Tag Archives: Jason

GREEN’S THE THEME

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Persephone has wrought her wonders once again this spring, thrilling the vegetation into exuberant displays of colour, waking the sleeping leaves from winter-dormant trees, encouraging the buds to open, and enticing tiny fruits to peep out at the warming world.

The olive flowers have given way to teensy olives – pale green beads sheltering tightly in little clusters as though fearful of what the unpredictable storms of the season might yet do to them.

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Olives have been grown on the Pelion peninsula since time immemorial; there are trees in our grounds that are at least 300 years old, and many colossal specimens in the area are claimed to be more than a thousand years of age. Quite possible.

The olives are not looking promising this year, though. Much of the blossom was torn from the trees by very strong gales throughout May, so the olives are already greatly reduced in number. Add to this the myriad of pests which attack all parts of the olive tree, the leaves, the bark, and particularly the fruit itself, and I fear the olive crop might be a poor one. I do hope not, for olive revenues are vital to the local farmers.

The fig trees are laden with fruit, dark green and shining new. Shall I call them figlets? They are bigger, brighter, bolder than the olives as they are of course a much larger fruit, but I have to keep a wary eye on them. The wind is not so much their enemy as are the worms and moths that infest the leaves at every opportunity, spreading cobwebs all across them, under which the worms thrive, and munch, and mature, and start the whole cycle all over again.

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The lemons always do well, not surprisingly, and are quite indispensable for all sorts of uses.

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On their way to lemonade…

The grapes are making an effort, but the birds do love them so, and the ants are wild for them.

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Speaking of ants, look at them feasting on these fat buds.

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So tender! So tempting!

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We’re green here on our property, not just in Nature’s brilliant hues, but also in the ecological sense. This piece of land was in the possession of a local family for many generations, several hundred years in fact, and so its history is well known; they have never used any form of poison. No herbicide. No pesticide. And we most certainly have not, nor will we ever.

And yet, somehow, it balances itself out. We have abundant bird life, which we encourage by providing fresh water at several spots. The insectivorous swallows do a fine job of zapping various pests, as do the cheeky flycatchers. And while our fruit is not perfect, it’s delicious and most certainly organic.

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Jason in new spring colours

Jason got into the spirit of things, sporting a new hat, and making no objection to being photographed.

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Oh please, this is getting boring…

Several of the furry and hairy ones stuck their noses in, as they invariably do, cavorting about like kids let out of school.

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Peek a boo!

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Raki is either absolutely convinced of his superiority, or else he’s too self-absorbed to comprehend that all the others regard him as just another one of the pests!

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Retsina’s not at all fazed

 

PERSEPHONE’S MAGIC

We had some very good rain yesterday, and though today’s quite cloudy the flowers about the property are, to quote Oliver Goldsmith, “the very pink of perfection.” What is it about rain? It washes the plants clean in a way no amount of watering can do; leaves gleam and blossoms sparkle.

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Jason among the wild gladioli

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Jason Tips His Hat To Lady Bird

Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President Lyndon B Johnson, together with Helen Hayes founded what became the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center which is both stunningly beautiful and a significant educational resource.

Mrs Johnson, Texas-born like her husband, devoted considerable time, energy and enthusiasm to promoting knowledge and appreciation of the vast number of native Texan plants, encouraging the planting of indigenous species and in so doing gave the state of Texas an immeasurable gift.

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Bluebonnets

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Indian Paintbrush

Texas fields and highways are awash with color each spring as the flowers bloom, as is many a private garden whose owner appreciates the beauty of the flowers and the ecological advantages of planting them.

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This year the blooms have been breathtaking in their color and abundance, thanks to some well-timed early spring rains, even though Texas still suffers from a severe drought. Bluebonnets are amongst the first to appear; so intense is their hue that the fields seem blanketed in a dense blue velvet. They are followed by Indian Paintbrush, Winecap, Primrose, Mexican Hat, and daisies to name just some of the wildflowers which call Texas home.

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Such beauty! To mark their appearance Jason got a new hat from some bits of yarn in my stash, and even though he’s missed most of the wildflowers of the Pelion this year, he didn’t complain.

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A HAT FOR OTZI

That poor man! I can’t imagine what he went through, and how difficult his life must have been by today’s standards.

I’ve lived in the Austrian Alps. I’ve hiked there, even in winter. Not in blizzard conditions of course, but certainly through deep snow, equipped with the proper boots, thermal underwear, ski jacket, hat, gloves and trekking sticks. The whole nine yards. Note, I said hike. Not me for the ski run and all that suicidal careening down gradients designed by Nature for mountain goats to frolic on.

