Family Foraging: Hedgerow Jam

Family Pilgrim has made Hedgerow Jam – and what a great team effort! Last week, Small Boy, Little Miss and I went blackberry picking; our local park has blackberry bushes so while the children slid, swung, and see-sawed, I foraged. Small Boy helped from time to time but Little Miss was more interested in eating the juicy berries – her little chin was stained pink by the end of the afternoon!

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After walking in the heat and humidity to another nearby play area while collecting (and eating!) more blackberries, we managed to gather just over 400g.

Using some unwanted jars from a friend and a recipe I’d found in Down to the River and Up to the Trees by Sue Belfrage – a book I’d borrowed from the children’s section of the library – we were all set! Waiting until the children were asleep, Mr Pilgrim and I heated the blackberries and an equal amount of sugar (with some water and pectin-providing lemon juice) and made jam! It didn’t take long and was surprisingly easy – even sterilising the jars was straightforward, we simply put them in the oven at gas mark 1.

Just need some homemade bread to spread it on now!

 

Holiday highs and lows

It’s a long, hot summer. Here are some collected thoughts about living justly in the holidays.

There’s been some holiday highs:

  • Camping – Family Pilgrim enjoyed a week camping in Dorset. I’ve loved our camping trips this year and am already thinking about next year’s. We live more simply (no screen time!) and love being outside. IMG_20180724_090346
  • Beautiful parts of the country – we haven’t travelled very far this holiday but we’ve enjoyed seeing beautiful parts of the English countryside.
  • Butterflies – I am becoming a big fan of butterflies and loved seeing them on the Dorset heath. I have also taken part in Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count at home in the garden (with the help of Small Boy). We only saw ‘cabbage’ whites and it was tricky to judge whether they were Large Whites or Small Whites.
  • Crochet water balloons – ‘Bathies’ as Little Miss has named them are small woolen items crocheted to look like a balloon. After seeing the campsite littered with balloon pieces from water balloons, I decided to try crochet water balloons. We had fun yesterday trying to ambush Mr Pilgrim.
  • Swimming in the sea – Swimming in the sea is one of my favourite activities. I learnt to swim in the sea as a child and I always feel refreshed, revived and restored after a dip. Thank you Grand-père for teaching me to swim – and to swim safely – in the sea. I have now discovered that it is a great way to have some peace!

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  • Making ice lollies – we now have an apparatus for making ice lollies which saves money and single-use plastic. I also gain Parent Points with the children – but lose Dentist Points.
  • Eating Mr Whippy ice creams – We ate a lot of ice creams on holiday and I always chose My Whippy ice creams. A tasty way to reduce single-use plastic! Confession: I let the children choose their own ice creams so not only did I buy treats in single-use plastic, they were also from Nestle (I’ve avoided Nestle since I was a teenager because of the Baby Milk Action boycott): Smarties Pop-Ups, Nobbly Bobbly ice cream and Rowntrees Fruit Pastilles lollies. I can’t bring myself to say no when they have set up their heart on a ‘rainbow’ lolly.
  • Suspended coffees – we had lunch in a community cafe in Dorset which operates a suspended coffee scheme. We paid for two extra coffees which will then be available to someone in need another day.
  • Cycling – Mr P and I hired a tandem and enjoyed exploring the Dorset countryside and the coast. IMG_20180727_104131

Holiday lows:

  • Climate change – I’m (mostly) enjoying the weather. It certainly made camping easier and more enjoyable! But I’m aware that the cause of this heat wave is climate change and I’m challenged to once again think about my carbon footprint and how to reduce it. It’s not a big thing but I have stopped listening to the radio all day. It’s a big step for me as it’s a sign I am becoming more comfortable with silence.
  • Holiday hunger – food banks are seeing a greater demand over the summer holidays and many are experiencing low stock and empty shelves. There are two food banks near me and I added a few extra items into the shopping to help re-stock their shelves.

