Category: Domestic

Seasons (by )

I realised something whilst watching all the online banta and bitchin about Halloween verses Christmas. For me there is no real distinction as such, Halloween at the beginning of the darker, scarier but also conversely cosy and safe part of the year.

I see the festivities as flows and markers within the seasonal procession but they are the beginnings not the ends. I think most people see the fixed Western calendar dates as the ends of the festivities. Both me and Alaric see them as beginnings or markers and that is all. I think that is also how my Grandparents and that saw them as there was a steady ramp up and down to Christmas/Easter etc....

And from them I have also come to the conclusion that there is kind of only two seasons for me as well - Summer and Winter - Spring and Autumn are the transition periods. Autumn is the ramp up to Winter but though I used Winter as the name for the season in the darker part of the year I do not believe that the bit normally labeled autumn is less important it is more - that for me they blend and merge and are in essence one.

Looking at fiction produced for Children I find myself thinking that others feel the same - the groupings are always Spring-Summer and Autumn-Winter. Maybe this is because I think like a child?

For me "winter cosy" or the making of the safe place or creating the home nest, begins with Harvest - my seasons also do not entirely match our months. Harvest is a nebulous term as food can be pretty much gathered all year round if you know where to look but some times are easier than others and for many things there is a deadline for harvest i.e. before the bad frosts begin. Nature being nature and physics being physics the precise times for these alter ever year. There are variations within years, the Earth's orbit round the sun changes, climate fluctuations, sunspot activities and volcanic eruptions on other bits of our glob all affect it. But roughly speaking it is the end of September or beginning of October.

This is Harvest Festival time it is when I am still foraging but the fruits are getting less abundant and I'm winding down things like the tomato and squash plants. Now begins baking and making time snugged in my home. It is jam, wine - preserves time, I start planning in my head what sort of presents we will give at Christmas. I start to itch for long long walks in the low golden sunshine that bounces off of trees and clouds and seems to be a remembrance of the harsher summer light.

Of course this is also the time when I start to suffer from season light issues - but the thing is with that... it is only an issue with how our society is structured - it actually means I'm kind of more in tune with how things are - I am adapting to the changing light levels and getting ready for the northern reaches semi hibernation.

I start knitting and watching films with the girls, more board games are played, if our fire place was installed properly we'd light fires. We snuggle under blankets as Harvest melts seamlessly into Halloween with vegetables grown and picked (or selected) are strung up or carved into faces to keep the souls and spirits whipping around loose at this quarter turn of our globe away, marking our homes as safe spaces. I light a candle to remember those no longer with us - I think it is a Jewish thing not sure - my Welsh grandmother used to do it.

When I was a kid the nights from Halloween to Bonfire night were filled with listening to ghostly stories around a lit pumpkin until fireworks night sparklers were dumped into the beginning to moulder flesh.

Bone Fire Night contained the mission of checking for hedgehogs in the prepared fires to be - they were normally constructed from someones old wardrobe and a couple of pallets no one wanted anymore. When my dad worked at the timber yard along with a few of our other neighbours lots of wood was found along with scavenge from the local out crop of trees - our "wood". Everyone would bring a few fireworks and we'd go behind the houses, eating burgers and sausages cooked on peoples BBQs not yet packed away from the summer. Sometimes apples and potatoes were cooked in the fire embers for a later meal whilst we toasted marshmallows and drank hot chocolate. In some ways it was the beginning of the dark part of the year but also the transition and halloween/bonfire week would be the last major use of the outdoor spaces for gathering and eating as the cold began to strike.

It was packing away the remnants of summer time.

The first painful to be outside and true winter event was/is less than a week later - Armistice Day or Remembrance Sunday when we would march and sing and lay wreaths and think on war and the horrors within and the making of heros and the breaking of their families hearts. Blood red drops of flowers and later white contrasts mingled and mixed. I used to collect the remnants of poppies with conquers that lay strewn on the ground, one was strung to play multitudes of tournaments, the others were used to repair and create new flowers as the forgotten mutilated remnants of flowers hurt too much - it was as if people forgot what it was all about as soon as the service had finished.

