The curry plant in Posadas and the theoretical physicist Einstein (?!)

Good morning all!

I left early for my morning walk the other day because the sun’s already quite piquant and temperatures were forecasted to rise to 35° C = 95° F — yippee and yikes!

I came across lots of curry plant that’s in full flower, and yes, it certainly does smell of curry, and no, I don’t use it in my cooking, although I should really, and below you’ll see why.

The proper name for this plant is Helichrysum italicum (which I had to copy and paste because I didn’t trust myself with correctly reproducing these words if physically written out).

Well, after I did some research into this plant I realised just how rich it is in beneficial properties and below are just some of them:

According to the UIC Heritage Garden ‘The curry plant is well-known for the oil extracted from its flowers. The oil has medicinal properties that can heal burned skin or chapped lips. It serves as an anti-inflammatory and fungicidal astringent for skin’.

Additionally, it is used as an anticoagulant, can reduce the risk of heart attacks, dissolve blood clots and can be used to treat coughing and fever. The oil also reduces anxiety and stress; it helps fade scars, heal cuts or wounds and can be used as a moisturizer.

As far as food is concerned, the plant’s young shoots and leaves are used in Mediterranean dishes for salads and to give meat, fish, or vegetable flavour, the flowers for herbal tea and the oil used as flavouring in ice creams, sweets, drinks, baked food, chewing gum etc.

So the conclusion is… I guess I’ll be using this plant after all!

I’d just like to end with this quote from the theoretical physicist Einstein (taken from a long list of his many very interesting quotes). Though, ‘What has Einstein got to do with the curry plant?’ I hear you ask. Well, as far as I know — nothing! It’s just that I was doing Einstein in my English conversation class the other day, and we were reading some of his quotes. So here it is:

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”

Albert Einstein (Born: 14 March 1879 Wurttemberg, German Empire — died: 18 April 1955, aged 76, New Jersey U.S.)

Einstein in 1921 (Wiki)

Bye for now — take care! xxx

The poppies are out and about here in the countryside of Posadas (Cordova)

“…But pleasures are like poppies spread,

You seize the flower, it’s bloom is shed;

Or, like the snow-fall in the river,

A moment white, then melts forever;”

~ Robert Burns

The above quote is taken from Robert Burns‘ epic poem Tam o’ Shanter (7th stanza). ‘It is a wonderful poem in which Burns paints a vivid picture of the drinking classes in the old Scotch town of Ayr in the late 18th century.’

These very descriptive lines of Burns are flavoured with evocativeness, poignancy, wistfulness, doom, fright, macabre, warning and even a slight sense of humour — they are definitely worth a read!

A little bit about the man: Robert Burns was born in Ayrshire in Scotland on the 25th of January, 1759.  He was also known as Rabbie Burns (as well as other names such as the Bard of Ayrshire). He was a Scottish poet, (belonging to the Romantic Movement) and was also a lyricist, farmer and exciseman. He was considered the national poet of Scotland and wrote both in the Scots language and its dialect, as well as in English (where his comments were often the most blunt). He also travelled around collecting folk music from Scotland and wrote the lyrics for Auld Lang Syne, (meaning ‘old long since’ / ‘long, long ago’ / ‘days gone by’…) which is typically sung at Hogmanay. For his full, interesting biography see here.

Robert Burns (1759 – 1796) (Wiki)

And as for the meaning of poppies…

It is thought that the word ‘poppy’ is derived from the Old English popig, which is a Medieval Latin alteration of the Latin word papaver, meaning ‘to swell’. It could also stem from the Latin word for milk, pappa, perhaps because of the milky sap that oozes from its stem when the flower is cut.  

The symbolism of the poppy is quite wide-ranging, depending on the colour of the poppy and the country where it grows. For example, the red poppy can symbolise peace, death and sleep, which explains why, in western countries, it is usually used in commemoration of the soldiers fallen in the war.

In contrast, in Eastern countries red poppies usually symbolize love and success, whereas white poppies usually stand for remembrance and peaceful rest and are often tied to funerals and memorial ceremonies.

In Japanese and Chinese cultures the red poppy represents passionate love in a couple.

Apart from these meanings, poppies can also symbolise imagination, messages delivered in dreams, beauty, luxury and extravagance.

