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I Declare an International Day of Inefficiency

Swallow 2

pic CHOG

Today we call M and tell him the first Swallow has arrived. It’s a moment of joy, admiration and awe for its arduous cross continental journey. Now it is perched on the telephone wire which stretches across part of the front yard, preening each wing in turn. Not long before, it was whooping and swooping above the pond and flying low, in and out of the shippen. Its song is peppered with dolphin like clicks. I am sitting on the top step, the slate warm, feeling the sun on my face, my body slowly unwinding, finally released from being huddled, bundled and wrapped. There is a delightful din of a world waking up. Ten years ago there were almost thirty Swallows lined up on the wire by the end of the summer; each subsequent year there have been less and less.

I abandon the ‘to do’ list. I think, today will be a day of inefficiency

I experience anxiety as I hope and wonder about a mate for the Swallow arriving. And if they breed successfully will there be enough insects for them to feed their young?

The massive decline in bee populations catches the public imagination, but all insects are being put under similar pressure by loss of habitat and pesticides. In a farmland setting, loss of habitat means less wild flowers, the planting of monocultures of rye grass or other crops without provision for invertebrates. And why does this matter? Well, in a nutshell…

Biodiversity means the variety of life, in all its forms. It includes the variety of species and ecosystems (communities and interrelations of species) in the world, and also genetic variation. Human beings are dependent for their sustenance, health and well-being on fundamental biological systems and processes. This includes all of our food, many medicines and industrial products, as well as the air we breathe. Without insects and other invertebrates, human life on this planet would be impossible. The enormous diversity of life is of crucial value, providing resilience to organisms and ecosystems.

Why thank you for that, the Amateur Entomologists’ Society!

I go over to the cow field. I can hear sheep and lambs from across the valley, plaintively calling to one another. Standing there, the sky a bowl of blue, I count fourteen Buzzards above, wheeling on the thermals and crying their eerie cries. I don’t know, but I would hazard a guess that they are simply, like me, having a good time. Rabbits run in and out of the gorse bushes down the centre of the field, flashes of white and brown amongst the acid yellow and though their numbers are too plentiful (breeding like…! and no serious predators, apart from a ginger cat) who could begrudge their hoppity heaven today?

The cows are looking pretty, their ruddy coats shining in the sun. After a while they approach and both Lucy and Mary-Rose ask to be scratched. They stand happily either side of me, while Belita tentatively sniffs my face with her gentle pink nose. To think they were so terrified when they arrived and now this. Happy.

Traditional Hereford Heifers

Coming back I meet Mr. Pheasant who has made regular visits this winter. A little Wren dips in and out of a thicket, and a Wagtail, the first I’ve seen this year, sits atop the shippen roof surveying the scene.

Male Pheasant

Violets, Stitchwort and Celandine are beginning to peep out from the hedgebanks. Dandelions are waiting for the bees. Where are the bees?


I’m waiting for you bees…

I nibble on a disc of Navelwort.


I could be salad material

A bout of spontaneous seed sowing comes on…

Orlaya grandiflora

Nicotiana sylvestris

Nicotiana Lime Green

Seed sowing

Ammi majus

Cosmos sulphureus Cosmic Orange

Rudbeckia hirta Prairie Sun

Seed Sowing

Then I admire B’s artwork…

Barbed Wire Ball Artwork

Later, I lie on the grass under the big sycamore. The still bare branches reach toward a pale moon, bursting with shimmering buds. I can feel the earth is still damp and cold but the warmed grass is an eiderdown beneath me. I am lost. My eyes close.

Sycamore Buds

Sycamore Buds & Moon www.thinkingcowgirl.wordpress.comLooking Up through a Sycamore

What about an International Day of Inefficiency? Come on, we can do it!

45 Comments Post a comment
  1. Hear hear! Viva la revolucion! Cxx

    April 21, 2013
  2. Harriet # lovely.

