Category Archives: Winter

Pelican Puzzle poem. Donde Estamos? Where are We?

image
Willow and Gingko

Am now in a very different place where there is sea all around and halfway between the USA and Europe. We are on holiday for Trevor’s significant birthday. However, this poem was written a little while ago  and was inspired by a walk in a famous park. I love many of the prompts given by Dverse poets prompts This one was about the surreal in the ordinary. The climate talks were also going on at the same time. It all felt quite surreal particularly as I recognised the Spanish words of a small child. I also wanted to do this walk in response to the blog  A Wildflower’s Melody.A wildflower Melody I love the serendipity of blogging. Also check out some amazing poems and advice, examples and interesting folk writing poetry for the Dverse Poets bar. http://Dversepoets.com I can’t keep up with it all!

 

Donde Estamos?   Where are We?  or  Pelican Puzzle Poem

 

Donde estamos a child says on a bridge

Crossing with his father near the edge

Familiar sounds in unfamiliar places

Familiar faces from high mountain passes

 

Donde Estamos?

Where are we?

 

Diverse ducks on rippling waters

Wild grey geese fly into land

Wild and tame take turns to feed

Clipped wings that long to be freed.

image

 

Donde estamos?

Where are we?

 

 

 

 

Diverse trees some bare, some dressed,

With gilded leaves at some royal behest,

Weeping willow leaves green may last

Next to the far flung Gingko holding fast

 

Donde Estamos ?

Where are We?

 

Black fisher birds perched up on rocks

Herons looking down form weather cocks

Cottage house with surely, organic veggie plots

Fresh fish arrives in plastic pots.

 

Donde Eastamos?

Where are We?

image

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great African White in grey December Park

Whose wingspan could rival the albatross

Grey squirrel on a grey man’s long grey arm

The wild we tame with foods ever constant charm.

image

 

Donde Estamos ?

Where are We?

 

 

 

 

 

Wild eyed Pelicans look down the lake

Pink footed geese fly past their palace.

A dull sky with flights of fancy passes by

A skyline of roofs with power to make us cry.

 

Donde Estamos?

Where are We?

 

Overlooked by one all seeing Eye

Chopper birds also above us in the sky.

Surveillance city sees us all, weather indifferent

To human fair or peace for species in our care.

 

Donde estamos?

Where are We?

image

 

A small sized beak cries out in hope

By a puffed up pigeon on a post.

Ancient birds with strange design

Greet us with a knowing look

Open up capacious beak that must be filled.

Talks and more talks, but act we must

Who are we to turn our backs?

 

Who are we?

 

Where are We?

Donde Estamos?

 

image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will be busy celebrating Trevor’s birthday and then travelling back from another rather surreal place.  Let us know if you know anything about where these Pelicans are or hopefully just enjoy the poem. Thanks again to Dverse poets for all their prompts and inspiration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clear Skies, Bright Stars. Advent and Hope for Peace.

Here is a seasonal post inspired by  Dverse Poets and the stars.

We are now back at Navasola and although the stars and the sun do shine very brightly here I will miss being with my daughters this Christmas. It will be our first Christmas outside the UK and our first at Navasola. We were first greeted in Seville with grey and overcast skies; same as in London and other parts of the UK over the past month.Today the sun has come out bright,warm and strong and with the clearer skies the stars too are shining bright in the very dark skies we have here in the Sierra Aracena.  The viburnum tinus berries are metallic and bright. A Sardinian warbler, great tit and jays were gathering food by the house and now and again a butterfly flies by! The vultures also enjoyed the thermals when I was out on a walk with Lotti and Ruth. See post on Autumn for Ruth’s photography and links to her art work. She inspires me to draw!

We are looking forward to finding out more about how Christmas is celebrated here and in particular the Feast of the Kings on the 5th and 6th of January. Here there are processions showing this part of the Nativity story and children get presents.

