26 March 2020

A web of support

I was hoping to venture out and do my weekly shop this morning, regular readers here will know that I am a menu planner so my shopping lists are based on the bits I need to cook those meals.  Whilst I was sitting writing my list last night it occurred to me that maybe some of the shops I usually visit, the small independent food shops, might not be open any more as social distancing would be quite difficult to achieve once inside.  It turns out they are open, but you need to phone through an order and pick it up the following day.  It is wonderful that they have found a way to stay open and keep themselves safe by reducing contact with their customers.  My shopping has been put back by a day.

I found the information I needed on Facebook with which I have a bit of a love-hate relationship.  I joined to keep up with home education groups and events, it appears I might have to start using it in a different way, starting with liking local shops so that I can keep up with what it going on.  Its facility for video calls and that of other social media sites has been a lifeline for us, particularly Alice, and will continue to be for the weeks to come.  I have managed to organise for her to have video play dates with her friends on most afternoons of this week.

My regular weekly shop is an important part of my week, I love to visit the small independent shops, chat to the staff that are there week after week.  They have watched my children grow, ask how they are doing.  It feels strange that that will no longer be possible.

We are a social species, isolating ourselves is tough.

The physical connections we have with people is only one part of our connection to the people in our lives, we can learn from nature which builds amazing, often symbiotic, relationships to continue our connections to those people that are important to us, without seeing them on a regular basis.  Perhaps they will change and become better, deeper as we find the time that we perhaps haven't had in the past, wouldn't that be a wonderful consequence.   If we look out for a few people, if they too do the same, we can build a web of support which we are all part of, all of us integrated into a vast network.

I have read this week about the important of connection though blogging, words which I totally agreed with.  I had thought with so much of what I do not happening any more I would have more time for posting on here but that hasn't been the case just yet.  I don't seem to be any less busy, which is somewhat baffling but I will save that for another post.

In the meantime I do hope that you have found ways to lessen your isolation despite being isolated.

22 March 2020

Creating Balance

It is the time of the Spring Equinox here in the Northern Hemisphere (if you are in the Southern Hemisphere you can read my Autumn Equinox post here) that special time when the daylight and darkness are the same the world over because the sun is right over the equator.  As it begins its journey North we will get more sun over the coming weeks, our days will get longer and our nights shorter, its warmth will return.

In the heart of a seed
Buried so deep
A dear little plant
Lay fast asleep

Wake said the sun
And creep to the light
Wake said the voice
of the raindrops bright

The little plant heard,
And arose to see
What the wonderful 
outside world might be
K Brown

Everything in nature is coming alive and awakening, as the sun gains in strength and the days are longer and warmer.  Blossom and catkins will or are, depending on where you live, be appearing on the trees, spring flowers are starting to appear and the animal kingdom are preparing or having their young.

We have spent the last few months, the months of dark of cold resting and recharging.  Now that the days are slowly growing longer and nature is coming alive, we can awaken our inner energy.  We can start to give form to the ideas and plans we have been thinking about and give them shape and direction.

At the time of Samhein, we sowed the seeds of future plans, of thought and ideas which we have been holding on to during the time of dark.  Now at this time of emergence, this time of fertility, we can start to give our plans shape, to help them grow.  If you haven't done so already now is a good time to share those plans with others.

If it is your thing a seed meditation is a lovely way to feel connected with the Earth at this time of awakening and emergence.  Get yourself into a comfortable sitting position somewhere outside, if you want to you can close your eyes.  Imagine you are a seed full of life, plant yourself into the warming Earth, feel the water of life falling on you gently until you begin to open up.  Feel you roots growing and reaching down into the Earth, they are soaking up and drinking all the wonderful nutrients the Earth provides  Feel a shoot unfold in the the air, your leaves unfolding and soaking up the suns rays.  You have everything you need to grow, for your well being, you are in radiant health. Open your eyes when you are ready.

