The morning was cool and peaceful as I was looking out over our valley on today’s Easter sunrise. The strangeness of life in recent weeks has pervaded every part of human life, yet in some curious ways, it seems to have passed by the natural world: Nature has continued on her merry little way.
Our cultivated Spring flowers and flowering shrubs brighten our yards and gardens. The field outside my door is dotted with wild flowers – dandelions and daisies, with cow parsley and lady’s smock popping up along the margin. This year, these wild flowers won’t meet an untimely demise under the the local council’s mowing machines, as that service is one of many that has been suspended for the time being. Grass-cutting will for now only take place for safety reasons, near road junctions.
In the UK, we are now at that point in the year where the early Spring dawn is host to that incredible natural phenomenon, the dawn chorus. This morning, I was enjoying the glorious birdsong music of our neighbourhood bird choristers at 5.30am. If you are not naturally an early riser, it can still be a treat to the ears to listen in on your local feathered choir at some point between mid-April and late May. Whilst dedicated enthusiasts will not be able to join in public woodland events to experience the dawn chorus this year, even in urban areas you can tune in to your local dawn chorus simply by opening your bedroom window or standing at your back door. It is such an amazing sound. I am working on finding a way to share this with you.
For many of us, being able to connect with the natural world on our doorsteps is a huge relief, particularly this year with the very necessary coronavirus lockdowns. Nature really is a natural tonic for our mental health.
I hope you too are able to spend some peaceful moments with Nature. Stay safe in these strange times.
Today, I am sharing two versions of my daily world view – looking east at sunrise, out over our local woods to the valley beyond. Living high on quite an exposed valley side, facing towards the North Pennine moorlands, we have a very ongoing relationship with the weather: colouring our skies in the early morning, blasting us with wild winds or drenching us with driving rain.
Connecting types of weather to our UK seasons is something we have absorbed from childhood. But how often do we now find ourselves talking about ‘unseasonal’ or ‘extreme’ weather? It seems almost constant.
We don’t need to be meteorologists to be aware that our weather patterns are changing from those we have come to expect as part of the seasonal cycle.
My snowy January image above was taken 2 years ago. It would be most unusual for us to get through the month of January without seeing a good covering of snow for at least a day or two. We’ve not seen more than an odd flurry of snow yet this Winter. Over the Christmas and New Year holiday, we had some of that ‘unseasonal’ weather I mentioned earlier, mild and frost-free.
It’s not only humans noticing these weather changes – the natural world has noticed too. Last year, late February saw temperatures we associate with Summer. And only once since 1910 had March seen more rain.
Over at Nature’s Calendar https://naturescalendar.woodlandtrust.org.uk/analysis/seasonal-reports/, their records show that everything we associate with Spring happened earlier last year. All of the flowering plants such as blackthorn, hazel and lilac bloomed between 3 and 5 weeks earlier than expected. Frogspawn, butterflies, ladybirds were all spotted 2 to 3 weeks early. Birds were early building their nests.
These natural events have been recorded over so many years, the changes are noticeable.
For many people around the world, including here in the UK, we know climate change has created much bigger problems than finding we need to mow the lawn before the end of March. The heartbreaking wildfire scenes from Australia, flooding in Indonesia and here in the UK are just the next painful examples of the climate crisis we are living in.
Many of us are trying to do our bit for the planet: planting trees, avoiding plastic, eating less meat, walking or cycling rather than car travel … and a whole host of other things too.
I think individuals taking collective action really is important and shouldn’t be underestimated, but the speed with which we as a global society must act on the climate crisis means we must convince decision makers to act too.
At this year’s World Economic Forum this week at Davos the climate crisis is very much on the agenda. Finally. This annual meet-up of the world’s top brass in business, finance and politics is where the decisions determining what is important this year are discussed.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report 2020 acknowledges and highlights the climate crisis, extreme weather, and biodiversity loss as the most significant risks this year.
From the reports I have seen coming out of Davos, it could have gone better, but I do think there’s reason for hope.
Senior business executives are beginning to realise it can’t just be about shareholders profits any more. Business as usual is now being challenged not only by climate activists, but by hedge fund managers too.
