• Blog,  Day to Day,  Home

    Quiet Autumn Mornings

    I pad downstairs in the gloom, slippers quiet on the cold kitchen tiles. Tea, and the treat of a wheat bag warmed in the microwave for a minute or so. The quiet autumn mornings are darker now, but not the pitch black of winter just yet. As the steam curls from the kettle, the sky is lightening in the east, that October washed-out blue, hints of yellow and pink heralding the rising sun. Soon, that sun will struggle to make it over the valley tops until mid-morning, so I cherish this light, pale as it is.

    As the tea mashes, I potter outside to the greenhouse to check that yesterday’s mammoth tidying session wasn’t all a dream, and to enjoy the deep red of the geraniums I moved inside yesterday. Satisfied that everything was still tidy, I wander back indoors, feeling better for the fresh morning air in my lungs.

    A white A5 Moleskine notebook and wooden pencil lie on a patterned wool Welsh blanket covering a bed.

    Today is a day for the blog, so a relaxing ease into the day for me. I light a candle and take it back upstairs, along with my tea and almost-too-hot-to-touch wheat bag, climbing back into the warm spot under the duvet (the ultimate bliss!) and pulling another Welsh blanket up to my chest.

    The candle flickers across the room and I watch it for a while, gaze unfocused, the light from the orange flame warming the crooked walls behind. Rummaging for my notebook and a pencil, I spend a little time writing as the day brightens outside, still trees and damp rooftops. The traffic noise, a low hum previously, begins to rise around 8am and I pop on a YouTube ambience to drown it out some. Currently I’m discovering a channel called ‘Nostalgic Atmosphere’, with real-life scenes. Today’s is rainfall in an English village that looks nothing like my own village – the streets deserted and the raindrops pit-pattering into puddles on the roads.

    A bright red geranium plant with the greenhouse plastic panels visible in the background.

    I think of the day ahead, and feel a fizz of excitement at getting to do blog things all day, although probably interspersed by a smidge of cleaning. Giving myself the time to choose to work on the blog is freeing – I’ve spent so long feeling guilty for not spending my time working on my university projects and it’s nice to have got to a space recently where I’ve changed the way I work and can feel comfortable about doing both.

    The camera on my hand-me-down phone has finally succumbed to the google pixel curse, so I am using my husband’s real camera and I look forward to editing the pictures I took on our slow walk yesterday. But for now, the scratch of pencil on paper is soothing, so I write on into the morning. Happy mornings, all.

    Mentions:

    Nostalgic Atmosphere YouTube channel
    I like blank Moleskine notebooks
    I made my wheatbag (this one looks similar -I used pot barley)

    A jumbles mass of flowering Ivy with a tree in the background.

  • Blog,  Day to Day,  Home

    Word-Seeds

    The chill in the air took us by surprise, in recent weeks. Those heady summer days of heatwaves and endless light snapped into an unseasonably cold September all of a sudden. The leaves, yellow from droughts, are now falling faster and faster each day. As September settles into October, autumn waves a gentle hand over the valley.

    I’ve been quiet on here, I know. Summer, with its languid days, also had a dark side this year. Covid, a family illness followed by an eventual bereavement and alongside this, big decisions in the other part of my life, at university. This melting pot has meant the last few months have felt like a storm.

    But all storms pass, or slowly move on, at least. I quietly accept the fallout, the grief, the recovery. I learnt some things about my brain and the way it thinks and sees the world which have also taken some adjustment. At 39, looking back, it explains so much. So I’m settling into an identity that’s shifted a little, bit by bit, but it’s not a bad thing.

    As the year turns inwards, I feel the pull to do so too. To sow some small seeds in this season ad see how they grow and root over the darker months. As ever, Samhain approaches, bringing this turn of the wheel to a close, and I feel the urge to contemplate and look back over the last twelve months, good and bad , painful and joyous.

