Last year we had large numbers of our acorns afflicted by the knopper oak gall wasp, this year we seem to have done better. This tiny insect is one of those that make you wonder if Mother Nature was tinkering around with the idea of having three, or maybe even four, sexes.
At some point in its life cycle the wasp lays an egg in the acorn bud. This develops into a grub. The grub then uses the material, designed by the oak tree to form the acorn and cup, and chemically alters it to build itself a nice little hidey-hole. Naturally, nature doesn’t just leave it at that – there are also wasps that lay eggs that hatch into grubs that eat the knopper wasp grub and move into the, now vacant, property – but I digress.
At a completely different time of the year and in a completely different type of oak tree, eggs are laid that produce only female wasps. Later in the year both male and female wasps hatch out somewhere else in the forest. The mind boggles! Two different types of oak trees and the odds of clement weather in two different seasons in order to produce one generation of minute wasps – it’s a wonderful world.
These are the seeds of the plant we call Honesty – Lunaria annua is its posh name, and as you can see it is indeed moon-like. It has plenty of other names – The Money Plant, Silver Dollars or Chinese Dollars among them. There is no doubt that the money on the plant in our picture definitely needs to be laundered.
Filthy lucre – ill-gotten gains – or more particularly these days, the delicious and illicit enjoyment that goes with the acquisition of the aforementioned – has a long and illustrious career. Some of Google’s friends mention that it is found in the King James Version of the Christian bible – first available around 1611 and our phrase possibly dates back to the English translation of the bible produced by William Tyndale around 1525 (for which he was executed as a heretic). However a different bunch of Google’s friends mention that it was used by Geoffrey Chaucer in the Prioress’s Tale (not quite true but pretty close) probably written just before 1400.
Then, there’s the other lot who think we pinched it from Latin – or French – or Dutch.
So, here today, once again, we can enjoy the pleasure of our ill-gotten gains.
The photo today is a sort of mint – it might be Water Mint as it was growing near water – but then all the other twenty varieties and over two hundred hybrids grow near water too – so it might not be. In fact, let’s be honest the odds are a little on the high side. Perhaps it might be better to have started with: The photo today is a sort of mint – it probably isn’t Water Mint. There, the stress and pressure of the whole post has diminished quite significantly, don’t you agree?
Well, don’t relax too much, this is where we get to the bad news. Mint, you’d think, well, it’s just mint, isn’t it? That’s what I thought, too. But I had a serious chat with Google – I think he was having a bad day, he isn’t usually like this. If you take that ordinary, just mint, and distil it and do other unimaginable stuff to it, you end up in a sorry state. A teaspoonful of your concoction can bring death and destruction to even a healthy adult. And babies and children can have paroxysms and stop breathing if they just smell it. Tell that to the lamb chops.
This is more than I can cope with – I think I’ll close Google and go and curl up in a fetal position on Facebook.
While we’re on the subject of nature’s whimsies, here we have a picture of Lady’s Thumb.
In the centre of the village we have an area of grass that we refer to as the green. It isn’t a huge area – certainly not big enough to have a cricket pitch in the middle, nor could we realistically fit a duck pond on it, it is however, kept neat, tidy and mown by Harold, who lives just opposite.
While the green itself is maintained in strict accordance to some gardener’s handbook or manual that permits nothing other than grass to occupy any area of lawn, in the gutter and between the kerb stones, nature, in the raw, runs rampant – and it’s here that many an interesting find can be made.
Earlier this year this gutter was sprinkled with these pale pink plants. Then they did their thing – flowered, produced seed, scattered them, etc., and went back indoors to become addicted to daytime television. Now, with this year’s mild winter and early spring, summer has been and gone and we are already seeing autumn all around us, but look – our Lady’s Thumb is back to have another go at spring.
Some people are gluttons for punishment.
Now, I don’t want to complain – well, yes I do, actually. Those of you who have followed the mumbling and ramblings that pass for communication around here, will be well aware that complaining is the life blood of our existence. So what, you are probably wondering, has he found to whinge about now?
You will be pleased to know that, this time, we are breaking new ground, taking our righteous indignation to new heights. In this post we are about to thrust under your nose something that hasn’t happened – yet. But it will, you mark my words.
Take a look at our picture. What do you see? Blackberries. Not just blackberries – but ripe blackberries (and very tasty they were too). But, and here is the pertinent point, it is only August. There is still a good-sized chunk of this year left – brand new and untouched. Now, I must admit that we have peeped inside the September box – just to make sure – but October et al are still in the cupboard, with their plastic bags firmly stuck down and the end of the sticky-tape cunningly camouflaged.
What about the rest of our summer? Why is Autumn in such a hurry to get started? I am filled with foreboding. Something is going on!
And that will definitely give us something to complain about.
As you no doubt guessed immediately, this is a Great Hairy Willowherb. They live in the remote jungles and rain-forests of the British Isles, far beyond the last vestiges of civilisation. Beyond even the reach of the tallest mobile phone mast, so far beyond and so remote, indeed, that even the nearest supermarket is half an hours journey away.
He is well known to the hunter-gatherers of the area – although the beast itself, is seldom seen – at night, round their camp fires they tell tales of legendary encounters and heroic escapes and in the silences that fall between such portentous postulations they listen, fearfully, for the sound of his call.
Once, so the story goes, all this was his, he ranged unchallenged, many days travel in all directions. Then Man came. He retreated and retreated. Eventually he was pushed to the far extremes of his once vast home range. Today his numbers are few and it is only the vast desolation that protects him. Soon, no doubt, Man’s constant encroachment of his native habitat will drive him to the edge – he will be forced to eke out a precarious living by signing up to appear on TV reality programmes and promoting his autobiography in the daily press.
Hint: I’m available if you’re looking for a ghost writer.
Now, there may be times when you feel the pressure to turn into a hare – note the spelling, please. I urgently ask you to reconsider. No matter what poets and romantics would have us believe, the hare occupies an unenviable position in the food chain of a considerable number of ground and airborne predators. Hares, themselves, have developed a nice turn of speed, and an inherent understanding of the essence of camouflage, in the hopes of outwitting the aforementioned. You can see at a glance though that their main defence systems come in the shape of two highly sensitive ears. A quick, basic analysis of the defensive and offensive capability of the animal reveal that in order to maximise its own survival rate it relies on spending most of its days sitting and listening.
Most humans, on the other hand, spend their days sitting and talking – only stopping to listen at those twenty-minute-past-the-hour moments when everyone else does too.
So, even though you could use the Harebell to make a cream, rub it on and turn yourself into a hare, as witches in Scotland have done for many years, I recommend against it.
Sitting listening is not a natural human trait.