Category: covid-19

Theatre returns…

Roll up! We’re really pleased to announce that government guidelines now mean we can have socially distanced live performance and entertainment in the Gardens!!!

Not only can we now provide some fabulous fun entertainment for eager visitors in our wonderful venue, but we can also support the return to work of some creative people and performers who have totally lost their livelihoods during lockdown.

Just as a taster, with yet more to come later….. we have 2 specially adapted performances for families:Wind in the Willows from Stratford based theatre ‘Tread the Boards’ and a super 2 person show ‘Alice in Lockdown’ played from a caravan by those stalwarts of Midlands open air theatre Heartbreak Productions.

Tickets will be on sale soon… but put these dates in your diary

Saturday 8th and 9th August for Wind in the Willows and
Friday 21st August for Alice in Lockdown

Many calculations and cogitations have gone into making sure these productions are safe and healthy for both players and audiences.

Audience members will be allocated self contained spaces; ‘bubbles’, across the Archery lawn and around the Gardens, where they can settle down for the show, properly socially distanced from everyone else –  a great picnic experience for families too.

Car parking, ticket checking and finding your own special ‘bubble’ will all be managed in timed and safe ways too.

More is planned for the rest of the simmer for adults as well as families.

After such a difficult time for so many people we are thrilled to be able offer our Gardens space for some warming, healing and reviving activities this summer.

Stay in touch for more news…coming soon

 

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Cream Tea in a Box …. coming soon

The perfect takeaway food for a socially distanced Garden experience...

Last year’s popular Cream Tea in a carry out box is set to return to the Garden in the next week. Scrumptious locally made scones, oodles of proper Cornish cream and berry jams all ready for you to collect at our Orangery shop and take off to your favourite place around the gardens for your own summer picnic treat.

Just order your Cream Tea in a Box package online and collect it when you come to the Gardens.

The box and nearly all the packaging is made of totally compostable plant based materials – so nothing goes to waste. We are still offering never ending tea/coffee refills – but given current circs. these will be served in a new cup, so please help us by disposing of the packaging in the recycling bins.

With our 10acres of beautiful green space we are the ideal space for your staycation days out… pack a picnic basket, add an order for a Cream Tea in a Box and take a trip to 18th century elegance.

Check the website ticket page HERE

 

 

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Let them eat flowers…

Just had to share this excellent article from our Organic Gardening friends over at Ryton on Dunsmore. As the national organisations spearheading organic and pesticide free vegetable growing, we’ve always had a lot in common.

All the flowers they mention here, as edible, are plants we grow in our Gardens in Castle Bromwich. We try to grow plants that would have been around and familiar to gardeners between 1680 and 1760, so its pretty certain that back then using the flowers for eating would be pretty common … lets make sure we don’t lose that knowledge… nor those delights.

https://www.gardenorganic.org.uk/

“Organic flowers aren’t just beautiful, some are edible too. Why not try a few petals to zing up a salad, pep up a curry, or delightfully decorate a cake. Blooms and buds will add spice, colour and taste to your plate. You can even add them to summer cocktails!
We list below the tastiest flowers. And because you’ve grown them yourself, the organic way, you won’t be ingesting the chemicals used in commercial flower growing.

Quick tips:

  • Only eat flowers that have been identified as edible.
  • Do not eat shop bought flowers. They could well be laced with chemicals.
  • Flowers are an important source of nectar or pollen for bees and other insects.  Don’t be greedy and pick them all! Share your blooms.

Here are our ten favourite tasty blooms:

