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Missing Tadpoles

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I’ve got my fingers crossed that this period of beautiful weather lasts over the Bank Holiday weekend as I’m hoping to make an attempt on the ‘flower beds’ – currently indistinguishable from the lawn. I’m intending to try a slash and burn technique this year, usually I try and save any flower seedlings that I recognize, but as they’re so swamped by couch grass and buttercups I think it calls for a clean sweep! Only established clumps of perennials will remain, gulp!

Mr Stoatie has managed to give the lawn a couple of cuts, the race track is slowly disappearing but it is terribly rutted and uneven. It will take a hammer and chisel to break up the soil and level it off.

The sunshine has encouraged the blanket weed and the top pond is starting to bubble and thicken into a green broth.  I try and remove the weed by winding it round a stick but I have visions of giving it a stir and finding various body parts slowly floating to the surface. It really is vile. There are wildlife friendly treatments available and this year I think I’ll give it go.

Despite it’s appearance this pond is absolutely teeming with tadpoles, whereas the larger one, despite it’s clear water, doesn’t seem to have any at all. This is all rather disappointing, as there were some large clumps of spawn. After a bit of research it seems that the most likely cause is the large colony of smooth newts – I counted at least seven in one small sunlit 1’ x1’ space this afternoon and I expect there are quite a few more. This site has a video which illustrates just how voracious they are – tadpole lovers may find it a bit disturbing!

 

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Learn, my heart, what any tree can tell you.
How to assign its roots
to drive them right ways down into the
loosened darkness.
Not through the stone,
but round the stone.
Not into the clay,
but towards the water close at hand.
Not into the unyielding,
but into the love ready to answer
the pressure of rootlets
with a rush forcing up a ringed access
to the fork and beyond,
with an upland rise of branches
repeating the pattern of a nether thirst.

by Ivan Lalic

Tally-ho!

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We were driving into town this afternoon and were held up while the local hunt were let into a field. It was a total surprise and I just managed to snatch a snap from the car as the Master’s kicked off into a canter and the hounds began to run.

This hunt, the East Cheshire’s, have always been a drag hunt. This means the hounds are trained to follow an artificial scent. The riders get to enjoy a hard ride in the country over what will be a challenging but safe route, and the wildlife are left alone. When I first moved into the village they used to ride down our road occasionally, it’s a stirring sight but I always used to worry about the cats. The hounds do seem well trained though, I sometimes pass them out exercising on the way to work and they trot along quite happily behind the kennel master, I wouldn’t trust my two to be so good off the lead!

Daffs

Last weekend I spent a fantastic four days on a Druidic Shamanic retreat at Cae Mabon in North Wales. The eco centre is located in a tiny valley hidden by trees, on the other side of Llyn Padarn from the village of Llanberis. Afon Fachwen, the ‘little white river’ runs through the site and it’s next door to the forested Padarn Country Park. It’s the perfect setting to get away from it all and do a little spiritual work.

Apart from a couple of hours of sunshine and blue skies, the weather was pretty wet and windy. This actually enhanced the whole experience for me and I spent a happy half hour meditating at the end of a tongue of land sticking out into the lake. Surrounded on three sides by water, with the wind blowing a gale and the rain lashing down, I felt suspended between the three elements of earth, air and water. The worries and stresses of life were scoured out and I came away feeling balanced and reconnected.

We did plenty of inner work over the weekend, and there was a wonderful candlelit labyrinth ritual for some of us, while others took part in a sweat lodge ceremony. The sparks from their fire blew across the river and ripped through the trees like fairies. While we each walked the labyrinth, the rest stood chanting. I heard a lot of new chants and I’m hoping to learn them by heart so that I can use them in ritual myself.

The weekend was lovely and relaxed and we had plenty of time to simply walk out into Nature or sit and chat. We were also treated to a wonderful Dream Journey, where we meditated to sound – drums, bells, percussion and voice; an Eisteddfod held in the roundhouse, and an afternoon of crafting.

Cae Mabon feels like Brigadoon, it is a place out of time. Sitting in the ancient woodland I did wonder if I would step back out into the world and find a couple of centuries had passed. It’s a magical place, full of earth energy and Spirit. I arrived home damp and smoky but blissfully happy.

