Saturday 31 December 2011

Power to the People!

I'm a little obsessed with my energy bills, and having lagged the loft, carpetted the most draughty floors and put in an energy efficient boiler, I've probably done about as much as I can within the budget I have. I've seen my energy bills drop significantly year-on-year, but I'm still not satisfied. I can use less, but I'm still at the mercy of the utility companies and their horrendously opaque billing systems. If they want to raise the price of my gas and electricity, there's not much I can do about it.

Is there?

At the TN Third Birthday bash, Rob Hopkins showed slides covering various transition schemes across the country - from community gardens to community shops, from bakeries to breweries. And the one that got me sitting up in my seat - the Lewes power company with the solar panels on the brewery roof. It's the UK's first community-owned solar power company, and that is a really exciting prospect. That, coupled with what's proposed in Totnes with the Totnes Renewable Energy Society, shows a real sea change in people's ability to take control over the things they need in everyday life.

I don't imagine that it will be easy. We would need to come together, raise the money, find the premises, navigate the legal and logistical complexities of making it happen, and find someone to actually do the work. It might not be solar, it could be wind, biomass, anything. There are no easy answers, no quick solutions or magic bullets. Solving the problems will be a challenge. But on the way, we could do something great!

So, a Norwich Renewable Energy Society anyone? That would be an amazing aspiration for our fine city in 2012!

Friday 30 December 2011

Bees and Trees

From the many, many conversations I have with people, I have come to the conclusion that it is very difficult to get people to stop doing something. Not impossible, by any means, but difficult. We have become socialised over the last twenty or so years into an individual mindset that tells us we can do whatever we like; I want it all, so I will have it all. That's one tanker that will take some time to turn, to use a particularly apt metaphor in this instance.

So, my experience tells me that, rather than just trying to get people to stop something, could we get people to start, or do more of, something else? Can we incentivise people to do the things that are less harmful, to the environment, for example, or more beneficial, to our communities, say, on the other? What enterprises are there out there that make it easy for people to choose a different lifestyle?

Earlier in the year, at the Spring Scheming, we sat around tables and discussed things we could do in Norwich, that would really make a difference. We talked about going into schools, into workplaces, communicating with people. We also talked about creating schools, creating workplaces, creating the kinds of communities we wanted to be part of. Can we challenge the current paradigm - the consumer-led, in-it-for-myself world-view - by creating a new way of living? What structures would work? What businesses would we need?

Out of that session was born Norwich Community Bees - a community-led, not-for-profit cooperative beekeeping venture. It's taken a lot of hard work and time from many people, but we're up and running, with one hive of bees established, and ready for an exciting 2012. It might not change the world overnight, but then again, it just might - that's the beauty of possibility.

Another idea out of that Spring Scheming that really caught my imagination was that of a community-managed woodland. It came around the time when the government was thinking of selling our public forests to private companies. I was all fired up. Then I discovered just how much even a modest piece of woodland would cost... That idea went on the backburner, if you'll excuse the pun.

But recently I had a conversation with someone about how much more UK-grown building timber costs compared to imported tropical hardwoods. And I mean, significantly more! I was shocked, but it made me think - maybe there's an opportunity there. Yes, it would be a business, yes, it would need to make money to be viable, yes, it was about chopping trees down. But could it be done locally, in a truly sustainable manner, in a way that provides employment, protects and promotes habitats, and provides pleasure and opportunities for our community? Some parts of the country are already exploring ways to make this happen. Maybe it's an idea whose time has come again.

So there are just two of my hopes for 2012 - that Norwich Community Bees will grow from its small start into something really great, and that we can explore the possibilities for setting up a community woodland somewhere near Norwich. If you'd like to be part of either of these visions, do get in touch - or if you've got anothere great idea, suggest it on the comments page!

Look forward to hearing from you!

Pic: from

Thursday 29 December 2011

Changing The Climate

Jon has asked us to write about the aspirations that we hope will become realities during 2012. My own ambition is to ensure that people can cycle directly and safely between Hethersett, Little Melton and the UEA/Research Park/Hospital. A planning application to build nearly 1200 homes in Hethersett has recently been submitted  and many of the people who will live in the new houses, will work just a few miles away at the UEA/Hospital/NRP.

