April is here in Navasola and the warblers have arrived and in full song. There seems to have been so much happening that I have lost the routine of blogging but have often taken photos and thought of posts I could write! So here are some images of my nature journey at Navasola and nearby over the past three months. There have been other journeys and certainly there is a lot to think about in the world today and particularly for the environmental health of the planet we and so many other species depend on. But for now this is about the beauty of nature and perhaps this is a way for me to do some ‘warm up’ writing Continue reading 100 Days almost of Blogger’s block!
There surely is no better time to be in England than Springtime. And the Robert Browning poem resonates with me as there is such beauty in the English countryside and I do sometimes long for the green, vibrant and cool UK spring. But I don’t long for the tensions of countryside politics and various interest groups pitted against each other. I was also frustrated with a General Election Campaign that seemed to constantly avoid the environmental challenges we should be talking about and dealing with.
For various reasons we had spent longer than expected in the UK but this also meant we could travel further afield through the fields and discover some of the delights of Spring and meet up more with friends and family. I was also able to familiarise myself with more of the wild flowers here in the UK at this time of year.
The Yorkshire Wolds might not seem so dramatic as the moorlands of Bronte and Railway children fame but David Hockney captured their beauty on his return to the UK and during his stay in his home town of Bridlington. When I saw his exhibition in London I also had thought of retracing his ways through the Yorkshire wolds and we did this about two years ago. It is an area of Yorkshire I love and lived near for a while. http://www.yocc.co.uk
We managed a trip into the past of Skidby Mill and Beverley and then to see Zara the horse in her grand estate. There’s an old fashioned stable block and then woodland and parkland all around. For early May this was filled with wild garlic which stretched deep into the woods. At Skidby Mill there was an insight into the past and some milling of flour still goes on. The cowslips were out in the field by the mill and I had also learnt how to adjust contrast on the iPad!I had left the camera behind again as had done a lot of traveling by train. http://www.museums.eastriding.gov.uk
Barn Owl Beauty
There are some shots though that can never be captured but can be etched into the memory. As we were returning along one of the high roads across the gentle wolds from Scarborough I saw my first wild barn owl in flight along the hedgerow. As there were gulls galore in Scarborough I was transfixed by the strange shape in the distance. Just all wrong for a gull! As I drove nearer the Barn Owl it was very clear and it was flying along the hedgerow towards us and we passed quite close. It certainly wasn’t bothered by the car or was more intent on prey. I wanted to pull over and stop and glancing in the rear mirror saw the car close behind. When I glanced again the Barn Owl had turned around and was as flying back after the car. In my rear view window I had such a good glimpse of the wide face. Thankfully there was no one in front of me as I did linger a little too long looking backwards until the Barn Owl suddenly swooped down behind the hedge and into the field. Hopefully it had a good meal.
Barn Owl numbers in the UK were in rapid decline but there has been a great effort to reverse this and there have been successes as farmers, landowners, conservationists and many others have invested in ensuring there are nest boxes and suitable habitats. It seems so essential that party politics are set aside and all work together to ensure species survive and our planet maintains its glorious diversity. There have also been surveys and monitoring since 1932 but by the late 1980s numbers were reported to have dropped from between 5 to 9000 down to 1.400. There is now a national survey called Project Barn Owl and over many more nest sites that are monitored. Numbers have recovered but changes in climate and very wet weather can adversely affect the Barn Owl as rain does impair flight and the ability to hunt. 2013/14 and all the flooding was not a good time for them. http://www.barnowltrust.org.uk/
However I carry around with me on my iphone one of the first photos I took with it and edited for the screen. So everyday I have the face of a Barn Owl looking out on me! So I come full circle with my close encounters with the wild. This was taken at a British Wildlife Centre where rescued wildlife from these shores are kept and it does allow us to get up close to the secretive animals who try to live with us on this densely populated island.
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.
“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.”
