Friday, 17 September 2021
Saturday, 4 September 2021
- Joining (or starting?) a book club
- Reading with your children
- Swapping books with friends
- Asking friends for book recommendations/sharing your recommendations with others
Sunday, 29 August 2021
In the UK, the last Monday in August is a Bank Holiday - that is to say a public holiday. The August Bank Holiday weekend is one of the busiest of the year, the roads clogged by traffic as people try to make the most of the holiday by travelling to seaside resorts and other tourist destinations. Most schools start back in the first week of September, so there's very much a sense of grabbing the last chance for some carefree fun while the weather is still likely to be favourable and before we all return to the seriousness of work and school. In the national psyche it marks a turning point where Summer is definitely over and Autumn is poised to take over fully.
It's a perfect example of the unrealistic idea of seasonal changes we have in our heads. None of the seasons start or finish abruptly on a given date of course, they ebb and flow, morphing slowly and subtly into each other. But it's interesting to notice how people's expectations colour their experience of the seasons - they seem almost affronted if warm and sunny weather doesn't appear on cue in June as they feel it should be, they're disappointed when it doesn't snow at Christmas, and they seem to expect leaves to start changing colour and falling as soon as September appears.
This weekend does mark a turning point, but it's an internal rather than an external one. Perhaps the negative feelings people have about Autumn are based more on the human-imposed realities of having to leave the beach and return to school or the office than any flaws inherent in the season itself.
Embracing Autumn: Seasonal Turning Points
In your journal, examine your feelings about Autumn and the other seasons. What are the stereotypes you see in your mind when you imagine Autumn, Winter, Spring and Summer? How do they compare to reality? It may be helpful to do this exercise in tandem with tracking seasonal changes with your camera over the coming weeks and months - the results could be surprising!
Saturday, 28 August 2021
- Decide which plant(s) you'd like to use. Harvest them with respect and only after asking permission from the plant itself. Don't take more than you need, and cut the plant cleanly. This is all about honouring the spirit of the plant, and maintaining a good, mutually respectful relationship with it.
|Close-up of a peppermint flower|
|My bunch of herbs included spearmint, peppermint, eau-de-cologne mint, lemon verbena, camomile, oregano, sage, rosemary, St John's wort, thyme, fennel, mugwort and lemon balm|
- To make your Harvest Dolly, gather your plant material into a bunch. About halfway up the bunch, tightly tie some ribbon and finish it with a bow. This is your Harvest Dolly's 'waist'. I like to use red ribbon for this - partly because red thread is often used in protective folk magic charms, partly because red can symbolically stand for 'life', and partly because aesthetically the red makes a good contrast to all that green! Obviously, you can use which ever colour you like.
- Turn the bunch upside down. The full, leafy, flowery half of your bunch forms the 'skirt' of your Harvest Dolly. The stem half will form her torso and head.
- Find something straight and fairly rigid to make 'arms' (for this I cut a small bundle of dried grass stems from the hedgerow - I felt they would be a good representative of the wild plants of the locale). Push them through and at right angles to the stems of the plants you have gathered. The stems should be gathered tightly enough to hold the arms in place, but if you want to you can use some thread to tie them more securely.
- Use some thread to tightly tie the bunch again, this time above the arms. This is your Harvest Dolly's 'neck'. You should have an inch or two of stems above this which form her head.
- If you'd like to add a head/face you could use a seedpod, nutshell, round leaf etc, or make one out of paper/card or even air-drying clay. I used the seedpod from an honesty plant (Lunaria annua). There was enough of a stem on the seedpod to push down under the neck thread, which was sufficient to hold it in place. You could use thread, a cocktail stick or glue to hold your Dolly's face in place if necessary. If you like, you could draw features onto the face (I decided to leave mine plain).
- Voila! You are finished, although if you like you could 'dress' your dolly by wrapping her in fabric or making her a tiny necklace or crown...
- Put her somewhere dry and well-ventilated, where she will be able to gradually dry out. Her bright colours will fade as she dries, but she will still be beautiful.
- Next spring, dig her into your garden soil, or leave her as an offering in your favourite green space.
- I've added a rough diagram below which I hope will make clear anything my words have failed to describe adequately.
|My finished Harvest Dolly|
|A rough diagram which may help clarify my written instructions!|
Thursday, 26 August 2021
Wednesday, 25 August 2021
The rain of recent weeks has finally - finally! - given way to sunshine and blue skies. And yet despite the presence of the sun, the days are noticeably shorter as we inch closer to the Autumn Equinox. Today for the first time this year I saw the swallows and martins lining up in chattering rows along the telephone wires as they do each year as they prepare for their marathon winter migration to South Africa.
Just as the swallows are preparing themselves for the changes Autumn brings, we humans are also preparing for Autumn - stocking up on supplies for the new academic year (or buying new school uniforms for the kids), preserving the Autumn harvest by making jams and chutneys, tidying spent bedding plants from the garden - whilst simultaneously enjoying the better weather while it lasts. Some customers in the shop where I work are even starting their Christmas shopping (I'm all for planning ahead, but that's a step too far for me!).
Embracing Autumn: Autumn Preparations
Without necessarily looking as far ahead as Christmas, what are you (or should you be) doing to prepare for Autumn? I suspect we each have different priorities when it comes to seasonal jobs, but you may like to think about:
- Putting away Summer clothes and digging out your Autumn wardrobe - it won't be long before cosy jumpers, comfy boots and snuggly scarves are the go-to choices when you get dressed in the morning.
- In the garden, tidying up straggly or gone-to-seed plants (but do leave some as food and shelter for wildlife).
- Making sure you have some nice soft blankets to hand so that you can snuggle up on the sofa in comfort or add an extra layer of warmth when you're in bed.
- Getting yourself some nice scented candles or a jar of luxury hot chocolate ready to increase the hygge factor in your home.
- Making sure you have all the necessary textbooks/stationery/folders etc ready if you've signed up for an Autumn course or workshop. You could also prepare a space in your home as a study area.
- Ensuring your garden has some suitable areas for wildlife to overwinter in safely.
Tuesday, 24 August 2021
Although 'Embracing Autumn' was intended to be a series of daily posts, once again things have slipped and I have missed a few days. This is because IB's elderly Mum - who is now living with us - had a nasty fall on Saturday afternoon which landed her in A&E. She's OK and on the mend but as you can probably imagine we've been a bit preoccupied over the last couple of days. I probably could have written something last night but to be honest I was too frazzled to sum up a coherent thought. I hope things will get back on track from now on, though.
Today I've been thinking about butterflies. In late August the buddleia bush on our patio is covered in butterflies. Many people dislike buddleia as it can be an invasive weed. The bush on our patio in fact sowed itself - I'm not sure quite where from as I'm not aware of any buddleia bushes in the immediate area, but somehow a seed must have blown in from somewhere. Now it's huge despite me cutting it back hard every winter, and at this of year time it makes the butterflies and bees so happy I can't possibly regret its arrival. I really rather love its unruly sprawl, the generosity of its abundant purple flowers drawing in clouds of butterflies and bees and the scent of honey as I brush past it. This morning as I left for work, the wall of the house by the buddleia was covered in butterflies warming their wings in the morning sun (I tucked this observation away as one of my beautiful things for today).
In this season of harvest and plenty, it seems appropriate to watch the butterflies feasting and apparently celebrating their bounty.
Embracing Autumn: Butterfly Days
How many different kinds of butterfly can you spot? If you need help with identifying them, there are man handy online guides such as this and this. You can also help with butterfly conservation by simply reporting your butterfly sightings to projects like this one.