Ah yes, hats. Many and varied did I knit. I’m not convinced that much heat is lost through the head, and apparently scientists have more or less debunked this notion, but certainly a warm, fleecy cover on one’s noggin is a comfort, and so much better if the headgear is bright of colour, in my humble and much-biased opinion.

Back then to my favourite older man. Much older man. I suppose his bearskin hat did ward off the elements to some extent, though as I’ve mentioned before he seemed to have trouble keeping it firmly affixed to his head, given that the leather ties had been broken and then knotted together again.

I’m no historian of Neolithic clothing but although wool was known and used by Neolithic peoples in other parts of the world, it appears this excellent insulating material wasn’t available to Otzi and his folk. Seems sheep had yet to find their way high up into the Alps, or at least trade in fleece hadn’t begun here at that time; I’m happy to be corrected on this point.

Ever since we met, Otzi and I, his lack of a snugly-fitting hat of warm wool has spun its way through my imagination on occasion. A hat for Otzi should surely not be coarse and bulky like skins and furs, but soft and cosy. It should be somewhat waterproof, as indeed his bearskin cap was, but able to hug his head against the vicious winds that whip and rip through the Alps.

Otzi needed the protection afforded by felted fabric. Austria is famous for its wonderful Loden cloth which is not actually felted, but fulled. Wool yarn is first loosely woven or knitted, then subjected to a controlled process of agitation and boiling, until the wool fibers shrink and mat together into a dense fabric. This density makes fulled fabric exceptionally warm and very hardwearing; it does not ravel, it can be cut, and it can be moulded to any shape.

I have quite a bit of oiled Shetland tweed yarn in my stash, a perfect yarn for my tribute to Otzi. Such yarns, spun in the oil, can be unappealing to knitters who aren’t aware that once the finished item is well washed in hot soapy water the oil is removed and the yarn fluffs up, becoming much softer. Tweed yarn for Otzi then. Tweed, with all its inviting little flecks of color, to warm and cheer him.

Two colours, I decided. Two colours, as his clothing had been so drab. Brown for earth and rock, blue for the sky so far above him. To think he perished, alone, all those thousands of years ago, and now esteemed scientists devote their careers to him.

His hat didn’t take long to knit. I used a larger size needle than the yarn usually calls for and knitted an overly big hat. I gave it a deep brim so that it can be worn doubled, or pulled down to cover part of the face. The resulting hat, prior to fulling, was of course floppy and stringy and looked quite odd, but the magic was yet to come.

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Looks rather odd

Bucket of very hot water, bucket of cold water, bottle of dishwashing liquid, rubber gloves, and go… I love this part! The idea is to agitate and aggravate the woollen item by rubbing it hard in the soapy water, plunging it in and out of hot and then cold water. The water has to be changed often so that it remains as hot/cold as possible, and the item must be checked frequently to monitor the rate of fulling and shrinking.

When satisfied with the result, I rinsed it thoroughly and rolled it up in a towel to blot excess moisture. Poor Jason sat outside in the sun all day while Otzi’s hat dried, never saying a word.

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Would Otzi have liked this?

It’s likely that I’ll knit another hat for Otzi – there are so many exciting possibilities.

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I have my own woollies, thank you

SPIDERS? CHICKENS? AIRPLANES?

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Chlorophytum Comosum

This striking plant, called hen-and-chickens in South Africa where it is indigenous, has long been known to the native populations, some of which still use it in various forms of herbal medicine. It was first identified in 1794, and given the name Chlorophytum Comosum.
Since then it has been cultivated into many varieties all over the world, gaining itself common names such as spider plant, airplane plant; the botanical name of this particular one is vittatum. You can tell that it’s a very obliging plant, easy to grow, by the fact that it thrives in my garden even though I’m not possessed of green fingers. It’s certainly what you might call an enthusiastic plant, throwing its offspring out into the world to seek their fortune, rather like the mythical Jason did.

Now that you’ve had a botany lesson, let me tell you how Jason’s latest hat came about.

The chickens/spiders/airplanes that this plant has produced continuously since summer have been catching my eye daily. I needed to do something with yarn! Mythos Minor was particularly enthusiastic as he’s under the impression that the wild antics of knitting yarn and fingers are solely for his amusement, but Jason maintained his thoughtful composure.

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Are we ready to continue?

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Which colour are we playing with first?

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This inaction is getting seriously boring – are you going to knit or what?

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Who’s that coming in the cat door?

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Taking cover

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Mythos Major offers to help

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Plantlets for Africa

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What’s going on?

How and when did these sturdy plants come to the Pelion Peninsula? Greece has been a seafaring nation since antiquity which makes me wonder if some plant-loving adventurer collected the first specimens in the forests of unknown Africa?

