Saturday, 22 August 2009

Please follow the link

Because I have had trouble trying to save my new email addy I have been unable to get into my blogs and had to start a new one. If you come here, I have now amalgamated both this blog and my original one Codlins and Cream into one again, and both can now be found at:

Oh, and if you hear screaming - that's ME!

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Our very own fox . . .

My son called me today to say there was a fox in the paddock, and so there was. I had grabbed my camera before we crept up the stairs to the half landing and got these photos. He's looking a bit manky - wonder if he has mange? His brush is not All It Should Be!

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Wildlife on holiday

Here are a few photographs taken from our recent holiday. Firstly, the ponies which the New Forest is famous for. They are all "wild-ish" but many are used to people and the ones in Burley itself will stand to be petted and posed with. There was one youngster, probably a 2 yr old, laid flat out asleep in the Burley car park, literally being crawled over by half dozen kids, all having their photo taken. Now if the Health and Safety brigade had noticed that, the ponies would all be shut away somewhere . . .

There are many fewer ponies on the Forest after recent re-organization, the stallions have been culled, only the better ones used, and only turned out for a few months in the summer to cover mares. There are fewer foals - many of which went for the meat trade - and prices should be better. However, there are a LOT more cattle on the Forest now. When I was a kid you would hardly ever see cattle, though of course there were plenty of pigs turned out for pannage each autumn, to clear up the millions of acorns. Acorns are poisonous to ponies, causing Vitamin B deficiency and ultimately death, but the ponies ignore the health risks and many have a real taste for them, as indeed my three horses did here, resulting in the chore of having to go round and pick up ALL the acorns each autumn - and we have half a dozen big oak trees on our land.

Two donkeys "parked" in the car park at Burley. They looked really cheesed off! I love the stripey legs of the darker grey donkey. My lovely Arab Fahly had stripey legs too, on his forearms.

Isn't he beautiful? This little chap, probably about 6 months or so old, came round every evening just before dusk. He got the shock of his life one night when there was Another Fox on the lawn already - a cooty old thing with mange. In this photo, he had just spotted the older fox and a few moments later, turned tail and was next seen crossing the paddocks beyond the garden. He turned up every night we were house-sitting. When we let the dogs out last thing, they would "trail" every step the foxes had taken . . .

The rabbits would come out a little earlier in the evening to browse. They were totally unconcerned by the possibility of predators . . .

The nut-nets were very popular with the birds, and despite being squirrel-proof, the visiting squirrel seems very undeterred. Sometimes the Jays and Yaffles would swoop by too.

Both Greater-Spotted and Lesser-Spotted Woodpeckers visited the nut net. This is the Lesser Spotted and I had never seen one until staying at Ann's house. There were also two families of Green Woodpeckers nesting either side of the garden which set up a tremendous fuss if yuo walked near their nests! The Hampshire (Wessex really) name for Green woodpeckers is "Yaffles" on account of their laughter-like call.

Monday, 10 August 2009

This is the Rampion, photographed on chalky soil in Dorset. It prefers dry grassland - banks, waysides, and often closely-grazed habitats and flowers June to August. I can't find any herbal use for it, so it will have to rely on its pretty colouring and petals which are a little like Ragged Robin, only with a different flowerhead and colouring overall. I also know these as hard heads. There is a much-rarer Round-Headed Rampion which I would love to find one day.

I photographed this poor blackbird in a tree outside our eldest daughter's kitchen window in her new flat. He was totally bald and illustrates how hard parent birds work feeding their young. I think such a heavy moult is brought on following all that hard work.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Common Mallow

Malva sylvestris. This is one of seven different Mallows to be found in Britain and this one is also found in North America where it is called High Mallow. Pliny said of these plants: "whosoever shall take a spoonful of the juice of any of the mallows, shall that day be free from all diseases that may come to him." Would that were the case!

Country folk in both France and England have used fresh mallow leaves soaked in hot water as an effective poultice for "strains, sprains and wasp and bee stings". Indeed a bee-keeping builder of ours advised that Mallows (Marsh mallow in particular) were good for bee-stings and to always have some growing in the garden. In the past it was recommended that mallows, boiled and buttered, be used 'for the Breasts or paps of women: for it not only procureth great store of milk . . . but aswageth the hardness of them . . . also all other torments that come by the stoppings of the belly.' I would assume it was the heat from using these as a fomentation which brought relief, in combination with the healing powers of the mallow leaves. Mallow was also recommended for treating pleurisy and other chest complaints, as well as skin irritation. Mallow root was used to whiten teeth. The plant is rich in mucilage, and for this reason was used in ointments and cough medicines, as well as in enemas!

