Sunday, 17 May 2020


Pea shoots on the window sill in the early morning ligh
Pea shoots on the window sill in the early morning light.
The house I live in was built in 1882 and faces east. It's made of stone; part of a back-to-back terrace and traditionally expected to be dark and poky (there are windows on only one side). But these windows are massive; light floods in and the view is filled with trees. Every tree now has its leaves and the leaves come in as silhouettes dancing across the rooms. If my laptop screen goes black, writing is replaced by their swaying reflections. When I shut my eyes, I see them. And when I sleep I find I am viewing their cousins - trees elsewhere; trees I wasn't even conscious of when I first saw them but somehow their images have imprinted themselves in my mind so I re-meet them unexpectedly in my dreams.

The trees are reflected in the glass of the window as a dandelion begins to open when the light arrives.
The trees are reflected in the glass of the window as a dandelion begins to open
when the light arrives. May 2nd 2020
This combination of trees and windows and light means I see trees whether I am looking outwards or in. When I nip outside to look at dandelions in the window boxes (cannot resist) I find I am looking at the trees behind me.

Being indoors all the time is dulling my daytime vision. The house may be alight with sunshine and leaf-shadows but I've started to squint when I go outside. It takes a few moments to adjust.

Sycamore blossom. May 5th 2020.
Sycamore blossom. May 5th 2020. (The right hand tree.)

When I said I would be 'following' sycamore trees, Phil Gates (at the Cabinet of Curiosities) replied by talking about greenfly. Greenfly like sycamores. I can't think how many greenfly there must be in these trees; millions and millions of them churning out honeydew . . . the sticky stuff ants like to eat, the stuff which makes leaves hang heavy, which sometimes makes them gloriously shiny and sometimes dulls them where dust and the millions of white-shed, empty aphid skins stick to it; the sticky which coats cars parked beneath so they get grubbier and grubbier. They are plastered with bits and bobs of grit and sycamore blossom all gunged in place with honeydew. Sitting unused during 'lockdown' they look as if they've been abandoned for at least five years. So this curtain of shimmering light . . . was thickened, enriched, by the gentle fall of honeydew and the bodies of aphids tumbling down through sunbeams.

Dandelion flower in window box. May 2nd 2020.
Dandelion flower in window box. May 2nd 2020.

I once watched a caterpillar turn into a chrysalis. It took several hours and however hard I tried, I couldn't work out what was happening. It looked painful. The caterpillar seemed to be turning inside out. Eventually, whatever was happening stopped. Months later, I walked into the kitchen and found a cabbage white fluttering about the kitchen.

Half a dandelion clock. May 2nd 2020.
Half a dandelion clock. May 2nd 2020.
Mysteries, every day mysteries, are going on all the time. Dandelions closed. Half-open. Open. However posed, they are different.

Then, all of a sudden, like from one day to the next, they are even more different. Instead of a yellow flower you have a clock of brown arrows with white flights stuck into a pale green cushion.

Dandelion after the seeds have flown.
Dandelion after the seeds have flown. May 2nd 2020.

And some time after that . . . the seeds start blowing away and you are down to the aphid that was there all along.

Aphid on the dandelion after the  seeds have blown away.
Aphid in the picture above on the dandelion
after the seeds have blown away.
For while you are looking at the dandelions, you find you are also looking at the aphids which have fallen on them from the trees. It's a greenfly landscape! 

Common Sycamore Aphids (Drepanosiphum plantanoides) 2nd May 2020
Common Sycamore Aphids
(Drepanosiphum plantanoides)
2nd May 2020

Did you notice too, below the flower in the earlier picture? See left. Common Sycamore Aphids.

Smooth Sow Thistle. (Sonchus oleraceus) 16th May 2020
Smooth Sow Thistle. (Sonchus oleraceus)
16th May 2020

On to something else . . . only not really . . . in front of my house is a tiny patch of earth. Before I got leukaemia I started to dig it over ready for something . . . can't remember what . . . but it was abandoned when I went into hospital. It's still abandoned - but not unoccupied. A Smooth Sow Thistle has moved in. Smooth Sow Thistles have pretty little yellow flowers, a bit like small dandelions; and like dandelions these flowers produce 'clocks' so the seeds can be taken by the wind. But I don't like them. There's something very unpleasant about their leaves. Sow thistles are taller than dandelions, and gangly (about eighteen inches?) and their leaves, (which stick out from the stems) are all different sizes. They can't decide. And the surface of the leaves is dull. It doesn't reflect light much. There's nothing enlivening about them. I can't justify the way I react to their leaves. It's not their fault. Nor is it their fault that a white mould or something is forming where the jolly old honeydew has landed.

Smooth Sow Thistle Leaf. (Sonchus oleraceus) 2nd May 2020
Smooth Sow Thistle Leaf. (Sonchus oleraceus)
2nd May 2020 - before the white mould began to form.

But in the spirit of investigate blogging (!) I photographed a leaf I didn't like. Then another miracle happened. When looking at plants, or anything really, you go through several stages of 'seeing'. In this case I 'see' a plant and don't like it. I re-'see' it when I put its picture on my laptop screen . . . . then I get tempted to fiddle. In theory I am trying to make the picture clearer. 