Finally and interestingly enough, the Californian poppy is the national flower of California and the red poppy is the national flower of Albania

Thank you for reading. I hope you can enjoy your wild flowers wherever you are.

Bye for now — take care! xxx

The Lonely Lupin (in my country abode of Posadas, Cordova)

Hello folks — hope this finds you well…

Since I woke up at the crack of dawn this morning, I decided not to linger in bed, entertaining endless thoughts in my head (that rhymes, doesn’t it?), but instead (and so does that), have an early cup of Tetley’s to rehydrate the brain and hopefully get it in some sort of working order — and if that failed, then have a invigorating shower followed by a healthy breakfast (of yoghurt with cut-up strawberries and bananas, plus raisins, mixed seeds, goji berries, all sprinkled over with cinnamon. Yummy!).

So I did all this, and finding myself pretty revitalised, despite my 5-hour night— (I was watching a documentary ‘til late on Hitler and the reaction of the different monarchies to him, the Nazis and the war) — I decided to go for an equally-invigorating walk along our country lane. Though the temperatures these days are reaching the 23°C mark, the morning temperatures are still fresh, around 8°C so it makes pleasant walking.

So off I set and what did I come across? The following photos will explain:

A lone, blue lupin growing wild amongst the tall grasses and in front of an unruly olive tree
But further along there was a row of them growing behind the neighbour’s wire fence — they return every year (the lupins, not the neighbours who come regularly to tend their olive trees)
And here was a white lupin plant (I had to walk 50 minutes to find one!). The leaves look acacia-like and quite typical of the leguminosae and you can see the bean pods of the lupin
And here’s a close-up of the flowers which are already beginning to shrivel and fade (I know the feeling…)

Now let me share with you what I have recently learnt about the pretty lupin:

The name comes from the Latin lupus, which means wolf, and the reason for the name is because it was believed that these flowers stole¸ cunningly like a wolf, the nutrients from the earth since they were commonly found on poor soils (the flowers that is, not the wolves). However, quite the opposite is true: lupins, like other legumes such as lentils, chick peas etc. actually enrich the soil and are useful for farming as they are high in nitrogen. Here in some traditional olive groves local to Posadas in the province of Cordova where the olives are picked by hand and not by machine, you can often see bushes of lentils, beans and chick peas that have been planted in rows between the trees. After the legumes have been harvested, the remaining plants will then be dug back into the soil in order to increase its fertility with all that added nitrogen.  

Although lupins are part of the pea family, they are poisonous, containing toxic seeds and can therefore pose a threat to livestock and cattle. However, there is now the ‘sweet lupin’ a genetically-engineered variety of the original in which the toxic alkaloids have been removed.  The beans of the lupin plant are edible and used for both human and cattle consumption. Australia is a major producer of these lupins

NOTE: you cannot eat just any lupin seeds from your garden or countryside  the seeds must be processed first to remove the toxicity.

Lupin beans are a great favourite here in Spain (in fact in all the Mediterranean Basin countries, as well as North Africa and Latin America. They were also popular with the Incans, Native Americans, Romans and the Egyptian pharaohs too). Here, the lupin beans, or altramuces in Spanish, are often given as a free tapa in many bars (they are previously soaked until soft). Beware though: people who have a peanut allergy are fairly likely to be allergic to lupin beans too.

The beans are very nutritious and the extract from the seeds of the white lupin help the production of collagen, promoting cellular repair and growth. They are low in fat, gluten-free, rich in amino acids, antioxidants and fatty acids, high in fibre and contain protein too. They are also prebiotic. (I’ll think in future I’ll be adding this to my cereal or yoghurt-fruit mix — yippee, here comes super-woman!)

Lupin beans, soaked (Wiki)

On a more mystical note, apart from their symbolism with wolves and the moon, the lupin represents happiness, imagination, creativity and admiration, also energising one’s inner strength. They represent hope for new opportunities too. (Yes, I’ll definitely be adding this to my cereal or yoghurt-fruit mix in the mornings, possibly soaking them first in a cup of Tetley’s to give them that extra kick!)

So, all in all, apart from being pretty and useful, lupins are also positive-meaning flowers, encouraging good cheer and hope. Something I wish for all of us.

