Saturday, February 16, 2013

Writing From Life

URL: Colin Smith [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsHTML
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  AmazoniTunes  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.


Elanor said...

Hi Christina - what beautiful pictures! I didn't make any pancakes myself this year, but relied on the benevolence of the campus Chaplaincy to provide me with some... I guess my early spring ritual is watching the first flowers bloom; there used to be a carpet of snowdrops behind the greenhouse at home, and daffodils by the roadside on the way to school. Now I look for daffodils on campus - but I haven't seen any snowdrops yet!

Christina Hollis said...

Hi Elanor, thanks for commenting. The snowdrops are out here, and the daffodils on the way down to the village school are showing buds but they won't be out for some weeks yet - they'll probably be out in time for Mothering Sunday here in the UK.
I'm glad you did at least get some pancakes, from the Chaplaincy. I bet that's one of their best attended meetings!

girlygirlhoosier52 said...

I'm thinking about offering you an airplane ticket to come and clean my house and leave it smelling like beeswas.. lovely photos of spring... wish it was happening here.

Mary Preston said...

That's a LOT of wax. I'm wondering what you would need to do, or not do, to make it into beeswax polish.

Christina Hollis said...

Haha, girlygirlhoosier - I find it hard enough to get started on my own spring cleaning! Although a trip away from it all is very tempting at this time of year...
Thanks for commenting, and I hope you're enjoying this exciting time of year.

Christina Hollis said...

HI, Mary, thanks for commenting. I've still got to read up on the details of producing beeswax polish, but I do know that the wax needs to be melted together with turpentine. Although you're supposed to do that over water in a double boiler, porringer or similar, applying heat to two highly flammable substances isn't something I'll be doing without a lot of thought. One of my beekeeping mentors makes lip salves and hand-creams using beeswax and essential oils so I might try that, although I expect the method is similar.

Pat Cochran said...

No special rituals for us! Although spring
cleaning still looms in our future! As soon
as my cold is behind me, I plan to make a
start on that task!!

Pat C.