Embrace the Now

ApplesThe seasons are changing, but I’m not ready to let the late summer give way to autumn just yet. In the garden, the pinks, purples and yellows of mid summer are slowly giving way to jewel bright reds and blacks as the trees become laden with berries. There are huge rosehips and the rowan trees are covered with red berries. The apple tree is heavy with fruit, it looks like we’ll get our best crop ever. The hazel trees are full of nuts, which means the squirrels are gathering. But it’s not autumn yet (despite what “Instagram” is saying, the changing colours, bronzing of the leaves, copper tones in the bracken are normal for this time of year). They reveal the promise of autumn’s bounty, and yet we still have summer skies, warm afternoons and plenty of sunshine to enjoy. Late summer offers so much, the opportunity to spend time with friends, and with the kids before they go back to school. Some of my clearest summer memories are of late summer blackberry forays, climbing trees still in full leaf and discovering that elder berries are bitter and best eaten cooked, not straight from the tree!

elderberries.jpg

I think we’re prone to forgetting that late summer offers us so much. I have ripe, red raspberries. The elder berries aren’t ripe yet, but the deep red stems are so beautiful and I love to admire the light as it filters through. In a few weeks the starlings and blackbirds will strip them in a matter of days  if I don’t get there first.

Before we rush headlong into autumn (which, if I’m honest)  is my favourite season), let’s just slow down and admire the now. There’s plenty of time to gather together all those autumn recipes for pickles, gins and cordials. Sit in the garden and enjoy the late afternoon sun if you can. Pick the late summer vegetables and last of the soft fruits. Take a moment to reflect on how beautiful this time of year can be, forget the rainy days that caused a change in summer plans. Go for a walk in the woods, on the beach or your local park. The blue skies are out there if you take the time to look!

20160108_111614

Embrace the prospect of autumn, but don’t forget to enjoy the now. Why not start by making a simple fruit cordial? I shared my recipe for redcurrant cordial way back in 2011 and I’m still using the same recipe today. You can swap the redcurrants for any summer fruit (or even a combination), my favourite this year has been rhubarb and raspberry.  If those rainy days threaten to spoil your outdoor fun, making a batch of cordial is a terrific way to bring some summer into your life – you can even use a bag of frozen berries – call it domestic foraging!

 

 

 

A Small Win for Zero Waste Beauty

I’ve been huge fan of Aveda for years*. Make up is sold in refillable compacts, ingredients are not tested on animals and best of all, if you order by post the packaging is plastic free (no sign of that pesky plastic tape I complained about in a previous post about our attempts to live plastic free). The Aveda packaging pictured above can all be reused. The box will most likely be used to send a commission design to a client, the shredded cardboard will go in the compost . Worms love cardboard, and at this time of year it’s a useful addition to mix with the huge amount of greenery and grass that is accumulating. Aveda’s plastic containers are made of at least 85% post consumer waste plastic and the empties can be recycled or taken back to the store . They have also pioneered the use of bio plastics and plant based packaging.

Used with  my crochet washable cleanser pads or washable face cloths this makes my beauty routine pretty close to zero waste.washable make up remover pads.jpgFor me, zero waste isn’t about recycling more, it’s about buying less in the first place and making sure the companies I buy from have considered the life cycle of their raw materials. It’s not enough to just print “recyclable where facilities  are available” on the side of a bottle. I want to buy from companies that use materials that  can be used again and again. Even better if they can be refilled and reused.  I’d be so much happier if we went back to the “old days” when you could take your empties back to the Body Shop.  (The Body Shop stopped offering refills in 2002, according to the Independent, because only 1% of consumers used the service). In the UK, very few shops offer a refill service, but I have a feeling this is going to change as the demand for plastic free packaging hots up.

Of course, making your own beauty products is the “holy grail” of zero waste, but  I’m not really enthused by the idea of home made soap, toothpaste and deodorant. For now, I’m calling this plastic free parcel from Aveda  a win in my goal for a less cluttered, uncomplicated life.

  • This post is not sponsored. All products  were bought, not provide free of charge in return for review or mentions on social media

 

Save

Slow Down, You Move Too Fast (Got to Make the Moment Last).

20160325_134452OK, so that’s paraphrasing Paul Simon, but I find myself singing this hippy, trippy song on my daily walks. It makes me smile as I wander.

