During the Spring and on into Summer, we entertain you with the local flora and fauna. At the first promise of relief from the dark, damp and cold of Winter’s tail-coats, we offer a panorama of country life, a bay window on the biosphere as it goes about its business.
Lambs, of course, are our first line of defence against annual ennui, we quickly follow that with our, very personable, sheep. A few cows, perhaps, at this point? Then, as Spring moves off, leaving everything spick and span for Summer, we have an array of wild flowers, complete with comments by Google, for your elucidation.
Summer starts in a relaxed mood, but as Autumn nears she begins to feel the pressure and to worry that things won’t be ready on time.
Autumn is the opposite, She comes in with a great bustle, sending the rooks off, to fly in raucous waves, washing over field and new turned furrow. Hay is mown, hedges are trimmed, and the clouds scurry in from the west, looking for a comfortable roosting place. All we are left to photograph – is thistle down – in short, fluff. This is the time of year when the grumble and whine of a passing helicopter is most welcome.
Google says that this is a R44 mkII made by the Robinson Helicopter Company. They have a factory in California with the capacity to manufacture 1000 helicopters a year. They currently only make a couple of hundred, so if you have the price of a decent three bedroom house handy, I’m sure they’d be pleased to hear from you.
‘Phew. They’ve gone!
Listen to that glorious noise. Well, I mean lack of noise, of course.’
‘Yes, yes, what I really mean is glorious silence. Isn’t it beautiful!
There’s no music blasting out; that wretched computer game noise isn’t on its continuous loop; the TV isn’t switched on at full volume with no one in the room watching it. Heaven!’
‘I wonder what they did with the TV remote before they left?
Hold on. let me lift the sofa cushions up, we may as well know what we’re up against.
I thought they promised to run round with the Hoover before they went?
Humph! A fair amount of small change but no remote. Probably in the freezer or the microwave, that’s where they spent most of their time.’
‘Oops! What’s that?’
‘Something on the floor, I felt it crunch when I stood on it.
There you go. It’s the TV remote. That’s lucky, we’d never have found it if they’d taken up to their bedrooms.’
‘No phone call to say they’ve arrived safely, yet?’
‘Oh, yes, of course.’
‘Should I send a text to remind them to phone when they get there, then?’
‘I’ll just put the TV on, shall I?’
‘Isn’t it quiet!’
Today’s picture is quite an interesting one. Although we know what it is, we actually don’t know what it is. Even poor old Google became so confused he threw up his hands, and threw in the towel.
It’s either a Common Knapweed or a Lesser Knapweed. The problem is that the Common Knapweed has been seen dallying with the Lesser Knapweed. Now, you might think that the Lesser Knapweed was getting a bit above itself and should, no doubt, be put in its place. Except, of course, there is the fact that the Common Knapweed is, well, you know, erm, common, so in fact, the Lesser Knapweed may just be the best it can do to better itself.
Never the less, for the sake of decency, they should be encouraged to stay with their own kind. I’m sure there are enough nice Common Knapweeds around. There really is no need, at all, for them to venture over on the wrong side of the track and fraternise with those ‘Lesser’ plebs.
But then, there are those who say – “It’s too late!” The differences between Lesser and Common cover the entire spectrum. There is nowhere to draw the line. Only a large, fuzzy area somewhere in the middle. Surely, Linnaeus could have said something.
I blame that bee myself.
I know that thistledown has a reputation to live up to, but all it does really, is take its payload and dump it somewhere downwind. It takes a decent bit of wind, too, to shake the seeds lose.
Our thistle seeds have become quite used to having full access to all the modern conveniences of life – otherwise known as parents. They are happy to join their peer group, busy building the hype surrounding life at a university at the other end of the country. But still, when it comes to the time to actually leave home, that place that they couldn’t wait to get out of, it suddenly seems safe and familiar,and childhood so much more preferable to adulthood.
The Rosebay Willowherb uses much the same distribution network – a fluffy, almost-lighter-than-air contrivance surrounding each seed. No hanging on to childhood for Rosebay teenagers. All it takes is a nice sunny day, and the seed cases, looking like miniature runner beans, split sharply open and the scions of the house are ejected, unceremoniously, out into the cruel world.
On our way down to the beck the other (nice sunny) day, we looked ahead to where the banks of Rosebay Willowherb line the road. Oh! The angst! The trauma! It seemed as if we were walking into a snow storm, a perfect blizzard of airborne histamine.
And that gets right up my nose.
Today we have Hawkweed, or perhaps, I ought to say one of the Hawkweeds.
When we have nothing to complain about – which isn’t often, I must admit – we can usually find cause for concern amongst the nomenclature of plants. This is usually sufficient to keep us occupied until an issue of more immediate concern arises.
You see, the Hawkweeds have a disconcerting habit of setting their seed, whether they have been decently fertilised or not. This covert cloning means that local variations abound, and are replicated with a complete lack of discretion. There are around three hundred different Hawkweeds – most of which you have to dismember down to their chromosomes in order to tell them apart.
As a herb, we humans use them in much the same way we use the Dandelion, and I’m guessing that most of us would be happy to just call them Dandelions, and let it go at that.
However, hawks, down through the ages, have believed that the Hawkweed flower is good for their eyesight. This is obviously an old wives’ tale. Did a little bird tell them, I wonder?
As can be seen from the state of the petals in our picture. The raptor community is obviously conservative, it’s not likely to move with the times and start wearing spectacles any time soon.
As promised, this week we have a picture of Yarrow. It has been used for various things, by almost everyone in the world, ever since we first thought of it.
Google and I explore the internet regularly, looking for interesting facts that would be of benefit to mankind generally – and to you, gentle reader, specifically. We have noticed, on these information-harvesting forays, that the longer humankind has been using a naturally occurring plant, landscape feature, or substance, the more names we give it. I won’t bore you with the couple of paragraphs of ‘folk names’ that are currently synonymous with Yarrow, except to mention Milfoil, which is the alias Yarrow tends to use most often today.
We’ve been eating the stuff as a salad vegetable or spinach substitute for ever – but these days, medicinally, its main use seems to be as an enhancer. It makes whatever else you’re taking work better. It seems to work especially well on normalising blood pressure. So be careful – if you’re taking other medication for that sort of thing.
Just stick to rubbing it on sword cuts – it seems pretty safe for that.
I have a nice picture of some Harebells – or Scots Bluebells if you live a few miles further north. Then, I have a good picture of Yarrow, currently taking over as the white, umbelliferous blossom of choice on the roadsides and verges. Both these plants have magical associations and I was sure you’d be interested in them.
Then, there is the interesting inference that can be drawn from the fact that both of these ‘power plants’, from the realm of faerie, have appeared as autumn draws near. This led me wonder if this part of the year – with the abundance of nuts, fruit, and seeds – was especially magical.
Looking at it from a strictly business point of view. Now that the harvests are in, customers are more likely to have purchasing power, and – in the dim and distant past, as today – no doubt they were in the market for love charms, relationship advice and personal forecasts for the year ahead.
And speaking of predictions, who would have guessed that this Robin would come and perch not six feet away from us? Not only that, but he sat there, patiently, while I took several pictures. Magical!