The Changing Seasons ~ August ~ A Change In The Weather In Wenlock

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After three solid months of wall-to-wall summer with broiling temperatures and barely a spot of rain, we have skipped a good month or two and landed in autumn. It’s all very disconcerting. Fields are shorn of their grain crops, the stubble cut, bailed, stacked and now being hauled past the house in juggernaut  consignments. The muck-spreaders are in action too, top-dressing the hard-baked land for the next crop. Dubious odours waft about the place – some of them human.

Our Midlands water and sewage company  do a good trade in what they euphemistically call bio-solids. It has a low-grade, lingering pungency, but having recently watched a BBC documentary on the Secret Life of Landfill (a brief horror clip HERE on YouTube), I’m glad something useful is being done with the stuff. Animal waste also has to be recycled and one morning this week we had four tractors, grisly muck-spreading tanks in tow, thundering in convoy up and down Sheinton Street – to and from somewhere for and with some very potent slurry.

More scenically, early on Saturday evening as we were driving over to friends in neighbouring Staffordshire, we saw two tractors ploughing the red sandstone soil in tandem, a flock of seagulls swirling after them.

I keep wanting to yell, hang on! It’s still summer. Except the sudden 10 degree drop in temperature has me scurrying to the winter vest drawer. But still, out in the back garden it at least looks like summer, so to make up for talk of weird weather and bad smells, here is my August garden gallery. Somewhat perversely, the Morning Glory that has been twining up our small apple tree all summer, has waited for the cool weather to arrive before deciding to flower. A welcome sight, if surprising in the gloomier light. Likewise the Mediterranean-loving zinnias, which have stepped up a gear to full throttle blooming, and continue to be a favourite bee haunt.

 

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The Changing Seasons  Please visit host Su for some fine NZ vistas

Lens-Artists #8 Colourful And please visit Tina and the other Lens-Artists. for some ‘colourful’ photography.  I hope Tina won’t mind my doubling up here.

Sticking To Earth Patterns

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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?

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Lens Artists This week Ann-Christine asks for patterns.

Out In The Garden Bee-Dazzled And Bee-Dizened And Bees Showing Their Knees

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I popped out in the garden at lunch time, armed with my little Canon Ixus, and found it was all go on the bee front. The header flower, Helianthus Capenoch Star was proving very popular. I’d only bought it the other day, to go in the back of the flower bed that I said was ‘officially full’, and it is still in its pot, waiting for a slightly cooler moment to plant it out. In the meantime, it is being much visited. But then that goes for most of the other flowers: zinnias, cosmos, liatris, doronicum, echinacea, rudbeckia, and the self-sown purple toadflax. So many happy buzzing souls.

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And then there was also the hoverfly:

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Learning ~ One Little Bug At A Time

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Leaning over the garden fence the other morning, I caught sight of a tiny moth flitting about in the guerrilla garden. It stayed while I went indoors to fetch the camera, and obliged me with a few shots.  Then I went back inside and googled ‘very small diurnal moth UK’ and ‘images’ and up it popped. A Mint Moth, says the font of some wisdom that is my PC –  Pyrausta aurata. The butterfly conservation link also told me that it flew actively in sunshine (which is was doing) and particularly liked spearmint (which is where I found it and where you see it here). I confess a frisson of success: ID done and dusted.

It’s a dainty little thing  – 70mm across/ three quarters of an inch. Here are a couple of closer views:

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Softly Captured ~ The Uncommon Beauty Of A Common Blue

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When you suddenly spot one, it’s as if the summer sky has dropped a small fluttering piece of itself.  It takes a second or two to register what you have seen, and by then it has gone. For Polyommatus icarus, the Common Blue butterfly is not only small – around one inch across – it is also skittish.  I did not attempt a closer shot for fear of spooking it. And then I thought that I didn’t really want a close-up; they have their limitations. Better, I thought, to share the Common Blue much as a I saw it (soft focus and all) on the flowers of creeping thistle beside field path.

Lens-Artists photo challenge: soft

You can find out more about the lovely quartet of bloggers who host this photo challenge HERE. Like me, you’re probably already following one or more of them.

July’s Changing Seasons ~ All Hot Air And Going To Seed

I said in an earlier post that plant life was galloping away to flower and set seed all before being fried. Now with the end of July approaching, we have definitely reached the fried stage. I took the header view of Townsend Meadow as I was coming home from  the evening’s allotment watering. I thought it captured the day’s residual heat in a ‘baked-to-a-turn’ kind of way, a muted version if you like of Vincent Van Gogh’s Wheatfield with crows, a work that always seems to exude its own hotness. It’s a shame the local rooks did not put in an appearance to complete the scene, but sensibly they seem to be keeping a low profile – no doubt roasting quietly in their treetop roosts on the Sytch where the brook no longer flows.

