Late summer sedums provide essential nectar for bees as they stoke up for the winter. The plants are easy to grow, tolerate gardener’s neglect and low rainfall, add splashes of welcome colour just when other flowering plants are fading, and best of all, provide us with the gently humming company of bees. Bee-lissful!
This week at Lens-Artists Amy asks us to show her negative space. These photos were all taken at Penmon Point on the island of Anglesey a few Decembers ago.
copyright 2020 Tish Farrell
When we lived in Nairobi the Giraffe Centre on the edge of the city’s national park was a favourite place to visit. It was set up in 1979 both as an educational resource for city school children (50,000 visits a year) and as a conservation project to protect Kenya’s endangered race of Rothschild giraffes. The centre runs a breeding programme and over the years some 40 young giraffes have been settled in safe game reserves across the country. Now in 2020 the initiative can proudly claim to have helped restore Kenya’s wild population from 130 to a little over 700, and that has to be good news.
As you can see, the centre provides for head to head contact. The resident giraffes are much addicted to the ‘giraffe nuts’ which visitors hand out to them, though I have to say, from the donor perspective, a slurp from a long giraffe tongue is not the best of experiences.
I’m not sure what it is, but we’ve got it: a skyful of arctic air dropped upon us. This edited photo of Townsend Meadow, taken on the way home from the allotment, rather sums things up for me, the polar plunge not the least of it. The rest has been covered in Dr Malcolm Kendrick’s blog post, Covid: what have we learned?
So August, but not as we know it: cool, windy and very, very wet; the sun coming briefly now and then, temperatures well below the expected. Even before last week’s Storm Francis, the wheat in the field was hanging its head in dreariness. Last night, though, they harvested it, two great combines working with headlights full-on. It was an eerie sight, the beams of light swinging across the darkening field. Heaven knows what they will do with the grain. It will need a lot of drying out.
The garden at the cottage has had a good mauling, but parts are bravely holding up, and between showers, there is still much insect activity there. On Saturday morning we even had a totally-blue-sky spell. The light was sharp, and I snapped some good bee photos among the helianthus. I also noticed the amazing crop of tiny apples on the Evereste crab apple tree; they’re more obvious now they’re starting to ripen, the blush growing deeper day by day: perfect tiny fruit less than an inch across; a good winter store for the blackbirds.
Meanwhile up at the allotment, the plots all have taken on straggly early autumn looks: lots of fruit on the apple and damson trees, and lots of tomatoes in my polytunnel. And lots of weeds sprouting in all my beds. But I was pleased to see my climbing beans – runners, butter, French, Cherokee and borlotti – have been making the most of all the rain and were not blown off their sticks by Storm Francis. The beetroots, leeks, squashes and cabbages area also doing well. So: despite the weird weather and even weirder times, there is a very great deal to be grateful for.
Please visit Su and see what she’s been up to on the very creative art and cooking fronts. Cloud-light scones, anyone?
We see it every day. Or do we? Do we actually see, as in look and engage? We certainly pass by it night and morning and at times in between. It hangs on the bedroom wall, beside the spiral staircase, this portrait of John Lennon by stellar photographer and photojournalist, Jane Bown. And how do we come to have this particular treasure?
From 1949 and over the next 6 decades Jane Bown (1925-2014) was the The Observer newspaper’s photographer (The Observer being the sister Sunday paper of The Guardian weekly i.e in the days before its 2008 sell-off). Some time in the early 2000s, not long after we had repatriated ourselves after eight years in Kenya and Zambia, and were living in Kent, The Guardian offices in Farringdon Road, London, announced it was having a small exhibition of Bown’s work, not only portraits but also the chance to look at the contact sheets from particular shoots. There would also be the opportunity to buy one of the limited edition reprints. So: one Saturday morning we took ourselves off to the capital by train, not a small event for two dislocated souls not then caught up with the way things worked in the home nation.
The key thing about Jane Bown’s work is she always used natural light – never deploying flash or even using a light meter.
Famously reluctant to talk about her working method, Jane once admitted that for the brief moment when she looked at somebody through a lens, what she felt could best be described in terms of an intense love.
But to go back to the earlier question of how far we engage with the objects we surround ourselves with. Doubtless many have sentimental attachments – gifts, mementos, inherited items from loved ones; some are domestic tools, artefacts for cooking, home maintenance, cleaning, eating, and therefore deemed essential; others are specially acquired assemblages: dolls, snow globes, china pigs, model cars, snuff boxes, original art, books, orchids: stuff. Of course, given the quantity of possessions most of us house, if we gave due consideration to each and every one of them each day there would be no time to do anything else. There could be an element of the King Midas curse in this?
