The simplicity of Winter

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I recently came across this quote by John Burroughs: "The simplicity of winter has a deep moral. The return of nature, after such a career of splendour and prodigality, to habits so simple and austere, is not lost either upon the head or the heart. It is the philosopher coming back from the banquet and the wine to a cup of water and a crust of bread." It resonated with me deeply and inspired this blog post, the first of 2021.

This time of year is a quiet time for me on the smallholding. Nature in deep Winter is asleep …

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Peak darkness at the Winter Solstice

For us in the northern hemisphere, since the Summer Solstice in June, the Sun has been on a waning trajectory, resulting in days gradually getting shorter and nights longer. Today, on the Winter Solstice, our journey through the darkness reaches its peak, the sun at its lowest point before beginning its new ascent towards peak light. Peak darkness is the time when we begin to ask “How much longer are these dark days going to last?” and even wonder if the darkness will continue forever. Of course, we know in our heads that the light will return, but our hearts …

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Befriending the darkness

Today has been a misty day up in the hills and it went dark just after 4pm. When out for a little walk earlier, I noticed how the landscape has now transitioned out of Autumn with all the gorgeous colours now more or less all gone. Winter is on the threshold, ready to come in. I am aware that my energy levels are low and my gaze focuses inwards. I personally feel ready to surrender to the whisper of Winter.

At this time of year, when days are short, cold and gloomy, it is easy to pine for the long, …

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Calan Gaeaf Hapus!

Tonight is Noson Galan Gaeaf in Wales. This translates from the Welsh as Winter's Eve: Nos(on) is the night (before), Calan (or Galan when the spelling of the word has a mutation applied to it) means the first day and Gaeaf is Winter. It originates from the ancient celtic festival of Samhain, celebrating the end of autumn and harvest season and the beginning of Winter.

If we divide the year into light and dark, we are now about to enter the darkest segment, between Samhain and the Winter Solstice, when the light returns to us once more. For me, this …

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Apple Day

This year has been a good year for apples, so it would seem. Our trees have been laden with them and our trusty cooking apple tree (possibly a Bramley) has produced baskets of large red and green fruit. We have now harvested them all and are slowly going through the many crates filling the floor space in the kitchen. We daren't light the woodburner in there so as not to spoil them before we have a chance to process them.

Today is Apple Day and I thought I would make a contribution to this 30-year old autumn celebration by giving …

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Restoring balance at the Equinox

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This afternoon, at 2.31 pm, the Sun crosses the celestial equator (or the imaginary line in the sky above the Earth's Equator) from South to North and the Autumn Equinox will occur. At that particular point, days and nights are of equal length, a moment of balance between light and dark, a threshold between two seasons.

As I write this, the scene on our patch of Welsh countryside is typical of Mabon time. Looking out, the landscape is still mainly green with only a few dots of autumnal yellows and oranges here and there and the blue sky continues the …

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And the robin sings again

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It's still another two weeks till the official start of Autumn at the Equinox yet there are plenty of signs that Summer has retreated and Autumn is settling in. There is a chill in the air, the colours of the landscape are changing and nuts and berries are abundant in the hedgerow. But there is something else that heralds the new season: the robins are back singing their Autumn song.

During Summer, robins are conspicuous by their absence, so much so that they seem to disappear. Of course, that's not true as they don't migrate (most don't anyway) but they …

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Lammas... the first harvest

As we move into August, we pass the half way point in the calendar between the Summer Solstice and the Autumn Equinox. The long days of Summer are drawing in and we are making our way towards Autumn. On the Wheel of the Year, this point is Lammas, a celebration of the first harvest, the Grain Harvest. The word 'Lammas' comes from 'loaf mass' and indicates how important and meaningful the first grain and the first baked loaf of the harvesting cycle are.

We are now at peak Summer when the harvest season begins in earnest. Growth of early Summer …

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Re-opening the shepherd's hut after lockdown: striking a balance

After a six months hiatus, we were delighted to welcome our first post-lockdown guests last weekend. We are usually quieter with bookings over the Winter but come April, bookings come in a steady flow. This year, however, when we said goodbye to our guests at the end of January, we could not anticipate that we would not be hosting for another six months!

We were away on holiday ourselves in February and come March, the country came to a standstill with an imposed lockdown because of the Covid pandemic. For the first time in three years, the shepherd's hut stood …

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The gamble of hatching chicks

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Who remembers the photo of the pretty basket of fluffy chicks I posted at Easter time! Twelve weeks on and I thought I would write about our experience.

This was our first venture into the world of incubating eggs to add to our flock of hens although not the first in having chicks. Two years ago, we gave some fertile eggs to our top hen Betty when she became broody and she did all the work from then on: incubating the eggs, turning them, talking to them (did you know hens do that?) and raising the chicks that hatched. She …

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