We are currently gripped by very cold temperatures and a few inches of snow. Nothing major or unlikely for the time of year but the cause of both much excitement and simultaneously much dismay in our little household.
I walk to work (well, one of my current places of work) and on days like today, it's something for which I'm very grateful.
My mittens were safely housed in the car overnight. Very safely it transpires, as with much tugging of locks I was unable to open any of the doors - all frozen shut! I ended up wearing three mismatched gloves...
And several thousand layers of clothing. Walking, even in very cold temperatures, is perfectly fine IF you are adequately clothed. For me this meant two pairs of thermal socks, thermal boots, legwarmers, five layers plus a jumper and a coat, scarf and hat. Others maybe more tolerant: I do not like being cold!
But it has huge advantages too. Whilst all around people were wrestling with deicer and scrapers, car engines were left noisily running and churning out noxious fumes, I simply stepped out of my front door, no fuss and no effort. I walked past nose to tail jams and I knew exactly how long my journey would be - bang on 38 minutes as normal. No stress, no frustration and perfectly timed.
Walking keeps me finely tuned, physically and mentally. When I don't walk, I feel like my day's missed something. I feel boxed in, cabin fever. And I love that I have no impact on the world around me. It's just me, under my own steam.
But above all, it's what I see and hear. The small patch of winter purslane by the cycle path end, the elderly couple with the Labrador who always say hello, the big holly bush that entices me with promises of festive decoration, a catch up with a good friend, the sound of my boots being the first to tread in the snow, the light of the sunrise hitting the cedars...
Car commute? I really don't think so!
It's all about the plastic nowadays. For some reason (because it's been on the telly?) the world seems suddenly gripped by the idea that plastic is The Worst Thing Ever. And to be honest, it's not far off. I've been concerned about our excessive use, and disregard for its disposal, for years, so I am enjoying this sudden realisation by the masses. Of course it is terrifying still, but maybe we're turning a corner...
Plastic has its place (medical applications for example) but we should treat it more preciously than gold. Almost all plastic is derived from fossil fuels and so is a finite resource, so we should be mindful that what we take for granted will become hideously expensive and possible extinct within our lifetimes. Surely we should be saving it now 'for best?'
Going plastic free (the current 'eco trend') is really, really hard. Try it! It's almost impossible to avoid. But don't let this put you off; there are simple switches and in the words of the supermarket, "every little helps!"
Here are two easy peasy examples: ketchup and tea. I don't know many family households that avoid the red stuff. I know it's high in sugar, but my kids will eat anything with ketchup - entire cauliflower heads, for example. And for that, I forgive it its sins. But try buying a glass bottle of the stuff! If you find one in the array on the shelves, then I applaud you. And you'll quickly see it's way more expensive than the plastic bottles. But it recycles more easily, and if you're handy then the bottles are perfect for home made relishes and liquers after.
And tea. Almost all tea bags have plastic in them (tweet them and ask them if you want to check). We drink gallons of the stuff and switched to loose leaf some years ago. No fancy equipment needed: a tea pot (cheap in charity shops) and that's it. We use a tablespoon in the pot or a teaspoon in a cup. Pour on boiling water and the leaves sink to the bottom. The dregs are sieved and go into the compost bin, an added bonus. (Incidentally if you're a compost obsessive like me, you'll now know the reason the bags get left behind!)
Next problem: compulsive glass jar collecting!
We had a run of snow recently - a stark reminder that we are very definitely in winter!
It's tricky to satisfy the urge to grow food when the temperatures drop, but it's still possible and certainly there are preparations for the coming season that can be made.
This bed required a little TLC. I've been pulling out tenacious nettle roots, docks and dandelions, which is all the more satisfying knowing that the cold will keep them at bay for a while yet! I don't dig if I can avoid it, partly because it wrecks the structure of the soil but also because it's too much like hard work! It's really not necessary and I like an easy life. But a hand fork to loosen the roots from the top few inches is fine.
The surface I covered with a thin layer of compost. It'll provide a feed for the soil and give next year's seeds a head start and increase the crop yields. The worms will do the hard work of incorporating it into the bed; no effort by me required!
And over all of this, there is a double layer of membrane. I don't like using plastic as much as I can avoid it, but I've not really found an alternative for this. The dark colour prevents weeds from growing back, locks in moisture and when the sun eventually comes back out to play, it'll absorb its heat and warm the soil quickly. Flattened, used compost bags will do the trick over small areas too. This membrane will be reused several seasons though.
And to plant in the bare spaces? Garlic! Three rows of shop-bought cloves, pushed around an inch under the soil, pointed tip up, and covered over. The cold of winter will cause the developing bulb to split and by late spring, they should be ready to harvest. These ones will head to a school kitchen, around 20m from plot to table. As local, as low carbon as can be!
Treading Lightly is simple living, within your means and the means of the planet, and making a minimal impact on the Earth. Find out more here about Catherine, of Barefoot Solutions, does this from day to day.