Kinda Hiding

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A topi in the grass and apparently on its own too. Usually they go about in large herds and the males like to stand on top of ant hills or any earthy hummock to show themselves off. Similar to Coke’s hartebeest, they can be distinguished by their deep chestnut coats with plum-coloured flashes. They are a subspecies of tiang antelope found in Ethiopia and southern Sudan, which in turn represent northerly versions of the Central and South African tsessbe. All part of the natural world’s endlessly rich and subtle diversity.

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KindaSquare #9

Kinda Tall ~ More Vintage Shots From The Old Africa Album

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Being the world’s tallest mammal and with the longest neck means giraffes have no problem nibbling parts of trees that others cannot reach. But when it comes to taking a drink, things can be more than a little tricky.

To reach the water a giraffe must spread its  front legs wide and lower its head between them – not only a vulnerable position at a watering hole where there may be many lurking predators, but also a manoeuvre that involves some serious biological mechanics. For one thing, a giraffe’s head is between 2 and 3 metres (7-10ft) above its heart. To prevent it from fainting when it raises its head from drinking, its arteries and veins come equipped with valves to stop the blood rushing to its head.

And in order not to challenge this system more than is necessary, giraffes can go for extended periods without drinking so long as there is plenty of succulent foliage to consume. The moisture gained from the leaves is then conserved through limited defecation. They excrete only hard small droppings.

The giraffe in the first photo is of the Masai variety, distinguished by the irregular ‘butterfly’ markings. Their main habitat range is Southern Kenya and Tanzania. To the north you find the Reticulated giraffe, slightly smaller, and darker in colour, and with those lovely blocky markings. They inhabit dry bush country and are even less dependent on water than their Masai cousins. This one was spotted on the Lewa Downs Conservancy in northern Kenya.

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KindaSquare #8

Two Of A Kind On The Hippo Chute

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Many people do not know, and that once included me, that hippos are among Africa’s most dangerous animals. They do in fact kill quite a few people every year, usually local fishermen. The main source of contention is when a human presence is deemed an obstacle to a hippo’s return to its territorial waters. Hippos spend the dark hours roving through the bush chomping large quantities of grass. But they like to return to their lakes and rivers by sun-up.

They are very thinned skinned and although they produce a red oily secretion to protect themselves, any unexpected delay out in the hot sun can cause them to become ferociously overheated, if not downright murderous. We had a hair-raising experience ourselves when we were living in Zambia. We were on a guided bush walk in the magnificent South Luangwa Valley. Lucky for us we had a wise Zambian Park Ranger accompanying our party. You can read the story at Grouchy Hippo, Laid Out Lions.

The hippos in the photo were our neighbours at Kenya’s Mara River Camp. Every morning at first light I would watch them emerge from the bush on the bank across from our tent. Full grown hippos weigh anything between three and six thousand pounds so the return to the river, even on custom-made hippo-slides, took some negotiating: head first or bottom first that is the question.

KindaSquare #6

Two Of A Kind #2

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I might be on a bit of roll with this ‘two by two’ from the old Africa album, though as yet I haven’t come up with an ark to house the featured pairs.  Actually it’s now raining so hard in Shropshire (and for days to come if the forecast is anything to go by), it may well be prudent to come up with one.

Anyway, here we have a pair of Maasai giraffes in a dreamy, somewhere-in-Tsavo setting. Please imagine the subtle spicy-sweet scents of dry bush country. There will be a soundscape too – high-whining crickets and the kroo-kroo-ing of ring necked doves.

KindaSquare #3

Two Of A Kind

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Gloomy Shropshire skies today had me rifling through the Farrells’ old Africa album, though it has to be said that Kenya, too, does a good line in gloom, cold and wetness at certain seasons. Anyway, the sun is shining in this particular shot, taken in the Maasai Mara long ago,  and these ‘likely lads’ of the leonine kind (or maybe a lad and lass) are anyway sure to raise a smile.

KindaSquare #2

Phacelia: Bee-Kind & Soil-Kind

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If you want lots of bees and hoverflies in your garden then phacelia (native to the Americas) is a good choice. It can be sown from spring to late summer and its mauve flowers, delicately scented, provide nectar all day long for foraging insects. The hoverflies can return the favour by also eating the aphid pests.

On the soil front, I grow it at the allotment as a cover crop. This year I sowed it in mid summer after I had harvested the broad bean plot. It is always good to keep bare earth covered, and the fleshy, ferny vegetation supresses weeds and holds on to nitrogen.

I also grow it as a green manure (other examples: clover, mustard, rye, alfalfa, fenugreek, field beans). Traditionally phacelia, like mustard, is ‘dug in’ before it flowers to stop it seeding. But I prefer the ‘and’ and ‘and’ approach, so I leave it to become bee pasture. Also, I’m trying not to do too much digging, an activity which apparently disrupts the soil’s natural fertility-enhancing systems. Instead, I let it over-winter, or at least until the first frost when it will simply collapse. I‘ll then leave the resultant ‘mulch’ to go on protecting the soil surface from leaching and fertility loss. Meanwhile the root system will rot down and help to improve soil structure.

With any luck, come next spring, I should be able to plant or sow directly through it.

If I’ve sown the seed too thickly, which is easy to do as it is very small, I thin out some of the excess growth through the growing season to feed the compost bins. Or best of all, pick a now-and-then bunch of flowers and bring them home for the kitchen table.  Such a generous, life-enhancing plant.

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KindaSquare #1 October is here and Becky bids us to show her all ‘kinds’ of squares. Please pay her visit to find out more. As ever, the main ‘rule’ is the header photo must be square.

The Changing Seasons: September’s Reasons To Be Cheerful

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Words have been eluding me this month – words that are publishable that is.

Here in the totalitarian state of blighty our lives continue quietly, if bizarrely. Tomatoes have been featuring heavily in our lives, which just goes to show what happens when panic causes the human mind to overreact and envisage a global shortage of some deemed precious item.

The good side: I’ve given loads away. Even so, the last few weeks have involved repeat bouts of soup and sauce making, most of the crop now rendered into frozen bricks stacked up in the freezer. In fact there has been much vegetable processing all round, the kitchen looking like an exploded harvest festival; not necessarily in a good way.

But out in the autumn garden, there is much still to please, the helianthus yellow retreating before the Michaelmas daisy purples and mauves, the deepening russet reds of the crab apples and Coxes pippins. Last week we even had several days of sunshine weather just when we thought summer was done.

So, this month’s  thought for sanity survival: striving to be thankful for life’s small but blessedly lovely things is the only way to go.

From the September garden:

And from the other end of the spectrum:

 

The Changing Seasons: September 2020

A big thanks to Su for continuing to host this monthly photo posting.