Seasonally inspired things to Make, Learn & Do.


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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Between the plum trees and the studio is a sloping space that was created when we flattened a patch of land to build. It is a mix of subsoil, rocks and odd seams of rich pasture land. ⠀
As grass began to grow there about 7 years ago,  I sowed a perennial meadow mix, I planted lots of random plants from the cutting beds, I worked without a plan, without knowing what would thrive and what would gently vanish. ⠀
Now there is minimal gardening involvement - I try and keep the nettles from taking over, we dig out brambles - and in the autumn and winter I lure the chickens there to scratch out patches of bare soil for the wildflower seeds. ⠀
It’s a patchy space, caught on the cusp of abandonment - but it is the most beautiful space in the garden, buzzing with insects, rustling with birds. ⠀
Low light, bright petals, setting sun. ⠀
A couple of days ago I got a message from a friend asking what I thought about all the 'picking wild flowers' photos on here and the fact that a country style magazine was promoting it as a
My Gran had hangers like these.  Knitted from odds and ends of wool, hanging softly squashed together in the big dark wardrobe in her bedroom.⁠⠀
My cousin and I would take the fancy silky 1960s dresses from them and transform ourselves into glamorous detectives, spying on passers-by from behind the net curtains, making notes.⁠⠀
Now the hangers are my favourite things to make from wool scraps - each takes 37 grams of wool and you only need to be able to do a plain stitch to make it. ⁠⠀
As well as being chock full of nostalgia for me, they are also the most practical kind of hanger, as the garter stitch keeps even the flimsiest of straps in place so clothes don’t end up on the floor.
This week's business improvement was deciding to make the postcards that go in with orders more useful, getting Kate Stockwell to turn them into activity cards for me. ⁠⠀
This is the first, going out with orders from today.⁠⠀
I’m always amazed at how many plants from sunnier climes take to the garden. ⠀
Sicilian honey garlic - Nectaroscordum siculum - is one of the plants that grow in rows in the orchard - ghosts of the flower field, buzzing with bees, happy in grass, a strong whiff of onion as I pass. ⠀
This month I’ve been experimenting with solar dyeing- using plants and sunlight and a jar to dye wool on the windowsill. 
I was amazed at what bright shades were possible and at how easy and self contained it turned out to be. 
It was part of the Studio Membership mini “Introduction to plant dyes” course but I’ve also put together a kit in the shop with full instructions and everything you need to get started with solar dyeing wool (there are mini skeins in the kit). The photo is my drying rack on the dye deck - part of the studio where I used to prep flowers when I sold them. 
The wood rack used to be for shoes and wellies.
Inspired by @josephinepbrooks I’m still using this time for some serious decluttering of my business - looking hard at which parts have descended over the years into one of those drawers stuffed full of things.  Which bits are muddled, useless, impossible to open without everything falling out. 
Last week was the turn of the blog - so many out of date things, so many broken links, pretty much impossible to browse. 
Now it’s been sorted out - David and @fuzzyjill at Fuzzy Lime helped me divide it into sections and now it’s all easily accessible from the navigation bar.

So if you are looking for tutorials, nature notes, gardening, recipes or musings on life you can find them without scrolling through hundreds of pages. 
And - as always seems to happen when you  declutter - I’m suddenly full of ideas for things to write about, so that I can fit them nicely into my new space! 
The poppies are from Friday’s blog about how they make wonderful cut flowers.
Another week. Another new morning 
I was chatting to a friend yesterday about what was the best thing about running my own business - and I decided that it was probably being excited about each day and all the things I want to do. ⠀
That I now rarely need to force myself. ⠀

Today it’s finishing off this week’s Studio Members lesson about solar dyeing and putting together these activity postcards which I am getting printed to go out with orders. ⠀
What are you looking forward to doing today?

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At Snapdragon we 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.

Through our communities, both free and paid for, through Jane's writing on the blog, through carefully hand crafted gifts and activity kits, and through our online and in-person workshops we aim to bring people back in touch with the rhythms of a seasonal life.

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