At the beginning of 2014 I set myself a target to learn more about botany and identification. In order to do this in a more creative way I signed up to a botanical illustration course at Kew Gardens in London but have not completed as many drawings as I would have liked. However, I have managed to identify some key wild flowers and shrubs at Navasola but decided to try and see what seeded itself most easily when I prepared a patch of soil on my real rock garden. It has come up with a vivid green and grassy presence and below are some of the cheeky common garden wild flowers or weeds that have self seeded there this Spring. I now know more about my friends and foes in the garden areas of our really wild finca and will keep watching this spot.
These have also tested my botanical skills as some are so common and not in our Mediterranean Book of Wild Flowers. Thanks to other blogs such as Tramp in the Woods I have been able to identify the Common Fumitory and our dead nettle which is slightly different with leaves clasping close to the stem; a Hen Bit dead nettle. I have also sent everyone crazy on two different small white flowers. Our friend and ecologist has helped but we are still struggling on the exact species. But although both small and white there is a big difference between the two; one in the Campion family and the other in Cress was our latest judgement! Small things to make me wonder and wander around looking for and looking at!
Dverse poets have suggested a prompt based on ecopoetry. Do check out this inspirational poetry group at Dverse . The poetry bar is open and serving up so many different ideas most of the week. Ecopoetry seems to be a different term being introduced by groups such as Green Spirit and Resurgence. Alice Oswald is also mentioned and I find her a fascinating poet who has such an observant style that also brings out deep emotions. I’m not sure I want my own writing to be put into a category and I had never come across this term before but I certainly seem to be focused on my own and others relationship with the natural world at this point in time.
Trevor organised a nature course here some years ago and it was led by the botanist Teresa Farino. This started my inquiry into the plant kingdom. I was also given a mother’s day present of the Alice Oswald anthology, Weeds and Wild Flowers. I loved the Snowdrop one ,’ A pale and pining girl,head bowed, heart gnawed’ ……. ‘ her wildflower sense of wounded gentleness’
I wrote this poem early on in blogging inspired by the wild peonies here at Navasola and in the Sierra Aracena. It is January 2016 now but on our return from our special birthday trip to the Azores within 10 days there have been changes. The invasive mimosa is out in its bright yellow headdress, the almond blossom is delicately feeling for the early bees, and the peonies are beginning to thrust through the cold ground. Some are near paths so I stick sticks around them so we don’t forget and tread on these wild sisters of the many cultivated ones.
A Poem for Peony and all those wild loving sisters
Ms Peony Broterii
Wild genes live dangerously
Not cultivated carefully
Like your gardened sisters.
But your barb is in your poisonous roots,
Anchored, aching deep in chestnut groves,
In the shade of veteran friends, long standing,
Bringing you your strength, uprightness, roots rooted.
Unlike the myriads of visitors ready to be satiated
In your open sensuous bloom.
Bringing a light touch on velvet petal,
A rubbing of stamens, a staining of pollen,
Buzzing bodies beating,
Intoxicated with your nectar.
They stay only for their own satisfaction.
You may have some regrets, a sense of loss
As petals fall and breezes betray your beauty.
But your thrill is in your seed pod,
Ready to ripen, always ready,
To begin again, always hopeful
To survive into another Spring.
Only the danger of the human mind
Can threaten you.
Link to Dverse For the ecopoetry prompt January 2016
With thanks to the poems by
Alice Oswald, Weeds and Wild Flowers ( Faber and Faber ) and to the peonies and photos taken at Navasola among the ancient chestnut trees.
Originally written in 2013 and posted then.
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….
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.
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.
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.
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!
I am trying to post every week but a little delay with finishing this one as I flew to London for my course at Kew Gardens. Much more on that at the end of two weeks here with Spring really in full blossom.
