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!

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.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

building walls....

funny, as I write the title to this post I realise that the phrase 'building walls' is usually describing barriers; hindrances to connection and communication. I was thinking of quite the opposite after reading the poem 'Scaffolding' by Seamus Heaney. I chose the poem - an all time favourite of mine, as a reading before dinner at the end of a 2 week residential permaculture course last week. It is amazing the level of closeness the groups gain after only a fortnight in each others company. We hold 4 courses a year with around 20 places on each, and each time observe a group of total strangers become collegues and friends.

We create a temporary community where the students have to cooperate with chores, share sleeping areas, eat together, work together and learn together. It's intense and educational on many levels! The courses are so much more than learning permaculture design techniques; they are truly enriching experiences which many past students say they always remember and cherish....some say it changed their lives. What a privilege to be a part of such a thing. If nothing else, it is a constant source of inspiration to be surrounded by groups of people, with all different backgrounds and knowledge, who want to make positive changes to their own lives and that of their community. Each time I find myself saying "what a great group of people", and each time it is true. I think its because of the subject which has drawn them together. Permaculture attracts people who care.....if they didn't care, they simply wouldn't bother!

So as another course ended I was reminded of all the lasting connections with previous students from over the years, of the great friendships, relationships and projects that have germinated from the courses and I was moved to share this beautiful poem. I feel we are building foundations here for the future, and upon the foundations, some 'walls of sure and solid stone'.

Scaffolding by Seamus Heaney 

Masons, when they start upon a building, 

Are careful to test out the scaffolding; 

Make sure that planks won’t slip at busy points, 

Secure all ladders, tighten bolted joints. 

And yet all this comes down when the job’s done 

Showing off walls of sure and solid stone. 

So if, my dear, there sometimes seem to be 

Old bridges breaking between you and me 

Never fear. We may let the scaffolds fall 

Confident that we have built our wall.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

doodling again

It's so nice to be doodling again. I allowed myself an afternoon of papery liberation; no objective, no required outcome, just letting the pencil drift around the page as it likes. It makes me think of improvised dance or spontaneous singing; just letting go into something, allowing the creative impulse to flow through you. This makes me think of meditation. A teacher's words stick in my mind from a retreat I once sat....'all meditation is, is learning to stop yourself getting in the way'.

We spend a lot of our time getting in our own way. Hoping or fearing for the future, pining for or regretting the past. As a well-seasoned worrier I spend a certain amount of time anticipating things, and it never ceases to amaze me how the actual event of something pales into insignificance relative to the anticipation that precedes it. My drawing shows me this too. When I allow myself the freedom to let the pencil do the work, and I am able to slip into that dreamlike zone of being a passive link between the world and the paper, beautiful and surprising things emerge that I could never have conjured in my mind before hand. Likewise if I can focus my mind on a clear image and have the patience, care and concentration to see it through, something beautiful can be created. But when I am too fixed on the end result, and lacking in patience and focus.....well, pages are torn out and used for kindling.

Here is one of the surprises from my dreamy doodling day.....

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

new card collections

I have just listed some new collections of greetings cards in my etsy shop etsy.com/shop/harvestmoonimages which I'm very pleased with! Originally I was painstakingly printing my cards at home, which was costly and time consuming....I soon realised that I wasn't really gaining anything with such shenanigans (and I nearly ejected my printer through the window on several occasions....why do they have to be so awkward?) so I went looking for a better way.

 Things have moved on in the world of printing these days, and I have now found a way to print which makes it more worthwhile to sell cards. I order the prints and they arrive all bundled and boxed with their earthy brown recycled envelopes. There is something very pleasing about sitting on the rug and carefully folding each envelope into it's card and slipping them into their clear pockets ready for sale. They look so bright and fresh!

