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.

Short story about a strange…

…garden and its even stranger keepers…in Tangier.

The Story

Click the orange circle above to listen. This story is 30 minutes about Moroccan landscape, a strange garden, absinthe, chocolate and its plants.

DSC05246

Date palms and mimosa in Morocco (Phoenix dactylifera and Acacia dealbata). Ever wonder about the magic of fragrance? Try mimosa, in its natural habitat, in the winter.

The Background

Anyone who has worked in a garden–suffered blisters and callouses in a garden for fruit, vegetables, flowers, medicine–knows there is something more in those gardens. This is for you.

Gardens? Chocolate? Yes, definitely…but I never thought to combine them until the email I received quite recently from an almost forgotten friend. Donkeys’ years ago when I was in Tangier, we worked together on the Baie de Tanger–it was a tourist destination development project.

Now, my friend’s still in Tangier, but as an antique dealer, using as an income cover, a store of second hand furniture. This story is a found antique.

In ‘Christopher and the Hibiscus House’, Christopher tells the story of a Tangier, Morocco garden. In order to visit the garden he was required by the garden’s keepers, a Brit and a Ruskie, to undergo a special ordeal of chocolate and absinthe before walking at sunset in the garden. Christopher first had to visit the land of the green fairies before he could enter their Oval Garden. This is that story.

Readers…by now you know that my blog, flahertylandscape, is all about plants and people–landscape journeys. Sounds fair and safe enough; but what I  share with you in the above story goes beyond ethnobotany, beyond strange.

 

DSC05800

The Moroccan dream.

TangierMap

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

This is in part a freshly edited re-post of  a 2015 post I made, entitled Chocolate, Gardens and Magic, which, if I might say so, was a too long read; but it is fortunately well illustrated with Art Nouveau graphics.

Elderberry

IMG_0943

Sambucus nigra, 11June2010, 600meters above sea level, North facing slope, Berner Oberland, Switzerland.

Dig into this one. Elderberry ice cream. Elderberry cordial. Elderberry jam. And on it goes. Wait until ripe, if you haven’t already harvested the flowers. So light. Heavenly.

Chocolate Gardens

This is about Moroccan gardens and landscape.

Earlier today, I prepared to record the revised draft of one of my novels to perform a sentence by sentence prose edit. To my surprise, as I set up a folder for the audio, I found an old .aif file entitled Chocolate Gardens. On that 30 minute file I heard myself reading what appeared to be a post publication recall of events.

Well, since my stroke I am finding quite a few things I had completely forgotten. That’s kinda fun. Maybe sad, but still fun. We all have imperfect memories, but as a stroke victim, I seem to have now a greater worrisome sense about forgetfulness. Oh well, time continues. No harm done.

The Chocolate Gardens tells the story of a Tangier, Morocco garden, as recorded by Christopher two decades ago. In order to visit the garden he was required by the garden’s owners, a Brit and a Ruskie, to undergo a special ordeal of chocolate and absinthe before walking at sunset in the garden. Christopher first had to visit the land of the green fairies before he could enter their Oval Garden. This is that story.

Readers…by now you know that my blog, flahertylandscape, is all about plants and people–landscape journeys. Sounds fair and safe enough; but what I am about to share with you goes beyond strange.

Anyone who has worked in a garden–suffered blisters and callouses in a garden for fruit, vegetables, flowers, medicine–knows there is something more in those gardens. This is for you.

Gardens? Chocolate? Yes, definitely…but I never thought to combine them until the email I received quite recently from an almost forgotten friend. Donkeys’ years ago when I was in Tangier, we worked together on the Baie de Tanger–it was a tourist destination development project.

Now, my friend’s still in Tangier, but as an antique dealer, using as an income cover, a store of second hand furniture.

I have attached a link to a 30 min. SoundCloud file that tells the rest of the story. I hope you like it.

Image 18.04.18 at 17.47

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

This is in part a freshly edited re-post of  a 2015 post I made, entitled Chocolate, Gardens and Magic, which if I might say so, was well illustrated with Art Nouveau graphics.

Action

Action? Most of us get no closer to the Arabian Peninsula than King Solomon’s medjool dates, and why not? If you had a choice between your home town and anywhere in the Arabian Peninsula, which would you choose?

Need a date?

My disclaimer is that previously I have lived 20 some *odd* years in and around the Arabian Peninsula. Gimme some of that Dubai, if you will. Go light on the Empty Quarter. And one thimble of Arabic coffee with the dates, please.

Humans + Landscape = ?

In between my infrequent blog entries, which always focus on humans and landscape, I am writing adventure novels, not surprisingly on humans and landscape.

As you can see from the menu bar above, I have been working on four novels over the past six years.

In preparation for updating them on my blog this fall, I have had some fun doing themed graphic design, one composite image for each of the four novels.

Themed graphics?

Yes—unique to each novel—humans interacting with the exotic geography and inspirational landscape around them, with the lightest  sprinkling of ethnobotany.

I have interpreted each of the four novels below and I hope you find them enjoyable.

If so, recommend them to your like-minded friends, please.

OrientEspresso03x400

This is the least developed adventure to date. The story revolves around a coffee house in Vienna–a place where for centuries East and West have and continue to struggle…over espresso…the text offering a brief respite.

The23ClubFall1016v05

The landscape background is the Arabian Peninsula’s Empty Quarter where surface sand patterns take us to Julian eternities and the sun takes away our sight. The botanical panel is the date palm, Phoenix canariensis providing food, utensils, environmental and architectural shelter. The human craft panel is carved stone–essential discipline. The text is the gold ring.

YellowDreamsFall2016Upgrade04x200

The Moroccan landscape background threatens with an irritating red born of never-truly-healed and always festering cultural conflict wounds–North African, Arabian, Sub-Saharan African and European–in equal measures macerating humans over millennia. The botanical panel is the fruit and foliage of the fig, Ficus carica–rare relief. The human craft shows patterns from North African Berber wool carpets–practical essentials. The text is the shelter humans take from the native and endemic forms of the plant, Cannabis sativa. The dreams are real life.

CrystalVisionFall2016Upgrade04x400

The dark green and blue landscape background is the edge of our dreams always implanted by the highland mountains, forests, lakes, rivers and streams of the Swiss Alps. The botanical panel is the gentian, Gentiana acaulis, whose blue beauty, paired with our rare good fortune, beckons human transformation. The human craft panel patterns are the lace of internal order. The text is the promise of clarity–or is it simply the hope of clarity?

The clues, the journey…

…just a bite…

Someone prepared for the journey…er…or a long trip…

…pearls…

…with, along the way to autumn…pearls of the woods.

And, it is never twice the same. Never.