Reminding myself to be grateful here in Much Wenlock.
Reminding myself to be grateful here in Much Wenlock.
Much like this thistle down in the field behind the allotment gardens, I’m feeling wind-blown; swept off course somehow; as if I’ve woken from a Rip Van Winkle deep-sleep and found myself in another time. I’m not the only one either. Others I’ve spoken to feel equally unsettled and disorientated.
One moment, around mid-June we were having sun-shiny suppers out in the garden, the evenings still warm after sunset; summer stretching ahead and full of promise.
Next it was all change – to cool, wet and windy. It seems as if autumn has been here for weeks. The fields above the town are harvested and already ploughed. The still-standing wheat has a grey look as if it has been left in the field too long (or had too much Roundup). The apple trees are shedding apples, leaves are turning colour, and the Linden Walk has browning drifts of fallen lime tree seeds.
The question is: has autumn come to stay, or will there be another shot of summer just when we least expect it. In November maybe?
The Changing Seasons Please visit Max for his take on Norway’s changing season, and also to catch up with the challenge rules.
So much weather in June! The header photo rather sums up my feelings of rapid changeability – flowers in the garden one minute, then gone the next.
Here in the UK we’ve sweltered in temperatures above 34C. We’ve had prolonged drought. There have been cold winds. And now this week we’re having a ‘mini-monsoon’, the temperatures dropping so it feels and looks more like October. Yesterday along Wenlock Edge there was even fog, and this morning when I went outside to survey the plant life, it was to find autumnal spans of spiders’ webs glistening with raindrops, and the newly opened sunflower looking as if it wished to go back in its bud. It looked so forlorn staring at the place in the leaden sky where the sun should be.
On top of that, the last of the Teasing Georgia’s roses have been trashed and mashed, the foxgloves that were so stunning are all gone, and the allium seed heads (that look like floral fireworks ) are alive with the tiniest crab spiders, all busy being rather sinister despite being scarcely more than two millimetres across, and just out of their eggs. This first photo makes said arthropod look monster sized. For a better sense of scale look out for the spider on the second allium shot. It’s near the bottom edge, left of the flower stalk.
But all is not lost in the garden. The late spring flowers may have been washed away, but the spires of verbascum are just opening, the yellow doronicum is doing its best to stand in for the sun, and geranium Rozanne is now on parade until the first frosts. Of course, as things are going, that could be next week. Who knows?
Changing Seasons (versions 2 and 1)
Way-hay – it’s spring, or so it seems, and now I feel I need to garden on the run in order to catch up. Much earth moving must be done at the allotment – all the jobs it was too wet to do in the autumn. All the jobs that it’s still to wet to do now. But at least the temperatures are kinder.
And the light is so promising. I’m celebrating that fact in the re-composed top shot of an allotment sunset, captured through the neighbouring hedgerow.
In fact every day now you can see the over-wintered plant life responding as light levels and temperatures rise: purple sprouting sprouting, cauliflowers hatching inside their leaf-folds, chives shooting, rhubarb unfurling, spinach expanding. Then there are carrots to pull from their bucket in the polytunnel, and Chinese mustard and Russian Kale; the autumn sown lettuce are starting to fill out.
Meanwhile inside the polytunnel a big makeover is also afoot. He-who-makes-raised-beds-out-of-old-pallets has been dragooned into commissioned to reorganise the planting zones. Instead of wide beds along each side and a path up the middle, the plan is to have one continuous narrow but deep bed on one side, a narrow raised bed down the centre for tomatoes, and three separate raised beds down the far side.
After two days slog establishing the first and second phases, HWMRBOOOP heroically informs me that the stage 3 separate beds are now ready, flat-pack style, for the final part of the installation. The only problem is that it is now windy and raining and we don’t feel like leaving the house. Also this last part of operations will require shifting tons of soil from the old side bed into the new beds, and there’s only so much heaving and hauling one can do in a week.
I’ve already shunted and prepared the soil in polytunnel beds 1 and 2, turned over three big squidgy compost heaps (my compost making technique leaves a lot to be desired), sifted out enough usable stuff to cover several outdoor beds, while starting a new heap with all the stuff that needs to go round again. I have another six heaps to deal with.
At the moment I have one and half allotment plots, but I’m aiming to dispense with the top half of my oldest plot this March when the rents are due. Ultimately, I’d like to retreat altogether to my polytunnel half plot, by which time I should have a fully functioning NO DIG raised bed/terrace system. The theory is that since this system will be more manageable and productive, a half plot should be more than sufficient for our needs. However, as I’ve mentioned several times in other posts, this approach does rely on making loads of compost every year, and that takes up space. Anyway, one step at a time.
