29 July 2012

Moorhens and Gauzehawks

I don't think I've mentioned the day-job here (the one that pays the bills) but I reluctantly bring it up this week for two reasons: the first that it has taken up a lot of time of late and so things likes the garden, the allotment and walks have been displaced; the second that since we have moved office recently I am fortunate now to have a canal to walk along at lunchtime.

Canals are benign highways cutting their own Victorian way through and under streets and estates, alongside Georgian terraces and industrial wastelands, all the time providing slow-moving watery shelter to countless flying and swimming beasties. Sometimes the gliding ghostly grace of swans, sometimes the everyday scurrying of moorhens. Look closer and you'll see the gentle dance of pond skaters, at the end of each foot a tiny dimple on the water's skin. As you watch you may be lucky enough to catch a streak of azure or amber: another dance, this one in the air.  Blue dragons and gauze-hawks as Richard Foerster would tell us; Odonata: dragonflies and damselflies. This last week I saw two, what I suspect were a Common Blue Damselfly and perhaps a Brown Hawker. Regardless of their names, their presence was enough to light up a couple of very busy days more noted for grey office interiors than air and colour. The Odonata are an ancient species - they've been darting through the air of this planet for over 300 million years; their forebears  in the Carboniferous swamps had wingspans of up to 75cm. Something that size would cause a bit of a stir on the Grand Canal today...

Busy or not, I've still made time for the morning walks with Iz and water features on these too (I am trying not to mention rain...): the local stream, the Slang, looked beautiful on Saturday morning, running clear, reflecting light and leaves.

While we've been waiting in vain for summer, the plants and animals have been getting on with it: ash trees producing keys, rowan trees their berries. The skimming swallows that confound Izzy as she chases them in circles know that it will be time to head south soon. It's going to be August next week--the 1st of August is Lammas or LĂșnasa, a harvest festival--and so it's the start of Autumn here in Ireland. The Lammas growth is showing on the young oaks in the local field and at home in the garden the summer raspberries have just about finished. But the loganberries and strawberries (late this year) are still ripening as my son, returning from Canada, found to his delight this week - off the plane and into the garden, eating purply-red loganberries off the bushes, making yummy sounds :-). Welcome home DM and CB.

In the glasshouse, the tomatoes reproachfully wait for some pollinators to find their way in, and my attempts to replace the nuzzling bees with a tiny paintbrush have had limited success. The cold and the rain have meant that bees and other pollinators just aren't flying in the numbers we need. But I'm growing cucumbers for the first time and am delighted with the results (pic below and no sniggering down the back please).

Blight has hit the potatoes at the allotment, but I managed to rescue some today along with lettuce and broad beans. The beans are coming up to Donegal with us on Wednesday, a promise to our gracious hosts, one of whom battled against bitter winds to cover those same beans with fleece early in the year, the other of whom simply loves broad beans--good enough reason to grow and share, I say.
Victorian engineering on the Grand Canal

Scurrying moorhen

Slang and Elder 
Ash keys on the way
Lammas growth on a young oak
Cucumber success!
In the absence of the real thing, I'll finish this week with homemade sunshine blooming in the garden at the moment. 

Cephalaria gigantea

Erigeron sp.

Inula hookeri

1 comment:

  1. Love the bit about the Odonata.....thx a mill. B.