Family Planning with the Blackbirds

It is amazing what can be found lurking out in the alley. Last summer, having given up all hope, I was pruning (hacking back would probably be more accurate) and found a golden apricot glowing like treasure on an otherwise barren tree. There will be no such surprises this year. I have gone from famine to feast – the apricot is festooned and I find myself faced with having to thin out the bountiful crop. It seems a barbaric act to snip off the beautiful soft furry fruits but, no matter how many websites and books I consult, they all say the same – I have to. I set about removing the unlucky ones, plucking off well over 50 apricots – there are easily a further 150 still on the tree, and I should probably thin some more, if only I can bring myself to do so…

The apricot isn’t the only success story out here – the pitiful blueberry, consisting of only a few sorry looking twigs, which was dying on the allotment, has undergone an extraordinary revival. It has its own pot, full of lovely acid soil, and has become a vigorous bush. Best of all, it has the most delightful little flowers – quite unexpected.

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Content that the fruit is happy (ignoring the plight of the 50) I set about cutting back the thicket of brambles at the end of the alley. Not too much – I like to keep a bit of wild. I am also fairly certain that blackbirds are nesting in there and, although the young one has fledged already, they could well be on to their second brood. And there is another surprise in store. Almost a year to the day that I set out into the Suffolk countryside, braving gales and storms in search of bluebells, I lop my way through the thorny foliage to expose some of my very own. They stand just a yard from the back gate, in the loveliest shade of delicate pastel blue – I gasp, and almost tiptoe away, so as not to disturb them. It is frankly a miracle that they weren’t lopped – they can thank the blackbirds for that. And for that matter, so can I – in normal circumstances, I might not have been quite so careful and the consequences for this little cluster of bluebells could have been dire.  Whether it be good fortune, divine providence, or Mr and Mrs Blackbirds’ family planning techniques, they have survived and I am deeply and profoundly grateful.

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