2022 June

Calendar for June 2022
Calendar for June 2022

June has been a month of recovery! It is month 3 of our major undertaking of the year. We are both ‘disabled’ by long term health problems, and have a very meagre energy supply. So we live very restricted and limited lives, and only maintain a balance by carefully monitoring our energy output. For me it is crucial, as long term ME/Post Viral Syndrome is so similar to Long Covid …. as the world wakes up to what we have known for decades … that viruses can do long term and irreparable damage to the human body! Fatigue is not a new concept to me, it is what I’ve lived with for decades!
So April saw us preparing for Laurie’s visit from the USA – May was the month Laurie was here – and now June has been the month of recovering. Energy is very low – an energy drought that is echoing the water drought across Aberdeenshire – so staying at home is the best idea all round! We have had deliveries of groceries rather than driving to Inverurie and shopping for ourselves. So my photography has been home based, with indoor still life photography replacing the usual summer visits to the coast and local beauty spots.

Another reason for staying home is Covid. The latest versions of the virus (BA.4 and BA.5) are still very active and growing in numbers both locally and nationally – Scotland is always the worst figures of the 4 nations. I follow Aberdeenshire quite closely, and we began June with a recorded 350 cases (134.2 per 100,0000) peaking at 996 on the 26th and ended the month with 868 cases (332.8 per 100,0000). In May I had my second booster shot, but Mike has not been offered one, so we are super-careful this summer.

And as June progressed the garden has blossomed, growing apace despite the meagre rainfall. It has been neglected this year, as the growing season has coincided with us focussing on Laurie’s visit and the preparations. So weeds abound, the honeysuckle is running rampant, and the dandelions are thriving! But we do have some surprises and delights in the mix too.
I’ve tried to grow clematis over the years and always failed. Last year I planted 6 along the bare ranch fence in the back garden.

The clematis fence

In the Spring everything looked dead, but then they started growing from the ground up. By early June at least 4 were looking promising with plenty of buds ….

the clematis fence 2

And by the end of the month the fence is a blaze of blossoms, both purple and pink. I’m told they are ‘Clematis Pink Champagne’. I am just so thrilled that they have managed to thrive in our northern climate!

clematis flower

Needless to say I managed to bring indoors some of the beautiful clematis flowers so I could shoot them!
Here one flower, in the sunshine, shot with the Lensbaby Double Glass and macro ring.

a white peony

Buying flowers from the supermarket is becoming a very occasional treat now, as prices of everything sky-rocket! But I did indulge in a small bunch of peonies, something I can’t grow here.

physalis or Peruvian groundcherry

One thing I did add to my range of planters was 2 physalis plants. I have them indoors and they are thriving and growing rather tall! They are a new venture for me … I’ll see how they do. I’d love to be able to grow my own!

tree cutting

On a more sombre note about ‘growing tall’ we have had to cut down our tallest tree, an alder. If we are to expect gales like Storm Arwen this coming winter, then this is the tree most likely to succumb, and damage house and garden.

signs of barns wallows

As ever, we share our house and garden with visiting barn swallows. This year we have two families busy raising their first brood. We sometimes have a second brood – so we are hoping.

Here the first eggshell I found, and an early feather. Shot with a miniature vase – with the Lensbaby.

Japanese tea

Since the last vaccination in the spring (Pfizer) I’ve found my taste buds have gone really weird. I lost my taste for Japanese food, and it has only now returned. What a delight to enjoy my favourite tea –Genmaicha Iri Matcha.

And I can’t close without referring to ….
the cost of living crisis.
Everything, but everything is shooting up in price. Food bills are creeping up week on week. And when there is no price rise we find that the quality or quantity of items has been reduced! Do they think we are idiots and don’t notice??
And our heating oil has had a 50% rise this Spring, with a bigger rise promised in the autumn. We have no gas supply in rural Scotland – and have never enjoyed a ‘price cap’ – so suppliers are free to charge whatever they want /0\
Electricity is another essential that is set to sky-rocket this autumn. So we do daily monitoring to get our usage as low as possible. Only use dishwasher once a week. PCs off unless specifically needed. Laptops and iPhones replace the PC. Lights and appliances off unless needed. It feels like wartime as describes by my parents!
Scary when you think we are in summer … winter in the north of Scotland can be brutal! So as we leave June we are feeling sombre and wondering what disasters await us as 2022 progresses …

So on to July

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2021 August

the garden in August
The garden in August is alive with colour!

After the deluge that closed July, the whole garden has sprung into life with renewed vigour! The months of little or no rain saw the blossoms fall early, and growth severely limited. Now there is a sense of catching up with our chaotic year of 2021 – an overlong winter, cold and frosty Spring, and dry summer. Not too promising! But we even have hopes that the Victoria plums will revive and fatten – fingers are crossed!
There is sense of optimism as we approach August, Covid numbers are down to quite low levels – we might finally see some summer weather – and there is the promise of some return to ‘normal’ pre-pandemic life!

