Autumn Equinox, starting school and bambino #3

The days are definitely getting Autumnal.

To be honest it’s a relief after the furnace like Summer we had. The blackberries are out, so Mole, Hedgehog and I have done a couple of hedge picking trips, which nicely whiled away some afternoons. Hedgehog sat in the buggy like a little queen as usual, while Mole marched in a purposeful way ahead and pointed out the blackberries as they came into view. I found myself picking most of them, and disbursing them between my bowl, Mole’s bowl, and Hedgehog’s mouth. As I offered them to Hedgehog a little hand would appear around the side of the buggy hood, and delicately take the berries one at a time. It amazes me how many blackberries she can consume in one go, it must have been at least 50.

A chocolate and blackberry cake was the main result of our efforts, with blackberries decorating the top of the cake, stuck on with white icing. Mole had a mini meltdown when she discovered that she’d not been involved in decorating the cake, as she’d been watching Ben and Holly at the time. So I appeased her by letting her add some sprinkles. She poured them in a single multi-coloured mound in the centre of the cake, and then tried to spread them around with her finger. I inwardly alternated between trying to be laid back and good humoured about it, and mentally screaming “What are you doing? You’re ruining the cake!”.

This week Mole started reception year at school, and Hedgehog started preschool. They’ve both taken to it beautifully. There were tears from Mole on the first day, mostly on account of not wanted to wear her uniform, and me having to gently explain to her that the uniform is part of the deal of going to school. On entering the playground she gripped my hand tightly, and did not let go until we were in the classroom. But on picking her up later she was all smiles; “I love big school, it’s better than preschool”. Now she waits by the front door in the morning in anticipation of leaving, with “Come on mummy, it’s time to go”. I wonder how long this will last until I am the one rushing her to get ready? We’ve been impressively early for school so far.

The other side of things, is that this leaves three whole days in the week of alone time for me. So far I’m managing, but it’s a bit strange. It’s lovely to have all this uninterrupted time on my hands, but it is a bit… quiet. It’s nice timing that we are doing a spot of dog sitting for people this month, so I currently have a bull dog called Percy languishing at my feet by the desk, protectively grunting and running at the front door whenever he hears something. It’s quite nice company, and makes me wonder whether a future permanent dog would be a good idea.

Before I run to get a dog we should remember that there is my expanding stomach for company, with the little wiggles, pokes and squirms coming from within, asserting its increasing presence in the world. Yes it’s official, bambino #3 is well on the way and due on the Winter solstice, just in time for Christmas. I’m pretty sure it was conceived in a caravan in the Brecon Beacons earlier this year, so I blame the rainy Welsh weather. It’s been a very matter-a-fact pregnancy this time around, probably because I’m so occupied with Mole and Hedgehog, but I like the relaxedness of it.

We already have everything in terms of baby stuff, it all got stowed in the loft as Mole and Hedgehog grew out of things, so the main things I’ve done in terms of baby prep so far are starting some pregnancy yoga (for the body) and hypnobirthing practice (for the mind). The pregnancy yoga involved taking a book out of the library, (Pregnancy Yoga, by Samantha Magee), and learning my routine from that, which I now do for about half an hour every day in either the garden or the living room on my mat. So far it’s been really rewarding and I already feel stronger for it. The hypnobirthing was another library book, (Mindful Hypnobirthing, by Sophie Fletcher), who also has a website where you can download audio tracks and exercises to accompany the book. I’ve listened to the hypnobirthing tracks a few times and they are very good at sending me to sleep, Mr M&H comments that I start snoring when listening to them. I’ll step this up a gear in the third trimester, and hopefully it will make a difference on labour day. In terms of social support I’ve also joined my local PBM group (Positive Birth Movement), which meets once a month, and a local home birth support group, but yet to go to a meetup, so I’ll see how those go.

Otherwise I’ve had the usual and most common question from people which is “How are you feeling?”, to which I reply “Really well”, because I am. Aside from the usual niggles, like needing the toilet all the time, stretching pains and getting tired more easily, there hasn’t been a lot to complain about. The main difference between this pregnancy and previous ones, is that instead of getting the dreaded nausea early on, I got dizzy instead. It got to the point where every time I stood up, I had to sit down again. I put this down to dropped blood pressure, which has eased off now, and I was so relieved not to have any nausea that I didn’t mind too much about feeling faint, it gave me an excuse to eat more.

So my going into the third trimester roughly coincides with the Autumn Equinox, and I decided a few weeks back that it would be really nice to start a family tradition of celebrating and marking the quarterly equinoxes and solstices in a more real way, the same as we do for Easter and Christmas. In the end I came up with about three traditions that would be doable and that we could stick to… 1 - We will make a seasonal wreath for the front door, using wild pickings from the hedgerows that reflect whatever is growing at that time of year. 2 - We will have a big meal and try to include as much home grown and wild food that we can, and 3 - We will have an evening bonfire in the garden (using our fire pit on legs), and perhaps sit out under the stars if it’s a clear night. I’ll report back on our first Autumn Equinox celebrations next month, and let you know how Mole and Hedgehog found it.

Something else to keep me occupied until December rolls around is the allotment, which is flourishing quite nicely, even though it can feel like slow progress. As a fellow plot holder remarked to me “It’s not like instant coffee”, so true. Our instant gratification culture somehow makes me expect it to be that way though. I get frustrated at the amount of work there is to do, and the fact that I can’t make it all happen now.

But when I look at what I’ve achieved in my first year as an allotment owner, it’s quite a lot. We’ve got four beautiful hens who provide us with four eggs a day, (when one of them isn’t broody and going off-lay, which she is apt to do), we’ve built a hen run for them DIY style, and enjoyed watching them free range around the plot when we’re there. I’ve dug out six large beds, two of them for fruit and four of them for veg, and started growing things in them. I’ve covered the paths with wood chip from the local tree surgeon, and regularly dump alpaca manure on the beds to break up the soil. I’ve mulched the beds with hay, and generally learned that if you can suppress the weeds, then you save yourself a lot of work. I’ve gone in for the labour-saving method of not digging too much either, especially since I learned that we can borrow next-door plots rotavator whenever we fancy.

Last week I entered my beetroot and orange chutney into the village garden show and got first prize. Next year if we’re organised enough I’ll enter the scarecrow competition with Mole and Hedgehog.

I’m working out what to do with my last remaining corner of space on the plot, and toying with the idea of keeping bees. So far I’ve joined the local Beekeepers Association, who run courses and offer all kinds of support, and gone along to the apiary in Bedford for some hands on bee action. It was an amazing morning and I learned among other things, how to spot the queen, how to tell between honey cells and brood cells, and what bee larvae looks like. My grandfather kept bees so I like to think it’s in my blood already, we shall see.

Now it’s time to get Mole from school, not forgetting to bring a banana with me because she is always hungry when I fetch her, despite the three courses of of school dinner that she tells me about, including some pretty extravagant sounding desserts.

She gets more sugar at school than she gets at home!