It’s Solstice, the weather is in the thirties, just over the hill everyone is heading for the Festival, but here at the Dove in the quiet, things are happening.
An absent artist (Laura Burke), her paintings arranged on chairs ‘like friends’. Too hot to paint.
Another artist at work.
and a real bee in – clover
Circle 1 – seen in the Tree circle
Circle 2 – our Solstice fire
And so often here – that beautiful evening light over the Tor.
Spotted yesterday in the Dove Meadow: pyramidal orchids. Not nearly as many as on the White Field, but we’re getting there.
These yellow rattle flowers may not look all that remarkable, but they are great news for a wild flower meadow. Yellow rattle is semi parasitic on grasses, which means its roots bore down into the grass roots and suck the life out of them Not all of their life; just enough to ensure that they are weakened and grow very small, which allows other plants to take root. So it’s heartening that the handfuls of hay from the White Field that I scattered over the Dove Meadow last Autumn have resulted in yellow rattle colonies.
But a super abundance of hogweed, as here in the Tree Circle,
meant that the field had to be cut early, orchids, rattle and all. Now it looks like this:
That’s management for you. I hope I’ve done the right thing.
Over in the Door House, to be seen here stretching canvases on the the verandah, is another new arrival: Laura Burke, here on a 6 week painting residency funded by ACEarts in Somerton. She set up a work table almost immediately, and will also be doing one of the Amazing Space Book Commissions for the Tree House.
Talking of the Tree Circle, as I did above, June 10th is the first day of the Oak tree in the Celtic lunar calendar. (The Tree Circle Calendar, or Alphabet, is a planting of 13 native trees each starting with a different Celtic consonant and arranged in order of the 13 lunar months of the year). The other night – the 10th, as it happened – I photographed the just waning full moon, and in the process of writing this post, have discovered that the Celtic name for the June full moon is the Oak Moon. Makes sense: this is our home grown name for what is sometimes know by the American Indian name of ‘Strawberry Moon’. So here, behind the ‘Big Oak’ – the largest and oldest tree in this part of Butleigh, I give you – The Oak Moon
Fast forward nearly 3 weeks from the first workshop, and Jim Blackburn turns up with a trailer full of green oak timber, an amazing sponsorship gift from his suppliers. So it was all systems go with the introductory course to green woodwork timber framing on the bank holiday Saturday just past.
First, a fascinating and informative presentation about timber framing – this has all been going on for hundreds of years, and we will all look at old barns differently from now on, as careful inspection reveals a multitude of information on when, who, what, how…
An introduction to tools followed, and then a demonstration on how to lift heavy timber without hurting yourself – all about gravity, levers and fulchrums (fulchra??)
followed by lunch – this has to be an essential part of every communal activity.
And then: outside to practice marking up the timber and then cutting it, working in pairs:
And something very important has stayed in my head since Jim’s presentation: that this ancient craft of timber framing is precisely still relevant today because of the fact it HAS to be a group, communal activity, and that these groups were – and still are – often itinerant, spreading and sharing their skills and methods across borders and ages, a free movement of people, ideas, trade, knowledge – yes, come on everyone, bring it on!
The day after the workshop: I got back from an unexpected few days away, to find 8 carpentry ‘stools’ stacked in the back garden. The workshop had taken place the day before and this had been the scene in my studio:
It had become a carpentry workshop: for the first time in 30 years or more, since the days when woodworkers Roger Frood, Jon Swayne and David Beech inhabited it one after the other. This time it was Jim Blackburn, long time associate and one time resident of the Dove, with the first of his inspirational workshops, and 8 keen participants ranging in age from 12 – ??. After the introduction to woodwork in the studio the class moved into the garden, measuring, cutting, fixing….
Brilliantly, the first person to twig that the pile of ‘practice’ pieces mounting up beside him was going to become a trestle, or stool, was the youngest: Zan!
And so the trestles took shape at the end of an exhausting but demonstrably inspirational day, awaiting their usefulness for the rest of the project. Thank you Jim, so much.
Easter Sunday, and artist Faye Suzannah and dog Mango came to stay for a week’s residency in the Door House. The perfect week to choose, with blossom bursting out all over, as here in the Whitefieldand here on the ash trees (sorry, not blossom: embryos already! A fecund tree)
Other artists were attracted to the Nature bounty that is going on:
Meanwhile Faye was making excursions into a poly tunnel
where she sketched the flag irises (not often you find a pond in a poly tunnel) and became intrigued by the entwined fig branches
while I was mesmerised by a falling peach blossom that never made it to the ground:
On the following Saturday it was Artists’ Book Club Dove day in my studio, and after discussing our current book theme ‘Repetition’, we drew a new topic for the month ahead out of the pot: ‘Tracks’. Which made me think of the animal tracks running through the flowers on the Whitefield, so we made our way round there after lunch; across Wild Lea (which I wanted to call Broad Lea because it is always broad whichever way you look at it and therefore in need of a panoramic photo. The Dove used to be known as Broad Moor farm not so long ago and you can see why from this photo)
The sheep have been ‘borrowed’ from a nearby farmer: they are large, and so I’m told, prize-winning Charolais sheep that are grazing the tough rye grasses that were planted on this field over the past few years. But new grasses are appearing fast, and we are hoping for a gradual change to meadow grasses and flowers. Then into the Whitefield with its glorious carpet of cowslips (a cowslippy year, said a friend).
Back to base via the Dove Meadow, where Clare hopped like a bird onto Olivia’s ‘perch”. This little platform that we put up last year is to be the start of the Tree house project starting this coming Saturday, 6th May, places still available in the enthusiastic group that is forming around this venture…come and join us in the trees!
An exciting series of workshops this summer, that combine learning woodworking skills and design with actually building a tree ‘library’. Here’s how the idea came about:
And here are the details of how you can get involved:
Is it just me, or are the grasses particularly beautiful this year? Especially when seen up against Pennie Elfick’s Shed painting, which continues to enchant and reflect the landscape. You can perhaps see here that the willows have been pollarded and cast a more leafy shadow. Michael Fairfax came over yesterday to collect his Fiddlesticks for Priddy Folk Festival, and remarked on the completely changed feel of the place from last year. Here are the willows (it’s getting dark now, nights are drawing in….)