The first scillas are flowering on the south side of the house, and more are on the way.

The goldfinches come in swarms. All other visitors to our bird feeder – great tits, blue tits, nuthatches – come singly or in small groups. When goldfinches come, there’s at least half a dozen of them on the feeder itself, and more hanging around and twittering in the branches of nearby trees. The most I’ve seen at and around the feeder was 20 goldfinches altogether.

They tolerate each others’ company, but not that of other birds. When a gang of goldfinches occupies the feeder and a tit tries to join in, they won’t even let it land. But nuthatches are apparently above them in the pecking order – when one of those arrives, the goldfinches take flight.

For some reason all these birds want the sunflower seeds and nothing else, and the peanuts that used to be so popular now hang there uneaten. You’d think that the tits would go eat the peanuts, which they used to love, when they can’t get access to the sunflower seeds – but no, they’d rather just leave.

With the many large trees we have, we get a lot of leaves. Much of the ground is covered so thickly that you cannot see the grass through the leaves.

Today was an excellent day for raking leaves: sunny, warmish, dry, and almost no wind. And of course raking leaves also means throwing leaves, rolling around in leaves, jumping in leaves, burying each other in leaves, etc.

Eric recently put up our new bird feeder, and now it’s like having a live show outside the window. The sun isn’t quite up when we come down in the morning, but it’s sort of light, so the birds are awake and hungry, and they have their breakfast at the same time as we do. (Everyone except me, that is – I’m never hungry immediately after getting up and ideally have breakfast about two hours after waking.)

The old feeder was a little hut on a stick, with openings on all four sides. It was nice enough and provided good viewing opportunities, but it attracted big, sloppy eaters like magpies and thrushes. They spread so much of the birdseed on the ground that one spring some of it sprouted. Which was weird but not problematic. The problems started when the spilled food attracted rats.

Last year we didn’t put up the feeder hut because we really did not want any more rats. But now we have this beautiful new contraption that is better than the old one in all ways. Except the old one was hand painted by myself and Ingrid and this one doesn’t have that personal touch. But on the other hand it has hooks for several feeders (mostly spill-proof) so we can serve different kinds of food. It has a bowl for water. It has branch-like appendages that the birds can use for landing and for just hanging around and checking out the place. And I have to admit it looks better than the old one.

Excellent tomato harvest and yummy tomatoes. As usual, it’s a race against time – we’ll see if they have time to ripen before the frosts arrive.

This year’s carrot harvest. All of it. That’s not even a dinner plate, it’s a salad plate. That’s what I get for forgetting to water them.

And most of them didn’t even taste particularly good.

I had to go to town today for some shopping. After a long vacation that I have spent mostly outdoors, being surrounded by noise and crowds was a stressful experience. And it wasn’t even a particularly crowded place, really, only relative to what I’ve become used to. 15 minutes was enough to give me the beginnings of a headache and I hurried home again.

At home I treated myself to some macro therapy.

The gooseberries are almost ripe. Yum.

I love having berry bushes in the garden: gooseberries, strawberries, raspberries… They are perfect. While cherry-picking requires a ladder, with a berry bush even kids can just walk up to them and eat. They require little space and little care.

And the harvest is of manageable size, again unlike cherries and apples. I mean, apples are nice and cherries are delicious, but a whole tree’s worth of cherries is too much for just one household. This year we had an exceptionally large cherry harvest – buckets and buckets full – and despite eating our fill, making chutney, squash and cake, we just couldn’t use them all. Even now weeks after the harvest we are still picking masses of fallen, moldy, bird-pecked fruit every day.

This year’s second major home improvement project – we’re having the house repainted. It was last repainted 12 years ago and is definitely due a fresh coat of paint by now.

The paint has cracked and loosened in some places, creating little pockets moisture. Peeling off that loose paint has exposed the siding boards behind, and there are spots where they are not at all in a good shape. (The crosses mean that these boards will be replaced.)

The parts where the loose paint has fallen off completely are actually in much better shape. Exposure to rain is not a problem; never drying out is.