Blessed Earth ~ Our One And Only

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And when we’ve trashed this one, there won’t be another (see postscript).

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In case you’re wondering where I’ve been for the past week – we’ve been staying in a barn in the Derbyshire High Peak where we woke to views of Higger Tor and Millstone Edge (haloed here) and the wide vistas of Hope Valley. The barn in question was one my maternal ancestors would have known and used, though not in its current luxurious holiday-let manifestation of five bedrooms, three bathrooms, plus central heating, range cooker, vast TV screen and free Wifi.

For around two centuries the Fox family lived at Callow Farm, tenants of the Eyres, and later of the Dukes of Devonshire who bought the Highlow estate from the Eyres/Archers in the early nineteenth century. The Foxes were also in this particular vicinity (around Highlow and Offerton in Hathersage Outseats) for at least the preceding 500 years, although trying to unravel the multiple generations of Georges and Williams is proving pretty impossible. All the more tantalizing when we know a 19th century list of Derbyshire Charters has a certain William Fox holding a few acres at Offerton in the late 1200s.

The more recent tenant Foxes owned some land too, and so in their way were very minor landlords. This in itself is a puzzle, since from earliest times this whole territory was controlled by abbots and monarchs and thence parcelled out to sundry lords and lordlings who taxed, tithed and generally reaped the rewards of ordinary mortals’ labours.

In High Peak the bulk of those returns included a large annual cut from the proceeds of the lead mined and processed by  Derbyshire yeomen farmers like the Foxes – a raw and life-threatening trade carried out when they were not engaged in growing oats, making cheese and butter from their small dairy herds, cutting mill- and grinding stones from the precipitous millstone grit edges or minding their sheep. I have evidence of some of these multiple activities from local newspaper details of October 1892 when my great great grandfather George Brayley Fox sold off the Callow Farm stock before leaving the farm. This also means I know precisely what was in those barns at that particular time.

I have also now witnessed what the Dukes of Devonshire did at Chatsworth with the income from their tenant farmer-lead miners. The extravagant display of the 6th Duke in particular is jaw-dropping. But for all this and more – see upcoming posts.

For now here’s a daylight view from Callow farm fields, looking across the Derwent Valley to Hathersage: Higger Tor on the far right, Stanage Edge along the skyline to the left.

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And here is Callow Barn – now cut off from the next door farmhouse, the properties being privately and separately owned and perhaps originally sold off from the Chatsworth Estate in either the 1930s or 1960s, both occasions when the estate’s massive death duties required the sale of extensive property and farmland.

And finally Callow Farmhouse as seen from the public footpath to Leadmill:

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P.S. Much of Derbyshire – the uplands and dales – lies within the National Park. I learn this morning from the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE is an organisation well worth supporting) that our government wants to bury nuclear waste in our National Parks, wilderness areas that are now used by many hundred thousand citizens for walking and cycling, and whose consistent presence there through much of the year significantly supports local rural economies. The Derbyshire national park in particular positively teems with humanity at weekends, happy families and dogs out for a jaunt and some very fresh air, away from the nearby cities of Manchester, Sheffield and Derby. Words fail.

Six Word Saturday

#AncestralLandscapes

copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

Monday Morning In The Garden–Miniscule Is Marvellous

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Here on Sheinton Street the water butts are brimming, and the garden has received a truly good soaking. On the one hand this is very good, on the other the water butts always seem to be full when there isn’t actually anything in need of water. Also the weekend downpours have left flower-life a bit washed out and droopy, especially these soggy phlox petals. But I was fascinated to spy amongst them a flock of tiny, tiny crab spiders, scarcely a couple of millimetres across.

Some seemed to be curled up, asleep in the sun. This one, however, did not care for my intrusion. But if you want to see a really whopping pic of a crab spider, though I’m guessing some of you may not, pop over to Ark’s.

In the Pink #24 The final week for pinkness over at Becky’s. Not too late to join in.

