Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Visitors to Lantallack

Just thought you all might like to see a typical day at Lantallack and with feathered visitors and what not!

Rooks at 5am in the Hay Meadow - what's the saying?? 'See crows, them's rooks.  See a rook - tha's a crow' other words, rooks are generally in a 'parliament' and crows on their own!
Getaway from it all at Lantallack

The view across the valley at midday

This chap is cheeky and pinches all the peanuts from outside the kitchen window - we've nicknamed him 'Cyril'

This too is a greedy chappy...but we love him - see how he doesn't just eat the nuts, he has just about demolished the feeder!

Okay, this is just one of the several swarms of bees that we have had to deal with this is amazing to watch them march into a newly prepared hive...

We took about 60 lbs of honey this year...we'll be putting them to bed in a few weeks, making sure that they have enough stores to last them through the out for my bee blog!

Can you spy this visitor in the middle of the water lillies?  He's very fond of looking at himself in car mirrors....guess?

Can someone tell me what this is...I think it may be a Hawkmoth, but not sure??  I found it in the tunnel amongst the tomatoes a few weeks ago.

And at the end of the day the sun goes down....

and down.....

and finally sinks behind Padderbury Hill - the iron age hill fort on the opposite side of the valley.

And then we all go to bed....this was a harvest moon in early September

          ....happy days at Lantallack.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013



Jenny, Rowena and I hosted an owl pellet inspection day on 31st August.  Jenny explained all about the different owls that were present at Lantallack - tawny owls, barn owls and the little owl (which sadly hasn't been seen for a couple of years) and exactly what an owl pellet was.  

Owls, like many other birds, eat their food whole. Since birds do not have teeth, they can't chew their food, so they use their strong, sharp beaks to rip their prey apart (very often voles, small rabbits, moles etc) and then swallow large chunks whole. The owl slowly digests its meal by separating the softer materials (such as meat) from the harder material (such as bones). It then regurgitates the harder material      along with indigestible items such as feathers and fur in the form of a pellet. 

Jenny brought her stuffed Barn owl which is so beautiful... and weightless.... with stunning feathers.

We have had a Barn owl in our big bank barn for quite a while and over the last year I have been collecting his pellets and putting them in my studio.

Jenny and Rowena soaked the owl pellets for an hour or two to make them easier for everyone to dissect.  When the children (and adults - who couldn't resist joining in!) began to break them up to search for the bones of the tiny animals the owl had eaten, they just fell apart and what they found was so exciting!

Lots of vole skulls, thigh bones, hip bones, jaws teeth etc. is a vole's skeleton. 

Obviously there are plenty of voles around here - especially in the orchard where it doesn't get heavily grazed and large tufts of grass become 'des res' (desirable residence) for voles.  They particularly love burrowing down at the roots of the apple trees, where they can munch their way through (amongst other things) the fallen apples.  Like many rodents, they are scavengers and eat what they can. Their diet can vary because they eat what is available. Diets can include grasses, plants, bulbs, seeds, roots, flowers, leaves, bark and insects. 

So after they had finished pulling their pellets apart, everyone was exhausted, so we decided to go down into the orchard and look for voles habitat.

All in all, it was a very enjoyable day!!!!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

A lovely snippet in the life of our Chief Mrs Beekeeper, Nicky:

After a bitterly cold month, we decided it was time to try and help the poor bees by giving them a feed of sugar syrup...not always a good idea if it is cold as it will encourage the little critters to get out of the hive to go foraging for themselves and they can end up dying.  It's not that the bees haven't been trying to come out....they have been snatching moments when the sun comes out, but the wind has been so cold so they have rushed back to the hive.  Amazingly, Andrew says he has seen yellow pollen on their legs, which means they have been venturing to the rape fields near Trewandra, 1 mile away.

This time last year we were adding supers as the bees had been busy since early March...such a different scenario...we were panicking that the bees would swarm they were increasing so quickly.

Not so this year...Trevor our bee man has already lost half his colony...this didn't bode well for our bees and I approached with trepidation  (sadly Andrew was badly stung last year and has to be careful not to come in close contact, so it was over to me).  

I tipped the containers of syrup upside down to create an air lock in readiness, so that the poor bees would not drown when I eventually placed the feeders on top.  Having removed the lids off the hives, I proceeded to remove the huge woollen fleeces that had been protecting the bees throughout the winter.  Gingerly I took off my glove to feel the crown board and was so happy to discover it was really warm...a good sign that the bees are raising brood ( they increase the temperature inside to protect the babes) ....hoorah !!  It was now time to pick up the feeder and quickly slide it over the hole in the board, and at the same to push away the tile that had kept the bees inside for the last 6 months, in one fell swoop, so as not to let the bees out.  Thankfully the operation went smoothly and both hives are now being fed.  And the good news is the weather is supposed to be improving this coming weekend, so if the bees do decide to start foraging big time, I think they'll be OK.

Fingers crossed....will let you know next month.

Monday, January 14, 2013

A Happy Wassailing to you all!

After last year's dismal weather and apple crop yield, we felt it was only right that Sir Robert Geffery's School help us start off 2013 in the best way possible; yes, you've guessed it, with a proper olde wassail!

Wassailing refers to drinking (and singing) the health of trees in the hopes that they might better thrive.The purpose of wassailing is to awake the cider apple trees and to scare away evil spirits to ensure a good harvest of fruit in the autumn.

First we learnt the traditional Wassail Song:

Once word and tune perfect we headed off to the orchard to find one of the most traditional Cornish apple trees, King Byerd:

Mrs W with her 'Cup o' Cider' leading the children to the apple orchard

Heading to King Byerd (Cornwall's oldest apple tree)

The wassailing belief runs something like, "If you sing to your tree or flock you will encourage its growth"!

First we broke a bread and dipped it in some of Lantallack's cider. We put the bread in the tree and began to sing whilst some more cider was poured around the roots of the tree.

Even in the pouring rain, the little darlings sung their hearts out!

And ran around the tree banging drums and shaking tambourines to scare away the evil spirits!
In groups, the children then chanted the following:

Good apple tree
We wassail thee,
That thou may bud,
And that thou may blow,
And that thou may bear apples a new.
Hats full!
Caps full!
Three bushel barrels full!

Mrs W pouring cider on the tree as the children ran round shaking tambourines!

Then it was off back to the studio to stay making all things apple-like with clay!

Happy wassailing to you all!