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

The Changing Seasons ~ This Was August

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And it has been all about tomatoes. The allotment polytunnel has been in production for many weeks now: more than enough from a dozen plants. This in turn has meant tomatoes with every meal and much processing of the remainder. For the latter, this year’s method of choice is simply to roast  them until soft. Additives include a drizzle of olive oil, black pepper, sea salt, garlic and fresh basil.  Once cooked, all is whizzed with an electric wand-thingy and put through a coarse sieve into plastic containers. These are then frozen, contents decanted and stored in bags as sauce ‘bricks’.

Otherwise we’ve been enjoying a very simple Greek dish of repeat layers of thinly sliced potatoes, tomatoes, courgettes (starting and finishing with the potatoes) – also with added basil, seasoning, garlic, drizzle of olive oil, and baking the lot slowly in a moderate oven until the potato-slice topping is crispy. Good with baked fish and/or thinly sliced and steamed runner beans or Violette French beans. We’ve also been eating runner beans as a meal on their own, sprinkled with parmesan or pandano cheese, with or without a homemade pesto sauce, or the pistou version which uses up a tomato.

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I’m thinking that by now we must comprise 99% processed vegetable matter.

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For several weeks the weather here has been more like early autumn than summer – some sun, but many overcast days and often quite chilly. We’ve even lit the wood stove a couple of evenings. But lacklustre temperatures have not stopped the garden. Geranium Rozanne made a bid to take over the entire upstairs terrace. Serious curtailing had to be implemented to ensure a bit of space for human kind. The rest of the borders also seem to be several feet taller this year, including the guerrilla garden which has done great service standing in for the too often absent summer sun.

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For those of you who missed our special garden visitor in early August – here he is, the male Holly Blue butterfly. It was spotted first on the sedum also seen in the photo above. Later I saw it feeding on the oregano, also much favoured by the bees:

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One of my favourite August flowers is the wild yellow toadflax. This is one I’ve grown from seed bought from a specialist wildflower nursery. It is common along the verges of Shropshire’s hill country, especially on the lane up the Long Mynd to Rattlinghope.

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Another summer latecomer is the Morning Glory. The deep indigo-purple ones have just started blooming in the polytunnel where they’re happily growing up a Sun Gold tomato plant. A pleasing cohabitation:

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And in the home garden we had a single ‘Flying Saucer’ version. I caught it fully open just as a little bee found it too. Said little critter could not get enough of the nectar. Every time it thought it was full, it made to leave, only to return again and again. Made me wonder if there was something seriously addictive in there. And what with all the pollen too: a new take on the meaning of Bee-line perhaps.

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And just to show we have had some sunny interludes along with the sun flowers:

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The Changing Seasons: August  This month hosted by Ju-Lyn at Touring My Backyard alternating with Brian at Bushboy Blog. Ju-Lyn has been doing some delicious cooking, though sadly short of tomatoes when she needed them (Sorry about that!) And Brian has some fabulous plant and birdlife on show.

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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Bumble Bee Dreaming…Bzzzzz

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One single corn poppy amongst the barley in Townsend Meadow, and snug inside a fast-asleep bee. And what cosier spot, dappled late-day sun through gauzy drapes, the gentle swish of barley all around. I wanted to curl up inside there too, and dream whatever it is bees dream. Sad to say my curiosity got the better of me. After I took this shot, I gave the poppy stem a gentle nudge – just to be sure the bee was sleeping not dying – and off it zoomed. So sorry, bee, for spoiling your siesta.

copyright 2021 Tish Farrell

Looking On The Bright Side ~ A Very Happy Ant

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Last night, homeward bound from my allotment plot, I noticed the first blossom on the old damson tree. Only a few flowers were fully open, and then I saw this one had a visitor. A delicious spring foraging for ant-kind. I watched it for several minutes, wondering if I’d been missing something not thinking to lick the odd bit of fruit blossom. Anyway, it made me feel very happy – this scene, and that thought.

April Squares

At the risk of bursting onto song, this April Becky wants us to show her all things bright and beautiful. It’s time to celebrate whatever gives our spirits a lift, or makes us laugh, or catches our eye. You can post something each day, or now and then when any kind of brightness strikes. The only rule: the image must be SQUARE.

Bright Square #1

Pose Perfect

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This week Lisa at Our Eyes Open  asks to see photos of birds we love. To be honest pheasants are  not a favourite, though their plumage is certainly magnificent. What I love about this pheasant is that he stopped to pose by the Sweet William. It shows him off so very nicely, don’t you think. After that I wasn’t too keen on him, and reverted to grumpy gardener mode. The photo was taken near my allotment plot and I didn’t need him nibbling and pecking among my veggies.

