Monday, 20 May 2013

Pink Purslane

It was such a beautiful evening, I took myself for a stroll and found the pathways vibrant green, lush and gloriously sunlit.

A profusion of Pink Perslane, banks of spoon-shaped leaves, fleshy stems and pretty pink flowers.  

It is a plant that is not a native, but was introduced in the 18th century from Siberia and North America.  The leaves are edible and the beety flavour is good in salads (another name for it is miner's lettuce), or they can be cooked.  Must try them.  For now there was sufficient enjoyment in seeing them growing wild, carpeting my walk, their fresh pinky faces smiling a good evening.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Long-tailed Tits

I've just had a wonderful encounter coming out of my store-shed - a Long-tailed Tit flew in making lots of noise, and landed on the door jamb.  I stood motionless, watching it - absolutely amazed I should be only inches away.  Then, it flitted from the door frame onto my arm - just above the elbow (I can feel the sensation of it landing and its claws gripping my shirt as I write this - like a little kiss!).


Long-tailed Tit painting by Finch Arts

A bird has never landed on me like that before - I wonder if it is nesting in the shed and was trying to see me off!

Friday, 17 May 2013

Special Bootscraper

Recently I was asked to make a Bootscraper as gift for a Chairman who was stepping down after 17 years, to be presented at the company's Annual General Meeting.

It turned out to be a rather special privilege as the company was QMJ Publishing Ltd - QMJ Publishing is a privately owned publishing and exhibition business that serves the quarrying, recycling and natural stone industries (they are responsible for publishing the Natural Stone Specialist magazine, and also for running the Natural Stone Show each year!)

So I feel very proud to share the publicity with you

Changing of the guard at QMJ

PICTURED above is John Hopkins (left of photo) stepping down as chairman of QMJ Publishing Ltd at the company’s AGM on Thursday 9 May 2013 with his successor, Terry Last.  As a memento of his 19 years on the board, 17 of which were as chairman, John was presented with a handsome boot scraper specially commissioned from North Yorkshire based sculptor, Jennifer Tetlow.  The base of the boot scraper was hand carved in the shape of the QMJ logo from a block of Woodkirk Yorkstone, the sculptor’s favorite material, which was sourced from Woodkirk Stone’s Brittania Quarries at Morley, near Leeds.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Pig on the run

Not something you see every day - a Pig in the village, running towards you in the road.  This one was trotting happily in Lastingham, making pig noises.  A neighbour corralled it into a nearby front garden.  It immediately used its rubbery nose to lift the latch and tried to push its way out - luckily seen in time and string was procured to keep it contained.

It was very tame and friendly, happily taking apples, carrots - and actually anything it was offered - and enjoyed scratches and tickles from us all.

The Village grape-vine is super effective, and soon the owner came to rescue her piggy.

What characters pigs are - and how communicative - reminds me of watching wild boar when I was trying to get a likeness for carving a pair of boar in stone. 

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Spring Blossom

When the spring weather turns from sun to showers and the wind drives you indoors - it is lovely to continue to enjoy some seasonal beauty, and one of my favourites is Blackthorn Blossom.  It looks much the best out on the branches - but so pretty close up too.  The contrast of dark brown stems, and the froths of white flowers are enchanting in a vase.

The beautiful white blossom tends to appear early in the year before the leaves. The single, white flowers are among the first to be seen in hedgerows and their appearance often seems to coincide with a period of bad weather, the so-called 'blackthorn winter'.

There is a thought that bringing the Blossom into the house is unlucky - this thorny native plant (also known as Snag) has much folklore surrounding it, but is wonderful for wildlife.  The blossoms, 'heralds of spring', attract a range of early insects to pollinate them.  The flowers produce nectar for bumblebees and early-flying Small Tortoiseshell butterflies.

When the leaves appear they provide food for the larvae of Black and Brown Hairstreak butterflies. The tree is also the food plant for the caterpillars of the following moths - March, Common Emerald, Little Emerald, Mottle Pug, Feathered Thorn, Orange, Scalloped Hazel, Scalloped Oak, Swallowtailed, Brimstone, August Thorn, Early Thorn, Pale Brindled Beauty, Blue Bordered Carpet, Broken Barred Carpet, November, Pale November, Winter, Sloe Pug, Green Pug, Sharp Angled Peacock and The Magpie.

Blackthorn is also very valuable to birds as a nesting site. Blackbird, Song Thrush, Finches, Common Whitethroat and Wood Pigeon are among the more common users.

Really enough of a claim to fame already, and we haven't begun to talk of the wood, or that it is related to the plum and produces bitter fruit, that we know as sloes (eaten since Neolithic times!) and you can dry the leaves and use as a substitute for tea, and ...    Perhaps it should be known as 'Wonder-Snag'!
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