No so much Navel Gazing as …

Oh! Here I am, back again after what seems a frenetic and frantic time. Oh, yes, life sometimes throws things our way that knocks all the writing to pot – including the blog.

In this case my father’s sudden eruption of a HUGE ulcer on his tongue, followed by numerous and sequential trips to the hospital for every type of scan, followed swiftly by an operation to remove a largish bite of his tongue and several lymph nodes from his neck following the diagnosis of cancer. Thank goodness for the NHS! Subsequently we’ve been on the recovery stage – trying to regain weight lost while eating was difficult – while eating is still difficult (with sore but healing new shaped tongue) However, things are stabilised now and I have found my lap-top and returned to all of you.wp_20170512_09_02_15_pro

And returned to the studies of everyday plants that my character – Dominica – might be able to use in her healing around AD689 – and today I’m looking at the plant known as the navelwort – or pennywort.

Wort, or wyrt,  is actually a Viking or Norse suffix meaning ‘medicine’. So the name of this plant in this country comes from later than the time I am dealing with, so I have to check with my sources as to whether it was an introduced plant – or was here already but known by another name. (Yes, Historical writing is tricky!)

I have always rather liked this plant. The round fleshy leaves are one of those edible leaves that my boys readily took to eating just for fun (after being told they were edible) They taste a bit cucumbery.. basically fleshy, wet and green, not bad in a sandwich. However, I didn’t know of their medical usage. The names, pennywort and navelwort I assumed came from their shape and the dimple, like a bellybutton, in the middle, even though, somewhere in the recesses of my mind the ‘wort’ rang a herbal-use bell.

wp_20170623_10_52_15_proNow, the mini-course I went on tells me that the navelwort, Umbilicus rupestris, have strong antimicrobial properties and would have been placed over the end of the umbilical cord and tied on, where they would dry-on forming a seal and keep infection at bay. Thus navelwort referred to this property (though under the doctrine of signatures – they would also have been saying – ‘look at me, I’m for use on the navel!’) Oddly, this use doesn’t seem to be generally mentioned in online sources, so maybe it’s a very old use, perfect for my story.

It seems that these can also be carefully dried and stored for babies that arrived out of the navelwort-growing season too. Now I am really hoping this plant in a real native as I am sure this could work its way naturally into Dominica’s medicine kit.

So, barring any other type of emergency, medical or otherwise, I’ll write to you next week – in the meantime –

have you ever eaten a pennywort sandwich – or even just nibbled a leaf?

Or do you know these plants by any other names?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you!

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Good-News : Bad-News and … gardening

Thinking about this blog (while handling scaffolding poles) I kept thinking about that skit – Good-News : Bad-News.

HOUSE for blogGood news – (well it will be for some lucky person who decides to buy our lovely historic house here in Cornwall) – we are selling our beautiful house.  Bad News – it will mean we will be leaving this lovely place which once rang to the playfulness of our four boys as they roamed the huge garden as they were growing up. Good News – we do not intend to move far – after all, as the village is in the lovely Tamar Valley within half an hour of Dartmoor, Bodmin Moor or the Sea!! – why would we? In fact we are converting the barn.  Bad News – we are doing most of the work ourselves. Good News – this will keep the OH happy (nothing he likes more than ‘a project’) and will be cost-efficient.  Bad News – this means I am now
‘The Gardener DSCF0149 crop
as well.

Or, as today, right-hand-woman in the conversion – today ‘scaffolder’s mate’ passing up the the poles, boards and stuff. Just as well I do weights to keep fit!

Now, to be the gardener is not my delight, and this job has been the OH’s since I returned to work after time-out to bring up the boys (in the days when we both went to work outside the home!) and mightily glad I was of it!