 Cycling is not just about reducing traffic pollution and oil consumption but also provides both physical and emotional health benefits. Cyclists can easily stop at local shops and can exchange greetings with other cyclists instead of fuming at each other in traffic jams. Making it attractive for people to cycle to work ticks so many boxes that I struggle to understand why so little provision has so far been made for cyclists. Cars are cosseted indoors in multi-storey car parks whilst my bike is lucky to get a rail to lean against, out in the rain. I’m forced to conclude that too few of the people with the power to make things happen ever get on their own bikes and they don’t see cycling as a ‘proper’ mode of transport.

NCC proposed cycle links
Which is where Transition comes in. By getting on our bikes at every opportunity and turning up to in our cycling gear, we change the climate of what is ‘normal’ – and it is surprising how rapidly this can have an effect. If I always cycle to see someone, then they cycle when they come to see me – and all these little actions add up. Since we started our cycle path campaign in Little Melton, mainly in response to the needs of children cycling to school, there has been a noticeable change in people’s attitudes. What once seemed like a cranky idea, now features on developer’s plans and NCC plans. There is still a long way to go but I like to think that all the talking and blogging about the path has changed the climate around it for the better.

Picture of MP Richard Bacon joining children on ride to school in Hethersett

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Let's Hear it for the Plants in 2012!

Food, textiles, medicine. Capturers of carbon, oxygen providers, soil stabilisers. Source of nectar for pollinators, inspiration and materials for artists, farmers, permaculturists and ale-brewers. Companions, healers. The presence of plants on this planet, from the humblest goosefoot to the grandest oak, makes everything about our lives possible. And beautiful.

Seriously. Where would we be without the plant world?

Reconnection with Nature continues to be the most frequently used tag by Transition Norwich bloggers. As we head into a 2012 of continued planetary degradation with no conventional political will to stop it, becoming aware of ourselves within the living systems takes on a more urgent and meaningful tenor. It also makes economic sense as the present financial system collapses, whether you grow more of your own food at home or join a local veg box scheme.

Many of the posts I write on This Low Carbon Life are about plant-human relationships. From the tricks (and trickiness!) of gardening, to the joy of discovering wild herbs and wasteland flowers, to the bounty of beetroot, which put in a major star turn in 2011. Plants really do inspire conversations between people which otherwise might not happen. Carrying around John's enormous beetroot (did I say humble goosefoot earlier?!?) at the Transition Norwich party in November, I found myself talking with several people I hadn't met before. "Where did you get that?" they asked me. "It's so BIG!"

Plants as ice-breakers. Terra firma.

So what am I doing to help everyone reconnect with nature in 2012, in Transition Norwich, Sustainable Bungay and within the wider Transition movement?

I’ll continue with the Low Carbon Cookbook project, now ready to be written up after 15 months of sharing and storing recipes, experiences, facts and figures along with low carbon growing, cooking, eating and buying tips. The LCC group will also be showcasing ancient and modern superfood plants at Grapes Hill Community Garden – which I’ll write about later in the year.

I’ll also keep writing for This Low Carbon Life and the Transition Network Social Reporters project. And I intend to do more transitional speaking in public after a guest slot on Stroud FM’s Transition Show earlier this month speaking about Transition Norwich and Sustainable Bungay. It was nerve-wracking and fun at the same time. [Note to self for future speaking: reduce stuttering and stumbling to a minimum. Breathe and let go, hence reduce overwhelm by all the things you COULD say but can’t get out. That’ll come with practice.]

Oh, and talking of practice, I've made a deal with Rob Hopkins to perform "What Goes On" (Velvet Underground) at the Transition Conference 2012 together.

But my biggest Transition project this year is with Sustainable Bungay. I’ll be heading up the Plant Medicine Bed 2012 at the Library Community Garden, growing and showcasing plants-for-medicine and hosting monthly talks, walks and workshops with fellow plant people on everything from Medicine Roots to Spring Tonics to Wild Plant Oils to Adopt a Herb (part of the Norfolk and Norwich festival). The first three events take place at 3pm on Sundays 15th January, 18th February and 19th March. Everyone is welcome from Bungay, Norwich and the hinterland. Keep an eye on the Sustainable Bungay and Transition Norwich News websites where I’ll post all the details as well as write-ups here on This Low Carbon Life. NB: There is no charge for these sessions but donations appreciated.