    April 21, 2013
  3. D #

    Oh I like your idea of International Day of Inefficiency. Somehow I think that no one will be bothered to do anything about it !! . Loving the pictures. I saw our first swallow yesterday as well such a welcome sight. Lovely pics and text as always

    April 21, 2013
    • Thank D. Let me know when a mate arrives…it’s great when they do, they have an aerial party don’t they?

      April 22, 2013
  4. I’m the perfect one to spearhead the movement – or lack of – on this side of the Atlantic! (lovely piece – so many beautiful images and words)

    April 21, 2013
    • Spearheading, I like it. Let me know when you’ve launched 😉

      April 22, 2013
  5. Rhonda Crowe #

    Sounds heavenly! I agree, we all need a day like this. Beautiful pictures, feel as if I am floating on your words…Thank you for the picture of the lovely ladies. Why were they so scared when they came to you? At least now they are happy and loved 🙂

    April 21, 2013
    • What a lovely compliment…float on 😉 They had been separated from a big suckler herd, and bundled into a trailer. Even now they register alarm at the sound of a trailer going by on the road. Think I’m too soft for farming!

      April 22, 2013
      • Rhonda Crowe #

        Poor girls! So happy they are with you now – again, give them a pat from me 🙂 I understand – I tell my husband that if I should win the lottery I would start a sanctuary and all mistreated or aging cows could live out their natural lives in comfort and peace alongside the rescued circus elephants – for serious. Pretty big dream, eh?

        April 26, 2013
    • I like the image of cows and elephants hanging out together on your rescue farm – keep filling in those numbers 🙂

      April 30, 2013
  6. I can feel spring in your words :). I think your lack of bees is my fault. Our Clematis ganpiniana had gone off the page with flowering this year and the bees are thick over it. I would like to approach the grouchy old bee keeper at the back of our property and tell him that he should rename his honey from “Tasmanian finest” to “Clematis ganpiniana” but despite my bolshie disregard for my own personal safety, he really IS that grouchy! LOVE the swallows :). We had a pair skimming over the garden last year for the first time. We provide lots of water here and when it is dry and hot the birds flock from miles around. We saw a pheasant walking down the main road in a town 5 minutes away from us. It was walking with purpose on a Sunday morning and we followed it, enthralled, till it strode up an alleyway and hopped over someone’s fence and disappeared. NO idea where it was going with such purpose but it certainly knew! We have our own little wrens here that are 100% bolshie and the females rule the roost. 3g of puffed up bossy feathers demanding tiny cheese cubes at your window is a delightful way to ruminate about your day ahead whilst filling the kettle for your 4th cup of tea :). I completely agree with you about having a world day of Inefficiency. Spring and Autumn are bridging seasons…we are assured that they are in decline and that soon, we will only have winter and summer but for now, we can enjoy those blissful days that straddle both seasons…blue skies and cold weather that you need to wear your thermals and a big dog to pull you along and that’s when you REALLY know that you are alive…there in the small moments of pure base existance…right where you are tasting your spring, upside down in a cow paddock, I will be standing waiting for Steve to point at the wheelbarrow and say “that wood I just cut won’t hop into that wheelbarrow by itself Fran! ;)”…I will be standing there eyes closed smelling the damp earth and rejoicing in the change of the seasons…complete and utter inefficiency of the very best kind :). Love your choice of seeds for the coming season by the way…I am growing Rudbekia hirta as well 🙂

    April 21, 2013
    • Haha daydreaming is entirely appropriate for all seasons 😉 Glad to hear you’ve got plenty of bees – of the bumble variety too? He MUST be really grumpy, I can’t imagine you being put off your stride too often! Don’t you just love the names of plants? I’m constantly entranced by them. It’s about the only things I remember now that I’m challenged in that direction 😉

