3 March 2013



Now I know what they are and how relatively rare they are, it's even more exciting to find them. This was on a tiny beech twig early on Thursday morning on the path up to Trigger's field. This time I touched it after photographing it just to be sure and it did indeed melt to the touch. The only theory as to their formation I could find was on Wikipedia I'm afraid! This is what it said. Stand by for annoying highlighting no doubt:

The formation of frost flowers is dependent on a freezing weather condition occurring when the ground is not already frozen. The sap in the stem of the plants will expand (water expands when frozen), causing long, thin cracks to form along the length of the stem. Water is then drawn through these cracks via capillary action and freezes upon contact with the air. As more water is drawn through the cracks it pushes the thin ice layers further from the stem, causing a thin "petal" to form. In the case of woody plants and (living or dead) tree branches the freezing water is squeezed through the pores of the plant forming long thin strings of ice that look uncannily like hair i.e. "hair ice" or "frost beard".

The petals of frost flowers are very delicate and will break when touched. They usually melt or sublimate when exposed to sunlight and are usually visible in the early morning or in shaded areas.

No highlighting! It's a miracle. That morning, the sky was beautiful; stripy in places and so subtle in its colouring:

These next two pictures are of a strange phenomenon that occurs in the puddles up here. When under water they look like incredibly regular and vaguely hexagonal vertical worm casts. These pictures are after the water has evaporated and the peaty mud has frozen. Some have collapsed slightly, others remain exactly as they were under water. Do you have these in your puddles? Do you know why they are like this? I don't remember seeing them like this anywhere else but perhaps I was just very unobservant! 

That day I saw these lovely Dartmoors whilst out searching for our original herd. I haven't seen Betty now for months. I do hope they come back soon.

Yesterday was extremely stressful. Our road is being 'patched' at the moment and, being a lane that ends with our little community out on the moor, there are no possible detours. You just have to sit and wait for them to do their thing and move to a pull-in and let you pass. So, with me working in the school library in the morning and an appointment with my spinal surgeon in Exeter at 3.40pm, I decided to fill the time with a walk for the dog and a few errands in Exeter; perhaps even a little lunch? It was not to be. 

I've mentioned before how annoying our Renault Megane is with all its electrical foibles but this latest one is more than an irritating. It has a newfangled key card thing which you slot in and wait to be invited to press the clutch and then the start button. Of late, it has been reading 'card not detected' when you put it in. A bit of jiggling and it's been possible to start it but it's been taking longer and longer to respond. What could be a more of an invitation for failure than an important hospital appointment? I came out of the library, went for a cup of boiling water (healthy but not the Lapsang Souchong I might have chosen) with my Mum, and then entered the car at about 11.30am. Took a couple of minutes to start it but I managed to keep my temper and set off for the forest tracks near Drewsteignton, which sits close to Castle Drogo, our nearest National Trust property. We lived in Drewsteignton for ten months while this place was being done up and I used to gallop my old horse Croft, an Arab/Welsh D cross, along the steep tracks at full pelt without a care in the world. 

He died of acute colic three and a half years ago now. A hideous and horrifyingly quick way to go, as some of you also may have experienced with your beloved animals. Anyway, Snippet had never been there and had a fabulous time rooting around in brambles and rabbit holes. I would have taken more pictures but, since we lived there, they have cut out great swathes of the forest and it looks incredibly ugly. I did see this amazing youngish tree along the way. What on earth was it twisting round I wonder?

A sign with a silly name and Drewsteignton spelled wrong....twice. You can see where they are re-planting in the background:


Snowdrops on the path:

Back to the car, panting after over an hour following a ride I used to do, forgetting what a powerful little horse Croft was and that walking it was more strenuous than I had realised,  and a miraculously quick car start, lulling me into a false sense of security. 1.00pm and a quick stop at Sainsbury's on the outskirts of Exeter. Hungry now after the precipitous forest hike so a sandwich and a treat of some chocolate milk, Belgian chocolate apparently....not so sure about that. At least I'm pretty sure it was bovine rather than equine. Anyway, appetite satisfied, I placed the key card in and waited for my instructions. I am not someone who expresses anger easily but after half an hour, with the clock ticking and the hospital an hour's walk away, I'm ashamed to say that I lost it a bit. Expletives at high volume and hitting of the steering wheel ensued much to the horror of the man in the adjacent trolley-park trying to do his job. A middle aged woman screaming and flailing her arms at the wheel; not very dignified. Back into Sainsbury's to purchase a new battery for the key at VAST expense which made no difference at all to its being 'detected'. Really starting to panic now and my mobile is not as well charged as it might be. And then, after another ten minutes, from nowhere, it started. No chance of my planned browsing in Exeter now; I must get to the hospital without stopping the engine again. Will I ever get home I wonder? Origami Boy is expecting me to pick him up from a friend's at about 5.30pm. Will I ever get there? Will we ever leave there? 

