We are now shopping regularly at Refillabell, our local zero waste shop which opened recently. I have a wonderful new bike with a large and sturdy basket so I can easily cycle back with jars and pots full of dates, oats, dried apricots, chia seeds, ground almonds, nuts, risotto rice, fudge and chocolate buttons! We’ve filled up large containers with washing up liquid and I’ve also bought soap, bamboo toothbrushes, FitPit deodorant and period pants (which are great for running!).
However, I am aware that as a family we are still generating plastic waste – some goes into the recycling bin and some the landfill bin (which is now twinned with a recycling project in Bangladesh) – so I’ve just signed up to The Big Plastic Count which is 16th to 22nd May. The aim is to gather evidence to convince the government, big brands and supermarkets that rapid change is needed. Why don’t you sign up too?
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!
I’m not finding lock-down easy but it’s easier because of the natural beauty around me.
Today is the first day of 30 Days Wild organised by The Wildlife Trusts. We’ve done this for the last two years and it’s definitely helped our lives become wilder!
You can read about 2017’s adventures here and last year’s here!
If you want to take part, visit 30 Days Wild to sign up and receive a pack. Although the pack really is not necessary! It helps with ideas but there’s also an app with suggestions. The idea is to do something ‘wild’ each day in June – in the past we have with child-like fascination marvelled at snails, observed ants and studied flowers.
Our activity for today was finding some flowers (I think my neighbour would call them weeds!) in the garden and putting them in a flower press.
I don’t have plans for the rest of the month except for one – I want to get outside during my lunch break!
This reflection should be titled ‘What’s on our shelves?’. Small Boy is now bringing home reading books and this weekend we’re enjoying reading about Tim and his dad catching cod with a rod. It’s wonderful seeing the world of words open up to Small Boy.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!
Trips to the library are important; Little Miss chose Don’t Wake Up Tiger – a beautifully-illustrated book where the readers get involved by stroking Tiger’s nose and blowing balloons. Family Pilgrim are also big fans of Richard Byrne’s This Book is out of Control – another book where the reader needs to help out!
My local community association has just this week started a book swap which is a great idea.
And what’s on my shelf?
I’ve just finished reading Birdwatching with your eyes closed by Simon Barnes but listening to the accompanying podcast has been tricky as it upsets the cat! I’ve realised there is a greater biodiversity where I live than I thought but it’s frustrating how hard it is to distinguish which species is singing (I know that listening to the podcast will help!). Previously I didn’t know how much I didn’t know (and to be truthful, I probably didn’t care too much) but now I feel frustrated at my ignorance and the pace of my learning.
Walking places is taking longer as I keep looking up and trying to spot the singer!
At The Justice Conference, I was intrigued by a book called Blue Planet, Blue God and it’s not like any book I’ve ever read before. It’s a mixture of biblical studies, English literature, oceanography and ethical living. It’s intellectual but contains practical steps on how we can – and should – care for the sea and the creatures that dwell there. It’s a quirky and compelling read.
Next on the list is The Seabird’s Cry, recommended by my friend over at Hearten soul. We loved seeing gannets on holiday at Bempton Cliffs (and returned with the cuddly Flappy!) and I’m looking forward to learning more about them.
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.
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!
At the start of this year when reading Free by Mark and Lisa Sandrette, I wrote a list of my five personal values: local, community, social justice, growth and creativity. This exercise turned out to be pivotal when, a few months later, I came to make a decision about whether or not to pursue a potential new job; a role which would have fitted with four of these values but was most definitely not ‘local’. I realised then just how highly I hold this value; local does not mean less.
It may be laziness but I just like having everything near each other! I hated the daily commute when I had a job 30 miles away from my home and conversely love my current 10 minute cycle from my front door to the office car park. (Thank you Mr P for rescuing my bike this week when I lost the key to the lock!)
It’s important to me to be part of a church in the community where I live as well as being involved in the community itself in some way. I am blessed in being part of a church family which loves our community and have the privilege of being involved in the local community association.
I’m now learning to appreciate my local environment. I have recently discovered, through reading Matthew Oates’ The Pursuit of Butterflies, the Welsh word ‘cynefin’ meaning ‘homepatch’ or ‘heartland’. My current home hasn’t been my home for very long and so I don’t know if the natural world here will ever make my heart sing in the same way revisiting the countryside of my childhood does. But maybe. If I watch and wonder and love and live with the eyes of a child, then as seasons pass, I will be able to say this locale too is the land of my heart.
David Lindo, The Urban Birder, writes about the importance of the naturalists’ ‘local patch’. The ever-generous Mr P presented me with a surprise gift recently of a colourful weighty tome all about butterflies in Hertfordshire and Middlesex – our local patch. There is so much for me to discover and enjoy without having to travel too far.
This week I enjoyed a nature walk with a friend in a nearby nature reserve – a short walk down the road from where I live. The term ‘nature reserve’ may conjure up inaccurate pictures in your mind as this particular site is fairly small and was developed from a site of redundant allotments. Yet, it’s a area near where I live full of wildlife. My friend and I enjoyed watching:
[Note 1: Small Boy was at school and Little Miss was with us but fast asleep. I doubt we would have seen all the above otherwise!]
[Note 2: We also saw a black cat.]
I have a nature notebook in which I am jotting down different wildlife I see each day to help me build an appreciative picture of what is in my ‘homepatch’ and maybe over time to note any changes. I have frequently spotted a red kite flying overhead and spotted a fox twice late at night in the same place.
The Urban Birder’s catchphrase is ‘look up’ but I think mine is just ‘look!’
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!
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!
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!
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!