30 Days Wild · Ecological concern · Ethical living · nature

30 Days Wild 2019

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!

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

community · Ecological concern · Ethical living · nature

Searching for spring

Today we (mostly I!) tried Wild Lent’s ‘Searching for spring’ activity in the garden. Yellow, pink, indigo, violet and green – the garden is waking up.

Small Boy found a ladybird and took a photo.

Spot the ladybird!

I’ve enjoyed taking photos this month as winter ends and spring begins.

Inspired by another family’s bird feeders, Mr Pilgrim ordered a ‘gift box’ from the RSPB and fixed our bird table. We have already had visits from a blue tit as well as a pigeon and a magpie (but I discount those!)

We are slowly making progress on the allotment.

Our Christmas present from
Grand-père

Our carrot box from Grand-père is in place, we have chitted potatoes, bought seeds, and purchased a second-hand climbing frame from e-Bay!

We plan to turn the section of our garden where we grew courgettes last year into a wildflower area for bees and butterflies.


I’ve been eating oven-baked chilli and lime cashews with peanuts and roasted corn as as I write this! To celebrate Fair Trade Fortnight, I ordered some products from Liberation Nuts, a fair trade company I read about in the magazine from Shared Interest. They are very tasty!

I’m writing this in the afternoon as I’m turning the computer off in the evening as a way of fasting from electricity throughout Lent. But as I do this (and attempt some of the activities from Wild Lent), I will remember these words from a contributor to the Plastic Less Lent group on Facebook:

The falling short is part of it!! It wouldn’t be a Lenten activity, if, at the end of it ( and during) we weren’t made aware of how much we fall short. Easter brings a message of grace and forgiveness – whew! So, do what you can – it won’t ever be enough, but that’s ok.”

Ecological concern · nature

Big Garden Bird Watch

This afternoon the Pilgrim family took part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch for the first time.


I placed myself by the patio doors with some binoculars, a pen and the RSPB bird identification sheet. Setting the timer on my phone for an hour, I waited.


A bird has to land in the garden to be counted so the gulls flying overhead and the crow over the fence were ignored. 


Surprisingly after a short wait, a robin appeared in the garden. Small Boy and Little Miss were very excited and I dutifully wrote ‘1 robin’. 


Photo by James Wainscoat on Unsplash


Then I waited and watched.


We looked at the snow drops.


I asked for a cup of tea.


A bumble bee appeared. 


I drank the cup of tea.


The children tried the binoculars: ‘Everything looks smaller, Mummy!’


We looked at the garden.


We looked at the timer.


Branches danced in the wind.


We watched.


And waited.


‘How much longer, Mummy?’


I watched – sometimes alone, sometimes with a child in my arms.


Birds flew overhead, almost tumbling in the wind.


We kept looking.


And waiting.


We saw the bee again.


We looked at the garden.


We looked at the timer.


I looked.


I spotted two birds in the branches of a tree. Too far away to really look at without the binoculars, I urgently called Mr Pilgrim over.


We stood still, staring and studying.


What were they?


And then they were gone.


We kept watch a few minutes more and then the timer sounded signalling the end of the hour.


Using the Collins bird identification app on my phone (recommended at the duck workshop we attended), Mr Pilgrim identified the birds as goldfinches. 


I filled in the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch form (robin 1, goldfinches 2) and then Small Boy and I walked to the post box to send off our results. 


I’m surprised and delighted – I wasn’t sure we’d see anything! 

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.

https://bookriot.com/?p=248175

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

community · Ecological concern

Loving and living local

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!)

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Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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
  • Dragonflies
  • A red admiral
  • Many speckled woods
  • Beetles (which require further research in my Collins Gem Insects book)
  • Squirrels
  • A robin

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Photo by Val Vesa on Unsplash

[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!’

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!

 

books

So many books, so little time…

It’s often not a good sign when I have too many books on the go. It can mean I’m not focused and my mind is rushing around. But sometimes it’s just because I can’t resist another book. I keep saying no more until I’ve finished the pile by the side of my bed!

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This is what I’ve just read, am reading and am about to read.

