Tag Archives: plants

Thou foster child of silence and slow time

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Salisbury was cool and grey.  (Click a thumbnail for the gallery)

And then it was the business of the day.  And yes – it went well.

Tying things up

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I spent a good deal of the day tying things up, until I began to feel rather controlling (and ran out of string).  (Click a thumbnail for the gallery)

Recent intermission

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Reading time has been rather gobbled up.

I may have selected this based on a subconscious connection with grass and the breaking of impenetrable sod:

Somehow I have managed to miss reading it down all the years; meeting as an adult, it raised quite a few questions.  One concerns the apparently reckless way the father takes his family off on a dangerous journey.  We have gone soft now.  Or perhaps it didn’t seem as dangerous, when any life was dangerous – even staying tucked into the most secure and prosperous home could not protect you from the epidemics of infectious disease which cut swathes through many a family.  Or perhaps pressure of poverty was strong enough to drive the migrants on. Then there’s the way Ingalls apparently makes the decisions without input from his wife (ah the good old days – ‘she for god in him’ etc.) And worst, of course, are the passages dealing with the native Americans.  Ingalls is portrayed as liberal, humane, but assumes that the western country is his to take because the inhabitants “weren’t using it”, and he is furious when, having illegally moved into Indian reservation land, he and other settlers were required to leave “their” farms. Ugly.

Then there is this delicate little sippet of a book.

Ah, the pure sensory pleasure of its satiny dust jacket, the smooth crispness of the coated paper, the careful balance of text and image, the reposeful colours, the spine coherent without wilful springiness, the clean smell rising from every page turn. This made it quite difficult to concentrate on the actual subject matter, but it too was charming in its miscellany of science, technology, art and history, and although the coverage is very slight, there’s a further reading list handy at the back.

One phrase, though originally intended to be satirical, spoke truth to me as an observer:  Thomas Tomkis in 1615 characterised a telescope as “an engine to catch starres”.

Siphonophore or salp?

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Horticulture is all very well,

housework is never all very well, but no doubt it is good for one’s character (just some cushion plumping still to be done),

but they interfere with the important things in life, namely watching someone colour in the floor of the Pacific stripe by stripe.  I feel like Slartibartfast.

Then there is the crucial business of blue water going by for an hour, or possibly two, occasionally diversified by some passing gelatinous improbability, until we arrive at the main event:  the ocean floor, a varying number of kilometres but always a Very Long Way Down.

Here one can inspect more gelatinous creatures, the occasional fish, and a variety of coral.  Unfortunately, being live from the other side of the world, they usually reach bottom just at the time all British people should be in bed.  What technical genius, though, not only to send ROVs to that depth, but to live stream HD video to all and sundry, along with baffled commentary from assorted specialists.  It’s just as much fun as reindeer – though I do occasionally wish the scientists were speaking Norwegian.

For those who live in another hemisphere, or don’t mind propping up their eyelids with matchsticks:

http://oceanexplorer.noaa.gov/okeanos/media/exstream/exstream.html

How to be a stinker

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The horrible dry north-easterly is blowing, has been blowing, will continue to blow, and apart from an untimely shower on Sunday we haven’t had a drop.  Oh for a mild moist westerly!

Under a thick overcast the wallflowers continue to bloom as they have since March, unwatered in the stony parched soil, the rich colours relieving the gloom.  I’ve already sowed seed to get next year’s started.  What would I do without them?  Meantime, the herbaceous clumps which will replace the wallflowers, when they do finish, are waiting in the wings.

The roses are suffering but still trying, aided by a few watering-cans-worth here and there. Hoping to support their struggles, I barrowed around lots of black lumpy material from the compost bin.  The stench was outstanding, though of course compost shouldn’t stink.  Mystery explained when a big glop of green gel oozed from the spade, gaggingly odorous.  One of us must have thrown some over-date eggs into the compost bin, and somehow they never broke, even while two years worth of organic waste was mashed down on top of them.

Century egg, anyone?

Very manorial

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Well this was all terribly British.  (Click a thumbnail for the gallery)

Propagating and planting

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At this time of year the garden takes any time one might have and demands more.

Rather circuitous

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The grass has been a spring meadow, studded with primroses, daisies, violets, narcissi, the odd grape hyacinth and bluebell, and even a few naturalising cyclamen.  When nearly knee-high, it has to be cut at last – a beastly job, choking the inadequate mower.  It also takes an inordinate time to guide the mower in dumpy arabesques around the primmies

circumambulate ungraceful wedges of turf round the spring bulbs

and leave strange linear features which will turn into strange linear colonies of bluebells next year.  Because of course I want to preserve and develop this jewelled turf and enjoy it again each spring.  Meantime – we do look a bit odd.

Elsewhere, the now-venerable crab apple is about to burst into the full performance.  Who knows how many thousands of blossoms?  I counted forty on a six-inch twig.

This tree holds its crabs well, and has been feeding the birds all winter; now the last shrivelled fruits are being pushed off by the new leaves and flowers.

A very different creature, the pittosporum is turning its inside-out black flowers …

… strange, very strange …  (even stranger if you click for full size image) …

… until, as daylight fades, they set loose their perfume.

Eleven rules for newt-watching

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1    Wait for a fine day.  The sun’s rays penetrate the goopy water.

2    Don’t eat a meal consisting largely of smoked mackerel before newt-watching.

3   Have patience.  Get your eye in. Look at the small swirls of the water.  Spot a striped nose.  As a newt dives, its paws turn, showing pale palms like tiny gloves.

4   Close focus binoculars can be good, but while gawping at a nose in one part of the pond you may be missing half a dozen amphibians frolicking elsewhere.

5   Remove some of the blanket weed from the pond, along with some dead leaves.  No doubt newts and their prey need cover and plenty of plant food, but I doubt that a solid mat of blanket weed is ideal.  The newts will, of course, immediately hide from the uproar.

6   Continue to have patience.  It was a surprisingly short time before newts began to emerge in twos, threes, even fours.  They looked as if they were complaining about having their furniture arbitrarily rearranged.

7   Bring your good camera out with you.  Otherwise you will be stuck with your feeble phone camera …

8   but don’t bother to take many photos. What with reflections on the surface and random sludge in the water, they won’t look like much anyway.  You need to keep watching.  More patience …

9   Observe:  time will begin to reveal individuals  One with a prominent pale dorsal stripe; another spotted like a leopard; a juvenile looking as if carved from the best unblemished chocolate; one as green and sleek as an olive; yet another veined and striped around the head; another green one, striped and speckled with bronze; one black as night, with its fiery streak of belly limned with blue.

10  Continue to observe:  if you are lucky, as I was, you will see one doing the waggle dance.  A number of other newts came to observe, compete, join in.  The movements became stronger, and the group sank into the deep shadows, where they may or may not have consummated the mating.

11   Give up before your knees become agonisingly welded to the paving stones.

Feel free to guess which of these rules I adhered to.