Thursday, 20 November 2014

Ramblings About Oak Trees

Childhood memories being with an Oak tree 

acorn fairy
I am in awe of Oak trees I feel them as a powerful and magical trees and like their strength and security..  As a child I discovered a huge oak tree in a boundary hedge of a farm.  It was balanced on  the edge of a steep bank where part of the land had slipped away and exposed some of the  roots.  The oak had been hit by a lightening strike and split open on one side and the cleft  was a perfect spot to sit and read, I would snuggle in to the heart of the tree with a book and my toys and happily stay for hours reading and using my imagination to create games. I would make bonnets and tea sets from the acorn cups as a gift to the fairies..

The mighty oak lives for hundreds of years and has provided a safe home for many generations of tree fairies; indeed, its leafy foliage makes an excellent shelter for a fairy house…Clever use of clothing and colour enables tree fairies to 'disappear' into the leafy backdrop. Fairy garments are sewn from leaves and the fairies make new costumes whenever the seasons change. (Cicely Mary Barker)))BARKER 

I  loved to clamber into the cavern of its exposed roots and journey into my imagination.

Down at the bottom  of the bank was a trout stream running with clear water and I would play in it for a while before laying  on the bank and and watch the shoals of  minnows and sticklebacks swimming  past, Other times I stood on the footbridge over the stream and look for river trout in the deep pools along the edge of the stream or hidden among the over hanging vegetation and rocks,  Sometimes I would see rings of water as a trout rose to the surface to feed on the mayflies, water shrimp, caddis flies and other invertebrates.  Other times just under the bridge a trout would lay still in the water with its nose pointing up stream waiting for insects to come floating by. Usually I would only catch a flash of silver as the trout darted away as it spotted me before I even knew it was there.  After playing by the stream I would climb back to the peace and security of my secret space away from my older brothers teasing.

Even today I love to sit along side a great oak or walk round it and gently touch its bark, and leaves enjoy the earthy smell of it.  I collect  a few acorns from a mature oak sometimes carry one or two to empty places in wild areas and gentle push them into the soil to germinate in spring.

Rambling among the Oaks of The New Forest National Park

Rambling in a ancient wood full of Oak trees is a joy at any time of the year but especially Autumn.  Each year  we ramble with Pops in the New Forest.  We delight in scrunching through the layers of gold and red leaves as we walk along the paths meandering though the tree. The path pass alongside the russet hues of patches of bracken   I am enchanted by the the changing moods of the forest created by the weather and season. In Autumn on a sunny day it is lovely to be out in the fresh air. I enjoy inhaling the smell of damp mosses and the earthy scent of leaf litter. It is  is very deep under the oaks as the soft leaves break down quickly in Autumn, creating habitats for stag beetles and other invertebrates.

Stag beetles are threatened species globally,  but here in the South of England they are surviving well, and they flourish in the New Forest.   When we have been walking in the forest on a sunny evening or early in the morning we have caught a brief glimpse of them flying past.

This year the mild and wet weather has provided the perfect conditions for fungi to flourish.  In October rambling  in the New Forest  we saw near an oak  tree a group oak cap and milk cap fungi as well as different fungi growing on the trees branches in cracks and splits in the trees.  Fungi are one of the oldest organism on earth and thrive on the leaf litter of oaks rotting wood and dead animals.

I always feel privileged to see roe deer, fallow or red deer in the forest while wandering along the edges of the forest.  Roe deer tend to be solitary and will quickly disappear into the depths of the forest when disturbed.  Fallow deer stay together in groups they will draw away when they hear us, but then stop and watch us rambling along.  In mid October in certain places in New forest you can hear rutting stags barking and perhaps the clash of horns as two stags fight for dominance over a group of does. 

In the Autumn the squirrels are busy collecting and hiding food for winter, you see them quite often scurrying about on the ground and in the trees making the most of the rich food of seeds and nuts on the forest floor.  However they do not have them all to themselves, badgers, deer, cattle and pony’s feast  on them and they are joined by commoners pigs which allowed to roam in the forest to gorging themselves on the acorns, beech masts and chestnuts.  The commoners have the right to turn out pigs into  the forest between 25th September and 22nd November each year 

The pigs eat huge quantities of acorns and that help to stop the pony and cattle eating too many  acorns,  which can cause them to become ill and sometimes die.  I have heard pigs and boars in the forest but I am wary of disturbing them while they are eating.  Those guy are big and getting bigger.  All the acorns and nuts are just right for fattening the pigs up for Christmas.  

