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Journal

Overwhelm and the fruit harvest

dealing with overwhelm

This year has been so fruitful.

I cannot remember another year like it for the sheer scale of natural abundance.

The branches of the plum trees are trailing on the ground under the weight of their crop, the hedgerows surrounding us are gleaming darkly with bramble berries.

Even our feral apple trees, down by the wood, are looking like a properly productive orchard (albeit one you need to scythe through nettles to get to).

nature dealing with overwhelm

At the beginning of the season I swore that I would use up every last scrap of this natural bounty. I would pickle and preserve, I would dehydrate, I would freeze, bottle and put into alcohol.

Then - at the beginning of this week - I began to get overwhelmed. No matter how many plums I picked there still seemed to be more, my kitchen hummed with the buzz of the dehydrator, the oven, the slow cooker. My hands were permanently sticky from stoning fruit and everywhere there were mason jars and freezer bags of produce. How many crumbles can 2 people eat?

Then I realised how foolish I was being. I don't live a Pioneer Life, I am not from the pages of Little House on the Prairie - my survival does not hinge on whether I preserve enough vitamins to see us through the winter.

Preserving the fruit is something I do because I enjoy it - it connects me to the seasons. Visually I love the shelves of full jars, I love pouring a glass of blackcurrant gin in the middle of winter and remembering picking the fruit in the summer sunshine.

The whole point is that enjoyment.

Thinking about it earlier this week - wondering how I had let myself get overwhelmed by the idea of the harvest - I realised that I had been doing exactly the same with creative ideas in my business.

The change in season from summer to autumn always brings with it a rush of creative ideas for me. I can feel them bubbling up and then bashing against the sides of my brain in an attempt to get out. It is exciting, it is energising - that roll of wide eyed wonder as I think of future designs, new projects, interesting topics to explore. Faster, faster, faster . . .

And it so easily slips into overwhelm - the idea that there are too many things to do makes it difficult to even start any of them. The pleasure in the creativity slips into a panic.

nature dealing with overwhelm

So yesterday I stopped myself, sat myself down and here are the 3 things I am doing this week to reset my abundance meter.

1. Recognise the meaning of abundance.

Abundance isn't about 'being enough', it isn't just a few steps along from scarcity, it is way, way out on the other side. Abundance is a cornucopia. Abundance means that there are so many plums that it is safe to leave some for the birds, to select only the best. It means that there are so many ideas that I can give some away, and discard others as 'not for right now' without fear of running out. It means a generosity, a relaxation, an ease.

2. Write it all down and prioritise.

I looked at the size of my cupboard and the number of my jars and deciding that if I have five 2 litre jars for plums, what would I love them to be full of (it turned out that it was mi-cuit plums in rum and home dried prunes).

In exactly the same way I have 2 months of product planning left this year - of which I am working at home for 21 days. So - that is maybe 100 hours creative time. What do I want to fill that with?

3. Positively categorise everything that isn't going to be used.

This was the final important point. To take everything on my initial list and give it a home (even if that is home turns out to be in the bin).

What this did was take it all that 'waste' out of my mind, getting me out of overwhelm and giving my brain space for the projects on my priority list.

With the fruit this has been giving lots of it away - the team have been labouring up the hill from the workshop with bowls of plums and apples - and re-categorising the windfalls and slightly sub standard fruit as food for the birds.

With the ideas it has been shelving some in a 'some time' notebook and giving some away to people who I know will do a better job, and simply discarding others as they just aren't shiny enough.

What do you do when you begin to feel overwhelmed? Let me know in the comments.

