It's been a good bank holiday weekend so far. We've spent time in the garden again, re-potting and taking cuttings, dead-heading and pruning and more seed collecting. I made Joe a paper boat mobile for his bedroom and we'll be out this evening collecting pine cones, acorns and feathers for another hanging display (his bedroom ceiling goes up into the roof space and there's a big oak beam running straight across, perfect for that kind of thing).
Yesterday we were back on the moors kite-flying again. But on Friday we headed back to our old stomping ground in Cheshire.
Much as I love being back in the Pennines where I grew up, I do miss the plains: the openness and big skies, the arable landscape and all those little farm shops by the side of the road. So we went to collect Joe after he'd spent a few nights with his grandparents, fitting a walk in first.
Despite only being around 45 minutes away, you can tell that this part of the North West is much drier and sunnier than ours. The blackberries were huge and sweet, the hawthorn berries fat and red, the acorns and conkers twice the size of what we've seen back home. Of course, walking through fields of stubble at this time of year is lovely - but not something we hill-dwellers get to experience regularly as it's all about sheep and, on lower ground, dairy cattle.
We used to walk through these fields before Joe came along, then when he was a baby he'd ride on Jay's shoulders in his little carrier. In summer it's a nice place too - all the long green stems rippling like an ocean in the breeze - but I like it the best in autumn and winter.
The swifts were circling low, ready to take off for warmer climes. And the straw was rolled into bales too.
I regretted not bringing anything along to collect blackberries in, but I suspect Joe would have been disappointed not to have been included. So we'll go picking together during the last week of the holidays. He's already talking about making jam with brambles and the whinberries I stashed in the freezer. No doubt he's thinking about jam tarts or more 'thumbprint' cakes...
I haven't been able to do much making during the summer; in terms of printmaking and illustration it just doesn't happen. You can't attend to the needs of a four-year-old and spend hours messing with inks and plants at the same time. I just jot down ideas and plan things in my diary. And dabble in Instagram...
But getting out and walking and exploring is vital to my creative process. It helps me to slow my mind a bit, and to let new ideas in. I see things which inspire me, and collect little bits and pieces to bring home and surround myself with.
It feels as though we're on the last page of summer and that it's slowly turning. On our way up to the moors yesterday we saw trees laden with rosy apples, and another already dropping damsons down onto the lane.
It's the season where the most beautiful things are at the market: yesterday I picked up some blue-black plums and spied purple-tinged globe artichokes. Pomegranates too, and velvety figs. The plums look like a little still-life on their saucer in the kitchen.
Joe has asked for carrot cake for his birthday on Tuesday. So I've been and bought all the ingredients (and finally replaced the expensive vanilla extract we ran out of months ago). But I'm feeling the urge to bake something seasonal, too. A crumble cake with plums or Bramleys perhaps, or an autumnal cake from Diana Henry's book Roast Figs, Sugar Snow: Food to Warm the Soul complete with pecans and maple syrup.
So tomorrow will be a baking day, and perhaps this evening I'll wrap the rest of the birthday presents. The actual party isn't until next Sunday (three of them are sharing as they all turn five within a few days of one another). But in between we'll be visiting friends, adventuring, getting things ready for going back to school - and picking those blackberries. That's very important.