Wednesday 31 March 2021

A Song Parody

Hello Friends!

Enter, stage right, rural gardener with fork, wheelbarrow and hoe. Cue music and 🎵 sing 🎶 {tune: The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music}

"My short run of Spring has come to an end I know
The winds and the clouds have told me it's time to go
But deep from the darkening rain clouds
The raindrops do fall pitter pat
And the earth 'neath my feet starts to darken
As raindrops fall and bring the earth to life
And seeds start to grow ~~~
The Garden's Alive with the Sound of Raindrops
A sound we have known for a million years
The rain fills my heart with the sound of growing
My heart wants to pick every flower that grows
My heart wants to dance on the grass, on the cool wet grass
Where the sweet daisies grow
My heart wants to sing with the garden birds
Who are all in the know
My gardening is stopped at the sound of raindrops
But the growing begins
My garden is blessed with the sound of raindrops
And will grow once more ~~~

Yes, my friends, the weather has changed. Although it's been chilly, it's been dry. I have spent hours clearing the brambles, and am making progress. The lawn is mowed for the first time this year. A mini heatwave is forecast for the coming week, we may reach 20℃ which will feel hot when juxtaposed to these cooler days. However, I awoke this morning with my cottage sitting under a heavy blanket of wild Welsh wind whipped grey cloud from horizon to horizon and everything is wet from the rain last night. As I write, patches of blue sky emerge, fighting their way, stoically, through the clouds, but rain is winning the battle ~ a double edged sword ~ for we need the rain to swell and nourish the seeds into growth, but so will grow the weeds, and although, when I next return to the garden, it will again be weed covered, for they will have grasped their opportunity and already started to fill in the dark, bare ground that I have spent days clearing ~~~
~~~"A Gardener's Work is Never Done"~~~

Won't it be wonderful to see Red Kites hovering over my cottage again? I took this one a few years ago.

A few photos of what's flowering right now, or preparing to make it's return in a few weeks.

Happily, my favourite Pulsitilla has reappeared again this year

Finally, my Rosa Rugosa was getting very sparse on the bottom, and no flowers until you got to the top, over six feet tall, with lots of leaves in the middle and few flowers, so a few months ago, I hard pruned it back by half, chopping off the top completely. So, I am delighted to show you that, all along the lower stems, shoots, and lovely strong ones at that, have begun to appear. I am hoping, as any gardener always hopes, that the Summer months will bring a good display of flowers at a much better height for viewing and sniffing.

Until next time
Stay Safe, Stay Well

Saturday 27 March 2021

Change {part two}

 Hello Friends!

In a recent blog entry I wrote about change, and went a little deep; change has always been a part of our existence; we may not like change, for we are creatures of habit, at least I am, and some change is for the good, but it is all around us and, for better or worse, change is mostly unavoidable.  

Change is the one constant force in all our lives.

I know several of you will know what I am talking about when I say Facebook Daily Memories.  They're something from the archives that pop up daily.  I always enjoyed them, but no longer. I used to look back fondly at the days out with family or friends; or time spent at a crowded theatre or concert; events in public places; going to a café for lunch, or a coffee and cake break; a day out on a packed bus; and I would smile, laugh, and reminisce;  but now, underlying the happy emotions of the reminders lurks a deep sense of sadness and longing, the hiraeth for what may never be the same again.  Will we ever be able to do some of those things in complete safety, or will there now always be risk attached, and some things we took for granted we may just have to let go? Even once we've all been fully vaccinated; even now as our third lockdown is slowly eased another wave appears on the horizon from Europe. Will we have to learn to live with the current, unwelcome changes for ever?  I cannot dwell on this, I have to try and change my mindset, or be engulfed by darkness, yet I think I may be doing nothing more than saying what many of us are thinking in these days of unfamiliar life. 

Like many now, I have had my first vaccine, and hope it will help me look forward to some changes that will allow me a little more freedom.  Despite the vaccine, I think the change of Hands, Face, Space is set to be with us for a very, very long time to come.  At least with Summer coming, we can have socially responsible garden meet ups.  I don't even think meeting up indoors with people outside your Bubble is a consideration yet, and I know I am not alone with my fear that many will think the vaccine makes them invincible and give the green light for socialising at close quarters.

Quoting from a BBC News article:

The link between infections and serious illness or death has been "severely weakened", says diseases expert Prof Mark Woolhouse, of Edinburgh University.

But if infection levels rise high enough the virus "will find those" who are unvaccinated and those for whom the vaccine hasn't worked, he says.

We must not forget that the virus is constantly changing, mutating, too.  Hands; Face; Space  is set to be with us for a long, long time to come.

A very positive thing to counterbalance the changes brought by the virus is that Hands, Face, Space has caused seasonal 'flu cases in Wales plummet from 1657 last 'flu season, to just 18, so far, this 'flu season.  I am not undermining the severity of Covid 19, and none of us asked for it to happen, but if we take these figures we can see how important some simple changes can be.

An interesting read.

As creatures of habit, how many of us actually welcome change? I think it probably depends on what it is that is changing, and what those changes are.  Three words that put fear into my heart are "New and Improved" or "New Recipe" on a favourite, often much loved product I am accustomed to, and want it to remain exactly as it is.  I recall when Galaxy chocolate said it was now a new, even smoother, bar.  I bought one, half went in the bin.  I have not bought it since.

This is a little gem of a quaint and curious film made in 1958 by the Esso Refinery to promote Pembrokeshire reflects some of the many changes over sixty years to an ancient shire.  Charming in it's vintage style, the music at times reminiscent of an old movie, it epitomises a time gone by ~~~ changed forever ~~~ and many of the industries portrayed within are now no longer practised, or have been mechanised, or become a rare craft or skill practised only by a small minority, whereas once they were the skills by which every day life was made possible ~~~