And in between compost turning, moving the gooseberry bush, and pruning the autumn raspberries, there is always time to take a few photos. So here follows a gallery of shots from the February allotment, one of which makes me realise that my polytunnel now also needs a good wash. Heavens to Betsy – is there no end to the gardener’s toil:
To take part in the monthly Changing Seasons challenge please visit Max aka Cardinal Guzman.
The field path behind the house is littered with skeleton apples – windfalls thrown out from a neighbour’s garden. The apples were whole, if a little bruised, back in October when they were tossed there, but it is only this month that the birds have been truly feasting on them. Blackbirds mainly. Little by little the flesh is being pecked away until all that is left is the thinnest skin, and perhaps some fibrous filaments around the core. I was thinking of fellow blogger, Sue Judd at Words Visual as I shot and edited this ‘still life’. She captures beauty in decay with great flair. Anyway this painterly edit sums up January for me.
But then today I decided to go the long way round to the allotment. There was misty sunshine, and so the chance to get enough shots to make a gallery in line with Cardinal Guzman’s alternative version for his monthly challenge. Pay him a visit to find out more.
The long way round involves going up Sytche Lane that skirts the field behind our house. In the top corner Shropshire Council is busy digging us an attenuation pond to slow down the flash flooding when a storm hits our catchment. The town has a long history of flooding, and the Sytche Brook, a generally nondescript trickle of a watercourse, can become treacherous, and has been known to add considerably to the deluge that hits the town centre from neighbouring hillsides. Another pond is being built at the other end of the town. Neither are seen as total solutions, and some would argue that these measures are not suitable in a steep catchment such as ours. Only time will tell. In the meantime, the big digger driver posed to have his photo taken before I trudged onward through the mud.
The path behind the excavations then wends on along the field boundary and into a wood. You are right above the town here, so in the gaps between the trees are some good viewpoints for photos. From the wood I can then drop down to the allotment.
The following gallery shows all the things that caught my eye today. These include – apart from the ‘views’, Jenny’s watering can hung in a cherry tree, Simon’s wheel barrow, Phoebe’s budding rhubarb, my leaning shed with globe artichoke, and Ron’s much smarter blue shed. On the way home the sun was setting in the wood.
copyright Tish Farrell 2017
Who wouldn’t be tempted by such a perfect apple? I came upon it yesterday as I was leaving the allotment. It’s growing on an very old and lovely tree that every year puts on its own magnificent Garden of Eden of show. We allotmenteers share the apples. They are crisp, juicy, sharp and sweet all at once. I don’t know the variety.
It’s important to keep tabs on the crop though. The window of opportunity for gobbling is brief since the apples don’t keep very well. I’m already thinking that they might be good in Tarte Tatin that most delicious of French classic deserts. I usually use Coxes Pippins later in the year, but since this August feels so autumnal, it’s an excellent excuse to make it sooner. I have a deep cast iron frying pan, which works a treat, both for the initial caramelizing of the apples on top of the cooker, and the final cooking with added the pastry lid inside the oven.
I should also say these apples have the most delicious fragrance too – lemon crisp. They anyway sum up August for me: the garden’s rich harvest.
Changing Seasons: August Every month around the 20th Cardinal Guzman posts a Changing Seasons challenge. There are two variations to choose from, so follow the link for further instructions. They are easy-peasy.
So far July in the UK has featured several seasons. We’ve had April showers, autumnal gloom, wintery downpours, mutterings about frost that just never happens around here in July, and now a heat wave of unprecedented temperatures outside the tropics. Yet three evenings ago when I took this photo, it felt like October. There was a wild windiness about the place, and lowering skies, and that pang of melancholy that tells you summer is done.
But then as I lay in the grass to frame the shot all I could smell was the mignonette fragrance of Lady’s Bedstraw. Delicate. Hypnotic; gathering in waves across the hilltop. I can well understand why these golden flower drifts were once harvested to dry and fill mattresses. Their scent says essence of high summer. And so it proved. The next morning Octoberal tendencies had evaporated and we woke to wall to wall blue, and the overwhelming hotness, beneath whose onslaught we are currently sweltering. All this climatic chopping and changing of course suits us English. We’ve never had so much weather to talk about all at once.
This photo, by the way, was taken in low evening light conditions using the ‘Impressive Art’ setting on my Lumix. I’d rather dismissed this setting, not liking the results of shots taken in broad daylight. But in low light the images acquire an other-worldly look – perhaps slightly sinister. I only added a touch of ‘contrast’ and ‘highlight’ editing.
Please visit the Cardinal for more about this challenge. There are two versions: use one or both. The latest version 2 features a single image/creation that sums up the month for you in some way. Version 1 is a gallery of several photos – all to be freshly shot.
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“We do not believe any group of men adequate enough or wise enough to operate without scrutiny or without criticism. We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it, that the only way to detect it is to be free to inquire. We know that in secrecy error undetected will flourish and subvert”. - J Robert Oppenheimer.
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