We May Have a Problem

2014-04-18 2 comments
May Blossom - in good time.

May Blossom – in good time.

I had a quick look to see when we were talking about May flowers last year. On May 29th we have a post welcoming the arrival of May Blossom at last. This year? Here it is only the 18th April and already the hedges are aglow with sheets of white. Is this a good omen? Is this a bad omen? Is this just weather? Well you might ask! As an aside our first mention of May Blossom the year before last (2012) was on May 11th. That must prove something. Luckily we needn’t concern ourselves with what.

But that brings up a different issue. It’s still a couple of weeks (we have to fight our way through the Grand Cross in the Cardinal Signs first) until May Day or Beltane – Beltane was actually an all night party starting on the last day of April. May Day was more about the morning after. Of course, in the days when only the Romans bothered with months – they needed them to name after emperors – Beltane would be when the May Blossom appeared. It was when you turned the cattle out to pasture, but I digress. In those days it was common to have a May Bush. This could be a personal thing or it could be a community thing. A bush would be stuck up in a communal area and decorated with ribbons, flowers, shells and things – a bit like a Christmas tree.

The Hawthorn, or May tree was sacred to all sorts of spirits – both good and bad, conveniently they would permit you to cut the May only at this time of year. (Hence ‘Here we go gathering knots of May’ – a story in itself.)

You can see the problem now though, can’t you?

How can you weave all those patterns as you dance round a very prickly bush?

Categories: Uncategorized

No Yeti Yet

2014-04-11 6 comments


Our current home is the top floor of a converted barn. Below us, the barn remains unconverted. The building is built into the hillside, so while our front door leads into a small lobby with stairs up to the main rooms of our home, the back door leads straight out to ground level a good way up the hill. From the back door you step onto a small flat-ish area of lawn surrounded by trees and bushes of various cultivated varieties. Behind that, the steeply rising ground is the home of oak, holly and the occasional beech tree with, at this time of year, a carpet of daffodils.

Both the woods and the garden shrubbery are old established, possibly over a hundred years in the case of the woods. Over time, the shrubbery has climbed steadily up the hill and the woods have edged their way slowly downwards. Now, that terror of the spelling bee – the rhododendron, is from the Himalayas. For them, a steep incline is no deterrent. It seems to me that what is needed to keep them in check is some Himalayan local fauna. Honey made from the rhododendron pollen is toxic to humans. As anything with any semblance of human form is automatically drawn to consume everything that doesn’t actually kill them very often, and lacking any clear evidence to the contrary, I feel justified in assuming that that denizen of desolation, the Yeti, must exist on a diet of rhododendron flowers.

We’re hoping he’ll pose for a photo when he turns up – watch this space.

Cherry Aid

2014-04-04 5 comments
Nascent Cherry Blossom

Nascent Cherry Blossom

Each year, about this time the cherry trees blossom. Cherry blossom means Japan, of course. In Japan they are in two minds about it. The arrival of the cherry blossom heralds the arrival of the hay fever season. While the cherry blossom is the most obvious culprit, it isn’t the main source of the pollen. Most comes from the Japanese Cedar and Japanese Cypress trees that were planted in their thousands as part of the reconstruction and rebuilding programme after the war. The pollen from these two trees  is maximised once the tree reaches the ripe old age of thirty. Most of the trees are now thirty to forty years old and well into the swing of it.

At this time of year a range of ‘anti-hay fever’ products appear – after all, on a nice day who wouldn’t want to picnic in the park amongst the cherry blossom. This year, the most popular seems to be a sort of bee keeper helmet, with a small battery powered fan in the top that draws in air through a filter. I presume that the air in Japan, realises that it isn’t supposed to come in through the gauze covering your face, and makes its way round to the fan independently – perhaps there are signs showing the correct path.

Our cherry trees, down by the beck, are doing their best. Every time we pass that way we stop and have a chat. Obviously, we’re concerned that all these negative vibes may put them off.

We’ve taken to passing on those ‘inspired quotes’ that litter the Internet every time we’re round that way.  Today we tried ‘It doesn’t matter if the glass is half full or half empty – as long as you have a glass with something in it’. I’m not sure if it hit the spot, though.

An Embarassment of Riches

2014-03-28 3 comments
Yellowhammer at the bird feeder

Yellowhammer at the bird feeder

One of the problems with having nature as the central theme is that, while you are busy admiring the gold and red leaves and the fruit and seed pods of autumn – nature, who, by now, is totally bored by all this growth, expansion and the constant need to maximise income over expenditure, just nods off – and leaves you standing there, with nothing to write about. This leads to the temptation to write insulting and snide comments in an attempt to stir some response. It is as well to resist this, as it is firstly, pointless, and secondly – always bear in mind, not only does Google gleefully cache all slips of the keyboard for ever and ever after, but this cache immediately becomes available to European, American and Chinese security services to be broken up into sound bites and churned into Big Data.

