Happy Leap Day

rambling ratz

Today, February 29th 2016, is an extra day for it is a « Leap Year ». My infrared camera trap caught a squirrel leaping for joy at the extra day, or maybe it was because she found some peanuts.

Every 4 years we have to add an extra day to the Gregorian calendar to catch up with the Earth’s revolution around the sun, which takes 365 days and 6 hours. On Leap Day, women are allowed to propose to men (traditionally it wasn’t the done thing otherwise). If the man refuses then he has to buy the lady 12 pairs of gloves. It seems that this all started in the 5th Century when St Bridget complained to St Patrick that men took too long to ask women to marry them, so he allowed women to do the prompting every 4 years. More worryingly, there is some debate as to whether people are…

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Spring Tree Blossom

rambling ratz

It is that time of the year when the grey British landscape suddenly turns into an oriental brush painting; a silk screen of delicate pink and white blossom shimmering against blue skies. It won’t last!photo of cherry plum blossom

Thursday 20th March 2014 marks the vernal equinox, the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere. During an equinox the Earth’s tilt relative to the sun is zero and the length of day and night is approximately equal. This auspicious event is marked in various ways. For Christians, the date of Easter is set as the first Sunday after a full moon following the vernal equinox. Boatyard workers in Annapolis, Maryland hold a « Burning of the Socks » festival which speaks for itself, feet are not graced by socks until the autumn equinox. It is also marked by World Storytelling Day. photo of cherry plum blossom

As spring represents new life, pagans throughout the centuries have celebrated various gods and…

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Blackbirds and Father’s Day

rambling ratz

Sunday June 15th 2014 is Father’s Day in the United Kingdom. Male blackbirds make excellent fathers; great link eh? Here we see daddy blackbird showing his young fledgling the best places in the garden to scratch around for tasty insects. He will also teach his young charge to wait outside the back door impatiently for some sultanas.photo of blackbird & fledgeling

The Eurasian blackbird, Turdus murula is actually a member of the thrush family. The males have black plumage with a striking yellow beak and eye ring, whereas the females and youngsters are brown splodgy things. They are a very common and vocal garden bird. The blackbird is the national bird of Sweden. Up until the eighteenth century they were also known as ouzels. Most of you will be familiar with the nursery rhyme in which some blackbirds form the filling of a pie. It may sound like nonsense, but apparently during the sixteenth…

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Tiptoeing Through the Tulips

rambling ratz

More of a nimble bimble than a tiptoe in my case, on account of my being a small illustrated rat, but I can promise you tulips.photo of tulip

The unmistakable bold brash tulips add a splash of colour to the garden. The name originates from the Turkish, tülbend which some think is derived from the Persian delband, meaning turban. This could be due to someone’s fevered imagination thinking the flower looked like a turban, or because they saw an Ottoman’s turban fashionably decorated with a tulip; we will never know. The French insisted on calling it tulipe and the lazy English knocked off the extravagant « e ».

photo of tulipCarolus Clusius planted a few tulips to brighten up Leiden University in the Netherlands and they turned out to be rather popular with the Dutch. Tulpenmanie or tulip mania was born, reaching its peak in 1637. This is thought to be one of the first…

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Drawn Like Moths to a Flame

rambling ratz

« Thus hath the candle singed the moth.
O these deliberate fools! When they do choose,
They have the wisdom by their wit to lose. »

~ Portia, from Shakespeare’s « Merchant of Venice »

Just as moths are drawn to the flames of candles, so are people drawn to the promises hinted at by neon signs (I think they are mostly flourescent or LED lights nowadays). Yet these bright exciting lights that beckon us merely leave us tired, burned out and poorer.

As for why moths are drawn to artificial light; no one knows for sure. One theory is that they navigate by the moon, which is the only light source that they have evolved to expect. The light of the moon should never be below them, so they flutter around the light source trying to obtain the angle that they were expecting.

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Snowdrops and Crocuses

rambling ratz

There is one week left of winter, already the United Kingdom has had the wettest winter since proper records began in 1910. So spring is just around the corner.photo of snowdrop

The crocuses have been out for a little while, as mentioned in this post here. Last week the snowdrops joined them. Little droplets of white huddled together in clusters by the garden fence. Their posh name is Galanthus which is Greek for ‘milk flower’.

photo of snowdropsIt is a common flower across Europe, introduced to the UK in the sixteenth century, and is a welcome sign of spring. Their seeds are particularly tasty to ants, who in turn re-distribute them. Snowdrops also provide nectar for bumblebees and other insects waking from hibernation.

An alternative name for snowdrops is Candlemas bells, as they tend to appear at the start of February to coincide with the Christian festival of light. In Pagan times this…

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