    A seed I want to nurture is this space here, for sure. Now I know a bit more about how my brain sees things, I can begin to build a sustainable way of writing. I’m looking forward to it.

    Otherwise, life rumbles on here in Yorkshire. We are clearing, organising and beginning to put the garden to bed. The fire has been lit and the blankets are out. As the nights darken here, I think of those in the Southern hemisphere and the light returning to them. Balance, as always. I’m not a winter person, but acknowledging that ebb and flow of seasons, the dark followed by the light, gives me comfort through the long, grey UK winter.

    So, I will start to sow these word-seeds very soon, and nurture this space in coming months. Hopefully this space will soon bloom with cottage homeliness, small adventures, wanderings and wonderings. I send soft thoughts to you, this autumn, and if the days are also shortening wherever you are, I hope you are looking forward to kicking piles of leaves as much as I am!

     

    Autumn sun rays shine on a lichen-covered stone wall next to an empty lane. A large sycamore tree grows behind the wall and casts a shadow.

  • Blog,  Day to Day

    August Updates & The First Rain

    It’s nearing the end of August and the first rain has finally arrived after the heatwaves. Proper rain, falling freely from grey, leaden skies. I’ve been out, face turned to the sky, feeling the fat raindrops on my skin and breathing in that heady petrichor, water mixed with the dust of long summer days. With the rain comes relief, a release of a tightness I didn’t know I had.

    Now, with my stripy top steaming dry on the bannisters, I sit in a blanket and bounce to myself on the old leather-covered poang chair in the office (a freecycle find). Ag the cat joins me, sat on the large office desk (again from freecycle), a drop of water on her chin from drinking out of my glass a few moments before. She is most disgruntled by the rain and has been complaining vocally, a yowl from a few gardens away, growing louder and more demanding as she nears the front door. She temporarily forgets her cat flap, of course. Either that or she’s got me well trained. I feel it’s the latter. I have some crisps and she is oozing towards them, trying to be subtle.

    Summer this year has been hot and dry, with high temperatures, sticky days and nights spent sleeping downstairs covered only with a cotton sheet. The birch tree yellows now in pseudo-autumn, a result of stress due to the dry conditions. Blackberries arrive early, tomatoes are over and done. After two and a half years I finally caught Covid , luckily feeling only a little grotty for a week but left with a breathlessness that persists still. Uni work ebbs more than flows, as does the blog. A million possibilities makes it hard to focus on one. But the tide will turn, as it always does.

    Summer has been full of wild swims and long, dusky evenings, moths and bats and parched grasses reflecting the setting sun. Slow, almost static days, spent under trees and parasols, eyes closed and the scent of baking flagstones in the air. A little upheaval, a little settling. Holidays and home days. A busy spring gave way into a slow, lethargic summer, and I fought against it for a while, but now, I slow too, matching that exhalation after lughnasadh, the ripening of harvest after the burst of spring growth and energy. Plants dwindle, readying for colder months ahead. I find myself reflected in them, a need to stop fighting against slowness and just be, for a while. Just breathe.

    I hope, though, to write a little more here as I settle back into the rhythm of this house, this land and of myself. In these quiet moments, I hope I find direction, a little honesty, a little inspiration. To write out the reflections of days and to follow that focus. The blog will come from there, if I let it.

    And that is it, for today. The cat has long disappeared back into the rain which is still falling, falling as if saved up for months. I feel the land stretch up to meet it, the water bringing a new energy to the valley. Time to shift, I feel.

    A garden in the rain. A tall holly tree with an overgrown veg patch in front, with differing shrubs growing in the foreground, all needing a bit of a trim. Raindrops fall and the skies are cloudy.

  • Blog,  Day to Day

    Summer Solstice

    I find it hard to describe the few weeks run-up to summer solstice. I feel as if there is not enough of me to stretch into the heady long days. I cannot expand myself to feel it all – the smell of summer coming, the fresh leaves, the expectation, and that undercurrent, that something else none of us can put a finger on. I want to dissolve into it, every molecule fizzing into the season, expanding and stretching my soul into the dusk, the 3am light, the days that could go on forever, if we just let them.