PERSEPHONE and POMEGRANATES

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The pomegranate – known since antiquity

The burial mound at Amphipolis, near Thessaloniki in Greece, has been very much in the news recently but now that an ancient skeleton has been found the excitement has reached peak levels. Thanks to modern science we’re accustomed to the fact that age, sex, height of skeletal remains can be determined, but it’s astonishing that scientists fully expect to learn details such as colour of hair and eyes of the person buried in this tomb. He or she was certainly of great importance as indicated by the splendour of the burial chambers, though the tomb has unfortunately long since been looted.

The mosaic floor is of superb quality. Only imagine the skill and expertise required to carry out the back-breaking work of assembling the scene. I wonder if the pebbles were collected and sorted for the artist by helpers? One would think so. This National Geographic article gives a brief description of the mosaic.

Persephone, daughter of Demeter and Zeus, featured prominently in Greek mythology, though the concept of a goddess responsible for the rebirth of plant growth in the spring has a history which predates the latest versions of the Greek myths; birth and death have always preoccupied Man’s mind.

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Winter fruits: Apples and pomegranates are frequently mentioned in the Greek myths

Needless to say, after all the skulduggery and trauma of being dragged underground, Persephone was more than a little anxious to return to her mother from the Underworld.  In one version of the Greek myth, Hades agreed to free her if she hadn’t eaten or drunk anything while in his underground kingdom.

But he tricked her, of course – Greek myths are big on tricks and treachery!

He fooled her into eating some pomegranate seeds, with the result that her freedom came with certain conditions: six months on Earth, six months with him as Queen of the Underworld. Thus did the ancient Greeks explain the seasons.

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Jason’s quite cosy in warm winter colours


Some years ago I knitted my friend a shawl in what has become my signature style, using many colours and textures of yarn; the original shawl is featured in my first book (2000).

We were photographing this one in late Fall before Aeolus, that normally nimble god of the wind, had dispersed all the Bougainvillea blooms, and together with a bowl of pomegranates on the table – the colours were irresistible. So much fun setting up the pictures!

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Highlighting the colours

Persephone is a lovely classical name, not often heard nowadays; Persa is the common pet name. Persephone, a favourite subject of artists and sculptors, is frequently depicted delicately draped in floating wraps and shawls.

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Worn by an antique olive jar

Did she knit brightly coloured shawls to cheer her through the dark dismal days in Hades?

GOLDEN APPLES?

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Apples feature in several of the Greek myths, as they do in the mythologies of many cultures.

Hera was given a wedding gift of apple trees from the Earth Mother, Gaia, when she married Zeus. Theirs was what you might call a tricky courtship for Zeus deceived her into marrying him.

The wedding planner did them proud and although the occasion was a most splendid affair, quite over the top, with gods and goddesses in attendance, lavish gifts, out-of-this-world food, including streams of ambrosia bubbling about, the relationship went rapidly downhill from there. Truly the stuff of tabloids and trashy TV.

Hera, who had a pretty good background of her own and was quite the career woman, became the goddess of marriage once their unhappy union was sealed. The Greek myths tell of Hera’s jealous rages, for Zeus was not the poster boy for fidelity, and their thundering rows on Mt Olympus struck fear into many a trembling mortal, so one wonders if brides of the time were all that eager to have her blessing?

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Sweet, juicy, organically grown

Hera’s golden apples grew in a garden guarded by a dragon, together with nymphs who flitted about day and night on patrol, for the fruits were much prized. Hercules was charged with obtaining these apples as one of his twelve labours; much mayhem ensued as a result of his efforts.

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An apple a day? Not me!

Frankly, I am in awe of the ancient storytellers whose wondrous imaginations gave us these tales. How on earth did they remember all the minute details of each myth?

I’m hard pressed to recall who are the Twelve Gods, never mind all the demi-gods and various other hangers on, whose exploits are so varied and enthralling. Got to hand it to those who first dreamed up the gods and made them mortal in their foibles.

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Oranges, or golden apples?

The Greek myths have held people spellbound for centuries. They’ve been told and retold in countless versions, discussed, debated and dissected in every conceivable forum, with even the apples coming under scholarly scrutiny. Were these apples, described as golden, in fact oranges?

Were they not apples at all, as believed today by some classicists? Others disagree, arguing that oranges came from the East and were not known in Ancient Greece. The dispute continues enthusiastically among those for whom the fascination of these fables never fades.

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Do I want an orange? No thanks!

Jason steadfastly refuses to comment.

