Creative Writing workshop, Dawn Chorus, signs of spring

This Writing Life…

I’m on holiday this week, lazing around the beautiful Costa del Back Garden. Although I might not be chained to my desk, the writing never stops. I’ve just sent out my spring newsletter, so if you’d like to read an extract from my current work in progress (working title, Love On The Run) get the recipe for Jamaica Orange Cake, or hear some great news about one of my street team, join my mailing list by signing in to the box on the right of this page.

This week I’ll be reading through the extracts submitted for the workshop being run by the local chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association. Each of the eight people taking part sent a piece of writing to the co-ordinator, who circulated anonymous versions of all the samples. We read and make comments on each one, which we then discuss when we meet up at the day-long workshop. It’s a really productive exercise. We’ve all picked up loads of ideas and improved our writing after holding previous events, and I’m really looking forward to this next one.

I write up a few nature notes nearly every day, and today it will be all about choruses: dawn and frog. Every morning I’m out before dawn, either running, or checking the greenhouses. This morning a dunnock fell out of bed to join me with an alarm call at about 6am, but the robins and other birds didn’t join him until about 6:15. The territories of five singing thrushes overlap in our garden, and I waste a lot of time standing and listening to them. You can get a taste of their song here. It’s hard to believe such lovely sounds are really war cries and warnings to rivals!

By Dick Daniels

Our wildlife pond has been alive with frogs, newts and toads for weeks. The water boils with amphibian action,  but spawn has only just started appearing in large amounts. The pond needs an overhaul. It’s the ambition of every small body of water to become dry land (or at least bog), so it’s an endless struggle stopping it silting up. That’s going to be a long, wet and muddy job for somebody. Maybe I’ll book a holiday away from home when that crops up on the “to do” list!

If you’re on holiday this week, I hope you can manage to get out and about in the fresh air. What’s your favourite sign of spring?

PS: If you fancy trying out my Jamaica Orange Cake at Easter, don’t forget to sign up to my mailing list, in the box on the right.

Beekeeping, Christina Hollis, Dawn Chorus, Spring

On The Inside Looking Out…

It’s been a while since I last blogged. My father’s sudden death meant I’ve been busy with arrangements and there’s been so much paperwork to get through, there’s been very little light relief. Luckily, spring really has arrived. This will be the first chance I’ve had to get out and about with a clear conscience (no meetings, no paperwork that absolutely has to be done) for about a month. The Dawn Chorus starts at around 5am, and this weekend the clocks go forward so it will be lighter in the evenings. That means less incentive to flop in front of the TV after tea each evening. I hope…

There are flowers on the strawberries in the greenhouse, and for the first time ever we’ve had a pair of partridges blown over the hill from the local game shoot. They’ve made themselves at home, so I hope the fox family living out in the wood don’t find them. Yesterday I saw the spectacular sight of a pair of goshawks ‘sky-dancing’  over the garden. They’ve nested in nearby woods for several years and we get birdwatchers from all over coming to watch them displaying. I felt really smug that all I had to do was look up while on my rounds of the greenhouses! This clip-art photo is the closest I could find to the birds we have here – this image is tagged as a Grey Hawk, but it’s got that distinctive ‘Mad Marigold Eye’ described by T.H.White. That really stands out – I saw it when one rocketed past our kitchen window about to knock a squirrel out of an overhanging tree.
I did the first checks around the apiary last week. All the colonies of bees have survived the winter, and they’re building up nicely. Later today I’ll be bottling the last of our stored honey. I don’t take much from the bees, just enough to sweeten OH’s coffee all year and some to cook with. The more honey I rob, the more sugar syrup I’d have to feed them in return. If processed white sugar doesn’t do humans much good, it seems a bit mean to make my bees eat it!