The passing of time

It has been six years since we buried my father; six orbits around the sun, a sentiment that conjures up in my mind an image of my niece spinning round with her arms out stretched, smiling face turned up towards the sun whose light makes her blonde her shine golden… These two things don’t match up though, my dad died before my niece’s existence was anything more than star dust and she’s probably not yet old enough to understand more than everyone has a mummy and a daddy but for many unfamiliar reasons some children only seem to have one, including her mummy and me.

Today six years ago family and friends gathered to remember him, but it is not this same day… Today it is been raining and the earth is gratefully soaking up the moisture after a long hot bank holiday, six years ago I remember it being sunny and bright. Six years ago today was Tuesday, and felt like an extension of the long bank holiday weekend, this year it is Wednesday and feels like the summer is starting to slip away.

Looking back to standing with my siblings six years ago puts me in mind of a group of fledglings all about to move out from the family home and carve a place in the big wide world for ourselves, now my younger siblings are grown-ups; some with children, some married, some home owners, some engaged. All with new friends and family that my dads existences has no meaning for. Not Earth grounded, personal experience meaning anyway.

I still struggle with grieving; I’m not sure if I still am, if I have or if I have even started yet. There are singers who’s music I still cannot listen to or that make me want to cry if I hear their songs unexpectedly  on the radio through not wanting to remember but the ends or changing of TV series my dad enjoyed have bought a lump to my throat through not wanting to forget or lose these reminders of him. I feel guilty for not taking flowers or visiting his grave more often but don’t feel that where he is buried has any connection to him or who he was. On days I am not feeling strong I get angry and upset with the world for changing and leaving my dad behind but on others days push forward in becoming the grown-up I now am and with the life I want to create, all be it without him.

My dad wasn’t ready to die, even after years of being ill and in pain, and so we fought dying with him. We refused to let the hospital give up, we didn’t have those conversations about what he wanted after he was gone or how he wanted to be remembered, perhaps it would have been easier if we had, if there had been a plan… but there wasn’t and I can’t bring myself to think of my dad knowing he was going to die and how scared that would have made him feel.

Or perhaps having those conversations or a plan would have left a feeling of “we gave up too soon…” who knows.

When someone dies a doctor has to sign the death certificate which they charge a fee for, I didn’t know that until my dad died. When my mum went to get all the paper work sorted the doctors at the hospital refused this fee and that acknowledgement that we’d done everything we could still brings me pride and comfort (please, if I am deluded that this fee waving is not common practise and it was not an acknowledgement of all we had done and doctors often refuse this cold-hearted expense, be kind and do not shatter my illusion).

The idea of mourning a parent is such a completed one; no matter how many you have, or whether they are present or completely absent they have such a role in shaping who a person becomes; the believes they have, what their hopes, dreams, worries and fears are, how someone views the world and someone’s understanding of what is right and just… That shaping near dies and carries on having a ripple effect on existence for generation after generation. But a parents presence is what is mourned after they are gone; the promise that when you climb too high and get stuck there is someone to climb up after you and bring you back down, even if you’ve long stopped climbing trees and been too big for a parent to carry in their arms for many years. That promise being gone forever, for me, is what hurts the most.

 

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17 in 2017

So, another calendar year as begun and the fresh, crisp start to it quickly slipped away leaving me wondering where I could start again here. After reading through a few of my favorite blogs I found this post from The Snail of Happiness which seemed a fitting way to start again… From what I can gather ’17 in 2017′ is a list of 17 goals or challenges for the year a head

#17 – meals made from homegrown / produced food (bar seasoning)… this year I really want to get to grips with homegrown food again, for many reasons including taster food, health and my growing uneasy with ‘the system’. 17 meals might sound like a lot but with bits of cultivated land dotted around, a cow and goats for diary. chickens and ducks for eggs it shouldn’t be too tall an order, even if I just spend the summer eating omelette and salad.

#16 – plants passed on to other from my seed stores… This is something I have seen on other peoples 17 in 2017 lists and I like it. During last year I lost a large mount of my treasured seed collection, it was heart breaking, but also made me realise how much locked up energy and life I had been sitting on, a little like smaug on his pile of gold. Time to start using up what I have and sharing the excess.

#15 – minutes each day spent studying. I’m now in year two of my homeopathy course and I still feel like I have a lot to learn, not just about homeopathy though, there are lots of things I want to learn more about, some that have branched off from my college days and others resulting from the world around me, and just 15 minutes each day will take me far with this I’m sure.

#14 – car free days. I would really like this number to be much higher but this number seems very achievable.

