24 Nov 2014

The Barometer Effect

Fading leaves of Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'


I wish I was a bear.  Not the cuddly fluffy kind but the sort that slopes off to the bunker to hibernate through the dark, wet, winter months. Such an appealing thought but the real world beckons so stuff has to be done. The weather isn't even that cold yet but I find that I'm increasingly drawn to snuffling under a cozy blanket on the sofa after dark … perturbingly, that's about 5 pm.

I'm often outdoors and have become a weather watcher, looking at the skies for signs of rain or, better, patches of blue. I find the isobars on the tv weather infinitely interesting as are cloud formations (so informative).  My dad was a helicopter pilot when younger and reading the skies was an essential skill for his work; it's from my dad that I learned the basics of cloud watching. Then there's the old oak barometer in my parents' hallway which has fascinated me for years, tapping on the glass to see if it changes. I found it utterly magical as a child, in the way that it could forecast the weather. See? Even back then.

In the same way that we're supposed to be influenced by the phases of the moon (if you believe such things), my body barometer has been affecting my energy since the weather changed at the beginning of the month. Up and down in tune with the weather. When it's grey and overcast, I'm challenged to structure my day into anything useful. Apart from a little bit of sweeping and tidying in the garden, I have done virtually nothing. (And, yes, I still have bulbs to plant having taken advantage of Crocus' half price allium sale.) Instead, I have been indoors sewing, cleaning, decluttering and redecorating. There's also been a bit of recipe research and I've made jars of delicious no-suet mincemeat for mince pies, blog post to follow. The dark evenings herald a return to the cave (sofa) and I can't seem to get through the evening without a quick snooze!

In fairness, I haven't been totally slothful. I've been redesigning a small front garden for a client, a job that came out of the blue after I was recommended.  I've no idea who by but, gosh, what a lovely confidence boost! It's been a joyful project to do and I'll share when I've finished.

One very dark and wet evening a couple of weeks ago was particularly challenging.  I'd been invited out to the Garden Museum and really dithered about going. Why? Because it was dark, because of the fifteen minute walk in the wet, because of the rush hour tube journey, because of what to wear, because of Waterloo or Vauxhall, both dismal areas at the best of times. What a wimp!  But I gave myself a good talking to and went - luckily. It was a get together to celebrate the publication of The Flower Farmer's Year, a book by Georgie Newbery of Common Farm Flowers about growing cut flowers for profit or pleasure. I enjoyed a fabulous evening, bumping into old friends, making new ones, some delicious canap├ęs and several glasses of wine quaffed in an atmosphere buzzing with floral love, chat and laughter. Utterly worthwhile.  Thank goodness for my swift kick up the backside.  I will, of course, be reviewing the book very soon as it's a keeper and flower growers might want to add it to their respective seasonal wish lists.

On the upside, with even a small improvement in the weather, my energy is boosted and away I go.  On one such day, I drove down to the south coast to visit my parents. I went via the Meon Valley, cutting south through the beautiful Hampshire countryside, and just caught the sun setting over the Isle of Wight as I drove round the bay to my parents' home.



Weekends there used to be about long walks on the beach, gardening and shopping in the outlet stores in Portsmouth; now the time is more usefully spent sitting quietly reminiscing, encouraging eating and drinking, looking after but not looking too far ahead.  My mum (dementia sufferer) sometimes forgets the words she wants to use or what she's saying but she holds firm on her delight in having her children visit. My dad (Alzheimer's) is less forgetful but stooped and tired and nevertheless pleased to see us.  I find it quite moving to see how these two go-getting globe trotters now sit quietly together, rarely moving outside the house but carefully looking after each other in their dotage after decades of devotion. There is a sense of the sun setting indoors as well as out.


Acer leaves in the Capel 'woodland' area.

As I write this on Sunday afternoon, it's pretty much been raining for 48 hours here so it's uplifting to look at photos taken last week when I popped back to Capel Manor to check out a few plants before going on to a couple of nurseries. I was on familiar territory and it was a clear, bright day - perfect for a stroll around the grounds. It felt good just to be able to wander, taking photos, and seeing what was going on. I wanted to have a look at edible hedges in the Which? trial grounds and happened across a very tasty evaluation of late November raspberries … but I think that had better be another blog post as well.

Only a tiny twig of a tree, but Oh My! what a lot of crab apples



24 comments:

  1. Your photos are really stunning, autumn colours at their best. I'm in total agreement, grey skies and cold do exactly the same to me. I've been neglecting the garden for weeks now. But when I do go out there is always something to see.. there is no better place for lifting the spirits.

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    1. Now that IS a compliment, coming from you, Jessica! Thank you! I do try and have a walk round the garden most days, noting what needs to be done … then head back indoors as there's quite a bit to do - mostly tidying!

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  2. Lack of sunlight is a known cause of making the spirits sink (SAD syndrome) isn't it?

    I love the sea photo and look forward to seeing your finished project.

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    1. It's not that I'm feeling low, Sue, it's just a lack of energy or motivation to get anything done, preferring to cosy up in front of the telly. I think it's that the temperatures have dropped and it's warmer to be indoors. I suspect I may also suffer slightly from SAD syndrome which is why it's good to get outside when I can. The sea photo was such an amazing moment, I just had to stop the car and take a picture. There was a great rainbow over autumn foliage on the way home but I was driving through a single track country lane at the time so had to let that photo go. :(

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  3. I'm also very much affected y the weather, when it comes to moods. I hate the dark days of Winter! Is it SAD?
    On a brighter note it's interesting to see you mention the Meon valley, which is not far from me. We sometimes go for a walk on Old Winchester Hill (Iron Age fort) and have lunch in a pub nearby. The speciality of that area is Watercress, which we love, and buy at every opportunity. The hill is noted for its prolific Cowslips which make a stunning display in the Spring.

