And for the year’s finale: the nasturtiums

IMG_3314Amidst all the withering, drying, releasing and decaying as the year starts to shut up shop… Amidst Mother Earth rubbing her tired eyes and putting up her aching legs… Amidst the thoughts of approaching winter…


… the nasturtiums are still having a riot!


They’ve had a party an a half in our garden this year, these merry show-offs. Some were sown, some probably self-seeded from last year. They’re not looking ready to hang up their glad rags and go to bed yet though, oh no thank you.


I’ve tucked up few of their seeds up to sleep until next year…


…but really these jewels are still busy jazzing up the garden, as well as brightening – and peppering – up my dinner.


This dazzling finale reminds me that the show’s so not over yet: the year’s not completely done. There’s still more to see and relish before the curtain falls. Before I gather up what I need to take to embrace the dark, dream-laden night, I have to ask: “what have I still not quite finished – what have I not quite fulfilled and offered and been – yet this year?”.


Releasing and gathering

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As the Autumn Equinox approaches, that day of equilibrium before the day’s dark minutes outweigh light, balance is a theme I reflect upon. I wrote the other day about the theme of letting go at this time of year; a call that I take from the trees and the hedges and the land. In counterpoint, I hear also the call to gather, called to me from the earth and from the worms who bury inside it as they gather the year’s leaves and other debris. I hear this call from the animals and birds who gather berries and nuts to feed them through the winter. I hear it from my ancestors who would also be gathering and preserving food from the land at this time. And gathering seeds; preparation for next year’s food. Continuation of the spiral.


This balance of releasing and gathering, letting go and storing, holds beautiful and necessary harmony for me. Death is needed for birth and rebirth, emptiness creates space that is full of potential. Those busy worms break down that debris to feed the soil that will feed us next year.


This year,  pumpkin seeds will probably be the only ones we’ll harvest from our garden. Happily, the year has been rich in many others; lessons about my strengths and weaknesses (and limitations), lessons about why some of these are so, lessons about our garden, about things we desire more of or less of in my life – that we want to release or gather. There’s been new friendships that I hope will blossom, the awesome and unique personality of our son that blossoms more and more into its own, the little “seed” growing inside my belly into a whole new person, skills and interests of ours that are blooming too. Like many food growers record their seeds sown, their successes and not-so’s, and seeds gathered for next year in a gardening journal, I record these personal harvests in order to remember and to learn about my growth. Continuation of the spiral.

I wish you peace and joy in any Equinox preparations of your own, and in your own gathering of your precious seeds. xx


Everyday letting go

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The year is letting go of itself. The last stragglers of summer’s party are wearily leaving, the exit music plays to fading applause. Nuts, leaves, fruits, berries, crops are all shed. “Go on,” the trees and hedges say, “have them, enjoy: they’re right for you. My work with them is done”.

When we let go of possessions we do longer need/can use to the charity shop or recycling centre, I feel that sense of “have them. My work with them is done”.

When we truly sacrifice something that we know someone needs more – the seat on the bus for the elderly lady even though we are tired, the flapjack that we bought ourselves as a treat that we know might be the homeless person’s only food today – our hearts again echo the trees’ “Go on, enjoy”.

When I let go of the some of the minutes that I check some social media sites, knowing my tendency to use them to procrastinate over pursuits that might stretch me creatively and intellectually, I’m more fulfilled by doing so.

The lessons of letting go came to me early this year, during summer. Part the reason that our garden currently resembles such a jungle is because I had to let it go to instead take care of my body through pregnancy tiredness and bad nausea, still taking care of my three-year old son.


Indeed, as this boy grows more into his ability to make choices and decisions of his own, I surrender some of mine. This week, as we made this shaker from dried kernels from last year’s again-unsuccessful sweetcorn plants (we’ve now let go of the hope to grow sweetcorn here: we just don’t have the space for the block planting that they need), I held my tongue when he requested a different colour of beads to what I thought would look most attractive. I held it again when he preferred the sound of several walnut shells in the jar and I thought that less sounded nicer. Such things challenge my inner control freak; I form an image (or see it on Pinterest!) of what something “should” be like. But I’m learning to let go of the rigidity in that “should” and let things flow – particularly to gift my son the space he needs to learn, to grow and to create.

When I recently undid a knitting project where the yarn just wasn’t right for the style of garment, I had to shelve a little pride – and resentment of the time I’d put in. Yet I revelled in that feeling of relief that comes when you relinquish the stress of trying to force something to work that isn’t. When those nuts, berries and apples just get too heavy for their branches.


A couple of years ago,we scavenged a beautiful wooden chest rom a kerbside. It needed TLC and restoration then… and now needs some more after being stored in our not-very-watertight bike shed. (Ironically, my husband hasn’t been able to store his bike there because of the space the chest took up). Time has prevented us (and will continue to do so) from giving it the repair it needs. It would make a beautiful coffee table with storage and rustic character besides, but the reality is that our home is too small and needs that floor space for the trainset-building, jigsaw-completing, rough-housing and other play that is necessary to our day-to-day family life.

