The Reluctant Butterfly

The Coast around L’Houmeau to Les Pierriéres Field: Monday 21 August 2017

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“The place is alive with butterflies.”

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And snails.

The Reluctant Butterfly

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Living jewels dancing in the morning sun
Looking for love
An extension of themselves
Open up your wings
Claim your energies
Lively up a scene blanched with broken shells

Embroider life on dust,
where man made none.
Oblivious to all your nature brings

More precious felt within
Allowed to bear witness
You kissed us on the shin,
on the thigh, and on the cheek
Blushed aside by embarrassment,
Inwardly, a cry
Giggling

Tarred with a little shame
as we recoiled at your stroke
You seemed a little hurt and rolled your wings like in a wilt
Then

as I glanced away,
unfurled your flame and flew away.

Leaving me amongst the shells that stealthily assume
a life I hadn’t seen
behind the veil I’d placed between
Ubiquitous
Themselves performing their merry dance.
Texturing the scene the light danced up

And me
Within its heart
Welcomed back
The orphan child

The Coast around L'Houmeau to Les Pierriéres Field Monday 21 August 2017 #4

11:30. E’Leclerc. A guy who has quite clearly had quite a serious stroke going out of his way to communicate with me, which he did – which we did. A beautiful moment of humanity shared.

You see – we can do it 😃

The Coast around L'Houmeau to Les Pierriéres Field Monday 21 August 2017 #7

“Feels like we’ve changed climate, doesn’t it?”

16:00. Break. “Yipes!” Brushes grassho… no, cri… , no, er… praying mantis! Standing there, proud as punch – maybe shook out of its exoskeleton by this blundering giant that had just destroyed its slumber.

I was a bit taken aback, too 😱

“Well, stop looking like a blade of grass if you don’t wanna get run over!”

“And you eat men.”

Unless it was a man.

We were both on shaky ground.

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On and Off

Île de Ré and Back [Part 3]: Sunday 20 August 2017

23:09

Camping
On the coast
Sky is beautiful
Sounds are beautiful

Moods are tetchy.

We’ve noticed, accurately or not, that the wind on this coast veers between two extremes: complete calm and gusty-muthafuck. Tranquility in the morning. Gusty-muthafuck from about sundown (until we-don’t-know-when).

We’ve decided to camp here.

The tent’s swelling in and out like it’s on an overamped ventilator. The noises from outside are impudent thieves belligerently flicking off Finkel and Einhorn’s covers, secure in the knowledge they’re more than enough for our flagging wills.

And we’re tetchy.

Not being able to get a good night’s sleep should help.

In this game, you have to be understanding at all times – and we are fine – but sometimes: one of you will want to go on; one of you may want to stop; one of you will have overlooked something; one of you will absent-mindedly break something.

Sometimes, shit happens.

Which is great for sensitising yourself to the foibles of others while synergetically becoming sensitive to your own – and accepting them all as part and parcel of it all.

We had a couple of incidences today. We rolled over the first, as you do, as just a symptom of two souls who had not had coffee yet. And we were more than ready to acknowledge and apologise when we were the ones at fault at further incidences along the way.

Which is great.

And this evening’s sourness while putting up the tent was probably nothing, too, but coming on top of the further adjusting to the realities of keeping these wheels rolling, could we be approaching times when the shine starts coming off and the negatives speak more loudly?

Now we are doing this
and discovering how we feel within it.
We still speak, act, move in the same way.
We both speak, act, move in our own ways.
How long will they remain?

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Oh, I don’t know. It’s just been an on-and-off day today. Sadly, it seems like much of the off is going to continue through the night, powered by this coastal wind.

