Archives for the month of: October, 2011

Taking Ø’s advice yesterday afternoon, I walked down through the meadow by the lake towards the tree that’s now nearly invisible in the picture below,

 because it’s lost most of its leaves.

More than its foliage I admired the colour of its mossy branches, it’s not quite prominent enough in the photograph.  The branches were cosy looking, like an old green velvet sofa my mother used to have.

I think it’s a spisslønn, Norway maple, acer platanoides.  Here’s one of the more prosaic-seeming brownish leaves that Marie-Lucie mentioned; and it has been an uncharacteristically warm autumn here so far, I suppose that’s why there’s so little red to be seen.

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Misty (with the lampshade) & Holly.  But later on it may be Misty & Vesla or Vesla & Holly.

The hierarchy never changes, I don’t know what’s resolved by this ritual

or if it’s just practice, like a fire drill.

“In case something happens, we’ll know what to do”.

Practice, practice, practice.  On and on, whenever there’s a spare moment.

Nothing ever does happen, though.

I took this photograph on 15 September, and you can hardly even see the tree, or much else, because I got so caught up with the sunset.  Anyway, it’s the same tree that I photographed on 10 September last year, the one that marks for me the beginning of autumn.  I think we decided then that it’s a spisslønn, Acer platanoides. the Norway maple, not to be confused with Acer pseudoplatanus, the sycamore tree.

Yesterday my wife and I drove up to the mountains, and we cut up some firewood from the trees I chopped down last year.  We hadn’t been there since then, so, unusually, no one but some sheep (and judging from the droppings under the outdoor table, some geese) had been tramping down the different grasses that grow there.  They were quite wonderful to see, as were the moss and lichen.

I had brought the camera, but I’d forgotten to charge its batteries.  Luckily my wife had her iphone, so (and thank you, Steve Jobs) she was still able to make a record of it.

It was perhaps one of the last days of the year that it will be like this.  The leaves had already fallen from the trees, and last night snow was expected for the first time this season.

Not having snow tyres on our car, and fearful of skidding on the steep mountain road, we scurried home again at dusk.

It’s a four-hour drive.  While we were enjoying a caffe latte at McDonald’s in Lillehammer, I was thinking, why don’t they sell duck coated in batter? McDonald’s Duck, like Chicken McNuggets etc.  Would there be a legal conflict with Walt Disney over the name?  Why?

At the bottom of the upper picture is the covered reservoir, taken last Sunday at the top of the rise on which our house sits.  I call it a rise because in this picture there’s a proper hillside, and in Norwegian this proper hillside is called an ås, which really means “escarpment”, and that’s what it really is (there’s a  shallow slope down the far side once you’ve scaled this face like a mountaineer).  As for the reservoir’s roof, you may remember seeing Misty and Vesla butting each other on it in the summer.

What looks like a flagpole is an antenna.  It must be there to allow the water authority remote control of the water flow, but with its concrete tower and the cliff on the right I think the place looks like a WPA project from the 1930s or a still from North By Northwest; it just needs two scrawny guys in trilby hats and carrying shovels (or automatics).

Moving a couple of hundred yards (metres) to the left, here’s the ås  as it goes past our house and past my wife on her cellphone.  She was wearing the sunglasses because she’d slipped and banged her head.

That picture will stay up for about five minutes, until she sees it.

Then the ås dips downwards towards the lake, and peters out at its banks:

All the animals who have been grazing in the meadow have gone home for the winter season, and last weekend we switched off the electric fence that runs along its perimeter.

Here’s a butterfly that alighted on Saturday on the wall above the cranberry crabapple bush, malus sargentii.  This proves that taking pictures that are sharply in focus isn’t impossible for me or my camera.  But I can’t do it with birds.  I was inspired by some lovely photographs of the birds of Argentina that Julia sent me (I’d display one but I can’t extract them from Powerpoint).  So here are some fuzzy pictures of Norwegian birds in the field by our house.  I don’t know what this one is (hopeless), but there’s a pair of them and they are always hanging around this bit of fence by the road:

and here’s an even more blurry one.  Does anyone know what sort they are?

