Wednesday, 24 October 2018

pinocchio noses, cider, harlequin ladybirds - and shifting baseline syndrome

White, Pinocchio noses poke out from the lawn. Having rapidly donned judges' wigs, they become six or seven dozen frilly Pride and Prejudice parasols before dissolving to ink: Shaggy Ink Cap (Coprinus comatus) mushrooms are a sure sign that autumn is with us.
Chopped apples being milled  (or 'scratted')

A borrowed apple press and fruit mill (or 'scratter') have been brought into action to help us with our glut of windfall apples.
A mixed bucket of cider and crab apples joined windfall Bramley and Lane's Prince Albert and a bucketful of dessert apples from the cordons to go through the 'scratter' - to mill the apples into small pieces- then through the press. 14 litres of juice was produced - all intended for cider making. Wasps attempted glorious suicide in the delicious liquid.

The fermenting juice is now gurgling in demijohns.

Our quince tree is loaded with shining lemon fruits. They are spilling to the ground in desperation at not being used and will rot. They can be used to make jelly but we are already sitting on conserve mountain. And in homes such as ours that have a heat recovery and exchange system that blows air through the house they cannot be used to fragrance rooms.

In common with many gardens, we have seen an influx of invasive, non-native harlequin ladybirds. Varied in their markings, they search places to gather to overwinter. Our native species of ladybirds are in sad decline that is attributed to harlequins. It is now understood that they carry a fungal disease that our native population has no defence against. Introduced invasive, non-native signal crayfish and grey squirrels have similar effects on native populations of white-clawed crayfish and red squirrels respectively.

Last week I walked with my son in the footsteps of DH Lawrence, from his 'Nethermere' and looked over at the farm Jesse Chambers lived in when used as his Miriam in Sons and Lovers. Lawrence was such a sympathetic observer of nature, describing the red squirrel's' 'lovely undulating bounds over the floor, it's red tail completing the undulation of its' body'.. talked about red squirrels being common in our native Nottinghamshire at the turn of the last century. They are now long forgotten as the pox carried by grey squirrels has made them extinct for us.

As a child I recall ladybirds of many colours and spots. The arrival of harlequin ladybirds  will possibly deny future generations any knowledge of the diversity of our native ladybird populations.

And, of course, this is not a 'straight substitution' of say red squirrels for greys. Grey squirrels make a very different (and negative) impact on our environment to that of red squirrels. The potential loss of our native ladybirds will have an untold impact on invertebrate and plant diversity.

Harlequin ladybird larvae
Step-by-step, day-by-day we degrade and diminish the natural world around us - to our cost and to the cost of those who follow us.

How sad is the clumsily-titled  'shifting baseline syndrome'. This 'syndrome' describes how we accept as normal the world we see around us, having no knowledge of what went before. Thus, I have no expectation of seeing the red squirrels that were once common in these parts, just as succeeding generations will have no expectations of seeing anything other than harlequin ladybirds.

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