* it is about 30 minutes, so go and make a pot of tea, raid your cake tin, and settle into a comfy chair ~~~

Change is everywhere in my village these days, even without the virus which has brought challenges of it's own, and little of it for the better, as the Post Office, banks, newsagents, community facilities, and several shops close their doors forever. It saddens me to watch the thriving local community that once had such heart and purpose, shrivel and wither at the hands of people who do not even live in the county. I will speak no more on this.

I have lived most of my life in this one, small village, and I must now put up my hand and say I am guilty of taking it for granted.  Who amongst us ever thought to take photographs of the streets, houses and hostelries, the green fields that surround us, that wall over there, or the gate at the end of the path closed off, a front garden turned into off road parking space? Small, and little by little, some of these things have changed, nibble by unnoticeable nibble, but now a different landscape sits before me, forever different, forever changed.  Who remembers what they looked like ten, twenty, or fifty years ago?

One change I wish had happened decades ago is the advent of digital photography.  Since going digital I have hundreds of thousands of photos, but something else has changed.  I hardly ever print them off.

Even this simple and beautiful view along my drive is now changed, for the neighbours on both sides, to whom the trees belonged, have cut the branches right back, even removing the trees completely. It makes me sad to see such butchered branches, but I have immense joy and gratitude that I captured their beauty before the changes took place ~~~

Not forever does the bulbul sing
In balmy shades of bowers,
Not forever lasts the spring
Nor ever blossom the flowers.
Not forever reigneth joy,
Sets the sun on days of bliss,
Friendships not forever last,
They know not life, who know not this.

Even the seeming constancy of the sun and moon changes  ~~~ Did you know that the reason we see a perfectly aligned solar eclipse is because, right now, the moon is the perfect distance between the Earth and the Earth is just the right distance from the sun, and that the sun's diameter is just right at the current distance to create a perfectly aligned, total eclipse?  Come back in a few thousand years and the distances will all be changed and the moon will no longer block out the sun, but make a smaller, dark circle within the blinding light of the sun.  

The night was clear and cold and the light of the moon was bright and bold

Magical clouds created a magical backdrop

Spooky branches and scudding clouds that change the scene again

Something else has changed, very gradually, over more than forty years since my first grey hair appeared.  More than a few trips to the salon, and more than a few home disasters, my hair is now changed completely from blonde, by way of mouse, and salt and pepper, to grey, or silver as I prefer to call it.

That is actually one change welcomed with open arms!

When I wrote about change in my last blog, it's triggered a huge avalanche of thought and idea in this poor old Pooh Bear brain of mine.  Acceptance of change, reflecting on change and looking back at how change makes us what we are.  Not all change is bad, and maybe we just need to learn to be more embracing of change, less ready to reject it simply because we are creatures of habit, and we don't like to adjust?  Maybe this is a lesson we can learn, to behove, for our improvement, from the pandemic? I know that my habits of a lifetime are now changed forever, and I will move on more quickly if I agree with myself to accept the changes over which I have no control.

Oh, and ugh! The clocks spring forward this weekend, one change I don't like at all, although once my body clock gets over it, I will welcome that extra hour of daylight in the evening for gardening, and sitting out if the weather ever improves!

I think I have rambled on enough for one blog.  Next time, all change, back to the garden!
Until next time
Stay safe, stay well

Sunday 21 March 2021

Daffodil Solution Found!

Hello Friends!

Jumping back a short while now, and as promised a quick little update on the vase of top heavy daffodils that kept on lying down for a rest. You can read about it here.  I feel I should say that, despite the original difficulties, now that a solution is found, they are very definitely worth the effort, as they are so very pretty.

Thank you to everyone, on here and Instagram, for your suggestions to cut the stems and put in a different vase.  However, as this has happened before, I know that is not a solution as the bend just reoccurs further up until there's no stem left to bend.

I found an empty passata jar, recently thrown in the recycling bin, which looks rather like a quaint, old fashioned glass milk bottle, and I had an idea.  I put the daffodils on the counter, shaping the big, double blooms into a pompom, tied them securely together, but not too snuggly, with some garden twine, trimmed the stems, and put them in the passata jar with plenty of fresh, clean water.  Four days later and they still look fresh as a daisy, well, daffodils, not daisies, but you know what I mean!

They were still beautifully fresh on Mothering Sunday to sit alongside this photo of my lovely mother, taken for her twenty first birthday.  Thanks to Covid, this is the first year every I did not buy special flowers, but I think she would have loved these just as much, and I know that, as she watches over me, she understands.

Until next time
Stay safe, stay well

Tuesday 16 March 2021

Change {part one}

Hello Friends ~~~ As the seasons turn it is with some surprise I feel caught unaware, and I realise this week sees the Vernal Equinox on March 20th,  we are half way through the first half of the year with Easter in a couple of weeks, and hurtling towards the Summer Solstice.  The days are growing deliciously longer, but to where did the year fly? How did it turn so quickly by? Some days seem so much longer than others as ferocious Winter gales  have pounded us and pushed us into Spring, yet surely and steadily Winter lies behind.

My thoughts turn to one word ~~~change~~~ and all the changes the turning seasons bring, each one in their own unique glory. As each season changes and turns, so our lives change and turn ~~~ yet there is a constancy to that change ~~~

Spring passes and one remembers one's innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one's exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one's reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one's perseverance.” 
~~~Yoko Ono~~~

