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!
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.”
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.
The year is almost over and so I’ve been taking stock of my two lists of challenges: the Better World Books Challenge and Going wilder in 2018: 18 countryside activities. I’m also beginning to think about what to do for 2019! Any ideas?!
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.
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!
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:
- A common frog in the pond
- A red admiral
- Many speckled woods
- Beetles (which require further research in my Collins Gem Insects book)
- A robin
[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!
The first time I walked down our road, it was not our road. I was praying for a new congregation my church were starting in the community.
A few weeks’ later, I walked down our road for the second time. As Mr Pilgrim and I left a church meeting explaining the vision behind this new congregation, I said ‘let’s be part of it’.
So even though we lived in a different part of town, we joined this new congregation never thinking that this would be for the long-term.
A year later and heavily pregnant, I walked down our road in the dark November rain. It was still not yet ‘our road’ but almost. We were about to buy what is now our house but I was having doubts. Wanting to hear from God and hoping for a clear ‘yes’ or ‘no’ from him, I walked the streets and prayed. For the first time, I felt a glimpse of God’s love for our community and that love has became my love. I never heard that ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
We moved in and I walked. Walked in the rain. Walked in the sunshine. Walked to help my baby sleep. Walked to get out of the house.
Two years later, weighed down with fears and pregnant with Little Miss, I walked in the balmy heat of late summer. Walking to manage my gestational diabetes, the aroma of the lavender in people’s front gardens lifted my despondent spirit.
And today I walked. The houses are no longer houses, they are the homes of people I know. The school isn’t just a school, it’s our community. I walked past places we know and are known: the post office, the pre-school, the churches, the Red Box collection point and the Green. I saw love, community and beauty.
As I walked today, I remembered the first time I walked on this road. I remembered walking while pregnant in the winter rain and then in the summer sun, and I give thanks for God’s faithfulness and goodness.
Since reading Just Living last year, I have started a journey of discovering the beauty of the natural world – and the harm that we are causing it.
Last June, Small Boy, Little Miss and I took part in 30 Days Wild. I recently reread my blog post on it and was struck by how something that was on the periphery of my conscious thought has become a central part of who I am.
‘But I had learned to see another wildness, to which I had once been blind: the wildness of natural life, the sheer force of ongoing organic existence, , vigorous and chaotic. This wildness was not about asperity, but about luxuriance, vitality, fun.
The weed thrusting through a crack in the pavement, the tree root impudently cracking a carapace of tarmac: these were wild signs, as much as the storm wave and the snowflake.
There was as much to be learned in an acre of woodland on a city’s fringe as on the shattered summit of Ben Hope: this was what Roger [his mentor and friend] had taught me – and what Lily [his young daughter] did not yet need to be taught.
It was something most people forgot as they grew into adults.‘ Robert Macfarlane, The Wild Places, p.316
This ‘wildness of natural life’ – ties in so well with the ethos of 30 Days Wild. Last year, we spent two weeks in the Lakes during June with nature on our doorstep. I had been unsure how we would find 30 wild activities this year when at home in our post-war housing estate on the outskirts of the outskirts of London. But that’s the point of 30 Days Wild. It’s there. We just need to look.
Today we marvelled at a snail speedily slithering over our watering can – look carefully and you can see its poo!
We watched one of the residents of our bug hotel, an ant, carry a small dead fly that had been caught in a web. One wing with its intricate lace pattern remained captured in the spider’s trap. Woodlice scurried away when we lifted up last year’s decaying leaves.
Yesterday, we walked, picking up litter on the way, to our nearest nature reserve – an area of wilderness reserved for bees, butterflies and brambles – and played with sticky goose grass.
June, and so our 30 Days Wild, did however begin on another Family Pilgrim camping trip. The campsite was on the edge of a wood and each morning a resident cuckoo would call for hours. I’d never heard a cuckoo before and couldn’t believe my ears at first. We made Stick Man out of sticks, wandered in the woods and when it rained and we sheltered inside, I drew a duck!
I part-climbed a silver birch tree, walked barefoot on the grass and created daisy chains for the children. We found over 20 cabbage white caterpillars and pretended a tree (species unknown!) was a house.
You might not want to take part in 30 Days Wild this year but maybe you could take a little bit of time to discover wildlife and wild places on your doorstep.
Today is St Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday: a day to celebrate romantic love and the start of the season of Lent.
While walking recently between our local library and the Royal Mail parcel collection office, I spotted a gate with a sign offering local honey for sale. Mr Pilgrim likes to have honey on his morning porridge so I bravely knocked on the door, which was opened by a friendly older gentlemen, and bought a jar of honey. I’ve been discovering how important insects are and I’ve signed up to updates from Friends of the Earth’s The Bee Cause so I can learn how to help bees.
Following this theme, I have also given my sweet man beekeeping equipment, hives and training for farmers in Ghana from Oxfam Unwrapped. Along with some Divine chocolate! Which I’m hoping he’ll share. [NOTE: These were purchased and this post written before the news broke about the Oxfam staff using sex workers in Haiti.]
An ancient proverb says: Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. I am a fan of the Love Languages and Mr Pilgrim’s Love Language is Words of Affirmation. So here are some things words of appreciation for my newest blog follower: “Thank you for being so generous, patient and steadfast. You’re a wonderful husband to me and and an amazing Daddy to Small Boy and Little Miss. I particularly wanted to say today I think you’re great at building relationships with our neighbours. I love being Team Pilgrim with you and serving our community together.”
I have been thinking for a while about what to do for Lent and I have decided to do Love Your Streets ‘Do 1 Nice Thing’. Apparently it is simple, doesn’t require planning and is flexible!