Temptation had long whispered: “but it’s so beautiful! And it was free! Keep it! Keep it!”. Yet our hearts knew to let it go. Within hours of advertising it, a man with more time – and a rustic cottage without young children – had come for it, delighted and thankful. We felt a little sadness as his car drove off, the chest tied on top and our son waving goodbye to it, but our hearts were saying “Go on, have it, enjoy. It’s right for you. Our work – rescuing it from going in a skip 2 years ago, and storing it until an owner that will do it justice was scouring Freecycle – is done”.

The first week of September



I bid farewell to August on its last day with a change of the nature table to a more autumnal theme, including a few little bowls and baskets for holding all the treasures of nuts, cones, conkers, acorns. leaves, seedpods and more that will be “harvested” on our walks. The next appropriate activity seemed to be baking a cake: I can usually rely on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall to provide recipes rooted in the seasons so the result was based on an apple cake recipe of his that I added some blackberries to in order to autumn it up a bit more.


Despite odd teasing days of bright, warm sunshine, Autumn is definitely palpable here. It rules the later mornings with their chilly fragility. It tugs to us the also-cooler evenings at an earlier hour. It’s in the slightly weaker daylight, the gusty breeze, the swelling apples and the occasional mist. It’s in the sweet, purple blackberry juice dribbling down my son’s delighted face. It’s starting to touch the leaves – not many yet in the places I walk, but some: curling them, painting them, drying them, plucking them from their trees. Some resist longer than others. I feel a little sadness at the idea of them dying, despite my love of this season and knowledge that death facilitates the joy of rebirth and renewal.


I find September itself brings a kind of rebirth. Perhaps my years of schooling, despite having ended almost half my lifetime ago, have drummed into my subconscious the feeling of a “new start” at this time. Perhaps it’s the sense that the land is birthing its fruits and crops. Perhaps being pregnant just leaves me a little fixated on birth right now! (Especially as my first-born was due in September).

Nevertheless, we are settling into a new groove after a few weeks of being away from home a lot and out of our normal rhythm. This week will be the first full week back dancing our usual dance – although it never is exactly the same because we add to that dance the new steps we’ve learned as the seasons and our lives turn and turn; our harvests.



The week has also seen a bit of tree pruning to optimise light in our garden as the sun gets weaker, some slipper-making, and a bit of house cleaning and space-cleansing. This week calls for me to finish making our draught excluder and to top up the cedarwood on our anti-moth blocks. To dig out the inner-child self-healing work I began last winter (and then neglected as the garden called my attention). To dig out gloves and warm hats. Time for preparation. Turning in, cosying up and winding down. And for looking forward to the pumpkins still ripening in our garden – to not forget that the year still promises harvests to come.


A harvest nature table

We put this nature table / altar together for Lammas, although I never quite got around to writing a post about it – mainly due to the nature of one of the “harvests” featured. As many do with this festival, I like to focus on the year’s projects that have come to fruition; what we are reaping. Doing so, I’m taking my cue from nature, this being the harvest time. And in the growing calendar, harvest is a time, rather than a particular set day, which is why I tend to celebrate Lammas especially in this spread out, extended way.


Sometimes our harvests are outright tick-of-the-goals-list successes (if that doesn’t sound to blunt!), sometimes they’re surprises, sometimes more “lessons we’ve learned”. For all, I feel it’s important to state and share our gratitude; to thank each other, the Earth, the cosmos, our resources and whatever else has enabled these harvests – as well as to acknowledge the efforts we and others have put in.

As we now turn into September, with all the demands that come with continued harvesting, preparation for winter and/or return to school or work, I know it’s important for me not to let that gratitude and those lessons get lost in this busy-ness, but to weave themselves into the rhythm of this month and of this season, and to learn how to dance to that new beat…


The tiny corn cobs in the very top pic were from last year – we learned to let go of our hope to grow sweetcorn and a few other crops here: our little urban garden just doesn’t have the space. The premature conkers on the left here represent plans I made that still haven’t been fulfilled. This year I’ve “harvested” learning more about the reasons why I procrastinate, mismanage my time, avoid things etc. The knitting is there because this is a skill I think I’ve improved this year, the bark is a souvenir from one of the lovely woodland walks we’ve enjoyed – and been making more time for – as well as representing the development of my husband’s interest and activities in woodland work. The honey is from our camping holiday on Exmoor.


The painting behind the Holly King represents seasonal food and the berry harvest we enjoyed from our garden (that my son was extremely efficient at harvesting into his mouth!). The heart was made by my son at his kindergarten (which he started at in January). 


Not a great pic but the basket contains some rubble from the old concrete path that took up a lot of our garden. We broke it up to increase our growing space and to add a lawn and a more natural bark-chip bath; one of the bark chips is in the basket too.


