Category Archives: Summer

A scorpion and a red moon. Flies in Paradise and the Lovely Lotti!

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Continue reading A scorpion and a red moon. Flies in Paradise and the Lovely Lotti!

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Animal encounters of the not so good kind. The cycle of Life.

Animal encounters at Navasola are few and far between. Much life is out there but usually elusive. A bird alights on a branch nearby and then moves behind some leaves and as if it knows you are watching creeps up the tree mainly out of view. Just enough for us to know it is there. So we were surprised and alarmed by a sudden bang at our kitchen window. It was a beautiful Red Rumped swallow. We were all taken by surprise and thankfully after allowing me to take some photos it recovered and flew off. The fat fly was left dead on the store roof.

The park regulations for windows are strange and large ones are not allowed. We would love more light but maybe it would be difficult for birds flying into the glass by mistake. We will get some bird stickers but that would have made no difference to the Red Rumped swallow on its mad chase of a fat fly. I’m glad the bird was only a little stunned and flew off in good feather.

Red rump swallow on battery shed roof after flying into window chasing fly!
Red rump swallow on shed roof after flying into window chasing fly!

Another encounter was the return of the Wood Mouse and with a vengeance in a large cardboard box I had stored some bed linen in. But not for the mouse! After excavating all the bedding I find the cause of the sounds and bitten bedding. The mouse was trapped at the bottom of this deep box .  We decided to lure it with food and straw in a box but that was the last thing it wanted was to take a rest, go into the little box and then we would have humanely released it back to the wood pile. It jumped high, somersaulted and then bit the bottom of the box ferociously. We need a net but I find a bit of cardboard for a ladder out.  It falls into the box and with a quick action I get a lid on it. We release it into the rock garden where it bounds off. Well, was it a lucky mouse……. Two days later I open the front door to an amazing view of a weasel poised on the rock. I can see its back very clearly and for a while it doesn’t move. As it turns its head I can see a wood mouse in its mouth. Whether it was the same one we shall never know. The weasel turned, looked at me and then slunk off.  We probably don’t need to find a cat! Maybe this was the same weasel I saw some time ago. They can live for a few years and we have plenty of wood mice.

Wood mouse trapped in gigantic cardboard box
Wood mouse trapped in gigantic cardboard box
Woody Wood Mouse
Woody Wood Mouse
Churchyard beetle
Churchyard beetle keeping me awake at night!

If you ever have the fortune to come and stay with us do not be surprised to be woken at night by strange creatures.

I told a previous tale of the bat on my birthday when our friends came to stay and were woken by the bat.

It is also not really advisable to keep windows wide open even if very hot. Bat wings are actually quite noisy as I found out myself one sleepless night. Mice scrabbling has been dealt with too and we try a row of bricks by the door and have been given a humane trap. But the noisiest for its size has been the churchyard beetle. Now to wake me fine but not another friend in the brand new bedroom. There was a scream when the culprit showed itself.

Ladder back snake crushed by car wheel?
Ladder back snake crushed by car

A sad tale was when we discovered the crushed and quite dead ladder snake. It had probably been our friend’s car when leaving. These are the friends who have suffered bat visitations and the beast on the roof that turns tiles over. The noisy night criminal is quick to get away and has as yet not revealed its identity. Even though it was me who had gone out in the dead of night with torch it slipped away. This was just as well as it sounded so loud on the roof.  possibly a beech marten, genet or that darned fox. We did come across a  drowned beech marten once. Someone had stolen the top of a water butt and this creature was inside. Hopefully it is another member of that family banging on our roof.

However, the demise of the ladder snake gave a good banquet to these large ants. I had put this beautiful but dead creature on a rock. The next day the ants were carrying off the skeleton with excellent team work skills.

Snake being cleaned up by ants!
Snake being cleaned up by ants!

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As for the bird life a baby swift is saved from the feral cats of the village. There is a centre just out of Seville which monitors swifts and helps in recuperation. There have been declining numbers of swifts, swallows and house martins and hopefully every little helps.

Watching these swallows swooping down the valley or the great hordes of swifts in one village and the house martins in Cabanas might make me think there is no problem but much more needs to be done to ensure survival of these migratory birds.

