“Grey day, dark at four, hurry home, shut the door. Think of a time when there will be decorations on a tree. Tangerines and hot mince pies, a bulging stocking, a christmas surprise!Shirley Hughes
This is one of those poems from my childhood that goes on a loop around my head as we approch the dull days of early December. The light, warmth and joy of Christmas helps to pull us through these dark December days.
However, I’m actually not a huge fan of Christmas. I like to limit the pre- Christmas frenzy and we don’t put our Christmas tree up until around the winter solstice on December 21st. I like to decorate slowly in other ways, throughout December, putting up a few cards, the odd bauble and bringing some evergreen branches into the house.
This year I think Christmas will be particularly low-key. At time of writing we are in a nationwide lockdown, and next week we are heading into tier 3 locally, so who knows what the situation will be by Christmas. Not seeing much of family and friends will be the hardest thing, but we will have to embrace lots of virtual get togethers. I hope you all manage to find plenty of peace and joy in the simple things this December.
Winter teaches us that there is beauty in space and simplicity. Letting things go is vital to fuel future growth. With that in mind, this will be my last monthly blog post. I want to create space in my life for the next projects to bloom. I’ve really enjoyed sharing these seasonal thoughts with you all each month during this strange and scary year.
Thanks to everyone who has read my monthly blogs and I’m especially thankful to those of you who got in touch to offer support and feedback. It’s been a long and painful process of letting go and accepting the necessary changes Covid has brought to my business. I’m ready to move on, make space and nurture the green shoots of my new dreams as we approach a new year.
Sending you all so much love for a fabulous festive period and a joyful 2021.
Go on a nature walk at sunrise or sunset.
There is so much darkness in the U.K in December. On December 21st we finally reach the winter solstice or midwinter. This is the day with the longest night of the whole year. Here in the northern hemisphere, on this day, the north pole is tilted furthest away from the sun. So we experience the least amount of daylight all year. On December 21st, we have just under 8 hours of daylight and around 16 hours of darkness. The sun rises around 8am and sets around 4pm.
I suggest you make the most of the sunlight at this time of year and experience beautiful winter sunrises and sunsets by timing your walks to coinside with these natural lightshows.
Wrap up warm, take a hot drink and head out before sunset to watch the sky grow dark. Remember that darkness falls really quickly and ensure you are keeping safe. Take a friend, a torch and make sure you know your route back as you will probably be walking home in darkness!
Or you may prefer to get up and out the house early and greet the dawn. December sunrises can be so beautiful, so take your camera and capture what you see. Enjoy your sunrise or sunset walks, both are great times to spot wildlife too, so walk quietly and keep your eyes open for magical encounters with the natural world.
Get creative – Make your own Christmas cards
Hapa Zoma is the Japanese art of leaf or flower bashing! You can make simple prints from leaves, flowers and berries by placing them between pieces of calico and bashing them gently and carefully with a hammer. I really enjoy teaching this activity, it appeals to all ages, adults included. If you’d been to my sessions, you’ve probably had a go!
I have found a way to make a cute christmas card using ferns.
How to make a Christmas tree card.
- Take a walk to the woods and look out for patches of bracken or ferns. Remember the rule of 20, if you can see 20 of something growing, then it’s OK to take one. I also never take the first plant I see, so walk past the first one and find another. Take just a few leaves, as you only need a tiny bit of plant material for this activity. Be mindful of respecting the plant and the woodland and collect with care.
- You will need some white material, thin calico or cotton works well.
- You will also need a wooden block such as a chopping board, a wooden hammer or stone, some scissors and glue and some card.
- First make your hapa zoma print. Sandwich your greenery inside your material and place it onto your wooden board. Using your hammer or stone, bash gently and carefully all over it. You should see the colour and shape from your plants begin to be trasnfered to the material.
- When you are happy with your print, cut it out and stick it onto a card. You can add some details if you like. In the photos I added just a blob of golden glitter to be the star on the top of the tree. Maybe you feel less is more when it come to decoration, or maybe you’d like to go all out!
- Once everything is dry, write your card with a Christmas message and pop it into the post for your loved ones.
Try a Forest school activity – Animals in the woodland
Hibernation is a fascinating topic for children. How strange it seems to them that some animals sleep for weeks or even months on end and miss out on winter! A great way to talk to kids about hibernation is through making simple animal homes. Everyone loves making dens and tiny dens are the perfect way to begin.
I like to let each child choose a woodland animal. They don’t all have to be animals that hibernate, you could talk first about which do and which don’t. Then encourage the children to make suitable dens or homes for their animal. Talk about birds needing to be high up in trees, foxes in underground dens and hedgehogs snuggled up in homes under log piles.
This is a simple and enjoyable task that opens up lots of converstion and learning opportunities.
Gardening activity – Start planning your garden for 2021
Many of us have spent additional time in our gardens during 2020. Every inch of my garden has been used intensively by myself and my family! This doesn’t produce a tidy show garden in my case. Sharing my garden with three kids, two cats, chickens and a puppy, you can bet my garden is pretty muddy and chaotic right now. But it is loved. It is full of secret dens, places to sit in the sunshine, corners for digging in and plants that I’ve treasured.
My focus for 2021 will be on introducing more colourful flowers and lots of medicinal herbs. I’ve been growing vegetables for years, but as my life grows busier and busier, I’m now buying a weekly organic veg box instead and focusing on herbs and flowers as these bring me the most joy. A bunch of flowers on the table really lifts me and a few herbs can do the same for my meals or herbal teas.
What are you going to focus on growing in 2021?
A permaculture principle for December- Use and value renewable resources and services
Throughout this blog series, I have been looking at one of David Holmgren’s Permaculture principles each month. I have tried to apply a principle to my life and introduce them to you and help you understand a few applications for each principle. It has been a really interesting process for me. Here is a reminder of all twelve.
I have left this month’s principle towards the end, ‘Use and value renewable resources and services’ I think that is because I find it a tricky one. I can see how this applies to the big picture, for example using solar, wind and wave power. Or planting more tree than we cut down. But I find it harder to see how to apply it to my life in smaller domestic ways.
I actually think it is a Principle that encompasses a large area. ‘Use’ and ‘Value’ are two separate things, as are ‘resources’ and ‘services’. I think people are included in this mention of ‘services’. It is vitally important to value the services people provide for us. You could design the most perfect Permaculture garden in the world, but without the people to plant, tend and harvest it, it would never come to fruition. I have realised this year the importance of people and carefully designing around the people and their needs in all the designs that I undertake. People care is vitally important in designing a successful system.
This month, reflecting on this Principle I have been heating my house with wood and using solar-powered fairy lights. My husband and I have been sourcing, stacking and chopping wood. I have been grateful to have the technology to light up my garden using just the power of the sun.
I have also tried to give something back to other people. I know that consumer goods are not truly ‘renewable’ but they certainly can be better used than many of us manage. I have previously donated goods to the local women and children’s refuge and passed on bags of clothes to friends. These are goods that have served me well and I have valued. I like to think that they will now be used again rather than sitting in my attic or ending up in landfill.
Spending so much time in my home this year has led me to really value what I have and also to be slightly disgusted by how much I have. I’ve got far too many books, clothes, toys and belongings generally. One big aim for 2021 is to give lots of things away and don’t replace them!
Creating empty spaces makes me happy and allows potential for new life to be breathed into stagnant corners. I’m planning on really leaning into and embracing this philosophy as we move into a new year and a new cycle.