Ssh don't tell them that!  Let them enjoy themselves for the time being!

Until the 12th Century there were Bison roaming freely in the New Forest   They have recently been re-introduced  but they are not allowed to roam free.  I am glad about that as the males are grumpy beast and can run at speeds of 35 mph.   Being Charged  by a herd male bison is not on my wish list to experience  before I die.

The open canopy of oak trees allows sunlight light to filter though to the floor and it providing In Spring perfect conditions for bluebells and primroses to grow but these are dormant now.

A Purple Streak Butterfly
Sheltering in the oak are the pupa of purple streak butterflies, whose life cycle begins on the oak tree.The oaks holes and crevices in the oak bark are favorite nesting spots for the pied flycatcher or marsh tit and woodpeckers whose old nest holes provide shelter for many creatures.  500 hundred different species of insects have been found on a single oak tree.  This food supply of insects encourages British bat species to roost in the oaks and to fed on the rich supply of insects in the tree's canopy. They use old woodpeckers holes or under loose bark for their roost.. It is easy to see if they are living in the tree because below the roost are stains of droppings and urine. Oaks are alive with myriad of creatures that live on it and in it.  If you walk quietly and at times when the forest is not busy with walkers, or foresters you may be privileged to catch a fleeting glance into their lives. 

The wild woods and forest is a wonderful place to ramble any season. I respect and admire all  trees and love to be among Ancient and Veteran oaks.

With Reiki blessing and gratitude to you and to the wild wood trees
and all its living creatures


 A link to my Story:  Gog and Magog  - the famous Glastonbury Oaks

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Spinning Pops' Tale

The Big Bang in the night

Sunday night was a clear and dry as Pops I set off for our walk.  We wander around tree lined streets and were heading home. Pops was relaxed and her tail was wagging as we ambled along.. Boom there was thunderous bang followed by a circle of blue stars shot up over  our head. Another huge bangs followed and the night sky filled by green shards  creating a huge a ball overhead. Yet more loud  bangs rendered the peace of the evening.  Pops was terrified, and laid prone on the ground panting. Above us there was a chattering of starlings whirling and circling blindly in the dark.  They had been blasted out of their roost by explosion and garish light.  Their safe haven was shattered that evening..

I managed to get Pops home.  She crept along  along crouching low to the ground, while  every so often looking up at the sky fearful of more explosions .  Down the street doors had opened some people where peering out of windows.   A neighbour in that street must have called the police I heard the siren coming  nearer  as we went indoors

Next day I check on the internet for  firework and  found  lot of category 4 & 5 fireworks  to buy on-line. The description of one called The Big Ball, a category 4 firework, fitted exactly what I had seen. I could have bought one on the internet for £12.97.  Category 4 fireworks under UK  law can only be set off in by professionals.  This firework was launched in an urban garden in a terraced street.  Oh No!. I must not rant about fireworks as this a tale is about Pops dog.   But....No get on the story MerryB!

After Pops has been frightened next morning she wakes very anxious with her naughty button switched fully on.

The mystery of the missing socks had to be  solved.  
4 pairs of socks had been drying on the airer but now there was only two odd socks there. Who could have taken them?  Could it be?
 Yes, as I suspected it was Pops!  The evidence was clear. She was in the garden tossing an olive green sock and barking at it as flew up in the air.  Outside, I found three other socks, one had caught on a branch of the rambling rose one was trailing in her water bowl, one half buried in the back bed,  Other are still missing.  I had no choice but to put on odd  boot socks as we were going to the plot that morning. Oh sigh!
On the way to the plot I was dropping off some books at my friends Sue house for the Animals Asia Charity. Pops bounced out of the door full of energy ad launched herself blindly into the road. I hung onto her lead and dragged her back onto pavement and sat her down, until I knew it was safe to cross the over.  There was a look in her eyes that foretold she was ready to whirl and twirl her self into any mischief she could.  I sighed.