No More Friendly Fire (bought from Eden)

This short book was written by the leaders of my church, Wellspring Church, Watford and I had the privilege of hearing some of the chapters delivered as talks a couple of years ago. One of which even influenced Little Miss’s name!

I wish I’d read this book years ago! I grew up in a church where women weren’t allowed to preach or have formal leadership roles. My confidence was so low that I just accepted this view. And accepted it for many years. Internalised misogyny.

But then – and this was partly as a result of hearing Helen herself preach – I realised that there was a different view. I read and studied such books as Why Not Women?, Discovering Biblical Equality, Women in the Church and Jesus Feminist, and I have been encouraged in my own spiritual gifts and have grown and flourished.

No More Friendly Fire focuses on how men and women can – and should – work together and explores this through looking at biblical stories such as Deborah, Esther and Ruth. Helen and Tim don’t shy away from looking at some of the awkward and confusing passages in the Bible and also aren’t afraid to reveal their own vulnerabilities. It’s a short book and definitely worth reading!

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Phoebe by Paula Gooder (also from Eden)

This has been on my wish list for a while. It’s like a novel but not. In fact, Paula Gooder says it’s not a novel and it’s helpful to bear that in mind when reading as it does feel too didactic in parts. It’s based on a real life Christian woman called Phoebe who was a deacon in the early church. Other Christians mentioned in the New Testament make appearances too: Junia and Adronicus, Prisca and Aquila, even Peter. It’s an interesting approach, very easy to read and a great way to bring the early church to life.

In Pursuit of Butterflies (library)

Trying to identify butterflies is tricky when looking after two young children! Both butterflies and children move quickly and demand attention. There’s an abundance of cabbage whites and meadow browns (or are they gatekeepers?) and I was thrilled to watch a peacock earlier this week and may have spotted a red admiral this afternoon.

In Pursuit of Butterflies is evoking a longing to go ‘butterflying’ to discover some of the rarer butterflies. I can’t travel around the country in pursuit of butterflies or spend hours standing in a wood but I can experience some of the pleasure vicariously through this book by an erudite butterfly-obsessive.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (borrowed)

The rise of the far right has got me thinking and I decided I needed to read some Bonhoeffer. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pastor and author who was executed in 1945 for his role in a plot to assassinate Hitler. Following a colleague’s advice, I’m going to start with Eric Metaxas’ biography: Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.

Time to stop writing and get back to reading!

Christian · Ecological concern

Transformed

I love finding out the word for ‘butterfly’ in different languages; I’ve discovered many of the words are beautiful and fun to say, such as papillon (French), mariposa (Spanish), farfelle (Italian – like the pasta), labalaba (Yoruba) and lolo (Malagasy). In other languages, the meaning of the word is evocative, such as the Danish word, sommerfugl (literally ‘summer bird’),  and the more down-to-earth Dutch word, boterschijte.

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One of my 18 Countryside Activities for 2018 was to learn to identify five new butterflies. So far this year, I’ve spotted and learnt:
And hopefully I will see a few more as the summer progresses.
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Small Boy loves Transformers (he has some of the toys as well as a DVD of the 1980s cartoons) and was delighted recently to have the opportunity to sleep in a ‘transforming’ sofa bed.

Last year, when chatting with my writer friend (and owner of the transforming sofa) about a section in her book, I was struck powerfully by her insight that the transformation from caterpillar to butterfly is irreversible. The butterfly does not – and cannot – go back to being a caterpillar. The butterfly is not like a Transformer, a sofa bed or our trailer tent. The transformation is permanent.

St Paul, in one of his letters to the church in Corinth, explains how: ‘If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!’.

When I chose to become a pilgrim, a spiritual transformation happened. I looked no different on the outside but I was a ‘new creation’ and could not go back to being a caterpillar even if I tried! And I tried.

As I continue on my journey of faith, I am able to accept as true both the immediate spiritual transformation that occurred (I am a new creation, irrevocably changed) and the slow (at times, painfully slow) gentle refashioning which is making me more like Christ himself.

I love the analogy of pilgrimage and this is something I am going to be exploring over the next couple of months. But every time I see a butterfly I am joyfully reminded of the great transformation that has already taken place in my life.