Christian · Ecological concern · nature · Uncategorized

Creepy-crawly love

I love insects. Really, I do. Over the last year, I have grown to love creepy-crawlies. Now, I’ll still shout for Mr Pilgrim if I see a spider in the sitting room and I’m not saying that I won’t ever swat flies or mosquitoes but I think bugs are pretty awesome.

I’ve written before about my new enthusiasm for butterflies but who doesn’t love butterflies?! They are graceful, colourful, and an inspirational metaphor. Other insects are harder to love but the more I discover, the more my fascination and appreciation grows. I’ve just ordered Extraordinary Insects: Weird. Wonderful. Indispensable. the Ones Who Run Our World.

My enthusiasm has been ignited by the wonder of Small Boy at all things insect. He is currently enthralled by a library book called Find out Bugs. We’ve found a new favourite caterpillar, the woolly bear caterpillar, who lives in the Arctic and takes 14 years to complete the cycle from egg to moth. We’ve learnt there is only one insect which lives in Antarctica, a midge, and we’ve had fun being bug detectives!

Butterfly Conservation have a campaign called Moths Matter, and yes, they do. (Don’t tell Small Boy but Mr Pilgrim and I have signed up to go to a moths night!) Moths matter and so do bumblebees, stink bugs, dragonflies, bombardier beetles and jewel beetles.

Why do they matter? I think insects are great because they just are – created by the Creator, they are valuable in and of themselves. But they also provide many benefits to us, such as pollination and pest control.

Insect populations are decreasing around the world and so let’s do what we can to help. Let’s not mow our lawns as often, avoid pesticides, plant wildflowers, build bug hotels and make sure we always have water in our gardens (if we have one).

allotment · Ecological concern · Ethical living · nature

Spring observations

60% of children have never seen a peacock butterfly*. Is this surprising?

I’m such a Proud Mummy; Small Boy and Little Miss have not only seen peacocks but can point them out on our ID sheet. They also like to pretend to be peacock butterflies! 

Yesterday, I spotted five different species of butterfly at our local nature reserve: brimstone, small white, small tortoiseshell, peacock and holly blue. Sadly, there was no sign of tadpoles in the pond where we’d seen frogspawn. Small Boy asked me what ate tadpoles. I had no idea but Google tells me dragonfly larvae, water boatmen, grass snakes, birds and hedgehogs eat 90% of frogspawn, tadpoles and froglets.

Mr Pilgrim and I enjoyed a early morning walk on Sunday morning in Christ Church Meadow in Oxford which was full of the colours of an English spring: yellow cowslips, purple snake’s head fritillaries and bluebells. Listening to birdsong and the cathedral bells, we saw swallows – or possibly house martins – engaging in avian aerobatics above the meadows.

Work is slowly and joyfully progressing on our allotment. We’ve enjoyed meeting more of our neighbours and we’ve done lots of digging!

In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.

Margaret Atwood, Bluebeard’s Egg

A happy morning was spent in the warm sunshine with bubbles, bees, birds, butterflies and buns (hot cross!). Onion sets have been planted. The climbing frame is almost ready to be installed and I think that I have found a second-hand shed which we can collect in a few weeks’ time. We hope to plant some seeds over the Easter weekend.

I hope you are able to spend some time outside over this week – even if it’s just a few minutes – to look up and to listen.

*YouGov online survey 16th – 20th October 2015 commissioned by The Wildlife Trusts.

Christian · Ecological concern · mental health · nature

Season of singing

For now the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers have appeared in the countryside; the season of singing has come, and the cooing of turtledoves is heard in our land. (Song of Songs 2:11)

Frogspawn in our local pond; Mrs Blackbird and Mr Blackbird gathering building materials from our garden; bright splashes of celandine by the roadside; the soundtrack of birdsong as I walk to collect Small Boy from school – Spring is here.

A spring is in my step. For the first time in a while, I laugh inside and feel like a carefree girl.

community · Ecological concern · Ethical living · nature

Searching for spring

Today we (mostly I!) tried Wild Lent’s ‘Searching for spring’ activity in the garden. Yellow, pink, indigo, violet and green – the garden is waking up.

Small Boy found a ladybird and took a photo.

