The Changing Seasons: This Was June

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A Horse Chestnut sun-catcher, as spotted on the old railway line below the Linden Walk. Such a cool and bosky spot on warm summer days, not that we have had very many of those. And we’ve certainly not had ‘flaming June’ except for a couple of windless days when it was warm enough to eat out in the upstairs garden.

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All the same, those few warm days did seem excessively hot to those of us still clinging to our winter underwear and especially to the MacMoo lads in their shaggy coats. They were driven to the shadow-margins of the Cutlins meadow to try and keep cool.

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While out on the Linden Field, human lads stripped off for a spot of football practice.

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In Townsend Meadow behind the house, this year’s crop of field beans is thriving. Early in the spring the plants struggled mightily due to lack of rain, but June’s cycle of showers and intermittent sun and cool temperatures has seen them shoot up and burst into flower. They are a variety of broad bean that produce masses of pea pod sized pods, each packed with several haricot sized beans. In Britain we mostly use them for animal feed and the bulk of the crops are exported to countries like Egypt where they are in great demand for human consumption.

Maybe as a nation, we should be rethinking this. The plants grow well in lacklustre weather, though wind can be problematic. And although the beans are fiddly to pod (I’ve grown my own good crop at the allotment), they are delicious, nutrient rich and only take a minute to steam or boil. The only problem was, this year they were ready all at once, and while I was hoping they would precede the main broad bean crop, the broad beans started cropping early. Upshot: eat the broad beans, freeze the field beans for making refried beans later in the year. But just look at the flowers. Aren’t they extraordinary?

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In the Farrell garden all is getting above itself – especially the cat mint. I don’t know what’s got into it this year. It’s the sort of plant I tend to ignore, nice enough as a wafty foil for more showy plants in summer borders, and that’s about it. But now it seems intent on taking over the upstairs garden, and what with the blue geranium joining in, Graham is having to fight his way through the encroaching undergrowth to reach the shed.

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Meanwhile Rose Teasing Georgia has been and gone. Lovely while she was with us looking in at the kitchen door. She should flower again later in the summer:

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Over the garden fence in the guerrilla garden where all the late summer bloomers are busy putting on stems metres tall, Geranium Anne Thomson is fighting her corner. She’s such a worthwhile garden plant – flowering her socks off all summer:

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And on the downstairs terrace the ruby red Centranthus has been the main June attraction, along with Penelope rose who this year has been growing us huge single stemmed  bouquets, now sadly past their best. She’s a lovely sweet smelling rose – a shrub variety that can be trained to be a climber on shortish walls.

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At the allotment, beans and peas and spuds and beetroot are growing well, tomatoes and salad stuff in the polytunnel, but I’ve not taken many photos apart from ones of the flat-pack cat and the wildflower plots of moon daisies:

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Oh yes, and this evening view of the town as I’m heading home to make supper:

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The Changing Seasons Ju-Lyn and Brian are the hosts. Please pay them a visit.

The Changing Seasons ~ January 2022

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Our January blew in with sudden squalls and sea gales off the Celtic Sea, and a week’s sojourn on west coast Anglesey. From the sands of Aberffraw and nearby Newborough we could see the mountains of Snowdonia across the Menai Strait, a wood-cut frieze: sometimes steely grey, sometimes indigo; watch as snow dusted the high slopes. The place was blisteringly cold, but enthralling too. And we did have sunshine interludes too.

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And the deep-cloud afternoons did give up their gloom just in time for some breath-taking sunsets.

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And then, too soon, it was time to leave, and then, as often happens when we drive over the Menai Strait away from Anglesey, the morning light failed. An eclipse of the sun? Some ancient Celtic curse on the land made manifest? In any event, our hundred-mile, mid-day drive home to Much Wenlock proceeded through a depressing dusk, although it did have its moment of mystifying grandeur as we wound through the Llanberis Pass. Can you spot the tiny white farmhouse at the foot of the photo?

