Monday, October 12, 2009

mountain ash and a foggy day

Or a couple of foggy days really. Foggy weather is rubbish for driving in but always nice for a walk in the countryside. Sound travels differently in foggy weather. The loudest sound I can hear up here is the birdsong and the grasshoppers. It is so quiet I can hear individual leaves falling. Then I discover that it is in fact so quiet I can also hear individual seeds falling from the trees. I always find foggy weather exciting for some reason, and I always try to get out somewhere for a walk in it.

I take a lot of photo's on the first day but when I get them back I find that a lot of them are blurred, so I go back the following day to have another go. I think that the reason that they are blurred is because it is quite dark in the fog and I have not changed the ISO speed on my camera so I am using very long shutterspeeds which make it easy to blur the photo's when using a handheld camera. Photo's viewed on the screen on the back of modern digital cameras never really appear blurred unless they are wildly blurred but a good way to check the sharpness is to use the zoom facility and have a look at them a lot closer, this is the technique I have figured out anyway.

The fungus on the beech tree is known as Artist's Fungus (Ganoderma applanatum) the brown spores collect on the surrounding tree and look a bit like cocoa powder. Patterns scratched into the white layers of the fungus are permanent, and this practice explains the common name of this species.

Like many types of fungus that grow on trees, this type of fungus is not edible. I was amused when googling for 'are artists' the top suggestions were 'are artists crazy' and 'are artists selfish' which tells us quite a lot about the behaviour and common perception of artists.

The red berries further on in the sequence are on the Rowan or Mountain Ash as they are also known because they can grow up to an elevation of 1000ft. The berries are edible and high in vitamin C but do not taste very nice. They can though be made into a jelly. It is common in Scotland to find a rowan tree planted near the front door, supposedly to keeps witches away. Cutting down a rowan tree is considered bad luck which is probably from superstitions about cutting or damaging a tree with ritual use. It is one of the trees associated with the Druids.

The rowan's wood is strong and resilient, making excellent walking sticks, and is suitable for carving. It was often used for tool handles, and spindles and spinning wheels were traditionally made of rowan wood. Druids used the bark and berries to dye the garments worn during lunar ceremonies black, and the bark was also used in the tanning process. Rowan twigs were used for divining, particularly for metals.

The berries can be made into or added to a variety of alcoholic drinks, and different Celtic peoples seem to have had their favourites. As well as the popular wine still made in the Highlands, the Scots made a strong spirit from the berries, the Welsh brewed an ale, the Irish used them to flavour Mead, and even a cider can be made from them. There seems to be a bumper crop of the bright red berries this year.