Sometimes all it takes!

The rain has stopped.. for the moment and the wind though still stormy, is not as cold

but the accumulation of rain over the last week or so has filled the mill pond – or what I think is the old mill pond, something not usually seen unless there has been torrential rain.

Sometimes all it takes is a brightness, something dazzling – in this case, a bright red leaf to bring joy.  It reminds me that not just in nature but in the human world there are people who stand out – for the good reasons. They don’t have to be well known or powerful, in fact better that they are not,  but they make a difference. so a tiny red leaf is mesmerisingly beautiful on an early March morning.

Then, the sun ventures out for a short while, the violets try to climb the hedgerow to keep their roots out of the water and the birds respond with song. Rosie searches for new scents and an exquisite bud just presents itself to be photographed! The scent of fox wafts in the air and I am reminded that there are still the wild creatures out there, not everything has been destroyed – yet. And the trees that take the barbed wire that has been stretched across them for many years, pulling and cutting their bark, grow with elegance and gentleness. I’m just not sure I’m so forgiving.

Meanwhile at home, George, the cat, incubates the chitting potatoes.

The beauty of decay

This time of year as the days become quickly shorter and the temperatures fall there is a different beauty. A beauty of change and decay. The lack of warm, sunny days has shocked George the cat who can no longer lounge for long periods in the field, hunting butterflies.

Leaves that a few months ago were green have now turned into deep reds and magentas, oranges and ochres and with rain they contrast with the the brilliant emerald greens of moss and grass. The shapes of the leaves, often the small ones are worth examining closely as their detail is exposed.

The weather has been very mixed here on the lane. We have had warm days with balmy breezes, warm enough to sit out in – in November! Heavy rain which has sent the peat brown water chuntering and growling down the mill stream, almost to overflowing followed by stillness. Short, sharp frosts which leave the fields with an ethereal lightness, as everything is caught in the moment and leaves, browning and decaying are shown in their beauty – the veins and shapes, subtle colours. There is a beauty in this decaying world.

The hedges on the field sides have recently been cut back and now the brambles and the ivy have been cleared away leaving the skeleton hedging looking rather self conscious with just a lace work of ivy holding the hedging together. If there is snow it will easily blow through the trees and hedging onto the lane. There are no bramble and ivy branches to hold it back and confuse it.

George the cat thought that he had ‘sorted out’ the neighbouring fields – tracked the birds and small creatures. Now he is annoyed as the spread of undergrowth has been chopped away. The fields have changed and he has to command order again. It may take him some time…

walking the lane after rain

The heavy rain has made the mill stream begin to flow again, gurgling and gushing its way down the hill over the stone steps. There seem to be more and more hart’s tongue ferns in their livid green crowding the banks of the stream. The pigeons who come low over the water and the grasses are disturbed by Rosie, the dog and I as we walk up the hill. Their wings flap and make a cracking sound as they fly hurriedly through the low hanging branches into the wood.

The bramble stems now stretch out across from the hedgerow, reaching out their thorny arms to catch and hold anyone daring go past. Caught, I stop and look around while I disentangle myself. The boulder shaped stone which lies below the mill grain store looks like a fallen standing stone but I think it is just one of the boulders that were left behind thousands of years ago. It makes a good place to sit and look across towards the lough and the land beyond – a mysterious place.

Vetch seed pods now shine black and glossy in the hedgerow looking like highly polished nails while the haws are now turning to red amid the cerise of the willow herb. There will be more seed pods and fruit to look out for now.

They’re wild about nuts!

The beautifully warm weather continues and we are busily putting up all sorts and sizes of water containers from tiny to dog bowl size to help any insect, bird  – or bigger animal have a drink.

There are now some unrip, still green , hazelnuts on the ground which have obviously been opened. Apparently grey squirrels can digest unripe hazelnuts but woodpeckers, magpies and jays also like them – all of which live around here. However given the way the nuts have been cracked open it seems more likely to be squirrels.

Common ragwort is now flowering near the disused mill. It can provide food for bees, moths and other insects and I haven’t seen many plants of it on the lane so far.  Lords- and-Ladies or ‘Cuckoo Pint’ now has its poisonous bright red berries on show and the snowberry bushes are beginning to create their snow white berries. It will be a while before they’re fully formed.

The small things

Still  a cool, cloudy day on the lane but more and more roses are appearing – this new one with its creamy petals is very beautiful.

Further along the lane these small creatures, all managing to sit on the same flower head together. I’m not sure if the brown one is a form of bee or not?

Looking for and finding the small changes and differences along the lane reinforces for me how much we can overlook in the places around us. There are so many worlds that are not even noticed normally in our rush to be somewhere.

Drink!

Today on the lane it was collection time, gathering elderflower blossom to make elderflower champagne. Now the flowers have been separated from their stalks and along with the lemons, sugar and yeast placed in the fermenting bucket.

There is still time to gather more elderflowers and hopefully they will be transformed into elderflower liqueur and gin.

The dog roses and briar roses are flowering further along the lane now and the honeysuckle – at the bottom of the lane – has been open and fully flowering for a couple of days whereas the honeysuckle at the top of the lane is just beginning to open properly. Its amazing how much difference there can be within the lane.

Roses everywhere!

It has been colder on the lane but there are still so many new flowers and plants appearing. Now there are little orchids near the mill stream and roses  – everywhere! Briar roses, dog roses and then the cultivated rosa rugosa.

The colour combinations that can be seen from the mixture of leaves, flowers, mosses and branches as they change through time make a marvellous resource for designs and paintings.

Roses are blooming!

The clouds yesterday were followed by intense heat and sun that lasted into the evening. Today, walking along the lane the delicate pink of the dog roses is showing,  climbing  high into the trees, weaving into the hedging. This pale pink is contrasted with the deeper carmine pink of the marsh thistle growing tall against the mill wall.

As a child I remember collecting rose hips later in the year and deciding that I would make rose hip syrup by putting the rose hips in a container in the oven with a little water. The result was a hard, golden ‘creation’. My mother was unable to use the bowl again! I haven’t tried making reship syrup as an adult but I should.

Painting nature

Most of my art work and poetry relate to the natural world in one way or another. For me, painting and drawing the natural world is one way of highlighting our need as humans to see the world as more than just a man made material world.

This year I am, as part of my work, photographing, painting and drawing a very specific area – a lane in rural Fermanagh. I find it fascinating to walk the lane and notice the changes and additions to the natural world along this lane. Eventually I will make a book from it but it also provides me with a wealth of subjects for drawings and paintings.

The images below  relate to the lane, Mullycovet Lane. The first image is a preliminary sketch of unfurling ferns and primroses in pencil, watercolour and crayon. The second is an abstract, finished watercolour and crayon painting of a detail of tree trunk and foliage. The third image I call The crack in Time.