Snowdrops on International Women’s Day

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On this International Women’s Day, I thought I would post a few photographs of the delicate white blooms carpeting areas of our garden at the moment, a little visual gift to those who love snowdrops, and with thoughts of all the women around the world who are making a difference on our beautiful planet right now.

I read a quote today by Magnify Magazine, which said: “Behind every successful woman, is a tribe of other successful women, who have her back.” There is a lot of truth in this statement, although so often women can be one another’s worst challenges and bitter rivals instead! Successful women, however, in whichever areas they work or perform their vital roles, know that it is in the lifting of others that we rise to greatness or prove to be of value ourselves.

It is so important to remember how much women do in our society generally, and how far they are prepared to extend themselves, in order to maintain peace and dignity on our planet. There is a long way to go towards making women feel more appreciated for all the roles that they perform, so many unrewarded, undervalued or ignored. There is also a distance to reach yet towards recognition of the fact that women are the ones who instil so many of life’s worthwhile values into the children of our world. To those among us who are making a difference, even in the smallest of ways, I salute you.

Enjoy this snapshot of the last moments of the snowdrops shining in my garden this week, soon to be retreating into the background, where they will regain their strength to bloom with vigour next Spring, and give way to the crocuses and narcissi who will take centre stage.


Holly x



PS. I think the white streak down the photograph below, might have been an early bug in flight … (or perhaps even a fairy?).  There are sure to be fairies in this garden of biodiversity somewhere!


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Copyright ©  The Holly Tree Tales

Carrots at the tail end of Winter

There is something rather wonderful about going outside to attend to something, rugged up warmly against the cold, taking a detour into a protected area of the garden to see how it has fared in the icy cold weather, and discovering signs of life in a large pot of soil … then curiously scratching beneath the surface, to see if any of the wilted leaves are attached to anything of note, and pulling up a healthy, beautiful, organic vegetable!

That is precisely what happened for me this afternoon, and it’s hard to describe the elation I felt at not only discovering a juicy, impromptu treat, but that the carrots my son and I had sown and grown last season had continued in strength throughout the Winter! To be honest, I had fully expected to find that those carrots, which were still left in the large container of our gardening experiment, would be completely decimated by now … instead, the soil around the remaining carrots was soft and crumbly, and the prize that was yielded today was absolutely delicious! Luckily, I photographed it straight after I’d washed the soil off this carrot, so that I could share my happy discovery.

There is more to this story that is amazing than merely the chance discovery of a carrot, even more than the fact that the carrot survived the British Winter (although that is wonderful and symbolic in itself).

During the Summer before last (2013), I had filled the huge, black plastic planter pot (in which we’d bought a silver birch tree, since planted) with any number of weeds and old potting mixtures and other garden ‘stuff’, whilst tidying in a little courtyard area near the house, where I keep my treasured pot plants and several roses and other herbs. My experiment was to see if the heat of the decomposing plant material could help to nurture and grow food for us. Having been given a courgette seedling, and not knowing where to grow it with enough heat, I had covered the top of the black pot with a black bag, cut a hole in the middle, made a space for the courgette seedling, surrounded it with fresh compost and stood back … to cut a long story short, we delightedly harvested courgette from that pot!

Some months later I decided to take the experiment a step further, working with my son during his Spring school holiday, so that he could learn from it too. We added a layer of molehill soil to the contents of the pot, which had been resting, and carefully sowed organic carrot seed … towards the end of Summer, we were picking our own tasty little carrots!

Summer 2014 ended, my children went back to school and university, the weather closed me in, Christmas came, the freeze came, snow occasionally still comes … and I hardly spend any time outdoors at the moment, because I am made for warmer climes. So, nipping out today and discovering that a little carrot had survived the northern Winter, in a plant pot, despite all seasonally challenging conditions, gave me a tremendous boost!