  1. Basil (Ocimum basilicum)  – Basil is usually grown as an annual herb for its leaves. The flavour of the flower is milder, but similar to the leaves. So don’t despair if your basil plants start flowering in the summer and early autumn. Simply pick the flowering tops as soon as they open, and sprinkle the flowers over salad or pasta and add to soups and pesto. Basil requires a rich well-drained soil. It needs a warm sunny position, with protection from the wind. It will thrive grown in pots on a sunny windowsill, or in a greenhouse.
  2. Borage (Borago officinalisAn annual herb with bright blue-purple star shaped flowers that taste mildly of cucumber. The flowers can be tossed in a salad or floated on summer beverages such as Pimms. Also excellent as a garnish for both sweet and savoury dishes and on iced soups. The flowers can also be crystallized for cake decorations. Likes a sunny spot in any soil. Although an annual, will readily self-seed.
  3. Brassicas – broccoli, cauliflower, mustard (Brassica spp) If you don’t get around to picking all your leafy brassica crops, they will flower. The small yellow flowers have a gentle spiciness and mild brassica flavour. They are delicious in salads or in stir-fries. Best grown in rich soil, sun or partial shade. Net to prevent pigeon or caterpillar damage.
  4. Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) Pale pink or blue, the cornflower adds a deliciously spicy taste to salads. They are particularly pretty when scattered over iced cakes. Easy to grow from seed sown either in late summer or in mid spring. They like a well-drained sunny site and will grow on almost any soil. Don’t pick wild cornflowers – they are an important part of the wildflower meadow ecosystem.
  5. Courgette, squash, marrow and pumpkin (Cucurbita spp) These large yellow flowers have a mild vegetative flavour. Courgette flowers can be coated in batter and then deeply fried. They can also be stuffed (mozzarella cheese is particularly delicious!) then steamed or baked. A popular method is to shred the flowers, soften in oil and add to pancake batter or to a tortilla filling. Grow best in a rich soil in full sun. Start seeds indoors in spring, then plant out when the soil is warm and there is no danger of frost.
  6. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) This common weed has a yellow flower that tastes of honey if picked young. It turns bitter when mature. The flowers can be made into tea, wine and beer. Coat fully-open flowers with chickpea flour batter, mixed with a pinch of garam masala, and shallow fry for dandelion bhajis. They can also be used to garnish a salad. When serving a rice dish use the brilliant yellow petals like confetti over the rice. Dandelions will readily grow in most soils. Leave some blossoms as a nectar source for early Spring emerging insects.
  7. Daylilies (Hemerocallis spp) Not to be confused with other types of lilies, the daylily petals have a crisp and juicy flavour, especially the nectar filled base. Do NOT eat shop bought lilies. Hemerocallis plants have numerous hybrids with different coloured flowers which appear each day. Usually the darker coloured flowers tend to leave an unpleasant aftertaste while the lighter coloured flower are sweeter with a flavour akin to asparagus or green beans. Petals can also be used to decorate salad. Or wait until flowers are slightly withered, then use them to flavour and thicken cooked food. You can also freeze them.. Daylilies are an easy to grow herbaceous perennial. They can withstand neglect in sun or partial shade and will grow through short grass. But they will give the best flowers if grown in reasonable soil in full sun.
  8. Elderflower (Sambucus nigra) The flowers can be dipped in batter and fried, or turned into cordial. They go very well with gooseberries, or make a delicious light sorbet, custards or ice-cream. Dark-leaved elders sometimes have pink flowers, which retain their colour. Elderflowers and berries can be dried for use as a tea, often used as a remedy for a cold. A hardy shrub which will grow anywhere – except waterlogged sites.
  9. Lavender (Lavendula spp) This familiar strong tasting flower can be used in jams, jellies, ice cream, biscuits and vinegar. The flowers can also be crystallised, added to salads or used to make a tea. Flowers are best picked when they first open, before seeds begin to form. An evergreen perennial shrub which needs a neutral to alkaline soil in an open sunny position. Plants become woody with age, but can be pruned back immediately after flowering in order to maintain vigour.
  10. Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) A deliciously spicy-peppery tasting flower. The colourful petals, leaves and seed pods of this annual plant are edible. The leaves have a taste similar to cress. Pick flowers throughout the summer for immediate use. The fat green seed pods can be pickled and used as an alternative to capers. Nasturtiums are a colourful addition to salads, pasta, meat dishes and vinaigrettes. Sow seeds in situ in spring, but many plants will self-seed. Prefers full sun and a light well-drained soil. Grows well in containers but feeding with fertiliser will encourage leaves and no flowers. Keep well-watered in hot weather.