For details of the Plant Medicine bed and related talks, walks and workshops throughout 2012 in Bungay and elsewhere contact me, Mark Watson, on or 01502 722419

And to all fellow plant people, bloggers and transitioners everywhere, may 2012 be a fruitful year, the year where growth is of the healthy, organic, wild and cultivated plant kind. Keep pushing through!

Pics: Me at Winter Solstice 2011 under Great Oak (CDC); Feel the Beet TN Bloggers Visiting Card; Transition Norwich party Nov 2011; St. Johns Wort, Ribwort Plantain at Lowestoft Station Summer 2010; Purple Coneflower (Echinacea) Bungay, July 2011

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Entering the Fifth Zone - 2012

I confess. I am having an affair, and looking ahead as we are this week, I see it's going to become serious. I love Transition and the whole resilience thing. I have been faithful to the max to her for three years, but someone else came back into my life this month and my attention and my typing keeps wandering in her direction.

Her name is 52 Flowers That Shook My World. She is a book about plants and thanks to this blog (and Simeon who inspired me to write about it in our Sustainable Livelihoods week), the Uncivilisation Festival and Two Ravens Press, she is about to be published this summer. I love writing blogs, but there is something about the printed page. There is something about wild and medicine plants that takes me to places no meeting or community event can ever reach.

You could say the affair was inevitable given the times we are living in, where the symptoms of systemic collapse are all about us - financial markets crashing, methane spouting through the Arctic tundra. One thing I learned from experience: pushed to the edge, the best of ourselves can come to the fore. Close to death, no one worries about social niceties, about paying the mortgage or what people think of their hair. They remember the plum tree as it blossoms, or people they once cherished. And often they ask themselves: did I live life as I could, was I bold or free enough, did I love people as I could have, and the world?

52 Flowers was written at an edge time, when I had just returned from travelling. It's subtitle is A Radical Return to Earth and it looks at the steps modern people need to take to get back down to earth, the tools that will turn the tanker around as Jon put it yesterday. Most of all it considers the wild places, the fifth zone of permaculture, without which nothing in the zones closer to home and garden makes sense. It looks at the big frame in which Transition sits, the physical nature of the planet and our position in the vast wheel of time. 2012 is a big year, crunch time for civilisation, discussed as the culmination point in some spheres, as the end of one way of life and the beginning of another. It is the end of a huge cycle of time in a calendar that stretches across 5,000 years.

Oh, no, Charlotte! Not the Mayan calendar, you cry. But listen: to be truly resilient we need other ways of looking at life and ourselves if we are going to weather the storm that's brewing on the horizon. We need to connect with all our relations on the planet and know we are not just consumers and house-owners/renters, stuck in what we call History. This is how the book begins in 1991, with a Mexican plant called epazote that leads me on a journey to discover that we are more interesting, more powerful, than any of our parents or teachers or "leaders" would like us to think we are. I'm not talking woo-woo workshop or crystals here, I mean being activists for change in a real way, in our minds, bodies and hearts, in everyday life.

Here's an idea about time that I discovered on my travels. The Mayan people call the human being winclil which means vibratory root. The harmony and beauty of the spheres is perceived on earth by different “tribes” or types of human beings (which correspond to the different days of the week in their three calendars). These human roots vibrate in the fabric of life at different frequencies. Most modern human winclils however are deactivated. Lacking connection with the living systems of the planet, we vibrate only when artificially stimulated by sex and war, which creates an incoherent, low frequency. Mayan systems (such as we understand them in the modern world) activate the life-forces in order to create a high and coherent frequency. In short, instead of making noise, human beings make music. You only have to look at their textiles to know what this colourful world looks like.

In the forest where the passionflower grows, where its leaves have been used as a poultice for thousands of years, the Maya sit in small straw huts and weave patterns of extraordinary complexity, the most beautiful fabrics of the world in all the colours of the quetzal bird. In their imaginations and in their hearts they hold calendars of equal complexity, that rotate at different speeds like the stars around the sun. They have held these complex patterns inside them for thousands of years – patterns of time, of colour, of beauty. They held them before the cities came and after they fell into ruin. The temples did not hold them. The temples never do (2: Passionflower, 52 Flowers That Shook My World)

So forecasting ahead and describing what I wish to see happen, or think I might see happen (which are different things) is a year of living within a wider perspective. A year in which the bigger forces come into play, whether we like it or not. A year when Transition is understood within a frame of the wild places. When all activists, all social movements for change, are understood as vital strands in a worldwide web. As the bringers of colour and vibrancy and harmony, within a black-and-white, dissonant culture. The collective butterfly emerging from an all-consuming, caterpillar world.

