I was inspired to try painting a picture and the following Sunday my wife decidedwe were going to have an arts & craft afternoon so I got out my photo and had a go with some oils and kitchen towel.
I spent the morning on a walk with my grandson who has all the makings of a natural scientist. Its the half term holiday and he has decided to make a project around studying mushrooms. Hemade himself a notebook and over the week on many walks he has found and photographed over 20 different mushrooms. Today he taught me what he had found out during a walk around bluebell woods. I learnt a lot and I was inspired to turn my photos into a movie. This weekend I'm going to hunt for them in my own garden.
For a long time I have been trying, without success, to observe a dragon fly emerging from the pond as a nymph and turning into an insect. This weekend my 7 year old grandson spotted this magical act and I made a movie to celebrate the event.
This weekend also saw the departure of our wild Canada geese. A only saw them fly once but that was enough and after 6 months of living with us they flew off without saying good bye.
But as one animal leaves another arrives. Since the new fence along the railway was constructed I was worried that we wouldn't have any deer but this week a beautiful doe arrived.
In his book "The Seventh Sense: Power, Fortune, and Survival in the Age of Networks.", Joshua Ramos
talks about a seventh sense, “the ability to look at any object and see the way in which it is changed by connection.” This sense is entirely dependent on our ability to see through our imagination. I find the idea of imagination as a sense to help us transform the objects and materials in the world around us really exciting. Perhaps also the seventh sense that JR refers to is also "the ability to see the world as any object sees and experiences it."riences it and see the way in which we are changed by connection.”
I think my garden videos are about me trying to see the world from the persepctive of the living things that are my subject. In thelast few weeks we have been blown away by tye beauty and grace of the oxeye daisies that weem to sprout from the lawn if I do not cut it.
This year I declared war on the brambles (and nettles) in the field. It's not their fault. We love letting nature take its course without interfering too much and for 15 years I have let them grow unchecked and they have taken advantage of my generosity becoming the dominant plant in at least half of the field. So this year, prompted by my good fortune in February of the railway contractors who cleared the 5 metres of scrub and brambles along the northern fence, I decided to make a concerted effort. First in February and March I cut the grass and brambles short and chopped down all the saplings. Then in April I cleared the southern boundary along the fence as I repaired it.
The truly remarkable and scary thing about brambles is they grow upto 3cm a day so by May the brambles I had cut in March had grown back in the field so I have been working out how to reclaim it for the grasses and wild flowers. I did some experiments. First I spent two days digging up a 3mx5m patch and attempted to extract all the roots. It was very hard work and I knew I couldn't repliecate it for the whole area infested by brambles. Next I did some burning which seemed to be effective for areas where I had a fire for several hours but not for areas of superficial burning. Then I tried a trio of herbicides and eventually found that vitax SBK worked best. So I painstakingly criss-crossed the field many times with my 1 litre spray bottle administering every plant I could find. After 3 weeks I can see that I have had some success and I am perhaps half way to acjieving my goal. I made a short film to explain my project.
May fifth is always a difficult day for me – it’s the anniversary of the death of my first wife. I miss her presence as I have done for the last twenty one years but this special day is always sad, in spite of the love and support of my wife and family. The day was bright and sunny, as it usually is on this anniversary, but as I looked out of the kitchen window I saw something unusual. The Canada geese were sitting in a tight group as they usually do but several metres away was one small gosling. Canada geese are the most diligent parents and the chicks are well disciplined so this was extremely unusual. So I went out to investigate. Neither the chick or his family moved, which was also unusual, and I got to within a dew metres of the chick. It was clear that this was the smallest of the chicks and it looked ill and in a state of shock breathing fast. Later in the day the chick managed to find its way back to the group but it was always a little way removed. The last time I saw him he was walking with his siblings to the shade of the willow tree. This morning he was not with the group and so he must have died in the night. I hope his last day was not too much of a struggle and he wasn't in pain and that he enjoyed playing with the daisy's. I had to make this movie as a tribute to him and his short life. I am sad for him and sad for the fact that his family won’t miss him. Missing someone is sad but having no one to miss you is even sadder.