And here’s a few more to add to the floral bunch:

Agastache (Agastache foeniculum and relatives)  – Agastache (giant hyssop) has small but powerfully fragrant flowers with a hot peppermint-like twang. Scatter over ice cream for a delicious garnish or add to drinks or stuffings. This tall perennial plant needs full sun and well-drained soil. Grow from seed or by root division. Hyssop blossoms are particularly loved by bees.

Bergamot (Monarda didyma) This hardy perennial gets it common name, Bee’s Balm, from the bees’ love of its nectar. The flowers are a mixture of interesting flavours, ranging from citrusy and sweet to hot and minty: each flower colour tends to have a different flavour. Can be used to make tea and as an ingredient for cakes. Prefers a moist, rich soil. Tolerates partial shade to full sun. Can be grown from seed or root division.

Chives (Allium schoeonoprasumThe purple onion-like flowers from this perennial herb provide an oniony, but not overpowering flavour. Harvest flowers just as they are opening. Alternatively, developing seed-heads are slightly stronger in taste. Frequent picking will encourage flowering to continue until the first frost. Can be used to garnish salads and added to sauces. Chives are among the most versatile edible flower in savoury cooking. Best grown in rich, free draining soil in full sun, but also performs well in pots. Must be kept well-watered and cut back frequently to promote new growth. Propagated from seeds and by splitting clumps in mid spring.

Dill (Anethum graeveolens) & Fennel (Foeniculum vulgarae) Both these plants have a distinct sweet aniseed flavour throughout. Fennel pollen has recently become very fashionable as an addition to fish dishes, but the flowers can be used for cakes, stuffings, salads or vinegars. Dill is a tender annual and fennel is a hardy perennial: both do best in full sun and well-drained fertile soil.

Hollyhock (Alcea cannabinifolia & A. rosea) The large flowers of hollyhock have a substantial if slightly glutinous texture, and add colour to salads, stir-fries or drinks. Best grown as a biennial from seed: older plants often suffer badly from rust fungus. They need sun and well-drained soil.

Lilac (Syringa vulgaris) The white or purple flowers, have a delicate ‘floral’ flavour. Add to yogurt or use the flowers as an attractive garnish. The flowers are also very tasty deep fried. This familiar shrub is very hardy and easy to grow.

Pansy (Viola x wittrockiana, Viola tricolor) Pansy flowers have a mild fresh flavour, or a slightly grassy taste, depending on the pansy variety and how much of the flower is eaten. The petals are very mild in taste but the whole flower tastes much stronger. Use pansies to garnish cocktails, desserts, soups and fruit salads. Do NOT eat pansies grown commercially.

Pinks (Dianthus spp) Flowers taste spicy and clove-like. They should be picked when first open and the white base removed. They can be added to salads, fruit pies and sandwiches, candied, pickled in vinegar and made into a syrup. A hardy perennial, best grown in a sunny, sheltered, well-drained position in a poor soil. Easily propagated from seed and stem cuttings. To grow in containers, window boxes and tubs use a very free draining compost.

Pot marigold (Calendula officinalis) Pot marigolds produce orange or yellow flowers, which come in a range of flavours: spicy, bitter, tangy or peppery. Petals can be sprinkled on soups, pasta, salads and rice. Powdered petals, also known as poor man’s saffron, can be added to give a golden hint to herb butter, spreads, soups and scrambled egg. Pick flowers just as they open in summer for fresh use and for drying. Grows in a wide range of soil, but does prefer a sunny position. Direct sow seeds in spring, after the last frost: in mild areas can also been autumn sown to overwinter for earliest blooms. Deadheading encourages a continuous harvest of flowers.

Rose (Rosa spp) The rugosa roses have large single flowers with the most flavoursome petals of all the roses. They are followed a close second by old roses – damask and gallica rose petals are particularly delicious. Hybrid roses have flavoursome petals only from the most fragrant varieties, although some leave an aftertaste, so sample a petal before taking it into the kitchen. Ensure when harvesting petals that the whitish petal base is removed, as it is sour. Rose petals can be used to make jam, to flavour vinaigrettes, sauces, sweet or meat dishes. Roses grow best in a rich, well-drained but heavy-textured soil in full sun.

Rocket (Eruca versicaria) The flowers have a spicy taste, not unlike the peppery leaves. A pretty addition to salads, especially early in the year. Sow at monthly intervals from March to September, annual plant which sometimes overwinters in mild areas. Needs sun and a good soil.

