I wrote recently about the plans I had made for Samhain, bearing in mind Bean’s request to make more of the festivals. I planned, and we did – well, most of it; it turned out that my plans rather outstretched the stamina of the children!
Bean had the day off school. This is not something we have done before, but given our desire as a family to make more of the festivals, it felt right to for him to have the day off for “religious observance”. Stonelaughter had to work during the day, but was able to join us from mid afternoon onwards.
We had pancakes for breakfast – nothing to do with Samhain of course, but a nice way to celebrate being able to spend the day together. After coffee (gallons of it – me, not the children), we all got ready for a visit to the forest. Wellies, and warm jumpers, hats … it was a lovely autumnal day too – quite cool, but sunny and dry for the most part. We drove to Sherwood Forest, saw piglets and a heron on the way, discussed the effects of the airwash from the traffic in front of us and then set off on an adventure.
Stonelaughter and I were handfasted in the forest, and we always visit “our” spot when we go. The children love this spot too – it’s off the beaten track (at least, ten years ago it was; these days it’s becoming an increasingly popular place) and has lots of areas to explore and a family of squirrels live and play there too. When we got there, we realised someone else also regards this place as special, as demonstrated by the various pieces of natural art they had left all around it. It felt odd to see this in “our” place, and it took me a few moments to let go of the feeling that someone had intruded. They’d done some fab art though, so it didn’t take long to get over myself and remember it’s OK to share!
We had brought a bag and a scavenger sheet with us, which I thought would help Bean and Plum look more at the forest around them and notice things. Some things we could collect, and some things we could notice and leave where they were. We successfully found fallen acorns in their cups, oak leaves, leaves of ten different colours, the rustle of an animal in the undergrowth, the breeze in the trees, a holly leaf (which was still attached to the tree, so we left it where it was). We didn’t get the pine cones or fir cones, but we weren’t in that area of the forest – we had mostly oak and birch around us. But then the children tired of the sheet, and instead took to seeing how many different kinds of fungus we could find in the forest. We always see some on floor and the trees, but there were lots of different types this time different sizes, shapes, colours, some on leaves. Bean found a little trail of tiny toadstools which we felt sure was going to lead us to a fairy village, but it must have been underground, because the trail suddenly disappeared. Plum was great at spotting fungus growing on fallen logs.
Bean then decided we should leave the big tracks behind and use some of the smaller tracks and investigate where they would take us. He led us into some wonderful hidden clearings, but then began to get worried about getting lost. I knew vaguely where we were, and knew that we would be OK, so encouraged him to find us a way back to the main paths by the Major Oak, without retracing our steps. He wasn’t sure, and Plum wasn’t keen on having to push through ferns and such initially, but finding a few plump, juicy brambles to eat soon changed her mind, and Bean didn’t take long to find the fun in his task.
We made it back to the Major Oak, which made Bean’s face light up. Once we’d walked back to the visitor’s centre, Plum declared “we’ve made it!” and then they begged to go home because they were tired. I was a little disappointed, thinking we hadn’t been there very long, but then I checked the time and realised the children had been tromping through the undergrowth for almost two hours without sitting down or complaining, so we headed home, happy and hungry.
When we got home, Plum and Pumpkin (PK from here on) were fast asleep, so Bean and I played Connect 4 and enjoyed some time together before we all had some lunch. Then we spread a plastic tablecloth over the floor, brought in the two enormous pumpkins we bought last week in Cromer (picked from the field the morning we bought them), got out our pumpkin carving tools and a Sharpie and set to designing. PK was still asleep, so Bean and Plum drew their faces, but they both declined to do any cutting. Stonelaughter joined us at the end of this, and did some carving of his own.
Next, we made the dough the for soul cakes, the children taking turns to mix it. Whilst that went in the fridge Stonelaughter played with the children and I set about preparing the meal Bean had planned – Pumpkin soup, roast pork, roast potatoes and parsnips, stuffing and steamed vegetables, with apple and ginger crumble for pudding.
We did manage to bake the soul cakes before the children went to bed, so they got to share them, and they went to bed happy and exhausted.
It was a fabulous day, and made me incredibly happy. Bean and Plum both told me at various points during the day that they had enjoyed it, and it just felt right.