Monday, 31 October 2011


Autumn's toes are getting chilly now. The fine ladies of this town are sacrificing hair for hat. The mornings are beautiful when at last they open their eyes to us.

And the colours bring joy enough to see us through to the other side.

In our school playground, apples patiently queue in an admirably English manner. Some have arrived in such number they burst from every door of a car; others are nestled in a basket with just a few friends.

All are destined to be pressed. Here Yuli Somme, felter extraordinaire and creator of the most beautiful natural woolen shrouds, blithely ignores the instructions written on the funnel - with no unfortunate consequences.

The resultant mush is packed in a stack of gridded tins lined with muslin,

each carefully wrapped,

then squeezed by young and old working the tightening wheel. The nectar is carefully poured into bottles 

and the leftovers taken away by the firstcomer for excellent composting.

This is our freezer. More is in our fridge. More still is in our systems already, keeping the doctor away, we hope.

Fueled by this seasonal sugar bounty, we have been getting creative. Pickle spent ages using the stick end of the brush to make the most beautiful design of dots and dashes. Them she stuck the brush in the black and covered it all up. I make art because I love the process, but it is awesome to watch Pickle do it with not a scrap of regard for the finished result (or the laundry).

I followed a recipe (almost unheard of) and made perfect playdough. We stuck our fingers deep into it, giggling a bit nervously when we couldn't see them any more. We made rings. We made moons and sausages and a little teacup. Then we squidged it all back into a lump, which was the most fun part.

Other harvests have come our way. Perfect horse mushrooms from fields around an organic farm

and a bumper haul from Chagfood: pumpkins galore plus our regular veg box, and an evening of feasting, fire and Baba Yaga storytelling from Coyopa with musical accompaniment from Rima Staines (who, it turns out, can make an accordion snore!). The children claimed they weren't scared. I can only say they must be fools.

All that has got us in the mood for Hallowe'en tonight. Many years I've celebrated Samhain in a (fairly) serious and sacred way. But this year I'm creating a new ceremony. I'm taking my favourite little witch (seen here flying her broomstick backwards - maybe it's a stunt broom) trick-or-treating.

And if any children come to our door, this is what awaits them:

Happy Hallowe'en and Samhain blessings on you all. Let's make it through!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Our weddings

 Two years ago, Thomas and I got married. Here we are, landing together on a new side of the brooms. We jumped three times, which isn't easy on wet grass, up a hill, in fishnets, at four months pregnant, but Thomas had a tight grip on me and our dads were under strict instructions to ignore the tradition of lifting the brooms higher at the last minute.

 A marvelous assortment of folk made it up the biggest hill around these parts (although there was a great amount of complaining from some of our city friends), to stand in a cloud, listen to poems and vows (and to make a community vow to support our marriage) and sing 'All You Need is Love' - some adding kazoo accompaniment. Kids clambered about the rocks, dogs chased each other, relatives got smudged for the first (and no doubt last) time, there was laughter and everybody cried - although no-one more than me!

As one of our many personalisations of a traditional ceremony, our wedding cake was a cheese cake - as in, a pile of cheeses. And here we are on top, as modeled by Thomas's very talented sister. (I may have bigged-up my pregnancy breasts over the phone!)

In truth, I'd spent the whole morning wondering how I'd get through being the centre of attention and unable to slink off without people noticing. In the event, the crowd seemed so much less important than telling Thomas why, of all you splendid people out there, I wanted to spend all my days and all my nights; my troubles and moods and joys and triumphs with him. Actually, it felt quite private - for all their looking and listening, and all our welcoming and sharing, no-one else could really experience how it was for us to stand on our hill and speak our hearts.

And this is one of my favourite photos of the day (honestly I had no idea it was raining at the time!):

Famously, Thomas's grandad said it seemed like every witch in town was there - but was told, No, one of them had to be away looking after her dad. I don't think he was impressed.

Later, we had the greatest bring and share feast, danced the night away to The Mordekkers (friends from Tipi Valley in Wales) and, when almost everyone had gone home, we sat around a fire and let the night embrace us. Then I remembered I was pregnant and exhausted, so we trotted off home to find our entire front room full (as in stacked almost to the ceiling!) with gifts. Every time I think of the generosity of so many people (the friend who re-made my dress repeatedly has vowed to never work with a pregnant woman again!) I well up. Blessed, blessed, blessed, and most of all by the land which held us as we made these vows.

A few days later, we did the legal version. Thomas even wore a shirt and I wore a red dress through which Pickle visibly writhed.

There was a tricky moment when we were asked, before we went into the wedding room, whether we had ever considered ourselves married. I guess this is to deal with foreign marriages, but Thomas is the most compulsively honest person ever, so I quickly said we understood that we were not legally married and never had been. Thomas frowned, but agreed that was true and they let us carry on. Phew!

The sun was out and we had fun (although I couldn't look at Thomas as I said my vows because I was heroically suppressing a giggling fit!).

There were suspicions that we weren't taking this ceremony as seriously as our hill wedding, but I can't think what they were based on. Here we are at our tea and cake reception:

And so off to honeymoon, feeling one way of living sink away...

and another roll in...

This year, we had made grand plans to have a celebratory cream tea (click on link if not from England) in the extraordinarily posh hotel a few miles from us. Despite knowing that David Bowie has stayed there, we decided in the end that, no matter how hard we scrubbed, our inherent earthiness would show through and we'd feel out of place. The chances of there being NO mud or leaves attached to ANY of us are small. (Right now, despite having had her face washed, Pickle has baked bean juice on her nose.) So, we ate at a local pub - just the happy three of us - on the day and later shared a meal with a couple of friends at Fingle Bridge Inn, then took a mini walk down the river.

We scrambled about, played Pooh sticks, chitchatted and sat about in the glorious sunshine on a handy log...

...admiring the view and sneaking love glances.

And so the days flow on, filled with art and washing up and colder, moodier skies... and new projects.

I have swum up to the Etsy shore and set up a little camp. There's a link to it in the right-hand column, or you can step through here. To my great delight, only 36 hours after arriving in Etsy-land, I made my first online sale. 'I wish' has been carefully wrapped and sent to its new home. A good thing indeed. Now all I have to do is list everything else - a mammoth task as I'm planning to sell all the paintings I have stacked around our house.

And finally, Pickle was having a happy toddle around our local re-use/recycle centre when she spotted 'Dada':

Arms open for a cuddle, she couldn't resist him. Now she carries Dada around our house and even insists that visitors give him a cuddle. Thomas is delighted that she perceives him as so muscly, and I would love to know his real name. All we know is he's a WCW figure. What a man I have married :o).

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