I don’t wear headphones when I walk. I think I would miss the sounds of nature, the blackbird singing her heart out in the trees, the laughter of kids in the forest school, even the whoops from Go Ape when I get closer to Delamere Forest car park.

I know that walking, commuting or doing chores are prime candidates for multitasking. For listening to podcasts, audiobooks or a random playlist. But I just don’t enjoy noise when I walk (or when I write / design / proof read). My brain only seems to be able to do one thing at a time. I can’t read and listen to music; I can’t walk and listen to podcasts. I can breathe fresh air and notice the world around me.

In search of slow, I wander in the woods or step out of the garden gate into the fields. I take time to look around and to listen. I mull over the tasks ahead, I dwell (too much) on yesterday’s failings or problems I can’t solve. I might meet a neighbour, also out walking; often they’ll remove one ear bud and try to hold a conversation whilst their playlist continues. A tinny background noise as we exchange village gossip (garden produce successes, a new neighbour or another house for sale).  I want to shout “Unplug yourself”!

But, shutting ourselves out from the world has become the norm. I am the odd one out on the train because I’m not constantly scrolling through my smart phone or wearing headphones. I used to worry about this. Friends told me I was leaving myself exposed, that random strangers would “bother” me, that I would feel safer and more cocooned if I took refuge in my electronic devices.

I love those random conversations; if I am occasionally “bothered” by the person next to me I move seats. More often I discover fascinating stories, a man fresh out of prison on his way to visit the son he hasn’t seen in 15 years; the grandmother off to meet her first grandchild (yes, lots of photos, plenty of proud smiles); the teenager visiting a favoured university for an open day who has never been on a train (“Mum drives us everywhere”). We once took a train trip around Europe; we met friendly, interesting people on our travels. In cafes they would recommend their favourite flavour of ice cream or tell us where to eat dinner (In Italy a waiter at our hotel told us to eat at his brother’s restaurant “I grow the wine he sells, it’s my hobby”. It was the most delicious Montepulciano I’ve ever tasted).

On my walks I learn to recognise the call of birds, to hear the wind as it rushes through leaves in autumn, I hear the crunchy frost under my feet in winter. These are my mindful moments. I don’t need a 10 minute podcast to show me how to slow down, empty my mind and let go of those anxieties that cloud my judgement, The sights and sounds of nature are all I need.

Do one thing at a time, do it well. It sounds fine in theory, but it’s so tempting to rush through the “to do” list, to move on to the next chore. My working life is governed by deadlines, sometimes I need to work late, long hours or weekends. It’s not healthy and not always productive, but necessary. Finding ways to slow down, to relish the small moments of joy keeps me balanced. If your balance is an audio book on the daily commute, then that’s fine. I’m not suggesting everyone should unplug all of the time. Maybe some of the time? Use your time in ways that are productive and satisfying, ask yourself what strategies work for you. Find your own slow.

You and me, we’re different people. There’s no right, no wrong journey the slow life. Just a gradual shift to happiness and contended living.

I tread my own path. And I’m feelin’ groovy!

Intention, Not Perfection

Well, first news is  we’re “normal”.

annie-spratt-89768

I’ll qualify that. I’ve been struggling with how to describe our lifestyle to others, and eventually I’ve realised the obvious. We’re normal. Our lifestyle is normal for us. And, just as in every other aspect of our lives, everyone has a different idea of what that means. We constantly compare ourselves to others, which can be quite unhealthy and unhelpful. Whether its jobs, homes, holidays or the behaviour of our little ones, it seems we can always find a way to shame others or feel bad about ourselves. But I’m not into shaming, I don’t buy into the idea that my life is “better ” or worse than anyone else and that means I’m giving myself  (and you)  permission to stop the guilt and the anxiety.

I’ve been fretting about all that plastic in my waste bins (the recyclable and the non-recyclable). I feel really guilty that I’m deliberately buying stuff that will never go “away”. It’s become something of an obsession. I can’t stop myself reading and googling about the truth behind plastic’s short term convenience over long term harm to people and the planet. Someone recommended I read Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson; she wrote a blog and now promotes her book and her lifestyle all over the world. It’s a great read, plenty of food for thought and her commitment to not bringing potential waste into her home and a refusal to throw stuff “away” is admirable. I’ve also been recommended that we go “plastic free” or “waste free”, in fact any number of lifestyle choices have been presented to me which involved, refusing, giving up and going without.