#13 – trees / fruit bushes / hedging plants planted at the field. We already have a number of trees and bushes waiting to be planted out so some time dedicated to this during the coming year will be well spent

#12 – New blog posts. Self explanatory really

#11 – completed craft projects. I have two bigger projects that I would like to make this year but as with my seed stores I’d like to start using up some of the craft materials I have stashed away and also brush off / polish some of the skills I have but don’t use regularly

#10 – screen free days. As with car free days I would ideally like this to be a much higher number but 10 is achievable.

#9 – days out with family and/or friends.

#8 – packet of seeds sown from my stash. This should start to get some of the stored up energy flowing.

#7 – photos printed and put up. Some months ago I was reading an article about the difference between happy, positive people and those that aren’t so happy or positive about their life. One of the things that has stuck with me from it is that researchers found the those who where happier were more likely to have photos of loved ones and special days displayed around their homes. This has really struck a cord with me and makes a lot of sense that people who have regular built in reminders of what they have to be happy and grateful for will in turn be happier and more positive.

#6 – books read from my ‘read and pass on’ pile.Over the Christmas and New Year break I have started another declutter, this goes along with that but also being more mindful of the space I am using up with ‘stored energy’ such as unread books, boxes of seeds or stashes of craft materials.

#5 – minutes spent most days diarying / recording / planning. Like with spending time learning everyday this is something I would like to set up as a habit, hopefully it will free up some mental energy as not only will it help me ‘off load’ it will also mean I am not trying to remember everything all the time

#4 – allotment beds up and running. Last year I tried to take on the WHOLE of my long neglected and over grown parish allotment plot and it was just too much. This year I am going to try to be more measured and take on a small patch and work outwards from it.

#3 – designs written up. I have now been signed up to the Diploma in Applied Permaculture for a year and so far have not made much head way with it…

#2 – hours, at least, spent on ‘personal admin’ per month. Last year I made a big push to sort out some of my banking and not only saved a load of money but was also able to claim quite a bit back. I think with a bit of work on others areas I can be more organised and effitive with other things too and make better use of time and resources instead of letting jobs pile up

#1 – new cake baked. For a few years now I have made a New Years resolution to make or bake a new cake of some sort, it feels like a little bit of a tradition now. This year I think I will try maybe a lemon drizzle cake perhaps?

#0 – allopathic medicine taken. The further into my homeopathy course I get and the more things I read on the subject of ‘modern medicine’ the more uncertain of the risk to benefit balance there is. In the past few years I have suffered some very nasty side effects of seemingly innocent medicines, part of the reasons behind my choosing to study homeopathy, and am aware that there are probably many more side effects that are not yet understood or known about. I would like to ‘detox’ from these and work with my body to build my immune system instead of bypassing or taking shortcuts to obtain ‘health’. That being said if I found out I was seriously ill or had a serious accident tomorrow I’m not ruling anything out…

Willow talk notes

Willow capkins - 21st April 2010Over the past few days I have been sorting through old notebooks; revisiting past to do lists, notes from different gardens, bits and pieces from work and other random things I have started writing.

In amongst it all I found some notes from a talk about willow I went to some years ago, since then I have learnt how informative it is to put dates on things, whatever they might be. If I remember correctly the talk was by The Willow Bank and has been one that I still remember and often use what information I’d remembered from it.

  • Willow mainly travels by seed, similar to dandelion but also by cuttings which travel down streams and water sources and take root, hence why willow is so common on river banks.
  • Willow hybridises itself and so most areas have their own unique variety
  • Willow seeds do not store well which is why cuttings are used, this creates ‘clones’ of the mother plant
  • Cuttings have a success rate of approx ninety percent but can be as high as hundred percent
  • Planting season is December to March
  • Growing session is March to November
  •  Plantations will last for fifty years however thirty years is recommended for commercial sites. By the third year a plantation will be almost up to it’s optimum harvest
  • Rabbits are its main ‘pest’
  • Willow has cells in it’s roots that hold oxygen which is why it will stand in water for periods of time
  • Traditionally willow was planted around orchards and market gardens as shelter and because of it’s early flowering attracting beneficial insects

Nanodairy Gathering

At the end of last month I attended a Nanodairy Gathering at Monkton Wyld Court in Dorset. The gathering was an information sharing event for people who are interested in small scale milk production, mostly looking at raw milk from one to four cows.

The event was specifically for cows and not goats or milk sheep.

The event was spread over two days with the opportunity to look around the diary at Monkton Wyld, a whole afternoon  with a vet and Christine Page from Smiling Tree Farm who sells raw milk joined us for most of the second day.