Thus, not only did this give me a tasty treat and a joyful lift of the spirits, but now I know that
a) We can grow carrots
b) Carrots do very well in tall pots (which was intentional, to avoid carrot fly)
c) Organic Carrots grow successfully without interference
d) Carrots can survive the cold
and I am certain that there are more lessons to glean from this experiment yet!

In growing wonder,

Holly x

A healthy, juicy, over-Wintered organic carrot.

A healthy, juicy, over-Wintered organic carrot.

Mid Winter brightness

Monday morning began with cold, crisp, bright promise and the week has held its positive flow… Friday today and I have managed not to delete anything crucial, have managed to write a few posts on the The Holly Tree Tales, have not managed to add more subjects to the menu line (forgotten how), but there’s time to grow the blog …

With all the new types of media, tools and media platforms that I have been learning to navigate lately, quite apart from figuring out how to build and drive a blog, many mountains have been climbed technologically and a pat on the back is possibly well-deserved now. Perhaps a different computer for each different role would be a good idea, simplify things… Changing hats is not as cut and dried as I had hoped it might be, when all written work is conducted from one space, and my computer’s desktop is proving far too small! What I could do with, rather urgently, is a spacious physical office working space, light and airy and organised, with paperwork filed and easily accessible … and an assistant or two … but that is a dream and that story is for another day.

Besides writing and honing new communication techniques, one of the recent skills that I have (partly) collected in my ‘tool bag’ of experience over the past few years, is learning to read / understand Nature in the northern hemisphere, to figure out what to do in the garden during the British Winter. One of the greatest challenges for me in living here, apart from actually going outdoors in the cold, has been that the weather on many days is utterly temperamental (at least it is so, where we live). This changeable climate is something that I find immensely confusing, and aggravating, but I am learning to make the most of the ‘now’, to grab opportunities when they present themselves, to go with the flow even more than ever … just to get through changeable days feeling sane!

Unusually, this week has been fairly stable where we live and, thankfully, there have been days which one can only describe as divine. Yesterday the sun shone for as long as it was able to, bathing us in glorious Mid Winter brightness, beckoning me to abandon writing, go outside and make the most of the light. Today, the day ended on the same note: bright, and crisp, calm and ‘even’. These moments make life in the British countryside worthwhile.

As part of my newfound repertoire of ‘skills’, this sixth Winter in our current home has seen me supervising and half-confidently mastering a few tasks outdoors, tasks in conditions that I have never had to deal with before, braving the cold when the weather and my energy levels work in tandem, which happens every now and then. In late 2009 we took on a very overgrown garden, with little (or no) knowledge of British gardening ways, and it has been a slow process learning how to manage everything on our acre. Declaring the property ‘organic’ upon arrival, has given me ample excuse, if excuses were needed, to let things run wild and free, while I found my way.

Luckily, some clarity has come with time, and my latest task has been to gradually prune back hugely rambling roses, and unveil several holly trees growing near the house, something that has felt personally symbolic too. Once trimmed, by my occasional and very treasured garden helper (when I can stretch to afford his help), I set to tackling the piles of trimmings with my shredding machine, and turn the prunings into the most beautiful organic mulch or material for compost. Yesterday was one such perfect occasion … We worked together in the freezing cold, cheered by the light of weather termed by the treasured local chap as “mild”, followed by my delightedly spreading gorgeous shredded material over areas of bare soil, tenderly covering the soil with a natural blanket. The holly and rose prunings did us proud, and there was something deeply satisfying about the entire process.

Today, wearing several indoor ‘hats’ again, and with much writing going on in different ‘places’ on my computer’s desktop, I stopped at one point as a thought struck me with simple profundity:

“What do you think children would say, if we asked them what sort of world (Earth) they would like to inherit? Remember, ours is borrowed from them.”

I shall leave you to ponder that, as I do.

Holly x

Southerly views of morning light, across a light snowscape.

Southerly views of morning light, across a bright snowscape.