There is also something lovely about sending and receiving cards, so I'm glad to be able to spread my drawings around that way. It's an easy and affordable way in which we can send art to one another and appreciate it. So please have a look and let me know what you think of the collections. Any feedback is always welcome!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

growing together

this is the painting I made for our handfasting invitations......... we were inspired by the wizened dartmoor hawthorns which are often split in to twin trunks which dance around one another with their feet entangled and their arms stretched up in determined celebration against the driving winds.

may we grow together with equal zeal and determination!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Rain clouds with a fudge lining....

…..I know that we northern Europeans like to talk about the weather….and especially those of us perched upon this little green island….and some have said….it has been mentioned, that we islanders enjoy a good cathartic grumble. One might say a whinge….or even a good old moan. So of late we have been afforded no shortage of opportunity in which to practice our cultural arts. It has rained, and rained, and rained….and rained a bit more.

Working as a gardener in the south west of England does require a certain a mildness towards moisture, a stoicism to sogginess and a passivity to precipitation. We would never survive in this trade if we didn’t dig defiantly in the drizzle and weed through the wetness. But this summer has been a test for even the hardiest of us. Apparently some ‘jet stream’ or other is ‘stuck’, so while we are kayaking to the co-op, our American cousins are sizzling in their station wagons. Whatever the cause, I realised yesterday as I was kneeling in full waterproofs, weeding between the cobbles of a saturated Dartmoor garden, feeling the first cool trickles of rain make their way through my multiple layers of defence, that somehow, we have to get used to it. Our climate is changing.

In the past few years we have heard the met office reports of the ‘wettest’, ‘driest’, ‘hottest’, ‘coldest’ since records began. This June was the wettest, and July looks set to follow.When speaking with old locals in the village I see astonishment on their weather-worn faces as they tell me that their runner beans still aren’t climbing, and the sweet peas wont flower. They have never known the like, none of us have. The one thing we can know for sure is that we no longer know for sure that the spring will be wet and the summer warm and dry. Will the autumn bluster us gently into winter’s frosted folds with a flurry of sun gilded leaves and rich golden sunsets? Or will be sunbathing in October?

We humans are adaptable creatures and we must simply be willing to change. Complacency remains our biggest challenge, but as I know from my neighbour who came here in 1940 to join the women’s land army as her contribution to the war effort, we can change like the wind when we need to, we can dig to victory, and we will.

The next generation seemed to adapt very well to the conditions at the local Denbury village music festival (wonderfully named GlasDenbury)….

So, I will put newspaper into my wellingtons and hang my gloves above the woodburner. I’ll make hay while the sun shines, and make fudge when it doesn't! Try it, it can only cheer you as the rain beats against the window panes! While my fudge sets I will blow the cobwebs from my sketchbook and see who is waiting to populate the pages.

Clotted Cream Fudge

275g caster sugar
120g muscavado sugar
225g clotted cream
½ tsp vanilla essence

Place all ingredients into a heavy based saucepan and heat gently, stirring continuously until it boils. Reduce to a simmer and cover the pan. Simmer for 4 minutes, then remove the lid and turn up the heat. Allow to boil vigorously for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking. Drop some mixture into a cup of cold water and check the consistency. The fudge should make a soft but firm ball when rolled between the fingers.

When ready remove from the heat and transfer to a mixing bowl. Whisk until the fudge becomes matte and grainy. It should form a dough-like ball when accumulated into the centre of the bowl. With a soft spatula scrape the fudge into a 20cm square baking tray lined with baking paper. Spread out evenly and leave to cool at room temperature.

When cool cut into blocks and share….no really, you’ll feel very sick if you don’t!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

...and now its official!

I have been a little distracted recently and have neglected both my sketch books and my keyboard. Life has been rather busy what with one thing and another.....there's the ongoing renovations to our house that we are plodding away at between gardening jobs and permaculture teaching and the busyiness of life....then there's been the small matter of a wedding.

