Ochre Springs

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Oily looking ferrous reds stain the greyer mud of the marsh edges at different locations within the immediate Parish bounds. University of Southampton research concludes these are ‘ochre springs’ of ferrous hydroxide colloids emerging from alluvial sediment and the clays, marls and gravel of the later Eocene period 33 million years ago. This brush with the geological strata will continue to colour my thoughts.

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Starboard

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Two metres of a  green painted lateral channel marker has been washed up at N 50˚47.143″ x W 001˚24.449″ (20 feet from the Egg). These posts are made from boughs of willow driven into the mud to mark the starboard edge of the winding navigable water. I found a further shorter section upriver, as well as a fragment of green painted bark around 100 metres from the main section of post. Erosion, accidental knocks and wood  rot play their part in the ever changing changing shape of the local scene.

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Quartet

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Individual blackberries collected from around the Egg were drawn by scraping through an ink wash created from their own juices.  Twenty preserved berries (suspended in methanol) have been rendered in this way and a random quartet are here chosen to represent the group.

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Mint Tea

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Mint growing wild just 83 feet from the Egg, provided leaves to flavour the potatoes I had for supper yesterday and today’s digestive tea. It has the distinct flavour of spearmint and I have dried a small amount for future use.

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Exbury Egg Preserves

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The Exbury Egg preserves the fruits of its research in glass jars and vitrines, suspended in a 70% magenta tinted methanol solution; drawing out the red of unripe blackberries from the continuing abundance of my crop at N 50˚47.142′  001˚24.450′.

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Blackberry Picking 1966

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Seamus Heaney’s  poem called  Blackberry Picking was sent to me just a couple of days ago in response to my ongoing fascination with this bountiful plant, but without mention of his death at the end of August (news of which just penetrated my thin cedar walls). I walked out tonight as the sun set along my abundant avenue of fruit laden bushes, whose every stem seemed home to the green, to the ripe and to the gone to seed. Nothing’s lasts forever, except perhaps its memory.

Blackberry Picking
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
for a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
sent us out with milk-cans, pea-tins, jam-pots
where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
we trekked and picked until the cans were full,
until the tinkling bottom had been covered
with green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
with thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
the fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
that all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.
‘Death of a Naturalist’  1966  Seamus Heaney

The Exbury Egg Conserves

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Morning ripened berries were selected from an east facing bush on the Egg Gateway. They were thoroughly washed and examined by hand for bits of thorn and other unwelcomeness.  They were then lightly crushed in a bowl.

A sachet of pectin with a quarter cup of sugar was added to the berries and brought to the boil for a minute.  Seven full cups of sugar were then added and boiled again for a short time, until the nascent jam began to set on a cooled spoon. Froth was skimmed from the top and the mixture carefully poured into two pre-prepared sterilised jars.

nb. It is important not to pick blackberries after Michaelmas on September 29th after which time they increasingly become a home to maggoty creatures. It has been argued that the devil renews a curse on the plant on this day every year, after landing on it when ejected from heaven by archangel Michael.

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Eight cups of berries (crushed to fill six cups)

Seven and 1/4 cups of sugar

One sachet of pectin

Two clean glass jars

Two labels (to be applied)

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Red and Yellow

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The red of the sea beet is in a fight for light with surrounding grasses and the pale yellow of the more plentiful sea purslane is an easily dismissed fuzz of brownish yellow. Relatively dull to the naked eye, they have a haunting and memorable presence under my microscope’s lens.

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Bleached and Stained

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The hot sun of late July and the first part of August bleached the egg exterior considerably, as I noted when the first of the protective foil panels was removed this week to reveal the original orange tinted condition of the wood beneath. Further panes exposed in coming months will create a calendar charting seasonal change.

Intense sunlight through the smaller shower window has had an opposite effect on the marine ply walls inside the Egg, where the timber darkened to pick out the paler ghostly afterimage of a large plastic shower bag recently removed.

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The reused shower door has older and more distinguished patination from its former life as part of a garage, that contributes gravity to the  Egg’s newer narratives.

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