It is the end of another blogging year and I have been inspired by so many of the links made to Navasola through nature blogs and many others now. I have managed to read some books by Opher Goodwin and in particular Anthropocene Apocalypse and Ebola in the Garden of Eden. Both very good reads and with current concerns about the future of our planet. Opher Goodwin

 

I am also glad to be linked to Dverse poets who have managed to spark some poetic muse in me. The poem below is inspired by poems by Victoria Slotto and Bjorn Rudberg  about the stars. I have also linked to another poet Malcolm Guite and bought his book with poetry for Advent. These have inspired me to write this poem about the stars I saw above Navasola in the summer months.

Stars over Navasola

Above the silhouette of trees appear a clarity of stars
Numinous and numerous I search for one.
The childhood star my father saw I saw.
The Pole star’s perfect North still guiding some.

 

The wizened faces of the chestnut trees with me stare,
Abandoned olive branches touch the sky I seek to name,
With virtual app- titude we see the lights of Vega and Altair,
Bright threesome pulse with Deneb and the flighty swan.

 

An owl sounds out from Navasola East.

The moon still hides behind the hill.

Through the dark of earth and sky, wander many a beast.

Summer sounds and warmth surround me still.

 

 

Now in December’s dark chill drawn days,
Advent’s hope casts doubts on the prophecies of stars.
What and where is that bright star, the magi say?
How much to know, how far to go, to go, how far?

 

 

 

Wood, wood, burning bright. The poetry of kindling the right flame with the right wood.

We have spent many more months preparing for the cold of Winter  than for the warmth of Spring. Throughout Autumn I collected in some of the logs cut from the chestnuts over the past years. Getting the wood into shelter before the rains came and keeping it dry were major tasks.

Kindling the flame
Kindling the flame
Algarve Feb 2015 143
Stove from China, tank from Czech Republic, radiators from Spain

Meanwhile inside the house the central heating system of

Pollarded old chestnuts supply lots of fallen branches.
Pollarded old chestnuts supply lots of fallen branches.

radiators running off a wood burning stove was being completed.  We knew that we would need wood from our trees for the 3 months of possible frosty nights and temperatures below 10 degrees during the day. Some of  the olives had been pruned about 18 months ago and there was plenty of fallen chestnut.  We estimated we might need 4000 kg of wood to keep us humans warm through a mild winter by some standards. Maybe this is one large tree or several smaller ones. Our Finca of over 200 chestnuts and many other types of trees should allow us to have a sustainable system. Whether trees can really provide a sustainable source of warmth for the human race seems to depend on how well forests are protected and used for this purpose. It seems that quick growing wood and dense forests reduces the biodiversity that a truly mixed forest can offer.

Another source of our heating is butane gas heaters, expensive and quite effective for direct heat and warmth but heavy to carry! The wood burning stove with tank and radiators was part of solving the problem of heating in the winter. Many people we speak too with a lot of experience know that it is a challenge in our area. Our system looks a little complicated with lots of valves and pumps but it has supplied some heat and lovely hot baths BUT it needs a full time wood gatherer and then wood stoker to keep the fire burning!

However we still don’t feel we have managed to achieve an efficient system. We are often given advice on the type of wood we are burning and ensuring it is split. Mixing the woods seems key. I have also been under instruction to read The Wood Burning Stove Handbook and I of course find a poem written by that old codger Anon and with words of wisdom about the art of burning different types of wood.

Beechwood fires are bright and clear
If the logs are kept a year
Chestnuts only good they say
If for long it’s laid away
Birch and fir logs burn too fast
Blaze up fast and do not last
Elmwood burns like a churchyard mould
Even the very flames are cold
Poplar gives a bitter smoke
Fills your eyes and makes you choke
Apple wood will scent your room
With an incense like perfume
Oak and maple if dry and old
Will keep away the winter cold
But ash wood wet and ash wood dry
A king can warm his slippers by!

Wings of a butterfly to wildness of wild boar: Close encounters of the natural kind.

