Recently I’ve been in a bit of a slump with regards to my writing. However, last weekend we visited a local sunflower maze and I thought it would be a nice post to write about. Sorry it’s taken me a while to get around to writing it.
The knowledge of this sunflower maze came to me rather late. I saw pictures my cousin had taken and I quickly Googled where it was. It was at a farm in Tarbock, Prescot, some 25 minutes drive from us. The only problem was, that I was so late to the party that it was difficult in getting a time and date for a booking, but I persevered and managed to get an early morning slot on the very last day of opening.
In April some 35,000 sunflower seeds in the initials of the NHS were planted by a farmer, who also planted a sunflower maze. Sunflowers are a symbol of happiness and since Covid-19, happiness has been in short supply.
The day we visited was a gloomy overcast morning, luckily we had missed the rain. David and I, along with my mum and David’s parents all spent a joyful 45 minutes walking along the maze of mostly gone to seed sunflowers, but with the occasional late bloomer standing proud and golden. Along the path were bee related questions. If you answered wrongly you took a dead-end turn. All eyes were on me! I know a bit about bee ID but not that they have two pairs of wings and have five eyes. Well in reality two eyes the other three are ‘simple’ eyes that detect light. However we managed to navigate the maze as a team and much laughter was had. It was a nice way to pass an hour.
Have you been to a sunflower maze? Or any kind of maze?
This weekend David and I visited Gorse Hill Nature Reserve in Ormskirk. The attraction was their annual apple festival. Since 2005 an organic orchard has been established with heritage varieties such as the Ribston Pippin and Worcester Permain.
The 2017 apple festival ran from Saturday 7th to Sunday 8th September, with opening hours of 11 to 4pm. We arrived around 12 noon after a half hour drive from Liverpool. There was free parking. Sadly Saturday was a bit of a wash-out weather wise. It was cold, wet and dreary all day. Though there were a good number of people enjoying the cakes and coffee in the cafe.
On the day, there were regular tours of the orchard with interesting histories of the heritage apple species grown onsite. An apple press demonstrated apple juice production with the opportunity to purchase the juice at £2 a bottle and there was even access to a short woodland walk.
Firstly, David and I headed towards the barn where the main attraction was, the produce of some 100+ fruit trees from the orchard. There was an apple tasting table where you could taste samples of the likes of Sunset and Katy. I tried the Ribston Pippin but found it too hard. I then tried the Ellison’s Orange and it was a much softer, sweater texture.
From the taster table we perused the produce, there were varieties such as Egremont Russet with its rough skin, Brambley and the humongous Mere de Menage.
Mere de Menage
The main reason we went was so I could obtain some Discovery apples as they are a personal favourite. However for the past two years I have not been able to buy them in the supermarkets. Sadly they are a seasonal early, are usually ripe during September and unfortunately spoil very quickly, hence only seeing them early autumn. Indulgently their taste and smell conjure up memories of childhood, the nervous excitement of returning to school after the long school holidays, (still felt some 30 years later). Of sitting in a darkened room with the curtains open, the street lights outside making the room glow orange, the gas fire burning warmly and children’s programmes blaring brightly on the TV. The sense of safety is overpowering. I’m still wearing my school uniform of royal blue cardigan and navy skirt while biting into an apple that has soft flesh, the pulp bruised pink and the taste sweet yet tart. I’ve been following this echo for so long….
We went on the short woodland walk along Cabin Wood. Since the weather was against us, there was no head nor tail of any insects and the air was silent of bird song. I can imagine of a spring or summers day the air teaming with life. Instead, we wrapped our arms around ourselves and enjoyed the many sculptures along the path.
Returning to the apple barn I decided to buy some Discovery and Ellison’s Orange, both had the scent of autumn to me. In all I bought 12 apples and at 4 for £1, the total cost was £3. I felt that was really cheap. I was ready and willing to pay more.
In hindsight I wish I had bought more of a variety, but I had intended to get Discovery apples and Discovery apples I got!
I am happy I have discovered this little gem of an orchard and will definitely visit again.
Have you visited a fruit festival? What is your favourite apple?
Well week three has been a much more enjoyable week. I think the sunshine and 25°+ temperatures have helped raise the mood.
With a bit of forward thinking I was also able to plan my posts and managed to gather enough photographs and subjects to hopefully make the post more informative. Let me know your thoughts.
Day Fifteen: Thursday.
Last year I didn’t have much luck with growing my own vegetables. I tried growing peppers, green beans, spring onions and tomatoes. All perished. The only success of the summer was the maris bard potatoes, and I got two harvests from them!
So this spring I decided to get the same variety in the hope of getting a bumper harvest of gorgeous new-potato-type earlies. However, ‘the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry’. I planted the chits in March/April and waited for the plants to grow and the flowers to appear. This year nothing happened, save the plants in the grow bag yellowed and some died. I watered them during the dry spell and decided on Thursday to rummage in the soil to see if there were any potatoes grown. There were, but they all looked like this!
