Saturday, 15 July 2017

a rain interlude

When I wrote last night that the wheat, or rye, or whatever it was growing in the fields of the farm may have been carted off to a boiler, I don't think that was right.  My friends said the cereals growing around them were being used for biofuel, as in a substitute for petrol and diesel. Ethanol?  Produced in some kind of a digester?  But not a boiler.  It was late and I wanted to post something before going to bed, having not sat down to type anything before going out because I was busy in the garden and a barbecue starting at seven only gave me until twenty past six, allowing for twenty minutes to scrub the worst of the dirt off my hands and feed the cats.

Now I am sitting down to type early because it has started raining.  I can't say I wasn't warned as the Met Office seven day forecast showed heavy rain today (Saturday) at 11.00 am, but I forgot, until little specks of moisture started landing on my skin which meant they were also falling on my tablet, which I was using to binge on past episodes of Tim Harford's series on Fifty Things That Made the Modern Economy, played through my scruffy gardening radio so as not to have to wear headphones.  It is a fascinating series, and after antibiotics, barcodes, banking, and compilers I was just getting into concrete when the rain started.  It is an annoying feature of the tablet that it stores podcasts by alphabetical order of title, not date, so once I've got to the end of the backlog of episodes downloaded so far I shall have to search through all of them each time to find the subsequent installments.  I would much rather have them in order of date broadcast, with the most recent at the top of the list, but computer knows best, or at least I don't know how to change it.  (The first computer programming language, incidentally, was pioneered by a woman in her spare time, because the nascent computer industry wasn't interested in it.  The staff of the early computer manufacturers were not keen on giving their customers a language in which to programme the computers they had bought, preferring to preserve the mystique of doing it for them).

It is still not raining properly.  Do I assume that that was it, and the heavy rain has dissipated the other side of Colchester as it so often does, or will it start in earnest if I lug my bucket of tools and the tablet and radio back outside?

Meanwhile I have been digging out the stumps and roots of the sea buckthorns.  I suspect some kind of honey fungus is involved, having found a white layer between the bark and the wood of some of the larger roots.  According to the RHS this is the most characteristic symptom.  Still, there are many strains of honey fungus and some are far more virulent than others, so that while some will rapidly kill woody hosts, others only move in on specimens that are already dead, or on their way out.  I've found similar traces on moribund elderly Cistus when removing them, without honey fungus subsequently running rampant through the affected bed.  An inherited Wisteria that never did well until I dug it out was suffering likewise, and a Coprosma I put where the Wisteria used to be did brilliantly until dying very suddenly, but since removing the remains of the Coprosma I've had no more problems in the same area.  Likewise when I dug out a large buddleia from the front garden that had gone rapidly downhill I found that the core of its roots had turned to a mushroom smelling watery mush, but the replacement shrubs planted in the same place have been fine.  After we moved into the house we had problems for years with the lawn where the roots of a large oak tree that was cut down not long before we arrived were being broken down by a fungus that had the side effect of filling the earth surrounding the roots with waxy mycelium, making it almost impermeable to rain and creating dead, brown lines in the turf.  Back in those days the RHS was allowed to advise you to water the lawn with washing up liquid to break the waxy substance down.  Something fungussy is going on in the garden, but it may not be disastrous. In the meantime I am hunting around for sea buckthorn roots with my pick axe.

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