Friday 29 September 2023

Mid-Autumn Festival

Today is the Mid-Autumn Festival when the Moon is at its largest and roundest. In China and Chinese families worldworld there will be a special family meal and sharing of Moon Cake. Mid-Autumn Festival is the biggest Chinese Festival of the year after Chinese New Year or Spring Festival. Its not something we celebrate but we do indulge in Moon Cake. It was too cloudy to get a good view of the Moon this evening so I have included a photo from last year, taken over the fields at the rear of our smallholding.

It doesn't yet feel much like Autumn but the signs are there. A little chilly at first light in the morning and darkness falling quickly in the evening. The chickens take themselves in by 7pm ready to be shut up. Trees are beginning to shed their leaves but they are yet to fall in quantity. The vegetable plot is being tidied as each crop has no more to offer but the mild weather means that some crops are still producing, such as courgettes, beans and tomatoes. There are also pumpkins which we associate with Autumn that are nearly ready.  One sure sign that Autumn is here is that the seed catalogues for 2024 have started to arrive.  

Moon Cake

Friday 22 September 2023

Hummingbird hawk moth

I saw two what I believe to be Hummingbird Hawk Moths feasting on some self-seeded verbena bonariensis growing out of some gravel. It is not a good photograph but you can make one of them out. Their wings beat rapidly as they hover,too fast for a phone camera to catch a sharp image. Their proboscis looks about a centimeter long, arching into the flowers syphoning up the nectar. 

Saturday 16 September 2023

Spinning yarn

Here is another photograph of an exhibit that caught my attention during our recent visit to the Rijkmuseum in Amsterdam. It is a painting, dating from 1529, of a young lady at her spinning wheel. 

I have a number of smallholding friends who process yarn from the fleeces of their own sheep and turn them into marvellous end products. This is not something we have embarked upon ourselves, although it does impress me. 

I imagine all crafters using yarns and fabrics are just as serene as this lady when working on their own projects. 

by Maarten van Heemskerck (1498-1574)

Sunday 10 September 2023

Prayer nuts

The walnuts are just starting to ripen sufficiently to start harvesting them. We had such a large harvest last year that we are still working through them on a  daily basis. This year's harvest, as expected, appears to be much smaller. 

Looking at the walnuts reminded me of a recent encounter with prayer nuts. Earlier in the Summer we managed to organise cover at the smallholding to spend a few days away visiting our youngest daughter who lives in the Netherlands. We visited the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam which is their main art gallery with exhibits across the ages. This includes many familiar Vermeer's which generates much interest. There is a separate Van Gogh Museum nearby so not many of his works to view at the Rijksmuseum itself. 

One exhibit that caught my eye was examples of prayer nuts. These are tiny boxwood, hinged balls little larger than a walnut. Inside there is the most intricate of carvings. The one in the photograph is of Nativity scenes and it is mounted in a silver casing. It was carved in the Netherlands in the early 1500's. It would have hung from a belt (or perhaps a Rosary) and used as an aid to prayer.

Saturday 9 September 2023

September heat

Today is the sixth consecutive day of plus 30 degree temperatures with at least one more day to go tomorrow, according to the forecast, before cooler weather arrives. Not the usual September weather even taking into account past 'Indian Summers'. One benefit for me of this high heat is that it has been too hot to do more than the usual routine tasks around the smallholding - no projects! This has acted as a helpful brake on trying to do too much too soon following the recent double eye surgeries. Family help, which has been enormously helpful, has been gradually tapering off. 

It has been too hot to take the dogs for a walk, especially Spice our Golden Retriever. However, or puppy, Zelda, still tears around like a mad thing unprompted but sudden suddenly crashes out until the next time.