Tuesday 18 December 2007

'Getting To know You...'

A few weeks ago I was tagged by Ewa to reveal eight random facts about myself. I promised her I would do the post when I felt able to, so here goes.
The rules when you are tagged are that you must…

1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Write your post.
3. Choose eight more people to tag.
I am at my happiest when I am being creative. Whether it is within the home or in the garden, or, previously in my profession as a primary, then nursery teacher, my life has been full of restless creativity.
1. As a young child at school I was introduced to the art of embroidery. I remember my teacher drawing a set of traffic lights and showing me how to do stem stitches, which I did in the shape of a circle to represent each traffic light, in shades of red, amber and green. It was to adorn a cover for my reading book. The edges were sewn together using blanket stitch. I loved that cover and used it for years.

2. Also, at school, we were taught how to knit a little scarf which had a loop where one end slipped through the other. It sat neatly around the neck, rather like a cravat. I remember choosing Angora wool as I loved the feel of it. Besides, the lady in the shop had intrigued me when she said it came from Angora rabbits, and, as I loved my pet rabbit, that was more than enough reason to have it.

3. For Christmas, when I was five years old, I received a little blackboard and easel and a packet of coloured chalks. My brother drew me little bunches of green holly with red berries around the edges. Then he drew a huge Santa on his sleigh in the middle. We spent countless happy hours taking turns to draw pictures on that blackboard. By watching my brother I learned how to sketch.
4. As well cooking scrumptious meals for her family every day, my mother also enjoyed baking several times a week. These skills were more like hobbies rather than duties, as she perfected them to an art form. When I left home to begin my first teaching post in London, my flatmate and I were at that stage in our lives - late teens - where we always felt hungry enough after work to eat a horse. That’s when my interest in baking and cooking really took off, and the rest, as they say, is history.
5. A few years ago, when I retired, I decided to learn how to do watercolour painting. I began by painting flowers growing in our garden at Barleycorn. That way I felt I was completing the circle, from the planting of the seed which germinated and grew into beautiful flowers, to their final representation in my painting.

6. When I began courses on portraiture, it was only a matter of time before I fancied trying my skills at sculpture. I went to a seminar where I was shown how to make a clay head which I later sprayed with bronze paint and placed in the garden. He was meant to represent the Eastern Sun God, as he faced east and took on a golden appearance as the sun glistened on him early in the morning. But, during one very cold spell in Winter, parts of his face fell off, which means I will need to make another one sometime.
7. Two years ago I was delighted to learn that I would be able to participate in a silk painting class. Many of the skills I learned in my watercolour classes are transferrable to silk painting, though the latter is an art form in its own right. After dabbling for a little while, I painted a design with two Chinese dragons on a square of silk, which became a pretty little scarf.
8. Though as a child I never enjoyed posing in front of the camera, as an adult I became very interested in photography. When our boys were small I used to have the camera ‘at the ready’ to capture those ‘first moments’ in their lives. This September, when we were in China to celebrate the Tea Ceremony and Banquet of our elder son and his wife, I took a video using a camcorder, bought especially for their Oriental wedding. It was the first time I had ever used one. Though there was very little skill attached, basically a question of pointing it in the right direction, it is still a record of the happy occasion.
The beauty of learning these skills over a lifetime is passing them on to others, whether they be adults or children. The old adage rings true every time. If we don’t use our skills, we lose our skills, so we are duty-bound to share them.
The beauty of all things lives in the soul of the person who observes them.

Since everyone is so busy with preparations for the Christmas Season, I will refrain from naming eight people to be tagged, and open it up to anyone who would like to participate.
For the latest Barleycorn photos click here

Tuesday 27 November 2007

Barleycorn - Paradise For This Snail!

This is one of many stories
told by St. Francis to his followers
and it goes something like this . . .
The very first animal to appear
at the gates of heaven
was the snail.
St. Peter bent forward
tapping the snail with his staff,
and asked,
"What are you looking for here
my fine little snail?"
"Immortality" the snail answered politely.

Peter howled with laughter.
"Immortality! And just what
do you plan to do with immortality?"
''Don't laugh,' the snail countered.
"Aren't I one of God's creatures?
"Aren't I a son of God just like the Archangel Michael?
Archangel Snail,
that's who I am"
"Where are your wings of gold,
your scimitar,
the scarlet sandals
betokening your regality?"
Peter replied.
''Inside me,
asleep and waiting."
"Waiting for what?"
"Waiting for the Great Moment,"
replied the snail.
"What Great Moment?"
"This one now!"
said the snail.
And before he had finished saying 'Now'
he took a great leap as though
he had sprouted wings,
and he entered paradise. . .
St. Francis finished
by saying to his followers
"Do you understand?
We are just like Brother Snail.
Within us are the wings,
the scimitar and the royal sandals.
If we want to enter Paradise
we can at any moment.
We must simply want it
more than anything else
and we must be willing to take the leap . . . jump!"
To view the latest blooms at Barleycorn, click here.
To view the latest painting, click here.

