Thursday, 5 June 2008

Signs of Summer

Everything looks better in sunshine. There is a feeling of lightness associated with brightness compared with the doom and gloom laden cloud cover or rain we know so well. Of course there are exceptions, but I’ll try not to get sidetracked by the beauty of raindrops on Ladies mantle leaves or the sound of a single raindrop hitting a leaf during a shower or the amazing scent present immediately following a thunder storm.

I’ve decided the garden can be officially classed as “wild” since there are buttercups flowering everywhere and long grasses wave from every bed. I quite like grass in fields and closely cut on lawns so I can go barefoot, but have never been attracted to buying grasses to plant in flower beds as all the major garden designers suggest.

As usual, plants in my garden grow where they will. Despite trying to remove all the Spanish bluebells and white michaelmas daisies, there is still a profusion of each. The golden rod is already nearly 4’ tall and I’m determined to do something with the flowers this year. There was a fascinating discussion about its merits on the Susun Weed Forum that I found, so I’m very tempted to try dried, tincture and oil.

The marjoram needs cutting if I’m going to dry it before it flowers, as does the lemon balm, so I just hope the forecast of heavy rain for tomorrow is wrong. I love fresh marjoram and then forget about it completely during the winter.

The parsley is growing in great profusion too, so I decided to make up a fresh salad dressing last night using a basic Good Housekeeping recipe – 2 parts olive oil, one part vinegar (sage cider vinegar) 1/3 tsp mustard powder, 1 tsp sugar and about two large handfuls of marjoram and parsley with half a dozen broad leaf thyme sprigs and one rosemary sprig. I whizzed up the herbs in the coffee grinder before adding them to the oil and vinegar mixture, then whisked everything together. It tasted good and hopefully will improve with age.

The first valerian flower was out yesterday although I didn’t smell any scent. I really like valerian, but have never used it. Non Shaw has a recipe for a “deep sleep potion” which I’d love to try, even though I rarely need anything. My problem is not falling asleep, but going to bed – there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything I want!

Coming home to an empty house yesterday, I actually managed to make myself a herb tea with lemon balm and cleavers. Someone was saying how mature cleavers were so much stronger than the younger ones. I gathered some thick stems and wrapped them up into a parcel before breaking them into pieces in the teapot. The pea-smell was unmistakable – something I’d not noticed before. The tea also had a sweet aftertaste on the back of my tongue – almost like an artificial sweetener!

The wild strawberries are flowering in profusion and there are real strawberries on the large strawberry plants. I haven’t grown strawberries since before the children were born, so we shall see who gets them first – us or the slugs! I meant to go and look at the gooseberries, red currants and black currents before I went in, but forgot.

In my last posting, I mentioned having time to spare over the weekend while we were away at the Exmouth Kite Festival. I really shouldn’t say things like that. I always forget how much time cooking and making cups of tea take up – not to mention having to wash out Chris’ kite gear because he slipped and fell in the mud on Saturday morning due to torrential rain the previous night!

The weekend kite displays were stunning, especially when Sky Symphony got together with the Airheads producing a ten-man synchronised team. Airheads’ leader, Peter Taylor, makes Sky Symphony's kites including their night kites. It was a wonderful weekend for Sky Symphony as all six of the team were present - the first time for a public display.

Roy got to participate in a scratch “revolution” team for the first time and did really well. Revolutions are 4 string kites, as opposed to the two string ones Sky Symphony use for team displays which go by the names of “T2s” and "absolute zeros". They have three different sets of kites depending on the wind speed and can fly when many other kite teams can’t. On Saturday, Dave and Alan Bill performed a very moving duet with tails on their kites, producing perfect double helixes in the afternoon sky.

I did manage to spend a few moments adding to my latest story, “The Bear and the Ivy Lady”. The sunset over the hills above Exmouth estuary on the Friday evening was particularly beautiful and found its way into the story.

There are two sunsets I remember fondly – the first over the Pacific Ocean viewed from the clifftop apartment in Lincoln City, Oregon, with my friend, Sorcha and the other was on the cliffs at Lands End with hundreds of other visitors waiting for the firework display to begin. We watched in silence and when the sun finally dipped below the horizon, everyone clapped. It was a truly magical moment and now I have another to add to my collection of sunset memories.

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