Sage (Salvia officinalis) A perennial herb with mauve-blue flowers in midsummer. The flowers have a milder taste than the sage leaf. They can be used in pesto, salads, soups and with fish dishes. Other members of the sage family have tasty flowers too – Salvia elegans tastes of pineapple, while S. gregii is vaguely blackcurrant-like. Grows best in full sun and prefers a light soil. Can be grown from seed or cuttings in the spring.

Sweet violet (Viola odorata) Has scented small blue or white blooms: one of the few edible flower available in winter and early spring. They have a delicate flavour, used to add taste and colour in confectionery, as a thickener in soup and stews and make a tasty, interesting garnish for salads, fruit salads and desserts. Avoid eating to excess as they may have a laxative effect. Sweet violets thrive in a moderately heavy rich soil in a semi-shaded spot. If grown in containers they succeed well but need to be placed in a cool position throughout the summer and must not be given heat during the winter.

Wysteria (Wisteria sinensis) A woody climber with heavily fragrant blooms. The petals are excellent in an infused vinegar or cordial.  The latter is particularly good in baking or as a cocktail mixer.  Plant deep in full sun.  Pruning twice a year will encourage heavy flowering.

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“Journeys end in family’s meeting, Every wise man’s son doth know”

(to misquote Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night)

There are times when the proximity of the motorway junction is a blessing!

Today 2 families chose the Gardens as a halfway house meeting place to see their grandparents/parents/children/grandchildren for the first time since lockdown.

One family came from west and east to meet here, another from north and south.

Although it was a blustery cool day they all made the best of their much waited for reunion.

(Us in the Gardens’ shed a little tear, we must admit)

 

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Spreading your wings…. Volunteer opportunities at historic venue

Kicking your heels post lockdown? Recently graduated or still on furlough?

The Gardens have always been dependent on a fantastic band of happy and hardworking volunteers. Lockdown has been hard on many of them who are itching to come back to enjoy the friendship and the beauty of the site. It’s lovely to welcome many back, but others for various reasons cannot comeback, yet.

We are learning what we can do post lockdown – there are operational changes and we are having to rethink a lot of the ways we provide services and activities. This means we need to reach out for more volunteers too.

Perhaps you’re looking to stretch your experiences for your cv or looking for another way to ‘give back’.

Currently we have new opportunities for volunteers to help our historic Gardens Charity and to accumulate a range of visitor experience and front of house skills.

Our front of house entry sales and small shop needs happy, confident ‘welcomers’ 5 days a week.

We hope too, to be extending some of our family activities and outdoor evening entertainment when we re-allowed.

We are looking for volunteers who can commit to some training and either a regular day each week/fortnight or are flexible over the summer for 5 days or more

Later in the season there may also be Gardening opportunities.

Induction/Exploring Mornings for those interested in finding out more

Tuesday 7th July and Saturday 11th July, 11 am -12.30am

If you are interested please fill in the expression of interest form online first,if at all possible.,,and we look forward to answering your questions and showing you whats involved  on the induction days

(online expression of interest form:  https://forms.gle/iGvKqk6b2oE6UTRW7)

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July Tips from the Head Gardener

Summer’s progressing 

Our sense of time is a bit out of alignment these days –  lockdown has meant that many of us have been looking inwards and at our gardens. We’ve been noticing change and growth perhaps more acutely than ever before. But even so .. we lockdown and the beginning of spring and now summer is well on its way… how did that happen?

Here in the garden at the start of the month we are busy finishing the summer bedding displays. Risk of frost is surely passed and the summer plants that went in a few weeks ago have established and are flowering. It is really important though to water these temporary residents if rainfall is lacking. They won’t put on their best show if they are struggling to survive and desperately thirsty.

We have all rediscovered our love of hanging baskets this year. All kinds of improvised and hand nurtured baskets and containers are seen around peoples front  doors and on balconies. Now, just because you can go out, don’t neglect their love and care. Any reserves of goodness in the compost, or within the plants themselves, are being used up for growing and flowering. A regular feed with some water soluble fertiliser will ensure your baskets keep looking vibrant. You’ll  need to water your baskets everyday by now as the sun dries out the compost very quickly. So feeding them while watering is no extra work for you.

