Making A Splash In Pembroke ~Thursday’s Special

P1040757

This month Paula’s pick-a-word challenge gives us the words splash, marine, scenic, feathered and canicular. The seaside photos cover the first  four, and I’ve posted them as an antidote to the ongoing hot weather that is melting many of us in the northern hemisphere. They were taken in March on Broadhaven Beach and at St. Bride’s in Pembrokeshire, and I’m relishing the thought of a brisk sea wind on my face and  an invigorating paddle in some chilled Welsh waves.

This next photo is my stab at canicular – the state for which I need the antidote – the laid out, inactive, sweltering dog days of July, the grass turning brown before our eyes, sunset heatwaves. Phew!

P1070014

Thursday’s Special

On The Path To The Allotment ~ Too Hot On The Plot

It was nearly 7 pm last night when I finally thought it might be cool enough to head up the field to the allotment. In places, the nettles and grasses are leaning over the path at ear-height, and the nettle stings can be vicious, even through clothing. At one point the makeshift path alongside the rapeseed crop all but disappears, and it’s a question of remembering to turn left at the opium poppy, which was fine when it was flowering redly, but not so easy to spot now it’s gone to seed. I’m beginning to think I need to go out armed with a machete. Also the ground beneath my feet is so unyielding, it is difficult to walk on; baked into unexpected ridges and contours that are hard to navigate when you can’t see the way ahead. Who would have thought going gardening could be so challenging.

Of course, I had to stop to take this photo, the sun shining through the allotment boundary hedge.

On the plot I have been trying to shelter the plants’ roots with whatever vegetation I can find up there: comfrey, horseradish leaves, even rhubarb leaves. I’m now eyeing up the goat willow tree on the neighbouring abandoned plot, thinking a little prune of its leathery foliage might make some useful shading material.

So far things are surviving – apart from the strawberries that is, and the broad beans which produced a half-hearted crop and then fainted away. The most astonishing success, at least so far, is the sweet corn. It just keeps on growing, and with scarcely any watering, which is very strange for sweet corn. I bought the seedlings by post after the seeds of my own first sowing rotted. They were tiny when I planted them out in May – no more than a hand’s width tall. Now look at them.

P1060882

P1060888

They cost £2 for 20 from Delfland Nurseries which probably works out cheaper than growing them yourself from seed, and certainly cuts out the faff. I also bought some of their Iznik mini cucumber seedlings, which are now producing well in the polytunnel. The fruits are about 4 inches long when ready to pick, and delicious. The best thing is you eat the whole thing at one go, so no more squishy-cucumber-end discoveries in the fridge.

P1070062

The Black Russian tomatoes are busy fattening in the next door bed. They are now one of our favourite tomato varieties, under-sown here with dill.

P1070063

P1060798

Outside, the runner beans are struggling to get up their sticks, but we’ve had our first good picking of the climbing Alderman peas. These peas are supposed to continue cropping over the season, but I’m not sure that this will happen with four more weeks of drought and heat promised. I have just planted out another lot, sown for quick germination in lengths of plastic gutter, and I shall definitely grow them again next year.

We’ve been told there is a ‘world shortage’ of lettuce in UK supermarkets. It doesn’t germinate well in heat. I have grown some of my own, but I was also very pleased that I bought a tray of ‘living salad’ lettuce from Waitrose. It was intended for cutting fresh into one’s sandwich, but I planted out the seedlings instead, outside covered with fleece and also in the polytunnel. So far it’s doing well. I reckon there were about 50 seedlings in the tray, several different varieties, so plenty of lettuce to share with neighbours.

Now for some more hot-plot shots.

P1060800

P1060785

P1060788

P1060887

P1060886

P1070072

One unforeseen circumstance of the hot weather is that my piled-high compost heaps are bone dry, and are therefore doing very little rotting down. While I don’t feel I can help them along by actually watering them, I have heard that the addition of urine is very beneficial, and since most of the allotmenteers are chaps, it has occurred to me to put up ‘please pee here’ signs. All deposits gratefully received.

