Tag Archives: Wild flowers

A Wild Welcome Back! All alive and well at Navasola! Or on the Verges of a dilemma. When to cut back ? What is best to help improve biodiversity?

Where to start? We were back at Navasola and nature had begun its takeover. We were greeted with abundance but not of our own making. As I walked around though I was astounded by the variety of wild flowers. Wild poppies, wild irises joined the wild gladioli and all mainly around the overgrown verges of the main tracks. In the rock garden I looked for my additions and was greeted by dahlia and lilies growing up through a mayhem of other plants. The Melissa had grown strong and high too. And I saw a beautiful small purple flower I had not noticed before. This intrigued me till I walked over to the veggie field and there it was in great abundance. The vegetable garden was overgrown to at least waist height with this variety of vetch. There was a slightly squashed trail and I followed it to the fruit patch and where our friend had planted some tomatoes and peppers for us. The following night we ate the habas beans that had survived so at least had some home produce!

Wild roses over my magical path
Wild roses over my magical path
Very vetching!
Very vetching!
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Wild poppy amid grown coriander

Priorities? Well, on with my botany as this was the time to really get to grips with all the extras that were on show. Over the other side of the Finca and up a more chalky hill there were carpets of pink. I had never seen so much of the silene last year. This and more beautiful toadflax. Unfortunately I didn’t take photos of this and when I returned to this South Eastern side a week later there were just a few remains of the pink spread.The weather had been hot and dry and this is the next stage for the Mediterranean flora. Grow well while you can and withdraw to reseed when it is hot and dry. During that week though I had been busy taming my veg patch with a scythe, and then having to tame hay fever which I hadn’t suffered from last year. There were so many amazing sculptures of different kinds of grasses. But there is only so much I can do and post. More on my attempts to identify the daisy and dandelion types and much more in future blogs. It seems the summer is the time to be out and to post about all the natural wonders. Another dilemma. Reading other blogs it is amazing the diversity around the world and so much to say and view at this time.

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Wild iris
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Phlomis
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Olives blossoming
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Pink centaury amidst a meadow of much more.

Navasola has quite a few wild meadows but a lot of the variety of wild flowers does seem to be appearing on the verges of paths and tracks. It was interesting to read an article in The Guardian about advice as to when to cut the public verges by roads in the UK. It seems that this is the last bastion of wild flower variety and good for pollinators. However a recent post by Jeff Ollerton seemed to suggest leaving the cutting to much later than July and August as there are so many pollinators that need those flowers then. And with changes in climate these creatures may need more time too. I have made a decision at the moment to do as little as possible in cutting down. I didn’t cut down the wild flower meadow on the Era last year, it is full of even more flowers now. However I did decide to reopen paths into the veg garden and try and use the vetch for mulching and compost. There are also areas where the grass might need to be kept back because of my allergy to it. I also get red skin if in contact with some forms of grass. Annoying as I want to be out and about. It seems to me that closely observing the interconnection between plants, insects and animal life is key to helping enable biodiversity. Any advice is always welcome and when I have more wifi I will try and explore some of those blogs which have such a wealth of information.

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Daisy family….possibly a mayweed.
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My favourite scarlet but blue pimpernels
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Bladder campion, named on walk with N.
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Small but adds to a very aromatic environment. Pitch.
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Wild and overgrown verges.
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Oat type grass: one of many rising high above.
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Overgrown rock garden but with lily ready to come out.
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Overgrown front garden but lavender, mint and winter jasmine all growing well too!
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Wild gladioli, hop trefoil and a campanula all brightening up the building site!
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Veg patch overgrown but strawberries and raspberries growing strong.
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More common vetch!
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Wild poppy, with flowering coriander and planted flowers behind.

The Journey. From one home to another through France, Basque Country, Extremadura to the Sierra Aracena, Andalucia.

With a long road trip ahead of us and the car laden with stuff to take, including all the wood carving tools given to me because of the sad closure of Heston Woodcarving Club, I was just a little bit anxious that our old car would make it. I was also sad to leave London, and all our family and friends but was also missing our little hidden valley in the South of Spain. Almost 2000km between us. I feel split between two worlds but am fortunate to have that choice.

