I'm going to start straight off and state that I really don't think there is anything eco about holidaying. But I didn't half need a break!
I once read that you should build a life from which you don't need a holiday - sage advice - but not necessarily something that the majority can do. Whilst I probably feel less inclined than most to depart from normal life (as normal life for me is pretty enjoyable!) it is nice, once in a while, to leave the distractions behind and find a new corner to explore.
Flying is ruled out immediately - not just on account of the environmental impact, but also because there are too many of us to make it feasible! And although a foreign jaunt is appealing, we are lacking in passports and the means to make it happen comfortably. The weather has been so fine this year though, that actually staying on home turf is not a bad option!
The UK has plenty of unchartered territory for us, and with vaguely predictable weather, making an active choice to stay in the country was perfectly viable. The first choice, Mull, however was ruled out last minute due to rain and low temperatures, and instead we picked Norfolk, somewhere we had never ventured.
We managed to pick up a colony of bees a few weeks ago (literally pick up, in a box in the boot of the car!), which we've safely rehomed in an empty hive that had been kicking around the garden, wishfully thinking, for a couple of years.
We have no aspirations for honey this year - we will have done well to keep them alive through winter. (The colony is a swarmed one and only little. Bee colonies need to have enough bodies to collect food to store to keep them through the cold months and sadly I really don't think they're going to be able to do that). But honey or not, we wanted to inspect the hive and make sure things were going OK, especially after ferocious storms a week ago.
This week it has been all about the bees!
On Wednesday, I was lucky enough to meet a lovely group of novice beekeepers on a little 'Intro to Beekeeping' course at the Senior Connections project at the TS3 Community Church in east Middlesbrough. Teaching is one of my favourite things to do, but bees are so fascinating that it's an easy task and there's always a group of very willing students. After tasting eight different honeys (eucalyptus was the favourite!) we rattled through a huge quantity of new facts and figures with the aim of explaining a little of what happens in a hive and how a colony functions, as well as what sunstances the little ladies make that can prove useful and a viable alternative to some of the less natural products that often surround us.
We are in the grips of a catastrophe! With snow persisting, I gather from several more enlightened sources (ie. those who've found the energy to leave the warmth of the house and venture out) that our beloved supermarkets are feeling the strain of supplying fresh food and there are... EMPTY SHELVES!
I am taking part in a six session course in Biodynamic Gardening; this weekend was weekend one, with the others spread across the year until July.
If you're unfamiliar with Biodynamics (and I most definitely am!) then it's a holistic approach to gardening that accounts not just for the plant, but its whole environment, including influences such as the moon. Growing is quite strictly governed by principles that include the use of specific 'preparations' and certain activities at very definite points. I'm a scientist at heart, and whilst some of the ideas stretch my imagination, it's always nice to find new ways of doing things and expanding on what I know.
Every year, without exception, I promise myself I will start planting in good time, and every year I fail. (I also swear not to sow too many tomatoes, to label everything meticulously and to not plant out too closely - equally unsuccessful).
For the last week, planting broad beans has been on my daily list of things to do and at the eleventh hour, the close of the last day of the half term break and in the dark, I finally bit the bullet.
This time of year I find incredibly frustrating. When you're a food grower, which innately we all are (somewhere underneath), it's right about now that there is almost nothing that can be planted. January and February are not only too cold but there's too little light and the ground is usually frozen like stone, certainly too hard to push in seeds. Even if you catch the window of opportunity, there are desperate teams of birds and mice who will swoop in and demolish them the moment your back's turned!.
There are aspects of what I do that really aren't pretty, certainly not for the faint hearted! And some that require steely determination and inordinate amounts of optimism. This is one of those projects that I feel in my bones will work. World meet Gresham, Gresham meet world...
I absolutely love sharing skills and knowledge and I genuinely do think we don't do it enough. I'm not sure whether this is because a lot of people don't see what they know as valuable or special (it is), or whether it's because we don't want to appear big headed or superior. But here's the thing: if we really do want to build a society that uses its resources wisely, that is truly equal, that is self-reliant, then we have to share!
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.