Friday, 29 July 2011

St John's wort

Here is St John’s wort, Hypericum perforatum.

Take my wort for it, it's lovely

We have lots here at the Croft, growing wild on the field margins. It has just been in flower – in time for St John’s day (John the Baptist) on the 24th June when people used to hang the plant above the icons in their house to ward off evil spirits. The leaves held up to the sunlight seem to have tiny holes in them (the “perforatum” in the name.) These are little packets of plant oil.

It’s an enigmatic plant. It is good for humans; here in Catalunya an infusion of St John’s wort is used to treat mild depression, and an oil made by soaking the plant for 40 days in olive oil is used as a rub for strained backs and muscles. But it’s bad for sheep – the plant makes them photosensitive, and can make them seriously ill.

I want to grow more, but the seeds are tiny and hard to collect. If I succeed you’ll hear about it first, here.

A land of milk and honey

It’s the land of plenty here on the Croft. The plum tree is laden with fruit, the first of the fig trees (we have around 40 fig trees…) is producing kilos of figs each day and the vegetable garden (worked by Crofter’s partner) is sprouting Swiss Chard:

It's a chard life...
All of this at the same time as my friends in Oxfam (, UNICEF and other NGOs are desperately fighting starvation (again, again) in the Horn of Africa.

The market is not working, not distributing from those of us with plenty to those without. The financial market crash, the attacks on the Euro and the Swiss Chard in the Croft garden are all part of the same systematic breakdown. 

There must be a better way.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Fritillary Time

Thanks to the spotting abilities of Constanti Stefanescu of the Catalan Butterfly Monitoring Scheme, who was here at the Croft last month, and with the help of Christopher Wheat and his colleagues who were over here on a research project, we’ve found a colony of Marsh Fritillaries Euphydryas aurinia at the Croft. They are nesting above the house, in a honeysuckle bush (Lonicera spp.) The nests are the grey spiders web objects on the bush.

We have no marshes – the land is dry as a bone – but the “Marsh” Fritillaries seem perfectly happy here. In the UK the Marsh Fritillary is rare. Here, now I know where to look, they are everywhere.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Xop. Pronouced "chop"

We have a new kid on the block. Born into a dewy early Wednesday morning, he took a while to dry out and to start feeding. He looked very skinny and weak at the start.

Xop and Thistle

We had to hold his head up, clear out his mouth, and direct him to Thistle's udders to get him started. Today he is altert and lively, and back with the flock.

His name, of course, is a cruel joke. "Xop" is Catalan for wet, which is what he was when he was born.  It's pronounced "chop", as in "I'll have that lamb chop with the mint sauce please..."

It's a tough life, out here on the Croft.