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Winter Garden

Here in south-west Poland, we hear our neighbours ask: “What is it that you’re still growing in your garden now – in Winter?”. It’s something which we hadn’t given too much thought, in all honesty: it’s just another positive effect and outcome of last year’s No-Dig Gardening Project 2019 and crop rotation. We couldn’t be happier: picking vegetables from the garden in Winter – as we have been doing since last Summer – is such a satisfying and rewarding experience 😄

This Winter has been a particularly mild one, though, which has made it easier for us to keep the plants outdoors; fleece-protection being sufficient for those requiring it on the rare occasions when the temperature has dropped below zero. We don’t, as yet, have a greenhouse, polytunnel, or any cold frames, all of which make it much easier to grow vegetables during cold seasons – so everything that has survived and continues to thrive has done so out in the open air 💪 😀

November 2019
November 2019

The vegetables we’ve been growing this Winter are: cavolo nero (Lacinato kale), kale (brassica oleracea), beetroot, spinach, rucola, celeriac, carrots, parsley, parsnips, and garlic (though this is just sitting and waiting for Spring). When a frosty night is forecast, we cover with a fleece: the celeriac, parsnip, spinach, and rucola. The dormant garlic was permanently covered till mid-February.

Cavolo nero, kale, beetroots, and carrots, being quite hardy, have remained uncovered throughout and are loving their time with the elements 😄 In fact, the carrots taste even sweeter now than in November. We’ve been making sure that their roots – and those of the celeriac and beets, too – don’t stick out above the ground and have covered them with more soil, creating mini-mounds. The kales, particularly, seem to quite like the cold and are still very much producing.

February 2020
February 2020

We haven’t had to buy any: carrots, parsnips, celeriac, beetroots, parsley, kale, spinach, rucola, potatoes, cayenne peppers, dill, tomatoes (jarred following their final harvest of the season), or jam since last Summer – and we very much like it this way 😁

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We’re planning to give our next Winter garden a proper think through this year, and grow more vegetables like kale or leafy greens, which end up in almost everything we eat or cook. So yes, all being well, more fresh vegetables next Winter and even more Summer fruits preserved 🤞👩‍🌾💚👨‍🌾

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DIY Composter, Windbreaker and Recycling

February is a very important time to get things ready before March-sowing begins. The weather is unpredictable and can be rarely favourable, so you have to try and take advantage when it is – we tried 😄

The first thing we wanted to add was a wind breaker on the east fence (this time last year, we put one on the west fence and it has worked beautifully well: protecting us, the young fruit trees, and all the vegetables from some violent gale force winds). Before doing so, it took us some time to remove any unwanted perennials from near the fence – and, boy, did they have some powerful and resilient root systems. We then trimmed the neighbour’s hedge back, where it was poking through, to prevent it from making holes in the wind breaker (and to hopefully train it to grow a little more away from from the fence to try and avoid too much future damage). Also, on this east side, we’re planning to remove the concrete slabs, which used to serve as a path there, in order to increase the amount of land and space available. For now, the slabs will be stored somewhere temporarily until another use can be found for them. In the land and space that will be freed up as a result, we’re going to distribute some organic matter and plant some annual plants/flowers to bring the microorganisms back to life 🙂

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Pruning the apple trees was next, which left us with a lot of branches and twigs. Agnieszka’s Dad 🙂 chopped the small ones for us, and we cut the bigger ones. In the end, we had a lot of wood to give back to the Earth:

  1. Small twigs are being placed around the edges of two perennial areas, and between different crops, as markers, as we start sowing and planting outdoors.
  2. The bigger branches we dug into the soil on the western edge of the garden beds.
  3. We stuck small twigs into the raised strawberry beds to prevent cats from using them as their toilet 😉
  4. The smallest and thinnest twigs that were left over were used to cover the cardboard on the path between the beds

4448ECEC-72C3-4B5C-9876-9F68B96A49D0All this wood will help maintain moisture-levels in the soil during drier days, as well as starting slowly to decompose – feeding the soil and its microorganisms.

The third and most urgent job was turning five pallets that had been kindly donated to us into a working composter. When we have more pallets available to us, it will become the first chamber of a three-chamber-composter. In his younger days, Geoff was a carpenter and joiner, so it seemed like revision for a mini-test for him. I mainly followed his instructions and tried not to destroy anything or hurt anyone 😁 The final result exceeded our expectations 😁 We can’t wait for more pallets and more ventures into the DiY that accompanies it 😁

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The container we bought last year has been emptied of the partially decomposed content which we have been adding to since October 2019. Now, it has been moved into the new composter, the process of transferring providing some beneficial aeration, where it can rest and undergo further decomposition. 