But is it achievable for me and the Mr? I don’t think so. The whole concept, of “giving up” and going without just doesn’t sit comfortably with me. I’m not a “giving up” kind of person. As a Catholic child I rebelled against Lent, choosing positive actions over weeks of self-denial. I could never give up chocolate, but I would promise to make my bed every day instead. Bea Johnson’s approach is to rethink those 3R’s we’re so familiar with (reduce, reuse recycle) and instead she advocates a 5 R’s approach. The first of which is “Refuse”.  She says we should all learn to say “No thanks”, more often. I take her point, but I prefer to reduce. Choosing to take a cotton tote bag shopping, using a washable cup for take away coffee and carrying my own water bottle I’m already choosing to refuse disposables. I think my approach is more positive. It allows for the inevitable “blips”, those trips when you just aren’t prepared. I also think that the concept of refusing is quite negative. At one point Bea Johnson talks about asking her boys to refuse candy when out trick or treating so they don’t bring waste into the house. That’s a big ask for a small boy – I’m not sure Mr T would give up his packets of crisps and chocolate bars so easily! I’m uneasy with the idea of any philosophy that invites failure. That’s why diets don’t work for me. I beat myself up every time I “fail”.

Mr T and I live an intentionally simple life, but we certainly have acquired a lot of stuff we don’t need.  I was mulling over this concept of reducing versus refusing when I opened the drawer of my dressing table. The one where I keep my beauty essentials along with all those freebies and samples that seems to accumulate almost without thought.  I like to think I buy natural beauty products, avoiding products that have been tested on animal, but  I’m wary of  companies that boast about their eco credentials. You’d think those claims would mean the packaging was easier to dispose of or recycle. However, even the organic hair serum I paid an arm and a leg for turns out to be packaged in a non-recyclable pump dispenser (and annoyingly, I can’t see how it can easily be taken apart when I get near the bottom. So unless I attack the packaging with a bread knife I’ll lose the last inch of product). And what about all those tiny sample pots and single use sachets? It always feels great to snag a freebie at the makeup counter or to be given a free sample. But my dressing table drawer is full of unopened tubes and sachets I’ll never use. Those trial sizes that come free on magazine covers or with a full size purchase always seem so exciting, but judging by my dressing table, they soon lose their appeal.  In an effort to make my morning and evening routines less complicated I’m going to think more carefully before I accept those freebies in the future. Not just because their plastic packaging can’t be recycled and won’t break down in landfill, but because accumulating stuff for the sake of it is making me uneasy. I intend to bring less free samples into the house, but I’m not going to beat myself up when the occasional trial size finds its way into my home.

I used to make my own hand salve and lip balm, and so I’m going to find that recipe and start making my own again (I have lots of tiny pots and containers thanks to all those beauty freebies). That will stop the flow of empty hand cream tubes and lip salve tubs that fill my bedroom waste basket. It’s going to be hard to stop myself asking for “nice hand cream” at Christmas – but if I intend to make more and buy less, then I won’t need any – and less trips to the beauty counter means less opportunity to dither over a free sample!

Over the next few weeks I’m going to be asking myself some hard questions and searching for answers as I figure out how I can simplify my life and lift this feeling of unease that’s affecting me so much right now.  So, if you’ve got an eco-worry; a recycling dilemma or just want to know more about living with less; just ask. I can’t promise to know the answer, but we can find out together and help each other.

I’m not going to admonish myself when my Lupus means accepting a supermarket delivery filled with fruit and veg in non-recyclable packaging. But’ I intend to plan and prepare better so those emergency deliveries aren’t needed as often by stocking my freezer. Life is about intention, not perfection.

Photo credit: Annie Spratt for Unsplash

Save

Save

Saying Yes, Not Saying No

Thanks to everyone who took the time to read and get in touch after my last post – blimey what a confused lot we are! Thanks also to the kind friend who reminded me that we can never please all of the people all of the times – and that no-one can do everything. The task of living a “good life” becomes overwhelming. It’s much easier to break down our intentions into steps (big and small) and recognise successes and failures as part of the journey. I was also reminded of the short  film The Story of Stuff, which was released ten  years ago If you haven’t seen or heard of this, do go and check out the website or listen to the Story of Stuff Podcast.

