I’ve been reading about this part of the year, from mid August until mid September as being a season in itself. I’ve seen it called ‘long summer’ and ‘Indian summer’ This in-between time, the long, lazy, hazy days of late summer can be totally exhausting. We are caught inbetween the relaxed energy of holidays and the hectic fresh-start feelings of a new school term. This can lead to exhaustion and overwelm if we don’t give in to it and carve out plenty of time to rest and relax.
Long summer… a time of the Earth element. Of slowing down to embrace the quiet that comes with the last breath of heat, the calm that preceded the changing winds of Autumn.Asia Suler One willow apothecary.
I’m definately feeling the ‘long summer’ exhaustion. I’m often finding myself totally spent. My parenting cup is empty. I’ve had my kids at home 24/7 for over 5 months now. I’m all out of ideas to entertain them. But I’m also very apprehensive about them returning to school. As much as I’m desperate for some time alone to think my own thoughts, I know I’ll miss the kids dreadfully and worry about them returning to school come September.
The arrival of September also feels like a reality check. What is next for me? I’ve been so preoccupied with the pressing demands of my role as mother, that I’ve been able to push thoughts about the future to the back of my mind.
September often feels like a second start to the year. I find it a great time to re-access my plans and start new habits or set new aims for the remainder of the year. I’m not yet feeling the excitement that I often feel in September but I’m hoping that will come as the month progresses.
This month’s blog post encourages you to take a peaceful walk alone, make a land art mandala to mark the turning of the seasons, pick and play with blackberries, try making calendula oil and learn about the permaculture principle ‘catch and store energy’.
Go on a nature walk – Walking alone to cultivate a peaceful mind.
How connected do you feel to the land near where you live? How often do you use the wild spaces near your home? Do you find walking brings you more peace in your life?
For me, the daily walk has become an unbreakable habit that I really love. I often walk with friends or family but sometimes I like to walk alone too. I find it really important thinking time and it keep me calm, balanced, happy and peaceful.
The following activity works best if you don’t have to think too much about your route. So I encourage you to head out for a walk somewhere you are very familiar with. Try to consciously encourage your mind to be still. I find it easiest to still my mind while engaging in physical movement, so walking is perfect for this type of mindfulness.
As you walk, concentrate on the motion of your body, how do your feet feel? How do your arms feel? How does your head feel? Scan your body as you walk and look for areas of tension that you can relax a little. Focus on the physicality of walking. Really be in your body, put your focus firmly back into the physical world and allow your mind to settle and become still.
Don’t worry when your mind wanders and you find yourself thinking mundane thoughts, you will, this is normal. Every time you notice your attention has drifted, just gently return to focussing your mind on the movement of your body. Enjoy your walk and the peace it brings you.
Try a forest school activity – Make a mandala.
One of the practices that keeps me rooted and linked to the cycle of the year is marking the equinoxes and solstices. Mabon the Autumn equinox falls on September 22nd. This is the point in the year when days and nights are the same length and from now onwards we have a little less daylight and a little more darkness. This pattern continues until the Winter equinox on 21st December when we reach the darkest day and then gradually begin to creep towards the light once more.
A lovely activity that you may wish to try is marking these special points in the year by making some simple land art such as a natural mandala. Collect seasonal objects from nature and arrange them in a way that is pleasing to you. Making a beautiful pattern with natural objects on the land feels like a suitable way of saying thank you to a special wild space.
I’d love to see pictures of any mandalas that you make. You can email email@example.com or tag emilymuddyboots on Instagram.
Get creative – Blackberry tie dye.
If you have been along to one of my sessions during one of the autumn seasons, you will probably have noticed my obsession with blackberries! I love to forage for, eat, cook with and get creative with them! I love them so much that I’ve even named my new puppy ‘Bramble’ after this amazing wild plant.
One of my favourite craft activities is to do blackberry tie dye. You will need to collect blackberries then wash and crush them up. A thick stick and a cup work well for this. Add a splash of water if you need more juice. Prepare your fabric (white cotton is best) by folding, tieing or twisting and adding elastic bands tightly. Put your fabric into the cup with the juicy blackberry mixture. Leave this to seep and absorb the colour for at least a few hours, even overnight if you can.
Try experimenting with vinegar or bicarbonate of soda to get pink and blue tones too from your blackberry dye. Then open out and dry your fabric. Adding some salt to the mix could help to set the colours so it stays vibrant for longer. Have fun playing with blackberries and getting messy!
Gardening activity – Calendula oil
My little boy used to have terrible trouble with his skin. In the hot and sticky days of summer he often got heat rashes that made him itchy and miserable. A good friend is a Naturopath working in New Zealand and she recommended I try Calendula cream on him. It worked amazingly well and as a natural product, it gets a big tick in my book.
I have been growing Calendula in my garden for a number of years now as a companion plant with my veggies and for edible flowers. I tend to let it self seed in the vegetable beds as I think its such a pretty and cheerful looking flower. I thought I would have a try at making my own products with Calendula.
I picked lots of flowers on a hot, dry morning and laid them out to dry in a warm place out of direct sunlight. So far the flowers have been drying for a week and I feel they need longer to lose all their moisture. Damp flowers make for potentially mouldy oils. Soon I will put my flowers into a kilner jar, cover them with an oil, almond, jojoba or coconut oil are recommended. This then needs to sit in a warm sunny spot for about a month for the properties of the flowers to infuse into the oil. The flowers then get strained out by passing the oil through a muslin, then it is ready to use. Calendula is a beautiful and useful plant that definitely earns a place in my garden.
Ideas for books to read – Field guides and buying second hand.
Knowing the name of something is a really important step along the road of understanding and loving the natural world. Once a child can recognise and name an oak tree, a dandelion, a kingfisher or a wren, that thing really becomes part of their world.
When teaching outdoors, I spend a lot of my time pointing out and naming things. This progresses onto asking the children if they know a name for something we spot. The next step is when children point things out to me! I love it when that begins happening and will never tire of looking at a frog, a leaf or a woodlouse showed to me by a proud child.
Field guides can really help with this process of identifying your finds. Kids love to collect and tick off. So instead of letting your kids be glued to their screeen spotting ‘Pokemon’ on your walks, I’d suggest you spot things in the real world! See if you ccan tick off 10 trees or count 5 birds or identify 2 wild flowers.
I’ve found almost all of my field guides second hand. I love a car boot sale, charity shop, school fete or yard sale for finding interesting books.
A Permaculture principle for September – Catch and store energy.
This principle is all about making the very best of what you have. I suggest you catch and store energy from your garden by building soil fertility, making the most of sunny corners, setting up a water capture system and harvesting your garden’s abundance in summer and autumn to save for leaner times.
As mentioned earlier, my energy levels are at an all time low, so I decided to store my energy and re-cycle an old blog post of mine that demonstrates this principle well. So I hope you enjoy the retro photos of us harvesting our apples nine years ago!
Early on a sunny Saturday morning, we gathered ladders, bags, willing helpers and got to work. We borrowed an apple press from the community allotment for the weekend. Our apple tree has done well and produced a good crop of apples. I think it is a Discovery variety, a good-sized apple, red and yellow skin, sweet tasting with a pinkish flesh. We plan to use most of them to make juice and cider, as well freezing apple puree and trying out dried apple rings.
My daughters are champion apple eaters, so they will definitely be eating as many fresh apples as possible over the next few weeks too. By processing this harvest, we are making the most of what our garden has to offer. There is nothing better than home pressed apple juice and fresh crunchy apples in the september sunshine.