How Many Hoverflies In An Opium Poppy?

IMG_5464

No, it’s not a joke question, but there’s clearly a lot of satisfaction going on in these photos. So many hoverflies, and different kinds too. Also photographer satisfaction – in that I managed to capture them so I could show you. Then there’s gardener satisfaction too – always something new to discover out in the garden, with or without camera. The only problem is I’m sure Ark is going to ask if I know what species they are.  Nope, I don’t,  but here’s the place to find out, which further adds to my satisfaction, because I can now provide this very fascinating link – at least as far as hoverfly lovers are concerned.

IMG_5465

IMG_5466

Daily Post: Satisfaction

Having My Cake And Eating It ~ That Would Be Gluten Free Lemon Zucchini Cake

P1080617

This year I seem to have started off the zucchini aka courgette season with a glut. I anyway usually slice them into spaghetti strips or noodles to use, seasoned, sprinkled with fresh chopped oregano or coriander, and warmed through with a little oil or butter, instead of pasta. They go well with either tomato or meat based sauces.

But then as the harvest began to multiply beyond the sensible, including exceeding neighbour capacity, my mind wended towards cake. I remembered having a delicious slice of lemon courgette cake last year in a museum cafe.  So I did a trawl of recipes on the internet, and adapted a gluten free flour one found at The Pink Rose Bakery into a ground almond-polenta version. In fact I’ve been using ground almonds (and or polenta flour) in most of my cake recipes these days. They give much lighter, moister results.

So this is what I did:

Lemon Zucchini Cake

20 cm/8” deep cake tin, oiled

oven 180 C/160 C fan/350 F

Ingredients

250 gm/ good 8 oz of coarsely grated zucchini/courgette placed in sieve over sink to drain

2 large eggs

125ml/4 fl oz vegetable oil. I used groundnut

150gm/5 oz sugar. I used coconut flower sugar for its slight toffee flavour

112 gm/4 oz polenta flour

112 gm/4oz ground almonds

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon gluten free baking powder

3/4 teaspoon vanilla essence

zest of one unwaxed lemon, though zest of two would not hurt if you like lemon

Method

1. In large bowl beat eggs, oil and sugar together until smooth;

2. Stir into the batter all the other ingredients except the zucchini;

3. Gently squeeze any excess moisture from zucchini and add to the mix, distributing well;

4. Pour into tin and bake for around 45 mins until lightly browned and firm to the touch. I was using a fan oven. Probably wise to check after 30  mins.

5. Cool in tin for 10 mins. Turn out onto rack and sprinkle with coconut flower sugar.

Options: You could drizzle it with icing made with lemon juice and icing sugar, or maybe add a carrot cake topping, although we found the cake sweet enough without. I’m also thinking you could swap the lemon zest for orange zest, and use half a teaspoon of cinnamon in place of the vanilla essence. And I think the cake would be good served with fresh raspberries and creme fraiche. Unfortunately we have now eaten it before I could try out this last suggestion. But never mind. There are plenty more essential ingredients growing at the allotment.

copyright 2017 Tish Farrell

IMG_5406

Daily Post Photo Challenge: Satisfaction

The More Things Change…

IMG_4948

The come-hither finery can be safely shed: the insect lure has done its work, leaving the fruit capsule primed and fattening; its contents – miniscule parcels of poppies-to-be – busy ripening, waiting on sun and wind to complete the enterprise. Nature in action. Where would we be without it?

 

Daily Post Photo Challenge: delta – i.e. an image showing transition, or the passage of time

Early Morning Elephants In The Mara ~ All Very Much In Order

The thing is, they are noiseless as they move, their footfalls cushioned by pads of fat behind their toes. Of course there are the low frequency stomach rumbles that maintain lines of communication across the herd, but we weren’t close enough to hear those. Or maybe we were too intent on our own stomach rumbles. We had driven out of the Mara River Camp at first light, after only a 5.30 cup of tea. Breakfast was still a distant prospect when we found ourselves among this large, slow-moving herd.

