Tuesday, Feb 1, 2022 • 21min

February 22

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In February's episode, we make a St Brigid's Day pilgrimage from Faughart to Kildare, exploring the links between Brigid, Imbolc and Candlemas. We plant bulbs 'in the green', find out what's in season and check in with our oak tree, who is providing safe harbour for some bright winter visitors. 'As the Season Turns' is a podcast created by Ffern and presented by the nature writer and author of the Seasonal Almanac Lia Leendertz. Each episode, released on the first of every month, is a guide to what to look out for in the month ahead - from the sky above to the land below. Ffern is an organic fragrance maker based in Somerset. You can learn more about Ffern's seasonal eau de parfum at ffern.co
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Lia Leendertz
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Lia Leendertz
00:03
Welcome to the fern podcast "As The Season Turns". Released on the first of the month, each episode will be following the changing landscape of the seasons, from the moon and the stars to the tides and the trees. I'm Lia Leendertz, author of The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide.
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00:25
And this podcast is created by Ffern makers of small batch organic perfume who blend barrel age and bottle four fragrances a year released at the equinoxes and solstices. We hope that this brief guide to the month ahead will awaken you to the rhythms of the year and help you to settle deeper into the seasons.
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00:53
It's February. February is an aesthetic little month, cold, short and dark. Many of its rituals, Imbolc, Candlemass, often lent though not this year, revolve around absence, purging and fasting. It's birthstone amethyst symbolizes piety and humility. Even the name February comes from februum latin, for purification. The route februum meaning I purified by sacrifice. Fun old February.
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01:26
In all of this, it can feel like a month of self-denial and of suspension of activity, a time to tuck up indoors and wait for warmer days, a pause for contemplation before the hustle and renewal of the next few months. But look, and you will see sure science that nothing stands still, even or perhaps especially in February.
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01:49
In the far north of the country, the day lengthens by a full two hours by the end of the month and everywhere there are little signs of life returning, unable to resist the turning of the year, even when breath is cloudy and ground solid. And as light returns, so does the urge to sew and to grow to start off the years cycles and to engage with the still weak but strengthening sun. The temptation to hibernate may still be strong, but by the end of the month, a springlike hopefulness will start to win out.
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02:29
The oak tree in February. There is an oak tree in my local park that I had a hand in planting several years ago, now. Each time I pass it, I note something new, the turn of a branch towards the light or a creature that has taken up residence. In the depths of February, much the same as for anyone else living in these northerly aisles.
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02:51
Every cell in my oak is hell-bent on just one thing keeping warm, even in the southern counties of
Britain
temperatures in February can fall to well below freezing, and as it would be a disaster for its heartwood to freeze through, the oak has evolved a sophisticated defense system against the cold. The tree's gnarly bark is its first line of defense, but in very cold temperatures, the bark is not enough.
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03:19
So back in the autumn, the tree, sensing the weather turning, withdrew the water from its outer cells. This left a high concentration of sugars which works like antifreeze, preventing the cold from penetrating to the core of the oak. Winter flocks of blue tits often take refuge in oak trees, flashing gold and sky blue among the branches.
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03:44
Winter is hard on these small birds, who may lose up to 5% of their body mass in a single night. Leave your nest boxes out for them where they cannot find an oak tree. A nest box will do just fine for a roost, and keep your bird feeders stocked with nutritious fat balls and seeds. Your birdbath filled with clean, unfrozen water.
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04:16
Bird of the month, Thrush. Thrushes are good singers and blackbirds, which are a species of thrush, start singing their rich and mellow songs early in the year. Here are three you might see in your garden.
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04:32
The most familiar and common of the thrushes. Blackbirds sing between February and June perched on prominent song posts. They are wonderful singers in a family famed for it. Their song arriving in language and flute like births of six seconds or so, with pauses of a similar length in between.
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04:53
It is the youngest males those hatched the year before that starts singing earliest in the year, with older males joining in later, all staking out their territories. Once the dawn chorus really gets going later in the spring, blackbirds are generally the earliest rises and the first to start singing each morning. Males are of course black with a yellow bill and females are brown.
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05:22
Mistle Thrushes start singing even earlier in the year, generally from December onwards. They perch at the top of tall trees and will often sing in very windy conditions, which has earned them the alternative common name storm-cock. They are larger than blackbirds, with a grayish brown head and back and a well speckled underside. In flight, they have a pure white underway.
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05:51
Song Thrushes are similar in coloring and markings to the missile thrush, but they are smaller birds and colored a warmer brown and are more delicately speckled on their under sites. If you find a stone surrounded by lots of smashed snail shells, this indicates the presence of the song thrush. They are the only birds that use an anvil to remove snails from their shells. Their song is a phrase of a few syllables, repeated 2-4 times.
