Much Wenlock’s Changing Seasons ~ Flaming June 2018

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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:

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Changing Seasons June 2018

Come Hail, Gale, Snow, Frost, Rain And…

…the hesperantha in the garden is STILL flowering – albeit translucently and only at her stem tips. She has been buried under a foot of snow for nearly a week, frozen and defrosted, and refrozen. Then we’ve had downpours and mighty windstorms. I don’t really know what to make of her, other than to give her a big round of applause. She’s been flowering continuously since August.

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Daily Post: growth

When Ophelia Came To Wenlock ~ Red Sun At Noon

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By way of a brief intermission from the on going Greek series, here is the sun over our Shropshire garden at around midday yesterday. The tail end of Hurricane Ophelia had apparently whipped up the dust of Africa along with the ash from the tragic forest fires in Portugal and Spain and so created this apocalyptic orange twilight complete with rosy sun. Nothing to do with us of course, all this global mayhem.

 

WPC: Glow

Cloud Shadows Over The Great Rift

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I have just come home from the allotment with very wet knees ( the grass on the field path has suddenly shot up half a metre). It is a gloomy, drizzling evening here in Shropshire, and has been raining now for two days. This is very good of course. We’ve hardly had any rain since mid-May, and it’s a big relief not to have to water the vegetable plots. The veggies are very happy too – all upstanding  and glistening in the rain. The only thing is I think we have water-resistant soil. When I went to sow some Florence fennel, the surface compost was damp enough, but an inch down the soil was dry as desert sand.

More rain required then.

The advent of rain is of course a critical factor in the growing of smallholder crops over in Kenya where this photograph was taken during the July dry season. Very few rural farmers have ready access to piped water, reservoirs and water courses, and so irrigation systems are thus not feasible unless you are a very rich big landowner.   The monsoon seasons on the Indian Ocean are responsible for the country’s rainfall. It comes in two seasons: the short planting rains roughly October to December and the long rains in April-May. And so the clouds you see here, may be bringing shade, but they are not bringing rain.

And even in season, this is increasingly the case as Kenya’s forests dwindle. Without its tree-covered uplands, which invite the clouds to drop their moisture, the future will bring only increasing desertification. Or else when it does rain, there will be more flash flooding and landslides to carry off the fertile top soil.  Climate change, then, has both local and global origins, and we all need to think about this, and the part we may play,  wherever we live on the  planet.

copyright 2017 Tish Farrell

 

Thursday’s Special: over  Please visit Paula to see her totally stunning photo.

Thursdays Special ~ The Arboreal Position And Why We Can’t Live Without Trees

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These late day views overlooking Wenlock were taken back in December. Many of the trees, especially the oaks, beeches and field maples, had hung on to their leaves, which in turn were gathering in, and reflecting the winter sun. Looking at these photos now makes me appreciate how well treed we are in our hollow beneath Wenlock Edge, this despite two thousand years of farming.

But then you simply cannot have too many. Our shamanic ancestors were wise in their conception of the world tree at the heart of all existence: trees are essential to our survival. Without them we would have a lot of problems breathing. According to science writer Luis Villazon at the BBC’s Science Focus each of us requires around 740 kilos of oxygen per year, which amounts to 7 or 8 trees’ worth.

But that’s not all. As well as providing us with the air we breathe, trees also stabilize, create and replenish soils. They support biodiversity. They affect the climate including rainfall patterns, and their destruction rapidly leads to desertification and soil erosion. They provide us with many useful products, and in the future we may come to rely on them as a source of essential and cheap medications to which everyone can have ready access.

In the light of all these arboreal gifts, going out and hugging a tree now seems an eminently sane thing to do. In fact I recommend it. At the very least, it will lift the spirits. The tree might like it too.

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Please visit Paula for her February Pick A Word and be inspired. There is a choice of five prompts, each of which she illustrates superbly: radiating, alimentary, frontal, arboreal, remote.

copyright 2017 Tish Farrell

November Poppy’s Last Hurrah…

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…at least till next year.

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I posted the first photo of this oriental poppy last Thursday during a spell of unexpected sunshine, but I’m afraid the weekend’s rainstorms cut her off at the roots. Ah well. She was lovely while she lasted – so bravely out of time and season.

But writing this has just reminded me of what the lovely woman who sold her to me said.

If you cut your oriental poppies down to the ground after they have finished flowering in early summer, you will have a second late blooming.

