Of Damsels and Dragons – Nature notes for July

At last some sun.. even though we had to get almost three-quarters the way through July to get it!  I’m going to start by letting you all know what the answer was to the picture quiz in last month’s Nature Notes. Here is the same spray now …. 

The answer was Kiwi Fruit !! And I shall be sending ecopies of Some Kind of Synchrony to all three who guessed correctly! The fruit still have got quite a way to grow but you can see what they are already.

And if you are here looking for the results of my Win a Kindle draw (drawn 10th July) click Here

While back in the pond things have been stirring and the dragonfly larvae have been crawling out of the pond to breakout of their last larval skin and turn into dragonflies. I spotted this ‘case’ still clinging to the pond plant it climbed out on.  The dragon fly larvae have been described as the ‘tiger of the pond’ as they are fierce predators taking down tadpoles and small fish. Some years there have been huge numbers in our pond but in recent years they have been few and far between. Perhaps this year is the start of another rise in population. Watch out tadpoles! 

Meanwhile the more delicate cousins of the dragonflies, the damselflies, were making sure there would be other types of larvae in the pond too – here two of the common Large Red damsel fly, mating. You’ll really have to click on the picture to see them clearly in their attractive red livery.

You just have to see this! One morning I was called out to the patio with  ‘Come and look in the dog’s bowl!’   The dog has a plastic water bowl out on the patio – to try to persuade her not the drink the water from the dishes under the patio pots (doesn’t work – she still prefers this water to clean fresh stuff) and, there, sitting in her half-full water bowl was …… a newt!

I guess he thought he’d found a nice personal little pond of his own. Now this is a good twenty metres from the main pond, needless to say he was transported to the pond in the bowl and released, before the dog came looking for a drink!

In the flora in July we’ve moved into some delicate purples, the meadow Cranesbill ( in the geranium family)   and the Self-heal ( Prunella vulgaris). The latter small plant so called because it is used in herbal medicine as a poultice for wounds and abrasions and as an infusion for sore throats and more. This year it has grown in profusion looking quite pretty amongst the grass.

This week’s picture quiz is this ‘common’ beastie which I didn’t recognise who, along with his brothers and sisters, was destroying one of the perennial plants in our front border. Do you know what it is? First correct answer will win an ecopy of Nothing Ever Happens Here (as a pdf)




And for my FWT? cheerleaders – weight is now 9st. 11.5 lbs – yes – that’s down a whole pound this week! Full details on the drop-down for week 30

Lastly – a series of sunsets from one evening in July – not sure I’ve seen such a stripey sky before. How about you? do you just love sunsets – have to get the camera out to capture them?  I love to hear from you !








Port Eliot Festival – Another World

What do I love about the Port Eliot Festival?

Well, since you ask – feeling like I am in another world.

One where wearing floaty and shimmery fabrics and jingly bright coin belts with bells at your ankles to ring at every step is – normal. Or wearing a bunch of flowers attached to a head band, or a huge paper fan taped to your waist, or a gold lamé dress with wellington boots and a cowboy hat is – normal.  (Actually, wellies were only needed the first day and then only on some paths, didn’t stop some people wearing them all weekend though – must be from the city, us country folk get fed up having to wear them feeding the animals and such as it is) Where you can go from a serious talk on the life of Edward Thomas (the poet who wrote Adlestrop) by Matthew Holis author of Now All Roads Lead to France  to a mad and manic music performance by Mik Artistik’s ego trip — in the space of three hundred yards and ten minutes and all against the wonderful back-drop of the Port Eliot Estate. Here’s a view from near the Round Room tower, looking towards the entrance to the festival. 

Not sure about other festivals – but this one is about as mixed as I can imagine.  You may have guessed by now (if you’ve flicked through my past posts and topics) that I am interested in all sorts of things and this place offers all sorts to interest.