There are problems with me being the gardener at the best of times. One, as a general rule, if I lavish love and care upon a plant it is sure to curl up and die. You have heard of ‘green fingers’… well I think mine are red (that being opposite on a colour-wheel to green) or black – that being the colour the plants end up as. Two, I find it seems to take an inordinate amount of time and my time has many callings upon it already – not least finishing my latest novel! And, thirdly, this is not the best of times … when the house is on the market there is this extra pressure for the garden to look nice. Weeded. In bloom. Tidy. Dead-headed (I’m showing off now)

So yesterday was a full-on gardening day (not the first this year I hasten to add, but one I had been dreading) A small, nearly circular garden of about a metre and a half in diameter, which is semi-shaded (in that it is in the shade for part of the day) had become infested with a garlic-smelling bulb with leaves like a daffodil or a bluebell but curling over more and a white and green bell-like flower arranged somewhat like a bluebell. DSCF0159Allium triquetrum – a form of wild garlic with a triangular stem (not to be confused with Ransoms with their heads of lovely star-like flowers – also known as wild garlic) It seems it is edible and can be used to make a good pesto* but that is no excuse to mess up a perfectly good flower-bed. (*as can Ransoms – and I may try one day – I know there is another patch of Allium triquetrum further down our wood, as well as plenty of Ransoms!) This had started a few years ago as a single flower and had been mistaken for just that – a ‘flower’. It was in a bed that was mostly filled with perennials (showing off again) a huge fuchsia, a perennial poppy with gorgeous large flower heads, daffodils of various types, primulas and Alcheilla mollis (lady’s mantle) I wish I had taken a BEFORE photograph to show you how thoroughly and comprehensively this weed had taken over. There wasn’t a trowel-full of soil that did not contain ten to fifty of these plants, some as fine as thin grass, some as stout as a daffodil. They had both seeded and divided and were woven in and out of all the other perennials that had, hitherto, made this garden an almost self-maintaining spot.

SO, everything had to come out. I was loathe to part with the fuchsia, so instead broke it apart and wheedled out every sign DSCF0152of the little blighters before replanting about half of the pieces. Similarly I ‘cleaned’ all the other plants I had chosen to return to the fold. I then dug up the ‘blocks’ of weed, two wheelbarrow loads, and then sieved all the remaining earth to a depth of about five to six inches to remove every trace of the weed. I dug in a wheelbarrow-load of home-made compost and replanted what I had chosen to start the bed off with again. I have a few different perennials I am bringing along in the greenhouse which will fill the spaces and bring the plot to life again later in the year.

Meanwhile – in other parts of the garden, nature has made some bits look lovely , the orchard is full of daffs, the camellias are glowing, the primulas abundant – if only the flower beds would be so well behaved and simple! DSCF0151DSCF0153DSCF0156Are you a keen gardener – or a reluctant one?

Where do you live? What do you love about your area?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you 🙂

 

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Incy-wincy and the silver fish who cannot swim

It must be a sign of the unseasonable warm weather we’ve been having in the UK, it’s nearly December and only now are the spiders making their annual autumn invasion of the house. Now you have to understand that our house is a spider’s heaven, having been built in stages from the 1500s onward to the late 1600s it has lots of beams, to make webs between and the ceiling, hundreds of nooks and crannies, nice places to sneak away into to hide, and a housekeeper (me) who, 1, quite likes spiders and doesn’t want to harm them and 2, likes important things to be clean (kitchen, bathroom) but is not overly anxious about a few cobwebs here and there – especially there.

Now when I say I like spiders I have to qualify that with I like some spiders more than others. I am not fond of the very dark short-legged varieties and on the infrequent occasions when they do arrive I arrange their safe and harmless transition to the great outdoors (clear plastic cup and sheet of paper work best for me)

Spiders (arachnophobes look away now – pictures coming up)

tegenaria from the workshop
tegenaria from the workshop

My favourite house spider is the Tegenaria gigantea . (It maybe that the ones in my house are actually Tegenaria saeva which is very similar and found more often here in the SW of England) These are the large beasties with equally large legs and beautifully chevron marked abdomens. If it sat in a dessert-spoon its legs would reach or overlap the edges. It is often spotted as it makes a mad dash across the room, pauses, then runs on! The females are quite long lived and can live a number of years as adults and, as is usual in the spider-world are larger than the males. They make quite small webs (so not too much of a nuisance) We used to have one that lived behind a large larder cupboard, where the cupboard didn’t quite fit tight against the wall (not one of the walls in our house is straight). She would come out in the evenings, sitting boldly at the edge of her small web. The boys used to drop flies they’d swatted into this web during the day for her to find later. After about two years she just disappeared.

The one pictured is fairly small, as they go, and lives in the workshop, high up above the racks that hold the tools etc, for size reference the base of the jar she is sitting in is a good 3″ or 7cm across.