Barn swallow nests
A good year for our resident barn swallows!

High under the eaves, above my bedroom, we have the ‘homes’ of our summer visitors – barn swallows. This year they have been very busy! We suspect that their first brood didn’t survive the late and long winter, as there were no signs of new life apart from the eggshells. But since then there have been at least 2 more broods, with copious bird droppings adorning the honeysuckle that grows below them 😊
I can see the shadows of the swallows against my bedroom curtains, as they swoop up and into the nests, feeding the young. Some mornings there seem to be dozens of them circling and zooming in to the nests. I watch them with amazement!
And through August we have seen a new nest, and a first brood appear under the eaves at the side of the house! They are spreading their wings – quite literally!

A Yuta Segawa miniature vase
My turquoise Yuta Segawa miniature vase with a cocktail parasol

I was given a miniature vase years ago – a blue one I use often use, with a few small flowers, in my still life photography. I’ve never found another so small and so photogenic …. until now! They are hand-thrown and beautifuuly glazed. There’s a link here to a video of how they are made. I am having fun shooting them!

Fiesta steering wheel
Driving again! Brushing up my solo driving skills!

And by the middle of August I have started driving again! I need to keep my driving skills up-to-date. The very long and hard winter meant I avoided driving in such difficult conditions. Since then we have had our two Covid vaccination shots, each of them takes away energy, and has left me more tired – not good for the low energy levels from my long-term PVS/ME. But with Mike’s back problems I figure it is wise to make time and find the energy to polish up my driving. So a few early morning sessions at weekends have got me feeling safe and confident – though the energy has only taken me to Turriff a few times!

Japanese snacks
More delicious Japanese snacks to taste and enjoy!

Since Laurie introduced me to the delights of Japanese snacks, cakes and pancakes I have been enjoying adding to my range of eating experiences. And I confess to being well and truly hooked! Just like here, it is the small, traditional artisan makers who produce the best flavours. This lovely delicate momoyama snack is just one example.

bees on the lavender
Our wild bees finally feasting on the lavender

August has been a poor month weatherwise, with little rain to help the crops or our garden! And there has been even less sunshine – the skies have been a leaden grey most days. So we are relieved, as the month draws to a close, to finally see the small wild bees returning and swinging in the breeze on the lavender. Usually the garden is buzzing with activity, but everything is late this year – and insects, especially bees and butterflies are here in much smaller numbers.

And finally, as the month ends, I have to include a Covid reality check at the end of August.

Covid-Delta numbers quadrupled during August! Yes! We started the month feeling optimistic about the progress we had made against the Covid-Delta variant. But as August ends things are running madly out of control here!!
Our schools have been back 2-3 weeks now, and colleges are ready to return. And this is all on top of a summer of football, sporting and music festivals, and now the Edinburgh festival.

Previously Aberdeenshire had seen low infection rates – but in the past month infection numbers have more than quadrupled!!
August 1st – 230 cases reported a rate of 88.2 per 100,000
August 31st – 1,159 cases reported a rate of 444.4 per 100,000
VERY locally we have usually had weekly numbers too small to count (0-2) with a max of 3 and an occasional 4. As the month draws to a close we have 25 reported cases.

It seems that most hospitalizations are of younger age-groups, mostly unvaccinated or with a single vaccine. But the authorities won’t give the go-ahead for school-age children to be vaccinated yet.
And about 1/3 of hospital admissions are among the older and double-vaccinated groups.
ICU figures are slowly creeping up, but so far deaths remain low. But there is no idea of what long-term damage there could be from Covid-Delta itself.
The Scottish Govt. is holding its breath and hoping that we can ride out the current wave. But already the demands on hospitals are forcing them to cancel non-urgent surgery etc. as the wards are filling up again with Covid cases.

On which happy note we end August! September means we are moving into autumn and winter weather (with more indoor activity). So it looks like we will remain essentially self-isolating and relying on masks and keeping away from any crowded places.
But before we move on to September, a look at my Flickr activity for August. I post regularly to Flickr, with a mix of macro, still life, landscape and experimental images. And as the month ends I create a collage for each month. They act as dividers in the flow of images, and also as a reminder to myself of what I have been up to over the previous weeks!