    I belong here, in these few weeks. It tugs my heart and I wish with all my being that I could just hit pause and stay in this rush of energy, of light and warmth, for just a little longer. It’s the final few seconds before the rollercoaster tips over the top of the track. That last held breath, the possibilities, the surge of adrenaline and hope and fear and just life, life, the joy of experience, all wrapped up in endless daylight and growth and wonder.

    I feel the sun, pulling us all upwards, trees spreading branches into huge skies, reaching as far as they will go. I reach my hands upwards, stretch, lengthen my limits and my soul and my thoughts. Every part of me belongs, finally.

    I hop and fizz each evening as twilight begins to descend, eyes bright in the gloom that’s never quite darkness. Soul season, bare feet in late nights with the ghostly flit of moths, the bats, the deer quietly whispering through the long grass. The campfire twang from millennia past, the feeling that one moment stretched back over echoes, hints, a scent on the breeze. For these few weeks I am wholly, truly me.

    It’s four days before solstice and I breathe this headiness deep into my lungs, treasuring every smell, every rustle of every leaf, each caress of that breeze on my skin. I place my hands on tree trunks and share that deep contentment, where light is plentiful and the days are warm. I push down that knot of sadness that all too soon it will be over, darkness returning, temperature falling, the UK grey seeping in at the edges – but for now, I dance into my season, on and on and on into these endless days.

    Oxeye daisies in summer twilight.

  • Blog,  Day to Day

    Sunday Chat, 29th May 2022

    Hello,

    I can’t quite believe it’s Sunday Chat time again, another week has flashed by in the blink of an eye. It’s cold here today, that chill wind over the last few days has reminded me that summer isn’t quite here yet – the jumpers have found their way back out of the wardrobe and the heating has snuck on for a day or two. The UK weather, notoriously indecisive as always. Mr. GF is laying paving slabs (from freecycle!) outside and I’ve got a cuppa and a biscuit (or two) and am settling down to write this Sunday post under a blanket. I’m quite looking forward to having a catch up so please share what you’ve been up to this week! How has your Sunday been so far?

    The moors at dusk (not that you can tell due to the grey clouds!)

    I’ve had a slow week again, mostly pottering around the house and garden, a few errands run and that’s it. It’s one of those times that is small, quiet, kind of folded in on itself. I somehow just wanted to be alone, forget the world for a bit, spend time hiding away. I’m not sure why but some weeks are like that, and I’m learning to go with the ebb and the flow. I spent a while fighting this sort of feeling, but eventually realised there’s strength and healing in it, learnt to listen and to relax into it. There’s still a tinge of guilt, that ‘should be doing something’ feeling that never goes away, but it doesn’t shout any more, just mutters along in the background. It helped to pop up to the moors for an evening – the wide spaces always help me gain some perspective.

    Something that has brought me great joy this week are the lengthening days – there is a glow on the horizon still at 11pm now, and I just feel my soul fizzing with the joy of it.

    Beautiful greens

    I’m a light person, a heat person, born in June and full of it person. Those evenings that go on forever, those days that begin before we’re even aware of it. Just a soft touch into darkness and then off again, that swirl of energy, life, warmth. I could live my life in summer, always. May is that tantalising month, that promise that it’s coming, the slow tick up the track, just before the rollercoaster tips over the top and rushes into the riot of summer. Soon, so soon. Although as the sky darkens this afternoon and the wind cools even more, I’m not sure it will be all that soon at all…

    Weather aside, everything is green in the valley. To look around is to absorb millions of shades of green and it is absolute joy. It’s weird but just spending some time looking at all those different shades makes my eyes relax somehow. It’s sort of a reminder that instead of screens, this is what I should be looking at instead! We walked around a local nature reserve this morning, under branches bursting with those soft new leaves, almost like velvet.

