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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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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Fly by butterfly, butterfly fly by!

Much of my work over the past few weeks has been helped along by constant pauses to watch the butterflies so close by along the path. There have been quite a variety but the Cardinal took pride of place and was not bothered by a sweaty woman with a wheelbarrow.image

Other butterflies have been the yellow ones, clouded yellow and the cleopatra, and the wood and meadow browns along with some sightings of the two tailed pasha and scarce swallowtail. These have not allowed me to photograph them just yet.

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

A short walk into our Finca Navasola in June.

The entrance to Finca Navasola.
The entrance to Finca Navasola.

imageHere are some views along the path from the front gate through Navasola East to the house. It is now looking more like a house and although a lot of work is still to be done on the inside I think I can start clearing some of the building rubbish. We are still waiting to install the solar and then to sort out the wood burning stove and hot water for the cold winters.  The trucks have to deliver along this path so we are hoping this will be successful this week.

At present quite pleasant and in the mid 20s for June.  There is pleasant shade from the chestnuts in full leaf and bloom, the olives, madrono ( arbutus unedo) and different oaks.

The house at Navasola: June 2014
The house at Navasola: June 2014

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View walking down the hill from the gate. Chestnuts and pines on other side of the valley.
View walking down the hill from the gate. Chestnuts and pines on other side of the valley.

When we first saw the Finca over 10 years ago I fell in love with this first path through the woods . We did not really fall in love with the old house and it is still our main struggle but the landscape of the Finca was quite interesting and varied so that is why we bought the place!

We  love the subtle differences and the different types of flora over such a small acreage. The flower shown was the only one seen of its kind on the main path. It has withstood being brushed by builder’s trucks over the last week. It is a type of thistle / knapweed.F rom the Guide to Wild flowers of the Mediterranean I think  it is Mantisalca salmantica, once labeled as a centaurea. In English part of the knap weed family. Navasola  has a tremendous range of biodiversity for a small acreage.

PostScript . Solar panels have been delivered to the gate and we had to carry each one ourselves to the house!   Will post more on that later. And butterflies galore, I particular large cardinals.

Inspired by Keats,gardens, and a poetry workshop by Daljit Nagra

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The peony poem in one of my previous posts inspired me to try out a poetry workshop at Keats’ House during the Keats’ festival. I was also interested to find out that the poet Daljit Nagra was to take over as poet in residence there and was leading this workshop on how to write an ode. I have followed from a distance Daljit Nagra’s progress from an aspiring English teacher in a school I worked at to an inspiring poet and much quoted now from many GCSE anthologies. He is a truly modern British poet and very innovative not just with ideas but also language.

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We attempted a Sapphic ode and this meant we had to be concise and focus on a tight structure. This was to be the slightly longer length of 11 syllables to 3 lines and the fourth line with five. Instead of a more traditional 10 syllable the 11 suggests a more ‘falling’ tragic tone.  We were introduced to terms used for poetic structure but the focus of this ode was to address a person with a sense of absence, loss, time passing.  As an example we were shown a modern ode written with this structure and the example was very moving but also was inspired by a poet I was introduced to when I stayed in Karachi in 1984. Faiz Ahmed Faiz.
We had to go and sit in the garden of Keats house and had about 25 minutes to write a Sapphic style ode! My mind was filled with so many memories of Chris Abbas and her garden in Karachi. It had lovely trees and flowers but also a little white dog, a parrot and a turkey she had been given for Christmas and had kept rather than ate. The dog inspired my Jabbu Jabbu stories. His name was Jabbu and he was a cheeky miniature Samoyed type dog. Chris was a trained artist from the Slade school and she had met her husband, Ghulam Abbas, an Urdu short story writer, in London. They had had three daughters and lived in Karachi but sadly she had recently been widowed. She had invited us to stay with her while I was volunteering to help children learn to read. She had many inspiring artistic ways of helping children draw and trace letters.

All of theses memories were flooding into my mind and I had to cut out so much in order to write an ode to her but the parallel of sitting in an English garden and enjoying time with her in her Karachi garden seemed to be the focus. I was able to feel I finished an ode and reading it out later at the workshop it seemed to work. Now as I reflect on it and have more time to count the syllables accurately I am not so sure! I also feel I want to slightly change the structure by adding just a few more lines! Writing seems to be such a difficult art as there are many ways to express ideas but it needs to feel right or fitting.
The poem isn’t quite ready yet but is an ode to her and her inspiring and diverse garden. In the blog are some pictures of Keat’s house and garden and it is here that he wrote some of his most famous poems in his very short life. The window view is from his upstairs study.

 

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Consider the lilies: Consider the bins! A walk through the mean streets of Manchester!

imageimageConsider the lilies:  Consider the bins!

imageA walk through some Manchester streets to Whitworth park showed an interesting variety of care for the environment. In some key streets there were so many gardens with great  white lilies and other flowers, but certainly the lilies were outstanding. Unfortunately there was also a lot of litter and overflowing bins not far away.  How some people can show so much care and then so nearby there are bins that could be cleared of the rubbish shows the variety of human attitudes there are. It  is not fair on those that take a pride in their surroundings and go the extra mile to grow and water flowers.  Manchester City council has a system similar to North Lincs where the bins are only collected every other week. Well!  Well done to the London Borough of Hounslow that collects and recycles every week. Sad to say the streets here in my local area would be far worse if this was not the case.

Whitworth park was founded by Joseph Whitworth around 1890 and as an industrialist he gave the land and created a park with a boating lake for the people of the city of Manchester. How many corporations are buying prime real estate in cities and  giving it to the people who live there as a green open space ?Are the city planners allowing for more green space as the need for building more homes, bigger schools increases and developers want to gain as much profit as possible from land bought?   Are there any more benevolent capitalists like Joseph Whitworth?

imageThere are charities like the wildlife trusts that buy land for conservation of wildlife and rely on the contributions of ordinary folk.