I got to the hospital, parked, walked to the meter and realised, having got there well over an hour early, I didn't have enough change for four hours rather than the two I'd expected. What about three hours? No - not allowed. Back to the car to wait until a time when two hours might cover it, praying a parking official didn't come by as the chances of me starting the engine and driving off to avoid them were pretty slim. At last I think I'm safe and go and buy the two hour ticket and take Snippet for another walk, this time round the streets around the enormous hospital grounds. Where are my gloves? My hands are going to drop off it's so cold. Back to the evil car to drop off Snippet and into the hospital to allow them time to send me for the x-ray they usually forget to book. They had forgotten and despite being so early, I ended up going in late to see the surgeon. All seemed well until he started squinting at the image on his screen and saying 'I'm not quite sure what this is', pointing to what appeared to be a big crack in the spine in between the extensive titanium structure. 'Better send you for another x-ray if that's okay?'. Great. The parking has fifteen minutes to go, someone else has just gone into x-ray and my spine may be disintegrating. Twenty minutes later, having been given the all clear thank goodness and officially discharged after 18 months under his care, I sprint (or as close as I can these days) back to the car. Why did I bother when I put the card in and have to sit there for another ten minutes pushing it in and out? At last it starts and to cut what is becoming a very long story short, I got Origami Boy home safe and sound. It could have been so much worse. I will never, never have another Renault. I really need to stop rambling now. You probably gave up paragraphs ago. I'll leave those of you still here with a lovely bit of gnarled gorse, moss and lichen and Snip staring into the distance. Until next time....when I'll try and be more succinct! 


  1. Nothing seems simple these days does it. No matter how organised we are, something or someone, tries to disrupt us. Even your car is at it!!
    I'm wondering if it actually needs the garage men to Re-programme the system and isn't an engine fault. Is it Diesel? the cold weather they take a little longer to get going, you just have to press the Start but wait a while. Just wondering.

    Sorry you lost your previous horse
    with colic like that. Must have been a traumatic thing to witness.

  2. I never gave up a sec on you, Em. I felt every bit of your stress and pain. I could have cried out in frustration right alongside you. The ice flower at first look almost seemed like a milk pod opened up to make ready to scatter its seeds. Breath easy and do wish some money would come both our way to buy a dependable safe vehicle for each of us...*sigh* xx

  3. Nope... I read till the end.
    If you wrote something that long then you needed to get it out.
    Many days I scream in the shower... still do. But if your stuck in a car park the shower thing doesn't quite work !
    For me it is not the car but mt internet company/apple computer... I hate apple computers they work fairly OK easy to learn but you always have to update them with their programs updates Or surprise surprise you can just buy a new computer !
    I could just pull my hair out. But I have very little hair so I try not to do that so I go in the shower and scream !

    Happy to hear you made it home in one piece.

    cheers, parsnip

  4. I think your little tree was choked into this shape by a vine that twisted around it, not the other way round. I often found little trees like that, that had finally out-lived the strangler. I also saw these trees made into walking sticks. (German country side, not Arizona)
    Sorry about your stress - hope venting helps!

  5. The frost flowers are beautiful, but you have me worried about those key thingys now.

    Most of all I'm glad your back is OK. Jx

  6. Em, I had never heard of frost flowers until moving to Kentucky. A local retired forester finds many of them on his walks, usually in autumn--he has posted photos of them in fantastic shapes on the care on-line magazine.
    I am most envious that you have been able to see and photograph some. Your photos are always a delight--a good eye for photo composition and I think a very fine camera.
    Why on earth did a car maker mess with such a simple thing as a key switch? I find I am quite resistant to technology which doesn't work and surely frustrates one to the point of head-banging!