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  • Period poverty – I’ve been wondering about young women experiencing period poverty over the school summer holidays. What do they do if they have been reliant on the Red Box Project in the school? I know that many of the schemes are working with youth organisations who are seeing young people over the summer. Again, I bought a packet of sanitary towels (since I converted to the Mooncup and CSP, I never them buy them for me now) and dropped them off at my nearest collection point.
  • Loneliness – I was delighted to discover that one of the local churches decided to run its usual toddler group (expanded for older children) last week. It can be hard for parents and children when usual activities and groups pause over the summer. A morning spent making junk models and chatting to others can make a big difference to someone’s week.
  • People sleeping rough – I try to avoid buying water in plastic bottles but sometimes it’s the best thing to do. Please consider giving some bottled water to someone sleeping on the streets. This hot weather is very dangerous for people without shade, without sun cream and without access to water.

As the holidays continue, I am going to look for ways to love more and to act justly.

Walking

The first time I walked down our road, it was not our road. I was praying for a new congregation my church were starting in the community.

A few weeks’ later, I walked down our road for the second time. As Mr Pilgrim and I left a church meeting explaining the vision behind this new congregation, I said ‘let’s be part of it’.

So even though we lived in a different part of town, we joined this new congregation never thinking that this would be for the long-term.

A year later and heavily pregnant, I walked down our road in the dark November rain. It was still not yet ‘our road’ but almost. We were about to buy what is now our house but I was having doubts. Wanting to hear from God and hoping for a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from him, I walked the streets and prayed. For the first time, I felt a glimpse of God’s love for our community and that love has became my love. I never heard that ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

We moved in and I walked. Walked in the rain. Walked in the sunshine. Walked to help my baby sleep. Walked to get out of the house.

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Photo by Paul Dufour on Unsplash

Two years later, weighed down with fears and pregnant with Little Miss, I walked in the balmy heat of late summer. Walking to manage my gestational diabetes, the aroma of the lavender in people’s front gardens lifted my despondent spirit.

And today I walked. The houses are no longer houses, they are the homes of people I know. The school isn’t just a school, it’s our community.  I walked past places we know and are known: the post office, the pre-school, the churches, the Red Box collection point and the Green. I saw love, community and beauty.

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As I walked today, I remembered the first time I walked on this road. I remembered walking while pregnant in the winter rain and then in the summer sun, and I give thanks for God’s faithfulness and goodness.

The Circle Game

I have been intentionally living more justly for over a year (I even avoided ordering avocado in a restaurant the other day!) and recently realised I now only buy clothes from three sources:

  1. charity shops – I found a bright and colourful pair of trousers for £4.99 from Age UK on holiday last week causing Small Boy to exclaim ‘Mummy, I love your parrot dress!’
  2. Marks and Spencers (for underwear, socks and leggings) – I like their commitment to ethical cotton and some items are best bought new
  3. ethical retailers such as People Tree, Nomad and Rapanui.

Using organic cotton and passionate about supply chains, each Rapanui product has a code which can be scanned to discover its origins. As Fashion Revolution declare we must keep asking ‘Who made my clothes?’

Not only are Rapanui transparent about the origins of their products, they care about the end. When Rapanui clothes are no longer able to be worn, they can be sent back to be recycled and you receive £5 in store credit! They believe the circular economy is the future for the fashion industry.

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I have worn slogan t-shirts since I was a teenager (although I’m not sure I’d wear some of the one I wore as a teenager now!) and I’m currently wearing this long-sleeved t-shirt designed by my church.

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Women’s baseball jersey designed by Wellspring Church and available from Teemill

This was created and bought through Teemill, an online print-on-demand company pioneered by Rapanui . Charities, companies and individuals design their own t-shirts, sweatshirts and bags which are then created to order.