 

 

Some of the photos show how people in Manchester do care about having gardens and alleyways with flowers, small plots of green, and support for their green spaces. Manchester City Council has recycling bins but could maybe step up to having some of those bins collected more often than twice a week!

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And the symbolism of Lilies? Well, one was Cleanliness!  From a bit of Internet trawling the biblical lilies of the field in Palestine might not have been white; possibly red.  It seems that lilies might have been a very generic term like daisies.  Maybe Jesus was referring to a wide variety of flowers from the Liliaceae family with a variety of colours.

 

So from the sacred insight to the more profane. We humans love to appropriate the world around us. If lilies are used to represent death, loss and funerals they can also be symbolic of birth and reproduction Look carefully inside the lily. White Lilies are supposed to have a pistil like a phallus and be highly erotic. This is from the Greeks who also felt the pollen symbolised fertility. No close up photos at present! Well I was asked to spice up my blog!

Some extracts from internet on Lily symbolism and myth.

Purity, modesty, virginity, majesty, it’s heavenly to be with you. The white lily is linked to Juno, the queen of the gods in Roman mythology, by the story that while nursing her son Hercules, some excess milk fell from the sky creating the group of stars we call the Milky Way, and lilies were created from what milk fell to the earth. The Easter lily is also known as the symbol of the Virgin Mary.

(I have just read  an  intriguing fictional insight into a Mary’s  grief , by Colm Tobin ‘The Testament of Mary’)

 

And from the Tarot, there are three cards which have lilies portrayed in them!  The magician one looked the closest resemblance to white lilies in the background.

I have been told my garden in Spain is surviving my absence while visiting family and friends in the UK.  Thanks to friends there! Maybe I will be back in time to see if my lilies are still in bloom. The wild part will hopefully have had some rain but from now there can be long periods of dry weather.

 

Supporting the Natural World, Donana Bird Fair, Conservation issues.

Lynx artwork at the visitor centre hosting the Birdfair.
Lynx artwork at the visitor centre hosting the Birdfair.

At present in the UK and in the rain! I had wanted to post this about a week ago and have been busy visiting friends and attending a Quaker conference on ‘Creating Peace in a Violent World’ At times the prospects of peace in terrible conflicts seems daunting but there are many ways to be actively peaceful. This might not mean a peaceful life and can be challenging when so much needs to be challenged. There also seems to be so much violence inflicted on our environment and I hope that all these newly elected MEPs will take this up rather than focus on the fine or distracting details of migrating humans. There is so much irony in the economic sense of the word’growth’ Can sustainable growth exist ?

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In Spain the SEO organise a bird fair on the outskirts of the Donana Reserve and have been celebrating 60 years of campaigning for birds and habitats. SEO would benefit from an even wider base of support within Spain but are part of Birdlife International which includes the RSPB in the UK. These organisations have to work tirelessly to defend habitats for wildlife and to look into the complex issues affecting our environment. When we visited the bird fair we were fortunate to see all the tree nesting storks in the area, flamingos swimming in the lake, birds of prey, bee eaters and a tiny siskin as we were guided around the reserve Dehesa de Abajo. The SEO have a very good website and now there are the Latin names, Spanish names and English ones!

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We also met up again with Rafa, a young and passionate naturalist who has created many books now on identifying birds in our area the Sierra Aracena and books on trails across the Sierra Morena. Later in the day we went to another part of the areas on the outskirts of Donana and saw the glossy ibis and different types of herons. We also had ourselves photographed by Natura Red with a butterfly gesture for nature. The organisation is supported by the EU and other wildlife organisations and the aim is to keep the network of wild places and habitats across the EU free from exploitation.

Donana is always under some threat and there have been pollution disasters here. However there are successes and the bird life is vibrant along with the breeding of the endangered and beautiful lynx. But there are always threats and on return to the UK there was an article in the RSPB magazine which mentioned the EU directives for nature ; Natura Red means Nature networks or web as Red is also the Spanish for the Internet /Web. Parts of Scotland were also mentioned as under threat of some form of development when these are protected spaces. An article in a Wildlife Trust magazine also tried to think outside the box and try to look at the economic benefit of keeping and extending wildlife habitats for both animals and people.

On arriving here in Humberside by the Humber Flats and estuary I read about the success of all the above organisations working with the companies involved in order to protect and develop habitats for the birds and more along this estuary.  A complex struggle to preserve or develop more suitable habitats. Every little helps but takes time and support for the smaller organisations trying to uphold wild spaces and the desperate need to create more whereas the big companies have finance and access to lawyers and a government often ready to overturn existing protection because there is a overriding ‘need’ for the development.
Below is another of the disturbing bird/man sculptures in the Dehesa de Abajo ‘s visitor centre exhibition!

 

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A poem for Peony: The Wild Peony Forest; cycle of change from March to May, paeonia broterii,

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.

Georgina Wright

 

 

Wild peony forest January/February

Mid May
Mid May, seed pod, ripening and hopefully fully fertilised by an amazing range of insects that have loved being inside this peony!
Part of peony forest in full bloom - April to May
Part of peony forest in full bloom – April to May
Early May
Early May
Pollination
Pollination, fully open to the sun and all insects!
The first Peony bloom in Navasola East, by an old chestnut, attracting insects.
The first Peony bloom in Navasola East, by an old chestnut, attracting insects. April.
Wild peony forest January/February
Wild peony forest –  Early March.
Peony Plot in Kew gardens. Over 30 different types of peonies and now reclassified!
Peony Plot in Kew gardens.
Over 30 different types of peonies and now reclassified!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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!

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Nature needs Nurture

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