Today was one of those days when you could really feel Spring was just around the corner: the sun was shining, Jenson had his shorts on and we were all happily playing in the garden. Today's project was weaving willow fish.
The idea to do this had come to me last night. We've got a living willow fence around the edges of our raised vegetable beds and I had been considering removing it so as to make access to the beds easier. At the moment the children have to scramble over or be lifted and it doesn't make life very easy. So this plan I thought would kill two birds with one stone: not only would we complete the task of removing the willow fencing but also put the willow withies to good use by making some willow sculptures out of it. I found a great video on You Tube about how to make willow fish and showed it to the kids this morning over breakfast.
Here's the link you need. I hope it works:
We started by pulling up one of the withies. I only planted this living fence last year and seeing how much the withy had rooted itself made me feel a little guilty about pulling them all up. So I reigned my plan in a bit and suggested to Jenson that he might only want to pull up one or two larger stems and see how we get on.
Next he used a pair of secateurs to remove any side shoots.
With the big withy Jenson had chosen, I helped him to make the body of the fish. We did this by working with the curve of the rod. One kink gave us the fish's body shape and another kink gave us the tail. We then used the rest of the rod to bend around the tail and up over itself to the junction where the tail and the body meet. We then went back and fourth from side to side coming from underneath each side and into the body of the fish to the other side in a figure of eight shape until the rod ran out. We introduced a new rod by putting the new butt or thick end through the middle of the fish and then weaved again as before back and forth. Jenson kept going until he reached the tip of the fish's nose. The last bit was fiddly so I stepped in again to help. You have to feed the rod like a needle until you can tie it off. Jenson then snipped off all the loose ends and voila: a willow fish!
We then had a great idea about attaching the fish to a fishing rod. A relatively easy task and I felt a bit of a dab hand as I weaved some willow withies together to form a solid looking joint. Jenson's face says it all in these photos.
By this point Wren had shown no interest in coming outside with us so Jenson got stuck into making her fish for her and quickly acquired it as his own. I kinda got where he was coming from; having put all the hard work into it I could understand his reluctance to then give it away. He had got the hang of weaving by now and by the time we were onto our third fish he was a natural!
Jenson felt the two fish needed a moment to make friends, again, another fascinating insight into how he understands his own relationships.
We then had a bit of a commotion when one of the rabbits escaped! Wren had been keen to get in their run with them and with the lid off and my attention deep in willow fish making little bunny hopped off to explore! It was only when Wren shouted out that I looked up to see the escapee making it's way towards the compost heap, where it then stayed for about twenty minutes refusing to come out.
It fell in the pond, much to our amusement.
We finally caught bunny and it turned out to be Wren's. This surprised us all because hers, being more fluffy and cute, is normally the more placid one whereas Jenson's is far more feisty. It's uncanny how their personalities echo that of Jenson and Wren's! Jenson was most disappointed it hadn't been his rabbit that had escaped and then tried to swap bunnies with Wren, who was having none of it!
This fun activity took us up to about 1pm, when we came in for lunch. I got great compliments on my cooking from Jenson: "What an excellent egg you made Mummy."
We then headed over to Primrose Vale Farm Shop as I needed a big bag of potatoes. The weather had turned by this point and the rain was lashing down. It didn't deter my two though. They ran around, pushed each other on trikes, pretended to make chocolate, role played houses and generally messed around until they were sodden through. I was sat in the car for most of this but I saw Jenson help Wren carry her trike to shelter.
When we got home it was straight onto making dinner. We had a lovely chat while they ate. Jenson remarked that it wasn't a competition as to who would finish their meal first, but instead asked Wren to think about who was the happiest. Talking quickly got onto growing things which moved onto new planters for the children in which they can grow their own vegetables or plants. Wren has decided to use an old pram for her mini garden and Jenson has chosen an old wicker basket. His decision was based on the fact he wants to grow carrots for bunny and so I suggested he would need to find a deep container that could take their length. He also wants to grow pumpkins as bunny loves to carve the faces out!
While they ate I also did a quick tidy up but was stopped in my tracks by Jenson who told me that if I stopped tidying up he would help me when he had finished his dinner. Not only did he help tidy up his Lego but the pair of them also folded up all their washing, put it in laundry bags, carried it through to their bedroom, put it away in their cupboards, hoovered their bedroom and the rest of the house, washed the mirrors and wiped the table down. They were still exerting some serious elbow grease when Simon got home at 6.30pm. He was most impressed! I even got told off by Wren at one point for helping to pick up her toys. She and crocodile were to do the task together and crocodile would bite my fingers if I dared help!
It's been a super day, particularly this morning when we were all in the garden enjoying the sunshine and each other's company. As we weaved, Jenson and I chatted easily about how Spring was just around the corner and commented on how nice it was to hear the birds singing. The sun warmed our backs and our hands worked the willow. It all felt super natural and super chilled. I was feeling particularly pleased as I managed to catch this little fella on our RSPB home made bird feeders. What a grouch!
The weaving project was a great activity to do for lots of reasons, but I think the biggest thing it did was to help Jenson understand that the more times you have a go at something the better you get at it. That old phrase practice makes perfect really applies. It was another good exercise at instilling this growth mind set that I've read about. As Simon put it when he looked at the photos from today: he's having a much better life now than he did when he was at school.