Windfall Quinces At The Allotment

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For one reason or another, but mostly due to some serious rainstorms, I had not been to the allotment for several days. When it wasn’t raining, slithering across the field in the mud did not appeal. And then the wind got up. And then just when I thought I’d go, another downpour began. And so it seems that after our too arid  summer, we’re in for a very wet autumn.

But yesterday came the window of opportunity. The morning was almost sunny. We anyway needed some veggies. So wellies on, off I trudged along Townsend Meadow, which is now a green haze of sprouting wheat. The rain is suiting it. It has also been suiting all the field beans spilled during the summer harvesting. They have been pushing up through the wheat, and I noticed yesterday that the farmer has clearly been over the field with his big herbicide sprayer. I find it astonishing that plant-killing chemicals can be so attuned as to know a broad bean seedling from a wheat stem. Anyway, the application is clearly doing its stuff, and the wheat looks fine.

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Up on the plot all is soggy and much blown about, and certainly not at all photogenic. There was lots to gather though – leeks, beetroot, chicory, carrots, and still some tomatoes, lettuce and rocket in the polytunnel. I didn’t stay long. The wind was gusting up into a small gale. You can see what it did to quince crop. The tree this year was laden. It seems a waste not to use the fruit, but apart from quince jelly, which needs loads of sugar, it’s not really a favourite in the Farrell household.

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Townsend Meadow: wheat and field beans (before the spraying)

#WalkingSquares This November join Becky in her daily walks, or whenever you can, the only rule, the header photo must be SQUARE. 

Reflections: Looking Back On Tiwi Reef

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Today in Shropshire we are having a heatwave – 26 C which is hot for us. It’s making me think of Kenya days when we used to spend Christmas (the hottest season) on the South Mombasa coast. We took all our best friends and family there. So: fond, if long ago, thoughts of grilled reef fish and lobsters bought from the local fishermen, and daily visits from the vegetable seller who pushed his sturdy Chinese bike along the coral paths, the black frame slung with raffia panniers, the contents garnered from his shamba – pawpaws, tomatoes, red onions, tiny hen’s eggs, warty lemons, a pepper or two.

Of course it was steamy there beside the Indian Ocean, but breezy too, and the verandaed beach cottages, following the local style, were built to catch it – tall makuti thatched roofs, large unglazed windows shaded by louvered shutters with moveable slats. Billowing mosquito nets over the beds. The outside sounds blowing in, crickets in the hot grass, finch chatter in the Madagascar flame trees, plangent call of the water bottle bird emptying its flask, a descending doo-doo-doo-doo…then waft of frangipani, and further off, the ocean crashing on the reef. The smell of the sea. Aaaah! Tusker beer, anyone?

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Lens-Artists: seeing double This week Jez has set the challenge. He has some stunning reflections on show.

Centred At Wenlock Priory

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Of course for centuries Much Wenlock Priory was the centre of things for the ordinary folk who lived along Wenlock Edge and across the River Severn beyond Ironbridge. And I don’t only mean for the saving of their souls or temporal spiritual guidance. Successive priors were effectively CEOs of a large agricultural and industrial business enterprise. They ruled over an extensive landed estate in much the same way as powerful feudal lords of the manor ruled over their serfs and villeins.

The Priors laid down the law. They exacted rents, tithes and substantial death duties from the community, while the peasant smallholders, who were their rent-paying tenants, were obliged to provide a considerable amount of their labour –  ploughing, harvesting, transporting goods. The Priory was also a big wool producer and it was involved in industrial enterprises such as quarrying, milling, extracting coal, operating an iron-making bloomery in Coalbrookdale, and so presumably relying on members of the 18 local serf families to do much of this work.

The Priory also did very nicely when anyone died. One third (a terciar) of the value of the deceased person’s moveable goods would be claimed. In 1377 when John Brice a local lord of the manor died, his executors had to pay out 5 oxen, plus a further third in value of 5 cows, 7 horses, 132 sheep, 90 ewes, 75 lambs, 2 silver spoons, and 3 drinking bowls with silver decoration. Other terciar records indicate that people’s every last possession was weighed up (in all senses). This might include the value of meat in the larder, the iron parts of a plough, corn in the barn, pans and axes, a worn out harrow all converted to monetary worth and paid in coin (Wenlock in the Middle Ages  W F Mumford).

It is thus pleasing to know that there were moments when the Prior’s powers were well and truly challenged. In 1163 the villeins rebelled and ‘threw down their ploughshares’, calling for the repressive Prior to be deposed. The monks’ response was to excommunicate the lot, a truly horrifying penalty at the time. This only led to a riot. The church was besieged and knights called in to save the monks. But in the end the Prior was forced to hold an enquiry before a committee of knights and monks who, it seemed, listened to the villeins’ grievances and effected a compromise. In the following centuries, as the villeins’ own economic power grew, they were more and more able to demand payment for their services (A History of Much Wenlock Vivien Bellamy).

But with all this taxing and tithing, you can well see why in 1540 Thomas Cromwell wanted to get his hands on, as in liberate, the accumulated wealth of nation’s monastic houses. And here in Wenlock we still have the end result, nearly 6 centuries on – the dissolved relics of one of Europe’s most prestigious monasteries.