And special thanks to the person who reminded me of my own advice: When you want to encourage people to change their behaviour tell them what they can do, not what they shouldn’t do. So, heeding my own advice, here’s what we’re saying “yes” to.

We’re saying yes to:

Re-usables

I’ m digging out my crochet cotton make up remover pads (that means saying no to future purchases of disposable cotton wool). You’ll be able to find the free pattern over on my knitting and crochet website later this week.  I’ll remember to take my Sigg water bottle out with me to avoid any temptations to buy bottles when I’m thirsty. I’m keeping up with the habit of carrying a cotton tote in my handbag (no accidental plastic bag purchases). We’ll continue to drink fresh coffee made using our cafetiere and compost the coffee. When a single use option is the only option, we’ll say no, or find a way to repurpose the packaging. We’re already well down this path, but we can definitely do “better”.

Meat and Dairy:

Yes, I know all about industrial meat production, factory farming and food waste. I’ll keep buying free range meat from the local farm shop, eggs from a friend and cow’s milk from the self serve machine at our local farm. This is the issue which seems to create the most conflict among groups and individuals trying to promote a greener or more ethical life. I don’t want to argue about the merits for and against (I was vegan, I worked for an anti vivisection charity, I am at peace with my choices). We’ll continue to eat plenty of fish and vegan dishes (they’re already a part of our weekly meal plans) and I’ll make sure to bulk  buy and freeze so we don’t waste anything and reduce the overall amount of packaging that comes into our home.

Buy more glass:

When I do buy something in a container I’m choosing glass first. All the research I’ve done (and my own gut instinct) leads me to believe that plastic is just scary. It leaches chemicals, it’s hard to recycle, it pollutes the ocean (I don’t want to lecture – make up your own mind, but we’re definitely heading towards a life with less plastic). Mr T drinks goat’s milk and so I’m choosing tetra pak over plastic, because so far what I’ve read makes me believe that’s slightly “better”. But I’m learning as I go. If I can source a local supplier of goat’s milk direct from the farm, that will be even better! Ultimately I’d like to see our whole packaging mountain reduce, but small steps…

Growing our own and shopping local:

I love to grow my own food, watching seedlings grow is so exciting. Every time I walk into the garden I am thrilled that it won’t be long before we’re putting home grown food on the table every day.  I like to know where my food comes from, trips to the local farm shop and markets are great places to meet the people who feed us and to ask question about the origin of what we’re buying.

Faitrade:

We’ve always bought Fairtrade tea, coffee and chocolate. Over the years it’s become easier to buy a whole range of Fairtrade foods and fashion. I like that Fairtrade principles pay attention to the environment and to the people employed. It feels good to me that people and planet matter to the organisations that run and support Fairtrade.

So there you are, five easy wins towards reducing my eco guilt. Your choices might be different, that’s fine. The small stuff adds up to big stuff.  Slowly, very slowly I’m hoping we’ll see a reduction in the stuff we throw away (that’s my biggest indicator) and that will mean less stuff bought. We’re also going to be more mindful about what we do buy, and how we dispose of it.

I’ve been reading blogs and books (on my kindle) about people who have adopted plastic free, or zero waste lives. I can’t help being inspired, but I know that this lifestyle isn’t an option for us (at least not yet). It would just be too hard, too overwhelming and I know that my Lupus affects my choices and my lifestyle whether I like it or not. I’m learning that my “Greenish” life is a journey, not a destination and I’m grateful to have you all along for the ride!

Save

Save

Save

Green (ish)

2013-11-03 10.24.21Labels are tricky. Over the years I’ve struggled with how to define my lifestyle. Is it slow? Mindful? Intentional (more of that another day). Or am I green, low carbon, eco friendly or ethical? The problem is, however I define myself, someone else will have a different set of values. I’ve been told my lifestyle isn’t “ethical” because I eat meat and “green” still carries all sorts of baggage. Whenever I find a way to describe how we live, someone else will find fault or gleefully pick up on my failings.

