The Changing Seasons ~ This Was August

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And it has been all about tomatoes. The allotment polytunnel has been in production for many weeks now: more than enough from a dozen plants. This in turn has meant tomatoes with every meal and much processing of the remainder. For the latter, this year’s method of choice is simply to roast  them until soft. Additives include a drizzle of olive oil, black pepper, sea salt, garlic and fresh basil.  Once cooked, all is whizzed with an electric wand-thingy and put through a coarse sieve into plastic containers. These are then frozen, contents decanted and stored in bags as sauce ‘bricks’.

Otherwise we’ve been enjoying a very simple Greek dish of repeat layers of thinly sliced potatoes, tomatoes, courgettes (starting and finishing with the potatoes) – also with added basil, seasoning, garlic, drizzle of olive oil, and baking the lot slowly in a moderate oven until the potato-slice topping is crispy. Good with baked fish and/or thinly sliced and steamed runner beans or Violette French beans. We’ve also been eating runner beans as a meal on their own, sprinkled with parmesan or pandano cheese, with or without a homemade pesto sauce, or the pistou version which uses up a tomato.

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I’m thinking that by now we must comprise 99% processed vegetable matter.

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For several weeks the weather here has been more like early autumn than summer – some sun, but many overcast days and often quite chilly. We’ve even lit the wood stove a couple of evenings. But lacklustre temperatures have not stopped the garden. Geranium Rozanne made a bid to take over the entire upstairs terrace. Serious curtailing had to be implemented to ensure a bit of space for human kind. The rest of the borders also seem to be several feet taller this year, including the guerrilla garden which has done great service standing in for the too often absent summer sun.

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For those of you who missed our special garden visitor in early August – here he is, the male Holly Blue butterfly. It was spotted first on the sedum also seen in the photo above. Later I saw it feeding on the oregano, also much favoured by the bees:

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One of my favourite August flowers is the wild yellow toadflax. This is one I’ve grown from seed bought from a specialist wildflower nursery. It is common along the verges of Shropshire’s hill country, especially on the lane up the Long Mynd to Rattlinghope.

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Another summer latecomer is the Morning Glory. The deep indigo-purple ones have just started blooming in the polytunnel where they’re happily growing up a Sun Gold tomato plant. A pleasing cohabitation:

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And in the home garden we had a single ‘Flying Saucer’ version. I caught it fully open just as a little bee found it too. Said little critter could not get enough of the nectar. Every time it thought it was full, it made to leave, only to return again and again. Made me wonder if there was something seriously addictive in there. And what with all the pollen too: a new take on the meaning of Bee-line perhaps.

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And just to show we have had some sunny interludes along with the sun flowers:

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The Changing Seasons: August  This month hosted by Ju-Lyn at Touring My Backyard alternating with Brian at Bushboy Blog. Ju-Lyn has been doing some delicious cooking, though sadly short of tomatoes when she needed them (Sorry about that!) And Brian has some fabulous plant and birdlife on show.

The Changing Seasons: July

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The field of gold behind the house has gone now, the barley cut and baled and hauled away, the ground harrowed. It happened in a few days too – to beat the change in the weather. The sky gods simply snapped their fingers: high summer heatwave off; autumn wind and rain on, plus a 12 degree drop in daytime temperatures. Gone too are the drifts of lime flower scent along the town lanes and by-ways. In fact on Friday the change felt so dramatic I kept thinking I’d lost a month or two and that we were actually in late September. Most disorientating.

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But on the things-to-be-very-pleased-about list, number one is the completion of the greenhouse construction against the cottage back door. He who builds sheds and binds books worked his socks off, first demolishing the plastic conservatory, then being confounded by limestone wall (and how to affix said greenhouse to it.) Next were the bad delivery issues of wrong window fittings, wrong glass and dealing with the installation of a door that should have gone on the other end. This one step forward – two back construction phase was also preceded by devising means to resolve a perennially leaking gutter issue. But he sorted it. Hats off to Dr. Farrell.

And so you might be a tad underwhelmed when you see the final creation. It is so low-key compared with the plastic predecessor whose existence I tried never to record apart from this one photo:

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And so now for the new version – recently rain-tested and presently filling up with my drying onion crop:

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Meanwhile out in the garden the bees aren’t letting the weather affect the feeding imperative. The hollyhock flowers have been a particular favourite, the bees calling in for an all-over pollen wash.

