Friday, January 27, 2012

Are you ready for the Big Garden Birdwatch?


Here in the UK, members of the public are asked once a year to spend an hour counting the birds in their garden (or park or any other place) and submit the figures to help map the population of birds in Britain.
The Big Garden Birdwatch is on this weekend (28th and 29th January 2012)!

Here is what the website says:

"For over 30 years, we've been asking you to count the birds in your garden – and you've been brilliant at it.

Every year, even more of you join in with the count, and 2011 turned out to be one of our best yet. Thank you.

With results from so many gardens, we are able to create a 'snapshot' of bird numbers in each region. This is important because we've been able to see that some of our birds are disappearing in scary numbers.

We've lost more than half our house sparrows and some three-quarters of our starlings. And your results have helped highlight these dramatic declines.

However, it isn't all doom and gloom - these surveys help us spot problems, but more importantly, they are also the first step in putting things right.

We look forward to finding out what you've seen."
You can register here and download your bird sheet.
Give it a go!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

robin's song

A gloomy, damp, grey
winter’s day.


But the robin’s song tells of
things to come.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Rosehip tea

I managed to find a few rosehips left on a rose bush today. (And no, they didn't look as plump and fresh as the ones in the picture above ...)

Robin Harford's website 'Eat Weeds' gives instructions on how to dry rosehips for tea making.
Can't wait until next autumn now!

Dandelion Coffee

Now I love real coffee like the next person, but as part of my new, more relaxed lifestyle I have decided to have no more than two cups of coffee in the morning - which leaves the rest of the day to other interesting beverages.
Last year we tried making dandelion coffee, which was interesting and quite tasty (although nothing like the real thing!). I have used up our supply and will have to make some more ...

I went out in the garden and found a few straggly dandelion plants. (Not the best time of year for weeds - apparently). The roots are thin - but it's better than nothing!

Step 1:
Wash the roots and remove the leaves. Dry the roots for a couple of days on a radiator or somewhere else fairly warm and dry.

Step 2:
Chop the roots into pieces 1/2" (1cm) long and roast in the oven on gas mark 6/ 200°C /400F for 30 minutes or until they look brown in colour and have a nutty, roasted aroma. They should be completely dry at this stage.

Step 3:
Allow the dandelion root to cool then finely grind, and roast a second time in an oven for another 10-15 minutes on gas mark 4/180°C/350F. Cool and store in airtight container.

To brew the coffee:

For each mug of coffee (usually 200ml or 8 fl oz of water), use 1-2 teaspoons of the roasted root.
Add the root to simmering water and continue to simmer while covered for 7–15 minutes.
Strain into a mug and add sugar and milk as required.

What'ya think?

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Today it took my fancy to go foraging.

It's not the best time of year - especially since I was after anything I could turn into a herbal tea ...
I was looking for rosehips, but found that the recent frost had made them look black and shriveled. I should have done this months ago!

Instead I collected some firewood. Not much - just as much as my bag could hold, but enough for one comfortable evening by the wood-burning stove.

Then I found some Yarrow, which makes a nice herbal tea. Again, not the best time to collect it, but I found  handful of fresh new leaves (possibly because of the mild winter we have had so far.

Take a few leaves, pour over boiling water and leave to stand for 5 minutes or so. Add honey to taste.


Saturday, January 21, 2012

The role of meditation in mental health

Thanks to Sr. Ellie Finlay of St. John's Center for Spiritual Formation I found this interesting article on the role of meditation in mental health.
"Clinicians are increasingly looking for effective, preventative, non-pharmacological options to treat mental illness. And meditation techniques – such as quietening the mind, understanding the self and exercising control – show promise as an alternative tool to regulate emotions, mood and stress.
Meditation enhances positive emotions and mood, and appears to make people less vulnerable to the stresses and upsets of daily life. Research shows that meditators are better at regulating immediate responses to negative stimuli and have reduced activity in the amygdala – a region implicated in response to threat. These findings reflect greater emotional resilience among meditators as well as less psychological distress and anxiety."

Friday, January 20, 2012

Couch to 5K

I have enjoyed jogging on and off for some years now. I love the rhythmic (almost meditative) movement that comes with running and the freedom to let the mind roam.

'Couch to 5K' programmes aim to ease a complete novice into running - up to a level required to run 5 kilometers (or approx. 3 miles). That's equivalent to about 30 minutes of steady running.