They paid us no attention whatsoever. All we sensed was a wave of communal intention as they headed on through the thorn brush. In fact we were so beneath their notice, Daniel, our driver-guide, decided it would be fine to stop the truck and eat our picnic breakfast as the elephants moved on by.  I remember thinking how incongruous it was to be standing out on the Mara plains eating a hard boiled egg while these majestic creatures slowly passed me.

This is not to say that elephants cannot be dangerous; sometimes murderous if they bear a grudge for some harm done them; or if the bulls are in musth. But nothing was amiss this day. It was like one big family outing, the epitome of good elephantine order wherein mothers and children always come first.

Scan-131109-0004

Scan-131109-0026

copyright 2017 Tish Farrell

Daily Post: Order

All Friends At Nairobi’s Elephant Orphanage

When it comes to the survival of orphaned elephant infants, loving friendship is the only thing that works. Baby elephants need continuous loving, tactile affection as much as they need food. Without it they quickly die.

Kenya’s Dame Daphne Sheldrick, pioneer in elephant orphan rescue and rehabilitation, learned this the hard way. For years she strove to create a rich formula to substitute for mother’s milk. But in her efforts to keep orphans physically alive, she also learned that the emotional ties between baby and surrogate mother were crucial to the baby’s survival.

At her orphanage on the edge of Nairobi’s National Park she has developed an astonishing survival regime for all the young animals brought to her. Every orphan has its ‘mother’ i.e. one of the green-coated keepers seen in the photos. Every keeper is on full time duty with his charge, and this includes sleeping with the baby in its stall.

By day there is feeding, mud bathing and playing to be done. The blanket strung on a line in the top photo is there to simulate the overshadowing side of an elephant mother. The keeper feeds  his baby, holding the bottle down behind the blanket. The babies are also wearing blankets – at 5000 feet above sea level, Nairobi can be cool in July when this photo was taken, and in the wild small babies would anyway have the constant warmth and shelter of mother and aunts.

IMG_0029

The ultimate objective of the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is to re-introduce the orphans to the wild. This is a painstaking and precarious procedure, recreating communities in the absence of wild matriarchs who are the custodians of herd memory.

Tsavo East National Park is one of the main locations for the rehabilitation process. This is the park where Daphne Sheldrick’s husband, David, was warden until 1976. During their time together at Tsavo, the Sheldricks pioneered the rehabilitation of many wild animals that had been reared in captivity. On David’s early death in 1977, Daphne set up the Trust in his memory. Forty years on some 150 elephants have been saved, along with rhinos and other species.

If you want to read about the elephants in detail there are keepers’ daily diaries HERE. You can find out what is going on in the nursery with the youngest orphans, or discover how the adolescents are faring at various forest locations as they learn to live again in the wild. A study of dedicated friendship in action then.

IMG_0033

If you are ever in Nairobi, then the orphanage is open to visitors for an hour each day. You can also donate to the Trust or foster an orphan. There are more details HERE.

Daily Post: Friend

Into The Rift Valley Under A Midday Sun

Rift lane 2 - Copy

Rift lane 2

Rift lane 2 - Copy (2)

Here’s another old ‘when we were in Africa’ shot. It was taken in  full-on midday sun (not good), but despite increasing fuzziness, I thought it would be interesting to do some successive crops, just to lead the eye along this Rift escarpment road. As might be imagined it was easier to negotiate on foot than by vehicle.

The Great Rift is actually ahead where the road drops from view. If you stare hard enough at the first shot, you can just make out the blue outline of the Rift volcanoes in the valley bottom.  The photo was taken in 1997-8 when He-Who-Was-Studying-Smutted-Napier-Grass was doing his fieldwork for his PhD thesis, and I was going along as She-Who-Holds-One-End-Of-The-Tape-Measure.

There were several such smut missions, and on all occasions it was really Njonjo who was in charge. He was our driver (seen here behind the works’ Land Rover) and he was a whizz at spotting plots of smutted Napier grass while at the same time driving on roads a good deal worse than this one.