Rain keeps appearing on the weather forecast, and then disappearing. Today’s promised thunderstorms have blown away. I think we’ve only had one significant watering in two months, and the heatwave looks like continuing.

Up at the allotment the harvest has been hit and miss – much bolting of lettuce and wilting of peas; puny potatoes, though wonderfully free of slug spit. The sweet corn continues to flourish and is starting to form cobs, and there have been loads of raspberries. The courgettes keep coming, and even the squashes are producing. In the polytunnel the Black Russian tomatoes are fat and delicious, and the peppers and aubergines beginning to fruit. All of which  means much hauling of watering cans every evening.

Here then, are more scenes of simmering Wenlock in and around Townsend Meadow.

 

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Changing Seasons July 2018

Please visit Su to see her changing season in New Zealand

Going Witless On Wednesday And Wild Wild Oats

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Put it down to too much sun, or too much time spent thrashing through the head-high overgrowth along the field path, but I seem to have a case of wild oats fixation. Their seeds have been shed and the remaining sheaths are paper thin and tinder dry and the light dances through them. And I am entranced.

Meet The Gatekeeper

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Pyronia tithonus also known as the Hedge Brown or the Gatekeeper. The latter name apparently derives from this butterfly’s habit of feeding on clumps of flowers in gateways or along field margins. It is a midsummer butterfly and common across England from Yorkshire southwards. I spotted this one yesterday morning having a very good feed on one of my doronicum flowers, but refusing to open it wings. Then it moved to the nearby apple tree, and I caught a momentary display. When not visiting gardens it prefers the nectar of Wild Marjoram, Common Fleabane, ragworts, and Bramble. Interestingly, the Common Fleabane flower does look very similar to the doronicum.

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Townsend Meadow ~ Waiting For Rain And A Bit Of A Ramble About Wild Oats

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Last night as I was watering at the allotment, dark clouds were building up in every quarter. I was sure it was going to rain. But no. By 8 pm they had moved off, leaving a strange red mist effect over Wenlock Edge. Beneath it the rapeseed crop is tinder dry and a deepening shade of copper. The wild oats on the path edge are ripening too – their cuneiform seed heads turned from green to pale ochre. I’m becoming a bit obsessed with trying to photograph them. They seem to reflect light that lends itself to a touch of abstraction.

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The Wild Oat Avena fatua  is of course the parent plant of our cultivated oat and fully edible. It possesses the same valuable B vitamins and minerals: manganese, magnesium, potassium, iron, and chromium. Oats are very soothing to the system, apparently reducing inflammation. They also contain powerful antioxidants and are rich in fibre.

Wild oats, however, are considered a crop pest, especially in wheat, reducing the crop by up to 40%. They are also becoming resistant to herbicides, which fact certainly seems to be supported by their continued presence in Townsend Meadow, where they receive lots of herbicide doses every year. This is rather making me think that we should all be eating oats instead of wheat – without added glyphosate that is. Some of us might start feeling a lot better than we do after eating wheat products.

My Derbyshire farming ancestors seemed to have lived on oats, turned into tasty pancake-like oat cakes and made from a slightly fermented batter. Eaten with farm-made cheese and butter of course, and doubtless washed down with homebrewed ale.  A good number of them lived into their late eighties and early nineties. Some of them were known to go in for a little prize fighting and were quite famed for their prowess in the ring – and that was only the women.

And apart from all this, a handful of rolled oats tied up in some muslin, soaked in warm water and applied to the skin with some very gentle rubbing, makes the best exfoliant scrub ever.

Bee Feast At The Garden Take-Away

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Yesterday the bumble bees were having a right royal tuck-in  around the garden. Flower of choice was definitely the allium sphaerocephalon as featured here the other day. Some of the bees seemed to become quite comatose while supping, which made them much easier to snap. Several different kinds were partaking. I really must learn how to identify them. Friends of the Earth have a great app for us Brits with clever phones. I don’t have one, but could almost  be tempted by this brilliant little guide.

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Meanwhile over the back fence in the unofficial (guerrilla) garden other favourite bee foods included the fabulously gaudy Sneeze Weeds (Heleniums) and the oregano which, with all the sunny weather, has recently burst into sprays of delicate pinkish white flowers.

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Oh yes, and there were also bees in the Bee Balm (Monarda):

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