April is here in Navasola and the warblers have arrived and in full song. There seems to have been so much happening that I have lost the routine of blogging but have often taken photos and thought of posts I could write! So here are some images of my nature journey at Navasola and nearby over the past three months. There have been other journeys and certainly there is a lot to think about in the world today and particularly for the environmental health of the planet we and so many other species depend on. But for now this is about the beauty of nature and perhaps this is a way for me to do some ‘warm up’ writing Continue reading 100 Days almost of Blogger’s block!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
From a very lush and wet warm summer in London, through the beautiful greens of France, stained glass of Chartres, Cloudy heights of the Pyrennes, Cool air of Bejar, to the hot and dry Sierra Aracena. However, the Sierra is always green in summer because of its varied trees; chestnuts, oaks and various poplars and willow.
The red admiral landed happily on the sunflower planted by my daughter in London. She loves the garden, birds but is not so sure about the flying insect world! The wild bit at the back with nettles helps the red admiral thrive.
Arriving at our finca there were few wild flowers. It’s the wild carrot time and a few yellow mullein. Most was quite dry. Apart from my garden areas where Ruth had admirably kept the plants well watered from the drought and heat of July and August.
A pretty wall brown landed for a while on the echinacea near the house. Bees and other pollinators seem to like this cultivated flower.
Another long journey. This cricket was on the windscreenwipers. We thought it would jump or be blown off. It stayed on its green home, our car, while we collected our freshly baked bread from our local village. It is an alternative bakery with organically grown wheat or rye flour. A large traditional clay oven is used. The cricket waited.
And the cricket returned for its photo opportunity and chance to be a celebrity in my animal stories of Navasola! We think its pholidoptera griseoptera, a dark bush cricket. There are so many, and then there’s the true crickets. And the cave cricket. And a camel cricket! It was light brown and the Dominion guide suggests there are several similar species in Southern Europe.
There is certainly a cricket with a high pitched chirp and it keeps me awake at night too. At least its not aircraft noise and it is rather soothing.
In April and May it was so wet. The rainfall in May filled our pond to overflowing. We went down to investigate the water level in the pond now. There was nothing. Last year it had retained water at a lower level through the long dry summer. Why had it dried out? The evidence was before us. That wild boar family that loved rolling in the mud in May. I guess now they’ve scored an own goal. No more water in the pond. Tusk marks in the strong, expensive, plastic base. Without this, the water did just drain away. We will have to rethink on this one. Seems a shame to put a boarproof fence around a water hole.
We’ve also just been reading about reports of wild boar, jabeli, visiting the beaches in Spain. At dusk I think and still not quite sure which beaches.The report in Spanish was about the increase in the wild boar population. Not enough hunters? I say, not enough wolves! We’ve got 7 more baby boar on our small finca. Perhaps some will move to the coast?
Apologies for not much blogging recently. I think I have been suffering from my own drought. I have been trying to re edit the first chapter of my novel.It’s been quite a journey writing it, literally as it has taken in a quest through Spain, France, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Holland and the UK. A nature quest! I have also spent a lot of time struggling with rewriting the beginning and becoming anxious about the next stage. There have also been the chores and the DIY and clearing of beloved brambles and the heat! Most needs to be done in the early morning!
Thank you to all who read this far and have been following my journey. I look forward to some more catching up with you all. The weather is a little bit cooler. I have re edited my first chapter!
‘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.
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.
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.
I am in Rhodes with a longstanding friend who loves the island and visits regularly. More will follow on this beautiful place but I am prompted by Dverse poets to write a haibun about walking. A haibun is poetic prose followed by a haiku. My friend and I have been fortunate to do a lot of walking together.
In youth, we walked and walked, together. Teenage talks and teenage walks to Barnes pond, along the towpath of the river Thames, across Hammersmith Bridge. We walked our children too into Manchester’s many parks and out to the moors of Derbyshire. We’ve walked in friendship for more than 40 years. And now I finally walk with her in her beloved Rhodes. And we walk and walk.
Walking the past. In the present. Future thoughts.
Feet walk over cobbled stones in narrow streets. Above, the eyes take in medieval arches. Thoughts of knights and maybe horses along the wider streets leading to the Grand Palace of the Masters. Castle turrets protected the Order of St John. Stones in piles from pillars fallen. Many battles fought, won, lost. Bright bougainvillea flowers adorn walled gardens within ancient fortress walls. Scents of jasmine waft with sounds of many voices from many places. Scooters dodge the wandering tourists. Greek homes still within the sturdy old town walls from where the deep blue of the sea separates the isle from the mainland mountains of the Turkish coast. So near. So far. Empires have come, empires have gone. This small island a jewel to hold.
