Swallows and Waxwings

David and I were sitting outside eating a late dinner and I noticed a swallow flying past at near-optic-velocity. Then I noticed another one, and looked up to see quite a few flying above us. They are like finely-tuned teeny fighter pilots veering around making a little chirping sound. Some had white on their bellies, and some had a brown-orange colour, with beautiful deep blue backs. We haven’t seen swallows like this for years! There would be one or two pairs nesting in the eaves of the barn if we were lucky, but not this many, as far back as I can remember. On Friday night we’d gone back to the river-side fields to check on the crops and fell into weeding the leeks. (Yes, I know the rest of the world is not weeding leeks on Friday night, but we were having a great time.) While we were quietly weeding, we could see many swallows swooping all around us. At twilight, it was hard to see their colours, but we knew it was swallows from the way they fly and their distinctive long forked tails. Were they the barn swallows from the cattle shed in our barnyard, or the swallows that nest in the sandy banks by the river? I’ve also been noticing the swallows hanging out over the ponds, swooping around. Are they catching mosquitoes and other insects?

Another beautiful bird that seems to hang out on the pond edges is the cedar waxwing. I have seen them for years perched all around the main irrigation pond, each one flying up to catch an insect in its beak, and then flying back down to a perch. One at a time, very polite. If there are 20 of them doing this, it looks like a finely choreographed dance as each one flies up for its prey and then back down again, each time making a small clicking sound. I’m surprised the swallows, who are faster and more intense, don’t run into the waxwings as they both swoop in for the mosquitoes. I don’t actually know for sure they’re going for mosquitoes. I just hope they are.

It is definitely sugar snap pea time! We haven’t grown them for a number of years. And now we’re starting to harvest some beans and a few zucchini too. The basil is doing well! This week we have an abundance so we’ll be offering pesto packs for those who love this Italian sailor food. If you don’t have pine nuts, roasted sunflower seeds can be used. That’s what we use when we make basil pesto. We make big batches and freeze it in small portions for a quick summery flavour burst to add to any meal, especially good with tomatoes and pasta. The tomatoes are getting started too in the big greenhouse. It is a great time of year!

Leeks in the field by the river. There is no way I could catch a photo of the swooping swallows. They are too fast!
Growing cucumbers has been a big learning experience this year. Hopefully they will recover from our mistakes. In the background, the bunched onions are doing great!
Waxwing on a branch at the edge of the irrigation pond. The branches all around the pond are filled with waxwings waiting for their turn to catch an insect. In the winter I’ve seen waxwings gather on a mountain ash and get drunk on the fermented red berries.
Spot the zucchinis!
We’re still working on getting the wash-pack area just right.
Here’s a peek into the big greenhouse, where the big tomatoes are just getting going
Further over are some purple and orange cherry tomatoes. Don’t worry, there are red ones too.
Sean has a tendency of just fixing things. Thanks Sean!
Upper right: squash bugs caught in the act. On the left the bright yellow striped cucumber beetles. These pests are the reason we are investing in insect net to cover greenhouses. Anyone know of a natural predator?
David, Eli, and Isabel harvesting spring turnips. David is happy with the new knives and he thinks the harvest today was faster because they are so sharp.