Almanac: A peaceful start to the new year, fallen branches and a priceless treasure

The seasons turn, a new year arrives.

My Christmas gift was a traveller’s journal which is why my story begins here. I carried it around in my backpack and to and fro between my desk and bedside table for weeks before beginning to use it. Sometimes getting started is the hardest part.

We were living solely on the last of our savings at the time, because of the pandemic stopping our work. Due to this our Christmas tree was created from fallen branches gathered from the local woodland. The scent of pine still filled the room, just as before, except this time there was also a meaningful, family story linked to our little “tree”. After New Year’s we used the foraged twigs to create a bug hotel in the nature corner of our garden.

This year we all want to do the same again, only more so. I am already looking out for where the holly grows in the little woodland so that we can decorate the door frames and bookshelves, and create a homemade wreath for the front door.

Adjusting our sleep/wake times meant that each morning we got to greet the dawn. I started to measure time in the early hours by watching the bright golden winter sunrise creep across the frosted glass of the window. Later, I would stop wearing a watch around the house altogether.

The birches kept their final leaves into late December, creating a rare beautiful effect during the golden hour at dusk each day. I can only see a small part of this tree from my desk window, so as soon as the sun dips low enough to shine through the branches, I know to take a walk towards the southern footpaths for the full view.

This moment at dusk, where I pause work and take a quick walk, starts to herald teatime because when I get back from the cold, the kettle goes on and soup is warmed on the hob. I am already re-aligning my days to the nature around me, although I am not consciously aware of it just yet.

By early January the fields become almost impassable, the little woodland equally so. As soon as the temperature drops and the sun clouds over, our boots can go three foot or more into the mud in places. It will be April before the fields are fully walkable again. As long as we keep close to the blackberry hedgerow in the top field, we can at least still enjoy the wide winter skies.

Here is my favourite photograph from Christmas and New Year 2020: When you are only two and a plastic emerald ring falls out of a cracker and you cannot believe that such a priceless token can be yours.

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Almanac: The story of a year

This is the story of a year.

In March 2021 I started creating my own almanac. The weather reports are always a little hit-and-miss where we live. Predicted storms often swirl around below the hill and fail to touch us. Late frosts often do not happen, as sheltered as our little garden is. I wanted to live by the seasons as we experience them.

I figured it would take a few years before a true pattern emerged, but it would be an interesting project along the way. During the hard months of 2020 I found great comfort in watching the cycle of the seasons, when everything else in the world is unpredictable and unstable, it brings a calmness to me that I can anchor to.

Until this moment, I had marked the seasons by revisiting the same scene along my regular walk from my doorstep. Winter to me meant bare branches reflected in half-frozen flood water. I enjoyed watching the gradual return of the bright green grass of the meadow, of the leaves appearing on the trees, the blossoms forming bright white froth on the hawthorn hedgerow. I wanted a more detailed aid to my memory to accompany my photographs, to look back on over years to come.

My little notebook soon expanded from simple temperature and weather notes into a garden journal. Then I started to add field notes and details of all of the seeds and bulbs I had planted.

Moon cycles, constellations and planets to look for in the night and morning skies soon got jotted in at the start of each month.

We found that every sunrise is different. We started working our day around solar noon, in order to watch each day dawn.

As the fields started to warm and the footpaths became passable again, lists of wild flowers to search for in the hedgerows and woodlands gave our walks added interest.

As I start to share the story of a year here, I hope that you will not mind if I wind the clock back to winter, so that I can start at the very beginning.

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Listed below is the diary I use for creating my almanac.

I want to stress that any notebook or computer spreadsheet would work 🙂

As an Amazon Associate I receive a small commission from links, which helps to support my work as a freelance artist and writer.

Hobonichi Journal

Almanac: Autumn memories and a distraction of flowers

We have already passed midwinter and yet I have so many memories of autumn that I want to preserve. September, October and November brought with them a time of intense creativity as I worked on my illustrations, commissions and the launching of my little art shop. I kept taking my daily photographs, though it is only now that a post-Christmas calm has settled that I have had a chance to write about them here.

