Tag Archives: Elder

News from the Farm

There isn’t a lot of news. It has been quite dry the last few days but bitterly cold.

Yesterday we had a clear blue sky so Fizz and I went off to count the sheep. They were in the top field and the wind was whipping across that field. I had to retreat, I was almost crying it was so cold.

It’s been cold, that’s what I am trying to tell you 🙂

So.. Fizz and I went down Badger Alley to look for plant life, it is quite sheltered there.

Badger AlleyPrimroses would have been nice.

PrimrosesPrimroses will be nice but just not yet.

PrimrosesThis is just the way that it is this year, it is cold. The Primroses were in flower here and I was photographing them on the third of February last year and the Red Dead-nettle. We are running a little late this year because of the crisp winter days but I probably prefer this to the rain.

No I don’t, I am just not big on winter, whatever it is like 🙂

One reason for going up there was to find Wood Spurge. When I wrote about it the other day I didn’t have pictures of the milky irritant sap and they should be quite easy to get.

Wood SpurgeI found the Spurge easily enough but I couldn’t get much sap out of it, I maybe need to try this on a warmer day. This will have to do for now.

Wood SpurgeOh yes, and we looked at the catkins again.

Just for the record here is a photograph taken yesterday on the farm. This is what a Hazel tree’s man bits look like when it is bitterly cold. (Poor thing)

Hazel CatkinsIt is much more sheltered down here and they are beginning to open.

Hazel Catkins

Hazel CatkinsThe most interesting thing that we found was signs that the Badgers were getting active.

Nature Detective DogNature Detective Dog at work.

Nature Detective DogBadgers don’t hibernate but they usually spend December and January underground, living off their fat, all cuddled up together, warm and cosy.

We saw quite a lot of fresh snuffle holes and evidence of straw gathering and some fresh digging.

Badger SettSo if these babies are active then maybe it is time to go and look for our own Badgers.

This is the main sett. It isn’t the best place to try and film Badgers, it is on public land and it is quite confined. I would prefer to film the Badgers on the farm.

Patch was beaten up and kicked out of this sett last year because he wanted to have a go at making baby Badgers. He was joined by two other Badgers and I am hoping that at least one of those was female and that we will have cubs on the farm.

But I don’t know where they are!

Come on Puppy, let’s go Badger hunting.

FizzHave I mentioned that it is cold on the farm? At least the mud is clean 🙂

Cold FizzThe hedges have all been trimmed. It is a job done by machine and it looks pretty brutal but the wounds will heal quickly in the spring.

Hedge trimmingThis hedgerow is a good mix of Hazel, Willow, Holly, Blackthorn and Hawthorn. It is not particularly unique but I am concerned for the Elm trees as I survey the wreckage.

It is necessary work to protect the sheep who were getting caught up in the brambles.

SheepStop following me!


Fizz and I searched all around the hedgerow looking for signs of Badger activity. There are three setts on the farm that they used last year, the first two were obviously empty.

The third one is a possibility, can you see what I see.

Badger SettWhy is this broken grass outside of the entrance? Because Badgers collect straw for bedding? It is a possibility.

It’s okay, I am a Big Game Hunter, I’m supposed to see these things.

Broken GrassCome on Puppy.

strawSo we went off and found a nice patch of dried grass, gathered some up and put it outside of the sett.

strawI am  not nuts, I have done this before 🙂

I have left the camera watching the sett. I would be so pleased to find them here. Badger cubs are born in February (they won’t come out of the sett until May) wherever the Badgers are now, that is probably where any cubs will be born. Be here.

Now I suppose that you would like to play ball?


FizzGood Girl!

FizzMight as well look for fleas while I’m here.



Fizz would like everyone to know that she hasn’t got fleas.FizzToday’s flower is Elder because there is an association with Badger Setts and Elder, The Badgers like the berries and you will often find it growing around old setts.

OH! I nearly forgot to tell you that the Elm trees were all right, the maniac hedge trimmer didn’t go up that far 🙂

Elm Trees

Sambucus nigra, The Elder Tree

Elder flowers (Sambucus nigra)Sambucus nigra, the European Elder also known as the Black Elder or Elderberry. This small tree is as well known for it’s purple/black fruit as for it’s froth of white flowers.

Elder fruit (Sambucus nigra)It is one of the first trees to come into leaf with new leaves appearing in early March.

Elder leaf (Sambucus nigra)The leaves are made up of five and sometimes seven leaflets on a central stem, with opposite pairs and one at the tip of the stem. The leaflets are longer than they are wide and have a toothed edge.

Elder leaf (Sambucus nigra)

Elder leaf (Sambucus nigra)This next picture is of one leaf, comprising and showing the arrangement of five leaflets. That is important to understand because a single leaflet or leaf, that is this shape would not indicate an Elder, each leaf is composed of five leaflets, sometimes seven and rarely nine.

Elder leaf (Sambucus nigra)

Elder leaf (Sambucus nigra)The woody stem of Elder is also quite distinctive.

