Website of poet Elizabeth Rimmer


hawthorn trees and brambles, covered in snow

I was not expecting this today. Just enough for a frosting, and now with a bright clear sky giving us more light than we seem to have had for weeks. This is the haggard behind the house, open ground that was turned over back in the summer, and then left. I hope it goes on being left. There is ivy on those hawthorns, which were thick with berries in the autumn, and mugwort and plantain and bistort growing through the heavy clods of turned earth. I am interested to see what else will grow if it goes on being neglected, but I have the feeling that it will be grassed and planted with the trees the developer seems to favour – flowering cherry, lime, whitebeam. Not that these are too bad – they all have wildlife-friendly blossom and the whitebeam has berries, but I bet the grass will be mowed within an inch of its life.

This garden is wider than our previous one, but less deep, so the birds on the feeder are closer to us, and they give our garden life and character that it otherwise would miss. House sparrows and tree sparrows seem to live alongside each other harmoniously, and we aren’t too bothered by the rampaging city pigeons we used to see, though we do have a few wood pigeons, as you can see here.

wood pigeon (right) and goldfinch (left) on a hawthorn tree

The goldfinch shows the scale! We have a few chaffinches too, and occasional dunnocks and robins, and coal tits, great tits and blue tits. Once there was a small flock of long-tailed tits clinging to the fatballs, clustering like barnacles on a ship’s hull, and giving their soft sweet contact calls, as if they were pensioners on a day out: ‘are you there? Are you keeping up? have we lost Annie? no, there she is’.

There are starlings too, but I miss the blackbirds and thrushes. When the berries were first ripe they came in over a weekend, but they seem to have moved on for the most part. I hear them on the woody path, or in the park, but not here. I’ve heard wrens too, but they are shy and secretive, and I’m not surprised. We have a lot of cats on this estate.

The big miss is the geese. Winter does not seem like winter without the blanket of cloud, quilted with the skeins of pink-foots and greylags going over, the aimless swirls of them going to roost, the dedicated squadrons coming south in Octoberr, going north in March. I am looking for different markers for the slow opening of the lengthening day here, and yesterday I found them. The first long, tenderly pink rhubarb

a bowl of stewed forced rhubarb on a table

and the marmalade oranges. About now, my mother-in-law used to ring around all her daughters asking ‘Have you made your marmalade yet?’ and we would discuss recipes and the quality of oranges and the price of sugar. I miss this a lot. She made it in great quantities every year, much of it given to family and friends or sold at a church fete. I don’t make nearly so much, because I’m the only one in our house who likes it, but nothing else tastes so good as homemade marmalade, so here it is

a preserving pan full of simmering marmalade

I have taken few photos of the Place of the Fire so far, kept close to the house by weather, strangeness, and a bad knee, but as I learn the rhythms of this new place, I am discovering the places with things to tell me, and learning when to take my camera out.

Snowy garden showing the back fence, with seedling birch, snakebark maple, buddleia and sedum





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