It goes without saying, we are, collectively, currently going through change of an unprecedented nature on a global scale.  Everything that was once the unchallenged familiar path we trod is now no longer straight or true.  Even when we are all vaccinated and have the virus on the run, I don't think we will ever be able to return to the world as it was a year and a half ago.  We are changed forever.  In some ways, I feel we are being given a second chance, but many are rejecting this opportunity to change our behaviour and put things right in our world.  From now on, my life will always be about Hands; Face; Space.

Recently, I was in my attic and came across something I made years ago, as part of an art course I took in 1998.  The group visited Castell Henllys, a recreation of an Iron Age Village, where we gathered research.  Upon our return to the studio we had three days to collate our research and then design and create a final outcome.  I confess, I may have gone into this with, what turned out to be, a completely unjustified preconception of how our ancient ancestors lived.  All that was about to change.

On the day we visited Castell Henllys, I was unwell with a feverish cold and after a short while exploring outside I hunkered down inside one of the huts where there was an open hearth with a roaring wood fire in the centre of the hut which radiated warmth, comfort, and cosiness to an extent that I'd never experienced before.  Any conceptions I'd ever had of how our Iron Age ancestors stayed dry and warm, protected from the elements, changed right at that moment and melted into the flames that seemed to dance across the centuries that lay between us, as my preconceived ideas disappeared up, dissolving with the rising smoke.

This was where the clan gathered, to eat, sleep {in beds around the edges of the hut} and tell their stories of an evening when the day's work was done.  I was amazed by the cleanliness and comfort as the conditions seemed primitive with a dirt floor; hewn logs for surprisingly comfortable, posture friendly seating; and an open space simply covered by woven fabric for an entrance which offered little or no protection from the elements, yet here I sat, incredibly comfortable, warm and dry, in the half light and in a haze of wood smoke.  More conceptions over comfort and community changed.

The walls of wattle and daub were adorned with decorated wooden shields, and the roof of tightly packed reeds raised high above my head supported by tree trunks and sturdy branches.  Somehow, it made up for the open door and I soon found myself forgetting that I was unwell. These people had building skills and took pride in their interiors by decorating them. Yet more conceptions changed.

I began to experience an immense and overwhelming feeling of connection to the natural world, and as if the spirits of the ancient ones were anchoring me to a new place of belonging, as I consciously drifted into another time. As I was becoming attuned, so I changed.