Today I wish to share a story of a crisp October day, an attempt to write to a deadline and the sense that sometimes a moment of inspiration is too good to miss.

I was meant to be writing. When I looked up from my desk and out of the window, I could see a sharp breeze blowing the delicate late blooming flower petals to the ground. I pulled on my boots, grabbed a little wooden bowl and collected them all.

Sitting back down at my desk again with a cuppa, I set my finds up along my desk. The aster contrasted with the teal of my journal perfectly. My mind drifted back to a poem …

“…on the hills the golden-rod

and the aster in the wood

And the yellow sunflower by the brook

In autumn beauty stood.”

WB Bryant

When I added a second blossom, the petals intermingled, like the fingers of a couple holding hands, or the interconnectedness of loved ones. I called this photograph “Friendship.”

Even as I write this, on December 26th, the hebe plant outside my window still has a few little blossoms left. I most often regard hebe as a froth of lilac although, it is when you study it up close, that its true delicate beauty can be seen. The name, which this moment prompted me to look up, comes from the Greek meaning “bloom of youth.”

Verbena has self-seeded all over the raised beds and I cannot quite bring myself to uproot it, so there will likely be double the amount next year.

I can see a whole life etched out in a fallen leaf. A loss of crimson at the tip when the first frosts arrived. The scars of insect bites.

Eventually I set my lucky finds aside, ready to write. Sometimes I find that working creatively on a different project, ignites my imagination for another. One deadline has slightly slipped, but my stock photography assignment is now submitted two weeks early.

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A selection of my photographs are available as postcards here

I’ve linked below to where you can buy the journal mentioned in my post from Amazon. If you click on the picture and buy the item I will get a small commission to help support my art.

ZenART Faux Leather Dotted Journal – B5 Sized, 7 x 10-inch, Notebook with Vibrant Colors, Japanese Edge Motif – Lay Flat, with Grid for Journaling

A Week in Books: Bonfires, bee bread and poetry with petals

On a Sunday evening, I like to clear the shelf next to my desk, in preparation for the week ahead. There will always be a pile of books that have accumulated beside me. I enjoy the moment when I scoop them up and shelve them again, the titles on the spines evoke a diary of the days just passed:  

A Week in Books.

Copyright: Tiny Potager

The Art of Fire: The Joy of Tinder, Spark and Ember by Daniel Hume

The first of the maple leaves fell this week and their orange-yellow colours brought to mind flickers of flame and evenings by the fire. Every year, at around this time, I bring The Art of Fire down from the shelf.

Copyright: Tiny Potager

I long for a fire when it is too cold to be out at night without one and the breeze whisks the smoke upwards in spiral. A hot drink in a mug, just a little too hot to hold with bare hands, can be clasped between woolly mittens, whilst we watch the flames dance. In the chillier months fire brings light to the darkness.

For now, I am content to browse The Art of Fire, reminding myself of all the different ways to build up a small campfire and of why “over loving” a fire never comes to any good … although I know I shall still enjoy poking the embers back into life all the same.

“The fire in the woodland glade with paper lanterns in the canopy above”
Copyright: Tiny Potager

No matter what page I turn to in my book, I am left feeling like the fading summer will not be so hard to part with after all.

Soon … the kettle was dancing over the flames; at last we could relax in the knowledge that everyone was safe and dinner wasn’t long away…

The Art of Fire: The Joy of Tinder, Spark and Ember by Daniel Hume

Wildlife of Britain by Dorling Kindersley Pocket Nature

This year, amongst the familiar white flowers that dot the hedgerows (as below), we noticed a new variety, with pink candy-striped flowers.

Copyright: Tiny Potager

A quick check in the nature guide told us that it was not a mutation, as I had supposed, but a different variety of the same plant, known as field bindweed.

