Tree Time: December…

It’s hard for me to believe that it’s nearly a full year since I started the daily tree project, but there we are, time flies and all that.

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This was the oak on Christmas Morning. It was a simply gorgeous time to be out and about. There had been a slight frost, but almost all was gone when I took the Delinquent Dog for his constitutional, instead there was an almost warm sunshine and fabulous blue sky.

But this is what Boxing Day looked like…

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Taken at the same time of day as the previous picture – just goes to show how huge an impact the weather has on the way you see things around you.

And after almost twelve months of watching that oak pass through the seasons, it’s really the weather and the changes in light each day that have held me most in thrall.

I know we’re incredibly lucky to live in a country where the weather varies so much, even if we’re famous for using it as our stock conversation line – it’s not difficult to see how it must affect us, when you realise just how many shades daylight comes in.

Over the year, I’ve learned just how ignorant I am about natural history. I’ve watched countless species of green plants emerge from the hedgerow, grow and die down, and managed to identify only a few of them. I’ve seen lots of wildlife. Squirrels top the list of animals, although rabbits have their season, and we’ve seen quite a few deer over the year too. Fox encounters have been rare, but actually my favourite, they seem almost as intrigued by us as we are by them, they stand and take us in for a few seconds, assessing us, before judging it best to run and hide. I’ve practically never managed to get the camera out in time.

Birds are even more difficult to photograph. We are in a red kite area, and from time to time, I’ve stood and watched them wheel around above the field, but my pictures are no use at all. We see lots of jays, which always give me a little thrill, it’s just that flash of colour you can’t miss. And at the moment, we seem to be seeing robins everywhere – but maybe that’s just a function of the season!

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But birds and squirrels, lovely though they are, haven’t taught me as much as the trees, hedges and plants about the passing of time. Even at the beginning of December, (2nd December above), there were still a few leaves left on the hornbeam hedge, now though, after the wind, rain and frosts, there’s not a leaf remaining.

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The 19th December and all the leaves have finally gone.

Sometimes, as we get older, we talk about how time flies, and of course there are ways in which this feels right, but having spent a year walking the same route, almost every day, stopping to look and notice what’s happening along the way, it seems to me that a year is a long time, a full and rich time, in which a whole cycle of life and death has passed, and already I’m looking out for the signs of life beginning all over again. I find that immensely reassuring and exciting too.

I haven’t quite decided what to do next year. It won’t be possible to walk past the tree and not take its picture, but I’m not sure if I’ll post them on Instagram (where, by the way, you can see almost every day’s photo from this year) and I think perhaps there should be something new here on the blog for 2015. But having amassed pictures from 2014, I’m quite keen to do it again and compare year-on-year. This, I strongly suspect, will be of far more interest to me than anyone else, and although I would one day like to be the sort of old dear who’ll tell you how late spring is this year, how the bluebells are early and how things were different in her day, I’m not quite ready to be that woman just yet.

Next month, I’ll do the January 2014 vs January 2015 post – just so we can see the full circle. I hope you’ve enjoyed the Tree Time posts, if anyone feels like doing something similar, I’d say don’t hesitate, ‘do it!’ You probably won’t learn what you thought you might, but I guarantee you’ll discover a lot of new things.

November in pictures…well mostly.

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What I have learnt this month is – preparing for an exhibition is more time-consuming than I’d imagined – but also great fun.

November has been divided between normal daily life; walking the Delinquent Dog, taxiing teenagers, blah, blah, blah, stitching, stitching and a lot more stitching and the occasional out-of-this-world experience (oh yes!).

I’ve mentally planned so many posts this month and delivered none of them, so here instead, is my month in pictures…

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A lot of wet walks…

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Not quite, but nearly, daily strolls to see the last of the leaves on the oak…IMAG8218

And to watch the hedge finally turning.

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Frost, at last…

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And fog…

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Lots of fog.

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Some incredible natural lighting effects…

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But an inability to take decent photos indoors.

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Love having staring matches with the sheep…

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And meeting unexpected chaps like this – (at Tring Auctions – must go back, it was brilliant!).

