Gillian Monks

'Making Fairytales Come True'

Tag: Springtime

First Harvest Of The Year

Tree Felling at Cae Non

Coppiced elder as sustainable fuel source, ready for cutting into logs.

Harvest can happen at any time of year and we are just in the process of bringing  in our first crop for 2020.

In these uncertain and worrying times, it is wonderful to be able to still participate – and write about – something normal and positive. This last two weekends, my family and I have begun harvesting our first ‘crop’ of sustainable fuel from our land at Cae Non. Due to the almost continuous rain this past few months it is much later in the spring than we had originally intended but, despite the hindrance, all is now going very well. Even so, we have been working under quite difficult conditions, wading about in a good six to nine inches of water, mud and slutch and regularly getting our feet firmly stuck fast. Mud and cold water have splashed everywhere and tool handles have had to be regularly wiped clean, too slick and slippy to handle without the danger of the them flying out of our hands.

Our much-loved five acre plot officially came into our possession in June, 2011. The following January I spent some interesting days out in the bitingly cold wind and rain/hail planting my first small stand of willow. I had no idea what I was doing and set the willow whips far too close together – lesson learned for next time! We also put in a small patch of alder at the same time and these have also just been cut for the first time.

I cannot say that it has not grieved me to see our first trees – which I have talked to, loved and encouraged to grow – felled to the floor, but I always knew that that was our plan. I know that they will rise again. Indeed they are already doing so! We have not clear-felled but left some of the trees so that the land and the wild life aren’t impacted too drastically. It will be another seven years before they are coppiced again and the landscape will flow backwards and forwards between sparsely dotted with trees and more heavily wooded; a constantly changing palette of colour, shape and texture.

Tree Felling at Cae Non

Car loaded up, plus fuel can, saw and the ubiquitous picnic basket with milk can sticking up – my menfolk need their teas and coffees!

In the meantime, my son has been wielding a nifty little petrol-driven chainsaw; otherwise it would have taken us all week to fell, trim and log our first crop. We shall transport the logs back to where we live a car-load at a time. The first lot arrived yesterday. The car was not as full as it could have been but once my menfolk noticed the bulging tyres, (green alder is a very dense and heavy wood) they decided that they had packed in enough!

Meanwhile, I was left back at home to clear out a part of our very ancient greenhouse where the firewood is to be stored. Over the summer it will dry out naturally to a certain degree, to be finished off to a kiln-dried consistency later in the year in our Aga ovens. (Agas are simply wonderful! They fulfill SO many domestic functions – apart from cooking – mine is like having an extra member of the family in residence.

It was a glorious spring day… washing was flapping animatedly on the line, the blackbird and robin were conducting a duet from the top of next-door’s fir tree, I spotted my first bumble bee of the year and the blossom on the cherry tree is just beginning to emerge.

Tree Felling at Cae Non

Beginning to stack the first load – there will be many more to come.

Of course, there is always a downside to everything. In this particular case, I was so enamoured by the energy and beauty of the natural world reawakening that I didn’t pay enough attention to what I was doing. Suddenly, I found myself doing a brief pas de deux with a knobbly stick which had become entangled in my skirts and the next thing I knew, I had fallen flat on my face on the unforgiving concrete floor. I will not dwell upon the loud groaning noises which I made for a while before the pain and nausea subsided and I was able to pick myself up. Suffice it to say that today I have knees which are an impressive grey, yellow and red, an arm wonderfully grazed and I feel as if I have been hit by a bus.

But the first of our logs are in! A little insurance and assurance against the possible freezing temperatures of next winter. Meanwhile, I shall thoroughly enjoy concentrating on and enjoying the spring. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I hope that you can stay well and do the same.

 

Full Steam Ahead!

Flower at BodnantI have suddenly realised that it is several weeks since I last posted here… and the reason why is because I have been working very hard on my next book, ‘Spring In Your Step’!

I have just completed Chapter Seven out if a possible twelve and am around the 47,000 word mark, so I am now ell over half way. More importantly, I am really enjoying what I am writing and am so excited about what I shall eventually be sharing with you all.

The chapter I have just written is all about the ‘Mother’ figure of springtime – and that covers the natural world, our genetic mothers and Mother’s Day/Mothering Sunday and the feminine within us all. In mentioning Lady Day – how many of you know what it actually is? – I found myself attempting to explain the vagaries of the various changes in our calendar over the years. And did you know that the name for ‘simnel cake’ actually stems from the very fine flour with which it was originally made? I was also drawn to share how just nine years ago, at this exact time of year, we came to discover – and eventually purchase – our own little piece of wonderful wilderness at Cae Non.

I am really, really hoping to have this next book finished by sometime in May and out in the shops by October or November – well in time for next Christmas and the following spring, so that you can all join me on the next adventure through a new year and a new season in 2021!

Meanwhile, the spring of 2020 is well and truly upon us, despite the all the wind and water. Birds are singing and nesting, buds are swelling, flowers are blooming.

Wherever you are, I hope that the season is treating you kindly. If the weather is causing you problems and heartache, my love goes out to you.

Onwards and upwards, as the saying goes – here is looking forward to all the new life and new growth which typifies this most beautiful and special time of the year.. with my love.

Gwyl Ffraid Hapus!

Gwyl ffraid 2019

A crisp day of earliest spring!

A very happy Gwyl Ffraid/Imbolc to you all! After a wonderful walk along the river with the family this afternoon, we are toasting in front of a roaring blaze… only white candles lit for light… peace and stillness at this pivotal time between the end of winter and the earliest stirrings of spring. Enjoy!

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