A summerish January
a winterish spring.

New year, new resolutions, new goals, new starts – so much newness that we race into. January shouldn’t be about new things really, not yet. We are still deep in mid-winter and waiting for the light which we know has been growing since middle of last month, to show itself. January is not about starting, but about breathing, noticing, resting. That’s what nature is doing; all growth that is happening does so below ground, or in the artificial spring we create behind glass.

It does seem however, that the birds get going earlier every year. Maybe from their lofty perches they can perceive something beyond our own senses, or maybe their just have faith that spring will come, eventually.

“The tiny gestures of spring are building incrementally in our parish. The first was the wheezing two-note song of a great tit, like a see-saw pivoting on its unoiled fulcrum. Then dunnock added a pleasing tinkle to the grey dawn, and this week I heard the unmistakable drumming of a great spotted woodpecker.”

‘Claxton’, Mark Cocker

After the fiery hues of autumn and berry-rich reds and jewels of Yule, January yearns for the cool crisp calmness of white. Yet I still seek out green, whether it be holly, yew or garden hellebores to reassure that life still grows in the iron soil.

I often think the allotment plots look their best in winter – rows of iron-rich kale withstand the frosts with ease, accompanied by crinkle-leaved brassicas, and stately leeks.

Whilst Jack Frost works on breaking down the clods of soil and manure, there are few jobs that can be completed out of doors. The gardener retreats to the warm kitchen, or a spot by the fire, to study the seed catalogues and over-order on seed potatoes.

It’s the darkness in the mornings that gets me. Half-minute by half-minute the evenings are pushing out, but it’s still deeply dark when we wake. Today wind blows waves of rain against the window, a rugged remote and wild sound, that prowls like a beast, cloaked by the blackness that pushes up agains the panes. Even the song thrush has allowed its voice to be drowned this morning, his spell song usually swells the light; without it will there be a dawn? The wind claws and hums, testing the entrances of our home, finds its way down the chimney; inside and out. The draft disturbs the scent of the hyacinth that stands on my desk. An odourant balm that soothes and lulls winter’s feverish strains. Robin takes his place as the thrushes understudy, ardently singing the morning to lightness.

– Sussex Field Notes, January 9th 2020

In Season in January…
Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, celeriac, parsnip, forced rhubarb.
Partridge, venison, wood pigeon, mackerel, turbot, haddock, hake.
Stilton, cheddar, cheshire, comte, gruyere.
Three-cornered-leek, bittercress, dandelion, jelly ear fungus.

10th: Houseplant Appreciation Day – 11th: Plough Monday –
29th-31st: Big Garden Birdwatch – 30th: Storytelling Week

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