Moonstruck

August 29th 2015 was the night of the supermoon, or perigee moon.Photo of moonlit clouds

This is when the moon is full and at its closest to the Earth. It appears up to 14% larger and 30% brighter than its opposite, a micromoon. Native Americans called the August full moon the sturgeon, grain or greencorn moon, as those were the things that were being harvested at that time.

Being the UK the night sky was clouded over. However, the brightness of the moon lit up the clouds creating a spectacle on a par with any sunset. I am afraid my photographs do not do justice to the scene. I was handholding a point and shoot camera, rather than having a posh camera on a tripod with the iso and other manual setting correctly dialled in; but you get the idea.

The next supermoon will be on 28th September with the added bonus of a lunar eclipse in the northern hemisphere.

I have had mixed success in taking moonlight photographs before, the best results are ones taken during the day.  Although I have fondest memories of taking the photograph of the moon shimmering on the misty lakes of the Elan Valley.

I shall leave you with a haiko by Matsuo Basho:

Black cloudbank broken

scatters in the

night … Now see

Moon-lighted mountains!

To be in Clover

You may have heard the expression “to be in clover”, it is a happy, prosperous state to be in and refers to the cattle fattening properties of clover.photo of honey bee on clover

To a lot of people clover is a nuisance plant, spoiling the look of their lawn, which it does if you like your lawns uniformly green and devoid of insect life. It is actually grown as a crop, providing excellent fodder for livestock. It gives us an example of farmers and bee keepers living in harmony, the clover needs pollination from bees and the bees need the clover to make their honey.photo of clover

As clover is a member of the legume family, which also includes peas and beans, it is an excellent nitrogen fixer for soil. Such plants obtain nitrogen from the atmosphere and fix it into the soil benefiting other plants as well as themselves and meaning the farmer doesn’t have to buy expensive nitrogen fertilizers. Clover also provides more protein than grass, hence the cattle-fattening properties. A word of warning though, it seems that clover forms an emulsion like substance in the cow’s rumen which can prevent her from belching accumulated gas. Farmers need to ensure that their clover-fed cattle get enough fibre to prevent this problem or their cows could explode!photo of bumble bee on clover

So now you are wondering if clover is edible for humans. Apparently it is, though with the same caveat as for cattle – beware bloating! I have picked out some recipes for the industrious: red clover wine here, white clover jelly here, pink clover jelly (with bonus cat photos) here, and from the 1950s a lucky clover cake here.

Back to the wildlife, clover is a very important source of food for our beloved pollinators, the bumble bee and the honey bee, as well as various butterfly and moth species. Deer like to munch on it and it seems that in the US wild turkeys are fond of eating clover.photo of clover

The white clover seems most abundant on the lawn of “Ratz Manor”, but there are red and purple varieties. It is also known as Trefoil, due to the three leaves that they sport. Occasionally they can be found with four leaves and it is considered lucky to happen upon such a plant.

I shall leave you with a haiku by Matsuo Basho:

bush-clover flowers —
they sway but do not drop
their beads of dew

Pretty Peonies

The peonies flowered in the garden at the start of June. Luckily I managed to take some photographs of them before they were battered to death by the torrential rain storms we had last week.photo of peony

Peonies are garden shrubs with many varieties of colours and petal formations, prized for their bold colourful blooms. The plant was named after Paeon, the Greek god of healing, sometimes known as Asclepius. He was the son of Apollo and carried a staff entwined by a serpent, the symbol of the medical profession today. He was raised by a centaur and taught his medical knowledge by a snake. So successful was he at healing people that the human population increased out of control and Zeus was forced to kill him to restore balance. Members of the peony family were used in traditional  oriental medicine and they contain many compounds that could be beneficial to health.photo of peony

Along with koi fish, peonies are a popular tattoo motif for Japanese men, inspired by the illustrations of the eighteenth century Japanese artist Utagawa Kuniyoshi. You can see an example by clicking this link here.

So the next obvious question is, can I eat them? Well it seems that you can. The petals can be sugared and make very fetching edible decorations, for some culinary ideas click here and here.photo of peony

John Keats in his poem “Ode on Melancholy” suggests distracting oneself from dark thoughts with the visual  pleasures of peonies and other pretty flowers, you can read the entire poem by clicking here, but I shall tantalize you with an extract:

But when the melancholy fit shall fall
       Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
       And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
       Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
               Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
       Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
               And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.

photo of peonyWhile still in poetic mood, perhaps the last word should go to the master of the haiku, Matsuo Basho:

A bee
staggers out
of the peony.