Monkton Wyld Court has Jersey cows, there has been a ‘nanodairy’ of three to six cows since at least 1941 making it possible the oldest dairy of it’s size in the UK.

Christine Page runs Smiling Tree Farm which sells raw milk, again from Jerseys’ cows, to local customers and via mail order. Christine’s farm is completely pasture feed and there was some interesting discussion about the benefits of this. Christine milks her cows once a day, keeping the calves on their mothers until they are around six months old. Only milking once a day results in an approximant drop of a third in milk yield. Christine has not had any problems with milk fever is moving over to pasture feeding.

My notes from the event

Pasture management:

  • Meadow is mown and removed (by taking the crop away the fertility is also removed), pasture land is grazed (grazed land will slowly increase in fertility as a crop is not removed)
  • Grass growth goes up from March, peaks in July, falls in August, raises a little in September then falls off through the winter
  • Rye grass is liked by cows, grows fast and is high in sugar but has shallow root systems
  • June hay is higher in sugar, July and August hay is higher in minerals
  • Plantain is a natural warmer

Raw milk/milking:

  • Older cows have higher butter fats, younger cows have higher sugar content
  • Cream comes at the end of milking
  • ‘Let down’ happens for 4 – 5 minutes, after that milking is harder
  • Cows need a ‘dry’ period of six to eight weeks to allow the udder tissue to repair
  • Mastitis can be spread from hands, washing clothes, flies, etc.
  • Younger and healthier cows should always be milked first

Signs of spring on the Malvern Hills

Last weekend I had the opportunity to go walking on the Malvern Hills, something I haven’t done for many years.

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Malvern Hills ~ 31st of January 2016

The start of this year has been very mild with only a short spell of frosts and even before the Imbolc there were many signs of spring starting

Snowdrops, primroses, dandelions, bluebell shoots and even elder trees bursting into bud (I’m not sure what the little purple flowers are)

 

Homoepathy; A guide to nature medicine by Phyllis Speight

In October I started a four year Homeopathy practitioners course at The Contemporary College of Homeopathy. We have used bits of homeopathy all my life and after suffering some very nasty side effects at the beginning of last year I have decided to step away from ‘modern medicine’ which I now feel lacks effectiveness to treat people and instead just focuses on symptoms and suppressing them often with medicine, that causes more ill-effect, instead of righting the problem.

I saw a homeopath when I was much younger and last year returned to see her again which has really helped me. When I told her I was planning to start the practitioners course she recommended the book that had first inspired her to study homeopathy: Homoepathy A Guide to Nature Medicine by Phyllis Speight and even lent me her copy in case it was no longer available.

Although there have been many homeopathic books on the book case throughout my childhood and I even owned some books on the subject myself this was the first book on the subject I read from cover to cover rather than referring to it as a reference book for such-and-such ailment.

The book is divided into two parts; the first part starts with a basic introduction of the subject before moving onto chapters about Samual Hahnemann, who is considered as the founder of homeopathy, and more detail about the theory , homeopath first aid remedies and how it can support other medical interventions such as surgery.

The second part of the book is case histories from Phyllis and other homeopaths which illustrates beautifully how homeopathy works in practice and the wide range of conditions it can help with which I found fascinating reading.

The whole book was easy and enjoyable to read and I would highly recommend it to anyone else interested in the subject

 

 

 

Samhain

Nasturtium flowers ~ October 2015

Nasturtium flowers ~ October 2015

Yesterday was Samhain, Cetlic New Year.

The day was a pleasant, bright and sunny day. I even found myself working in a tshirt for parts of it. A complete contrast to the days of autumnal rain earlier in the week. Last night was clear, with a thousand stars in the sky and the moon visibly waning and low behind the houses and trees…

The day was marked with a ‘clearing bonfire’ on the field… A smaller affair than had been planned with just me and mother there, hiccups with the house roof being replaced had called a halt to plans of having friends and dinner there, perhaps next year… Some of the piles of broken up pallets, rotten pieces of old chicken houses and kennels a long with other unidentified pieces of timber have gone making way for what is to come. There is still more to go but it is a nice start, a beginning.

Samhain Fire ~ 2015

Samhain Fire ~ 2015

The forest has turned from it’s summer green to the autumn reds, yellows and oranges and swirls of leafs have began to fall on the more blustery days. Next year has already started to take shape; the AI man has visited Bridie and the billy has been turned out with the girlies.