The equinox is a time of balance, the night and day, the light and darkness are equal.  Some would say this is a time when the inner and outer worlds we inhabit are also in balance, equals.  We can use this time to look at areas of unbalance in ourselves, be kind to yourself whilst you give thoughts to these to help you rebuild positive thought patterns for your future.

It feels particularly poignant, that the wheel of the year is at the time of balance whilst we are feeling that the world around us is anything but.  It is more important than ever to find a balance in our lives, if we feel ourselves being pulled into a world of worry and anxiety, with actions that make us feel positive.  It is important that we don't feel bad for doing that, we are not going to get through this without this balance.  Make the time to work out the things that you need in your life to keep your positive, whatever they are, keep them near.

This is the time of new beginnings, a time to start new things, to go in new directions maybe strike out on our own to make things happen.  This is a time of hope.

Over the coming weeks as our plans for the future start to take shape, blossoming into reality, like the world around us waking up, our actions will be guided by the positive side of ourselves.  It might feel like making plans are futile right now, but we can make some even if they are smaller plans than we might have made in the past.  It will give us hope, keep us positive.

If you can spend time outside, do so, going slowly, noticing.  Give thanks to Mother Earth for the new growth, the return of the warmth, the transformations that are slowly unfolding around us, for her fertility and abundance.

Feel yourself to be part of that energy and life, bursting from the earth.  In this time of uncertainty I do hope that you can find hope, ways to stay positive and a sense of balance.

19 March 2020

A Peek in to my Day

Outside my window that sun is setting.  Lighting up the sky in beautiful shades of pink and red.

Around the house it is still remarkably tidy, I am still managing to keep to the housework routine I started at the beginning of the year.

Most of our usual activities have paused for now, I am thinking about how we can create a new rhythm which involves us interacting with our friends online rather than face to face and to ensure that we keep ourselves busy and active in different ways to usual.

I am thankful that we are all well and are in good health.

It will soon be time for our evening meal, in my kitchen there is a bowl of homemade coleslaw, a bowl of cooked green beans cooling to be made into a salad, on the stove is a pan of lentils, onions and herbs bubbling away they will go in the oven with some cheese and an egg to be made into a simple bake.

I am creating lots of knitted stitches on a sock, and a shawl.  I cast on a cardigan for my daughter this week but got stuck on row two, the instructions don't match the number of stitches on my needle, rather frustrating, I have contacted the pattern writer in the hope that she can provide some help.

We are so fortunate to live in a sparsely populated area where we can continue to spend time out of the house without meeting people, later on today I am going to take Cameron to his Archery range.  They have created a system for their members to continue to use their facilities and to alert each other when they will be doing so to ensure that we all do so in isolation.

I am wondering if folks will stay away from the county I call home over the Easter break.  It is usually a very busy time with tourists, I know that if people stay away this will mean that many businesses will suffer.  We have low numbers of infected people and a huge influx of people could compromise this.

I am reading the last pages on a wonderful book, The Salt Path by Raynor Winn, I don't want it to end.

I shall have more time on my hands to tend to my garden, I am looking forward to the warming of the earth and the time that I can start sowing seeds.

The last few weeks have been a tumultuous time for me, I have been doing a lot of talking, thinking and reflecting, a favourite quote, what you resist, persists has helped me through.

We are living in uncertain times I have realised that it is better for us to make decisions about what we will do each day in the morning rather than far ahead.  That feels exciting at the moment, an excitement that I hope doesn't become jaded over time, I am still making a few plans, ideas of things that we could do at home in the coming weeks.

I have been really busy again and I have not managed to visit many blogs in the past week I am hoping that I will find the time to drop by very soon, please accept my apologies if I haven't paid you a visit for a while.

I am learning to stay positive and think of all the good that can and could come out of the enforced changes to all our lives.

I am wearing a needlecord tunic, dark red skinny jeans and a navy knitted vest.

I love it when I find recommendations for Podcasts and they turn out to be amazing, especially when I might not otherwise have considered them.  I am listening to Inflection Point with Lauren Schiller, recommended to me by this lovely blogger.

