Butterfly Bonanza – Jizz, Flibutting, and Etymology; Growing Tomatoes Organically – Update; Roast Apricots with Amaretti, Vanilla, Lemon and Brandy.

Recurring themes. Seasonality of thoughts and observation run though a blog like this with inevitable reassuring familiarity. But there are always novelties and new discoveries. Searching for a post I knew I’d written on ‘entomolgical explosions’, I discovered it was from almost exactly 2 years ago. Click here for more. And then found it featured another topic I’m returning to today.SDIM3445 (2)

After the flowers, in the meadow, come the insects. An evolutionary and phenological dance with exquisitely coordinated moves.SDIM3294 (2) A few warmer days in the last fortnight have seen lots more interesting flies, beetles, bees and butterflies appearing in the meadows and garden. SDIM3407 (2)The chirrrring amongst the grasses is now from real grasshoppers, and not the much earlier grasshopper warblers. And I’ve managed to get pictures of many of these new arrivals. Not, sadly, the Wall Brown, which I’d spotted the other side of the shade netting to the big bag bottle bank vegetable garden, but I quickly forgave it for rushing off. Since walking up the twisting mown path through the hay meadow later in the afternoon, my eye was caught by a smallish delicate butterfly struggling to ‘flit’ above the drying stems of grass and yellow rattle, in a modest breeze. I like to think that I get a little better at spotting differences in butterfly ‘jizz’ every year, though perhaps a new word needs developing for this…SDIM2995 (2)

I first encountered ‘jizz’ in my field guide to dragonfly identification a few years back – a term used to describe aspects of dragonflies’ size, markings and particular style of jerky flight which can, to a seasoned observer, allow species identification without getting a really good close up view of the insect at rest. Jizz is also used in a similar way amongst birders, to encompass posture, shape, flying style as quick aids to identification, to an experienced ornithologist. But beware what you might find if you google jizz, as I did, to check out its origins. ONLY VISIT the OED site, where you will discover that it originated in the 1920’s, but with no more detail. There seem to be several alternative urban definitions, (and clearly often used in search terms) which place it in the realms of pornography, though the OED simply describes these as ‘vulgar slang’ – with no mention of when this foul corruption of a naturalist’s word occurred.SDIM3353 (2)

Hence perhaps the need for a new word for the delicate, or strong, but often distinctive flight styles of different species of butterfly, to distance these iconic summer insects from such linguistic degradations. I propose Flibutt, or flibutting, as the active form (and I seem to be on safe ground here, since apparently this word has not before been used in any significant way). Vowel choices are important here to set distance from flibetty, as in flibetty gibbet, and its gruesome mediaeval associations with insects and swinging corpses…SDIM3304 (2)

After the ‘new’ butterfly was confirmed as a Small Heath, (above the Large Skipper, and Ringlet in these photos) a species not before seen in our meadows, the annual emergence of regulars began with Meadow Browns, Large Skipper and Ringlet all appearing within a few days. Most do flibutt quite close to the ground rarely flying too far from the protective canopy of extending grass flower and seed stems, but all of these three seem stronger in their flibutting than the Small Heath, and lack the lightness in motion, and that hint perhaps, of blue, that you glimpse as you follow its erratic path?SDIM3388 (2)

But yesterday was my blue high point. Returning to the terrace after lunch to wipe off excess Tung Oil from some wooden chairs I’d been treating, I spotted a small butterfly flibutting very weakly just above ground level. Was there a hint of blue on its’ wings? I dashed in for the camera, and it was still there on my return, nectaring on the tiny yellow flowers of what I think is Black Medick, Medicago lupulina, growing between the huge slate slabs. It led me a bit of a flibutted dance, but kept returning to the Medick flowers, and later some Kidney Vetch growing nearby – yet another reminder of the benefits of growing some insignificant, to our tuned out senses, native flowers, rather than just jazzy alternatives. By now I was pretty certain that it was indeed a slightly tatty looking female Common Blue butterfly.SDIM3396 (2)

No great national rarity, but I’ve never seen one on our land before, and regular readers may remember that 18 months ago I’d acquired at considerable expense some miniscule Common Blue caterpillars which turned up in the post really late in the year. (Click here).

