Three Guesses

New Leaves - Possibly Beech
New Leaves – Possibly Beech

This was another week that presented us with an embarrassment of riches, photographically speaking, of course. We had a photo of a ewe suckling two lambs – one of which had the same off white fleece colour as she did – while the other one was a rich dark black.

Then there were three good photos of our buzzard doing his ‘I’m a tree trunk’ impersonation. Buzzard’s first preference is to float effortlessly in circles high in the sky, their second modus operandi is to sit motionless in a tree or on a telephone pole. This minimal use of energy is something they are very good at.

We found we’d taken some really nice pictures of cherry blossom and we felt pressured to use one of these as we had shown you the ‘before’ picture, but there seem to be a great many white blossoming trees around at the moment so another one right after the May blossom seemed a bit over the top.

We had a steam train on our line too, and I did manage to get one decent picture of it – it was a very misty day and the train appeared out of the mist and then it was gone – luckily we knew it was coming and I was standing at the window with the camera at the ready.

But no. In the end, I decided on this picture of leaves leaving the safety of the covering sheath that has been protecting the bud come rain or shine, until this very minute. There is only one problem. I don’t know what kind of tree it is. It had smooth, rather than rough, bark, so that limits things to 50% of all known trees.

I’m inclined to think it’s a Beech tree – but your guess is as good as mine.

We May Have a Problem

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?

No Yeti Yet


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

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.