Persian Gulf Sunset And Wondering: Isn’t Travel Always A Moral Issue?

It was still winter in Dubai, the hotel palm trees along the beach well wrapped up against the wind. We were on a two-centre trip – a week in the Maldives with stopovers in Dubai either side. It was 1998.  We needed a break from Kenya. There were times when crime-and-politics wore us down. The long-term one-party presidential incumbent and his backers were more than a little reluctant to admit the construct of multi-party politics into the regime. And it seemed to me that whenever the power-brokers felt nervous, the crime rate soared. Just to make us all feel uneasy.

It  began at the top of course – the crime. And doubtless still does. It is the same here in the UK, I lately discover, and is also officially-unofficially sanctioned. It is just not visible to most of us, and is massively more clever, being wrapped up in trusts and shell companies parked in the ‘hot-money archipelago’ of the Cayman Islands et al. I am indebted to British economics professor Baron Nicholas Stern for this phrase. (He’s also written a good deal about climate change). Such offshore financial services (so anodyne in their terminology) apparently provide safe places for the world’s robber elite to hide their loot, so maintaining the status quo of tyranny and poverty meted out to ordinary hard-pressed folk in the places whence the loot was stolen.

And so we were in Dubai and Maldives for some light relief, destinations where in 1998 crime was not permitted to exist. The only problem was, even then, both locations seemed more than slightly bonkers (and probably more so now in sustainability terms). On the one had – a complex of luxury island paradises, where both the tourists and every consumer item they might want was flown in, and the resultant minute-by-minute packaging residue disposed of in a massive concrete silo embedded in the sea off the capital Male. Not only that, but contact with the locals was very tightly managed (not that I blame Maldivians for that. Someone has to make a stand against nasty European sex predators – women as well as men). But it also meant that you felt as if you’d just holidayed in a stage set. Very lovely, certainly – but synthetic.

And as for Dubai (and it’s probably ten times wider and taller now) it was wall-to-wall shopping malls, eight-lane highways, building sites, apartment blocks and hotels of the top-end plush variety. Since our visit this last notion has gone stratospheric. I mean, what does it say about us humans? How much consuming do we need to do and in how many weirdly fabricated environs?

Actually in ‘98 there was not much shopping going on. The malls were magnificent but eerie – scarcely a soul in the marbled halls of designer boutiques. Though we did see mature dishdasha-ed gents in the cosmetics stores treating their black-gowned wives to Chanel perfume and Estee Lauder lipstick. It appeared to be a popular family pastime. We also saw similarly garbed gents in the bar of the Radisson, drinking lager. Interesting, I thought. It was the  particular brand that was said to reach parts that others didn’t. I wondered if it also granted dispensation to Muslim transgressors. Or if perhaps the territory of a European owned hotel provided the equivalent of diplomatic immunity for the drinking of alcohol.

The best part of Dubai is the Creek. Tied up along its banks were still the great dhows of the Gulf – Indian Ocean trade routes – timeless somehow, despite being loaded up with refrigerators, expensive motor cars, crates of coca cola. Once such dhows plied the coast of East Africa as far south as Mozambique and the Comoros, borne on the outward voyage by the monsoon north-easterlies, returned six months later on the south-westerlies – this before the advent of petrol engines of course.

Over two thousand years, the dhow merchants of Persia and Arabia traded with the coastal Bantu peoples of Africa. In return for consignments of dates, rugs, silks, jewels, treasure chests, they bought, gold, mangrove timber, animal skins, ivory and slaves. And their centuries’ long congress with Africans gave rise to a string of coastal city states of mixed race Arab-Persian-African people, the Swahili, who both owned and traded in humans, and did so until at least the 1920s when the British occupiers of British East Africa (now Kenya) finally outlawed the practice – the unintended consequence of which was hundreds of homeless and unemployed ex-clove plantation workers whose former owners could no longer afford to employ them as  plantations ran to bush and their fortunes rapidly dwindled.