On saturday we had 7 score friends and relatives join us in celebrating our marriage. We held a beautiful handfasting ceremony in a magical nook of Dartmoor, and had our hands tied with coloured ribbons representing the four elements, blessing our union with their wisdom. We then returned from the chilly moor and settled into our garden to enjoy devonshire cream teas (tea, scones, jam and clotted cream), followed by a feast of venison stew and some traditional scottish ceilidh dancing. The whole event was made by many hands, stitched with many threads, weaved together to make a beautiful whole. We had so much help to make our special day more special than we could have hoped. It is amazing what can be created when the motivation is love.

My memories are hazy, it was a wonderful whirling blur, but a few magical moments stand out.

Standing on the moor with our hands tied togther, having obliged the crowd with the fairy-tale kiss, and being surrounded by the sound of whoops and cheers, and the sight of smiling, beaming familiar faces.

Emerging from the marqee for the first time after dark to see that fairies had woven strings of lights through the apple trees, tea lights in jars wound through the garden lighting the paths and the maple tree was illuminated from below, its splendid crown bathed in pink.

On the sunday we had a barbeque so we could really spend time with people who had travelled to join us after the whirlwind of the big day. The sun dutifully emerged and the garden was filled with laughter, chattering and children. At one stage a tall, conical leafy structure which had been built as a decoration came alive - to the delighted squawks of the children - a rustling tree monster chased them making gurgling, growling grumbles, and the children retreated, only to turn and run back towards the tree-beast. This went on for some time to everyone's entertainment. The children would have been entertained for hours, but eventually the tree beastie was silenced as it's operator was drawn out by the smell of sizzling sausages.

We are still reeling from the magic of it all, and are now gathering ourselves to head east for 2 weeks of honeymoon. After the epic tidy-up which a wedding at home involves, I am very much looking forward to letting it all sink in with the sun on my skin and the mediterannean lapping at my toes!

Thank you to all the kind and generous souls who helped to create our wedding, and thank you Dougie for making a honest (and very happy) woman of me.

Monday, 12 March 2012

who is Caroline Aitken?

...well, she has been born a little before her proper time. I, Cari Stubbs am soon to be wed to the lovely Mr Aitken, but not until the full moon of Beltane.

However, I have also just reincarnated in my work, and have emerged in a more public role all about communication, inspiration and the sharing of knowledge and gained wisdom. I am spreading my fresh, crumpled wings as a permaculture teacher. I myself am being taught by the master - I am apprenticing to Patrick Whitefield on his residential courses in the forest of Dean. So I have been added to his list of supporting teachers on his website, and to prevent confusion have used my married name (to be), thereby avoiding  creating a phantom teacher.....one who appears and disappears mysteriously without a trace!

I am also co-writing a book which is due to be published next spring (after my wedding) and therefore have already become Caroline Aitken on the publishers' files. But more about that anon......

So I am getting used to my new identity, and I rather like it. I have always relished the opportunity to turn a new leaf, rebirth and start afresh! Perhaps its a reminder to shed whatever (internal) baggage may be slowing me down, or just a revitalising burst of energy, a spring flourish!

So the process of transformation has begun! It feels like it too... The outward energy of my twenties seems long past and as I move through my thirties all of those experiences are transforming into knowledge and understanding. I suddenly find that while I'm still constantly learning, I also have something to share.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