Of course, the Marsh Mallow was used in the manufacture of the sweetmeat of that name - there must have been many millions of plants compared with today, when it is a lot rarer.

You will find the Common Mallow along roadside verges and rough ground.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Where to start? Yarrow I think.

I have SO much to catch up on over this summer without broadband, it will be almost impossible. So posts for the next few weeks will probably be very random. I will begin with the most recent photograph i took, which is the one of Yarrow growing beside the River Dart in Postbridge yesterday afternoon. Sadly we only had a couple of hours on the moor, on our way home between the New Forest and following a family get together.

Yaarrow grows in poorish soil and is often found on dry verges. I remember it well along the edge of the wild half of our garden in Southampton when I was growing up, with Toadflax for company. Of course it has a cultivated version in various hues to grow in the garden. Its country names were Devil's Nettle and Devil's Plaything, following a connection with a witch's incantations and trial in the 17th century. Some folk made it into Snuff, hence it's other name of Old Man's Pepper.

The Latin name of Achillea stems from it being used to treat the Greek warrior Achilles, as it is famus for its wound healing and blood-staunching properties. He in turn used it to heal the wounds of his compatriots. Country names suggesting this are Soldier's Woundwort, Herbe Militaris, Bloodwort, Sanguinary and Staunchweed. It was also used for promotion of sweating as it is a strong febrifuge. Gypsies would stuff the leaves up the noses of any feverish animals to promote a nosebleed and lessening of fever. Presumably one nostril would be left clear for them to breath! It was also used to treat earache, a wad of the soft leaves crushed and warmed being placed against the affected ear.

There were many superstitions abut the Yarrow including the one that yarrow could provide a glimpse of a future sweetheart. This involved sewing some yarrow in a scrap of cloth and putting it under your pillow, when of course you would dream of the man you would marry . . .

Many thanks to Pamela Michael's "A Country Harvest" and Juliette de Bairacli Levy's "The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable."

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Normal service will soon be resumed?

Well, hopefully BT are fixing our line on 8th August, after fixing it temporarily. We will have to see how well it holds up when we next have heavy rain. I am currently on holiday in the New Forest with my husband - we are house-sitting for friends whilst they have a holiday.

We have been enjoying the wildlife here - LOTS of birds visiting the nut nets - including Greater and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers (I've never seen the latter until this week), Green Woodpeckers nesting in two places in the garden here, Jays, a Buzzard nesting nearby, and at night badgers in the paddocks and veg plot, and a leggy young fox who trots across the lawn at dusk every evening. I got a good photo of him one evening, so I will post that when I get home. There is an older - and very mangey - fox too, who our young one is very wary of. With big French windows, the garden feels like is is part of the room. So another "want" has been added to my long list for when we downsize!

I was fortunate to find a lovely book: The Countryside Companion in a charity shop this past week, and for only 50 pence. Here is a little extract from "Cornish Wilds", 1924, by H J Massingham:

"But, unlike the granite, the bramble, furze and blackthorn do not stand up to the elements nor bide the pelting of the wind, but, huddling, twisting, creeping close to the hollow soil, become its very garment. The shuffling badger that lives among the cairns, the little pennywort or navelwort that swings its bells in their safe niches are not in their way more reticent than is the gorse. Even so, the Atlantic gales have nibbled off their tops and mounded them into tiny ranges, through which the ling forces its purple spires, so that the flowers of each plant grow intermingled, in pressed clusters and on the same level. This blending is very beautiful, for the September gorse (Ulex nanus), which is a sub-species or variety of Ulex europoeus that sets the moors in points of smokeless flame in spring, is of the deep but subdued colouring of old gold. In wide patches grow the bents or white moor-grass, all silver and silk, and of a texture so fine that when the wind ripples their surface it is as though its wavelets had suddenly become visible. The same wind grips the waters and crunches the ships to tatters, and pounds and crumbles the granite into the mazy sculpture of the covers ans shatters even the iron-stone."