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Eve O’Lution

Foxglove

Foxglove

When we return from our daily walk – down the hill, over the beck, then round to the T junction in the next village or, up the hill and round to where the road and the railway cross – there is a ritual that is an essential part of the routine. On entering the house The Dog will stand and wait. First she must have her lead un-clipped, then she needs her harness removed. Jackie will first fetch a towel and a brush, then she will dry and brush The Dog’s feet, one at a time. During this procedure The Dog will stand there and raise each foot, on an as required basis, to be dealt with.
Watching this happen every day leads me to ponder the evolutionary development that has led dogs and humans to be such natural collaborators. Indeed how did Eve O’lution work out, all those millions of years ago, that being able to stand on three feet while raising the forth – would have such survival value? And how did humans, those same millions of years ago, work out that dog treats would have such a part to play in this collaboration?
Insects and flowers have also developed a degree of collaboration – now the Foxgloves just need to train the bees to wipe their feet.

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Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle

Behind the house is a small patch of grass (it needs mowing at the moment). Beyond the grass, the oak trees of the wood march down the hill and the rhododendrons, lilac, broom and gorse of the shrubbery, fight a fierce rearguard action. Giving ground only where they must, pushing back up the hill, seizing every opportunity to advance when they can. Glancing out of the window earlier this week something in the lilac tree caught my eye. Sure enough, on closer inspection, a few strands of honeysuckle had appeared there, out of nowhere.

Dr Bach, in 1936, felt that Honeysuckle was the treatment for those who were stuck in the past, with no wish to move forward. Nicholas Culpeper, in around 1653, wrote that “a conserve made from the flowers should be kept in every gentlewoman’s house.” As it was good for all those women’s problems, which we won’t list here, although he did. John Gerard, writing in 1597, declared that, “a syrup made of the flowers is good to be drunk against diseases of the lungs and spleen.”

The flowers have a wonderful scent in the evening – especially after a warm sunny day, the berries are mildly poisonous and goats find the leaves absolutely delicious – or so they say.

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The Fist of Zagol

Hogweed

Hogweed

Behold the mighty fist of Zagol!

We will overcome all who stand in our way. Those who oppose us will be as nothing. They will be as chaff before the winds of our might. Never before have the oppressed and disregarded had a champion of such stature and heroism. None of those who so foolishly attempt to thwart our progress will survive our displeasure. We come, not as cowards who creep past in the dark of night, but as conquerors with trumpets blaring and the ‘Hallelujahs’ of the army of our followers ringing in our ears.
We will not rest. We will be tireless. We will carry the torch of our committment to the darkest corner. We will light up the faces of the downtrodden masses with the torch of honesty and the fierce glow of the freedom they hunger for.
Our opponents tremble at our righteous indignation, they know we will oppose them at every turn. We will oppose them in the hedgerows. We will oppose them on the verges. Join with us as we stand together, leaf to leaf.

Hmm. . . sounds like a lot of old Hogweed to me.

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Prickly Sow

Prickly Sow Thistle

Prickly Sow Thistle

Prickly Sow Thistles – I’m sure we’ve all come across them as we wander through the randomness of life. A situation that looked like a sweet innocent dandelion until you reach out for it. Then its promise evaporated, leaving you, completely nonplussed, and picking sharp prickly bits out of your fingers.

Did pigs ever really eat them I wonder? I also wonder whether the population has truly lost as much countryside law as we assume. Was every Tom, Dick and Harriett able to recognise and name all the plants that we find on our verges and in our hedgerows? Did every single person carry this encyclopedic knowledge around in their heads? To be honest, I don’t think so. I don’t believe people who lived a thousand years ago were any better naturalists than the people I meet when we’re out on our daily stroll. To some of us it’s just grass and weeds, others see old friends who return every year.

Just as in the case of the wren and the robin – the wren was thought to be a female robin – I’d hazard a guess that this plant came to be called a Sow Thistle merely because it wasn’t a real thistle. It was a false thistle – looking for the reason that makes it a Sow Thistle, I think we must refer to the robin and wren example, above.

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Silver Hair

Silverweed

Silverweed

Around this time every year an inexplicable, and irritating, event occurs. Quite suddenly, and without prior warning – I age a year over night. I go to bed as I do any other night but when I wake in the morning I find, for no apparent reason, that I’m a year older. Still, they do say that birthdays are good for you – it is widely accepted that those with the most, live longest. I’m sure there’s a scientific study somewhere if you Google it.

Currently I am engaged in a race. The challenge is: can I get old enough for my hair to turn silver – before it all falls out. Today’s photo is of Silverweed. The pale sheen on the leaves is caused by fine silver hairs. It’s a non-issue for him, then. Personally, I think that he was in such a hurry to get up and get going when Spring arrived, that he decided he would shave later.  This is borne out by the fact that by summer his leaves will be plain ordinary green – once the growing season was over he obviously found time to catch up on his morning routine.

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Here We Go Gathering Knots of May

May Blossom

May Blossom

Well, May has arrived – and with it the Hawthorn hedges are starting to show signs of May Blossom. Traditionally this is the recommended time to bring the cattle out of their nice, warm winter barn, as the grass that has snoozed gently all winter should now be awake and perked up, raring to be eaten.
The Hawthorn has a large humanitarian streak in its nature and has given its Good Samaritan support to the various, misunderstood and outcast, carrion insects. The overt result of this is that the scent exuded by the flowers is reminiscent of rotting meat – totally at odds with the apparent purity of its white blossom.
In some years, our hedges go from zero to hero, seemingly overnight. A uniform green one day – then covered with white blossom the next. This year they have shown no such enthusiasm. Over the last couple of weeks the flowers have appeared in a rather haphazard manner, showing a small spray of white here, then ditto there.
I suspect that Hawthorn has reason to believe that the news source it uses to co-ordinate its flowering has become unreliable, and it just can’t be sure of the facts anymore.

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Sitting In The Sun

Chaffinch Sitting In The Sun

Chaffinch Sitting In The Sun

 

I Should Be Singing


Photography is such a fiddly business. There are about a million things you can adjust or select, add or subtract – and even worse, in order to do all of this you first have to find your glasses. (Didn’t Confucius say something similar?)

So, when buying a camera, I wanted something that could handle all of this phaffing on its own – without me having to fill in a four page questionnaire before the picture could be taken. To be fair, I was quite prepared to do my share. I was happy enough to take full responsibility for pointing the camera in roughly the right direction, and pressing the button at a time convenient to us both.

Birds, in particular, I have a love hate relationship with. I have endless pictures of the branch that the bird just flew away from – all in perfect focus. Some time ago, around this time of the year, I as passed this hedge, there, sitting on top, in full view, so wrapped up in his sunbathing that he completely ignored the great lumbering humans a few feet away, was a small bird. He was enjoying himself so much that he couldn’t be bothered to fly off when I took his picture. I was immensely impressed by his focus on the task in hand so I wrote him a song.

The Chaffinch we have in today’s piccy is a completely different bird – but he too, is focusing on the important things in life – I think he deserves a chorus or two, too.

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