For the most part, food growing in urban spaces means compromise - alterations for space, for capacity to care and for security. This summer, we've been doing a lot in the alleys - tiny shared spaces that sit at the rear of the back-to-back terraces that are typical of central Middlesbrough. At best, they are quiet, peaceful, beautiful and, useful for gardens, warm and sheltered. At worst they have challenges that have included flytipping, misuse of bins, vandalism and theft. But we're all about making things wonderful!
Having made the move as a family as far away as possible from single-use plastics ('SUP' as they are now referred to in the #ontrend nomenclature of the eco warrior), we are now bar soap users rather than shower gel-ers. (Incidentally, this met with some resistance initially from the teens, but over a bottle a week was reason enough to stand firm!)
Our soap use is also off-the-scale ridiculous however. I'd like to think this is a reflection of our cleanliness, but it's probably more to do with the muck of working outdoors, and having three footballers in the household.
I love the New Year - a fresh start and new adventures to plan! After the gluttony and excess of Christmas, it always feels so refreshing to clear out the old.
This year has started with a difference. I was lucky enough to be invited to attend a coppicing course with one of my favourite eco-heroes, Ben Law, accompanying volunteers from the very excellent Kindlewoods CIC, a project that manages woodland and delivers woodland wellbeing programmes for people experiencing mental health challenges. I love what Kindlewoods is about - it's one of the things I'm most grateful to be involved with and well worth a moment of investigation.
We arrived for our stay, at the Sustainability Centre, late at night - too late to see much at all - but we had a warm and comfortable bed and in the morning we were able to investigate a little more that it had to offer. The site is large and home to a variety of habitats and some beautiful timber buildings. Everything is geared towards showcasing environmental gains - our heating was provided by a biomass boiler, all the food provided was organic and Fairtrade and there were posters and information sheets displayed throughout. Short days meant less exploring that maybe we could, but it's on the revisit list!
I have a favourite pair of work trousers for the summer. They're light, quick to dry, mud coloured and above all of this, mysteriously only a size 8 and big! (This shouldn't be a consideration, but when you spend your life dressed in wellies with odds and sods of vegetation stuck in your hair, ingrained fingers and mucky fingernails, the positive affirmations of a clothes label that reminds you that at least you're holding the muffin tops at bay is generally a thing to be celebrated!)
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.
I have a thing about natural fibres. I can't even claim that this arose as a result of all the publicity relating to microfibres in the oceans; I've been fanatically checking the labels on clothing for as long as I remember.
Today is Earth Day! - an international day of climate activism which, this year, is themed around the pressing issue of plastic pollution.
So what an eye opener today has been!
Having a large household and feral children makes for monumental amounts of washing. I cut this to the bone because I hate it; it's my least favourite of all the household chores, with the exception of changing king size duvet covers...
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.