Still flowers.

As a child I always considered the cold didn’t start until after Guy Fawks and this year the weather seems true to a long time ago in Cheshire.

Flowers are hanging on where they have been spared mower and strimmer and I have seen a handful of poppies, some hard heads and a spray of harebells still flowering on field edges. In the garden petunias and marigolds and a few geraniums are still bright. The dahlias have been touched by the frost but not yet slain and some very late gladiolus are a spear of colour against the falling leaves.

When I started gardening in a real garden ( as opposed to my previous tiny international balconies ) I thought I needed to be true to all the gardening manuals I had read and to cut down everything and to tidy and clean up, ready for the winter. Then I lived with my garden for a few years and realised that a “ tidy” garden was in fact a very boring and a virtually dead garden for far too many months of the year. There was no where for the caterpillars to pupate, no corners for the hedgehog to forage in and no where for the birds to perch and peck.

So I have learnt to ignore the outdated gardening manuals and to leave the clearing up the garden for as long as possible. Yes, I am encouraging slugs and snails and things that will eat my flowers and vegetables, but I am also encouraging life and trying to live with it. I don’t grow things that cannot withstand a few slugs and snails, white fly, black fly etc etc . I don’t use weed killer or insecticides not because I love all insects, but because why would you spray poisonous chemicals around your own home when you don’t have to? The world is full of enough noxious ness without adding to it just to conform to a very misguided and outdated concept of “tidy” .

So my garden continues to harbour the last flowers, the hedgehog poo that shows she is still feeding in the weedy corners and the caterpillars looking for a quiet spot to dream the winter safely away.

This year.

It hasn’t been a particularly fruitful year this year. No walnuts, no plums, virtually no black currents, no sloe berries for the gin. The late raspberries have been good and I managed to make a salad made of my own beetroots, late celery, the single apple from my tree and a few walnuts kept over from last year.

The grapes at the front of the house were not even worth picking.

They have been left on the vine and the blackbirds are loving them. Amongst the curling leaves there is great clicking and scolding as the birds vie for the plumpest remaining grape. I think we have had more entertainment from their competition than we ever did from the few litres of grape juice we usually make from our tiny harvest.

After all my positive thinking about how the vaccine will bring greater freedom, it seems I am unlucky enough to be taking one of the very few medications that prevent the taker from making antibodies to Covid. After three jabs I am still unprotected and not venturing far a field.

The vaccines have brought infection rates down hugely and saved so many lives which is wonderful news .

Nothing has changed for me since spring 2019. This hasn’t been a personally fruitful year but the wet summer has at least been a bonanza for the birds!

Blackberry Picking

The race between the frost and the late sunshine is being run hard in my little garden. The blackberries are glossy, but still a day or two away from sweetness: the frost is forecast for the approaching full moon.

I thought of Seamus Heaney’s disquieting poem “Blackberry Picking “ where he is acutely aware of the childish desire to hoard all sweet things along with the adult recognition of the transience of life.

Poets can spoil everything by always showing us the skull beneath the skin.

...the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.

……..

Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.

Seamus Heaney, “Blackberry Picking” from Opened Ground: Selected poems 1966-1996

It’s easy to feel pessimistic about the climate. But we’ve got two big things on our side | Bill McKibben | The Guardian

One is the astonishing fall in the cost of renewable energy. The other is the huge growth in the citizens’ movements demanding action, says academic and climate campaigner Bill McKibben
— Read on www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/oct/15/climate-crisis-cop26-bill-mckibben

We have to keep believing in a better future. Technology is helping and the push of intelligent people to make our leaders listen is helping too!

Blink.

This extraordinary scrap of life was slowly traversing the path.

It seemed to be a cross between a feather duster and a plastic cat toy: a pulsating gobbit of implausible life. The photo shows the pink tufts and psychedelic green body, but it does not show the strange black winking eye on its back. The eye appeared to open and close as the caterpillar squeezed along and no doubt this was evolved to frighten away a hungry bird. The bright hairs are to make the caterpillar inedible, if the winking eye was not enough to keep it safe through the winter.

Should this fearsome tiny fright makes it to spring time, it will be a pale tussock moth, grey and furry and quite unlike this wonderful punk adolescent caterpillar phase caught indignantly crossing the path this cold afternoon.

Not in a hurry.

The flowers are from the green dump in the village . Every autumn my neighbours throw away their geraniums and cut down flowering plants, while the sun is still shining and the first frosts are hopefully weeks away.

I don’t understand this .

Why be in a hurry for the winter and bare soil?

I collected the lovely pink geranium flowers and marigolds to brighten my table and decided to spin out the autumn evening with some local wine. It is grape harvest time right now in warmer valleys along the Rhine. I am drinking a table wine of no great repute, but it has the floral taste that I am in no hurry to discard in the rush to clear the soil and let the long winter in!

‘Volcanoes are life’: how the ocean is enriched by eruptions devastating on land | Volcanoes | The Guardian

Worrying about the environment is such a depressing part of 21st century life that volcanic destruction seems like light relief. It is weirdly liberating to contemplate such spectacular destruction which is nothing at all to do with humanity.

The eruptions on the Canary Islands are awesome ( in the correct use of the term!) and the larva spewing out over the land is extraordinary. This article deals with the larva going into the sea and how marine life is enriched by it.

Enjoy, for once, the power of nature that you cannot control or be held responsible for!

Lava is destroying much of La Palma but the last eruption in the Canaries appears to have ‘fertilised’ the surrounding seas
— Read on www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/oct/05/volcanoes-are-life-how-the-ocean-is-enriched-by-eruptions-devastating-on-land