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And so back home and last week’s walk up on to Wenlock Edge, taking the field paths behind the house. A gentler landscape certainly, and warmer too after a brisk upward hike. Also from our side of the Edge its true drama is quite concealed. We see only fields and treetops, but when you reach the path that runs along the ridge summit, it is only when you peer through the underbrush that you see that the land simply drops off – falling through hundreds of feet of hanging woodland, so steep as to be inaccessible except to birds and small mammals and perhaps an adventurous deer. This impression of no-man’s-land and apparent lack of management by humankind adds to its eeriness. On winter days, too, when the trees are bare, you can glimpse the village of Homer way below, and beyond it the farm fields of the Shropshire Plain.

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The path up to Wenlock Edge

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Looking back on the town

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Over the Edge

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On the homeward path with view of the Wrekin

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And on the home front, a wintery upstairs garden:

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But still a few crab apples left

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And in the kitchen: some surviving allotment marigolds and crusty spelt-flour soda bread:

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The Changing Seasons: January 2022. Please call in on our hosts, Ju-Lyn in Singapore, and Brian in Australia and see their January vistas.

The Changing Seasons: This Was June

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This week the wild flower plot at the allotment has burst forth from the meadow grass to bring us poppies, blue cornflowers and bright yellow anthemis. More exciting still is the discovery in the nearby communal orchard of a spotted orchid. Thank you, bird. Something you did must have resulted in this new arrival. Spotted orchids are of course quite common around Much Wenlock. Nearly 4,000 were counted last Friday up on Windmill Hill in the annual orchid count. They thrive in limestone meadows. I’d show you its picture of the newbie, but when I went to check on it yesterday morning, the flower was very much ‘over’.

On the home front all is chaos in the Farrell garden – the vegetation rampant and he who builds sheds and greenhouses up to his ears in the new lean-to greenhouse whose parts are currently reclining rather than leaning. Well, it seemed like a good idea to remove the nasty plastic conservatory from the back door. But then how do you attach a metal framed greenhouse to a very unstraight limestone boulder wall? Much pondering involved. I am however informed that progress has finally being made – an intervening wooden frame being attached to said wall which will make gap filling and water-tight-involving interventions feasible. Phew!

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This is the ‘upstairs’ garden with (thankfully) few glimpses of the greenhouse construction chaos below. Here you can meet some of our best ‘girls’.

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And then there are tumbles of campanula and the exuberant ‘tapestry’ of colours in the downstairs garden:

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Out in Townsend Meadow the barley is changing colour – hints of buttery yellow with gingery flushes, but still green on the peripheries. The grains are swelling fast after a few good showers. And talking of showers, the path to the allotment is now very overgrown, this despite my frequent to-ing and fro-ing. It is now the season of wet knees and rising damp in the gardening pants, and otherwise arriving dew-soaked on the plot. I could of course take the garden shears to it. This has been known.

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We have not been far this month, though we did pop over to Ironbridge last week. It was good to see lots of visitors in the outdoor cafe in the Square, and the Severn Gorge brimming with greenness. But there’s no pretending, life is not as we knew it.

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The Changing Seasons: June 2021

The Changing Seasons ~ May

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The April showers we did not have in April arrived as torrents through much of May – along with hail, sleet, thunderstorms and deep-frozen gusts. And then a few days ago winter stopped and spring happened: wall to wall sunshine and a green explosion. Seedling plants that had been languishing chillily doubled in leaf size overnight. The crop in Townsend Meadow behind the house that I’d thought was wheat quickly grew three feet and turned into barley. The lime tree canopies on the nearby Linden Walk went from pinched and niggardly to ebullient and blousy.

Suddenly all seems right with world, although this only works if you avoid all forms of mainstream media. And to that end, I have been spending a lot of time deciphering the last of wishes of long-ago ancestors, words I find I can believe. It’s also been a time, between storms, to prepare the ground at the allotment, plant out peas and erect runner bean canes, and finally make up my mind as to where all the tomato plants are going. In fact last night I thought it was at last safe to plant the outdoor ones along the south facing wall of the old privies, though I did hang a bit of fleece over the canes in  case the plants felt too shocked. The only problem with that was during the night the rat that lives under the shed tried to hijack the fleece for its nest. Drat and double drat. I was hoping it had gone away. It looks like some tomato shielding will be required later on.