‘Dead heading’

Flowers, just like bird song, are not there to please our eyes – or ears. The plant produces flowers as part of its main job – to reproduce itself for next year. It is merely a happy side effect that we humans like the look of flowers. So, armed with that knowledge we can intervene and try to help the plant produce more flowers for our benefit.. Once a plant has flowered and set seed it’s job is complete, so will relax …and die back. The answer for us humans is to fool the plant by removing all the old flower heads and it will keep on trying to reproduce by pushing out lots more lovely flowers.

A time of plenty in the Veg. plot

In the vegetable patch you can now start to reap the benefits of all the extra time you’ve been able to put in over the last few months by harvesting some of the crops you have been caring for.

Items such as salad leaves, peas and beans should be ready to eat and weeding around the vegetables becomes easier. With the heat of the sun any small weeds can be hoed off and will frazzle and die. Happy eating and keep growing your own food… Hyper local is good!

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Covid-19 protection measures ….keeping consistent

We expect the government and scientific advice to change from time to time and have no doubt that sometimes things we plan or hope to do in the Gardens will have to be changed at the last minute.

We would like to share with you some of the basic assumptions and safeguards the Gardens will be operating and that are likely to stay the same throughout.

We still know so little about Covid-19….and it would be easy to begin to see other people as a potential ‘threat’ to our own health and wellbeing. We think..

Being out in open air is generally beneficial

Being in company is healing too.

2 Metre rule

In the gardens it is pretty easy to keep to 2 metre distancing.

So we think, even if the accepted rules change, we will continue to use 2 metres as a norm and will expect visitors to keep to that in the Gardens, where they can.

The Gardens are a place of escape and freedom from the city and bustle, so we don’t want to police every pathway.

We trust our visitors and users to think of others and for us all to co-operatively share the space.

Number limits

The Gardens are rarely crowded, but we will continue to put a cap on the number of people in the Gardens at any one time.

The new system for pre-booking will become a norm.

We will permit some ‘walk up’ visitors, but only within our limit at the time.

Pre-booking will become especially important with any activities we run in the future: like open air theatre, evening picnics, music  or family activities.

Tickets for activities, and eventually events, will abide by number limits and fixed seating, spaces and ‘independent bubble’  areas will help us make sure we are all safe, but can enjoy things in as relaxed a manner as possible.

Ticket conditions of sale

Please be aware that tickets for entry and activities will shortly also specifically ask you to stay away if you have any of the recognised symptoms. A new refund policy will be introduced.

Track and trace.

The new prebooking system will also help with any future need to support tracking and tracing.

If any of our visitors or staff become infected, we will be able, with the help of the NHS, send basic information to those we know were in the Gardens.

Please note: your information will not be shared. We will just inform you what has happened and who to contact to support the track and trace investigation – if necessary!

Other aspects

These are the main changes and principles we will be keeping as consistently as possible. There will be others that will be more flexible according to the situation.

We are so please to be able to share the magic of the Gardens again with our visitors, so we are doing our best to keep that possible for as long s we can…. With your help #wegrowtogeher

 

 

NB we have risk assessments for the whole gardens,for our  staff and volunteers and eventually for each event. These will be reviewed and updated as things progress. Please ask at the kiosk if you would like to see our current general risk assessment.

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Time to shop…

The high street is opening…

If that urge to shop is strong, we have some lovely goodies in our shop you may not find elsewhere.

…And of course you can feel good about buying from the Gardens because every purchase helps the charity survive for another day to preserve and keep the Gardens open.

Jams and pickles

All our jams and pickles are homemade – with love – by our volunteers. There is a whole range to choose from.

Rhubarb and Ginger and Rhubarb and Fig New in this week uses the rhubarb from the Gardens – who’d’ve guessed a bumper crop this year!

Also maturing nicely is our  Tongue Tickle Chilli Pickle. It is said that once you’ve tasted a cheese sarnie with Tongue Tickle, you’ll never eat another cheese sarnie without it.

Cards

Sending a word of support, thanks or greetings through the post has become- once again – ‘a thing’ in these zooming days.

