It seems extraordinary that November is already here but the signs of winter’s approach have been all around for a while. Skeins of geese have been coming in for a good couple of weeks – usually barnacle but we see the odd gaggle of pink-footed too – and the occasional hooting sounds from a flypast of whooper swans really make my skin tingle. We have large flocks of redwing and fieldfare clacking and hissing like fire-crackers all up and down the lane and we’re still optimistic that one day a waxwing will bring all its friends to McMurdoston for a visit. Neighbours just down the road saw a couple last year, so we live in hope and continue to plant berry-producing trees…
It astonishes me just how many flowers are still around, even though we’ve had a couple of frosty mornings now. Campion never seems to give up, unless covered in snow, but I’ve also seen pink purslane, buddleia and ground ivy in sheltered places and the honey bees are still feasting on the ivy up and down our drive when it’s warm enough for them to emerge. We had a great honey year in 2018, with two harvests of the delicious stuff, so much, in fact, that I had to resort to buying jars instead of relying on my usual stores. The same went for apples and the shed is still full of buckets of them, waiting for my new juicer to arrive. This is despite having made jams and jellies, pies and crumbles and given about half a ton to the local donkey sanctuary where they were apparently enjoyed by not only the usual inhabitants but also the ponies, the pig and the tortoises. I can’t bear to waste them.
So, the wood-burner is lit, the cats are comatose in front of it and I’m getting my 2019 bookings diary up to date for next year. We’re hoping that we can continue to lure a few more visitors to stay with us at McMurdoston – both human and animal. Many of our guests (human!) are now returning for the second, third or even fourth times, which couldn’t be more of a compliment. Mind you, I have to admit that I feel just as chuffed when I see the red squirrel returning to our feeder or a hedgehog scurrying past the back door, or – as just now – a lanky leveret scampering down the lane in front of the car.