In practice I find I am making the leaf conform better to what I like in a leaf. The green gets a bit deeper. I change the light so more detail can be seen . . . and gradually, I notice good things about the leaf . . .  it has an interesting and elegant, jaggedy edge.

What if I heighten the contrast - oh wow! It's mind blowing!

I went back to take another look at the leaf - two weeks later. It's not as big as I had begun to remember it. It's quite inoffensive really. It can't help its bedraggled state. And all that detail, all the dips and ridges and edges are there even if my unaided eyes can't see them.

But wouldn't it have been nice if I could have shown you a sow-thistle clock? Earlier, there was one but all the seeds blew away.

Smooth Sow Thistle. (Sonchus oleraceus)  16th May 2020
Smooth Sow Thistle. (Sonchus oleraceus)
16th May 2020

There's a dead smooth sow thistle flower. Seeds are forming beneath its shrivelling petals. The miracle is taking place but not ready yet. Perhaps I should be dissecting some of these flowers to see what is happening? (Something I couldn't do to the caterpillar / chrysalis!)

I potter briefly in front of my front of my door, ready to dart inside if anyone comes. Along the pavement I have some pots and in one of them there is nothing . . . or not quite nothing, there's an unintended aquilegia.

Aquilegia are funny. They start off as bright flowers but after a few years of self-seeding their descendants loose their colour. This is one of these. Pale and a bit dreary (though standing erect) and it too is sticky with honeydew. Sticky with honeydew to which . . . . Smooth Sow Thistle seeds are stuck! (I think that's what they are!) And aren't the sticky stems beautiful with the light shining through them? Aren't they beautiful with the seeds stuck to them? I hadn't noticed before how hairy they are!

Smooth Sow Thistle seeds (probably)
caught on Aquilegia stems. 16th May 2020

Hurray for light! Hurray for trees! Hurray for Aphids! Hurray for honeydew! Hurray for dandelions, for stickiness, for seed clocks . . . for a few square feet by the front door where one can go for a ramble.
Notes and Links

About the Common Sycamore Aphid - 'Identification of Aphids' section of the 'Influential Points' site.
Identification of Aphids - lots of pictures - and links via the plants you find the aphid on in the left hand column. (Same site.)
     New to the 'Identifying Things' tab (below the header on Loose and Leafy)
Weevils - Mark Gurney's Album on flickr (beautiful to browse even when you don't have a weevil to ID!).

P.S. At the top of the aquilegia picture there are two little, yellow, sideways-vs on the stem. They are aphid legs.
P.P.S. There are more dandelions seeds on a post on my Dorset blog:- 'Sheer Indulgence'.

Linking to Nature Notes at Rambling Woods.


Squirrelbasket said...

Oh you are SO back on form!
What an excellent post. You always seem to find such telling details in everything. And it's always a journey...
Ever so glad you are with us again and thriving on the sunlight and views of green and gold.
Take acre :)

Alison Levey said...

I love this, superb photographs and such a fascinating read.

David M. Gascoigne, said...

A well written post, filled with information too, and quite poetic at times. Well done, Lucy.

Susannah Anderson said...

When I lived in Delta (BC) there was a tree on the lawn that dripped honeydew. The bugs loved it; it was full of ladybugs, aphids, ants, bees and flies and wasps zooming around, and, of course, spiders to prey on all the above.

The honeydew fell on the grass below, and developed a fungus or mold that turned black and stayed black no matter what we did.

Love your post!

Island Threads said...

Hello Lucy,
I wonder if your back to back house with the large windows was once a weavers house, if so the windows were made large to give the weavers light to weave and the loom would be placed at the window for maximum light, in later years when weavers were on a better income, many had window boxes to grow a few flowers, later still there became a passion for growing pelargoniums, with competitions (or so I have heard and read).
Glad you were able to pop out for a bit of fresh air even if it was just outside the door, and what an amazing nature story, all started by observing one small green creature. The sycamore looks beautiful.
take care. Frances

Crafty Green Poet said...

this is lovely, all the details you've noticed and very atmospheric too.

Jo said...

What an interesting post. I often see things in a photo which I never saw when I took the photo, especially when it's enlarged on a computer screen.

Phil Slade said...

Our neighbours have a sycamore, a huge one. Every year it releases the seeds, the “helicopters” that then go on to sprout in our lawn and flower beds. Many of those seeds go on to produce tiny trees that once at a certain size are very difficult to pull out. And they are quite good at hiding away until they reach that size.
Hence I think the sycamore is a very successful tree but one that is not especially good for birds.

I’m thinking that your east facing house up in Halifax would have been built with warmth in mind and when winters were tough without central heating but just one central fireplace.

And, with my bird brain in gear again, sow thistles and dandelions may be unattractive but to Goldfinches in particular the tiny seeds are very welcome. I think I would be turning that window box into a Goldfinch haven.

Sue Garrett said...