A peak into the end of yesterday.

09 March 2020

A Nature Journal

Thank you to everyone who commented on my last post,  I am humbled by your kind and thoughtful words.  I love all the suggestions you made, it is exactly what I hoped would come out of these posts.  I do hope these conversations will continue for months to come.

One of the topics in that post was learning, regular readers here will know that this is a big part of my life as we home educate our children, the day to day responsibility for this falls to me.  Cameron was recently asked by someone if being home educated was better than being at school, he had no idea how to answer this as he has never attended school.  I often get asked what we do each day and how education looks in our house.  When people say to me that they could never teach their children the things they need to know for their exams (in the UK these are taken at 16 and 18) I usually keep quiet and maybe smile as they chatter on.

I realise that, like anything in life, when you have little or no experience of something it is hard to imagine what it is like.  I can offer you snippets here but unless you were to become a fly on the wall in my house it is hard to give a complete picture.  My idea of what learning and an education can and should look like have shifted all over the place in the last eleven years, back at the beginning I had images in my head, partly from things that I had read and from my own experience, of what I thought we should get up to.  The reality has been completely different and most, if not all, of those ideas have been quietly shelved and not returned to.

Learning is not something we do intentionally, we don't sit and have times when we learn and times when we don't.  It is a part of our everyday life along with eating, sleeping etc.  In the past, we have spent most mornings working on things for a set amount of time, I have prepared things for the children to get on with.  That worked for a time but we have stopped that now, that is the beauty of it you can tailor it to your life, your needs and your children's needs at any given time, another home educator would tell you a very different story of their journey and what home educating looks like in their home.

About five years ago we were offered the opportunity to attend a forest school.  It was being run by a home educating mum on land belonging to a friend.  It was free and we were responsible for our own children.  The mum running it had recently moved to the area and was trying to find her feet in the forest school world here, she had decided she would not pay for insurance yet, hence us needing to be around and stay for the sessions.   We all loved it.  We went for two years, whatever the weather, until sadly it had to stop.  I thought about trying to do something nearer to us, but knew it would not be the same, sometimes good things come to an end and are replaced by other good things which are often completely different.

Whilst we didn't continue with a forest school we did carry on with one of the elements of it.  We would have a theme each week, one that was chosen by the children themselves based on the seasons and our local environment.  Each family would have a particular role to fulfil to carry that theme and we had a forest school book to record what we had done and found out.  Cameron and Alice loved it when it was our turn to bring the book home and complete the page on behalf of the group.  They loved it so much that that was the one thing they kept asking if we could carrying on doing when the group folded.  Once I found the right book, it had to be the same as the one we had used at forest school, we made a start.  I mentioned it here and had visions that I would continue to do so, but seven months later I stopped blogging for three years so it trundled on unrecorded on here. Four years later, almost to the day, we filled the last page of seventy in our nature journal.  Each topic was chosen by one of us in turn, we would spend two weeks working on it, the first doing the research and writing some of it up and the second finishing it off and illustrating.  In the early days we would also spend the rest of the day going for a walk to find what we were learning about in the wild, this has happened less lately as our week has become filled with other activities.  We still walk, a lot, just not on the same day.

I am not usually one for turning learning into a tick box exercise.  However if I was to look at this project, which has resulted in a rather wonderful journal, along the way we have leant, writing first in capitals then cursive/joined up, how to use an index in a book, reading, how to choose the words that we want to include in our journal, drawing, painting, observation skills as we went and found each subject in the wild where possible, Latin names and Linnaeus classification including kingdoms, class, order, species and families, measurements in metric and imperial and being able to visualise the sizes, life cycles, the seasons, the differences between deciduous and coniferous trees, identifying trees in Winter, and many more which I am sure that I have missed.  They are all equally important to help to cement a life long passion for not only for the outdoors but learning too.

We love the book we have created so much that we are going to start another, we are waiting for them to come back in stock and then we will be off and again we have no idea where it will take us.

Apologies once again for a very long post.