So: onwards and upwards. June tomorrow. In the meantime, here was May:

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The Changing Seasons: May 2021

The Changing Seasons: April In Wenlock

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Spring comes slowly to the Linden Walk. The epicormic stems at the base of the lime trees may have had their buds unfurling, but the canopy is only now showing a hint-haze of green. All in all, it has been a very strange month. My favourite on-line gardener, Charles Dowding, who gardens commercially down in Devon, says April has been colder than March, and the nights colder than January. I can believe it. Even on bright sunshine days the air has teeth, as if blowing off Arctic glaciers.

Surprisingly, the icy blasts do not seem to have deterred the fruit trees: cherry, damson, greengage have all been flowering magnificently, and now the apple trees are bursting with blossom. In the woods the primroses, celandines and violets have been flowering since February and now the bluebells are joining them. The wild garlic, too, is running amok in the shady parts of the Linden Field. Meanwhile out on the farms, the fields are already brassy gold with oil seed rape flowers, and the wheat behind the house is growing tall and lush, which is also surprising given many weeks without a drop of rain.

All the seasonal confusion is causing this gardener to dither more than usual: shall I shan’t I sow, pot on, harden off, plant out? One can only adopt the trial and error position and be ready with the horticultural fleece to protect the vulnerable. I have at least managed to get the potatoes and onion sets in the ground and planted out, with protection, some climbing pea seedlings and broad beans. And I have also ventured to plant out some tomato plants and one aubergine inside my polytunnel where the most successful production otherwise is a bed of overwintered coriander which has recently made its own small forest. (Never managed that before).

Of course when I go gardening, I’m still wrapped up in my winter gear – sweaters, scarf, hat, padded parka. The allotment is on an exposed slope above the town, and when the sun goes in, it’s been pretty bleak up there. But then all that clobber gets in the way of many spring season tasks. So please, please, May, could you just turn down the icicle winds. And perhaps bring us a bit of warmth. Oh yes and some gentle rain at regular intervals.

On and around the Linden Walk:

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Over the garden fence:

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Potatoes planted at the allotment; overwintered field beans behind:

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Come evening, still need to spark up the log burner:

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The Changing Seasons: April 2021

The Changing Seasons: March

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This sundowner view from the allotment tells me something has definitely changed. It was taken from my polytunnel doorway at 6.17 p.m. three days ago. Goodness. Still light after six o’clock! Spring must have sprung.

And yesterday, the last day of the month, it was suddenly tee-shirt-warm, blue skies above and wood pigeons cooing. A shock-reverse after days of chilling winds and passing hail. I watched the buzzards wheeling in wide arcs over Townsend Meadow behind the house, their haunting calls one to one.  Around the place tree buds were swelling, daffodils doing their full-on gold, while over in the Linden Field the school kids were playing football, and the pre-school kids were swinging on the playground swings while their mums nattered together. For all the world it looked like Planet Normal. Who’d’ve thought it.

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But then we should not have been fooled into thinking it is actually spring yet. The weather people did warn us there would be more cool days and frosty nights to come. And true to the prognostications, April has arrived cool and dull. It’s now a case of  cherishing the blossoms however we can: blackthorn, cherry, japonica and pussy willow, celandines, primroses, wild violets and windflower wood anemones, and in Shadwell woods, the just emerging buds of Spanish bluebells. There will be warmer days to come. There will!

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The Changing Seasons: March 2021

The Changing Seasons: This Was February

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Winter – spring – winter: we have been sorely teased over the past weeks, though it’s true that February may often prove contrary, breaking out in fleeting intervals of unexpected warmth. This year, after hard-frost beginnings, we had several days of sudden spring, and he who is old enough to be more weather-wise started casting clouts and layers with abandon. Too soon, I told him. Winter’s not done. And besides, March can be cruel. Hang on, good sir, to fleecy vests and quilted combinations.