Spring is just the best time of the year but this year has been a most unusual year as we have been seriously affected by the Covid 19 pandemic. We are now in week four of the 'lockdown' which means unless we are a key worker we have to stay in our homes and only go out to buy food. My family have insisted that I stay put so I have tried to keep busy with substantial garden projects the biggest of which is trying to breath new life into the paddock. It all started in February when a man in yellow overalls knocked on the door and told us that the back fence alongside the railway was going to be replaced. Well that made me quite happy as it was badly in need of repair. Even better the man in the yellow suit told me that his men would clearall the scrub that had grown over the fence sometimes up to 5 metres into the field. A few days later two men came and spent three days clearing the fenceline while I cleared and burnt the cuttings. I was really pleased with the new fence and the reclaimed field although I knew that it would keep out the deer which we loved to watch. This act made me want to do more so I chopped down the saplings that had grown in the field and spent several days cutting the grass and the big patches of brambles that had taken over. So that was stage 1 of my rehabilitation project.
I have put off repairing the wooden fence that runs along the woods for several years. It was quite dilapidated and broken in several places. It was a good lockdown project so in April I ordered wood and salvaged some posts from another fence and began to repair it. It took about a week but again I was pleased with the results and castigated myself for not doing it sooner. As I was repairing the fence it occurred to me that the deer which visit us ever year would have a hard time getting into the woods so I decided to leave a panel so they could get into the woods. I then saw the value in making a proper path into the woods and in this way I felt I had made a small contribution to the value of this place.
We have been blessed with some fantastic weather during the last 3 or 4 weeks and had beautiful blossom on the trees and an abundance of wild flowers. I decided to make a movie of the wild flowers in the woods as a birthday gift for one of my daughters. I have yet to identify them all but they are truly wonderful to look at.
Since the start of February we have been visited by small flocks of 8 Canada Geese which over-winter on the ponds a few miles away. They are I think, sussing us out as a possible place for rearing this year's chicks. Eventually, one pair will take up residence and the cycle will begin again. I have always wanted to catch them landing and taking off and today I caught them taking off. What a wonderful sight. I like to think it is the same family that was with us last year - mum, dad and six chicks.
Its nearly 10 years since my close friend Mike died and although his memory is always popping into my head in February I spend a little more time thinking of him and his wife. I wanted to mark the occassion so I went for another walk in the woods and happened on the moss. Its the best time of the year to appreciate the moss as there is very little of the tangled ground cover that smothers everything in the summer. Because of all the rain we have the woods are particular wet this year and the logs that line the path are covered in moss. Moss is such a modest plant that it gets overlooked when walking amongst such big trees. But the vividness of the green draws your eye and when you stop and look and get down on your needs your realise how exquisite its dense mats are.
I know next to nothing about mosses so I googled and found a blog by Kate Lewthwaite who spent more than 6 months studying the mossesas part of her PhD. She told me that mosses produce spores. They have stems and leaves but not true roots. They are reliant on damp conditions for reproduction because the male cells need to move via a film of water to reach the female cells for fertilisation. Sometimes this is within one plant but can also require them to reach another plant, depending on the species. Mosses are important ecologically as one of the first colonisers of bare ground or fallen trees. They absorb huge quantities of water, helping to soak up rainfall and create a locally humid environment. They also act as an important home for other creatures. These are mainly invertebrates and include species like woodlice and slugs. In my garden, moss is constantly ‘on the move’ as the blackbirds tug it up looking for a tasty meal underneath. Moss is also home to a host of microscopic invertebrates such as rotifers, tardigrades and nematodes. There are around 1,000 bryophyte species (the term that includes both mosses and liverworts) in the UK. Many require microscopes to distinguish between closely-related species.
I spent a while photgraphing them in the woods and decided that it was mostly the common tamarisk moss (Thuidium tamariscinum). But I wasn't prepared to lie on the muddy ground and study them properly. The day after I took a small digital microscope with me and a plastic sheet to lie on and took someclose up photos. I dedicate this film to the memory of my friemd and his wife.