A fresh stem is usually covered in small pale warts, these are called lenticels. They are sometimes described as breathing pores and allow the tree to exchange gasses.

Elder stem (Sambucus nigra)You will pretty much always see some branches marked with these distinctive lenticels on a live Elder.

Elder stem (Sambucus nigra)

Elder stem (Sambucus nigra)Older bark becomes furrowed and the breathing pores are not noticeable then.

Elder stem (Sambucus nigra)

Elder (Sambucus nigra)The Elder is a short lived tree, not more than about 60 years. It is also quite small and shrub like. I have read that it can attain a height of twenty feet or more but it is usually smaller than that.

Legend has it that Judas Iscariot hanged himself from an Elder tree. I think that this is unlikely, for hanging you really need a tree that is taller than you with sturdy horizontal branches, like an Oak or a Chestnut. It is more likely that this defamation by association is the work of the Christian Church in the battle against Paganism because the Elder once held great spiritual importance.

You wouldn’t have much luck, hanging yourself in one of these.

Elder (Sambucus nigra)However the association stuck and the small jelly fungus that grows on the Elder became known as Judas’s Ear and later just Jew’s Ear.

Jelly Ear Fungus Jelly Ear Fungus   Jelly Ear Fungus   Jelly Ear Fungus It is now more often referred to as Jelly Ear or Wood Ear, Auricularia auricula-judae.

Jelly Ear FungusThe flowers arrive in May.

Elder flowers (Sambucus nigra)

Elder flowers (Sambucus nigra)

Elder flowers (Sambucus nigra)A flower head may consist of several hundred small flowers. The flowers are hermaphrodite. Each flower has five white petals, five stamens tipped with yellow anthers and a style with three stigmas.

Elder flowers (Sambucus nigra)

Elder flowers (Sambucus nigra)The flowers produce nectar and pollen and are much loved by Bumble Bees.

White-tailed Bumblebee White-tailed Bumblebee   White-tailed Bumblebee   White-tailed Bumblebee  Too much sometimes….. (It is not dead, just too drunk to stand up)

White-tailed BumblebeeThe fruit ripens in August.

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)When it is ripe the birds eat it.

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)The Elder is a valuable wildlife plant. It provides shelter for birds and forage for deer. Many small mammals (including Dormice) eat both the flowers and the fruit. It is a larval food plant for several British moths including the White Spotted Pug, Swallowtail, Dot Moth and Buff Ermine. The flowers provide nectar and pollen for many insects and birds also eat the fruit.

Despite it’s reputation for Elderflower tea and fritters and Elderberry wine all of the green parts and the fruit are mildly poisonous to us. The fruit needs to be cooked before eating.

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)This tree is a member of the same family as the diminutive, green wildflower, Town Hall Clock (The Adoxaceae)

Town Hall Clock

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)Taxonomy

Kingdom: Plantae

Order: Dipsacales

Family: Adoxaceae

Genus: Sambucus

Species: Sambucus Nigra

Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra)Wildflowers in winter.

The Search for Robin’s Pincushion

This is Robin’s Pincushion.

Robin's PincushionI haven’t seen one of these for years (This is a very old photo)

Well I saw one last night on Clare’s blog “A Suffolk Lane” and I thought to myself, “I haven’t seen one of those in ages.” So Today Fizz and I went to look for one.

They grow on roses and we have lots of wild roses in the hedgerows around the farm, I packed sandwiches and water and off we went.

FizzFizz ate all of the sandwiches almost as soon as we were out of the door so that left me free to poke around in the hedgerow and take photographs. Here are some of the things that we found.

We found miles and miles of cable running through the hedge and thought, “Hello, it looks like the Badgers have bought themselves a computer”. So we followed it.


HoneysuckleBut all there was on the end of it was some flowers.


HoneysuckleWe found lots of blue berries on the Blackthorn that weren’t really blue.


SloesThe blue dust rubbed off and they didn’t look very ripe yet.

SloesIn fact being green was beginning to feel like a theme. The Rose Hips that we had seen were still a long way off.

Rose HipsSo were the Hazelnuts.

HazelnutsElderberries were only just starting to colour up.


ElderberriesAnd the Hawthorn still has a way to go.

HawthornThe only thing that I could find to eat (Having lost my sandwiches to a card cheat earlier in the day) was the occasional Blackberry.

BlackberriesFinally we found the Rose we had been looking for.

Dog RoseThere right in the middle of the bush and just behind the friendly thorns was the sweetest little Pincushion ever.

Robin's PincushionRobin’s Pincushion is a Gall made by the wasp Diplolepis rosae. The wasp lays about sixty eggs in an unopened leaf bud of Wild Roses (Dog or Field Rose). A chemical reaction then causes this weird and wonderful distorted growth that becomes home to the wasp larvae.

Robin's Pincushion

Robin's PincushionI am really pleased that we found one today. 🙂 I haven’t seen one of these in ages.