Real snow

I wrote previously about winter colors, snow line and black and white.

The most attractive black and white in our landscape is the magpie, the Eurasian magpie, Pica pica. They have an large, active nest nearby in the top of a huge linden tree, Tilia cordata. When the first winter snowfall arrived the nest got so snowed in…it was no longer visible, neither were the magpies.

Where are the magpies?

Butterscotch–once again

It is that time of year.

It’s here. There is no doubt.

What’s this?

It’s the autumn.

We don’t have those North American attention grabbing sugar maples or even their cousins around here.

Rising out of the butterscotch sea. From the lower valley pastures to the mid mountain mixed deciduous and evergreen up to the near mountain summit pure coniferous forests. Autumn calls.
Some might say how drab! Yellows and browns. C’mon man.
But honestly…these yellows and browns in our landscape offer something more…a flavor…a sweetness. A pleasurable sweetness. A lasting enjoyment that comes…from a flavor to a taste…to become softly in our ear…a kind word. Extrasensual.
I like it–like a butterscotch candy…the flavor lasts and lasts.

Sun and fun

…for millennia…Tangier has been a nexus of Mediterranean, African and European cultures…a classic melting pot that is still on the boil.

Christopher Janus, CJ, had visited Morocco once with his mom when he was only seven–he had memories. He remembered sun and fun. Now nearly two decades later he, studying landscape architecture at university, was planning a design study term abroad. This, however was to become a different journey. The Moroccan tourism advertising was for sun and fun. That’s what he hoped for.

He had been six years full time at university. He needed a break. Sun and fun on the Mediterranean in Morocco? Great Moroccan markets in the pedestrian-only medinas? What was not to like?

When CJ crossed the Strait of Gibraltar and arrived in Tangier, the cultural complexity…the mists of cultural history…the cultural reality fog overwhelmed him. His carefully planned design study disappeared into a thickly uncertain maze. In this journey, he was blinded. He couldn’t find any portals.

His attempts to work through that maze is the basis for my upcoming novel, Tangier Gardens.

What’s missing here?

How can I get free of this stinking political and health fear-stuffed albatross?

Suppose this page is about you…and suppose you are wound up tighter than a drum by the tension of world wide and local politics and health. This page is your wayfinder.

THE PURPOSE OF THE BLOG AND ALL MY WRITING is to assist you the visitor to begin taking steps along a path toward discovering the regenerative existential cures to be freely found in plants, gardens and the landscape.

THE FIRST STEP is what could be called ‘nature prescriptions’–calibrated doses of time outside. Take a walk. But does the walk heal? What actually happens?  What is on the path that takes you on a journey? Where do landscape journeys take you?

And why even take that path and that journey?

A walk, a journey just for the landscape?–heh, I know what you are thinking–we all know what landscape is, right? Same old, same old, right?

flahertylandscape contends it is more–consider this:

The landscape can be a private cocoon to rest the restless.

On the walk you may weave dreams full of surprise and delight yielding true moments of repose.

It can be a journey to unwind, to regenerate, to reconnect with inner peace, to nest away from the daily hustle and bustle.

What’s missing from this photo? If you want to take that first regenerative walk on a landscape journey, here is what should be missing. Mobile, and any digital intrusion, mechanical noise from the city, from autos, any miscellaneous connectivity kit–that’s right don’t bring modern noise with you. Missing out all th is an essential part of your nature prescription.

Up the valley

I am a naive midwestern American kind of guy–born and raised in the suburbs of Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland–not really urban, not really rural. Farming has always been a mystery to this outsider. 

I had a view the other morning across the Brienzersee (+/-564meters above sea level). I could see that it was the time that farmers were making the first cut of pasture hay. Notice the yellow and brown patches which have just been cut . Adjacent to the yellow and brown are fully green pastures that have not been cut. Better seen in the following enlargements.
Note the fields just above the village. This is a mountain lake–the lake is a valley floor. The valley feels like an open bowl.
Hay pastures in the Berner Oberland Jungfrau Region of the Swiss Alps in late spring.
So, in the valley across the way, at about 560 meters above sea level, the first seasonal cutting of the pasture hay has begun.

Everything I encounter in this agricultural mountain landscape…naively captivates me.

Around my own home the first haycuts are already underway–there is the fragrance of a freshly cut lawn–we all have that familiar smell but the smell of freshly cut pasture hay? We had a couple good rains in May–all pastures were rich with grasses and wild flowers–the wild flowers went to seed first then the grasses–and as the grasses were going to seed in the first days of June we had a spell of sunny warm weather.