The incident of puddling pee.

This occurred, as I was poop scoping. I had put the two bags of books down by my feet. Pops was behind me as I scooped, I stood up and To my horror I saw a trickle of urine puddling round  the bags. Oh Pops!  I had to admit this was not entirely her fault she had peed behind me and the camber of the pavement made it run down and encircle the book.

We arrived  Sues house  without further incident but she invited us in for a cup of tea.  I was wearing my allotment boots so I was a bit wary about stepping onto her white carpets and even more wary about Pops entering in her current mood. Sue was insistent we should come in . Before we went in I explained The incident of the puddling pee and the bags of books. Sue just accepted in the casual way of a true dog lover.

The whirling dervish and the bitten leg
We sat in her conservatory which had a lovely pale pink Indian carpet on the floor.  Pops decided to yap and whirl in circles trying to catch her tail.  Pops' yap is ear piercing,  I know she uses this method of annoying people when she wants to get her own way. Pops  wanted to go to St James Green for a run and to the allotment.  she did not want to stay at Sue's while I drunk tea  and chatted!

Vintage Izzy dog had been woken up by Pops yapping and came grumping into the room. She sloped under my chair to sleep again.  Poppy pocked  her nose under the chair and yapped at Izzy. Izzy startled awake snapped at Pops and sunk her teeth into my leg instead of Pops nose.  I was by embarrassed Pops behaviour and Sue was mortified that Izzy had bitten me.Oh Pops! .

Chasing squirrels and woofing at helicopters and cats

Eventually Pops and I set off to the St James green, where she played with a very elegant and even tempered Saluki..   She and Pops played together a game called hunt the squirrel, they saw a squirrel and were off.  The squirrel darted up the tree and jumped from one tree to another before it drop to the ground in a different place   The two dogs  circled round and round the first tree sniffing frantically as they search  for  it. The squirrel seemed to wait to be spotted on the ground by the dogs.  Who eventually saw it and  ran in pursuit. The squirrel  promptly sprinted up into the tree' canopy.  The circling and sniffing would being again, and again, and again....

We were there for an hour before Pops always took herself off to the gate indicating that she wants to go immediately. So ever obedient I set off to the allotment with her bouncing along in front. Once she had her brunch, she woofed at the coastguard and navy helicopters flying to and fro from the harbour.  Whirled and twirled as passing cats came into  sight and yapped to  to get someone to play with her. Eventually she laid down bathed in dappled sunlight under the cherry tree.  I worked on the plot, for an hour before our lunch  Afterwards she lazed again, until it was time to set off for home. Tail  up she power walked home in a relaxed and happy mood. The naughty button switched off..

I hope you enjoyed The Spinning Pops' Tale

With Reiki golden light and blessings to you all

Merry b

Thursday, 16 October 2014

What Use Are Wasps?

Last Friday was a day of sunshine and showers here in Hampshire, fortunately while I was at the plot there was mostly sunshine.  I enjoyed being there with Pops, she was noisy at times because there where a number of navy and military helicopters flying overhead,  far more than usual.  However focusing on digging a bed ready to plant broad beans and sitting with Pops for lunch I  was happy.  I  harvested some vegetables, and cut the last of the sunflowers, then Pops and I started for home.

When I was walking through the allotments a man came up to me and asked were plot 141 was I showed him on the map and asked if he had been given that plot.  His reply was:

No I am a pest control officer from the council we have had a complaint, I have come to destroy a wasps nest."  

My mood plummeted  I felt  saddened, there is too much casual destruction of wildlife with a puff  or a splash of  chemicals. I asked him,
"Why?  All the wasps in the nest will be dead in couple of weeks when it gets colder."
his answer was

We had a complaint so we need to destroy them.   Anyway what use are wasps?  they are not like Bees!
I was stunned and tried tell him how useful wasps are..   He was not listening and two plot holder there agreed with him.  One echoed the question “What use are wasps?

