Thursday, 12 February 2015

Loving Lichens

As it's fast approaching Valentine's Day we thought we would go down a different route and instead of  the usual stuff associated with this day of romance we are going to talk about Lichen……stay with us you will see the link. (albeit tenuous)
Whilst walking through beautiful southern Scotland, we spotted many trees sporting growths that looked weirdly beard-like - Lichens! Although Lichens are not actually plants they can appear to have leafy or bushy growths and these growths demonstrate a healthy symbiotic relationship between algae and fungus.
The two pertinent parts benefit each other - the fungus benefits from the food produced by the photosynthesis carried out by the algae and this in turn is protected by the fungus which also gathers moisture and nutrients and can also provide the anchorage to host plants and trees.

The amazing growths of Lichen is in fact an indicator of clean air and they can be long lived with some considered to be among the oldest living things. 

Bless 'em what a perfect couple Fungus and Algae makes! 


Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Stone dragons


….Talking of dragons….and of course stone…visiting Lincoln cathedral recently we could not help but be overwhelmed by  the sheer scale and beauty of the cathedral perched high above the surrounding landscape. 
Many cathedrals contain dragons and gargoyles with hideous faces and twisted bodies - and we have often wondered why these devilish characters were given house room in such Godly locations. 
The origin of gargoyles in church architecture is apparently linked to a legend of a fierce fire breathing French dragon named La Gargouille, (are garlic fumes flammable?).
As the French legend goes, the head of the dragon was mounted on a newly built church in Paris having been slain by a Saint.
The word 'Gargoyle' also shares a common root with the word 'gargle'; which comes from 'gargouille', and the French word for 'throat'. A true gargoyle is a waterspout and a carved creature that does not serve the purpose of a drain pipe is called a 'Grotesque'.

Lincoln  Cathedral has it's own special fiendish Grotesque known as the Lincoln Imp.
According to 14th-century legend, two mischievous creatures called imps were sent by the Devil to do evil work on Earth. After causing mayhem in Northern England the two imps headed to Lincoln Cathedral where they smashed furniture and tripped up the Bishop. An angel appeared in the Angel Choir and shrieked at them (sorry, that was me reliving having young children)…ordered them to stop.
One of the imps sat atop a stone pillar started throwing rocks at the angel whilst the other imp cowered under the broken tables and chairs. The angel turned the first imp to stone and the second imp escaped. The imp that was caught and  turned to stone can still be found, frozen in stone, perched on top of the stone column in the Angel Choir. 

Legend has it that the second Imp escaped to Grimsby and continued his bad behaviour there until he was caught and turned to stone after receiving a whacking. He can be seen still clutching his backside and presumably perched on the naughty step.







Monday, 19 January 2015

Fire Dragon

We just had to share this picture of Polyanthus Fire Dragon as it is a freezing cold, frosty day and yet glancing into the garden our eye is caught by what looks like a small fire glowing in the large copper wash tub on the terrace. It's a new Polyanthus and It produces spectacular flame coloured blooms that are larger than usual and stand tall on sturdy stems.


Just the thing when it's cold outside…..now where's the Sloe Gin?
 

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Teasel teasing






A beautiful day in the country and a walk with the dog is essential. Even in the depths of January there is plenty to see in the landscape . We have to push our way through swathes of teasels which then catch on our clothes and won't get off despite brushing and picking. This made me think about how I had heard that teasels used to be used for 'carding' wool fibre ('teasing' out the wool)  and I thought how on earth was this achieved given that the teasels are impossible to remove and that the wool would end up tangled up in prickly seeds - not the intended end result I'm sure.
Anyway, for those worried about this fact as I was, apparently the teasels used for carding was a special type of teasel called the fuller's teasel. Fullers were the tradespeople who felted the cloth after weaving and also raised the nap with the use of the teasels which were set into a cross shaped frame. These hand held frames were eventually superseded by the teasel gig. This consisted of a large cylindrical drum which was coated in teasel heads. The teasel gig's teasels were maintained and replaced by an specialist 'teasel man' who travelled from mill to mill. The Fuller's teasel has apparently got different spines on the seed heads so that they don't get caught up and ruin the wool.

So now you know.





Not so slow Sloe Gin


This blog entry somehow escaped being published in Autumn but the fruit of our labour was well worth it so I though we should share it even though it's late!

As John Keats once said - ok….'said' may be under egging the pudding … but anyway...


Ode to Autumn


SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
  Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
  With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
  And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;

    To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
  With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
  For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

It's that time of year again when we stop fighting the urge to hang onto (fading, faded, gone) summer  time and give into the inevitability of winter approaching. 
Tidy up the borders, plant bulbs , batten down the shed and greenhouse after the first gales threaten to take them away to Oz (yes getting a bit late for this I know but when you are time strapped…)

Anyway, the best part of this time of year is producing Sloe Gin (and for the first time Sloe Whisky) - such a simple yet worthwhile task.

All you have to do is :
- Half fill a (sterilised) bottle with Sloes (freezer overnight so the skins split to release the juices)
- Top up with Whisky or Gin
- Add 2 tablespoons of caster sugar (you can add sugar syrup at the end if it's not sweet enough)
- Shake every other day for a few weeks and leave in a dark place
- Come Xmas - DRINK……it's a beautiful thing to have after a long country walk and THIS is what makes winter worth looking forward to!





Thursday, 4 September 2014

Round heads

Hydrangea is a bit of an odd fellow. Blousy, chameleon-like, blue or pink, easy to grow yet wilts at the drop of a hat….its a bit of a mixed up kid. 