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06:27
Inside the beehive in February. February can be very cold, and in these conditions the colony is still using all of its energy to keep warm and stay alive. But there are a few flowers out now and in mild winters the bees will start to make brief forays to visit snowdrops and crocuses in sunny spots and to collect some early pollen before quickly returning to the warmth of the hive.
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06:56
They also use these short early flights to clean themselves after a winter indoors. In mild winters, the queen may lay a few eggs in February to get ahead, but the larvae must be kept warm in the very center of the cluster.
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07:22
Imbolc and Candlemass, scratch the surface of many traditional celebrations, and you often find that they're amalgams of Christian and older feast days, often with thematic echoes.
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07:36
The beginning of February sees the old pagan and Gaelic celebration of Imbolc on the first and the Christian feast day of Candlemass on the second, with both connected to purity, cleansing and hope. They fall roughly halfway between the shortest day and the spring equinox.
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07:56
Imbolc has seen something of a revival recently among modern wiccans and neo-pagans, and it provides a good marker for stopping and taking notice that winter is waning.
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08:08
Imbolc ritual cleansing was a sort of agricultural preparation, peasants would carry burning torches across farmland to purify the land prior to new planting, and to symbolize the ever-increasing strength of the sun. The celebration marks are staring into life after winter.
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08:29
The word Imbolc derive from the old Irish "i mbolg" meaning in the belly or with milk meaning use milk. Both references to the importance of the arrival of sheep's milk into the diet at this time of year. Candlemass is the Christian festival of light and celebrates Jesus's life as a baby and the ritual purification of Mary 40 days after his birth. Lumen ad revelationem gentium, a light to lighten the darkness of the world, as goes the canticle traditionally sung at the beginning of the Candlemass service.
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09:08
There is a candlelit procession and candles are brought into church to be blessed. Snowdrops, natural symbols of hope and purity, have a tentative link to both festivals. They were once commonly known as Candlemas bells, and it was considered unlucky to bring them into the house before Candlemass.
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09:30
Galanthus nivalis is the snowdrops Latin name and Galanthus has derived from the Greek words, "gála", milk and "ánthos", flower.
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09:43
In season in February wild greens, chickweed, Hairy bittercress, dandelion leaves, sow thistle, winter cress, roots, wild garlic. From the seashore and rivers, mussels, oysters, scallops, turban, cockles, lemon sole, bass, bream, cod, whiting, haddock.
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10:12
From the vegetable garden, purple sprouting broccoli, carrots, brussels sprouts, turnips, beetroot, spinach, Jerusalem artichoke, kale, chard, lettuce, chicory and endive, cauliflower, cabbages, celeriac, sweet, leeks, turnips and forced rhubarb, winter savory parsley, chervil, coriander, rosemary, bay and sage. From the farms, Stilton and traditional imports, seville oranges and blood oranges.
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10:55
Garden job of the month: plant bulbs in the green. Bulbs from moist woodland habitats, such as snowdrops, winter aconites and bluebells can struggle if treated like normal bulbs that is dried out, stored dry and replanted in autumn.
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11:13
Instead, they should be planted while still in active growth and just after flowering and for snowdrops and winter aconites that means now or at least at the end of the month. Look for specialist nurseries that offer them in this state for happier bulbs and more flowers.
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11:37
This month's Full Moon falls on the 16th. Some names for February's full moon: snow moon, ice moon, storm moon. Even if there is not enough snow to justify the medieval moon named snow moon this month. The full moon on the 16th will light up snowy expanses across meadows, woodlands and river banks. As snowdrop time reaches its peak, snowdrops began popping their heads out of the cold ground in January, proving that even though the ground is still bare and hard with frost, spring is straining at the bit.
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12:18
The name's ice moon and storm moon also hinted an understandable preoccupation with this month's weather in the past, when heating meant a few logs on the fire to fend off the deep chill of February. The nights are still long and dark and there are likely to be hard frosts, a wonderful time for spotting constellations if you can stand the cold. But nights are noticeably shortening as spring draws nearer, and the days start to lengthen.
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12:51
On two February, there will be a close approach of Jupiter and the moon, first appearing in the dusk at around 5:20 p. m. Above the southwestern horizon at an altitude of nine degrees. They will set in the west, southwest at 6:20 p. m. Messi A41 an open star cluster of 100 or more stars is located in Canis Major, near to
Sirius
, the brightest star in the sky.
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13:22
Look to the south on February evenings, and once you find
Sirius
, the dog star look just a little south of it for Messi A41 a blurry patch of light about the size of a full moon. It is at an apparent magnitude of 4.5 higher magnitudes are fainter and lower magnitudes and brighter, and the human eye can only see objects with a magnitude lower than five.
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13:48
So Messi A41 is fairly faint in the sky, you will need a really dark country sky and clear weather and perhaps a pair of binoculars. What you will see then is a rich patch of both faint and bright stars, some of them red giants, with an orange gloves and some of them white dwarfs, which are more silvery blue in color. The cluster lies about, 2,300 light years away from Earth. It is estimated to be moving away from us at 23.3 km/s.
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14:26
Winter rainbows. To spot a rainbow, all you need is sunshine and showers, you're back to the sun and the rainstorm ahead of you. The effect is created when thousands of raindrops refract white light into the full spectrum. Bold, bright, colorful rainbows mean big raindrops.
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14:47
They can be easier to spot in autumn, winter and spring because of the angle of the sun, the lower the sun is to the horizon, the more of the rainbow we see. There is no possibility of a sighting once the sun is above 42° above the horizon. High summer sun's towards the middle of the day bring arcs so shallow they are lost along or below the horizon, while low winter suns bring dramatically arched arcs.
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15:17
During the course of February, day length increases by two hours and seven minutes to 10 hours, 31 minutes in Inverness and by one hour and 36 minutes to 10 hours and 52 minutes in Padstow.
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15:38
Pilgrimage of the month Brigid's way for Saint Brigid's day. The first day of February is Saint Brigid's day, a day of two women, one goddess and one saint, one from
Ireland's
pagan past and one from its Christian past.
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15:56
The goddess Brigid was one of the Tuatha Dé Danann,
Ireland's
mythical ancient race of gods. She was a healer, a poet and a smith and is associated with spring wells and fertility. She is also strongly associated with Imbolc, the Gaelic festival marking the end of winter and the beginning of early spring.
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16:21
Brigid's Christian counterpart,
Saint Brigid
of Kildare, who was born in the fifth century and shares many of the same attributes, is one of the three patron saints of
Ireland
, along with
Patrick
and
Columba
.
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16:35
Her own feast day falls on the same day as Imbolc, have their identities merged over the centuries, or were they always, as some would have it, one and the same. It has been argued that Christian monks may have taken the goddesses attributes and grafted on the name of the Saint in order to make use of the cult of Brigid in spreading the new religion through
Ireland.
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17:01
Either way, many people are now ready to turn back and embrace both aspects of Brigid and this has led to the creation of a new pilgrimage based on ancient pilgrim paths and wells Brigid's way. It begins at Brigid's birthplace and finishes in
Kildare town,
where Brigid founded a monastery. The 146 km route takes in
Holy Wells
dedicated to Brigid well as the hill of
Slane
,
The Hill Of Tara
and Brigid Fire Temple where nuns kept a flame burning until the suppression of the monasteries in the 16th century and where the tradition was resurrected by the
Brigidine Sisters
in 1993.
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17:45
The ancient sites form a cross in the landscape, echoing the shape of Saint Brigid's cross, an offset cross that is woven from rushes and placed over doorways and windows to protect against harm.
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18:07
Our ritual for this month is a very simple little action to help bring warmth and light to the beginning and end of these cold and dark February days. It also echoes the candle blessing and burning of Candlemass and the carrying of burning torches through fields that was once traditional at this time of year.
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18:28
I love to light a candle at breakfast time through winter. It brings a touch of luxury to an otherwise or steer, and a dark moment brings light when there is none. Unless you get up particularly early, this is the last month in which this will be possible, and so I encourage you to book end your day with candles for February.
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18:52
Light one as you sit and eat your breakfast and blow it out when the sun comes up or when you're ready to leave the house will begin work, and then do the same in the evening, light a candle for dinner time and then keep it lit until you go to bed, blowing it out just before you sleep.
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19:10
It's company if you live alone, and it's something to gather around if you don't. And a candle flame is one of the simplest ways of giving even the most ordinary moment, a sense of occasion. It connects to something old and deep. It helps mark out your day and gives you a moment for stillness and beauty. And there's never enough of that.
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19:41
In the Ffern studio. This month, in Ffern Somerset Studio, the very first bottles of Spring 22 are being decanted as the fragrance is vital maceration period comes to an end. Since November. It's been barrel aging in the west country, and now is the moment when the whole process comes to fruition, very exciting time.
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20:07
For Spring 22, you can expect juicy notes of elder flower, gooseberry and orange blossom against a fresh palette of green and light florals. Spring 22 was created as are all firm fragrances by Elodie Durande and François Robert. Françoiss is a 4th generation master perfumer, while Elodie, his protégé is a formidable young talent. You can learn more about their processes and remarkable history on the Ffern website.
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