|On philology, potatoes and construction.
Well, this is just my first approach to blog-writing. I want it to be the way to keep in touch with colleagues and friends.
|A day for planting
The day was sunny enough to dry the soil after a week with some showers. Two fields were planted today. On the field margins of the one in the picture, young oaks and chestnuts have been left to grow advancing the uncropped area for two meters.
|The weather changed today after some days of real summer. It was cloudy and slightly windy. Good weather to dig up potatoes. Those planted in March, ready to harvest. As usual, the wagtails come to the field as soon as the plough opens up the soil. This morning a hawk, usually very shy of people, also wanted to join the party and flew past the tractor probably because he spotted some mice (as I did too). Within the soil, something unusual, though not completely weird: a chicken egg. Even if some hens could get to the field from time to time, this looks more like a crow?s piece of work (stole an egg and buried it here). I cover the unbroken egg with some soil and keep picking up potatoes. In the sky, the first heron I see this year flies towards the meadows near the river.
Some events are unexpected, because you don?t see them every year, or don?t know when, if at all, are going to happen again this season.
The dog runs playing with the wagtails that he will never catch up with. As they did when I was a kid too, the little birds hop some metres up into the air and keep feeding on the recently opened soil. That?s what you expect and that?s what happens again and again. Despite the dog, no matter the weather, the wagtails keep coming every time the soil is opened up.
Some things never change.
|Despite being very valued for its organoleptic properties, the very irregular shape of the most local and exclusive variety of potato we have, make it difficult to process for commercial uses. That is why it is cultivated mainly for family consumption (and even at home it is better used for special dishes). Another year with a good crop, this has been the best I recall in terms of production of the local variety.
|End of harvest
|Another year and I am thankful for being able to participate in the harvest too. Less potatoes than previous years, the tubers slightly smaller on average, still a good season to celebrate.
|Cosine distance and semantic relations
|Following a previous post that illustrated the meaning of a word based on its context, a script to calculate the cosine distance among terms. The idea behind is that if you have enough data, semantic relations can be solved from context. As a practical application, given a place name, the cosine distance measures the proximity (or distance) of a geographical entity relative to two geographical features used as semantic tracts (e.g. to determine which entities are islands).
In the script linked above I use the data given as a toy example by Baroni,Bernardi, & Zamparelli (2014, pp. 248-250) to introduce the measure in terms of distributional semantics.
|New season (and the previous one)
|It was only last week that the first potatoes were planted this year.
The seeds for these earliest plants come from tubers left from the previous season, usually those that have minor damages (cuts, shape, colour). Those with severe damages go for compost and become soil that shows excellent properties to grow, for instance, tree seedlings.
Not many, but there are still potatoes from the previous season ready for consumption. There should be enough until the new ones come. At this time of the year, their taste is slightly sweeter. To show their organoleptic properties, last month, together with a chemist with an interest in functional foods and an excellent team of professionals from a restaurant in a city nearby, I organized a dinner to introduce a crepe made of potatoes. It was served as a side for fish and vegetables. A project that started a decade ago. Like seeds that become blossomed plants from where new tubers grow, some ideas need time to become a real product.
|Clearing the soil of field bindweeds
|To avoid entanglements in the harvester, this year a plow scratched the furrows in those areas, mainly close to the hedges, where bindweeds were thicker. To harvest the average field, at least four tractors were needed: one for the harvester (this year one was enough), another one to clear the ground from weeds and two to transport the crop (one is filled while the other goes to unload).
|From forest to soil, on seeds
|The year started going to the forest to cut trees that had fallen or were damaged by windy storms. The heating system at home is now more dependent on biomass than electricity.
We had several rainy weeks in a row by the time we use to start potato planting. Early potatoes will come later this year. I planted the last potatoes three weeks ago, using the same old tractor from previous years with a planting machine that requires only one person to plant, the driver.
Each year we use different certified seeds, sometimes coming from far away lands in different countries. Each certified tuber is inspected and processed to make for most often two or three new seeds, the potato being cut in smaller pieces, each one bearing at least two eyes. From these eyes, sprouts will emerge and the plant will grow, taking its energy from the seed. Tubers have a natural protection against microorganisms living in the soil, their peel. However, when we cut a potato to make two or three new seeds, we leave half or most of the surface unprotected, making the seed vulnerable to disease.
Wood ashes, on the other hand, bear no microorganisms at all, as a result of the high temperatures of combustion. So, before planting, seeds are covered with wood ashes that, due to the cut being wet, adhere to its surface, creating a new protective layer that keeps the seed away from open direct contact with the soil.
|It rained too often for the early season this year, the soil was too wet to plant. Harvesting started later than usual. I took part. We used two harvesters, the conveyor belt of the first one broke in the first rows. Grass was too thick and kept the soil from moving onto the trail. So did the second. And the first, once repaired again. Finally, plowing the land dug the weeds under the soil. After that, one harvester was enough to do the job. A crop of medium sized healthy tubers is a good end for a more difficult than usual start.
|The summer ended and autumn came while working in the refurbishment of a shop in a world heritage city.
Some new potatoes, the ones planted earlier, have been already harvested (I came back in time). As for the late season, most of the plants have flowered. Their leaves slightly wet yesterday, early in the morning. It drizzled the night before, softly, for a while, as mist. So did yesterday, once more. Enough to refresh the surface, still too superficial to reach the root.
|Ice on the river
Once solid soil to step on, ice melts again.
Winter is gone, in the river the water runs.