I have long had visiting Transition Loughborough’s community allotment on a Wednesday night on my ‘to do’ list. Annoyingly, the weather has conspired with my body to render it impossible until now, but the glorious sunshine – and the fact that it was Summer Solstice – meant that today was the day I finally made it.
I started the day by watching a daisy open up with the sun.
After that, I spent much of the day asleep after my late night crafting and Solstice appreciation (one of the joys of being freelance).
When I woke up, it was pleasantly warm rather than meltingly-hot.
I started the day by making some herb ice cubes. I suspected they would come in useful. I used mint, so they could double as face-coolers, as well as tasting good in Pimms (I go for borage, lemon or lime zest in gin, rosemary or thyme in a Bloody Mary and edible flowers in pretty much anything.)
I glanced at the pile of books I gathered together to inspire my nature ideas, and considered reading one in the sun. However, I already knew I wanted to go to the allotment, and have got enough ideas for things I want to do that nature has inspired, so didn’t want to overwhelm myself with more ideas.
Instead, I got on with some work, and cleaned the kitchen. I made sure to collect all the petals that had dropped from my geranium. They look messy on the side, but wonderful once you put them in a pretty jar (mine were 3 for £1 from one of the pound shops, though I can’t remember which chain.)
I use them for making toiletries rather than as edibles, as they’ve been on dusty surfaces. They’re also great for art – you can press them or store them in the fridge. Make sure the petals are dry and you’ll be surprised by how long they last (mine are still looking fresh after a few days in the fridge. If petals are wet and too fragile to dry easily, I press them instead as the paper absorbs the water.
I had a cup of tea in the sunshine when I was awake enough, and took pictures of the flowers in the lawn. I found out from Jon, who is one of the key Loughborough Transition Town players, that it’s called Self Heal. I will obviously be looking into the meaning of that more deeply for Folklore Thursday…
My partner drove us to the allotment (walking there would have been too much for my body as it’s a little distance from me). This time, he was much happier to be going, as it meant he could find out where everything was and check what was wanted and allowed . I was happy to see glorious flowers as soon as we got out of the car, before we even reached the allotment.
I foraged for clover on the walk to the allotment, and also rescued some rose petals that were about to drop.
I chatted to the handful of people who were there, and offered them some chilled elderflower cordial I’d brought with me (which was declined as mine was shop bought and the person I offered it to had bought home made cordial to share, which she offered me. It was delicious – home made is always better than shop bought, in my opinion.)
After finding out what needed to be done, I set about weeding (and taking photographs – which I’ll happily let Transition Towns use them for social media or other publicity. It seems only fair when everyone has helped grow the things I’m photographing.) I saw a lovely ladybird, which I identified as a harlequin.
While my digging skills may be limited by my back, I thoroughly enjoy weeding and will happily sit for hours making a bed weed- free. As it was hot, I didn’t spend hours – the beds are impressively well tended – but I did clear a reasonable patch of weeds (I’m usually a weed fan, but if they get in the way of food growing, I become less keen. That said, I do try to use them if I possibly can – why waste a perfectly good edible by throwing it on the refuse pile?)
Meanwhile, my partner hoisted buckets of water from the stream to water the plants. There was something old-fashioned and ‘right’ feeling about the way he was watering the land while I was weeding it: my kind of a hot date (and luckily, he enjoyed himself too.)
Then, it was time to collect my ‘wages’ – in the form of redcurrants, blackcurrants, gooseberries, spinach, coriander, mizuna, wild strawberries, lemon balm, a cup full of borage and a handful of slightly under-ripe gooseberries to make gin (I may go back to get some more for my mum as she prefers gooseberries when they’re sour enough to make you pucker.)
I loved that I could trade my time and effort for food – which will save me spending money on supermarket salad (though my salad windowbox is thriving and will soon be providing daily fresh leaves.)
I also collected a small bunch of flowers from the gorgeous bee and butterfly garden – though made sure I left plenty for the butterflies and bees.
We left as the sun was setting, tired but happy.
When I got home, I sorted the food to see what I could make (and made a mental note not to put everything in the same bag again – it would have saved me hours if I’d separated my blackcurrants and redcurrants.)
Rather than taking the lazy option and putting the whole lot in a pan together, I decided to let each item shine.
I boiled the redcurrants in one pan and the blackcurrants in another, then set about stripping the lemon balm back (if you run your fingers ‘against the grain’, the leaves strip off at speed.) These were then put in a pan to simmer in water too. Once all three had boiled for a while, I turned the hob off, and left them to steep overnight.