Bird Weekly

To And From The Allotment ~ The Monochrome Seasons

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When I set off across the field to my allotment garden I often do have a camera tucked in my pants’ pocket. And yes I know very well this is no way to treat a camera. But then the inclination to take photos overtakes the scruples. There is so much to see and consider, both around the allotment plots and along the field path from our house – the different times of day (or night); the changing seasons; the shifts of light; the state of the land; what is growing; what is not.

This month Jude at Travel Words is featuring black and white photography in her 2020 Photo Challenge. And as I’m presently in monochrome mode and most days still going gardening, I thought I’d post a somewhat themed response to this week’s assignment, ‘a retrospective’ using archive shots.

This is what Jude says about the assignment:

‘Look for shadows and textures. Carefully choose your images so that you can angle the light to create a sense of depth with the shadows’.

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Much Wenlock’s Southfield Road allotment plots back on to this field. It’s an adjunct to Townsend Meadow, the field behind our house. I’m guessing this photo was taken in October, though only because the ground looks newly ploughed, but not yet harrowed and re-sown, which is the farmer’s usual habit. I certainly don’t remember him missing a chance to put in some over-wintering crop, wheat or oilseed rape or field beans. On the other hand the ash trees are very bare and the hedgerows very spiky for early autumn. The light, too, and the dead grasses along the barbed wire fence also suggest winter. Even the glint of turned earth says ‘cold’.

Here’s that distant same spiky hedge, but a late afternoon view taken from the Townsend Meadow side:

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This is the field path running up beside the allotment hedge, also a wintery view from a couple of years ago. Much of this grassy margin has been ploughed up now and is presently sprouting winter wheat. The next photo is the path closer to our house, in early summer with the Queen Ann’s Lace going full throttle.

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English allotments tend towards the shambolic – lots of recycled greenhouses, makeshift sheds, cold frames, and windswept polytunnels. They can look very bleak in the winter months, or in the case of the next shot, disturbingly other worldly. It was taken at dusk when the greenhouses seemed to be capturing the last of the light in a distinctly sci-fi manner. The eerily lit straggle of dead tomato plants caught my eye.

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This was the shed I inherited from several previous owners when I acquired my first allotment plot. That was back in 2007. (Goodness how time flies when you’re digging and composting.) Heaven knows how old it was, but never mind. Before I moved to another plot some years later, it served me well despite its tendency to lean to the east and harbour roosting snails.

There had of course been moments when he who builds new sheds from scratch and lives in my house was called in for emergency resuscitation measures i.e. when the leaning reached critical declivity and demanded a hauling back to as near vertical as was humanly possible; a manoeuvre that took our combined effort. One day I found a 1725 halfpenny just in front of the door. Astonishingly it was barely covered by soil, and in a spot I had walked over hundreds of times. I wondered who had dropped it there long ago. Had the old path from the Sytche across Townsend Meadow (now only visible on antique maps) passed under my shed? And who had dropped it and later sorely missed it? A lass on an errand to fetch a jug of ale? A ploughman dropping it from his pocket while reaching for his tobacco?

The shed was also picturesquely sheltered by a very old greengage tree, the light through its foliage making the sunspots you can see on the door. It was more of a copse of several trunks than a single tree. Fruit production was sporadic, but once it a while it produced the most delicious plums ever invented if only you could get to eat them before the wasps did.

These days the shed is no more. For several years it lay abandoned. Then last winter the new plot holder demolished it, along with most of the tree. By then the shed truly was on its last legs, but the same can’t be said of the tree. Now only one spindly trunk remains after fellow allotmenteers objected and stopped the final act of culling. I still think of the tree that was. The creamy spring blossom was spectacularly lovely, the scent so delicate.

But enough reminiscing. We have the tree’s offspring over the hedge at home. I dug up a seedling tree a few years ago and planted it there. It’s already four metres tall and grew four greengages this year, none of which we sampled as they were difficult to reach, though  we were very happy to see them.

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A home-from-the-allotment shot: the ash tree at the top of Townsend Meadow caught with the sun about to slip off the edge of Wenlock Edge.

copyright 2020 Tish Farrell

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2020 Photo Challenge

Through A Hedge Backlit

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I took these photos yesterday, late afternoon, as I was going gardening. The hedge runs up beside the allotment, the south-westerly boundary to Townsend Meadow behind our house. As I reached the gap under the ash tree, the unofficial gateway to my garden plot, the sun burst through the hedge bottom. So I ditched the compost I was hauling, and fished out my camera. I was still thinking about the leaf photos in my last post, and decided monochrome could work here too, this time catching the plant-life silhouetted in the lowering sun. I added the sepia glow in the edit. In the northern hemisphere, sunshine in November always seems a specially precious gift, brimming with untapped possibility.

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Lens-Artists: the sun will come out tomorrow  Anvica’s Gallery has set the spirit-lifting theme this week. Go visit!

The Changing Seasons ~ July 2020

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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