30 Days Wild · Ecological concern

My Wild Journey

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.

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The view from our nearest park

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.

I’ve enjoyed reading Robert Macfarlane and John Lewis-Sempel and have been influenced by their erudite, evocative and literary writings on Britain’s countryside.

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!

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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!

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Spot the Stick Men

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.

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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.

community · Ethical living

Sweet to the soul

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.

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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!

 

 

community · Ecological concern · Ethical living

Snapshots

This week I attended a photography workshop (a birthday present but it’s taken me some time to organise it!). I’m looking forward to being creative, growing more confident with our camera, and capturing some of Small Boy’s and Little Miss’s childhood.
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Small Boy and I made banana bread this morning using soft and squidgy (fair trade) bananas. I ate a deliciously warm slice topped with homemade Greek yoghurt (our latest addition to the zero waste journey) as my mid-morning snack; don’t judge me – the Small Boy alarm clock woke me at half six and Little Miss was awake for much of the night.

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The pavements and grass verges in our local area are frequently littered with dog poo. Problematic when pushing a pushchair alongside an energetic Small Boy, I’m know I’m not the only mum who is fed up with cleaning wheels and shoes – we live near a primary school and many children and parents use the pavements to walk to and from school.
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Our local borough council has a ‘report it’ function on its website, specifically for this issue. I’ve reported pavement poo three times now (including yesterday) and twice the street cleaning team has been rapidly dispatched to wash the area. I’d rather there wasn’t a poo problem in the first place but I’m pleased I can do something about it! It’s a small way I can love our community.

My bedtime (library) book is by John Lewis-Stempel, an award-winning nature writer. I’m currently reading The Running Hare, his account of trying to farm a field using traditional methods. That might not sound fascinating, but it’s a brilliant, evocative and provocative read. I’m saddened by the demise of many British wild flowers which my parents and grandparents would have grown up with.
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I’m making plans for my 18 countryside activities for 2018; I’ve found a place to go and look for wild badgers, discovered a large hill to climb with Small Boy, and beaches to visit and puffins to spot.

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I’m looking forward to writing about them!

books

What’s on my shelf?

Lying in bed with the flu earlier this month frustrated that I was unable to do very much, I decided to do the Better World Books Reading Challenge. That way I could at least achieve something!

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From the Better World Books Facebook page

I’ve already read or am reading:

  • A childhood favourite – I finished reading my 30-plus-year old copy of Swallows and Amazons which I started last year and intend to read Swallowdale too
  • An author’s first novel – The Homecoming (borrowed from my sister)
  • A book recommended by a friend – I borrowed The Little Book of Hygge
  • An anthology of poetry – The Seasons: The Nation’s Most Treasured Nature Poems – I discovered this in our local library which is becoming a regular Saturday destination for the Pilgrim family. We enjoy reserving books online from any county library and then picking them up locally. Our library is small but incredibly busy (used by a varied demographic) with a great children’s section. I hope that it continues in some form in spite of forthcoming budget cuts. Love your library! If you are in any doubt over the importance of libraries, read this article from Voices for the Library.
  • A book by a deceased author – The 39 Steps My copy used to be belong to my Grandpa who first read it in the 1920s.

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I’m looking forward to reading a book published in 1978 – plenty to choose from! Any ideas?!

I’ve just ordered a second-hand copy of Julius Caesar (from Better World Books – did you know that they offer a carbon offset scheme?) for the ‘play or screenplay’ category because Mr Pilgrim and I are off to see the new production at Bridge Theatre. We’re being more intentional about spending time together alone and choosing to invest in our marriage and home-life. More about priorities another time!

Do you have suggestions for the other categories? Please share your recommendations below. Thank you! Dido x

 

Ecological concern

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

Ecological concern · Ethical living · Social justice

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. 

 

Ethical living · Social justice

It’s Good to Celebrate

I celebrated my birthday this week: as the date approached I reflected on ways in which the day could fit in with my quest to live more justly, particularly thinking of ecological concern and my approach to money and material goods (two of the areas covered in Just Living). It’s good to celebrate and there’s nothing inherently wrong with material items but I’m aware of how much I have already.

I received some fantastic physical presents along the sustainable living theme (some I asked for and some were surprises), including:

  • Bamboo toothbrushes from Humble Brush
  • A pot of ink and reservoir for my fountain pen
  • Organic perfume (which I discovered by reading this article)
  • An aloe vera plant for the kitchen
  • A large plant pot for our garden
  • A resusable snack bag

I was also given money for a photography workshop so I can spend time being creative and for another sailing session. A friend took me out last weekend for afternoon tea: more than the sandwiches, scones and Moroccan tea, I enjoyed spending time chatting without having to think about children and chores. I also had a celebratory dinner with my ‘mum friends’. These women are all really precious to me and it was lovely to gather together without the children.

[My Love Language is ‘time’ which means I feel valued and appreciated when people choose to spend time with me.]

The day of my birthday was spent as a family – me, Mr Pilgrim, Small Boy and Little Miss. We made a cake (in Small Boy’s eyes birthdays are all about the cake) and had a picnic by the river before paddling and looking for fish. There’s something about being by water which brings me peace.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul. Psalm 23:1-3

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The picnic featured sandwiches made with our new pre-loved bread-maker. Trying to cut down on the amount of single-use plastic we use, I wanted a bread-maker.  Mr Pilgrim said that it would be more zero waste to buy one second-hand so I did some research, and discovered:

  • Thirty-six per cent of people who receive bread machines as presents don’t use them
  • There could be up to 10 million bread machines sitting sadly on shelves

I asked on Facebook if anyone had one they no longer wanted, a friend said she’d seen one for sale on a local group page, I did some digging, sent a message and then the next day I collected a bread-machine for £20 from someone five minutes away!

Our picnic also featured Snact – they’re a bit like yoyos but made from unwanted ugly fruit and in compostable bags. Small Boy voiced his approval – which was good because I bought three boxes so I wouldn’t have to pay postage!


Following a much-needed nap (woo hoo!), Mr Pilgrim and I headed over to St Albans to Lussmanns. I wanted to go to a restaurant where the provenance of the menu matters.

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Lussmanns are shortlisted finalists in the Sustainable Restaurant Association’s 2017 Food Made Good Awards in the Serve More Veg and Better Meat: to reward the most innovative ways of encouraging customers to eat more veg and better meat category. They have a comprehensive and well-thought out sustainability policy, seem to care about their staff and support local charities.

And the food (I had North African style organic lamb followed by honey and thyme pudding) and service were impressive. I can recommend a visit.

So that’s my birthday over for another year…next year it’s a big one!

 

30 Days Wild · Ecological concern

30 Days Wild: Day 1

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I thought it would be fun to get involved with 30 Days Wild as part of my quest to find out more about the natural world and the environment.

Today Small Boy and I found oxeye daisies growing on a roadside verge near our home. I didn’t know that’s what they were called but now I do!

According to the Wildlife Trusts, more than 95% of UK wildflower meadows have been lost in recent years.

I’m also trying to identify the bees who are visiting my sage plant.

(I won’t be posting every day of June!)