The Monochrome Garden In November

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Of course November in the northlands comes up with its own monochromal schemes. But yesterday and this morning there was and is bright sunshine, and since this week’s black and white theme at Cee’s is things we sit on, I thought I’d take a few photos (using the monochrome setting on my camera) of the back garden seat, which if not beautiful, has its moments in certain lights and with the sage growing through it. It is also of great utility on warmer days and we have indeed sat on it a fair amount during lockdown lunacy, and then arisen all be-saged, and hopefully the wiser for the herbal infusion.

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Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge

Also linking to Jude at Travel Words and her excellent 2020 Photo Challenge, which this month is featuring black and white photography. Please pay her a visit.

In A Winter’s Light ~ Ynys Mon

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Winter light over the sea can make for some mysterious monochrome images. The first photo was taken early one morning, above the small town Beaumaris on the island of Anglesey (Ynys Mon). In the foreground is Menai Strait; beyond it the mountains of Snowdonia in mainland Wales.

For several years Anglesey has been a favourite place for family Christmases. There have been times of hair-raising gales, but also days of brilliant sun and unexpected warmth. This searchlight-sun effect over the Strait is a particular local phenomenon, and you quickly understand why the Celtic Druids, and later the early Welsh Christian saints were so drawn to the place. Landscape as transcendental meditation.

You can hardly see the Strait in the next photo (below the tree silhouettes), and it was anyway just going dark. But even so there’s a luminous glow on the field slopes of the far shore – a reflection off the water? And then there are the snow slopes making their own light. I like seeing how much of an image can be gained from the least amount of light. At the time I was using my little Kodak EasyShare ‘point and shoot’ camera. It was interesting what it could come up with.

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The morning we visited Plas Newydd it was broodingly gloomy – as if the sky gods had forgotten to switch the lights on.

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But some sunnier days on the beach at Newborough:

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2020 Photo Challenge #46 This week’s assignment from Jude: make sure you have contrasts in your image(s). Clear whites and strong blacks will add impact and create attention.

To And From The Allotment ~ The Monochrome Seasons

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When I set off across the field to my allotment garden I often do have a camera tucked in my pants’ pocket. And yes I know very well this is no way to treat a camera. But then the inclination to take photos overtakes the scruples. There is so much to see and consider, both around the allotment plots and along the field path from our house – the different times of day (or night); the changing seasons; the shifts of light; the state of the land; what is growing; what is not.

This month Jude at Travel Words is featuring black and white photography in her 2020 Photo Challenge. And as I’m presently in monochrome mode and most days still going gardening, I thought I’d post a somewhat themed response to this week’s assignment, ‘a retrospective’ using archive shots.

This is what Jude says about the assignment:

‘Look for shadows and textures. Carefully choose your images so that you can angle the light to create a sense of depth with the shadows’.

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Much Wenlock’s Southfield Road allotment plots back on to this field. It’s an adjunct to Townsend Meadow, the field behind our house. I’m guessing this photo was taken in October, though only because the ground looks newly ploughed, but not yet harrowed and re-sown, which is the farmer’s usual habit. I certainly don’t remember him missing a chance to put in some over-wintering crop, wheat or oilseed rape or field beans. On the other hand the ash trees are very bare and the hedgerows very spiky for early autumn. The light, too, and the dead grasses along the barbed wire fence also suggest winter. Even the glint of turned earth says ‘cold’.

Here’s that distant same spiky hedge, but a late afternoon view taken from the Townsend Meadow side:

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This is the field path running up beside the allotment hedge, also a wintery view from a couple of years ago. Much of this grassy margin has been ploughed up now and is presently sprouting winter wheat. The next photo is the path closer to our house, in early summer with the Queen Ann’s Lace going full throttle.

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English allotments tend towards the shambolic – lots of recycled greenhouses, makeshift sheds, cold frames, and windswept polytunnels. They can look very bleak in the winter months, or in the case of the next shot, disturbingly other worldly. It was taken at dusk when the greenhouses seemed to be capturing the last of the light in a distinctly sci-fi manner. The eerily lit straggle of dead tomato plants caught my eye.