There are many 
'couch to 5K' programmes available on the Internet. Just google it.
I particularly like this one designed by the NHS. Apart from its staggered running programme (including downloads for mp3) it offers a lot of advice and support.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Friends and signs of growth

Following my recent discussions with my husband, I have spoken to my friends at church to explain that I will be reducing the amount of time and energy I spend there. I am giving up my role on the church council. I have been blown away by how gracious and understanding and supportive people have been. True friends!

A good friend, who happens to be a pastor himself, gave me this counsel:

"It really is threatening to lose one's spouse to a God one doesn't personally believe even exists.

My own advice to you remains that despite the needs of your church, the people God has placed in your life are to be of your first concern.  That would be (in order) your family, your neighbours, your greater community, and extended ultimately to the world.  The church's role is to equip you for that ministry.
And as much as it is also important that you also help to equip others, doing so is not a substitute for the actual ministry you are entrusted with, beginning with your husband and your children.  Love on them as God loves them.  And let the Spirit guide you from there."

Sounds like good advice to me.

I am ready to move on!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Frosty day

This morning I got out early to catch the frost before the sun put an end to it.

The snapdragons in the garden are trying to hold out in the frost. They should have gone long ago, but with the mild winter so far they are still in flower.

The rosemary is also frosted over, although this plant is hardy and won't mind the cold weather. 

The teasel in the field is slowing thawing and showing its 'sunny side'.

And the sheep don't seem to mind the cold weather as long as grass is still in good supply. That's what those woolly coats are good for!

Saturday, January 14, 2012


For some time now have I started my day with exercising.

The wii fit introduced me to Yoga - something which I have not done for many, many years. So I have started replacing my morning exercise routine with gentle Yoga stretches and postures. I have found this 21-day-Yoga challenge, which is giving me a clear and easy introduction to Yoga.

I follow the
se exercises with a time of meditation, reading the Bible and prayer.
I was recommended a 'Christian meditation' method by a friend. The principles of focusing on ones breath is similar to other methods of meditation, but the words repeated in ones mind is Maranatha, an Aramaic word meaning 'Come, Lord'.

To aid the meditation and to prevent myself from distracting myself by counting the repetitions I made myself these simple meditation beads - made from some wooden beads which I still had from another project. The bracelet consists of 27 beads, knotted at an interval of three beads. With relatively slow breathing and each bead representing one count of 'Maranatha', moving round the bracelet takes approximately 13-15 minutes.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Poverty & Homelessness Action Week 2012

Poverty & Homelessness Action Week 2012 will run from 28 January to 5 February.
Father, we thank you that Jesus came to break down barriers. He did not see the migrant or the settled, the housed or the homeless, the employed or the unemployed; He saw and loved the person. Forgive us when we put up barriers between ourselves and others; help us show love to all without constraint. Help us, your church, to build communities without barriers, where all are valued because all are made in your image. In Jesus’ name, Amen
For more information click here.

Monday, January 9, 2012

First Crocus

Today, on my lunch time walk I spotted - to my amazement - the first solitary crocus!
I pretty yellow one.
I didn't have a camera to hand, so this picture will have to do.

I found this poem, which I thought suited very well:

"First a howling blizzard woke us.
Then the rain came down to soak us,
And now before the eye can focus,

(Lila Rogers)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Advent Wreath

Hedgewitch's post (Earth and Tree: Evergreen) prompted me to write about our Advent wreath.
Every year I make a wreath to hang from our door.

Going out in the middle of winter to find greenery and berries is just a great reminder that life does not stop - not even in the darkest, coldest time of year.
It reminds me that life and light and warmth will return!

I guess that's a good Christmas message too:

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

(John 1:5)

I am not sure what all the plants in this year's wreath are called, but I know that there is ivy (leaves and berries), holly, Clematis vitalba (also called Old Man's Beard), cypress and hawthorn.

Walking together

Here is something my husband and I really share - our love for being out in the open, for walking together and for foraging.

Today was a brisk but sunny day. Perfect for going for a walk.

We are lucky to live in a small town with easy access to a number of pretty places within walking distance. We have the River Great Ouse, the Grand Union Canal and the old Iron Aqueduct, plus many other little areas which are worth exploring and walking around in.

What I like about walking this time of year, is the reminder that even in the middle of winter life has not stopped. Even when things seem to slow down, what they are REALLY doing is gathering strength to spring back to life again!

We found some Field Blewits (or Lepista Saeva), which are edible. Perhaps we will have a fry-up a bit later ...