Tag Archives: Autumn

Always Learning

So, here we are in mid November, and in lockdown again in England. It isn’t as severe as the first time, schools are still open, people can go to work and can meet others outside.  For Dave and I, life is no different to how our daily lives have been all year and in most respects, it’s been a good one. The family are all safe, the garden has flourished and kept us sane, and I’m back in writing mode with the novel, and accepted a painting commission. Now, that is a challenge for me as my client begged me to do a painting of her pet dog Lia which sadly recently joined those over the rainbow bridge.

I’ve warned her it won’t be very good as I don’t do animals and am not good at drawing but my client has become a good friend over the past years and I didn’t have the heart to refuse. I’ve spent the past few weeks practising drawing dogs and now comes the hard part, drawing Lia. I’ve only a few photos to go on, none of which are close ups, so it’s going to take a lot of improvising. I only hope I can pull it off.

The weather here is still very mild and autumn has given us all a fabulous display of colours in the falling leaves. I’m not a great fan of this time of year, particularly now the clocks have gone back and we have short days and long nights, but since I took up painting, I do look at it through different eyes and can appreciate the changing seasons much more. But my heart does sink a little when I walk around our garden.

The front is mainly bare soil now as Dave believes in taking everything out, digging the ground and leaving it fallow for the winter, whereas I believe in letting nature take its course and leave everything to die back naturally as Mother Nature intended. Many plants are thus still in bloom. I have cosmos and marigolds still in flower, my climbing fuchsia is spectacular for its first year, the hellebores are shooting up buds for later in winter, and there are even Welsh poppies in flower. Okay, so the borders do look a little untidy, but I know the wildlife and insects appreciate the cover, the birds enjoy the seed heads.The other day I was delighted to see a rare bird enjoying the garden for the best part of a day. Not rare as in uncommon, but because it is the first of this kind, a chaffinch, I have seen in the garden and I’ve been here over 40 years! The photo isn’t very clear as I had to take it through the bedroom window as every time I opened the window, it flew off into the holly tree, so it’s the best I could get.

Despite having been growing plants for over 50 years, I am still learning something new. There was I happily telling a friend about my Christmas Cactus that has decided to bloom early when she pointed out my plant was, in fact, a Thanksgiving Cactus, a totally separate breed from the Christmas or Easter Cactus most of us are familiar with. I’d never heard of a Thanksgiving Cactus so looked it up. And yes, she’s right. The Thanksgiving Cactus has different leaves, almost claw-shaped, to the other two which are more rounded, and both of these are different from each other:  the Easter Cactus having bristles on the tops of each leaf, the Christmas one has not.

I love learning new things. How about you?

Gallery

Autumn Fun – Making Cider

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This blog is probably going to be more pictures than explanation. My husband and I made apple cider this last month, and I think I drove him a bit crazy with my requests for pictures. But it was worth it. … Continue reading

Gallery

November in the Garden

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And in blows November. Chilly winds, dark mornings, dark earlier of an evening. And frosts. Here in my little part of the UK we’ve had several hard frosts. The garden survived the first few, but succumbed to the last one. … Continue reading

Season of mists and…blah, blah, blah…

So, Autumn has arrived. Here in the UK, it’s arrived with sunny days and fairly warm temps, but I’m not ready to let summer go yet. I’m a summer baby and seem to thrive best with warmer weather and brighter skies. Put me on a beach with a pina colada and I’m a happy woman 🙂

Well, if we have to have autumn (and by extension, winter) it’s currently not all bad. The trees are looking amazing in their burnished glory, and there are some interesting little late-flowering plants popping up in the garden.

20180910_100958Walks with Vivvy are always interesting, but this autumn I’m finding them even more so. A city girl born and bred, I absolutely love living in the country. Around the village where we live there are fabulous walks, and they’re always journeys of discovery.

