Iced Up

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Yesterday we woke to an all-over frosting, every outdoor surface bristling with ice crystals. This led (once well wrapped up) to a long prowl around the Farrell estate to see what caught the eye. I was rather taken with the Echinops seed head over the garden fence. It made me think of ice lollies, or sherbet on a stick. The fence looked pretty enticing too, and behind it the dead-flower spikes of lemon balm.

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Square Up #8

Apple Snaffling

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For the last couple of days this male blackbird has been tucking into our garden crab apples. He has a technique. Using his beak like a dagger, he jabs downwards with great vigour, slicing off morsels. Sometimes, though, he ends up with a mouthful he cannot swallow, which then requires a descent to the garden path where sets about cutting the apple down to size. All part of the morning’s seasonal entertainment at the Farrell establishment.

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Lens-Artists: ‘A’  This week Patti asks us for subjects that start with the letter ‘A’.

Over The Garden Fence

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It does seem perverse to photograph the guerrilla garden’s very colourful crab apples in monochrome. I  anyway didn’t much care for the result. Then I started tweaking the exposure and contrast in my editing programme and thought that this was quite an interesting ‘take’ for Cee’s challenge this week of circles and curves. And then I had a look at the photos I’d taken of the dewy grass over in the field – some very gentle curves and glittery droplets, blue or sepia tinted. Pleasing, I thought.

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Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: circles and curves

The Changing Seasons ~ November 2020

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I could swear it was only yesterday I was compiling October’s Changing Seasons post. Fascinating how time flies under lockdown and loss of civil liberties. Still, here on the Edge things are peaceable if rain-sodden, though we have been blessed with some perfect-sun interludes.

On rain-free days my gardening mind has mostly been on leaf collecting. This year the field maple and oak have been delivering double servings on the lane beside the allotment so I don’t have far to go to fetch them. I have created various ad hoc silos out of wire to store them, and this method does seem to speed up decomposition. Though adding some comfrey leaves and grass cuttings also helps. Anyway, already by September last autumn’s leaf stores had yielded sufficient quantities of chocolatey compost to give the summer raspberries a good, deep mulching.

There is also much tidying to be done on the allotment plots – taking down the bean poles, turning compost heaps, netting winter greens against pigeon attack. There’s still been lots to pick on the outside beds – beetroot, carrots, leeks, some chard and perennial spinach. The polytunnel goes on producing too. I took out the last of the tomato plants this week. As each plant finished I’ve been using the space for spinach, lettuce, kohl rabi, Russian kale and cauliflower seedlings. At the moment they are still growing, and I even had to remove some highly unseasonal caterpillars. I also have a very impressive bed of coriander, and some Chinese mustard greens. How they will all over-winter is a matter of waiting and seeing, but at the moment there’s plenty to make a good green salad. Lots to be happy about.

 

The Changing Seasons: November 2020

Please visit Su to see her New Zealand November gallery.

Iced!

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The other morning I found the frost had left this ice skin on the very top of the garden water butt. We’ve had days of rain and it was filled to the brim with downpourings from the old privy roof. Most  curious, I thought. It looks like a pile of actual leaves, some reedy plant, say. Or else in some mysterious way the water’s surface had replicated, as it froze, the flattened leaves of the Crocosmia that grows a few feet away over the fence. So does this mean that a common or garden water butt can make art; or create, when the elements conspire, its own version of monochrome digital images? It would seem so. I herewith proffer the evidence.

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: close-ups 

This week Cee gives up lots of close-up inspiration. Please pay her a visit.

Crab Apple Heaven

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Today, the 26th of November, we woke to the first autumn frost, though by the time I was dressed and out in the garden, it was melting fast. Not a cloud to be seen. There was a moment, too, when the sky was a perfect shade of  lavender. Who knew it could do that in Much Wenlock! The last time I saw such as sky I was at Hunter’s Lodge in Makindu, Kenya. Nor was it only the atmosphere making earth magic.  Over the fence in the guerrilla garden the crab apple tree was also emitting its own extraordinary radiance: each miniature apple aglow, if slightly tearful. In fact before posting the first photo I had to desaturate it a touch.  Even so, it’s still a glow worth popping in your heart or head space to light up gloomy days.

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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.

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.