The sun has been out more in the Sierra and there are more flowers beginning to emerge. These daisies were on the old threshing part of Navasola central with a few small white butterflies enjoying the nectar. Other butterflies seen have been clouded yellows, large tortoiseshells, and red admirals. There are a few more flowers but mainly in the warmer and sunnier parts at present. The temperature did shoot up on Thursday but there is at times quite cold breezes. In Portugal we saw the caterpillar in the picture below. Quite striking and can be dangerous as its long hairs cause itching, irritation and there can be strong allergic reactions. I read a sad story in the Portugal News about a small dog that had been sniffing around in some pine woods and collapsed with toxic shock. Even with medical support the dog died. N.B. Really important to get the dog to a vet if there has been contact with the processionary pine moth caterpillar. As yet this creature has not reached British shores but we saw its cotton like bags high in the trees along the road from Aracena to Fuenteheridos. It is quite common in Southern Europe but the beautiful bird, the Hoopoe eats it below the pines. We do usually see Hoopoes on the ground below the pines in the area by the fort at Cabanas.
Although there is still yet no fruit tree blossom on our side, the north side of the Sierra, the climate on the south side has certainly helped the trees and many more plants to flower. This is a view from a beautiful finca along the south road to Aracena from Alajar.
And in London I am overwhelmed by the daffodils and the blossoms on the street trees, magnolia and camelias in suburban gardens. And the warm sunshine after all the floods. At the finca I had decided to move some celandine from where there might be some building disruption. I carefully put some around the pond area and up by the house. On returning to London there was plenty of celandine to greet me. A weed or wild, certainly self seeded along the path and around the trees in the back garden! Loads of it! More on Kew Gardens and my course to follow when I’ve recovered from a five hour working day learning to draw plants! Today was spent on the exact and precise drawing of a leaf. Tomorrow we branch out with some branches…….
Spring is finally in the air but emerging much more slowly at this altitude and even in different places on the finca and in the Sierra. On the road to Aracena there are some almond trees in bloom and as you head down to Seville lots of Mimosa. The mimosa has caused a bit of a botanical debate and the mimosa on the finca by our house is different to the mimosa seen on the beach in Cabanas, Portugal. Neither are really called mimosa and are acacias, and originally from Australia. However they are supposed to be good at preventing soil erosion with their roots but also around our house are plentiful seedlings and some emerging as young trees. We have a big decision to make about the mimosa tree as it is right where the solar panels should go. However, we do have a lot of younger versions willing to take over.
The wild peonies are natural to the area and seem to now be growing much more prolifically around and near to the old chestnuts. With the ground around the chestnuts having been cleared to collect chestnuts over the past few years, this might have helped the wild peonies. They are still emerging and look like mini forests near the chestnuts. Many also seem to want to grow on the paths.I have put sticks around them so that anyone walking might notice them and should I remove the one in the middle of the track at the entrance to the finca and put it in a wild flower garden?
More birds seem to be arriving and we are trying to distinguish the different types of warblers. The Great Tit seems to have finished trying to break into the house as it would regularly bash its beak against one window and then fly to the other side of the house and knock against that window! I had a lovely view of the treecreeper on the mossy rock outside my window while I was resting and feeling sorry for myself with toothache! It brightened my day and I did attempt to draw it as I do not think I can ever capture on photo the birds around here. One moment in your sight and then gone. It’s if they sense the binoculars and a camera, well at present forget it.
The birds seen by the fort in Cabanas are much easier to spot but would need patience and a long lens. This year I will try drawing them in their spotted spots. Hoopoes under the old pines, Goldfinches chirping and flocking together into the pines and onto the white broom. Tiny warblers by the fort in the shrubs; Bigger warblers flitting into the air over the almond trees; A few Swallows winging over land and beach.There were egrets in the almond fields and crested larks quite bold by the rubbish bins. House Martins attempting nests under the edges of balconies. And on the beach signs of cormorants and curlews, smaller waders like the whimbrels and redshanks, turnstones, ringed plovers along the muddy stones, sanderlings rushing along the edge of the tide, and this time one lonely oystercatcher! There has always been a vast variety of birds to be seen along the beaches of the Ria Formosa in February.