Tag Archives: Pelion

A FEATHERY CHRISTMAS FEASTING

P1080447 [HDTV (1080)]

The weather here on the Pelion is weird, as I’ve already mentioned in “EATING BREAD AND HONEY…” and is a major topic of discussion. Everyone has an opinion, everyone has a tale to tell of weather past, present and future. Some predictions are dire: “Well do I remember the winter of 19-whichever…; how we suffered in 20-whatever…” accompanied by heavy sighs and headshaking. The audience falls respectfully silent and the prophet of doom is gratified. Souls of more cheerful disposition take an optimistic view: “Isn’t the sun wonderful? It will surely continue, so enjoy!”

There are reasons for the seasons though, and much as we revel in the unexpected warmth, it really shouldn’t be so. We need rain, and we need it badly. We need snow, snow that will melt gradually and replenish the water table. We need some freezing to control pests which will otherwise inflict themselves on man, beast and plant in the hot months. Perhaps it’s reassurance that we need the most in these turbulent times; things do not stay the same, not even the weather.

Nature is also confused, blooming far too early – one can’t help but wonder if she’s about to get a stinging rebuke. Probably.

P1290702 [HDTV (1080)]

Fruit and blossom on the same tree in late December

The bougainvillea beyond the kitchen window should have been bare weeks ago, but is putting out new flowers as though challenging the elements. Bees, wasps, hornets and great big bumblebees are busily buzzing and bumbling all through the short daylight hours.

P1290539 [HDTV (1080)]

Can you see the bumblebee?

It’s strange to hear excited twittering in the branches at this time of year. Migrant birds have long since arrived to build numerous nests among the colour, jostling with the resident sparrows, all seemingly unaware that their shelter might be devastated by a north wind as sudden as it’s vicious.

P1080443 [HDTV (1080)]

Caution! Fledglings

I put seed out for the birds each day

P1290535 [HDTV (1080)]

and although Raki regards this as his own personal playground, his half-hearted attempts to assert himself are largely ignored by the nimble birds who retreat in a flash to the branch and leaf of safety.

P1290531 [HDTV (1080)]

Hope springs eternal

There they hide, chittering at him until he loses interest and retreats to the comfort of an armchair. The sentry bird up in the olive tree trills the all-clear, and back the feasters come.

P1290548 [HDTV (1080)]

The weather will surely change, these birds will move house and take up residence throughout the property, and I will continue to provide seed for them. But Nature is cruel, and some of these birds will be food for the raptors. Life goes on.

P1080459 [HDTV (1080)]

P1080472 [HDTV (1080)]

P1080454 [HDTV (1080)]

P1080451 [HDTV (1080)]

 

THE GATES OF SUMMER HAVE OPENED

Summer has finally settled in here on the Pelion after some rather atypical spring weather, which indicates what is locally called a ‘cool summer.’ The Greek word for summer literally means ‘good weather’, and the prospect of a cool summer isn’t welcomed by too many here for it means days of intense heat, interrupted frequently by wind, bouts of rain and heavy thunderstorms. The classic summer pattern is a long, unbroken stretch of hot, dry weather – predictably stable and free of sudden surprises sprung by the elements – during which residents and tourists alike disport themselves, mindful that all too soon the latter will return home and the former will begin making preparations for winter.

Persephone continues to revel in her freedom from the dark, dismal depths of her obligatory winter home, well aware that her time on warmly welcoming earth is coming to an end and that her husband waits at the gates of Hades. 

Throughout the ages artists have depicted their visions of the Gates of Hades by means of the plethora of media chosen by them – in paint, in sculpture, on pottery, stained glass, carvings, embroidery – whereas the artisan who constructs a gate is bound by the limitations placed on him by his materials. I don’t imply that the woodworker, stone mason or ironmonger is not an artist, but he is further constrained by the demands of function and artistic expression, as well perhaps by monetary considerations and the expectations of those who may have commissioned him.

