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!
You will know, I'm sure, that I have a minor obsession with yarn-based crafts. It started at an early age...
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!)
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.
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.