Yes, of course we will need to keep banging the climate crisis drums – and ever louder. But I am beginning to feel that we are rolling the wave now and I believe the impetus is on the side of taking climate action.
I think of it as active optimism – the more people we have taking positive climate action, the more likely we are to be successful in our endeavours to save our planet and its biodiversity for the future.
“Would you like to do a bit of the garden?” an elderly neighbour asked us one day last Summer. And so it was that we ended up taking on the wildly overgrown part of a large allotment garden.
When I say, “taking on”, I mean that literally! It needed some serious taming! Slowly but surely, over the Autumn and Winter, a garden gradually emerged out of the wilderness. Another neighbour joked that we’d probably find lions and tigers in there. We didn’t, of course! But we did find toads and frogs sheltering in the damp jungle of densely packed thistles, nettles, bramble and willowherb.
We also found an old robin’s nest in an old blackcurrant bush. We found a small wall beside a lovely old red brick path and we found the remains of a Victorian greenhouse, complete with its own grapevine … with black grapes 😉
Garden paths were gradually relieved of their bindweed carpets and the unkempt tresses of berry-laden brambles were relieved of their luscious harvest before being shorn back closer to the boundary fence. I am a keen forager of wild fruit, so this collection of captive bramble bushes will be tamed and treasured for future fruit-picking.
Then the digging began. My husband heroically tackled the heaviest digging, battling bravely against giant bramble roots. I took on the forest of Himalayan Balsam, capturing as many of the spring-loaded seed heads as I could, before they launched their invasive cargoes of seeds back into the garden.
Eventually, our sections of the garden were dug over and weeded, ready for Spring planting. Though, we ended up having rather more time than we’d anticipated as Spring was rather reluctant to arrive. I’d planted out my early potatoes during a mild spell in early April – which is quite a normal time for planting early potatoes. A fortnight later, I was hurrying out to collect bracken to use as a warming mulch to protect my poor potatoes from the snow!
Happily, I can say that my mulch did its job well and the potatoes are now growing merrily.
I have a little ‘garden friend’ who follows me slavishly whenever I have a spade in my hand. A robin! Eagle-eyed visitors may be able to spot him in my header image at the top of this post.
I do have more garden tales to share, but I’ll save them for another day …
I can hardly believe it is 10 whole months since blogging was unwillingly squeezed out of my life by other competing priorities.
As a parent, my children always come first. As a home-educating family, we find education is not so much a 6-hours-a-day activity as a way of life. So, last April, when one of our boys needed extra input to achieve what he had suddenly decided was his lifetime’s ambition, my responsibility as ‘education facilitator’ became much more intensive.
I don’t resent the fact that I was suddenly so much in demand. I was secretly rather happy … at least with the Damascene moment one lunchtime that possessed my son with an ambitious drive to learn whatever was needed to get him where he wants to be. But, his new learning momentum meant I too had to work at a corresponding pace to provide the necessary support.
I’m one of those people who always likes to try and ‘do everything’, so for a few months I persevered with my blog, burning the midnight oil and then watching the sunrise … but the limitation of time is always the factor that frustrates and sleep really is a necessity.
Thus it was that I took a reluctant sabbatical from blogging. I missed my blogging and all the wonderful WordPress folk. I thought wistfully about it for a while, but, no. I had to be firm with myself – sleep won the argument! Though, I knew I’d be back at some point – the question was only ever, “When?”
Spring has now well and truly begun springing here in our corner of the UK and I happened to be sowing another pinch of Thyme this week. That same day, a comment on a gardening post I wrote two years ago arrived in my inbox and I went to my blog to reply.
I saw everyone’s new posts in my Reader when I logged in. The yearning to start blogging again welled up inside of me, like tree sap in Spring. ‘Time’ and ‘thyme’ spun puns together in my head as I sowed my herb seeds and I thought, “Shall I? Can I?”. “Making More Thyme for blogging” germinated, like a little thyme seed.
Just like Mole in Wind in the Willows, Spring always tempts me to get ‘out there’ and explore the wider world – but this time, it’s the virtual world of blogging. So here I am! It’s good to be back – I’ll be dropping by to see you all soon 🙂