Travelling through the green of France made me really think France could feed the world. So much agricultural land and such an industry with tractor factories all over the place too! Later I read that France was going to pass a law about waste food in supermarkets. Ironic and sad in a time of food banks for many.We had decided to go on roads without tolls and although a bit slower it was much more interesting and gave me more of an insight into being in France. Hopefully, it was also more fuel efficient and would save at least 100 euros in tolls.
I know Northern France quite well and am always amazed by its peacefulness as we used to take school trips to the World War 1 battlefield sites: Vimy Ridge and Beaumont Hamel, the Canadian sites are both historic and a reminder of a Europe torn and devastated by war, a hundred years ago. We passed to the south of some of these but did pass some graves still immaculately kept in small villages. These places are an important reminder of those who fought and of how now we need to continue to fight for a better world for humans and all species to live in. So many died so young and of a similar age to my 17 and 18 year old A Level students. So we travelled through minor roads near the Somme and even further back in time to Agincourt and finally came to the land of the rich. We stayed at Chateaudun, just south of Chartres. Here is supposed to be the first chateau to be found when coming from Paris to the Loire region, famous for all its chateaux along the river. Holiday homes for the rich. And then the revolution and the French love of Egalite, Fraternite,Liberte and all things French, like good food and wine. On the good food and keeping the French language French, there are some popular eating places such as Macdonalds and Buffalo grill which seem to be doing well as fast food chains, though along with Flunch, a cheap way to self service French dining. We enjoy finding Flunch and can easily even share a meal there!

By the small Loir in Northern France.
By the small Loir in Northern France.
Chateau by Loir, without an e.
Chateau by Loir, without an e.
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Tree lined road of planes near Dax in South West France.
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A not so narrow road but well used by the big trucks avoiding tolls.
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The only way to go in France, by bike!
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The only traffic jam on all the N roads but with a view of the Pyrenees, near Spanish and French border.

The journey through the Basque Country of Spain was beautiful and there are now some amazing roads but the Spanish do charge on these new super highways with major long tunnels through the mountains. The amount of road trucking transport is phenomenal. It is times like this that I do wonder how all this will have to change and hope that by reading Naomi Klein’s book ‘This Changes Everything’ a bit more I can get some insight. It seems to me from the book that there is too much control and investment in the fossil fuels industries which has slowed down the technologies we could all be changing to now. Will these be the giants like the dinosaurs bringing us and other species closer and closer to extinction. Or will it be me, one little ant with a lot of emissions. Could I have been driving a solar powered car? Well, certainly the sun shone most of the way this time!
We then stopped in Salamanca, always worthy of a return visit and always something new to see.mthis time it was the historic Paza Mayor,made all the more interesting by a political demonstration by the new found voice of local people. Ganemos in some way connected to Podemos, the fast growing alternative to the big two party system that has run the show for so long in Spain.

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Near Monfrague national park. Time to look out for vultures.
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Long roads through hot and dry Extremadura.
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The sandy track through the abandoned chestnut fields.
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Inside Navasola and down my magical track!
Wild gladioli outside the gate to Navasola
Wild gladioli outside the gate to Navasola

Finally home in our hidden green valley. And was it green. I had worried more about lack of but had been told it was often raining in April! I had to rejoined ice in the exuberance of the wild things growing or despair as my vegetable area was covered in all types of grasses and vetches.some time will need to be spent finding the beans and fruit bushes. Time will also have to be spent in looking at all the wild flowers. There are so many will keep me busy for months but suspect they will not last into the heat of late June.

The journey without tolls was from Dunkirk to Chateuadun to Dax. (with some help from the AA non toll maps.)Dax to Irun and then we chose the highways to Salamanca,mfinally paying a toll near Burgos of 27 euros. We have done this section without tolls but the new autoroute is quite spectacular.

Back to Botany And Back to Basics. Seeds and Weeds.

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A self seeded common weed patch in my real rock garden.

At the beginning of 2014 I set myself a target to learn more about botany and identification. In order to do this in a more creative way I signed up to a botanical illustration course at Kew Gardens in London but have not completed as many drawings as I would have liked. However, I have managed to identify some key wild flowers and shrubs at Navasola  but decided to try and see what seeded itself most easily when I prepared a patch of soil on my real rock garden. It has come up with a vivid green and grassy presence and below are some of the cheeky  common garden wild flowers or weeds that have self seeded there this Spring. I now know more about my friends and foes in the garden areas of our really wild finca and will keep watching this spot.

One lone Spring candytuft.
One lone Spring candytuft.

These have  also tested my botanical skills as some are so common and not in our Mediterranean Book of Wild Flowers. Thanks to other blogs such as Tramp in the Woods I have been able to identify the Common Fumitory and our dead nettle which is slightly different with leaves clasping close to the stem; a Hen Bit dead nettle. I have also sent everyone crazy on two different small white flowers. Our friend and ecologist  has helped but we are still struggling on the exact species. But although both small and white there is a big difference between the two; one in the Campion family and the other in Cress was our latest judgement! Small things to make me wonder and wander around looking for and looking at!

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Common Fumitory Fumitory common – fumaria officinalis  11 more in med book p.306
Hen bit dead nettle Lamium amplexicaule clasping close to stem leaves - 4 more varieties in Med book p. 1478
Hen bit dead nettle Lamium amplexicaule clasping close to stem leaves – 4 more varieties in Med book p. 1478
A self seeding weed pot. Bill and Ben , flowerpot men and weeeeed!
A self seeding weed pot. Bill and Ben , flowerpot men and weeeeed! A small  white cress and some euphorbia.
Common chickweed?
Small and white. Common chickweed? In the real rock garden!