The next and the most prevalent spider in this house is a thin cylindrical bodied, long thin legged variety that I call the cobweb trembler. It makes annoying strandy cobwebs all over the place and hangs in this mess waiting, so while I tolerate these I am not keen on them. If you disturb the cobwebs it trembles violently shaking back and forth over as much as ten centimetres, so that it is hard to catch (if I were a bird or something) If you touch the spider itself it drops, suddenly, to the ground…. and scurries off inefficiently on its spindly legs. DSCF3998

These belong to the Pholcidae and are probably phalangioides but I am not sure. They manage to raise armies of young and so each year, twice a year, I brace myself and armed with the vacuum cleaner, try to remove as many as I can from the building. I often wonder if they survive the vacuum treatment, I hope they do and immediately go and empty the cleaner out on the compost heap (it doesn’t have a bag so the dust and stuff doesn’t get compacted at all) – in the hope that if they have survived the suction and having landed in the body of the cleaner they have curled up and waited until release.

Along with many others I find beauty in the cobweb made by the orb spider and many orb spiders are beautiful in themselves with interesting colours (saw a bright lime green one this past Summer) and patterns. When these decide to make a web across an open window it is with great regret that I destroy the web just to close the window (making sure the spider is safely outside before closing) I really don’t like the thought of hurting them.. maybe growing up with the ‘If you wish to live and thrive, let the spider run alive’ rhyme?

Spiders aren’t the only creepy crawlies that I have a soft spot for. Many, many years ago when at teacher training college I did my biology thesis on Lepisma saccharina (the small primitive insect known as the silverfish) silverfish

A harmless creature (except if they get into old libraries in numbers – they eat the sizing and glues on books) I had always seen them around but could find very little out about them. After eighteen months keeping them, studying their life cycle, behaviour patterns, preferences for diet, humidity, light, temperature conditions and nearly four hundred pages later, which included sheet after sheet of hand-drawn and coloured graphs (pre-computers!), I think I knew more about them that most entomologists back then, but not now . I was particularly curious as to what the ones that live in the bathroom ate, (as the only information available at the time suggested they ate carbohydrates and sugars – not often found in bathrooms) and discovered that among other things, they eat up all the shed scales of skin we leave behind as we dress and undress – so they are actually doing a good job there 🙂 . In fact, if they did not get certain levels of protein from this or moulds then they lost their shine. I was awarded a high grade for my research and hence, in this house, these creatures are always rescued from the bath.

Enough of creepy crawlies for now….. I think these have to go under ‘Other passions’.

Anyone else like spiders and other creepy crawlies?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you

 

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Let’s go for a walk …

I haven’t taken you all for a walk in the Cornish Countryside for quite a while … so as I was out on just such a walk on Saturday and took a bunch of pictures I thought I’d share the walk with you today.

To be honest – you are going to miss out on the first bit… I hadn’t taken my camera out of the bag until we dropped down into the small town / large village of Gunnislake for a ‘pit-stop’ so that is where we will start. Gunnislake was at the heart of the Cornish Mining in the far South East of Cornwall in the 1800’s. On the side of the River Tamar and with (at that time) the first bridge across the river up from Plymouth Sound, it was a significant place anyway – the first point to cross over into Devon (other than by ferry-man) and the mines all around the area brought miners up from further down Cornwall as well as making miners out of locals.DSCF7216

This bit of history is ‘recognised’ by the statue of a miner sitting on a corner by the main road through the town as it plunges down to the river bridge. Here shown with one of the other walkers (trying to look like he belongs 🙂

DSCF7215DSCF7214Just to the right shows the typical street in this small town, with higgledy-piggledy terraced cottages.. and I couldn’t resist giving you a picture of their ever bizarre Pete and Di’s Bazaar – which always has an ‘eye-catching’ display, on the other side of the road.

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Mr M plus Dog on the path
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washed out stones along the way

From here we walked up the hill into Middle Dimson and from there dropped into a ‘hollow-way’ a path used by miners and labourers for a hundred odd years, almost completely covered over by trees and hedges, slightly sunken by the tread of many feet and the whoosh of rain water when it comes.

So much so that the ‘path’ underfoot looks more like a dry stream-bed than a path with so many tumbled rocks and stones, washed clear of the earth.

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hart’s tongue fern
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buckler fern

Perpetually shaded in summer it is the perfect location to find a multitude of ferns and mosses.

