Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Monday, 22 July 2013

a field student spoke with a wild plum in his mouth, he thinks

Wild Plum - Prunus domestica?
21st July 2013

The field student is all fingers and thumbs recently in his efforts to document the flora and fauna of the allotment site. Sticking his fingers (and occasional thumb) into the photographs may be a disingenuous gesture given the Rabelaisian pretensions he divulged back in May . If he is somewhere or something between the giants, Gargantua and Pantagruel, the attempts (pictured) to convey some scale may be as potentially misleading as his field identifications/namings. The field student ate some of the fruits featured in the pictures and they seemed sweet and 'plummy' to his palate. His scoffing of those fruits of the hedgerow (H-G) have not yet proved reckless however caution will prevail and only the pictures of the fruits will be shared.

'Food for Free' and 'Flora Britannica' (Richard Mabey) provide a variety of names for the Prunus species -  Bullace, Damsons, Wild plums, Crixies and Winter Crack. 'Crixies' is the vernacular for wild damsons in Essex and so the field student may have been spitting feral 'Crixie' stones here, there and everywhere (sic) with only a little regard for the 'Byzantine complexity' of the 'genetic reservoir' they represent. 

We have been negotiating the complexities of a discussion between Richard Mabey and Steven Poole (along with many other writers and comment makers) about being out and about in the field, and writing about it. Field Study's Man in E17 is trying to work out what sort of plum he speaks with in his mouth before commenting more on his escapes to the virtually sun dappled allotment. 


Saturday, 20 July 2013

bumble bees foraging in the field

19th July, 2013, evening - bumble bees foraging on a pond side edge of what might be hyssop and vetch

Below - 25th June

Friday, 19 July 2013

a field of tendrilous connections

Lauki - Plot A - Bed 5, 10th, 17th and 18th July 2013

We, that is (?), that are (?), Field Study's Man in E17 and I, liked to think of the connection between the allotment site and blog site as tendrilous; as tendrilous as the gourds (Loki, Lauki - Cucurbitaceae) we, the fellows of "the farm", have been growing in a raised bed outdoors and indoors in the poly-tunnel (of love supreme). The field student is sweltering in the current heatwave and it has been as much as he can manage to prevent his helter-skeltering vegetable friends wilt in the swelter. The indulgence of daily posting has been beyond us friends and fellows even though there is many a furbelow in our field to reward the attentions of taoist bad ass girls and those others who want to be happy in Russia.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Friday, 12 July 2013

Field Study's Man in E17 is an unpleasant poet of wild thingness

Allotment pond area - 6th July 2013

Field Study's Man in E17 was lost in a patch of the allotment that has been called a wildflower garden.  The patch is situated next to the poly-tunnel, by the pond, in the nether region of the site, and in spring we sowed a mix of wild flower seeds and assorted salad herbs there. We have been looking out for and welcoming those plants of the seed mix which have managed to make their way between and above the covering of more established and vigorous plants or weeds. The current star (of the show) in this constellation of a floral system, the strike, shall we say, in the field student's eye, is this plant:  

What is the plant? Does the field student need the name more than some communicable sense of why or how he finds this plant so alluring and captivating? Field Study's Man in E17 is no John Clare, and a poetic comparison with 'thee peasant poet' might only be made by a very marginal stretch of the imagination. It may be lack of imagination that compelled the field student to try and positively identify the plant and, as a consequence, lose a connection with the poetry of the plant. A hesitant and delicate caress and brief voyeuristic f-stop encounters were all he made before heading off for the known of this particular pleasure of the soil.

Saturday 6th July 2013.
near Chingford, London.

The excellent website http://wildflowerfinder.org.uk/ offers plant identifiers the opportunity to find a plant according to the colour of it's flowers. The field student searched the 'mauve' section and felt confident he had beheld a Corn-cockle. He picked a virtual corn-cockle and headed for my copy of, Flora Britannica (Richard Mabey) and found a paragraph and an illustration on pages 100 and 101; a corn-cockle (Agrostemma githago / Kiss-me-quick) we think it is*.

While the venerable Mr Mabey comments on the 'possibly even poisonous' nature of the plant, other persons and institutions seem more convinced of it's toxicity. We would like to stay with Mr Mabey for a few more lines, before we wade into the fetid emissions of unfortunate eructing and defecating equine and bovine cogitators; for the paragraph in Flora Britannica about the Corncockle presents wildflower gardens in inverted commas thus, 'wildflower gardens'. 