    In garden news, the blue tits fledged earlier this week, and sparrows this morning – I love to watch them all learning how to ‘bird’… cue much falling off bird feeders and shuffling precariously along branches. I sat in the car and watched a new fledgling blue tit perched on the woodpile, being fed and ‘encouraged’ by the parents – I made an Instagram highlight if you want to have a look (it’s called ‘fledglings’). Very cute indeed!

    The garden is blooming well – here’s a little posy of flowers I collected displayed in a very upmarket ‘vase’ – a tomato sauce bottle! I really like the shape of it, don’t judge me ;). Here there are chives, bistort and ceanothus.

    Yes I even left the labels on!

    So, that brings me to the end of this post – a quiet week all in all! Do you find some weeks quieter or slower than others? How do you feel about slower times? (And let me know if you also use ketchup bottles for vases…)

    Shine on,

    Sal 🙂

    This week I’m:

    ReadingThe new book from Dainty Dress Diaries aka Catherine Carton. She’s one of my favourite YouTubers and this collection of 50 DIY and upcycling projects is just what I needed to spark my creative mojo!

    BrewingDarkwoods Coffee Roasters Colombian Mikava. Full of funky fermented flavours, fully recommend if you’re into great coffee that tastes unique.

    WatchingHuw Richards and his fab garden – recently talking about how he has stopped weeding, very inspirational for us as our garden is about 90% weeds and we’ve just been letting them get on with it to be honest! We’ve been watching Huw for years and his videos are an absolute goldmine if you’re into any sort of gardening or interested in permaculture or no-dig.

    P.S. My coffee wax melts arrived and as promised last week, I can report they smell lovely! I got the morning coffee ones from A Slow Sunday. Plus there was a free sample of ‘Spring Blooms’ which is also beautiful and will probably fall into my online shopping basket at some point in the future 😉

     

  • Blog,  Day to Day

    Sunday Chat, 22nd May 2022

    Welcome to the first Sunday Chat 🙂

    It’s Sunday and the perfect time for a bit of a break and a chatty, probably overly-long post! Brew up and come and join me for a few moments as I type away. On my old blog I used to quite like doing these sort of chatty posts, I called them my ‘morning brews’. I think I’d quite like to carry that on here, as more of an off topic weekly ramble! So ramble on I will, haha! Please join in the comments…

    It’s a blustery day, hot in the south apparently, from looking at Instagram stories. Here in Yorkshire it’s mild but with a slight chill in the wind. The newly flowering lilac dances in the breeze as blue tits chirp angrily at Agatha as she wanders about below the tree. It’s a lazy kind of day, the best kind. I’ve scoffed a Sunday treat of a pain au chocolat and am now sat in the conservatory next to a tray of plants, bouncing away in my freecycle Poang. Lovely!

    The lilac and bee tree in flower

    I’ve spent the morning attempting to set up a new login for my laptop, to separate my blog from my uni work – I was beginning to dread turning on the laptop in case I spotted emails, or Teams started pinging away. I wasn’t enjoying having a visual reminder of all the work I have to do, when all I want is to log into my blog and type away happily!

    After wading through two hours of Windows bloat, I’ve finally sorted out a nice, calm area with just the essentials for blogging. It’s really nice not getting distracted by a million things and having a separation between uni and blog. I’ve been swearing at the screen all morning as it kept putting loads of pop up news things, weird apps that have nothing to do with anything, and bizarre notifications, all of which you have to manually delete one after the other. So hopefully I’ve got them all now and nothing else annoying is going to sneak in and remind me of all the horrible things happening in the world without me asking it to.