So, I’ve tended to stick to “Greenish” if people ask. The fact is, I just think of our lifestyle as “normal”. Well, it’s normal for us. Trying to avoid waste, thinking about our shopping habits and trying to buy clothes made of natural fibres in factories that value their workers all sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

My neighbour recently “went vegan”, she’s on a mission to convert us all to a plant based lifestyle. Yesterday, she drove a 10 mile round trip to buy  a tetra pak of soya milk (she’d run out and “can’t” drink her coffee black). I thought about our own purchasing habits. When I run out of milk, I can walk to the local farm, buy milk in a reusable glass bottle from the vending machine and be home again in under half an hour. I struggle with the idea of getting in the car and driving so far to buy one thing. The packaging has to be recycled, the ingredients in her milk were part of the mechanisation of food production that I’m trying to avoid. But, she’s happy. Her choice didn’t harm an animal, that’s her bottom line.

So, how do we stay friends? Our ethical, moral and  lifestyle choices seem to be at odds. I buy organic, Fairtrade and local. She buys vegan ready meals, wears plastic shoes and acrylic jumpers from Primark. She eats an awful lot of imported fruit and veg. Air miles, carbon footprint and the issues of recycling aren’t on the list of things she worries about. She has made her choices and she’s happy with her decisions.  I’m happy(ish)  with mine.

Does it matter that someone else has a different set of values and priorities? Just because someone has a different idea of “a good life”, does that make it OK to criticise and condemn? I find myself mulling this over a lot at the moment. I would dearly love to reduce the amount we recycle. I really struggle with the concept that an overflowing recycling bin is a badge of honour – I’d much rather we just didn’t buy so much stuff in the first place. I worry about how many clothes we own and fantasise about building a capsule wardrobe, filled with eco friendly cotton, linen and wool. Yet most of my clothes come from charity shops and surely that has merit in a greenish life?

I struggle to know what’s best. I have a penchant for sparkling water. Is it better to buy in huge plastic bottles, smaller glass ones or invest in a soda stream and make my own?  My instinct tells me glass recycling is “better” than plastic, but I don’t know enough to be sure. A soda stream is made of hard plastic, needs refills of gas cyclinders and would involve a trip into town when I need a new one. I am confused.

If I’m confused, with my background in environmental education, community organising and low carbon consultancy what hope does anyone else have? For the time being I’ve settled on buying glass bottles and trying to reduce my overall consumption (on the basis that glass can be recycled over again, while plastic is much harder to process and recycled plastic has a limited market). If I’m wrong on that, please let me know where I can find out for sure.

I’ve come to the conclusion we can spend too much time worrying about “doing the right thing”, and that even in this internet age, getting accurate and useful information is a tricky business. I’m reaching the conclusion that simply buying less “stuff” might be the answer for us. I’ve also come to terms with the fact that buying single use  or “disposable” products makes me uneasy. Over the next few months I’m hoping to share my journey to less stuff. I’ll be looking at ways to reduce the amount of packaging that comes into our house, reducing our plastic addiction and finding solutions to all those “disposable” products that make our lives “simpler”.

If you’re struggling with the same dilemmas, or have solutions to these “eco worries”, do let me know. Perhaps this is a journey we can take together?

Five Veg Every Gardener Can Grow

20150519_102250It’s been a week of plots, plans, lists and hands deep in compost at every opportunity. Finally it’s time to start filling the windowsills with pots and seed trays. It’s a time of optimism and hope. I sprinkle seeds on warm earth, knowing that so long as I give them a little water and a little warmth tiny seedlings will appear like magic to fill me with joy and a sense of achievement.

Without fail, other gardeners will ask what I’m growing this year, not because they are interested in my plans, but it’s a chance for them to share and show off their own plans and perhaps, just maybe indulge in a bit of gardener’s one up manship. Oh yes ,were all guilty of that!

Growing fruit and veg is so easy, even when I didn’t have a garden I grew tomatoes and chillies on a sunny window ledge, pots of herbs on the doorstep and even a hanging basket by the front door of our flat filled with tumbling tomatoes. All you need is a bit of confidence, some spare cash to spend on seeds and compost and a little (or a lot) of patience. Borrow a couple of gardening books from your local library or check out some gardening blogs for ideas and inspiration. My favourite writers are Monty Don, Bob Flowerdwew and James Wong.

If you’re new to gardening, here’s my top five veg that everyone can grow without a greenhouse. If you have access to a sunny windowsill, you can start seeds off on there. Or, buy small plants online or from a garden centre. But,  for me so much of the joy comes from watching seeds germinate and flourish. It makes me feel incredibly clever!