P1060784

copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

Strange What Comes Flying Over Next Door’s Ash Tree When You’re Eating Supper

P1070083cr

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s…a…a paramotor wing, and it came looming low over the new shed last night as we were eating our cream of broad bean soup. It was so very much something where you didn’t expect to have it, and also very loud, that for a moment I felt like Arthur Dent in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – you know, the scene near the beginning where a huge ship from the Vogon Constructor Fleet comes gliding over his house as a prelude to demolishing the planet:

People of Earth, your attention please.This is Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz of the Galactic Hyperspace Planning Council. As you will no doubt be aware, the plans for development of the outlying regions of the Galaxy require the building of a hyperspatial express route through your star system, and, regrettably your planet is one of those scheduled for demolition. The process will take slightly less than two of your Earth minutes. Thank you.

Douglas Adams The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

Anyway, it turned out to be nothing so threatening, though at one point I thought the pilot had completely lost the plot as he whirlygigged for several giddy seconds over the rapeseed field. He sorted himself out though.

P1070078

cr2

cr3

P1070081

P1070074

No, This Is Not My Polytunnel

Polytunnel spotted on the path to Koroni, Messenia in the southern Peloponnese. And now for some more scenic Greek roofs to conclude Becky’s very entertaining June squares photo-jaunt. Didn’t we do well. And a big round of applause for Becky.

*

IMG_2849

THE END

Roof Squares 30

Six Word Saturday

Much Wenlock’s Changing Seasons ~ Flaming June 2018

P1070031

Who’d have thought it? Here in the UK we’ve been having summer and all before it was officially summer; week after week of sunshine, and hardly a drop of rain. May was the warmest May in over a hundred years, and June has continued in like vein. The roses have been flowering their socks off and, along with the pinks and honeysuckle, filling the garden with delicious scents. In fact everything is blooming at high speed, intent on pollinating and seed-setting before being fried. This evening I saw fully formed, if not yet ripe hazel nuts at the allotment. The biological imperative in action then. Already the countryside has the dry and dusty look of late August.

Of course all this sunshine means there’s lots of watering to be done at the allotment, though I’m very conscious that water is precious and I should not waste it.  I’ve been trying to mulch things where I can, and otherwise shelter crops with netting, mesh or fleece. I have not managed to get to grips with the strawberry bed though. Did not put straw down when I should have done, and although the plants have been producing lots of fruit, they looked flat out and flabbergasted yesterday evening  – beyond being watered now.  On the plus side – more heat = fewer molluscs.

All around the town the hay fields have been cut and cleared. And when we drove over Wenlock Edge to Church Stretton this morning all of Shropshire lay sweltering under the sun, and set to bake for another fortnight too.

This raises serious issues – the water supply in particular, and climate change in general. We need to start taking both seriously, and we especially need the water supply and its management back under public control. And if we’re now going to have largely rainless springs and summers, followed by very wet winters with the increased likelihood of serious floods too, then we need more water storage facilities. Many conurbations are still relying on reservoirs built by the Victorians. Birmingham water comes from Elan Valley reservoirs in Wales, built in 1893.

This week in our part of the West Midlands we’ve been having very strange goings on with the taps courtesy of Severn Trent Water whose CEO earns £2.45 million a year.  (She is one of the 9 water company executives who between them have received £58 million pounds in pay and benefits over the last 5 years.) In the evening the pressure drops until water is either absent or only a dribble. Severn Trent say this is happening because increased usage due to the hot weather is causing air pockets in the pipes, and they’re having to pump the air out.

This is an entirely new phenomenon to us, although having lived in Africa we are well used to the absence of water and the notion that we should not take its provision for granted. Anyway the STW explanation rather reminds me of old British Rail’s excuse of ‘leaves on the line’ whenever services went awry. In early March there were similar happenings in the pipes due, Severn Trent said, to an unprecedented number of leaks because of the cold weather.

However you look at it, a delinquent water supply that is so susceptible to changes in the weather, and for which most households pay £400 a year, is not fit for purpose. ‘Take back the taps’ say the GMB Trades Union.

Changes in rainfall patterns, and failure to properly manage rain-fed water supplies is going to seriously affect the nation’s food production. We’ll need to eat different things, learn to grow them in new ways, opt for drought-resistant plants. When we leave Europe, we will have to grow our own vegetables, since most of them seem to come from there. Is anyone taking some action on this, I wonder.