We walk along the ancient stadium of ancient Greeks. As women we wonder on the nakedness of men running fast, in the past! No women allowed then. Except for one. The mother of a hero. The broken Acropolis with scaffolding speaks of the need to respect the past but greatness goes. We walk around the ruins of men and there lies the small dragon lizard, still and basking in the warmth of ancient stones. We walk through the streets of modern Greece, the new town, coloured by blooms. Concrete sore we reach a deep valley park. Rodini. A jewel from the Italian rule. Now forgotten, neglected but it’s streams flow with life. Small turtles, egrets, giant carp and butterflies. We cross broken bridges, pass by young lovers. Here the world of green enjoys the lack of human tramping unlike the famous butterfly valley walked through by the multitudes who yearn for green and to see some wild thing ; the beleaguered tiger moth.
We walk over more pebbled mosaic floors into holy places. Two headed eagles symbols for the Eastern Church. The frankincense and gold of icon painting fill the spaces with a silent sacredness. Behind a city wall a gate opens up into the Jewish synagogue. We walk through this with silent acknowledgement of a persecuted past. Spanish sounds sing songs of their Sephardic roots from Andalucia; my home now. We walk to connect. So few returned to their island home. Down by the harbour in an old Islamic building we walk past the hopes of new refugees from not so far but far enough across the gleaming blue and treacherous depths. Later, we walk high up a hill, along a path with stations of the cross. From the giant cross, we walk no more but watch Apollo’s sun being guided down to rest beyond the horizon of the west. How long have we got left?
Broken bridges show
The eternal flow below
Walk the heart to know
A week of changes. Changing places and changing weather.
Just before leaving Navasola I wandered into my huerta or vegetable garden. I wanted to check on the plants. I am hoping that I have created enough paths and cut back grasses and vetch to keep it all more under control. Last year when I returned in May I posted about my ‘Wild Welcome Back’. I was overwhelmed with neck high grass,vetch and then hay fever.
Maybe this time I had a wild farewell.
There were rustling sounds from within the abandoned olive grove. I stood very still and listened. I thought it might have been some noisy blackbirds. It often is! To my surprise a large female boar made her way into the field. Although there was a ‘boar proof fence’ between us to protect the huerta, I didn’t want to see it tested. I stood very still. Females are said to have a reputation. Following her were three slightly smaller wild boar. Then one by one, a group of stripy baby boar trotted in. No camera, no phone, just me and the boar family.
I stood still and watched them move around grazing and looking like large dogs. The youngsters climbed up over some rocks. I just kept still, not daring to move and too far from the gate.Then the large female saw me. She came forward a little and but decided to turn away and run off, with the young ones following. It was quite a sight. Reading up a bit more I discovered that these groups are matriarchal and called sounders.They consist of the very young and slightly older females.It is far more common that boar will run away but it seems they may move towards you a little as their eyesight is so poor and they are curious. Most injuries to humans from boar are during a hunt and with the males turning to defend themselves if cornered.
After this event we were off to Portugal for my flight. I had a quick check on the house martins I am trying to survey. There are not so many on the frontline this year but these small birds were working hard with the mud to build over netting put up to prevent them. I had been disappointed to see this attempt to deter them in a local street.They certainly wouldn’t have bothered anyone in that location and it now looks quite unsightly. It also might mean the nests are less secure for the young. The birds are undeterred and determined to build in places they must remember. Those whose nests had not been destroyed have had a head start. I think they have got young and these might manage two broods.
In Dorset we had snow and hail, lots of birds and a vole. The bullfinch is a regular visitor at my friend’s bird feeders, along with a nuthatch and some pheasants. After the snow a kestrel came by but the birds had disappeared into the nearby hedgerow.
Back in London I was shown the video of the baby robins nesting in the ivy by the house and at least two are now alive and well, feeding in the garden. My daughter has fallen in love with feeding the birds and they seem to reward her. I was also updated with the slow motion function on the latest phones. Mine is too out of date but it was lovely to see they had captured the garden Robin flying! Sorry no video as I have to update WordPress and pay money to upload a video! Will think on’t!
Now I am in the north of the U.K. and enjoying my other daughter’s young pet bunnies. These bunnies seem to want to blog with me!
To be close to the animal world seems important. My wilder world of Navasola is still without pets and the wild ones choose their moments. Mice in the middle of the night and a mongoose went up through my rock garden one evening. The wild ones like to be invisible and secretive but it is good to know they are out there.Not in the house! Four mice have been ‘humanely’ removed to at least 1 km away!
I am off to stay with a friend in Rhodes so hope to keep up with blogging about the flora and fauna there soon. I may not be on wifi much but hope to catch up with everyone’s blogs again soon too.
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?
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.
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.