All the farmers down here at the valley bottom were out cutting their pastures. Fragrance at daytime and night time. They let the cut hay dry in the open fields for a couple days before binding it for later use as feed.

Before the cut.
The cut.
Cut and drying.
Bailed.

What does that have to do with ‘Up the valley’?

Well, everything in my topographical homeland was flat. Topography and its impact on life in the mountain landscape intrigues me. So, I took a walk up the valley–up the Lutschine River valley to a village named Gundlischwand (+/- 660 meters above sea level). That means uphill 100 meters–doesn’t sound like much does it? Couldn’t be further–amazing walk–here’s what happened. The valley changed. The topography changed. The plants changed.

The valley narrows. The mountains steepen. The walk not too strenuous at all–suitable for a suburban midwest American like me.
I love seeing how trees can make their home on the steepest of cliffs and the narrowest of flat ledges. They know how to adapt. Adapt.

I was going back in time.

In the mountains spring comes first at the low valley elevations. Then by the time spring comes to the higher elevations it is normally not days but weeks later. 

So when I walked up the valley I was walking back in time. Climatically speaking.

The price of admission?

A stuffy nose, a couple sneezes and a runny nose–all in sequence.

It took me 1/2 hour to walk the next 100 meters.

This is the edge of pasture some time before the haycut. 100 meters above where the haycut is occurring.
The wild flowers beckoned me.
Wild flowers well ahead of the grasses. Seed time not yet.
I was on a journey.
Finally, I arrived at Gundlischwand.
A village in an agricultural landscape in the mountains–mountains? Jungfrau Region, Berner Oberland, Swiss Alps.
Apple and walnut trees always close to the doorstep and kitchen.
Not far from the edge of town…a footpath into the dark forest…

But that will be a journey for another day.

Wilderswil

Part of what keeps me going into the landscape every day is how the people in the local towns and in their agriculture integrate at the smallest scale into the larger landscape. Wilderswil is an excellent example.

From my place I took two busses and in 10 minutes I was in Wilderswil Dorf–the center of the village.

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The Bears Hotel in the center of Wilderswil–this is downtown in the village. 2,700 people live in Wilderswil which is part of the Interlaken agglomeration(24,000 pop.).

After 5 more minutes walk I was at the edge of the village on a pedestrian path known in the local dialect as a wanderweg–a way for wandering through the landscape–journeys to the unknown.

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Wandering along a wanderweg.

After 15 minutes in thick mixed forest, a view of the larger landscape opened before me.

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The small scale agriculture sits at the base of steep forested mountains.

SmallScalein the Mountains

The valley floor is pasture for smaller agricultural holdings. The forest begins where the slope becomes too steep for pasture.

The small scale agriculture comes right to the edge of town.

Edge of Town

This is the kind of diversity that comes from hard work and returns healthy people.

The town people use every imaginable way to bring practical plants, gardens and small scale agriculture right to their doorstep.

Integrating

These are typical throughout the village–the owners encourage nature right up to their front door.

This last black and white photo, taken in 1952, shows Wilderswil at the mouth of the Saxeten Valley and river. This valley, while never gaining the reputation of the Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald Valleys, has undeniable drama and magnificent landscape setting. These are the Berner Oberland.

1952

By Werner Friedli – This image is from the collection of the ETH-Bibliothek and has been published on Wikimedia Commons as part of a cooperation with Wikimedia CH. Corrections and additional information are welcome., CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=59858775

Walnuts and apples

I’ve been scruffing through the local edge of town landscape, taking a soft pleasure in the unrolling of spring when…

…a couple trees seemed to be everywhere. Everywhere. Every farm barn, every hay barn, every pasture…so I grabbed a couple photos.

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About two weeks ago the light sweetness of the apple blossom filled the air around each tree. Undeniably magnetic.

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Like the walnut trees, these apple trees are everywhere.

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The bronziness of walnut tree spring foliage carries the promise. This is a region where dark walnut wood has been used traditionally for carvings like Brienz boxes and bears. But for me, it is about bakery treats.

So, it wasn’t long before I was thinking about what can be found in the bakeries every fall and winter–after the walnuts and apples ripen. Add cinnamon, sugar, pastry with just the correct amount of baking.

Fresh, warm walnut and apple bakery, the only thing that tops springtime apple blossom fragrance.