Archive | November, 2020

A different kind of life continues

24 Nov

With the inability to travel we’ve found different ways to spend our time and perhaps got more done at home this year. Our only trip this year after confinement had been relaxed was to the Camargue. We saw the famous white horses and bulls and parts of France we’d not seen before. Not only is the Camargue famous for its horses and bulls but for the mosquitoes also. Unfortunately I get a strong allergic reaction to these bites and finishes the trip with 27 swollen bites all over my body. But it was worth it to see the animals and countryside.

We are very fortunate to live in a beautiful and rural area of France and even during confinement I was able to go out walking in the countryside with the dogs within a one kilometre radius. We are surrounded by woods and walks with rivers and valleys. On a clear morning we can even see the snow white tops of the Pyrénées from our road.

With high temperatures and lots of sunshine this year has been very good for grapes and sunflowers which surround our village. But it has also caused a lot of damage to trees around the area and many are now dead or dying and will need pruning this winter to prevent them falling onto the road.

My bees have also had a great year producing honey. In the spring I put on 2 extra floors onto the hive as they had already filled the nursery. By September both these extra floors were also full with honey. I restrict the queen to the nursery on the lower level with a queen excluder. This allows the worker bees through to store the honey but the queen is too big to get through. So she is able to continue to lays eggs but I’m able to harvest the honey without taking any babies. All I had to do was take away the top two floors leaving them with the full bottom level for the winter. We managed to extract enough honey to fill 50 jars. It tastes delicious. Thank you bees 🐝.

After confinement was relaxed I was able to recommence the English class in Montolieu so we decided to have a lesson in the garden. But the class in Carcassonne could not start again as they were held in the foyer which was closed for a longer period. But we restarts both in September but with many restrictions in place to ensure our safety. (Can we insert my avatar with my mask on here.)

Meanwhile in the UK aunt Jane died in her own home having survived COVID at the grand age of 107. What an interesting life she had.

Now we’re going to have to buy eggs for the first time in a long time as our rescue hens have finally stopped laying. They still try escaping occasionally though!

Living in the countryside it’s inevitable that we sometimes have little visitors. But with friendly traps I’ve managed to catch a whole family and relocate them further out in the countryside.

We’ve also had a few volunteers staying in the little house to help us with building and garden work thanks to Louise taking over coordinating them. So I’ve been free to do other things and not have close contact with them. The big garden is now recovering well after the flood 2 years ago and two of our seven terraces have been restructured and concrete repaired where necessary.

I had a painting 🧑‍🎨 lesson in February just before confinement so I’ve now set up my office in the garden as an artist studio.

Also this year I took Socks for some dog training sessions. He has improved but is still very active and loves to chase and hunt.

Ramblings of an amateur naturalist

19 Nov

Have you ever thought about where creative people get their ideas from? Or how some people are very creative and others totally logical? Have you considered that possibly both these seemingly opposite types find their resources in nature?

Nature is a balance between animals and plants great and small. We humans take in oxygen and give out carbon dioxide but plants take in carbon dioxide and give out oxygen. Moths are food for bats 🦇 and their caterpillars are food for birds 🐦. Flowers provide nectar and pollen for bees 🐝, wasps and bats. Oak trees are home to thousands of creatures. The oak and ash provide food for for caterpillars 🐛 in the spring which in turn are food for blue tits. Each animal predates on others and is predated on by yet others bigger than themselves. All creatures and plants 🪴 have their role to play in the food chain and the cycle of life.

In the current climate of a global pandemic humans are being predated on by microscopic organisms but we are finding that being shut away, confined or locked away from others causes many of us emotional strain, anxiety, stress or depression. One of the recommendations to overcome these feelings is to get out into nature. You may be asking yourself ‘how does this help?’ If we think about it humans (generally speaking) are social animals jus like honeybees. Each has it’s role to play within the society in which it lives. Seen at a macro level, humans could be seen as a well coordinated complete organism but at a micro level as individuals. When we look at a tree 🌳 we think of it as an individual but if we were able to look underground we would see that it is connected to many other trees 🌲 and whatever affects one tree will affect many others connected to it by their roots. Old trees die off and make room for young saplings to grow and flourish.

To understand where creativity connects with nature we need to use all our senses of sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. Take sight. Are all trees the same shape or colour? Are all the branches symmetrical? Are the leaves the same shape and size? How many different shapes and colours can you count? Study the bark. Does it grow vertically or horizontally? Is it dark or light? Is it smooth or highly fissured?

Sounds are all around us whether we live in a city or the countryside. The sounds of musical instruments 🎺 are copied from the sounds of nature. The wind blowing through the leaves 🍃 sounds very similar to the sound of the river flowing across the rocks or even the sound of traffic on the distant motorway. The ability to hear protects us from danger and allows us to connect with others.