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This was the shed I inherited from several previous owners when I acquired my first allotment plot. That was back in 2007. (Goodness how time flies when you’re digging and composting.) Heaven knows how old it was, but never mind. Before I moved to another plot some years later, it served me well despite its tendency to lean to the east and harbour roosting snails.

There had of course been moments when he who builds new sheds from scratch and lives in my house was called in for emergency resuscitation measures i.e. when the leaning reached critical declivity and demanded a hauling back to as near vertical as was humanly possible; a manoeuvre that took our combined effort. One day I found a 1725 halfpenny just in front of the door. Astonishingly it was barely covered by soil, and in a spot I had walked over hundreds of times. I wondered who had dropped it there long ago. Had the old path from the Sytche across Townsend Meadow (now only visible on antique maps) passed under my shed? And who had dropped it and later sorely missed it? A lass on an errand to fetch a jug of ale? A ploughman dropping it from his pocket while reaching for his tobacco?

The shed was also picturesquely sheltered by a very old greengage tree, the light through its foliage making the sunspots you can see on the door. It was more of a copse of several trunks than a single tree. Fruit production was sporadic, but once it a while it produced the most delicious plums ever invented if only you could get to eat them before the wasps did.

These days the shed is no more. For several years it lay abandoned. Then last winter the new plot holder demolished it, along with most of the tree. By then the shed truly was on its last legs, but the same can’t be said of the tree. Now only one spindly trunk remains after fellow allotmenteers objected and stopped the final act of culling. I still think of the tree that was. The creamy spring blossom was spectacularly lovely, the scent so delicate.

But enough reminiscing. We have the tree’s offspring over the hedge at home. I dug up a seedling tree a few years ago and planted it there. It’s already four metres tall and grew four greengages this year, none of which we sampled as they were difficult to reach, though  we were very happy to see them.

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A home-from-the-allotment shot: the ash tree at the top of Townsend Meadow caught with the sun about to slip off the edge of Wenlock Edge.

copyright 2020 Tish Farrell

ABOUT TISH FARRELL

 

2020 Photo Challenge

Through A Hedge Backlit

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I took these photos yesterday, late afternoon, as I was going gardening. The hedge runs up beside the allotment, the south-westerly boundary to Townsend Meadow behind our house. As I reached the gap under the ash tree, the unofficial gateway to my garden plot, the sun burst through the hedge bottom. So I ditched the compost I was hauling, and fished out my camera. I was still thinking about the leaf photos in my last post, and decided monochrome could work here too, this time catching the plant-life silhouetted in the lowering sun. I added the sepia glow in the edit. In the northern hemisphere, sunshine in November always seems a specially precious gift, brimming with untapped possibility.

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Lens-Artists: the sun will come out tomorrow  Anvica’s Gallery has set the spirit-lifting theme this week. Go visit!

Season Of Leaves

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As a Halloween ‘babe’ (I use the term retrospectively) one might expect a new broomstick for one’s birthday (and actually a good old fashioned witches’ besom would be quite useful) but this year I received a very smart leaf rake – pale ash handle topped by the most elegant splay of shiny stainless steel tines. In fact the new rake is so artily attractive, I was rather  reluctant to take it up to the allotment.

But then yesterday, it being sunnily fine after recent gales and deluges, and with signs of copious leaf fall everywhere, the need to gather the makings for next year’s leaf mould overcame me. Armed with two big bags and rake I set off across the field, intent on making a start on clearing the lane beside the allotment where, the day before, I had swished through a sea of field maple leaves.

And then just as I was leaving the house I grabbed the camera too, switched it to monochrome mode. I remembered that Jude at Travel Words had set us a photo assignment to look for patterns in black and white. So here are the results of killing two birds with one stone. I also have two very full leaf ‘silos’ on my allotment plot.

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2020 Photo Challenge #44  Jude gives us lots of pointers and some striking examples of black and white composition.

The Changing Seasons: This Was October

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Until today’s storm and bluster ‘the garden over the fence’, aka the guerrilla garden was still doing its stuff on the floral front. The rosy crab apples have of course been stealing the show, followed by the Michaelmas daisies (white, mauve and purple), Anne Thomson geranium (heliotrope) and a scatter of late lemony Silver Queen helianthus. Now all looks blown away, though a few pink cosmos behind the old privies are hanging on.