Copyright: Tiny Potager

England’s Heritage Food and Cooking by Annette Yates

The recipe we chose for this week was a “Kentish Cherry Batter Pudding”. My sons enjoyed it straight out of the oven, eaten with dessert spoons whilst still in the cake tin. We are going to try creating our own version, with Autumn’s seasonal apples and blackberries.

Copyright: Tiny Potager

Dancing with Bees by Bridget Strawbridge-Howard

Throughout the summer, hundreds of bees have visited our little garden and some have even made a home here. Chapter one of Dancing With Bees takes a look at what happens beyond the bees’ visits to the flowers.

I had always assumed that the pollen brought back by worker honeybees was fed directly to the larvae, but I could not have been more wrong.

Dancing with Bees by Bridget Strawbridge-Howard

Strawbridge-Howard goes on to explain that pollen is actually indigestible by bees and has to be fermented into bee bread. There is, therefore, a great risk to bees from the human use of fungicides, which destroys the wild yeast required for this process, depriving the bees of the food they need to nourish both themselves and next year’s generation of pollinators.

Copyright: Tiny Potager

Breathe and Be: A Book of Mindfulness Poems by Kate Coombs

Storms swept across Britain towards the end of the week, sending delicate summer flowers swirling up into the air like confetti. Gardeners throughout the country watched nervously as sunflowers and hollyhocks, runner beans and dahlias swayed precariously on their thin stems and cane supports.

My little daughter helped me to gather up all of our fallen flowers; those which were too small for a vase, we laid out on the table.

We fetched our poetry book, turned to the storm page and I let my daughter decorate the words with her windfall.

The poems have a metre to them that brings such a sense of calmness, even as the storm rages on outside.

Is there a book that you like to read as autumn approaches?

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Art Journal: Collecting wild seeds and finding inspiration

On an afternoon when it is too hot to be outdoors, I unroll some parcel paper on the table and set out our recently foraged seeds. Cloud parsley, milk thistle, clover, grasses and rose hips.

My little daughter can see that I have plants all over the table. She runs out to the garden and returns with a freshly harvested fuchsia flower.

“Away on a Breeze”

The feathery seeds are awaiting their first flight on the tiniest of air currents. Every time I breathe, they start to float out of frame. I carefully encourage them back into place. I hold my breathe. Time stops. Click.

My daughter returns from another garden visit and hands me two fallen hollyhock blossoms.

One of my younger boys runs through the kitchen singing. Grasses scatter across the table whilst milk thistles take to the air. He happily helps me catch them as they float towards the door, a practised skill from many hours spent chasing delicate storm bubbles in the garden.

“Gentle Partings”

The patter of footsteps. My daughter has found six faded rose petals and a handful of leaves.

Of everything in this wild harvest, the cloud parsley seeds are my favourite. I almost prefer them to the actual flower. I lift the sprig out of the diorama and study it in detail, turning it in my hands, before laying it back down carefully. The brittle stem makes a scratching sound against the thick paper.

“Be Free”

When I have completed my work, my daughter is still intrigued, standing on her tip toes to see.

I recreate her mouse doll in petals, using delicate little seeds as the eyes and lashes. She asks if her mouse can be a dancer, so we use the hollyhock petals as the skirt and give our ballerina a tiny fuchsia crown. Snipping a piece of the cloud parsley, we give the mouse a miniature flower stem of her own.

“At midnight, Mouse transforms into a Dancer”

We take a photograph together and safely store the seeds away to sow in our garden.*

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*We only gather a few common seed heads that have already fallen to the ground in the hedgerows near our home. Wildflowers in bloom should be left to go to seed so that they may return the following year. Please respect the wildflower laws wherever you live.

Potager Garden: July 2020

The sunshine of late July beckoned us to the woodlands and with it being such a busy month in the garden too, I am a little behind on my garden diary.

