Staying around.

Staying put means you notice things .

This dragon fly laid her eggs on a mossy stone . I always assumed they deposited their eggs into water and if anything should know the difference between stone and water, then a dragonfly should. She choose the stone. Maybe their life cycle is more complex than I imagine. I could look it up. I could read about it in books and on line, or I could just watch and wonder. Sometimes that is all I want to do: just watch and wonder.

It rained and hailed this week. The pot of basil was shredded, but the broken leaves were preserved in a bed of hail under the stalks. They were cooked in spaghetti bolognese for dinner.

The first migrating warblers are turning up in the garden, feeding for a while on their way home to Africa.

After the rain, the heavy phone cables strung across the road,glittered with rain drops sliding along the cable like iridescent jewels on a dowager duchess’s necklace.

I swear I could hear the soil absorbing the sweet rain and the cracks healing.



I took the curtains down
They have hung unwashed against the glass for too long.
The window was bigger,
filled from frame to frame with sunshine and a perfect blue sky
And then the sky erupted:
Swallows and martins exploded,
flung exuberance , flight and life,
Careering, tumbling , screaming,
A great cloud of birds in all of the sky giving depth to the flat perfection of the blue day : calling calling calling.
I could not hear them behind the glass but I know the sound
The screaming chattering essence of flight, of movement , of freedom –
Oh swallow, swallow!

Harvest Home

We have finally lifted all the potatoes; rolled five fat pumpkins onto the back step to finish ripening and picked the apples from our single apple tree: it feels like the harvest is in.

This, however, is very small fry in comparison to the massive harvest of the real countryside and the deeply bizarre manifestation of its bounty in the agricultural extravaganza in local Mulhouse.

In the huge exposition centre thousands upon thousands of people crowd in to look at stands of  arranged vegetables. This is not the type of flower show that I knew well from places like Brecon in Wales, where lovingly grown marrows were judged for weight and gloss and three perfect sweetpea blossoms were awarded hotly contested rosettes for perfume and hue. This was the deliberate piling of fruit and vegetables into improbable and inedible unicorns, dragons and cathedrals and it made me long for the simplicity of the single sweetpea.

The picture above is of the more recognisable offerings of landmarks from the Alsace town of Colmar in mosaics of potatoes and pumpkins.


CA9AAA90-8F7F-4621-86F8-976E8812CB35.jpegThe Statue of Liberty in sprouts was a particular favourite. Bartholdi was a son of Colmar and created the monumental statue in France for the American people. I bet  immigrants to The USA never envisaged their welcoming symbol of a new life picked out in green sprouts as they sailed into New York!



The sun is losing its heat and the nights come sooner:  the leaves are turning and the swallows have already gone.

Every year the bird migration is different.  This autumn the swallows, swifts and house martins have left earlier than usual for Africa.  Maybe the dry late summer meant there were fewer insects on the wing and there was little to tempt them to stay; maybe fewer actually arrived this year; maybe they know a cold winter is coming.

Sitting on the front porch of our house is a great place to watch migrants arrive and leave.  Birds coming south sweep down the Rhine valley, but when they hit the first folds of the Jura mountains they are funneled together and we see great wheeling flocks of hirundines feeding briefly over the garden before pushing on south.

Some migration  patterns are surprisingly similar.  Last year we were amazed to see a flock of bee- eaters burbling and tumbling over the hill, unmistakable in bright blue with a silhouette of a stocky starling.  Other people saw them on the same day as they left the Kaiserstuhl in Germany ( where they breed) returning  to Africa.  This year we were on the lookout for them and sure enough a flock of 50+ birds flew over to our great delight.  We checked our records and were astonished to see that this flock went over on exactly the same day and at exactly the same hour, last year.

Seems like some birds keep to the  timetable!