I felt angry and worried for my girls, wasps, on my plot who have never caused myself or my neighbours any problem. when the Queen left the nest and the last brood of  new queens and drones flew away, I made the female workers a fruit pile semi buried in the soil.   Neighbours often give me windfalls from their fruit trees to give to the girls.( See post 1st August 2014 )
Willful and destruction of wildlife at the allotments is carried out not  just on wasps, some people poison rat and, though illegal, foxes. On other  plots caterpillars, and insects stand no chance.  These plot holders wage a chemical war on all creatures.  Often putting out double or triple the amount of poison  recommended by manufacturers.  

I have very few pests on my plot thanks to the wasps and lady birds, other predators and birds..  However, before I being rambling or rant back to the questions- What use are wasps?

Bees, wasps and ants are among the most important animals on the planet and are essential for the health and survival of countless other species - ourselves included."   BWARS' patron George McGavin 
The usefulness of wasps is something people often wonder about.  Wasps play an important role as early pollinators in the UK,’ However, wasps eat caterpillars and aphids. Gardeners should welcome them with open arms!  Matt Brierley, RSPB
We should celebrate wasps and all creatures if we wish to conserve our plant.  If we believe in the importance of conservation of the living World, we must recognize that all creatures matter.

I was  taught to love the natural world by my parents. When I learnt  Reiki one the Ideals was

Be grateful for all living creatures.
Later I explored Druidry and deepened my connection to nature. the wheel of the year and to our planet - Mother Earth.  I celebrate the World's diversity and care about conserving all living things.

   Chris Packham's answer to the question:"What are wasp for? "  is:

My reply is, "What are you for?" I'm a great fan of wasps. I have a nest of them in my stables and they're very happy; I'm very happy with them, too.
I am also a fan of wasps, I  feel privileged to have a nest on my plot.  I remember as a child we had a wasps nest in the roses that grew over the front of the house I did not get stung. Now Bee stings!  But that is a ramble for another time.

With Reiki Blessing 


Pied Flycatcher's catch wasps
as do brave Dragon Flies

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Autumn meditation

This morning it was a misty, chilly dawn, I could hear the fog horn of ships coming and going to and from Portsmouth Harbour. The spiders webs were fringed with dew drops and I had to put on a jumper before I went outside.  Pops dog stayed in bed until the sun came out.

Now the sun has burnt  through the mist and it is a beautiful sunny day. The seedlings in the green house have needed to be misted over again as they dried out since early this morning.  It is a day to relish and enjoy being outdoors which is what we have been doing this afternoon. .I love to crunch through the fallen leaves and Pops plays and tumbles among them enjoying the scrunch of leaves beneath her feet..  The vintage trees in the park have leaves of  of green, yellow, orange and copper brown. The autumn display is beautiful, however  as I look at them I see how much we need rain the trees are so dry the leaves and branches hang listlessly.  Autumn's colours may  last longer this year, but that is not a good thing it brings the reality of climate change right to our doorsteps. In September, here in Hampshire, there has been only about an inch of rain altogether. The earth in my allotment and garden is dry and dusty. I love the sunny days but the trees need rain.

We are being eased into the Autumn by fine weather.   At first  there is equilibrium between day and night,   Eventually the dark evenings will edge into afternoon.the weather will become rainy, cold, windy The last of the Summer flowers will be caught by the frost and blacken and die.  The oaks, chestnuts, beech and silver birch will drop their last leaves. The seeds they dropped at the beginning of Autumn, will be covered in leaf litter, or wind. mice, squirrels or children will have  spread the seeds far away from the parent tree ready to germinate next Spring.  When the trees have prepared the fruit and leaf buds for the next year the sap will turn
inwards and they become dormant.   The bare outline of the trees will be will be seen stark against the  Autumn sky

Now and then I catch a myself feeling,a  hint a  regret, because this lovely  year's Summer and  the Indian Summer we have been enjoying is coming to an end.  As the wheel of the seasons circles round.  Each season is special brings has its own  purpose and delights.  Autumn and Winter are dreaded by many people.  The Dark nights are feared and associated with  ghost ghouls, and even danger.  But inside our homes we feel safe once the doors are closed and the windows shut and the curtains drawn.