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The green store-bought composter can now serve as a first chamber (the one topped up and added to on a regular basis): and our latest homemade creation is now a  second ‘resting’ chamber.

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To finish off, we have a couple of photos showing the spot where we distributed our home-made compost in October 2019.  As you can see from the most recent picture: the texture hasn’t changed, no weeds have grown since, even the colour hasn’t changed – and it’s ever so soft and not at all compact. We’re definitely hooked on making a lot more compost 😊

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So, here we are: more or less prepared for March, with the garden beds mulched and ready to welcome Spring vegetation, hoping to make a lot of good soil/compost, and begin another wonderful season 😃

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An Uncertain Point of View

île de Ré and Back [Part 2]: Sunday 20 August 2017

Despite the previous entries and despite our attempts at budgeting, it appears we may have to take a rest-day – another one, as, physically at least, today hasn’t been the most challenging – in another bloody hotel this week.

Physically and mentally, we could keep going until we get someone from Warmshowers to actually be available – and just keep moving until then. But there are some practical matters to attend to – there are always some ‘practical matters’ to attend to – that require extended Internet access. Something you cannot take for granted in the France we’ve seen so far – even in hotels! But a hotel is the best bet to have that bloody access. Ironically, we require some of this access to more accurately check our finances and take our budgeting beyond best-guesstimate, whilst simultaneously taking a lump out of our finances in order to do so. But, we also need it to make contact with some people, and there’s still a lot of things that need to be checked on – so maybe it is unavoidable this week.

But we have to get off this track as soon as possible.
It’s bloody unnecessary 
and expensive.
And we don’t even like doing it.
It’ll have to come down to necessity to do so.

We’ve got to get better at sorting out accommodation
or dealing with the lack of it when it isn’t there.

Cos Warmshowers really ain’t cuttin’ it at all in France. We’ve had two great hosts in Normandy, of course, but it appears that the whole of France, or at least Pays de la Loire, has gone on vacation for the middle two weeks of August. And while it may, therefore, be wrong to be either too harsh on the place or the website, I am a bit disenchanted with our ability to escape these costly ‘conveniences’ for longer than a week at a time.

So we have to continue to work on this ability, which is what we are about to do. But please notice, you unknown third person I’m having this conversation with, the word ‘work’ there. Keeping such a lifestyle going is definitely not the easy option. It requires planning and effort and focus to retain the integrity of the essential idea of travelling around from place to place, resting our weary bodies, and then moving on. It’s not just dropping everything and buggering off. It isn’t.

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OK, we’ve found a solution for this week – we are good when we put our heads together and focus. Barring finding a host in Bordeaux for two nights at the end of the week, we are going to camp in the environs of Bordeaux Thursday evening. Then, Friday, work our way into the city to try and make us of the facilities available there: wi-fi, recharging, and laundry. Then drift out of the city as twilight approaches to pitch our tents and make our way on Saturday.

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Compost, Mulching, and Preparing the Garden for Spring #3

Organic Matter

As January has come to an end, so has our composting and mulching of the garden beds. We’ve managed to empty the compost pit of most its solid organic matter, and used it in combination with cardboard to cover them. These beds can now absorb all the goodies from both the brown and the green matter, simultaneously being protected from exposure, severe temperatures, and too dry or too wet periods. On top of this, any unwanted perennials or weeds will have to make a lot more effort to grow in Spring or Summer, which is another thing we want: win-win 🤞

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  1. We’ve developed a routine collecting cardboard from supermarkets whenever we get access to a car. This happens on average four times a month, and allows us to collect a significant amount of brown matter.
  2. Here – 25 January 2020 – we harvested celeriac planted 02 May 2019 which we happily shared with our neighbours 😊 We immediately covered the soil with cardboard.
  3. We then extracted whatever was left of the solid organic matter from the pit.
  4. And, in the final stage, distributed it evenly.