I signed off in June with the sight of our onion crop harvested and drying on the raised beds. Soon after, the garlic was gathered up, dried in the open air and plaited. I wove in little handles so that they could be hung up for storage.

Within days, the weather changed and lightning storms were forecast. We eagerly anticipated the rain’s arrival, which would bring an end to the stifling humidity of water-saturated air. Little speckled showers came and went.

Then, one evening, we saw the oncoming storm and headed to the fields to watch. I have never seen such a clear divide between a summer sky and the swirling mass of darkness across the horizon.

It rained for several days and as the dry ground was replenished, we watched our resident snail venture out for a daytime drink at the stream.

The garden itself, which had been on the cusp of a new harvest, suddenly burst into life.

Our first radish crop of the year was followed a few days later, by the season’s first lettuces.

The rhubarb was moved as part of the winter garden re-design and is thriving in its new placement by the stream. As tasty as it looks, I am letting the rhubarb have a year to settle before I start cropping again next year.

After just four weeks, the onion beds were full to bursting with broccoli, courgette and pumpkins plants, all pushing up against the protective bird netting. Last year our courgettes were destroyed by snails before they even grew their first full leaves. This year I kept the seedlings on my kitchen windowsill, then surrounded them with a copper mesh and gravel when I transplanted them into the raised beds. So far, so good.

A peek under the netting revealed newly formed pumpkin buds. It is amazing to think how quickly they will grow between now and October.

Just as we reached the start August, the hollyhocks burst into flower. The little trumpets that announce the height of summer.

The flurry of work is now done. August, for me, is the month of enjoying the garden, of long summer days that merge into beautiful evenings.

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Almanac: Hidden Kingdoms – In search of the invisible

In summer, the little woodland becomes a dark and shaded place. Leaves grow with such veracity that the canopy above lets in less light than any other time of the year.

I share today’s walk with my 12 year old son. It is so quiet here. Sudden rustles of foliage or scraping on bark reminds us that we are sharing this space with many unseen creatures. At any such sound, we immediately pause. A shared inquisitive glance asks the silent question “what was that?”

Ripples of bright light dance across the forest paths as the clouds float by, unseen, overhead. My eyes never quite adjust to this constant change. My vision is a little blurred, settling somewhere ethereal. I feel the slight twinge of my pupils widening and then hurriedly dilating over and over. Hands shielding our eyes, we veer off the footpath in search of softer, diffused shade.

We follow the trails of badgers until we find ourselves barred by brambles and start retracing our steps. Here, away from the footpath, are signs of the woodland’s hidden life. A mouse hole. An abandoned bird’s nest caught between low branches. A tuft of coarse grey fur caught on a blackberry thorn. It is easy to step away from the path, but having taken a winding route, it is more difficult to find our way back. In a small woodland, this disorientation is wonderful. How glorious to feel momentarily lost when we live in a land of tarmac roads and mobile satnav. We are soon back in well-trodden sign-posted normality.

There is no breezy, springtime forest now; the air is stiflingly humid, like a Kew Glasshouse. When the path dips low, we often hurry on, feeling a little dizzy from the lack of air. At other times we stand under a rare gap in the canopy and gulp in lungfuls’s of air greedily. There is a particular greenwood smell that fills us with life like pure oxygen.

Overhead, branches twist and turn, seeking the daylight. My son and I like to spot the silhouettes of letters hidden in the leaves. Aptly, the canopy that casts shade over our favourite sketching bench forms a little “S” to mark the spot.

From above, to below. Crouching down, a whole other world opens before us. At the level my one year old daughter sees, rain drops perch like tiny globes. Is this why children see magic everywhere?

Throughout the woodland, there are imaginary worlds to discover, if you allow your eyes to roam and imagination to wander. Whenever my little daughter joins me on my daily walk, she sees mouse towers and castles everywhere. She calls down into gnarled holes in the bark to inhabitants within and joyfully points out steps and entranceways.

