BBC: Badly Behaved Cranes

Every spring and autumn, the cranes pass our little neck of the woods. And every spring and autumn I look out for them, but usually they’re so early or late in the day, that it’s hard to spot them, flying in their majestic V form, but today they were here at around 11 o’clock and my camera was ready.

Of course they did not show their typical pattern, but I think the shots are pretty nevertheless (I had to do a bit of post production, but I swear it did not involve copypasting crane silhouettes). Do click for full size.

© Giliell, all rights reserved

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A little project on the side

We haven’t had a craft post in a while, and I know some of you are still waiting for your horses (they’ll come). I do have a larger work in progress that I can hopefully show you soon, but for most of this year I hit a creative dry spell with just being too exhausted after work.

Well, I got holidays and I used them for a little fun project. I wanted to do something with wood again and if you hit youtube, you’ll find dozens of “secret wood” tutorials (though why they’re called “secret wood” is a mystery to me, it’s quite obvious, isn’t it?), but I wanted to do something a little different:

© Giliell, all rights reserved

© Giliell, all rights reserved

© Giliell, all rights reserved

© Giliell, all rights reserved

For these I used an old stick that was lying around and cut off some pieces. The bark had already withered away so I only cleaned them up lightly, leaving all the natural signs of withering in place. I then drilled a hole down the middle, starting with a size 5 drill and then going up to 10 over 8. After that I started to make the cuts with my little Dremel tool. In the green one I first tried to make two parallel cuts and then take out the wood in between, but that didn’t work that well, so I just make the cuts as wide as possible and then used other tools to define them. I think it will take a few more goes before I really get the hang of this.

Though this project showed again that my BFF J and I are actually one person leading two lives. I showed here these and said “I’ll need to ask your husband a favour” and she replied “you want to used some thicker wood and have him drill out the middle so you can insert some lights”, which is exactly what I’m planning to do.

And here’s one more thing, a leftover mermaid:

© Giliell, all rights reserved

I still had some green and blue resin left, so I made a pretty pendant. One of the easiest things to do with resin is to print out stuff on a transparency (got to be a laser printer, though) and then insert the result into the resin. Because my resin was starting to cure I couldn’t get the bubbles out, but for once I think they’re actually adding to the whole thing.

Jack’s Walk

The shape of water on wood ©voyager, all rights reserved

Well, we have a fresh layer of snow again and, although it’s very pretty and it reflects a lot of light, I’m fed up with the stuff. I crave the changing shades of green things; the growing grass and leaves that burst into life. I crave the sound of songbirds through an open window and the earthy smell of fresh air blowing through the house. I am so ready to ditch my big coats and heavy boots. My feet want to go bare and feel the warmth of sunlight on the sidewalk and the cool of grass on the lawn. Come, Persephone. It’s time to send Boreas packing.

As a bonus today, this is an early animation produced by Disney studios in 1934. I’m hoping that Spring will see it as an invitation.

Tummy Thursday: Omas Faasekiechelcher

That translates into grandma’s little carnival cakes. It’s that time of the year, and while I have tired of the whole carnival culture (alcohol and sexual assault), I still love Faasekiechelcher. pastries fried in oil are a traditional treat at carnival and they come in many varieties all over Germany. The best known is the “Berliner”, which is very similar to our recipe, now available all year round (you never hear people complain about that, but heavens forbid you publicly enjoy a Lebkuchen in September).

Since I now have a deep fryer and carnival break (you may have noticed the increased amounts of posting), I decided to make grandma’s faasekiechelcher myself, and I’m willing to share, at least the recipe. You need:

1kg flour

120g sugar

150g butter

8g salt

450ml milk

75g yeast

The secret here is that the yeast dough needs a lot of rest. I first gave the starter 15 min, then kneaded the dough, let it rest for an hour, knead it again and the let it rise for three more hours. The yeast’s got to be very happy.

Commerical bakeries and many people will fry their Berliner and then fill them with jam a pipe bag. Grandma had a different secret. You roll out half of the dough, about 0.5cm thick and mark your circles with a glass.

I used Nutella in some of them.

Then you roll out the second half, same size as the first and place it on top. You push the dough down between the little heaps of filling and then you take your glass and cut through both layers. Since the dough is very soft it now sticks together. Let them rest again for about 30 minutes. Since this was my first try I wasn’t sure on the amount of filling and erred on the “too little” side.

Fry in hot oil (about 170-180°C). I learned that you need to turn them over after about 1 minute or there will be large air bubbles on the top side and you won’t be able to turn them around anymore.

This recipe yields two big bowls fuul of delicious Faasekiechelcher, but this is all that was left today:

You need to roll them in cinnamon and sugar.


Harakka in Autumn: Chapter 14

We’re back on Harakka with Ice Swimmer, but we’re not on the top of the island as predicted in the previous post, Chapter 13 – Interlude III, Mystery Path. That chapter was mistakenly published out of order by this administrator. We’ll get to the top of the island on March 4/19 in Chapter 16 – Top and Around. My apologies to Ice Swimmer.

Chapter 14 – Wetland

Wetland ©Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved

There is a valley near the southeastern shore. In the valley, there are wetlands.

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February Light

It’s the last day of February and it’s been a long, dreary month for me. Nightjar has light, though. Beautiful light, and she’s sharing it with all of us.

