The Changing Seasons: September’s Reasons To Be Cheerful

IMG_0052

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.

Look Out: Here Comes The Wind!

IMG_9695

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?

IMG_9718

The Changing Seasons ~ July 2020

IMG_9222

The last day of July and it’s HOT! And rather a shock to the system. For much of the month, the Edge has been cloud-bound with low light and at times even chilly. Every now and then I’ve grown confused and thought it must be September. The wheat in Townsend Meadow is already looking overdone. (So soon!). The vegetable plots seem confused too. Many plants, especially the climbing beans, seem to have gone into a trance – as if they’ve given up before they’ve hardly begun. But then it’s a sign of the times, if not the status quo – confusion.

And at least the potatoes and onions have remained steadfast and productive. There should be tomatoes soon too. August also comes with fresh cultivating possibilities. I’ve been preparing to sow Chinese greens, endives, spinach and Swiss chard for the autumn and winter. Maybe some carrots too – the stubby little Paris Market variety, which can be sown late. And then when the potatoes are harvested it will be time to sow over-wintering green manures: mustard, annual rye and field beans. So the round of soil nurturing continues. It’s all part of a process of extending gratitude for keeping us Farrells, (friends and neighbours too) well nourished. We seem to be keeping the insect world pretty well fed too.

Now for scenes from the gardening fronts. On both sides of our garden fence the yellow helianthus and golden rod are bursting forth among the hot reds, pinks and purples. It’s a gaudy scene, and though I don’t care for the colour of the pink phlox, in the present heat wave it smells wonderful – a sweet warm meadowy scent. Meanwhile up at the allotment, the communal fruit trees are already showing signs of prodigious production, and I’ve brought bundles of very fine onions home to dry:

The Changing Seasons: July 2020

Taking The Long View On The Linden Walk

IMG_9113sq

This photo was taken last weekend, and no, autumn has not come early to Much Wenlock. The leaf litter gathering in drifts along the Linden Walk and the town’s many byways are the papery parts of shed lime tree blossom – the heady, heavenly scent that suffused our atmosphere back in June already forgotten. But hold on now, in the northern hemisphere we still have summer ahead of us; no giving way to the tristesse of ‘Autumn Leaves’, at least not yet. (Note to self: resist posting Yves Montand’s Les Feuilles Mortes until the actual autumn.)

The three little girls in the distance here were part of a multi-family group. They had been having a picnic on the Linden Field, several sets of parents and lots of little kids, dads commandeering the football and tumbling about on the grass with abandon. It was a heartening scene – families at play. Even the swings and slides were back in use after weeks of being wrapped in ugly tape. People having fun and exercise in the fresh air. I’m thinking that Doctor William Penny Brookes, the town’s physician, who back in the 1860s chivvied his chums to help plant these lime trees, would have approved.

 

Square Perspectives #31 A BIG thank you to Becky for keeping us so well entertained this month. Her own retrospective perspective today is a tour de force  Red rose.

Leading You Up My Garden Path

IMG_8884

Our cottage is built into a fieldside bank. The garden is broad (as wide as the house), but not deep. Or rather it is deep since it drops off about 8 feet to the right of the frame. The two old privies back onto Townsend Meadow. There’s a very free-form hedge of many plant species behind the foreground flower bed, and a fenced portion (guerrilla garden on the field side) beyond the privies. The deep red smoke bush behind the brolly marks the boundary with next door, and I’m standing with my back against the bespoke, self-built Graham-Shed to take the photo. Here then is the Farrell domain – small and irregularly formed. An upstairs-downstairs-between-floors-short-on-planning sort of a garden.

IMG_8100

IMG_8105

IMG_7797

IMG_7796

IMG_7963

IMG_8299

Square Perspective #18 A seafood teaser from Becky today.

Six Word Saturday  And a fabulous Vatican shot from Debbie.

Windmill? What Windmill? Perspectives Through Time And Space

IMG_8622sq

Those of you who come here often will know that Windmill Hill is my home town’s much loved landmark. Lucky for me it is only a five minute walk from the house, and that the walk there is mostly through the Linden Field (with its Linden Walk) where, from the 1850s the Wenlock Olympian Games, devised by William Penny Brookes, the town’s physician, were held every summer. In fact they still are an annual event, and should have been happening any day now, but for the pandemic panic.

Back in the Victorian era there were no large trees around the field as there are today and the slopes of Windmill Hill provided spectators with fine views of contesting hurdlers, hammer throwers and stone putters (featuring only local limestone quarry men and lime burners), football and cricket matches, tilting at the ring (lances wielded on horseback), long and high jumping, sprinting and cricket ball throwing. Needless to say these events did not feature women though there were knitting and sewing competitions for girls. And one year there was an ‘old woman’ race, for which the prize was a pound of tea.

Windmill Hill in 1850s

The above photo shows the Wenlock Olympian Games in action in 1867. I could find no copyright notice for it. It appears, source unacknowledged, in Much Wenlock Windmill  by M J Norrey.

And here’s a more recent scene with the William Penny Brookes Academy on the left and some of its pupils during soccer practice. The oaks at the foot of Windmill Hill have all been planted to commemorate various events associated with the Olympian Games.

