Going wilder in 2018: 18 countryside activities

In January’s edition of Countryfile magazine, Maria Hodson shares her wish list of 50 outdoor wishes to be accomplished in the countryside.

This inspired me to write my own (shorter!) countryside list for 2018.

  1. Pick up rubbish 
  2. Love our garden 
  3. Go wild swimming in freshwater
  4. Learn to identify five new butterflies (to be honest, I’m not sure how many I can identify now – embarrassingly probably not many)
  5. Learn to identify five new birds – see above comment
  6. Learn to identify five new trees – as above!
  7. Read more nature books, specifically from the library IMG_3549
  8. Climb a fell
  9. Go camping
  10. See a live badger (I’m currently reading Badgerlands by Patrick Barkham and discovering how seeing badgers in the wild might be more difficult than I first thought involving patience, disguise and staying awake at night – which is kind of obvious really!)badger-2030975_1920
  11. Go for a walk near a viaduct (this was Small Boy’s contribution, probably inspired by a Go Jetters episode) 
  12. Walk on a beach – and pick up rubbishplastic-bottle-606881_1920
  13. Take photos of our local neighbourhood 
  14. Be a Nature Detective with the Woodland Trust
  15. Have a tour round Church Farm (this is where our meat and vegetables come from)
  16. Use the National Trust’s 50 things to do before you’re 11 ¾ activity list
  17. Read BBC Wildlife magazine (as with Countryfile magazine, I used Tesco vouchers to buy a year’s subscription)
  18. Look at the stars in a dark sky, maybe as part of the Dark Skies Festival (this is Mr Pilgrim’s contribution)

Happy New Year! x

Today I flew a kite

I flew a kite today for the first time in over 20 years. 

I noticed it was exceptionally windy this morning when I went outside to the recycling, so when Mr Pilgrim asked what we should do today, I replied: ‘let’s go and fly our kite!’

I’d spontaneously bought it for £2.99 from Oxfam in the summer, confident Small Boy and Little Miss would want one someday. 

The morning reminded me of afternoons on French beaches with Grand-père; the kite spending more time on the ground than in the air. 

But occasionally we got it: the colourful diamond dancing and swirling and circling with its long blue tail twisting and turning through the air.

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In these moments, I almost held my breath with joy and wonder. It was the same when I went sailing earlier this year. Again, it didn’t happen often but every now and then, I’d position the boat correctly with the wind in the sails and we would pick up speed. My muscles and mind remained tense as I concentrated on the boat but inside there was deep exhilaration and joy.

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My instructor was able to look at the lake and determine where the wind was and then position the boat ready for the gusts. I don’t know much about meteorology, sailing or kite-flying but I wonder if this is what journeying with God could be like. We wait, we watch and then together we move in a divine partnership. 

We sing a song at church called ‘Jesus, Be the Centre’ which contains the line ‘Be the wind in these sails’. (It’s a beautiful song, if you have a moment, you can listen here) 

So that’s my prayer for 2018: Jesus, be the centre. Be the wind in these sails. 

Waiting, watching, sailing, soaring.

Happy Christmas, Mr P!

Here is a little thank you to my husband, Mr Pilgrim, as a (zero-waste!) Christmas present:

This time last year I had no intention of pursuing a more sustainable lifestyle. To be honest, I thought we did quite well. We recycled, we cycled and we had fair trade wedding rings. Yet, as I read and reflected, I realised how much we could change and should change – for the sake of the world and those who live in it.

Mr Pilgrim has encouraged me every step of the way. Always building me up and offering his support. Not always agreeing with me; sometimes gently questioning and challenging. Yet often helping me stay on track when I was tempted to wander!

He has embraced our vegetable boxes and cooked some amazing meals which have been a pleasure to share with him. He tackled our parsnip glut creatively by making awesome ginger and parsnip soup as well as parsnip crisps. He has researched ethical cycling shorts, made the switch to using cloth nappies for Little Miss and wrapped up my Christmas present in an old map. He has accompanied me to charity shops, bought me fair trade chocolates as a treat and built this brilliant bug hotel with Small Boy.

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He’s even eaten kale and chard.

I returned to work on 1 September and I haven’t bought sandwiches from a shop at all during this time – saving money AND avoiding single use plastic! Every day I have had homemade sandwiches with Mr P’s homemade bread (from the pre-loved bread machine – his idea!). One lunchtime they were hand-delivered still warm to my desk.

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He’s never once laughed at me, dismissed what I’m trying to do as a ‘fad’ or been critical.

Thank you, Mr P, for being my fellow-pilgrim and for championing me, listening to me and encouraging me to be the best version of myself. I love you. Happy Christmas.

