wanted and not wanted.

Without the rain nothing grows, when it is dry we fret, when it is wet we moan.

It has been endlessly wet and very cool. The trees are loving it. There have been too many dry years and the stress has left them vulnerable to disease, but not this spring.

This spring has been full of rain and now it seems full of baby birds. In the cold, wet months they have managed to hatch and to rear their sodden young and now the foliage is full of hungry, demanding fledgelings and frantic feathered parents .

There were lines of fluffy sparrow chicks in the feeder house this morning waiting for mother to transfer the sunflower kernels into their beaks. In the wet cherry tree marsh tit chicks scolded and whined as they demanded food. Hidden in the spindle bush are baby blue tits also waiting for their share and on the grass a harassed male blackbird yanks half drowned worms out of the yielding earth for his enormous off spring. The young blackbird is as lumpen and unhelpful as a teenage boy, but his father dutifully crams him with food nonetheless.

My presence is disturbing them, rearing young in the rain is not easy.

They want the food I provide, but they don’t want me round.

We want the life that the rain gives but we don’t want the clouds.

Chicken of the Woods

This wonderful fungi specimen was growing on an old willow tree. Unmistakable, the Latin name Laetiporus sulphureus refers to its sulphurous colour and the country name chicken of the woods, refers to the taste of the flesh. Anyone who reads these blogs regularly will know my feelings about actually eating fungi . This seductive fungi can cause gastric upset in some people, but not often. If it grows on yew it can contain the poisonous chemicals of the tree.

This beauty was growing on a huge willow and willows give us the Salic acid from which aspirin are made. So, if you ate this chicken of the woods, could it cure your headache at the same time?

Today I watched a dandelion clock emerge.

Between the tropical down pours there was sunshine for a whole hour. The dandelion seed heads, that have been waiting for so long, took the water from the soil and pumped up their tall stems. In the strengthening sun light they pushed open the protective sepals.

Baby hair tufts of blonde seed parachutes slowly appeared like a crown . There was time to get my phone, to write this and time to watch as slowly, so slowly the parachutes made the perfect circle of seeds and the sun dried them out and the wind blew them away and the dandelions started all over again, all over again.

Military Orchid

The weather here is unseasonably cool and wet, but the grey skies and rain have brought some wonderful orchids up in the grass.

It is somehow easier to see flowers in dull light, their colours are more bright in contrast and details are fine when not flattened by glare.

These Military orchids Orchis militaris, get their name from the shape of the flowers, each one looking like a soldier with arms, legs and a helmet on his head. In German they are helm orchids and these lovely flowers were in a limestone meadow in Switzerland growing with a motorway under their feet.

This lucky meadow is so precious that the thundering road to Delemont has been put in a tunnel beneath ( where it should be!) and the meadow is used by joggers, buggy pushers and amateur botanists admiring the flowers from the path.

Military orchids are very rare and one of the reasons for their rarity is a drink that was once more popular than coffee. Orchid roots are dug up and boiled to make a drink called Salep or Salop depending on where you are in the world. It is still popular in Turkey and was an important part of Ottoman cuisine which spread around the world. It is drunk where ever orchids are (were) plentiful and was supposed to plump up young women and give fire to men! Orchid roots and testicles have the same shape and have given their name to each other, hence the aphrodisiac link .

The drink was sold widely in cafes in Britain and only declined in favour when it was used as a treatment for syphilis ( that visual simple link again!) and no one wanted to be seen drinking it in case it looked like they had the clap!

So, these particular little soldiers with their big helmets have just survived through a mixture of prudery and Swiss engineering!

Weathering it out

This limestone outcrop is an implacable stone face that seems to guard the path to the very edge of the Jura mountains .

My village faces the Alsace valley, but the woods climb up to the very first folds of the Jura mountains which form a great arch of peaks between France and Switzerland. Everyone has heard of the Alps : awe inspiring sheer faces for skiing and climbing, but the Jura is less well known, it is less flashy and very beautiful. I like its anonymity and I am always surprised by how extensive this international range is and I love the cool valleys and its hardworking history of saw mills, watchmaking and engineering. Rivers pour through the gaps in the limestone and this rock lowers over a small stream that sinks into the rock in the summer to flow underground .

Every time I look up at the face I see something different . Sometimes it is an Easter Island idol; sometimes it seems crumbling and undefined, sometimes the ferns are Denis Healey eyebrows beetling above me, but always it seems to have weathered a storm that has just passed.

I am fortunate enough to have had two anti covid vaccinations and feel as if my personal storm of fear is passing . I know not everyone is so lucky and the pandemic is still a terrible danger in so many countries and I can only hope that like my totemic rock they too can weather it out.

Wag the dog.

These unearthly things are greater horse tail spore bodies. They erupt out of the earth and look oddly like lawyers’ wig ink cap mushrooms.

They are in fact the last hurrah of a plant kingdom that once dominated the earth and towered over dinosaurs: tumbling down in their multitudes to form the Carboniferous geological layer that gave us coal and oil.

Now they are just one plant amongst many. A relative is an annoyingly tenacious weed in my garden and the silica in horse tail leaves made them handy pot scourers and wood polishers in other times. The greater horse tail likes damper places in woods and can indicate a spring line underground.

The spore bodies have no chlorophyll and die as soon as their ancient spores are shed. The leaves of odd whorls that inspired the concept of fractals come later and they can form great stands of plants.

They are oddities that momentarily surprise us before sinking back into the herbage

Maybe our reliance on the fossil fuels they left behind so long ago will seem equally surprising and unimportant one day. We can hope!