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I Talk To The Trees

Sweet Chestnut

Sweet Chestnut

‘Of course, I’m just a baby, speaking in Sweet Chestnut terms. A few of my family are more than 2000 years old, and still going strong.
‘Well, I suppose our recent history started at the end of the last Ice Age, we were living in what’s now Turkey, then, once the ice melted, we made friends with the local people, in no time.
‘Not many of us, but, you know, we are so useful.
‘We coppice well, for starters. That means you can have a constant supply of poles and posts. And they won’t go and rot in the ground, like some other woods I can name.
‘Oak? Such a stodgy old fellow. We’re just as tough – but lighter and easier to work.
‘Yes, indeed, they did like the nuts. Very useful they found them. Cook them and eat them like that – or make bread and cakes with the flour, yes, very useful.
‘First, it was the Turks, then the Greeks turned up. They were everywhere in those days.
‘Naturally. We’ve always been interested in travel. We went back to Greece and spread ourselves around.
‘Then once the Romans took over we set our sights on Europe and hitched our wagon to the Roman star, so to speak.
‘Yes, turned up here in Britain soon as they did. They loved their Chestnut porridge, the Romans did.
‘Well, must get on. I’ve got nuts to ripen, you know.
‘Exactly. Who knows where they’ll end up?’

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Golden Ratio

Hen Pheasant

Hen Pheasant

We were just about to open the front door and set off for our daily commune with the natural world when a glance out of the window revealed that the natural world had, in fact, come to find out what was keeping us. Parading past the doorstep was a male pheasant and his harem. Naturally, by the time I’d found the camera, switched on and managed to direct its attention to their progress the male, with his striking plumage, had moved on and was presenting his rear to us.
He is brightly coloured and his hens are a dull brown. At one time this probably made evolutionary sense – it made it easy for his wives to keep an eye on him when there were other females around. But, times change and brightly coloured plumage is not such an asset when a major part of your life is spent dodging shooting parties. I’m pretty sure that, by now, it must have occurred to many hen pheasants that, while it is undoubtedly easier to manage one male in the family, the current evolutionary challenge supports a greater ratio of males to females.
Or perhaps they’re just not that fussed – maybe it’s easy enough to get another male if this one doesn’t make it through the shooting season.

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Caught Knapping

Bee On Knapwort

Bee On Knapwort

Today’s picture is of a bee on a Knapwort flower. So I thought you might be interested in knapping. Flintknapping that is. Google, who had assumed, without asking, that he was going to get the weekend off, grumbled a bit (well, a lot) but eventually slouched off to find some articles on flintknapping for me. Naturally, my intention was to dazzle you with my arcane knowledge. To my amazement, he came back with a long list of available flintknapping kits – at very reasonable prices – mostly from a certain well known, friendly and convenient, internet retailer.
It is possible, with very little effort, to acquire a kit of tools – manufactured from either ancient or modern materials – all neatly presented in a genuine hide wallet or if you prefer a genuine imitation hide wallet.
This would seem to suggest that everybody’s doing it and flintknapping knowledge can no longer be considered arcane. Still, it did take considerable further research to find relevant instructions for me to pass on to you.
It seems that (as any good vehicle mechanic will confirm) a nice selection of hammers, in various sizes and shapes, is essential. The other piece of information that seemed worthy of wider dissemination is to make sure that your fingers are out of the way when you indulge in the hammering of the one stone with the other.
The bee asked me to mention that it’s best to do your knapping out in the open air – the large-scale production of flints for flintlock guns sent many of its artisans to an early grave from silicosis of the lungs.

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The Curtain Between

Cup Shaped Fungus

Cup Shaped Fungus

Now daylight’s bright
betraying light
my cauldron doth reveal.

Each crystal drop
float to the top
bewitched desires conceal.

So chant in rhyme
and mark the time
to elfin folk appeal.

This spell of mine
with magic sign
a fayrie pact will seal.

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Good Advice

Three Cows

Three Cows

‘Look at you. For goodness sake how did you get in that state?
‘I know there are lots of flies around, so what?
‘Yes, yes, the flies came out after the rain, with all the sun we’ve had lately, a bit of rain was quite welcome.
‘Are you trying to say that the files did this to you?
‘What do you mean, “Yes.” How on earth could those tiny little things do something like this to two full grown adults hundreds of times their size?
‘Well? don’t just sit there, looking as embarrassed as you deserve to be, mumbling under your breath. What actually happened?
‘It’s no good looking at each other. Come on. One of you is going to have to tell me how you got like this if you expect me to try and help you.
‘It was the flies, it was the flies – if I hear that once more I’m going to walk away and leave you just as you are.
‘What did the flies actually do, then? Did every fly in the field suddenly gang up together and set upon you?
‘No, I thought not. So what did they do? How did you get in this mess?
‘Oh for goodness sake, is that all? You’re just going to have to be more careful in future then, aren’t you? You’ll have to synchronise your tails – call out left, right when you flick at the flies – or something. How you managed to get your tails so knotted together like that, without even noticing, is beyond me.’

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Scarborough Fair

Flax Blossom

Flax Blossom

“Tell her to make me a Cambric shirt,” well we do have a flax blossom in today’s picture,┬áso that’s a good start. Cambric is a very fine linen thought to have been originally produced in and around the town of Cambrai in France. It is much used for ecclesiastical robes, (and laypeople’s underwear) Google notes.
We only have this one little plant, struggling up, bravely, through the road surface, so I can’t see us getting a whole shirt out of it and, to be honest, that fits in nicely with the overriding theme of the song.
Our little ditty has been around for ages – possibly since 1400-and-something – and occurs in a great many versions with a great many variations of the lyric. Scarborough isn’t even the only place you could be going to, all you really need is a not-so-true love (available in many different sizes and styles) and a few impossible tasks, (similarly simple to locate) and we are ready to go.
Of particular interest is the phrase “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.” Some people note that in some songs of the period, that seem to be related to Scarborough Fair, a repeated phrase “There’s never a rose grows fairer in time” is often used. There is a consensus that the aforementioned herbal concoction is merely a corruption of this more thought-provoking meme.
History and hindsight make such snuggly bedfellows, don’t they?

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Hot and Wild

Wild Mustard - Charlock

Wild Mustard – Charlock

Dr Edward Bach – in the 1930s – felt that this blossom held the key to those of his patients who described themselves as depressed, but for no obvious reason.

It used to be an absolute scourge of the countryside. Often taking over, up to, 80% of the space – that had been planted with barley in the hope of some small financial return with the possibility of brewing a few pints of beer, too – in the fields.

Luckily it was fairly simple to control it with various weed killers and it almost disappeared from the scene of its conquests. Just lately it seems to be recovering and has become quite common on road verges and other idle land.

The plant is mostly poisonous, not that we humans ever let the mere fact that something kills us now and again stand in the way of culinary progress. The Irish, who were able to survive the Great Potato Famine (1845-1849) by taking the new leaves and boiling them, report that it doesn’t give you an upset stomach very often – providing you don’t eat too much of it and that the seeds can be ground up to produce a type of condiment.

We are, of course, referring to the Charlock in today’s image – most often known as Wild Mustard.

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