Friday, 1 May 2009

Changes and Choices

May Day - almost ended; a day when in the past everyone in rural England would celebrate. Maypoles on the village green, the coming of summer, the crowning of the May Queen; everywhere bedecked with spring flowers. 

May? Four months of this year gone? How many times already in these past weeks have I forced myself to STOP and to walk around our garden and actually LOOK? At the beauty that surrounds us, in the smallest weed, in the sky above, in the sound of birdsong and flight of bumblebees searching for nectar. Today the comfrey was alive with the rare black bumble first spotted in our flowers borders over two years ago.

No prizes to guess what my photo represents, but for those who do not live in a climate where walnuts will grow, these are the male catkins whose pollen will fall upon the embryonic nuts-to-be, which - when they grow and ripen - are actually inedible for they are not a culinary variety. The squirrel loves them nevertheless and we find baby walnut trees emerging all over the garden. Which might be delightful, but their roots and leaves exude some sort of poison and nothing will grow in the vicinity of one of these regal trees.

One third of the year has somehow evaporated. It is a time for change, and for choices.

CHANGE: I am rationalising my three blogs: this one (Wild Somerset Child) is for the 'musings of a creative wanderer' as per my blog byline; my journaling blog is for all things artistic; and my online garden diary for those times when I have only one photo to post and yet want to record day-by-day all that happens in this Cotswold acre - perhaps to prove to myself that it can be made beautiful again after the five years of terrible neglect whilst we tackled barn-rebuilding. The blogs are inevitably interlinked; our activities cannot be pigeon-holed so subjects will stray overboard from time to time.

CHOICES: when one's head and heart are full of all one is still desperate to accomplish, and yet the ageing body (and brain!) cry "slow down, take time out", how do you choose what is most important to pursue? I have had to talk seriously to myself about what is truly vital. First of course is dear 77-year-old Raymond (who this very evening announces that now that we have all but completed the barn's internal storage - racking for the hardwoods he has accumulated over the years from which he creates beautiful furniture - we must move on). We will evidently tackle the end wall of the cottage which is 'about to crumble', but also build his workshop extension and start my requested kitchen refurbishment. My studio-to-be will wait another year (promised in 2005!) I get out the calendar - "don't organise me!" he says. I almost collapse in a heap. I need the occasional calm day without stress - but am hopeless at truly relaxing.

Who's the one who has to climb the structure to secure the higher horizontal shelves? And then, I couldn't get down - had to leap into Raymond's arms (well, scramble actually)

In any case, I have my own long list of 2009 projects but know I must whittle them down. Priority, after the already-commissioned magazine features, is the ongoing reclamation of the garden, then my 'book' which has been languishing on my writing desk since the arrival of 'British Summer Time' and increasingly light evenings, and my craving for some form of creative art, which keeps me sane whether I am slathering paint or stitching fabric. I will focus on just two creative projects this year: my 6" x6" handmade paper journals that record the delights of time spent anywhere but here, and my much larger 11.75"x8.25" horizontal fabric book on 'Cotswold Farmhouse Memories'. I will be darting between my three blogs to cover all these meanderings. Hence change and choices really are interlinked. The walnut catkins seem to point in three directions. Which way? Which way? Surely the garden must claim my first attention; it has been so sad to watch its deterioration whilst building was 'top of the list' this last five years, which it always will be - forty years here and we are still working on it! I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.

Part of my potager-herb bed area, taken in late January, awaiting reclamation. There are six raised beds, each measuring 8ftx4ft, with narrow paths in between. This is the corner requiring most attention; it was full of brambles, nettles and other weeds, but was meant to be an asparagus bed.

Two weeks ago, I cleared the bed - remarkable that the frames Raymond made me have survived for over 15 years. The soil is friable and this is about the sunniest and most sheltered part of the garden, even though the frost and snow of this last winter did not improve the rosemary.

This is how it looks now, planted with sun-loving herbs in the foreground, some of the original columbines (self-seeded) top right and in between a group of broad beans (fava beans) for which there was no space in my raised vegetable beds further down the garden. I have added two rose bushes (for dried rose petal pot-pourri), nasturtiums will scramble eventually up the metal structure barely visible back centre (petals are edible) and where the two sticks are, I will plant artichokes which at present are just seedlings in my greenhouse - as much for their statuesque proportions as for the kitchen. (My new blog header shows the same bed in 1991 when it was a true potager, before the trees and neighbouring garden grew to their present proportions.)