Then, suddenly it’s Spring. This week we have some lovely pictures of our mountains, basking in the morning sun with a crisp clean bedcover of snow. Then, under the hedge on the way to the beck we found some Honesty coming into flower. Our wood is looking magnificent in its bright daffodil yellow jumper. There are hyacinths sprouting among the daffodils on the roadsides. We found some Lungwort with its red and blue flowers by the rookery and the Lesser Celandines are bursting out in the warmer spots.

But, in the end, I decided to show you Jackie’s picture of this Yellowhammer, he is on the RSBP ‘Red List’ – meaning there are not many around at the moment.

So, I thought you’d better see him before things get any worse.

This Year’s Crop

2014-03-21 4 comments
First Lambs This Year

First Lambs This Year

As anyone who has ever kept sheep will lose no opportunity to tell you, sheep are the Houdinis of the animal world. They are escape artists par excellence. This field has had a new gate and new fencing installed recently. We’ll see how long it takes them to find their way out. Once the sheep realise that the all the tasty stuff is actually in the field with them, however, they knuckle down and focus on the job of keeping the grass clipped as short as possible. But this realisation dawns slowly. 

For the first few months, especially, the lure of the wild blue yonder is too strong to be denied, or may be it’s just that the grass has to be greener on the other side of the fence, they’ve read it on Facebook – it had twenty thousand ‘Likes’ – so it must be true.

Driving around at this time of year becomes increasingly hazardous as the lambs become more adventuresome and bolder. Some have taken the trouble to plan their escape route ahead of an emergency, others haven’t. When you drive down the lane, those on ‘Red Alert’ immediately take evasive action and head straight for the hole in the hedge they made on their way out of the field. Those happy-go-lucky types, for whom forward planning is an anathema, scuttle up and down the verge or run along the road in front of the car. Many times I have had to wind the car window down and lecture a bunch who belie Bo Peep’s belief.

Leave them alone and they’ll come home, indeed!

To Hell and Back

2014-03-14 6 comments


Robin in the sun

It must be spring. There can no longer any doubt. Over several days now we have spotted two robins around the bird feeder. Robins, especially young males (which will come as no surprise to you) are overly competitive and will, quite literally, protect their patch to the death. This over possessive tendency, which might be though of as nature’s way of ensuring the continuation of the species, in fact leads to an average life expectancy of a mere 1.1 years. Whereas. if they can survive beyond this teenage angst, they’re good for up to twelve years.

I thought you might like to know that the robin’s breast is that bright red colour because, in the olden days, he used to spend part of his days carrying water to quench the parched throats of those poor souls who found themselves (and who, I’m sure would add, through no fault of their own) stoking the furnaces in the nether regions of the afterlife. This took our robins too close the eternal fires and scorched their breast feathers. I’m sure you can do all this over the Internet these days.

Two robins in the garden means they must be mating. There can be no other reason for their co-existence. What a strange way of life. How can you put all that effort into feeding, caring for, educating and generally allowing your offspring to consume a significant part of your life, without being able to spoil the grandchildren?

Categories: Uncategorized

Fingers Crossed

2014-03-07 6 comments
Hazel Catkins

Hazel Catkins

One of the ‘benefits’ of being over a certain age is that, once a year, you get to visit the doctor’s surgery for an interview with The Nurse.

Having ascertained which arm was used last time, she will fill three or four vials of blood from the other arm. I presume this is a necessary procedure, otherwise you might end up lop-sided, with no blood left in one arm and consequently spend your last remaining days walking round in circles with a pronounced list to port or starboard. I guess the operation of a database somewhere within our health service, where a record could be kept of the number of people who needed to make left-hand turns and those who needed to make right-hand turns, to ensure that the population remained balanced, would stretch the available finances beyond current budgets.

The next stage is the questionnaire. Previously, I’ve not done too badly. I don’t smoke and I drink moderately – and then only medically approved beverages – and, of course, I walk The Dog. This year it proved to be our downfall. My smug assertions of the canine conspiracy (perhaps I should write a book) were met with a new level of inquisition.

“Ah, yes. But is this a brisk walk or more of an amble?”

I did my best to lead the topic of conversation down gentler paths, but The Nurse was not so easily swayed.

So, much to The Dog’s disgust, we have added ‘brisk’ to our daily perambulation.

Hopefully we’ll do better next year – fingers crossed, anyway.

Categories: Uncategorized

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