Samhain

One of my aims for this year is to learn more about the special days of the year following the Pagan calendar. I have always been interested in the changing of the seasons and the solstice, but I want to learn more. I plan to post on each special day this year with a reflection on what is happening in my garden and what I am up to.

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Tomorrow is Samhain, also known as Halloween or All Hallows Eve. Samhain is a celebration of the end of the harvest and the start of the colder, darker part of the year.

Sunset on Samhain is the beginning of the Celtic New Year. The old year has passed, the harvest has been gathered, cattle and sheep have been brought in from the fields, and the leaves have fallen from the trees.The earth slowly begins to die around us. This is a good time for us to look at wrapping up the old and preparing for the new in our lives. Think about the things you did in the last twelve months. Have you left anything unresolved? If so, now is the time to wrap things up. Once you’ve gotten all that unfinished stuff cleared away, and out of your life, then you can begin looking towards the next year.  http://paganwiccan.about.com

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So with the aim of completing unfinished tasks at the for-front of my mind, here I am today catching up on my blog! This year my blog and permaculture diploma have taken rather a backseat in my life. I have been busy building my business ‘Muddy Boots’ and studying for my Forest School leader qualification. I am writing permaculture diploma designs about both of these activities, so hopefully these colder months will see lots more blog activity beginning again.

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Noticing how bare the trees are after two days of wind and rain

Feeling drained and tired after being ill yesterday with a sickness bug

Wishing that I could reach the end of my to do list

Eating a whole heap of pumpkin and squash while they are in season

Wondering if I can justify taking a midday nap to recuperate

Wearing for Halloween the kids are dressing up as a Gruffolo, a witch and a mummy

Watching The walking dead – so very very scary!

Listening to the rain falling

Drinking fizzy water with added probiotic to help the fight going on in my tummy

Planning a winter of working hard indoor and out

IMG_9745Our Cat Sol went missing for a week but he is home how and living the life of Riley.

IMG_9739IMG_9746IMG_9730I am border-line obsessed with Autumn leaves. I am that freaky woman shoving leaves into her handbag on the school run. They are just so pretty!

 

 

Mabon. Autumn equinox

IMG_8991A woodland Mandala that my son and I made today. We will be making more of these at my Forest school group tomorrow.

Today is Mabon the Autumn equinox. This is the point in the year when days and nights are the same length and from now onwards we have a little less daylight and a little more darkness. This pattern continues until the Winter equinox on 21st December when we reach the darkest day and then gradually begin to creep towards the light once more.

IMG_9020Note the new arrivals, two rabbits we brought for the kids at the beginning of the summer holidays. They are called ‘Monty’ and ‘Don’ after our favourite gardener!IMG_9018IMG_9006IMG_9001

Noticing A chill in the air early in the morning and in the evenings

Feeling exhausted after hosting a sleep-over party for 6 of my daughter’s friends

Wishing for a computer of my own so that I could work without constant distractions

Eating left-over vegan chocolate birthday cake

Wondering if the weather will keep on being kind to me

Wearing welly boots and wooly socks one day, sandals the next

Watching the leaves change colour by the day

Listening to bird song while I am working in the woods

Drinking Clipper organic decaf tea with almond milk and honey – I am super fussy now

Planning a period of quiet and reflection after my Forest school ends at October half term

IMG_9031 IMG_9012 IMG_9016 IMG_9015 IMG_9034 Pumpkins, squash and mushrooms – such signs that autumn is arriving.

IMG_9039 IMG_9040 I love calendula. It always amazes me just how many flowers are produced from a single plant. The flower in full bloom and the seed head shown above are on the same plant! I let it self-seed and have loads now from buying just one packed of seeds a few years ago.

IMG_9044 IMG_9027IMG_9026There is still lots to harvest in the garden. The plums, figs and blackberries were wonderful. We have had lots of apples too, the cooking apples will be ready in a few weeks so I am planning a big cook up to  make apple puree and freeze lots to see us through.