Of course, along side these suggestions you should try and find room for a few herbs. A pot of basil on the window ledge or a small chilli plant will serve you well and are pretty reliable for beginners.

Onions

Cooks go through copious amounts of onions, and for me they are a kitchen garden essential. Choose your varieties carefully and you can have onions all year round. They’re easy to grow, relatively free of pests and the winter varieties especially, cope with a bit of neglect.

Tomatoes

These will do best if you grow them from seed on a sunny window ledge, but if that’s not possible, buy small established plants from a local garden centre (try to find one that raises their own plants from seed, they will probably be stronger and healthier). Choose tiny plum or cherry tomatoes to pluck from the plant, or big beefsteaks. There are hundreds of varieties to choose from.

Kale

While all the focus right now is on summer veg, start making plans for winter. Kale is easy to get established and will see you through the winter. I love kale raw, or  tossed in olive oil and roasted it’s delicious. Be warned, unless you want to feed your kale to the caterpillars, net it early or you’ll be left with shredded, good for nothing stalks that will make you weep in frustration (ask me how I know this).

Salads leaves

With a bit of planning you can grow fresh salads all year round. In fact, my autumn and winter lettuce do much better than summer ones, which just wilt in the heat or run to seed when I’m on holiday. You can buy packets of mixed seed. Just sprinkle a little in pots or straight on the soil every couple of weeks for regular crops.

Peas

I think almost everyone has a childhood memory of eating peas out of the pod. I grow mange tout, purple flowered ones that we steam. These are another crop that you can grow over a long season. By starting early and planting little and often you can have peas from June to late September if the weather is kind.  Mr T would sulk if there were no peas to pick as he wandered around the garden in the summer, we are like children as we sit in the sunshine with a handful of peas, shelling them from their pods.

Of course, these are just suggestions. Ask your neighbours what grows well for them, beg seeds from gardening friends and take all the advice you’re offered. You don’t have to follow it, making mistakes, experiencing crop failures and slug damage are all part of the learning process.

Now, if I haven’t put you off completely get out and grow!

Here’s a few of my favourite seed suppliers, gardening websites and sources of information.

Kings seeds

The Organic Gardening Catalogue

BBC Gardeners World Magazine

BBC Two Gardener’s World

Grow Your Own (magazine)

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Cherish the Simple Things

2013-11-03 10.24.21Sometimes, you just have to stop, pause for breath and breathe in some fresh air.

This weekend Mr T and I found ourselves with “nothing to do”, by which I mean no work commitments, no family outings, no plans made of any kind. We woke up on Saturday to glorious sunshine and over coffee and breakfast agreed to head out for a walk.

We pulled on our boots, and as we live so close to Delamere Forest that seemed like the obvious destination. We walked, we admired the brave “Hell Runners”, caked in mud. We dodged bikes, toddlers and friendly dogs.

We cam home refreshed, a pocket full of the last sweet chestnuts of the season and a determination to get out and “do nothing” more often.

An afternoon of gardening followed, we lit a fire and drank mugs of tea until it was dark enough to light some fireworks we had lurking in the back of the shed. We lit sparklers and watched the stars.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that it’s not “things” that make us truly happy, but “simple things”, like love, friendship and time spent together.

Save

How British is British Wool?

When I stopped working full time I wrote on my blog that from now on I was “most likely to be found growing veg on my allotment or knitting with British Wool”. I’m proud that I support British and Independent yarn producers, spinners and dyers, but just lately it seems to have got harder, not easier to find wool that is truly British (by which I mean, reared, spun and dyed here in the UK).  Most knitters think the Woolmark is a good indication that they’re buying British, but take a closer look at the label.

In the past week, three knitters have asked me to suggest British Wool suitable for knitting cushions for the Woolsack Project, which aims to send every Paralympian and Olympian competitor home with a hand knitted cushion afer the Olympics in September. I wondered, is a wool carrying the British Wool Trademark good enough to qualify and what about wools that don’t carry the label?

In order  to use the British Wool trademarks a wool product only has to be “at least 50% British”. Yes, that’s right. Up to 50% of the wool in your “British Wool” may have come from abroad or contain non wool fibres. I did discover a new label was launched in 2010 – the Wool Platinum mark for 100% British Wool, but I’ve yet to see it on a ball of wool, at the moment it seems to apply only to wool products. Conversely, just because a wool doesn’t carry the label doesn’t mean it comes from outside the UK. Confused? I was. I’m sure I’m not the only knitter who doesn’t really understand who or what the Wool Mark is for.

