Category Archives: London news

Blogging with boars, birds and bunnies!

A week of changes. Changing places and changing weather.

Just before leaving Navasola I wandered into my huerta or vegetable garden. I wanted to check on the plants. I am hoping that I have created enough paths and cut back grasses and vetch to keep it all more under control. Last year when I returned in May I posted about my ‘Wild Welcome Back’. I was overwhelmed with neck high grass,vetch and then hay fever.

Maybe this time I  had a wild  farewell.

There were rustling sounds from within the abandoned olive grove. I stood very still and listened. I thought it might have been some noisy blackbirds. It often is! To my surprise a large female boar made her way into the field. Although there was a ‘boar proof fence’ between us to protect the huerta, I didn’t want to see it tested. I stood very still. Females are said to have a reputation. Following  her were three slightly smaller wild boar. Then one by one, a group of stripy baby boar trotted in. No camera,  no  phone, just me and the boar family.

Part of the Huerta by the boar proof fence and gate.
Part of the Huerta by the boar proof fence and gate.

I stood still and watched them move around grazing and looking like large dogs. The youngsters climbed up over some rocks. I just kept still, not daring to move and too far from the gate.Then the large female saw me. She came forward a little and but decided to turn away and run off, with the young ones following. It was quite a sight. Reading up a bit more I discovered that these groups are matriarchal and called sounders.They consist of the very young and slightly older females.It is far more common that boar will run away but it seems they may move towards you a little as their eyesight is so poor and they are curious. Most injuries to humans from boar are during a hunt and with the males turning to defend themselves if cornered.

After this event we were off to Portugal for my flight. I had a quick check on the house martins I am trying to survey. There are not so many on the frontline this year but these small birds were working hard with the mud to build over netting put up to prevent them. I had been disappointed to see this attempt to deter them in a local street.They certainly wouldn’t have bothered anyone in that location and it now looks quite unsightly. It also might mean the nests are less secure for the young. The birds are undeterred and determined to build in places they must remember. Those whose nests had not been destroyed have had a head start. I think they have got young and these might manage two broods.

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Flowers at our favourite restaurant in Cabanas, Portugal.
Flowers at our favourite restaurant in Cabanas, Portugal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Dorset we had snow and hail, lots of birds and a vole. The bullfinch is a regular visitor at my friend’s  bird feeders, along with a nuthatch and some pheasants. After the snow a kestrel came by but the birds had disappeared into the nearby hedgerow.

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Sculptur of half hare, half woman outside Salisbury cathedral.
Sculpture of half hare, half woman outside Salisbury cathedral.

Back in London I was shown the video of the baby robins nesting in the ivy by the house and at least two are now alive and well, feeding in the garden.  My daughter has fallen in love with feeding the birds and they seem to reward her. I was also updated with the slow motion function on the latest  phones. Mine is too out of date but it was lovely to see they had captured the garden Robin flying! Sorry no video as I have to update WordPress and pay money to upload a video! Will think on’t!

Baby robins by back door in London
Baby robins by back door in London

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now I am in the north of the U.K. and enjoying my other daughter’s young pet bunnies. These bunnies seem to want to blog with me!

 

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To be close to the animal world seems important. My wilder world of Navasola is still without pets and the wild ones choose their moments. Mice in the middle of the night and a mongoose went up through my rock garden one evening. The wild ones like to be invisible and secretive  but it is good to know they are out there.Not in the house! Four mice have been ‘humanely’ removed to at least 1 km away!

Mongoose was wandering over the rocks and seen from my sanctuary window.
Mongoose was wandering over the rocks and seen from my sanctuary window.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bunny friends!
Bunny friends!

I am off to stay with a friend in Rhodes so hope to keep up with blogging about the flora and fauna there soon. I may not be on wifi much but hope to catch up with everyone’s blogs again soon too.

 

 

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A poem on the loss of my First Friend and our wild childhood in West London

I have been inspired to write this poem because of two posts on the loss of friends and the importance of making sure in our busy lives that we spend precious times with those we love and care for.  These are Victoria Slotto and A Poetry Pub Post.

It is almost a year that I lost my oldest friend. She was just 60 but we had known one another for almost 56 years. We were neighbours  and friends in our childhood and were neighbours again when my children were young.

In our childhood we were always playing outside and there were many open spaces for us to discover. We grew up in a place that was not so popular and posh then by the river Thames. We had the streets, alleys, allotments, reservoirs and Barnes Common when older to run off to with friends.

MY FIRST FRIEND

My first friend is the first, of my friends, to leave me,

And how I miss the mulling over of mindful memory.

Different understandings of the way things were.

Unlocking distant sounds, intensifying colours

To share for tea or coffee in our November years.

First, we would have played inside each other’s houses.

In mine, there were the many furry beasts to care for.

In hers, we taught and tended to the tiny dolls.

With mothers close by, ready to prepare our tea.