Recently, I discovered a new walk to the next village a few miles away which took us by acres of what I’ve named the bamboo fields, although I’m sure they’re not (Kit will probably put me right on this). I spent a fun ten minutes playing hide-and-seek with Vivvy, and now, when we go that route, she runs into the bamboo and looks out to me as if to say “come on mum, time to play”.20180910_101131

I also found plump, juicy blackberries growing wild and grabbed a couple of handfuls in an unused poo-bag (sorry) so we had a lovely apple and blackberry crumble at supper that night 🙂 There are copious amounts of sloes at the moment, reminding me that one day I’m going to attempt sloe gin (side note: I spent years thinking the sloes were blueberries – don’t laugh, city girl, right?)
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So, all in all, I can’t complain about the demise of summer. At least, not quite yet 🙂

I’m Back and Then Gone Again

Jillian here. Now that I’ve wrestled the computer out of Hobbes’ hands, I can tell you all about the fab time I had with Laurie, Lavada and Laurie’s husband. We had a wonderful visit. Mark is a master at making his own apple cider- he even built the press- how cool is that? I very much enjoyed the taste of it and killed a two liter of it while I was there.  He also has a superb garden and we ate fresh from it as well.

Speaking of gardens, I have to tell you, Lavada has shared pictures of hers with us but man, those do not to the place justice. She has created a beautiful outdoor oasis and she should be very proud of it. It has a definite wow factor.

They fed me so much good food while I was there, I got quite spoiled. Lots of great meals and laughter around the table. It was an easy visit and just like home. Except the cooler air was much appreciated. I’m glad they arranged that foe me. 😉

Highlights (as Hobbes said) were the fish market- with beautiful flowers- the space needle, Mt. Rainier (where I got super car sick- bleh), the capitol building and the awesome scenery and the old houses we looked at.

The weirdest thing about the trip was meeting so many people from Florida and even a guy from Alabama who’s dad is best friends with someone I know. How wild is that?

A great trip and now it’s time to plan one where we can all meet up!!

I am in Rhode Island as you read this. Visiting my son and daughter-in-law. Hadn’t  been anywhere in a year and now two trips in two months. That’s how I roll.

Amazing Maize and Other Halloween Traditions by Valerie J. Patterson

I’m trapped.  I can’t get out.  I see no exit, and there are no windows.  I’m surrounded by, well, corn!  And it was a great experience!

A couple years ago I took my Sunday school class to a fright farm—not to see ghouls or goblins, but rather to go through a maize maze.  Have you ever been?  Yes?  Then you know how much fun they are.  No?  Then search for one in your area and go!

The Maize Maze I went to was 7 and a half acres of corn, 2 and a half miles of trails, and had one way in and one way out.  The brochure said to allow 4 hours to get through the maze.  Throughout the maze, there were food and beverage stations, tuba phones (for getting help from farm employees), bridges used to gain a vantage point to search for your next step forward, and clues to solving the puzzle, the mystery of the maze.  It was an excellent adventure!  Just when you were certain you were headed in the right direct, BAM!, you hit a dead end and have to retrace your steps.  The stalks of corn are taller than you are, so you have no choice but to press on and follow the path not only looking for the way out, but also searching for the next clue that will allow you to solve the mystery of the maze.

Before you know it, you’re so engrossed in your endeavor that hours fly right by and you find yourself at the exit.  As you step across that finish line, you turn and peer one last time at this humungous maze and you know that you’ve achieved success.  You conquered the maze and solved the mystery.

I really enjoy autumn, and Halloween can be and should be a fun holiday.  I’m not much for fright houses, horror movies, or monsters, but I enjoy searching for the perfect pumpkin and then carving it.  I like hayrides and bonfires.  I like the rich earthy tones associated with autumn gardens and decorating, and I adore masquerade parties!  I like the appeal of the mask hiding your identity until someone figures it out and gives you away.

When I was a sophomore in school my youth group had a masquerade party.  I worked and worked on my costume.  My mom helped me.  I sewed a hula hoop into the waistband of a pair of men’s trousers, then sewed a dress shirt to the outside of the waist of the trousers, making a one piece outfit.  I pulled my hair into a bun and scrunched it under a work hat.  Added a pair of work boots, and took some ashes from the fireplace, which I smeared on my cheeks.  I left my eyeglasses at home and had my dad drop me off a block from the youth center so no one could see me with him and gain access to my identity.