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The oregano flowers are a big hit too:

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Then out in the guerrilla garden, the knautia keeps on flowering and is now providing a hunting ground for a tiny crab spider:

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The latest floral interlopers there (though most welcome) are some lemony evening  primroses:

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The tansy has been taking over too and about to flower:

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Finally some soothing sounds from July on the Linden Walk:

 

The Changing Seasons: July  This month hosted by Brian at Bushboys World. Go see his fabulous gallery of New South Wales flora and fauna.

The Changing Seasons ~ November 2020

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I could swear it was only yesterday I was compiling October’s Changing Seasons post. Fascinating how time flies under lockdown and loss of civil liberties. Still, here on the Edge things are peaceable if rain-sodden, though we have been blessed with some perfect-sun interludes.

On rain-free days my gardening mind has mostly been on leaf collecting. This year the field maple and oak have been delivering double servings on the lane beside the allotment so I don’t have far to go to fetch them. I have created various ad hoc silos out of wire to store them, and this method does seem to speed up decomposition. Though adding some comfrey leaves and grass cuttings also helps. Anyway, already by September last autumn’s leaf stores had yielded sufficient quantities of chocolatey compost to give the summer raspberries a good, deep mulching.

There is also much tidying to be done on the allotment plots – taking down the bean poles, turning compost heaps, netting winter greens against pigeon attack. There’s still been lots to pick on the outside beds – beetroot, carrots, leeks, some chard and perennial spinach. The polytunnel goes on producing too. I took out the last of the tomato plants this week. As each plant finished I’ve been using the space for spinach, lettuce, kohl rabi, Russian kale and cauliflower seedlings. At the moment they are still growing, and I even had to remove some highly unseasonal caterpillars. I also have a very impressive bed of coriander, and some Chinese mustard greens. How they will all over-winter is a matter of waiting and seeing, but at the moment there’s plenty to make a good green salad. Lots to be happy about.

 

The Changing Seasons: November 2020

Please visit Su to see her New Zealand November gallery.

The Changing Seasons ~ July 2020

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The last day of July and it’s HOT! And rather a shock to the system. For much of the month, the Edge has been cloud-bound with low light and at times even chilly. Every now and then I’ve grown confused and thought it must be September. The wheat in Townsend Meadow is already looking overdone. (So soon!). The vegetable plots seem confused too. Many plants, especially the climbing beans, seem to have gone into a trance – as if they’ve given up before they’ve hardly begun. But then it’s a sign of the times, if not the status quo – confusion.

And at least the potatoes and onions have remained steadfast and productive. There should be tomatoes soon too. August also comes with fresh cultivating possibilities. I’ve been preparing to sow Chinese greens, endives, spinach and Swiss chard for the autumn and winter. Maybe some carrots too – the stubby little Paris Market variety, which can be sown late. And then when the potatoes are harvested it will be time to sow over-wintering green manures: mustard, annual rye and field beans. So the round of soil nurturing continues. It’s all part of a process of extending gratitude for keeping us Farrells, (friends and neighbours too) well nourished. We seem to be keeping the insect world pretty well fed too.

Now for scenes from the gardening fronts. On both sides of our garden fence the yellow helianthus and golden rod are bursting forth among the hot reds, pinks and purples. It’s a gaudy scene, and though I don’t care for the colour of the pink phlox, in the present heat wave it smells wonderful – a sweet warm meadowy scent. Meanwhile up at the allotment, the communal fruit trees are already showing signs of prodigious production, and I’ve brought bundles of very fine onions home to dry:

The Changing Seasons: July 2020

The Changing Seasons ~ And So Many Of Them In June

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I’ve read, just the other day in fact, that rain and dew drops caught in the leaves of Lady’s Mantle were much sought after by alchemists. They called them ‘moon water’, a deemed essential ingredient in the making of the philosopher’s stone, which in turn would change base metal into gold.

This plant’s transformative powers are also suggested in the old common name alkmelych  (alchemy) and preserved too in its botanical name Alchemilla vulgaris. Today medical herbalists prescribe it as a gynaecological tonic, in particular for balancing menopausal symptoms or resolving irregular menstrual cycles. The leaves and flowers are made into an infusion.

