Sunday, 30 March 2014


I'm not programmed, as a Scot, to worry about the rain. In Scotland, we get plenty.

Here in Catalonia things are different. It's a good day when it rains. Especially if, as now, we have had a very dry start to the year (91mm against the average 161mm in the first three months of 2014). 

It's blooming raining

The rain in Spain seems to be falling mainly on the plane...and not in Catalonia.

Bug Scale

I've got bugs on my orange trees.

I grew the trees from seeds, taken from a bitter orange tree near here that was subsequently felled. So I'd really like to help these trees to grow. But some of the trees are under assault from a bug. The bugs are orange and mobile when young, becoming white and powdery and immobile as adults. They produce an orange liquid - but not red like Cochineal - when you squish them.

Mealybug? or Scale?

Which bug is it?

Is it Planococcus citri, a citric Mealybug?

Or is it Icerya purchasi, the Cottony Cushion Scale?

Sunday, 16 March 2014

She wept

I pruned the vine today, far too late into a warm spring.

She wept:

Sapping experience

So I stopped. 

We'll get plenty of grapes, whether I prune or not.

Vetching question

So, which vetch is this?

Could it be Orange Bird's-foot, Ornithopus pinnatus?

Ornithopus pinnatus, or not?

Flowering today, 16th March, above our olive trees

Saturday, 15 March 2014

Four by Four

It's still the best form of transport on our steep slopes. Rugged 4x4 all-slopes traction, and totally carbon-free:

Work, work, work. When will he give me a rest?
Arran and I went up the hill to prune the olive trees. I prune a bit, he eats a bit, I prune some more, he eats some more. It's like having a mobile composting machine, managed by a slightly grumpy farmer...


I saw these today. Marsh Fritillary, I think, Euphydryas aurinia.

In the UK the Marsh Fritillary is protected as a "species of principal importance."

We've got lots

Euphydryas aurinia on Lonicera etrusca
 Yes, the Latin is showing off. That's Marsh Fritillary (I think) on Etruscan Honeysuckle (ditto.)

We're bugged

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Power Corrupts...

We've hit an interesting point, politically and historically, in the referendum campaign for Scotland. Catalonia and any other place with pretensions to separate will hit the same point sooner or later.

It's the conundrum of power.

Politicians from the three main parties at Westminster have said in the last three weeks that Scotland cannot be independent and 'keep' the pound, join the EU, share intelligence and safeguard pensions. We can expect more of this, and we'll be told that we can't have the BBC, the Queen and fish from our seas.

Which illustrates one half of the conundrum. Because these assets are ours. The pound, the pension insurance schemes and the Beeb are (currently) the property of all UK citizens.

But when a politician from Westminster says we can't have them he (it is always a man) is saying "These assets are mine, not yours. I say who gets them. Not you." He is underlining exactly why a country would want to separate - to win back the control it thought it had over its assets. The people who vote Yes in September are saying "No, not yours. These assets are owned by the people."

What else can a Westminster politician say? His or her only strategy is to say to the Scottish children "We'll take back our sweeties. Even if they are half sucked." And the minute she or he says that they are caught in the conundrum of power, trapped into admitting that these assets that we believed were owned by the people are in fact under the sole and absolute control of Westminster. Politically, it's checkmate.

Could it be different?

A little humility would be good. To say, for example, that thanks to all that Scottish ship-building in the 19th century, and those Scottish financial brains, and the steam engine, the television, golf and football and Silicon Glen and Charles Rennie Macintosh and Iain Banks and James VI and the Scottish regiments and..., that thanks in fair part to Scotland's contribution we have all these lovely assets. And we would now like to work out how better we might share them with the five million who live in Scotland. To accept that politicians are servants of the people, not key-holders of the Crown jewels.

But Westminster politicians are locked into the conundrum of power. They will not offer humility, nor power sharing. 

Everyone who votes Yes on 18 September, is saying "no" to the arrogance of Westminster.