Here in Shropshire the fruit tree buds are swelling: soon be apple blossom time.
It has an extra-terrestrial look, doesn’t it – this exploding pussy willow catkin. In fact ‘catkin’ sounds too confining a word for such exuberant expression.
Elsewhere around the town signs of coming spring are more reserved: delicate cherry and blackthorn blossom on otherwise bare branches, and earlier this week only a slightly seen green haze about the church yard weeping willow; while everything is otherwise accompanied by a bone-biting wind that has the daffodils and me bracing ourselves.
The Linden Walk still looks wintery, although there are carpets of wild garlic everywhere – the leaves good in soups and stews and salads and for making pesto sauce. I’ve also noticed interesting colonies of lower plant life on the lime tree trunks, lichens and mosses and the like. And squirrels…
And on the home front the daffodils are lighting up the garden by the road.
And stepping out of the back garden gate I came upon a cat with green eyes…
Summer left on our first day in Greece. We might have woken to hot and dazzling sunshine, but by lunchtime the storm clouds were building over the strait. And then came the deluge, torrenting off the pantiles on our cottage roof. Maria, the cottage owner, said it was the first rain in months and after the broiling summer (that we’d only just missed) the olive groves and vineyards were desperate for a good watering. So it was hard to feel too hard-done-by as, before our eyes, the parched Kalamata land sucked up the downpour.
The thunder racketed around for a couple of hours, and finally rumbled off in late afternoon, leaving us with still threatening clouds but, by then, a pressing need to stock up on provisions. We had been told that the nearest supermarket in Harakopio village was an easy two-mile walk. And so it was: a tranquil path between small farms and ancient olive groves; no traffic; only the scent of damp leaf litter and sometimes the delicate fragrance of tiny cyclamen along the verges. There was farm clutter of course along the way, but that goes with the territory. Hens scrattled about under the trees and handsome dogs kept watch over their people’s domains. There was a rather nice horse. Now and then the sun almost shone and I fell in love with gnarly olive trees that looked at least as old as Odysseus.
This month Jude at Travel Words asks us to explore the colour green. So I thought I’d start with our home landscapes. Here in the English countryside we perhaps take greenness for granted. Even our over-wintering fields are bright with sprouting wheat and pasture grass. The header shot is a December view, looking across Shropshire from Wenlock Edge.
Closer to home is the long-shot view I see whenever I go to the allotment: Callaughton Ash on the southerly edge of Much Wenlock. It’s one I never tire of – those sky-line ash trees with their ivy cladding.
Then behind our house is Townsend Meadow. Wheat has been grown along the flanks of Wenlock Edge for centuries, and as proof has left its name ‘The Wheatlands’ in part of it. These days the crop is sown in October-November and is usually well sprouted by Christmas. I like the corduroy effect.
By summer, after serial dosing, the field looks like this:
And on our side of the fence, thanks to home-made compost:
Meanwhile my summer route across the field to the allotment used to look like this – before the farmer cut the ‘wildlife’ reserve back to the ‘path’:
And when things go well on the plot:
… we get other ‘greens’:
It’s that time of year when thoughts turn to seed sowing, or at least to sorting out the seed packets and checking what needs to be dealt with when. There are visions, too, of new planting schemes – as in trying to remember where things are in the garden. With some plants you never do know. The Welsh poppies are complete vagabonds and can pitch up in the most unlikely quarters. Likewise the dandelions, the little gate-crashers. Needless to say, the garden must have plenty of yellow. Got to keep the bees, bugs and butterflies well fed. In the meantime, here’s a reprise of some of last summer’s best yellows.
The agricultural show can most probably be counted as one of the more useful left-overs from the colonial occupation of African nations. Back in 1995 when these photos were taken I remember being struck by a rural farmer’s glowing comment in a newspaper interview. He said he had to travel a great distance to attend the Nairobi show every year, but it was worth it. The exhibition stands were his university, he said.
I could believe it. The amount of expert advice available at every turn was indeed impressive, and I speak as someone brought up on agricultural shows: my father was a grain merchant for a farmers’ cooperative and my memories of the various company stands were weighted rather more towards alcohol delivery than education.
Of course the Nairobi show is also about selling and public relations, but I remember being particularly diverted by the National Archives stand which was showing 1950s newsreel footage of Land and Army so-called Mau Mau uprising; also by the Kenya Automobile Association’s novel pitch to drum up membership; and by the glorious conformity of the cabbage display put on by a seed company. And of course there was all manner of entertainment to be had: shopping, snacks, a helter skelter, close encounters with camels, ripping performance from the military band: all the fun of the fair in fact. And you could get your shoes cleaned with the ‘world’s no.1 shoe polish’, then have a swish new hair do in the next-door salon.
Life in Colour: Yellow This month Jude at Travel Words is asking us to think about yellow. Please pay her a visit.
The wayward Polar Vortex has apparently been behind the recent frigid weather events in the northern hemisphere. But at last there’s been a shift in the UK: from locked-down locked-in C minuses to double-figure plus. Even so, it’s hardly warm and the garden, though defrosted, looks as if it’s been shot-blasted. And so to encourage it and me into thoughts of spring, I’m posting this very exuberant sunflower. Soon be time to sow some seeds for this year’s crop.
In the meantime I’m wondering if the Dyer’s Chamomile in the guerrilla garden over the garden fence will have survived the cold. It made such a show a couple of years ago, though I remember when I sowed it, the packet described it as a short-lived perennial. I’m thinking a fresh sowing won’t hurt. There are times when you can’t have too much yellow.
Over the garden fence: Dyer’s Chamomile and Townsend Meadow under wheat
A scene of things to come in the northern hemisphere – daffodil extravaganza. But not just yet. The leaves may be pushing up through the soil, even a few buds showing, but spring is on hold, as in icily gripped. We had more snow last night, only a dusting, but the temperature feels Siberian. So to brighten things up I’m reprising these photos from a visit to Bodnant Garden in North Wales, taken in early spring a few years ago.
I’m lucky to still have them.
Which brings me to this week’s moderate, though potentially horrendous disaster on the computer front, the bottom line of which is: do not put blind faith in an external hard drive for storage purposes! Back up the back up. And then back that up too.
I’ve had so many ‘lost file’ situations over the years – dying computers being the main cause. So I should have known not to keep my photo files on an external hard drive without some consistent backing-up routines. I’m also thinking that leaving the thing mostly attached to the PC was not a good idea – not least with Windows 10 wretched updates so often on the rampage. They seem to create total system muck-ups before and after they happen.
Anyway, the storage failure is not as bad as it might have been, and I have enlisted the aid of an IT whizz to see if he can extract the files. I can also retrieve some lost shots from my blog though I’m not looking forward to doing that. In the meantime more cheering daffodils are called for. It was wonderful to see the effect they had as soon as people clapped eyes on them – and not just the children.
Life In Colour: YELLOW Jude has given as a new colour to think about in February. Guaranteed to lift the spirits.
This year at Travel Words Jude is encouraging us to think hard about colour in our photography. This is the final week for brown – earth shades. From Sunday there will be a new colour scheme to look out for.
One of the extraordinary things that happened last March, along with advent-lockdown, was the appearance of this red-legged partridge on top of the old privy roof. Well! Never had this kind of thing happened in the garden before. In my experience partridges are rather covert birds. You’re lucky to have a fleeting glimpse if you happen to startle one along a farm-field hedgerow. This one, however, stood in full view for ages. Not only that, it began to further advertise its presence with some very loud and rasping calls. It was all rather thrilling. Who knew that partridge plumage was so very magnificent. I certainly didn’t.
Bird Weekly: Lisa calls for brown feathered varieties