From the inside to the outside, first, we went into our gardens,

Or were these more just backyards behind the tall terraces.

A sparkling outside toilet I got locked in.

A perfect patch of grass was all we had to sit on.

Further first we ventured, out beyond the gates,

Into a shared back alley and a ruined place.

A building for our nightmares an alley for our games.

Budge, In the River, Hide and Seek and planes.

A first to wander further, faster up the street,

Legs pushing scooters or roller blading skates.

Further on we ventured towards the open skies

Into the green spaces of our childhood friends and games

First we wandered near her father, digging deep into

The turf of his allotment, just up the terraced street

Dodging folk along the paths to our mysterious marsh,

To the deep dug out waters of the then so many laughs

Further first when we were older with guide dog pups to walk

From Surreyside to Middlesex, to Hammersmith upon

the bridge of dreams, suspended from its mighty girders,

Staring through the gaps down to the swirling currents.

First to go together to Saturday Morning Pictures.

First to take the bus to different swimming pools.

First to take ourselves to picnic on Barnes Common.

First to wander wild along the river’s Surrey side .

We shared a kind of childhood that we think should be remembered,

A childhood that was free to explore green and vibrant spaces,

Letting us run so far and deep in the breath of the wild.

With the passing of the years we pray we don’t lose that child.

Spring, Weddings, Blessings and Blossom

Cherry Tree in Brentford and isleworth's Quaker Meeting House Garden.
Cherry Tree in Brentford and Isleworth’s Quaker Meeting House Garden.

Have been away from blogging and spending time getting married! Quite time consuming too! I would  like to share some of my experiences, not least the cherry blossom tree being in full bloom on our wedding day. Very apt for us and for this blog. A week later and there was no more blossom. I can only take from this that marriage has to be like a tree, with many phases and blossom like a honeymoon, short lived!

I also  heard the Apache Indian Marriage Blessing for the first time at our own marriage where  we both felt very blessed and supported by friends when back in the UK for our wedding at Brentford and Isleworth Friends Meeting House. There was some deep silence before our declarations and some spoken words later on. I am putting more about this on a page on my blog about light and love . I also  hope to make  some reflections on how we often seem spiritually and emotionally challenged by relationships and support from others can be so helpful.

The blessing read out by Madeleine seems very appropriate to the nature focus of my blog and the inclusive nature of Quaker values. Although the blessing may not originate with American Indian  culture it may be popular in the States because it resonates with our need to reconnect with nature and acknowledge many  indigenous people who did live closely with nature and with a deep connection and respect for how to live sustainably in the natural world and with each other.

The joy of having a Quaker wedding was to be able to embrace diversity within a Christian tradition, to be silent and reflective and to make declarations not vows.  All present at our declarations were all also able and invited to sign the Quaker marriage certificate.

Apache Indian  Marriage Blessing

Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other. Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other. Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you. May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead and through all the years. May happiness be your companion and your days together be good and long upon the earth.

Treat yourselves and each other with respect, and remind yourselves often of what brought you together.  Give the highest priority to the tenderness, gentleness and kindness that your connection deserves. When frustration, difficulties and fear assail your relationship, as they threaten all relationships at one time or another, remember to focus on what is right between you, not only the part which seems wrong. In this way, you can ride out the storms when clouds hide the face of the sun in your lives- remembering that even if you lose sight of it for a moment, the sun is still there. And if each of you takes responsibility for the quality of your life together, it will be marked by abundance and delight.

On  researching some of the background to this blessing which apparently is popular in the USA I also found one that is attributed to the Cherokee. Again the forces of the natural world are linked into a respect for all that is sacred. Am also hoping we may grow forever young.

Cherokee Blessing.

“God in heaven above please protect the ones we love. We honor all you created as we pledge our hearts and lives together. We honor Mother Earth and ask for our marriage to be abundant and grow stronger through the seasons. We honor fire and ask that our union be warm and glowing with love in our hearts. We honor wind and ask that we sail through life safe and calm as in our father’s arms. We honor water to clean and soothe our relationship — that it may never thirst for love. With all the forces of the universe you created, we pray for harmony as we grow forever young together. Amen.”

Living Simply, Living Sustainably: Wildlife Friendly Farming and Awkward moments.