Mists and fogs and frosts, sometimes together, would swallow up our little out crop of London - this still happens here in the Cotswolds too though there are more frosts and the fogs and mists are in patches depending on the ground layout.

Being part of various Choirs and Sunday School meant that most of November was spent in prep for Christmas and now as a workshop leader and crafter this is still very much true and so the seasons slide seamlessly.

Frost makes the air taste of tin and smell of electric sparks, I would make stories up about Jack Frost and how he made all the patterns as I walked to school, I'd tell of the ice dragon who lived under the railway bridge and prove it's existence by the plumes of breath that arose from us in the chill.

Sometimes I got into trouble for scaring my brother and little cousins but that was more with my Mad March Hare at Easter.

Gloves would be sown on strings and hats labeled. We'd feed the goats at the top of our road our playtime crisps so that their breath would warm our fingers.

For a few years which seemed like every year it snowed and settled but that was generally after Christmas Day.

Christmas involved ADVENT and NATIVITY and stories and songs and making things, making so many things and also at my school the Christmas play my favourite being a Chinese story about dragons in the moon and sun.

Glitter covered everything and lights lit up the dark night and candle processions filled the streets and one of my favourites - Santa on a sleigh would come round collecting for children's charities, you'd get a sweet weather you dropped a coin or not, I was often too shy to go up to Father Christmas so a Carole Singer would have to rescue me and give me my sweet.

We'd learn about why we put apples on trees and eat lots of food - the festivities meant visiting family and friends and staying inside with them whilst the world was dark and miserable outside.

There would be Christmas Bazaars and Fetes and Rainham Village would turn into a Christmas Village complete with stag men and a rag-a-tag men dancing and fake snow drifting across the streets. We would have to help at the sausage sizzle. They did a similar thing in May for the Summer but that involved a Maypole and no baskets of fruit.

Later on whilst working on the campsite I discovered the joy of catching the silver dawns often gently tinted of new year mornings, of seeing the trees silhouetted against the weak but trying sun, watching it burn off the mist and reveal subtle rainbows in the dew drops. The barren woods are not that barren and little birds and scurrying animals would say hello. When we lived at The Mill deer would come at dawn to drink, breaking ice in the streams shallow edges.

My uncle would do insane races in water on New Years Day after his epic parties with streamers being set off at mid night and New York and Auld Lang Eye sung badly. Often the parties greeted the dawn with all ages in attendance and left over curry for breakfast.

Christmas for me will always continue to twelve night but it doesn't really end there... there would be little bits of the story still unfolding through January until the beginning of February. Especially as I have a January birthday and we'd have some decorations left for my celebration (yes I'm aware some people consider this bad luck). But then the wise men didn't finish their journey until well after my birthday and they still count as Christmas!

And then for me the change over occurs February 14th with Valentines Day - flowers are peeking, the birds are beginning to change places again. It is transition time to the Lighter Part of the year where I crave the outdoors and make my family live in tents and eat BBQ food and sit in gardens and dig allotments. Feb. is when I start potting seeds up to germinate on the window sills. For me it is the beginning of Spring-Summer I know that for most people it is not.

So that is my seasonal divide - how do others view the changes of seasons?

Country File Live photos 2017 (by )

Country File Live was an amazing event with just so much going on - because I was working there I barely got a chance to snap things as I passed - the girls and Al also had a fab time but still felt that they had barely scratched the surface - Jean took photos on her iPad which we'll pop up in a different post. These are the snaps I took on the first day.

Snake with the reptiles and amphibian group Country File Live

This beautiful snake was part of a demonstration including handling by the Oxfordshire Amphibian and Reptile Group (I think!).

