Seasonally inspired things to Learn, Make and 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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When I was at University it was the time of the Poll Tax, an unpopular tax made even more unpopular by being implemented in Scotland a year before the rest of the UK - 'Thatcher's guinea pigs'.⁠⠀
It was a time of demonstration and violence with 50,000 marching in Glasgow, 1 million Scots refusing to pay. ⁠⠀
It was a time Sheriff's Officers and poind sales of possessions. ⁠⠀
Coalition student groups were formed - Socialist and Feminist and Anarchist and so on - there were big meetings in the Union, debates about a name and a logo and a manifesto. I remember lots of young, middle class, white men talked at length.  I remember that very, very little got done - a bus was organised to take students to Glasgow for the protests. ⁠⠀
In the meantime, up the hill from the campus, three women (I thought of them as old at the time but I'm sure they were the age I am now) simply stood outside the auctions and asked nobody to attend.  They stood by the front doors, they explained their reasons, they prevailed.  They possibly looked randomly menacing in that way middle aged women can.⁠⠀
People calmly bought back their possessions for 50p and their debts were squared. Action, meaningful results, a recognition that the personal is political - all while the student groups still debated their slogans.⁠⠀
I've been thinking about those women a lot recently. If they were the age I think they were, they will be queuing up for their vaccines this month.
In my happy place.⁠⠀
In the winter months The Studio is the centre of my working life. ⁠⠀
This was yesterday.  Trimming pieces of vintage velvet fabric for the Studio Club shop; alpaca socks drying in the dispatch room behind me (we now have size 8-10 in stock too); a roll @scottishlinen seconds to experiment with hogging the cutting table.⁠⠀
Bright and light and inspiring.
Starting the week with a photo from last year (simply because I lost a lot of this weekend to fatigue, so didn't take a new photo.)⁠⠀
Budgie, my beautiful and psychotic cat, with a windowsill of white amaryllis. ⁠⠀
Worth a second outing.
The proposed airstream conversion is in for planning permission approval at the moment, so that we change change its use from (neglected) artist's workshop into beautiful holiday accommodation.⁠⠀
In my vision for this we get to use the paid holidaymaking element to subsidise some artist's residencies - painters, writers, musicians, makers coming here to soak up the landscape and be inspired.⁠⠀
At the moment though I'm still at the stage of answering environmental health questions about quite how loud I am in my Studio and how we will light the path to the compost loo.
Yesterday my elder daughter, who lives in London, messaged me to say that our local DPD driver Slav was being given an award by for his outstanding service. 

It was because of the hundreds of messages that they had been sent commenting on his helpfulness, incredible good cheer, and parcel based problem solving.⁠⠀

Slav has been an important part of my lockdown life here. ⁠⠀
When roads look like this, good delivery drivers are a vital (and hopefully appreciated) part of life.⁠⠀
As my younger daughter chimed in “Go Slav!
This photo is from last week - but I see through the gloom that it has snowed overnight .⁠⠀
This part of the garden is outside our bedroom, the beech hedge borders the road, it used to be a drive when our bedroom was a garage.⁠⠀
Now it has a birch tree (symbolic for me of my miscarried babies, as I had to leave their actual birch trees behind when we moved here) surrounded by lots of box grown from small plants and cuttings.⁠⠀
We buried Jasmine, my scruffy miniature schnauzer, here in the summer, so in some ways it is becoming a garden for sitting on the bench and remembering and watching the birds.  I shall ask my ever generous  friend Nadja for some snowdrops to plant in the grass.⁠⠀
In my mind, eventually, the box balls will become like the ones on the front of @arnemaynardgardendesign book Garden Design Details - but this year they remain unclipped. ⁠⠀
I suspect box blight in the back garden and @jekkamcvicar points out that unclipped box does not get blight.⁠⠀
I love old gates - particularly old gates that stand in the middle of old unused spaces, leading to nowhere, keeping nothing in.⁠⠀
A memory of another time.
Last year - while I was dyeing socks out on my Studio deck, I was also dyeing wool yarn. ⁠⠀
Wool dyed with docks and nettle, gorse and meadowsweet, onions and plum bark all from the garden and lane.⁠⠀
Over the winter I gathered the wool skeins together - all the soft bright colours - and knitted myself an oversized stripy jumper. ⁠⠀
@rhiannonconnelly described it as wearing 'a hug from my garden' and I think she was spot on. ⁠⠀
The pattern is the 'After the Rain' sweater by @heidikdesigns but with random stripes as I wasn't sure how much of each colour I had. #aftertherainsweater

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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