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    1. Didn't you spend some time in India, Mark? I spent part of my childhood in the tropics so it takes a while to adjust to winter weather although I actually like cold crisp clear days! It's definitely the light levels that make a difference. I know the Meon Valley well as I regularly drove up there for work or lunch before moving to London. (Droxford, Warnford, etc) I used to drive home via motorway (M3, M27) but rediscovered the Meon route after a visit to Bury Court Barn and now go that way every time, turning off the A31 at Chawton. I pass some watercress fields, a sight I love to see, and will stop to photograph them one day!

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  4. All gardeners are extra conscious of the weather in the winter, and when it's grey and adverse outside the temptation to just stay in is very high. Sometimes it's good not to resist temptation and just stay in as that's nice in its own way. Love the slightly melancholic and yet positive tone of your post :)

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    1. Thanks, I was feeling slightly melancholic when I wrote it. It's turned very cold and grey here today and I'm glad to be indoors this afternoon (having been out this morning for some fresh air!).

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  5. How beautifully you write about your parents and your visit to see them. Your photos are stunning, especially that sunset. I'm with you on being a bear and hibernating on the sofa. Well done on the front garden design, I shall look forward to seeing it. CJ xx

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  6. Love to see the color of the leaves were changing. So intetesting for me.

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    1. As it is for us to see lovely tropical colours of your garden in our mid-winter, Endah.

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  7. A lovely, heartfelt, post and terrific pictures.
    I agree with you, and the others who've commented, about how we feel depends on the weather, especially at this time of year. Flighty xx

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    1. It's also the dark evenings, Flighty. I can't help but feel glad when we've reached the winter solstice and the days start to lengthen again. Even if it means we're closer to January and colder weather!

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  8. Beautiful sunset and autumn tints. I think as gardeners we all get tuned into the weather far more than if we didn't garden. Dull grey days have me feeling the same, what a difference a bit of sunshine makes at this time of year.

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    1. Absolutely, Pauline. A sunny start to the day, even if it's frosty, will get me outdoors. I've been quite surprised by how mild it's been on grey days - or perhaps that's just London?

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  9. Beautiful heartfelt post Caro. How eloquently you described your parents situation. I adore this time of year & was most excited by the first big frost of the season. I am such a fair weather gardener though, I love putting the garden to sleep and enjoying the frost and snow that follows.

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    1. Thank you, Joanne. However frustrating the situation may get, it's very sad not to be living nearby. The power to teleport would be useful. Yes, I love frost - my favourite winter days are those bright clear cold ones. I leapt outside to take pictures on the only frost we've had so far - I had to be quick before the morning sun melted it all!

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  10. Your photos make this time of year look quite appealing. But I'm like you and struggle with the grey, damp days - and even on good days it's a struggle to get everything done outside before it gets dark.

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  11. Beautiful words and pictures. I shall look forward to your boook review. At this time of year I find it much more difficult to have the motivation to go out in the evening. The rewards always out weigh the effort involved. Sarah x

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  12. Oh this poem came to mind Caro when I read your post :
    " I wish I were a bear.
    If you're a bear, you get to hibernate.
    You do nothing but sleep for six months.
    I could get used to that.
    And another thing; before you hibernate,
    you're supposed to eat yourself stupid.
    That wouldn't bother me either.
    If you're a mama bear,
    Everyone knows you mean business;
    You swat anyone who bothers your cubs.
    If your cubs get out of line, you swat them, too.
    Your husband expects you to growl when you wake up.
    He expects you to have hairy legs and excess body fat.
    He likes it.
    I wish I were a bear "

    There's been some autumnal snoozing going on here recently. November is definitely the time to huddle and retreat to the cave. I have just spent a couple of days with soon to be 90 year old Mum. She is now sadly on her own and is becoming increasingly confused but like your parents she stills gets great pleasure and comfort when her children visit. That last photo gives me much encouragement that maybe my recently planted twiggy crab apple will be producing berries like that next autumn :)

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  13. what a beautiful post! while we are entering summer here in hobart (well, theoretically), i know what you mean about wanting to hibernate in the colder darker months. i feel exactly the same way as the days grow gloomier and shorter.

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  14. What a beautiful post. I'm in a similar situation watching on as my parents age and suffer with one problem or another and it's exactly as you describe, a case of the sun setting. I'm not a winter person at all, it's my least favourite season so I'm happy to hibernate indoors until spring comes but it's like you say, a bit of effort to get out and about and you feel so much better. I shall remember this when I next feel like hunkering down.

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  15. Such a lovely post, Caro. Like you I could hibernate. I spend dull days in front of my SAD lamp trying to compensate for the lack of light. The problem is I like to do things so the idea of sleeping through 3 months of the year doesn't thrill me either. But I very much understand how your energy levels work with the weather - mine do too.
    How fantastic to be designing a garden. I can't wait to see some pictures. A very moving piece about your parents and one I recognise. Lou xx

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  16. What a lovely post and photos. It is the dark days when it never gets light that I feel like hibernating.
    I love your sunset.

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Caro x

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