Was this adult a direct descendant? Click here for a link to the Lepidopterist’s Society website which explains that some species of butterfly have larvae and /or pupae which can indeed survive for more than one winter.

Or a wind borne migrant? Regardless of origin, I’m now really hopeful that with all the Birdsfoot trefoil, and Greater Birdsfoot trefoil that is now growing in our meadows, not to mention the Black Medick and Kidney Vetch, we may soon have a viable colony of these exquisite butterflies to anticipate as one of summer’s seasonal delights. And I might soon seen the stunning all blue male, which is so easy to find at the National Botanic Garden of Wales.SDIM3267 (2)

But I must also digress here and provide a wonderful link to butterfly etymology, on Matthew Rabuzzi’s insect.org site. Click here.

Why do we call them ‘butterflies’ in the first place?

And what are they called in other languages?

Matthew has collated a huge amount of fascinating information here, and the idea of butterflies being either witches that stole butter or cream (Schmetterling – German), or that their droppings were like butter (botervlieg/boterschijt – Old Dutch), were particularly interesting. Or maybe the derivation stems just from the Old English words butor (beater) and fleoge (fly).SDIM3142 (2)

Further back in time he lists the ancient Greek and Latin words for butterfly as psyche, and papilio/onis, with both having associations with the soul of a dead person, whilst his quote of an ancient Daoist sage, Zhuangzi, that

I do not know whether I was a man dreaming I was a butterfly,
or whether I am now a butterfly dreaming I was a man.

led me onto a philosophical flight of fancy, articulated by Raymond Challis. Click here.

But enough of this digression. How about some dreamy clouds?SDIM3373 (2)SDIM3378 (2)

I know ( from WP statistics) that many blog visitors are intrigued by my system for heating the greenhouse with air circulated through an external compost bed. And I’m overdue for an update on this, so fairly briefly I shall include my current system, which is primarily designed to maximise production of tomatoes, nectarines and apricots during the summer from the roughly 8 feet by 14 feet cedar framed structure.

