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Showing posts from October, 2015

Tilled and tidied

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I confess that too often it takes second place and suffers an inevitable neglect. But there are few places that give me such a sense of satisfaction as my little vegetable garden, my huerto. Lying just in view from our main gate, at the base of the slope carrying our olives and beside the ancient pond, is my fenced-off plot, probably well less than half the size of a standard British allotment (which is ten poles - a wonderful old measure dating back to Anglo-Saxon times and about 250 square metres). It is in summer when my visits are daily: each evening to check the irrigation for the tomatoes, peppers and aubergines. As winter approaches, the peppers are still prolific and tomatoes hang from their vines. But now, as in early spring, is the time for the major tasks. But opportunities are scarce. On days of fine weather weather there will be the competition with the allure of exploring further afield, often with guests, finding birds and other wildlife in woodland, plains, the rice f…

Vanguard of grey

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It had been a month since I had last been down onto the rice fields in the centre of Extremadura. Then the harvest had just started with the caterpillar-tracked combines surging through crops heavy with dangling ears of grain. There were throngs of Red-veined Darters. Now with the harvest nearly finished, the dragonflies were absent and a new arrival had set the tone. As I arrived in early morning light, turning off the main road to take a small track beside the paddy fields, the first birds I saw were standing several fields back, testiment to their stature, From this distance two things struck one immediately: their distinctively sloping shapes and greyness. They were Common Cranes and no visit now to these fields for the next four mouth will fail to offer me such encounters.

As I watched them, the silence was broken by brusque and insistent trumpeting as two more cranes approached, appearing to stroke the very air by their graceful, gentle shallow wingbeats. Four others were follo…

An exploration of landscape

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It was a summer that seemed never-ending, but the plunge into autumn, although a good month later than last year, has nevertheless been dramatic. Warm and sunny weather had three interregnums over sucessive weekends of rain. For the last two weeks we have hosted budding watercolour artists on a landscape painting course run by Peter Delahaye and during that time, each day in different settings, we explored by observation the shapes, shades and shadows that comprise landscape. Ever since my childhood, thanks in part to my father and also to the freedoms to explore, to discover and nurture patience, I strive to feel landscape, its myriad of parts and how they sum together. Watching for movement, picking up sound and colour. My media have been the pen and a camera and so it was an adventure to take the artists to our carefully selected sites and witness their own encounters with Extremadura.

From the challenge of interpreting slopes that descend and then rise, carrying ancient olive tre…