Postcards from the Garden – July

Willow Warblers

Summer temperatures have hit an all-time high here: 38 C (100.4 F) yesterday and 39 (102) expected today. Combined with our customary high humidity, it feels brutal, and it doesn’t cool off much at night. I have read that this is now such a world-wide phenomenon that climate-change doubters will really need to face the facts.

The birds understand how to keep cool. Hordes of small birds, including the Willow Warblers pictured here, splash in the fountain and the pond in the early morning, then take to the shade for the hottest time of day.

In spite of the heat, we’ve had so many thundershowers that the garden is lush and green. A new generation of Tits (both Great Tits and Blue Tits) has appeared. They’re still quite bold, and will cautiously approach the feeders, even if I’m sitting nearby. The tall Buddleias are covered with butterflies, and the roses are blooming so abundantly that I’ve been having trouble keeping up with the dead-heading.

The Green Frogs are pretty quiet these days, but, when I approach the pond, about five or six of them dive for cover. Spiders make their way into the house, but I catch them and take them outside again. Except for the Daddy Longlegs’, which not only eat the flies and mosquitoes but also other spiders.

But Nature seems to have found an effective way of punishing us for our hubris. For the second year in a row, we had an outbreak of Oak Processionary caterpillars. And this time I got hit badly. Their highly toxic hairs, which they let go of when stressed, float through the air and land on animals, people, drying laundry, etc. I managed to get some on the side of my face and, as it turned out, in my hair. So, as one patch of rash disappeared, other patches kept turning up. It was more than just itching, it stung, and my glands started swelling as my body tried to get rid of the toxins. A trip to the sauna (solidifying the protein in the toxins) helped get rid of the worst of it, But in the aftermath, a bit of hair left on my glasses (which didn’t go into the sauna cabins with me) caused a final patch on my ear. The entire encounter took two weeks and lots of antihistamines. I hope to be able to avoid them next summer!

And the heat has produced bounty as well. I finally pulled the containers with courgettes, eggplants, and cucumbers out of my greenhouse and into the open. They were spilling out all over the floor, so I could hardly enter the greenhouse. I’ve been feasting on those plus green peas, tomatoes, and chilies for several weeks now.

My strategy for coping with the heat basically involves staying indoors, keeping curtains drawn, the fan going, and frequent use of a Cooling Towel. (If you haven’t heard of these, they’re fabulous.). I won’t miss the heat when it’s gone, however.

One Comment:

  1. Mary-Lou Gillette

    Dear Maddi,
    Your description of the Oak Processionary Moth Caterpillar rash sent me to Google for more information. Yikes!
    I am so glad to know that your frogs are thriving in the pond. I haven’t seen a frog for ages, and in my mind I could hear the plop, plop, plop sound of them diving for cover as you approached. Thank you for that happy image. ( I also keep Daddy Long Legs spiders inside!)

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