  • The heap definitely needs the addition of some woodpulp/chip in addition to chopped leaves and nitrogen in the form of pee and poultry manure to achieve good temperature stability over the winter months. I had limited access to it this last winter, but it was fortunately very mild. I suspect about a third of wood chip to leaves by volume would be adequate
  • I now run the heap throughout the year.
  • I’ve added a second run of perforated aluminium ducting to the fan blowing air through the heap, so that there is a double U on either side of the greenhouse, which then returns uninterrupted to the exit vent from the greenhouse, and back into the base of the external compost bed.This avoids the clumsiness of the previous set up where I had to step over the ducting on entering the greenhouse! Both a bit of extra warmth, and also extra CO2 from the compost heap, are the benefits from keeping the system ticking over during summer.SDIM3196 (2)
  • I’ve removed the side polycarbonate sheets, which has given added growing space. These sheets were then used to create early season protection for squash and courgettes – see later.
  • I now use a flexihose on ‘shower’ setting for both damping down the central heat store path – on most sunny days during the summer, as well as for watering the tomatoes. Much is made of the benefits of using pre-warmed water, which I used to do, but frankly it’s bad on the back lugging such big containers about, so now the containers stay in the central channel, and I can sit on them, whilst working my way down the side of the greenhouse, soaking the compost – and avoiding anything going onto foliage; pulling off any diseased leaves at the first opportunity, and also pinching out side shoots. I realised early on that tomato growing is not labour free!SDIM3200 (2)SDIM3198 (2)
  • I’m now on the third year of growing the tomatoes in the same growing medium in pots – 12 or 15 litres, in double rows, slightly sunk into the two greenhouse beds. Initially a mix of soil and compost, all I now use is the material from my greenhouse compost heap to top up, and to grow on the seedlings An old hand (I’m afraid he accompanied and chauffered the main speaker, so I don’t have his name!) who gave some nuggets of years of wisdom last year at our garden club, reckoned the best tomatoes he’d ever seen, had been grown organically in the same bed for years and years… so I’m following his advice. By the end of the season the compost level has dropped 2 to 3 inches in the large pots, so this gets topped up after final planting out. The images below show the second potting on, into 2 litre pots, which I see was carried out on 27/04/2015. Note the loose unsieved leafy compost, which doesn’t get tamped down. Also because no weeds ever go into the compost heater bed, it’s almost entirely weed free – so no weeding of the tomatoes once planted out.SDIM1780 (2)SDIM1782 (2) SDIM1784 (2)
  • This year, they’ve had no supplementary feed, (other than the pretty rich compost) apart from a top dressing of sea weed meal at planting out, and I’ve also added crushed egg shells onto the base layer of compost again at planting out – a tip I gleaned from Alan Chadwick’s writings in the USA.
  • The varieties grown are all from home saved seed, and this year, because of the turmoil in the house, they weren’t sown until about the middle of March. But by midsummer’s day, the foremost plants had 4 flower trusses forming, with fruit of this size on the lowest truss, and they’re nearly 6 feet high. Images below from 21/06/2015…SDIM3186 (2)SDIM3193 (2)
  • Needless to say, I’m still using my pocket vibrator about every 2 to 3 days to pollinate the flowers, and also using the flexi ties (again now on their third year), to tie up the new growth to home grown Miscanthus canes. So apart from the dried seaweed, its pretty much all sourced on site.SDIM3192 (2)
  • I’m also trialling a couple of cucumber/pepper alternatives, (Achocha, from Real Seeds) since I’ve failed miserably with growing the real thing, as well as sweet potatoes growing beneath the tomatoes. Too early to tell what cropping will be like, but they’re all certainly growing well. Again notice the water filled bottles throughout the greenhouse – I’m convinced that all this thermal store helps smooth out day/night temperature extremes, and helps promote growth.SDIM3185 (2)SDIM3197 (2)
  • The apricots (cold weather cultivar ‘Tomcot’) and nectarines are fruiting well, and this year my policy of gently knocking off all the petals from the apricots with my pollinating brush, once the fruit had obviously set, spared any young fruit rotting with grey mould – interestingly the nectarines do not suffer in the same way, with the petals drying and shrivelling, quite harmlessly.SDIM3182 (2)

I’ve added in 3 more line wires higher up, but I’m now at the point where I shall need step ladders in the greenhouse to reach new tomato growth and flowers, as well as to thin out this year’s fruit tree growth.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The big bag bottle bank system has also exceed expectations in this very cool late start to the year, with spinach, kale and beet leaves from mid May onwards, and other crops germinating pretty well. Again images from 21/06/2015SDIM3280 (2)SDIM3283 (2) I’ve switched to a manual watering system – 2 cans filled from a water butt, which is much more water efficient than a sprinkler system, if a little more effort…SDIM3372 (2) and I’m in serious danger of losing our PV panels beneath a mountain of Squash and pumpkin foliage as these have thrived beneath my enviromesh and polycarbonate water bottle ‘cloches’.SDIM3286 (2) On 23rd June I decided I simply had to remove the polycarbonate sheets ( you can’t see the numerous water bottles on the soil surface between the plants) …SDIM3349 (2) but hopefully now the plants are a bit larger (!) and tougher, and we’re past the risk of frost. Though we did touch 4 degrees C on the night of June 20th.