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As mentioned in a previous post, in March the cardboard should be nicely decomposing and the layer of organic matter on top quite dry, making it possible for us to break up the bigger pieces, remove any debris, and remove and return anything that still needs breaking down to a compost heap. By April, it will resemble the soil it will become: a new layer of soft soil ready for sowing and planting. Today we had a sneak-peek under a mulch layer and, much to our surprise, we saw busy earthworms already ‘having a good time’ 😁

Avoiding digging or ploughing, and keeping the earth undisturbed, well-fed, protected, and mulched, makes for a much healthier ecosystem for both the plants and the organisms and microbes within. Healthy undisturbed soil provides enough food for all those small creatures, which, in exchange, break down the organic matter, making more healthy and healthier soil for the plants that we want to grow. It is a cyclical process – and one of the most basic, beautiful, and essential cooperations on our planet. 

If we look after the soil, it will look after us. 👍🌍

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This year, we’re aiming to improve our soil-making by building a two-compartment compost container out of pallets. From this, we hope to be able to cover most, if not all, of the garden beds with fresh home-made soil before next Winter. In the meantime, we’ve been making sure that the container we’re presently using is busy receiving green matter, brown matter, and pig manure.

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  1. Green matter (plant-based waste) and brown matter (paper, egg-boxes, and egg shells).
  2. Pig manure and straw.
  3. More brown matter (mainly cardboard and paper). It eliminates smells and helps absorb excess liquid from any soggy organic waste that comes next. 
  4. Pallets donated by our neighbours, waiting to be converted into the new composter. As part of an offer made to all local residents, the black plastic container was provided at no cost by our local council to promote a more eco-friendly use of household organic waste in the region. It has certainly found a good home here 😊

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Before closing today’s post, we’d like to share with you the joy and pleasure of harvesting vegetables in Winter. We sowed these carrots 25 April 2019. Today, 02 February 2020, they are still crispy, sweet – and very tasty. We haven’t had to buy any carrots since late Summer last year. So yes, a winter garden is something we’re going to be looking into even more this year 👍👩‍🌾💚👨‍🌾

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Great Adaptation for Polish (and English) Language Learners

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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Alicja w krainie czarów adapted by Scotia Victoria Gilroy

5*/5

As an adaptation and translation, I felt the vibe of the original Alice story, and found myself laughing and smiling throughout. I can happily say, therefore, that this was a job very well done and performed with care to the source material, allowing me to confidently recommend this to Polish language learners at around the B1/Lower Intermediate+ level who may be interested in improving their skills while enjoying an adaptation of a classic tale that talks to rather than down.

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*Of course, this mark reflects my opinion on this as an adaptation and translation rather than as a piece of literature.

Italy 2018

via Italy 2018

We are in a process of uploading our 2018 Touring Gallery. The journey took us from  Ferrara in Italy through Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia to Bulgaria. An incredible experience it was.

Follow the link Italy 2018 if you wish to see the images from our brief yet beautiful Italian journey from Ferrara to Gorizia, before entering Slovenia. Enjoy ✌🏼🚵🏽‍♂️🚵🏽‍♀️

 

Conflicting Emotions

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Rain by Don Paterson

3.5/5

A mixed-bag, within which I feel there is a little something for everyone, but I am uncertain how satisfying the overall package is. My relationship, not only with the whole collection, but with individual pieces, is in constant flux – not only from mood to mood, but from moment to moment. 

Sometimes a piece and I sing at at complementary frequencies; at others, the same piece lies flat and lifeless upon the page.

And then I don’t know: am I being overly generous because such-and-such a piece was there for me at the right time? or overly harsh because it wasn’t the right moment for it? I think it’s only fair to go with the latter, with the caveat that many of these pieces are fair-weather friends: there to reflect a mood, but not to influence or alter one.

With that in mind, if you do hit upon that particular piece at that particular moment, I’m sure you’ll find some moments to treasure. I’m similarly sure that sometimes you’ll find nothing worth your while.

Despite the low moments, it does hit some heights and there is some genuine feeling here that makes it worth visiting despite the misses – and leads me to feel that this is a slightly above average collection worth a qualified recommendation.