Saturday, 28 January 2012

An apple a day ...

Or should that be two apples?  I heard the other day that eating two apples per day can keep migraines away.  Excellent news for migraine sufferers, who happen to be partial to the odd apple!  Fortunately for me I do like to indulge and even my research hasn't put me off.  I don't often talk about my work on here (and it won't be a regular feature so no need to fear) but I wanted to show you some photographs and talk about planting apple trees.  Yes, I study apple trees.  It isn't quite as idyllic as you are imagining (let me guess, you're thinking about me sitting in pleasant orchards for hours on end with the sun shining and the birds singing), although there were a few occasions where that was an accurate view!  

The orchard can be a lovely place, particularly when there is a river running through it and you haven't lost your keys in the grass.  One hot day I did manage to lose the department car keys in the long sward!  It was only after four and a half hours of desperately searching on my hands and knees, through blinding tears, that I found them.  Hallelujah, I wouldn't have to spend the night sleeping under the stars, next to the car in a strange orchard in the middle of nowhere!  
When you're not fearing being shot by a mad gamekeeper, you're usually battling through rain to write down measurements and take soil (or is that mud?) samples.  Don't even get me started on the lab work!  I do enjoy the days when I can read my book amongst the trees, but they are very few and far between, particularly now that thesis writing is upon me.  Somehow, I have to collate, analyse and try to understand (this may be a tall order) three years worth of work.  Information on soil, wood, apples, biochar and carbon footprints will be brought together to give us a picture on just how good UK orchards are for the environment.  

Trees will be photographed and have their starring role.  Do you have any apple trees?  Now is the perfect time to plant some.  Why not give one a good home this winter and nurture it through to giving you some lovely apples in the autumn (I'll provide some recipes of what to use them for...).  Try and find a small tree, just a tiddler about the size that you are and watch it grow.  It will settle in, growing much better than if you go for a strapping one in the first place and will give you a spectacular display of blossom in spring.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Into the new year, with all its' challenges and excitement ...

New year, new beginnings blah, blah, blah ... do you enter the new year with wonder and excitement or a kind of sinking feeling, something that feels like a huge let down after the awe of Christmas.  Even though I usually lean towards the sunnier side of things, I find the turn of the year difficult and always enter it with trepidation.  

I love the build up to Christmas and all that it brings.  All the lights, buying and wrapping presents, carols and christmas songs.  Writing to old friends and eating lots of chocolate.  Hopefully, there will be snow and cold, crisp days.  You know the kind, the ones that make your cheeks rosy and tiny sprigs of moss on the wall sparkle.  Those are the days of my dreams.  Perfect Christmas holiday weather for taking long walks with my camera.   
This year I made lots of cake for Rhid's Christmas bike night ride.  There was a choice between Orange and Almond sponge, chocolate brownies and cherry scones (always best eaten straight from the oven).  Last year, we made Christmas biscuits complete with festive icing and personalised messages!

My favourite thing about the holidays is having the time to read new books.  I sit for hours with my new treasures and the most wonderful part about it?  I don't have to feel guilty!  It has become a bit of a tradition to get a new Paul Magrs, the perfect mix of excitement, brilliantly devised characters and marvellous plot lines.  Thank you Paul!  If you haven't yet read anything by him, I strongly recommend that you run, no sprint, to your local bookstore and seek him out.  If you like delightful capers involving supernatural mystery and intrigue then Paul is the man for you.

As for the start of the year, it inevitably brings with it responsibility and with the start of term, a whole load of new work.  A pile of marking, sorting timetables and trying to finish writing the dreaded PhD .... today though I got to come home early and was working on a chapter, whilst listening to Birdy, stroking the kitten and organising my numerous (still unwritten) notebooks! 

I love writing, I find that I'm always inspired to write, but putting it into action is much more difficult, particularly for "school work".  I don't want to be thinking about science, I want to have my head full of flowers, photography and baking!  The pretty, finer things in life.  My ideal writing places would look more like the cafe at David Austen rose gardens (below).  

I could sit for hours reading and writing in places like these, or under trees (if only the sun would show its' face again in Wales!).  Trying to fill one of my *ahem* 60 plus notebooks with notions and ideas.  But for now I'm going to curl up with my cosy Miranda Dickinson novel and watch Kiki being cute on our new bookshelves.  

Have a lovely evening all ... x