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Finally getting ‘Hidcote’ mounted and ready for the show…

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And ‘Tree’.

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Loving being able to see through the hedges again…

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The graceful beech trees…

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And yet more fog.

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Visiting Hyper Japan – truly ‘otherworld-stuff’ and far more fun than I could have imagined.

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Sampling this…

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Framing this…

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And thinking to myself, ah well, it will soon be time to start preparations for Christmas.

Hope you’re having a good month. Hope to be back on slightly more regular basis very soon – but well, you know how it is!

Happy stitching!

Tree Time: November…

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Warning – this post contains the gratuitous use of asterisks – those of a nervous disposition should leave now.

So it’s now eleven months since I started taking a photograph of this particular oak every time I pass it while walking the Delinquent Dog – how time flies!

The photograph above was taken this morning – another grey day as you can see.

This is how the oak has been progressing over the last couple of weeks…

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Once again we can see the elegant branch structure that caught my eye all those weeks ago.

The weather has been very grey this month so far – even the days that started out sunny, seem to have turned grey before nightfall and we’ve had a lot of rain. In fact it’s been the wind and rain that finally brought the leaves off the oak, almost overnight.

Some of us find it hard-going when the light levels are low, so I’m hoping it won’t be long before we get sharp frosts and crisp blue skies. The cold I can deal with, but darkness really gets to me.

I’d planned to end this post with an uplifting little poem about November, but having dredged my way through Google, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is an unremittingly miserable month for poets too. I’m not going to put anything I found up here, just in case it drives anyone over the edge – really, you’d think poets through history have deliberately waited for November to indulge their most depressive fantasies.

Does anyone actually know a funny poem or saying about November – if you do, for heaven’s sake, tell me please! Never mind NaNoWriMo, let’s have ‘write something witty, ‘cos November’s so sh***y!’

Right, I’m off to hibernate…

Moody…

So, what you’ve all been wondering, is what happens on a foggy morning if you leave your smart phone camera set on fluorescent from the night before.

Here’s the answer…

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It was weird weather, because by the time I got to the tree, the sun was out and the sky a deep blue, but not quite as strange as the camera made out. There are a few other settings I might try out by accident too.

In other news…

I’m frantically stitching away for our Discover exhibition at the end of the month.

I’m still spiralling…in blue.

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Details from a three panel triptych that’s almost finished.

Happy stitching

Tree Time: October…

Well, really, it hardly feels like a couple of days since I was writing about September – what’s happening!

Yesterday I took this photo of the oak…

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I had intended to write this post yesterday afternoon, but events got in the way. So, roll forward twenty-four hours and this is what it looked like this morning…

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What a difference a day makes (and the tail end of Hurricane Gonzalo) – the branches were being seriously tossed about – I imagine there will be significantly fewer leaves on it by the end of today.

Until now, I’ve felt that autumn was drifting in rather slowly this year.

The bracken is fast turning brown and starting to wilt,

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this week I’ve started spotting a lot more toadstools,

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and the holly berries are looking succulent,

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but I suppose because it’s still quite warm, it hasn’t felt especially autumnal – not enough mists yet and only the one cursory frost.

Here’s the oak at the beginning of September for comparison.

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If you want to watch the almost daily progress of the oak over the next couple of months, do follow me on Instagram.

This and that…

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I just seem to have too many plates spinning this week. Nothing special or particularly exciting, but you know how some days you’re busy all day and go to bed wondering what you’ve done with the time.

One thing I have done, is to finish the latest stitched tapestry. Well, when I say finish, I mean I’ve stitched it, but there is still all the stretching and coaxing into shape to do and then the mounting onto canvas – but that will have to wait for a few days. Here it is in its raw state…

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At last we seem to be having proper autumnal weather and the colours are well and truly turning now.

We’ve just had our first frost.

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Only mild, and most of it had steamed away by the time the Delinquent Dog and I got out, but still a change.

Then we had rain – heavy showers, but not nearly enough to make a difference to the garden.