 

My garden in November

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Harvesting The harvest is now over in my garden. This week I have gathered in the last few bits, a few cooking apples, some Oka, Jerusalem artichokes and chilis from the green house. The oka were an experiment, it is the first year I have grown them. From 4 tiny tubers, I harvested about 20 small and a handful of larger tubers. I am yet to try eating them and may save them and replant next year to get a bigger harvest, I am assuming this would work? Can anyone enlighten me?

Planting I have still not got around to planting out my spring bulbs, so need to crack on this very soon before the ground gets too hard. We had our first frost last week. But generally the weather has been rather mild so far.

Thinking I am loving looking out of the window onto the tree with star-shaped bright red autumnal leaves (Is it called an Acer?)  The sun catches this throughout a lot of the day and makes the leaves glow brightly. It is currently holding onto its leaves well and cheering up a dark, muddy garden! I am planning on shifting a new load of woodchip into the chickens run and putting their old stuff onto the raised beds. The chucks always look rather fed up at this time of year. Cold and damp weather doesn’t really suit them. I need to spend a few days in the garden doing a general tidy up. Shifting leaves off paths to where they can be useful as soil improver, moving summer sandpits, pushchairs and kids bikes into the shed and having a good old clear out. The wood is now chopped and stacked, so that feels good with a promise of many cosy nights in front of the log burner to come.

Feeling  I am finding the dark evenings hard. I am making a real effort to spend an hour on the park, in the garden or trudging through the woods after school with the kids. Without that bit of outdoor time we all go rather stir-crazy. By the time we arrive home at 4pm, it’s very nearly time to close the curtains and out the lights on. To help make these dull, drawn-out evenings more enjoyable and productive, I have enforced a cebeebies/ DVD ban. My kids were previously allowed an hour of screen time each evening, but this makes them restless, argumentative and difficult. There were a few objections to this ban, but generally my household is calmer and happier for it. We have discovered more time in which to chat, do homework, cook a meal together and play games. The lego, jigsaws and colouring book have been rediscovered!

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I struggled to find things to take photographs of in the garden this month. Everywhere is looking spent, muddy and dull. The richness of autumn has passed and the stark, frozen beauty of winter has not yet arrived. We are waiting in limbo for the hard frosts and real winter to begin. I am looking forward to a quiet, simple christmas period. I am planning ahead for advent, more on this in another post. My thoughts and activities are heading back indoors and leaving the garden to its own devised for a few months.

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Weather stats

Thursday 20th November 2014

After a foggy morning the sky is now a bright clear blue. It feels cold but still and dry

High 9, Low 6

Sunrise 07:35 Sunset 16:05

My garden in October

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Harvesting Jerusalem artichokes, cooking apples, one solitary cob of sweetcorn, chilis, a little kale and lots of seed saving

Planting I am just about to plant out some daffodil and tulip bulbs lining the path to my front door. My front garden is totally neglected and needs a Permaculture design project in its own right. I have scattered the last of the green manures seeds too. A little late I know so i don’t hold out much hope really, especially with free-ranging hens around. I am abandoning the garden to the hens now really. I like them to be able to free-range over the autumn and winter, so any further planting is just pointless as it ends up as chicken treats!

Thinking I am thinking about Halloween and fireworks night-yay! Two of my fave seasonal celebrations. We often have a little party, but are feeling so pushed for time this year we probably will not manage to organise it. My girls are off to a school Halloween disco later this week and we will all dress up for a spot of trick or treating. We like to make our own costumes or re-purpose item rather than splashing out on new costumes each year. I will post pics of the kids in all their splendor!

Feeling I am feeling like lots of cycles in my life are coming to an end currently. It’s a good thing as it frees up my time and head space lots. I intend to do a post on this subject asap.I am enjoying the autumn so far, the weather has been very mild, I am sat with the backdoor flung open at the mo, its been like summer again today! The clocks have just changed and I do not enjoy that. But I shall focus on the positives of dark evenings, snuggling up with the kids, hot chocolate, fires and dvd movie nights.