117-1713_IMG_2 [HDTV (721)

126-2618_IMG [HDTV (721)

148-4878_IMG [HDTV (721)

151-5129_IMG [HDTV (721)

IMG_2493 [HDTV (1080)]

IMGP0844 [HDTV (1080)]

P1030028 [HDTV (1080)]

P1070545 [HDTV (1080)]

P1100174 [HDTV (1080)]

P1100371 [HDTV (1080)]

P1140149 [HDTV (1080)]

P1140580 [HDTV (1080)]

P1250557 [HDTV (1080)]

P1250572 [HDTV (1080)]

P1250658 [HDTV (1080)]

P1250662 [HDTV (1080)]

P1250668 [HDTV (1080)]

P1250669 [HDTV (1080)]

P1250670 [HDTV (1080)]

P1250672 [HDTV (1080)]

P1250823 [HDTV (1080)]

 

WELCOME BACK, PERSEPHONE!

P1000193 [HDTV (720)]

We were still in Austin when Persephone began her journey back from Hades to return to her grieving mother, so we missed the earliest signs celebrating the end of winter on the Pelion.

Winters here are typically mild with very occasional snowfall and rarely any frost, but the rainfall can be heavy and this past winter it certainly was. No complaints at all as we really needed it; many springs had dried up during the previous summer, causing considerable difficulty for those who depend upon them for their water supply.

The ancients would have attributed this generous rainfall to Zeus, god of rain, who reigned supreme on Mt Olympus. Good of him to spare the time from his lusty pursuit of young maidens! His daughter, Persephone, surely appreciated it for the wildflowers have done her proud, happy as we all are to welcome her back.

Greece is renowned for her wildflowers, and deservedly so for they are spectacular, not only in their beauty but also in their variety.
Habitats are many and diverse: sandy coastlines, pastureland and scrub, rocky ravines, wooded highlands and craggy mountains, saltwater, freshwater, well-watered lands and dry, wind-lashed and tightly sheltered, all with their particular plants adapted through the aeons to their conditions.

Man’s influence has inevitably been enormous. The maquis, which might at first glance seem untouched by man’s activities, will almost without exception have been affected in some way by previous populations and their lifestyles, stretching back into antiquity. The mountains of the Pelion region were once dense with native hardwoods; today only comparatively minute forested areas remain. Man is an innovative creature and where there is something – whatever it may be – to his advantage, he will make use of it.

Greece is a paradise for botanists professional and amateur alike, who may be seen, notebook in hand, hiking enthusiastically about as they spot and document plants. Several species are unique, found only in one particular location, such as an island. Many plants are rare, threatened, on the verge of extinction, others have already vanished, identified only in old engravings and drawings, the regrettable result of man’s impact on the environment.

Wildflowers of varying types appear throughout the year; some are tiny, almost invisible, others stand tall. Colour! Colour! Colour! The bees are frantically busy, knowing that warm days will inevitably end, while the beekeepers carefully tend their hives, moving them about to take advantage of the best nectar. Pelion honey, infused with flavour fit for the gods, is much sought after.

Spring and summer flowers retire, their seeds and bulbs lying peacefully dormant until Persephone calls to them again. Autumn arrives, throwing down dense carpets of cyclamen, welcoming the approach of winter, much as local residents roll out their rugs and kilims in preparation for the cool damp days ahead when more time must be spent indoors.

Look closely, remembering that the photos will enlarge when you click on them, and in some of the photos you’ll spot bugs, bees, butterflies  buzzing busily in the abundance! The cycle continues as birds and other wildlife feed, thus ensuring seed dispersal, and preparing the way for Persephone to return in all her ageless beauty.

P1260979 [HDTV (1080)]

P1260966 [HDTV (1080)]

P1260961 [HDTV (1080)]

P1260950 [HDTV (1080)]

P1260948 [HDTV (1080)]

P1260942 [HDTV (1080)]

P1260924 [HDTV (1080)]

P1260921 [HDTV (1080)]

P1260826 [HDTV (1080)]

P1260711 [HDTV (1080)]

P1260708 [HDTV (1080)]

P1260550 [HDTV (1080)]

P1130518 [1024x768]

P1010277 [HDTV (720)]

P1010268 [HDTV (720)]

P1010267 [HDTV (720)]

P1010257 [HDTV (720)]

P1010255 [HDTV (720)]

P1010065 [HDTV (720)]

P1010002 [HDTV (720)]

P1000987 [HDTV (720)]

P1000924 [HDTV (720)]

P1000612 [HDTV (720)]

P1000611 [HDTV (720)]

P1000460 [HDTV (720)]

P1220139 [HDTV (1080)]A

P1000457 [HDTV (720)]