Little Miss and I have matching ‘Adventures are for girls’ t-shirts designed by For Joy by Kathryn Jane. Purchased through Teemill, this t-shirt inspires me to be a little bit braver and to help Little Miss have her own adventures.
Small Boy then wanted a t-shirt which was ‘the same as Mummy’s’ and I discovered Cheeky Monkey, Loyal Penguin on Teemill so we now have matching monkey tops. Our Penguin Friend has a similar one!
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 Rapanui and Teemill t-shirts are made in a wind-powered factory and printed in the UK using low-waste, environmentally friendly inks. What’s not to like?

And just in case you’re wondering, I’m not being paid by Rapanui or Teemill to advertise their t-shirts. I just really like their ethics!

 Rapanui do plain t-shirts as well as a creative statement tee isn’t always appropriate. Mr Pilgrim has some black ones which are now no longer fit to wear so we will be sending them Back to Rapanui  to be turned into new ones!

“And go round and round and round 
In the circle game”
Joni Mitchell, The Circle Game

So many books, so little time…

It’s often not a good sign when I have too many books on the go. It can mean I’m not focused and my mind is rushing around. But sometimes it’s just because I can’t resist another book. I keep saying no more until I’ve finished the pile by the side of my bed!

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This is what I’ve just read, am reading and am about to read.

No More Friendly Fire (bought from Eden)

This short book was written by the leaders of my church, Wellspring Church, Watford and I had the privilege of hearing some of the chapters delivered as talks a couple of years ago. One of which even influenced Little Miss’s name!

I wish I’d read this book years ago! I grew up in a church where women weren’t allowed to preach or have formal leadership roles. My confidence was so low that I just accepted this view. And accepted it for many years. Internalised misogyny.

But then – and this was partly as a result of hearing Helen herself preach – I realised that there was a different view. I read and studied such books as Why Not Women?, Discovering Biblical Equality, Women in the Church and Jesus Feminist, and I have been encouraged in my own spiritual gifts and have grown and flourished.

No More Friendly Fire focuses on how men and women can – and should – work together and explores this through looking at biblical stories such as Deborah, Esther and Ruth. Helen and Tim don’t shy away from looking at some of the awkward and confusing passages in the Bible and also aren’t afraid to reveal their own vulnerabilities. It’s a short book and definitely worth reading!

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Phoebe by Paula Gooder (also from Eden)

This has been on my wish list for a while. It’s like a novel but not. In fact, Paula Gooder says it’s not a novel and it’s helpful to bear that in mind when reading as it does feel too didactic in parts. It’s based on a real life Christian woman called Phoebe who was a deacon in the early church. Other Christians mentioned in the New Testament make appearances too: Junia and Adronicus, Prisca and Aquila, even Peter. It’s an interesting approach, very easy to read and a great way to bring the early church to life.

In Pursuit of Butterflies (library)

Trying to identify butterflies is tricky when looking after two young children! Both butterflies and children move quickly and demand attention. There’s an abundance of cabbage whites and meadow browns (or are they gatekeepers?) and I was thrilled to watch a peacock earlier this week and may have spotted a red admiral this afternoon.

In Pursuit of Butterflies is evoking a longing to go ‘butterflying’ to discover some of the rarer butterflies. I can’t travel around the country in pursuit of butterflies or spend hours standing in a wood but I can experience some of the pleasure vicariously through this book by an erudite butterfly-obsessive.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (borrowed)

The rise of the far right has got me thinking and I decided I needed to read some Bonhoeffer. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pastor and author who was executed in 1945 for his role in a plot to assassinate Hitler. Following a colleague’s advice, I’m going to start with Eric Metaxas’ biography: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.

Time to stop writing and get back to reading!

Am I growing?

At the start of the academic year, I reflected on change. Small Boy was about to start in the nursery class at our local primary school, I went back to work after a year’s leave, and both Small Boy and Little Miss were going to be looked after by a new childminder.

