Saturday, 28 March 2020

A Slow and Seasonal Guide To April

*Disclaimer: I started to write this post before the corona lock down happened in the UK. I have since edited it slightly but I thought I would still like to share it. Most of these things can still be appreciated on our one outing a day, things can still be foraged and nature still enjoyed. If it is difficult for you to get out into the countryside I hope it might bring some calm to your life during this time, a bit of an escape and help you to be reminded that nature is still continuing even in this strange and alien world we are living in at the moment.*

April derived from the Roman word Aprilis which means “to open”, is the month of true beginnings. The Latin word Aprilis certainly gets it right here as all of nature seems to open its doors to this new month. The flowers bloom, the birds build nests and the sunshine beckons all and sundry from their closeted homes and out into the fresh air.

April begins with a frivolous and silly morning; the tradition of April Fools. A chance to let out your mischievous side and trick those in our lives who are most gullible. It is a sweet and fun tradition, but we know very little about why it started and where it came from.
This year it will be shortly followed by the Christian celebration of Palm Sunday. A time when churches around the world will parade through the streets and around their local neighbourhoods waving palm leaves in the air to remind us of the time Jesus rode into Bethlehem on a donkey. Unlike our vibrant European neighbours, in England it can be a rather quiet affair, but many churches have been known to process round the church grounds waving handmade palm crosses and even the odd donkey has been sighted.
Just a few days later star gazing will be high on the agenda for many as on the 8th of April we will be treated to a Super moon even greater than the one in March. The moon will be at its closest to the earth then it will be all year, only 357,030km away and should therefore appear 14% larger and 30% brighter. A once a year opportunity and a great chance for some soothing moon bathing.
The Christian tradition of Easter will be coming upon us rapidly in those first few weeks of April and it is the perfect time for family activities and creative pursuits. Some of my personal favourites include painting eggs to hang on an Easter tree, creating a miniature Easter garden in a seed tray from stones and flowers you find in your own garden and of course the traditional Easter egg hunt. Fun for all the family young and old.
After a sea of yellow flowers in March, April is the time of white, pink and green. The hedgerows begin to fill in again as hawthorn bushes are covered in a myriad of green buds ready to open in May. The first green shoots of bluebells begin to appear in our ancient woodlands and the white and pink blossom still blooms coating our countryside in a wash of candyfloss colour. And of course, we cannot forget the wondrous sight of baby lambs dotting our hills and fields all over the country. Their joyful leaping and happy nature always brings a smile.
In our own gardens we will begin to see bees emerging from their hives heading straight for cherry blossoms, cowslips and dandelions. This is also the time of year we begin to see the first butterflies appearing, their delicate wings stretched out and fluttering in the spring sunshine.
It is a busy time for us in the garden as many will begin to sow seedlings grown in green houses out into pots now the last of the frosts is over. Many salads, tomatoes, beans and much more can be planted out towards the end of month when the weather really starts to warm up.
Delicious vegetables which we haven’t seen for many months such as rocket, and asparagus will once again be available. Rhubarb is in season and perfect in that Easter Sunday crumble. April is also the beginning of wild garlic season and many keen foragers will be taking to their local forests to find the delicious green leaves perfect for pesto pasta.       

Another foraging delight at this time of year is the humble nettle leaf. It has been used traditionally for any number of ailments including postpartum recovery, hay fever and to promote healthy adrenal glands. Pick fresh during the month of April and May and dry out for use throughout the year in homemade nettle tea.
Towards the end of the month we have Earth Day, St Georges Day and Shakespeare Day in England. All wonderful opportunities to celebrate, my suggestion would be to take a picnic outside (into your garden if it's still not possible to leave the house) and enjoy our beautiful world whilst eating some traditional home baked food such as scones with jam and cream and read or listen to a sonnet or two.
April is the perfect cool and pleasant spring month encouraging us out from our houses and into the sunshine preparing us for a bountiful summer. A particularly special month for me as it is full of family birthdays including my own. There is always much joy and merriment this time of year and I intend to make the very most of it.

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