Lia Leendertz is a gardener, cook and writer who had already found her way into my cookbook shelf in the form of the utterly unique and charming Petal Leaf Seed. When I heard she had written a seasonal almanac I was so excited! Growing up in the countryside Almanacs were wonkily printed curiosities set by the till in the local village shop. I presumed that only aged farmers who believed in “the little people” would buy them. (Ps, you’d be surprised, fairies are actually a thing in Wicklow!) So when I saw Lia’s version I was so intrigued! “The Almanac, A Seasonal Guide to 2018” is a very beautiful little book. Divided into months it brings you through recipes, sky charts, weather, tides and nature observations. It is the kind of book I wish I had written! I cannot recommend this book enough (ps it’s only £3.99 on Amazon 😉 link here )
I was lucky enough to get the chance to ask the lovely Lia a few questions on living a more natural and seasonal life, so without further ado here are her answers! Enjoy!
- Your favourite way to re-connect with nature?
It has to be gardening. I pop out to do a few minutes and end up spending hours, I can really get lost in it. I have a garden and an allotment and don’t really manage to keep either up to scratch! But I love them both anyway, it’s a wonderful way to spend time, and keeps you naturally attuned to the seasons as you just can’t garden if you’re not.
- Go to autumnal recipe?
Crumble of course! Near instant, warming, autumnal pud. I know everyone knows how to make it but sometimes we all need a reminder and so I included a ‘crumble blueprint’ in the Almanac which even I refer to each time I make one - it’s very satisfying when your own book is getting splattered from kitchen use! It contains ratios for fruit to flour/rubbly stuff/butter/sugar and ideas for how to mix these up, e.g. Spelt flour, muscovado sugar and pecan topping for a spicy apple filling.
- Favourite thing about November?
I love bonfire night. We cook sausages and take a picnic and sparklers up to the allotment and light a fire. The plot is at the top of a hill overlooking Bristol and we get an incredible show from all the fireworks all around.
- Why you wrote The Almanac 2018?
I was on holiday by the sea in Cornwall, and our windows looked out across the bay to St Ives. Every day I saw the tide coming in, the tide going out, the sun setting over the sea, the moon rising, like a cosmic orchestra playing out in front of me. I felt so in contact with that larger forces of the world, and universe! And I wanted to find a way of bringing that home with me. I love the poetry contained in tide timetables and charts and came up with the idea of combining these things with everything else that makes each month special.
- Favourite month of the year?
I love May. It’s partly because it is my birthday month so it has good feelings attached, but it’s also the month when we truly shake off winter and summer finally feels irresistible. There is so much folklore around the celebrating of May Day and I think this is because it was such a pivotal moment in the year, and such a release. In this year’s Almanac I have written about the May Queen and her role in the year, how in folklore she begins the day innocent and virginal and ends the day, well, a little wiser, shall we say. She is the personification of that moment in the year, when all the pure, fluffy, white blossom is being pollinated, and turning more fruitful.
- Winter is creeping up on us already, what ways do you like to keep the winter blues at bay?
A log fire and hot chocolate with the kids, ideally after a wintry walk. Winter is a good excuse for cosiness.
- What does living seasonally mean to you?
It means taking note of the moment I am in, and not longing for easier/warmer times. I have a tendency to miss summer, and to skew my year around it, and one of the reasons I wrote The Almanac was to make myself appreciate the Aprilness of April, the Novemberness of November, and so on. I want to enjoy each moment for what it really is and not wish the year away. This doesn’t have to mean gardening, walking and leaping into the sea, it might just mean buying seasonal food, cooking a festive recipe, or just reading about the folklore of the month to understand it a little better. I hope the almanac makes the seasons feel more accessible even, or perhaps especially, for those who can’t get out into nature.
- Most astonishing thing about nature?
I loved looking at the epic journeys undertaken by the birds we take for granted. We are an island, but we are also so connected, with birds flying in from the south for the summer just as others take off for the north, a constant movement making the most of all of the natural resources we have available. In my street it is swifts that really let me know the year is turning, arriving in may and setting up their wonderful summer-sounding cries, only to vanish again in late summer. I miss them, it’s too brief, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. They mark out the rhythm of the year.
- Favourite outdoor activity?
I don’t often get the chance but I love outdoor swimming. That’s a way to feel fully connected to the natural world! If I’m by the sea I try to go in every day no matter what the weather, and then my skin tingles and heats me up for the rest of the day. It lets me look at the sea and feel a part of it, rather than just an observer.
- A quick gardening tip for November?
This is the perfect time to plant tulips, masses together in pots, and next April and May you will be so glad you did.
Get The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide 2018 now! (it’s only £3.99 on Amazon at the moment!)