Thursday, 2 June 2011

Seasons all awry.

On the road sides as we went down to our feed merchant this morning there is a distinct August in June feel. Already cow parsley has lost its creamy-white lustre and the meadow-sweet is blooming a good month early. Pink campion is already going to seed and much of the road-side looks'tired'.

Then you raise your eyes and see that the leaves of the trees, battered by a good week of North Westerly gales, have begun to take on a brown and withered look. You come to a stand of ash trees and see that they are not yet fully in leaf. As the oak trees are well out it seems there may be some truth in the old adage:

"If the oak before the ash
we are in for just a splash.
If the ash before the oak
we'll be getting quite a soak."

Certainly all we have had here on the Eastern side of the Pennines is a splash or two of rain - and it shows. The plums are dropping off from lack of water, as are the gooseberries and cherries. We are watering things like peas, runner beans and strawberries nightly to keep them going.

We have just - ten minutes ago - sown a row of Swiss Chard seed. I have not tried it before but there was space in the garden and I spotted the seed at the feed merchants. So if anyone out there has any recipes for chard I would be grateful for them please.

I am re-reading, for about the fourth time, Roger Deakin's 'Notes from Walnut Tree Farm'. What a wonderfully eccentric man he was (he died in 2006). This book is a collection of his writings which his friend Alison Hastie put together after his death. It is full of countryside observations written with such wit that I keep
laughing out loud in the evenings while the farmer is trying to do his Sudoku.

He also says such a lot of wise things that really make you think. How about this:-

"Books are like seeds: they come to life when you read them and grow spines and leaves. I need trees around me as I need books around me, so building bookshelves is something like planting trees."

It is the perfect book for dipping in to. I do recommend it (Pub: Hamish Hamilton).

Also on the subject of the countryside, those of you who live in the UK may well have been watching Springwatch. The farmer and I have been surprised to find the wide range of food that the Buzzard will eat. We have a pair which soar over our fields and we thought they ate mainly rabbit. But during the course of these programmes, when there is a camera on the edge of the nest, the buzzard has brought all of the following to feed her chick:-
moorhen, grass snake, rabbit, duckling, mole, squirrel and vole. This goes some way to explaining why our local gamekeepers do not seem to be keen on them. We just keep our fingers crossed for the beautiful pair that soar over our fields.

And on the subject of fields - this morning the grass which was cut yesterday has been gathered up and taken to the silage clamp. Now the cut fields lie empty and yellow and seagulls, curlew and rook poke their long beaks into the hard ground, searching for the odd feast. All the cut grass does is cry out for a shower of rain.


MorningAJ said...

I can hear my mother: "Mother Shipton said, when you can't tell the difference between the seasons the world will come to an end."

angryparsnip said...

We had no winter rain, just three small storms, so our spring was about two days and zoomed into an early dry summer with wildfires around us. Hoping the summer monsoons help out, too bad they are usually so destructive.

cheers, parsnip

Dartford Warbler said...

There is a real look of August about your photograph today.

We are worried that a large ash tree on our boundary is about to die of thirst and are wondering if we can run a hosepipe along to give it a long drink. We usually miss hosepipe bans here as our water comes from the lower reaches of the Hampshire Avon.

Heather said...

Do hope you get rain soon Pat. Food prices will rocket after this dry year. Maybe we should try a rain dance or offerings to the gods. Roger Deakin sounds such an interesting man - I must look out for that book. I believe you can eat chard like spinach - young leaves raw in salads and older ones lightly simmered or steamed.

Tom Stephenson said...

I used to have a girlfriend who was a direct descendant of Mother Shipton - she was a witch too.

Elizabeth said...

How vividly you bring the smells and feel of English countryside alive to me!

oak and ash
I feel rather cut off from all that sort of thing nowadays.
We nearly had a tornado yesterday
and R.'s brother has had to evacuate his house in North Dakota.
Something rather wild with the weather round here!

Eryl said...

I grew chard last year and found it a bit dull to eat, though quite pretty to look at. Young leaves went into salads with things like rocket for pep, and older ones I tended to cook by wilting in butter and olive oil, again to add some flavour.

So, we are to expect a dry summer? It wouldn't surprise me as, after years of looking, I found a rain hat that fits a few days ago.

Anonymous said...

I do hope the old saw about oak and ash is right, Pat. That's the way round it's been down here in Herts.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

We are in a drought as well. Our countryside looks like the brown of August/September. My water bill for will be out of sight even though we can only water two days a week. Will probably be put to one day very soon. Hand water I can do, but I haven't planted my gardens of old in anticipation of no rain.

I'm cooking Swiss Chard on Saturday night. I saute in olive oil with a little minced garlic, shallots, and a splash of balsamic vinegar at the end.

Wish I could say I'm reading something good. In between books at the moment. Can't decide on the next so catching up on my stack of magazines.

Rachel Phillips said...

I rather like this weather.

Dave King said...

We were saying only yesterday that it has the feel of August: for one thing, the chrysanthemums had come out.

thousandflower said...

We either steam or saute chard. In either case slice the stems and put them in the bottom of the pan as they take a bit longer to cook than the leaves. Sauteing with a bit of onion and garlic is good. Splash a bit of balsamic vinegar on at the end.