Spot the ladybird!

I’ve enjoyed taking photos this month as winter ends and spring begins.

Inspired by another family’s bird feeders, Mr Pilgrim ordered a ‘gift box’ from the RSPB and fixed our bird table. We have already had visits from a blue tit as well as a pigeon and a magpie (but I discount those!)

We are slowly making progress on the allotment.

Our Christmas present from
Grand-père

Our carrot box from Grand-père is in place, we have chitted potatoes, bought seeds, and purchased a second-hand climbing frame from e-Bay!

We plan to turn the section of our garden where we grew courgettes last year into a wildflower area for bees and butterflies.


I’ve been eating oven-baked chilli and lime cashews with peanuts and roasted corn as as I write this! To celebrate Fair Trade Fortnight, I ordered some products from Liberation Nuts, a fair trade company I read about in the magazine from Shared Interest. They are very tasty!

I’m writing this in the afternoon as I’m turning the computer off in the evening as a way of fasting from electricity throughout Lent. But as I do this (and attempt some of the activities from Wild Lent), I will remember these words from a contributor to the Plastic Less Lent group on Facebook:

The falling short is part of it!! It wouldn’t be a Lenten activity, if, at the end of it ( and during) we weren’t made aware of how much we fall short. Easter brings a message of grace and forgiveness – whew! So, do what you can – it won’t ever be enough, but that’s ok.”

community · Ecological concern · nature

First butterfly of the year

Spring is in the air! The Pilgrim Family have enjoyed a beautiful day at the allotment and in the garden, underneath the warm sun and the blue skies.

Digging, weeding, chopping, cutting, scooting, cycling, bouncing, throwing, chasing, laughing.

Made all the better with the company of friends from faraway.

Travelling home from the allotment in the car, I spotted a brimstone flying up ahead of us. We found a place to park and I span around trying to catch site of it again – and I did! Small Boy and Mr Pilgrim saw it too. He (it’s likely to have been male) flew off over a hedge into a garden and we got back in the car and drove the rest of the way home.

And then we saw it again! (I expect it was the same one.) He flew into our front garden and then up the road.

Winter is over. The world is coming to life again once more.

books · Christian · Ecological concern · Ethical living · mental health · nature · Uncategorized

A blue tit in the bird bath

Illness, an allergic reaction and stress meant our weekend didn’t go to plan. Yet, in the tiredness and tears, were some memorable moments of joy.

One of the reasons we bought our house (and not the one next door) is that the kitchen sink overlooks the garden. Washing dishes on Saturday morning, I caught sight of a blue tit splashing in our small bird bath.

We love blue tits in our house. Small Boy found me reading about birdsong and we discovered that blue tits tweet ‘see see choo choo’. We often pretend to be birds, bugs and sea creatures in our house and Small Boy enjoyed being a blue tit: ‘see see choo choo’.

(If you are interested in learning how to hide like an octopus, find food like a bee or hop like a frog, I recommend reading Howl Like a Wolf).

All four of us gathered by the windows and excitedly watched our garden guest bathe.

In the afternoon, we headed to our allotment. As we parked, we saw a small bird hopping on the grass (a red wing) and long-tailed tits were in the bare trees at the foot of our plot. Later, a robin drew near hoping for some worms (good news for us and the robin, Mr Pilgrim dug up lots!). Mr P threw one to the robin but the bird was too timid and the wise worm wriggled away. Probably for the best!

Little Miss got bored and kept declaring: ‘I want to go the library!’ Mr Pilgrim kept digging while the children enjoyed choosing books and I picked up my order of Fascism by Madeleine Allbright.

I’ve not seen any butterflies yet although there have been sightings on the Herts and Middlesex Butterfly Conservation website. I’m looking forward to seeing my first butterfly of 2019 and wondering what it will be.

My Valentine’s present was A Sting in the Tale by Dave Goulson – all about bumblebees. They are fascinating little creatures and it’s a delight to read Dave Goulson’s humorous yet scientific (he’s a professor of biology) prose.

Lent is approaching and I’ve bought Wild Lent (full of outside activities to help us encounter God through creation). I’m also thinking about taking up one of the Living Lent challenges, organised by the Joint Public Issues Team.

