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MARCH: “Pincushion moss growing in the crevices of a stone wall. A stretch of freshly turned earth, fingered over by frost.”

“Pincushion moss growing in the crevices of a stone wall. A stretch of freshly turned earth, fingered over by frost.”   From “Ten Delights of a Garden” - part of her book, “Through the Garden Gate” by Susan Hill. Flowering currant - almost there! In this March 2023 blog, I’m writing about a fortnight of very wintry weather! I take the journey from the first of the month to the sixteenth and I hope that the second half of March will see off Winter and welcome Spring! Maybe the weather is less wintry where you are? So where are the daffodils please? We have so much snow at present that ours have all disappeared. Socrates, my old pipe-smoking friend and Granddad-Bobby-lookalike, is slowly disappearing too. Even the topiary is up to its terrible knobbly knees in snow! I love snow but, frankly, I had hoped for that first mild day of March by now! Crystal ball photography To My Sister It is the first mild day of March: Each minute sweeter than before The redbreast sings from the tall

June - "In the Dark, Seeing the Light"

A misty day in Caithness. Not typical June weather but mystical. I walked in it yesterday and loved it. Today I stayed indoors and did some sewing. Both activities gave me time to think. And I thought! When I read about the goings-on globally, my thoughts are a combination of sorrow, anger and desperation. When I walk and observe the signs around me, when I read about the natural world from the trees, the flowers, the animals, birds and insects, my thoughts are a combination of gratitude, delight and hope. If you've read my book, "Child Of The Earth", you'll know that I don't close my mind to the depreciation of the planet and the loss of safe environments for all species, but I am not going to waste a single moment of connectivity with what we still have. 

Little Bee House in the Border

As a child in the Isle of Axholme, I only knew the delights of the British countryside. As a student in Yorkshire, I began to understand the devastating effect of fast traffic and motorways on British wildlife - difficult for the farmers too. With a young family in Orkney, the rate of damage seemed to slow down. It wasn't slowing down of course. It seemed that way because, at the time, there were many new things to learn about. I was spotting things I'd never seen before and so the Orcadian landscape was fresh and captivating. Later, when we moved back to Lincolnshire, I was teaching the water cycle to children who simply couldn't accept that, if what I told them was the case, their parents were not permitted to water the garden - and why were they, the children, not allowed to have their summer water-play? Surely, if the water goes around, then it comes around too! 

Water may be badly managed. We've been back in Scotland for over a decade and we have no problem with water but relatives and friends south of the border tell me there are concerns there.

Everyone has a right to water. It was here at the beginning of all things. It is our birthright. Horribly, civilisation has developed in such a way that scant regard is given to the many peoples of the world who have little water. Land has been used to feather the already fluffy nests of the few, while millions hunger and thirst. For example, although some restrictions were eased last year, there remains in place an Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. This means that Palestinians are suffering food poverty and need help from the United Nations in order to feed their families. It is also worth noting that their fishing industry is under threat and their very culture is fragile - as a result of these privations.

A Tiny Egg Fell in a Tulip Leaf

I don't doubt that Britain will struggle to feed its population with quality foods in a little while. Those of us who will not buy food which has been produced with poor ethical standards are already aware that labelling is not necessarily honest. We need to do our homework! I don't eat mammals but I cook for the rest of the family every day and I trust our butcher - who also provides our eggs. Trust is a big thing. How terrible it is when someone or some company lets one down. Politically, that has been happening on both sides of the Atlantic in recent months. These are insecure times as we move tentatively out of lockdown. I have heard many people say that they "just don't know what to believe anymore". 

I think most of my family and friends are no less uncertain now than they were when Covid19 first came to Britain. 

We're almost on the outside of Europe - where we've had friends and allies for all of my adult life . We are bereft of thousands who would still have been with us had it not been for the pandemic. We have witnessed appalling police brutality in Trump's America - and have been reminded of the unfair treatment, by some of our own police force, towards black people. Now we are putting back into place all those things which were removed from our lives in order to keep us safe from Covid19 - even though the monster is still out there. So what just happened?

While this terrible sadness and fear has been gripping our lives, many have enjoyed the natural world through Spring 2020. Eyes and ears have been opened where they had been stoppered in the whirl of work and socialising before lockdown. For those of us who are uplifted by Nature, there is genuine excitement that many more have been able to connect with the natural world in the last few months. How many times have we thought, "Dear God, why can't everyone see the beauty here?" or " No one can ever hear a symphony which will melt the heart more successfully than this dawn chorus or birdsong at evening."

Meadow Cranesbill Before Orlando Squashed It!

This year, in our Caithness garden, the self-set between the large lilac and the red may tree has burst into blossom and is now making tiny fruits which are likely to be apples. If this is the case and they are apples, then we will have three apple trees - and they will all be encouraged without the use of chemicals. The other two are newbies too - a "James Grieve" and a "Discovery". 

My Granddad Bobby had an orchard with eating apples, cooking apples, pears and plums. (There was also a cherry tree in another part of his paradise of a Lincolnshire garden.) There was one apple tree there which had a singular flavour. It wasn't sharp. It wasn't sweet. It was a little bit almondy with a faint old-fashioned mustiness about it. The ripe apple was a lemony pale green in colour with a very faint pink blush in patches and some slight spotting - again only in patches. I suspect it was one of those age-old varieties which has mostly disappeared now. I'm not sure the present -day consumer of apples would enjoy it as I enjoyed it sitting in the garden chair and reading a book. What if? What if our self-set turned out to be one such? 

Herbaceous Border with Small Pear Tree

The new greenhouse is my gift to Keith for his 80th birthday. It was ably erected by our daughters. It took Gertie three days and on Wednesday she had help from Mabel. On Thursday she had help from Ethel. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. Keith's not innocent! (And, although he's now eighty, he no longer, apparently, needs protecting from Covid19.)

Since we left "Hope Cottage", I have admired other peoples' ponds with a twinge of regret that we, ourselves, were no longer neighbours to frogs, newts, dragonflies, even ducks and herons. Those last two were not welcome because they took the wildlife from our "Hope Cottage" pond - but, although they shouldn't have used our garden as a takeaway, they were still lovely to behold!

Where am I going with this?

For my birthday last week, I was given a pond by Gertie, Mabel and Ethel. They dug it out, shifted the soil, lined the pond, filled it, and are soon going shopping for suitable plants in order to complete the present. I am absolutely thrilled with it. Care will be taken when our very small granddaughter comes to play after lockdown. Can't wait! Just think what we may be able to show her there in years to come. In "For Every Child", the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in words and pictures, there is a marvellous double page spread to illustrate Rights No. 28 and 29. Underneath this, a part of the text petitions us to "Take care of our Earth - the flowers, the trees, the rivers, the seas -- and teach us how to care for it in our turn."

If everyone is as confused as I am by the state of things at present, it will be wonderful compensation to know that, in losing ourselves in the natural world, we are bound to improve the prospects of our ailing planet. To know it, is to love it.

Close up of a Spanish Lady