072

067

*

P1030046resized

The windmill itself is a bit of mystery. The Windmill Trust who take care of it have done extensive research, and although there are documents from the 1540s onwards relating to successive land owners (i.e. post the 1540 dissolution of Wenlock Priory, the original landowner), there is no information that is absolutely specific to the windmill. Physical surveys of the present tower, however, did uncover two dates of 1655 and 1657 carved within the stone construction layers, but there were no clues as to the kind of milling gear and superstructure that may once have existed here.

Here’s what the inside looks like. These were taken on an ‘open day’ a few years ago:

100_7454

100_7452

*

And here’s a cropped long-shot evening view taken from allotment three summers ago when oil seed rape was flowering in Townsend Meadow.

P1050568

 

Square Perspective #5

Small But Beautiful: Raindrops On Pea Flower

IMG_8275sq

I have a few sugar snap peas growing in a bucket at the top of the garden by the seat. They have a few willow twigs for support and they seem quite happy surrounded by a profusion of geranium Rozanne. Also as I’m continually walking past them, I can easily spot the pods as soon as they’re ready for picking – usually enough to add to a stir fry or salad. So no glut of curly, tough and past-it pods. And then when these first plants have done their stuff, I have another bucket of later sown sugar snaps coming on beside them.

IMG_8448

None of this was planned, but now that I’ve done it, I’m thinking it’s a good way to create small successions of this particular crop. Besides, the pea flowers provide ideal landing platforms for raindrops.

 

Square Perspective #2

Pop over the Becky’s to see her handsome pusscat perspective.

A Curious Perspective

IMG_8558

There is a particular time (just now) when the wheat in Townsend Meadow, having grown its tallest, conjoins with a particular spot along my homeward path from the allotment. Together they cause the rooftops on Sytche Lane to look like this.

Note to self: must remember to take another shot when the wheat has turned to gold.

Square Perspective #1  For the month of July, Becky challenges us to show her some perspective – contrive it how we will, just so long as it’s in square format.

The Changing Seasons ~ And So Many Of Them In June

IMG_8340

I’ve read, just the other day in fact, that rain and dew drops caught in the leaves of Lady’s Mantle were much sought after by alchemists. They called them ‘moon water’, a deemed essential ingredient in the making of the philosopher’s stone, which in turn would change base metal into gold.

This plant’s transformative powers are also suggested in the old common name alkmelych  (alchemy) and preserved too in its botanical name Alchemilla vulgaris. Today medical herbalists prescribe it as a gynaecological tonic, in particular for balancing menopausal symptoms or resolving irregular menstrual cycles. The leaves and flowers are made into an infusion.

Anyway, the reason I mention this and indeed took the header photo is down to those big juicy drops. They mark the most transforming-transformative element of the month of June: RAIN. After a long dry spring, many weeks wherein our stolid Silurian soils set hard as concrete round limp and fainting plant life, we have finally had some good downpours; some of them quite torrential (as in stair rod assaults). We have also had hail and thunder. And in between, some over-heated sun-soaked days that made us think we had gone to the Mediterranean (while blissfully saved the airport check-in). But now, as the month comes to a close, the weather is more like late September – wind, drizzle, coolness and gloom. The allotment cabbage plots are happy though: just their kind of climate.

Surprisingly the dry spell has not noticeably curtailed production. Already garden harvest time is in full swing: peas, beetroot, lettuce, first potatoes, strawberries, raspberries, courgettes and broad beans. We’ve also had so many globe artichokes this year, I’ve had to prepare them en masse as hearts, braising them in olive oil and garlic. They can be eaten hot or cold.

As one crop finishes, so there is ground to clear, which means planning for the mid to late summer sowing and planting. Still lots to think about then. Mostly I’m thinking about fennel, various kinds of endives/chicories, carrots and spinach.

IMG_8216

IMG_8566

IMG_8540

IMG_8545

IMG_8571

IMG_8543

*

Around the town the paths and lanes, and especially the Linden Walk have been drenched in lime flower scent. It is astonishing how these tiny green-gold, dusty looking  inflorescences  can produce such a heady perfume. They do of course have highly sedative properties  and should only be used with great care. No harm in some heavy sniffing though – as one passes by.

Early one morning, during the hot spell, I was doing just that, on my way to visit Windmill Hill. At 7 a.m. the sun was lighting up a lime tree by the children’s playground; the warmed perfume stopped me in my tracks: honeysuckle tempered with strains of citrus. Aaah!  Up on Windmill Hill there were however distinct signs of the recent drought. June is the time of the annual orchid count. It was corona-ed this year of course, but anyway, there were only a few pyramidal orchids to be seen there. Hopefully their little tubers have not been totally desiccated and are saving themselves for more salubrious conditions next year. (Aren’t we all). Even the Lady’s Bedstraw was struggling to bloom. Usually the hillside below the windmill is a mass of limestone meadow flowers in early summer. There were at least some very handsome musk thistles.

Another noteworthy wildlife sighting this month has been the large number of scarlet tiger moths about the place. Soon there will be a lot more if the scene in our back garden flowerbed is anything to go by. At rest they are not always so immediately noticeable: cream and amber spots on black. But in flight there are flashes of scarlet ‘skirts’ as they dart by. Very fetching.

IMG_8460

IMG_8563

IMG_8472

IMG_8466

IMG_8481

IMG_8464

IMG_8476

IMG_8437

 

The Changing Seasons: June 2020  Please visit Su who hosts this challenge – not only for her lovely photos, but also for a very delicious soup recipe.

P.S. Cannot fathom this new system or how to put galleries where I want them. Hmph!