Photo by Colin Smith
I'm involved in a major non-fiction project at the moment, charting local customs through the year. With so much of our lives conducted online nowadays, it's a worry that many things we used to enjoy will go into decline, in the same way a lot of village shops and independent booksellers have disappeared. Research does get me out and about, but I still spend most of my working days driving a desk. Writing doesn't use up many calories (more's the pity!) so this weekend I'm starting some heavy-duty spring cleaning to counteract all the comfort eating I've been doing during this long, cold, miserable winter.
Here in England we've just celebrated Shrove Tuesday, which is both the traditional time for a clear-out of tempting ingredients from your store cupboard before the Lenten fast (if you are devout) and a fantastic excuse to stuff yourself silly with various sweet or savoury pancakes. Our new young hens have been laying an egg each per day right through the winter, which gives pancakes a lovely rich yellow colour. I used 2 eggs, 8oz flour and enough milk to make a fairly thin batter (around 15 fl oz) and then cooked a stack of pancakes to eat with maple syrup or lemon and sugar. That definitely didn't help the diet, so today I'm going to start on the ground floor of the house and work steadily through every room until the whole place is immaculate. Well, that's the theory...
Photo by J. Eudes
It's not only Tottering Towers that is getting spring fever. The end of winter means our colonies of honeybees are beginning to get out and about. The catkins in the hazel coppice tempt them on fine days, and they soon find our snowdrops and hellebores. Once all that pollen gets back to the hives, the various queen bees will start laying. Each colony will expand rapidly from about 5,000 insects to around 30,000, and pressure on space inside the hive makes them think about swarming. It's a race against time at this time of year to get all the spare equipment ready to anticipate swarms. All the old, worn out honeycomb has to be melted down and the frames cleaned ready for the new season. This year I've managed to refine over twelve pounds of wax. I can't decide whether to use it to make cosmetics, candles and polish or trade it for more bee supplies.
If I made beeswax polish, I could use it after my planned spring-clean and fill the house with its warm, wonderful smell. I normally hate housework, but the prospect of doing that is very tempting!
Do you have any little rituals to send winter on its way?
Christina Hollis has written both Historical fiction and Modern Romance/Presents for Harlequin Mills and Boon Ltd, as well non-fiction for national magazines and prize-winning short stories. Her current release, Lady Rascal is available for download from Amazon, iTunes and many other retailers, while her next book, Changing Fortunes, will be published in the summer. She loves to hear from readers - you can contact her through her website or her blog.