CRUNCH TIME: and so tonight, after a day of work emails and housework and house chores (which I  can't abide), playing (journal pages) and tending greenhouse seedlings, I slowly relax. I have made my decisions. There is the scent of new-mown grass - 'Joe' is cutting the village green; it is soft and warm yet grey clouds scud across the evening sky. I shut the gate (two wooden frames covered in wire netting!) and put a salad supper and a bottle of wine on the table. Tomorrow I continue preparation for all my commissioned articles that will revolve around next week's 'Malvern Spring Flower Show' - not just my professional work portfolio, our cameras and notebooks, but a little painted hand-made 6"x6" pocketed journal that is already taking shape for my personal memories and sketches that will last me from one year to the next. Therein lies my joy.

I thank everyone so much for all the lovely comments which bring me such comfort. I apologise that I do not reply to them all, or say 'hello' to those who visit. Time is of the essence, and it feels as if mine is running out. But every single word from around the world is savoured and appreciated.


  1. I just don't know where the time is disappearing to...
    we must stand and smell the roses sometime or else we are missing the essence of life and may as well sit on the sofa and veg out!
    Take care

  2. Just enjoy your time Ann - but thanks for sharing it with us. xx

  3. Just enjoy your time Ann - but thank you for sharing it xx

  4. You two are the youngest 70 year olds I know, certainly younger than we 50 year olds! While you have so much to do, isn't it lovely that you have so many interests?

  5. Your life sounds so much like mine.. I too get to feeling like I'm running in circles with so much to do and so little time, I too need to sit down and decide just what is more important and leave some of it for another day/year.
    Enjoy your weekend

  6. Dellightful to read of all your projects and plans. You have a full life it sounds like and that is wonderful. I enjoy reading about it but this is blogging without obligation remember!! Take care, Suki

  7. So much to do and so little time to do it all Ann - what a lovely post full of the details of life! thank you

  8. I enjoy reading your thoughts Ann, and appreciate that there is so much for a person who is fully engaged in life, creating and living near the earth. We feel the unending need of things to tend to as well, here on our little acreage. I recently visited a lovely Aunt of mine, just turned 90. She stated that to live requires a sense of purpose. She grows flowers in pots, but has a desire for more. Perhaps too much is better than not enough. It’s all balance. I admire your gusto!

  9. My time feels as if it's running out too, and I wish we could both have more for all the playing we'd like to do! I adore your herb garden and congratulate you on everything you do get done to inspire us all! Take care and best to you - Jeanne in Oregon

  10. Ann, I know that feeling of wanting to do so many things and yet sometimes I can't keep up like I used to. It's difficult making choices sometimes, but I say go with what fills your heart, and do take time out just sitting with that cup of tea, your journals, your beloved Raymond, and just breathe...

  11. Thankyou to everyone for these comforting comments. I truly apreciate then. I would not have my life other than what it is - jam-packed with choices. But when I do sit and just think, a whole new raft of ideas emerge, and off I go again! Right now, if I wasn't about to cover the Malvern Spring Flower Show for the week, I would just love to be joining Kristi & Bill Steiner on one of their fantastic art workshops in Italy - checkout their 'Adventures in Italy' website. Gentle relaxation with a creative purpose. Perfect.

  12. I wrote last week in my Three R's blog about May Day and it's celebrations, past and present. It's lovely to know there are areas which keep the old traditions alive, getting a new Maypole and so on.
    We had a walnut tree, it gave us masses of nuts each year, but they always went mouldy. I loved the smell of the leaves, never saw catkins though, but we took it out, well, pollarded it actually, as it was in an area we are building raised beds and the horrible soggy leaves when they fall make walking around the area tricky.

  13. Your garden looks like a full-time project, never mind the other things! Time seems to rush past these days, and I bitterly regret that I did not do some things whilst I could. You simply never know what is going to hit you round the next corner!

    My next project has got to be to hoover up the dog hairs!!!

  14. Nice to catch up with you after several weeks adjusting to own changes. I'm also learning about time and the endless checklist we invent as if that was real life. One blessing of the garden is its connection to all five senses and how it will relax us if we let it. I never knew (or had reason to know) that walnut trees are propagated by catkins. I always thought catkins were swamp plants. Nice entry. Alicia

  15. How I agree with you about time, and constantly emerging ideas. Also agree that housework keeps a low priority.

    Best wishes. Your garden amazes me.

  16. Wow! You are busy! I stopped by to thank you for your comment the other day, it is even more appreciated now.


  17. Hello! just wanted to let you know I tagged you!