A dragonfly

All four smalls were here yesterday morning; the mother of two of them was doing university work, but the parents of the other two had gone to see a funeral cortege and to watch the funeral remotely through zoom. Deaths are still occurring for other non C-19 reasons. This was a tragic road accident which has left children fatherless. Technology broke down nine minutes into the service.

It felt more like a blustery March day than late June. We all went for a walk before the weather broke – grey clouds were looming. First stop – the horses, who are currently number one attraction for the children. Despite their size, they are much less skittish and unpredictable than the donkeys. And then we walked the fields – a route not taken in nearly two weeks, as the recently deceased spaniel was too frail to walk it in his last few days.

In that fortnight we’ve had ideal growing conditions for brambles. The only way to get through in places was bearing sticks. The smalls enjoyed this. Creatures abounded – birds, butterflies, ladybirds (that eternally entertaining spot-counting exercise), assorted little bugs and beetles and the most extraordinarily-sized dragonfly, which kept us company for a while. When we googled later, it looked like we’d seen a golden-ringed dragonfly.

Technology here is finally improving after almost a week of at first patchy and then no mobile coverage. Fortunately, we have an office landline and a second internet connection through a different provider, so we weren’t totally cut off. But it was extremely frustrating while it lasted. My work computer has yet to be moved back to the farm office from the kitchen table.

There are other concerns, irritations and difficulties right now – a lot to do with communications from government. Announcing changes without having thought through the detail. Basic stuff really. Why should this surprise me?

As often happens, I found myself delving further into dragonfly territory. I started with Tennyson’s little poem, (barely clocked before), and then moved on to dragonfly eating habits. A dragonfly has a prodigious appetite, consuming its own weight in insects in 30 minutes. It’s carnivorous, and sometimes cannibalistic. Its wings typically beat 30 times per second, compared to an average bee speed of 300 beats per second. Despite lack of speed, the dragonfly is the strongest flyer in the insect world – its strength enabling it to hover even in strong headwinds. A thought to hold onto for a moment.

Full moons, strawberries and a man with a passion

The full moon was last Friday, 5th June. It’s known as Rose Moon, Hot Moon or, more commonly, Strawberry Moon. It roughly coincides with the start of the strawberry picking season. Ours, growing inside a polytunnel, are just beginning. I checked on them earlier and only snaffled one. Which was pretty restrained I thought.

July’s full moon will be as a Thunder Moon, or Full Buck Moon. But let’s not wish the month away. It’s furlough payroll time again. Another fortnight has passed. There is a little more freedom, but not much. Wales is closed to visitors. We don’t know when business can resume, and in what form. So much we’re waiting to find out.

Recently I was sent some information about a distant cousin, whose existence I was totally unaware of. Theodore Ballantyne Blathwayt was born in England but worked in Cape Town and died in Johannesburg in 1934. It was his splendid name which drew me in to read and find out more.

He was the discoverer of three comets – c/1926 B1, C/1927 A1 and a third whose name I haven’t been able to establish yet. For each new discovery he was awarded a Donohoe Comet Medal and he was elected as a member of the British Astronomical Society in 1929. I came across articles he’d written where his enthusiasm and individuality was palpable.

He spent many nights ‘sweeping’ for comets. He writes that he made his finds using a four inch refractor and an eight inch reflecting telescope. I have no idea whether or not this would still be the kit of choice for a modern comet hunter.