Blue dragonfly at Country File Live

I caught this blue dragonfly whilst taking a nap on some bails in front of the bee hive (head injury recovery means I have to take random naps but it is very surreal to conk out in public but I think it's working well).

Birds on the lake Country File Live

There was a lake with a wibbly wobbly bouncy but secure temporary bridge across it. It contained various birds and plants coming and going.

Tree face Country File Live

There were some great flower displays in the Wild Life Zone.

Metal Duck Country File Live

I love this duck - it is exactly the sort of thing I would buy Al if I had more money 🙂

Bikes and flowers in the wild life zone Country File Live

This bike display cheered me up even though it had just been bucketing it down!

tractor tractoring country file live

Tractors! I live like machines like tractors.

Ye old tractor Country File Live

I love old machines like tractors.

Vintage tractor Country File Live

Probably a good job I didn't have more time or there would have been hundred of flower and machine pics!

Old tractor Country File Live

I'm working on a series of machine colouring sheets for an event in the autumn as well to be fair - but I would have still taken all the photos regardless.

Tractor! Country File Live

I like the gubbings of machines.

Tractor bits Country File Live

I think they are pretty

Tractor parts Country File Live

These were all from a huge monster of a machine

Tractor gubbings Country File Live

Many people were taking photographs - elderly men mostly and a press officer.

Tractor swirls Country File Live

Everyone feels they need to ask me why I am taking photos of tractors or make jokes about it - this happens at car shows too.

Being a little bit batty at the Garden Stage with Oxford Mammale Group at Country File Live

We got Batty with the Oxfordshire Mammal Groups.

Foxes and Badgers with the Oxford Mammal Group at Country File Live

And met the cuddly foxes and badgers.

Oxford Mammal Group explain mice with cute cuddlies

And a squeaky little mouse 🙂

Mouse, fox and badger skulls country file live

And skulls of said animals - well actually in the photo there is a mouse skull, fox and badger.

Giant papier mache stage beetle at Country File Live

Insects also featured heavily including butterfly nets creches, many types of bees and this giant papier mache stag beetle!

Milk churn urn flower pots country file live

Milk churn flower display - this is similar to what I wanted when we lived at The Bakery though I was going to bare paint them so they didn't rust away.

Sheep sculptures at Country File Live

Sheep sculptures - love these though more from a making point of view if I am honest - I remember going to a Garden Show and seeing large metal dragons like this which I adored! If we ever get to do the Salaric Emporium idea and have a tea garden then this sort of thing will be in it (along with dinos and fairies!).

yellow water lilies on the lake Country File Live

These beautiful yellow water lilies where on the lake.

Go Wild Country File Live

Loved the giant Go Wild sing 🙂

Water plants Country File Live

Water plants on the lake - oh I probably should have mentioned that this was at Blenheim Palace.

Geese arriving on the lake at Country File Live

The geese kept landing and taking off from the lake and were pretty impressive!

Geese at Blenheim Palace Country File Live

There was plenty of garden ideas - especially those to help you have a greener more wildlife friendly garden - I like this shed but I'm pretty sure ours is falling down and couldn't take the extra strain!

A shed of flowers for the bees Country File Live

Food is a huge part of the event too - I caught sight of this fab cheese stall!

Cheese at Country File Live

And Kendal Mint Cake Laqueur!

Kendal Mint Cake Liqueur at Country File Live

And to end - more animal sculptures 🙂

Horse and deer sculptures at Country File Live

The Folk Museum (by )

The Folk Museum (rebranded to the Life Museum) is Mary's favourite museum - it is a great local treasure full of local history and fun activities for the kids, behind the scenes there is a lot of curation and looking after the collections. The building itself is a beautiful wooden beamed structure that is hundreds of years old - sadly this also means it is expensive to maintain.

