Walking in the Woods

Two weeks ago Mr and I went to our local woods for the first time this year. Living next to swamp and marshland has its advantages, but it also meant that for most of this year the paths were unwalkable, unless you wanted to recreate that child-traumatising scene from the Neverending Story where Ayax drowns in the moor. It was nice, apart from the fact that the mosquitos must have been starved before they got us.

Two round mushrooms

©Giliell, all rights reserved

We found lots of common earthballs (though I really like the name “pigskin poison puffball”, which would make an amazing name for a band), which are nice to look at, but not good for eating if you value your survival.

Puffbal mushroom with a hole in the top

©Giliell, all rights reserved

puffball growing on a tree

©Giliell, all rights reserved

And I met a frog. I don’t think that they are poisonous.

small brown frog sitting in green leaves

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Teacher’s Corner: A Trip with Donkeys

The federal government decided to throw some money at schools “to make up for lost learning because of Covid”. While the higher classes who need to write their finals can have some free remedial lessons, we decided that the younger kids didn’t need more maths, but more social skills and hired a guy to do “Erlebnispädagogik”, outdoor education with us. Last week it was time for year 5, which is usually not my year, but because our school worker was sick, I got to cover for her and provide an additional adult, which was good, because in the end I was the one to bring the kids back to school.

The program for the day was a trip with donkeys and a dog.

Picture of a black and white border collie puppy, 4 months old.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Meet Luna, the hyperactive border collie pup. Of course all the kids wanted to be the one to walk Luna, and they all learned that walking a pup is more work than they thought.

Head of a grey donkey with a white snout

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Meet Bruno, the more stubborn of the two donkeys. His friend Fridolin is more docile, but also the boss. these two have the patience of a stone. The gladly took all the kisses and snuggles they could get.

The class was split up in 4 groups with rotating tasks: one for each donkey, leading them and making sure they’re not eating anything their boss didn’t declare safe, because people are assholes who throw away anything and some years back a donkey almost died after he ate something he shouldn’t have, one group walking the puppy, and one group walking in front with a map. Meet “my” happy group of rascals with Fridolin:

Six kids holding the leads of a grey donkey. Their faces are covered with stickers that say "We don't post pics of kids here"

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Of course I obscured the faces, it goes without saying that you should never post a kid’s face without permission. Us adults told them that we’d only intervene if they did something harmful for the animals. Apart from that, they were responsible. When it was my group’s turn to lead the way, they mixed up paths and used one that wasn’t actually a path but the destruction left after heavy machinery collected wood. Incidences like that are actually a good thing. The kids have to take responsibility, come up with their own solution, work together. When the ground became difficult to walk because of all the branches left by the machines, they decided quickly to work together and clear it for the donkeys.

We made it back in time and it was such a great experience. Actually we’d need this way more often. At least once a month. Even better would be a school dog or something like that. Or maybe a school donkey? The kids handle the animals with all the care and respect they never show for each other. One boy in particular, who already has a reputation for being difficult, was so totally taken in by the donkeys that he was the most peaceful and sweet kid all day.

a kid hugging the donkey and resting its face (obscured) on the back of the donkey

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Next week I get three days of donkey fun. Sometimes I love my job more than usually.

Midsummer Afternoon – Part 2 – Fish in the Aquarium

Guest posts by Ice Swimmer


There is a brackish water fish exhibit on the island Harakka. The fishes, caught from the Gulf of Finland, spend their summer in aquariums and they are released back to the sea in the Autumn. In the Baltic Sea, both freshwater tolerant of some salinity and marine tolerant of low salinity species live next to each other.

The fish pictured here are less typical or well-known in Finnish waters.

In the first picture, a tench can be seen. In Fínnish, it’s called suutari, which means cobbler or shoemaker (but the name may have nothing to do with making shoes, the fish is called sutare in Swedish and shoemaker is skomakare in Swedish). The tenches were rather inactive in the aquarium. The tench is freshwater fish.

A Lazy Tench © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

There are some pipefishes in the Baltic Sea. The pipefishes are relatives of sea horses. This broadnosed pipefish is one of them. The broadnosed pipefish is called särmäneula (edge needle, neula = needle) in Finnish. The “edges” are lengthwise bony plates under the skin, which make fish look “edgy” according to Finnish Wikipedia. Broadnosed pipefish is a marine species that’s tolerant of brackish water.

Broadnosed Pipefish © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

In the third picture, we see a round goby. It is an invasive species from the Black Sea Area.

The Round Goby © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

In the second aquarium post, we shall be playing a game inspired by “Spot the lizard!”.

Oh Deer!

This is not a common sight. A single male roe deer, grazing near-ish our house in the middle of the day. He seemed quite unperturbed by a few cars passing the road about 100 m from him. And he was so focused on munching grass that he barely ever raised his head above his shoulders, so I mostly got pictures of his ass.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Mice: a Modern Fairy Tale

In olden times, the fairies would come to people’s houses and clean up for them, in exchange of a little milk or some other food. But over the centuries, the fairies noticed that this created a dependency on part of the humans. Therefore they decided to help the humans to help themselves and turned into mice.

A small mouse biting the wire of a life catch mouse trap

©Giliell, all rights reserved

This is the 15th time I caught a mouse in the cellar in the last two weeks. There is no way we had 15 mice in the cellar. I know what a mouse nest in the cellar looks like: tons of droppings, shredded fabric and paper, as well as the stink. I’ve been cleaning the cellar and so far I haven’t found more than a tiny bit of droppings. They ate the wax and wood barbecue lighters and the soap, but the rest of the food is rodent proof in boxes. But I also haven’t found their way in yet. We’re trying to mouse proof all the potential entrances, but no luck so far. We’re also putting them out further and further away.

