Welcome to Harvest Moon, a place where the creatures and landscapes of my imagination take form and meet the world. Nestled in beneath the wild craggy tors of Dartmoor inspiration comes on chilly winds from moonlit landscapes of other realms which share this rugged, ancient land of gorse and granite. Living here I sometimes feel on a bridge between worlds and ages as the land speaks from spluttering streams and wind-beaten tors, telling stories of folk and beast, but only in snatches before the endings are whipped away down the valley with the broad river and out to sea. So here I will share these stories and characters and they can dwell in your own imagination, continuing their stories with infinite outcomes. This is how they live, enjoy them!

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Where's the food?

Hello! Welcome to Harvest Moon if this is your first visit, and welcome back to the regulars!

If you have found us via google, after browsing through a certain cook book, or are looking for a permaculture course perhaps, you may be wondering what these strange doodlings have to do with anything. Well, when I'm not writing recipes, or growing odd vegetables, or teaching permaculture, or running a small holding, or being a mother....I like to pick up a pencil......which is why this poor abandoned blog hasn't been posted on for a while!

If you are looking for something more forest-gardeny or foody-growy-permaculturish, try my new blog and website Think.Grow. Eat. Here I will share our experiences here at Tawny Oaks, our experiments in the kitchen and other escapades, and I would like to invite you to contribute recipes and growing tips too. So come and see what we're up to, after you've perused the pictures here.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

continued hibernation....

My goodness, how time passes! The days and nights have blended in to one in the last 3 months of new parenthood. Robin is wonderful and thriving, and we too, albeit a little bleary-eyed and flourishing in our new roles as Mum and Dad.

Much has happened in these past few months, aside from growing a little person, I have fully fledged as a permaculture teacher working with the legendary and wonderful Patrick Whitefield. Teaching is something I have always felt drawn to, and I knew that all I needed was to find a subject I felt passionate enough about to enable me to take that path. It is a huge learning curve, and I feel that I learn as much from each lesson as the students do at this stage! But it is so rewarding, especially when I am approached between lessons by people who want to talk about what they have just learnt, and I see a spark becoming a flame - interest, enthusiasm, inspiration. Wonderful!

This year was an extra challenge as I am breastfeeding Robin, so between lessons I had to dash out and feed him! Doug came with me to look after him during lessons and we all stayed in our campervan with the woodburner keeping us cosy through the night. Somehow, despite the feeding, hormones and broken nights, I managed to string enough sentences together to teach various topics from water conservation to open space technology....and have fun at the same time!

My other major achievement in recent times has been the publication of my first book! Food From Your Forest Garden is a seasonal guide to harvesting, cooking and preserving the crops form your forest garden. I teamed up with Martin Crawford of the Agroforestry Research Trust to follow up his comprehensive guide 'Creating a Forest Garden' with a practical, day-to-day cook book, which would enable people to incorporate unusual food into their daily diet. The book will be launched in May and is available to advance order from Green Books. I spent a lot of my pregnancy experimenting with weird and wonderful new vegetables, finding their flavours and complimentary combinations to create simple, easy recipes. When putting the effort in to raise crops, especially perennials which will be in your garden for several years, its important not to forget that you need to get in to the habit of eating them too! I hope this guide will help people to do that and enjoy the fruits of their labour.

And so, life is flowing pretty fast at the moment! Fast, exciting, wonderful and at times a little overwhelming! I feel very lucky and very grateful for these three babies, and intent to nurture them as best I can. I sometimes wonder where the energy for this will come from, and I wonder whether I will ever pick up a pencil or a paint brush again! But in fact there are some seeds that have been sown on the course of these babies being born, and being fed, that are slowing growing by themselves, and my pencils are trembling in their tin with anticipation....more babies are on the way! It seems that creativity will find many outlets, but for me the pencil tin is always a big one. These great experiences are so inspiring that new ideas are forming, characters are emerging and telling me their stories, and I listen eagerly, asking them to just wait for me, just wait there until I can capture you and tell your tale in all its vivid colour!

I hope you will wait for me too, and in the meantime enjoy the last 2 years of wonderings and doodlings captured in this blog. I will return!

Spring time blessings!

Thursday, 24 January 2013


Well, after 2 long weeks 'post term' Robin Aitken arrived in just the way we had hoped. I had a smooth and trouble-free labour of around 9 hours and gave birth to Robin, a beautiful healthy boy of 7lb8, in the birth pool in our sitting room at home. We felt so relieved after having been told by the doctors that I wouldn't be allowed to give birth at home and would need to be induced as I was so overdue (although 2 weeks over is the norm for first babies!).

We had been called in to the hospital on the monday to have a check up and the obligatory warnings they give at 42 weeks. We had negotiated about when we would go in next, and managed to delay induction. I then conceded to a 'sweep' to help things along a little more naturally and immediately began having contractions....I knew he was ready to come out! So paradoxically Doug and I, on realising that I was going in to labour, were rushing to get away from the hospital! We both really wanted to stick with our plan, and the tests had shown that both Little Bean and I were healthy and well....so we stuck to our guns, and it all worked out perfectly. Robin was born at 11.30 the next morning on beautiful sunny, frosty december day. We realise of course that we are very lucky and are full of gratitude!

Robin is now 6 weeks old already....I cant believe how the weeks have flown by. It feels like we are all finding our feet and gelling as a family in a beautiful happy chaos of love and learning. He changes each day and is constantly gaining new skills....peeing in his own face, smiling, batting the dangling creatures on his bouncer...he's a very clever boy!

A friend asked me last week what my latest creative project was. As he takes a keen interest in my drawing he likes to see what I'm working on. I simply grinned as I bobbed across the room with babe in arms and replied "Robin".