As my eyes adjusted to the low light, I let my gaze wander around the space and was amazed at the skill and craftsmanship, honesty and authenticity, in everything that came into my new found focus. Beautifully woven reed baskets, iron pots and pans, iron and wooden utensils, a fire dog, woven blankets on the beds, and woven curtains to separate the beds into cubicles, the guides dressed in woven garments that had a beauty only seen in hand dyed and hand woven cloth. These were made by a people who relied upon raw materials found in the environment around them.  Everything came from nature, and would eventually decay and return to the land from which it came; changed from what it was to become something else, and to change again as it no longer served its purpose.  And so my perceptions and conceptions continued to change.

I was particularly taken by the weaving looms, basic, yet quite recognisable as the forerunners of our modern day looms, and eventually these were the primary force behind the physical construction of my final outcome.  The skill and art of weaving seems to have remained a constant, having changed little over the millennia, other than the mechanisation.

These were a people who lived in a community, individuals but in harmony, together; at one with the land and nature; respect for each other and for the land on which they depended; who wasted nothing, and created artefacts that were both useful and functional, and beautiful.  My opinion of who they were and how they lived could not have been more changed.

At this particular time, I was going through great personal changes.  I was going through a divorce, a major life change which, as anyone who has gone through divorce knows brings changes on many, often complicated levels.  I also did not know that the insignificant cold I had was the start of a significant life long change in my health.

My final outcome had to reflect the profound emotional and abstract changes I experienced that day, as well as my physical observations, and it seemed fitting to bring everything together in a woven hanging.  I eventually constructed one by hand, from a mixture of found, reclaimed, and recycled objects, with an underlying feeling of disintegration, mutability, and change, which is how I responded to the information I had gathered ~~~ combined with the deep and meaningful personal experiences I was going through at the time, and representative of my love for, and work with textiles ~~~ as outlined in my process, following.

Back in the studio my research progressed and I processed my hand drawn sketches, photographs and other images along with my  experiences gleaned at Castell Henllys; two things seemed to stand out.  First, the were the way in which our ancestors utilised nature and found objects, changing them to purpose; and second, the mutability, the changeability, of those objects within the circle of life. Having changed from hunter~gatherers to settled farmers, the Iron Age Celts still relied on the bounty of nature for their food, medicine, clothing, shelter, enclosures and protection, weaponry, and more. We now know that they had a sense of aesthetic and, amongst other things, changed plants into dyes for colouring their cloth, their art, and their bodies.  Woad was a primary source of the particular shade of indigo blue associated with the period. They used trees and reeds that grew locally and changed them into beams and roofing for their constructions and animal pens, and grew grain to harvest and change into flour for food. I drew on all of these things, and more, bringing them together in a woven by hand wall hanging that was not precious in any way. I just let my hands respond to the found materials, and created something in full knowledge that the mutability, the changeability, of the materials chosen was part of the outcome.

Fallen sycamore seeds and grain husks as the piece deteriorates and falls apart returning to the earth

Lavender grown in, and gathered from, my garden incorporated into the weaving

Everything used was found and recycled materials, all in careful consideration with my theme Change.

I used found twigs and branches, wheat stalks, sycamore seeds, some old blue cord to recycle and to represent woad {I did not have the time to find woad and prepare it myself as I only had two days in which to complete the project} I brought everything together by hand, as they would have done in the Iron Age.  I incorporated seeds found at the site itself.

Roughly made clay weights created in response to Iron Age weaving looms

In the closing statement of my presentation, I emphasised the mutability, the changeability, how the Iron Age settlement had returned to the earth and was recreated again, how the circle of life continues, and how my weaving will slowly return to rejoin the earth from whence it came ~~~ ever changing, ever present ~~~

Over the years, twenty or more, that lie in between,  I have watched this weave do exactly what it was intended to do.  Change.

My Friends ~~~ we are in an unprecedented time of enormous change, where the only constants are the slow turning of the wheel of the year and the endless weaving of our stories, as we drift on unseen forces, from season to season. As the year turns, let us remember that as we move through Spring, our antipodean cousins move through Autumn ~~~ ever constant in the circle of the ever~changing year ~~~

Until next time
Stay safe, stay well.

Friday 12 March 2021

A Tale of a Hundred Daffodils

Hello Friends!

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
and twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretched in never-ending line
along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not be but gay,
in such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
what wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

How could I write about daffodils and not include William Wordsworth's most famous poem?  What a sight he must have seen before him to inspire such moving and lasting imagery? 

The daffodil is the official flower of Wales, and is often worn by Welsh men, women, and children on March 1st, Saint David's Day, instead of the more pungent and less fragrant leek, also an emblem of Welsh nationality. 

Here is an amusing tale of what started out as just thirty daffodil bulbs that went forth and multiplied.  I didn't find it amusing as it unfolded, quite the opposite, but now I look back and I laugh.

