Perverse, I know, to be featuring this wintery scene as summer arrives in the northern hemisphere. Still, it seems to fit quite well with this week’s b & w challenge over at Cee’s. I’m thinking too that those poor souls who are presently being broiled by unnatural heatwaves across Europe might be glad of a cooling vista.
Humans love to see the patterns in things. This habit can nurture an aesthetic sensibility and inspire much creativity on the one hand, and it can lead to all manner of misunderstandings and fallacies on the other. Which of us hasn’t at least pondered on the ‘meaning’ of a series of pure coincidences, or passingly ‘seen’ a pattern of events that ‘proves’ a conspiracy theory is not a conspiracy theory.
Given the negative propensities of patterning, and the power these may exert on the human mind, it might be as well to take note that this is currently being practised upon us by much of what is reported by the mass media, and the manner in which important issues are presented to us.
There is, to my mind, a constant drip-feeding in relation to particular topics (to name a few: Middle East, Russia, nuclear weapons, climate change, Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, Brexit); a seemingly endless repeating pattern of half-truths, proclamations of absolute guilt without evidence, scape-goating, focusing continuously on the irrelevant, divisive reporting, unproven circumstances presented as fact, and, in the name of that weasel word ‘balance’, equal weight given to the opinions of people who know what they are talking about, and the notions of those who do not believe in evidence/have their own minority axe to grind/are (verging on the) delusional. And the whole lot mashed up into an ‘entertaining’ package of easily digested sound and picture bites, whose patterning then is constantly rehashed/given oxygen by mass spoutings on social media.
It is all very disturbing, and when I think about it, I feel like a pawn in someone else’s nasty game, and that makes me angry. And so I distract myself with things in my little world, though I must say I did have Mark Rothko’s Dark Brown, Grey and Orange vaguely in mind when I took that second photo of the rape seed field beneath a stormy sky – his drive to express the human condition; to move beyond apparent abstraction – while I was visualizing an abstraction of the actual, but also brooding somewhat on the human condition.
But now for some lightish relief from gloomy ruminations: more earth patterns from around Much Wenlock, including some of the abnormally early, done-and-dusted grain harvest. Another kind of pattern?
Lens Artists This week Ann-Christine asks for patterns.
Watching the garden struggle over many rainless weeks, I’ve been thinking more and more about drought-tolerant plants. And here’s a real winner – Echinops or globe thistle. It comes from the Mediterranean, but there are now many garden cultivars to choose from, some less sprawling than others.
I grew mine from seed a couple of springs ago. The plant here, is one of the seedlings I planted out at the allotment. It has had no attention from me this year, and its end of the bed has had not been watered. The prickly globes are just coming into flower and yesterday the bumble bees were all over them. And of course there can be nothing better for the vegetable plot than a few star attractions for the pollinators.
And then at the other end of the bed from the Echinops, and the tangible result of some good pollinating, is an already fat Crown Prince squash. I’m amazed at the size of it, given my erratic hand-watering of the mother-plant a couple of metres away. I’m thinking of hiring it out to Cinderella. At this rate it will provide her, or even me, with a very handsome coach. Just need to look out for a good team of horses. Oh yes, and a few slick coachmen.
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:
…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.
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.
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.
Enjoy the crocus while we may. After a spell of summer days in March, we’re now promised icy blasts. Climate change, what climate change?
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.
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
…at least till next year.
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.