I’ve woken this morning to a covering of white and my heart fair quickened, warm clothes were quickly pulled on (including a pair of inside out leggings and a back to front top, I only realized my mistake once I’d got back indoors and was waiting for the kettle to boil) just so I can stand outside before the day wakes up and while my neighbours are all sleeping.
I share the quiet and crisp outside with a couple of robins who tsk tsk tsk at me quite crossly while I sort out the water in the bird bath and quickly top up any feeders that have been feasted on over the weekend…..(this wasn’t an experiment but we’ve had fat feeders in the garden from three different sources and the suet blocks from Wiggly Wigglers have far and away been the most popular) while Bernard brushes around my legs and complains about the cold…..he was a bit on the cautious side as he stepped outside with me, sniffing the air with his plume of a tail held way up high……he’s being a right old nosey parker wanting to see what I’m doing, then it’s a quick investigation of the garden and an even quicker wee behind the compost bins (Bernard not me) then we’re straight back in the warm…
It’s not a frost like the other week but real snow…we already had a light flurry one afternoon last week, proper white feathers falling slowly and transforming the air for a few brief minutes…it wasn’t cold enough to settle so melted as it touched the ground….the snow that’s fell during the night is the lightest kind, and looking out of the window now more is falling, tiny and white snowflakes that fill my heart with such a feeling of excitment and I’m half tempted to try fit a walk into my already full schedule for today (though as it’s been so rainy and wet over the weekend I know the marshes will be too boggy to step out on)….in just under two weeks I’ve got my first craft fair of the season, it’s at Holt Village Hall and has been all organized by the lovely Ruth at Glory Days…but truth be told I’m a bit behind in my making, having a cold meant I wasn’t able to get on like I’d have wanted, and this new found love for knitting has taken over a little….although the good news is I’ve finished the beloved’s birthday socks which I’m hoping to photograph in the next day or so.
Anyway, I realized that I still have a couple of pictures I wanted to share from the frost walk when it was all mist and fog over the marshes….what I love about when there’s been a frost is how it completely transforms the dead or dying plants outside, for the most part these aren’t hacked down here by a council hedges/verges maintenance team but are allowed to naturally wither and droop, fall and become a mulch, returning slowly back to the beginning, and becoming food for the next year’s growth….however the milder winters seem to slow this process down but a few good frosts will hopefully get things back on an even keel again.
One of my favourite, and yes I know I seem to say that about so many of the flowers and plants that grow in the pastures here, but I really do love them all….I’m much more a wild flower person than someone who needs fancy florals, is the burdock. It’s the shape of those swollen prickly seed heads, all tipped with a flourish of purple petals which I find so interesting to look at….the prickles aren’t as hedgehogy “ow” inducing as some of the other thistles, instead they feel quite soft…and once the petals begin showing then the plants soon become visited by fat bees and butterflies……
At the moment though the thistley seed head looks so different to how they are in the Summer months, rubbing my thumb over the frosty spindles and they don’t so much break but collapse under the slightest pressure…the frost is doing it’s job, allowing the last of the previous years growth to finally collapse and begin the next cycle.
Angelica, hogweed, cow parsley and all the other 60 some species of Umbelliferae look very similar when they’re all growing and green, topped off with those familiar cloudy heads of milky blossom, when they’re dead it’s often even harder to tell the difference…for the most part it’s likely it won’t actually be cow parsley as that never seems to survive even a nip of cold in the air, once it starts getting all nippy and wet in the morning they just seem to disappear overnight…perhaps if it’s a very dry Autumn then a few sturdier plants hang on a bit but generally it’s a hogweed (the seeds are bigger and are flat little circles of almost transparent papery fawn) that line the Autumn and Winter verges.
When you find the larger plants dying, there’s a delicate cobweb of spindly finglers, tipped with honey coloured seeds, their silhouette and shape is so distinct even more so when they are transformed by a hoare frost.
When I’m home in the warm I use these photos as references for my embroideries, trying to capture in stitches a few memories of marshy meanders and quiet afternoon strolls.
Surrounding our favourite balckberry bush (it’s massive though last year it was really tangled and hard to get to because of all the thistles) is a huge swathe of sorrel, in the Spring it’s the brightest green and then come Summer up shoots their seed head, a glorious contrast to all the yellows and pinky mauves of the other pasture flowers, the past few years there’s been more and more, and now the blackberry bush seems situated in a sea of deep red sorrel seeds…..the frost shimmers and sparkles on each tiny part of the plant and makes me catch my breath…it really did look like a whole load of silver and white glitter had been scattered all over as even the air seemed to twinkle with all the reflections in the morning light.
I know some people don’t care for rosebay willow herb, but I love it, it’s a wonderful bright pink and while it can be a bit invasive depending where it’s growing, here on the marshes it’s it natural home….most Summer mornings when I walk past a patch of it, there’ll be that soft and gentle buzz in the air as tumbling bees scramble over the petals, their legs and bottoms coated in powdery yellow pollen….if I take the time to sit and be quiet then before long a tiny tit or wren will often use the flower head as a handy perch and peck at any insects attracted by the flowers scent.
When it’s in blossom it’s hard to really think about anything other than that bright pink, the blossom just takes over from anything else, but when the plant begins to wither and you wake to a frost, then you get left with all sorts of interesting shapes….honey and bronzey hues of stalk and leaf peep through a frosty haze, wispery fingers reach out, still for a few minutes in the chill of the monring…..
Looking back at these pictures I want to wrap myself up in my shawl, hold a hot drink…the photos make me feel (as Nanny would have said,) “chilled to the bone” as I remember how cold it was that morning, lungs hurting and heavy with each breath of air, with less seasonal distinctions and milder Winters, when we get a proper cold snap I now take such pleasure in getting out of doors and experiencing the cold against my legs, the numbness of nose and cheeks, the crunch of frosty ground and grasses under foot…the echo and different sounds of the birds calling out on a frosty morning……and then the delight as I come back home and slowly begin to warm though, toes beginning to prickle and rosy cheeks fading.