Sunday, 25 September 2011

Woodland - September

Each month when I photograph this little wood I look for the changes, things that are different from the month before. This month as I walked along the path everything looked very similar to when I last saw it at the end of August. Perhaps a few more pale lemon leaves on the elder,

a little more water in the stream

and the bracken was turning brown

but the trees were still in full leaf providing a canopy as dense as in the summer months.

Then, I came across a big change,

a large ash tree had fallen across the path. Although we escaped the worst of the recent gales, there have been some high winds

and they were too much for this tree, which although it looked sound was rotting away from the inside.

As it fell, it took down other trees leaving a mass of broken branches on the woodland floor.

At the moment this area looks damaged and broken but it is also more open and lighter.

Looking up, the space in the canopy left by the missing tree is clearly visible.

The whole of this wood is very shady in summer but now there is a bright patch of sunlight reaching the ground.

The higher light levels will cause changes to the mix of flowers and plants that grow here. A seed from one of the trees nearby which may have germinated but not had enough space or light to thrive may now grow to fill the space left by the ash.

The falling of a tree, an event that probably lasted only a few seconds will have caused changes in the wood that last for many years.

I have grouped all my monthly woodland posts together here. Just three more months to complete the woodland year.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Settling down

There has been a bit of a gap in my posting. This whole "going to university" process is very unsettling even if you are the parent not the child, probably even more so if you are the parent.

Youngest son went on Sunday with the whole family accompanying him. He has a lovely room on a very attractive campus sharing with five others and so far all is going well.

When it was time to leave it was hard driving away, just as it was two years ago when his older brother started and now, like then, these first few days feel very odd. Eldest son doesn't start back at university for his third year for another week and then I really will be in an "empty nest".

This time it feels different knowing that the youngest has gone and the period of life where we had a family growing up at home has ended. I know I should feel that it is a new beginning for me as well and I expect after a while it may feel like that but at the moment the house seems empty and I feel a little lost.

Friday, 9 September 2011

knit and natter

On the last Thursday of each month my local John Lewis store holds a "knit and natter".  I work Thursdays and rushing into town after work, I only manage to make the last half hour of the session.  It was lovely in the school holidays to have the luxury of a full two hours drinking coffee, knitting and nattering.

The photographs show the Fair Isle waistcoat I am knitting. The pattern comes from "The Traditional Sweater Book" by Madeline Weston. It is a traditional Fair Isle pattern although I have replaced the usual bright colours of red, gold, white and blue with shades of grey white and purple. The wool is 2ply jumper weight from Jamieson and Smith.

I am pleased with the pattern and the way the colours are coming together but not looking forward to having to darn in all the ends once I have finished knitting!

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Elderberry Cordial

Back in June I made elderflower cordial for the first time. It seemed to capture summer in a bottle.

Elderberry cordial which I have been making for years definitely tastes more of autumn and winter.

This is how I make it.

There are just three ingredients, elderberries, cloves and sugar.

I use about 20-30 clean dry elderberry heads.  Shake to remove any insects, earwigs seem to hide in mine.
Remove the berries from the stalks using a fork. I wear kitchen gloves for this bit as elderberry juice is a dye and will stain fingers purple! The stalks and any unripened berries can be toxic so it is important to use ripe fruit and to take time over this stage.

Place in a large saucepan and just cover with water.

Bring the mixture to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for thirty minutes. I use a wooden spoon to squash the berries against the side of the pan to release as much juice as possible.

Strain the juice through a jelly bag.

To each pint of juice add one pound of sugar (454g) and 10 cloves.  I obtained three quarters of a pint of juice so added 12 oz of sugar and eight cloves. Warm the mixture slowly, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and boil the mixture for ten minutes.

The mixture can be allowed to cool and then poured into sterilised bottles or if like me you don't want to spend any more money on fancy bottles you can use jam jars.

I made two jars of cordial from approximately 25 heads of elderberries.

Elderberries are said to have some health benefits, particularly to help the body recover from viral infections. I take a dessert spoonful twice a day if I have a cold or the syrup can be diluted with hot water to make a warming drink.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Woodland - August

With our holidays and lots going on during August, I didn't get to the little woodland I'm photographing throughout the year until the very end of the month. At first glance it hasn't changed much over the last few weeks and it felt a little dark and gloomy there yesterday.

Also, it was very quiet. In the spring and early summer, it was filled with birdsong but yesterday it was very still and quiet.

The bracken at the edge of the woodland has grown and is just starting to colour.

There have been a few rainstorms (luckily for us, mostly while we were away on holiday) and the stream bed now is damp again although the stream isn't really flowing.

As well as the bracken turning colour, there were a few pale lemon coloured leaves on the hazel trees

and a few willow leaves have already fallen.

Most of the leaves are still green and firmly attached to the trees, the canopy this month was very dense letting very little of the sunlight through.

At the start of the year there was little change in the wood between my monthly visits and then in spring  everything started growing and it seemed to look different every few days. Now during summer the changes have slowed and it has looked very similar for several weeks. With autumn on its way I expect the changes to happen more rapidly as the trees turn colour and shed their leaves at varying times over the next couple of months.

I wonder if the changes are related to daylight with the fastest changes occurring around the equinoxes when the day lengths are changing most and the changes slowing down during the midwinter and the summer when there is little difference between the days.

I will watch and see, just four more visits to complete my year of pictures of the woodland.