And then the sun came out and we had marvellous rays through the trees. I took this picture on my phone (well actually I always do, not having a camera), but it still looks a little odd – ephemeral things sun-rays.

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Right, back to the plates.

Have a lovely week/weekend!

Tree Time: September

In which we know it’s autumn…

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Nothing quite like a blue sky for lifting the spirits...

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Nine months of watching the changes to the oak tree on the lane. Above is a picture from each month of 2014, starting in January and ending with the picture I took this morning, showing how the tree – and the hedge – has changed over the weeks and months.

In August, although I felt that something was beginning to be different in the air, you still couldn’t really say that we’d moved into autumn, but now, despite afternoon temperatures on many days reaching summer levels, you certainly know at 8am in the mornings, that the earth has turned into the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…

The oak is changing colour now. There were hints of change last month, but they were difficult to pinpoint, the quality of light makes such a difference to what you can see each day. Now I can see the beginnings of a golding, as if someone has lightly sprayed antique gold paint across the leaves. But it’s still subtle, green continues to dominate.

But change is more obvious in the lane.

The lush growth of midsummer is dying down now. Bracken is tinged with brown as the first fronds die back. The cleavers that I thought would strangle the nettles have all but disappeared. And everywhere, the huge abundance of fruits is evident. The hedges are red with haws and hips, and sloes and blackberries hang heavy along the way.

Gradually I’m beginning to be able to see through the hedge again to the fields beyond, which until now have been hidden behind a curtain of tall, thick green foliage.

This month I’ve surprised a couple of pheasants and been mocked by dozens of squirrels – they obviously think that teasing the Delinquent Dog is a jolly good game. And is it me, or can I hear more birdsong now – it certainly seems so.

I haven’t quite had to resort to gloves and a scarf yet, but it didn’t feel far away today – I might get them out ready.

I post my daily photographs of the tree and other snaps from walking the Delinquent Dog on Instagram – either follow me there, or see the mini-versions on the right-hand sidebar of the blog for regular updates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tree Time: August

Shhhh! If we all keep very quiet, I might manage to write this before the teenage daughters materialise from their beds. I don’t generally find August compatible with blogging – we’re either out and about doing too much, or we’re in, but I can’t get anywhere near my computer for girls watching YouTube or playing fantasy games. So let’s be quick…

When August started, you could still make a fairly convincing argument for it still being summer. We had plenty of hot sunny days with a few gloriously blue skies off-setting the wonderful greens from the oak and the hedge in front of it.

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But it wasn’t long before I felt there was quite a change to the air on the early morning walk. A tinge of coolness on the edge of the breeze that hadn’t been there before. Much of the hedgerow undergrowth has died back now and views are beginning to open up again through the gaps in the hedge.

By this morning, there really isn’t any doubt that we’re now at the beginning of autumn.

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Thick dew on the field this morning. And berries appearing all along the lane.

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There was a different quality to the light through the trees.

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Autumn is my favourite season.

I’m not going to dwell too much on this, but this morning, I noticed how extremely glossy and gorgeous the holly bushes are at the moment – and how many berries they seem to be growing – isn’t there some country saying about the amount of berries and the harshness of the winter?…

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Too soon to be thinking about that.

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Sounds from upstairs – time to be off.

Enjoy the rest of the summer, back into the swing again very soon.

For more or less daily pictures of the oak and what’s happening on the lane, follow me on Instagram or watch the bar at the side of these posts.

 

 

Tree time: July…

Phew, we made it to the last day of term! Things are a bit behind around here, but I’ve just stolen a few minutes to write up the latest from my daily tree project, before I pour a large glass of something red and delicious and head to the sofa.

This was the oak at the beginning of July

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As the weeks go by and the hedges fill outwards and upwards, it’s getting harder to see the tree behind the green screen.

And here it is today (July 23rd) – the bird box is now almost invisible behind all the growth.

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Seven months in and the best thing for me about this whole project so far, is that I’ve gone from sort of noticing what was going on around me, to really being interested and looking out every day for changes in the hedges and trees along our route. I’ve become much more aware of what’s growing where and the developing leaves, flowers and now fruits too. I wish there was a pet naturalist handy to come along on the odd walk and tell me more about what I’m seeing, but I’m definitely learning a lot about the local plant and animal/bird life.

