This year has seen all the trees and bushes around the farm producing huge numbers of berries and seeds. All the birds are having a real feast! Walking around the farm in late November, Farm Manager, Rob, has taken pictures of some of the beautiful berries now on show. There are hawthorn trees absolutely covered with red berries, sloes on the blackthorn bushes, blackberries a-plenty on the brambles in the hedgerows, rose hips in profusion on the wild briars and a beautiful display of spindle berries along the woodland edge.
The spindle tree or bush (euonymus Europaeus) is native to England and Wales and across Central Europe but it is rare in Scotland. In olden days its hard, dense wood was highly prized. In fact, the tree got its common name from the use of its branches for spindles for wool-spinning. Even though the seeds and some other parts of the plant are highly poisonous, its wood was also used for meat skewers and, turned into charcoal, was highly valued by artists because of its hardness and durability. When I was a child we used to collect leafless branches of spindle with their bright pink and orange seeds to decorate the house during November, when other flowers were scarce. And we only brought in the holly a couple of weeks before Christmas.
Last year we also had a very good crop of heavily berried holly, and were looking forward to bringing it in in mid December. But we left it too late. In a couple of days the birds had cleared every single red berry off the holly trees and there was none for holly wreaths to decorate the house over the festive season.
So, this year we decided on a different approach. We watched the birds carefully and, just as they were starting on the holly berries, we took action: cut some of the more attractive branches and brought them into a shed, standing them in tubs of water to stop the berries from falling. Hopefully we can keep them this way until we use them for our Christmas decorations. The birds can now feast on all the other berries left!
Have we got one up on the birds this year? Let’s wait until Christmas to see…..