August collage of Flickr postings
My August collage of all the shots I’ve uploaded to Flickr this month

So – on to September, and the approach of autumn.
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2021 July

close up of dried twigs and petals
Inspiration from the garden – some dried hydrangea flowers caught in a dead twig. Macro captures so much more than the naked eye

I’ve taken a break from Flickr for a couple of weeks this month, mainly because Mike’s back is bad and I need to take over a lot of the lifting, bending etc. There just isn’t the energy to do it all. But the odd moments I have managed to carve out of the housework have been devoted to my much neglected watercolour project! And I’ve managed to do a little almost every day … keeping my new ‘habit’ of touching base at least! So I decided to give over most of the July Journal to my painting.
I use the ‘dining room’ as an art room – always have, as it houses the big paper storage unit and the large draughtsman’s table that I use(d) for pastel painting. But until recently I have felt the watercolour painting space to be cramped and inhospitable. I finally sat down and looked at it, and pondered how it could be improved. The biggest problem is the light, closely followed by lack of table space.
I reversed the table so I sit close to the only window. That single move has made a massive difference! Then I have added a second fold-out table behind, for extra lights, paintbrush holders etc. Mike found me a small portable easel to allow the right gentle angle for the paper … and I am in business! It is such a transformation – I actively want to be in the room, where before I had to reluctantly drag myself in!

my art room 1
Looking from the living room into my art room space
work surface from above
My working surface seen from above. A friendly clutter!
my painting pin board
The draughtsman’s board used as a pin board for bits and bobs.

I have moveable lamps to add to the lighting, as well as some light from the front room, through the archway between the rooms. The room is also full of my pastel paints, with pastel works on the walls …. and then there are my photography prop stores ….. so there’s not a spare inch of surface anywhere!
I’m having fun, and learning a whole lot about watercolour painting. The more I expore, the more I understand why it is considered the hardest and most demanding of paint media! There is no room for changing your mind, or correcting a mistake – once the paint mark is made, it is final! No scraping back, no rethinking …. you are committed!

OK! So I’ve reached a sticking point here! There is so much I want to write about that it will swamp my more general monthly Journal ‘digest’. So I am going to do a spin-off into another part of the website. I’ve called in HANDS ON as it seems to sum up all my creative pursuits over the years since Post Viral Syndrome put an abrupt stop to my career in the educational world.

The garden in full bloom
The garden is suddenly full of colour and growing apace!

And so July passed, with the world shrunk to our own home and garden. Back to ordering groceries online for delivery to our door – an absolute blessing for when we can’t get to the shops ourselves. Mike is slowly recovering. It is a painful process, but he has discovered that simply walking, to strengthen his leg muscles is also strengthening his back muscles, and he is building up the total of steps. Great news, and a real sense of progess! His world is still limited to walking, lying down and the occasional sitting at a table for meals. Sitting for long hours at the computer is definitely out for the moment!

raindrops into the clear water
And it rained – like nothing we’ve seen before here!

And the month ended with a spectacular day of rain! After nearly 3 months of very little rain we had forgotten to check the gutters and down pipes – they just weren’t in our minds. Hosepipes, and keeping the newer plants in the garden alive were our main concern.
And then, after reading about torrential and spectacular flooding across Europe, and in areas of the UK too …. we had our own taste of ‘climate change’. A day so full of torrential rain that the paved areas were under water and the gutters couldn’t cope at all. Solid sheets of water poured from the gutters over front and back doors …. threatening to collapse. And the water rose too close to the actual house for comfort. We spent the day with buckets of all sizes, trying to carry the flood water to the storm drains, and wondering if it would ever end!
Sheer madness, but standing in my knee-high red wellies I just had to capture the beauty of the clear water on the flag-stones … inches deep! The water brought out the colours and the textures! I couldn’t resist!

And so the month ends, and there is the first touch of autumn in the air, as the nights begin to draw in…..
And on to August, as summer begins to fade just a little.
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2021 June

Yunomi and mochi
A Japanese Yunomi cup and a mochi snack with red bean paste.

June 2021 – in which I discover the joys of Japanese snacks, find that we are in a drought period here, and try to get a grasp on the Covid ‘Delta’ variant.

I’ve long been an admirer of many things Japanese; from their food to their philosophy and art, there are so many things to enjoy, admire, and ponder. ‘Art’ is a word that you can extend to encompass almost every aspect of Japanese life – from the tea ceremony to making paper, there is an expertise that has been developed over centuries. And recently my friend and fellow Japan admirer Laurie Kern introduced me to the taste experience of traditional Japanese ‘snacks’.
Laurie discovered two suppliers offering snack-boxes on a regular basis, each with a selection of traditional artisan-made snacks and sweets. Sakuraco supplied their April box that included the Yunomi cup and mochi in the shot I took as the header photo for June.
There are many different kinds of mochi. This one is red bean paste encased in a soft cake.
The snacks seem to be less sweet and sugary than our usual Western sweets or snacks, and the tastes are more subtle and gentle. And they are wickedly delightful and ‘more-ish’ 😊.
Each box comes with a booklet that describes each snack included, so it is a learning experience as well as a taste experience! And after sampling some of the delights of Laurie’s April box, she sent me a box of my own from another supplier, Bokksu as a surprise gift!

Bokksu Japanese snack box
My surprise present of a Bokksu Japanese snack box.