I added the borage blossoms to cheap gin (the cheapest of the cheap. Foraging and playing is a good way to make cheap drink palatable)
I added the clover, rose petals, slightly squashed strawberries and a few borage blossoms to the Summer vodka I started making the other day (topping it up with vodka to cover the fruit. The bottles look so colourful – I’ll have a rainbow of cocktail ingredients soon…)
And I put the spinach, mizuna and coriander in the salad drawer, to deal with another day. Finally, I put some of the lemon balm into the bottle gardens that are gradually filling my windowsills, in the hope that they will root and turn the gardens into herb gardens too.
Day 21 was a day full of tending the ground, and being grateful for the lovely produce it provides – along with being grateful to Transition Loughborough for making my weekly food shop much cheaper. I have a salad drawer full of spinach, mizuna and coriander. I’ll be sharing some recipes soon (beyond ‘salad’, though that combination with tomatoes was delicious the other day, with a lot more character than a shop-bought salad).
Being part of a growing community is something that feels good. I’ll be taking my cordial back to the allotment to share it with my fellow gardeners next time I go (perhaps along with some elderberry port, if there’s a nip in the air…)
If you have a chance to get involved with Transition Towns, or a community food scheme of any kind (Harvest Brighton and Hove is well worth checking out if you’re in Brighton), 30 Days Wild gives you the perfect excuse to get involved. You could save money and meet like-minded people, which seems like a no-brainer to me.
Random Acts of Wildness So Far…
- Spread the word.
- Start a weather/pain diary.
- Look at the clouds.
- Photograph wildflowers.
- Look for urban nature.
- ID a butterfly.
- Find a fledgling.
- Feed a swan.
- Collect feathers.
- Stake out a foraging site.
- ID birdsong.
- Tweet using the #30DaysWild hashtag.
- Plant a virtual seed.
- See new life growing.
- Feed the ducks.
- Protect an animal from a predator.
- Reflect on nature.
- Look closely at your lawn.
- Make someone a nature hamper from recycled materials.
- Share nature photos using #30DaysWild on Instagram (and help the hashtag trend).
- Show your houseplants some love.
- Tell friends about #30DaysWild.
- Talk to a junior naturalist and encourage their creativity.
- Photograph a favourite cuddly toy in nature.
- Add a nature event to your diary.
- Look closely at a friend’s garden.
- Take photos for #Rainbowblooms.
- Find a plant that looks like a bug.
- Watch a bee.
- Read a nature-based research paper.
- Get overawed by nature
- Watch the dawn.
- Walk barefoot in dewy grass.
- Try a nature meditation.
- Raid and repurpose the recycling.
- Go on a wild date.
- Go litter picking.
- Protect the soil.
- Make nature art.
- Watch the sunset
- Turn your desk wild.
- Water your plants.
- Celebrate World Environment Day.
- Take part in the plastic challenge.
- Watch nature videos.
- Tell people who run your favourite hashtag hour on Twitter about 30 Days Wild.
- Tell a colleague about 30 Days Wild.
- Take a closer look at foxgloves.
- Share nature-themed recycled crafting ideas.
- Have a natural aromatherapy bath.
- Dress for the weather.
- Connect with a local nature lover.
- Look at a puddle closely.
- Rescue a plant.
- Make a mini meadow in a recycled container.
- Photograph wet leaves.
- Welcome new wildlife to the area.
- Make a bottle garden.
- Make a wild bouquet.
- Collect flower petals for your nature crafting box.
- Tend a garden.
- Feel the wind in your hair.
- Collect leaves for crafting.
- Grow a tomato.
- Create a 30 second wildlife habitat.
- Admire an insect.
- Photograph something blue.
- Make a nature video.
- Go on a flower pot hunt.
- Wear nature-inspired fashion.
- Vote for nature.
- Plan a windowbox walk.
- Celebrate World Oceans Day.
- Go wild in a graveyard.
- Love lichen.
- Be amazed by moss.
- Find fungi.
- Stock up on wild supplies.
- Bag a bargain to bring back to life.
- Find something new in nature.
- Grow your own food.
- Reflect on nature and what it means to you.
- Look closely at cuckoo spit.
- Plant something pollinator friendly.
- Plant a herb garden and share cuttings.
- Look for bugs.
- Let your garden go wild.
- Read the weather.
- Brighten a corner of your home with plants.
- Use an eco friendly search engine.
- Repurpose plastic packaging.