Being back in the UK over the festive season has many positives when being with family and friends but the pace of life begins to get hectic and at times bewildering. A friend of mine said that she finds when she speaks to people for goods and services it can be so much more frustrating nowadays. Hers was – have you had an accident or breakdown – for a pothole blowing a tyre. Took longer as she had gone through on breakdown and was told she would have to ring again for accident! Her cry was but I just need road side assistance.
My frustration came in a local well known supermarket. I was looking for where the muesli was. I decided to ask but the young girl didn’t really understand. This can happen in London as there are many non native speakers ( enter the awkward linguist who struggles with her Spanish). However,the young lady was very helpful and took me to a group of suited managers and asked. They didn’t seem to want to understand her attempt to say muesli so of course I chip in too. Then the reply is – We don’t sell that product here – of course, I am now exasperated as I know they have their own brand of It. I try to re pronounce it. I do this so often with my Spanish. Can I not now pronounce Muesli? I go for MEWSLI after trying MOOSLI. I then end up saying – well cereals then- . The lovely young girl takes me along and there is the big sign CEREALS next to another big sign MUESLI. So is muesli not cereal now ? Oh well, never mind. I give the young girl a brief English lesson on the origin of the word muesli and a comment that she now knows more than her managers. Here ends the Awkward Linguist part of the post and we then move onto the Awkward Environmentalist. The awkwardness is thanks to a great blogging site for wild flowers : The Awkward Botanist; A great name for a great blog.

Then I explore the endless variety of muesli products. Usually we opt for the cheapest and most simple mix but I thought to add in a granola; not a type of muesli? I am looking at the packaging for sugar content and product origin. Shopping can be so complicated now. I am not going to do product placement but the product I bought had an aim of only buying the cereals used from wildlife friendly farmers. Have tried a photograph of the packetand it does advertise the name all the way through the comments on how they help wildlife. So maybe that’s ok. If they really do. So complicated to know the whole truth but at least a company taking a step in a positive direction.
I bought it because of this. Good advertising? Responsible choices? Should we demand more of this? It was a bit on the expensive side and I remember a friend commenting on why she couldn’t afford free range eggs. For me, I couldn’t afford not to. Dare I say quite tasty and less sugar if added to bog standard MOOSLI!

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Kew Gardens, Botany, Illustrations and a visit to the Herbarium

 

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The Tropical Palm House, Kew Gardens, March 2014
Willow sculptures at end of day, Mach 2014
Willow sculptures at end of day,Kew Gardens March 2014

It has been an intense two weeks at Kew on the botanical illustration course and although it was daunting to work along side trained artists there were also some beginners similar to myself. The aim was to learn some of the skills needed so that I can try and draw some of the wild flowers at Navasola ; to keep a record and to learn to identify plants more. My memories of Kew do go back a long way as we lived nearby and as a family would visit often when it was about a penny or an old threepenny coin? I also did a weekend job waitressing in the restaurant near the Temperate House and saved my pennies and tips for my trip to India! Its now quite expensive to visit Kew Gardens so it is worth being a member and the work that Kew does is so much more than just having a really amazing collection of plants and trees and the cost of just the upkeep of that. Conservation and saving endangered plants, horticulture, Plant studies, DNA, diseases and more….

A member of the Zamia family I had an attempt at drawing and a robin came and watched me with a critical eye!
A member of the Zamia family I had an attempt at drawing and a robin came and watched me with a critical eye!

Our teacher, Lucy Smith is a professional botanical illustrator and specialises in palms. I visited the palm house at lunch time as it was warm and a break was needed ! The  first photo of the Palm House and daffodils was taken at the end of a hardworking day drawing leaves in Museum No 1 near the famous Palm Glasshouse. The shapes of the palms looked grand and ghostly against the stormy evening sunset. I also found a lot of information about Paeonies in the horticulture gardens and a lot of examples of plants we find in Southern Spain.

Poster in Herbarium about the range of activities supported.
Poster in Herbarium about the range of activities supported.

A lot of work behind the scenes goes on at the Herbarium and we were given a fascinating tour by a long serving Mexican botanist whose specialism was in the vast leguminosae or pea family. The Herbarium is a library of plant specimens and it is vast. Kew also promotes a lot of art work and installations.

Plant studies in the Plant Library; The Herbarium at Kew Gardens.
Plant studies in the Plant Library; The Herbarium at Kew Gardens.

Last year I joined again because of the David Nash wood sculptures and this year there are some fascinating willow sculptures. Kew always has such variety and this year I found all the different varieties of flowering cherry trees. Kew works hard to conserve wild plants and the seed bank has been set up and attempts are made to propagate endangered species like the Madagascan palm that Lucy Smith had illustrated.

One of Kew's famous historic trees, the Stone Pine or Umbrella Pine which there are so many of in  parts of Southern Spain and Portugal. This one grew its different shape as it was kept potted for so long in the 1800s!
One of Kew’s famous historic trees, the Stone Pine( Pinus pinea) or Umbrella Pine of which there are so many  in parts of Southern Spain and Portugal. This one grew its different shape as it was kept potted for so long in the 1800s!
Photo from Cabanas and seen in Kew with its name!
Photo from Cabanas and seen in Kew with its name! Retama  sahaerocarpa,  Family Leguminosae  papilionoideae.

 

 

have just about survived the course and will add some more details of that later and the beauty of suburban London in the Spring. Maybe a Spring poem is needed along the following lines and in memory of Robert Browning’s famous Oh to be in England, now that April’s here……..

Oh to be in London when the daffodils are out

And the streets with cherry blossoms…….

Hide the gardens turned to drives!