03 March 2020

Sustainable Living February

This blog has always been about living life in a mindful and intentional way, for me this means that most of the decisions we make have been thought about carefully, even if we decide to continue as we are a decision has still been made.  When we take a product from a shelf in a shop or tap a button on a screen, should we stop and think about how it has got this point before we do so?  It can be hard to make decisions over many aspects of our lives, we are often far removed from the means of production and it can be hard to find out how this operates.  Maybe we shouldn't be thinking is there a more sustainable replacement for something, rather do we really need it at all?

To help me keep on track I have come up with some words that I will be using to keep my decision making mindful and intentional, and my life in general as sustainable as I can make it.  If you you want to join me you would be most welcome, either using the same words for inspiration or your own that are more meaningful to you.  These are the words (you can read my thoughts behind some of them here) that I been using in February.

It never ceases to amaze that the busier I am the more I seem to be able to fit into my days.  A certain teenage boy is always hungry in this house, homemade snacks are more nourishing and usually healthier than bought ones so I have been doing a lot more baking this month.  The kitchen often looks a whirlwind has been through when I do this as I make use of the oven being on and do it whilst I am also cooking our evening meal.  I do love the smell of a biscuit cooking, it is a particular isn't it?  Alice decided she wanted to get on the act and made us all some delicious shortbread, she needed a little help with some of the words in the recipe - reading is a work in progress for her - but none with the cooking.  I am so glad that she loves to spend time in the kitchen.  I now have a supply of muffins in the freezer which can be eaten with soup (savoury ones) or for breakfast with fruit and yogurt.  I am hoping that I can continue to maintain this supply throughout the year.

The baking has also been a distraction for me as I struggle with the contents of our veg box at this time of year.  When the root veggies make their appearance in the autumn I am always glad as I do love them, but five months on and they are starting to loose their appeal.  I am ready for when the spring vegetables start appearing.

We bought ourselves a new bed in January, it was bigger than the old one which meant new bedding. It was time for me to go through the old bedding and repurpose or re home some of it.  A friend was in need of some new bedding so she had most of it but one of the duvet covers had several small holes, not suitable for re homing so it was turned into two pillowcases and rag cloths useful for mopping up those messes that you don't want to use the dish cloth for.

I have read a lot about microfibre recently, how it sheds tiny fibres into the water stream, fibres so tiny that they pass through any processing and stay in the water, washing out in our water courses and eventually in to the sea.  I have been replacing all our microfibre cloths this month either with the rag or knitted ones, I had a small stash of the knitted ones so it was a quick replacement.  I have another on the needles and will knit up a few more so that I have a constant supply in between washes.

I also did some repairing this month and cleared my darning pile.  I had a few cloth shopping bags which had seams coming apart and my husband had worn a hole in a pair of his cycling trousers.  They are all patched up and back in use once again.

My country has been battered by storms this month, we seemed to have had a near constant weather warning in place for either rain, wind or snow.  The water supply in my village was off for nearly a week, a main supply pipe had burst and took some time to repair the dreadful weather making it an even more difficult task.  I am so grateful and thankful that we were only inconvenienced by these events rather than having our life turned upside down by flooding, my heart goes out to those who have been.  I am so thankful that I have a warm, safe place to call home as this time of year.

I always seem to do more making and creating at this time of year, it goes hand in hand with hibernating.  Alice's tunic is finished, and she has been enjoying its warmth.  My socks are finally complete, they have taken at least three years I think!  I now have three pairs of hand knit socks, I started the year with one pair so maybe this could be the year of sock knitting for me.

A friend who is moving house and having clear out bought a big bag of fabric she no longer wanted to a group I host, I selected amongst other things a piece that I thought I could make into a simple skirt for Alice.  I sewed it together to make a tube, turned over the hem and made a tube for elastic round the waist.  It took me a couple of hours, I already had elastic in my sewing box and the fabric was free, perfect!  I have also started making a linen skirt for myself, I found a piece of linen in a charity shop and loved the colour.  I have washed it and cut out the pieces now it needs sewing together.