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Meat, feet and retreat

Meat

Since we’ve started living more sustainably, Family Pilgrim has made some changes to what we eat and drink. Mr P and I have become much more aware of both the provenance of our food and the impact on climate change of eating meat, particularly red meat.

I‘ve realised that animal welfare is something that matters: I know that sounds obvious but how often do we think about who made our clothes or where the components of our smart phones came from or how the animals we eat were treated?

I need to ask questions about where the food on my plate comes from.

We’ve been buying vegetables, meat and fruit from Church Farm for about six months now. I’ve recently stopped purchasing all meat products from the supermarket and bought Quorn for the first time. If it’s good enough for Mo Farah, it’s good enough for Family Pilgrim! 

I’m becoming more intentional about choosing vegetarian options when eating out. Tonight I had chestnut roast at my work Christmas dinner.

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Currently, I’m not planning to become vegetarian but I do want to continue reducing our meat-intake. 


Feet

My Charity Shop Purchase of 2017 has to be these £15 green DMs from my local HomeStart shop.

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I’d been chatting to someone about how I’d like to get some Doc Martens and how I had loved them as a teenager. And then three days later when Small Boy and I were shopping, we spotted these. I was fairly sure they wouldn’t be in my size, but they were! 

They’re definitely an ice-breaker and Small Boy and Little Miss love delighting in fighting taking turns in putting them on!

The large purple hippo (a Christmas present for Little Miss) was runner-up in my Charity Shop Purchase of 2017 Award!

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Retreat

I’ve been feeling emotionally and mentally tired recently and my mind has been racing. A conversation with a friend prompted me to have a break from my phone and computer for 24 hours. I told a few people so they’d know to contact Mr P if there was an urgent problem and then put my phone on airplane mode from sunset to sunset. I think I might make this a regular thing as it definitely helped me switch off.

I’m also aiming to leave my phone downstairs at night-time and relying on an old alarm clock to wake me up in the mornings.

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Although to be fair most mornings Small Boy is a very effective alarm clock! 

Less/More

Less/More

Less Facebook

Less internet

Less radio

Less television

Less noise

Less light

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More peace

More presence

More purpose

 

 

Advent 2017

The season of Advent is about to begin. We’ll be putting up our Christmas tree at the weekend and will start spending time each day reading the Christmas story with Small Boy and Little Miss. 

(We also have a Lego Advent calendar for Small Boy and Little Miss has an Advent mouse with a tutu!) 

I’m going to start reading a recently-published novel ‘A Christmas Calling’ by Chris Cottee as well as two devotionals ‘A Perfect Love’ by Mummas: The Word and ‘The Meaning is in the Waiting‘ by Paula Gooder (a charity shop bargain in January). 

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I want to make space for God during the busyness but more than that: I want my everyday nappy-changing, tidying, cooking, shopping, queueing, Facebooking, walking to school, project-planning life to be Christ-centred. 


I have now been blogging for a year. My first posts are all reflections on Advent and Christmas which you may wish to read or re-read over the next few weeks: 

Grace makes beauty out of ugly things

God moved into the neighbourhood

The little Lord Jesus no crying he makes

Take the child, his mother and flee

Waiting for the baby

I want to be a mangrove

I am reading Planetwise by Dave Bookless. A book I am going to have to re-read and read again. It is theologically dense and mind-set shifting. Right now, these words (on p.106-7) are resonating with me:

“Yet we are created to belong to a people and a place. We were designed to be in relationship, not only with God, but also with a community of people and the natural world.”

“Wherever we are, even if it’s not a place we have chosen, God is equally challenging us to pray and work for the welfare of the cities, towns or villages where he has put us.”

He quotes Jeremiah 29:4-7:

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.

“There is a desperate need for people to be like mangroves: deeply committed to the places God has put them. Deeply rooted people hold together the fabric of a community. Deeply rooted people get to know the local ecosystem: the right things to grow and when to grow them, and they notice when the seasons are changing. Deeply rooted people don’t move on when things get difficult, but rather draw on those deep roots into God and the human and natural community that supports them.”

I want to be a mangrove.

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Black Friday

Today is Black Friday. I really like this article from Positive News listing alternative activities to shopping. I’ve added some of my thoughts…

Revamp your wardrobe

My new hobby of buying items in charity shops is fun and addictive! I’ve not spent a great deal of money and have purchased some gorgeous items – some of which are not quite my usual style. I’m wondering how long I can go before I actually need to buy a new item of clothing!

I’d encourage you to get to know your local charity shops. Declutter your wardrobe and search for your own bargains!