On the ground I plan to continue the Social Reporting project that had its successful pilot this year, this blog, the Low Carbon Cookbook and the communications work for Transition Norwich and Sustainable Bungay. I'll keep spreading the word about our myriad projects and events, our community-building and low-carbon ethos that are key to resilience in downshifting and difficult times. But elsewhere I'll be coming out with 52 Flowers, speaking about life in the fifth zone, connecting with our wildness and our inner transformative abilities. This will start next month with a talk on Roots for the Plant Medicine Bed at the Library Community Garden which Mark will write about tomorrow. Watch this space!

Climbing the Temple of the Magician, Uxmal, Mexico, 1991; Wild by Jay Griffiths and Martin's woodworking tools, Uncivilisaiton Festival, August 2011; with Teresa and Cecilia in Real de Catorce, 1993, from 52 Flowers that Shook my World; fairtrade textiles from Mayan Traditions; speaking about medicine plants at Transition Camp, October 2011;

Monday 26 December 2011

New Year Forecasting

Every year, people wake up after the Christmas and New Year festivities and make a little promise to be different during the new year.  We'll eat less, do more exercise, maybe take up a new hobby, find a new job.  Magazine and TV adverts indulge this fantasy, suggesting that all the stresses and strains of the old year will somehow dissolve and we'll emerge, butterfly-like as new creatures full of energy and resolve.  Every year, we make those promises, and usually by the end of January or February we've settled back into our usual routine.

But, but...

Research says that we're more likely to keep our resolutions if we do them together, and what better community support network to help than Transition.

Last year on the blog we talked about the personal things we wanted to see in 2011 (check out the blog posts to read our hopes).  This year, we're writing "forecasts" rather than resolutions, things we would like to see happen, and some suggestions for making it happen.  Transition is all about the people, so ideas are only ideas until people get behind them and make them happen.

If you like the sound of something in this "New Year Forecasts" theme week, get in touch.  Only with your help can we make the ideas a reality!

Sunday 25 December 2011

Happy Hollydays!

Winter green gifts from the blog storehouse: mistletoe and holly in Suffolk by Charlotte,; solstice tree on Mousehold Heath by helenofnorwich; stored apples by Erik Buitenhuis; woodburner and cat by John Heaser.

Saturday 24 December 2011

Winter pictures from the river bank

In summer, the countryside is full of colour and there is much to catch the photographer's eye. At the time of the Winter Solstice the days are so short and the weather so cold that it is easy to miss the subtle things that are going on in the natural world. Today our guest blogger is Tamsin, who learnt about Transition from the initiative in Nayland where she lives, and has been out with her camera along the river Stour that runs through the village JH.

The river in a dormant state. On the bank you can see piles of weeds and bulrushes, recently cleared from the river and left to decay on the banks. It's hard to believe that by summer this stretch of the river will be so full of plants that only a very narrow channel, just wide enough for a canoe, is left.

The leaves have fallen from the trees to return nutrients to the soil and growth all but stops

A teasel seed head. After the seeds have formed in autumn the plant starts to die, but the dried stems and seed heads will still be around all winter

Dead and decaying wood provides a home for a wide variety of saproxylic (deadwood-dependent) organisms including fungi, lichens, invertebrates, mosses and birds

A dead female stag beetle, found earlier in the year and normally kept on my mantlepiece. I've photographed it here on a log, where it would have spent it's larval stage (which may last up to five years) feeding in rotting tree stumps. Sadly, stag beetles are a threatened species, partly due to the loss of dead wood habitats Tamsin Preston

Friday 23 December 2011

The Winter Solstice: Time To Let Go

Today we have a cross-post that from guest blogger Rachel Lalchan's own ecomonkey blog. The original post was written on Wednesday and has some interesting further information about the physics, history and spirit of the Winter Solstice JH

Whilst our Southern Hemisphere readers are celebrating Summer Solstice, our Sun ends its waning cycle in the Northern Hemisphere today, the shortest day of the year. Winter Solstice heralding the return of lengthening days, falls tomorrow on Thursday 22nd December. From then on, the days will grow longer and brighter until the height of next year's Summer.