Monday 19 November 2007

I Garden, Therefore I Am

Ode To Autumn
Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run
John Keats
Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.
Albert Camus
Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.
William Cullen Bryant
Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
fluttering from the autumn tree.
Emily Bronte
Almost any garden, if you see it at just the right moment, can be confused with paradise. Henry Mitchell
There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling. Mirabel Osler
The lesson I have thoroughly learnt, and wish to pass on to others, is to know the enduring happiness that the love of a garden gives. Gertrude Jekyll
He who is born with a silver spoon in his mouth is generally considered a fortunate person, but his good fortune is small compared to that of the happy mortal who enters this world with a passion for flowers in his soul. Celia Thaxter
The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies. Gertrude Jekyll
Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty if only we have the eyes to see them. John Ruskin
In my garden there is a large place for sentiment. My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams. The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers, and the dreams are as beautiful. Abram L. Urban
I believe that gardens themselves are very healing. To be surrounded by the exquisite beauty of nature is to experience a healing of the soul. author unknown
Yes, in the poor man's garden grow
Far more than herbs and flowers-
Kind thoughts, contentment, peace of mind,
And joy for weary hours. author unknown
We come from the earth, we return to the earth, and in between we garden.
The garden is a mirror of the heart.

Monday 5 November 2007

Camouflaging Concrete

Forever seered in my memory is a day in May, seventeen years ago. I can still picture the dirt track wending its way down through a field covered in pernicious weeds, amongst which were
copious amounts of creeping thistles, large areas of nettles, clumps of dandelions peppered here and there, ample evidence of ground elder, and tall couch grass aplenty.

At the end of the track stood an old, derelict barn with crumbling walls and a corrugated tin roof.
Adjacent to it was a newly-built bungalow in front of which was a large patio paved with drab, grey concrete slabs.
There was a certain romance about the decrepit old barn with the barley field growing behind it and the uncultivated field of weeds adjacent to it.
But the bungalow, with its ugly concrete patio, looked incongruous and far too conspicuous, as if it had somehow fallen from the sky and landed right in the middle of this rustic scene.
My husband thought I’d taken leave of my senses when I said I’d like to come and live in the village, right in the heart of the countryside, when we had a perfectly adequate house in a nearby country town.
Besides, the latter had a small manageable garden, whereas this plot was just under half an acre, and it was covered with those pernicious weeds.
All he could see was dereliction and a mountain of work if the field was to become a garden.
I, on the other hand, saw a challenge, possibilities to create habitats for wildlife, maybe even ponds.

I knew I’d need to camouflage the bungalow, however, and quickly do something to soften the hard look of that ugly patio, which was laid out in all its drabness, under the front patio windows immediately adjacent to the front entrance of the house.
These were some of my first impressions, seventeen years ago now, of what was to become our home and garden, here at Barleycorn.

Every gardener should endeavour to create an element of surprise - perhaps a graceful statue at the end of a long vista, which draws the eye; or perhaps something enticingly beautiful, with a grace and charm of its own.

For even in an open and windswept landscape, two hundred and twenty-five metres above sea level, there are possibilities for growing stunningly beautiful flowers, which lift the spirits and cause even the most reticent of friends to go into raptures.
Oriental lilies come into this bracket, for they exude exotic perfume, which has the effect of making everyone who passes, stop in their tracks to drink in the heady fragrance.
With their colourful blooms they take on an attractive pose from mid to late Summer, and if luck prevails, will linger till early Autumn too.

Their arresting names - Lilium Connecticut King, Fire King, Joy, Barcelona, Stargazer, Lilium Longiflorum, Oriental Lily Le Reve, Madonna Lily and Lilium Regale – conjure up pictures in the imagination of their exotic origins.
Here at Barleycorn, they are a welcome addition to our mixed borders. Flowering this year till the end of October, they gave sustenance to all myriad of insects, butterflies and members of the bee family.
Oriental lilies are seductive, graceful, tolerant in most soils, and bring a touch of the exotic to the garden. In addition to being perennial, their rainbow of colours brightens up even the wettest of Summers, such as the one we have just experienced.
Best of all in my book, they are easily grown in profusion in the tubs and troughs, which cover most of the ugly grey patio I first set eyes on seventeen years ago.