And so here we are, the first days of the new month with much sky-gloom and creeping dankness, again the pressing need for woolly gloves and hats, and that’s just indoors. I joke. Well almost. But in spite of the cold, there are signs of spring: the blackbird singing its heart out just now in the Station Road holly tree, doves on the church tower in close-canoodling-cooing huddles, daffodils fast opening. Reasons to be cheerful. Absolutely!

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The Changing Seasons: February 2021

Changing Seasons: This Was January 2021

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Apologies for the swift change in temperatures after yesterday’s balmy temperatures on the Zambezi. Here in Wenlock we have been suffering frigid twirls and swirls of Polar Vortex: snow, sleet, wind, frost and in between, torrential rain. But we’ve had some sun too with china blue skies. Here’s the month’s round-up:

Snowy landscapes:  Windmill Hill (including the above with this mysterious snow tree), Linden Walk and Linden Field, over the garden fence…

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Birds and beasties…

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Frost art including some very fancy ice works created by my allotment water butt…

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And the first signs of spring…

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The Changing Seasons: January 2021

The Changing Seasons: December 2020

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Here are some of the many photos taken in the last few days in my various spheres of activity. First: snow scenes in the Linden Field.

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And in and out the garden, over the garden fence:

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And up at the allotment and surrounding vistas:

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And finally my Happy New Year photo: all the very best to everyone in 2021.

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The Changing Seasons: December 2020

 

The Changing Seasons: This Was October

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Until today’s storm and bluster ‘the garden over the fence’, aka the guerrilla garden was still doing its stuff on the floral front. The rosy crab apples have of course been stealing the show, followed by the Michaelmas daisies (white, mauve and purple), Anne Thomson geranium (heliotrope) and a scatter of late lemony Silver Queen helianthus. Now all looks blown away, though a few pink cosmos behind the old privies are hanging on.

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Beyond the garden, out in the field, all has been ploughed, and already the new crop, winter wheat again by the look of it, has started to sprout. In fact all around the town the hillside fields are a haze of new growth while the hedgerow trees and woody margins turn to old gold. But then much like last autumn we have had far too much rain, which in turn means us Wenlockians take to country paths at our peril – slithering in Silurian clag that threatens a serious upending at every step. The following photos, then, reflect only the surprise sunny intervals.

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Up at the allotment it’s now the season of gathering in and tidying, mulching and compost turning. This year many garden crops did not thrive as expected. I have no explanation for this, except we did have several weeks without rain in the spring and hand watering never quite makes up for it. But then this has been the pattern for several years now, and I had taken precautions with plenty of mulching.  After the brief hot spell in May the summer was generally lacklustre, often cool and windy, and light levels low.

And this in turn has me wondering that there is more to weather than CO2, on which of course all our plant life, and therefore us, wholly depend for existence. Something’s up with the sun. It seems to be having a quiet phase. We’ve also apparently had an El Nino event out in the Pacific, which usually makes for cold-wet La Nina after-effects. And then the earth’s magnetic field is having a wander across the hemispheres; the jet stream has been meandering all over the place, and lots of geothermal goings on have been happening under the ocean beds at the poles.

All of which is to say the time is clearly out of joint (all ends up), and this an over elaborate excuse for failed sweet corn, rubbish broad beans and a disappointing runner bean crop.

Anyway, failures apart, there is still much to pick – leeks, greens, carrots, beetroot, parsnips outside; salad stuff and a few tomatoes in the polytunnel; lots of apples on communal trees. On my cleared beds the green manure crops are growing well and there are still bumble bees in the flowering phacelia. I’ve broken into last autumn’s stash of fallen leaves and found some brilliant well-rotted leaf mould for mulching the raspberries. And I’ve sown over-wintering field (fava) beans for next year’s early summer picking, and they’re already sprouting. And that’s the great thing about gardening – the onward cycle of growing and nurturing, the continuous big ‘do-over’.

 

The Changing Seasons: October 2020