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AMPHIPOLIS

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Jason

The Greek Ministry of Culture has recently made known details of the current excavations at Amphipolis, in northern Greece. News outlets worldwide are featuring the amazing discoveries at the tomb site, which have archaeologists in a flurry of scholarly speculation, and interested laymen eagerly anticipating each new revelation. The tomb appears to date back to the time of Alexander the Great, and although some have debated whether it was built for him, it’s highly unlikely that his remains were ever brought back to Greece. Could the tomb be that of his mother, or is someone of great importance to the royal family buried here? Debate rages among academics and amateurs alike.

What is not in dispute, however, is the stunning quality of the marble sculptures and the mosaic floor which have been uncovered so far. The public is understandably barred from the dig, but the Ministry of Culture has released some pictures and a short video.

The mosaic floor is quite spectacular! Composed entirely of pebbles and bits of stone in natural colours of white, black, gray, blue, yellow and red, the mosaic is large and includes the abduction of Persephone, one of the fascinating Greek myths. The scene has a border of spirals and squares in the typical Greek meander style. Sometimes called the Greek key, the meander is named for the river Meander, which twisted and wound its way to the Aegean Sea.

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Part of the Mosaic

I am fascinated by this mosaic, and particularly by the border, and have attempted to echo an aspect of it in two-colour stranded knitting. “Hats off to knitting!” I say, for knitting a small item such as a hat allows me to play a bit with colour and pattern. The hat is knit in the round, in three colours, using no more than two colours per row, with the background colour predominant. I used charcoal, grey and oatmeal tweed yarns, for the flecks of colour in each yarn are reminiscent of the flecks of colour in the stones of the mosaic. The meanders of the mosaic are too long for me to reproduce in knitting, for this would involve carrying the yarn not in use across the back of too many stitches, so I’ve copied the squares for this first sample. I think I might be playing with this for a while.

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Can’t resist the cyclamen!

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Natural Colours

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Jason Loves Flowers

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Jason Meets a New Friend

This praying mantis is nearing the end of his/her life, for it will not survive the winter but if it’s female, its eggs will have been laid, and we’ll have lots of these curious predators about the garden.

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Contemplating the Mountain, Shrouded in Mist

Mt Pelion and its environs, home of the centaurs, is the birthplace of many of the Greek myths. Here were first told wonderful stories of the gods, their attributes and achievements, their moods and misdeeds. Through how many centuries did these tales form part of the oral tradition? How far were these fables carried by wanderers and nomads to people and communities before ever being written down? Who was the original spinner of these enthralling yarns, and how much were the exploits of the gods embellished in the telling and re-telling of them?

We will never know.

THE GODS ARE ENRAGED!

Who knows what has infuriated them, but Poseidon and Aeolus are lashing out in dramatic fashion at each other. The normally placid Pagasitic has been whipped white with rage as Aeolus unleashes the winds which he has kept tightly tethered for some time, and Poseidon, foaming at the mouth, responds in great swathes of churning waves. No truce in sight …

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Olives Flying

 

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Furious!

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Jason and his Argonauts would have battled

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Foaming

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What?? ME go outside?!

 

IN THE PINK

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Jason

Cyclamen Graecum – Greek cyclamen – is native to the eastern Mediterranean, lying low during the hot, dry summers, to awaken slowly into full bloom as the autumn rains make their entrance. Where there is shade and a little moisture, a few eager blooms begin to appear in late summer, a gentle reminder to make the most of summer’s remaining days. The flowers seem delicate, but these plants are hardy and thrive in poor soil, peeping up among the rocks, and even quite literally out of a rock if there’s a bit of soil caught in a hollow.

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Anywhere it Can

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Hanging On

Here on the Pelion where there are large areas of open ground on the hillsides and among the olive groves, the cyclamen are quite a sight scattered about among the rocks and stones. Other wild flowers are preparing for their spring debut, and their leaves are pushing up wherever they too can find a space. Wild oregano and fennel waft their scent through the air, adding to the pleasure of those who take the time to walk through the fields to wonder at the cyclamen.

Seeing such beauty every day is inspirational, so I dived deep into my stash to capture something of it, with the result that Jason has another hat. He made no sound as I hauled him through the fields of pink, seeming content to fix his glassy eyes upon the lovely upswept petals in their shades of pink, arising from heart-shaped dark green leaves.

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Will an olive fall on my head?

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Gazing in Wonder

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Maybe a Centaur Will Appear

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Are there spiders in there?

Cyclamen, derived from the ancient Greek word, kyklaminos, meaning shaped like a circle, which probably refers to the round tuber, are very popular in gardens and as pot plants. There are many cultivated varieties in every possible shade of pink, ranging through to stunning crimsons, and what a vibrant display they make.

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Cultivated Cyclamen

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In the Market


And so many colours!

But there’s something about field after field of these little flowers whose history traces deep back into antiquity that can’t be captured in a pot.

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What IS this??