A cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind
This week: The year of the Katydid; A cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind; Fruits of my labours; June flowers;
We have had another changeable week of weather again this week.
A very useful 12mm of rain was delivered on Monday, followed by showers on following days which have produces small, but measurable amounts. This has meant that I have still not started irrigating.
I compare 2023 to last year, when I had started my daily irrigation routine at the end of April.
Looking out of my study window on Wednesday afternoon, I spotted the unmistakable “anvil” cloud of a towering cumulonimbus storm, to the north west. It was quite some distance away.
A quick check on line and I found the storm over the Krka National Park, to the east of Šibernik, some 90 kilometres from home.
With a warm Adriatic and a relatively cool but wet mainland, there are thunderstorms forming almost every day at the moment.
A cooler than average spring, with considerably more rainfall than normal has benefited some plants, whilst others which are more used to the Mediterranean climate are less happy.
The year of the katydid
As I have been cutting back weeds on the Top Orchard before they go to seed, I have been aware of a large number of insects jumping out of my way.
Or perhaps more accurately, out of the way of my shears.
I have a petrol line strimmer, but I have left the cutting back late and I don’t want to spread seeds far and wide.
So I have been cutting by hand so I minimise seed dispersal.
As I moved through the orchard, everywhere “things” were jumping or flying out of the way.
There were of course the things, like the Arachnids, large and small, which just tried to hide.
What I could see is that that some were familiar adult Katydids, whilst others were at the fourth instar stage and I didn’t recognise them.
It perhaps helps to have a understanding of their life cycle. The insect order Orthoptera is the umbrella family for grasshoppers, crickets and locusts.
Ensifera are the Cricket and Katydid family, but they share life cycles of other Orthoptera, specifically how the mature.
Katydid’s lay eggs on plants, so another reason not to cut grass and weeds! The eggs are often oval, looking like scales and sometimes on leaves, sometimes on stems.
After the eggs hatch, the nymphs go through several lifecycle stages, called “Instars” and moult five times between emerging from the egg and being an adult.
The early instars do not have functioning wings, although developing wings are visible. They do eat plant material, but also they are a gardeners friend because they chew on aphids and other bugs .
The Egyptian Grasshopper is a year round resident I see, even in winter. Here it is perfectly camouflaged in amongst the grass.
So the big katydid I have seen, some two or three centimetres in length, are the third or fourth instars, jumping or just starting to fly short distances.
A very easy way to separate Katydids from Grasshoppers is their antenna. On Grasshoppers, their head antenna are short, whereas the Katydids have very long, mobile antenna.
Having left the weeds and grass to grow, this is the first time I have seen so many in the orchard.
I am going to leave areas of grass where I can, cutting the seed heads of weeds as they appear.
It will be a month before they start laying eggs and they need somewhere to lay them.
A cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind
Albert Einstein famously quipped, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
While the Nobel laureate was obviously advocating for the benefits of cluttered desks, he likely had no idea that his question would inspire researchers decades later… and that those researchers would eventually give him a confirmatory answer.
In a study published in Psychological Science, a team of researchers headed by Kathleen Vohs found that working at a tidy (Einstein would say empty) desk influences people to be more conventional, more generous and to make healthier choices.
But, perhaps more interestingly, working at a cluttered desk positively influences people’s creative thinking ability. It appears Einstein was on to something.
The parts I needed for my computer arrived a couple of weeks ago, however the computer was working well again.
Then this week it started again to fail on boot-up, so I decided to change the motherboard, processor and other parts. However I needed some space on my desk to make the changes.
Much like the inside of the computer a couple of months ago, I had a lot of dust on the desk.
It wasn’t a long job to clear things up and make space on my desk.
However, as the weather was warm I made most of the changes outside, then brought the computer in for final testing.
At switch-on, everything worked, so that was one job out of the way and I am using it to write this.
My desk remains clutter free, although my mind is lagging some way behind! I think I’ll try and keep it that way.
Fruits of my labours
The Mediterranean climate encourages early blossom production, then the heat of summer makes all but the native trident of plants, Olives, Grapes and Figs, shut down because of the heat and lack of precipitation.
Other fruits, for example my Persimmon, will not be ready for picking until October.
This means that at this point in the year, I am starting to pick the early fruits.
After trialling eight or nine varieties of raspberry, I eventually found one which is drought tolerant, likes my heavy, alkaline soil and fruits well.
The raspberries are black, rather than the usual red or yellow, however they taste like raspberries and are really nice with breakfast cereal.
My yellow plum is starting to drop fruit. Although in the spring, it was covered in blossom, there are not as many fruits on the tree as I have had in previous years.
Most seem to be quite high up too, which is going to make picking them more difficult this year.
I have been watching the apricots ripen as well. As with the plums, there are not as many fruits as I have had previously. It will be a couple more weeks before they are ready for picking.
A beautiful Balkan native bulb is the Dragon Arum Lily, Dracunculus vulgaris. I have them growing close to my kitchen window.
This not not the best of places because the scent the flowers emit is that of rotting flesh. It is the smell of a decaying animal, which attracts the flies that pollinate the plant.
The flowers are spectacular, not just because of their deep purple to black colour, but because they are a metre long from the base of the flower to the tip of the spathe.
The good news is that they only emit their scent for 24 hours, before dying back for another year.
Also in flower at the moment are the Prickly Pear Cactus.
The warmth and rain has been making the weeds grow, especially those with long tap roots, but it has also allowed many of my garden plants to produce abundant flowers.
Usually by this point in the year, the clay soils have been baked as hard as concrete and many plants are only kept alive with irrigation.
It looks as though there will be some more rain next week, which will be welcomed…. NCG