I was so upset! What had happened to my lovely potatoes? After doing some reading online I found there could be a number of reasons my potatoes looked like they had acne.
The spots could be a nematode, or microscopic worm.
There was a lack of moisture in the soil during hot weather.
The spots could be early blight, a fungus spread by rain and hot temperatures.
I suppose you only learn as a gardener if you make an attempt at growing. Perhaps last years harvest was a fluke? I have centurion onions growing in a bag too. I wonder what they will look like come harvesting?
Have you had a diseased riddled harvest? Let me know your stories.
Day sixteen: Friday.
All week, our female blue-faced parrot finch (Forrest) has been laying tiny white eggs. This got me thinking, how is an egg actually made? So I did a little research.
The egg as we know it is assembled inside out! The yolk comes first and is released via the oviaries. Fertilisation (if applicable) occurs once the yolk is released. The yolk then passes along the oviduct where the albumen and membranes are created. Calcification occurs at the shell gland and this produces the egg shell. Shell production can take up to 20 hours and the whole process lasts around 24 hours!
If you are interested to know more, then follow this link here, and here, and here.
Since 2015, when I began participating in 30 Days Wild, I have grown borage for bees. This year has been no different. I harvested the seeds from last years plants and sowed them this spring. Right on cue for June the new plants have begun flowering. The bees love them and they are also my something blue for 2017!
Day Eighteen: Sunday.
Having never picked our own fruit before I was very excited to try! I found a local farm, Claremont, on the Wirral, who have a pick your own season. So David and I visited this weekend. On arrival we opted for two small punnets and headed towards the field where hundreds of strawberry plants were growing. The farm was very busy with families. We chose our row and began foraging among the strawberry plants. We found big juicy fruit, the smell was delicious!
Having filled our punnets to the brim we took them to the farmer who weighed the harvest and the cost was £6 for the two punnets. I thought it was reasonable, with the guarantee that the fruit is fresh having picked them straight from the plant. We will definitely visit again.
Have you picked your own? What fruit do you prefer?
Day Nineteen: Monday.
Nicky at Too Lazy to Weed wrote a wonderful blog about plant pots for pollinators an initiative by Butterfly Conservation. They offer a planting guide for beginners and ask for participants to log their pots on a map and state what plants you have for pollinators. I have numerous pots and plants for pollinators so it wasn’t difficult to participate in.
Here are a few pictures of some of the plants I have in the yarden for pollinators.
Bumblebee on Dahlia
Honey Bee and Passion Flower
Some pollinator friendly plants are:
Perhaps you can plant a pot for pollinators and help out our hungry insects?
Day Twenty: Tuesday.
I’ve decided to showcase two bees who have been seen visiting the yarden. 1. the leaf-cutter bee and 2. the honey bee.
The hive is structured with a queen, worker bees (females) and drones (males).
Prefer simple, open flowers.
Carry their pollen in baskets on their hind legs.
Day Twenty-one: Wednesday.
The Summer Solstice. Last year I got up at 4 am and listened to the dawn chorus. This year since having a long day at work, (and I mean a loooong day at work). I decided to look for alternative ways of celebrating the solstice.
Solstice is the Latin for ‘sun seems to stand still.’ Some see the solstice as the beginning of summer, whereas others see it as midsummer. The sun is at its most northerly position (and at winter it’s the most southerly). The solstice occurs due to the tilt of the Earth at 23.5°. In summer the Earth is tilting towards the sun and for the UK the summer solstice means approx. 16 hours of sunlight, the longest day. During the winter solstice the opposite occurs (approx. 8 hours of sunlight), meaning the shortest day.
Thought.co have some good ideas on how to celebrate the summer solstice.
I can’t remember where I saw it now, but I read that making a herbal brew was also a way of celebrating the solstice, so I decided on attempting a rosemary tea.
Rosemary is full of antioxidants (supports the immune system), has vitamins A and C and is helpful in boosting memory. Shakespeare in Hamlet, (act four, scene five,) has Ophelia saying (in her maddened state), ‘there’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.’ It can also aid relaxation, ease anxiety and help digestion. So I thought I would give it a try.
Ingredients (makes one small mug):
I used two tablespoons of finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves (cut fresh from the yarden).
One cup of boiled water or 250ml.
Leave to steep for 5 to 10 minutes.
Strain and drink.
I decided to drink the infusion whilst listening to Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, based of the William Shakespeare play. I listened as a muggy day turned to a cooler evening.
The infusion created a green tea. Rosemary is a very aromatic herb and the tea was very florally. I think I preferred the music to the drink.
What is your favorite herbal drink?
What a diverse week, week three has been! From failed potato harvests to gorgeous strawberries! I have tried to share new experiences and facts I’ve learned.
What random acts of wildness have you enjoyed doing this week?