The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
The Months.

by A. C. Drury.
Volume 15, 1904, pg. 221-226

By House of Education Students.

No. III.

March 1st, 1903.--March opened with the same wild, wet, windy weather that has characterized the year hitherto. Yet lilac buds are green, the honey-suckle is in leaf, all the rose bushes are putting forth tender pink shoots, and a sweetbriar hedge has many fragrant leaves already.

The see-saw note of a great tit was heard in the morning, and at night the garden was vocal with blackbirds and thrushes.

March 2nd.--We woke to see the ground covered with snow. Some starlings were whistling mournfully, waiting about like men out of work lounging at street corners. It snowed steadily with a North wind until about three o'clock.

March 3rd.--The snow is lying thinly on the highest hills and only on the shady slopes of the lower ones. This is a spring day: hot sunshine and cold winds, with the clearest of blue skies.

The birds are very active. We watched the blue tits hunting for insects in the bark of trees, holding on with their claws and turning upside down sometimes in the eagerness of search. They fly off with a sudden drop from their level and a little trilling cry.

On a beech we saw a tree-creeper, quite conspicuous on the smooth grey trunk. But as he moved round and was seen in profile against the sky, he looked like a leaf of a broken stump. He runs swiftly up the tree, with his tail bent down and touching the trunk, as if it helped to prop him up. He is very light-coloured underneath, and brown above with a flat looking head. The song thrushes in the garden are numerous and most joyful. One perched on a small sycamore was singing in a tentative way, as if afraid of being overheard practising. But his notes were very rich, not harsh as some of the early singers' are. The many yellow-hammers we have watched during the past two months have all been quite silent: to-night we heard the familiar demand for "a little bit of bread and no cheese" for the first time.

March 4th.--We heard a hedge-sparrow singing this morning. He reminds one of a robin having rather a flat head with a slender beak. There are dark streaks of brown on his back and sides, and he is in general much greyer than a common sparrow.

March 5th.--A frosty morning with ice-cold wind, at least on the top of Meigle. Blaeberry plants are shooting up among the heather with their pretty red leaves. The highest hills near us and among the distant Cheviots were snow-covered, but we had bright and hot sun, in the rays of which several missel thrushes looked almost white, they are so large and light.

About five o'clock, a very heavy snow-storm came on, but it had ceased at six, when the Eildon Hills stood up weirdly white against a dark grey sky, like a Japanese picture.

March 7th.--The rooks are nest building. There were a number of waterhens beside the Tweed, and we heard a story of one who was attacked by a weasel and shook him off by diving to the bottom of the river.

Venus was just setting behind the hills at seven this evening, and last night we were watching Mars in the S.E. at ten. Venus is apparently in Pisces and Mars in Virgo.

March 8th.--I got into a wood on a hill-crest that was a rare place for rabbits. One scuttled away almost from under my feet; there were numberless holes all around and one or two skeletons lying near. A wood pigeon was disturbed by my advent, but all other birds were invisible, though I heard tits twittering. It was a close plantation with the lower boughs of the spruce firs so interlaced that it was difficult to pass. These spruces lose all the leaves from their lower branches as they grow up to the light, for the lower levels of the wood are quite dark. And in this place all the leafless boughs were covered with a small grey lichen, looking like thick rime.

On the grassy hillside, outside, there was a curious dark brown fungus, much like the seaweed fucus. It belongs to a group, called Hydnum, that has hair-like processes on the underside instead of gills.

March 10th.--Yesterday it rained all day, so we welcomed the sun all the more gladly this morning, and went down to the Tweed to see what changes rain and sun have made between them. Tweed is still overflowing, but not so broadly as before. Celandine and violet show leaves only. Dog's mercury is not open, but a low stone wall had plenty of whitlow grass out, and it was a real joy to see a flower. The growth of the little plant is rather like a saxifrage, which is not to be wondered at, considering its habitat.

Hedge-sparrows, robins, chaffinches, all were singing ecstatically, and we were quite of their mind. As for the thrushes, one must quote Browning:--

      "That's the wise thrush; he sings each song twice over,
      Lest you should think he never could recapture
      The first fine careless rapture!"

March 11th.--As soon as we went out, we saw lambs. They are strong and playful already, and must be several days old. The shepherd was visiting them, catching one and another with his crook, that he might inspect them at close quarters.

We explored a burn in a little gorge that looks merely a tangled mass of blackthorn from above. But as we followed up stream, we were delighted to find two great sturdy hazels, one covered with crimson pistillate flowers and very immature staminate catkins; the other with well-opened catkins and a stray bunch of last year's nuts on one of two of the twigs.

The stream was bordered with golden saxifrage, and one blossom was found after a close search.

There was an old birch tree, good to climb, but with a broken limb, stretching out over the water. The rotten branch was alive with woodlice and other creeping things, some of which were in the chrysalis stage, lying on the wood, each under a white veil.