Smell is important as it’s a signal to all animals to tell us where there is a source of food or if it’s safe to eat 🍄. Taste is an extension of the sense of smell and allows us to differentiate between sweet, sour, bitter, salt and savoury. Dogs, for example, see the world through their sense of smell and can be very useful in sniffing out diseases or drugs.

Touch is extremely important to some people (especially small children). 🤱It is part of the grooming process in many primates and helps to maintain group cohesion. This causes some people problems because they cannot touch for fear of spreading a deadly infection during the pandemic.

So simply a change of scenery, walking amongst nature helps with all our senses but most importantly the act of walking or exercising helps to increase blood supply to all our organs, to take away toxins and to stimulate serotonin and endorphins which help to balance the functions of our bodies and produce a sense of happiness.

If you are more analytical than creative being amongst nature may not appeal to you. However nature is based on chemical and numeric formula. 🔣 So looking at a tree you can use your knowledge of chemistry and physics to analyse how it gets it’s nutrients from the ground into the uppermost branches and leaves. Or you can see the different colours of the leaves and analyse what chemical compositions are involved in the changes of colour in the autumn 🍂. Or you can watch how the birds land on the thin branches and work out why they don’t break or how strong winds do not break them. Some animals are able to change their colour according to the background they are resting on 🦑 How do they do that? Others like bats use echolocation to locate their food and eat on the wing. How does this work? How do naturalists count the number of bees in a swarm or bats coming out of a cave? Could you produce a hexagonal shape 🛑 connected to hundreds of others and sloping down in the same direction to stop the honey 🍯 from falling out? How many bees 🐝 did I have that produced 30 litres of honey in six months?

We are talking here about biodiversity which is important to survival. If we were all clones of each other and all trees were exactly the same wouldn’t life be very boring? The same applies to people. 🧕🏼👳🏾‍♀️🧑‍🎤👨🏿‍🦳 We need that diversity to keep a balance across the earth 🌏. We are all part of it and need each other whether we recognise it or not. Eradicating anything or anyone we don’t understand demonstrates a fear which is unnecessary. What is needed now more than ever is understanding and compassion for ourselves and others and for the earth on which we rely. We need to support everyone including ourselves.

Keeping Life in Perspective

6 Nov

Being in confinement (or lockdown as it’s known as in the UK) has made me think about life in ways I haven’t considered before.

I always try to look on the bright side of life and spread happiness where I can. Most of the time this has been achieved by my actions helping people from all walks of life. And by thinking what have I learnt from this negative experience. At the same time I know I can be critical and sometimes appear negative but I consider myself a realist and not a dreamer. By this, I mean that I consider what I would like to happen and then try to look further into the future to see if it is possible. The danger of this type of thinking is that you never try anything because you talk yourself into thinking it’s not possible. I think I overcame this way back in my life because I have tried many different things. But I often put off doing things longer than necessary.

As I grow older I’m beginning to realise that we make our decisions according to our perception of the time we have available. When we are young we think we have a lifetime ahead of us. As we get older we begin to think time is too short. That got me to thinking about people who are incarcerated for whatever reason or people who are locked inside themselves (who may be described as being autistic) or people who are disabled and unable to get about by themselves or the elderly who for their own safety have to stay away from others during the COVID pandemic and how they might feel about time. I am sure that many of us feel bored and frustrated when our freedom is restricted.

The question is how we deal with boredom. Do we allow our frustrations to boil over into anger and take out our frustrations on the people closest to us by shouting, arguing or even physical abuse or do we turn it inside and decide it’s easier not to talk to anyone but ourselves? When this happens most of our thoughts are critical and blaming and it becomes a vicious cycle. So how do you deal with boredom and frustration?

I feel grateful that I live where I do but it doesn’t stop me from being bored or frustrated at times. Hence, this blog. I realise I can walk into the garden or simply look out of the window at the river or the forest to marvel at nature or I can take the dogs for short walks. So what stops me? It’s too hot or too cold or windy outside or my joints and muscles are causing me some discomfort. I’m enjoying being in the warmth of my home. So why do I feel bored? I can read and have hundreds of books to choose from but I’ve been reading for weeks now and I’m looking for something different. I can sit and listen to music or an audiobook or talk to friends on the phone or even see them, even from miles away with all the technology available to us today. So why do I feel bored? I believe it’s the feeling of having our freedom taken away from us and our routines changed by someone else. There’s something unsettling about not being able to do what we want to do when we want to or go where we want. It’s not simple dealing with boredom and frustration, is it!?

It helps me to think about the people I mentioned earlier and how much luckier I am than them. I have a tendency to think too much and things get out of proportion. So my message to myself is to go and do something different from what I’m doing at the moment within the constraints that I have. Perhaps connecting with someone else who’s in a more difficult situation than I am will help me feel more satisfied.