Tag Archives: Biodiversity

Changing seasons:Changing times. At the Crossroads! 

A summer of sunflowers. Stopping at a crossroads with sunflowers stretching out in all directions. I pause on our long journey back home south to finca Navasola to get a good shot. Last year I missed the opportunity to take photos of sunflower fields and by September all the bright faces had gone. Carpe Diem or Sieze the Day, especially for photos! Here we were in the middle of rural France after a short break to see Monet’s Garden and my cousin. It seems like the only holiday we’ve had this year but let’s not be ungracious as living at Navasola is a joy, if at times hard work.

I will try and post on Monet’s garden and other gardens soon but the busy schedule of 2017 is coming to fruition with an Autumn birth. We hope soon to meet my first grandchild  and I have been back and forth, north and south, throughout the past few months helping with all the changing of houses and stuff that seems to arise around pregnancy and birth. Changing times for us all as the seasons change and we wait for the birth.

Colour schemes in one part of Monet’s Garden.
I have also been busy with my novel with lots of careful revisions and editing. I’ve finally taken courage, thanks to a blogging friend, Sarah at Wildfomelody,  who has read some of the novel and told me to have the courage of my characters and so I have sent off the first few chapters to one literary agent. This felt like a big step alongside the fear of rejection. I have several more agents I have researched and will now need to be persistent in following this through. It’s 4 weeks and I have had no response but this is supposed to be the norm. It would be good to have even an automated acknowledgement though. I feel inclined to now try the next agent that I think might be interested in my writing.

One blogger has a good description of writing a novel as giving birth. Unfortunately,  it reminded me too of the incredible work of the strongest muscle, the uterus as it builds up to that final push. Thankfully that’s not my role as an expectant grandmother and I’m not sure I wish to relate to the pain involved in childbirth to the process of writing. Does much good writing have to emerge from painful experiences or be painful?

I replied to James Clark http://jamesclarkthenextiteration.wordpress.com/ that I thought my creative writing has been more like my attempts to dig away at a vegetable garden than childbirth. It’s also taken me longer than 9 months, two years in fact, but I suppose like the gardening I haven’t been able mentally to work away at it full time. It has had growth spurts and then some resting periods but hopefully I have strengthened the roots and pruned away at some rather straggly bits. Sometimes I wonder why I bother with the garden or the writing but I love doing both even when the heat and flies drive me crazy.

As so far there has been no response from the first agent  I need to keep up the water pressure or try a different fertiliser so I can reach out further and hope the novel will take root in some literary agent’s rather full garden and be able to bloom into a publication. This seems to be the way in the UK now as most credible publishers only accept submissions through agents.

I wonder as with the sunflowers that the land of publishing tends to be one of monoculture for mass audiences. Monoculture in farming tends to restrict biodiversity. Does this approach with publishing stifle our creativity and diversity of ideas? Should we carry on regardless of the ‘market’ ? Or how do we get our product to the market?

Blogging seems to create a supportive network but my understanding from other bloggers is that this will not fully get your vegetable or flowers onto many tables! As with my garden I will try different places, different seeds, and keep on with the joy of growing! I have more writing ideas that I wish to develop now and want to move on to the next project. I enjoyed the research and the seeds of ideas and  design of the whole garden of the novel coming together. Some areas were bright and full of breezes others more shady but the novel flowed and I have the momentum for more journeys for my characters.

Certainly,  the wild flowers of Navasola have great resilience to the changing seasons. So I too will need that resilience so that my novel can meet the outside world. Maybe the creative process is not just about birth but about the nurturing needed for a human child to pass through many stages of growth before blossoming into maturity.


Thanks to all who read and follow. I appreciate all the likes and comments. I am now off Northward, like my characters, and hoping for a not too difficult birth for my daughter and partner and a happy healthy baby for them to grow with!