    It’s been a quiet week – I’ve just felt like hiding at home and doing small things. Repotting, sitting in the shed, getting lost in social media too many times, cooking, watching plants flower and leaves turn ever greener. I used to fight against weeks like this, but now I embrace them a little more. Everything comes in waves, after all, don’t you find? The slower weeks are just as important. A positive was that the new Permaculture mag plopped through the letterbox and I had plenty of time to immerse myself in it. I also sat down at my piano for the first time in ages and had a tentative hour or so playing my way rustily around some pieces I haven’t touched for a year.

    After lockdown stopped my lessons and my teacher then retired, I gradually stopped playing as much, and then as other things filled my brain, little by little I found I’d stopped totally. Without an external structure I find it hard to keep going – but it was nice to sit back down in front of the keys. Kind of like a hello after a long time. I’m finding a lot of things are like that, at the moment. After lockdown, it feels we’re doing a lot of things for the first time again. Do you feel that? I’m finding it rather strange, a little excited and apprehensive in equal measures.

    I feel like something is missing though, somehow – like we have this huge, shared experience, this shared trauma, and no-one is talking about it. We’re just ‘back to normal’ here in the UK, but of course, it isn’t normal. I wonder how long it will take to trickle out. How things will turn out in the coming years for people.

    The fab cat topiary at Scape Lodge!

    Back in the garden, I’ve been repotting ferociously, if you can do such a thing! (Image of wild ginger-haired woman flinging compost madly around the greenhouse, surrounded by 4000 seedlings and absolutely no medium-sized pots anywhere to be seen!).

    It’s that time of year when I regret planting so many tomatoes. Does anyone else have the tomato regret? I don’t know how I ended up with so many, I’m sure I only planted 4 seeds. Even though one was a frankenseed and ended up producing five plants out of the one seed which I couldn’t separate, so it is now growing away happily in a single pot. I’m wondering if it will produce some exciting franken-matoes?!

    We also popped into Scape Lodge’s NGS Open Garden last week and got loads of inspiration from their absolutely stunning garden high up in the hills. I took so many photos! There were tulips galore, exciting nooks and crannies and incredible trees making a beautiful scene every way we turned. Oh, an a cat-shaped topiary! They’re open again in June and I fully recommend a visit. (There was also a delicious selection of cakes!).

    On that note, I think it’s time to finish my coffee and potter on. I think I’ll try and make these as regular as possible, and maybe get them up at a specific time each Sunday, like a proper cuppa and a chat?

    Shine on,

    Sal 🙂

    This week I’m:

    Listening – to The Scotland Yard Confidential podcast on Spotify – I’m not usually a podcast person but this new crime podcast kept my attention the whole way through, full of dastardly deeds, detective’s intuition and entertaining narration that made me giggle.

    Buying – I finally began getting through a pile of free wax melt samples I’d amassed. Unfortunately the scents weren’t for me (bit headache-y, does anyone else get that with certain scents?) so I ordered A Slow Sunday’s Morning Coffee scented ones instead – I’ll report back once I’ve had the chance to try them out.

    Refilling – my UpCircle face cream. On the third refill now, I think! The cream itself smells amazing and really helps to soften my dry skin up. I’m also a huge fan of the coffee eye cream (can you see a coffee-related pattern here) which I also use the refill scheme for. They come in glass jars with metal lids, so plastic free too.

    ReadingHelen Lewis’s The Bluestocking newsletter – excellently written.

    Ag disappointed that I have interrupted her nap in the compost!
  • Blog,  Day to Day,  Home

    Snowdrops and the return of Spring

    Amidst the wild winds of Storm Malik this weekend, I glanced out of the window to see the first little snowdrops of the season dancing their heads in the gales. Small delicate white petals nodding this way and that as the wind whipped over the low stone wall beside them.

     

    Amidst the storm, a reminder that soon the days will lengthen, the sun will warm us, the endless UK grey will give way to bluer skies and louder birdsong. I do not mind so much the days before winter solstice. The darkening and quieting of all, as we settle down to winter. It is the drawn out waiting of January, February and into March – that all pervading greyness, the damp cold, the washed out colours and brown twiggy borders. The trees that seem to take forever to bud, the waiting, waiting for those promised spring days that are always just around the corner. My mood settles with the grey. That something just out of reach.