  7. Ann - I found a you-tube video yesterday showing how to mend the transmitter inside the key, which is what may be the problem. It involves a stanley knife and a soldering gun!

    Cindy - Thanks for your good wishes. A chauffeur would be nice too!

    Parsnip - Macs are very beautiful but I know lots of people who have the same problems as you. Unlimited funds and an engineer living in the attic might do the trick!

    Margarethe - I know those very walking sticks. I imagine it was probably ivy as other climbers are few and far between in that area. Also, it had not long escaped from one of those protective plastic sleeves, poor thing.

    Jess - as far as the key is concerned, I refer you to comment 1 and You-tube! Get your soldering gloves you have a Renault too? I was so excited about the key card to start with and now I'd like to throw it in the stream.

    MM - I nearly banged my head on the steering wheel but though better of it in the face of the pending spinal appointment!

  8. Fantastic frost flower, I've never seen one before...magical. My landy does odd things whenever it feels like it too. The latest was locking me inside the car. Not amused. Glad your back is ok. CT x

  9. It's a huge relief with the back and no more x-rays for a while I hope! Our Landy is a defender and very old so is too basic to do anything other than lock me in when I lean my elbow on the door lock by mistake. Technology is a double edged sword....

  10. Fabulous pictures - I've never heard of frost flowers, I would love to fond one!
    Sorry to hear of your car woes - I've just come back from the garage having had yet another puncture fixed!
    Take care!

  11. I have never seen anthing like that ice flower - nor have I heard of it before - but isn't it beautiful?

    Re your hospital visit - I am afraid that is just about the same as any visit here. Trying to park is almost impossible and if your appointment overruns then you are worried about underpaying for the carpark too.

    As for your car - frustrations can be so trying you almost feel like giving the wretched thing a kick and leaving it where it is - but then, how would you get home? Commiserations anyway.

  12. Soldering and transmitters!!! sounds complicated to me. Good luck with that one!

  13. What beautiful atmospheric photos. The Frost Flowers are so beautiful - I have never heard of them before so thank you for all the information.

    Never noticed anything like the puddle formations but I will look from now on as its probably just me being unobservant :)

    So sorry to hear about your car problems. Hope you get them sorted soon. We used to have a Laguna with the key card thingy but luckily didn't have to wait for instructions just pressed the start button. Lovely looking car but not nice to drive - used to stall all the time :(

    So glad everything was ok with your back but so sorry to hear about your horse - what an awful thing to go through.

  14. Gill - I'm surprised we don't have more punctures than we do! I shouldn't have said that should I?

    Weaver - I'd never heard of them either and assumed they were fungus. Someone told me about them when I first published them....I think it was Mornings Minion....but unfortunately, I'd already put it on i-spot to be humiliated!

    RR - Interesting you didn't like the Laguna. I have a friend with a Megane that she inherited and she hates it too. Same electrical issues but not the key card yet! Silly names for cars anyway.

  15. I was enthralled all the way through Em amd frustrated with you about the car problems, I could picture it all especially the losing it in the car park bit! If that was me my husband would have said he was glad he wasn't there or it would somehow have been all his fault ;-) So glad the hospital news was good eventually, I can sympathise re back pain...excruciating!

    Lovely photo of the frost flower, it is exquisite and magical, I've never seen one. The twisted tree was bizarre also. The puddle thing looked vaguely familiar but not sure, I must remember to be more observant.

  16. I may have to go down the i-spot route again with the puddles and prepare myself for more humiliation!

  17. I was so sorry to hear about losing Croft so swiftly to colic. I was very fortunate not to have lost any of my horses over the years, but it's bad enough with our cats and dogs since we've been here.

    I've never seen a frost flower like that, nor the patterns of the frosted peat/mud. I loved your photo of the twisted branch and moss. Stunning.

    As for the car - well, remind me never to go for a Renault Megane! Glad you were signed off from the hospital with your back though.

  18. Thank you and I'm quite relieved no one seems to have seen the puddle formations. It will make me fee less stupid sending them to i-spot!

  19. What an exquisite frost flower!

  20. Lovely isn't it - none in this extreme cold spell at all so far which is interesting. It must take very specific conditions.


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