Let’s start with the fact that the festival is in Cornwall and this year there was a group of performers informing all and sundry of the history of Cornwall – through the greatest men and women of Cornwall, by performing various tableaux and singing along, with a rousing chorus of ‘Shall Trelawney live or shall Trelawney die? as a finalé .   Add in a small folk band called The Butter Thieves turning up on the green infront of the house to sing Cornish folk songs like Lamorna – soon joined by locals who knew the words. And, from ‘over the water’ (Devon) Vocal Harem – a huge choir of mainly women who sang at the Bowling Green venue on Saturday afternoon.

Tracy Chevalier (author of  The Girl with the Pearl Earring  and many more) chatted to Dovegreyreader (the reader’s blogger)  in her patchwork and knitting adorned tent, showing her patchwork that she made as part of her research for her latest book ‘The Last Runaway’ set amongst Quakers, and taking questions from the enchanted audience (many knitting while they listened). And knitting appeared all over the place this year!  The Graffiti Grannies wonderful Knitted Tree at the cross roads of the paths to the Bowling Green, and Knit & Share – where you could drop in to learn to knit or crochet – or just pick up where someone else had left off and continue a piece of knitting, and in knitting bombing – where knitted ‘brooches’ would appear to decorate suitable items, to knitted sculptures called ‘Twisted Knits’ in Anthropologie ( a new venue this year)

The Flower Show was magnificent again this year (and how many of this sort of festival have a floral section just for the WI?) I’ve brought y0u a couple of colourful characters I spotted hanging round outside the flower show 🙂

Two of the scarecrow entries

Amongst my favourites (again) this year was Luke Wright – a performance poet , a balladeer for today. Poems fast, furious, sometimes comic, sometimes tragic, pour unaided by notes from this young man and newly inventive every year.

A beautiful stroll through wooded areas brings you past The Idlers Academy and to the river – where I came across rather late wild swimmers (the majority of whom had swum whilst the tide was in) these appeared to be enjoying slip-sliding down the mud banks into the water!  On my way back, over the hill this time, I came across a secluded tea room with sunny slopes and up behind them a lively choir singing  an impromptu set. Back down to the green before the castle and more stalls – as are dotted all around the site – selling wonderful selections of foods, crafts and the weird and wonderful – from garish clothes to wild hats – with flower hair-garlands galore this year.  Mine (seen wearing in the ‘wellie’ photo) made by my friend Christine from CornishCreams – handmade organic skin care products who was at the festival selling her creams but also making garlands with wooden roses!

She also kindly took these photos from the poetry reading of the Liskeard Poets  – unfortunately the performance area was right in front of the windows, but I am there mid-speech and in the group photo which is included so you can admire me some of the wonderful painting, which covers the wall of the Round Room, by Robert Lenkiewicz. Click on the photo to get a better look.

And so home – across the decorated temporary  bridge over the haha   – leaving around nine – still long before the end of the festival which had been running from Thursday lunch time and finished after midnight on Sunday – the golden light illuminating the trees as I left Port Eliot.  Sad that next year they are taking a rest and so we have to wait until 2014 to escape into another world as easily again.

Don’t forget – if you entered my Win a Kindle draw (drawn on 10th July 2012 – results here) you are welcome to claim your consolation prize of an ecopy of ‘Leave to Appeal – a novella’ – details of how to claim HERE  As a novella this is short enough to read easily on your computer if you do not have an ereader – just opt for the book in pdf. I look forward to hearing from you!

Do you go to festivals? Do you have a favourite – what makes a good festival for you?  I’d love to hear from you!


A Taste of Summer

Well, we haven’t really had much of a summer so far, have we? I am talking UK here – I know some of my US readers have had too much heat! But here, in the land of weather – where the best, easiest and most common topic of conversation is THE WEATHER just because it is so variable – we have had weather in spades! Floods, storms, wet, wet wet, where we had hoped for a July with balmy days, even hot here and there, especially as the school holidays come over the horizon.

So I was delighted when the husband returned from a small trip to France bearing six kilos of Apricots. To me, ripe apricots are summer on a stalk, the scent putting me firmly into a warm summer evening, the taste bursting sunshine on the tongue. We ate quite a few – but the majority I turned into jam. If there is one thing more instantly tasting of summer than a ripe apricot it is warm apricot jam. I love the aroma as the apricots simmer in the microwave, and the taste of the jam, still warm, scavenged from the last vestiges stuck to the the bowl before washing, is heavenly.

