Showing posts from February, 2018

40 Saints III - Fenced In

As the first part of our walk today takes us along the road from where we finished last week I thought we'd make an early start of it to see if there are any hares or badgers making use of the human highways at this time in the morning. No sign of any yet but we do have some wildlife that I suggested that we look out for in the Late Winter Almanack. Firstly the Pine Processionary Caterpillars, Thaumetopoea pityocampa, are up and about (although these are described as nocturnal in many of the texts I've often found them reluctant to go back to bed in the mornings) and secondly, as I was just bending down to photograph this Storksbill, a little movement in the undergrowth revealed a beautiful Silver Y moth, Autographa gamma, which is one of the migratory moths I mentioned. The little silver markings in the middle of his wings give him both his English name (being shaped like the letter Y) and his scientific name (being shaped like the Greek gamma).

Here's the track where we d…

40 Saints II – Land of the Levitating Goat

Rather a scenic little walk this morning as we continue along the track eastwards along the southern slopes of Agioi Saranta musing among the mysteries of nature as the goats pecefully levitate about a foot above the ground. (OK, so I caught him in mid air as he dashed across the track; don't spoil the llusion). Last week we were looking at the rock rose family, the Cistaceae, with that little Fumana we found. There are a couple more examples here; the Pink Rock Rose (Cistus creticus) and the white Sage-leaved Rock Rose (Cistus salviifolius). The essential oils from the leaves are used to combat psoriasis and eczema and are also held to be effective against acne and wrinkles. I wouldn't advise trying it here and now, it will just highlight your wrinkles a nice shade of green. It is a useful plant in the field though as, applied to cuts, it stops the bleeding and disinfects the wound.
I see that the goats are heading for that little cave up there, probably their Zen Temple. Mean…

Series 7 The Forty Saints

Here we are, having turned sharp left at the Asteria Taverna in Koutsounari and that massive block of limestone before us is the area which we shall be exploring together for the remaining winter weeks and on into spring. It is designated Agioi Saranta, or the Forty Saints. These were a group of Roman Christian soldiers who were martyred for their beliefs, at Sebaste in Turkey, in 360AD. The method of their martyrdom sends shivers down your spine. They were stripped naked and left on a frozen pond all night in sub zero temperatures. Why they should be commemorated here is something which we may or may not find out along the way but first we have to get up there. So we'll leave the old jalopy at the end of the road and walk up that track to our left and see what adventures await.

A fairly steep climb to begin with to get the muscles working and a fairly typical phrygana landscape with low, mat growing plants including this little Rock Rose that is just coming into flower; Fumana. L…

Agios Stefanos – The First Flower

Last week we were at Pefki, the village of the pines where, somewhat surprisingly, there weren't many pine trees to be seen. There is however quite a magnificent pine forest a little to the west, just past the village of Agios Stefanos which brings us round full circle on our upland village tour of east Crete. Agios Stefanos, or Saint Stephen would have been my personal saint, had I been born here in Crete but I must confess that I had to look him up because apart from the fact that Good King Wenceslas had a predilection for musing out of his bedroom window on said saint's feast day I knew nothing about him. Turns out he was a clever fellow who managed to prove, by theological argument, that Jesus upheld the precepts of Judaism better than the Jewish elders did. Clever, but not wise, seeing as he was on trial for blasphemy by those same Jewish elders at the time. They sentenced him to be stoned to death. Incidentally this gave us two important precepts which still hold true to…