Here are some crows.  At least I can recognise crows, even if I can’t get close to them.

Crows are my favourite bird.

We’ll soon be in the part of late autumn when great flocks of them sit in the trees at dusk; hundreds, this year welcoming the bats to their new homes.

This picture is of the crab apple bush by the corner of the house, taken last Saturday.  It seems to have more berries than usual.  Last autumn I planted six more bushes, but they haven’t flowered yet.

Here is what it says about Malus Sargentii on the Royal Horticultural Society site:

Crab apples are ideal trees for small gardens. The fruit flavour improves considerably if the fruit is not harvested until it has been frosted. The fruit is quite variable in size, about 2-4cm (0.75-1.5in) in diameter, and quality. While usually harsh and acid, some cultivars are quite sweet and can be eaten raw.

The fruit is rich in pectin and can be used in helping other fruits to set when making jam. Pectin is also said to protect the body against radiation.

It is one of the parents of the cultivated apple and is often used as a rootstock.

Malus is a genus of about 35 species of deciduous trees and shrubs found in woodlands and thickets throughout northern temperate regions. The leaves are alternate, oval to ovate or elliptic, mostly toothed. In spring they produce fragrant flowers typically 2-5cm (0.75-2in) across, usually shallowly cup-shaped, singly or in umbel-like corymbs. The flowers are followed by edible fruits, although some need cooking to be edible.

The name Malus is from the Greek melon, and is applied to tree fruits with a fleshy exterior.

It is a native of Hokkaido, the northernmost island of Japan, and perfectly hardy in this country.

It was introduced from Japan in 1892 and named as a new species although it is closely related to M. toringo (syn. M. sieboldii), a similar but more tree-like species which has pale pink flowers and smaller fruits.

Two years ago, when the farmer chopped down all the evergreen trees on the slope above our garden, he inadvertently removed nearly all the suitable locations for birds to nest.  I never thought of it until this week, when I saw that at a height of about ten feet (3m.) above the ground someone’s been nailing bijou avian mud huts to the remaining birch trunks.

I started to notice them one afternoon while I was going for a walk with the dogs and goats.  At first I thought they must be someone’s art project (there’s a lot of that sort of thing around here), but bird houses make more sense.  I must have seen at least fifty of them, maybe there are lots more.

Mounted on almost every remaining tree there are four different shapes that comprise what I assume to be four different housing types to accommodate the habits of different species.  This one below is kind of interesting because, unless they are expecting the birds to unscrew the hooks on either side with their beaks, there’s no visible entry.  To scare away small children (or perhaps to attract their interest, it’s all guesswork) the front panel has a Hallowe’en-type imprint, the owl as predator, and there are some slats from a bamboo blind hanging underneath, probably to sharpen claws and beaks.  None of the owls I’ve seen around here would fit in this box; it’s not much bigger than a jumbo box of cornflakes.

This one below has a tiny slit, like a letterbox, that my wife says is the entry.  She says they make it that small so that squirrels can’t get in – I don’t know how she knows this kind of thing – so maybe someone ought to be making houses for the squirrels too.  Empty says that red squirrels can’t remember where they’ve left their hoards of nuts, so maybe they also forget where they live, lose their keys etc., “forget” to pay the rent.

I think the houses are made out of potters’ clay that has been rolled out flat like pastry and then shaped and fired.  That means they won’t rot, but they might get a bit cold without some straw inside; I suppose it’s up to the birds to provide that sort of thing.  The houses all have a yellow number on the side as if someone’s expecting the post office to deliver the mail.

Good luck with that, the postman won’t come up to our house.

Update:  These are homes for bats not birds.  See rr’s comment & link, below.