Ecological concern · nature

Big Garden Bird Watch

This afternoon the Pilgrim family took part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch for the first time.


I placed myself by the patio doors with some binoculars, a pen and the RSPB bird identification sheet. Setting the timer on my phone for an hour, I waited.


A bird has to land in the garden to be counted so the gulls flying overhead and the crow over the fence were ignored. 


Surprisingly after a short wait, a robin appeared in the garden. Small Boy and Little Miss were very excited and I dutifully wrote ‘1 robin’. 


Photo by James Wainscoat on Unsplash


Then I waited and watched.


We looked at the snow drops.


I asked for a cup of tea.


A bumble bee appeared. 


I drank the cup of tea.


The children tried the binoculars: ‘Everything looks smaller, Mummy!’


We looked at the garden.


We looked at the timer.


Branches danced in the wind.


We watched.


And waited.


‘How much longer, Mummy?’


I watched – sometimes alone, sometimes with a child in my arms.


Birds flew overhead, almost tumbling in the wind.


We kept looking.


And waiting.


We saw the bee again.


We looked at the garden.


We looked at the timer.


I looked.


I spotted two birds in the branches of a tree. Too far away to really look at without the binoculars, I urgently called Mr Pilgrim over.


We stood still, staring and studying.


What were they?


And then they were gone.


We kept watch a few minutes more and then the timer sounded signalling the end of the hour.


Using the Collins bird identification app on my phone (recommended at the duck workshop we attended), Mr Pilgrim identified the birds as goldfinches. 


I filled in the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch form (robin 1, goldfinches 2) and then Small Boy and I walked to the post box to send off our results. 


I’m surprised and delighted – I wasn’t sure we’d see anything! 

Ecological concern · Ethical living · Social justice

Quack!

Mr Pilgrim lovingly agreed to attend a Duck Identification Workshop with me (run by the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust) last Saturday. We spent an hour in a community centre listening to a fascinating presentation about local waterfowl and their habitats, and then walked around nearby Stockers Lake looking for ducks. The workshop leader had great binoculars and a telescope plus expert knowledge which we needed!

Coots and some gadwells (kleptoparasitism in action!)

We saw: coots, tufted ducks, a swan, cormorants, goldeneye, gadwall, great-crested grebe, mallard, pochard, shoveler, wigeon, moorhen, lapwing, lesser black-backed gulls and black-headed gulls.

Tufted duck

We learnt:

  • Ducks can be dabblers, divers, grazers or predators
  • Ducks can’t fly when they are moulting
  • Gadwalls kleptoparasitise coots
  • Coots and moorhens operate in different ecological niches (and so have very different looking feet!)
  • An unfamiliar bird Small Boy and I had spotted earlier that week was a little egret

The presentation finished with some ideas of how we could help ducks (interestingly, mallards – the ducks of our childhoods, the ducks of picture books – are in decline). One of the ways we can help local waterfowl is by using less water; households in Hertfordshire (for reasons unknown) have above average use of water (160 litres per day rather than 150 litres).

Mallards

So what can we do to reduce our household water use?

  • Affinity Water suggest having four minute showers rather than a bath. I’m not sure this is realistic! I’ve been timing my showers this week (try it!) and I can have a shower in under four minutes if I don’t wash my hair but it’s nine minutes if I do.
  • Ensuring the washing machine and dishwasher are full before using.
  • Turn off the tap while brushing teeth (does anyone still leave the tap running?)
  • Only boil enough water for immediate use.

So much of choosing to seek to live justly is about less – less comfort, less convenience, less choice, and maybe less cleanliness!

books · Christian · Ecological concern · Ethical living · Social justice

Looking back and looking forward

Last year, I had two lists of challenges: Going Wilder in 2018 – 18 countryside activities and the Better World Book Challenge.

I picked up rubbish, developed a new hobby of butterflying, started looking for birds near our home, visited Bempton Cliffs to see sea birds, read a lot of books about nature and wildlife, climbed Roseberry Topping, spent a total of 25 nights sleeping under canvas, looked up at the stars, watched live badgers, walked on beaches in the south-west and north-east of England, had a tour of Church Farm by Farmer Tim, and read BBC Wildlife magazine.

I didn’t achieve my goal of freshwater swimming although I did swim through Durdle Door in Dorset. We also didn’t make it for a walk by a viaduct as when we got there Small Boy and Little Miss were fast asleep and it was raining!

And the reading challenge? I appreciated being more experimental in my book choices and enjoyed trying new genres and authors. My favourite reads were A Woman’s Work by Harriet Harman (a book by a politician no longer in office), The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (a book involving magic) and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (a book nominated for a literary prize).

This year I will be doing the Read Harder Challenge by Book Riot and as last year, I want to use the library as much as possible.


We encourage you to push yourself, to take advantage of this challenge as a way to explore topics or formats or genres that you otherwise wouldn’t try. But this isn’t a test. No one is keeping score and there are no points to post. We like books because they allow us to see the world from a new perspective, and sometimes we all need help to even know which perspectives to try out. That’s what this is—a perspective shift—but one for which you’ll only be accountable to yourself.

https://bookriot.com/?p=248175

I also want to read:

  1. Facism by Madeline Albright
  2. William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner by William Hague
  3. The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  4. The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr
  5. Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
  6. The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brendan Manning
  7. The Myth of Equality: Uncovering the Roots of Injustice and Privilege by Ken Wytsma

Throughout the year I will be reading Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals and The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2019.

Other goals:

  • Learn the biblical Hebrew alphabet
  • Go swimming in a freshwater lake or river
  • Discover nature in my local patch – both the hyperlocal and in Herts and Middlesex (Mr Pilgrim and I are booked on a duck identification workshop!)
  • Continue to learn about butterflies
  • Keep picking up rubbish
  • Write a list of what I buy as a way of aiming to consume less
  • Simplify my online life

Christian · Ethical living · Uncategorized

Thoughts before Christmas

The frenetic season before Christmas has drawn to an end and now it is time to rest; the to do list has been abandoned, the out of office is on, and I’m choosing to slow down. 

(For me being slower means less internet, more play, more cups of tea and more Sorkin dramas!)

I last wrote a post a month ago and since then I have tried to sit down and write several times but struggled to put my thoughts into words. In some ways, I am still in that place, I don’t have a theme, an activity or a specific reason to write yet I need to write to process the swirling thoughts.

A Just Christmas?

This year I’ve tried to buy less and to buy better (fair trade and zero waste) and, as last year, presents are wrapped in old maps. We’ve wanted to be generous and for our gifts to be a sign of our love and appreciation to the recipient – I’m not sure how well we’ve done here, and I know that in the busyness there are cards I’ve not written and presents I’ve not bought.

A visit to the Lego Shop did result in some unplanned unnecessary purchases but every time I look at my new Wonder Woman Mini Figure key-ring, I remember the Wonder Woman pose and feel empowered!

Photo by Zhen Hu on Unsplash

Amid the busyness of the past month, I managed to have a few hours to myself and went for a calming walk one day in my local nature reserve to look for birds. I don’t find it easy to choose a peaceful activity and as I set off it did feel like ‘a waste of time’ but in a week full of work, volunteering, appointments, Christmas preparation and children’s parties, it was a vital sustaining pause.  

Advent began with Small Boy, Little Miss and Mr Pilgrim being ill, but our activities have gone well – better than expected! The Jesse Tree book has been very popular with Small Boy and Little Miss. They’ve enjoyed colouring in the pictures and listening to me retell the Bible stories. My Christmas tree hat gains me more attention than I thought but I think it’s made people smile! Our reverse Advent calendar has been good, and I will do this again – buying the items in advance certainly helps.

I will finish now with a quote from the Advent devotional, God is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas (a collection of writings from
Dietrich Bonhoeffer), that I’ve been reading – words that I’ve been reflecting on throughout this month.

And that is the wonder of all wonders, that God loves the lowly . . . . God is not ashamed of the lowliness of human beings. God marches right in. He chooses people as his instruments and performs his wonders where one would least expect them. God is near to lowliness; he loves the lost, the neglected, the unseemly, the excluded, the weak and the broken.”

May you know God’s nearness this Christmas.

Love, Dido x