Pallet Wood Bug Hotels

It dawned on me that I forgot to post about the little bug hotels we made over summer, so here is a little flashback to August in these colder times.

Thomas cut and measured up a few planks of pallet wood that we had at the allotment and made the bases, whilst I walked around the park with his nieces [and their mother]; we foraged for twigs, leaves and any other sort of foliage that may come in handy.

They were learning about bugs at school and so we thought this would be a great way to help them learn about their habitats. We assisted them when they needed to use anything sharp, but we let them get on and discover what foliage would be good for what section of the bug hotels and discussed what bugs may pay them a visit.

Decent bug hotels start from around £20, but it is much better to sit and make your own from what you can find in nature.

Wire was placed over the bottom parts, although it may have been a good idea to put it over all of the parts to stop any of the looser items falling out.

There are examples of bug hotels that are made of several pallets stacked on top of one another; with bricks, stones, twigs and such-forth inside. We don’t have the space for something so large unfortunately, but thinking back to making these is making me want to get down to the allotment and crack on with making one! The allotment is quite dormant now, so this would be a great project for us to do in the mean time.

As we leave the darkness

Yule is a sacred time for our people. We have lived through the darkness and the sun is reborn once again during the winter solstice. We are connected to nature and in-turn we are renewed in this rebirth. We reflect on many things during Yule; I personally think of the ones who came before me. It is very important to be connected to your roots, without roots we are nothing.

Many people seem to have forgotten their roots, I suppose it is hard to stay connected in such a fast paced globalist nightmare; but it is possible. Many ancient Yule [Pagan] traditions are still with us today, under the guise of Christianity.

Trees and greenery

Winter is when most of nature lies dormant; with the obvious exception of evergreens. The dwelling was decorated with greenery, to remind them that life can still survive throughout the winter. This was known as “decking the halls”.

Trees are an important symbol, they are the symbol of life. There is a suggestion that offerings would be tied to trees for the gods during Anglo-Saxon and Viking times, but it was also believed to be practised by the Romans. Although, trees were not bought into the home until around the 16th century by the Germans, but this slowly developed into the Christmas tree that we have today.

Image by Anne Stokes.

Christmas Holly

In more modern times, we usually think of holly berries as “the blood of Christ”. In Christianity, the sharp leaves of the holly came to represent the thorn of crowns; the berries his blood.

In actual fact, the reason why holly is so prolific at during Yule is due to The Holly King and the Oak King’s twice yearly battle. Oak would reign from Yule to Midsummer, and Holly would reign from Midsummer to Yule. One representing the lighter half of the year, the other the darkness. The wheel ever turning.

Ivy accompanies holly in depictions of Yule, holly represents life; whereas ivy represents death. The two work together in perfect harmony.

Father Christmas

Father Christmas has his roots in several places. Some see his roots with The Holly King – as he dressed in red and green with a white beard, with eight of stags by his side.

Another pre-christian ideal is that Father Christmas is actually Woden, and the reindeer are his noble eight legged steed Sleipnir. Woden is the all father of the Aesir [in Germanic Paganism] and is sometimes depicted as the wander in robes.

This is the darkest time of the year and people would not dare venture into the darkness, for they may encounter evil spirits. Woden and the wild hunt would ride across the dark winter skies for any wandering soul they may find – and doom the wanderer to ride the skies with them for evermore. This may not sound like the Christmas we know just yet. Woden would bestow gifts to his favourites, possibly leaving gifts under the trees which held the offerings for himself. Children would even leave vegetables for Sleipnir, which are now left for Father Christmas’ reindeer.

The Father Christmas of today is also heavily influenced by the Christian missionary, St Nicholas. Amongst many things, he was the patron saint of children and had a habit of gift giving. It is even believed that his bones were discovered in Peebles, Scotland.

Carol Singing [Wassailing]

We think of Wassailing as singing to ward off evil spirits in the orchards; for the health of the trees and for a bountiful harvest, but it once encompassed the carol singing we know today.

Wassailers would have traditionally gone from dwelling to dwelling [as well as through the orchards] singing to the health of their neighbours and families, which evolved into the carol singing of today – which peaked in popularity during the Victorian era.

There are so many other traditions throughout the Christmas season that we can thank our Pagan forefathers for, I really have just touched the tip of the iceberg.

I wish you all a blessed Yule. Take time for yourselves and your families. Take time to be in nature. Rest and be merry.

What Have We Learnt?

What have we learnt in the last six months of having an allotment?

The first one is an obvious one. It is hard work.

Don’t be fooled by the pictures and the accounts that make it seem like it is a breeze, it really isn’t. Some days it is six hours of digging in the blistering heat, or 2 hours of trudging around in the mud on a chilly Winter morning.

Expect failures.

Sometimes the easiest thing to grow will fail, you can give it all the care and attention in the world and it will not survive. We experienced this with our tomatoes. They were doing so well, lovely green tomatoes starting to ripen and suddenly over a weekend they died. They had contracted blight, so there was no hope. Our rhubarb root was eaten when it was moved and our lettuce bolted. Be prepared for some disappointments.

There are no real rules.

Plants that shouldn’t thrive do, plants that should grow with little help need a lot. Colours that shouldn’t work together look wonderful. Sometimes, you really just have to wing it. Nature will do its own thing.

The pumpkins absolutely thrived in terrible soil, so we had to move the herb patch as they were being overshadowed. Your allotment is always changing.

You will get a glut of something.

No matter how little of something you think you have planted, there will always be a glut and preserving will become your best friend. But, if you aren’t a fan of chutneys and jams, expect to have a freezer full of runner beans and eat potatoes everyday for a week (and still have left overs!)

People are generous.

We have been given a shed, paving slabs, seeds, plants, tools… and the list goes on. We are so grateful for this and we try to give back when we can. We have been blown away by peoples generosity. People want to see you succeed and will help you along the way.

You become quite thrifty with your money and materials.

For anyone who knows me, I have always been someone to hunt for a bargain. Having an allotment has increased this sense tenfold! Half dead plant for 50p? I’ll take it! All it needs is a bit of TLC and it will come back to life, but don’t buy things just because they are cheap. You have to find a balance.

There are plenty of things that we have given a second life to down at the allotment. Scrap wood became our work bench, old clothes became our allotment clothing, a tire we found became a herb planter and a bunch of pallets became a compost bin. Almost anything can be given a second life with a little imagination.

Time management.

Time is precious. You have to make the most of the time at the allotment, especially in Winter when a lot of the time the weather isn’t on your side. If you haven’t planted your seeds or prepared the ground in time then you simply won’t have a crop. I’ve found by just putting my seeds in month order and digging a little bit at a time keeps you on top of things, but don’t be lured into a false sense of security.

I could sit here for hours and talk about all the little things we have learnt, but I would say these are the factors that have seeped into our everyday lives. I am grateful for the journey this little patch of land has taken us on, here’s to the next six months and beyond.

Our happy place.