Archive for June, 2013

In No Danger



Bistort gets its name from the Latin description of its twisted roots, twice twisted. Bent in two places, the roots are a strange S shape. As you can imagine, it has also acquired names such as Adderwort, Snakeweed, Dragonwort (my favourite) and Twice Writhen. It looks pretty innocuous in the grass at the side of the road, not at all the sort of plant that you might assume would keep the company of dragons, or even one so extrovert as to writhe about in public.

Things are not at all as they seem though. Powdered Bistort root is just the thing to have around, if you have something that needs exorcism on your hands. I had a chat with Google about exorcising – you never know when that sort of thing can come in handy – and he came up with any number of interesting details. To start with, watching ‘That Movie’ is not much good as a training ground. Other points to bear in mind: Don’t challenge the demons directly and don’t start chatting with them either as they will wheedle their way out of anything. If you’re going in for sprinkling Holy Water then a little powdered Bistort root mixed in it will increase its efficacy. (Or perhaps its Holiness?)  Hint: It could be a good idea to sprinkle yourself first, just in case.

Currently, my inner demons do little worse than write this blog, an occasional children story, and a poem now and again, so were’re learning to live with each other.

Bistort, leaf, flower and root is edible, but contains oxalic acid, bad news for people with gout. So, all in all, it’s in no danger from me.

Dog’s Dinner

Rosebay Willowherb About to Bloom

Rosebay Willowherb About to Bloom

As you can see the Rosebay Willowherb is just about to burst into flower. Rosebay Willowherb is called a first coloniser and it likes nothing better than a good fire to clear the air. In autumn they produce a mass of fluffy seeds for the wind to disperse. The seeds then lie around, sometimes for years, waiting for a nice comforting blaze.

Back in 1700-ish, Rosebay Willowherb was pretty rare here in the UK, but then they started building railways. It is entirely possible that the Rosebay Willowherb actually invented railways and just allowed Stevenson et al. think that they did it.

Just think about it. The swoosh of the passing train to carry those thistle-downy seeds far and wide and the sparks from the engine, starting fires along the track to exterminate the locals. They don’t call them colonisers for nothing, you know.

Wikipedia mentioned that the Dena’ina people of Alaska mix Rosebay Willowherb with their dog food. Dan Wall over on northierthanthou lives in Alaska. He pops in here from time to time. Hi Dan. Perhaps if you bump into a Dena’ina who is feeling conversational you could ask him/her if this is true – or do they just pop to the supermarket for a tin, like the rest of us?

I know the locals over there are supposed to have wandered across from Siberia, but we also know that in this part of the world, during our Ice Age, we lived by hunting and fishing along the edge of the ice sheet. It wouldn’t surprise me to find that when the ice sheets melted away (what a disaster global warming turned out to be) some of our relatives were left trapped on that side of the Atlantic.

You might like to mention that they left some of their bone sewing needles behind. We could post them on, I suppose.

Yellow Fidget

Yellow Hammer

Yellow Hammer

It was pouring with rain this morning and it was close to coffee time too, so The Dog and I agreed on just a potter up the road to the village green and back. A good part of the way is under the shelter of the trees that make up the other side of our wood, so we could avoid getting absolutely soaked. Just as we reached the end of the drive, the squirrel, who was also just popping home for coffee, appeared in the road. The Dog was busy checking ‘The Place’ by the gatepost, where every passing canine leaves their calling card, so she didn’t notice the squirrel about six feet away. I stopped, tightened my grip on the lead and looked at the squirrel. The squirrel stopped, looked at The Dog going about her own affairs, and looked at me. He raised one eyebrow, shrugged, then disappeared into the hedge. I released the tension on the lead and we wandered off into the rain.

For these last few days we’ve had the excitement of a Yellow Hammer and two chicks trotting around at the foot of the bird table. The chicks look just like sparrows and it’s only that they constantly harass their parent that gives them away. We must have taken a thousand pictures of the little family group or the brightly coloured parent but in not one of them have the birds been in focus. In frustration, here is one of the least blurred.

Really, they are such fidgets.

