Wood is one of my favourite natural materials and it can always surprise us with its beauty. From seedling trees to decaying logs, for me wood provides a metaphor for the cycle of life. For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week, we are looking for weathered wood. Weathered wood is often a visual feast as it develops its own individual natural character with unique grain patterns, shapes and textures.
When we walk in our local woodlands we see many tree stumps, fallen trees or logs where the forces of nature and time have left their mark. Along some of our regular paths we have observed the effects of these natural processes on particular stumps and logs over several years. With the gradual effects of decay and weathering, some of our old log ‘seats’ have cracked open to reveal their woody chambers within.
On damp days in early Autumn colourful fungi will sprout from the weathered wood of old tree stumps and logs. The Sulphur Tuft fungus Hyphaloma fasciculare is one of the more common and easily recognisable species that grow on old wood from deciduous trees. Here it is growing on a small Beech stump in one of our favourite beechwoods. We find beechwoods tend to be quite rich in fungi.
This dead tree on the woodland edge was felled by the wind last Spring and now it has developed its own little niche under the holly hedge. The thick grey vines of ivy continue to thrive on the weathered wood of the fallen trunk. On this particular day the late Winter sun was streaming through the trees and lighting up this normally unremarkable spot on the forest floor. I thought it looked quite beautiful and a little magical. You could almost expect The Little Grey Men to suddenly appear from under the fallen tree.
This old tree trunk sits on a steep bankside in a small stretch of ancient woodland within one of our local woods. I love the shapes and patterns that have developed in this old wood and the contrast between rough and smooth. In Autumn this is another old tree trunk that we have previously seen covered in fungi – not the Sulphur Tuft as I showed you earlier, but hundreds of smooth, white Stump Puffballs Lycoperdon pyriforme .
Weathered wood is such a fascinating material. Do take a look at the weathered wood others have found for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week.
Textures appeal to our sense of touch as well as creating interest visually. I love natural materials and for Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge this week I am sharing some of my favourite natural textures with you.
My header image shows the heavily textured bark of a Scots Pine tree. Tree bark is wonderful for touchable texture with different species providing us with everything from rough to smooth. This Scots Pine tree stands on one of our regular woodland paths so we can enjoy its textured bark as we pass by.
In our part of the country sandstone forms one of the geological layers and was used as a building material of choice for many centuries. The stone was normally quarried very locally to where it was needed, though often not much ‘quarrying’ would have been needed as there are many sandstone outcrops from where it would have been readily available. The sandstone in my photo has been hewn into large blocks and built into this fortified medieval manor house. Sandstone is another wonderfully touchable texture. For me, its rough surface speaks solidity and security.
Wood can have so many textures during its lifespan. In this decaying log the solid wood is gradually being broken down into soft and crumbly fibres. As it is decaying, the log provides us with lots of visual textures.
In Summer when we are out on a ramble and want a comfortable seat for our picnic lunch, we will often make bracken ‘cushions’ to sit on. As the year draws on into Autumn, the bracken turns brown and by Winter it lies on the ground like a cosy patterned blanket keeping the earth warm. In my image the light picks out the fronds of bracken that have been painted white with frost.
Seashore environments can exhibit a wonderful mixture of textures. Our North East coastline certainly provides a lot of interest through its flora and fauna and in its Magnesian Limestone rocks and geological features. The rocky coastline in itself has plenty of exciting visual texture but getting up close to some of those seashore rocks reveals more temptingly touchable textures … such as this smooth and leathery Knotted Wrack seaweed with its bumpy air bladders that clings to the rough limestone rock alongside the resting limpets hiding in their ridged shells and clamped firmly on the rocky surface waiting for the swish of the returning tide before they venture forth to feed.
To complete my texture tour I wanted to include a couple of my son’s images of fungi textures. He likes to be quite creative in his photography, so he often chooses unusual angles. I love the way he has managed to capture the texture in this worm’s eye view of the gills underneath the cap of this fungus.
Jelly Ear Fungus is a strange and fascinating fungus that we find growing on elder trees. When this fungus is freshly grown it is pliable with a slightly squishy texture and a soft downy covering. Its shape is often reminiscent of an ear with prominent veins … though perhaps an ear from some alien life form rather than a human!