     

    I am impatient, as always. I want summer, with the heat and 11pm light and heady scents of honeysuckle in the dusk. I thrive with that rush of energy. My soul stretches out to fill those long, bright days. Here, still in winter, I feel small, drab, as if those days will never come. But they will, I know, and even now signs of change are popping up, however small.

     

    A small group of snowdrops with the sun hitting their petals grow from a messy winter flowerbed

    The snowdrops are accompanied by the sun peeking back over the top of the valley in mid-January, shining into the windows to the back of the house, even just for a few minutes each day. I rush upstairs and throw the windows open, close my eyes and bask my face in the weak rays, the pale golden light.

     

    Bulbs planted in Autumn begin to poke tentative leaves above ground – tulips, daffodils, crocuses – bringing the promise of colour and flower and those insects that love to feed on their pollen.

     

    I miss the busy buzz of bees in the background, that soundtrack of spring and summer. Soon the tree bees will return (hopefully) to the attic, buzzing around the stone roof, whizzing around the garden, mating in piles of legs, wings and fuzz.

     

    It is time, too, to begin to move myself. It is all too easy to sink into stasis when everything around you is deep in winter slumber. Although yes, stasis is needed. Winter of the soul. Balance in all, the ever-turning spiral. Now, along with the slowly awakening land, it is time for me to awaken, too. To fall back in love with the area I live in. To take those little sparks of energy, when they appear, and direct them into a life, into enjoyment, laying bases for things to come. Like the turn of the earth, to wax and wane with the seasons.

     

    Now the snowdrops are here, spring will turn ever quicker, a reminder that even when all seems silent on the surface, inside little bulbs life is continuing to thrive. Even in the frozen dead of winter, deep down under the soil, plants and animals still feel the change of the days and ready themselves. I hope I can do the same.

     

    With that, I re-fill my mug with tea and pull on an old jumper. I head outside, in search of more signs of spring.

    A small group of snowdrops are growing from a January flowerbed. The bottom of the plants is in shadow but the petals are in warm sunlight.

  • Blog,  Day to Day,  Home,  The Cottage

    Soul Flames: Fire Thoughts

    I watch the bright flames crackle and dance in the soft early morning gloom and fight the urge to take a photograph. To document somehow this feeling of warmth, this primal fire in an 1800’s house, the otherworldly in the mundane. But for who? To sit with experience just for myself is increasingly hard.

    A fire burns brightly in a wood burner. A metal grate contains a large triangular shaped log with bright orange flames all around it.

    This fire and me, we regard each other. Ancient connection, speaking to a part of me long forgotten, cells and sparks of millennia that I cannot put a name to. It is safety and danger, food and destruction. And mesmerising, always.

    New flames settle with me, the fire burning well, and I struggle to write as my eyes are drawn to flame. The space between each flickering tongue. The dark charred wood a case of shadow. As flames die down the fire whispers “feed me”, and I do, entranced, as we are one, the house fading as soul and flame dance together somewhere deep in memory.

    A cat slinks in and by fire she is tiny panther, orange reflected infinitely in huge dark eyes, and this panther flops down and melts into the floor, those wide eyes now closed in dreams of last night’s mouse hunt. The fire shifts in the grate and flames lick over a new surface, flaring and settling again. There is ebb and flow even in this.

    The flames sing to me, to slow, to let go, to remember truths greater than myself. Orange glow, not harsh blue light. To peel away the layers of this world and let the flames devour them, leaving us as one, small fire, small human, and something bigger than us both.

    A dark picture of a black cast iron log burner, doors open, with a fire burning inside. There are a mixture of small twigs and larger logs, with the flames burning a bright white.

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