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Lughnasa – Harvest Time

Early August sees the start of Lughnasa, the late summer festival celebrating the ripening of berries and nuts in the forest and the first harvest in the fields.

Lughnasa is named after the Irish hero, Lugh, who many think of as a sun god. In later times, Lughnasa was named Lammas (‘loaf-mass’) in reference to the beginning of harvest.

In farmlands all over Europe, it was believed that the spirit of the corn lived amongst the crop, and so was made homeless by the harvest. It was the custom to fashion the last sheaf of wheat into a corn ‘dolly’, so that the spirit of the corn could spend the winter in this home, until the ‘dolly’ was ploughed back into the land in the new season.

In forest glades and edge-lands, wild grass, rather than cultivated grain, is in seed, and can be used to make a simple ‘dolly’. Here, in this extract from The Children’s Forest, we show you how to make your own Plaited Grass Dolly:

This extract is taken from The Children’s Forest: Stories & songs, wild food, crafts & celebrations by Dawn Casey, Anna Richardson and Helen d’Ascoli. Many of the songs from The Children’s Forest are now available online, so you can sing along even if you don’t read music.

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Beltane Celebrations

Beltane takes place on 1st May, exactly half way between the spring equinox and summer solstice. The word comes from the Old Irish, meaning ‘bright fire’, and the day is now often known as May Day.

Beltane marks the transition between spring and summer and celebrates the start of the light half of the year. It is the time of fertility.

In the cycle of day and night, this time of year is akin to mid-morning – when we are active and moving.

It is a time of enthusiasm, joy, vigorous growth, love, harmony, fertility and the fire of creation.

This extract is taken from The Children’s Forest: Stories & songs, wild food, crafts & celebrations all year round by Dawn Casey, Anna Richardson and Helen d’Ascoli. Enjoy some of the songs of spring from The Children’s Forest on our YouTube channel.

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It’s nesting season and we’re looking out for blackbirds!

Spring sees the start of nesting season for birds – both domestic, with chickens going broody, and wild birds who visit our gardens and parks.

Although blackbirds are easy to spot in our gardens in Autumn, when they come in search of berries and windfall fruit, if you’re lucky you might see them now gathering nesting materials, preparing to brood and hatch some chicks as the weather warms.

Blackbird chicks usually hatch after 13-14 days and are fed on earthworms when available in our gardens, and on caterpillars when they are raised in woodlands. Only the female blackbird broods the eggs, but both parents feed the chicks.

For more information on seasonal wildlife, and stories, songs and crafts that celebrate each season see The Children’s Forest by Dawn Casey, Anna Richardson and Helen d’Ascoli. Listen to Anna Richardson’s recording of the spring songs from The Children’s Forest on the Red Squirrel Resources YouTube channel.

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Easter Activity from The Children’s Forest – natural egg dyeing

The egg, so fragile and yet so strong, with its promise of new life, has always been a potent symbol and a part of Easter celebrations. In this extract from The Children’s Forest we show you how to paint eggs using natural dye, leaves and flowers.

For more seasonal activity ideas and stories see The Children’s Forest by Dawn Casey, Anna Richardson and Helen d’Ascoli.

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Home learning through lockdown

As 2021 begins we find ourselves back in lockdown, and looking for inspiring activities and home learning aids.

Hawthorn Press has practical books that can help with home education such as educational text books, crafts, seasonal projects, storytelling and literacy.

Pandemic Homeschooling

The Case for Homeschooling: free range home education handbook by Anna Dusseau is full of useful tips and advice on how to help your children learn at home. From a chapter on pandemic homeschooling, discussing how to juggle home learning with work and with tips to get you started, to 101 Activity Ideas, a Q&A section and suggested further reading and resources.

Early learning and movement?

Sally Goddard Blythe offers stories, songs with 2 CD’s, rhymes and exercises for early years brain development, attention, co-ordination and balance in Movement, your child’s first language.

Learning to write and read?

Parents of children aged 6-8 years will find Writing to Reading the Steiner Waldorf Way a creative, fun way of introducing literacy, from drawing the letters, to movement, telling stories to then writing and reading. Creative Form Drawing For the Four Temperaments with Children aged 6-10 years offers colourful pre-writing exercises.

Every family is a storytelling family and every child a storyteller?

Interested in telling nature stories? Then The Natural Storyteller has stories for telling orally. Using the story maps, you can easily tell the stories without reading and become a family storyteller. You can build up a repertoire of stories to tell your family, and impress your teachers on returning to school. You can find world stories in 147 Traditional Storiesfor children aged 7-12 to retell, and storytelling tips.

Seasonal Nature and Craft

Booksuch as The Children’s Forest offer stories and songs, wild food, recipes, crafts and celebrations for all the year round. Families can enjoy these, with seasonal things to look out for on your daily walks.

Crafting is a great way to spend time with your family, or to lose yourself in to counter feelings of anxiety or loneliness. Making with your hands is a great way of giving children the creative life skills for navigating this age of disruption. We have a wide variety of books including Making Soft DollsMaking the Children’s Year, Making Simple Needle Felts and Making Peg Dolls.

Our own Katy Bevan co-hosts a visible mending workshop, Meet Make Mend that you can now join online. The group will next meet on 13th January from 7 p.m. – sign up here.

There are also countless online tutorials springing up where you can join like-minded folk and make things together. For example, Hikaru Noguchi, author of Darning: Repair, Make, Mend is currently offering visible mending tutorials on IGTV and Steffi Stern, author of several crafting books published by Hawthorn Press, has a selection of online workshops available to watch via Youtube.

You can keep up-to-date on Hawthorn Press books, events and activity suggestions by following us on social media and by signing up to our monthly newsletter.