nature dealing with overwhelm

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I am a bit of a womble.  My Studio is a layering of things that have been found, things that have been saved, things that have been given to me - I like to be surrounded by a bit of history. ⁠⠀
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I am known as an avid skip diver so people kindly keep me things.  This weekend I am off to pick up 13 sash windows rescued from a skip.⁠⠀
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This is my dye cupboard - the mordants and other powders, the piles of fabrics and yarns, my newly started record book and the glue to paste the swatches in.⁠⠀
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It has had a hard life - the back is patched with hinges as plates, there are many, many layers of paint and a door has gone missing along the way.  It is perfect.⁠⠀
Back when I grew flowers commercially the area that is now ‘the orchardy bit’ was rows and rows of spring bulbs.⁠ In the years where the deer didn’t eat the tulips they looked magnificent, stripe upon stripe of pure pigment. ⠀
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When I turned my back on growing for money, we simply took out the beds and levelled it, turning it back to grass.⁠⠀
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The tulips quickly gave up - never brilliantly perennial here anyway, they took the opportunity to fade out fast.⁠ Well if you don’t want us . . . ⠀
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The narcissi loved it though and every year appeared back in their serried rows through the grass. ⁠There was something disturbingly grave like about them.
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My planting  ever since has all been an attempt to disguise that - feathering the edges, making little islands, trying to make it all look haphazard.⁠⠀
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Gradually it is working - this is the edge of what would have been a bed of Narcissi geranium (best vase life, along with best scent) - now happily interspersed with a pheasants eye and a little lemon coloured one I have lost the name of.
Abundance.⁠⠀
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And the hedges beginning to vibrate with that gloriously specific spring green.
This week has been about experimenting.⁠⠀
Experimenting with all the ways to dye with daffodils, experimenting with the new e-course part of my website, experimenting with shooting and editing videos on my phone.⁠⠀
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My business hero is @sethgodin and his mantra is 'ship it' - a way of saying that the best way to learn is to make things and get them out in front of people before they are polished and 'perfect'.⁠⠀
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So I took his advice and combined all three experiments. Today's newsletters will have links to a free e-course all about dyeing wool with daffodils.⁠⠀
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I have been absolutely amazed by the colour you get from faded daffodil flowers (see the second photo). It is a bright, yet somehow soft, golden yellow which is now adding an amazing zing to my pile of plant dyed fabrics.⁠⠀
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I am prone to obsessions.  My brain hones in on topics and rabbit holes away, a constant background chatter to my life.⁠⠀
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It annoys the people I live with as my world shrinks to one topic. ⠀
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My camera roll shows me it is three years ago this week that I returned to natural dyeing with plants, concentrating on using only the plants growing within a couple of miles.⁠⠀
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Three years of experimenting with plant after plant, three years of googling and reading obscure articles and piling up samples. ⁠three years of conversation about mordants and modifiers. ⠀
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Three years is a short time in such a slow craft. A blink of an eye. ⁠⠀
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But already I can see a difference in my skill.⁠⠀
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This is a corner of the cupboard where I stash my fabrics and yarns building up enough for a project.  These have all been dyed this year - with barks and cones. ⁠⠀
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This week I am dyeing with bright deadheaded daffodils and the golden yellows will join these soft terracottas and pinks while I dream up something to make.
I grow very few white flowers. ⁠⠀
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White summer flowers tend to mark in the rain - white roses look like discarded tissues, white dahlias spot brown.  Even cosmos purity - which I do grow - goes droopy and grey in a way that the coloured versions don't.⁠⠀
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The petals of spring bulbs however seem rain resistant - so I can indulge my love of white flowers and enjoy them backlit by the morning sun on the Studio window shelf.
Bright and light and pretty.
I am spending a lot of time in the greenhouse at the moment - playing an endless game of jenga with my seed trays.⁠⠀
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Many of the seedlings are for the community gardens - being planted out gradually under fleece. We are biding time, taking the cautious route so that we minimise the risk of everything being wiped out by a very cold night.⁠⠀
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We still have a full month of frosts to go here - little ones of -2 or 3 are manageable, an extra covering of fleece, some bricks to act like a storage heater.  Most hardy seedlings will recover from getting their tips nipped a bit.⁠⠀
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Last year though we had a really cold night in mid May, when growth was going well and sappily. It blasted the blossom and killed many of my hardy veg too. Slightly too late to resow.⁠⠀
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Speak to the older generation of gardeners and they all sowed and planted out much later than is the fashion today.  They perhaps had a point.
I wrote in my Friday letter this week about the sudden lifting of the uncertainty and inertia that had been dogging me for a few months.⁠⠀
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It's always easier to write about these things once they are resolved - do you find that?  Once I am unstuck and lolloping along happily again, I can look at it all and not get sucked down.⁠⠀
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Of course all this talk of getting going again, of new plans and exciting things . . . . it all actually means hard work. ⁠⠀
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Head down, working through an actual written plan kind of hard work.  Not always my natural strength.⁠⠀
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So yesterday I rearranged the studio window shelves and cleared the working table, ready for an uninterrupted start today. ⁠⠀
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An attempt to keep momentum.
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About Snapdragon Life

At Snapdragon Life I gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

 

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