Derek – Thursday 13th September

Walking down the road at 7.30 am this morning, I could see my breath; the temperature around 5ºC. And now, at 2pm, it’s over 20ºC. That’s autumn for you. A long clear night gave us a chilly morning, with sunrise close to 7 am, a long way from mid summer sunrises at 4 am.

I spend the first hour, getting the metal bird out of the ground. It’s on a two metre iron post, just outside the wild flower bed. The bird has multi-coloured streamers. I tried getting it out of the ground last week; but gave up. This week I am determined. I push it and pull it, but it will not budge. Is cemented in? I go to our container for some tools, and over the course of an hour bring out a spade, a garden fork, a trowel, a hammer and shears.

With the shears, I cut back the growth all round the bird post. Then I dig, and take out a bucket full of rubble. But it still isn’t moving. Is it poking through to Australia? Maybe I should phone them, and get them to hammer it back. Alternatively, they could pull it through their end.

Then I discover the iron staples. They are shaped like a question mark, more than 15 cms long and the iron about a centimetre in diameter. With some effort, I lever out four with the tines of the fork. Someone didn’t want this bird post to move, ever. The fifth, I can’t get out, after straining, digging round it and levering. I have no dynamite, so give up on it, and manage to get the bird post out from under it. The post’s base is flat and barred, and had been held down by the rubble and staples.

I move the post to the intended spot. And hammer four of the staples deep into the earth, one to each corner of its base. It’s too hot for this heavy work, but at last we have a gnomon. The word comes from the ancient Greek meaning indicator, which is further derived from the word ‘know’. And we now know the time, by the sun, roughly, very roughly. That is because we are using the wooden posts already round the wild flower bed to mark out the hours. They are more or less in the right place, but some movement would make the clock more accurate. Is it worth it? We are not trying to compete with an atomic clock.

In the pond, there’s a single water lily. There’s only ever been one, all summer long. One can sometimes be better than many as it hasn’t the competition for attention. There’s little visible animal life in the pond. I see a water boatman, the snails and not much else. We mostly spot animal life through movement, and the pond is getting colder. All the animal life in the pond is cold blooded and becomes increasingly sluggish as the temperature drops.

In several places in the garden, sedums are in bloom. They have an umbrella of pink flowers. In the raised bed, near the container, there are a number of different sedum species. Some are low to the ground, with very thick leaves. Sedums are succulents, which in the wild live in arid environments. The thick leaves have fewer stomata and so conserve water.

I spot a robin, but it spots me and it is away. I wonder if it’s the juvenile we saw a few weeks back, now an adult. We still have quite a lot of insects visiting the remaining flowers. The buddleia remains in bloom, but the flowers are languid. Here and there about the garden, in the ground between beds, are hawkweed, with its dandelion type flowers. Tidy gardeners rip them out but I like wild flowers wherever they are.

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