 

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Gardens and Butterflies 

David Attenborough is asking folk in the U.K. to help with a butterfly survey. The numbers of British butterflies seem to be going into a decline. There has been a lot of interest in gardening for wildlife and it was hoped that bees and butterflies could be recovering but there have been a range of factors affecting numbers and particular species.
Here are some of the butterflies I was fortunate enough to photograph at Navasola in May and June. I love the wild plants and flowers here and these seem to support a variety of wildlife but I have been delighted that my efforts in creating some small patches of garden have not only paid off with a range of flowers but also brought these beautiful butterflies close by.
Last year I was given some Sweet Williams by a friend nearby. These were planted last year and survived August heat and bloomed beautifully from the end of April to June. I hope these will self seed but I have collected seeds too. I may also be lucky and get a second show of flowers from the same plants next year. Seeing how these flowers have attracted a range of butterflies and bees means they are a must for any wildlife garden and nature lover.

Please let me know any hardy flowers that have attracted butterflies in your gardens and parks. Of course the eggs and larva also need very specific plants too and these are often wild ones that are seen as weeds. Enjoy!

Who is looking at who? A Cardinal in the Sierra Aracena.
A newly hatched Cardinal spreading its wings out to dry.
A fritillary we struggled to fully identify. Visited at same time as the Cardinal.
Swallowtail heaven!

A Meadow Brown keeping an eye on me!

All taken by me but with a LUMIX camera borrowed from my naturalist friend and artist.

Faial and Pico. Volcanic island Vacations

To arrive on the island of Faial in the Azores archipelago of nine islands you have to fly or take a very long boat ride.The low carbon emission way would be to sail there. For a land lubber like me who suffers from sea sickness it’s not an option. For those who live on the islands aeroplanes have brought prosperity and may just have halted total environmental degradation of the islands. Ironic , perhaps but tourism is now both important for the economy and for the natural protections needed. Marine research is also based here.

Ahh, there we are. Pico's peak. All in a cloud change.
Ahh, there we are. Pico’s peak. All in a cloud change.

Whale watching instead of whale hunting brings a different kind of work.  EU support for restoration of biodiversity has also brought an end to the total decline of the very special island flora and fauna. It’s a fascinating place for botanists, marine biologists, and all those who love the sea, islands and the power of nature. To be honest, nature needs us to visit and help nurture all these projects as well as the people on these far off islands.

In the mid Atlantic these islands have  been formed from activity deep within the earth along the tectonic plates of the American and European continents. The last volcanic eruption on Faial was in 1958 and there was an earthquake in 1998 which caused damage. On our first full day on Faial and staying in the main town and trans Atlantic sailing harbour of Horta we were taken on a tour of the island by Alda from a local travel firm. As we had not hired a car we took a tour with her. She had grown up in the valley of Flamengos and showed us the local church that had been finally rebuilt after the earthquake. Her mother remembered the volcanic explosions in 1958. We visited the new volcanic land of Capellinos with her.

We also met an American Azorean whose family had left because of the destruction of their town on the North West of the island. His father had hunted whales and it had been the main industry there. 50 years or more later, his son, who was two when the volcano erupted,has returned. He helps tourists understand some of the many innovative projects that have been a part of Faial’s history; such as the transatlantic cables laid down across the ocean.

Tiles in memory of the victims of the Capelinhos volcanic eruption.
Tiles in memory of the victims of the Capelinhos volcanic eruption.

The capital Horta has been a very cosmopolitan place and welcoming port. Sailing and Peter’s cafe are part of the maritime history as well as the whaling museums of the whale hunting past.

A sailing tradition for good luck before sailing on from Horta. Paintings of boats are all over the harbour walls and floors.
A sailing tradition for good luck before sailing on from Horta. Paintings of boats are all over the harbour walls and floors.

The colonisation of these islands by the Portuguese navigators and explorers means that we were welcomed to Europe on one of its furthest points west. For me the islands are a microcosm of our recent colonial histories. All nine islands were discovered by the Portuguese from the 1400s. All were forested and had probably been undisturbed for millenia.