Anyway, the reason I mention this and indeed took the header photo is down to those big juicy drops. They mark the most transforming-transformative element of the month of June: RAIN. After a long dry spring, many weeks wherein our stolid Silurian soils set hard as concrete round limp and fainting plant life, we have finally had some good downpours; some of them quite torrential (as in stair rod assaults). We have also had hail and thunder. And in between, some over-heated sun-soaked days that made us think we had gone to the Mediterranean (while blissfully saved the airport check-in). But now, as the month comes to a close, the weather is more like late September – wind, drizzle, coolness and gloom. The allotment cabbage plots are happy though: just their kind of climate.

Surprisingly the dry spell has not noticeably curtailed production. Already garden harvest time is in full swing: peas, beetroot, lettuce, first potatoes, strawberries, raspberries, courgettes and broad beans. We’ve also had so many globe artichokes this year, I’ve had to prepare them en masse as hearts, braising them in olive oil and garlic. They can be eaten hot or cold.

As one crop finishes, so there is ground to clear, which means planning for the mid to late summer sowing and planting. Still lots to think about then. Mostly I’m thinking about fennel, various kinds of endives/chicories, carrots and spinach.

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Around the town the paths and lanes, and especially the Linden Walk have been drenched in lime flower scent. It is astonishing how these tiny green-gold, dusty looking  inflorescences  can produce such a heady perfume. They do of course have highly sedative properties  and should only be used with great care. No harm in some heavy sniffing though – as one passes by.

Early one morning, during the hot spell, I was doing just that, on my way to visit Windmill Hill. At 7 a.m. the sun was lighting up a lime tree by the children’s playground; the warmed perfume stopped me in my tracks: honeysuckle tempered with strains of citrus. Aaah!  Up on Windmill Hill there were however distinct signs of the recent drought. June is the time of the annual orchid count. It was corona-ed this year of course, but anyway, there were only a few pyramidal orchids to be seen there. Hopefully their little tubers have not been totally desiccated and are saving themselves for more salubrious conditions next year. (Aren’t we all). Even the Lady’s Bedstraw was struggling to bloom. Usually the hillside below the windmill is a mass of limestone meadow flowers in early summer. There were at least some very handsome musk thistles.

Another noteworthy wildlife sighting this month has been the large number of scarlet tiger moths about the place. Soon there will be a lot more if the scene in our back garden flowerbed is anything to go by. At rest they are not always so immediately noticeable: cream and amber spots on black. But in flight there are flashes of scarlet ‘skirts’ as they dart by. Very fetching.

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The Changing Seasons: June 2020  Please visit Su who hosts this challenge – not only for her lovely photos, but also for a very delicious soup recipe.

P.S. Cannot fathom this new system or how to put galleries where I want them. Hmph!

September’s Changing Seasons ~ Late Summer Days

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September in Shropshire has been pretty perfect until the last few days. Now we have bouts of heavy rain, weighing down the garden flowers, washing out the last of summer colours. But between the downpours there are still bees and butterflies about, though nothing like the clouds of them we had earlier in the month when I’d find the allotment verbena covered in Painted Ladies. Of course it’s pretty much the last chance for all the insects to stoke up on dwindling supplies of nectar; sunflowers, Michaelmas daisies and sedum being the busiest bug take-aways.

At the start of the month the wheat behind our house was finally cut. As I said in an earlier post, the dust cloud was monumental, covering the garden in chaff. But that’s a small price to pay for the freedom to roam across an empty field. Doubtless, it won’t be like that for much longer. The field will be ploughed and sown. Farmers  no longer leave stubble fields to overwinter, so providing forage for wildlife, particularly native bird species, during the hardest months. For now though, the straw bales left behind have been providing some of  Wenlock’s youngsters with new play venues, even if scaling them  has been proving something of a challenge.

As Cyndi says: ‘Girls just wanna have fun’.

And from this morning’s garden on the last day of the month, and between the rain showers:

 

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copyright 2019 Tish Farrell

The Changing Seasons: September 2019

The Changing Seasons ~ July’s High-Summer Gold

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Without a doubt July’s stars in the-garden-over-the-fence are the Dyer’s Chamomile daisies, also known as Golden Marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria). They have flowered and flowered for weeks now, spilling out on to field path behind the house, tumbling into the garden through the fence. So much gold from a small packet of seeds bought from Jekka’s Herb Farm.