Yes, I did say microwave. I have adapted a recipe to make my apricot jam in the microwave, it means my jam is almost pure fruit and sugar, not diluted with lots of water. It also means I don’t have to be standing over the hob stirring, stirring , to prevent sticking or burning.

My recipe to make 5 lbs.  of apricot jam.

3lbs Apricots, 3 lbs sugar (half and half granulated/ jam sugar). 3 tablespoons water.

3lbs apricots – wash then stone. if you are able to find a way – crack about 6 of the stones and remove the kernels, blanch these by immersing in boiling water for a few minutes – when boiled up with the apricots they will enhance the pectin level, otherwise just use half Jam Sugar (with added pectin).  Apricots are a medium level pectin fruit and need a little help one way or another to achieve a set.

Place the apricots in a very large glass MW safe bowl with a lid (mine holds 3 litres). Add 3 tablespoons of water. Cook about 10 mins.

Stir and add 3lb sugar (half and half granulated and jam sugar stir in well) unless kernels used when it can be all granulated.

Remove lid, heat 5 mins on high,Stir well, heat 5 mins on high.

Add a piece of butter (about walnut size) to clear the jam. Simmer for 10 mins – test for set.

If not ready give 5 mins more on simmer – until set achieved. Remove kernels if used.

Pot into hot, sterilized jars and seal – Yum! Potted summer! More details under Recipes from the drop-downs

Talking about summer, I have my fingers well and truly crossed for good weather at the end of this week, as it is the Port Eliot Festival. Not some little Cornish village festival, of which we have many, but a national type festival, big, mad, eclectic and set in the beautiful grounds of Port Eliot castle on the banks of the Lynher in Cornwall. Once the site of a the wild Elephant Fayre the festival, after a long absence,  reinvented itself as a literary festival which has grown organically and shape shifted to a festival of all things, almost as eclectic as my blog – there are literary events a plenty, from serious non-fiction through to chic lit,  many with a less than reverent feel, poetry from humorous to serious, dovegreyreader, the  readers-blogger, is there in her special tent, there’s music of many varieties, food demos, food tents run by celebrity chefs, fashion in a big way with renowned milliners and fashion designers creating with weird and wonderful materials right there for you to parade around in, and absolutely amazing flower show and so much more – wandering musicians, jugglers, singers……

And I will be there, along with the rest of the Liskeard Poets, reading our work on the theme of ‘Dancing with…’ in the Round Room at 5pm on Sunday. So if any of you are lucky enough to be attending this year’s festival – do make yourself known to me then, would be great to meet some people I only know by comments or email addresses.

Lastly, don’t forget to claim your free ecopy of LEAVE TO APPEAL – a Novella as a consolation prize from my Win a Kindle Competition. All details of this and results on last week’s blog  It will come as an ecopy in your chosen format and you don’t need an ereader either – it can be easily read on the computer – I look forward to hearing from you.

What brings back memories of summer for you? Is it a photo, long forgotten, a taste, a scent? Do share – I’d love to hear from you!



And the winner is … (please imagine here – if you like and as you’ll know from earlier blogs, I don’t .. a ticking clock or tension-causing notes of music)…..

Ok, I give in – can’t bear it any longer … .random  number 23  the winner of the Kindle  in my Win a Kindle draw is Deborahkennedy2 @******** (a blog entry)   *** This entrant has been contacted via email many times but with no reply-  if  do not hear from her by the 10 /9 /12 it shall be deemed that she has chosen to refuse the prize and I will have to re-draw for this prize ***


First runner-up gets an AnnMade Nero Slate cheeseboard and this goes to random  number 3019 Sarah Lamb (a FB entry)


Third prize of and ecopy of Divining The Line goes to random number 3502 Anita Allen (a FB entry)










