Sometimes 140 characters (including spaces) just doesn’t cut it – and this is one of those times.

We have our first guests of the year, and I promised a few weeks ago that our first wild orchids would be out while they were here. So I am very relieved to say that, this morning, I saw an Early Purple orchid just about to flower outside the poly tunnel. Dangerous things, promises.

In other news, Her Outdoors tells me that a sparrowhawk has just moved into the area. Unfortunately for me, one of our older hens has just started sitting on 11 eggs. Put the two bits of news together and you discover that I must build a hawk-proof enclosure for the new chicks in the next 27 days. (Because I really needed something else on the to-do list, what with the second guest kitchen to finish, platform to make, structure to build for the fridge-freezer I promised – ! – to this year’s guests, pallet fort to create and road to complete, how will I ever fill my time? And I promised to help Her Outdoors in the veggie patch this year…)

Four of our chickens have been in the habit of escaping the 2-metre fencing around the orchard recently. A pile of black feathers this morning tells me one of them didn’t make it through the night and there’s a very happy fox sleeping off a successful hunt. Yes, we can clip wings, but that didn’t stop the first escapee and time is rather short at the moment.

I may have mentioned the horse breaking out several weeks ago. While he was out, he scratched the backs of his legs on the mobile rabbit runs, which rearranged them enough for the boy bunnies to get in with the girl bunnies. A few days ago, eight new bunnies arrived in the night.

And finally (you can see what I mean about 140 characters not being enough for today), I came up with a new plan to sell more copies of my book. I put a new blog together here that explains the plan – and allows you to download the book absolutely free, then decide how much (or how little) you want to pay for it later. If you could let other people know about this blog, I would really appreciate it. To save you the trouble of hunting back through this paragraph for the link to the free ebook blog, here it is again.

(And here if you missed it.)

Her Outdoors usually finds the orchids in écovallée. But the other day I was the first to spot this, behind the polytunnel:


It’s the first Lizard Orchid we’ve seen on our land. You’d think, at about three feet tall, it’d be hard to miss.

Her Outdoors spotted this yesterday behind the tractor shed:


We think it’s a Violet Birdsnest Orchid – and will be keeping a close eye on it in the next few days.

I didn’t say: Her Outdoors spotted the first Burnt Orchid of the year on April 10th. I’m not going to do individual orchid updates any more – I’m just going to update the dates on this page.

A full eight days later than last year, but five days earlier than the year before, we’ve spotted our first Early Purple Orchids outside the veggie patch and polytunnel. Which means eyes will be peeled for Burnt Orchids later in the week.

Like mushrooms, they must have been waiting for the rain and are unfurling as I type. Blooming marvellous(ly).

In April 2008, Her Outdoors noticed some wild orchids in écovallée. The following year, we paid more attention and photographed 10 on the land and another two across the road for good measure. Since then I’ve been too busy to record the dates they were spotted (but those I have are shown in brackets).

Early Purple Orchid (24/04/08, 18/04/09, 9/04/10, 27/03/11, 04/04/12)


Burnt Orchid (24/04/08, 18/04/09, 20/04/10, 10/04/11, 10/04/12)


Lady Orchid (18/04/09, 10/04/11)


Fly Orchid (18/04/09, 08/05/12)


White Helleborine (30/04/09, 20/04/11, 05/05/12)


Pyramid Orchid (18/05/08, 30/04/09, 26/05/10, 25/04/11, 03/05/12)


Red Helleborine (14/06/08, 31/05/09, 10/06/12)


Tongue Serapia (05/05/09)


Bee Orchid (across the road – 13/05/09; in écovallée end May 2012)


Greater Butterfly orchid (13/05/09)


Common Twayblade (16/05/09)


Lizard Orchid (across the road – 16/05/09; in écovallée – 10/06/12)

This is as close to scientific study as you get on this blog. The Early Purple’s an interesting case, having appeared earlier every year for four years. Seems to be true with some of the others, too. Then you look at the Pyramid dates and see they’re all over the place.

Orchids, eh?

I’d forgotten all about the Pyramid Orchids, but it’s great to see the first ones putting in an appearance this morning. Readers with OCD will be anxious to know that I took a photo of a Pyramid Orchid here on April 30th 2009 at 12:27:10, but it may have been flowering for 432,000 seconds before that.

Looks like the White Helleborine where the old tyre swing used to be will open in the next day or so. How accurate is that?

UPDATE: There are two of them and they’re both open now (April 20th).

I’ve got to go and make dinner in a minute, so I’ll make this quick.

Here’s a shot of the treehouse I’ve been working on in the last couple of weeks for our kids:


Here’s a detail of what you can do with mid-20th-Century coping saw and absolutely no training ever (in the background you can see our straw-bale grey-water system for the kitchen waste):


This is what the sand filter looks like this evening:


With mud taken from what will be a reed bed, above the willow trench, for the soon-to-exist solar shower:


Overlooked from a distance by some Lady Orchids:


And from a longer distance by a bunch of Early Purples (that I keep calling Purple Sprouting) by the veggie patch:


At the opposite end of which are some of those Burnt Orchids “anonymous” was interested in:


Round the corner from a field Her Outdoors has hand-sown with animal-feed crops for the coming winter:


Here’s Luna, our probably pregnant bunny:


And Starsky, whose the daddy:


Near some guinea fowl you haven’t seen yet:


And it’d be rude not to publish a cheeky photo of my Silky cock:


Right. That’s it for now. Bye.

In the last week, after putting in several days’ effort on some impressive leafage, our first Lady Orchid flowered on the slope just below the pig woods. And today I saw some Burnt Orchids (a personal favourite – ridiculously beautiful) outside the polytunnel, which must have come up in the last few days.

Not quite as scientifically precise as scientists might want, but maybe they just need to get out of the lab more.

Weather-wise (bearing in mind we’ll be open this time next year) this week has been mainly: Coldish mornings then baking hot every day, up to around 35C. This is Definitely Not Normal, unless it is, in which case next week’s forecasted lower temperatures with a couple of showers may or may not be abnormal either.

I just can’t do this science stuff.