But to finish with, here’s a poem about lupins by Seamus Heaney — poet, playwright and translator, lecturer and professor, (and one of nine children!), from a farming, cattle dealing and linen mill worker background. 

Seamus Heaney (Wiki)

Lupins

Seamus Heaney (Ireland 13 April 1939 – 30 August 2013)

They stood. And stood for something. Just by standing.
In waiting. Unavailable. But there
For sure. Sure and unbending.
Rose-fingered dawn’s and navy midnight’s flower.

Seed packets to begin with, pink and azure,
Sifting lightness and small jittery promise:
Lupin spires, erotics of the future,
Lip-brush of the blue and earth’s deep purchase.

O pastel turrets, pods and tapering stalks
That stood their ground for all our summer wending
And even when they blanched would never balk.
And none of this surpassed our understanding.

——————————————————————————————————

Thank you for reading, bye for now — take care x

Bunnies and springtime flowers galore!

Hi folks — I hope that you’re all well.

Just to say that I wasn’t able to write a usual mid-week blog because apart from my online teaching and writing work, I’ve been quite busy trying to prepare a few items for my online Etsy shop.

I have been inspired by the sudden explosion of springtime flowers here in Posadas (in the province of Cordova) which has happened a little earlier than usual.

There has also been a return of many species of birds, including my usual visitors, the hoopoe, blue tit and partridges (which will feature in my next blog…), as well as loads of bunnies and hares, little lambs and baby goats (already smelling of acidy milk!).

The things I don’t approve of (that is until they have reached their beautiful butterfly stage) are the caterpillars — we have been inundated with them! They have drilled into my iris flower buds, chomped their way steadily through my broad bean plantlets and are causing havoc to any budding grape vines which haven’t been previously sprayed. Now I don’t like to use pesticides or chemicals, so it is quite a normal sight for me to go rushing out into my garden and vegetable patch first thing in the morning (usually still in my fluffy pyjamas and mules) and run up and down the rows of plants, flicking off these furry creatures.

(I don’t know what our neighbour must think when he spies me from afar with his extra-strong binoculars, which I know he does because he did openly admit it one day when we were sat together having a leche manchada — milky coffee: his excuse is that he likes to invigilate our house as well as his for security reasons, as we do live out in the sticks a bit and we only have mastiffs and an adopted mongrel as alarms.)

Anyway, to cut a long story short, here are a couple of photos explaining what I’ve been up to since last we met…

Acrylic paint on linen… I WILL be buying a fabric medium to use with acrylic paint for other future fabric work…
Painted with acrylic paints and acrylic pens

And here is a merry little poem about spring (yes, I know I’m being a bit premature, but try telling that to the Cordobese flowers and bunnies!)

Spring by William Blake — (London 1757–1827) ‘Poet, painter, engraver, and visionary… considered one of the leading lights of English poetry’ — The Poetry Foundation.

Wikipedia’s first two paras also give a succinct, interesting summary on Blake.

SPRING

Sound the flute!
Now it’s mute!
Bird’s delight,
Day and night,
Nightingale,
In the dale,
Lark in sky,–
Merrily,
Merrily merrily, to welcome in the year.

Little boy,
Full of joy;
Little girl,
Sweet and small;
Cock does crow,
So do you;
Merry voice,
Infant noise;
Merrily, merrily, to welcome in the year.

Little lamb,
Here I am;
Come and lick
My white neck;
Let me pull
Your soft wool;
Let me kiss
Your soft face;
Merrily, merrily, to welcome in the year.

Thank you for visting — take care! xxx

Hooray for the dwarf wild irises!

Hello again!

When I went for a walk this morning along the cattle track La Cañada Real Soriana which skirts north of Posadas and Cordova, I was pleasantly surprised to see that the wild irises are out already. Above is just one example (I can’t include more at this stage because, as you might know already, I’m working on limited multimedia capacity!) — but I just couldn’t resist putting up this velvety delight:­-

Dwarf iris — Iris cristata (I think!)

The iris flower means wisdom, hope, trust, and valour and it inspired the fleur-de-lis decorative symbol used by French royalty.