And like Sakuraco it came laden with snacks, and an accompanying booklet about each snack. No little porcelain cup this time … just delicious treats to nibble!

Momoyama Japanese snack
Japanese snack called Momoyama, which is quite delicious!

Apart from savouring the different tastes from Japan, the month of June was also one of the driest on record! After a prolonged winter that lasted through until May, we were looking for some relief for our garden. Some plants didn’t survive the winter, and those that did were blighted, with new leaves and buds blackened by constant overnight frosts. So we hoped to welcome some warmer and sunnier weather, to allow the garden to revive. It was such a blow to find week after week with no rain! We had to resort to using hosepipes to keep everything alive …..

June garden colours
The blossoms which make our garden so colourful were quickly dying due to the drought.
The back rockery
The light sandy soil doesn’t hold the water well – and strong sunshine will soon defeat the plants!

Some areas like the back rockery find that the steep slope means our light, sandy soil doesn’t hold the water well – and strong sunshine will soon defeat the plants!

And so onto the third and final part of my June Journal – the progress of the pandemic!
I saved writing about this aspect of June until the month ended, as it quickly became apparent that there was a further wave (3rd? 4th? I’ve lost count!) of Covid infections breaking on the shores of the UK – the Delta variant.
“SARS-CoV-2 Delta variant, also known as lineage B.1.617.2, is a variant of lineage B.1.617 of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It was first detected in India in late 2020. The World Health Organization (WHO) named it the Delta variant on 31 May 2021.”
[source: Wikipedia]

I live in Scotland, so I keep an eye on the Covid statistics for Scotland, and in rural Aberdeenshire, so I track and record the statistics for my area too.
This variant was being tracked at it was even more transmissible than the Kent (Alpha) variant. And instead of closing down international travel between the UK and the Indian sub-continent, the Westminster government allowed hundreds of thousands of potentially infected travellers to enter the UK without testing or quarantine. Another political disaster, to add to the seemingly endless succession of disasters the Westminster government has inflicted on us! I despair /0\
The Indian (Delta) variant quickly took hold and throughout June it spread like a wildfire throughout the UK, especially in densely populated cities. Scotland has fared worst of all, with almost double the number of confirmed cases when compared with England.

A quick snapshot of the data here in Aberdeenshire shows the trend throughout June:
* May 31st – 22 recorded +ve cases.
That is 8.4 people infected per 100,000. And a test positivity rate of 0.4%
** June 29th – 514 recorded +ve cases.
That is 196.8 people infected per 100,000. And a test positivity rate of 5.9%
And Aberdeenshire has been one of the least badly affected areas of Scotland.

A snapshot of the state of things in mid-June. By no means as bad as it was when June finally ended! On this daily tally for June 18th we are only 54.4 per 100,000. By June 28th we were 196.8 per 100,000.

Scotland COVID June 2021
Delta variant cases in Scotland by mid June 2021

Truly horrifying and exponential growth! The figures just got worse and worse as the month went on. We became even more aware that we were guinea-pigs in a giant experiment to see how far vaccination could protect us all in the real world ‘laboratory’. Every afternoon we checked for the latest stats, and drilled down into the Aberdeenshire figures. It was the only way to find information to guide our decisions about when it might be safe to go grocery shopping, or to go out for exercise. The detailed statistics were always lagging 3 days behind, so it could only be a general guide – but it was better than nothing!

Broadly the results seem to suggest that vaccination (double vaccination) does help to protect against the severe form of Covid, as hospitalisation; intensive care numbers and registered deaths all remained low. But the infection rates for the younger and unvaccinated groups have soared, and the implications in terms of Long Covid, and longer term effects remains unclear. And as July approached we wondered about the promises from London of “Freedom Day” and a quick return to ‘normality’.

On to July – and where next for the pandemic?
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Let’s sit among the flowers….

Twist-60 Lensbaby at Fyvie Castle
First outing for the Lensbaby Twist 60, shooting the loch-side walk at Fyvie Castle

The kind of place you just want to sit and watch the world go by!
The rhododendrons are still blooming at Fyvie Castle. Too good to miss the chance to enjoy them! And a chance to try out my latest Lensbaby optic, the Twist 60.

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Sweet and pink!

Pink geranium flowers.
Pink geranium flowers. Sweet 50 with 16mm macro converter

Thinking of summer as the flowers start to bloom. A pink geranium that we grew in a pot, close to the porch so it could get the sun and be sheltered from the winds. It rewarded us with beautiful flowers.
Shot here with the Lensbaby, which is one of my favourite range of optics. The Sweet 50 optic gives a sharp focus point called the “sweet spot” and a gentle blur surrounding that spot.
There’s a whole series of articles here on the Lensbaby optic system
On Flickr you can find my Album of Sweet 50 photos

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© 2019 Elisa Liddell