purple sage and parsley

Reasons to Be Cheerful

I’ve always thought that blogs like this can be a little removed from the real world. We witter on about baking bread and taking walks, picking flowers and knitting blankets seemingly without a care in the world, while cataclysmic events rock the world.

I see no reason for that to change too much even though our lives have changed in ways we wouldn’t have considered possible a few weeks ago.

For many of us there are still plenty of reasons to be cheerful; here are a few of mine:

primroses growing in grass

Spring is here and winter is over. The primroses, cowslips and violets are in flower, the fruit trees and blackthorn bushes are frothing with blossom and the birds are singing. The hens are laying, the herbs in the garden are bright and fresh.

My calendar is empty for the next few weeks. No appointments, no obligations, no boring meetings. I can do whatever I like. So long as I don’t leave home.

I have more time to do the things I want to do. All Ruth’s printmaking classes in The Barley Barn have been cancelled, which is not something to be cheerful about, but instead we’re trying out printing projects and other creative things to share on Slamseys Journal. The first post about creative craft distractions if you’re stuck at home is already up and there’ll be more to follow. Also, instead of baking cakes and biscuits for the classes, I can fill my own cake tins.

It’s not raining and the sun is shining. The washing can be hung outside to dry, it’s a joy to get into the garden to sow some seeds and I no longer have to squelch along wet, muddy paths in wellies. Best of all, after a dismal autumn and spring sowing season, it’s finally just about dry out enough for the tractors to get onto the land in a last ditch attempt to drill some spring barley.

I have a knitting project that will last for ages. Last month, I knitted a Gamaldags sweater from Icelandic Knitter, which was incredibly quick to knit and I’ve worn it almost non-stop. I then had a fancy to knit a gansey or guernsey, whichever you like to call it. I have no idea why it seemed a good idea to knit something on tiny 2.25mm needles, which is taking an age to knit. There seems barely any noticeable progress after an hour of knitting each evening and though that seemed a bit of a drawback at first, it now seems a positive thing.

coffee and biscuits on the table

People have started to blog again. We may have to socially distance ourselves in real life, but on the web, we can drop in or open our doors to people all over the world. A virtual seat at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and a biscuit.

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Stay safe.


Spring Rituals

Spring has arrived. If you need dates to fix the seasons, then spring either started on Wednesday (the spring equinox) or on 1st March if you use the meteorological definition. Looking around here, it feels as though spring is slowly rolling in. It’s been slightly warmer and a lot less windy than earlier in the month. The days are getting longer and brighter and the birds sing and chatter loudly. The blackthorn hedges are veiled in white blossom that blows in the wind and falls to the ground like confetti amongst the new, bright green new growth of cow parsley, grass and cleavers.


Hidden in amongst the greenery, violets of every hue from white to deep violet (surprise, surprise) flower in shady places. To me, the appearance  of primroses and violets marks the true start of spring. One of the best places to find violets on the farm is just on the edge of the yard, in the shade of the tree where the dog cocks his leg every day as we set off on our walk. Hmm. Maybe those ones are just best left untouched for everyone to admire.

As ever, there are certain spring rituals that I’m drawn to each year.


A posy of violets picked for the bedside table. Every now and then, I catch their scent as it drifts across the room. My favourite flower fragrance: fleeting, floral and nostalgic. My perfume of choice.

 

 

Some years I make Violet Syrup or Violet Jam but this year my fad is for Violet Tisane (well, this week at least). A couple of tablespoons of violet flower heads steeped in near boiling water for a few minutes produce a vibrant deep turquoise drink. It’s worth drinking for the colour alone, but it also tastes deliciously of violets, without the normal  sweetness of jams and syrup.

 


I take no interest in the garden during the winter but in spring I have a sudden burst of enthusiasm. A few seed packets have been gathered ready for spring sowing, but first there’s the small matter of constructing the raised beds. We moved house last spring and have had no vegetable garden of our own since then but very slowly, the garden is beginning to take shape and the first of the beds are almost ready for sowing with carrots and beetroot.

 


The banks of the ditches that form the field boundaries are slowly filling with pale yellow primroses, which has me reaching for the Jelly Plate. The jelly plates have been badly treated, stacked away under printing stuff since the autumn, but have emerged relatively unscathed. It’s good to print with small spring leaves and flowers on a small jelly plate and get back into the swing. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you might want to read this beginner’s guide to jelly printing.


The tracks around the fields have been a bit wet and claggy after the glorious walking further afield in Tasmania and it’s been a bit gloomy tramping around in the mud. With luck, now spring is here, the sun will shine and there’ll be plenty of walking.

 

Do you have spring rituals? Or maybe you’re slipping into autumn. Do tell.


signs of spring

The Met Office would have us believe that spring started on 1st March, while astronomers say that it starts on the 20th March – the spring equinox. Although it doesn’t seem as if winter has blown out just yet, it’s good to see the back of February with its grey, wet days. In this first week of March, the skies have been blue and the sun has been shining, even if it is still frosty and cold in the morning.  Yesterday, I spotted two men in shorts wandering around town, which surely must be one of the first signs of spring.

Here’s five more signs that spring really is on its way.

duck eggs and hen eggs

1  Eggs, eggs and more eggs. Last month I was getting one egg every couple of days from my solitary hen but this month my new hens are laying every day and the ducks have started to lay as well, a sure sign of spring. I shall spare you a photo of the other spring activity of ducks.

2  It gets dark later each day and it seems the lengthening of the days speeds up in March.  In December, the ducks come to the kitchen window just after three o’clock demanding that I feed them but now I don’t go out until well after five to shut them away for the night.

primrose in spring

3  The primulas in the garden and the primroses on the banks of the ditches around the fields are just starting to flower and soon the banks will be a mass of colour. The snowdrops and crocuses under the apple trees have been flowering for a while and the sunshine has encouraged the first of the daffodils to trumpet their arrival. I’m not a great lover of daffodils. I’d rather see pale yellow primroses or butter yellow cowslips than the vulgar, brassy daffodil.

 

spring sunshine

4  Sunshine streaming through the windows. Morris the fox terrier moves around the house through the day, squeezing himself into the smallest patch of sunshine where it hits the floor. I see the dirt on the windows highlighted by the sunshine and quickly turn away.

catkins

5  Catkins dancing in the wind, waiting for their pollen to be blown to a waiting female bud, against a brilliant blue sky.

I’m tiring of winter now and longing for spring. And immensely grateful that we have such distinct seasons.

What about your part of the world? Are you still surrounded by snow or has spring arrived? Maybe you’re slipping into autumn. Do tell.