 

image

What is it that makes an encounter with a wild animal so fascinating and wonderful. It seems to me like a privilege that you are able to see one and at a safe distance in the case of the more threatening ones! We know there are boar on the Finca. We see evidence of their digging, in particular around the path up to the studio.It is a rocky and grassy path and full of wild flowers such as candytuft in the summer. I also had to go to some expense to have a boar proof fence around my new Huerta or allotment patch for vegetables. Fidel who helps us with the chestnut harvest once asked if he could hunt them. Mr T rang me up and got my most adamant reply NO! So they are quite happy here being destructive with the rocky walls, digging up the earth and making it rough to walk over, clearing pathways through the undergrowth and finding enough to eat. In Spain there is a boar hunting season and we had a man chase a boar though the Finca with his dogs once. I only saw the undergrowth move fast but later a dog with a collar and bell appeared and for a while we were wondering what to do with the dog. There are No hunting signs around the campsite and these are areas where people live and walk so again the most dangerous animal is a man with a gun.

Yesterday as I got out of the car to unlock the gate, about 2 on. Rainy afternoon. I pushed the gate open on one side and looked down towards the crest of a hill dipping down the path. For me it seemed like a great big dog appeared, blackish, about the size of a German shepherd dog. I thought at first it was maybe our friend Rainers’s dog but it looked rather grey around the muzzle .
It turned up onto the path and looked to cross. I realised then it must be a boar. It stopped on the path and turned its head round. For a few moments I was staring at the boar and the boar was staring at me. I must have been very still and the boar was motionless until it turned its head agin and wandered off across the path. Mr T was quite indignant that I hadn’t told him and he got out of the car and went down the path to see if the boar was still nearby. He had never seen one on the Finca but had several years ago taken some pictures of some young ones with one of those night automatic infra red cameras. I think it must have been a male and I have twice in the past almost run over one crossing a main road. This is a reminder to me that they are big but not usually about during the daytime. I might now have to take my walks around the Finca with my Spanish boar stick and thudding the ground with it but of course that might ensure I have no more close wild encounters. Usually these wild ones keep well clear of us if we are not to be prey!

The other close encounter was with a butterfly. It was a beautiful evening with the sun just about to disappear behind the hill to the west of our small boat shaped valley. The shadows of the chestnuts in the Navasola west fields were getting longer but I saw a lump of old broken off chestnut with the sun shining fully on it. It looked like a warm place to sit and soak up the last rays of the sun. Then something fluttered by, surely not, a butterfly in January? As I tried to follow it and perhaps identify it it landed on that piece of old wood. A good spot in the sun for a butterfly to warm its wings before a cold night. I couldn’t move but just stared down at it. It’s wings were large with bright red. It stayed there quite a while. I even thought I might have been able to go back for my camera! The butterfly and I just warming ourselves in the sun. When it finally flew off I went and sat on the wood where the butterfly had warmed its wings. I stayed there until the sun dipped down enjoying a time of quiet reflection on small things and inner delight. Ahh… A red admiral, that had been hibernating over winter and had woken with the warmth of a January sunny day here in Andalucia. My photo is of one taken at the Martin Mere Wetlands centre in Lancashire in the UK. Need to go back to my iPhone in my pocket for those sudden photo opportunities when least expecting a close encounter!

January 2015:Signs of Spring and Autumn in Winter Back at Finca Navasola

From the frosty hollow up through my magical path to the front entrance. Cold today!
From the frosty hollow up through my magical path to the front entrance. Cold today!

i arrived back a week later than planned and to the same kind of cold and rainy weather but

Half a daisy Jan 2015
Half a daisy Jan 2015

when the sun shone everything brightened up with a luminosity only to be found in Andalucia, land of light. I didn’t expect to see flowers and the landscape indeed looked wintry. But this is contrasted by the dancing brilliance of the leaves in the olive groves as you look up the rocky hillside. On my first walk around I did find quite a lot of Viburnum Tinus in part bloom. This wild shrub is abundant here and part of the natural flora along with the Madrono ( Arbutus Unedo) and Lentiscus. The viburnum was the first photo on my blog last January with its dark metallic berries in the rain! That was thanks to the iPhone and this year I am trying a lumix bridge camera but it requires more effort in uploading and I do not always walk around with a slightly heavier item!  With not being on constant wifi it is also difficult to get the right connections but I will keep trying.

 

Viburnum Tinus January 2015
Viburnum Tinus January 2015

 

 

Yellow marguerites in rock garden, January 2015.
Yellow marguerites in rock garden, January 2015.