 

Cae Mabon - view from compost loos

The View from the compost toilets. I couldn’t get used to not flushing. Every time I paid a visit I  turned round to look for the loo handle!

Cae Mabon River

The river has a series of waterfalls down the hillside – this is one of the smaller ones. In this sort of weather it certainly is white in appearance.

Cae Mabon Labyrinth

   The Labyrinth

Cae Mabon - compost loo

Sunshine through the loo window.

 

Cae Mabon Roundhouse from barn

View of the Round House from the Barn.

 

Cae Mabon view from roundhouse

    View from the Roundhouse

 

Cae Mabon wood nymph

A Dryad!

 

Lake Padarn

                 Lynn Padarn. On the last morning the wind dropped.This made the lake seem especially ethereal and otherworldly

 

Cae Mabon wild goat  A wild goat – fantastic horns!

 

Cae Mabon - violets

Some beautiful tiny violets.

 

Cae Mabon raindrops

 

Cae Mabon - Dryad

 

Cae Mabon - oak

 Alban Eiler 2014 Altar

Last Saturday we held our Alban Eiler ritual at the Grove. The day started out bright and sunny, with a bit of a chill breeze, and I had a lovely journey into town spotting signs of Spring along the railway line. Of course as soon as I reached the city centre it was enveloped in low grey cloud and it began to drizzle.

We had a smashing turn out of 13 this time round and welcomed some more new folks, all the way from Liverpool. Of course the main themes of Alban Eiler is the balance of the Light, the rising energy of Spring and seed planting. That is of course, not only planting your actual seeds in the earth but also your inner seeds. It’s time to manifest all those dreams and plans you made while resting in the darkness over the Winter. A time to move from contemplating, to actually doing. Like raising plants, in order to make your dreams come true, you have to do an awful lot of nurturing. It’s no good sticking them in the ground and forgetting about them, you have to tend to them!

We were all asked to decorate eggs to dress the altar, I decided to try dying mine by boiling them with onion skins and a little white vinegar. You can make patterns on them, in this case I placed leaves against the egg shell and wrapped them firmly in bits cut from an old pair of tights before placing them in the pan. The tights hold the leaves firmly in place. I produced the Awen by cutting shapes out of sticky labels, which worked better than I thought. I was in a bit of a rush, if you took your time I think you could get a much better result. They came up a wonderful red colour. There was a competition for the best egg which was won by Bracken’s Fab Four!

The ritual was beautiful, but we were alternately drizzled, hailed and bathed in sunshine. On the rare occasion we did have the sun it was pretty warm _ Gary even had to take his waterproof off at one point! Badger, the Setantii Bard, inspired by the view from his house to the Pennines, chose to recite this poem by Kipling, taken from his book, Puck of Pook’s Hill :

Puck’s Song

See you the ferny ride that steals
Into the oak-woods far?
O that was whence they hewed the keels
That rolled to Trafalgar.

And mark you where the ivy clings
To Bayham’s mouldering walls?
O there we cast the stout railings
That stand around St. Paul’s.

See you the dimpled track that runs
All hollow through the wheat?
O that was where they hauled the guns
That smote King Philip’s fleet.

See you our little mill that clacks,
So busy by the brook?
She has ground her corn and paid her
Ever since Domesday Book.

See you our stilly woods of oak,
And the dread ditch beside?
O that was where the Saxons broke
On the day that Harold died.

See you the windy levels spread
About the gates of Rye?
O that was where the Northmen fled,
When Alfred’s ships came by.

See you our pastures wide and lone,
Where the red oxen browse?
O there was a City thronged and known,
Ere London boasted a house.

And see you  after rain, the trace
Of mound and ditch and wall?
O that was a Legion’s camping-place,
When Caesar sailed from Gaul.

And see you marks that show and fade,
Like shadows on the Downs?
O they are the lines the Flint Men made,
To guard their wondrous towns.

Trackway and Camp and City lost,
Salt Marsh where now is corn–
Old Wars, old Peace, old Arts that cease,
And so was England born!

She is not any common Earth,
Water or wood or air,
But Merlin’s Isle of Gramarye,
Where you and I will fare!

By the end of the ritual we were all perished with cold, so we huddled round the fire bowl in the centre for the traditional burning of the scripts and to warm up. When we’d recovered a little, we indulged in a round of egg rolling before packing up. Hopefully by Beltane it will be warm and dry enough to have our traditional picnic!