My daughter will also knock politely on tree trunks, because she is convinced squirrels live inside and will come out to play if cordially invited. On one walk I spot a tiny mushroom that looks so alike a miniature door handle that for a moment I think she might be right.

Finally, there are the microscopic habitats that our eyes are just not adapted to spotting. The craggy volcanoes and tropical jungles that form entire worlds … all on the top of an old tree stump.

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Almanac: Patterns of nature, ripening blackberries and a sketchbook

The last time I wrote about these fields was in late April. The seedlings had just started to show themselves in thin rows under a grey-blue sky. The house martins had just made their return to nest in the eaves of our house, and were circling above us in an otherwise quiet and sleepy landscape.

What a difference a few months can make.

July has finally broken into sunshine.

My 12 year old son is with me today. He loves to draw, so has brought his sketchbook along. At first we talk together about our day, until the undulating path before us proves irresistible and he charges off, skimming his fingers through the swaying wheat as he goes.

A pair of cabbage white butterflies flutter skywards in a helix-like courtship dance, before disappearing again. This year we have seen more varieties than ever before and today we spot not just cabbage whites but common blues, peacocks, tortoiseshells and orange tips.

On the sunny south side of the farm, the corn grows tallest. The waxy leaves clatter against each other; like the sound of a polite applause.

We crouch down, looking along the lanes between the crop drills, so neatly ordered that you can see right to the other side of the vast field. For a moment our perspective tilts and it seems as if we have shrunken to miniature size, surrounded by towering blades of grass.

In the hedgerow beside the path, the blossom is bathed in full sunlight and has unfurled early this year. The blackberries are already ripening and will be ready to pick in just a few week’s time.

In the meadows, there is a constant low clicking of grasshoppers. It reminds us, joyfully and somewhat unnervingly too, that everywhere is teeming with unseen insect life.

Then, a dash of metallic blue across our path … a dragonfly! Utterly distracted from our uphill climb, we try to spot more. Our eyes steadily grow accustomed to the flickers of glinting colour. Soon it is like we are standing knee deep in an aquarium of darting tetra fish. A giant one; we follow after. It zigzags at speed and then disappears in a flash of silver.

The blackberries in the upper field are a few week’s behind those we saw earlier. It is shadier here and the stems have to put all of their energy into seeking better light before they can even think of producing flower buds. The effect is a glorious unfurling of pink petals, cascading over the top of the hedgerows. A heavy floral scent hangs in the air.

The more challenging stage of our hike now complete, we settle down for a rest. My son sketches stems of wheat, the distant horizon and outlines of trees. I am nearby, photographing clusters of bees.

We are so immersed that when someone passes by and calls “hello” we both jump slightly. It is a local artist, out searching for butterflies to paint. We point him in the direction of the lower meadows where we found countless common blues and tortoiseshells.

On the way home, my son pauses every few steps to sketch. I fall a few steps behind so that he feels no need to hurry.

As we pick up pace together, the fast chatter, from when we first started out, has disappeared. Instead, we find ourselves remarking on the nature around us. A flock of rooks flies over and we stop to watch their progress until they are tiny specks on the horizon.

Walking onwards, we remain like this, living in the moment, until the rooftops of houses appear over the tree line and thoughts turn back to the day ahead.

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Potager Garden: The secret life of the evening garden

I grow ever more fond of watching night fall in the garden. After the bustle of the day and distant traffic noises, a quietness descends at around 8 o’ clock as the late summer evening draws in.

Although I find the geraniums beautiful in the daytime, they now look so dramatic against a background of shadowy foliage, in the “miniature woodland” area of our tiny potager.

Still catching the last rays of light is this pretty self-seeded wildflower, towering next to the stream, that I believe must be a loosestrife. Living at the top of a hill, it is rare for there not to be a breeze rippling through our garden. I love to watch the constant sway of tall plants on spiked stems and the bees that weave and dart around them.

