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.

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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

Christian · Ethical living

Bake, write, give, play, pray

I like shopping. I like buying new things. I like having stuff. But I know I consume too much and I want to live more simply. But this is not something that comes naturally to me.


So I’ve written a list of five activities for Black Friday (by the way it’s also Buy Nothing Day!) to position myself away from the pull of purchasing and possessing.


1) Bake a cake – did you know that bananas are the UK’s most wasted food? I’ve used our squidgy bananas to make (hopefully!) delicious banana bread. Creativity – even if it’s a simple cake – is a fantastic antidote to consumerism. 


2) Write a letter – I’m going to write a letter (with a pen not a keyboard!) to a friend to thank her for her decades of friendship.


3) Give – I’ve found some books to share with the Community Book Swap and will take some clothes to a local charity shop.

4) Play – Small Boy and Little Miss are full of creativity, imagination and enthusiasm. They don’t seem to want or need that many toys for their games of ‘pretend’. I’m going to enter their worlds joyfully and with a grateful heart. 


5) Pray – I will spend some time praying for my family, my local community and the work of Tearfund

Ethical living · Social justice

Getting ready for Advent

Advent starts in about six weeks and I’m already looking forward to four Advent activities I’ve planned.

Wearing my fair trade Christmas tree hat – I didn’t need it but it’s beautiful and fun! Little Miss adores wearing it and looks so winsome. I don’t look quite so cute but it’s creating joy and laughter.IMG_20181023_083100

Reading God is in the Manger by Dietrich Bonhoeffer – I have recently read Eric Metaxes’ biography of Bonhoeffer which I wholeheartedly recommend. I’m now ready to read some of Bonhoeffer’s works and this Advent devotional of compiled writings seemed an appropriate place to start.

Reverse Advent calendar – Grandma has already bought the children some exciting Advent calendars. Thank you, Grandma! But I want to do something alongside Lego and Peppa Pig which turns our attention – and our time and money – to those who are in need of some help.

We are going to make a reverse Advent calendar. In previous years, the logistics have overwhelmed me but I have just added 24 items, such as a bag of sugar and tins of rice pudding and custard, to my online shopping order. Each day in Advent the children can choose an item to go in our Advent Box and then together we can take these gifts of food to a local charity which runs a foodbank  – dropping off weekly rather than just before Christmas.

Last year, a friend told me about the Jesse Tree – making ornaments for a Christmas tree which tell the story of Jesus. I’m fairly rubbish at craft and so have ordered a book to help! My hope is that this activity will not only help Little Miss and Small Boy learn about Christmas but will also remind me and Mr Pilgrim of the wonder of Jesus’ birth.

It can be easy to have good intentions but then not to actually do anything. I find planning – and then writing about my plan – means my idea is more likely to become reality!

Advent is still over a month away so there’s still time for you to plan a way of giving, discover something to read or do, or even buy Christmas-themed head-wear!

 

Ethical living

Plastic-free experiments

I thought it was time to experiment with some new plastic-free alternatives.

I’ve steered away from DIY toothpaste as I want something with fluoride. When I saw discovered online company Anything But Plastic was selling Denttab Toothpaste tablets with fluoride I thought I’d give it a go. I’ve bought six-months supply because it is cheaper that way. I clean my teeth twice a day and alternate between the toothpaste tablet and usual toothpaste in a tube. I’m still getting the hang of it! You need to make the paste in your mouth with the tab and it’s quite a different feeling to toothpaste.

IMG_20180928_204457For the last 18 months I’ve been using a foundation from Green People. It’s great but expensive and in a plastic container. Lush are selling Slap Stick, foundation without any plastic. I went to my local Lush to find out what shade would suit me – there are 40 to choose from! But Slap Stick foundation is only available online although there is a helpful guide to choosing the right one for your skin tone. I picked 8N which is more or less the right shade. I’m still getting used to it but I love the concept. IMG_20180928_204646Crocheted make-up removers – I was kindly sent some of these for free from The Willow Tree Yarnery. They’re not as soft as cotton wool but they do the job!


And in other news, I always have one (or two) notebooks on the go and, thanks to a friend’s extremely generous birthday gift, I am now the proud owner of an Elvis and Kress notebook (which is refillable). It’s made out of decommissioned fire hose and is truly sustainable luxury.  A special thank you to my kind friend for such a wonderful present.

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For some reason, I thought that I’d never find a pair of jeans I liked in a charity shop. Recently I’ve bought as-good-as-new Monsoon and Fat Face pairs from local shops. It takes 1,800 gallons of water to make just one pair of jeans so second hand denim is definitely a good ethical choice and they are so much cheaper too! I may be spending more money on food but I’m definitely spending less on clothes.

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One of my earliest blogs on living justly was about the chagrin I felt on purchasing a pair of Converse trainers. I’ve been waiting until they needed replacing before buying an ethical alternative. They are looking pretty grubby now and I was pleased to receive an Ethletic pair for my birthday.


Once again, I am conscious that consuming better is still consuming and there is plenty of plastic (particularly small insect-related toys) in my life! But hopefully my small changes make a little difference and maybe inspire you, and others, to try a plastic-free alternative.

Ecological concern · Ethical living

What’s on my plate?

I have some exciting news! Family Pilgrim now has an allotment!

We put our name on the waiting list earlier this year and I emailed last month during National Allotment Week to cheekily ask if we had progressed up the list – and we had! We saw it for the first time last week and now have the key. Small Boy, Little Miss and I visited this afternoon with Grand-père and Grandma. It’s a beautiful site although our plot needs some work. We saw a speckled wood butterfly this afternoon and there was a lovely chorus of bird song on our initial visit. We are reading, researching, planning and plotting – hopefully next summer we will have grown some of our own food!

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I’ve just finished reading Wilding by Isabella Tree (such a great name) about Knepp – a place I’d like to visit soon. She writes that 97% of wildflower meadows in Britain have been lost since the Second World War. This is one of those sticky stats that I can’t shake off. It saddens me to think that the countryside my children are experiencing is so different from that which my grandparents grew up in.

I’m looking to buy items produced from alternatives to intensive agriculture (one of the reasons why we have the depletion of wildflower meadows and therefore fewer species of bird, flower and insect) and appreciating our ‘from farm to fork’ food from Church Farm even more. I’ve started looking at Dove’s Farm products and reading about their farming methods.

I’ve just tried oat milk as this is meant to be the most sustainable form of milk but I really didn’t like it! It didn’t work in coffee or my porridge. I will try and drink less milk but I won’t be buying oat milk again!


Our last camping trip of the summer was to the Yorkshire coast and we visited the Seafood Social – a social enterprise cafe serving local fish and chips in Scarborough Market. The food was delicious – best fish and chips I’ve had! It was a pleasure to support this project. I can recommend it if you’re ever in Scarborough!

 

community · Ecological concern · Ethical living

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!

 

Ecological concern · Ethical living · Social justice

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.

Ecological concern · Ethical living · Social justice

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