March 14th.--Going up the brae on to Ladhope Moor, there were plenty of skylarks. At first they were only chirruping gently on the ground, but soon they began to rise, some chasing each other with a low cry, showing their light breasts and white tips to some of the feathers. Then, on every side, the ear caught joyous song. I watched one rising and singing for quite five minutes. He did not seem to tire. When they wish to sink, they just stop fluttering their wings, and fall straight to earth, disappearing into the heather.

I disturbed a bevy of grouse, or moor-fowl, light brown birds which stared at me with erect heads some time before they took flight. Then two black grouse, heavy looking birds, whirred up on the left, with a scolding, crowing cry. The heather just now is all red, as the young leaves are that colour.

Beyond the moor, the Allanwater runs through a very pretty glen, and I followed its course some distance. Alders fringed it most of the way, but part of the channel lay between precipitous banks, clothed with birch, ash and hawthorn. There were also junipers still bearing their purple berries. The stream was full, rapid, and made a succession of falls. It had been much higher in the floods, and must have been about twelve feet broad then.

The lower course of the stream was like a Cuckmere Vale in miniature, with smooth, steep banks, sloping down from the billowy fields (not the chalk downs) and a flat bottom along which the burn wound from side to side. How good the red earth looked, freshly turned up by the plough! We are on the lower Silurian here, with old red sandstone on the higher slopes. It would appear to have been worn away from the lower ground by the glaciers which carved out the face of this country. Overflows of lava must have been effaced by the same agency, for traces of them remain only on the tops of some isolated hills.

March 16th.--Though the last two days have been very cold and wet, several wasps have been seen, and also the first house fly. What a curious mouth the wasp has, opening longitudinally, instead of laterally!

All the poplar catkins in our garden are pistillate. The flower consists of a green ovary surmounted by a pretty pink frill for a perianth.

March 18th.--Fine weather has come again with a powerful west wind. We went to see the pools where the frogs' eggs were found on Sunday. Even these tiny pools are full of the jelly masses surrounding the little black dots that will soon be tadpoles.

March 22nd.--The gale seems more powerful than ever. The roads are strewn with dead leaves, relics of last autumn. The rook's nest has not been displaced from the churchyard. One bird is sitting, the other attendant.

March 23rd.--The garden is getting very pretty. Crocuses are in their glory, auriculas will soon be out, the periwinkle is making ivy banks gay. Ribes has been out some time; now the barberry is almost in flower and the mahonia quite. The stamens of the latter are marvelous. When the bases of them were touched with a pin, they all curved in towards the centre, as they do when visited by bees.

March 24th.--A pair of pied wagtails live in an old quarry on the north side of the valley. We have watched them darting about with short, sharp dashes, uttering their cry, and remaining sometimes poised in the air with all the tail feathers spread, and the wings just fluttering. To-day they paced along daintily before us, wagging their tails vigorously. One of them was far greyer on the back than the other. We took the latter for the male, as he looked the smarter in pure black and white. When we came down from the upland fields on to a burn deep in a little cleugh (and there are many such burns running under the road), we found pistillate willow in full glory, hazels, and much staminate dog's mercury and celandine. There was coltsfoot growing in the mud beside the road on one hand, an alder in full bloom in a damp place on the other. A robin or a wren would be seen popping in and out among the hawthorn hedges, and the staminate willow, or golden palm, was being visited by quite three bees at once. Back in the neighborhood of the quarry, we spied a sparrowhawk poised not far from the ground, and three times we saw him dart down and return, unsuccessful, to his post of vantage. When he hovers, he spreads his tail feathers like a fan. The outer curve of his wings is like a Gothic arch. He is dark coloured above, but the breast gleams light as he wheels. We found seedling sycamores, with the cotyledons just uncoiling. Some have the testa on them still; others have pushed through and the testa is clinging round the stem.

March 25th.--Wet again and warm. We found dandelions on our upland road, plenty of mouse-ear chickweed, annual meadow grass, and pansy buds. Our goal was a pond on the top of the hill where tall horsetails abound. They have all been mown off at the water level, and are compensating for their loss of stature by giving off little branches at the nodes of the stem. The roots also spring from the nodes. A waterhen flew off on our approach, skimming the water, and showing a broad bar of white across its tail.

March 31st.--There is a smell of sweet briar in the air and a real feeling of spring. The flowers seem to have opened at one bound. By our burn to-day, many primrose plants were found, and one open, long-styled flower. The golden saxifrage is all out now. A little clump of adoxa under a rose-bush gave us a joyful surprise. The hazels are lovely too, some quite crimson with pistillate flowers. Tender little red rose shoots are everywhere. On our way home, we passed banks golden with coltsfoot and down by the railway the willows of both sexes were resplendent. Turning aside to look at a patch of columbine leaves, we found buxbaum speedwell. Perhaps both had been thrown out of a garden.

The larches on the steep banks above the river are now quite green.

Typed by Nicole Robinson, August, 2023; Proofread by LNL, August, 2023