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!
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!)
More by accident than design, I've reached the middle of the summer having been able to tick off quite a few items from my mental 'skills bucket list.'
I suspect I stand alone with this, but I love learning new things, especially those that involve a practical application - a 'making' skill. It's a gift when someone takes time and energy from their life to introduce something new and amazing to yours, and I love that the things you make yourself are wrapped in so many memories and experiences.
I started with ceramics, with my lovely friend Carol, who is an incredibly talented and inspirational artist (who, thankfully for me, also has unlimited patience!) Carol ran a short course from a new pottery and workshop she's developing and we made small pinch pots, ceramic birds and modelled a head. Clay is definitely not my forte (and I'm awaiting my fired pots to see if I can salvage any level of pride!) but the opportunity to have a go under her guidance, and meet others who felt the same need to give it a try, was lovely. I also got to spend unexpected time with my nearly-adult son, which was a joy.
We are, as is the rest of the UK, in the grips of 'the Beast from the East,' which actually equates to around 8 inches of snow but complete shut down. The schools are closed, and my normal day of salad production was definitely off the cards, so instead we had an enforced day in. What a pity, eh?!
In the true spirit of Hygge, snow days should be specifically designated for all things cosy and all things making: I actually do think this should be The Law. They are a great opportunity to catch up on all those odd little projects that sit in quiet corners looking longingly for some attention, often for years at a time. This is one such project, and yesterday was the perfect excuse for experimental slipper making. And yes, that is a Thing.
I am a twitcher. There, I've said it. I love the birds in my garden like they were my own children (maybe a little less...) and spend the same amount of time gazing out of the window at their antics as most 'normal' people spend watching telly!
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.