Samhain: consolidate, clear and plan, first months of study, goats mated, preparing the ground for growing. Winter Solstic: prepare for spring, lay hedges Imbloc: Lambing, longer days Ostara (easter): kidding, field working weekend, clocks go forward, growing session begins Beltane: Summer Solstic: calving, growing session, first year graduation Lammas: second year of study Samhain

Picking up the threads

My life has change considerably in the last year or so… The breath -holding-pause I felt after my dad died is now over and instead of waiting to see what life will become I’m feeling more able to shape what my life is going to look like and become.

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Change is something that we seem ‘programmed’ to resist, I’m not sure if this is a cultural thing or part of the human psych, even when it is clear that change is for the best it is hard not to fall back into old habits or mind sets.

Part of the change for me in the last year has been letting go of people who are not right or good for me; I miss what those people were to me once, their company and how they in spired me greatly but those things had gone… There has also been lots of letting go of and questioning the true value of belongings. Over the years I’ve gathered lots of things to ‘improve my life’ which really have stood in the way of moving forward, often quite literally.

As part of that I have of course questioned my blog space and if that still feels right or has parts to bring to my life. It has been terribly neglected and although there are things to write about it has been hard to know where to start with so many months of silence. However, I do enjoy writing and the connection that it brings to others with similar interested or ambitions and I wander round constructing posts in my head with no prompting or feelings of duty or guilt  to do so and so I feel this space is still important and beneficial to who I am and am becoming.

Thanking about what's makes me and happy ~ October 2015

Thanking about what’s makes me and happy ~ October 2015

Other more noticeable changes have happened too: I am now based back in the family home and smallholding which is where I use to spend most of my time and another considerable amount of time traveling back to.

My grandmother has also joined us here after becoming very unwell last year. This has had it’s own changes that have come along one of them being a realisation that it is possible to ask for outside help. For many years there have been jobs that have been half started or left undone because they are beyond our skill set or feel too large. I am sure that this mindset has come from my dad and was part of the many years that he spent unwell and slowly becoming less able.

The effects of living and caring for someone who is slowly dying, not that we realised that’s what was happening at the time, are hard to explain and something that goes unnoticed until a time when you can step back and see things from a different space. Patterns, thought processes and behaviours become habit with no real thought or understanding behind them as everything is paused, waiting for the next ‘fight scene’ (hospital dash, etc.) and the continual decline of a disappearing life.   

The outside help has come in the guys of builders who as well as making the place accessible for my grandmother are half way through replacing the roof and some of the wooden exterior of the house both of which are long over due.

And the final, biggest, life changing change is a little over three acre parcel of land, just around the corner from the house!! A piece of land of our own is something we’ve all dreamed of for many years and opens up so many possibilities. The land have been more or less left for the past ten years or so and so currently it is being ‘mob grazed’ and tidied up whilst we obvious and plan.

The view across from the far top corner

Day Dreamers Meadow: The view across from the far top corner November 2014

Wild Garlic Pakoras

The sight of ramson shoots popping their fresh green through bare woodland floors is a welcomed one after the winter months, it means spring is finally arriving.

This year I have tested out a new recipe to add to the annual spring pesto which was very nice and went down very well at the ‘bring a dish to share’ lunch I took them to.

Wild Garlic Pakoras – I loosely based on this recipe.

My recipe:

  • Pick a large bowl full of ramson leaves, wash and pick out any that don’t look nice.
  • Finely slice an onion and put it in a mixing bowl. Roughly chop the ramson leaves and mix with the onion.
  • season with salt and black pepper, a little chilli powder and turmeric
  • add gram flour; mixing as you do so until the leaves and onion has a ‘dusting’ over them
  • Add an egg to the mixture and mix so as everything sticks together
  • separate the mixture into the size portions you want and deep-fat fry until golden brown

Spring has Sprung – 2015 International Year of Soils

Friday’s sunrise welcomed the first day of spring and saw the solar eclipse.

Spring has sprung - 2015

Spring has sprung – 2015

The day was bright and sunny with the eclipse pausing time mid-morning; filling the air with a feel of a summers dawn or the moment just before the rain pours from big, black clouds that have engulfed the sky on a late summers day.

The time for a New Year’s post has long pasted; the half started notes and reflections for the coming year shall remain in pages of notebooks. Lost until a later time when they are rediscovered in years to come.

“I have been living in the dream of the plants so long I had forgotten to talk to the soil, to the earth beneath my feet.” ~ Taken from Earth Pathways Diary 2015. Falling in Love with that which I stand upon (c) Rachel Corby 2013 

The dawning of a ‘year of soil’ seems fitting for the direction this year started to take even before the start of a new calendar year began. An opportunity to concentrate on the foundations and put in some time on the ‘basics’ and developing a strong root system.