Jay Walking

Jay in the garden

Jay in the garden

This is actually, one of Jackie’s pictures. The bird table is in the back garden and the kitchen window looks out in that direction. One of Jackie’s self imposed tasks is to keep the bird feeders topped up. Our birds are very fond of Jackie and wouldn’t like her to feel unappreciated so they work hard at emptying the various feeders, to make sure that she always has at least one to refill. The bird who shows the most concern for Jackie’s emotional needs is the Great Tit. The minute she hangs a filled seed feeder on the hook on the bird table, two or three of them will appear and start to empty it, throwing seed right, left and centre to get the job done.

As soon as they have a reasonable amount of the seed spread over the ground at the base of the bird table, the Lower Story Clean-up Squad will put in an appearance. Members include the Stock Dove family, an occasional Wood Pigeon, the Back Garden Blackbird and, when the Blackbird isn’t looking, a Robin or two – and of course, we must also mention an assortment of Chaffinches and Sparrows. These last few days they have been joined by the Jay. We have seen him around before, but he is usually too shy to stop and chat. In the Autumn he gathers acorns, his favourite food, and hides them. He’s not above stealing a squirrel’s hoard, if he spots him in the process of hiding some.

I guess that by now, the cupboard is bare.


Tansy - good for gout


The Dog has been a trifle indisposed for the last couple of weeks. She had started limping and a thorough examination of her pads revealed nothing untoward, nor did she object to having her joints prodded and twisted. Nonplussed, we made an appointment with the ‘Dogtor.’ He agreed with us – she was quite definitely limping, but didn’t seem to have any tender or delicate parts. He sent her home with some ibuprofen and said to come back in two weeks or so, if she didn’t improve. Well, two weeks passed and she didn’t seem to be that much better, so we steeled ourselves for another vet visit. That was yesterday. Today she is better. Animals are strange creatures, are they not?

While she has been limping we have confined our daily exercise to a short amble up the road and back, I’ve put on weight and I’ll bet she has too. Today, with no sign of the limp and a spring in her step, I thought we would venture a little farther afield. So we pottered up to the railway crossing and, as that seemed to go all right, we went on a little bit more.

Here, to put the good news into context, I had better add that I have just been through a bout of gout, so The Dog hasn’t been the only one who was content to limp locally.

Just past the level crossing, we came across this peering at us over the top of the knee-high, roadside grasses. It’s Tansy (also known as Buttons) and yes, you’ve guessed it – it’s good for gout.

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The Moon in June

Supermoon In June

Supermoon In June

Sometimes it’s hard to resist the urge to rhyme things with moon.
Especially when it’s full and especially when it’s a full moon in June.
It’s now as near as it can be, cuddled up for a close harmony croon.
It doesn’t do this very often, so I hope I can remember the tune.
As it’s thirty thousand miles nearer,  it’ll look like a wrinkled old prune
and we’ll probably be able to smell the Green Cheese from which it’s hewn.
So if that cow is ever going to jump, she better be doing it soon.
Close cupboard doors tightly otherwise the dish will be off with the spoon.

That’s It Then



So here we are. It’s all over now. The Solstice has been and gone and we’re on the slippery downhill slope into Winter. If the week or so that Spring was allocated is anything to go by, then Summer has had it already, this must be the Autumn it feels so like and Winter will be back soon, to pick up where it left off – not much more than a month ago. It seems no time at all since I stopped wearing my gloves to take The Dog out for our morning constitutional. It certainly feels as if it won’t be long before I need to put them back on.

And what about all those people who took their warm underwear off when the May blossomed? What indeed. If they were quick enough to get it into the washing machine, the world’s underwear is probably at least clean, I can’t say that they’ve had much opportunity to hang it out to dry though. Then, there are the moths. If the world’s underwear is just going to dried, ironed and put back on, without being tucked away in the bottom drawer, where will the moths lay their eggs? There will be a global shortage of moths next year – you mark my words.

Come on Global Warming – get your act together. The use-by date on my sun screen expires soon!

PS It’s not all doom and gloom – here’s a nice cheerful picture of Hogweed flowers to cheer you up.

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