A Round up…

Now that the eldest daughter is ensconced in her own home and ours is restored to some sense of order, I have finally found a bit of time to post on the blog. So this is a bit of a catch up.

Frog spawnWe finally have frogspawn in the top pond, just when we were starting to get worried that they were going to give us a miss this year. Unfortunately the water is very muddy and cloudy, and so we have a rather an unedifying photo of a couple of the clumps. I had hoped to get a shot of a frogs but as usual all the frenetic splashing suddenly stopped when I got within a few feet of the pond. There’s no sign of any activity at all in the pond by the house.

Other news …..

Clinging on A couple of weeks ago I looked out of our kitchen window and caught sight of our elderly neighbour at the top of a set of ladders. Yes, he was cutting down a rather fine birch tree with a bow saw! I had my heart in my mouth, I kept expecting to hear a crash as he fell to the ground. Mr Stoatie, who was on his way to work, went out to talk to him. It seems that the tree dropped very small leaves which ‘got into the lawn’ and so it had to come down! He has over the years removed all the large trees from his garden and most of the accessible branches of any neighbour’s tree that overhangs his boundary. He did actually manage to saw through the trunk – it took him a few hours – but had to get a company in to cut up the tree once it was down.

garden racetrack

A picture of our poor garden. This is the race track formed by the daughter’s border collie, the lawn is actually just a sea of mud where it goes behind the conservatory. As you can tell by the state of the borders we have not been out there for a couple of months. I think we have our work cut out to get it into any sort of shape this year. The good news is that the photo was taken from our daughter’s room which has been transformed into a study once more, yay!

 lost slates Our loft following the last big storm … we lost a chimney pot, a rather lovely ‘crown’ pot, which knocked off a ridge tile and broke two slates on the way down. We have had to drape everything in tarps until we get the go ahead for a repair. We had a lot of trees brought down locally – I counted six on the way to work. Interestingly a couple of these were actually snapped completely in half. The experience seems to have started a frenzy of tree felling and lopping, and quite a few more trees have come down since.

I am away this weekend at the Druid Gorsedd, hurrah! Mr Stoatie is dropping me off then having a couple of nights in the Scooby Van by himself. He’s hoping to do a long cycle ride -  he’s in training for the Prudential 100!

ScoobyVan wales

It has been manic here at Stoatie Towers for the last month or so. The good news is that the daughter, her boyfriend and her dog are finally moving out at the end of this week. The bad news is that for the past month or so she has been on a shopping frenzy and the few habitable rooms in the house have been filling up with second hand furniture and furnishings. Not to mention the boxes and boxes of belongings which had been palmed out on other members of the family to store, and that are now being assembled here ready for the big day. If you add this to their usual level of mess, and their total inability to clean up after themselves you can see how Mr Stoatie and I have been feeling rather frazzled and stretched just recently!

We were also getting rather itchy feet, a really bad case of cabin fever!  – cue gratuitous use of one of the best ever Muppet songs  :) 

We decided that to save our sanity we should have a few days away at our friends in Wales. Hurrah! a trip in the Scooby Van!

Unfortunately it was rather grey and overcast for most of the time, which was disappointing, but at least it meant that we didn’t have to worry about freezing at night -we were parked up as usual in the layby and so there was no electric hook up for the heater!

Mr Stoatie and I stopped off in Llandudno for a while on the way over. We didn’t take the dogs as our friend lives in the middle of sheep country and has a rather nervous little rescue dog, so we were both able to go into a shop at the same time, and even got to sit and eat inside a cafe! We didn’t do a lot as we only had one full day away, so we spent most of the time just chatting and had half a day pottering around Llanberis and it’s surrounds with our friend. On the way back home we stopped off at Mr Stoatie’s Auntie’s in Llanrwst, she has one of those teensy tiny ‘teacup’ Yorkies and I was even more relieved I hadn’t taken our two with us, one bite and it would have all been over!

gate wales2  View across to Anglesey, taken from the lane onto our friend’s property

 Wales Rainbow

There were a few wonderful rainbows.

 

Yr Wyddfa A view across to Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) from the Clwt Y Bont side of Llyn Padarn

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