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Strange Tales

Weird Sun Through Clouds

Weird Sun Through Clouds

We recently had Hurricane Ophelia potter past. Although it made a nasty mess as it came up round Ireland, by the time it reached our vicinity it was just full of hot air. It was quite strange, after a night of howling gales – and if you live within a few yards of a wood, as we do, you’ll know how descriptive this phrase is – and thrashing branches, the days were blustery but not overly so, but this bluster was unnaturally warm. It was almost as though it had been sitting all day in front of the fire, watching the television with all the doors and windows closed. It felt decidedly stuffy and musty. It made you want to breath shallowly so as not to have to inhale too much of the stuff.

The strange, Fifth Dimension feel, extended to the daylight itself. It was dull and overcast. Now when it comes to dull and overcast you’d think that we had tried them all. Especially this year which has been almost a whole year of every variety of dull and overcast you can imagine. The dull and overcast of that day, however, just felt wrong.

Then the sun broke through the clouds. As you can see from the picture, it, too, was eerie and just plain strange.

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The Beginning Not The End

Sweet Chestnut Case

Sweet Chestnut Case

Today we have the seed case of the Sweet Chestnut. The tree it’s from grows in the hedge along the road we take to the railway crossing.

The seed case, lying here in the grass, is the sign of a job well done. All the effort that went into growing, putting out leaves, flowering, getting pollinated and finally producing this large spiky seed is over. The work is complete. The fruit of that labour lies here, before us.

Now, the world holds its breath. We wait for Spring. For new life to break forth from the seeds and start the new cycle.

Dr Edward Bach – in the 1930s – felt that Sweet Chestnut flower essence was for those who had reached the end. They had exhausted all their options. When interviewed they would say ‘I just don’t know what to do, now!’ Often, he noted, this was a sign that the end of a cycle had been reached – the darkest hour before the dawn – and the sufferer was about to experience a great awakening to a new life.

Art imitating nature, perhaps?

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Hard and Soft Options

Holly Berries

Holly Berries

The holly berries are reddening up nicely and, now they’re no longer green and have become visible to even a casual observer, we are starting to see predictions forecasting a hard winter.

The issue is relatively straightforward: there are holly trees that decide whether or not to produce berries with a joyful disregard to whatever the weather does; there are holly trees who produce berries only when they’re firmly convinced that we have a hard winter ahead; there are holly trees who see only positive outcomes and, even if they believe that a hard winter is immanent, refuse to produce berries; then, of course, there are holly trees who are convinced that it is their inalienable right to produce berries only if it sounds like a fun thing to do.

What we need here is a Venn diagram. This will reliably identify, once and for all, which holly trees, within the four sets, are this year’s true indicator.

Other than serving this important weather forecasting function, I can only report that holly berries are quite poisonous. As a compensatory gesture they also make us vomit, thus requiring considerable persistence and focus before we can consume enough to kill ourselves.

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Equinox

Autumn Leaves

Autumn Leaves

We’ve just had the autumn equinox. This is the time of year when the spot on the earth that is directly under the sun, moves to hover over a spot on the equator. There are various scientific explanations for this – but most people believe that it does it just to annoy us.

You see, you can’t call it the autumn equinox – even though that’s its name – as, down in the basement of the world – in the southern hemisphere, it heralds the beginning of spring. There has been some attempt to rename it to the September equinox but the minute you try to do that you have half a dozen people in different parts of the world standing up, waving to attract your attention, telling you that in their country this month is not called September. As a last resort it has been suggested that it be called the southward equinox, as the sun has crossed the equator heading south. This was first suggested a hundred years ago, but it hasn’t really caught on yet.

But, whatever – our trees are starting to try on their pretty autumn dresses and our hedges have all been nicely trimmed. Both are signs that the annual tasks are done, the fruit, seeds and berries are maturing nicely, and it’s time for a little relaxation before we go to bed for winter.

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The Eternal Teenager

Speckled Wood Butterfly

Speckled Wood Butterfly

The world is a strange and intriguing place, is it not? Today we have a Speckled Wood butterfly. It is speckled, as you can see, and it flies around the fringes of woods. Or, as in this case, when the year grows older and the population of aphids in the tree tops declines, it is forced to scrabble around amongst the hedgerows. As a caterpillar, it liked nothing better than a patch of damp grass – Cocksfoot will do but Couch Grass is preferred. This enthusiasm wears off as soon as it emerges from its chrysalis and it flutters away to the trees, convinced that it is bound for greater things.

The male adopts one of two courting procedures. Early in the year he is most likely to find a nice warm sunny spot on the woodland floor and just hang out – do dumb stuff, and wolf whistle at every passing female. His other option is to get a smooth motor, then cruise up and down the edge of the wood and see what he can pull.

The females are well aware of this of course, and either make straight for the guy in the nearest sunny spot – or hang around on street corners to see what turns up.

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It’s Been A Berry Good Year

Elderberries

Elderberries

It’s been a strange year. Spring arrived early, bustling Winter out of the door with flapping duster, rushing round pulling the furniture straight, and hurrying off before Summer had a chance to stand and chat.

As Summer was so early, she sat comfortably sipping her coffee for ages before she got into her stride. But then she left early, too – she needed to get her hair done before her appointment down in the southern hemisphere, she said. This has left us in a sort of seasonal hiatus. Autumn is only working a short week, and has mentioned that he feels a little put upon by Summer’s lack of commitment, so we are having to fill the days he isn’t available as best we can.

The sweet blackberries are all gone and those left on the bushes are tasteless or bitter, the holly berries are still green with only tinges of red, but the elderberries have done very well this year.

Elderberries are slightly poisonous and need to be brought to the boil and allowed to simmer for ten minutes – to make them safe. You then add an amount of sugar equal to the amount of liquid and you have a very nice syrup – said to be effective in warding off the coughs and sniffles.

On a more practical note – planting an elder bush near your house will keep The Devil at bay. Useful to know.

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Flooded

Spiders Web With Dew Drops

Spiders Web With Dew Drops

In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, hurricanes hardly happen, or so we’ve been led to believe. These facts are of little interest to those of you out there, in the path of this years individually identified, ferocious, weather patterns. There have been, and there will, no doubt, continue to be, fingers pointed and wise heads nodded, but, to be honest, I can’t see that blame for the past or predictions for the future are of much interest to you either. In fact, it’s hard to think of anything that matters to you at the moment, except the immediate issue of just getting through another day.
Out here in no-hurricane land, we feel frustrated at our inability to help. We wish with all our hearts we could tell it to stop. We wish we could promise you that we won’t let it happen again, but we can’t – and it will. All we can share with you is your helplessness in the face of the inhuman power of nature.

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