Monthly Archives: September 2015

red sky at night….

DSC_0180The good weather we have been having looks set to continue for a few days.  The red/orange sky is due to the scattering of the shorter light wave lengths, (blue light), by dust particles whilst the the longer wave lengths (red) are less affected.

As the sun is lower in the sky in the evening, the distance the light travels to the eye is longer, more short length light has been scattered, the longer wavelengths less affected so the sky appears to be red/orange.

A band of high pressure advancing from the west indicates a spell of dry sunny weather.  High pressure traps more dust particles and magnifies the effect.






a walk in the woods….

woodland walk 1A thin sliver of woodland next to a busy road.  The tree canopy muffled the traffic noise so well we could clearly hear a beech mast tumble through leaves. We could have been standing in the middle of a much bigger expanse because the understorey hid the line of sight.

A thin sliver of woodland – but one that so clearly shows the importance of planting stands of broadleaf trees.

Everyone should plant some trees….

woodland walk 2



“I’d say thistles, but nobody listens to me, anyway”….

Eeyore – dontcha just love him?  I do, my favourite, all time, absolute, WtheP character;  and on the subject of thistles …well he had it spot on.

artichokeI have grown globe artichoke before – on the allotment.  Only once – as they are big, big plants.

Of course now we have the space to put in a few rows of these silvery green, statuesque thistles.  Yes, Cynara cardunculus var. scolymus is a thistle.  The donkey knows his food stuff.

I grow ‘Green Globe’.  It is hardy and reliable with heavy flower buds.  As with all food of the season a light hand on the culinary side delivers big flavour.  A large head serves 2 for lunch, steamed until the petals pull away easily and then served with either a melted butter dip – or my favourite – dijon vinaigrette.

steamed artichokeThe piece de resistance?  Cut away the ‘choke’ and what is left is the artichoke heart.

Well worth growing some thistles.









a little extra hop…

Well I’m thinking about it… a bit of a hop garden.

I had a great time, recently, visiting my nieces A&J down towards the old smoke and we were lucky enough to catch a few days of the sunshine.  Having yomped round my old stamping grounds we headed to a niche craft beer shop, (a recent arrival on the London Road), for some take out ales.

Given the sunny weather we plumped for pale ales – I’m partial to IPA, J leans towards the APA style.

palealeThe little shop was stuffed full of ales from small breweries – both Pressure Drop and The Kernel are recent arrivals on the scene.   I like the way the hop varieties appear on the labels – just like grape varieties on wine labels!

The main areas for hop growing appear to be:  the US; Europe (UK; Germany; Czechoslovakia mainly); Australia and New Zealand.  Hopunion has a handy site that describes the characteristics of each hop variety and there are a number of nurseries in the UK where you can obtain the rhizomes.  So, a few poles and wires for support and off we go.

Though I expect I need to do some more in-depth research on the ales to narrow down the right hops….


blaze of glory….

orchard septemberI do think the evening light is lovely at this time of year. The sun is lower in the sky and the slanted light seems to bathe the surroundings in warm glow rather than the harsh bright white of mid summer.   We have started to harvest the early-mid ripening apples – Worcester Pearmain; James Grieve; Katy; and Scrumptious.  The Katy apples look particularly fine.

Later in the early evening I wandered round the orchard picking up fallen fruit and relocating them to the compost heaps.  I gave a surreptitious nudge to each piece to dislodge the remaining wasps before placing the apple in the wheelbarrow; in doing so I chance upon a hornet, Vespa crabro. 

hornetThe hornet is larger than a wasp, yellow and chestnut brown rather than yellow and black but quite docile.  This specimen seemed quite happy to pootle around the apple husk.  The hornet has a similar lifecycle to the common wasp.  I have no idea where the nest is possibly one of the old fruit trees in the old orchard.

I left the hornet to its meal and moved on.


a sting in the tail….

We have a lot of wasps, Vespula vulgaris, around this year.  I’m sure there are more than last year.  Possibly the combination of a fairly cold winter followed by the mild spring may have resulted in more queens emerging from hibernation.   I know of at least 2 nests in the new orchard, down old vole holes.

wasp nestThe top fruit is taking the brunt of the insects’ change in diet from carnivores to sugar monsters.

This is what a ‘Katy’ apple should look like:

apple katyand here is one the wasps have had a go at:

apple damaged

Any harvesting is now done in the cool of the morning or evening when there is less wasp activity, and even then I have a good look all round a piece of fruit before plucking from the tree, bush or cane.  Whilst I’m not too fond of wasps I wouldn’t destroy the nest because the workers do such a great job of pest control in early summer and I think the structure is incredibly beautiful.  Good news is that old nest sites aren’t reused, bad news, we have a lot of vole holes in the orchard.

August and September are the tricky months; the larvae have hatched and all those young wasps are out getting a sugar rush.  I’m trying to balance the onslaught to our crop by clearing away any damaged fruit, (beekeeper or thick leather gloves are a good idea), and I may start harvesting some fruit a few days off fully ripe.  The winter will kill off the old queen, worker and male wasps anyway.

In the meantime I shall keep a respectful distance.