The birds, wind and sea had brought plant and other forms of life to these islands. Human beings brought axes and civilisation.The native forests were cut back and the rich brought exotic plants such as hydrangeas which were used as new hedges. Many types of farming have been tried.

Individual vegetable plots with high hedges to protect plants from the sea salt and wind.
Individual vegetable plots with high hedges to protect plants from the sea salt and wind.
Park in Horta with enmic Draco tree in background and the ubiquitous introduced hydrangea. Blue on iron filled soil.
Park in Horta with endemic Draco tree in background and the ubiquitous introduced hydrangea. Blue on iron filled soil.

Monoculture farming has had and is having its impact. There have been orange plantations but a disease destroyed those and at present it is mainly dairy! There have been changes and for many of the islands it has been tough surviving in these island paradises. But it has also been tough on the unique plants and creatures that first inhabited these islands and evolved here.

Imported Cow culture under endemic juniper tree .Each island produces tasty cheese for export.
Imported Cow culture under endemic juniper tree .Each island produces tasty cheese for export.

Can responsible tourism help restore the biodiversity and be sustainable? I think those who live on the islands would welcome this. Certainly we found everyone there very welcoming.

I shall try and create a series of posts about our trip to Faial and link in with our visit to San Miguel from last January . It was certainly a very welcome break and the beauty of Pico and Faial haunt us. We would like to return.

Back home: June at Navasola, Wild flowers and Wicked ways. Never pick wild flowers. No recoge las flores salvaje.

‘Wild flowers are for everyone to enjoy. Leave them alone.’ The photo is of a wild iris for all to admire, part of the ecosystem for bees and pollinators, the plant needs to fulfil its life cycle to survive and reproduce.  Never pick wild flowers. No recogas flores salvajes. Some are very rare now and some extinct. Many are extremely poisonous. Best left alone!

I have spent over a month away from Navasola. While I have experienced snow in Dorset, spring  breezes in Rhodes and hot weather in London and Manchester during April and May the weather here in the South of Spain has been mainly wet. This desperate downfall of water has created an abundance of growth: wild flowers, bracken and high grasses. My vegetable garden is hard to see and also the rock flower garden. But with a bit of work I am getting it less sneeze inducing and for better or worse a bit less wild. I struggle with this but need a few patches where I can try and grow things. This is where I have to discern rare flowers from less rare but all have their part and I love seeing how so many can self seed. I leave many but the cultivated ones struggle to survive if overgrown with the wild ones!  Below is the view from my sanctuary window after a bit of work. I moved the lemon balm which had gone mad and put in a rose from Ruth. There are some wild ones in the photo, a local lily,  three wild alliums  and some to be named! This type of red rose is cultivated and irrigated in this area. It flowers for a long time and the bees love it.

new card April 24 to June 6th 2016 1591

new card April 24 to June 6th 2016 1587

 

 

 

 

 

I have been busy in the UK visiting friends, family and two lovely weddings and for the last week I have had friends and family to stay with me here. We have walked around the finca and found lots of different wild flowers and exuberant growth. Lotti, Ruth’s dog also found where the boar had been taking mud baths and had left their two toe prints. For a short while we had had a stream running into our pond and out the other side. I could have grown rice!

There are also lots of wild iris and foxglove about. Higher up on the hillside it is covered with pink silene and some white ones. There are also lots of yellow flowers and tolpis with tiny white snowflake flowers close to the ground. Too hard to photograph the beauty of such a spread.

Last year outside our gate there was a beautiful wild orchid which I photographed but not clearly enough. This year I was sent a message and we joked and using the expression from the German New Year comedy ‘same procedure as last year’ . Unfortunately, this year within the last few days, someone has come and picked the flower stem.  It seems that the wild iris  is picked too. It is such a shame when wild flowers are interfered with and the orchids are rare. I can only hope that the main part of the plant will be able to flower again. I’m sure it was my parents who used to say wild flowers are for everyone to enjoy, leave them alone. Now, it is a conservation issue too. Too much of the wild is being lost by human hands.

