Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Other Things and My Field

 I've been juggling a number of things; as well as visiting my field -- more of that later .  The opportunity to do an online workshop with Alice Fox came up.  The focus of this was making cordage and this seemed to connect with my current preoccupations.  I've made machine cords and enjoyed the way a mixture of threads come together mingling colour and texture.  The focus here was much more pared back.  Narrow strips of fabric, in this case calico, were paired and through a twisting technique were made to hold each other in place producing an organic looking cordage.


The two hour workshop also included a discussion about other possibilities for making cordage and as we had some rhubarb in the fridge I later on tested out that idea.  Rhubarb's fibre strips are short (15--20cm) and as joining the pieces is the trickiest part of the technique it was slow to achieve even a metre.  It was worth it though, the cord is fine and its colour beautiful.  Of course there are many other possibilities and on my list are fibres from my field such as nettles.

I've also made a pencil roll with room for pens and pencils and my little observation book.  This was made entirely from stock: two sided green (of course!) thick felt with a toning all wool Oliver Twists' dimply felt for the pockets and the strengthening band which also gives a little extra weight.


Below is the front cover.  I wanted to make the panel decorative and at the same time try to convey the nature of oil seed rape.  I used double feather stitch for the stems, then daisy stitch for the grass and flowers.  I've used a lovely range of yellows and greens conveying spring.  With my critical eye, however, I feel there is a mismatch in the proportion of stem to flower and once I'd started doubting its success I then became critical about the size of flowers . . .  The pencil roll is a lovely thing and practical too, but what I wanted to achieve in addition to a celebration of spring is something representative too, and in this regard it may only be partially successful.


Seventh Visit:

Ruminating on all this made me decide to look more closely at the structure of the rape seed plants.  This I did on my next visit, and drew the top half of the plant realising this is where the off-shoots are. These shoots gradually develop within the curved base of a leaf and go on to develop clusters of four petaled flower heads.


What I also found interesting about this scrutiny was how I could also see how this plant shape translated into the plant skeletons I'd observed in my first visit: a sort of time forwards, time backwards sensibility.

This visit was a strange one: it was cold, fingerless-gloves-and-hat cold with thundering lorries and cars speeding along the A road, just five metres away -- an unhappy return to normal.  No bird song, except as I left, one hare, one bee, one fly and countless midges. And beneath my feet the soil remained dry, compacted, still stony.  My joyous field of ten days ago felt like a deceit.

Eighth Visit:

Twelve days since my last visit; I wanted so much to see the effect of the rain, which has been fairly persistent over the last week.  It's been cold too.  My poor car has a broken spring and isn't MOT worthy, so I've been even more tied to home.  The vagaries of weather have such a profound effect on plant growth that I've really wanted to come and see what changes the cold and so much rain have made.  A wonderfully sunny morning with temperatures average for the time of year, even the wind seems balmy -- yet more change afoot.  It's not all idyll: there's still a rush of noise and traffic.


But what a burst of growth: thick mats of grass, copious dandelion clocks and other wild flowers. Queen Anne's lace and  groundsel are leggily reaching towards the light, pulled by the sun, pushed at an angle by the wind.  The docks stretch upwards and the forget-me not too is taller.  My legs feel the nettles and thistles.



Groundsel and Queen Anne's Lace

What is so interesting is how this growth of wild flowers diminishes the dominance of the oil seed rape.  It has become like a haze of yellow above the green growth.  As I drive home I notice this is less the case in rape fields where there are less competitors.


There's wildlife here: a stag beetle, cabbage white butterfly, bees aplenty.  The noise of birds seems to be in all the trees today, celebrating the spring's new warmth.  A single hare races in fright from the middle of the field and as it does I hear a cry of alarm.  Could there be leverets here?  My presence hasn't been quiet enough.  I've been pacing the field again troubled by my drawing of its shape which seems at odds with the old map -- yet more satisfying research.  Time to turn home and to check it out.

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