I’ve tried a couple of recipes for our apricots – our first meal being on the longest day, and I think it’s really worth trying, and pretty easy…

Slice the apricots in half and save the kernels for later use. (Amaretti typre biscuits are made from them.) Crush one amaretti biscuit per apricot half in a pestle and mortar. Add one dessert spoon of honey, or maple syrup, per whole apricot, and half a dessert spoon of brandy per whole apricot . Split half a vanilla pod per 4 whole apricots, scrape out the seeds and add to the mix. Using a potato peeler add a generous sliver of lemon peel per whole apricot to the mix, and finally a small knob of butter per 4  whole apricots. Mix all together with a spoon. Add a few chopped thyme leaves as well (optional).SDIM3330 (2)

Lay the apricot halves with the kernel cavity upwards in an oven proof dish, and spoon in the mix. Put any remainder round the base, and add the vanilla pod to the dish. Roast/ bake at a moderate heat (say 160 degrees C) for about 30 minutes, and baste with the juices half way through. You can finish under a hot grill for the last 4 minutes if you want a snazzier look. Serve hot, with some ice cream if you like. But equally delicious cold.SDIM3331 (2)

Finally, a new plant discovered along our stream. Brooklime – Veronica beccabunga. A very pretty Speedwell, which the sheep seem to ignore…SDIM3344 (2)

SDIM3346 (2)

And a new, earlier Wax cap mushroom in our hay meadow, which the slugs seem to relish. Which species? Well maybe Hygrocybe quieta?  SDIM3363 (2)SDIM3358 (2)SDIM3364 (2)                                                                                                                                                   And I’ve hardly mentioned the rest of the garden, which is winding down a bit, courtesy of all those pollinating insects  …        SDIM3233 (2)SDIM3202 (2)SDIM3213 (2)SDIM3250 (2)SDIM3290 (2)And the first bloom on one of our home germinated climbing roses…SDIM3424 (2)And a really striking hybrid Linaria (presumably between L. genistifolia and L. purpurea.) nearly 5 feet tall, with intermediate sized apricot/peach flowers…SDIM3420 (2)SDIM3418 (2)

8 thoughts on “Butterfly Bonanza – Jizz, Flibutting, and Etymology; Growing Tomatoes Organically – Update; Roast Apricots with Amaretti, Vanilla, Lemon and Brandy.

  1. The garden is looking beautiful. It is encouraging that the flowers have attracted more butterflies into the garden. Over here I’m seeing less than usual. Interesting word flibutting but I feel if it were taken up in the butterfly world it could easily fall prey to misuse especially by Americans. Amelia

    • Hello Amelia,
      I suspect that less than usual for you is still way more than we normally see – actually this time of the year, if it weren’t for the meadow based butterflies about, not many would be present in the garden – the main garden butterfly boost comes in late July/August onwards.
      Best wishes
      Julian

  2. Well that title made me sit up, yes we have heard the alternative meaning having children teaches us a great deal. Sadly I had not heard it used in its proper context. I am going to print this post off to properly understand how you manage your greenhouse. Great photos as always!

    • Hello Julie,
      Didn’t mean to rock the boat… I genuinely hadn’t heard of its other use. Re the greenhouse, if you haven’t looked at it yet, there’s a whole load of more detailed info on how the greenhouse was set up on a Heating the greenhouse page beneath the header … my latest comments might make a bit more sense if you whizzed through some of these posts sometime …
      Best wishes
      Julian

  3. I’m guessing I’m slightly younger than you – or went to a rougher school! Although I now know the original definition of ‘the word’ I still don’t think I’ll bandy it around too much! 😀
    Your apricots sound delish – warm with marscapone – mmmmm!

    • Hello Noeline,
      Yes it’s rather looking like F and I both ‘missed’ out here. Makes you wonder how many other words are missing from our lexicon. Marscapone would indeed be great with the apricots, for a very indulgent dish. The only problem is they come so thick and fast, at a time when so much else is going on, its difficult to keep up…still a nice problem to have,
      best wishes
      Julian

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