A light rain starts to fall, however at this time of year I do not have to rush back inside for a coat. It is a delicate, refreshing shower, not a downpour. At the first sign of soothing water, a snail emerges to make the most of it.

Soon after the rain stops it has already faded from the stone walkways, yet remains clinging to the plants. The poppy seed heads, which hover over the stream, bob and dip. The droplets slide down stems, into the running water below.

I slowly walk the paths whilst reading about the life and times of a woodland. I have been enjoying this book little-by-little since New Year’s Day. There is an entry for every date of the year and tonight’s July observation seems very apt.

“How enjoyable the land is, when the sun has sunk below the rim of the known world, when other people have gone to bed, and there are stars over the dark, still oaks.”

“The Wood: The Life and Times of Cockshutt Wood” by JoHn Lewis-stempel

The light dims a little more; I return my book to the kitchen and grab a favourite woollen jumper.

We have lost a few young apples to the rough storms throughout late June, yet the hardier fruits hold fast, looking eminently tempting.

The raindrops stick in place on the water resistant bamboo leaves. I move the plant stem gently; the droplets descend slowly, in an orderly queue.

The bees make their final forage until morning. I took a liking to this little hard worker, heavily laden, pollen stuck to his fur.

The moon is framed by the branches of the silver birch tree. The woollen jumper’s sleeves are perfect for pulling down over my hands as the temperature drops. My husband makes me a cup of hot tea and together we walk the garden and quietly reflect back on our day.

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Almanac: Early morning mists in the old forest

Lockdown is lifted and we can journey into the ancient forest again.

An early start. On our short drive, the trees gradually reveal themselves in layers of green. The view is softened; we are watching the day form itself into shape.

The mist feels like a fine spring rain, yet suspended in mid air. The humidity is soothing to the skin.

My little daughter holds up her hands to catch the dew falling from the canopy above every time there is sudden breeze.

The clearing beside my favourite oak tree is now verdant with bright uncurling bracken. We are the only ones here. Just us seven and a chorus of birdsong; a wood pigeon questions and from a distance another answers. Directly above us a squabble results in a few feathers falling at our feet. My daughter picks one out of the soft damp ground, now-grubby fingers holding it skywards as if to offer it back to the owner.

We follow the path as it dips down. I look up to see the mist suspended above the canopy, obscuring the sky.

A few steps ahead, my daughter picks her way carefully over raised roots. She pauses and attempts to lift one, not yet understanding that these unmoving “twigs” belong to the giant trees that surround us.

Here in the lower part of the forest, the morning dew has settled on the foliage. Some small woodland resident passes by us unseen, brushing against the undergrowth, sending the droplets cascading to the ground.

Ivy clings to the trees and between its leaves there is a network of fine cobwebs. More adventurous spiders have swung from tree to tree to spin threads across our path, now shimmering in the early light. I try and duck beneath them, letting them stay in place a little longer.

Do I breathe this deeply and gladly at any other time? It is soon after this walk that we get into the habit of opening the doors and windows of our home every morning when we wake, to welcome in the fresh dawn air.

My daughter is beguiled by the foxgloves that tower above her. She draws ever closer to what she calls “bells” though goes no further as she heeds my gentle warning to leave the toxic flowers be.

We hike up a small track in the fern covered hillside to the forest’s highest point. My eldest son holds up low branches of holly for his little sister to walk safely beneath. We hear distant road traffic, other voices in the forest. A man walks his dog on the footpath below us.

The light has changed since we set out and the world is awake.

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Almanac: English oaks and white bluebells

My two middle sons run down the hill together, so close in age that they are almost the same height. The trees dwarf them. When I think back to this wood, I never imagine the trees being so tall; it seems such a close, small place in my memory.

Spring is still with us and red campions line the paths. Newly blossomed, this one spoke to my camera, with all of its recently unfurled crinkles showing in the petals.