I also didn’t expect to see many flowers in the garden but there was a solitary anemone and some of the winter flowering marguerites in bloom. These are a welcome yellow in the winter and found planted in the nearby town of Aracena, along with all the oranges on the trees. Although we are only a few miles away we have more ground frost so it is not really possible for oranges and my hibiscus did look the worst for wear so I dug it up and brought it inside. However, there were a few wild flowers in bloom besides the viburnum. Up by the water deposit, a wild daisy with half the petals missing! On the sunny studio side some of the yellow rock rose was attempting to flower( Halimium atriplifolium) and also some celandine and some small vetch in my self seeding plot in the rock garden.

Just before my magical path goes up the hill from the frosty hollow in the photo you can walk down to the old huerta ( a Spanish name for vegetable plot, market garden area) This is where we have dug our new wildlife pond and there are some Mirbeck Oaks. There are at least 5 different kinds of oaks on the Finca but these are particularly striking in the sun in the winter as they don’t seem to lose their leaves but the colours change into those autumn brown and reds. This part of the Finca; Navasola East,North is where I used to see rabbits but haven’t for a long time. The beech marten also turned up here but sadly for his demise as he was drowned in a water butt which some passing person had stolen the lid off in our absence.

Mirbeck oaks
Mirbeck oaks

Festive fun and fears from snowy, sunny, Sheffield. And Happy New YEAR to new year babies and to us all!

imageAfter Christmas in Manchester with my daughter and friends we set off to cross the Pennines to visit friends in Sheffield. There was no sign of snow in Manchester but as we approached the edge of the city we could see snow on the hills. This short but high journey across the spine of England is one I have the utmost respect for. For England these are high hills( yes, I know) and attract harsh weather conditions. Maybe this is our only experience of isolation although not far from several major northern cities. There are several high road passes and these can be closed in bad weather. Many years ago I traveled across the motorway pass with an American friend in her great big jeep. As to why an enormous American jeep broke down on one of the most remote parts of any English motorway when the snow was setting in for the night, I have no answers for. However, this is why I have a respect for wild places where humans shouldn’t be in the snow, or a fear! We were  finally rescued by the local police and taken away from the vehicle. Some may think little ‘ole’ England hasn’t any really high mountains and usually has mild weather. But some of the moorlands can be quite dangerous when the weather takes a turn for the worse. This can happen very quickly and walkers need to beware and take care too.

We headed up and over the Woodhead Pass in steady but slow moving traffic. It was very heavy with fog and there were few good views until we got to the Sheffield side and then there was snow and sun galore over the hills. I hadn’t seen snow like that for a while.
image

In Sheffield most of the roads were well gritted except the suburban side roads. These were probably the most treacherous with compacted ice. But we had arrived in good time, with the sun shining. So what do you do with a two and half year old. Out we went into the pristine snow of the garden and made footprints and then a snow cat. No, not a snow man, the snow was too soft and attention spans for both  of us quite short. Instead we built a snow cat and collected twigs for whiskers.
image

The following day, in brilliant sunshine we headed out along well gritted country roads and into the Loxley Valley. The village of Bradfield and the reservoirs looked stunning in the snow.  I love to come out of Sheffield into the hills as once I lived and taught in this once great city of steel. ( En route we had passed Stocksbridge and saw the sign TATA, now the steel industry that is left is owned by  the mighty industrialists of India) The head teacher knew that many of our students never had or took the opportunity of a bus ride into the country and so each year the whole school would be taken out for a sponsored walk around the Ladybower reservoir.  The beginnings of environmental education.

We walked around the  Bradfield village green. covered with snow men, not cats, and also saw the orange bicycle sculptures. These were left over from the Tour De France….EE by gum, Yorkshire section. The hills round here were supposed to have been the steepest for the cyclists. I know this well, as once years ago…. my dear Ford diesel Escort got stuck going up one of the hills. This really is not a dig at American cars.  Maybe I should have had a bicycle instead!  Or maybe I need to get on my bike now and work off festive food and carbon foot prints. A resolution for the new year…..

Hoping we all have a prosperous and more sustainable 2015 and so all the new generation, one born today on New Year’s Day, can enjoy the wonders of this planet. Congratulations to the parents, grandparents and Great Grand Mama of the Manchester new year new born babe!