Somehow I don’t think she meant they would flower in November. But then who knows what to expect these days, the way the seasons are shifting.

 

Cee’s Flower of the Day Please go visit Cee for more floral pleasures.

We can see you…

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Ladybirds, as gardeners know, are good bugs to have amongst the fruit and veg. They eat aphids. Yay!

And they need to get gobbling now. For despite my recent whingeing about cold wind and lack of spring weather, the greenfly are already with us. And there’s a reason – our warmer winters.

We may have had endless rain, bad floods and storms this year in the UK, but we have not had the hard ground frosts that help to check slug and aphid populations; nor have had for several years. Back in early February when I was pruning the autumn raspberry bed up at the allotment, I was also finding ladybirds out and about.  They are supposed to be hibernating (overwintering) between October and March, so hopefully they were finding something to eat and hadn’t simply been fooled into waking up too soon by the unusually warm February temperatures.

The ladybird in the photo is nestling in my garden sage bed, spotted last summer. And for those of you who wish to find out more about ladybirds (Coccinellidae) there is a brilliant website at UK Ladybird Survey. And if you live in the UK, they want to have details of sightings.

 

#7-daynaturephotochallenge  #day 2

With thanks to Anna at Una Vista Di San Fermo who nominated me.

 

Related:  Warning: Reptile Alert #day 1

On Sunday we went to Eden and this is what it looks like…

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At least this is what the Eden biomes look like in December twilight, and courtesy of some dodgy photography. I think the effect suits it – this bold and inspirational project to wake us up to the knowledge of our total dependence on plant life. For one thing – without trees we couldn’t breathe very well. It’s interesting that we’ve become so divorced from natural-world-reality that we do not  instantly remember this, and from time to time (or even continuously) need it pointed out to us.

There’s more about the project in an earlier post: Making Eden: new patterns for living? And at the Eden Story you can see how a disused Cornish china clay pit was transformed into this world-famous educational visitor attraction that teaches us how to regenerate and nurture the Eden we have on earth. More power to their purpose.

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One thing leading to another on Windmill Hill: everything is connected

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We’re barely into September and already autumn is here in Shropshire. It must be so, because the little horses are back on Windmill Hill. They will spend the next few months grazing off the dying summer grasses and wild flowers. They look very windswept, but the punk-mane-effect is mainly down to thickets of cleavers (goose grass) seeds in their top knots.

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Looking across the hill there’s hardly a sign of the June-July flowering – all those buttery clouds of Lady’s Bedstraw quite gone. Not a trace of the orchids either. Only the dark and brittle seed heads of knapweed that always strike a note of dreariness. The weather doesn’t help either. For weeks it has been rain between showers.

Nor was I encouraged by the BBC radio science programme I heard yesterday. I caught it in the midst of recompiling a glut of runner beans into chutney (beans at least like rain). The guest climate experts were soon informing us that the El Nino effect they promised us all in 2014 did not come to much. In fact, they opined, (and they sounded quite definite about it too) we still have it very much to look forward to – the worst El Nino effect hitherto experienced, they said. For some reason the Pacific Ocean keeps heating up. And this means disrupted weather patterns worldwide, and for Europe, an even wetter winter than usual.

MORE RAIN? I wish we in Shropshire could email some of it to those lands whose dramatically changing climates mean that they now receive little or none. Mongolia is one place suffering massive desertification. Likewise, the countries of Africa’s Sahel that border the Sahara. In both regions, and many others besides, human actions, poverty and climate shift combine in a vicious downward spiral that results in increasing degradation of land and water sources. This, apart from war, is one of the main drivers of human migration. It’s all connected, despite what the climate change naysayers may wish to believe.

All of which is to tell myself to count my blessings.  I am free to wander where I like without fear of being terrorized by extremists. I have all the food I need and more. I enjoy every comfort. I have the luxury to meander along Shropshire byways, talking to little horses, musing on the meaning life, the universe and everything, while across the globe desperate others risk all to find somewhere they can live a decent life with their families. Some people, we hear, do not want to share their land with refugees. It is assumed that they will be nothing but a drain on resources. Yet who knows what gifts in talent and skills these homeless souls might be bringing us? Also, not sharing may cost us more than we could ever imagine. In some societies the truest measure of civilisation is the gift of hospitality. Perhaps we need to think about this with a little more application. At least, I know I do.

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copyright 2015 Tish Farrell

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