Wild gladioli outside the gate to Navasola
Wild gladioli outside the gate to Navasola

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Thapsia, tall and elegant on the verge.
Thapsia, tall and elegant on the verge.

new card April 24 to June 6th 2016 1477

 

 

 

Now I am back I hope to catch up with as many of you as I can  while trying to grow my own veg and finish that novel about the wild ones.

Botany and Birds: Early to mid Spring at Navasola.

bl grape hyacinth frosty days end Feb march 2016 085
Grape hyacinth, muscari botryoides
Teuchrium
Teuchrium fruticans
bl celandine frosty days end Feb march 2016 078
Celandine, lesser, ficaria verna, invasive in USA but native here and few and far between!

The first flowers and blossoms for early Spring have been the wild grape hyacinth and celandine. However, the wild Viburnum Tinus has been breaking into bud from January. The Teuchrium too and the simple gorse seem to keep a few flowers through the winter months and this seems to help the white tailed bumble bees. These two plants have been flowering for a long time but are full of their blossoms now.

Mimosa in March
Mimosa in March

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The mimosa was planted by a previous owner and is incredibly invasive. Very pretty in March but its roots come up everywhere near the house and created quite a jungle. I am concerned about trying to keep the native flora here as it is so pretty and well adapted to the climate. I really do not need to think about planting a garden even though I try and the frost seems to harm many plants.  I am still finding my way with the climate here. We are a microclimate and lemon trees cannot grow here but will be fine about 6 miles away. I have lost quite a few plants to the February frosts. But the wild ones stay strong.

Viburnum Tinus, Raven in clouds above?
Viburnum Tinus, Raven in clouds above?

 

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Wild viburnum now in full bloom but has had some flowers from January.

 

Wild Viburnum Tinus
Wild Viburnum Tinus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now the semi wild plum blossoms are fading and the cherry is coming out. I think the Buff tailed bumblebees are now getting ready and taking advantage of the tree blossoms. In the chestnut orchards the wild peonies are beginning to bud, along with Solomons Seal and the dreaded bracken. There are also signs of many other wild flowers and hopefully the wild foxglove. More on these later.

Buff Tailed Bumblebee, April 2016, by Ruth Konigsberger.
Buff Tailed Bumblebee, April 2016, by Ruth Konigsberger.

 

Peoni broteri bud Early April 2016
Peoni broteri bud Early April
Navasola East hillside with winged broom and halimiumWinged broomGenista sagittalis

 

 

 

Halimium on the yellow hillside
Halimium on the yellow hillside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up the east side of the valley is the yellow hillside. Here a different kind of gorse or broom is prevalent; arrow or genista sagittalis and is the first to flower in Spring followed by the Spanish broom. The common gorse isn’t found here and this hill becomes hot and dry in the summer and has a different flora to the valley and west side.

 

 

 

 

 

The blog ‘ Culture of Awareness‘ gave me a link to a plant identification app of Western Europe developed in France. Plant net. This has helped with some common flowers and a beautiful yellow Early Star of Bethlehem by the rocks at the front of the house.

Early Star of Bethlehem, gagea bohemica
Early Star of Bethlehem, gagea bohemica

 

Charlock
Charlock, sinapsis arvensis,

 

Cats eye
Cats ear, hypochaeris radicata

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I often say the birds are so wild here and it is difficult to photo them but we were very lucky to have a visiting flock of bullfinches. Near Ruth’s house are the golden Orioles , high up in the poplars. Too difficult to capture, yet! A little nearer to the house she managed a shot of a pretty warbler. These are quite common here. Many warblers have recently arrived from Africa although the chiff chaff might be resident. We have also heard the bee eaters high above with their high notes. Oh and of course the collection of Ravens which inspired my poem and many of the commoyn woodland birds. Blue, Great,long tailed and crested tits, robins, wrens, nuthatches, blackcaps, redstarts, goldcrests and a range of warblers. All fly around the old oak and cork nearby but they never stay long in one place! All are too busy to pose for a photo. Spring is here and so is the contrast of warm sunny days and heavy April showers.

