Category Archives: Uncategorized

Merry Xmas! An Illustrated History

Not quite my usual focus but having studied linguistics and the origins of words this is an interesting snippet for Christmas time. When words were truly sacred. Wishing everyone peace and joy over this Christmas time and for 2015.

so long as it's words

It’s Christmas!! I’m sitting here in my Fairisle knit jumper with reindeer and snowflakes on, I’m listening to Idina Menzel forcefully emote glorious Christmas music at me, and I still haven’t bought all my presents or finished putting the decorations up. The festive season is definitely upon us.

All of that is slightly beside the point for the purposes of this blog post, but damnit, I just really love Xmas.

Oh wait, sorry – not Xmas, Christmas.

This is a common complaint at this time of year and gets people really riled up. A quick poll of my small corner of Twitter (disclaimer: I did this last year and was so slow to write the post that I saved it for this year) shows that pretty much everyone prefers to write Christmas over Xmas. For some, it’s a matter of principle, that they don’t like shortening or abbreviating words, or because Christmas

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The EU takes a step forward to prevent vulture intoxication by diclofenac

There are at least 3 species of vultures to be seen in the Sierra Aracena, Spain. Griffon, Eygptian and Black. They have been threatened by lack of available carcasses. Conservation can be a complex problem.


Diclofenac is an analgesic, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that has been widely used to treat both humans and animals since it was first developed by Ciba-Geigy, now Novartis, in 1973. Trade names include Voltaren, Cataflam, Acoflam and many others. Concerns regarding the safety of such products for European vultures and other carrion-eaters like the golden eagle and the rare Spanish imperial eagle were raised earlier this year by a coalition of nature protection organizations led by the Vulture Conservation Foundation. The EU Commission subsequently initiated a referral procedure pursuant to article 35 of Directive 2001/82/EC on veterinary medicinal products to screen the drug for its possible impact on the scavengers.

The assessment, performed by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), concluded that the veterinary use of diclofenac in livestock animals poses a risk to European vultures and other necrophageous bird species. By acknowledging such a risk despite a lack…

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Beneficial Insects in the Garden

This is useful as I hope to investigate more about insect life on Navasola for 2015. Thanks!

Carolyn Hasenfratz Design

Are you interested in making your garden more habitable to beneficial insects? Here is a list of invertebrates you might want in your garden, followed by a chart showing what plants are likely to attract them and what plants may repel pests.

Read more:

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This sounds so important and because I am a member of the RSPB and several wildlife trusts I would like this link on my blog. Also came across another idea about Eco cide. Biodiversity is becoming less divers rapidly.


George Monbiot’s ever-illuminating Guardian column brought this to my attention today and it could prove to be a landmark moment for the future protection of our ecosystems and wildlife, as well as our engagement with it.  The new Green Paper, compiled by the RSPB and Wildlife Trusts, underlines the current political apathy and resulting legislative deficiency for conserving and enhancing our flora and fauna.  It shines a light on the often underestimated importance of our relationship with the natural world and how vital it is for our own physical, mental and spiritual well-being.  One example of these disjointed and misguided government practices which give way to ecological bureaucracy and detachment is embodied in the ongoing attempts to conserve the Scottish Wildcat.

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Weird and wonderful on a beautiful sunny Halloween! From galls to fungi and flowers in October in the Sierra in Southern Spain

Chanterelle mushrooms near the wet of the water deposit.
A gall on Lentiscus Terebinthus on the South side of the house.
Hibiscus in full flower in late October.
Hibiscus in full flower in late October.

Autumn is proving a very magical time of year. And changeable. From cold rains at the end of September to a Spanish ‘Indian’ Summer with sometimes the temperature reaching the 30 s. The mushrooms and the mushroom hunters have been out in full force. Along with gathering the chestnuts it is a very popular time of year for the Spanish to enjoy Autumn colours in the Sierra Aracena and forage. More on the chestnuts later as am still busy collecting them and not often in a wifi bar!

Dahlias might become a favourite. These survived the August drought and have been flowering away. Just fading a bit on Oct 31st.
Dahlias might become a favourite. These survived the August drought and have been flowering away. Just fading a bit on Oct 31st.
Hibiscus, flowers and fungi , an orange bracket fungus on side of tree branch border!
Hibiscus, flowers and fungi , an orange bracket fungus on side of tree branch border!
Mushroom as yet us identified surrounded by flowers from lentiscus.
Mushroom as yet us identified surrounded by flowers from lentiscus.