I started looking through my stash, seeking out wool I know or think is British.I found some real gems in there (the beauty of stash diving – it reminds you exactly what you have – and what you need to stock up on). I found half a ball of a beautiful British Mohair from Yorkshire. White Rose Mohair is reared in Yorkshire, processed in Bradford and sold as a standard DK weight. I can vouch for the softness and lovely stitch definition, it’s also great value at less than £4.00 per 50g ball (100m).

I also found a few left overs of Troon Tweed, a gorgeous oiled Aran  from Scotland, which I used to make my felted crochet bag and several pairs of Duffers. It’s a great yarn, definitely up there with the best “value” ranges and a proper “workhorse” yarn ideal for jumpers, felting or for tea cosies. There was also a ball of Debbie Bliss Donegal Luxury Tweed Aran (not strictly British as it’s spun in Ireland, but that’s close enough for me!)

I also found some gorgeous Natural Dye Studio yarn  (Dazzle, Blue Faced Leicester) carrying the British Wool Trademark, a hank of Erika Knight’s gorgeous Maxi Wool, a new range which is 100% British Wool,  spun in Yorkshire by Laxtons. There is a great DK weight in the range too and the colours are lovely. Of course there’s plenty of Rowan’s Fine Tweed in this house too, bought for the Dales Blanket. Again, 100% British Wool, processed and packaged  here in the UK.

Now, it’s not just the “big names” who are selling 100% British Wool, you can also shop local and independent buying direct from yarn producers. A few of my favourites are listed below, do click on the links and take a look at some of the yarns on offer.

I’m also  looking forward to getting my hands on some British linen soon. You didn’t know flax grew in the UK? Neither did I, but it turns out to right on my door step, growing in North Manchester as part of a community project called Sow Sew. That really will bring down my “yarn miles”!

In future I won’t just be looking for the British Wool Trademarks, I’ll be thinking about the environmental impact of my wool. Where was my wool grown, combed, scoured and spun, dyed and packaged.(You’d be amazed how much British Wool finds its way to Europe to be processed and transported back to be sold here). And, just because an independent supplier isn’t using the Woolmark label I won’t assume their wool isn’t British.

Finally, if you’re interest in the journey from sheep to skein, you might like to read this blog post by Kate Davies.

Independent Spinners and Dyers and Retailers Using British Yarns:

Blacker Yarns

New Lanark

Little Houndales

June Onigbanjo

Wensleydale Long Wool Sheep Shop

Texere yarns

Laxtons

Oh – and  don’t forget the British Sheep Breed Societies -the Jacob Sheep Society is just one of many that has been very helpful to me in sourcing British Wool.

If you have time  take a look at Wovember’s Hall of Shame for wool products that aren’t wool at all :(

Save

Glamping Todhunter Style

Highlights of our week at Graig Wen

The first camping trip Mr T and I ever took together was wild camping along the Gower Peninsula in Wales. It still ranks up there in the top 10 “best holidays ever”. (Since you ask, the others would include: kayaking in New England, island hopping in the Scillies, snowboarding in Aviemore – the year we got “real” snow-  and the grand tour we took around Europe a couple of years back.

White Memorial Conservation Centre, Connecticut. August 2010

As you can see, we’re not really the sitting by the pool with a book kind of holiday maker). It’s 25 years since that first wild camping trip and these days I prefer a little more home comfort – running water and a loo makes me a much happier camper. But I do like to “Get away from it all” and insist that tea is cooked on a real fire.

This year we planned to take the Teen and her friends to our favourite camp site not far from Barmouth, only to discover it was fully booked and no amount of pleading could persuade the owners to squeeze us in.  I set about googling for an alternative and by chance came across Graig Wen. I’m so glad we did. We have just got back from a blissful 3 days and although I’m always reluctant to share our most favourite places, for risk of having them spoilt, I doubt very much that will happen at Graig Wen.