But well, we are not tidy people. We are people who put things into boxes, put boxes into corners and then proceed to ignore the boxes, so in a way the mice are doing us a favour by making us clean.

 

EDIT: We found a small lair. Let the cleaning continue

The Art of …

… Netsuke, a small carved object made to wear with traditional Japanese kimono.

A netsuke is a small sculptural object which has gradually developed in Japan over a period of more than three hundred years. Netsuke(singular and plural) initially served both functional and aesthetic purposes. The traditional form of Japanese dress, the kimono, had no pockets. Women would tuck small personal items into their sleeves, but men suspended their tobacco pouches, pipes, purses, writing implements, and other items of daily use on a silk cord passed behind their obi (sash). These hanging objects are called sagemono. The netsuke was attached to the other end of the cord preventing the cord from slipping through the obi. A sliding bead (ojime) was strung on the cord between the netsuke and the sagemono to allow the opening and closing of the sagemono. Source – World of Netsuke.

19th Century Netsuki, artist unknown. Image from Skinnerinc.com

Netsuke of Mice with Corn, Meiji period (1868-1912). Image from Carter’s Auctions.

19th Century netsuke, artist unknown. Image from Picryl Public Domain Source.

Netsuke, Autumn grasses with praying mantis.Image from Asian Antiques.

 

Mammoth Wasp

An amazing capture from Nightjar,

I didn’t have my camera with me when I saw this huge wasp on a wild leek flower last month, but I didn’t know what it was so I tried to use my phone to get good enough photos that could let me ID it later. I wasn’t surprised to learn it’s called a Mammoth Wasp. It really is big. While I wish I had taken my camera, the photos didn’t turn out so bad and I thought of sharing them since it’s such an impressive bug.

©Nightjar, all rights reserved.

©Nightjar, all rights reserved.

Goldfinches Come for a Visit

This year I planted some cornflowers that grew in front of the window. They were planned as degu treats, but with one thing and another, I didn’t get around to harvesting and drying them. They do look pretty sad to human eyes now, but they look damn delicious to the goldfinches. I rarely get to see them, so I was all the more surprised to find them within 30 cm of my nose, happily munching the seeds.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved This one’s grainy because I took it with my phone

Most Boring Game of “Find That Lizard”

In case you don’t already know, “Find that lizard” is a fun game Dr. Earyn McGee is hosting on Twitter, where you get a photo of a yard or something with a lizard hidden somewhere, often showing how well these creatures blend with their environment. Well, my own lizards are lazy, which is why I got to take this shot:

©Giliell, all rights reserved

As you can see, the little fellow lost its tail and is currently regrowing it. You sure deserve a break, buddy!

The Art of … Can we talk?

The Art of… started life as The Art of Books back at a time when the numbers for this blog began to drop off. The column did little to change that, so I switched to a more general Art of in a further attempt to stave off obscurity. I’ve had fun with the idea, finding a lot of art that I personally enjoyed, but it hasn’t had an effect on the number of views to the blog. I’ve taken the time to find the highest quality images possible and to add tidbits here and there that make it more than just finding a pretty picture and showing it to you. And still, the numbers keep dropping off.

Marcus did an excellent post yesterday (stderr) about similar problems with his blog, except in Marcus’ case he spends a lot of time researching, referencing and writing quality material that puts my small effort to shame and it left me feeling even more panicked about the losses here. If a good writer who deals with important issues the way Marcus does is losing readers what hope is there for me.

When Jack was alive and Jack’s Walk was still a thing, numbers didn’t matter as much. I knew people cared about Jack and those people became an extension of his family, our family. When Caine died and Affinity became a team blog my first goal was to help keep the community Caine created together. Once the initial loss of readers stabilized, I felt that our team had achieved that. Then I began looking for new goals and the one I settled on was to pass on my love for the simple things in life, to share the beauty that still exists despite the ugliness of our modern life. Jack was my main vehicle for doing that, but another element that had meaning for me was the submissions we received from readers. I loved posting and your art and I still do, but there hasn’t been much lately and that has me worried.

I hate that numbers matter to me, but before I lose all of you I want to know that what I’m doing has some relevance. I’m not an artist and I don’t consider the bits of card making/scrapbooking/paper crafting that I do to be art, but are any of you interested in seeing what sorts of art I do enjoy looking at? Would you prefer if I made changes? For example, instead of ping-ponging around, would a longer view of a particular artist be more appealing? Say a week at a time on a single artist. Or would you prefer I focus on modern artists or classical artists or expand my view of art to include craftspeople, musicians, poets, photographers, buskers, etc.? Have the plethora of well-presented vlogs and multi-media channels made diving into static images boring.

Alternately, I’ve wondered about creating content related to Jinx and Sophie, my 3-month-old kittens. They don’t get out and about much, but they do keep me grounded and with a bit of practice, I could use them to share the simple sort of worldview I shared with Jack. I think. Cats are more sedentary and their worldview is more self-serving, but I might be able to make that work. The internet seems to love silly cat videos, does that extend to getting to know 2 silly cats through stories and snapshots, or is that also better done with quality video production values, which I have no desire to learn.

I’m not ready to go away, but I’d appreciate any honest feedback you can give me.

Kestrel Maneuvre

Unfortunately, I was taking these pictures against the sun and I did not have too much time to get the exposition settings right. The little bugger hovered in one place exactly as long as it took me to take a focus and press the trigger button. So this is the “whoosh” sequence.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.