My  Celtic ancestors saw the darkness differently:

 "as a place inside us where we touch and experience our spiritual roots and was known as the Mysteries." (Glennie Kindred) 
RSPB -  Christmas present 
I am blessed with a warm and cosy home, with those I love around me. I have books to read, I write and review my journals and practice Reiki and Mindfulness meditation. I love coming in after I have been outside on a cold wet day and relish the:

:... cup of tea in my two hands.
Mindfulness held perfectly 
My mind ad body dwells
In the very here and now
Thich  Nhat Hanh

I am outside a great deal in Winter as I garden, have an allotment and Pops dog to walk.  Many times I look outside and want to stay warm and cosy indoors.  . Autumn and Winter are important times in the garden preparing the earth for spring clearing and mulching beds for next years crops pruning  or planting spring bulbs.

Once I am out doors  I am at peace  and well being.. one of my joys is planting spring bulbs .  Each year  I buy more  bulbs for my allotment and garden and the wildlife area at the allotment.  I love choosing the bulbs and taking them home ready to plant.  When I go out to plant them I  place each one carefully and mindfully. My mind is filled  with  imagining the beautiful flowers that will greet us Spring.

Planting them can be shared as well with loved ones.  Children love doing being involved and the expression on their face when they see their bulbs flowering in Spring is wonderful.  These hardy early bulbs will come to flower through whatever the weather throws at them snow, gales relentless rain. They brighten the coldest wettest darkest grey day in late winter early spring

Mindful Meditation Planting Spring bulbs

 Takes a  Spring bulb and looks at it closely,
 the texture, The colour, is it firm or soft…
Imagine you can see the person who grew this bulb.
The person who packed it, the people who transported it to the supplier
The person who served you at the store or the delivery person
And be grateful to these people. 
And to the sun, rain and earth that nurtured it

Pause for a moment and examine your past year,
 What have you learnt, what was good, what things did not flourish?
What is a project or dream you want to achieve by next Spring?

 Place the bulb in the pot or into the earth 
And cover it with soil  
 See the bulb growing under ground sending down strong roots
To nourish it and anchor it firmly
To begin the work of growing
To allow the leaves and buds to push though the earth
to emerge safely into the light

Imagine yourself also putting down essential roots 
to grow your project  into a reality next spring

(This can be done as a group meditation where each person in the circle reflects on the past year and  tell the others of a project or dream they want to achieve by next Spring)

With Reiki's light and blessing to you all

Merry B


Sunday, 28 September 2014

September's Bounty

I love the month of September when all the intensity of the sun mellows and the activity of sowing and growing crops, and watering, become less hectic and there is time to reflect and enjoy the time spent at the plot harvesting apples, squashes, the last of the beans and tomatoes.  

My golden hop has flowered for the first time.  To begin with I thought it was a male plant but then the flowers grew and the back, sides and roof of my shed became smothered in golden flowers which I will harvest for garlands for the Winter Solstices and Christmas.  Soon it will have to be cut down, I will heap manure on the root to feed  it for its new growth in spring.

For now I just enjoy sitting with Pops dog and enjoying its abundance and beauty against the blue of the shed and sky on lovely September evenings.

Early in September Pops and I went for a wander to a lovely Park full of mature trees some of which must now be a hundred years or more old, there is an yew with branches reaching to the ground and rooted into the soil to renew itself, There are Horse Chestnut trees that drop chestnuts for the children to collect and to play the games of conkers .  In the early evening there are children chattering and whooping as they find them in the grass under the trees, even adults pick them up partly, I suspect, from nostalgia for childhood games of conker, but this is rationalized  as being to deterring spiders from coming indoors.  I also love to collect conkers, some to put into my winter bowls of potpourri, but also because of the sheer beauty of the gleaming brown fruits. Also to remind me of happy memories of collecting conkers as a child..

While walking Pops to the park we turned to the East and there before us was the Harvest full moon, which this year was a a Super Moon.  It was hanging low in the sky as it orbits the earth. The Moon glowed golden in a blue sky and as the sunset it became flushed with pink.  As usual my camera was in my rucksack at home so I did not get a picture of it. However, here is a picture of the Super moon  over Blackheath by Mike Meynell. What a beautiful  picture. 

