Happy Earth Day people!
On this particular day I thought I’d chat a bit about something very close to my little family’s hearts: the environment.
One thing that Elliot and I have bonded over and share a strong moral obligation to is our earth. When we first met we got really deep into discussion about heavy topics fairly quickly, and two of those things were astronomy and palaeontology. We chatted a lot about theology, science and our religious and spiritual beliefs and found that we were just completely in sync with each other. One of the elements that comprised the discourse around these topics were earth as it is now, and where we fit in it. We found that we both cared about it deeply, although I had a lot more to learn than he.
We are super recyclers and composters, and I am always dishwashing jars and tubs which I’m sure I can use at a later date. I am seriously a major jar hoarder, in particular. We started collecting jars initially about 3 years ago to use for our wedding, as I wanted our centrepieces to be rustic wildflowers in jam jars. We did this with plenty to spare, but somehow I never stopped using them.
I get very wary that glass, although widely recycled, sometimes ends up not being so, and so I’m determined to get the most out of it. As I sit at my desk at the minute, I actually have five jars on here alone – one for felt tips, one for Emmie’s felt tips, one for pencils, one for paintbrushes and one for makeup brushes.
We have a teeny tiny kitchen, and 2 glass cabinets, which in one I keep my grains. To try and make these look nicer behind the glass I move all my grains to jars – I have big ones for pasta, rice and flour, and smaller ones for arborio, cous cous, quinoa, lentils, sunflower seeds, poppy seeds, almonds, sesame seeds, you name it! My husband is getting seriously annoyed with our overflowing drawer of jars which I “don’t need”, but I somehow can’t stop! One of our gifts to friends and family this year were jars on jars on jars of homemade vegan salted caramel sauce – just to get rid of them!
I can’t believe I just spent so much time talking about jars.
Anyway, my point was that we like to conserve and preserve. When we lived in Scotland we were in a flat, and one of the things we both felt completely lacking in was a garden. Ell has always been into nature, whereas I’m more of a city girl, but he started to convert me on the subject many moons back, and we started delving into it more.
(Us last summer at the Lochwinnoch RSPB Park)
By far one of the greatest things my husband did for me was got me over my biggest fear – bees. For as long as I could remember I was deathly afraid of bees; it did not matter how many times I was told “keep still and it’ll leave you alone”, “it doesn’t want to hurt you” – if I saw or heard a bee I was OUT OF THERE. In fact, I couldn’t even look at pictures of bees without having nightmares. Elliot would tell me about how our honey bees were dying and how big a deal it was, and even though I understood, it just wouldn’t connect for me. Then, one day, I was sat at the window in our flat and I noticed a bee on the outside ledge. I squirmed away even though the window was closed, because NOPE. But when I went back a few hours later, it was still there. I could tell it was alive, but it was barely moving. Its wings would only give small flaps every so often, and I started feeling… concerned?
I asked Ell and he said “it’s still too cold for them. It’ll probably die soon.” I was so saddened. Even though I was petrified I couldn’t just watch this little thing die! So I started googling, and we found out that when you encounter a cold honey bee the best thing you can do is give them a small amount of honey or sugar water every so often. It will help them gain their depleted energy back which the cold has drained from them, and then it should hopefully be able to find its way home. I went and mixed up some sugar water, and made Ell put some drops outside from a teaspoon. The bee really slowly walked toward it, and then from my safe place behind the glass, I watched it. I saw its tongue come out and drink up the droplet slowly. I watched it for ages, and ages. Then, it did a big flutter of its wings and flew. I felt so proud and relieved to be able to help this tiny little thing.
From that point onward, I started watching documentaries about bees left, right and centre, and even read a book called The Bees by Laline Paull. This book is actually a thriller, written from a bee’s perspective. It’s truly super, super weird, but actually one of the best books I have ever read, and I feel like it helped me understand their nature and ecology a whole lot more. You should definitely read it.
The next year, we discovered we had bees living in the attic of our block of flats. We probably should have done something about it, but to be honest I was worried as I know that relocating a queen and her hive is a massive ordeal for them and many of them die off. So, I just used to sit and watch them from our kitchen table.
My heart still flutters in my chest when I encounter them, but in the past year I have successfully let one crawl over me without flinching, let one crawl onto my hand to get out of a friend’s hair, and just yesterday I calmly removed one that found its way into my living room.