We have a small selection of the most lovely cards, including 4 seasonal views of the Gardens. These cards benefit more than one charity; us and the NGS  (National Gardens Scheme) nursing charities.

New in this season too are cards by the, until recently local, artist Ruth Green. Each has a charmingly simple and direct graphic of your favourite animal…

Our little shop in the Orangery also has a range of beeswax goods and honey produced locally, a small range of good quality affordable toys. We hope as the season progresses to increase our range.

We have lost the use of the visitor centre for now, but we love our new space in the Orangery .. .come and browse.

 

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What to expect in the post lockdown gardens

So how does visiting the Gardens now we’re open post Covid lockdown differ from the past?

We are still taking advice from with the RHS, other visitor attractions and of course the government about best practice to keep us all safe.

We have risk assessed and made changes  please bear with us if it things are not the same, or not quite perfect. We continue to evolve.
We just hope you will enjoy being here and making friends again with our beautiful space.

Getting in

We are open for longer hours but fewer days, Wednesday to Sunday  10.30 to 4.30.
At the gates there is one lane going in and one lane coming out -please keep your distances – you know how it goes!

We will continue to limit the numbers in the Gardens at any one time, so it will not be crowded and there is plenty of space for you to socially distance
Please be aware that the opening 30 minutes on some days may mean a queue.
Tickets: In general, tickets will be for the whole day, but we may introduce timed tickets for special days etc
Pre booked tickets and members will be able to have their tickets ‘scanned’ either at the entrance gates or at the steps of the visitor centre. This means we will be almost totally ‘contactless’.
Please help yourself to a map and examples of trails is available from the table .

The Gardens and getting round

All areas of the Garden are open.
There is a one way system out into the wilder area. Go in one way, come out the other.
Narrow pathways are all open, there are reminders for you to wait at one end until the path is clear.
Currently all the benches and tables are open.
Staff will clean these from time to time during the day.
Please be considerate in your usage –  think of people or sit there before and after.

A small team of gardeners have kept the Gardens in remarkable condition over the last 10 weeks. We are exceedingly lucky to have them.
There are weeds, there is long grass.. but the summer bedding is in and the vegetable plot is looking amazing … enjoy

Mud kitchen and play outside.

Currently we have closed the mud kitchen and taken pots away.
We will review all our play areas and equipment and re-instate as much as we can when we feel it’s right. Over the weeks we will also introduce new trails for amusement and learning… In the meantime we hope the little ones will enjoy exploring the area, discovering bugs and wildlife on the ground

Café

The café in the visitor centre is closed and is likely to stay closed all summer.
From now on drinks, snacks, ice cream and our shop goods are available from the Orangery.
In coming weeks we plan to expand our takeaway food and bring back our cream tea in a box … keep a lookout in the enews.

Toilets

For the time being all the toilets are remaining open.
They are deep cleaned regularly and we keep a strict rota for cleaning during out open hours.
Please keep to one person using the building at any one time to avoid congestion.
Liquid soap, paper towels and air dryers are supplied.
Please close the toilet lids before flushing and dispose of any paper towels in the bin immediately.
There is an extra ‘sanitation station’ outside the toilets if you want to wash hands again before or after

Dogs. Picnics and rubbish.

Picnics … please do take advantage of being in the space.
Please can you take your rubbish home! Currently rubbish is not being collected from the site and generally costs us over £1,0000 per year – money we can ill afford at present.
As normal we really welcome your family dog in the Gardens. We know they will be excited to be back, please keep them on a lead though, so that everyone else can relax.
As with picnics – we’d appreciate if you could take your doggy poo bags home

The summer

We are really thrilled to have people in the Gardens again – they are made for sharing.
We aim to keep opening hours, days , activities and maybe even events regular and consistent… but none of us know how things will progress so things will change.
We will keep you up to date as quickly as we can. As member you will be the first to hear about things and we hope to bring you all kinds of socially distanced entertainments and pleasures over the next months.

Please do tell your friends

We all need a safe and beautiful place to remake our relationship with the world, our selves and with nature. Spread the word to friends who need a little healing time.

Thank you #wegrowtogether

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