It’s now the end of the summer term and sitting here on a hot and humid July’s evening, last September seems such a long time ago. Both children have grown and developed so much in the last ten months – as one would expect them too. Physically, emotionally, spiritually and intellectually, there have been huge steps forward. Literally, in the case of Little Miss who started walking in October!

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But have I grown?

What does it even mean for me to grow?

Am I growing in my relationship with God? Am I more loving, more joyful, more peaceful, more patient and more kind? Am I more gentle, more faithful and more self-controlled?

There’s a story in the Bible of two sisters: Martha and Mary. Friends of Jesus, they open their home to him. Martha works hard preparing the house for their guests while Mary sits and listens to the intriguing itinerant rabbi. Martha becomes angry with her sister and appeals to Jesus, who then gently chastises his harried host: ‘My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.’

I have always identified with Martha and find Mary irritating. I would have been angry with her too! I am an activist, a list-maker, a doer. I love the feeling of satisfaction when I achieve a goal – even if it’s just a small task!

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But Mary has chosen what is better.

I cannot escape the thought that growth isn’t about my achievements or my knowledge.

Am I sitting at the feet of my rabbi? Or am I rushing around trying to serve him?

I know I have written about this before and I’m embarrassed and frustrated that I still seem to be in the same place.

I still long for something deeper but struggle with the demands of my days.

Maybe it’s also sometimes easy to keep moving than to stop.

I think I will wrestle with this for many years to come.

Cake!!!

Today Family Pilgrim made a cake! IMG-20180630-WA0003

This year we have a mini vegetable-bed in our garden (dug by Mr Pilgrim and Small Boy) and we’re growing courgettes. Grand-père started them off in his greenhouse but since the beginning of May they’ve been growing in our garden. We have our names on a waiting list for an allotment and we hope to have one by the end of the year.

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We’re all surprised by how well they’re doing and we have a lot of courgettes! We are also getting some in our Church Farm vegetable box and so I thought we should make a courgette cake.

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I found this recipe on BBC Good Food and we used fair trade sugar, chocolate and cocoa, alongside Dove’s Farm organic flour and free range eggs from Church Farm (where we’ve seen the chickens!).

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Making a cake with Small Boy and Little Miss is not straightforward but Mr Pilgrim did a great job of involving Small Boy with the baking while I prevented Little Miss from playing with sugar.

One of my colleagues recommended using an electric whisk rather than stirring with a spoon because of the high liquid content of the courgettes. We also drained some of the water out of the larger courgettes.

The finished cake was enjoyed by all four of us with plenty left over.

My sister has suggested we make a courgette and lime cheesecake next!

World Refugee Day

Today Wednesday 20th June is World Refugee Day and we’re in the middle of Refugee Week in the UK.

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Like many people of faith, I’m angry that the Bible has been used to justify the separation of children from their parents in the US. If you’re not aware, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, said this: “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order. If you cross the Southwest border unlawfully, then the Department of Homeland Security will arrest you and the Department of Justice will prosecute you. Having children does not give you immunity from arrest and prosecution.”

The White House Press Secretary, Sarah Sanders, also said: “it is very biblical to enforce the law. That is actually repeated a number of times throughout the Bible.” Thankfully, a number of faith leaders in the States, have refuted this view.

The more I read the Bible, the more I see a call to love, welcome, give and protect the vulnerable and the stranger. I can’t let World Refugee Day and Refugee Week pass without doing something. So here are some ideas:

EDIT: Send an email to Homeland Security here through Amnesty International.

Transformed

I love finding out the word for ‘butterfly’ in different languages; I’ve discovered many of the words are beautiful and fun to say, such as papillon (French), mariposa (Spanish), farfelle (Italian – like the pasta), labalaba (Yoruba) and lolo (Malagasy). In other languages, the meaning of the word is evocative, such as the Danish word, sommerfugl (literally ‘summer bird’),  and the more down-to-earth Dutch word, boterschijte.