In the 16th century BC, irises were introduced to Egypt from Syria and were used to decorate the sceptres of pharaohs, representing victory and power.

The Ancient Greeks associated irises to the goddess of the rainbow due to their wide variety of colours. Iris was a messenger for Zeus and Hera and accompanied female souls on their way to heaven. Even to this day irises are placed on women’s graves so that the Goddess will help them find their place in heaven.

Each colour represents different qualities:

Purple, for royalty and wisdom; white for purity; yellow — passion; and blue for faith and hope.

And to end this flowery blog, here’s a beautiful poem by the American, Madison Julius Cawein (Kentucky, March 23, 1865 – December 8, 1914). (His father made patent medicines from herbs, so it is not surprising Madison’s love for nature!)

Madison Julius Cawein (Wiki)

The Wild Iris

That day we wandered ‘mid the hills,-so lone
Clouds are not lonelier, the forest lay
In emerald darkness round us. Many a stone
And gnarly root, gray-mossed, made wild our way:
And many a bird the glimmering light along
Showered the golden bubbles of its song.

Then in the valley, where the brook went by,
Silvering the ledges that it rippled from,-
An isolated slip of fallen sky,
Epitomizing heaven in its sum,-
An iris bloomed-blue, as if, flower-disguised,
The gaze of Spring had there materialized.

I have forgotten many things since then-
Much beauty and much happiness and grief;
And toiled and dreamed among my fellow-men,
Rejoicing in the knowledge life is brief.
”Tis winter now,’ so says each barren bough;
And face and hair proclaim ‘tis winter now.

I would forget the gladness of that spring!
I would forget that day when she and I,
Between the bird-song and the blossoming,
Went hand in hand beneath the soft May sky!-
Much is forgotten, yea-and yet, and yet,
The things we would we never can forget.

Nor I how May then minted treasuries
Of crowfoot gold; and molded out of light
The sorrel’s cups, whose elfin chalices
Of limpid spar were streaked with rosy white:
Nor all the stars of twinkling spiderwort,
And mandrake moons with which her brows were girt.

But most of all, yea, it were well for me,
Me and my heart, that I forget that flower,
The blue wild iris, azure fleur-de-lis,
That she and I together found that hour.
Its recollection can but emphasize
The pain of loss, remindful of her eyes.

Thank you for visiting.

I hope you are keeping well. Bye for now xxx


Early flowers

Feeling restless after having been stuck in all day because of work on the computer, I decided to give vent to my feelings and go for a walk around my wild finca in the drizzle and mist. I was surprised to see the following flowers already out…

The rock rose or cistus is already putting out some flowers way ahead of normal time
and the broom too (Genisteae) — probably because of the mild weather here in Cordova
The wild narcissi are on cue…
and so are the delicate snowflakes (Leucojum)
I love the red berries on the wild asparagus bushes, they look so Christmassy. The bitter, wild asparagus spears grow in spring. For my recipe of wild asparagus in spicy tomato sauce, see here
And there are mushrooms everywhere

The photo of the narcissus flowers brings to mind the Latin tale of Narcissus and Echo from Ovid’s Metamorphosis.

Echo, a nymph who cannot speak except to repeat the last few words she has heard falls desperately in love with the beautiful and conceited Narcissus, who is in love with himself. He rejects her and she withers away, eventually turning into stone, and leaving only her voice behind which echoes around the world.

Echo and Narcissus— John William Waterhouse the pre-Raphaelite artist (1903 oil on canvas, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool)

Fred Chappell (author and poet, born 1936, N. Carolina) wrote a poem of the same name.

(The italics in the following poem represent the voice of Echo.)

Narcissus and Echo

Shall the water not remember   Ember

my hand’s slow gesture, tracing above   of

its mirror my half-imaginary   airy

portrait? My only belonging   longing,

is my beauty, which I take   ache

away and then return as love   of

of teasing playfully the one being   unbeing.

whose gratitude I treasure   Is your

moves me. I live apart   heart

from myself, yet cannot   not

live apart. In the water’s tone,   stone?

that shining silence, a flower   Hour,

whispers my name with such slight   light:

moment, it seems filament of air,   fare

the world become clouds well.   well.

Thank you for visiting — I hope this finds you well! xxx