Arboretum Oostereng

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Last week we happened to wander into a so-called “Nature festival” in Renkum. It was fun to wander around the stalls, looking at local produce and clubs and organisations about livestock, food or the environment. At one of the stalls I was told about the Arboretum Oostereng. Apparently this arboretum was also to be found in Wageningen, but it was hidden away in the forest.

It sounded like a good place to check out on our next hike. So we did.

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There were big-ass trees. This one was, frankly put, just perfect. I put the husband and the dog next to it to show its size. Then, of course, I had to climb it.

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I found out quickly enough that climbing a tree in your sunday dress means either the dress gets dirty and ripped, or you don’t get very far by half. Unfortunately I seem to have grown out of the stage where I care more for climbing trees than for not ripping my clothes. I’m not sure quite when this happened. I’m sure though that’s the reason why I spent most my childhood in old trousers and boots, even on sundays.

This does mean that we’ll have to go back to that tree some time soon, this time when I’m wearing old jeans and slightly less clunky shoes. (You wouldn’t know it by the look of it, probably, but these shoes are actually too outdoorsy to properly climb trees).

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There were foxgloves in abundance. I’m not sure if these were planted at some point, or if they naturally grow in our forests. They’re gorgeous, though!

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The people who are, for lack of a better word, renovating this arboretum created lots of fun little surprises, like this “tunnel” into the rododendrons. Inside the shrubbery they’d created a small place to sit – or, as Kim would have it, to sniff things.

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For some reason I was fascinated by all the fallen flowers on the forest floor. (Well isn’t that a tongue tier if you have problems pronouncing your Fs). I’m not sure if I managed to capture the feel of that properly on film, though.

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Some trees and plants sported little green cards telling us what they were.

This one was American.

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And they made a gigantic xylophone! How wicked awesome is that. We spent (okay, I spent… neither the husband nor the dog was that interested in playing it, though apparently the husband was pretty amused by my demonstrating my lack of xylophone talent) a fair amount of time playing off-beat music and generally making too much noise for a sunday afternoon in a quiet forest.

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Yes, there is a movie clip of me playing this thing. No, I am not posting it. No, husband, neither are you.

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this shrub was fairly buzzing with bees and other pollinators. Tried to record that, as well, but I couldn’t get the sound to come out properly. You’ll just have to look for the bees in the picture, then.

Also, more foxglove!

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And more bees. I like bees.

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See? Many bees. It’s good to see so many of them still around. Keep it up, buddies! We totally need you more than you need us.

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Also, pretty yellow cousin of the dandelion!

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Okay, so, yeah, many pictures of flowers, not much story. Also not much crochet. Still working on a present. Will show you in due time. This is a pun, since it’s a present for an upcoming baby and the due date is approaching.

Okay. Shutting up now.

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Daatselaar

 

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Last week we took our car to the repair shop. Instead of waiting there we decided to take a walk in the neighbourhood. Luckily the shop is right on the edge of town, so we could get out into nature immediately.

We ended up walking along the Grebbelinie, a defence line based on inundiation. True to Dutch nature we used to defend ourselves simply by flooding half of our land. Eat that, French or German dudes! (Also the parts of the Netherlands not behind these defence lines). Of course this defence mechanism lost most of its use the minute humans took to the air. Or at least, that’s what one would think, but it has saved us for three days during WWII.

Really, though: “Meanwhile, the Germans were aware of the line and its configuration. Before the war German spies had visited the zoo at Rhenen using its lookout tower to map the defences there.”

Seriously?

….seriously?

*blink* Not sure if I should laugh or cry.

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I keep being fascinated though by how people always used their direct environment for everything they needed. I used to find the Netherlands pretty pathetic when it came to castles, defence systems, et cetera. We don’t have massive, hulking castles on mountain tops. We don’t have mountain tops to start with, which might just be the reason for that. And brick castles simply aren’t as impressive as castles made of granite, sorry, Dutch castle-builders of old. I loved anything medieval as a child (still do, really), but I focused more on what we visited in Germany than in the Netherlands.

Really though, living in an environment that basically consists of (drained) marshes and bogs means that water has always been our strong point, whether it comes to trade, food production or defence. Again, I’ve heard this said since I was a child, but it’s only the past couple of years I think I’m truly beginning to realize what that means. For some reason our landscape fascinates me more and more: the way it was before we built all our dikes, the way it changed by itself and the way we changed it. The remnants of our old vistas and the ways we’re trying to bring them back.

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Back to the Grebbelinie: it led us to the Daatselaar, which has not too long ago been fixed up, so we can now enjoy this utterly useless piece of defence line in all its natural and cultural beauty.

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Kim loved it. I don’t know why, but I think the scent of bunnies had something to do with it. Normally she stays quite close to us, waiting for us to do something interesting, barking at us if we’re not. She’s a real border collie: focused on the boss.

This place, though! There must have been bunnies and ducks and who knows what else, though they all seemed to have disappeared the moment we arrived on scene. There was more grass than anything else, which meant she could see enough to dare go further away from us. She basically just ran around like mad. We looked at her with a proud grin on our faces: “She’s just like a normal dog!”

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After we’d nosed about the Daatselaar long enough, we decided to wander on. Some of the fields around the line have in recent years been turned back to the marshes they no doubt used to be. I love that we’re turning our landscape back in time. It’s so beautiful.

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The weather wasn’t too great, heavy clouds constantly threatening to rain. wpid-20150530_105359.jpg

The blue shows up more in the water than the sky. Lucky for us there was a lot of water.

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At one point we lost Kim because she went after a hare. I’m never sure what she intends to do when she’s off on the chase. She’s not a hunter and she wouldn’t know what to do with a dead hare besides rolling around in it. (I wish I was kidding. The scent stays for weeks, even after numerous baths and swims.) I suppose she wants to herd it, if she wants anything. But really I think the movement just triggers her chasing instincts, like when you throw a stick or when she sees the waves rolling on the shore.

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In the end it did start to rain. The last five minutes we had to walk quicker and quicker to get back somewhat dry. Good timing, though. And the car was ready.

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Woad

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Well, it seems my mother was right! I went back to take a look at the bright yellow flowers and compared it to photos of woad on the smart phone. I think it’s pretty safe to say it is woad we’re dealing with here. Pretty awesome, as wikipedia tells us the plant is very rare in the Netherlands. Apparently the banks of the Waal and Rijn are the only places you can find it, because the water brings in the seeds from central Europe.

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It’s a pretty flower, too.

Choices, choices, though – woad was used of old to dye yarn or fabric blue. I’ve been wanting to try and dye some yarn for ages. Harvest these plants or not? It doesn’t seem like a good idea when the plant is that rare in the first place. On the other hand, might be an invasive species? *grin*

Oh well, a bit of research shows me I’m too late anyway, you need to harvest them before they bloom. And without the flowers I would never have learned it was woad in the first place.

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Oh wait, no, there’s a chance I can still use them… Ack, choices!

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We did harvest some of the less rare flowers. I love the bright yellow against the fine white flowers! And they keep surprisingly well, although they’re pretty darn messy.

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Have you picked any flowers, yet?