But for now we can go on enjoying the unprecedented warmth, making hay etc. It has many very good points. Earlier this month the town held its two-week arts festival without a drop of rain on its outdoor performances, and on Sunday we had the town picnic on the Church Green, and the whole afternoon was blissful – at least it was if you had a good tree to sit under. Here are some views around Wenlock during flaming June:

And last Sunday’s town picnic:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Changing Seasons June 2018

Going Mazy-Eyed In A Sea Of Grasses ~ Thursday’s Special

P1070008

I took this photo last night as I was coming home from the allotment. The sun was setting over the rapeseed field and illuminating the grasses along the headland. This is a broad strip of land on the town side of Townsend Meadow, left uncultivated as a defence against flash floods. The variety of grasses that grow here is bewildering, and I’m sorry to say I have never tried to learn which is which. They are very beautiful though in the evening light.

Grasses (Gramineae) are among the most successful plants on the planet and, excluding the polar zones, cover 40% of the earth’s surface. They of course include cereal crops, rice, bamboos, and pasture grasses and so are of immense importance to humanity. Grass is also an elephant’s food of choice, making up a substantial part of its 300-400 lb daily vegetable intake. I mention that fact here because our headland grasses have so benefitted from the agrichemical feeding of the rape plants uphill from them that they are now doing a pretty good impression of elephant grass (Pennisetum purpureum) also known as Napier Grass. This particular grass featured in he-who-builds-sheds’ doctoral research on grass smut in the Kenya highlands, and so is a species close to our hearts, and we both know how to identify it.

Coming up is another grass I know: wild oats. The sun was reflecting off its spikelets, which was all rather mesmerizing.

P1060985

Thursday’s Special: Lost in details  This week Paula has given us an intriguing challenge and photo to match. I’m interpreting it here both in words and images Who me?

Last Night On Windmill Hill

P1060965cr

A full moon to the south, sunset in the west, and a shady man on a bench being moonstruck.

P1060955

*

And then the sweet scent of Lady’s Bedstraw which this year has colonized much of the hill, pushing out the orchids…

P1060968

*

And then some  views of Wenlock’s hay-cut fields between the moonrise and the sunset…

P1060959

P1060970

Flight From Lusaka To Seychelles

We were living in Lusaka, Zambia in 1993. Multiparty democracy had not long arrived, and the long-outstayed-his-welcome president, Kenneth Kaunda been sent into retirement. The future might have looked bright but for the fact that the rains had failed in 1992 and many Zambians were starving. On top of this, the price of the national staple, maize, had anyway been going through the roof, courtesy of the International Monetary Fund, who had decided, under the new regime, that the time was ripe for the country to be structurally readjusted. The object of course was some much needed fiscal cleansing, which looks fine on paper, but somehow overlooked the effect on actual human beings. It also neglected to deal with the fact that the rich resource-grabbing nations of North America, UK et al had been robbing Zambians blind for decades, making off with cheap copper and somehow neglecting to pay their taxes. These are the same nations that call African regimes corrupt. It’s all a case of copper pots and kettles.

In the city there were people dying from AIDS, the endless funeral corteges to Leopard’s Hill cemetery. Then there was an epidemic of cholera due to polluted bore holes. Even the nation’s pigs were sick with swine fever. The Zairean Army over the border in the Copper Belt (now Democratic Republic of Congo) had not been paid, and so had taken to conducting armed raiding sprees down the Great North Road and into Lusaka. We were told if driving in the city at night never to stop when the traffic lights (robots) were on red since we were likely to be ambushed. To the east, the civil war in Mozambique was also spilling into Zambia, the fighters predating on already impoverished farmers.

Then Son of Kaunda started a campaign of national unrest ending in an attempted coup, the national football squad was tragically killed in an air crash, which depressed everyone, and I had amoebic dysentery which wouldn’t quite go away. Meanwhile Graham was based in the European Union Delegation, organising the distribution of food aid to the worst famine-stricken areas. His immediate boss was French and communication was conducted in fragmented French on Graham’s part, and confused English on Bernard’s part, and over all, they were subjected to the dogmatic rule of an envoy of volatile Mediterranean disposition who thought he spoke better English than Graham and would alter his reports. And so when the chance came to take a break in the Seychelles, we were more than ready for it.

There is more about our Zambia life at Letters from Lusaka I and II and Once in Zambia: in memoriam.  And before you join our much needed Indian Ocean getaway, I should say that I really loved Zambia – this despite the catalogue of human misery. The people we met, from immigration officials onwards, were so very gracious. It is also a very beautiful land with some of the world’s best places for wildlife viewing.

Now for some Seychelles rooftops for Becky. We were staying on the main island Mahé:

copyright 2018 Tish Farrell

Roof Squares 26

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Misty Morning Sailing Into New York

Sunday 8 June 3.15 a.m.