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Beyond the garden, out in the field, all has been ploughed, and already the new crop, winter wheat again by the look of it, has started to sprout. In fact all around the town the hillside fields are a haze of new growth while the hedgerow trees and woody margins turn to old gold. But then much like last autumn we have had far too much rain, which in turn means us Wenlockians take to country paths at our peril – slithering in Silurian clag that threatens a serious upending at every step. The following photos, then, reflect only the surprise sunny intervals.

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Up at the allotment it’s now the season of gathering in and tidying, mulching and compost turning. This year many garden crops did not thrive as expected. I have no explanation for this, except we did have several weeks without rain in the spring and hand watering never quite makes up for it. But then this has been the pattern for several years now, and I had taken precautions with plenty of mulching.  After the brief hot spell in May the summer was generally lacklustre, often cool and windy, and light levels low.

And this in turn has me wondering that there is more to weather than CO2, on which of course all our plant life, and therefore us, wholly depend for existence. Something’s up with the sun. It seems to be having a quiet phase. We’ve also apparently had an El Nino event out in the Pacific, which usually makes for cold-wet La Nina after-effects. And then the earth’s magnetic field is having a wander across the hemispheres; the jet stream has been meandering all over the place, and lots of geothermal goings on have been happening under the ocean beds at the poles.

All of which is to say the time is clearly out of joint (all ends up), and this an over elaborate excuse for failed sweet corn, rubbish broad beans and a disappointing runner bean crop.

Anyway, failures apart, there is still much to pick – leeks, greens, carrots, beetroot, parsnips outside; salad stuff and a few tomatoes in the polytunnel; lots of apples on communal trees. On my cleared beds the green manure crops are growing well and there are still bumble bees in the flowering phacelia. I’ve broken into last autumn’s stash of fallen leaves and found some brilliant well-rotted leaf mould for mulching the raspberries. And I’ve sown over-wintering field (fava) beans for next year’s early summer picking, and they’re already sprouting. And that’s the great thing about gardening – the onward cycle of growing and nurturing, the continuous big ‘do-over’.

 

The Changing Seasons: October 2020

Going Kinda Nutty

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I’m back on home turf and in the current time zone for today’s wildlife squares. They were snapped in the Linden Field earlier in the week during a sudden spell of dry weather. Everywhere I looked along the Windmill Hill perimeter there were grey squirrels scurrying, nibbling, delving, tail whisking, scooting up and down the big oak trees. Acorns, acorns acorns – the big autumnal stuff ‘n store imperative in action. Squirrels being kind to themselves.

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KindaSquare #30

Frosted Ferns

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Part of me wants the frost to hold off. Part of me would welcome some frigid temperatures in the parsnip bed so we can start eating them. But mostly I hope the winter cold will save itself for January. This photo was taken a couple of years ago, maybe three. It was early December and we were spending a few days in Hay on Wye, the world capital of second hand books. It was only an hour and half drive from Wenlock and we set off in mild, don’t-need-a-coat weather. By the time we arrived, a heavy Arctic chill  had descended on the land. You could have sworn that the Snow Queen had just whisked through the Welsh Marches, or that we’d somehow stepped through one of the wardrobes in Hay’s many vintage shops and pitched up in Narnia. Any too-long exposed flesh tingled painfully, as if one had nicked one’s finger ends and drawn blood. Serial stops for hot chocolate were called for, and it was hard to leave the town’s many welcoming, if steamy cafes, for a trawl around the catacomb-like book stores. Anyway, we survived, and this photo of crisply frozen ferns, captured as we headed home, is a good reminder of that trip. It has its own magic.

 

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Nature’s Patterns

Feeling Kinda Growly

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We found ourselves driving through the midst of the Mara’s Marsh Pride at high noon, its members surprisingly active given the usual lion habit of spending the day lying around. They had made a kill, an antelope of some kind, and the ‘under-lions’ were still eating: one very elderly male and three females – while the dominant male prowled the perimeter, exchanging grunt-like roars with another male who was lying in the grass. They seemed quite unconcerned as we stopped to watch, no interruption to the grunt exchange caught here in the photo. Rather puts one in one’s place in the animal scheme of things.

 

KindaSquare #24