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High Expectations

A Very Tall Thistle

A Very Tall Thistle

If you want inspirational, then you can’t beat social media. How we continue to bumble along as we do, awash with such powerful messages, must be a testament to humanity’s ability to ignore good advice.
Just say we took even a fraction of the good advice that we have access to. Wouldn’t we be such unbelievably powerful and efficient individuals? The other side of the coin is, of course, what would happen if we took even a fraction of the good advice, that we so confidently offer to all and sundry, ourselves?
There are people out there who do all this stuff. They regularly take all their lemons and make lemonade. They constantly start journeys of a thousand miles with that first small step. They welcome change with open arms. Every single thought they think is positively positive, and never would they think of taking any action that didn’t stretch them to their extreme extremity.
Luckily, for the rest of us, they are the exceptions that prove the rule. So there’s no need to panic. It’s fine for us to just sit here, bemused by all the hullabaloo, shaking our heads and wondering, just where do they get the energy?
Talking of the exceptional, the hedge in today’s photo is a good seven feet (two and a bit metres) tall, and sticking out the top of it we have – a thistle. Surely, there must be an inspirational message here, somewhere.

Big lack of Data

Not A Thistle

Not A Thistle

Our days are becoming quite autumn-like. We still have gloriously warm and sunny times, and we try our best to schedule setting out on our daily dawdle to coincide with these – but they are becoming harder to synchronise to. The alternative is a cool, clammy mist, not overly unpleasant, but not that pleasant either. In the mist, our horizon shrinks to a few miles, our mountain vista is replaced by a few fields and hedges and the sun is replaced by a lighter patch of grey in the sky.
The rooks have started their autumn dance, large groups of them wheeling, diving and calling while, every so often, a small guerrilla band break away to harass the buzzards. They have moved their rookery from the woods near the railway crossing, half a mile away, to the woods behind our house. During the nesting and chick-rearing of early Spring this past year, we could hear the racket they made, even at this distance. Having them as near neighbours this coming Spring will be, shall we say – interesting.
Today’s picture represents another feature of autumn. Although it has fluffy seed heads, this is not a thistle. You might think we could identify it by its leaf shape, but the leaves are dried and withered and are now identifiable only as dead leaves. The flowers too, other than that they were yellow, hold no clues.
At this time of year, nature ticks very few boxes on the questionnaire.

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Shall I Go or Shall I Stay

Thistledown

Thistledown

“Ooo! Ow! Stop pushing!”
“Stop complaining, you’ve lived here all your life, you ought to know that the leaves are prickly by now.”
“Yes, but it’s been so hot lately, they seem to be more and more prickly every day. Have you noticed things are, sort of, loosening up?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, now and again, these last few days, I seem to suddenly need to grab hold of something, I’m sort of – loose.”
“Actually, yes, I have noticed. I just thought it was because the sun was so hot.”
“Do you think it’s true, then?”
“What’s true? Oh you mean about the West Wind coming? We’ve had wind from the west before, you know. I can’t really see how it could make any difference to us.”
“Yes, but, well, it’s that whispering, it’s a bit eerie. I know everyone’s doing it – but I just don’t know if we ought to join in.”
“Well don’t join in next time, party pooper. You must admit it gives you a real buzz. The West Wind is coming. The West Wind is coming.”
“Come on. Pack it in! You’ll have the whole bunch at it again. Oh. Crumbs. Now look what you’ve done. You’ve started them off again.”
“The wind is picking up a bit isn’t it? Come on. Sway, sway!”
“Oops!”
“What do you mean, oops?”
“I’ve come unstuck.”
“Hang on to me, then. Oops. Wait, careful, now I’ve come unstuck.”
“Aaaah! We floating away. We’ll never get back now.”
“Who cares. Hold tight. We’re off. We’re off!”

Food for Thought

Rose Bay Willow Herb

Rose Bay Willow Herb

The verge, on the road down to the beck, is quite broad on one side. Once again this year, a huge bank of Rose Bay Willow Herb has appear out of nowhere. What, over winter, had become almost bare ground, with a few wisps of grass here and there, is now a bank of plants three or four feet high.

Google knows a great deal about Rose Bay Willow Herb. As with most of the information on the Internet, many of the sources are contradictory – but all of them are very authoritative. I thought I’d pass on a selection of the wisdom of the world so you could pick out the pieces that appeal to you.

One option is that this is a native of North America. It was brought over to Europe as a garden plant, escaped and made itself at home. Next, we have it as a native of the Russian tundra. Here, they have been using the leaves to make tea and fermenting the pith of the stems to make beer for ever. Then, there’s the opinion that it was known here, in the north of England, before its supposed importation – but was considered very rare.

This is an amazing plant – most of it is edible or drinkable, it can be used medicinally to cure a range of ills – from typhoid to nappy rash, and it grows in huge banks of glorious purple in summer and the leaves turn a fiery red in autumn.

And what do we do with this, natures bountiful largess?

No Yeti Yet

Rhododendron

Rhododendron

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.

An Embarassment of Riches

Yellowhammer at the bird feeder

Yellowhammer at the bird feeder

One of the problems with having nature as the central theme is that, while you are busy admiring the gold and red leaves and the fruit and seed pods of autumn – nature, who, by now, is totally bored by all this growth, expansion and the constant need to maximise income over expenditure, just nods off – and leaves you standing there, with nothing to write about. This leads to the temptation to write insulting and snide comments in an attempt to stir some response. It is as well to resist this, as it is firstly, pointless, and secondly – always bear in mind, not only does Google gleefully cache all slips of the keyboard for ever and ever after, but this cache immediately becomes available to European, American and Chinese security services to be broken up into sound bites and churned into Big Data.

Then, suddenly it’s Spring. This week we have some lovely pictures of our mountains, basking in the morning sun with a crisp clean bedcover of snow. Then, under the hedge on the way to the beck we found some Honesty coming into flower. Our wood is looking magnificent in its bright daffodil yellow jumper. There are hyacinths sprouting among the daffodils on the roadsides. We found some Lungwort with its red and blue flowers by the rookery and the Lesser Celandines are bursting out in the warmer spots.

But, in the end, I decided to show you Jackie’s picture of this Yellowhammer, he is on the RSBP ‘Red List’ – meaning there are not many around at the moment.

So, I thought you’d better see him before things get any worse.

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