Inside the center, I walked over to a group of my girlfriends and waited.  They each turned and looked at me.  “Great costume.” I heard from several of them.  I nodded and smiled, but didn’t dare speak.  I was out to see how long it took them to figure out who I was.  Eventually, they wandered away from me and I heard, “I thought Valerie was coming tonight?  Anyone see her?”

I smiled and refrained from squealing.

One of the cute guys asked me to dance, which completely took me by surprise because I was not wearing an attractive outfit by any stretch of the imagination.  Plus, whenever I danced, the hula hoop sort of caused my costume to go in every direction at once.

He kept asking me questions, which I kept refusing to answer.  A slow song came on and he actually reached an arm around me, somehow avoiding the hula hoop.  “You’re really tiny,” he said, and I tried not to beam with pleasure.  He said something about the hula hoop being between us, but I didn’t hear it.  I was trying to keep my composure.

The song ended and he asked, “Not going to tell me who you are?”

I shook my head and he shrugged as he went back to join his friends—our friends.

That night I won most original costume, and I was pleased with that.  Then the end of the evening came and the award for most mysterious was still up for grabs.  I was called to the stage along with three others.  When the youth pastor came to me and handed me first prize, I was thrilled.  I’d pulled it off.  Then it happened.  A deep voice called out from the crowd.

“Hey Swanson?  Is that you?”

My head snapped up and my eyes darted to my left, locking with my earlier dance partner.  I’d been found out.  I got to keep my prize nonetheless, plus it was the end of the night, so I was fine.  I left the stage and headed toward my friend.

“How did you know?” I asked.

“Your eyes.  There was something familiar about your eyes when we were dancing.  It was while you were up on stage that I realized I was used to seeing them behind glasses.”

When my dad came to get me, he asked me how it went.  I told him it was one of the best parties I’d been to, but that it was also one of the loneliest evenings I’d ever spent while in a huge group.  My refusal to speak for fear of giving myself away proved to alienate me from my friends.  No matter.  It’s all about being mysterious.  It’s all about the masquerade!

What’s your favorite autumn activity?  Bobbing for apples?  Trick or Treating?  Hayrides?  Regardless, I hope you have fond memories of the activities and the people who were with you.

Until next time, I hope you have a little mystery in your autumn days, and plenty of blessings to warm you at night.

Home Spun Fun

GladysLater this month, on the 20th, a family friend of ours turns 99 years old. Gladys is a woman whom I very much admire. She still lives in the house she and her then new husband moved into 70 years ago. Sadly, we lost Gene a couple years ago. Now, Gladys’ son and daughter-in-law live with her, but not because she needs oodles of help. She still gets around with the aid of her walker. She still cooks, cleans, and gardens. And she’s sharp as a tack. Trust me. She asked me something over a year ago and asked me again a couple months ago if I’d managed to do what she asked me. lol. No memory issues here.

She’s got a funny bone a mile long, she’s stalwart, and she’s also a loving matriarch to her family. This past weekend, she had the honor of being the Grand Marshall in her small home town’s Apple Cider Festival parade. You see, her town is also 98, so they grew up together.

Gladys1Gladys wasn’t only honored at the invitation, she had a plan. She wasn’t riding in some fancy automobile. Not her, nosiree. She got on the phone, called around, and found a Model T (and it’s owner) to be driven in. The car, the town, and it’s matriarch—all the same age.

We knew this parade was one not to miss so made the 1.5 hour drive to see Gladys in action. It was one of the funnest days we’ve had in ages. I’d forgotten how fun small town parades are. Only one high school, so only one band. But the elementary school marched, also, as well as a group of kids on dirt bikes and quads. A local car club, along with princesses and queens.  Rounding out the parade were the John Deere tractors. LOTS of John Deere Tractors. And log trucks. IMG_20131005_112345

Afterward, there were pie baking (and eating) contests, cider pressing, and food and crafts lining the streets to enjoy.

This was Americana at its best.  No, that’s not true. This kind of goodness isn’t limited to America. It’s worldwide. So I hope you get to enjoy your Autumn fruits and labors with a celebration of all that is good.

And Happy Birthday, Gladys. Almost 99 years young. Thanks for being such an inspiration to us all!