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.
And then there was also the hoverfly:
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:
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.
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.
Changing Seasons July 2018
Please visit Su to see her changing season in New Zealand
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Oh yes, and there were also bees in the Bee Balm (Monarda):
I’ve watched this crop of rapeseed developing behind our house since the autumn when it was sown – back to back with the wheat harvest. All through the winter it clung to the ground and was much eaten by pigeons. In April, after a good dosing with agrichemicals, it sprang into life like Jack’s beanstalk, and was soon taller than me. By May is was a sea of acid yellow, that mellowed to gold. This morning at 5.30 am it was turned to copper. As I’m writing this, the field, under the full-on midday sun, is being visited by hosts of cabbage white butterflies.
So it is that the plants have survived deluge, bird predation, gale, blizzard, frost, three lots of snow, and now weeks of ground-baking drought. The plants look almost ready to harvest, although when I inspected a couple of pods last night, there seemed to be precious little seed inside. Which made me think that only the farmers who are harvesting sun with their fields of solar panels will be having a good crop this year.
Here’s a retrospective of Townsend Meadow during 2018.
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No it’s…a…a paramotor wing, and it came looming low over the new shed last night as we were eating our cream of broad bean soup. It was so very much something where you didn’t expect to have it, and also very loud, that for a moment I felt like Arthur Dent in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy – you know, the scene near the beginning where a huge ship from the Vogon Constructor Fleet comes gliding over his house as a prelude to demolishing the planet:
People of Earth, your attention please.This is Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz of the Galactic Hyperspace Planning Council. As you will no doubt be aware, the plans for development of the outlying regions of the Galaxy require the building of a hyperspatial express route through your star system, and, regrettably your planet is one of those scheduled for demolition. The process will take slightly less than two of your Earth minutes. Thank you.
Douglas Adams The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
Anyway, it turned out to be nothing so threatening, though at one point I thought the pilot had completely lost the plot as he whirlygigged for several giddy seconds over the rapeseed field. He sorted himself out though.