There was an abundance of liverworts along the places where water ran beside the track, but I didn’t photograph those I’m afraid.

At one point we stepped off the path to look at one of the abandoned mines that were the industrial workplaces back in the 1800’s.  Looking at the ruins surrounded by peaceful countryside, wrapped in trees and to the sound of the a tricking stream it is hard to conjure the sheer noise, smell and dirt of the bygone age in this area. DSCF7237DSCF7236

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puff ball – burst : click to enlarge

Here you can see the remains of an engine house, where the great beam engine would pump up water to keep the mine ‘dry’  and the chimney, that took off the smoke from the boiler fire that ran the steam engine that moved the beam, is remarkably complete.

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puff ball with hard ferns

Back on the path, and this being autumn the ground was scattered with seeds, beech mast, sweet chestnut (though with nothing in worth collecting in this year) acorns, berries from rowan and hawthorn and fungi – the most interesting of which were the puff-balls, small but burst open to allow the wind to suck out and scatter their spores

And that is where I’ll end this walk, mainly because my camera card was full (my main card having corrupted I’m using a small capacity one until I pick up another)

Have you been out to enjoy the Autumn scenery?

Where is your favourite walk?

You know I love to hear from you – just click ‘comment’ on the blog to add yours!

 

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At last … Spring’s sprung!

I’ve not actually been doing Nature Notes this year ( after all, one year can be much like the last in nature-watching) but over the weekend I really felt Spring had Sprung!

Friday was the first day the new kids went out on the grass and I wished I had my camera with me as they bounced and sprung all over the place – kicking up their heels so high they threatened to flip right over. A video of that would have been good!

It feels like the garden flowers have all started blooming at once, the large sweep of daffodils in the orchard have at last burst into bloom, and everywhere there are large clumps of primroses, celendines and, if you look in the right places, violets. And our first Swallow has returned …

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Saturday I went to the beach for the first time this year, along with two of my sons and their girlfriends (down from London for the weekend).  A few hardy people went in the sea swimming (sans wetsuits) others, with wet-suits on, were surfing, the sun was bright (though the wind a little chill) and the dog had a whale of a time. She appropriated a hole, dug previously, as her ‘nest’, enlarged it a bit to fit and spent time retrieving cuttle-fish bones ( of which there were many on the beach, and take them back to her den.

 

 

 

 

Finally,  just for a bit of fun… the dog kept scooting the sand back when she was digging her nest out more …  it looked a little like she was doing a moon walk .. only 7 seconds – but enjoy:)

What makes you feel like Spring has sprung?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you!

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Happy New Year and a Gift for YOU

Happy New Year ! – my opening salvo for 2013 is a glance back over the past year in pictures ( all the newspapers and TV programmes do this – so why not here – and I bet these are different – no Jubilee or Olympics here ( except Doglympics :))

So here are a few of Your Favourites and a few of Mine

Side view Jan 1 2012

I didn’t feel brave enough to even post the ‘before’ picture until well into 2012 – but it’s an apt start to my reminiscences of 2012 as this is the biggest thing in the year for me – to find a round-up of how I got there, losing 34lbs on the way click here:

Side view Dec 1 2012

In April Bonny, my Dog, made a you-tube Doglympics Video for me which 344 people have liked and I share again now as it’s fun!  🙂 [if you can’t see this video on the emailed version click on the title and it will take you to the blog proper where it is available]

I liked my slug study from 2012 ( though if you don’t like slugs you may not) – the ‘great year for slugs’ was headlined on the national news just before Christmas – but I got there first 😉 Intrigued? Read more here 

And 2012 was also the year of the lichen – loving all the wet. more here:

Then there was my favourite kitchen gadget of 2012 – still used nearly everyday – and how many gadgets can you say that about? more here:  where you can see a video of it working!

Finally, a surprisingly popular blog which finished by asking what this little bottle was – have a look here to find out if you, too, are curious!

 

 

 

So, there we are – a few of my favourites and a few of yours from 2012.  Have I missed your personal favourite – do tell me in the comments – I’d love to hear from you!

So it is time to Wish YOU All the Very best for 2013 – may it be peaceful, prosperous and happy for everyone!

And a reminder – that you still have until January 6th to claim your Christmas gift from me – thank you for following and commenting on my posts – Details Below!