Ah, the tangled webs we humans weave. (And this is not an apology for slave owning. Only an example of what happens when you unpick/ban other people’s economic practices, customs and beliefs in a piecemeal fashion.)

Which brings me full circle really. Kenya. After two weeks away in odd places, we were fairly glad to go back there, never mind the moral dilemmas. And that I suppose is the point of this little travel ramble. Moral dilemmas. The more we ignore them, the more things stay the same.

copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

 

P.S. There are things we can do about the present state of global inequality. The Tax Justice Network outlines some of them.

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In the Pink #20

Today ~ Airing My Clean Laundry In Public and A Storm Rising

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As I write this, having just hung out the washing (and taken the photo), Storm Ali is whisking his coattails across Shropshire. The odd thing is, despite all the buffeting and bluster, it is really warm outside. The forecasters tell us the wind is set to build here tonight, though Scotland and the North West look to be in for the worst of it. My heart goes out to all the storm-beleaguered souls around the planet.

In the Pink

Sundowner Bee At The Allotment Cafe

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Can one post too many happy foraging bee shots? I’m thinking not. This particular bee was caught the other evening, enjoying the day’s final tuck-in on an allotment dahlia. I’d gone up there to pick runner beans, tomatoes and autumn raspberries, and to deliver a big bag of compost makings to one of my several heaps.

The dahlias in question have been grown by my plot neighbour Mark. He only grows  flowering plants – and with the sole objective of providing for insect life. Of course these late season blooms give everyone who comes to the allotment gardens a burst of pleasure. It’s as if they have captured the best essence of summer in their petals and want to share it with the world. Blooming lovely.

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Lens-Artists #11  small is beautiful  Amy asks us to show her the little things that give us pleasure, however they strike us.

In the Pink #16

A1 Plant For Bee Forage ~ Shame About The New Name

We used to call them sedums (Sedum spectabile). Now, for reasons best known to botanical taxonomists, these common garden succulents have been re-named Hylotelephium spectabile. Talk about a horticultural tongue-twister.

They are late summer bloomers of the stone crop family with flat umbrellas of tiny flowers, on the cusp of opening in the header photo. (The fallen petals belong to some neighbouring phlox). Once they are flowering, the bees and other pollinators will come in swarms for their end-of-season stoke-up on nectar. They are VERY IMPORTANT bee fodder.

That’s one good reason to grow them. Another is that they are exceedingly drought tolerant. A clump on an abandoned  plot at the allotment has survived all through the four months of heat and drought, while anyway occupying an arid, rain-shadowed spot under a goat willow, and without any attention whatsoever. While the stems are looking a touch pallid, it is still preparing to put on a floral display. I’m thinking I might repatriate it chez Farrell, that’s if I can excavate it from the concrete soil in which it is presently subsisting.

And the third reason for growing sedums is that they have a certain architectural value in the garden – both before, during, and after flowering. They come in a range of colours through the pink to burgundy spectrum. There are also white ones, and some with variegated foliage.

With some thoughtful planting they can indeed be spectabile, limit the need for watering in dry weather, and keep the bees well fed at summer’s end.

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In the Pink #10

Things One Finds In the Godetia!

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Godetia is another ‘good old gardener’s’ annual flower that I grew from seed this year. They are a bit pink for my taste, but very obliging. This particular plant is accompanying the chives and some Persian basil in a pot by the kitchen door and, flower-wise, is taking over blooming duty from the drumhead alliums which are now palely drooping. Yesterday it was also hosting a new bug – new to me that is. You can spot it making an entrance top right.

When I first glimpsed it, I thought it might be a dreaded crimson lily beetle, though I don’t grow lilies. They have very nasty habits (their larvae, very cunningly for larvae, disguise themselves from predators by coating themselves in black excrement while they chomp through the lilies, bud and leaf).

