Coping with covid

As I write this, it now seems that autumn is with us with gales and blustery showers. Since lock-down at the end of March, the weather has been at least a month ahead. Most of the last 5 months has been spent in my garden.

Good grief!! Looking back through my photos over this time, I can’t believe how much has happened. I’ve built a whole new veg garden and a path, patched the clay floors and laid some land drains. With our son, Dougal, (whisked away from Bristol just before lock-down to complete his degree online) I collected some fabulous ash logs and planted spuds and peas (including mange touts), which we have now eaten along with a glorious crop of cherries.

However the main purpose of this blog was to let you know that courses are underway again. David along with his son for the first two days, made the components for a couple of chairs. When his son had to leave, I assembled the components for one chair, then together David and I seated them with slight variants of the wavy twill pattern.

David with two lath-back chairs

By now the runner beans had turned from delicate little frost-bitten babies into giant monsters looming over my workshop demanding to be harvested every two days, then sliced, blanched and frozen to nourish us over what I am certain will be a harsh winter.

The runner beans after 3 months of loving attention

The runner beans, struggling after a late frost in May

Plums, lettuce and carrots abound while the autumn raspberries are now ripening and the first apples are starting to fall.

Fine young carrots

The first of this autumn’s raspberries

Blenheim apples nearly ripe

The second course was with Suzi (a woodworking novice) and her partner Joe (an experienced furniture maker)

Suzi & Joe with their chairs

Although I suggest beginners (like Suzi) make a simple spindle-back chair, Joe and I agreed that he would be well-able to make a more time-consuming lath-back. I gave a little help when Suzi needed it and I also learned several wood-working tricks from Joe (like using an iron to raise the grain when wood has been squashed).

Ironing out the dents left by squeezing the frame together.

By Thursday evening they had assembled their frames so that Friday could be spent weaving their own unique variations of the wavy twill seats.

Suzi’s version of the wavy twill pattern

I have now harvested just a few of the damsons growing at the top of the garden and together with some apples, have now made a dozen jars of jam for use over the next year.

Damsons ready for jam

Damson & apple jam

I fully appreciate that compared to most people, we have been incredibly fortunate over the period dominated by covid 19. We have been able to pass our time in a beautiful rural garden, walk the local footpaths freely and continue with a creative, fulfilling way of life. What happens next year, let alone beyond that, nobody knows.

Writing this blog has reminded me of the words of the deceased chairmaker John Brown, ‘I live in a beautiful place, I work at something I love, I make enough money to live, and my demands on the world’s resources are very meagre’.

In May 2021 I shall be 70 and my relatively slowly advancing multiple sclerosis is unlikely to have diminished but I hope that I shall be able to run a full programme of courses, if only for the 20 or so people booked for this year, who I have had to disappoint because of covid 19!

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