Since Stone-Age times (at least), evidence suggests that humans have marked the winter and summer solstice as significant times of the year, the longest and shortest days. For our ancestors, these days were a vital indication of the food growing seasons and the changing of darker days to lighter periods and vice versa.

Today, many of us have lost touch with seasonal changes as our lives seem entrenched in artificial environments immersed in technologies and thought patterns that seem to negate the need for nature. Even where the Earth's provisions are relatively direct, such as for food, clothing and warmth, we tend to either ignore the source of these sustaining goods or take them for granted. How many of us or our children, for example, think and act as though our food and clothes emanate from the supermarket or the high street, rather than from the Earth! Our lifestyles allow us to forget that cotton and food are grown in the soil beneath our feet.

Reversing this conception is easy. It is simply a matter of making time to appreciate what we have. So, when sourcing new clothes, or throwing on a favourite sweater, for example, we can look at the fabric and label, think about where the materials were grown and all the people and elements that played a part in getting the items from soil to us - the sowing, caring, harvesting, designing, producing, transporting, selling and so on. And we can feel grateful. When we eat a meal, we can take a moment to think about how it was grown, who was involved in putting the ingredients together and appreciate all the efforts made by people and elements involved in the sowing, caring, harvesting, storage, transporting, selling, washing, preparing, cooking... Two simple words can change our whole outlook on Life - "Thank You"!

When asked to recall our happiest times, we tend to envision and remember people and places rather than technologies and material things. Breathtaking landscapes, fresh air, open fires, endless oceans, loved ones. These are the things that make us feel alive. Re-Membering our connection to nature and taking time out to acknowledge that we are part of the natural world, gives us the opportunity to grow, to accept the nurturing gifts provided in abundance by the Earth and use them to enhance our well-being.

When we acknowledge the influence of Nature and her seasons on our physical and spiritual well-being, we become aware of the profound links that exist between us, each other and our world. Our connection with the Earth, all its inhabitants, the skies, stars, galaxy and universe beyond run deeper than we can ever wholly know.

The return from dark days into lighter at the Winter Solstice is a chance to look back over the year and see how we have grown, the lessons learned, those we continue to learn, the changes made, what worked well, what worked out differently from how we had imagined at the start of 2011, what made us frustrated, angry and sad, what made us smile, glow and weep with laughter. It is an opportunity to give thanks for the blessings received and the hard lessons learned. It is a chance to look forward to all that we want to be in the coming year and let go of all the things, thoughts, relationships, attitudes, feelings and habits that are holding us back from being who we truly want to be. We can bid farewell to that which no longer serves us.


Thursday 22 December 2011

Sun, sun, sun here it comes!

Dawn in the Garden. Dead sunflower faces the sunrise, toward the sea down by the compost heap. Ghosts of hogweed and cosmos, wild carrot in threadbare nests, frost-bitten leaves - all the old forms are breaking down, providing mulch for new life.

Out in the lane the jackdaws are flying out to the fields, owls still hooting. Ivy berries now ripe in the bare hedges. A waning moon in the sky. We set out to sit under our neighbourhood oak and wait for the turn . . .

Sun, sun, sun, here it comes! Rising above the oaks and the barley fields on a peerless morning, fresh breeze, curlews calling.

Breaking down old forms Thinking about John's theme for the week on the way home and getting an idea (notice jumping in air!).

Solstice is the moment you let go of what you don't need in order to go forward into the lightness and clarity of the new solar year. Providing mulch from our earthtime and blowing on those sparks for the future all around us.

Pull to climax In the natural world there is a movement known as “the pull to climax”, a condition in which natural systems become complex and symbiotic, interweaving with one another in a web of extrordinary intricacy. The poet and activist, Gary Synder once wrote that in a climax situation, such as a mature oak or rainforest, a high percentage of the energy is not gleaned from the living biomass, but from the recycling of dead matter – dead trees and animals – that lie on the forest floor. This “detritus energy” is liberated from these dead forms by the transformative actions of fungi and insects.

“As climax forest is to biome, and fungus is to the recycling of energy, so ‘enlightened mind’ is to daily ego mind, and art to the recycling of neglected inner potential.”

Transforming old thoughts and feelings, composting our past becomes the life-energy that fuels our present lives. Within the personal life and within the collective, the individual and the creative writer, act like mushrooms. We liberate energy from what is dead and give energy to the living, and thus become symbionts rather than parasites within the collective consciousness of the earth.