The lavender is from our garden and the “seaside in a box” was inspired by an craft activity idea posted on It symbolises the three lovely weeks that my son and I recently spent staying with my mum in Cornwall – and frequently visiting the sea! The scan picture is a really special blessing from this year; our second child who we very much look forward joining us Earthside in February. Hence the lack of blogposts for a few weeks due to me having a lot of early nights! (Thankfully I’m feeling much better lately). The houmous packaging represents my accepting that it’s ok if I don’t always meet my expectations of myself: I ideally like to make houmous from scratch each week, using dried, soaked chickpeas I’ve then cooked in the pressure cooker. However, sometimes there’s a call for some supermarket houmous – when I’ve got a baby in my tummy to grow, a three-year old to build trainsets with, housework (or knitting!) to do, sunshine to enjoy, friends to see or whatever. Perfection’s just not worth it sometimes! 


Rethinking midsummer associations – fire and water.

Our garden is all planted, and too full for anything more. It just begs for water, water, water. And it’s water that I’ve been thinking more about this midsummer than other years. I’ve always associated summer, and Litha (the summer solstice) with fire; the time where the weather is hot and we celebrate the sun being at its strongest. It seems obvious. However, it was whilst learning about Ayurveda that I first considered the water aspect to summertime. Pitta, the dominant dosha right now, is comprised of fire and water. Water is liquid and Ayurveda connects this to the melting power of heat. Water is heavy and I guess Ayurveda would attribute the heaviness we tend to feel now to the presence of water in this season’s Pitta energy.


Of course water has a balancing effect to heat too and I think that this is where the association of water with midsummer from a pagan perspective rings true for me; we associate summer with the seaside and with boats and shells and pebbles and fish, we think paddling pools and water-play for our children, we know we need to drink plenty of the stuff. The association is also relevant to the story of the year as told in the analogy of the goddess reproductive cycle; she is heavily pregnant and waiting for labour to start – the first sign of which is often the waters breaking. Fluids – and fluidity – are then quite symbolic of the birth process, including the fluidity of time and perhaps reality that many women report experiencing when they are in labour. Indeed, such fluidity seems quite pertinent to summertime itself, for our usual routines, activities and times that we do things warp a little with the long hazy, dreamy days (or if we are on holiday). Midsummer has long been associated with the fairy world and their magic and mischief: further blurring and dissolving of reality, time, space, form, and boundaries of possibility.

This theme of fluidity – ie: motion – is kind of incongruent with the call for stillness and slowing down that I also feel at this time of year. That the word solstice comes from the Latin sol (sun) and sistere (to stand still) impresses this for me. I guess this contrast gives me more food for thought and discoveries to make as my journey with my own spirituality continues – or is maybe a call to not get too hung up on associations at all, but to take each year for what it is and where I’m at, listening to the unique messages that year brings.


Hail the Holly King


For some time, we’ve had a beautiful Oak King on our nature table. Earlier this year, I decided that I’d like to make a representation of the Holly King to take his place after the summer solstice; this is the day when the two kings are said to fight until the Oak King is slain by the other. The victorious Holly King therefore reigns and rules the land until the winter solstice, when the two kings meet again. This time the Oak King wins and therefore rules the following half of the year.

I wanted our Holly King a little smaller than his counterpart: Autumn, in particular, is a season where many treasures of the earth can be found and brought home for the nature table, meaning that space can get a little pushed. But what to make him from! I’ve never used clay and it’s so long since I did anything with saltdough that I didn’t quite trust that it would turn out ok, (and although I’d decided I’d like a Holly King months ago, I’d characteristically left it to within days of the solstice to do anything about it!) I wanted to use a natural material and it needed to be able to withstand being enjoyed by a small child – our nature table is all of ours. I choose wool felt. Plant-dyed would have been my ideal but I couldn’t find suitable colours without buying a large, expensive pack.

Next, I drew two holly leaf templates of different sizes on card and cut them out of two different shades of green felt. I used one shade for the bigger size, another for the little but that was just personal preference. I cut out two circles (using a small plate and a wide mug as their respective templates) out of a third shade of green and pinned and stitched these together with my sewing machine, the smaller one centrally on top the larger, leaving a little gap for stuffing. I used sheep’s wool balls, then sewed up the gap.


Next I pinned and hand-stitched the leaves on, Because I’m a bit lazy, I didn’t go all the way around each leaf; just enough to attach the leaf securely and look decorative. Here and there, I added a sparkly green bead or few.

I then hand-stitched the face, squidging (is that a technical term?! Let’s say yes!) the stuffing a little to shape the nose. If I’d had more time, or been making this or someone else, I’d have cut an extra circle of felt the same size as the large circle to attach to the back to cover up the visible stitches from sewing the leaves on. (I’d attach it by hand-stitching the two large circles together around the edge).


On the solstice, we gathered together, lit some beeswax candles and beat a sort-of rhythm (three-year old style!) on a drum. We placed the Holly King on the Oak King and I told the story of this being the day that they meet together. My son’s age is a tender one, so I prefer not to talk about battles with much detail. We talk about how the Holly King has the victory this time; now is his time to reign, for holly stays green all year, and it is at its most splendid in winter when the berries provide colour for the landscape and food for the birds. We talked about how the Oak King will have his time again when the wheel turns once more to the winter solstice. The oak and many other trees and plants will then soon start to think about waking up again and growing their new leaves. After this, we thanked our Oak King, took him off the nature table, wrapped him in tissue paper and stored him away. The Holly King remains in his place. Hail the Holly King!

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