Green shoots

It’s been around three weeks since my last post here. I don’t like leaving it so long (as I usually have a lot to say for myself) but we’ve had half term and various other goings-on. I’m also working part-time around Joe (the extra money is needed with a big old house to do up and maintain - although I avoid the word ‘renovate’ as that’s just too panic-inducing), and planning and running workshops, making and selling my own artwork and doing the usual household chores. And parenting. Which is, of course, pretty much all-consuming.

Half term here was only from a Monday to Wednesday, but the school held two Eco Days to round off the week. I helped out at both: on the Thursday I ran sessions all day teaching the children how to make nature journals - yes, I taught Joe too and he was very well behaved and enthusiastic - and Friday was spent outdoors building a bug hotel with the same groups. It was tiring admittedly (I slept extremely well on both nights), but great fun and someone had very kindly baked cakes, bread and made big pans of soup for the volunteers’ lunches.

Activities included: nature journals, willow weaving by the pond, seed sowing, clay pot making (and painting), scavenger hunts, weeding and pruning, building a bug hotel, braiding/cordage with fibrous plants, den building, making a cold frame, raised beds and compost bays, briquette making, litter picking, painting a backdrop for a wall display, making bird feeders, and painting old CDs for outdoor mobiles.

I received a sweet little thank you card from the school’s Eco Committee, signed by all its members, and I’m looking forward to seeing the things the children made at the spring fair in a few weeks.

The days were such a success that we’re planning on running them each term. We’re also going to have plant and seed swap events in spring and autumn.

Forest School sessions have started too - it’s lovely to go into school in the mornings and see the rail of waterproof suits and climbing ropes all ready for action. Joe’s thriving and we’re thrilled he’s being educated somewhere with such a strong focus on outdoor play, ecology and adventure.


We’ve been clearing the garden at home. A few scratchy old shrubs have been removed and we’re ready for a bonfire. We have to have sheep proof fencing along one side of the property but it appears that we actually own the narrow strip of land (just a few metres wide here and there) on the other side of it, along the edge of the stream, so we’re thinking of putting a little gate in somewhere and a bench at the bottom of the slope.

I hadn’t actually been down there before but it’s a secluded spot with a few small trees surrounding it - a perfect place to escape to with a cup of tea and a book. A bit further upstream there’s a small stretch of sand and pebbles where Joe plays. It disappears after a heavy rainfall when the water’s tumbling down from the hills, but most of the time he can paddle and ‘mine for gold’. Even the cat takes the shortcut across the stream into the croft next door to go mousing (or, I suspect, visit the neighbours in search of treats).

The pussy willow’s out too. There are jars and vases of it all over the place downstairs along with catkins and various other snippings. I’ve got euphorbia cuttings I’m hoping will take, and there’s a big bag of wildflower seeds which Jay’s going to sow into the lawn at the front of the house.

The kitchen windowsill is currently housing pots of soil with recently-planted rhubarb seeds within. And last week, after Joe’s swimming lesson in town, we went to the hardware shop and bought more seeds: strawberry, teasel, chard, pumpkin and dill. I’ve got some calendula seeds too, harvested from last year; odd-looking little things which are almost insect-like…

I ran a printmaking session at the library recently. I love the library. All libraries, in fact. Here we can borrow copies of Gardener’s World magazine as well as lots of lovely books on self sufficiency and growing. I spotted three which I just had to bring home: The Secrets of Great Botanists (and What They Teach Us About Gardening) by Matthew Biggs, Plant Love: How to Care for Your Houseplants by the wonderful Alys Fowler, and a very beautiful book with dreamy photographs called Root Nurture Grow by Caro Langton and Rose Ray. I now want to add begonias to my houseplant collection. Oh, and they have a very inspiring website too.

You know I could write more. Especially where plants are concerned. But I won’t. It’s almost lunch time, and the back door has blown open and the kitchen floor is now covered in crunchy leaves from the garden. Yesterday’s beautiful sunshine has given way to a chilly wind and dismal drizzle. But this afternoon my neighbour is taking me for a little drive to look at a house he’s been working on. I’ve been admiring it for over a year and today I get to go inside. I’m so excited; the glimpses I’ve had so far (from beyond the wall) suggest interiors worthy of a set from a costume drama.

So a little bit of fantasy before returning to the reality of school pick-up, homework and putting a costume together for World Book Day…