Tuesday View (25th February)

It has been a beautiful spring-like day today, with sunshine and temperatures reaching double figures.

Walking around the garden was a real pleasure, and standing beneath the hazel tree I realized I could hear a gentle buzzzzzzz…

HazelBee2

There were lots of bees up there, and look at that blue sky!

HazelBee

The hazel flowers are open too…

HazelFlower1

There are signs of life all over the garden, with snowdrops, a few Hepatica buds and a couple more Hellebores opening…

Hellebore1

And a single Vinca flower in the shade…

Vinca

Here’s the view for today.

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I managed to start tidying up later in the day, removing winter debris and trimming the lavenders etc. There are some sedum and aquilegia shoots just visible, and some spring bulbs are slowly sprouting. 😀 It feels wonderful to be out gardening again, and so early in the year too!

Is it warming up in your garden yet?

Book Review: The Knot, by Jane Borodale

“Knowledge should run freely between men and women, readily available to those who care to know…”

(Henry Lyte, in “The Knot”)

(Picture courtesy of Wikipedia)

Henry Lyte was  a British botanist, living in the 16th century. He became well known for his translation of Rembert Dodoens’ “Cruydeboeck” – a register of mainly herbs and medicinal plants which was translated by other famous botanists into French and Latin as well as other languages. Other botanists around this time were Carolus Clusius (who gave Gentiana clusii its name), John Gerard (Geradia), John Tradescant (Tradescantia), or Mathias de l’Obel (Lobelia).

This novel is a fictional account of his life with his family on the Somerset Levels in the west of England.

“The Knot”, by Jane Borodale

TheKnot

While raising a large family, managing an estate, fighting a lawsuit by his father’s second wife for possession of his ancestral home, and creating a garden, Henry Lyte is also busy translating a botanical masterwork into English – a long process involving hours of dedicated and meticulous concentration, that will be of monumental importance to those who, in Elizabethan England, are unable to pay a physician and need information on medicinal plants in the English language. Henry dreamed: “Imagine a world where good health is a universal possibility!”

As the story slowly unravels, with Henry’s second wife Frances taking trouble in settling in, and the loss of several children to illness, we sense a secret regarding the death of his first wife, Anys. The sense of anticipation lasts throughout the book, though not affecting the gentle pace of rural life and the methodical progress of his work. In fact the tranquility of the garden and the down-to-earth gardener who always seems to be present seem to emanate peace and harmony, counterbalancing the annoyance Henry feels about his wife’s lack of interest in his garden, and his step-mother’s claim to his home.

Henry loves his garden and plants above everything it seems… One evening his wife refuses to accompany him to view the madonna lilies, so he goes out alone:

“He bends his head and breathes deeply. If only more men would take the chance to drink in the smell of lilies in the night in June, he thinks. There can be nothing so delicious. Nothing that could make a man so contented. He feels dizzy with love and tenderness for his garden. Above him is the clicking of bats, and a pale moth looms and flutters near the grass. He tilts his face to the moon and closes his eyes to its whiteness, bathes in its unflinching gaze. The air is warm. He feels enveloped, cupped between the sky and the earth…”

The passing of seasons and the constant references to plants and herbs growing in the marshy surroundings or in his own garden drew me into the story. As did the disparity between Henry’s love of nature and mankind, and his unintentional negligence to the needs of his family. He can, however, give his seeds and beans his absolute attention. On inspecting them he sees:

“… they are all – he feels quite overwhelmed with the sheer mass of them – waiting… And the promise they contain. These things seem dead, and yet… A few drops of water, the enclosing dark earth with minerals, the warmth of sunlight; and each of these dessicated, mummified little bits of toughness will hydrate, fatten and burst into vivid miraculous sweet shoots, climbing, sinewing towards the light.”

This book is not a masterpiece, but a gentle and enjoyable read. I personally felt that the storyline was lacking, but the journey through Henry Lyte’s life is pleasurable and calming. Little drama, hardly suspense, but I am glad I read it and would recommend it to anyone interested in the earlier pioneering botanists. The age in which he lived was so much slower and life was harder. The connection to the earth had to be suppressed where prayer was considered the only connection necessary:

“He wonders whether there has been any rigorous scientific study of the effects of spring on nature and man, and even idly toys with the idea of making some notes towards this himself… not as a counter to the truth of God, of course, but rather as an observational study of what actually occurs.”

Henry Lyte, sadly, does not appear to have had any plants named after him. Had he sacrificed the peace of the countryside for London he may have had more success and renown, but he is depicted here as a lover of plants and the earth above all, who hated travelling to the city…

~~~

So, if your reading list is not too long already, here’s another book to add!

😀

Fruity Clafoutis

While my parents were visiting we had a favourite “pud” of ours… apple strudel, which I have already posted here. But a couple of weeks ago the freezer was due for its annual defrosting, and I was pleased to find there were still quite a few plums and some rhubarb (and far too many blueberries!). Hence this delicious pud.

😀

PlumClafouti

The first one with plums and blueberries was so good that a few days later I made another one, with the last bag of rhubarb and some blueberries….

RhubarbBlueberryClafoutis

Fruity Clafoutis

  • 300g (10 oz) plums, quartered or rhubarb, chopped into bite-size pieces
  • 125g (4 oz) blueberries
  • a little vanilla or cinnamon sugar for sprinkling over the fruit
  • 100g (3/4 cup) plain flour
  • 100g (1/2 cup) sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 225ml (1 cup) milk or soya milk

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Butter a flan dish and lay the fruit in the dish. Sprinkle with a little vanilla or cinnamon sugar. In a large bowl, beat the eggs for one minute. Sift in the flour and sugar and mix until combined, then add the milk and mix to a smooth batter. Pour over the fruit and bake for 30-40 minutes, until just firm in the middle and golden brown.

PlumClafouti2

It tastes wonderful served warm – the consistency is somewhere between pancake and custard…. yum!

What’s hiding in YOUR freezer?

😉

Butterfly Bounty

I saw this lovely short video on the BBC website the other day… take a look, it’s beautiful!

Butterfly Bounty

ButterflyBounty

And a couple of other links too:

BBC Nature: Butterflies Bounce Back

BBC Nature: Bill Oddie and an English Meadow

I haven’t seen any butterflies yet – much too early here. Have you?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Whatever you are doing, either with loved ones or not, I hope it’s a lovely day for you.

ValentinesDay

Smile at a stranger – they’ll smile back, guaranteed!

Wave at someone you have never seen before, and I bet they’ll wave back!

And if something makes you happy, Laugh Out Loud – it’s good for you (and it’s catching too)!

ValentinesDay2

“May flowers always line your path and sunshine light your day…”

(from an old Irish blessing)

Love, Cathy xxx

Tuesday View (11th February)

A quick snap today, as I’m preparing for a visit from my Mum and Dad from the UK. 😀 A few days of conversation and some games of Scrabble by the fire will make February rush by in a breeze and before we know it spring will have arrived!

Dreaming of Spring

Dreaming of Spring

~~~

The garden seems to be suspended in time… nothing happening yet!

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Have a great day everyone!

😀