      April 22, 2013
      • Yup…Tassie has bumble bees! We didn’t have them in Western Australia (where I was born and lived till 6 years ago) and when I got here I found myself laying on the ground watching bumble bees warm up in the cold mornings and I am SURE that the Tassie folk thought that I was a bit mental (a bit? 😉 ). We bought our large quantities of bees wax from the old weird man up the back along with a duck companion for our lonely ducky girl. He had very reasonable prices but he is one of those very succinct and grumpy people who just make you want to get out of there ASAP ;). The duck companion took one look at our duck, looked around…tested the wind with her wing and was last seen running for the hills 1 hour after we bought her :(. Lucky we only paid $15 for her in the first place eh? 😉

        April 22, 2013
    • Haha maybe she just found it too darned cheerful round yours 🙂

      Just realised my email was not on my profile but it is now. Send me your address, I’ve got something for you!

      April 22, 2013
  7. Hooray! I’m IN! Fantastic post! I loved every word and image.

    April 22, 2013
    • Thanks Lemony, I think we’re a band of about ten now! Note the moving the camera up the tree trick…now where did I learn that? 😉

      April 22, 2013
  8. aah, beautiful beautiful beautiful. our thoughts were in the same place today; on being asked this morning what I planned to do with my day off, I replied ‘absolutely nothing’. a perfect post to compliment this 🙂 thank you and happy earth day! the day of inefficiency shall have to wait for next sunday x

    April 22, 2013
    • Ooh did the International Day of Inefficiency clash with Earth Day? How inefficient! I shall have to rectify immediately. I move to forward it to the 28th. Motion carried. 😉

      April 22, 2013
  9. Yesterday I had a very efficient day, I saved a bumble bee trapped in a venetian blind and also made good progress on my illustration work. Today I don’t feel so efficient and will probably spend a lot time watching bumble bees flying around while wondering why I have not done any drawing. But if an artists role is to find efficient ways of expressing inefficient thoughts and feelings, maybe watching bumble bees is part of the job, sort of research, or its it procrastination. Your inefficiency day is a really great idea but I’m not sure I need any encouragement in that direction.

    April 22, 2013
    • Laughing. To be creative I think you definitely need inefficient days. Don’t you remember hanging around being bored when you were a child? It seems that now every waking minute needs to be filled with some kind of activity, just in case … what? Maybe your best ideas are bubbling away in your brain while all that procrastinating is going on, ready to splurge out in a feverish bloom of activity at the end of the week!

      April 22, 2013
      • Its absolutely true that procrastination and aimless pondering allows ideas to pop up unexpectedly, its been scientifically proven! so I tell myself as I’m finishing yet another game of computer chess etc etc etc …. whoops another day gone.

        April 22, 2013
  10. I agree – some days I don’t want to do ANYTHING, except sit and watch nature go about its ways. Pity there is always something that needs doing…. Maybe create a monthly ‘inefficiency afternoon’ ?

    April 22, 2013
    • Aha, therein lies the rub! We THINK there is always something that needs doing but the International Day of Inefficiency requires a different mindset 😉

      April 22, 2013
      • Ok then…… I vote for inefficiency! I need to get out of my efficient ways 😛

        April 23, 2013
  11. Pamela McMullan #

    Rest rest ,I crave it and love to know there are others encouraging me with the same idea.

    April 22, 2013
  12. Beautiful! This is what we’ve been waiting months for. You soak it up and pass it on. I think you were on holiday yesterday and this is a postcard you sent us. I like B’s ball and those budding leaves against the blue. Beautiful.

    April 22, 2013
    • Thanks! I think B intends for that ball to get bigger and bigger – maybe you’ll see it from the A30 in a few years time…the Ball of the West 😉

      April 22, 2013
  13. The swallows have returned here too and taken up residence in the barn in nests that must have been there for years. The thinking goes that ours winter over in Argentina, so yours are likely down in Africa somewhere when the snow flies….? Thanks as always for the beautiful pics!