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One of my 18 Countryside Activities for 2018 was to learn to identify five new butterflies. So far this year, I’ve spotted and learnt:
And hopefully I will see a few more as the summer progresses.
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Small Boy loves Transformers (he has some of the toys as well as a DVD of the 1980s cartoons) and was delighted recently to have the opportunity to sleep in a ‘transforming’ sofa bed.

Last year, when chatting with my writer friend (and owner of the transforming sofa) about a section in her book, I was struck powerfully by her insight that the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly is irreversible. The butterfly does not – and cannot – go back to being a caterpillar. The butterfly is not like a Transformer, a sofa bed or our trailer tent. The transformation is permanent.

St Paul, in one of his letters to the church in Corinth, explains how: ‘If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!’.

When I chose to become a pilgrim, a spiritual transformation happened. I looked no different on the outside but I was a ‘new creation’ and could not go back to being a caterpillar even if I tried! And I tried.

As I continue on my journey of faith, I am able to accept as true both the immediate spiritual transformation that occurred (I am a new creation, irrevocably changed) and the slow (at times, painfully slow) gentle refashioning which is making me more like Christ himself.

I love the analogy of pilgrimage and this is something I am going to be exploring over the next couple of months. But every time I see a butterfly I am joyfully reminded of the great transformation that has already taken place in my life.

My Wild Journey

Since reading Just Living last year, I have started a journey of discovering the beauty of the natural world – and the harm that we are causing it.

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The view from our nearest park

Last June, Small Boy, Little Miss and I took part in 30 Days Wild. I recently reread my blog post on it and was struck by how something that was on the periphery of my conscious thought has become a central part of who I am.

I’ve enjoyed reading Robert Macfarlane and John Lewis-Sempel and have been influenced by their erudite, evocative and literary writings on Britain’s countryside.

But I had learned to see another wildness, to which I had once been blind: the wildness of natural life, the sheer force of ongoing organic existence, , vigorous and chaotic. This wildness was not about asperity, but about luxuriance, vitality, fun.

The weed thrusting through a crack in the pavement, the tree root impudently cracking a carapace of tarmac: these were wild signs, as much as the storm wave and the snowflake.

There was as much to be learned in an acre of woodland on a city’s fringe as on the shattered summit of Ben Hope: this was what Roger [his mentor and friend] had taught me – and what Lily [his young daughter] did not yet need to be taught.

It was something most people forgot as they grew into adults.‘ Robert Macfarlane, The Wild Places, p.316

This ‘wildness of natural life’ – ties in so well with the ethos of 30 Days Wild. Last year, we spent two weeks in the Lakes during June with nature on our doorstep. I had been unsure how we would find 30 wild activities this year when at home in our post-war housing estate on the outskirts of the outskirts of London. But that’s the point of 30 Days Wild. It’s there. We just need to look.

Today we marvelled at a snail speedily slithering over our watering can – look carefully and you can see its poo!

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We watched one of the residents of our bug hotel, an ant, carry a small dead fly that had been caught in a web. One wing with its intricate lace pattern remained captured in the spider’s trap. Woodlice scurried away when we lifted up last year’s decaying leaves.

Yesterday, we walked, picking up litter on the way, to our nearest nature reserve – an area of wilderness reserved for bees, butterflies and brambles – and played with sticky goose grass.

June, and so our 30 Days Wild, did however begin on another Family Pilgrim camping trip. The campsite was on the edge of a wood and each morning a resident cuckoo would call for hours. I’d never heard a cuckoo before and couldn’t believe my ears at first. We made Stick Man out of sticks, wandered in the woods and when it rained and we sheltered inside, I drew a duck!

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Spot the Stick Men

I part-climbed a silver birch tree, walked barefoot on the grass and created daisy chains for the children. We found over 20 cabbage white caterpillars and pretended a tree (species unknown!) was a house.

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You might not want to take part in 30 Days Wild this year but maybe you could take a little bit of time to discover wildlife and wild places on your doorstep.