Warbler of some kind by Ruth Konigsberger
Warbler of some kind by Ruth Konigsberger, chiff chaff or willow.
bl bullfinch againfrosty days end Feb march 2016 077
Bullfinch in tree by olives.

Quote post 3: We do not own the world, and its riches are not ours to dispose of at will.

We do not own the world, and its riches are not ours to dispose of at will. Show a loving consideration for all creatures, and seek to maintain the beauty and variety of the world. Work to ensure that our increasing power over nature is used responsibly, with reverence for life. Rejoice in the splendour of God’s continuing creation.   (Advices and Queries No.42, Quaker Faith and Practice)

Today on the third day of this quote challenge I am using one of the advices from a less well known little red book but one that has inspired me to think about the tradition and spirituality of Quakerism. There are 42 main advices and queries and these are in a small red book. These come from the collective thoughts and wisdom over the almost 400 years of the Quaker tradition and are from the gathered thoughts of individuals and group meetings. I quite like the idea of individuals and groups of people relying more on experience than on a hierarchy of knowledge. There are also many Quaker action groups and although in particular the peace testimony is more well known there are groups concerned with inter faith dialogue, homelessness and housing, and sustainable living.

I like this quote because it shows the respect we should give the natural world and although there may be some I know who are uneasy with the use of the word God I think that finally there is a turning point in religious groups about the way we are systematically destroying so much of this earth. I welcome the Pope’s contribution  and have just bought a diary from a Spanish charity which is church based ( Manos Unidas) with a strong focus on environmental justice for people growing food around the world.

The photographs are the last in the series taken by Ruth Koenigsberger ( See previous quote challenges and Autumn Walks)  We took a walk down the Galaroza path one evening in January past these old beauties in the new pine woods. The old chestnuts seem to have different personalities and faces. Such maturity. Oh to be old and wise as these trees. Or dead and still standing?

P1000498 copia P1000500 copia

Quote Challenge 3

For this quotechallenge I want to show some blogs which have a very close concern for the protection of biodiversity. Extinction is a key threat to many species through a range of man-made effects on the environment. From small plants, insects, to the great mammals that need so much wild space these blogs and many others help me to understand more about precious ecosystems and the work being done to conserve and protect.

Thanks to Jenny in her Kiwi garden for nominating me. She has inspired me to try 3 consecutive days of blogging and get linking.

jennylitchfield.wordpress.com

1. Theresagreen A blog from Wales but also with links to other nature blogs on the blog roll and her very informative blog of when she was in Spain.  and now in  Wales

2.  http://huggers.ca/  Matthew posts about environmental news and his post on wolves with the figure estimated of only 186000 left in the world is a sad comment on the lack of responsibility there has been and still is to the wild world.

3. http://fightforrhinos.com/about/  This speaks out for the desperate need to protect the ever dwindling rhino populations in Africa from poaching.

If any of the nominated blogs wish to take part in the challenge then the idea is to do the following. But no compulsion this is supposed to be fun and if you have the time!

  • Post for three consecutive days
  • Posts can be one or three quotes per day
  • Nominate three different blogs per day

As this challenge comes to an end I shall take a rest and get back to my novel. ( 36000 words so far so I must finish it!)  I am aware that there are many more blogs out there that I would like to feature or credit in some way. Theresagreen has a blog roll which is useful and I will try and follow suit with a similar nature blog roll of those I have come across. I will also try and simplify layout and categories.

Thanks for taking time to read and those who follow me I really appreciate the interest taken. Comments are also very welcome.