We steer off track onto the less-used trails. The bluebells are starting to fade here; they look more settled-in as part of the woodland palette than the electric blues of before. Everywhere above us is the flutter of birds. Beneath our feet, the forest floor stirs with insects.

There is something very comforting in the sight of a new oak tree. A woodland future secured. We find this sapling just a few feet away from a gnarled ancient representative of the same species. Then we spot several more. A nursery of oak.

My older son charges ahead, finding the way. He loves exploring these wilder paths. His brother holds my hand and perfectly mimics the birdsong around us. He pauses to run his fingers lightly through a fern; a shiny beetle crawls onto his hand and he observes it for a moment before settling it onto a fallen branch.

I kneel down next to him and notice that a small daisy that looks pure white from a distance, is delicately edged with pink tinges to each petal.

This unexplored route takes us almost out of the woodland. The path then comes back under the shade of the tree canopy beside a small stream, whose waters flow down from the edge of the dairy fields.

After crossing an old wooden bridge and taking a short uphill climb we return to our hidden glade. The clearing is so verdant, it is hard to imagine that just a few months before it was an icy winter pond fringed with sharp bare branches.

On this shadier side of the wood, the bluebells need a little more coaxing and are only just in their first flush of vivid colour. They arrive later, though always appear in denser numbers.

We stop for a while and scan this floral horizon, nowhere to rush to. When the breeze rushes through the tiny bells they become a shimmering ocean beneath the trees. As they crest, we spot a flare of white amongst the blue.

Before us is an albino variety of the English bluebell, exceptionally rare in the wild. I make a note of where we find it, in the hopes that it will return next year.

—Keep safe and well everyone. With heartfelt thanks to all those who are working to keep us safe, especially those on the frontline in the NHS and hospitals around the world.

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Almanac: How to scare a storm away

The air is heavy when we awaken, there must be a storm coming. I open the skylights and a sudden gale whistles down the stairwell. My autistic 11 year old, still in pyjamas, is absolutely delighted. He sets up directly underneath the velux with an old Thomas the Tank Engine book and watches as the downdraft turns the pages for him.

Everyone else slowly gets up. We can feel the storm creeping into our bones. No one is much for moving this morning, except our littlest family member. She is standing at the back door with her boots on, holding a football; only a year old, but very determined.

Ten minutes later, my daughter and I are out in the fields. She finds a hollow, discarded corn stem from last year’s crop. As she holds the treasure aloft triumphantly, the twenty mile an hour winds whistle through it. She squeals as the magical singing sword comes to life.

There is a sprig of cow parsley on the footpath. My daughter rushes over to the hedgerow and spends quite a while trying to encourage the plant to rejoin its friends. I tell her that she can keep her find if she wants.

Clutching the flowers tightly, she heads off purposefully towards the darkening clouds on the horizon.

Soon, I am carrying these and many further treasures for her whilst she hunts around for yet more. A feather that was caught on a bramble. A snapped branch. A tiny stone. She pauses to draw faces into the soft ground with a twig.

The clouds, distant just moments ago, are shepherded towards us with increasing speed. The gale is picking up.

My little explorer carefully collects brittle fragments of fallen leaves from the path; opening her palm, she watches them take flight.

Our voices also fly away from us. I show her that we can shout as loud as we want into the storm and it sounds like just a whisper.

My daughter loves this game. She stands firm, bracing herself against the harsh weather, “HELLO!” She holds her corn-sword aloft and yells her favourite words; “RABBIT! FLOWER! FOOTBALL!” Her voice comes out as the tiniest squeak. She thinks. Looking up at the sky, she roars her fiercest tiger roar … just as the wind drops. Her eyes are wide with delighted surprise, did she do that?

She is full of smiles as we turn towards home, her hand in mine. I confide to her that only the bravest and strongest can send a storm back to where it came from.

—Keep safe and well everyone. With heartfelt thanks to all those who are working to keep us safe, especially those on the frontline in the NHS and hospitals around the world.

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