Its folklore is equally diverse -  having a hydrangea too close to her home can doom a single woman to remain unmarried and stands for frigidity and heartlessness in the Language of Flowers.  The hydrangea also stands for boastfulness - probably due to the inflated size of its roundheaded flowerheads. It's also capable of breaking curses placed on some unlucky person by a witch. At the same time it's a nice character really as it stands for friendship, devotion and understanding.
Native Americans and settlers used it as a medicinal herb to remove 'gravel' from the bladder, to stimulate saliva, and as a diuretic, laxative or tonic.  
The Japanese brew a sweet tea from the lacecap type, and some foolhardy types have even been known to smoke it even though hydrangeas are mildly toxic containing small amounts of cyanide. I'd give that a miss then….. And yet its used as a tonic in alternative medicine.

HHmmmm let's just say it's a great shrub for a sunny yet moist border and what gorgeous, perfectly round flowers.


Tuesday, 2 September 2014

High Viz fruits

Pumpkins. Can there be any other fruit (yes, a fruit) that can be more satisfying to grow? Pop a few seeds into a forgotten area in the garden and wander back a couple of months later and wow…..where did they come from? Beautiful bright coloured pumpkins like jewels in the ground….(hhmm going a bit poetic here..pull back a bit girl)

 Anyway, what glorious things they are and if you were a Pilgrim in the 16th century you would be more than thankful to see them as this would be your staple diet in the hard winters of colonial America.



'Our pumpkins and parsnips are common supplies,
We have pumpkins at morning and pumpkins at noon,
If it were not for  pumpkins we should be undoon.'

Even better for the colonists, the shells were used for haircuts ensuring a lovely, stylish rounded uniform cut. Good grief what a look…..Pumpkinheads.


At least the early colonists had an easy job at Halloween, carving their Jack-O-Lanterns from the easy to carve pumpkin shells. Growing up in Scotland we had to struggle with rock hard turnips to make our lanterns…soft, we were not.


Click below to see a video showing how and when to harvest your crop.


How to harvest and store your pumpkins








Thursday, 14 August 2014

Disney Film

As our blog covers all things landscape and other things that catch our fancy, (oddly at first sight) todays entry describes a mundane dog walk. However, it soon felt like we were in a Disney film with chirruping bluebirds flying around our heads and landing on our shoulders. Chipmunks gambolling around our feet and raccoons dancing. (Not really but it adds to the story) The walk took only 40 minutes but in this time we walked past a clucky chicken scuttling into a hedge closely followed by 10 adorable chicks. Further up the lane we passed a very vocal cockerel cock-a-doodle-dooing for all he was worth. Apparently he has been displaced through age to a younger fellow and now spends his time in the hedge shouting his angst and rage to anyone who listens. (There's a film in there somewhere)

Ten minutes later and the dog was shocked to find two huge hares having a chat on the path. They soon took off but not until we were nearly upon them, closely followed by Norma (the dog) who had recovered enough to give chase. As if she stood any chance! They soon disappeared into a field of corn on the cob which now towers over us in a magical garden kind of way. It has grown so fast that I swear you could watch it grow if you set up a chair in the field and had an afternoon to spare.

Our next encounter was truly from Disney. In a nesting box on an old oak tree sat a beautiful barn owl - head just peeking out and staring at us with a slow blink and a wise nodding head. He soon took off and then out popped another one! Both flew off with slow and deliberate wing strokes into the woods and out of sight.

The three dead mice laid out on the path untouched with no visible signs of injury was probably not very Disneyesque but all in all the walk was 'enchanting' and thats all we can say!


Amazeballs

Imagine our surprise when picking up the daily newspaper to see 'amazeballs' was trending. What's this we asked ourselves - have we finally made headline news for our wonderful product? And if so why now? What has occurred in the relatively sleepy world of Stoneballs?

On further reading we realised it has nothing to do with Stoneballs Company and we feel obliged to disclaim any link with this ghastly expression that has made the pages of our august reading material  because the word has now been included in the Oxford English Dictionary Online! Not, however I hasten to add, the main OED. 

The meaning apparently is 'Extremely good or impressive; amazing'. 
The word has also also been included in the Dictionary of the Most  Annoying Words in the English Language where it was defined as an 'exclamation inviting someone to hit you'. Brilliant definition. 

However, on further thought, as all entries must be in common usage to qualify for insertion maybe we are just being intellectually snobbish (priggish - now that is a ghastly word) and we should embrace any new words to our wondereful lexicon of English - that's why the OED is so vast anyway, because language is constantly evolving and never stands still.

Call us 'cray' but we think our stone balls are 'adorbs' and of course 'amazeballs'……

Hhhhhhmmm…erk....maybe not……it's probably an age thing anyway.


Amazeballs or just a lovely thing?

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Harvest



                             

















                                                              

          Add to the ambienceClick here



               It's great our farmers are managing to make hay while the sun shines.


                  
Square bales are for people who believe in feeding their cows 3 square meals a day - personally we prefer round  bales - all things spherical.

                                                                  

Thursday, 22 May 2014

More spherical lore...

It was Isaac Newton who first proposed that Earth was not perfectly round. Instead, he suggested it was an oblate spheroid—a sphere that is squashed at its poles and swollen at the equator and, because of this bulge, the distance from Earth's centre to sea level is roughly 21 kilometres (13 miles) greater at the equator than at the poles.


Just as fascinating and probably a tad more entertaining is this optical illusion: 
click on the link