Orchids – Sordid tales of lust, deception & unrequited love 

Successful selective seduction! A really informative piece on orchids and key pollinators.

Sustainability soapbox

orchid Drakaea_glyptodon (Hammer)

Orchids go to great lengths to attract the insects that are vital to their survival.

Like humans, they put on a pretty dress, slap on some lipstick and perfume, flirt and promise sexual favours and gifts (but do not always deliver). Some even resort to trickery and traps via a sort of passive aggressive courtship that leaves their suitors frustrated but unharmed.

Devious or inspired?

Imagine you are one of the 25,000 or so wild orchid species trying to make sure that pollination takes place while your flowers are in bloom. You need the insect to find and choose you over the multitude of competitors in the area.*

Can we blame them for indulging in a bit of sexual deception and manipulation?

Don’t be fooled by appearances

orchid Phaius_tankarvilleaeSome members of the orchid family mimic plants, such as lilies (e.g. Phaius tankarvilleae), that typically trade pollen or nectar but may…

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Forever Green: Voices for the Wilderness Act

I am trying to remember the words of the Gerald Manley Hopkins poem in the last stanza. ‘What would the world be once bereft of wildness and wet, wildness and wet’


50 years

tree silhouette

Fifty years ago Wednesday the Wilderness Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. The act gave a legal definition to the term “wilderness:”

A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.

Nine million acres of public land were initially designated as wilderness. The act is one of the most significant pieces of environmental legislation in American history, because it concerns land and water already designated as national park, forest, or wildlife refuge, and forever protects these wild areas from damage due to logging, grazing, mineral extraction, road-building, construction – or any human manipulation, good or bad. The act essentially says “Enjoy these places and life forms, but don’t alter them.”  Keep Them…

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I saw this video on another social media site and thought how amazing it was as there is such a physical effect on the landscape by the wolves. When I was teaching we used to do creating writing based on animals and would watch a documentary about the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone.So this is doubly amazing to see the true impact of the wolves in helping create more biodiversity.
Thanks to Altzar and Tamara for this.

Heaven’s Home

This is a lovely poem from another nature and art blog. I love the ‘tipsy moth’ from A woodlandrose blog. Didn’t write a poem for my daughter’s birthday so hope she enjoys this one as she wanders around the Lake District in the footsteps of William Wordsworth, perhaps. Happy Birthday Josie and I will have to think up a wildflower poem for you aka the Alice Oswald book you gave me some birthdays ago. And in memory and gratitude to my father who took me on so many journeys into nature, camping and learning how to put up with the midges and Mosquitos !

Awoodlandrose's Blog

ladders to the sky

a blue jay’s piercing cry
the robin’s egg cupping blue
a tipsy moth’s free flight
the morning glory’s climb
out of the dark night

an acorn realizing it’s an oak
puffing sails that lean
into a swelling sea
island bells that chime
on a soft summer breeze

a firefly pulsing star light
stars pulsing fire light
a lovers’ kiss as they meld into one
the last glance of day
towards a blushing sun

ag ~ 2014

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Walks on the wild side: caminos near Navasola in the Sierra Aracena

I have now had the opportunity to take some local walking routes near our Finca Navasola. With two friends, one a neighbour and the other from Sheffield we explored some short routes between Fuenteheridos, Galaroza, Castano de Robledo and Alajar. We were trying to find a reasonable circuit before it got too hot. Suffice to say we did call in the back up and got picked up but let’s say it was because the dog had walked too far! A very sturdy Tibetan Terrier who was not unlike us put off by steep climbs!

We used a walking guide and map put together by an english couple. And it is very useful. It is true to say that signposting isn’t always clear and a compass and sense of direction helps. There are also many private paths to fincas but it was not too hard and each walk took about two hours to our destination. Any route with Castano at the end point must mean a climb up the valley and the peak of Castano is one of the highest point in the Sierra at about 700m.

Again at present it is the small things underfoot which have caught our attention and some of the black pigs growing freely in fields but destined to become expensive Jabugo ham! Below are pictures of Tibetan Terrier, Spanish Festoon butterfly, oil beetles and a nosy black pig!