26 February 2012

Friends and fungi

A balmy week, for February - low to mid teens. We had the good sense to spend some of it with friends in the countryside in Kilkenny. So on Saturday morning I found myself happily planting rhubarb and tying in raspberry canes in the welcome warmth of spring sunshine. It's lovely to work alongside someone in the garden, sometimes chatting, sometimes just working away in silence. Silence being a relative term of course: the hedgerows were full of whirring and chirruping wrens and the flowing song of robins. In the tall trees a couple of fields away, wheeling rooks created their own particular cawcophany -- a sound I love, it's so evocative and redolent of bare earth, just ploughed, or bright cold autumn days or, as it was this weekend, a gathering of a squabbling 'parliament' fighting for position as the days get longer and prime nesting sites are at a premium.

Walking in nearby woods, all the signs of spring were there: the bright celandine, the moonlight-pale primrose glimmer, the almost-missed-it violet.

I'm reading 'A Bigger Message' at the moment (lent to me by my son, thanks DM!), dipping into it, bit by bit, prolonging the pleasure. Here's my quote of the week from it:
"Looking is a very positive act. You have to do it deliberately" 
And of course that's what artists like Hockney do supremely well. If we're lucky, they then transpose what they've seen into something that makes the rest of us see differently and look more deliberately. (Honestly, I see lemons differently since coming face to face with one lying carelessly in a corner of a Gauguin canvas about seven or eight years ago in an exhibition in Paris.) Art does this for us, when it's working well; so does science: once you know how, say, quartzites and granites react differently to erosion, you begin to look at landscape in a more informed way and enjoy it more (think of the Sugar Loaf vs Kippure; think of Slieve Tooey vs Ardara).  Observing more closely the world we live in is surely a good thing? As we engage more with our world, with the precious moments we spend in it, we become the richer.

Anyway, enough of that for now. Coming across signs of spring in a Kilkenny woodland was a joy. Along the way I also spotted, not quite where squirrels hide their nuts in grass (one of those poems learnt in childhood that never completely goes away), but certainly where they dine on beech masts.

In the same wood, CE spotted this exquisite bracket fungus and BVG recorded it (thanks for the photo B).

Many thanks for a lovely weekend CE.

At home in the garden, as I was moving some pots of strawberries around, I discovered mushrooms growing at the bottom of one of the pots. I'm fairly sure they were coming from old bark chips in the soil. Before the greenhouse went in, only two years ago, there were bark chips there on and off for years as we used to have a playhouse for the boys there. Work in my own garden included sowing seeds of tomatoes (Gardener's Delight, Ailsa Craig and Shirley F1), which are now on a south-facing windowsill in the house. Tomato seeds need a temperature of about 20C or so to germinate, which they won't get in the greenhouse at this time of year, no matter how balmy a February it is.

Finally, the warm weather means the frogs are continuing their orgies in the ponds. I notice that Jane Powers was trying to catch them in the act in her garden but it was proving a bit tricky. Here they are in mine, looking a bit startled, at about seven in the morning at the side of the pond near the house. The stone they're 'resting' on is put there only for frogs, to help them in an out of the pool; otherwise the hard edges would be a tad awkward.

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