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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!”

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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.

This Year’s Crop

First Lambs This Year

First Lambs This Year

As anyone who has ever kept sheep will lose no opportunity to tell you, sheep are the Houdinis of the animal world. They are escape artists par excellence. This field has had a new gate and new fencing installed recently. We’ll see how long it takes them to find their way out. Once the sheep realise that the all the tasty stuff is actually in the field with them, however, they knuckle down and focus on the job of keeping the grass clipped as short as possible. But this realisation dawns slowly. 

For the first few months, especially, the lure of the wild blue yonder is too strong to be denied, or may be it’s just that the grass has to be greener on the other side of the fence, they’ve read it on Facebook – it had twenty thousand ‘Likes’ – so it must be true.

Driving around at this time of year becomes increasingly hazardous as the lambs become more adventuresome and bolder. Some have taken the trouble to plan their escape route ahead of an emergency, others haven’t. When you drive down the lane, those on ‘Red Alert’ immediately take evasive action and head straight for the hole in the hedge they made on their way out of the field. Those happy-go-lucky types, for whom forward planning is an anathema, scuttle up and down the verge or run along the road in front of the car. Many times I have had to wind the car window down and lecture a bunch who belie Bo Peep’s belief.

Leave them alone and they’ll come home, indeed!

Spring

Dunnock - Singing - It Must Be Spring

Dunnock – Singing – It Must Be Spring

Isn’t Spring a strange word. It must be one of those words that have their roots far back, at the beginnings of speech. You know, just when we had begun to tolerate our teenagers going round saying “Ugh” to each other (and all the thirty and forty something-s had started saying it too – just to prove that they were not really getting old) someone, somewhere comes out with “Spring”. Now, IMHO, all of us who thought we knew where we were up to, are back to having no idea what’s going on, LOL.

Spring, the kind you find sandwiched between winter and summer, not the kind that bounces around, or the kind that is coiled up and used for beds, or even the place where the water gushes out of the ground, has had one try at getting started so far. We had Im Bolg around February 4th. You know, writing was developed as a way of recording the sounds we make – as words, if I tell you that Im Bolg is actually pronounced im molk and it refers to the approximate date that ewe’s come into milk, can you remember how long it is since you had a bolg shake?

Here we are at March 1st and Spring is going to have another go at starting. If all else fails there is still the vernal equinox on March 20th (in most places – might sneak over into 21st in some places) but that really is the last chance.

Some can’t wait while Spring phaffs about, though. This Dunnock, singing his heart out on the hedge as we walked past today, has obviously become impatient with dates and times and has decided to just get on with it.

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