Friday, 30 November 2012


so, after 9 very long months that have lasted forever and yet swooped past in an instant, we are here! All we have to do now is wait a little longer until our little bean decides its time to emerge. It's hard not to feel impatient to meet our little creation, but at the same time we now have time and space with one another which we know is very precious indeed! So we are enjoying this quiet before the storm, enjoying one another as we are now, just Doug and Cari, and enjoying my belly in full bloom before it bears its fruit.

It may be a little time, dear readers, before I post again! I will endeavour to introduce you to the bean as soon as it feels possible, but until then I want to thank you for the time you take to read my ramblings and ponderings, and the delightful comments you send - it is such a pleasure!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

...another turn of the wheel...


This is an introspective time of year, and particularly so for me now as I enter a huge new chapter of my life. This paradox of new life growing as the world enters hibernation has got me thinking about cycles and nature's annual miracle of death and rebirth. It is so beautiful, and every year is a chance for some part of us to be reborn, refreshed and renewed. I imagine that however many years one may live on this earth, springtime will never lose its wonder and autumn will never cease to touch the heart with its beauty and colour. This is a poem I wrote during the euphoric arrival of spring, and I think of it now as we enter the sweet melancholy of winter.

Candles & Conkers

The Horse Chestnut wakes early,
Holding limp, olive fingers to the bashful April sun
Silently begging for summer to come.
When at last the sun is braver
From empty aqua golden rays of June will pour
Fattened fingers spread and beg for more.
Up, up they reach for every ray
And with the golden bounty hands are forging day by day
A blossom-coated candle in the outstretched palm
An offering held up to whence it came.

The Horse Chestnut stands aglow with pride
About to drop a shiny treasure in disguise
The candles flickered and blew away
A fan fair for the final play before the year is done
Spiky bombs rain down upon September
And as the sun grows distant once again
Withered fingers fall in golden-browns
And somewhere underneath the ground
Down, down further deep
The Horse Chestnut sleeps

It feels perfect that as we are drawing our energy inwards, building our winter nests and bringing in wood for the fire, our little one will arrive and all of our focus will be on cosying up together and getting to know one another. 

Monday, 1 October 2012

new life....

...and so the chilly autumn draws in around us, the last warm embers of the summer sun fading behind morning mist and eddies of golden leaves. Such a beautiful season, autumn brings out the poet in all of us, and it is a time I always welcome and cherish. This year though I have polar feelings of sadness and excitement, making this autumn feel very different.

The sadness comes from mourning the passing of summer, and with it my perennial hopes of long, hot, hazy days drifting into one another for weeks on end....the summers of my childhood that seem to have left me waiting at the window, my breath fogging the inside as rain drops race down the outside. I'm beginning to feel I am waiting in vane. It is a strange feeling seeing the world roll towards that darker time of winter, rolling slowly and inevitably into the cold.

But then excitement comes as I remember the wonders of winter....coral red skies silhouetting tree skeltons; morning frosts edging fallen leaves in silver; and the occasionaly blanket of snow, telling a tale of night time in the criss-crossed tracks of rabbits, deer, foxes and who knows who else....

....There is though a more bubbling excitement which now permeates my days and nights....this comes from the paradox of new life growing, ready to emerge after samhain as the world goes to sleep and the sun dies again....

As I sit and write, this new life wriggles in my belly as if it knows that we're talking about it. The movements are so big now, in it's 32nd week of being, that I think I may be jiggled off my chair! We call it 'Little Bean', and like a bean it is a bundle of life and energy waiting to sprout. It feels like it can't wait, and neither can I....but we'll both have to be patient, because we have 8 weeks to go before we meet face to face. For now I must cherish every moment of carrying my Little Bean, because other mothers keep telling me that once they sprout, they grow very, very fast!

I feel that as Little Bean grows, so does my heart, bigger and stronger and fuller, growing to meet the wonderful challenge of motherhood. What a door we have opened, what an adventure lies behind it!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

curious corvids...

crows, rooks, magpies, jays, jackdaws....all are hounded by superstition, loathing and suspicion. I wonder why...... Some say that they have an negative impact on song bird populations because they take fledglings from the nest to eat. But ecologically this seems to be as well balanced as any wild predator / prey situation. Certainly they would have less impact on smaller birds than, say, modern agricultural practices and loss of habitat.

So why the hostility to our feathery companions? Well, apart from the exotic looking Jay, all are monochrome in their dark shaggy coats. But the magpie is surely one of our most elegant and beautiful birds....with her sleek, pied body and long tail with iridescent blue-green flashes....yet she carries the worst curse of all her family - how could something so graceful be unlucky?

Perhaps it is their blackness. Perhaps their unmelodious cries; the incessant droning of a rookery in springtime drives some to hurl stones into the tree tops....but not I. I listen in to the hubbub, intrigued by the toing and froing of the different voices. Then the sweet 'chip chip' of jackdaws passing overhead in clear blue skies.... is to me the sweet sound of summer arriving.

Perhaps we find their intelligence unsettling. They are cunning and calculating. They observe and learn and figure things out....qualities we revere in ourselves and fear in other creatures. I have heard of several jackdaws adopting humans as friends, communicating using beak tapping, croaks and squeeks....eyeing any pretty rings of gold or colourful gems on the hands of those who reach for a stroke. Perhaps it's their petty thieving we disapprove of.

Whatever it is that makes humans wary of this fascinating group, I defy it and pledge to appreciate them for all their quirky character and curiosity. They are wonderful to draw as their character is so distinct. Looking through my sketchbook I find the simplest of scribbles capture them the best.