Having fresh herbs to hand makes home cooking even tastier. During the warmer months of the year I like to make sure I’ve got some of my Summer-grown herbs stashed away ready for use in the colder months too. A little while ago I was telling you about the various herbs I am growing and preserving this year.
One of the herbs I grew from seed this Spring was the wonderfully aromatic Sage. I cut my first batch of Sage 6 weeks ago on 24th June and hung it up to dry. Now this week I when I checked its progress I decided it was dried enough and ready to ‘rub’. Rubbing Sage is simply breaking up the dried leaves with your fingertips so that the herb can easily be stored in a jar ready for use.
You can rub Sage onto a plate or other surface but as I only had a small batch to rub I attempted to rub it straight into the jar … most of it went in, as you can see, with only a little escaping onto the clean cardboard beneath. First I removed the Sage leaves from their stem. To do this, hold the base of the stem in one hand and point the leaves downwards. With your other hand, pinch the stem firmly near its base between your thumb and first finger. Then draw your ‘pinch’ downwards, pulling the leaves from the stem as you move towards the top of the stem.
Now we are ready to rub the Sage leaves. It’s best to lay the leaves down and work with just a few at at time. Hold the leaves between your thumbs and fingertips and literally rub the leaves. If they are dry enough they should break fairly easily, though some may need a little tug to tear them apart. Sage leaves don’t take much processing as we are aiming for small pieces of leaf rather than dust! When all of the leaves have been rubbed they can be stored in an air-tight jar.
I love not only the smell of Sage but the texture of the leaves too, so rubbing the Sage allows me to enjoy both! I think the way the veins grow in the Sage leaves give them such an interesting mosaic texture.
My Sage plants have also now grown on enough to allow me to cut a second batch today and hang them up in their brown paper packet for drying. This second batch is more substantial than the first. This is because when I cut the Sage I left about one third of the stem on each plant. All of the stems I had left have now re-sprouted strongly. Again I have left a little of each stem to enable the Sage to regrow.
Maybe I will be able to take a third batch for drying before the plants slow down their growth when the weather begins to grow colder and there’s less sunshine – I shall have to wait and see.
Natural textures don’t only reveal themselves to us through our eyes, I find. Sometimes they appeal to our sense of touch instead. An example of this for me is when I notice something new in the texture of tree bark. To really appreciate its beauty, I am drawn to touch it, to experience the tactile nature of the texture.
This week I have been working with what I call ‘real’ wool in a crochet project. This hand processed and handspun natural undyed wool is from the fleece of Jacob sheep. This wool yarn has a wonderful springy texture which is retained in the crocheted fabric as I work. In this particular project I am introducing a further texture in the form of a herringbone stitch pattern. The herringbone design dates a long way back into antiquity and I felt this ancient design seemed appropriate for this ruggedly natural wool yarn.
My second natural texture came as part of my recent experiments with natural ingredients for ‘tea’ type drinks. This week this led me to try out raspberry leaves. For me, natural ingredients are more likely to be found in the woods and hedgerows than in supermarkets. For raspberry leaves, I knew just where to look.
Picking raspberry leaves whilst balancing on the edge of a ditch makes you acutely aware of all your senses, it seems. As I stretched out carefully to reach some unblemished leaves, I was intensely aware of how soft and velvety raspberry leaves are on their dark green upper side whilst their pale, grey-green undersides are traced with prominent veins, plus one or two small thorns. Following a refreshing raspberry leaf tea taste test using a single fresh leaf, I am currently drying the remainder of my foraged leaves for future use.
Sometimes when searching through your photo archives for a particular shot you need for a project, you come across images you love but had almost forgotten. This shot of a Small Copper butterfly resting on the sun-warmed riverside shingle is one such image for me. I love the delicate softness of the butterfly against the stones. The stones themselves provide a wonderful variety of textures – from rough to smooth. Hiding away towards the top left of the picture I noticed a piece of rusty metal too.
I have enjoyed exploring the creativity of texture for this week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge. I am always inspired when visiting other blogs to see how people have interpreted the challenge.