And so what with cuts and austerity and a struggling council the heartbreaking news that they were going to close the museum was not so much a shock but an expected blow. The museums do relatively cheap activities for the kids and the staff are lovely but the news had already reached me that the staff had been slashed in number over all three council run buildings (two museums and the Guildhall).

This is the museum where Mary left her money baby in the wendy house and the staff went out of their way to return it too us.

So obviously I'm not the only person who feels ill at ease with loosing this local resource and historical gem and a petition was soon up and running - you can sign it here. Since it was started up the Civic Trust have said they will take it on but if that is the case then it is doubtful that they can afford a curator so there would be no one to manage and maintain the collection. Curation is not just about labelling things and putting them in shelf displays - it is also about making sure things are kept in ways that do not damage them - with out a curator then the potential damage is pretty high (mind due the roof leaks so if that is not fixed then the damage will be damn high too).

Added to all this is the fact that historic buildings that are not wanted by the right people tend to go up in flames around here - recently there was three fires in one night - all targeting local old pubs with development issues.

Jokingly me and my friend suggested we might need to make a human shield around the museum - we were only half joking :/ I wish I was rich because I would buy it and fix it and pay the staff and make it free access and have a mini hackspace and little science/education bit in the new building out the back in garden. I'd hold talks in the cafe and stuff like that.

Welcome to the Jungle (by )

Rescued Plants

This is my kitchen at the moment - it is full of rescue plants - peppers, courgettes etc... with fruit and flowers already on them. I hate waste. So my friend rescued these plants and bought them to me.

The plants, like many were left to die - this is normal practice at nurseries and garden centres and farms for the not as pretty plants or the ones who will have small yields - they are not economically viable for the businesses but for people like me they are perfect!

Yeah sure some wont survive but some will and like with our rescue chickens anything you get from them is a bonus!

But this for me also highlights something - we are actually living in a post scarcity society but we use this artificial construct called money to hedge everything in - to make things scarce, to control the economics and the populace with it. Everyone is so scared of being called a slacker or enabler that no one is really talking about this issue properly (except perhaps Dan Holloway.

The fear of being seen as a free loader or scrounger is high, most of us are shortening our lives drastically by working in high stress environments at "make-work" that has no real worth. And at the same time alot of the work that is valuable - fruit picking, rubbish collection, cleaning - is seen as demeaning and not paid well.

Then the idea that everyone needs to be climbing forever upwards in their jobs - up and up to more money, more responsibility, more time at work (or commuting too), more stress. This leads to mental breaks and fatigue, it leads to bad immune systems - it leads our medical professionals chronically exhausted and more likely to make mistakes.

It makes the waitress who is a good people person with excellent memory and quick service - a failure - even though they are making many people happy.

The pressure grows and automation is here and we still have not adapted, automation should be a good thing but it has been used to impoverish many instead of freeing up our time for science and art and moving our society forward and onwards.

Farmers have a high suicide rate because they are lonely riding their tractors and if they are a tenant farmer then making everything work is hard... there is a small team normally a family and you are bouncing around to various pockets of land owned by other people who can pull the land from underneath you at any time.

We - at least in this country have mountains of food, clothing and housing that gets wasted - sometimes people actively destroy it so that people can not rescue and use it. Sustainability is an issue but large poverty gaps cause more environmental impact because ethical/environmental buying is often more expensive in the short term. As always being poor costs more than being rich but if you don't have the capital or a means of saving in the first place you are always going to be stuck with the short term - falling too pieces - no room so having to get rid of stuff on a seasonal basis - issue.

And people being judgemental of others really grumps me - oh they aren't really hard up they are part of the throw away culture... not taking into account they live in like two rooms with no storage - or people in expensive bamboo clothing sneering that they are better for the environment than me with my synthetics... most of my cloths are charity shop buys or made from scratch - I use acrylic wool to knit with because I am allergic to actual wool. They will then go on about all the booze and meat they've eaten or the drugs they've taken - drugs that have high environmental and human traffic/slavery costs.