 YOUR GIFT –  FROM ME

I hope you all had a great Christmas – and now things have calmed down a bit here I have decided to give all my readers a present – your choice of one of my e-novels – from me – to you – free 🙂  

It doesn’t matter what kind of e-reader you have or whether you have one at all – you can still request one of my novels and it will be sent to your email address. If you have an e-reader ask for the right type of file for you (mobi for kindles – epub for most other e-readers – or pdf)  if you haven’t an e-reader just ask for a pdf version and you can read it on your computer!

Just go to my other website  annmade.co.uk (BEFORE the 6th Jan 2013) and click into CONTACT ANN – there carefully enter your email address  and request the BOOK TITLE  and the FILE VERSION (MOBI / EPUB /PDF) you would like  – one e-novel free per person as a gift !  [before the twelfth day]

Your choices 🙂

The first time it happened it felt like stumbling across another avenue to an ancient monument, but this one pulled at more than just his head, there was a tightness in his chest, the lights twinkled and flashed inside his mind, the intensity giving Perran a firework of a headache. Following the line – years later in the early nineties – leads him into Liz Hawkey’s ordered life, and together they discover the source of the line.

A story of family, love and loss, Divining the Line brings the ordinary and the extraordinary together into everyday life.

Click here to read the first three Chapters

 

Living in London suddenly becomes too uncomfortable for the attractive Jo Smart and her sixteen year-old son, Alex, after he is beaten up, so when they are offered the chance to take an immediate holiday in a peaceful Cornish town they jump at it. But not all is as peaceful as it seems as they become involved in a murder enquiry, drug raid and abduction.

DI Rick Whittington has also escaped from London and the reminders of the death of his wife and child, and through his investigations finds himself meeting Jo and being drawn into the events surrounding her.

This is a love story set in the early 1990s which combines the historic Cornish love of the sea and smuggling with hard faced twentieth century crime and detection. The perfect blend for a woman’s crime novel.

Click here to read the first three Chapters

 

Faith Warren, married mother of two, is a secretary in a newspaper office. It wasn’t what she’d hoped for, but her dreams of university and becoming an author were lost long ago. Telling stories to entertain her lifelong friend on their journey to work and back is all that is left, until she tells The Story.

The real trouble began with the minor characters, just unfortunate co-incidences, but when do you stop calling them co-incidences and begin to wonder what the hell is going on – and how it can be stopped

Click here to read the first three Chapters

Don’t forget to ask for your Christmas pressie of an Ann Foweraker Novel before the twelfth day – January 6th! 

And I’d love to see your review of your choice of my novels too! Please send them to me here on my blog, for inclusion on my website, or post them on my pages on Amazon 😉 (just search for Ann Foweraker in Amazon Books) or do both! 🙂 Thanks, and Happy Christmas!

 

 

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October Nature Notes – a study in slugs

I don’t know what the term for someone who is afraid of slugs is.. a gastrophobe, perhaps, but somehow that sounds like someone who doesn’t like eating well .. however, if you are a sufferer from this condition I suggest you approach this blog with caution.

In fact – if you do not like slugs – scroll no further down this blog. I tried to get a fluffy bunny photo – but the bunnies would not stay put long enough for me to get a good picture of them! So  I have provided an Autumnal Photo – of the changing colours in our trees to create a buffer between you and the slug pics! And if you are one of my FWT cheerleaders, I’ll tell you now this week’s result – of half a pound down! There, now if you are a slugophobe you can leave the blog in good conscience. See you next week   🙂

 

Ah! You are still with us! 🙂

This year, what with it being so wet and all, the slugs have been having a great time and none more so than when the apples started to fall.

I was looking up the collective noun for slugs – I know weird – but I felt they needed to be referred to by their collective noun as they converged upon a hapless apple. On one of the question-and-answer sites someone had said ‘they don’t hang around in groups – so there isn’t one’. Having observed them over the past few weeks I would say that as long as there is food involved, they do!

So, I started by being a bit shocked  by them – like woah! Look at that! And took random shots of apples that had come under attack like these below, and yes – there was an apple once under that first lot! If you are more fascinated than repelled, these conglomerations of slugs bear looking at more closely. (As a collective noun I quite like the idea of a ‘conglomeration of slugs’ – it beats ‘cornucopia’ that I saw suggested elsewhere – I think a cornucopia ought to be filled with good things – or is that only me?)