The last few days I have been taking a moment to pause and take photos of the nature I see around me; the birds visiting our garden, the everyday wonders we can take for granted, and signs of spring.
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!
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.
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 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.”
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’.
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.
‘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.
We saw the bee again.
We looked at the garden.
We looked at the timer.
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.
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!
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!
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.
- 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).
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!
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.
I also want to read:
- Facism by Madeline Albright
- William Wilberforce: The Life of the Great Anti-Slave Trade Campaigner by William Hague
- The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- The Divine Dance by Richard Rohr
- Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
- The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brendan Manning
- The Myth of Equality: Uncovering the Roots of Injustice and Privilege by Ken Wytsma
- 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
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!