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.
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.
Unlikely – that I was awake enough to take this photo
Unlikely – the early morning yellowness of an oil seed rape field
Daily Post: Unlikely
Townsend Meadow was all aglow a couple of evenings ago and not only that, I walked home from the allotment in sunshine that was warm. On the other hand, I had just mowed three of my allotment paths, which are all uphill, so perhaps I was simply overheating. Anyway this is how things were looking this week in the field behind the Farrell domain – until the gloom and rain resumed. The oil seed rape (canola) is on the cusp of flowering. I’ve just caught the forward blooms here; most of the field is still green, though it won’t be long. Soon we will have a sea of acid yellow to look out on – always good against a stormy sky, and given the weather forecast we can be sure of having a few of those over the next couple of weeks.
I had rather hoped the farmers were giving this field a rest after a couple of seasons of wheat – maybe putting in a green manure, or leaving it fallow as once happened in the days when farmers took crop rotation and care of the soil to heart. Ah well. The farmers who farm here are tenants who doubtless wish to extract maximum advantage before the actual landowner gets round to building the housing estate he’s been promising us for 2025. Who cares then, about the state of the earth?
Six Word Saturday
According to the old tithe maps the field behind our house was known as Townsend Meadow, and for obvious reasons: it lies on the north end of town directly below Wenlock Edge. For nearly a year now Shropshire Council has been building a large attenuation pond just over the brow of this hill. The objective is to reduce the effect of flash flooding, holding back storm water that runs off surrounding hills, turns all the roads and brooks into rivers which then converge in the centre of Much Wenlock.
In July 2007, over fifty houses in the town were badly flooded. Ours was fortunate not to be one of them; although our house is built into the foot of this hill, the main burden of run off flows around rather than through our property.
The fence in this photo was the first thing to go up before work on the pond began. The tree that appears to be in the corner is a piece of ‘borrowed landscape’ and is actually some distance away in the field hedgerow. And the rooks were just passing.
Before the fence went up I did not particularly notice the tree, but now I like the way this visual convergence gives an accent to what before was a rather featureless wheat field.
It was even more exciting when the big digger moved in.
copyright 2017 Tish Farrell
Black & White Sunday This week Paula’s challenge is STRUCTURE
Here is a well worn path of my daily comings and going along the margins of Townsend Meadow. The visible sign: the trail of gardening not writing.
There’s an unofficial gap in the hedge beside the first ash tree, and that’s my way into the allotment. The farmer leaves a swath of uncultivated ground on two sides of the field to soak up rainstorm run-off before it hits the houses at the bottom of the hill. For a couple of years these abandoned areas were simply left to grow, hence the nose-high grasses still standing in winter. But last summer, just before the wheat harvest, the weedy wilderness was mowed. Now the only signs of my passing are muddy boot impressions among the fallen ash leaves – not quite so photogenic.
Black & White Sunday: SIGN Paula says to interpret this prompt any way we like.
This photo was taken from the field path in Townsend Meadow behind our house, a scene captured one day last winter when I was late home from the allotment. I often stop at this point on the path to take photos. The ash tree silhouette always catches my eye, whatever the season, and I love the way the day seems to slip behind the hill as night shuts down on top and shadows creep up to meet it. It’s a bit like a stage set. Or it could be Rip Van Winkle Land.
Be inspired by things of the night over at Paula’s Thursday’s Special: Nocturnal
We didn’t invite them, but this crowd of opium poppies showed up anyway, pushing in behind the garden fence along with several other blooming gate-crashers. There’s a whole bunch more behind the garden shed. Papaver somniferum – the sleep bearing poppy, Asian in origin but now naturalised in Britain on waste ground and in field margins. And in case you are wondering, in our cool climate it does not produce the latex from which opium is derived. Better to get high by looking at them. And what a cheering sight it is on a Monday morning. So poppies, we’re glad you came. Please feel free to make yourselves at home here.
For more 4th July blooming visit Cee at Flower of the Day.
After tropical days in Wenlock we now have rain and more rain. There were showers between downpours for most of yesterday, and only at the last lap, as it was about to set, did the sun coming bursting hotly through the clouds. I caught its last beams here before it disappeared behind Wenlock Edge.
With all the sudden rain the wheat in the field behind our house is growing before our very eyes. So is our wildflower garden along the fence below it. Seen here are Moon Daisies (also known as Oxeye Daisy, Dog Daisy and Moonpenny). I love that last name. And keeping company with the daisies is one stately white foxglove, with a spray of cow parsley or Queen Anne’s Lace in the background.
According to Richard Mabey’s Flora Britannica cow parsley (a member of the carrot family) has a whole lexicon of country names – some obvious, others not so. So here we go with a few more: Fairy Lace, Spanish Lace, Mother die, Step-mother, Badman’s oatmeal, Blackman’s tobacco, Kecksie, and Rabbit meat.
And as for the foxglove, it was also known as Fairy Gloves and Fairy Bells. It has long been used as a herbal remedy that at times proved more killing than curing. And of course until recent times a compound version of the toxin found in foxglove leaves was the drug of choice for various heart conditions.
It is anyway one of my favourite plants. I like the way it grows itself around the garden and crops up in a variety of subtle shades from white to purple, although it perhaps looks a little sinister, looming here in the failing light across Townsend Meadow.
Mundane Monday #63 at Jithin’s PhoTraBlogger
Rooks coming home to roost over Townsend Meadow, Much Wenlock. Sometimes too many words aren’t necessary; the place speaks for itself.