P1000454 [HDTV (1080)] [HDTV (720)]

P1000243 [HDTV (720)]

P1000236 [HDTV (720)]

P1000231 [HDTV (720)]

P1000219 [HDTV (720)]

P1010602 [DVD (NTSC)] [HDTV (720)]

P1010574 [HDTV (720)]

P1000205 [HDTV (720)]

P1000194 [HDTV (1080)] [HDTV (720)]

P1000190 [HDTV (720)]

P1000185 [HDTV (720)]

P1000181 [HDTV (720)]

P1000165 [HDTV (720)]

P1000162 [HDTV (720)]

L1000883 [HDTV (720)]

IMG_3144 [HDTV (720)]

Bug7 [HDTV (720)]

Bug2 [HDTV (720)]

AnotherFlower [HDTV (720)]

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.

P1070745 [HDTV (1080)]

Bluebonnets

P1070741 [HDTV (1080)]

P1070749 [HDTV (1080)]

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.

P1070753 [HDTV (1080)]

P1070771 [HDTV (1080)]

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.

P1070754 [HDTV (1080)]

P1070748 [HDTV (1080)]

P1070786 [HDTV (1080)]

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.

P1070783 [HDTV (1080)]

COLOUR or COLOR?

Whichever way you spell it, the kilims shown in the last entry radiate with colour. I was almost overwhelmed when I entered the dazzling display area on a rather grey wintry evening. Colour leapt out at me. Colour embraced me. Colour cheered and colour warmed me.

P1250090A [1024x768]

Magda Karastathis

This impressive exhibit was expertly curated by Magda Karastathis on behalf of the Lafkos Community Association. Magda studied at the prestigious Athens School of Fine Arts and taught at schools in Patras, Athens and Volos before her recent retirement. Her family is from the Lafkos/Milina area: Lafkos, the ancient fortified village on the hilltop, which afforded more protection from invaders and pirates; Milina, now a beautiful village on the Pagasitic Gulf, but only a fishing spot in those very early days.

Summer visitors to the Pelion Peninsula are often surprised to hear that we have a distinct winter season. They’re even more stunned to learn that snow’s not uncommon, and that Mt Pelion has a ski resort. Winters are not usually severe, but there are many dreary days for we have the typical winter rainfall of the Mediterranean climate. If grey’s your colour, take your pick of shades, but it’s not mine and so, still steeped in the saturated colours of the exhibited kilims, I dived into my yarn stash the next day.

P1210684 [1024x768]

The bobbles and tassels had really caught my imagination!

SPIDERS? CHICKENS? AIRPLANES?

P1240740 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

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.

P1240647 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

Are we ready to continue?

P1240652 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

Which colour are we playing with first?

P1240653 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

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

P1240655 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

Who’s that coming in the cat door?

P1240663 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

Taking cover

P1240671 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

Mythos Major offers to help

P1240676 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

Plantlets for Africa

P1240747 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

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?

CREEPING…CRAWLING…COLOURFUL

P1010783 [HDTV (720)] [1024x768]

Eye-catching! The Hawkmoth caterpillar

The Death’s-Head Hawkmoth is very large with markings resembling a skull, hence the name, and has long been associated throughout Europe with all manner of superstitions. It squeaks, which I find fascinating, but this unique ability has doubtless contributed to its ill-deserved reputation as an announcer of death, predicting everything from plague to war.

The genus name is Acherontia, a reference to the river Acheron in the Epirus area of Greece. The Acheron flows from the mountains down into the Ionian Sea, and was prominent in Greek mythology as one of the five rivers of death in the Underworld.

Perhaps Persephone wandered its banks, weeping into the dark waters?

IMG_6678 [HDTV (720)] [1024x768]

Not small

I’ve seen the Hawkmoth caterpillars on the property fairly frequently, feeding their way voraciously along, but have never been able to capture a good picture of the moth. Unless one happens to fly into the light, they’re not easy to spot at night but I’ve heard the strange squeak they make; one can understand why primitive peoples were so preoccupied with them.

Cat_head [HDTV (720)] [1024x768]

I wasn’t ready for this close-up!

No pesticides or poisons of any sort have ever been used on this land so we are fortunate to have quite a variety of insects which creep and crawl, flutter and fly about on their foraging missions, ducking and diving from their natural predators. Yes, of course the garden suffers to some extent, but it’s amazing how the birds by day and the bats by night sort things out somewhat.