It’s so true that the camera reveals interesting detail that our eyes fail to detect.

Imperfect and Tense said...

There are a few, a very few, radio or tv series which are so well written that when a half hour episode comes to an end I realise that I've been taken out of this world into another one, where time has no relevance, so deeply did the programme absorb my attention. For me, this post was the blogging equivalent of that. Seamless, beguiling and honeydew for the mind. Wow!

liz said...

Just came in from the garden ahead of rain and have been able to sit and absorb your fascinating post. Sycamores, dandelions, thistles,leaves, aphids, honeydew. Oh, what a tangled web we weave! The way the light falls when you take your photographs make for magical moments and the black and white variation is fascinating. Thanks, Lucy. Good luck with the green beans.

eileeninmd said...


What a wonderful post, I enjoy the descriptions and photos. I love the big windows letting in lots of light, a view of the trees is wonderful too. We live next to a forest, trees are all around us. It feels good to go outside and enjoy the sunshine on our faces. Take care! Have a happy day and a great week ahead.

Gattina said...

With the lockdown we have time to discover and admire things around us we never payed attention to before !

Karen said...

A really nice post. I am a dandelion fan. Great photos.

Sherrie said...

Wonderful post...and pictures...thanks
for sharing. Have a great day!

carol l mckenna said...

Lovely post ~ creative writing and gorgeous photography ~ I love the dandelions ^_^

Be Well, Be Happy,
A ShutterBug Explores,
aka (A Creative Harbor)

bill burke said...

What a wonderful post, lots of info and beautiful photos. The first one gave me the feeling it was underwater, I love it.

Diana Studer said...

That is the sort of writing I associate with your red shoes, for all these years. Magic! To be able to revel in the ... step ... outside.

betty-NZ said...

A great post about nature with lovely photos and words!

Feel free to share at My Corner of the World

Birgitta said...

Wonderful post from you, both photos and words.

Anna said...

A most thoughtful and well written post Lucy. As always I love your unique powers of observation. I was wondering about how many greenfly there are on my roses this morning - never thought about how many there might be on the sycamore tree at the edge of the garden 😂

Rambling Woods said...

You have a lovely lyrical way of writing which draws the reader in....Enjoyed...

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Pat at Squirrelbasket. Thanks for such an enthusiastic welcome back to tree following!

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Alison. So glad that you enjoyed the post.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Thanks, David.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Susannah. 'Honeydew' is such a lovely name it's a shame that when it sits on the ground (or cars or grass or anything) it makes such a horrible mess!

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Frances at Island Threads. The house was quite possibly built with weavers in mind. A few years later, a huge mill complex was built near the end of the terrace. Some of it is still there. It was a turning point in industrial history. The deeds to the house say we should not have a steam engine in it! Were there such things as domestic, steam operated looms?

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Crafty Green Poet. Glad you enjoyed the post.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Jo. One day I hope I will be able to have a dedicated macro lens so I can look at things in even greater detail. Perhaps I should aim for a photographic microscope. It seems to get more and more interesting the closer you go.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Phil. Thinking of goldfinches . . . I have some teasel seeds I was going to use at the allotment but maybe I will put them immediately outside my house. Goldfinches love them too.
Thinking of which way the house faces . . . I've just taken a look at the Google Maps satellite view of Halifax with that in mind. It's interesting how consistently the houses in the side road terraces are east or west facing, The main roads tend to run east to west. They often have bigger houses - which would be north/south facing. I'll have to look at this more thoughtfully later to see how consistent this is but at first glance . . .
The terrain has a big impact too, with the town centre being in a dip and the (steep) hills radiating out from it.,-1.8723355,1553m/data=!3m1!1e3

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Sue. I'd be lost without my camera!

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Imperfect and Tense. I'm overwhelmed by your words. Thank you.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Liz. Indeed, its a tangled web. Everything interconnected. (But so far one without spiders. I expect they will appear some time. Hope so!)

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Eileeninmd. It must be wonderful to live in a forest. I am really fortunate to have so many trees to see, given that I live in a town.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Gattina. That's right. We are having to look for what we might otherwise miss, either because it's so small, so familiar or so close to our noses that we usually look too far beyond.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Karen. Thank you. (And glad you too like dandelions. They have finished flowering now and it is so windy when I am writing this (23rd May 2020) I expect all the seeds in the neighbourhood will have blown away.)

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Sherrie. You too. (There is something good in most days fortunately - as well as a lot of bad . . .)

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Carol at Shutterbug. Another dandelion admirer!

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Bill. Light is like that at times - sort of immerses you.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Diana. The shoes in my picture eventually fell to bits but I bought red replacements!

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Betty-NZ. I'm glad you enjoyed the post. I didn't add a link to 'My Corner of the World' cos I knew I would not have time to visit enough other bloggers taking part - but I will on another day.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Thank you Birgitta.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Anna. I expect the sycamore beats the roses hands down when it comes to numbers of greenfly but sycamores don't seem to suffer in the way of roses and other plants if inundated by greenfly.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Rambling Woods. I'm glad you were drawn into the post.