Red rump swallow recovering from being stunned and ready to fly off.
Red rump swallow recovering from being stunned and ready to fly off.

Yellow is the colour of……..Botany studies in yellow

And with thanks to Opher’s World for nominating me for some blogging awards. Check Opher out as there are plenty of references to the great music of the 60s, Dylan, definitely and maybe Donovan! But Opher Goodwin has written some great books and one that he has shown extracts of is about Anthropocene Collapse. I love one of the futures he envisages where we as a species do survive and also keep 50% of the Earth wild. Here’s to some of the wild flowers at Finca Navasola. It’s always amazing where they pop up.

Tolpis
Tolpis and so much sun makes photo difficult. A lot of radiating light.

 

A vipers grass. But the lovely lemon flower Rays often closed again within the bud.
A vipers grass. But the lovely lemon flower rays often closed again within the bud.

Yellow is the colour of these wild flowers in the morning.
Yellow is the colour of the Thapsia, tall and elegant from dawn to dusk.
Yellow is the colour of the many, many daisy and dandelion types.
Yellow is the colour that vibrates so bright
Bringing more than just the sunshine’s light.
Bringing the joy of nature’s alluring fight
For the future, the next day, the next year, not the night.

A poem to capture the variety of flowers seen at Navasola this May and June. I had to start identifying through colour as this seemed easier than botanical keys and I had got stuck with 26,000 within the daisy family. Thankfully, we have various books and our own survey which helps narrow this down. But it is still a challenge as there were about five different kinds in yellow. As I was more confident with a range of other flowers I focused on trying to narrow down the daisy types. As we move into June some of this variety are already turning to seed but there are still more to feed the interest of the range of butterflies about. Another post or poem on those!

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Perforate St John’s Wort
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Thapsia, tall and elegant.
Thapsia, tall and elegant on the verge.
Thapsia, tall and elegant on the verge.
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Leontodon Hispidus I think!
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A wild euphorbia. Yellowish. With wasp with very waspish waist!
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Curry plant and very aromatic
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A lone yellow dahlia facing the bedroom window. At least some things grow well without too much water in my real rock garden.

 

Wake Up call at Wakehurst Place. Home of the Kew Gardens Millennium seed bank.

IMG_2536.JPGWakehurst Place is a large estate with a diverse range of trees from different areas of the globe. It is the country home of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew and there is the space for not only many trees but different botanical areas and the Millennium Seed Bank. Our visit in August gave us a glimpse of many of  the flowering plants showing off the glory of their seeds in the garden areas. This seemed quite fitting as housed  deep under some long glass barn shaped buildings is the Millennium Seed collection. This is part of the conservation work of Kew Gardens and  involves collecting as many of the rare and endangered plant seeds and preserving those that can be kept at very cold temperatures. The aim is to protect the biodiversity of plant life as habitats come more under threat. It will also ensure future research into the amazing range of plants and their properties.  The seeds I have taken photos of are in the lush gardens by streams and ponds.

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Stinking Gladwyn Iris foetidissma, S>W> Europe, N Africa

Adopt a seed and save a species is a campaign set up by Kew. It seems that four plants a day are at risk of disappearing forever. At present Kew has stored 30,000 species. More info on www.kew.org/adoptaseed

The Seed Bank is already helping with conservation and an online seed list makes 900 collections of over 450 species available to organisations. These can then help in the conservation of other species.

IMG_2556.JPGWakehurst Place also has many sculptures and art and photography exhibitions. We also enjoyed the labyrinth set up in the woods. And a finger one on the stump of one of the many trees lost in the 1987 hurricane that hit the south of England.I am determined to try a labyrinth shape in one of my fields in Spain! I must also try some more painting and sculpture. So much to do! Or just enjoy the close ups of the seeds themselves  that provide plenty of sculpture and in many forms.

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Last of the summer flowers: And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Final farewell fotos of flowers  on the finca.  August 2014. Summer is passing…….

In August in Spain the weather is usually too hot and dry in the summer. The flowers start to fade and all seems rather dried out. Some flowers resist the parched conditions but most decide to allow their seeds to finish developing and be ready to disperse. This helps survival of the species  through a long dry summer. Deep roots keep the trees and other bushes in business.

Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare and a different interpretation based on the natural world.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate,

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Hoary Mullein
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Candytuft
Knautia  - small blue/ purple
Knautia – small blue/ purple

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;

And sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, ( the very hot sun as in Spain?)

And often is his gold complexion dimmed; ( English weather with clouds in the summer!)

And every fair from fair oft times declines,

By chance or by nature’s unchanging course untrimmed;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;

Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou growest:

So long as men breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

Silene
Silene

Shakespeare’s sonnet reflects the transience of beauty with the beauty of summer. But nature like the focus of his sonnet has an everlasting and ever changing beauty, beyond the flower! This is my  interpretation of a sonnet often thought to be about love. Maybe it can be about the intricate workings of nature that go beyond the transient beauty of a flower or a young man or woman! When we understand the true beauty of a person or of nature we can truly appreciate the deeper aspects of love, life and the natural world. Or was Shakespeare just trying to immortalise himself or his’dark lad..y’ love  with words?  His words offer such richness and are open to interpretation and appreciation through the ages and to different cultures.
I think I have found another angle on this sonnet and an admiration for what goes on beyond our sight within the seeds creating the changing seasons.

Firsts………..Pop goes the weasel, half a pound of strawberry jam for half a pound of plum and who murdered the tomato.

The past week has been a week of firsts. It was the first time I saw a weasel in the wild. He or she  was very close to my feet and I must have startled the poor creature into stopping still as it was madly chasing a lizard for lunch. Lucky for the lizard, my feet helped it get away, that time. For a few seconds the weasel was absolutely still and I could see its face and most of body clearly. Full identification is unclear as I did not see its tail, which I am told if it had been a stoat would have had a black tip to it. It was very small and about a year ago Josie, Theo and I had visited the British Wildlife Centre and been intrigued by the weasels running fast around wire tunnels. It seemed very similar to those.

The next first was ….. Sorry, I have never made jam  before. It is plum time in the Sierra Aracena. We have found some plums on the Finca and picked some but a few days later ……..all gone.We think some badgers or the wild boar as the birds only peck at them. Perhaps they have learnt to bash against the tree. Friends also have many plums and I was given a large box of juicy yellow plums so I have experimented with pickling some, drying some in the sun, and jam. The plum jam recipe that worked was easy and just seemed to be throwing the same amounts of plum and sugar into a pan and stirring and waiting and stirring and waiting… However the taste of this jam has met with approval and we have done an exchange for a jar of strawberry! My next batch will not be so easy to exchange as I went a bit mad on the ginger.

The final first was to eat my first ripe homegrown tomato. With all the building work and the need to prepare an allotment patch in this wild and overgrown place I feel pleased that my friend’s tomato plants are now beginning to show fruit. I am also hopeful about the seeds from Lidl supermarket’s butternut squash. After a lot of earth clearing and moving. I also moved some of the wild bugloss which did try to hurt me with its stinging hairs in exchange for being given another place. There is at the moment a lot of it on the Finca. Is this part of the wild bison work that might be needed in the wild?  Pictures of the small garden by house and the Huerta, vegetable garden I am preparing in one of the chestnut fields. And of course the tomato.

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June and July wild flowers on path up to the Era at Navasola.

June and July flowers on path up to the Era. The walk up to the Era is another of my favourite places and can be seen from the windows on the south side of the house. The era is where any grain grown would have been threshed way back in the past. The bit of the sculpture shown was done by the previous owner and is now rather worse for wear but still a lizard! The flowers shown are really loved by the butterflies and I have been using the book shown to try and identify accurately. The path and now wildflower meadow on the era is full of common century and field scabious, possibly knautia integrefolia and not knautia arvensis. It is quite a study to try and look very carefully at the leaves and shapes of the flowers. It is amazing the variety within a small area.

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Field Scabious
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The era, the old threshing area with lots of stones underneath the wild flowers and now butterfly heaven!
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Part of Margaret Claddo’s lizard sculpture at back of the era.

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Butterfly and wild flower books to help in identification
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Common Centaury