In fact some of you may remember that back in the winter I was worried about the plants’ survival. Some started flowering late last autumn and were still going in December. I was afraid that after such an untimely show, they would keel over and die. I needn’t have worried. I think they have magic powers, though they do have their foibles. For one thing, they are not early risers, and if you catch them too soon in the day, they will not be properly dressed. Each night as the sun goes down they fold back their petals, tight to the stem so they look like a crowd of golden lollipops. Now there’s a thought to ponder on. It makes me wonder if they do this to attract particular  night-time pollinators.

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And talking of pollinators the garden has been humming with hoverflies, bumbles and honey bees. And now as the month draws to a close, hot on Marguerite’s sunshine heels come Helianthus, Doronicum, Golden Rod, while among them, dots of mauve and purple from Centaurea, Phlox and Drumstick Allium add a touch of flair. What a happy garden. Which of course makes us happy too. So I’m passing it on Sun even though today it is raining here in Shropshire.

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The Changing Seasons ~ July 2019

Please pop over to Su’s to see her changing seasons in the southern hemisphere.

 

The Changing Seasons ~ This Was Wenlock In May

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Last May the field behind the house was a yellow sea of oil seed rape flowers. This May the rape has only been visible on more distant hillsides around the town and I’ve rather missed having it on my doorstep and walking the golden arcade through the crop where the farmer’s big tractor had left a barren track during spraying.  This year the rape bloomed extra early too, is already running to seed – which perhaps means chances of a better harvest; last year’s crop was scorched in the heat wave and shed much of its seed before it could be cut.

Elsewhere around the town we’ve been watching greenery happen. This next photo shows the Linden Walk on the 30th April. The one below it was taken yesterday, the 31st May. I noticed the pale flowering wings are already well formed, though the tiny buds were still tight shut, and I thought of their heavenly scent to come.

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In the Cutlins meadow members of the MacMoo clan have been absent for a couple of weeks. Then on Thursday we saw they were back. There they were dreaming amongst the lush grass and knee-high buttercups.

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On the home front all is blooming. Yesterday morning I found our front garden – the one that slopes down to the main road – positively heaving with small bumble bees. The orange verbascum flowers had reached just the right state of ripeness, and the bees were gorging on them. The sparrows, too, have been enjoying the front garden, which goes to show – even a small roadside plot can make a bit of a wildlife sanctuary.

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The Changing Seasons: May 2019

Wishing Su a speedy recovery from the flu.

April’s Changing Seasons: Leaves, Lambs And A New MacMoo

 

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We’ve had three seasons this April – spring, summer and winter, some frost, lots of cold wind, a week of barbeque weather, more wind (thank you Storm Hannah), but no April showers, or at least only a couple of days’ worth. And now spring is back and we have leaves – lots and lots in their best, shiniest, juiciest green. In the last ten days the Linden Walk has turned from this:

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…to this:

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Also this week we have a new Highland bull calf in the Cutlins meadow. This morning as we were lingering on the path watching him, an elderly Wenlockian passing with her West Highland terrier informed us that the proud mother is a Welsh champion. We agreed she certainly has a fine set of horns, but she doesn’t strike us as the sort of cow who would be much impressed by awards. While we were there she was anyway much engaged with a tree stump trying to relieve a very tenacious itch. Meanwhile young MacMoo was attempting to muscle in on the scene.

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The magpie in the last shot looks to have found a handy source of nesting material.

And now a general Wenlock April round up.

 

The Changing Seasons

Pop over to Su’s for more changing seasons.

The Changing Seasons ~ November In Wenlock

Scenes in old gold: the Priory parkland above, then the Linden Walk and Field and a view of Windmill Hill:

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The Cutlins path, sheep and parish church:

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And now the townscape as seen from the allotment:

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And a touch of green: winter wheat sprouting in Townsend behind the house (you saw it being sown HERE back in October):

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And in the garden: Evereste crab apples, Hesperanthus, and Foxgloves (still flowering today):

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And on Remembrance Sunday, Much Wenlock marked the centenary of the ending of WW1 with the lighting of a beacon on Windmill Hill, an occasion (on my part anyway) coupled with the fervent wish that here at least was one lesson from history that the ruling elite might learn from, though it’s showing few signs so far.

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The Changing Seasons