Living Simply, Living Sustainably: Wildlife Friendly Farming and Awkward moments.

Being back in the UK over the festive season has many positives when being with family and friends but the pace of life begins to get hectic and at times bewildering. A friend of mine said that she finds when she speaks to people for goods and services it can be so much more frustrating nowadays. Hers was – have you had an accident or breakdown – for a pothole blowing a tyre. Took longer as she had gone through on breakdown and was told she would have to ring again for accident! Her cry was but I just need road side assistance.
My frustration came in a local well known supermarket. I was looking for where the muesli was. I decided to ask but the young girl didn’t really understand. This can happen in London as there are many non native speakers ( enter the awkward linguist who struggles with her Spanish). However,the young lady was very helpful and took me to a group of suited managers and asked. They didn’t seem to want to understand her attempt to say muesli so of course I chip in too. Then the reply is – We don’t sell that product here – of course, I am now exasperated as I know they have their own brand of It. I try to re pronounce it. I do this so often with my Spanish. Can I not now pronounce Muesli? I go for MEWSLI after trying MOOSLI. I then end up saying – well cereals then- . The lovely young girl takes me along and there is the big sign CEREALS next to another big sign MUESLI. So is muesli not cereal now ? Oh well, never mind. I give the young girl a brief English lesson on the origin of the word muesli and a comment that she now knows more than her managers. Here ends the Awkward Linguist part of the post and we then move onto the Awkward Environmentalist. The awkwardness is thanks to a great blogging site for wild flowers : The Awkward Botanist; A great name for a great blog.

Then I explore the endless variety of muesli products. Usually we opt for the cheapest and most simple mix but I thought to add in a granola; not a type of muesli? I am looking at the packaging for sugar content and product origin. Shopping can be so complicated now. I am not going to do product placement but the product I bought had an aim of only buying the cereals used from wildlife friendly farmers. Have tried a photograph of the packetand it does advertise the name all the way through the comments on how they help wildlife. So maybe that’s ok. If they really do. So complicated to know the whole truth but at least a company taking a step in a positive direction.
I bought it because of this. Good advertising? Responsible choices? Should we demand more of this? It was a bit on the expensive side and I remember a friend commenting on why she couldn’t afford free range eggs. For me, I couldn’t afford not to. Dare I say quite tasty and less sugar if added to bog standard MOOSLI!

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Last of the summer flowers: And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.

Final farewell fotos of flowers  on the finca.  August 2014. Summer is passing…….

In August in Spain the weather is usually too hot and dry in the summer. The flowers start to fade and all seems rather dried out. Some flowers resist the parched conditions but most decide to allow their seeds to finish developing and be ready to disperse. This helps survival of the species  through a long dry summer. Deep roots keep the trees and other bushes in business.

Sonnet 18 by William Shakespeare and a different interpretation based on the natural world.

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?

Thou art more lovely and more temperate,

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Hoary Mullein
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Candytuft
Knautia  - small blue/ purple
Knautia – small blue/ purple

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May

And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;

And sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines, ( the very hot sun as in Spain?)

And often is his gold complexion dimmed; ( English weather with clouds in the summer!)

And every fair from fair oft times declines,

By chance or by nature’s unchanging course untrimmed;

But thy eternal summer shall not fade,

Nor lose possession of that fair thou owest;

Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,

When in eternal lines to time thou growest:

So long as men breathe or eyes can see,

So long lives this and this gives life to thee.

Silene
Silene

Shakespeare’s sonnet reflects the transience of beauty with the beauty of summer. But nature like the focus of his sonnet has an everlasting and ever changing beauty, beyond the flower! This is my  interpretation of a sonnet often thought to be about love. Maybe it can be about the intricate workings of nature that go beyond the transient beauty of a flower or a young man or woman! When we understand the true beauty of a person or of nature we can truly appreciate the deeper aspects of love, life and the natural world. Or was Shakespeare just trying to immortalise himself or his’dark lad..y’ love  with words?  His words offer such richness and are open to interpretation and appreciation through the ages and to different cultures.
I think I have found another angle on this sonnet and an admiration for what goes on beyond our sight within the seeds creating the changing seasons.

The extraordinary in the ordinary!

Having ignored taking any photos of all these common white flowers, one had to suddenly appear, larger than most, brightening up the view by our house and building site.IMG_2399

 

 

These wild white folk are abundant on the Finca late July and August. Some amazing red striped bugs also find some of them very attractive! Possibly the sap or are they laying eggs in the dried up flower head ?image

 

Who are these common folk found all over Europe? And recently seen in the North of England. Well, we love their cultivated cousins and chop, chew and boil their orange roots. How did the wild one help us create the very edible one?

 

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