- Use biodegradable glitter.
- Collect flower petals.
- Find the perfect feather to make a quill.
- Add fairyland magic to your home with a fairy doll made from recycled materials.
- Use feathers as home decor.
- Wear nature-inspired jewellery.
- Watch the moon.
- Go for a dawn walk.
- Invite people to a wild cocktail party.
- (Try to) put up a bird box.
- Make a bug habitat.
- Take a bug’s eye view.
- Follow an ant.
- Take a macro shot of the earth.
- Plant strawberries.
- Plant a bird seed garden.
- Collect rainwater for the garden.
- Think about light pollution (and turn off garden lights when not in use).
- Create a kitchen herb garden.
- Put out a bird feeder.
- Photograph flowers in the dark.
- Go for a canal walk at dusk.
- Forage for your supper.
- Make flower tea.
- Make a floral face wash.
- Press flowers.
- Craft a story with wild finds.
- Read William Morris’s nature writing.
- Fill your pockets with pine cones.
- See fledglings fly the nest.
- Look through the leaves.
- Find a ladybird baby.
- See a seed you sowed grow wild.
- Pay attention to a warning sign in nature.
- Find ferns.
- Find a flower fairy.
- ID a wildflower.
- Find nature art.
- Made floral cocktail ingredients.
- (Try to) rescue a wildflower.
- Make a daisy ring.
- Make a bottle garden and get back to your roots.
- Follow an ant.
- Check for evidence of wildlife, in the absence of any obvious creatures.
- Collect a feather to ID.
- Find wildlife in the clouds.
- Find a plant that looks like an alien.
- Find a solution for a waste problem that annoys you.
- Research nature-based citizen science.
- Look at nature through a window.
- Make something that you need instead of going to the shops.
- Learn a new nature word.
- Share a happy nature memory online.
- Make a natural face mask.
- Make a herbal remedy (check for any side effects, particularly if you’re on any medications. Medications don’t always mix well with herbal remedies and many people forget to check this. Read up about all the ingredients you’re using to be on the safe side,)
- Share nature-themed style that you love.
- Buy a nature-related book (I’m donating all June profits from my book, Go Wild: Over 200 Ways to Connect With Nature to the Wildlife Trusts.)
- Trade links with another nature blogger.
- Listen to the dawn chorus.
- Make an indoor night garden.
- Made dinner for a hedgehog.
- Use solar powered lights to reduce the amount of electricity you use.
- Give nature a libation (pour a bit of drink on the ground and thank nature for all it provides).
- Go on a mini-beast hunt at night.
- Photograph a snail.
- Look into the shadows.
- Take a different view.
- Find the fairies at the bottom of the garden.
- Drink elderberry port outdoors.
- Get involved with Britain in Bloom.
- Find out more about Transition Towns.
- Eat food that would otherwise have been wasted.
- Admire a blue sky.
- Make your business greener.
- Watch the sun through the trees and see how it changes as you move (or move your camera.)
- Photograph a blackbird.
- Have a 30 Days Wild fail – and learn from it.
- Make a bug (boutique) hotel.
- Craft a natural scene from your #30DaysWild finds.
- Forage for edible wildflowers.
- Set off down an unknown path.
- Hug a sapling. Baby trees need love too.
- Find a tree with a face.
- Admire a tree stump.
- Forage a friend’s garden.
- Grow the amount of nature you have indoors.
- Make a herbal hair tonic.
- Look for bats.
- Make a herb vinegar.
- Put water out for wildlife on a hot day.
- Make rose cordial (and experiment with other edible flowers.)
- Make a herbal oil.
- Make leaf paper.
- Get food from a community allotment.
- Have a barbecue.
- Watch a stream flow.
- Look into a fire.
- Create an outdoor air freshener by throwing woody herbs on the fire.
- Watch the stars emerge at dusk.
- Create your own nature magazine, booklet or scrap book.
- Light a candle in the dark.
- Go outside wearing your pyjamas.
- Celebrate Summer Solstice.
- Think about the impact you have on nature.
- Collect herbs by moonlight.
- Listen to the wind in the trees.
- Study a slug.
- Burn natural incense.
- Make herb salt.
- Watch a daisy open up.
- Make herb ice cubes.
- Get involved with a gardening community.
- Share food or drink with other people.
- Weed the garden.
- Make blackcurrant or redcurrant cordial.
- Make borage gin.
- ID a ladybird.
- Make your own Summer Punch (vodka, fruit, edible flowers and herbs)/
- Start a herb garden.