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Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Centred

It’s Not Too Late To Plant Tulip Bulbs

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In fact they are supposed to fare better disease-wise if planted towards the end of the year, rather than in autumn with the other spring-flowering bulbs. I came across this particular bouquet in Aardvark Books (Hereford’s wonderful second-hand book emporium and book lovers’ heaven).  Stunning, isn’t it? You can well see why tulip mania broke out in 17th century Holland. (Perhaps one of history’s more benign expressions of humans losing all sense of proportion).

Tulips of course are not native to Europe (hence the excitement when they first arrived there). Their homeland is Turkey where they grow wild, and it was the Sultans of the Ottoman Empire who bred and  filled their gardens with ever new varieties. Trade in the bulbs was forbidden and each new variety carefully recorded. But as might have been predicted with such highly desirable items, they escaped at last. And ever since we’ve had more and more new versions, each one designed to incite tulip lust. So much so, I find it impossible to choose whenever I look at a bulb catalogue. On the other hand, as I said, there’s still time to plant some…

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Life in Colour: Kaleidoscope Jude wants plenty of colour from us this month.

A Spot Of Bird Watching

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In the previous post Chasing the light over Townsend Meadow  my header photo featured my ‘stand-on-bed-while-using-open-rooflight-as-tripod’ school of photography. I now confess to using the same method to spy on my local corvids. I think the pair flitting above the field fence may be carrion crows. It’s hard to tell at this distance, but we do have a couple who come daily to forage in Townsend Meadow. It is part of their territory that includes the Linden Field across the road. Also each year they come with an offspring. They call to each other across the field. I note a strain of lament in it.

But back to spying. If, with my stand-camera-on-open-window method,  I then turn the lens 45 degrees to the right I can then cover activities in the rookery in the wood beside Sytche Lane. The lane borders the field boundary, and the wood borders the lane and is an unkempt sort of place inaccessible to us ordinary Wenlock folk. Both rooks and jackdaws congregate here, and in large numbers. At dusk, and particularly in autumn, they put on breath-taking balletic performances, swooping and swirling for many minutes over the meadow. If you happen to be out there when they start (sometimes my return from the allotment coincides with the opening passes of the corvid air show) it can be exhilaratingly eerie, and especially when a cohort, several dozen strong, whisks by my shoulder. There’s a rush of air. Wheeeeesh. Then gone before you register quite what happened.

You can get a gist of this phenomenon from my short video at the end of the post.

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Related: Rooks Dancing in the New Moon

Life in Colour: black/grey

 

Ordinary Extraordinary ~ Past Perfect Encounters

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It is often on the field path to and from the allotment that the seeming ordinary catches my eye. Often too it’s the result of collaborating elements. Take this apple, one of a bucket of windfalls that a neighbour had tossed over the hedge into Townsend Meadow. Then came the blackbirds who, through the autumn, nibbled at the flesh until only this translucent skin remained. Then there was some frosty winter weather and a lowering late-day sun over the Edge. And so we have an apple lantern. And I just happened to be passing as it lit up…

The allotment plots are also fertile grounds for the extraordinary ordinary and finding them can provide protracted and absorbing diversions from weeding and digging. Who can guess what this is?

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On the home front too, the multifarious parts of my unruly garden can be an endless source of distraction whatever the season, though autumn can yield some especially fine moments.

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Lens-Artists: Ordinary  This week I. J Khanewala asks us to explore the commonplace with fresh eyes. A focused look at the ordinary can suddenly transform into the extraordinary.

Past Squares #10

Day’s End Over The Garden Fence

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Summer came back this week, a few days of full-on sun before tomorrow’s promised thunder storm. As you can see, the helianthus in the guerrilla garden are all of a glow, caught here yesterday evening – sun dipping over Wenlock Edge. Even Townsend Meadow, recently doused with herbicide, looked quite good in sundowner light. The story here is that after the barley was harvested in July, much of the fallen grain germinated, turning the field into a grassy sward. This has now been dealt with. Next comes the ploughing and drilling. It is also the season of muck spreading, though thankfully not in the field behind the house. Even so, the odour is wafting about the town, especially pungent when combined with a heat wave. All of which is to say,  beauty presently comes with a bit of a whiff.

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Meanwhile back in the Farrell jungle, all is gold…

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Life in Colour: GOLD

Chasing Butterflies

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And to start with, a Red Admiral for Jude. This month at Life in Colour she is looking for all things RED. She also tells me they are rather short on butterflies down in Cornwall. Not so in Shropshire.

Yesterday at the allotment all the plots were brimming with butterflies, mostly cabbage whites looking for any unprotected brassica leaves for a spot of egg laying. They’ve even been coming into the polytunnel, attracted by some overgrown Tuscan Kale seedlings that I failed to plant out in the spring. I’ve also found a comma and a gatekeeper in there.

But the biggest draw is the Buddleja on one of the abandoned plots. No wonder it’s called the butterfly bush. Even so, the butterflies are very wary, so you need to sneak up on them if you want a photo:

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And a gatekeeper on a morning glory leaf in my polytunnel:

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