The Equinox on the twenty third of September marked the end of Summer and the beginning of Autumn and the drawing in of the days and the dark nights leading up to the Winter Solstice on the twenty first of December when the light begins to return. . Already I can feel an urgency growing in me to get jobs down at the allotment and in the garden  before the bad weather  comes and  much shorter days set in.  

On Monday it is the feast of Michaelmas  a Christian feast to celebrate Michael the Archangel and all the other Archangels.  It is traditional seen as the day that God ordered Michael to throw Lucifer out of heaven.  It is said that the devil fell into the middle of a blackberry thicket and his angry fiery breathe set them on fire. Lucifer surround by a ring of fire stamped on the blackberries and spat on them to quench the fire, or as the Celts say pissed on them to put out the fire..  That is why we shouldn't eat blackberries after that date. People say we do not eat them in October  because the sun is not strong enough to ripen them and misty, dampness of autumn turns them mouldy.  Some of us know the real reason!

Michaelmas is associate with eating certain foods just as there is a Traditional Christmas foods, At one time Michaelmas was a great feast day and the traditional meal was goose, with potatoes and carrots, and Blackberry pie or dumplings.  I will not be eating goose as I am a vegetarian. I have from my plot have some Picasso Potatoes and lovely rainbow carrots which I sowed at the end of July and are ready for harvesting now.  I will will also cook some blackberries and  James Grieve cooking apples and make some dumplings, These were also  harvested  from my allotment.

 In the last week Michaelmas daisies are beginning to flower on my plot and in my garden. They are actually an Aster first introduced into this country from America in 1633 by John Tradescant the  Younger a 17th Century plant hunter and gardener.  The plants became known as Michaelmas daisies because they bloom in late September at the time of the feast of Michaelmas.  I love their with vibrant colors which flower just as other flowers are fading. For a long while they seemed to go out of fashion, perhaps because they suffered badly from mildew but new breeding techniques seems to have overcome that problem.

Anyway I could write more but it is time for Pops walk so I will stop and take her out.  Look out for the full moon on the 8th of October it will be a blood moon. Those of you living in North America will get the best view of it  but you will have to get up early to see it.

With Reiki blessing to every one,

Thursday, 14 August 2014

A Willow Fairy for Michael's mum

Yesterday morning there was a lovely dawn,the waning moon was slowly sinking on the horizon as the sun began to rise. The day turned out to a be happy day working  in harmony with a group of people who all love nature and care about wildlife.

 I went to my plot  and had planned out what I would do there.  Weeding and watering were a priority but like all best laid plans I actually got very little done except the watering.

My lack of progress on the plot was all because of a causal  comment to Jenny on the Community Plot, Growing under a Hazel hedge on their plot was a pine tree which had seeded itself and grown to about three foot tall.

 I said

"Why don't you put that pine on the wild life area",

"Great idea we could do that." Jenny said.

I looked round and i was the only person there I guessed I was part of the we. 

"Michael could help". I said 

"Good idea", she said

She pottered off and return with Michael who was eager to help

So began the battle to get the pine sapling out from within the hazel hedge,.  Michae, a giant of man plunged a long fork deep into the ground and levered it up all round the pine tree,  
Michael worked the fork, while  I, having fought may way into the hazel hedge held it back  so that he could see where to work  After a lot of effort we realized it had grown through the membrane and this need to be cut before we could get the tree out.  We also carefully scrabbled with our hands to get the tap roots out unbroken. Eventually  it was free and  we discovered there was not one tree but three small trees..

While the larger tree was soaking in my water butt we went to the wild life area and Michael dug a huge hole to accommodate the rootball, Chris got the compost and some manure from my plot and the tree was planted, watered and staked.

The lovely thing about was this is that Michael's Mother is in hospital and he had been very upset and worried. He cannot speak very well so it is difficult for him to express his feelings The week before  he came to the allotment on  the Wednesday but had not done anything  he just sat down, because  he was so worried and sad about his mum illness.  But yesterday digging out a Christmas tree appealed to him He want to help get the tree planted on the wild life area, which he loves working on.  