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One of the chicks we hatched out back in the spring has now turned into a magnificent cockerel. He is friendly and protective of his flock of ladies. He had yet to crow, we are hoping, as we hope every year, to have found a non-cockerdoodling cockerel. We so want to keep him! Our neighbours also hatched out a boyo this year, he was happily crowing away in their garden for about a month, I really liked the sound. But after complaints from other neighbours, he was sent off to live on a farm- no, really he was. – He was! I am not sure our boy will be so lucky when his time comes.

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The Jerusalem artichokes were beautiful, I love this shot from this morning of the yellowing leaves framed against a bonfire grey sky.

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The greenhouse is still providing us with salads and chilis.

Weather stats

Tuesday 28th october 2014

High 19 Low 10

Warm, still and sunny. A beautiful autumnal day.

Sunrise 06:53 Sunset 16:43

 

Diploma design for Muddy Boots – Appreciation

Focus on things to be thankful for… what can I appreciate about myself… other people… the world around me? How do I feel supported at the moment?                                                                                                     L. Macnamara People and Permaculture 2012

IMG_8398I appreciate the bountiful harvests currently being gathered in week after week at the school garden. I appreciate sharing this lovely organic, seasonal food with the children, watching them collect their shares to take home and seeing their faces light up.

What I appreciate about myself

*I have gained in confidence in planning and delivering Muddy Boots

* I have been very organised

*I have been good at welcoming people to the site and helping them to feel at home. I have been able to overcome my shyness at meeting new people and have actively enjoyed this aspect of the group.

*I have planned some great activities that have been well received

*I have taken lots of lovely pictures every week and shared them via FB

*I have inspired people to garden at home

*I have not let myself get stressed out by being ‘in charge’ of Muddy Boots

*I have dealt quite well with the difficulties of sharing the community allotment and have spoken honestly but tactfully to the people involved.

*I have created a good model for Muddy Boots and I have exciting plans for it in the future!

What I appreciate about others

*I have appreciated people’s practical help in setting up the site and tidying away at the end of sessions. I have almost always had help with tea and washing up duty.

*I have appreciated that Hilary, Abi, Gizelle, Oti, Zoe and Vicky all volunteered to lead sessions for me and all did such a great job.

*I have appreciated people’s feedback and honest suggestions for changes.

* I have appreciated people always turning up for sessions, even the two that happened in the rain! We have had an average of about 10 families each session which well exceed my initial expectations.

*I have appreciated the positive posts and thank you’s on FB and the recommendations people have made to their friends.

*I have appreciated the help and support of my friends and family.

*I have appreciated meeting new friends and forging new networks through Muddy Boots

*I have appreciated Sue’s positive attitude to having us at the Community allotment and her efforts in shielding me from bad attitudes of others on site who are less happy to have us there.

*I appreciate the offers of alternative venues that have been offered to me already by three separate people.

* I appreciate my sister asking me to set up this playgroup three years ago and the positive effect it has had on our relationship.

*I appreciate the time my mother has provided me with the gift of time, by looking after my son each thursday to allow me to work on this design and the write up.

What I appreciate about the world around me

*I appreciate the opportunity that was given to me to design the education space at the community allotment three years ago.

* I appreciate being allowed the ongoing use of the education space and the wider community allotment site.

*I appreciate having a shed dedicated to the equipment I use for Muddy Boots. I appreciate not having to lug this gear around with me or it cluttering up my home.

*I appreciate harvesting crops that others have put time and effort into nurturing

* I appreciate finding interesting wildlife every week with the children at the allotment. From foxes to worms, they have been fascinated by it all.

* I appreciate the weather being very kind to us throughout the season.

I appreciate the gazebos on both sunny and rainy days. Shelter and shade were always important. They also created a pleasant focal point for people to gather.