A while ago, I realised that I’m inevitably going to want to be able to compare what I’ve seen this year with what happens next year. At first I tried keeping a daily diary – on paper and then digitally, but I just don’t have the time to keep up that pace, so I thought I’d try to do a summary here once in a while.

So the highlights of July on our daily walk have been…

IMAG6720_BURST001Seeing the baby conkers start to form.

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But being concerned that the horse-chestnut trees already seem to have gone into autumn mode – they’re all like this, is that normal or are they ill?

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Ok, you’re probably wondering why I’ve put this picture here. Well, until mid-July the whole lane was a mess of huge, dangerous pot-holes (which it has had for as long as I’ve been walking this route) Then one morning two weeks ago, as the dog and I stood clear of a fast approaching Audi, we watched him hit a particularly big hole and blow out his front tyre. I stopped to talk to him and he said the council should sort out the road – oh yes, I thought, and pigs will be sprouting wings any day now, but just look what happened a week later!

Mind you, it was a very patchy job to say the least, as you can see by the amount of water still filling the holes after the mid-month thunderstorms…

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Can you see the squashed traffic cone in the hedge – it used to mark the biggest hole. You’d still be foolish to drive, walk or cycle in those puddles.

Talking of rain, we’ve certainly had our share this month. The lane becomes a fast-flowing stream – which I love, but the dog hates…

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The sky has been wonderful

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But perhaps the best part of the month has been watching the fruits arrive in the hedgerow…

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elderberries, not ready yet, but there will be plenty.

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Hazelnuts,

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and blackberries, although there are still a lot of brambles in flower.

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These thistles are nearly over now, but I loved their shape and texture.

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The lane feels more like a tunnel now that the hedges are so high. This was the lane in February

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And today.

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I think I may have become a tiny bit obsessed with all this 🙂

 

 

Open gardens…

One of our local villages held it’s open gardens event at the weekend. They really couldn’t have asked for better weather, in fact for those of us walking around it was almost too hot. (Note to self: must buy a decent sun hat that doesn’t make me look like a cricket umpire or extra from a Poirot episode)

I didn’t take many photos because it was just too bright to see what I was doing in most of the gardens, but also because it felt rather impolite.

But there’s no doubt that a HUGE amount of work had been done, bringing the various gardens to a peak of perfection. A great variety in styles and planting on show too, from immaculate Japanese -style, to a mini-Hidcote, cottage garden to stumpery, all beautiful in their own ways.

I’d assumed when we went that I’d end up feeling inadequate about our own little space, but oddly enough I came home very happy because I know I don’t have what it takes to create the sort of garden we visited yesterday. I love seeing what other people have achieved, but it doesn’t inspire me to do the same.

It was a thoroughly lovely way to spend a sunny Sunday afternoon, but I’m content that re-classifying our garden into a nature reserve was the right move for us. I’m much more of a potterer than a real gardener, although I do reserve the right to change my mind, who knows what might happen in years to come…

Tree Time: June…

So here we are, half way through the year. I must admit to being quite pleased with myself for sticking with my daily tree photo project, but the truth is that I’m enjoying doing it very much indeed.

When I started, it was the changes in the weather and the light that held my interest while the tree didn’t seem to be doing very much, but since then, I’ve become far more aware of all the other developments happening as the year progresses along our route. So this year I’ve watched all the wild flowers as they bloom, I’ve seen the hawthorn blossom turn the lane white, I’ve heard the first cuckoo of spring, I’ve been soaked to the knees wading through a sea of grass in the field after rain, and I’ve held onto the dog’s lead as the new tiny rabbits made their initial forays into the lane.

It will be midsummer in two days time and I think I can already feel another change in the air. There is so much growth, bracken and nettles tower over me in the hedges, I have to force my way into the place where I stand to take the tree photos, but all that energy can’t be sustained, it will soon be time for nature to rest.

I’m excited to see how the next six months unfold.

Happy Midsummer.