They don't see that they are buying an image (and yes I realise this makes me judgmental).

I'm aware my house is ramshackle - we tend to repair and repair and make things a bit clunky - this is our way of trying to save the environment. Others give money to charities and make other little life changes. There is much we can do but being negative about it tends to put people into apocalyptic mode where they feel it is already too late and/or just another stress to an already stressful life.

I remember when we were struggling for money having to buy stuff I knew was not the best for us or the environment but it was cheap and was going to go a hell of a lot further - that is the place most people are at. They try when they can but alot are scrabbling around for the weekly food shop money as it is.

So many of the changes do have to come in via government policy - something which I fear is currently going backwards. Change needs to be coming from the top down as well as the bottom up - all the domestic recycling in the world is going to be pointless if our big institutions and businesses don't also get behind this.

And the middle needs to get a wiggly on - I'm talking about the small businesses, charities and organisations. There is so much each and everyone of us can do from using repair cafes to checking where our office paper supply comes from or the straws the pub you work at are biodegradable etc... This is part of why we are with ecotricity.

Two of the reasons I am so obsessed with running my junk modelling and upcyled art workshops and sharing the tutorials for free is a) it is using the waste without burning it or using energy, bleach, extraction methods to recycle it and it becomes for at least a short time something that brings people joy and teaches them a skill and often is even practical, b) many of groups I am working with do not have a lot of money and upcycling is relatively cheap though not always free, I myself am passing on alot of stuff that I picked up as a child in 80's and 90's were there was no choice due to the recession and we were lucky we had a large extended family and a practical skill set to draw on - I saw the results in families that did not have that and I know many families currently don't have that - so I share what I do know.

I am not perfect - sometimes I get over whelmed and miss things but I do try. It is also a decade since I wrote my piece on why recycling is stupid.

We Want Our Alaric Back! (by )

So yesterday Mary tried to bite me - she pulled the bite at the last minute so basically did that thing dogs do when they lay their teeth on your arm and give a warning pressure. She was in full melt down - the issue - we weren't going over the bridge on the way home. She had already pinched Jean hard enough to leave a mark and so had not had her promised ice cream.

I was pretty tired by this point I ended up giving Jean the bags and piggy backing Mary the rest of the way home after she broke down in tears. Daddy has left - I keep explaining he is coming back and she is excited he might bring her a present but in truth she just wants him back.

I've been getting worse and worse as the week has progressed with remembering what needs to be wear. I forgot PE kit and had to do a lightning dash change for Funky Thursday. Mary drew on herself in felt pen yesterday morning and again this morning. But they've been fed and kept clean and had lots of hugs and the same goes for the cats and chickens.

Once home yesterday Mary was still in melt down and threw all my paper work off the desk onto the floor and then broke her heart in sobs saying no one liked her. Someone she wants to be friends with at school doesn't want to be friends (for now) and she thought I'd hate her as she tried to bite me. I explained I love her - I said I wasn't happy with her when she tried to bite me but that I still loved her.

She settled down to sleep and wasn't too bad this morning once she worked out Daddy is coming home but both girls are frustrated with me. I couldn't even say goodbye properly this morning it kept coming out as goodnight - and speech got to the point last night where they were struggling to understand what I was saying. (This is what happens if I don't take all the breaks and things I need due to the head injury)

On the whole I think we've managed ok, last night was always going to be the most taxing part as it was the latest night with the most walking etc... And I think speech starting to go on day four is pretty awesome actually and Al left me and Jean with numbers to call if we got really stuck.

I thought the freezer was broken but it appears to be more about Jean putting her water bottle in the top and the freezer not shutting properly and I remembered that the heater in the attic is actually an aircon unit got during my pregnancy with Jean. So me and Jean sorted that out and that improved Mary's temperament no end!

We went out and watched the starlings begin to flock and that cheered us all up.

Al is currently on a plane - hoping to see him tonight!

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