For one thing the compost toilet might put some of you off – and the 600m walk to the showers – note the “up hill” is a bit of a treck. But, they also offer self catering, rather fab looking B+B and hard standing with electric hook ups for the less hardy among you! Above all, from a camper’s point of view, the pitches are well spaced out and the tentipi we rented was tucked away in a clearing, we couldn’t even see another tent.

The tentipi comes equipped with an outdoor kitchen inc. gas cooker

The tentipi was a moment of genius on my part, why pack a huge tent into the car when we have 3 teenagers and their various belonging, when for a few extra quid a night we could arrive to find all kinds of luxury waiting for us? Put like that, Mr T could hardly refuse and so with much teasing and accusations of “glamping” we set off.

Within minutes of throwing their rucksacks in the tipi, declaring it “cool” and choosing which of the 4 camp beds and snuggly blankets were theirs for the night the three teens  set off to explore and for the rest of our stay we hardly saw them, except for meal times.

Breakfast Graig Wen style

Pork chops cooked over the fire grate

The Graig Wen shop sells essentials, including marshmallows!

Mr T and I pitched our tiny tent and popped the kettle on. We ordered a bag of wood (Ash, felled at Graig Wen), which was delivered right to our door – luxury indeed – we normally have to forage for drift wood before we can eat!

Drunk on the peaceful atmosphere, the friendly staff and chocolate available 24/7 from the “honesty shop”, I must have had a moment of madness as I suggested to Mr T that we hire bikes and ride along the Mawddach trail to our favourite pub. The bikes just happened to be single speed “Cruisers” and with a little adjustment the lady’s version suited me very well. In fact, if you saw a dumpy middle aged woman cycling from Barmouth to Dolgelleau with a huge grin on her face last weekend that was probably me! At this point my biking friends will fall off their chairs, so I’ll say this quietly single speeds are great fun and my saddle was really comfy … I might even be tempted to buy one … one day!

Graig Wen cruisers come equipped with bike locks and puncture repair kits!

After four days of walking, cycling, cooking tea on the fire and knitting (of course I took my knitting!) it was time to come home. We were all sorry to leave and I’m pretty sure we’ll be back. Not in the tipi next time, but “real camping”  and no doubt another ride on those fab bikes!


However you’ve been spending the summer, I hope it’s been fun.

Tx

  • Follow Me

  • I’m Tracey Todhunter. I’m a freelance writer. specialising in green / ethical living – with a “sideline” in craft!

  • Follow Baking and Making on WordPress.com
  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • The sky is full of starlings today. Hungry blackbirds this morning!
#badbirdwatcher #girlgardener #gardenbirds #gardenorganic #twitcher #blackbird #nothingisordinary #naturelovers Classroom window view. I spent today at the Boat Museum, Ellesmere Port.  learning to use my digital camera - thanks Eve & Carol from @going_digital for getting me off auto!
#goingdigital #allthegearnoidea #ihavethisthingwithwindows #ellesmereport #slowliving Remembering our family outing to Beeston Castle last week and how it only seems like yesterday that  my heart would beat faster when my little girl (now in her 20's) would run full pelt over that bridge & down into the woods! Just dropped ff some advent garlands for @ditzyrosemakes , swipe for more examples of new stock. For crocheters, I'll be sharing the patterns on www,grannycoolcrochet.com over the next few weeks.
#crochet #igcrochet #haken #crochetgirlgang
#lovecrochet #crochetersofinstagram #makingchristmas  #amakerschristmas #haaktechniekenbijbel #amigurumi #adventcalendars Today's walk was mostly sheltering under the trees and dodging raindrops! I know the tv adverts are hurtling towards a Christmas shopping extraveganza, but  for me, this month is about admiring the colours, kicking up leaves & marvelling at the beauty of nature.
#dailywalk #autumn #embracingautumn #woodlander #slowliving #delamereforest #forestfloorfinds #naturelovers
  • Previously on the blog…

  • Recent Posts

  • Categories

  • Currently Reading (not sponsored): No Serial Number

  • Products I love (not sponsored): 9 Meals from Anarchy Veg Stock

  • Engaging the Public with Climate Change (Co Author):

  • Crochet: Learn It, Love It (Author)

  • Woman’s Weekly Guide to Crochet (Author):

  • The Drift Collection (Contributor):

  • Whimsical Hats (Contributor):

  • Hand Made (Contributor):

  • Dorling KIndersely Guide to Crochet (Contributor)

  • The Legal Stuff: