Oh my goodness, March is already upon us. For Barefoot Books as a business, this means that the end of the first quarter is looming. So we huddle up in strategy meetings and stare at spreadsheets and rejoice when orders come in. For me personally, March has other resonances too, made more vivid this year by a spell of deliciously warm weather. In my local woods and hedgerows, the birds are suddenly making such a racket, you’d think they’re born into this world just for singing. Loudest is best! And I’ve spent a goodly part of the weekend in my garden, digging over the vegetable patch, admiring the earthworms and working out where to plant my gooseberry bushes. Being despatched to pick gooseberries was one of my least favourite chores when I was a child because the bushes were so prickly and the fruit not nearly as sweet as raspberries. These days, though, gooseberries have become such a delicacy that I have decided to grow my own. I dream of gooseberry fool, gooseberry crumble, gooseberry pies…

And downstairs in the Oxford studio, we have stylish new boards all about Things That Grow. Here are two of them, both featuring artwork by the wonderful Jill McDonald. The shiny knobs you can see in the photograph attach to discs which display different birds and flowers. Into the tents that house these boards come small children, whose task is to hold onto whichever disc they fancy and guide the flowers up their stems or steer the birds to the tops of their branches. It’s not quite the same as planting gooseberry bushes or listening to the delirious rejoicings of living birds, but it’s a beautiful bridge between art and nature, indoors and outdoors, winter and spring.

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