Composting the past If you don't let go you don't get any compost for the future, or any fuel. We've been living on borrowed energy for aeons, now we have to find our own. Not just fossil fuel but life force for ourselves. For that we need to key into the living systems, learn to break stuff down - possessions, habits, unnecessary desires - in order to provide ourselves with energy and vigour for the big year ahead. We need to throw new light onto our old organisational structures, into our social and political institutions and question everything.

Are all those antiquated traditions and costumes, those hostile and haughty shows necessary? Are they impeding new ways of doing things? Are they dampening down those collective sparks we see in Transition, in Occupy, in all the dynamic dialogues and ideas that are going on as we move towards 2012? Get some clues from those mushrooms! Get in touch with the ants! Happy Solstice everyone!

Quote from Gary Synder in a talk based on his essay, Poetry, Community and Climax. Photos of moon, sun, tree, flower and fly agaric by CDC and Mark Watson. Ants, Angels and Human Nature, from the blog, Peak Oil Blues by Kathy McMahon.

Wednesday 21 December 2011

What Moulds, Breaking Down?

Last week I made this beetroot ink. I meant to take a picture of the actual beetroot which was becoming soft and beginning to decompose from the outside. But I didn't so this is the ink itself, which comes out a light purple-red on paper, as you can see on the label:

Now I know this week is a photoblog of winter and decay, but as I was "Cleaning the Downstairs Toilet Window Frame of Mould for the Landlords Inspection" yesterday, some thoughts I'd had for ages and been unable to express started to cohere. So I hope you don't mind John if this post is a decayed mix of photo and poem! The text above in bold is the working title.

I wipe black mold from the window frame
Oil-painted white,
I think of all the plastics.
How will it biodegrade?
Will it 'bio' degrade?
In the end.

We don't know what the planet has in store.
For us. For these things. For us.
How they will go
In the end.

What microbes, what subtle processes,
What break-ups-and-downs,
What surprise detoxifications,
What decompositions

I don't like to say these things
In our marketed world
In our money-mind-dominated world
In our arbitrary world of no consequence

I don't want to offer space for any more excuses
for the comments:
'that's all right then, the planet will come up with
to get rid of us, bye-bye humans
just pass me the deeds to those tar sands
as big as ten countries
and let the show go on, and the lights,
and let the land and the people and the plants
go detoxify themselves!'

we don't know what the planet has in store,
what unwritten and undreamt-of-yet procedures
what creativities,
what subtle and invisible armies,
what moulds, breaking down

even if we did
it would be no excuse.

Mark Watson Dec 20 2011

Pics: Beetroot Ink, December 2011, Mould on Window Frame by Mark Watson

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Life in decay

Maybe our memories are short, but it seems somehow colder this year than last.  It might just be that the awareness of the increased cost of fuel makes the same cold harder to bear.  As I walk around the city, I'm constantly on the lookout for abandoned bits of wood that I can put in the wood-burner.

However, here in my garden there's a small pile of logs that I won't burn, and that I leave alone as wintering homes for bugs, spiders and ladybirds.  The wood's soft to the touch, breaks open easily and inside you can see a fine latice-work of fungus lacing the structure.  Small creatures I can't name scurry and wriggle away when disturbed.

Even with Saturday's dusting of snow, this wood was still a shelter for the life that we don't normally see or think about.  It's a reminder that life flourishes even in decay, even in the "bleak midwinter" of the carol, and how the great cycle of the seasons, and of life, constantly whirls around us.

Monday 19 December 2011

Winter photo week

This week we are marking the turn of the year with our own pictures.

On Thursday at 5:30 am the sun will be at its furthest distance from the earth and the winter solstice will occur. The sun barely gets above the trees and all life seems to have departed from the earth, even the birds are quiet.

The pond looks dead but a few bubbles in the ice may be from some frogs escaping the cold by staying at the bottom of the pond.

The cold is important for many plants to germinate and to create buds for fruiting next year
Blackcurrant buds forming
 Beech seeds freed from their cases, split by the frost.

Life continues below ground and worms pull the decaying leaves underground in order to eat them
This leaf hangs mysteriously from a spider's thread

But after only 7hours the sun is already going down
 The earliest sunset was on Dec 13th, so the evenings are already getting lighter - however sunrise continues to get later until Jan 1st.