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The Journal of an English Gardener in Tuscany

The Mystery of the Birds ... 6th 2004 - Despite our best ... we are not doing well ... ... Last week we put up a bird feeder but I am sad to say that not one bird has be

The Mystery of the Birds Dropping

March 6th 2004 - Despite our best endeavours we are not doing well encouraging birdlife. Last week we put up a bird feeder but I am sad to say that not one bird has been seen partaking of this bounteous feast, it is almost tempting to put up a webcam just in case, but the fact is the level of nuts in the feeder has not gone down at all.

More worrying is the strange case of the three birds we found by the house. On Tuesday my Father found a pair of dead blackbirds on the terrace in the morning. Their bodies were still warm, despite the sharp cold, and rigor mortis has not set in. They were not in a flying position, instead looking as if they were sitting on a branch one moment but fell down dead the next. We speculated on whether they died of cold, but dismissed that as they would have died the night before, when it was much colder; nor could they have flown into the glass wall of the loggia, as they were in a sitting position when we found them dead. There are no cats locally and no evidence of fowl play.

We were mystified enough when this morning, Saturday, my Mother found the tiny body of a Blue Tit in the courtyard. Again, it looked as if was just sitting on a branch when it died and it simply fell out of the sky. We hope this will stop soon and to make up for it I hung the two birdhouses on oak trees on the slope just above the courtyard. I’d be grateful if any readers have hints on what caused the birds to die and why. In the meantime, we hope the birds start enjoying the free food and accommodation.

I have just finished reading ‘The Principles of Gardening’, by Hugh Johnson. Hugh Johnson is more familiar persuading us to pour wine down our throats, but in the daytime he has learnt much about gardening. It was given to me by my Father when we lived in Scotland and we planned to build a completely different type of garden, but that plan failed and only now have I properly read the book, fourteen years on. I recommend it for anyone interested in learning about the theory behind gardening or who wants to learn about the bigger picture of what you are trying to create, especially in terms of garden style. With this book behind me I can now start on the Royal Horticultural Encyclopaedia of Gardening, which will take a while, so I’ll return to gardening books later this year.

The snow stayed down most of this week and it was very cold, now it is cold and damp, as La Doccia has been covered in mist all day long. I laid down fertiliser around most of the garden and also built a new enlarged compost heap. I took a leaf out of Lombardo’s book here, by making the posts of the compost heap myself. Finding some long branches I sawed them to size and used an axe to sharpen them before drilling them into the ground and hammering them down. The crocuses, in our Porcupine-Free-Zone, are flowering and bulbs are appearing everywhere. A Porcupine ate the Iris bulbs in the herbaceous border, so we are not, to say the least, sharing Christmas cards this year. In the meantimeFree Articles, we are hoping the birds start eating our food and enjoy themselves here.

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Rupert Mayhew recently moved to Tuscany, Italy, from a career in IT in London. He works in and runs an expanding agriturismo and this new role includes the task of creating a garden out of what is now mountainside.

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