...cosy croft

We asked our neighbour Beryl to water the greenhouses. We tied up a few loose ends, packed our cases into the van, gathered up the dog and set off on the long road north. From Dartmoor to the North Western Highlands, with a few visits en route, took us 3 days. The journey is almost my favourite part....aside from the occasional metropolitan blip we are treated to endless rolling green lanscapes scrolling past, flattening out around the midlands and becoming more voluptuous as we creep our way north. Britain is beautiful. On my travels I have wondered at the beauty of many foreign lands, but always on returning to this green, fertile island my heart is won. Give thanks for the rain!
 ...and so, with our hearts full and our bellies still full with the generosity of our hosts along the way, we arrive at our destination....Captain's Cottage has nestled here by the edge of the sea loch for hundreds of years, but we'll never know how many. The Captains were batchellor brothers who lived their whole lives out here, making boats and catching fish for their living. As a child my father-in-law fished with them for tykies off the rocks, and on revisiting his childhood memories found the croft empty and crumbling back into the hillside. The Captains had no children to whom they could pass their crofting livelihood, so he decided to rebuild it himself, complete with black tin roof, gas lamps, burn water and no electricty. Now the croft is bursting with the memories of his children.....
 taking the row boat out, catching mackrell off the rocks, climbing the mountains behind, gazing across the water to the islands with their white feather boas of cloud and hats of snow. The loch offers up muscles, king prawns, salmon and crabs for the plate, otters, porpoises, golden eagles and many other creatures for the sketch book. We had 2 blissful weeks here (mostly in the pouring rain) and I find that my memories have also moved in as I remember the walks we did last year, and find an irrepressable sense of nostalgia creeping in to my days. It is a place created for nostalgia and sentimentality, built upon it. How fortunate we are to swim in its waters and sit by its hearth.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

bit by bit ...

 Bit by bit, layer by layer a scene emerges from the whiteness. Somewhere there's a hazy, shifting image floating around my head, which like a half remembered dream slips from my grasp just as I think I have it.
 Therefore, what transpires before me is something of a surprise and I often find myself drawing faster and faster as my impatience to see the finished scene takes over.
 I get drawn in to the details of the picture and have to stand back occasionally to make sure that all the pieces are speaking to one another.
 I love the building up process, taking the time to honour each little building block that will make up the whole... reigning in my impatience and allowing time for each piece to form.
I use many different colours to get the right tone, shadow or hue. Paint is mixed on a palette before being applied to the paper, but pencils are mixed on the page, blended, layered and manipulated gradually. The colour is not flat, it has depth which gives the pictures a sense of movement and perspective.
I also love the freedom of expressing in monotone, simply relying on light and shade to communicate. Some shapes are so striking and beautiful that they dont need colours to dress up in. The finished pictures can be found on my Pages (top right links), or on Older Posts.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

colour and space....

For me the winter is a great time for colour. We tend to think of these cold dark months as being grey and lacklustre, but I find they are far from that. When the greens have turned to golds and reds they finish with a slow fade into browns, but then....when ours eyes have readjusted from the bright show of autumn, the world is comprised of a spectrum of colour both subtle and vivid. The silver birches are like slender white maidens with fiery halos, while the giant lime trees wear thick red skirts of suckers. The transient gorse flushes with bright yellow blossom, scented with coconut...a surreal paradox on the wintry moors. In January the witch hazel is covered in hundreds of little sunbursts, and snow drops decorate the banks like little white bonneted crowds gathering beneath the apple trees. The Camellias are beginning to burst open from their fat pink buds, and the fat pink bull finches are feasting on them.

Without the bulky green foliage of summer the world seems full of space and intricate forms. The delicate tree skeletons, the curves of the endless green fields and hills, the ever shifting canvas of the huge winter sky. Winter sunsets are magical displays in the far northern hemisphere during mid winter. The suns rays travel far through the atmosphere, the rising mist and the falling dew, collecting colour and shade on their way and producing such colour that ones eyes can barely drink it all in. It is dreamlike, supernatural, so spectacular that it feels like some surprise gift, to have us lift up our eyes and stop in wonder; to pause from our bustling and busyness and really look, really see the wonder of life.

and as Joni Mitchell said:

The seasons are changing
In every way
Sometimes it is spring,
Sometimes it is not anything
A poet can sing
Sometimes we try
Yes we always try.

We always try, and I always try to capture it all on paper.....or at least celebrate it!

Here are some bold experimental paintings to illustrate a children's poem, inspired by these big winter skies.