A closer look, however, revealed…

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… and after a few quick snaps, sent me searching on the internet, where after googling ‘orange and black bug UK’ its ID was swiftly established. So here it is, a cinnamon or rhopalid bug Corizus hyoscyami. Originally only common in southern Britain, it is now spreading. This one is probably newly emerged, August to September being the time slot for a new generation. It likes dry habitats, and has no unpleasant habits:  i.e. it does not emit smelly effusions that some other bugs are wont to do. Nothing I read indicated culpability in the plant damage department. So, until I learn otherwise, I think we may simply admire it for its very snazzy livery.

Later it hopped over to the Persian basil, where I thought it looked particularly fetching.

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Six Word Saturday

 

Pleasing Patterns

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The other day I noticed the tips of the apple tree boughs were encrusted with greenfly. I was going to treat them to a soap and water spray, but then forgot. The next time I looked the ants and ladybirds had moved in on the job and the greenfly invasion was much diminished. This ladybird is obviously having  some R and R in the nearby zinnias. Always good for a smile – ladybirds.

In Our Summer Garden ~ See Who’s Looking For Dinner

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When I tell you that this crab spider is sitting on a zinnia bud and the zinnia bud is less than an inch across, then you can see, that in real life, this spider is very very small. Even in the next shot it’s still twice its actual size.

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It’s fascinating to think that the hunting instinct is embodied in such a tiny entity. These spiders (Misumena vatia) do not spin webs to catch their prey. They sneak about in plants, sometimes seemingly taking on the shades of particular flowers as camouflage. And then they pounce!

I think the spider in this next shot is being a trifle ambitious. Can you spot it, lurking on the Doronicum? Also an ID for the bee-like fly would be welcome – Ark, Pete, Brian…

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And now here’s a view of the garden, where all of life and death goes on – and under our very noses.

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Colour Scheming ~ It Caught My Eye

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In my last post I muttered about the shortcomings of close-up shots because you lose the wider setting which may have much more to tell you. But I took this one because it made me smile: the contrast of the green longhorn beetle on liatris spicata; the liatris against the green grass, and the congruent shade and form of beetle and the blades of grass. Not a scheme I would wish to replicate in my own home, I hasten to add.

Liatris, with its tall purple spires, is now an English herbaceous border staple, and another magnet for insect life. But its true home is on the North American prairies where it has the names of Prairie Gay Feather and Dense Blazing Star.

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The first photo was taken at the allotment where my neighbour is growing insect attracting plants, but I have also grown it in my garden for the first time this year – seen in the second photo along with all the rapeseed dust from the previous night’s harvesting. (There are disadvantages to country living, and the  combine harvester’s dust and chaff cloud that buried our house and garden was one of them).

Now I know where liatris comes from, I have a sudden yen to set it free to colonise the fields of Wenlock Edge. I see it growing up tall as tall nodding its plumed heads over hillsides of wild oats – and no more compacted earth, chemical sprays and harvesting dust. Still, I know too that this is exactly the sort of impulse that has led to major biological disasters across the world, not least the devastating spread of the very lovely water hyacinth, which also grows in alluring purple spires, choking the waterways of the African continent and beyond, making poor people even poorer; killing livelihoods.

It was most probably a colonial gardener in the former Belgian Congo who was responsible that piece of horticultural mayhem; the plant escaped from a beautifully contrived water garden and up the riverine systems of Central Africa and into Lake Victoria, far away from its native South American quarters where there are local natural forces (weevils) to keep it in check. It has infested North America too, where there is big business in selling big water hyacinth harvesting machines.

So I will contain my expansionist inclinations, and enjoy the liatris where it is. It is actually a medicinal plant, well known to North America’s first nations, the Cherokee in particular, and used to treat many conditions.

And now for some more striking flower-insect colour-scheming – a green shield bug on my dusty Russian rudbeckia, grown from seed last year – another floral (hopefully benign) displacement.

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