This year the shortest month went by rather quickly for me. Between work, gardening and lack of inspiration there weren’t many photo opportunities. Luckily, this time of the year it is not necessary to leave my own garden to find something interesting and this was a very sunny February. At the end of the month I finally felt inspired to make an interpretation of February Light, playing with low angles and shooting flowers against sunlight while not caring about blowing out the sky.

©Nightjar, all rights reserved

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A Day at the Zoo 11: The Goat and the Peacock

© Giliell, all rights reserved

Like in most zoos, our peacocks roam freely, which means that they have access to the enclosures of other herbivores. In this case, the dwarf goats. They had just been fed and you can imagine who thought that HE had been fed.

© Giliell, all rights reserved

Unfortunately I’d put the shutter time really low before and didn’t notice, so the pics are blurry, although their blurriness also adds to the overall mood.

© Giliell, all rights reserved

© Giliell, all rights reserved

© Giliell, all rights reserved

© Giliell, all rights reserved

Well, I guess he was right…

Jack’s Walk

The Thames River, ©voyager, all rights reserved

Walking in town is still too treacherous for Jack and I because of icy sidewalks so we’ve been using the well-worn country trails frequented by lots of other dog walkers. This is the Millenial Trail by the Thames River and the path is mostly packed and roughed up snow which is a fairly easy walk. This is the place where the beavers live and I am 90% certain I know where their lodge is, but conditions are such that we can’t get too near until the snow melts. In the meantime, I’ve been reading about beavers and have discovered that they are mostly nocturnal and seldom leave their lodge in winter, so springtime at dusk or dawn would be an ideal time to see them out and about. Here’s my plan. I’m going to leave Jack at home one spring evening when the weather is clear and the moon is full and take a small camp chair to the site and set up my camera ready for dim light pictures. (I should practice first…I’m not very good at dim light photography.) Then, I’m going to sit very, very quietly and wait for the beavers to leave the lodge. They are very shy animals so I’m not sure how much my presence will affect their activity. I might need to sit there for a few evenings to allow them to get used to me. We’ll see. It’s an exciting adventure to contemplate and I promise I’ll keep you posted.

Tree Tuesday

This week we’re looking at the Dragon’s Blood Tree, a very unique evergreen tree that grows in only one place, Socatra Island in the Arabian Sea and belonging to Yeman. The tree gets its name from the red resin that it secretes and this resin has been used for centuries for many different purposes.

According to legend, the first dragon blood tree was created from the blood of a dragon that was wounded when it fought an elephant. Like the unfortunate dragon, the tree secretes its resin when it’s injured. In ancient times the resin was believed to have magical and medicinal properties. People used it as a pigment for art, a dye, and a medicine. Dragon’s blood is still used for these purposes today.

The Dragon’s Blood Tree is absolutely unique in appearance.

The crown of the tree often looks like an umbrella that has been turned inside out. The fact that the branches are bare except at their tips adds to this illusion. The long and stiff leaves are born in bunches at the ends of the branches. Some trees have more rounded crowns than others and remind me of giant mushrooms instead of umbrellas.

The branches have a rippled appearance. They develop in a very regular pattern known as dichotomous branching. In this process, each branch produces two new branches arising from the same point. The process repeats to create the base of the tree’s crown.

Like the leaves, the flowers are borne at the tips of the branches. The flowers are small and greenish-white in colour. They are located in groups known as inflorescences. The fertilized flowers produce green berries that change to black as they ripen and then to orange when they are fully ripe.

The Dragon’s Blood Tree grows slowly and is very long-lived. According to Just Fun Facts,

…can live up to 650 years and reaches heights of around 10 to 12 meters (33 to 39 feet).

The tree grows slowly, about one meter (3 feet) every ten years.

The dragon blood tree is a succulent, very hardy and drought tolerant. It enjoys warm temperatures and
sub-tropical conditions.

Like other monocotyledons, such as palms, the dragon blood tree grows from the tip of the stem, with
the long, stiff leaves borne in dense rosettes at the end.

It branches at maturity to produce an umbrella-shaped crown, with leaves that measure up to 60 cm
(23.6 in) long and 3 cm (1.2 in) wide.

Leaves appear only on the ends of the youngest branches, last for 3 or 4 years, then fall off and are replaced by a new set.

The dragon blood tree flowers around February. The flowers tend to grow at the end of the branches. The flowers have inflorescences, and they bear small clusters of fragrant, white or green flowers.

The fruits take five months to completely mature. The fruits are described as a fleshy berry, which changes from green through black to orange-red when ripe. The fleshy berry fruit contains one to three
seeds. The berries are usually eaten and dispersed by birds and other animals.

Despite their hardiness the Dragon’s Blood Trees of Yeman are threatened by climate change and the encroachment of human populations.

The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) classifies the population status of dragon blood trees as “vulnerable”. Although there may be several factors putting the population at risk, the major one is believed to be climate change. Grazing by domestic goats, extraction of the resin, and using the tree for firewood may play a smaller role in the tree’s problems. Other problems may be the increasing amount of development on the island, especially the creation of roads, as well as the increasing number of visitors.

Socotra Island has a generally dry climate but experiences periodic monsoons. The crown of the dragon blood tree channels rain and mist water to its roots very effectively. Unfortunately, the climate of Socotra Island is becoming drier and the monsoons less reliable.

For more photos and information I encourage you to read the whole story at Owlcation and Just Fun Facts.