Simon’s Cat explains my year

If you don’t know Simon’s Cat, prepare to fall in love.

Here he is, the furry pillock, scampering through a year. He could very easily be Arabella’s Cat and has characteristics of all four of mine, but looks most like Buster.

Simon Tofield is the genius animator, cat lover, observer and entertainer. English, too. You can find out all about Simon and Simon’s Cat here.

This is largely how a year goes chez Arabella. Enjoy.

Dandelion season – here’s how to use them

The meadows all around my house are dotted with splashes of sunshine – dandelions. Heralds of Spring, these little sunny plants are crammed full of nutrients and have lots of healing properties. So don’t curse them, don’t poison them or dig them up… pick them and eat them, make syrup, salves and tea with them. Along with nettles, the first great gift of the natural year.

I came across things to do with dandelions on Pinterest – you can get a free ebook of ways to exploit these wonderful plants, so get cracking!

What’s your favourite way to use dandelions?

Even the snowman has stayed in bed

Still snowing. The Queen’s birthday, 21st April, and the weather is insisting that it’s only January. The wind has changed direction, about 180 degrees, and has strengthened a lot. So my gates are blocked and would need digging out, plus a path from the gates to the house. Where the wind has blown the snow off the trees, I can see colour of leaves, and some whiteness of blossom. I can’t believe the blossom will survive to become fruit, but I hope hope hope. Also hope the poor young bees and other pollinators have found somewhere warm to shelter.

Time to light the fire again. It’s 3 degrees outside, so there must be a thaw in progress, but it’s going to take a while…

Cat scan gives book clean bill of health

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Sarah, a friend in Bucharest, writes to tell me: “Oscar adores your wonderful book Arabella McIntyre-Brown. He’s been reading it all the afternoon and purring up a storm. He says he particularly loves all the “nature stuff. Especially the birds…”

There’s plenty in the book for cats, dogs, birds, chickens, sheep, horses, cows and moths. Creatures great, small, tame, wild, furred, feathered, scaled and winged all get a look-in.

An excellent present for gardeners, nature-lovers, cat and dog fans, herbalists, chefs and tea-drinkers.

Look, look – book’s here!

Book Din Liverpool in Carpati against snowy landscape

Monochrome setting, colourful book

The book, with half the number of authorial hands that typed it. Of the individuals on the cover, the bear is behind a tree on the left; the sheep are huddled just behind the book, the horse is in her stable, birds are fluffed up on their perches, dog’s in his kennel, and cats are all snuggled up in their beds by the fire in my study. I’m the fool with her hand out of the window…

Listen to this!

My friend, journalist Diana Mesesan, has produced a wonderful, colourful soundscape of Magura, with me talking about the first snow of the autumn/winter. Diana’s partner in the project Revin în 5 minute, illustrator Alexandra Gavrila, has produced these beautiful images specially, to go with the soundscape. Called Phone call from a snowy planet, listen for the green woodpecker, and the crackling fire, and much more.  Listen to it here. Massive thanks to both of them…! A talented pair – I’ll look forward to their next five-minute escape.

Where do you want to escape to – even for five minutes?

Organic garden pros and cons

One of the big differences between England and Transylvania is the diversity of insects. Entomologists love it here, chasing down small beasts no longer seen in more industrial countries of Europe.

Of course we have all the English favourites – the honey bee and the Red Admiral butterfly share a late white rose in the warm autumn sun. We also have a familiar English enemy – the Cabbage White butterfly – whose eggs turn into cabbage leaf munchers that create filigree vegetables.

What do you grow in your garden?