We were just passing the railway crossing this morning when we were beset by a sudden shower of rain. We hurried on along the road that passes the rookery, hoping to find some shelter under the beech trees that border the road (don’t try this at home children – it is dangerous to shelter under trees in a storm). By the time we had reached a dry patch of road, the shower had passed on, but while we stood there we heard the tok, tok, tok of a woodpecker in the trees above. Trying to pinpoint the source of the sound we caught a glimpse of a woodpecker sized bird in the branches not far away. The next part of the story will be familiar to anyone who has read any of our previous witterings. By the time we had the camera lens cover removed and the camera switched on – the bird had flown. So, no picture of a woodpecker for you today, I’m afraid.
Moving on up the road, we thought we could make out the shape of a white horse in the field ahead. Well, a horse isn’t a woodpecker, but horses can be quite chatty, so we hoped a snapshot of the equine aspect of rural life might give us a discussion point for today’s epistle. When we reached the field gate, there was no sign of any livestock whatsoever. So no horse photograph either, I’m sorry.
On the way home we saw a bunch of blackberries gleaming in the sunlight. We loitered along and picked a half a pound or so.
I tried to convince The Dog that Jackie’s apple and blackberry crumble would be well worth the effort, but she remained unconvinced.
We went out this morning in brilliant sunshine, and it was warm too, what a change! Let’s hope that this means that things have been sorted out in the meteorological department and that we might even have a summer this year. Perhaps that’s too much to hope for – but do your best up there. As we walked down the road we stopped now and then to admire the Meadow Foxtails, who are now showing a good coat of Reynard Red. This is quite a strong colour for a grass, they tend more towards the pastel shades, which is why grass flowers are more interesting, they are harder to spot and more difficult to recognise as being in flower, grass is grass after all.
The Buttercups had obviously had the window cleaners round, their petals were shining so brightly, busy reflecting the sun for all they were worth, it was quite dazzling. As the grasses on the verge have grown taller so have the Buttercups, struggling to keep their heads above ‘water’. The Dandelions are having similar problems, they have a rosette of leaves at ground level so they keep up with the times by growing longer and longer stalks on their flowers. They are now looking like miniature skyscrapers with large yellow revolving restaurants on top.
We have a few Beech hedges around but I thought you might like this one as it has a few Copper Beech bushes intermingled with the green.
I know we’ve chatted about the Meadow Foxtail fairly recently, but I wanted you to see them now that they are coming into bloom. As you can see they come in a range of colours and the lower of the two in the picture is starting to show the tinges of red that gives it its name. I will probably take more picture of their colour change, as they become fertilised and age.
The reason for this sudden preoccupation with the grass on the side of the road is straightforward, pretty soon now the man who can will be round with his mower and the verge plants will disappear all in a days work. Already the narrowness of the lanes around here is becoming exaggerated by the growth on the verges and it can’t be long now until someone, concerned with safety, will decide that a quick cut is needed to restore visibility.
The Dog, being vertically challenged, finds the newly trimmed verges much more interesting. She is happy enough to push her way through the shoulder (on her) high undergrowth close to the road but a good trim opens up new vistas and extends the scenic aromas. I don’t mind that much either. Cutting back the burgeoning dandelions and rose bay willow-herb gives the shorter plants a little light and within a few days our verges are speckled with new and different residents, who are all busy making hay while there is a little sunshine.
Grass is funny stuff. It quite deliberately makes itself available to be eaten. You see, if the world was left alone, it would quite happily wrap itself up in forest. Now grass is a sun worshipper and it doesn’t like forest, how can you live in there, it is so dark! Give it a nice clearing any day. As it happens, grazers and other grass munchers tend to be large, so they like clearings too. Not only that but, as these large browsers munch their way round, they trample any tree seedlings, that are trying to encroach the grassy space, into the ground.
So like good marketeers, the grass came up with the idea of offering a free lunch to anyone who is prepared to do a little trampling. They even adapted themselves to growing at the base of their leaves, instead of the tip like other plants. That way it doesn’t matter if the top gets bitten off.
We can’t be sure until the flowers form, but we think this is Meadow Foxtail. Our reasoning here is straightforward, the flowers of Meadow Foxtail appear in May – they are usually the first of our grasses to make the effort.
They like damp moist places best of all – no problem there, then.
Very Vetching. Whatever will bee will bee. Sorry Doris! Never perform with children or animals – or bumble bees. A picture says a thousand words – and a photographer? Don’t get me started!
We have been having a spot of bother with Vetch. It comes in many different varieties and, to be honest, some of the differences between the various varieties seem a little strained. Some times The Dog and I think that we are faced with someone who just wants to show off their command of Latin.
We had just found a sympathetic subject and in order to ascertain which variety we were examining we needed to take a photograph. You see, it was important to know if the stalk was slightly hairy – as in Hairy Vetch or not slightly hairy – as in Common Vetch.
Vetch is a creeping plant that only grows in millimetres – or at the most centimetres, so we were crouched down in a most uncomfortable position trying to get the image centred in the view-finder and in focus and keep our own shadow from blocking the light. Just as we felt that we had complied with all the requirements and pressed the shutter . . . . .
This wretched bee flew in and landed on our flower – and it didn’t even have the good manners to try and stay in focus!