Tree Tuesday

Our tree this week is a bit of a show-off, being laden with both flowers and fruit in December. The photos are from Nightjar and they were taken on December 2 of this year. I double checked that date because I could hardly believe it.

This is a strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo, no relationship to strawberries except for whatever was on the mind of the person who came up with the english common name), bearing flowers and fruits at the same time as is to be expected from a tree that blooms once a year and whose fruits take around 12 months to mature. Native to the Mediterranean region, the flowers feed the bees (the resulting honey has a unique taste) and the fruits feed the birds. I like to eat the fruits fresh, although only a handful at a time because they can become cloying fast. They also bruise very easily, so there is no point in picking more than what one can eat in that moment… unless the goal is to make the traditional fruit brandy or jam, but I like neither of those things. Anyway, I think the tree is very pretty and it seems to be relatively unknown outside of its native range, so I thought I would share it!

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

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Jack’s Walk

I was all excited earlier this morning because it began to snow. Hooray, I said to Jack, thinking we would get a nice fresh, white blanket to cover up the dull grays and browns of a soggy December. Then the snow stopped and what few flakes had fallen melted away leaving behind only gloomy skies and the same slippery, gray landscape. Sigh.

This pretty little fungus reminded me of a flower. ©voyager, all rights reserved


Macedonia 9 – Skopje At Night

This is the last piece in the series (previous one here), which is fitting, because things have come around and I am back in Macedonia for the week. I doubt I will be taking many pictures this time, because work and I’m taking the opportunity to not really think about anything else outside of that.

So here’s a few pictures of Skopje at night, enjoy the light.

Alexander at dusk.
©rq, all rights reserved.

Bridges into darkness.
©rq, all rights reserved.

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December Light

At this time of year the days are almost at their shortest and the world can seem gloomy and dull. Nightjar has found some light, though, and she’s used it to create magic.

Still playing around with light! For me December isn’t just Christmas lights, nature can put on quite a show too and there is nothing like getting up early on a dewy December morning to fully appreciate all the magic of December light. The last photo of the ruins and olive tree is just to illustrate how lush the fields look right now, it’s not a morning shot but I liked the light in that one as well. We don’t get snow here, so that is exactly what my concept of winter is like: green.

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

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Slavic Saturday

I used to collect books by Karl May. What, you might ask, has a German writer have to do with Slavic Saturday? Well, I used to only collect editions that were illustrated by Zdeněk Burian. I would collect them still, only I rarely have a chance to visit an antiquarian bookshop nowadays.

Cover of a set of photoreproductions. “Pravěk” means prehistory. Click for full size.

Outside of our little land, he is probably most known for his paleoart, which to my mind simply has no equal in past or present. It might not be the most accurate paleoart by today’s standards as science progresses, but those pictures are so alive that they still have value and still are inspiring. One of my most prized possessions is a set of loose sheets of photographic reproductions of his works – this was also one of the first of his works I have got my hands on. The mammoths on the cover are simply amazing – and that is an understatement. I would very much love to see the original paintings some day, everyone who had the honor tells me their impact is much greater than of the reproductions.

The back side of one of the sheets. Click for full size.

Each sheet in the book represents some specific geological era and it contains one A4 color reproduction of an oil painting on the front, and some black & white inks and some text on the back. Shame it was not published in other languages, and is not even published now in CZ, because I think many aspiring artists, paleontologists and paleoartists would benefit greatly from being exposed to this work more. I never cease to be impressed by what he was capable of achieving with just black ink and a pen.

His paleoart has been a great inspiration to me. I wanted to be a painter and to achieve such great things, but alas I lack the talent. Burian’s genius has in fact demonstrated itself early on, when at the age of mere 14 years he was accepted into study at Academy of Fine Arts in Prague, which he left just two years later. And he went straight into the most difficult branch of the painting and drawing business – illustrating books. I consider this to be the most difficult part, because not only is the artist forced to draw realistic humans, the scenes also have to be living and dynamic in order to truly add to the book. And here he got his first claim to fame, by illustrating adventure books both by renown authors (like Karl May and Jules Verne) and pure pulp fiction trash. He was extremely prolific, the amount of work he managed to do in his life is staggering.

An illustration of the book “The Son of Bear Hunter” by Karl May. The book is in very poor condition, almost falling apart. I paid for it anyway. Click for full size.

I have failed my dream of becoming as good an artist as he was, but this did not spoil my love for his art and my appreciation of his technique, and I still learned a lot from him and thanks to him. There are many books out there containing his illustrations that I did not get my hands on yet. I will never pass the chance should it occur.

Friday Feathers

These are from David who notes:

If it’s a murder of Crows


It’s a Parliament of Owls,

then surely it must be …

A brothel of shags?


©David Brindley, all rights reserved


©David Brindley, all rights reserved


To me a s a German, English collective nouns are both a delight and a bane. I mean, a pride of lions and a murmuration of starlings?

In German it’s quite easy: If it flies or swims, it’s a swarm (Schwarm), with the exception of marine mammals (they have Schule, schools like in English). Carnivores that hunt together are a Rudel, a pack like wolves. Grazers? Herde (herd). Trees? Forest, unless you’re my husband who once famously couldn’t remember “forest” and kept talking about a “pack of trees”.

Jack’s Walk


Bubbles trapped in melting ice, ©voyager, all rights reserved

It’s been above zero for a day or two and most of our snow has vanished. In its place we have soggy ground, slush, mush and mud. Lots of mud. Jack didn’t mind. He was so happy just being outside again that I didn’t want to limit his fun, so I let him get dirty. His wound has healed and water is cheap and we keep a stack of “dog towels” for just such an occasion. Sometimes a dog just needs to be a dog. I remember once taking my other lab Lucy, who died last year, to the dog park. There was a small white poodle there who clicked with Lucy and the two dogs romped and played right through a mud puddle. The poodles owner stormed over to me quite angry that my dog had gotten her dog dirty. I laughed and said something about how much fun the dogs had while getting dirty and that made her even angrier. I finally told her that she shouldn’t bring her dog to the off-leash park again with such a bad attitude. She bent down to the dog and made quite a show about not wanting to touch the ick while she attached his leash. Her face was all screwed up and she was breathing noisily and heavily with punctuated snorts. Finally, mumbling not quite under her breath, she and her dog walked away and got into a small white car. Lucy and I both had a laugh. This is one of my favourite stories and it’s possible that I’ve already told it. After some 200+ Jack’s Walk it’s getting hard to remember. If it is a repeat, I’m sorry. The photo is new, though. Happy Friday, everyone.

Jack’s Walk

Morning at the park, ©voyager, all rights reserved

I know the perspective is wonky is this photo, but it was taken with my phone camera which I really don’t know how to use. Unfortunately, it’s the only camera I have right now because I’ve lost the charger for my real camera, making it more of a paperweight than a camera. The charger is a biggish thing that should be easy to find, but it’s hiding somewhere in the chaos that is my house right now. I’ve been scatter-brained lately so it could be anywhere and my short-term memory sucks at the best of times so it may be a few days before I find it, but find it I will. Predictably, it will be in the last place I look.