Lockdown Projects - Painting

For a long time I thought about painting some murals on the kitchen walls. They would be long and narrow to fit the space and depict scenery appropriate to the direction they were facing.

I decided two paintings would be sufficient otherwise the space might become a bit claustrophobic. Hay Bluff was painted on the west-facing wall and the Malvern Hills on the eastward-facing wall. These are two lovely areas for walking with glorious views of the surrounding countryside; two of our favourites in fact. Hay Bluff is particularly interesting because views of it pop up as you drive in and out of Hereford. One day I was travelling home westwards and there was a particularly glorious sunset...

Lanscape, mural, painting, kites, hay bluff
Hay Bluff viewed from Hereford

Red kites managed to hang on in Wales after they had disappeared from England and Scotland. From very low numbers they have now recovered thanks to the efforts of dedicated landowners, farmers and conservation experts with help from the British Trust for Ornithology and the RSPB. Red kites are becoming more and more common in Herefordshire. Gigrin Farm is an excellent place to see these magnificent birds close-up.

The Malvern Hills have a characteristic profile that can be seen from over 50 miles away. Geologically interesting, the rocks are among the oldest and hardest found in England. Ravens are often seen so my painting (below) includes three of them swooping over the hills. The Worcestershire Beacon is on the left and the Herefordshire Beacon on the right is the site of an iron age camp with earthworks.

Ravens over the Malvern Hills viewed from Herefordshire

A neighbour was clearing out their garage and asked if we had any use of an old cupboard door, approximately 75 centimetres square. Firewood was one option but an art work for the garden was a much better idea. This painting depicts some of the birds that have visited the garden. Unfortunately, we have a lot of resident cats who keep the bird population in check but we still get a reasonable variety for a city garden. Can you identify the birds? Located in the Kitchen Garden but still visible from the house.


Birds seen from the Kitchen Garden

More projects to follow.


Pears from the Kitchen Garden

Concorde pear, espalier, blossom time, kitchen garden

Pear blossom in Spring

Is a beautiful thing

But the fruit in Autumn

Is truly awesome

Pears poached in wine

Are utterly divine

But nothing can compare

With a just ripe pear

Pear trees, along with apples, were one of the first things planted in the kitchen garden, probably in 2003 or thereabouts, because they take a few years to establish and yield fruit. Two-year espaliers on dwarf rootstock; Comice and Concorde varieties planted against a south facing wall.

Pears are easier to grow than apples. The flowers emerge in early April so late frosts can be an problem though never in the 15+ years we have had our trees. Apples are prone to a bewildering number of pests and diseases while pears are virtually pest-free. The diversity of apple-types seems infinite so it is possible to have a much extended harvesting season (April to December) by choosing appropriate varieties. Pear varieties are more limited, although there is still plenty of choice, and have a much shorter harvesting period (September - October).

Apples are stored in cool dark airy conditions whereas pears need a little more coddling. Unripe pears should be picked by lifting and twisting off the tree then placed in a fridge at a temperature of 2-4 ℃. If you have room you can space the pears out on the shelves so they do not touch each other of the sides of the fridge. That is not an option for me so I just place them gently in an old shoe box (no lid) and put in the fridge. Remove pears a day or two before you want to eat them. I harvested about 125-150 pears and we enjoyed the last 3 on the 5th January 2021.

 You will lose a few in storage so always check every week and remove any that have gone over. A few years ago after a very good harvest, I was eating the last pear in March of the following year.

L’Ode du Pear (Franglais version)

Le poirier Comice

Shows tout promise

Et le poirier Conference

C’est tres difference

Mais le Concorde pear

Est le plus fair

Climate Change in Herefordshire

If, like us, you have a keen interest in nature, weather and gardening, then you will also be curious about the longer-term changes in climate both locally and globally. Climate (temperature, precipitation, humidity, wind, atmospheric pressure) is a major factor in deciding the local flora and fauna, normal and extreme weather conditions, which food crops will grow reliably and even the local infrastructure (e.g. the effects of sea level rise/fall).

Climate change and global warming (which is just one particular aspect of climate change that we are currently experiencing) is not a contentious issue within the scientific community. The mechanisms and causes of climate change were agreed decades ago. [Spoiler Alert!!! At the moment, it is mainly humans increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations through fossil fuel combustion and land management changes such as deforestation].

In the physical sciences, there is no such thing as 'proof' or 100% certainty, just laws and theories that present our best explanation of how 'stuff' works in the natural world. The scientific consensus on climate change arises from the consilience (or convergence) of evidence and ideas from many different sources and inputs.

As an interesting project I thought I would analyse local weather data in terms of climatic changes. The nearest Met Office weather station with historical data is Ross-on-Wye with monthly weather parameters from 1931 to 2020. I downloaded this into Google Sheets and performed a simple linear regression analysis.

Climate, global warming, linear regression

In climate science, temperature trends are usually shown with temperature anomalies rather than absolute temperatures. For a single weather station this is not necessary. However, for completeness I have included the plot below using a 30-year baseline (1931-1960) to calculate anomalies.

climate change, global warming
There is considerable scatter in the plots, as you would expect from a single weather station, but still clear evidence of a warming trend. The best fit regression line indicates a warming trend of about 1.65 ℃ per century (or 1.47 ℃ over the period 1931 to 2020). According to NOAA, land global temperatures have increased by 1.60 ℃ over this same 89-year period.

Another way at looking at the warming trend is to plot decadal temperature changes as shown in the plot below. Global temperature reconstructions show additional warming in the 1940s (although with significant regional variations in the amount of warming) as does the data from Ross-on-Wye.

Climate change, global warming


I will be taking a closer look at more weather data from Ross-on-Wye in later blogposts.

Frosty morning in Hereford


Hereford, Frost, Garden

Temperatures dropped to -5 ℃ last night (7th January 2021). Even in the city we were not protected as the rest of the county of Herefordshire also experienced -5 ℃ temperatures. It is now early afternoon and the temperature is still below freezing (-1 ℃).
Just been out to check my hot composting bin and add a bit more material. Its temperature had dropped to 47 ℃ (55 ℃ yesterday) but still nicely active.

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