Once upon a long, long time ago, in another lifetime, I lived in a tiny cottage overlooking a pretty bay and fishing harbour.  I knew I would not live there forever, so when I bought thirty Spring flowering daffodil bulbs, I planted them up in pots.  The flowered well and brought me much joy.

Time passed, and the day came when I had to move away, so I brought the pots of daffodils a few miles down the road to my parents cottage for them to plant out in their garden, and I went away.  I went away for four years, and during the Spring following my return, I was utterly amazed how the daffodils had multiplied.  They now filled the borders around the cottage making a delightfully colourful springtime display.

There was, however, one problem.

We all know how messy daffodils get once they have flowered and are dying back.  That was the rub.  There were, by now, so many daffodils that for weeks on end it all looked such a mess.  So, my mother and I came up with a plan.  

It was genius! Or so we thought.  I'd dig up all the bulbs from the borders, dry them off, store until September, then we'd pot them up into tubs of fresh compost that could then be put in the borders while in flower during early and mid Spring, and moved out of the way, out of sight, to die back in their unsightly manner, keeping the borders fresh and pretty.

I spent three days of back breaking work, digging out bulbs that, by now, had gone deep into the ground. We had over 300 bulbs!  I put them to dry, then stored away until needed.  

We bought the tubs; we bought bags and bags of compost.  Time passed, and we were ready to plant up the pots.

We set our pots up, began filling them with compost, and went to fetch the bulbs from the garden shed.  But wait! Where are the bulbs?  What has happened? Not a bulb to be found!  Not even an empty sack in which they were stored.  What had happened to the bulbs?

We puzzled for ages, not realising that there was a rather large square of freshly dug soil in a corner of the garden.  When my father came home, we asked him if he knew anything about the missing bulbs, and to our dismay he cheerfully told us that, the previous day, he'd only gone and dug them back in, they were under all that freshly turned soil.

You can go off people, and you can go off daffodils!  My father thought it was funny; he and I had words.  Not for the first, nor the last time over gardening differences of opinion.

I got over it, and the daffodils flourished in their new home, but over the years they multiplied even more, so I dug them up and gave them away.  There's only so many daffodils a small garden can hold, after all. 

Probably the prettiest are the double ones, but sadly they tend to succumb to the bad, Spring storms that prevail during March, right as they begin to flower, so this year, with advance warning of an impending week of wild, wet and windy Welsh weather, I picked them and brought them in, in tight bud.  If you've scrolled this far, you've seen their progress, but, sadly, this was the scene that greeted me this morning. 

I guess they keep on growing and getting heavier after they've opened and keep on drinking up the water.  So sad to see their slender stems bent over with the weight, but it is what it is, and short of wiring them there's very little I can do to prevent this happening.

At least I've had a few days enJOYment from them, while yet another week of Spring storms lashed our coast from Tuesday until Sunday.

For those of you who don't know, the stoneware jug is over seventy years old and was a gift from my dear mother to  her mother.  It is now in my care, and I have always loved this jug, even more so now.  As a child, I loved to see it on a table filled with daffodils which seem to look so well in it.  I named it the Daffodil Jug, and it is known by that name to this day.

Until next time
Stay safe and stay well.

Sunday 7 March 2021

Pretty as a Picture

 Hello Friends!

The other day, I somehow found myself sifting through the contents of a long forgotten tin sitting on a long forgotten corner on a long forgotten shelf in the garage {which is now more of a garden shed than a garage as I don't drive}, and look what I found!  Of course, the seeds will no longer be viable, for these are dated mid 1970's, but the last hands to touch these were my dear Daddy, who loved to garden from plot to plate in his spare time.  

They certainly knew how to make their seed packets look so pretty and inviting back then.

Even the instructions are illustrated prettily

Even the wording is written more like you are being spoken to directly, rather than a short list of instructions, or worse, the packets that only have graphs and guesswork.

They even come with instructions to dry the herbs!

The packets are a little bit dusty and marked, but I will try to gently clean them off to use in some project, as yet to be determined!

Soon I will be starting to sow my seeds for this year's food, but the packets are nowhere near as pretty!

Photos may give a more accurate and instant impression of the contents, and are boldly bright and beautiful, but I know which ones I prefer.

I had my vegetable seeds order back in early February.  When it arrived, I realised I'd forgotten to order my annuals, so I put in a small order for those, and these are what I ordered.  However, when this arrived last week, I immediately realised I have forgotten my pansies and borage seeds.  Heigh ho!  

Until next time
Stay safe, stay well
Deborah xo