I had woken early, anxious not to miss our passing under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (that connects Staten Island to Brooklyn), a feat that had to be timed precisely to occur at 4.45 am to accommodate the soaring height of Queen Mary II. We had been at sea a week – for that’s how long the Queen Mary’s Trans-Atlantic Crossing takes – even now – and as the song goes – there had been nothing to see but sea. I was growing used to the meditative sameness of the view, and thinking I might just like to go on sailing forever. But then it was chilly too, and much of the time overcast; we saw not one sunset or sunrise, though one day I saw four dolphins. We spent our days and evenings after dinner roving the ship. You could walk miles, and often, despite the presence of 2,000 passengers and as many staff, we would find ourselves in utterly deserted quarters; silent but for the hum of ship’s engines. It was often very eerie, the more so after attending one of John Maxtone-Graham’s lectures on Titanic. He was Cunard’s resident historian, and his morning talks in the grand auditorium were one of the few activities we took part in.

On some days there were strong winds that put the top decks out of bounds – the doors firmly roped to prevent access. This was where the tennis courts, swimming pools and golf range were sited; also the pound for all those sea dogs who were accompanying their owners on the voyage. I spotted a labrador, dalmation, terrier and cocker spaniel, all under the care of the dog stewards. It made me think of the Trans-Atlantic Walking the Dog sequence in the 1937 Astaire-Rogers film Shall We Dance. (You can see a clip at the link.)

MVI_0144_Moment m

MVI_0146_Moment s cr

At 3.15 when I opened our veranda door it was like stepping into a steam bath. Somehow in the few hours between going to bed and making landfall there had been a complete climate change. All around were small craft, distant shore lights, sea birds flitting by like bats. It was a shock to see so many signs of life out there. Soon the little Sandy Hook Pilot boat was heading our way, disappearing astern to deliver the pilot. A little while later I saw the boat veering off again, lights flashing. It seems that not only the pilot had come aboard. Later still, I came across two hugely scary flak-jacketed security men, one wielding a very large weapon. Overhead a chopper dogged our slow progress. The passage under the Verrazano Bridge went smoothly, complete with accompanying loud-speaker commentary from John Maxtone-Graham. It was all immensely theatrical like much else on Queen Mary II.

MVI_0148_Moment b

The regal arrival next involved a stately three-point turn in front of the Statue of Liberty, this in order to dock stern-first at Red Hook, Brooklyn. We put in at 6.a.m, right on schedule, a blood-red sunrise over the new IKEA building. We’re here. New York. The last time Graham made this crossing he was three years old. They had sailed on Cunard’s much smaller Medea, a civilised first class only ship. He and his parents were set to start a new life in London, Ontario, where his father was project managing engineering works in a new power station. This new life would begin with a few days in Manhattan and a visit to the Empire State Building before heading to Canada. There was another connection too. We were carrying with us a copy of a letter written by one of Graham’s ancestral family members, Robert Baxter, a Northamptonshire farmer’s son who made the crossing to New York in 1852, and described the appalling conditions he witnessed in steerage when he had to go below to fetch water for his own cabin. At that time the voyage took 21 days and passengers had to do their own cooking, although Robert said he felt so sick for two of those three weeks that he could mostly only manage to eat the home-made cake he had brought with him. There would have been no Statue of Liberty to greet their arrival. She did not sail in until 1885.

Here is the last paragraph from Robert’s letter home.  He had gone to America to make his fortune. There is no doubting his sense of excitement:

New York is a dirty place but a wonderful place for business. It is very large. It appeared rather curious to see the telegraph posts and wires in all the principle streets and the railroad carriages running every quarter of an hour drawn by horses. They are beautiful carriages lined with silk plush. You can ride 3 miles for 5c. It is beautiful travelling. It is a splendid sight to see the fire engines and that is nothing new. I have seen them out 6 times in one day.

Arrival in a new country is often fraught with anxieties, and US immigration is particularly fraught-making. We began our own adventure with mixed emotions, but then thoughts of Robert Baxter’s enthusiasm proved infectious. A week in Manhattan and old friends to catch up with. It was bound to be good.

IMG_0168

IMG_0163

IMG_0158cr

IMG_0171

Six Word Saturday

Please visit Debbie to see her stunning views of St Pancras Station. She kindly allows some of us to overstep the 6-word mark – just so long as we have a 6-word title.

copyright 2018 Tish Farrell