And the portrait of John Lennon? There is no doubting that when his presence is fully acknowledged, the times I stop and behold, he does feel like a presence. The keenness of gaze is almost too poignant. I start wondering what he might say to us now – in these times ‘of lies, damn lies, and statistics’. I’m thinking he might tell us to WAKE UP!
Late afternoon yesterday, calm restored after Storm Francis’s racketing about the place, we took ourselves off and up for a walk along the Edge. It was scarcely a hike, more of a ramble, though the climb up through the fields beyond Sytche Lane is a touch demanding. But then that gives me a good excuse for a breather while I snap a view of the town.
This flank of Wenlock Edge has been good wheat growing land for centuries, but this year, in the fields that could not be harvested early, the crop is looking grey and mildewed. Too much rain when it was least expected. I suppose it will be ploughed in. The hedgerows, on the other hand, were bursting with wild produce: wall to wall sloes (wild bitter damsons) which, after a good frost or a spell in the freezer, are excellent for making sloe gin or vodka; brilliant red haws on the hawthorn bushes; elderberries and rosehips beginning to ripen. All very autumnal.
Turning away from the town to the south: Clee Hill.
Once up on Wenlock Edge, and now heading in a northerly direction we come upon a view we had not seen before. Something was missing since the last time we were here – which just goes to show that we should go rambling more often. So what’s missing: guesses anyone? Clue: Ironbridge Gorge dead ahead.
From this point the path along the Edge runs out flat and even, fields on the right, ancient hanging woodland on the left where the escarpment falls alarmingly away to the Shropshire plain below. I thought of A.E. Housman’s poem ‘On Wenlock Edge’, (number 31 in A Shropshire Lad) and wished I’d come up here on the morning of the storm. It would have been exciting – all thrashing boughs and wind rush:
On Wenlock Edge the wood’s in trouble;
His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves;
The gale, it plies the saplings double,
And thick on Severn snow the leaves.
And finally, since Housman has kindly provided the caption, coming up is the Wrekin, as seen from the homeward path.
There’s an Iron Age hillfort on the summit, once a stronghold of the Celtic Cornovii clans who inhabited the Welsh borders and English Midlands. After the Roman occupation, the local Cornovii became the Romanized inhabitants of Wroxeter/Viroconium Roman City whose remnants still survive (just off-screen to the left) beside the River Severn. The Wrekin itself, as all locals know, was made by a very grumpy giant called Gwendol. You can read my version of that story HERE.
I’m linking this to Jo’s Monday Walk: she is an inspiration to all of us to get rambling. This week’s expedition includes some very fine Portuguese Roman remains at Mirobriga, an archaeological site which also has Iron Age connections.
This morning over the fence the guerrilla garden was all of a frenzy, the helianthus being whipped hither and thither as Storm Francis started to make his presence felt. The odd thing was the wind was warm, and it was rather marvellous to stand in it. Exhilarating even. Left one feeling well swept in the mentally cobwebbed department.
Now though in early evening we have lowering cloud banks over the Edge and intermittent lashings of rain. Francis is still blustering about but only with 40 mph gusts, or so the weather folks tell me. We’re lucky here in inland Shropshire. Out on the coast there have been 70+mph winds and much flooding and damage. It makes me wonder with all this year’s upset and turbulence: did some entity out in the universe open Pandora’s Box back in January?
The old saying of not seeing the wood for the trees has deep resonance now. We need to start seeing. The Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine in Oxford is a good spot for some illumination; lots of informed common sense on matters covid from Professor Carl Heneghan who is also a practising doctor.
…and a fine piece of domestic cooperation: Sturon onions grown by me in allotment raised beds, then neatly strung up by he-who-builds-sheds, though only after an online refresher course on how to do it. Anyway this is the sum of my onion crop, organically produced, planted out as sets in March and harvested at the beginning of August. You could call it pandemic produce, though I’d rather not, as at present it appears to be wholly disease free.
Sturon onions anyway are supposed to be good keepers. On the other hand, onion consumption in the Farrell household is so considerable, they will probably not last long. A field full would better cover a year’s culinary requirements. Still, when we’ve eaten these, there will be the leek crop to start on. That should see us through to spring when hopefully the world will not be so demented.
Lens-Artists: Creativity in the time of covid This week Tina at Travels and Trifles has set the challenge. Please go and see her very lovely photos.
Up at the allotment a few evenings ago: much feeding excitement in an artichoke flower.