After writing about the importance of sanctuary in my life I realised that I wanted to include it in this round up. Being sustainable is more than our awareness and actions that preserve the beauty of nature and Mother Earth, it is about looking after ourselves too, looking after our health, and well being keeps us sustainable.  My sanctuary this month has been time spent outside.  I have managed at least one good long walk each week and every time it has been the rare occasions that there has been dry moments , I seem to have done well to have achieved this especially when most of the walks were planned in advance as I was joined by friends.  The weather has been so wild and unpredictable this month that these moments outside have been all the more special especially when they have been with nourishing company.

The state of our climate is in the media all the time now.  Whilst it is good that it is on the agenda and being talked about like never before, some of what is being reported is worrying.  I have read recently that some people are experiencing climate anxiety.  There is a huge pressure on all of us to see climate issues as our individual problem, that it is the up to the individual to change their lifestyle. Whilst there is some merit in us being mindful of our personal choices this is a huge weight for any of us to take on and has the potential to take a huge toll on our well being.  It shouldn't be just about the individual, coming together with other people either in real life or online to support each other, perhaps, if it is something we are comfortable with, demanding radical change through organised protests .  We need to praise each other for any success however small that may seem, lots of small steps add up to big changes over time.  I heard an interesting analogy recently which seems like an unusual one but it made so much sense to me.  It related smoking to climate change, bear with me I have not gone mad.  We knew as early as the 60s that there was a link between smoking and lung cancer, it wasn't until the 80s that research was published on the effects of passive smoking, in that same decade smoking was banned on underground trains, advertising was banned in 1997, you could smoke on planes until the early 90s, you could smoke in pubs and restaurants until 2006 and in enclosed public spaces until a year later (this is all in the UK). It took a long time for these changes to be made, could we have imagined back in the 70s that we would be where we are now?  People smoked everywhere then, nowadays you rarely see smokers in public places. I have realised that we need to think the same way about climate change, we can make changes to public perception, behaviour and law, it won't happen overnight but we need to continue to think that we can.

You are probably going to think I have completely lost the plot when you read about what I enjoyed the most this month.  Cameron and I have been doing quite a bit of conservation work at a local nature reserve owned by a wildlife trust.  We signed up for a few days this month and for one of them we were putting up an electric fence around a area where we had previously planted several thousand plugs of wild flowers.  It sounds like a job that shouldn't have taken all day but it did.  The area we were fencing was half way up a steep hill, we had a quad bike and trailer to get all the equipment up there, the ground was very wet to cut a long story short we ended up carrying most the stuff up the hill and we encountered several other problems including persistent rain and biting winds.  Somehow none of it mattered, we had such fun as group thrown together by our desire to get the job done which we did.  

Thank you once again for reading through this very long post.  I realise that it may seem that I do an awful lot, I suspect you do to, if you were to write it all down like I have here.  You are most welcome to join me, either use the same words or your own which mean more to you, let me know in the comments below and I will head over and have a read.  I will post my Sustainable Living March roundup on Thursday 2nd April.

29 February 2020

On Hibernating

It has been a full week.  A full two weeks. Overflowing with lovely things.

Outside it continues to rain, hail and snow, squally heavy showers that seemingly come from nowhere and leave as quickly as they arrived.  Rushing through like a toddler busy at play.  The wind is constant and noisy, I long for peace and quiet.  It buffets you when you venture outside, blowing right through you and freezing you to the core if you are not dressed in so many clothes that your joints can barely operate.

They call it a lazy wind in these parts, it blows through you not round.

A rare morning of quiet bought with it five inches of snow, a beautiful calm surprise.  It is amazing how snow can make the world so quiet and still.  It could have put paid to our plans for that day but the rain turned it to slush. The roads were rivers making driving a risky occupation.  We did venture forth. Tentatively.  A diversion to pick up a friend on the way, wondering if we would make it.  It was a quiet lane so easy to get out and check the depth of the lakes that had appeared on the roads, we turned around twice, we made it, there is a maze of roads to choose from.