IMGP4133 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

Forget the cyclamen flowers, I need the leaves

The colourful Death’s-Head Hawkmoth caterpillars are so striking that the lowly worms inching and squinching their munching way along seem insignificant by comparison.

Whether they creep or crawl, are large or small, worms and caterpillars are highly regarded by birds, so their lives are constantly under threat whatever their colouring.

P1230706 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

Watch out for birds!

Knitting needles, a few yards of yarn and a button or two – I give you GoogliBugs.

P1240494 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

Quite tasty, no?

P1240598 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

Minor’s puzzled…where’d he go?

P1240492 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

What is this stuff?

P1240500 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

Nice ‘n’ fresh!

P1230681 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

Trying to worm your way in?

P1230691 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

Lots here to fatten me up!

SonnyJim [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

These leaves aren’t up to much, don’t you think?

P1240621 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

The food’s beautifully presented

P1240587 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

Pink’s my favourite colour

P1230674 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

Are we related?

With a lot of luck, these may become moths and butterflies!

IN THE PINK

P1230565 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

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.

P1230548 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

Anywhere it Can

P1230551 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

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.

P1070402 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

Will an olive fall on my head?

P1070409 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

Gazing in Wonder

P1070389 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

Maybe a Centaur Will Appear

P1070405 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

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.

P1230462 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

Cultivated Cyclamen

P1230452 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

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.

P1230568 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

What IS this??

THE LAST BOATS OF SUMMER

As I have already mentioned, the summer visitors have left the Pelion peninsula, sad to go, I would think. The weather was glorious. The refreshing waters of the Pagasitic gulf welcomed the swimmers and divers, and played gently with the littlies who paddled and splashed away happily. All manner of watercraft made its way up and down the gulf, the traffic increasing quite a bit in August when most Europeans take their vacation. Great fun!

There’s an expression in these parts to the effect that the lights go out on the last day of August, and to an extent it’s true. People seal up their summer homes, closing the shutters firmly, tightening everything up against the winter gales that make ancient olive trees vulnerable to their fury, while Poseidon whips the Pagasitic into a frenzy of white water.

No calendar alerts me to the end of the season. The little motorboats being towed up from the resort at Paou to their winter storage tell me that it’s over, that summer is shutting down. Two by two they go, a boatman in front pulling an unmanned boat behind him.

IMGP4168 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

All by Myself

Then he returns, sometimes alone, and sometimes with another boatman, to fetch more. There’s something so final about it. The empty boats, part of a holiday package deal, passed by last week. It’s easy to imagine they were tired, and indeed they are, for they’ve been taking holidaymakers around since early May. They will be cleaned, repaired, painted and freshened up to make memories for vacationers next year.

IMGP4170 [HDTV (1080)] [1024x768]

Escorted

The people who work so hard in the tourist industry, invariably cheerful through the long, blistering heat of the summer, are making winter preparations also. Some, but not all of them, will be able to take a well-earned rest.

 

JASON DOES FLORAL

The sun has been making a tentative appearance today which is encouraging the Sternbergia buds to put on a growth spurt, so we’ll soon have these cheerful yellow flowers dotted about the Pelion again.

Jason was staring at me in his transparent manner these last few days, so I decided to brighten him up with a new hat.  He models it as silently as ever. I think I’ll wear it myself quite a bit in the greyest days of the coming winter when the dazzling gold of the Sternbergia fades into memory.

P1230354 [HDTV (1080)]

Van Cat in the Long Grass

P1230342 [HDTV (1080)]

Sneaking Up

P1230347 [HDTV (1080)]

Under the Olives

P1230340 [HDTV (1080)]

Cozying up to the Cyclamen

P1230361 [HDTV (1080)]

Among the Wild Flowers

P1230332 [HDTV (1080)]

In the Bushes

P1230350 [HDTV (1080)]

Still in the Bushes

P1230366 [HDTV (1080)]

Out of the Bushes

 

P1230313 [HDTV (1080)]

Killing It!

Raki, always curious and ever convinced of his helpfulness, batted one of the Sternbergia gauge swatches off the coffee table and really got stuck into his prey.

P1230370 [HDTV (1080)]

WHAT NEXT?!