The Changing Seasons ~ August 2022

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Harvest time in Much Wenlock came early this year. With the brief heatwave that lasted less than a week, but the months of drought, some crops looked baked-in-the-ground. Without regular rainfall, our heavy Silurian soil very quickly turns to concrete and cracks open.

The field beans in Townsend Meadow behind the house that started off so well in spring, did not make good, fat pods before they started turning black and drying out. The plants themselves have been standing in the field, blackened and leafless for weeks. Until today that is (September 1st), when they were finally harvested amid a great dust storm. I dare say  the beans that have been harvested will be very well dried, but probably only suitable for animal feed.

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Thistles and the field bean crop just before harvest

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Now when it comes to apples, both wild and cultivated, it’s a whole new story. Here is the crab apple tree in our back garden. The fruit is tiny, but what a crop. I’ve never seen this little tree so laden: enough to make crab apple jelly and leave plenty for the over-wintering birds.

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Up at the allotment, the Discovery apple tree is also cropping earlier than usual, and again, weighed down with fruit. The skins are bit tough though; again likely due to lack of rainfall:

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Windfalls in August

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Since the three very hot days early in the month, we’ve had lots of cool and cloudy days, when we were sure it was going to rain. We’ve even had weather forecasts that threatened deluges. But no. They did not materialize. Only one passing shower that teased all the plants, and this gardener into thinking things were about to improve.

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Here’s the allotment bonfire in waiting. It looks very autumnal. The stalks of the artichoke plants on the pile, dried so hard they could not be chopped up for compost.

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Teasels already

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In the home garden, many plants have struggled without rain. The phlox that usually flowers all summer, bloomed and then was quickly desiccated. Hand watering simply did not cut it. Now though, some of the helianthus (perennial sunflowers) are trying for a bold recovery, and I spotted the first Michaelmas daisy yesterday. The geraniums, too, have soldiered on valiantly. Things in pots (cosmos and echinacea) are probably faring better because it’s easier to manage the watering. Which also means we have a jolly new sunflower just out by the greenhouse door. It’s sharing a tub with some tomatoes.

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And finally a view from Wenlock’s old railway line, taken yesterday:

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The Changing Seasons ~ August 2022:   Please visit hosts Brian at Bushboys World and Ju-Lyn at Touring My Backyard

The Red Balloon ~ Ups And Downs Last Night Over Wenlock

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I was watering wilting vegetables at the allotment, when I glanced up and caught sight of this hot air balloon coming my way. It was floating over Windmill Hill. But as it drew closer I could hear it huffing, and it was soon obvious that staying airborne was not so easy. Not enough air currents perhaps; too much external hot air?

Anyway, the next I looked it was coming down somewhere behind Down’s Mill.

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And then it was up again:

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But not quite high enough: the Priory ruins were looming:

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And then the church tower, this view taken through fellow allotmenteer, Ron’s raspberry canes:

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Finally as it traversed the town, the balloon gained more height, and floated majestically over Walton Hills:

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The last I saw it was off towards Callaughton, flying over the cemetery chapel:

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An exciting ride for all those aboard:

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And watching this had me thinking. How many of you know/remember the short French film Le Ballon Rouge/The Red Balloon 1956.

I was entranced when I first saw it donkey’s years ago. It’s on YouTube of course. If it plays in your region, welcome to 1950s Paris. Enjoy!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VexKSRKoWQY

The Changing Seasons: This Was June

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A Horse Chestnut sun-catcher, as spotted on the old railway line below the Linden Walk. Such a cool and bosky spot on warm summer days, not that we have had very many of those. And we’ve certainly not had ‘flaming June’ except for a couple of windless days when it was warm enough to eat out in the upstairs garden.

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All the same, those few warm days did seem excessively hot to those of us still clinging to our winter underwear and especially to the MacMoo lads in their shaggy coats. They were driven to the shadow-margins of the Cutlins meadow to try and keep cool.

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While out on the Linden Field, human lads stripped off for a spot of football practice.

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In Townsend Meadow behind the house, this year’s crop of field beans is thriving. Early in the spring the plants struggled mightily due to lack of rain, but June’s cycle of showers and intermittent sun and cool temperatures has seen them shoot up and burst into flower. They are a variety of broad bean that produce masses of pea pod sized pods, each packed with several haricot sized beans. In Britain we mostly use them for animal feed and the bulk of the crops are exported to countries like Egypt where they are in great demand for human consumption.

Maybe as a nation, we should be rethinking this. The plants grow well in lacklustre weather, though wind can be problematic. And although the beans are fiddly to pod (I’ve grown my own good crop at the allotment), they are delicious, nutrient rich and only take a minute to steam or boil. The only problem was, this year they were ready all at once, and while I was hoping they would precede the main broad bean crop, the broad beans started cropping early. Upshot: eat the broad beans, freeze the field beans for making refried beans later in the year. But just look at the flowers. Aren’t they extraordinary?

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In the Farrell garden all is getting above itself – especially the cat mint. I don’t know what’s got into it this year. It’s the sort of plant I tend to ignore, nice enough as a wafty foil for more showy plants in summer borders, and that’s about it. But now it seems intent on taking over the upstairs garden, and what with the blue geranium joining in, Graham is having to fight his way through the encroaching undergrowth to reach the shed.

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Meanwhile Rose Teasing Georgia has been and gone. Lovely while she was with us looking in at the kitchen door. She should flower again later in the summer:

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Over the garden fence in the guerrilla garden where all the late summer bloomers are busy putting on stems metres tall, Geranium Anne Thomson is fighting her corner. She’s such a worthwhile garden plant – flowering her socks off all summer:

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And on the downstairs terrace the ruby red Centranthus has been the main June attraction, along with Penelope rose who this year has been growing us huge single stemmed  bouquets, now sadly past their best. She’s a lovely sweet smelling rose – a shrub variety that can be trained to be a climber on shortish walls.

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At the allotment, beans and peas and spuds and beetroot are growing well, tomatoes and salad stuff in the polytunnel, but I’ve not taken many photos apart from ones of the flat-pack cat and the wildflower plots of moon daisies:

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Oh yes, and this evening view of the town as I’m heading home to make supper:

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The Changing Seasons Ju-Lyn and Brian are the hosts. Please pay them a visit.

Changing Seasons: This Was October

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The turn of the year: light and shadow; one summer gone, another planned for:

In Townsend Meadow…

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Around the town: winter wheat sprouting, highland cattle lounging…

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At the allotment: October morning glories on the pea sticks and in the polytunnel, bucket planting of endive and chicory for winter salad, summer squash and the last sweetcorn eaten, a sudden blooming of nasturtiums…

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Final floral fling in the home garden:

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Over the garden fence (sunshine and lots of rain)…

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On the Linden Walk:

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The Changing Seasons: October 2021  Please join hosts Ju-Lyn at Touring My Back yard and Brian at Bushboys World for this monthly challenge

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