While he worked he told us he want to show the Christmas tree to his mum when she was out of hospital. The tree has now been named Michael's Mum's Christmas tree. Michael wants to put a fairy on the top at Christmas time. Jenny has already penciled in a Christmas Party for the groups and  I will help Michael make a fairy out of my willow twigs

Yesterday Michael left for home smiling and felt hopeful that his mum would come home from hospital soon,

It was well worth spending the morning helping to move the beautiful young pine (pinus nigra) tree.  It looks good on the wild life area, it has wonderful fragrance and will be a good habitat for birds and other critters there.  Best of  all planting it help Michael feel better.

Just as we were clearing up on the wild life area the Hampshire Gardens lorry came in with wood chippings for the plot holders and logs for us. Beautiful piece of cordyline palm and holly which Jenny and I built into a new stumpery as a habitat for lizard, newts,beetles and ....

Eventually I got back to my plot and watered it, Had Lunch and then there was a cloud burst  of torrential  rain!  Poppy and I went home and got very, very wet getting there.

The community plot works with adults with learning difficulties, schools young carers, older carers and other groups.

With Reiki Blessings to you all


Friday, 1 August 2014

Close encounters on the wildside

Six-spotted Burnet
 Butterfly Conservation
I love the fact that my allotment is filled with wildlife, I love the encounter I have while I am working or relaxing on my allotment. I saw  a Six-spot Burnet moth on  trefoil flowers in my wild flower patch. The hot weather has brought many many different moths and butterflies onto my plot/ I take great delight in seeing the flutter in out of my plants.  I welcome the  hungry caterpillars as well, despite the holes that appear in some of my plants.

Recently I have been spending time taking part in the Butterfly Conservation's Big Butterfly Count*,  Which focuses my attention on the detail of each each individual butterfly or moth so I can record my sightings.

However I am still working on my beds and last week needed compost for the bed I want to grow  my leeks over winter.  I started to lift one of my compost bins only to be find, before I had moved it more than a few inches, I was surrounded by swarm of bumble bees.  I managed to drop  the bin back over the nest immediately and  I stepped back and stood still.  The worker flew around me and buzzed me some touching my face but did not sting me, when they were calmer I  moved away slowly  from that part of the plot. I hoped the queen would not decide to leave the nest but as the workers are still there I feel the disturbance disrupted them only briefly  Before my attempt to move the bin  I had not seen them coming or going, although I had seen numerous bumble bees on the comfrey which is growing along side that bin.  

A few days later I lifted another bin and there were no mice, rats, only centipedes  and millipedes I like to see these arthropods in my healthy compost, and I am a little in awe of  centipedes as I remember seeing them in  fossils, which my father told me where over 400 million years old.. In the bin there were  large slugs with orange undersides and red wriggler worms in abundance, I always wonder where they emerge from.  All these insects I transferred   into my large compost bin which I had already emptied. They will help to start the composting process once more,..  
As I began to fork gently  into the compost heap I discovered  slow worms.   I stopped loading my wheelbarrow and left half the compost.   Most of  the slow worms slid away under my water butt but I still left  it alone so as  not to create any more disturbance for them..

There was another bin of compost that was ready to put on a bed I was making for  florence fennel and for the globe artichokes plants  which were ready to go out.  This bin had a bottom opening, so I flipped  it  to warn any  creatures living there that they were going to be disturbed.  In seconds I found myself  petrified with fright as worker wasps streamed out of the bin and surrounded me. 

 Again I stepped backwards away from the bin and stayed still. Several wasps landed on my hands, several hovered inches away from my face buzzing very loudly.  At i first thought how malevolently they were looking at me but when I stopped the story I was creating from my mind's fear and just looked I saw wasps had amazingly, complex and beautiful eyes and wonderful markings on their bodies

My instinct was to run but I calmed my self with Reiki and stood still for what seemed an age until  gradually the wasps moved back into  the bin.  The ones on my hands flew away without stinging me,   Definitely it was time for a cup of tea  and a cuddle from Pops dog.