*I appreciate being outdoors and having fun with my children and my friends.

 

 

My garden in September

I started keeping this garden diary in September 2013, so this post marks one whole year of recording my garden every month. I find it interesting to look back and see the changes to my garden throughout the seasons and note the progress made and challenges fought in making my garden as productive as possible. I hope to keep up this regular blog post for a while yet. I hope to get a chance to take some picture of my garden in the snow! I wonder if this winter will provide that opportunity? I am grateful to have such a lovely garden that can provide my family with fresh, organic and seasonal produce. I am also grateful that my children get the chance to run around, play in the brook, climb the trees, keep chickens, enjoy playing with neighbours and generally get muddy!

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Harvesting Since my last post I have harvested food from my garden as follows; Figs, beetroot, courgettes, loads of tomatoes, purple beans, chilis, one tiny aubergine, lots of runner beans, blackberries, cooking apples, eating apples, a couple of grapes and a handful of yellow raspberries. In addition to this, we have returned from trips to the school garden laden with yet more runner beans, plums, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, cucumbers and courgettes. The figs are over now, but they have been wonderful this year. The apples tree however have been far more stingy with their fruits this year. We normally like to press our apples for juice or cider, but we didn’t have enough this year to make borrowing a press worthwhile. So we gifted our apples to a neighbour who has promised us a few bottles of homemade cider in return.

Planting. I have sown some winter salads and Pak choi in the greenhouse. I have planted out the red and blackcurrant cuttings that have been taking root since last winter. I have also popped in a few more strawberry plants here and there. I spent a careful few hours planting out winter carrots and beetroot seedlings, such fiddly work. The chickens later broke out of their area and rampaged through the garden, scratching up and eating all but a few of my newly planting winter crops. I was not best pleased and just can not find time or energy to re-plant them.

Thinking. I can feel the shift in the seasons this week. Mornings are darker and beginning to feel chilly. I have searched out the children’s slippers and my dressing gown. We have had a couple of misty mornings. My walk to school was decorated with jewelled spider’s webs yesterday. I do enjoy autumn, especially all the celebrations associated with fires and tasty food. I like lighting the log burner and feeling cosy in the evenings, but we have not had to do that yet. We try to wait until November rolls around before heating the house.

Feeling My daughter’s birthdays beautifully bookend the summer. C at the end of May and E at the end of September. We celebrate Miss E’s 8th birthday next weekend, then autumn is allowed to begin!

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Weather stats

Thursday 18th September 2014

A foggy morning becoming brighter as the day goes on

Sunrise 06:43 Sunset 19:13

High 23 Low 15

 

Photos from this week

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Mushrooms in the woods, Alice in Wonderland style. So pretty but so dangerous!

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An after school snack of greek yogurt and strawberry puree served with love.

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I am grateful to have a husband who likes collecting and chopping wood! We have a big stack ready to warm us through the winter. We have managed not to put on the central heating until November. Our house faces south with a wall of glass on the south side, so a little bit on sunshine helps to heat our house for free with the fabulous solar gain.

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Searching for colour in the autumn garden I came across the rainbow chard shining in the afternoon sunshine. I love the way the ribs look like the branches of a tree. A great example of the branching pattern in nature.

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Two new chickens joined the flock. They are a breed called Rangers and they have been called Margo and Edith. They are laying us large brown eggs every day. We needed the boost in egg production as most of our birds are either too old, too young or pretty but unproductive breeds. I love them anyway. I put down a layer of bark in their run this week as they had churned up the mud and looked rather sorry for themselves.

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Trying to fit everything in before the sun goes down is getting increasingly difficult. We are heading rapidly towards the shortest day. The winter solstice is often a significant day for me, I got engaged on that date and I am pretty sure my eldest was conceived on the winter solstice!  I don’t expect anything of significance will happen this year?

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Blue sky and autumn leaves, always a winning combination.

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A crown of leaves at Forest school.

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Have a good weekend everyone.