Read a book in peace

Read. Read on your own. Read to a child. Visit your local library. Buy a second-hand book from your local charity shop or from Better World Books. Buy someone else a pre-loved book. Give away one of your own books. Buy a book for a child in care this Christmas through The Book Trust. Read.

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Get outside

Go for a walk where you live. Look up. Look around. Go down a street you’ve not been along before. What do you see? Who do you see? Where’s the life?

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Support ethical businesses

Consume better (a list I’m compiling of how and where to do this). Make one change the next time you do your supermarket shop.

Buy second-hand 

Clothes, books, toys, a bike, a trailer tent and a bread machine – all items Family Pilgrim have purchased second-hand this year.

(And we’ve borrowed toys, clothes, books, tools and cloth nappies)

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Give items away to people in need. Be patient when you want something. Try and find it second-hand.

Buy gifts for refugees in need 

If you can’t get to the pop-up shop mentioned in the Positive News article, then donate to your local charity helping people seeking sanctuary.

Volunteer

Give your time willingly with no strings attached.

Support independent designers and artists 

Appreciate creativity. Be generous.

Buy Nothing

Give something away. Find out about Buy Nothing Day.

Support companies that are doing their bit. 

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From 1 Million Women

Have a look at Traidcraft’s thoughts on Black Friday (including some scary stats on how much money is spent over this weekend and how many people around the world celebrate Black Friday).

Enjoy today and this weekend: be generous, be kind, be loving, be creative, be you. 

I’m a Little Teapot

Small Boy learns a new nursery rhyme each week at school and this week it’s I’m a Little Teapot.

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I have just started using my teapots regularly as I have switched to loose leaf tea because tea bags contain plastic.

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Boil the kettle.

Wait.

Warm the pot.

One spoon for me.

And one for the pot.

Wait.

Pour the milk into the mug.

Find the tea strainer.

Pour the tea.

It certainly takes longer but there’s something peaceful about the pause, the ritual and the space.

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The good, the bad and the ugly

Let’s start with the good:

  • Rice and pasta in cardboard packaging from Tesco – probably one of the easiest ways to avoid single use plastic.
  • Waitrose sell an organic palm oil free chocolate spread which is delicious! Bye bye Nutella! Find out about palm oil here.
  • Wooden toys – I’d been wanting some pre-loved wooden dolls’ house furniture and wooden people for a while to furnish Granny’s old dolls’ house for Little Miss. Eventually, I found some for sale near by through Facebook Marketplace. (Disclaimer: I did then buy some new wooden furniture from John Lewis as the house needed a few more items). Just waiting for Grandpère to redecorate the house now! 

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  • Toy library – I finally joined the local toy library this week. Small Boy and Little Miss are enjoying playing with magnetic building blocks. 
  • Small Boy is loving the new series of Down on the Farm – a fantastic programme for children about nature and the countryside. It also makes a change from Octonauts! 
  • I’ve enjoyed reading Peter Harris’s Kingfisher’s Fire and have ordered Under the Bright Wings secondhand from Better World Books as well as a new copy of Planetwise by Dave Bookless from Wordery. I’ve not bought anything from Amazon since 10 April! 
  • I’ve also purchased a year’s subscription to the Pearly White Club – a new local company selling bamboo toothbrushes. They are also donating toothbrushes to New Hope. 

The bad:

I picked up a whole carrier bag full of rubbish as we walked to church on Sunday. 

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The two bins in our local park have been padlocked because someone had previously threw the metal bin over the fence into a field where there are horses and donkeys. 

I love my local community and it saddens me to see litter on the grass verges and vandalism which could harm animals.


The Ugly:

Strangers on the internet have been mean to me.

I posted a comment on a Marks and Spencer’s Facebook post which was advertising their Paddington Bear merchandise. I wrote that the Paddington films have an amazing message which is at odds with their adverts in UK newspapers which incite hatred towards immigrants (see Stop Funding Hate). 

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I naively wasn’t expecting anyone to read my words let alone comment. None of the negative comments were particularly bad (knowing how some people are trolled on social media) but I’m quite sensitive and I was surprised by some people’s reactions. I’m not used to people behaving like that towards me and I was hurt and angry. Normally, a Facebook notification on my phone is a positive thing as someone has ‘liked’ a photo I’ve shared but on Wednesday I dreaded seeing the red notification symbol and felt sick inside. 

Some of their words are still going round my head. Am I a ‘snowflake’? Do I ‘have a life’? Yet, I don’t regret what I wrote and I’m going to post a letter to Marks and Spencer this weekend outlining my concerns about their advertising.

Ultimately though it’s not about me and what a handful of people think about me. It’s about taking a stand on behalf of people who are currently experiencing injustice.