I had no intention of destroying the wasps, but was uneasy about having a nest on my plot.  When I thought about them I realized that I knew very little about their life cycle, except that they were predictors of aphids,caterpillars scavengers and also were excellent pollinators..  Most of what else I knew came from scary negative articles  and tall stories  about their aggression in late Summer and Autumn. There was also childhood memories of picnics in late summer with wasps wanting to eat and drink anything sweet and my mother putting a plate of food away from the table  to keep them away from us.

When I got home I decided to find out more about them.  The first sites I visited were all about destroying the nest there were shots of the amazing complex nests and other shots of the nest in segments showing the complex patterns inside the nest.  I could not believe that in a black compost bin such an awe inspiring nest could be in it.

Although I did not see any wasps entering the compost bin before I disturbed it I had seen small  hover-flies going in the bottom of the bin. I believe these could be Vocucella zoaria The hornet hover-fly which lays its eggs in a wasp or hornets nest .  The urban pollinators blog  suggest that the females may come and go in the wasp nest because the female gives off a calming  pheromone.  Normally any intruder would be attacked if it tried to enter the nest.

At that moment in time the hive was active and its function was to provide for the larva and the future of the female worker wasps, the workers forage insects which they chew up and fed to the larva along with nectar.  Then they drink the 'urine' from the larva to keep the nest clean.  The 'urine' is sweet and gives the wasps energy to go off foraging again and again. The workers also feed and protect the solitary Queen.   By July the Queen may have laid 2000 or more eggs. In late July and August the queen begins to lay male eggs and new queens' eggs. After this she leaves the nest and eventually dies in late autumn

The worker  continue feeding the male and queen larva until they too leave the nest. That is when the trouble starts, the worker bees have become addicted to the sugar. A fix that they got from the larva and search for new sources of sugar.  This is the time we usually encounter them.  I had no idea that I had a wasps nest on my plot until I disturbed them yet with the nest there may be 2000 or more wasps in it. 

Once the solitary queen leaves the nest and the last of the males and queens emerge and fly away the social structure of the nest breaks down.  Not only have the workers lost their role they are also addicted to sugar and carbohydrates.  So they go out looking for a sugar fix, they can become quite desperate and will fly around us as we eat outside looking not to attack us but for the sugar fix. Some of them will find it from fermenting fruit and then zig-zag drunkenly towards us.

My mother once she realized there were wasps around always place some sweet food, or a plate with a shallow solution of honey or jam  for the wasps away from were we were sitting having a picnic and this seemed to work. She also used tea-tree, lavender, or citronella candles or oils as a deterrent.  She had baking soda or aloe vera gel to hand in case of any of us should be stung.  I cannot remember any one in our families ever being stung by a wasps but lots of bee stings.  Once while I was a child a swarm of bees being moved by a bee-keeper escaped and landed on my face scary!..

 If we flap our arms and hands to shoo  away a wasp it may  feel threatened  and respond  by sending out a pheromone which lets other wasps from the nest know it is being attacked, Wasps are social animals and will respond to defend one of its group.  If we swat them and kill them the brain of the wasp will still  send out the same pheromone and more wasps will appear..  The Jam jar method of killing wasps will also attract more wasp in defense of the dying members of nest.

The female worker wasps are are only troublesome for a short while, because unlike honey bees, only the queens survive the winter all the workers and males die once the weather becomes colder. The queens will hibernate and in April will find a suitable place to build a new nest and begin the cycle all over again.  Having  wasps nest on my plot has benefited it.  The wasps have been helping to pollinate my flowers, herbs and crops, eating  predators and scavenging detritus.

My plot is a haven for wild life which are providing me with  healthy soil to grow our cut flowers, herbs, fruit and vegetables.  This week I found a pair of  violet beetles living by day in the wood pile. I am not sure if it is these beetle are the ones  I have seen flying past as I enter my plot early in the morning or if it is another type of ground beetle. The Tansy flowers are now a haven for red cardinal beetles and ladybirds. 

 Oh and there is the handsome fox club that visits my plot and which I see when I arrive at the plot in the early morning and the grass hoppers and err yes frogs...  newts ...... all  tales for another day.

I am grateful to all the creatures that live on or near my plot that keep it healthy and productive

With gratitude for the wild life and bugs on my plot.

Reiki blessings to you