I wrote about enjoying the signs of Autumn, but I didn't write about the signs of Winter. The beauty of the frosted leaves of the hedges. The winter sun gently warming the fields, creating a hazy mist that was still only enough to get me and Dinky out for a short dog walk each day... I mostly wanted to hole up in my caravan, eating mince pies warmed on the fire.
A friend told me that we get Winter wrong as a society - we expect the same output and schedule from ourselves all year round, when in reality the rest of nature slows down a little. It takes the shorter days as a sign to be out and about less. The lack of abundant food is a reason to rely on reserves, and the colder temperature is a fair rationale to do a little less - to feast on the gathered larder of Autumn; to grow slowly or die back. Not to flower or bear fruit, but to retreat into the safety of stasis and take stock of what one has. Spring, however is the opposite! The plants that disappeared underground into their bulbs, storing all their potential energy and growth for when the conditions are more favourable, are now pushing up through the earth. The trees and shrubs that had dropped their leaves and sat in wait with bare branches, are now covered with tiny new buds. The plants that fully died back didn't do so without ensuring the prosperity of their progeny by dropping their seeds, which are now sprouting. And the animals, such as the squirrels outside my window or the deer in the Rockaway Community Forest Garden, are rejoicing that the lean times are over and feasting and growing plump on the new growth all around them. We are a part of nature not apart from nature, and so the changing of the seasons affects us too. We've had our rest and gone within. We've taken stock of what we have, eaten what we can, and now is the time to burst forth with new life; to turn that potential we sequestered into action; to emerge and reconnect with everything around us; to grow. Which leads me onto how the Community Forest Garden has started to become a hive of activity again in the past few weeks. The hazel hedge has finished being laid. Much of the tangle of brambles has been cut back to reveal young fruit trees with paths winding between them. More trees have been planted, staked, mulched and protected from the artful and insistent nibbles of the deer. Work has started on a gradual sloped path from the bottom of the garden, plus new plants are popping up in our meadow. There are also some exciting creative and infrastructure projects coming up to get involved with and, of course, it's almost the time for growing new food, flowers, herbs and other plants, so there are plenty of beds to prepare. If you'd like to come along to the garden to enjoy the space and spot the signs of spring yourself, or wander about and take a look at what we've been doing, that would be wonderful! If you'd like to get involved and help out with anything then please join us on a Friday, we would be exceedingly happy to have you - just contact me below and I will add you to our weekly volunteer mailing list.