One of my hopes for the future is that we can have a bee hive, as Elliot has always wanted one, and I think now I may be able to handle it.
The other thing that we have decided to venture into this Spring is growing our own fruit and veg. Even if we could do this in any small way we thought would help us, as we’re also vegetarians. Now, we have a communal maintained garden so we can’t plant directly, so we decided to start off with a few things to test the waters this year, and then potentially we can do something bigger in the future. This Spring we have gone for Courgettes, Butternut Squash and Strawberries. We are also growing Sunflowers and Lavender alongside it just to have some prettier things to grow, and to introduce Emmie to gardening, nature and watching things grow.
So far, I have been super pleased with how things are coming along. Our sunflowers and Lavender have shot up, and though they were slow to start we are now struggling to contain our Squash and Courgettes. They can’t be planted out until June, but I think I’m going to need to move them to their planters before I can acclimatise them outdoors, taking up loads of room in my hallway – eek! The strawberries we did not start from sprout, but actually decided to sow ourselves, which we later found out was a super hard thing to do. We have however managed to get a few going, so hopefully they will continue onwards and upwards. Here’s our progress so far:
Squash and Courgette
The nicest thing in doing this, by far, has been watching how excited Emmie gets as they grow. She has been with me every step of the way through sowing, watering, and will help me plant them out and *HOPEFULLY* harvesting too.
We’re trying so hard to give her a thorough appreciation for nature and the wildlife that inhabits it. She is so caring and wonderful, and I have found her recently sat on the path in the garden picking up bugs and going “Hi, buggy! It’s okay, don’t be scared!” We unfortunately found a cold little dead bee last month, and she insisted on being the one to move it. She is always super gentle and knows that the insects live in our grass and in the cracks of the paving slabs, so she watches intently if we ever have to move them out of our way and into a safe place.
Talking of insects leads me on to one of my other great loves at the minute, which is a newfound love of mine: birds.
Since moving from Scotland to England I have been obsessed with the birds that are around our area, and most frequently visit out garden. We live in a semi-rural area, but our garden in particular is very large and quiet as our house is at the back of a path and away from the road. This means we get loads of bird visitors which I can view from my living room window. I started off my constantly asking Ell, “what’s that one?!” about birds which are probably common knowledge for most, and now I do my own research.
As the weather got warmer, I started noticing lots of birds flocking to my next door neighbour’s garden, so I decided to see if I could entice some over here (I know, I know, selfish), and Emmie and I made some home-made bird feeders.
They worked, and that same afternoon we had blue tits in our garden!
My favourite bird in our garden however, is my little robin. I say “my” but of course it can’t possibly be “mine”. Yes, yes, I’m a crazy bird lady – my husband tells me all the time. We first noticed the robin over the winter; it would come every so often in search of food and sometimes I’d see it on the fence. But since about late February it visits our garden every single day and is in there most of the day, picking at our seeds or pulling up worms from the ground. As nesting season came in, I even caught it and some magpies pulling at our doormat for some material for their nests!
Even in the course of writing this blog post, I went over to my bedroom window to check on my strawberry seeds – as you do – and found him sat on top of the shelter over our front door, where I didn’t even know it sat.
When it sees me now, it tends to turn its head to look up at me, then stays where it is, whereas before it would just fly away all the time. I love him a little bit.
Our most frequent visitors are the robin, and Starlings, of which I recently found out a group of is called a murmuration. So yes, we get murmurations of Starlings.
However we really have had all sorts: blue tits, robins, starlings, wood pigeons, blackbirds, magpies, a wagtail, seagulls, and most recently Goldfinches, which I saw yesterday and had to pull out my book to identify. I’ve since realised by their song that they are living in a tree a garden over.
So yes, this has been a rather long post, hasn’t it? But on Earth Day I thought it would be nice to write about something we care a lot about. It’s been really fun in these past 6 months discovering more and more about nature, and I really would encourage people to do more of it. In the UK we are losing wildlife at a drastic rate due to urbanisation and controlled gardening, so it really does help to be feeding your local birds, or growing flowers which will sustain bees and butterflies, which are on the decline (these were the species which made me choose lavender). Even if you can’t do this at home, you can help by visiting local RSPB centres or nature reserves, and teaching your kids more about the world.
(Elliot and Emmie last month in the Forest of Dean)
I hope this post can help people to think a little bit more about what we can do to help our rapidly decaying planet, and hopefully allow you to enjoy doing so at the same time!