I have had conversations about the summer.

That seems a long way off.  The dry.  The heat.  The stillness.  It is good to dream of these things whilst outside is all stormy and wet.

I have knitted, a lot.  Sat by the fire keeping warm.

Today all is quiet.  I am home all day.  All weekend in fact.  The time stretches before me waiting to be filled.  I can potter and do as I please, there are no timetables to be fulfilled.  This is the way I like my weekends to be.

I am still hibernating.  Enjoying the fact that the weather keeps me inside most of the time but loving it when I do venture out.  That feeling when you return home after being battered by the the cold and wind is every bit as lovely as basking in the sunshine in the summer.  The warm glow in your cheeks.

I have been tardy with my blog reading this week.  I haven't posted here in nearly two, where did that time go?  Filled with life.  My blog anniversary has passed by unreported.

I will be back on Tuesday with my words on sustainable living.

16 February 2020

Going with the flow

I know that we are not able to look into the future, I am not sure that I would ever want to, but I know that if I had looked into February I would not believe what I could see.  It has been an interesting first half of the month.

Some days have been so full that we have only really been at home to eat.  Whilst making breakfast I have also made the other two meals to be eaten later in the day.  Those periods at home gave us time to eat and for breathing in, to rest and recharge before the next thing.  It sounds rather ridiculous and busy when I write it down like this but it worked, we were on time for everything and were not feeling rushed.  There have been several days like this.

A few years ago I would not have had this kind of my day in diary.  It would have been too much for us all, a few years feels like a lifetime ago now, with growing children their commitments have grown too.  Slowly.  It is like any change, when we do it slowly it feels more comfortable, more manageable, we can grow into it, stretch ourselves slowly and the change then feels like a comfortable pair of shoes rather than a pair that rubs and cause us pain.

At the beginning of the year I was asked if I could help out with a paid role in the village.  It is a job I have held in the past, the current incumbent was on sick leave and I was asked to step in, temporarily, not having worked for pay for 11 years this felt rather daunting.  Home educating my children has continued many of the skills that I used in my paid work life but as an unknown world to many it can be make it difficult to quantify those skills to others.  That temporary state of affairs has turned to permanence, I have been through an application process and an interview I haven't done either of these for fifteen years.  I have been digging deep into the memory bank, the grey cells have been worked hard.

I have been at home for eleven years home educating the children, I gave up work to do that, a decision I have never regretted, but I know it will not be that long before I am no longer needed as a guide, facilitating my children's education.  I came to motherhood late, by the time my daughter turns 18 I will be at an age when looking for work after a such long break, her whole life, it is most likely to make me at the bottom of the pile in an application process.  I had been giving some thought to my future over the past few months, thinking that a small part time job that I can fit around our lives might be possible now.  Don't you love it when something come to you and falls into your lap?

Last weekend we were visited by Storm Ciara, it flooded homes in my village, thankfully not mine, and effected the water supply.  Many homes in my village and those in many surrounding us were without water for several days, again we were not effected by this.  We had activities cancelled as the buildings they were held in had no water supply, commitments having to change as the roads were blocked by flooding.  I have been grateful for modern technology, allowing these changes to be passed on to us easily and in good time.

This weekend we now have a different storm paying us a visit, Dennis, we now have strong winds and more rain falling on already wet ground.  I feel for those people who have had water come into their homes which it may do again this weekend.  I have watched the field opposite my house turn into a lake once again, as it did last weekend, I am so grateful that this water has somewhere to go rather than in my house.

We are well stocked with food and wood so we don't need to go out this weekend.  I rather like not having to go out at the weekend after a full week, an enforced hibernation.  I am grateful that I have somewhere warm and cosy to shelter in this stormy weather.  Next week is a school holiday here in the UK, for us this means that many of our usual activities are not running.  We are still pretty busy but with different things, Storm Dennis may put paid to some of that as Storm Ciara did last week.

We will take each day as it comes, what about you?