    April 22, 2013
    • That is interesting – using old nests. Ours build with mud from new each year. Yes, they come from Africa, apparently they have ginormous roosts there….then they have to make it across, dodging bullets and nets on the way (some people like to do this). Glad you like the pictures!

      April 23, 2013
  14. Really a wonderful post…. Here’s to ditching the to-do list!!! 🙂

    And here’s to hoping we can get our act together for the tiniest of creatures, those that do so *incredibly* much for all the other species…

    April 23, 2013
    • Thanks FeyGirl. The tiniest creatures are the best! Apart from the cows of course 😉 Hope you’ve managed to ditch that list…let the inefficiency roll…

      April 24, 2013
  15. The swallows have been here for about a month, and maybe just a touch longer. Last weekend I was out and drove across a bridge that must have thousands nesting beneath it. There were great clouds of swallows all around.

    The ones that are the most fun are the pairs that nest beneath the floating docks at the marinas. Because the docks rise and fall with the water level, there’s no danger of drowned babies.And because there’s plenty of room between the surface of the water and the underside of the dock, there’s also plenty of room for them to fly in. The metal support structures provide a secure place, and it’s just a perfect arrangement.

    We’re fairly overrun with bees this spring, too. Lots of species, it seems. I’ve seen the usual bumblebees and the smaller ones – there’s also a tiny bee that I can’t quite identify.

    I’m so glad to get here finally and enjoy your photos. I had a physically tough week at work, and though I finished my job on time, I was coming home, showering, munching on whatever and getting to bed about 8 o’clock! Not my usual routine!

    No to-do list for me today! I’m being all inefficient, except I did make it to the farmers’ market, and I do plan to have my blog reading caught up by the end of the day. Well, unless something better comes along! 😉

    April 27, 2013
    • Now you’re making me jealous with tales of all those swallows! We’re not sure what has caused the decline here but we have had 3 terrible summers in a row and there is so much pressure on habitat in this small land. The nests under the floating docks must be wonderful to watch.

      The EU have just voted to ban a particular pesticide which some scientists believe is causing damage to the bees. It is really remarkable how few there are around, but this could also be to do with the bad summers too.

      Your week at work reminds me so much of mine. At least how it used to be – for years! Maybe that’s why I’m all for inefficiency these days. Or maybe it’s about allowing spontaneity back in…which tends to get ironed out of a busy life.

      April 30, 2013
      • I just read yesterday of the EU decision. I need to do some research about use that pesticide and other such things here in the States. I’ve noticed a decline in bees, too – this clearly could be a more immediate problem than those obsessed over by some of the “this or that is going to doom us” crowd. I’m no scientist, but it seems clear to me that the human-causation factor is much more easily proved in terms of the bees.

        April 30, 2013
  16. Another really enjoyable read, and I agree it is important to have days where you just BE, and enjoy the simple pleasures in life… Humans are after all vehicles of leisure and pleasure, and aren’t really designed to cope with the modern world. I’m living proof of that 😀

    April 27, 2013
    • Ha ha 😉 Writing this post and reading all the replies has made me realise that it’s so important to be spontaneous sometimes – I’ve been far too wrapped up in getting things done. Changing a mind set is another thing though….it’s a work in progress.

      April 30, 2013
  17. I missed the date! We could schedule it in our diaries for next year!
    I loved wandering around with you, feel a sense of calm right now. My favourite shot has to be of the moon against the blue of the sky

    May 14, 2013
  18. count me in! (I think we should make it monthly, though, not yearly…)

    Thanks for the walk!

    June 1, 2013
    • Oh you’re back! Definitely a monthly obligation. I concur. But the annual thang is easier to sell to the masses…all 20 of them 😉

      June 2, 2013
      • Yep, couldn’t stay away! The weather’s awful here so I’m going to follow you on your sunny walks insetad of going on my own… 🙂 keep them coming!

        June 2, 2013

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