As for local flora, daisies, dandelions, nettles and heather (all with edible parts) are so ubiquitous around grassy areas here that there's no point wasting a photograph on them. Seriously, this last month I've seen a whole sheep field turn white with daisies, mowed lawns shine bright yellow with dandelions, everyone on this island has probably seen how nettles like to take over any odd nook or slope where moisture gathers, and heather... well let me just say that every few years the sheep farmers set entire hillsides ablaze up here to get rid of the stuff after it has taken over; some of the current google maps satellite images for the region still show glowing patches and smoke clouds at low levels of detail.
Most plants here suffer salt-burn from the coastal winds if not well protected, especially trees:
|This is a native Rowan tree, known for producing a quite tart fruit similar to cranberries only much more sour, typically used to make jellies to accompany meat, otherwise a great bird food when left on the tree. It probably prefers to be further inland though.|
|I saw these beautiful flowers by the roadside, and I think they are a relative of thistles and artichokes, given the shape of their flower buds.|
|I have identified this as Common Hogweed, which is edible, and I have tried some myself. The youngest shoots are supposed to be the best, as with many plants, while older bits of stalk etc. are mostly just good for soups. However this plant also has a huge and highly irritant cousin native to the Caucasus, known here as Giant Hogweed, and you should watch out for that plant invading here.|
|This nearby tree looks similar to a siberian pea tree, but I think its leaves look too big, widely spaced and waxy to be one, and that it was probably introduced from outside this region.|
|This picture taken nearly two months ago is of a hedge that was doing quite well facing towards the sea, clearly making a great hardy windbreak. I wouldn't mind knowing what it is.|
|The spiky little shoots dead-centre of this picture have started springing up on the large sods that I turned over where trees were planted.|
|A lot of these plants with their three-sided pinched leaves and yellow flowers seem to turn up just off the banks of streams around here.|
|A young bush on the bank of a stream, could be an edible berry or something like that.|
|I suspect that this Arctic Poppy may have been introduced as someone's ornamental plant, and has since begun to spread like wildfire over grass verges by roads and footpaths. I didn't notice any sign of this perennial until these big flower buds started appearing and opening in May. Sadly it doesn't appear to be very useful.|
|Not very many of these turn up amongst the grass. No clue.|
|What I originally thought might be related to clover due to its bunched flowers, is actually an orchid.|
|This mystery turned out to be a volunteer potato, probably from a seed or bit of root that got into the compost I spread here.|
|This other mystery popped up inches from that previous one, where I found part of my compost scraped away a couple of weeks ago, possibly disturbed by a mouse or rabbit.|
|I think this could be carrot seedlings in the middle of the picture.|
|The largest plants here from seed, which are growing strongly everywhere I sow them, I am now sure are not carrots but in fact the 'green manure' fiddleneck. I wish I could get something edible to grow that well.|
As for fauna... while we have had some very hot and dry weather (for here at least) with no rain for the last week, I tried going out late at night with a watering can to help my recently-sown seeds and seedlings, since the constant sunlight during the day was drying out the compost to the point that it was cracking up. On my way round I started spotting slugs attacking various seedlings. They came in all different sizes and colours, some brown, cream, white, green, yellow and some even speckled with black spots. I didn't find any with distinct orange bellies, which I have come across lots of before towards the south end of this island.
This seems to be a negative side-effect of putting solid objects down to mulch areas overgrown with grass, since the moist sheltered area underneath is a great place for slugs to breed.
|This one was chowing down on one of the seedlings from the peas I planted along my swale wall. That annoyed me.|
Its said that you can't have too many slugs, only too few ducks, and I had wanted to borrow my friend's ducks to range them around the planted area in late spring, but unfortunately they were all wiped out recently by some fox or badger that managed to claw its way into their decrepit old shelters and start surplus killing, so now there are no ducks or chickens left in the whole village and I haven't had enough time to build new hutches to protect more ducklings. Therefore I have had to look at quick solutions to my slug problem other than domesticated animals.
The first idea that sprung to my mind was to try and get hold of some plain terracotta clay and compact it down in the wide section of the swale I dug, so that it might hold water and form a pond, which in turn could attract some of the wild ducks that fly around this region. I put that off for now on account of the time and effort involved, since I would likely have to try and establish some aquatic plants that are attractive to ducks while my own seedlings are getting munched.
The next thing I came across online was a beer trap, a.k.a. 'slug pub' or 'slug inn'. This is where you leave out an open dish with some beer poured into it, the idea being that slugs love their beer for some reason, while they are quite incapable of processing the alcohol, and so get so intoxicated that they fall into the drink and drown blissfully. I could come up with a hundred euphemisms for that, but moving on, I had doubts about the trick until two family members assured me that it's a good one, so I tried it the next night.
|Results of a dish and one can of crap lager after 24 hours.|
|Slug pub after 48 hours.|
|Though I dropped this slug in the drink, the rhubarb seedlings that I stuck outside were all eaten down to stumps overnight, evoking much of my wrath. At least the ones I kept inside are doing very well though.|
|Slug pub after 36 hours. Muahahahaha.|