over and bury us, but he doesn't want to eradicate them all together either.

So we did as we planned, we spent a few days mowing and cleaning up this place and almost immediately I felt better. I felt like I could breathe. I felt like I could cope.



But then this morning as we were walking from the house down to the bottom garden to gather some rhubarb and asparagus and broad beans for lunch, we decided to check in on the hazelnut orchard to check for fruit set. And there, under a tree, tucked into the prickliest blackberry bush there ever was, was the most beautiful little nest. A nest for a tiny bird. A nest for a bird that needs undergrowth for it's habitat and undergrowth is not really something that our local forests, having been disturbed over many years, provide.

And as we walked down and then back up the hill for lunch I opened my eyes further and saw this place differently all over again. Not so much overgrown but biodiverse.

We're thinking the nest we found is probably a fantail nest and I'm thinking good thoughts about that fantail family living happily in our hazelnut orchard. I'm also thinking about picking those hazelnuts and eating those hazelnuts and cooking with those hazelnuts come autumn-time, fingers crossed for a good harvest.

Fingers crossed I can keep seeing the habitat and move onto other pressing farm jobs.

I hope your fairy tale castle has a clear way in my friends.

Love Kate xx


  1. Kate, I so understand your dilemma. We have an acre of ground and have always tried to let it keep a fine balance between wildness and cultivation to let nature have her space. Brambles and nettles grow a mile a minute here and circumstances, including sudden serious illness for my chap which has limited his capacity for physical work, has meant the garden has tipped the balance. Our house was empty for 7 years before we moved in, and really was a Sleeping Beauty situation. It took 12 of us two days of hard work to clear it back to manage to carve out our vegetable patch. At the weekend some clearing took place in our forest garden area and although there is lots more to be done, I absolutely know what you mean about feeling you can breathe again. That little nest is a joy and a reminder of what is important in the balance we all need to keep in our gardens and in our lives. Enjoy those hazelnuts, We have planted many and a walnut tree, but rarely get any nuts because our squirrels get to them first!!! Have a lovely day! Elaine x

  2. It is a tricky one we have wild parts to our fields but I swing between wanting to hedge them up and then wanting to let them be. I think you will feel different on different days. Beautiful nest. Jo x

  3. It just takes a little bit of beauty to put our world right...


  4. i love you and the way you can articulate your heart in words and images.

  5. Doesn't Michael Pollan write beautifully on weeds? My creaky brain remembers snippets...here, I've googled the link Kate, I'm sure you will have read this.(I'll reacquaint myself with it). http://michaelpollan.com/articles-archive/weeds-are-us/

  6. Nature is a wonderful thing isn't it.Sometimes I think it has magical powers.

  7. I love reading your words & realizing that I am not the only one who "loses" it over such things. When things tend to overwhelm us, sometimes a good cleansing cry is good for the soul - and a hubby that helps clear out the weeds =) cheers to finding peace inside the chaos

  8. That sounds so much like my and my husband's thoughts on the weeds in our garden. I imagine it be totally weed free and immiculate. He says he has cleared all the weeds but I know they are still there! We could never eradicate them all so he's right just to 'keep on top of them'.

  9. What a magical nest. I think the fact that your farm can house such special things is a blessing - but on some days it is easier to see blessings than on others! Jane x

  10. That nest is beautiful. The feeling of being overwhelmed by weeds, housework, jobwork is awful, glad you are feeling better.

  11. I have been feeling overwhelmed by our weeds too and just all the gardening work to be done. It is a fine balance though, because some weeds are so great: fat hen and nettle are two of my favourites, but when they threaten to overwhelm your carefully planted and nurtured vege and flower beds, and orchard, it's another thing altogether! Have you read Richard Mabey's 'Weeds'. I think that book helped me to like them a bit more, and Grubb & Raser-Rowland's excellent 'Weed Forager's Handbook' (for Australian weeds) helped me to see the amazing edible possibilities out there. The little nest is just beautiful!

  12. Cute little nest, and great to have a husband with a plan. We're about to move to ten acres, I'm getting a little bit scared now. Clearly we have no idea what we're in for. Learning curve here we come!

  13. I forgot to cover my dill plants the other night and the snails ate them off at ground level. They also ate most of my cinnamon basil and my entire thyme and entire spearmint. It's a struggle sometimes!

  14. It is amazing what goodness you can find in the weeds. xx

  15. What an absolutely lovely post. As a fellow Gardner I get the war on weeds but as a forestry major I understand the need for every ecosystem including brushy weeds. What an amazing find that nest was in the weeds.

  16. how absolutely FLIPPING adorable are fantail nests!
    they are the cutest, yet most impractical nests of all, surely?
    i found one last weekend on my parents farm and then nearly died of cuteness.

    i hope the forest is clear from the weeds now too ;)



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Kate XX

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