Hard to believe maybe, but this time last year we had snow. And a reasonable amount of it too – see my barefoot training pics. Apart from a few frosty mornings, the weather has been unseasonably mild this year and I think we have actually had better days in November than we had in August. The Met. Long-range forecast is for more bright, sunny and crisp days for the end of the month and going into December. And as a gardener, that can only be good news for working but of course, it’s not a natural cycle. Frost can actually benefit some plants. Deciduous fruit trees benefit from winter chilling, and cold snaps turn starches to sugar in crops such as parsnips, improving their flavour. Frosts can also disrupt pest and disease cycles, and improve soil structure – when moisture within soil freezes, it expands, and splits open soil particles.
My favourite forecaster, along with Derek the Weatherman of course, is David King – www.weatherwithouttechnology.co.uk. David uses nature and years and years of diarised notes and experience to forecast the weather and is incredibly accurate. He is still forecasting a harsh winter but from the beginning of 2018. Until then, he says the weather is likely to be windy but mainly dry.
Watch the Birdy
I adore watching the birds feed on my bird feeder and am lucky enough to get a huge variety of visitors including blue tits, long tailed tits, robins, woodpeckers, bullfinches, and nuthatches (see pic).
As the days get colder, it’s critical for birds to find, handle and consume their food quickly. Some smaller species need to consume almost one third of their own body weight in food every day, to get them through the frosty nights. Providing high-energy food for them has a very positive effect. Seeds and nuts, suet treat cakes and suet balls appeal to a wide range of birds and can help them survive the cold.
Different birds will appreciate different foods. Goldfinch and siskin enjoy smaller seeds like niger seeds; sparrows, woodpigeon and collared doves prefer large grains; woodpeckers, tits, and starlings will tuck into fat balls and peanuts whilst robins and thrushes love mealworms and live foods (which you can buy online). Thrushes and blackbirds also love windfall fruit.
And not every bird enjoys eating in public – wrens are quite shy feeders and will avoid ‘crowded restaurants’. Put a bit of crumbled fat ball on the ground somewhere quiet for them. Although somewhere high is better if you know you have resident predators. And smear fat mixtures into the cracks and crevices of branches or bark for treecreepers, nuthatches and woodpeckers. Peanut butter is also a great high energy food and is actually available especially for birds. www.reallywildbirdfood.co.uk/birdy-butter
Birdy Butter is made of beef suet, wheat flour and peanut flour, dried mealworm, millet, linseed and rapeseed. It has 29% fat and 14% protein, so be careful not to put it on your toast.
Nuts about Peanut Butter
November is Peanut Butter Month. A peanut is not a nut, but is botanically classified as a legume (hence the name pea-nut) and contains properties of both the bean/lentil and tree nuts. When I lived in the Caribbean, I was enthralled to learn that peanuts grew underground. And even more excited to harvest them.
While the origins of peanut butter can be traced back to the Aztecs and Incans, the modern history of it starts in 1884, when it was patented by a chemist by the name of Edson. His whole purpose in developing it was to ensure that those who had issue chewing hard foods would be able to have a delicious way to get the nutrition they needed
Considering how flexible peanut butter is as an ingredient, Peanut Butter Month is your opportunity to start putting more of this fantastic legume into your meals. It is a hugely versatile ingredient and capable of far more than adorning toast.
Try adding to pasta, to curries and even smoothies. It was Elvis who made the peanut butter, banana, and bacon sandwich famous and since then there have been even more weird and wonderful combinations concocted by peanut butter fans.
If you are adventurous enough, try peanut butter and water melon, peanut butter and mayonnaise, peanut butter and apple and peanut butter and jelly.
And another ‘mouthful’ is the word, ‘Arachibutyrophobia’ which is the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth.
Interestingly, leftover peanut shells can be used to make kitty litter, kindling, and in America, in order to use the huge quantities of waste peanut shells, they are being made into briquettes. Waste “nut’, want ‘nut’.