Thursday, 19 October 2017


Plant on wall in the orange light of October 16th 2017.
You know when the sun went red earlier this week? And the sky went orange? And it was because ex-hurricane Ophelia had brought dust from the Sahara and debris from Iberian wild fires in the swirl of her skirts? It was a very wonderful orange and the atmosphere almost pre-eclipsical and it cast a special and golden glow over what was already a golden autumn.

Naturally just about everyone who owns a camera went out and took pictures.

Grass on wall.
Yellow leaves looked fantastic but, initially, my camera was keen to over-do the look, to make it seem pretty much as if we were ourselves in the middle of a forest fire or that the end of the world was truly nigh. Indeed, while I was taking a photograph of the sun - with lens pointing straight at it (what a day!) a man walking by stopped to let me know that this strangeness was not caused by humans but it was God's way of telling us the world was about to end. This might be today, tomorrow, five years time, ten years or hundred . . . but end it would . . . and that people who had accepted Jesus into their hearts (hand on chest) would be ok but everyone else would not. He said this in a very cheerful way so perhaps he's hedging his bets on a hundred-year scenario.

Small rowan on wall.
I didn't quite subscribe to his end of the world theory but if it were to be the end of the world I was anxious to get my photographs in first. So I think I should be congratulated for patiently and politely waiting for the man to stop warning me of my possibly imminent demise while what I really wanted to do was to capture the red circle which was the sun while it was there.

Previous arrivals of Saharan dust have left gritty deposits of brick red on the roofs and bonnets of cars. And on Monday I assumed the red of the sun and the orange of the light were because sand in the Sahara is red. So I pottered around town thinking about camels and celebrated the light with an ice-cream . . . and fiddled with the settings on my camera . . . and found which colours 'worked' and which were distorted in the eerie atmosphere.

Cars, vans, buildings, street.
Later, a weather forecaster explained that the reds and oranges were nothing to do with the colours of sand but that debris in the atmosphere was deflecting greens and blues from the rainbow which makes light white. (All science is daft.) But that was later. By then I'd already found I could filter out Ophelia herself and that my camera could turn everything back to 'normal' if it wanted. Or if I wanted. (That's the challenge.) So . . . while photographs of wall plants in this post show what things really looked like on October 16th, the street picture (cars, van, buildings) shows what things look like on ordinary days even though I took it when the light was orange. It's a camera lie.

Clever things cameras. Strange thing light. Funny thing reality.

To see the red sun, go to my other blog (Message in a Milk Bottle)
The Day the Sun Turned Red - 4 - The Sun
and the preceding posts
The Day the Sun Turned Red - 3 - Leaves
The Day the Sun Turned Red - 2 - Street Light
The Day the Sun Turned Red - 1 - Portrait

Thursday, 12 October 2017


Onion seedling on Halifax allotment.
Onion seedling. Here one day, gone the next. 9th September 2017.
My allotment neighbour and I say little. We call out a cheery 'good morning' or say 'see you tomorrow' as we wave goodbye. We have few words in common. We speak different languages. But we both know 'slugs'. She showed me a heavily nibbled vegetable. Later she waved a big container of slug-pellets, pointed at it and smiled.

She may be right. My onion seeds germinated and vanished. I think I had kohlrabi seedlings at one point. It's of no account. Whatever they were, they've gone.

I planted fifty ornamental alium bulbs; badgers came over night and dug them up leaving one left on the surface. I replanted it.

Red clover germinating under a heavy black mesh
On the upside, I now I have a use for some of the rubbish strewn around the place. I covered the bulb bed (which may now be an empty bed except for one flower) with plastic mesh and weighted it down with old bricks. The next day, I sprinkled red clover seeds through it. The seeds weren't meant to be scattered across the surface of the soil but I was reluctant about dismantling my badger defences. The germination rate was wonderful; visible. But only briefly. Mesh may deter badgers but slugs sniffed at it and surged in.

Brussels Sprouts Plant
This week I planted curly kale and Brussels sprouts plants from a garden centre. The big windows in our new house light our rooms surprisingly well - but the sun isn't strong enough to properly warm our sills. Everything gets a bit bedraggled. They had been there for a while before I had time to move them. None the less, I cleared a new bed and interspersed the slightly unhappy plants with slug traps. Beer is conventional. Milk works just as well and the plants have survived. But the half buried traps were soon dug up and overturned. Badgers!

I'm assuming badgers. There are round indentations where they've placed their feet. And round indentations where they've pressed their snouts into the soil searching for worms. And there are diggings which go nowhere. And slimy grey poo! (Next time I find some I'll show you.) And the soil, though not sandy, is fine. I suppose they like that.

The beginnings of a compost heap.
The red blob which looks suspiciously like a tomato is a crab apple.
At least, I hope it's a crab apple.
I wouldn't intentionally to put tomatoes or potatoes in compost.
I now have compost bin where I feed brandling worms from Dorset with specially bought veg. from here. Rats have found it and burrowed in. We can buy rat poison in the allotment shop but I've blocked their first hole with a stone.

In theory there are carrot seeds between the rungs of an old wooden cot side tugged out of the long grass and weighted down against badgers. But slugs are undeterred by wooden bars. So . .  no carrots!

I have onion sets and peas to put in. (Seed-selling sites recommend which varieties can be planted at this time of year.)

I hope slugs enjoy them.
Long live badgers who cavort in my newly dug beds.
And a toast to the birds which don't seem to be there to feast on the seeds.

Could do with a robin for company though. Or a blackbird.

Or perhaps not. Do robins and blackbirds eat slugs? I think they might be interested only in worms. Maybe they eat other things too for some of the time but when you are digging - it's worms.
And pigeons would want brassicas and peas.
Bother wildlife!

* * *

'How do Slugs Eat?' - Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.
For masses of information about badgers - Badgerland.