It was also he who talked us into numerous randomly chosen Kikuyu farmsteads around the Rift Valley. This was probably more of a feat than we realized at the time. Unknown people striding about in field plots with tape measures can rouse unwelcome suspicions from local farmers: the activity taken as signs of imminent invasion by  land grabbers. In fact anything to do with land is a touchy issue in Kenya, and has been since colonial times. It is one of the nasty, big, enduring skeletons we Brits left behind there, along with our notions of large-scale land ownership, Crown Lands, and the idea that confining indigenous populations to community reserves (where very many still subsist on degraded ancestral plots) was a good one.

Anyway, that’s another story. In the next on-the-road shot, (and one that has some tarmac), Njonjo (in the tartan shirt) is conducting an impromptu workshop on smut identification. These are all smallholder farmers who just happened to spot our presence, and gathered round to see what we were up to. Everyone was very happy when Graham produced some information booklets on what to do with smutted  plants.

impromptu smut workshop

*

In the next shot Njonjo holds a clump of diseased grass. The fungal infection turns the flower spikes black and gradually weakens the plant, decreasing the leaf mass year on year. Most smallholder farmers have such small farm plots, any livestock has to be zero grazed, i.e., confined to pen or paddock, and food delivered to it. Napier grass is an important and usually prolific fodder crop, and grown wherever there is space, including along road verges and on hillside terraces to serve a further function of stabilising the soil and reducing soil erosion.

smutted grass and a fruit tree disease - Copy

There is not much than can be done about the disease, other than to pull up the plants and burn them, and plant clean fresh stock. This is easier said than done in communities where farmers get new planting  material from each other. It was one of those situations where you quickly learn that other people’s roads are a damned sight harder than ours – and in all senses.

trading centre after El Nino rains

copyright 2017 Tish Farrell

There is more about these expeditions at Looking for smut: work on Kenya’s Highland Farms

Photo Challenge: The Road Taken

Against The Odds ~ The Wenlock Edge Sky Painter Steals Raoul Dufy’s Paint Box

P1010530

I was in primary school when I fell in love with Raoul Dufy. In those days there was a state schools’ travelling art scheme, and at regular intervals our classrooms would receive a new reproduction of some striking painting. The said artist would then feature in a piece of project work: we would learn something of their life, and diligently copy or create our own versions of the picture.

Vincent Van Gogh featured often, and for a long time I was overly fascinated with the man, the loss of his reason and his ear, and was also visually transfixed by his chair.

But it was one of Raoul Dufy’s many images of La Promenade Des Anglais in Nice that captured my imagination. As I painstakingly copied the never-before-experienced palm trees, the balustrade, the blue, blue sea beyond, I became aware of quite new sensations: of something excitingly foreign, but above all, and I could not have put this in words at the time, of a sense of unfettered joi de vivre, something I had never felt before, since it was definitely never a sensation to be experienced in my home-life. And so when I see this sky, I have that same sense of the joyous liberation of the spirit, and think that this is possibly all I need to know about the universe. It simply IS. And I am glad to be here.

Dufy Le Casino de Nice

Daily Post  Against the Odds

The Solitude Within

Scan-140801-0001 - Copy (2)

As in the previous post, this is a Christmas photo, but one taken long ago when we were visiting Lamu off the Kenya coast. I’ve posted it before, but make no excuse for showing it again. It is one of my favourite photos, and one caught in a split second with my Olympus Trip. I think the gods of photography were smiling on me.

The gentleman so absorbed is Mzee Lali, the owner of the sailing dhow. He spoke no English, nor said a word to us that I recall on our day trip out to the reef. The conversation was dominated by his nephew, Athman, who, as a speaker of English, Kenya’s official language, could hold a captain’s licence, and so take tourists out on sailing trips.

He told us that Lali was born on Pate, one of the more remote large islands in the Lamu archipelago. He knew everything there was to know about sailing, Athman said. But because he spoke no English he could not take the necessary two and half year captain’s course, and so obtain a licence.

Somehow this photo echoes the dilemma of island elders. They belong to another world in another time.

copyright 2017 Tish Farrell

 

Weekly Photo Challenge:Solitude