Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Grey June...

The sun appeared for the odd moment in the month of June, but was soon replaced by many grey, wet days. Nevertheless, this hasn't deterred my beautiful passiflora from producing a succession of flowers, and the smaller plant has started to do so too.

The resilience of nature.... Pity that it just can't always win, in the short term at least, against its most
formidable predator - Man. Having been thrilled to see, at close quarters, the family of coypu (ragondin) that I first thought were big muskrats living in the canal banks, I was very sad to find their bodies floating along the waterway, over several days, having presumably been poisoned. I have since been trying to get hold of the Office du Milieu Aquatique, to find out how to enforce their protection on this part of the canal, as the coypu became a protected species in 2013. Upsetting business, but I will treasure the image of the big adult nonchalantly eating an apple, clutched in its paws, right next to me as I rowed past in my boat!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Second Spice of Life Blanket.

I have finally finished my second crocheted Spice of Life Blanket, after many months of work, much teeth-gnashing and a great deal of 'frogging' - ie ripping out rows and rows of stitches.

Nevertheless, I am happy with the result, but am unable to get a decent photo of it in its entirety - it's actually quite long - with or without the cats. So here are close-ups of the blanket and beasts...

The sunlight on the blanket was from the very few rays of sunshine we've had this month. I don't think I've ever seen so much damp weather over such an extended period of spring/summer time. This has, predictably, given rise to numerous remarks about how "On se croirait en Angleterre", but no, we're definitely in soggy, strike-struck France. Anyway, the sun has finally returned, making all the colours brighters, but vibrant green is certainly the most dominant.

I've now put the crochet hook aside for the time being, as I'm trying to get my head around learning.... the Code de la Route. This is proving to be far more difficult than I ever even imagined possible. I think that I have sufficiently nailed how to row a boat and crochet a blanket, but this third mission for the year is one big hurdle I can't just leap over. And I won't even mention the actual driving lessons!

Friday, June 3, 2016

A Forest of Faux at Verzy...

The wet weather here has in no way let up, so I decided to see what all this rain looks like in the wilds. The Forest of Verzy is not far from Reims and its key attraction, the Faux (beech trees) do indeed look just as striking in the summer months, in full folliage, as they do during the barren winter period.

They just happen to be a little harder to locate when covered in a very green cloak of leaves!

The Faux domaine is said to be set in the gardens of an early abbey, from the 7th century, itself marking the site where a certain Lorrain evangelist, Saint Basle, had lived as a hermit.

Nothing remains today of this edifice that was destroyed during the Revolution years. The only link back to these origins are these strangely twisted, dwarf trees themselves - les faux - which may initially have come from the Lorraine region of France.

Indeed, apart from the relative wealth of Faux here in Verzy, this natural phenomenon is to be found in very few places around Europe (near Hanover in Germany and Malmö in Sweden).

 In spite of scientific research, the actual emergence of these trees remains somewhat a mystery, although a similar process of growth can be seen in certain forms of oak and chestnut.

A unique genetic composition is at the source of the phenomenon, but the tortillard effect is not always transmitted by seed (les faïnes) , of which few are fertile. Reproduction is also carried out by the formation of runners (le marcottage), which means that branches (les marcottes) grow out along the forest floor, taking root and creating off-shoot Faux, rather like ivy or honeysuckle.

The more usual trees...
Alternatively, a new Fau may grow from the formation of a long-running root (le drageonnage), which finally gains autonomy as a drageon from the parent tree.

Very wet underfoot!
Of course, there have been suggestions that the Faux are in fact fairy trees. Hmm... Well, what certainly was magical, was the effect of all that greenery, dripping with water.

Mosses, unfurled bracken, ferns and fungi...

All vying for space on the forest floor.

It's amazing how many shades of colour can be incorporated in the humblest form of 'greenery'.

Some of these growing forms looked like strange frilled flowers, or even frost...

These really were distinctly soggy, but still beautiful...

As were some of the local inhabitants, in their own slimy, soggy right!

Then, of course, there were the more traditional forms of flowering beauty...

And finally those majestic ferns, with their branched forms that just remind me of flying buttresses on Gothic cathedrals...