Fourth prize of an ecopy of  Nothing Ever Happens Here goes to random  number 2612 Daisymoomoo@********* (a blog entry)







and the Fifth prize of an ecopy of  Some Kind of Synchrony goes to  random  number 1051 Michaelaeloise@********* (a blog entry)







FREE   (for a limited time)

Just click  the link to get taken to AnnMade.co.uk where all you have to do is click on CONTACT ANN – put in your name, email address and the message ‘Kindle draw entrant – please send me an ecopy of Leave to Appeal in *pdf * mobi * epub   (*please choose which version you would like) For more details on my novels and novella see under BOOKS on the same website.


Thank you all for entering and I hope you’ll remain with me for both the interest in my blog and the other smaller draws and competitions that I run on a regular basis. Congratulations to all the winners!!!
*** This entrant DeborahKennedy2@….  has been contacted via email many times but with no reply-  it shall be deemed that she has chosen to refuse the prize and I if  do not hear from her by the 10 /9 /12 I will have to re-draw for this prize ***


added 11/9/12

All prizes must be claimed within two months of the draw taking place and so by virtue of not claiming deborah.kennedy2 has effectively refused the prize.And so today I visited Random.org again and put in the details and called for a random number!

The new Winner of the Kindle Draw is  No: 1675 – LindsayHuggins a Fb entry

Please contact me with your address to receive your prize.   I shall be contacting you directly with this request as well.



The Spires of June and one last chance

One Last Chance .. to enter my Win a Kindle Draw – where there are now only 39  places left before this draw is called. If you’ve not entered, or know someone who hasn’t,  then just go to Win a Kindle for all the details – do share with anyone who you know who would like a chance – before they all go! ALL GONE!!

It looks as if this June is going into the records as the wettest ever in the UK – however, nature takes it all in its stride – some things suffer and some things do better.  Umbillifers and ferns and the ubiquitous and insidious bracken seem to be thriving – all working to hide the most recent flush of hedgerow flowers.

 The Spires of June are the lovely-to-look-at foxgloves, Digitalis pupurea. Lovely – but both highly poisonous and a very important medication. In some unfortunate cases, foxglove leaves  have been mistaken for comfrey leaves (which are a similar shape and texture before the flowers appear) and made into a ‘tea’ –  with deadly consequences.  Digitalin is used to treat heart conditions and has been for centuries, described in medical literature as early as 1785.  Dioxigenin, found solely in the leaves and flowers of foxgloves, is a steroid used as a molecular probe to detect DNA and RNA.

In June these bedeck our hedgerows, large enough to stand proud from all the other foliage, especially in a June like this has been.

A much humbler, and perhaps overlooked, spire of June is the flower-spike of the Wall Pennywort (or Navel-wort or Penny-Pies).

pennywort - early June
pennywort late June

The names for this plant are so descriptive – the round, penny shaped leaves have a central dimple – like a belly-button and are edible. You can see where each local name for Umbilicus rupestris comes from. Many people do not even associate the white flower spikes with the flat round leaves noticed much early in the year as the leaves seem to shrink when the spikes reach their maximum.

What else do I have for you for June, well a catch-up on the chicks – hatched in mid-May – might be an idea.  A real mixed bunch!





And a cutie shot of one of the little billy goats enjoying the long grass. nom-nom  The whole herd seem to be swimming as they wade through the long grass in the field – grass which has grown like crazy due to the extra wet, yet warm, June.  

And finally – a photograph of one of our garden plants in flower – it produces fruit for us each year – though you might not expect to see one growing and fruiting so well in the UK.  Any idea what it could be?    Post your answers in the comments – the first correct one will get an copy of  my novel ‘Some Kind of Synchrony’ (in pdf format)  Want to know what Some Kind of Synchrony is about – click this LINK to read the blurb and the first 3 chapters.  Answer at the end of the month.


I hope you’ve enjoyed catching up with nature in our little corner of Cornwall. What has June been like where you are?  There have certainly been some sets of extreme weather in all sorts of places this year. Do tell – I love to hear from you!



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