What assessment of the psychological state of a field student would you make if he/she/it told you that the inverted commas about (the) wildflower gardens appeared and behaved like mosquitoes and  midges? Field Study's Man in E17 complained that the commas were menacing him just like a bite (a collective noun for midges?) of midges does when dusk descends upon the allotment. In the twilight hours the pond and the immediate surroundings can teem with voracious appetites for human flesh and blood and once satiated they, the midges and mosquitoes have left some very sore and swollen bites. We think our sensitivity to the presence of the inverted commas in the cultural flux of wild, wildness and wilderness may be due to our perception they are applied to express scepticism about the inclusion, if not misappropriation, of the word, 'wild' in wildflower garden. What sort of wild thing is our corncockle when beheld so prosaically and facilely like a floral pin up plucked from the mysterious and site specific mingling modifications of the field?

The mainstream environmentalism and custodianship of our well intended patch for pollinators may express 'those authoritarian reflexes that are the root cause of the very ecological crises custodianship is trying to cure'.** Is there a facile identification with that flower in what might be an oxymoron in the sense or nonsense of a wild - (flower) - garden? Our motivation for sowing seeds in that area was to add to the diversity of pollinator friendly plants.

Back in June the field student tried to interview an insect about the merits of the patch however, not surprisingly, there was an insurmountable language barrier. The interview was abandoned when a very big bite of 'figure of speeches' mobbed the hapless student. Pain stopped play.

 June 26th 2013.

We must return to the main focus of our report, the importance of being aware of poisonous plants. Agrostemma githago is a poisonous plant. We (the field student and I) are not entirely sure the plant featured in our pictures is a corncockle. The field student suggested we prefix all our identifications with 'fools-' - so, 'fools-corncockle'? Our reluctance to be confident about the identification is due to the potentially very toxic nature of the plant and, in the unlikely event of our field ramblings being of any consequence, we shall disclaim.

Our awareness of the toxicity of Agrostemma githago comes via an assortment of websites and pages:

What are the factors and/or conditions that determine the toxicity of a plant e.g. Agrostemma githago? Could soil type, proximity to other plants, site conditions, e.g. drainage, affect the degree of toxicity?
What are the risks of someone or something actually being poisoned by the Corncockles in our relatively minute patch; an area of c. 9sqm? We think there is a very low risk of anyone experiencing the grim and gruesome effects of Corncockle consumption described in the document from Illinois.

It was with some pride and pleasure that we (the field student and I) declared our new found knowledge of the allotment flora to one of our fellow field workers. We stood by the patch, pointed to the flower and announced, 'this is a Corncockle. It's very poisonous!' Our fellow field worker listened and watched patiently as we regurgitated the 'toxicity' of the plant. All sense of doubt and curiosity was lost in the act of trying to affirm our self as the one who knows, the one (or two-ish) who is/was the authority. We (the field student and I) were so desperate to convince the unknowing other we even performed a mock poisoned pig act! Well, actually we didn't go as far as that. Acting like a poisoned pig is something we imagine having done although, of course, it would have been in bad taste. Poisoned livestock is really no laughing matter. We agreed it was wise to be aware of any plant on the site that might possibly be poisonous.

Our patient friend and fellow then transported us to another more remote association with the menace of the cereal field. We found ourselves on board the Mary Celeste wondering not if ergot contaminated bread/flour had caused a mass and fatal hallucination in the crew but the possibility of 'corn-cockle-poisoning'. We drifted with the deserted vessel awhile and then found our way back to the allotment with it's bountiful and mysterious biochemical array, including the triterine saponins that are potentially a menace of one of the defining elements of civilization - cereal. There in the very domesticated field we contemplated the remoteness of wilderness and the closeness of wildness embodied in the Corncockle plant.

Later, while cycling home with our safe and entirely edible daily bag of fruit and veg' pickings, we recalled watching the film, 'Into the Wild', in which the central character, Christopher McCandless is imagined in his death throes, uttering and quoting from Dr Zhivago (Boris Pasternak)  - 'to call each thing by its right name'.

* - My disclaimer, any plant identification I make on this blog should be regarded as unreliable.

** - from, Nature Cure, Richard Mabey. (2008). (http://richardmabey.co.uk/)

Some other references for your convenience: