Ecological concern · nature

Moth Night

My wonderful husband made me a moth trap for my birthday (as requested!) mostly re-purposing bits of wood and using some egg boxes a neighbour no longer wanted (one of the good things to have come out of the pandemic is our road’s WhatsApp group where people often give away items).

Moth trap

Moth Night 2020 runs from 27th August to 29th August and so we used it last night for the first time. This morning I was surprised by how many moths were trapped but also disheartened as they all looked so similar. There are many more moth species than butterflies!

After looking through the Concise Guide to Moths and discovering the incredibly helpful What’s Flying Tonight? website, I had a good idea about some of them and then checked online with a Facebook group. Pleased that the ones I had identified, I had identified correctly, it was nice to know the names of the ones I had struggled with.

So we have: Square Spot Rustic, Large Yellow Underwing, Setaceous Hebrew Character, Pale Mottled Willow, Silver Y and Straw Underwing.

Our new wildflower area in our front garden is very popular with moths: mint moths during the day and I’ve spotted moths at night – just need to find out which ones now!

Wildflower Garden with mint moths
Wildflower Garden
allotment · Ecological concern · mental health · nature

Summer Harvest

I’ve not had the inclination, energy or time to write much here since the pandemic began. For weeks, I struggled to even read and reading for me is almost like breathing. Like many I was juggling work, homeschooling and housework. My experience was easier than for many as I did have childcare for most of my working hours (I’m a key worker) and Small Boy returned to school in mid-June. It was still incredibly challenging though and I need to reflect more on my personal coronavirus experience, especially the emotions: fear, anger, grief, loneliness, and a yearning to lament. At times, my mental health wasn’t great. I’ve isolated myself (more than was necessary!). There were some scary days.


Taking my daily nature photo was incredibly helpful, especially on days when I didn’t feel like it. Our garden, allotment and local nature reserve all provided solace, space and serenity.


So what’s been growing?

At the allotment, we’ve had courgettes (so many courgettes!), potatoes, onions, beetroot, radishes, spring onions, and four majestic sunflowers. Fruit trees have been planted but no fruit yet. Half of the plot is covered over and we hope by next spring to be able to make use of all our space.

At home, tomatoes and green beans are growing in our homemade wooden planters (and eaten daily) with pumpkins and squash looking good for an autumn harvest.

At the beginning of this year, Mr P began to remove all the concrete from one section of our front garden. A laborious process involving drilling and digging. Rubble collected and topsoil added, we planted some seeds for pollinators, added cuttings of californian poppies, alyssum, nasturtiums and lavender, and transferred some dahlias I’d planted from seed (as a lockdown activity). There is also Small Boy’s sunflower from Beavers (which elicited a wonderful conversation with the postman who proudly showed me a photo of his nephew’s lofty sunflower).


Our front garden (or at least this section of it) has been transformed from boring and barren to bright and buzzing with insects.

(Sadly, as we were adding soil, five other houses on our road were removing it and having new drives laid.)


If you’re interested in creating a wildlife garden, I’d recommend The Garden Jungle and Wildlife Gardening for Everyone and Everything.

I’m hoping the transformation process can be repeated in a different part next year!

Ecological concern · mental health · nature

Nature Photos 3

Each day during lockdown, I am aiming to take at least one nature photo (I think I have missed one day). We’ve noticed more avian activity in our garden over this last month: starlings, blue tits, robins, blackbirds, pigeons, magpies and goldfinches have all visited. I’ve also seen a few new-to-me species when out walking or running: chiffchaff, greenfinch, wren, mistle thrush and (new to Small Boy) a woodpecker. We’ve enjoyed finding tadpoles, butterflies, caterpillars, and seeing our first dragonfly of the year.

Here are some of my recent favourites either taken in our small garden or in the community where we live. Little legs can’t walk far!

Starling
Robin

I’m not finding lock-down easy but it’s easier because of the natural beauty around me.

Ecological concern · nature

A Surprise Visitor

A sparrowhawk landed in the garden this afternoon! She fleetingly sat on our pile of pallets (destined for the allotment) before disappearing. I read recently how an apex predator is a sign of a healthy ecosystem – it means there are enough plants for the caterpillars, enough caterpillars for the little birds, and enough little birds for the big bird. A friend had seen one in her nearby garden and I hoped I would too one day.

Image by rubep from Pixabay

books · Ecological concern · Ethical living · mental health

I love libraries

Is there an ‘I love books’ gene? When my auntie researched my grandma’s family, she discovered generations of cat-loving bibliophiles. Little Miss, my three-year-old daughter, is the latest in this long line of book-loving feline-fans. Not yet able to read, she often falls asleep with a pile of books on the floor next to her bed and our cat curled up at the other end of her bed. Very cute.

Image by Karen Arnold from Pixabay

I’m avoiding buying new books this year. Instead I am reading books I already have, buying second hand (I’ve added World of Books to my Consume Better list) and borrowing from the library. Inspired by reading suggestions on The Earthbound Report blog (which I recommend you follow as it’s so interesting and informative), I was delighted to discover that I could request to borrow both There is No Planet-B by Mike Berners-Lee and From What Is to What If by Rob Hopkins from the library service. The books are similar in adopting an anti-fatalistic approach to the climate crisis but look at solutions from different angles. Both encouraged me to keep going on my journey of living justly when it’s easy to succumb to either consumerism and individualism on one hand or anxiety and fear on the other. It’s good to have a reminder of the importance of living simply and investing in creativity, play, rest and relationships.

Disappointed that Bird Therapy, a book about bird watching and mental health, wasn’t available from the library service, I submitted a request for them to purchase it. I can’t quite believe that I (me!!!) have the power to effect change but (just a few days later!) the book is now on order for five libraries in the county and I am on the reservation list!

Our Saturday morning library trips are becoming a regular occurrence and we return with a bag full of books and often a DVD for the children too! Renting a film reminds me of standing in front of rows of videos in the local Blockbuster in the 1990s – is anyone else out there still borrowing films?!

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

Train-bragging

Tagskryt, a Swedish word meaning ‘train-bragging‘, is my Word of the Month. Its contrasts with flygskam or “flight shame“. Here comes my tagskryt!

As the Pilgrim family travelled up to Edinburgh from London on the train, I wondered how different it would have been to have flown. Was the train quicker? Cheaper? Did it use less carbon? Was it less stressful?

Image by Michael Gaida from Pixabay

While a plane would have been faster (if we had got a taxi to the airport), it would have been more expensive. Little Miss Pilgrim would have needed a ticket on the plane but she can still travel for free on a train. We also have a family railcard which further brings down the price. Both train journeys were relatively easy with some stunning views of the east coast of the north of England, a lost tooth at Wolverhampton and time to read.

But in terms of carbon emissions, the train journey wins hand down. The Energy Saving Trust calculated and compared the carbon emissions for journeys from London to Edinburgh (based on a single person travelling); the plane was 144kg and the train 29kg.

I wrote last about my goals for 2020. I have started well with home-made flapjack as a snack with less plastic packaging (I couldn’t find demerara sugar in a non-plastic packet). I’m more of a domestic disaster than a domestic goddess and I was surprised that it turned out perfectly; I’ll attribute its success to my three (mostly enthusiastic) helpers!

I’ve finished Arthur Ransome’s Peter Duck and Winter Holiday, and am now onto Pigeon Post! A retreat to much-loved books of childhood.

Our county library service have impressed me with their range of books I can reserve, including The Book of Joy by the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Sarah Bessey’s Field Notes Book Club’s book of the month), From What Is to What if by Rob Hopkins, the founder of the Transition Towns movement, and Allotment Month by Month.

I’ve also signed up for a 5km Cancer Research Race for Life in the summer so need to get running!

Image by MBatty from Pixabay

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

Christmas is coming

We’ve had Halloween and Bonfire Night and so thoughts now turn to Christmas. But…before Christmas, there is Advent.

Advent – a season of expectation and preparation. I think it’s one of my favourite times of year. Maybe because I am a person who loves to prepare and who loves the joy of anticipation. Advent is rich in symbolism and grounds us in God at a time when the voices of commercialism are at their loudest.

Here are my ideas for celebrating Advent this year:

Reverse Advent Calendar – the Mini-Ps are going to make a ‘reverse Advent calendar’ for our local foodbank. Together we will choose items to buy and then take them up to church each week and place them in the foodbank collection box. We will also read It’s a No Money Day by Kate Milner – a beautiful, tender, heart-warming and gentle book that explains what foodbanks do.

Last year, we coloured pictures from a Jesse Tree book which worked better than expected! The children really enjoyed the colouring and this year, I plan to have an actual branch to stick the pictures onto!

I have also bought an Advent candle to light each day. Hopefully, this will be more suitable than my solar-powered fairy lights which were a feeble addition to our street’s Christmas decorations! There just wasn’t enough sun to charge them so they were very dim. However, they worked very well in the summer months when we were camping!

Mr P and I both have Advent books to read: I shall be reading Freedom is Coming by Nick Baines and Mr P, Advent for Everyone by Tom Wright (one of his favourite authors).

I also want to try some of the activities in Wild Advent, such as making jar-jar lanterns, looking at the stars, and making a nativity scene out of leaves, stick and moss.

Sometimes I think I must come across very serious, worthy and austere. Don’t worry – there is a lot of fun, joy and laughter here.

The Mini-Ps have Lego Advent calendars from Grandma and I expect I shall be helping to create Star Wars vehicles out of Lego at 6am!

From Advent Sunday, I also allow myself to wear my Christmas tree and my Christmas pudding hats. I am also planning an Advent hairstyle!

allotment · books · Christian · community · Ecological concern · nature · Social justice

What’s on my shelf? (Part 4)

Once again, I find myself reading half a dozen books at the same time:

Image by Lubos Houska from Pixabay

The Garden Jungle by Dave Goulson

I love Dave Goulson’s writing, having read A Sting in the Tale earlier this year. We made the hard choice not to go and hear him speak at a Wildlife Trust event last week; we are trying to keep September as free as possible to help with the back-to-school adjustment.

The Garden Jungle is full of ideas (some simple, some needing space) for gardening for wildlife. I have a dream of completely changing our front garden so that we have grass, plants and a pond.

The Big Six by Arthur Ransome

Reading children’s books set in the 1930s is very relaxing! I enjoyed reading Coot Club on our holiday in East Anglia (Mr Pilgrim is now half-way through it!) and I’m now reading The Big Six which is also set on the Norfolk Broads. There’s a simplicity and a joy in reading about children sailing, fishing and bird-watching.

We Need to Talk about Race by Ben Lindsay

Ben Lindsay is a church leader in London and writes about the black religious experience in the UK. As a white woman, it has opened my eyes and I hope that I am changed because of reading this book. Each chapter ends with questions to consider and I know I need to keep going back to this book. If you are part of a church, I would recommend reading this.

The Gardens of the British Working Class by Margaret Willes

I spotted this at a friend’s house. She had borrowed it from our local library so I didn’t want to request it from there! I haven’t reached the sections on allotments yet but I’m enjoying looking at history through the eyes of gardeners.

Emperors, Admirals and Chimney Sweepers by Peter Marron

This beautiful book about the names of butterflies and moths was a birthday present from my gorgeous daughter. (I think she had some help from Mr Pilgrim.) I love words and names and history and butterflies and this is a book to treasure.

Christian · Ecological concern · Ethical living · nature

Holiday Adventures Part 2

We’ve just returned from another week’s holiday in our caravan, this time in East Anglia staying on the Suffolk coast.

Jupiter and Saturn were visible to the naked eye, delighting Small Boy who loves learning about the planets.

A kingfisher was spotted on one of our boat trips on the Norfolk Broads – my first ever! We also saw common blue butterflies (another first), grey seals, a marsh harrier and reed buntings.

The kingfisher prompted me to find the sonnet As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Gerald Manley Hopkins and to re-read the kingfisher acrostic poem in the beautiful Lost Words books with poems by Robert Macfarlane and illustrations by Jackie Morris.

 As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; 
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells. 

We particularly enjoyed Ross’s Wildlife Boat at Horsey Mere which had a little fore cabin so the children had a secret place to hide, play with toy birds and look out of circular windows at passing boats and birds.

Another highlight was RSPB Minsmere – we visited three times, there was so much to explore! We loved the pond-dipping activity, the woodland dens and the Wild Library.  (The cafe provided a variety of vegan dishes and was making a concerted effort to reduce plastic.)

There are so many beautiful parts of the UK with many still to discover!  

It’s now the end of (meteorological) summer and the start of the new school year. I’ve been feeling down as life returns to routine and rotas, to desks and tables, homework and uniforms.

I remembered that I love autumn (the children want to make conker caterpillars!) and that life outside doesn’t have to stop. The allotment is calling!

1 September is not only the start of autumn, it is also the start of the liturgical season of Creationtide.

Creator of Life, The Earth is full of Your creatures, and by Your wisdom you made them all. During this Season of Creation, open our eyes to see the precious diversity that is all around us. Enlighten our minds to appreciate the delicate balance maintained by each creature. Inspire us to conserve the precious habitats that nurture this web of life.

(Extract from the Season of Creation 2019 prayer)