- Glorious spring sunshine.
- Seven consecutive hours sleep at night (only once, but soooo good!).
- Finally getting ‘Bumble’, our beloved campervan, through her MOT and back on the road!
- The magic of the bluebells covering the woodland floor right now. I feel as though they are a gift to say ‘’well done, you've survived the storms, you've made it out the other side’’.
We have been living this way for nearly two years now and our home is forever changing and expanding as we explore new ideas to keep on improving what we do. We live this way because we love the simplistic, low impact lifestyle. For Tom this has always been his dream, part of a bigger plan. When he was writing his business plan for his kiln dried fire wood business a few years ago, I found it strange at first that making lots of money was not his top priority; tackling climate change, saving the world and surviving an apocalypse were far more important! Someone once told me they could imagine me marrying someone like Ben Law who appeared in Grand Designs building his dream house in the woods. How right they were! I embarked on this journey because of Tom’s enthusiasm, but also because I care about the state of our planet and let’s face it, I thought it would be an adventure! It is a learning curve for me and I always have the feeling we can be doing so much more to practice what we preach.
This month, in honour of Earth Day on 22nd April, we have been trying to tackle our waste. As I watched Tom carry out our bags of recycling, piled high with cans, bottles, paper and mountains of plastic that I had dutifully washed and separated I wondered how a family of two and half can even create this much waste. Recycling is all well and good, but it still uses a huge amount of energy and doesn't make an impact on the amount of new plastic that is still being produced. So we've been trying to buy products with less packaging and it’s been proving harder than I thought. Why is it that veg that is wrapped in plastic is often cheaper than loose veg? Why do all fair trade bananas come wrapped in plastic?
We have recently started getting an organic veg box delivered from the farm a few fields away. It is slightly more expensive but worth the extra for delicious, organic, plastic free, local, and seasonal produce. I have always shunned plastic bags to the point where I will juggle a weeks’ worth of shopping between trolley, car and home rather than except one. I avoid reusable cups, carry a spare fork in my handbag and buy washing up liquid and detergent that I can refill. My sister quoted a friend’s comment to me recently that ‘’hippy kids always get crap Easter eggs!’’. I have always tried to live by the rules that if they’re not home-made (no chance at the moment!) they need to be plastic packaging free, organic, fair trade and ideally bought from Oxfam. These are the rules I have tried to live by for so long, but now that I have a baby, it turns out that these tiny little beings create more waste than anyone else in the family.
I was not very prepared for motherhood. In fact every stage has come as a bit of a surprise to me. The unplanned conception this time last year (don’t ever rely on a period tracking phone app as a form of contraception!). A positive pregnancy test the day after my four day, rum soaked hen weekend. Trying to get my head around being six weeks pregnant slap bang in the middle of our third wedding preparations and not being able to enjoy any of the sangria, prosecco and home brew cider on the day. The first three months feeling so exhausted and sick every day that all I could eat was potato waffles, ice cream and dry crunchy nut cornflakes. Not the relaxed, healthy, toxin free body that I had always envisioned my child to be growing inside. After a relaxing, but busy summer I was getting ready to wind down my hoop classes, pack up my Forest school for the winter and get the yurt ready for our new arrival. I was really looking forward to my third trimester, enjoying my wonderful pregnancy yoga class, having a birth blessing, sitting by the fire sipping herbal tea and reading inspirational books about childbirth and motherhood. But then, surprise! I didn't get a third trimester.
I turned up at hospital exhausted after a sleepless night of stomach cramps (I thought it was the celeriac crumble from the night before!), straight from running my first parent and toddler group, still in my wellies and having had no lunch, to be told I was 5cm dilated and in premature labour. Fast forward a further 24 hours and I was still in labour, wired up to monitors, full of antibiotics, steroids and drugs to slow my labour down. The midwives patiently moving machines around and untangling wires as I moved from birthing ball to all fours determined to have some control over the situation. Not the natural birth I had envisioned. Apart from two paracetamol before I left home and some gas and air when I finally went into theatre, I had no pain relief and will be forever grateful for the breathing and meditations that I learnt in those few pregnancy yoga classes I went to. I hadn't been to an NCT class, hadn't written a birth plan, and hadn't packed a hospital bag. We had no baby stuff at home whatsoever. I had been reading a week by week pregnancy book so knew that my baby was about the size of a cabbage, but I had skipped through the premature baby section as it I didn't think it would apply to me. The only thing I was fairly certain of was that I was having a little girl and she was going to be called Meadow. Surprise!
All of this is irrelevant now as we have a healthy, happy, gorgeous little boy who is now six months old. The months have flown by and I often still feel none the wiser on what I should be doing. I failed GCSE maths, my A level results are nothing worth mentioning and it took me four attempts to pass my driving test, so am I really qualified for this? I always knew I wanted to breast feed and I have been incredibly lucky to be able to do this. I always thought I would use reusable nappies but the fact that we don’t have a washing machine has so far meant I haven’t tried them despite being given a huge bag of second hand ones ( I promise to give them a try soon!). I use Naty nappies which are chemical free, plastic free and take less time to biodegrade. I know that nappies are the evil of all evils when it comes to waste, so we burn them in our rayburn. Does this make it ok?
I was put to shame when I met one Mum who produced a box of homemade wipes made out of scraps of organic cotton and another Mum who told me she washed and reused her wipes (I thought she was joking at first!). I use wipes which are 99.9% water for the simple reason that they have no nasty chemicals and are pure and gentle on his skin. So not only am I buying something that gets thrown away after one use, I am paying for something which is made of mostly water! So I have started washing and drying my wipes, then soaking them in water and chamomile tea ready to reuse. We have been incredibly lucky to have got everything we have needed second hand or borrowed, including bags of clothes which will get passed on again once he has outgrown them. We are trying very hard to not let Oak accumulate too much stuff, partly due to our lack of space but also because we want him to grow up having appreciation for the things he does have. His favourite toys at the moment are a plastic bottle filled with glitter and beads, and a silver foil emergency blanket! After all, less is more.
Normally a baby will change so much between 0-6 months, but we have had an extra three months of Oak being a tiny baby. Although he is now six months old, his corrected age is three months. This means that his development is more like a three month old. So I was taken completely by surprise again when my health visitor told me recently that I could start Oak on solids six months from his birth date. Which is now. ‘’Of course you will be interested in baby-led weaning’’ she said. Will I? I have absolutely no idea what this even means! I haven’t read anything about weaning, baby-led or otherwise. Luckily our consultant has since said that we can wait till Oak is up to nine months before we need to worry about weaning, so this gives us plenty of time to think about this next exciting chapter. Watch this space!
We have known Oak for six months and yet it is only now that I feel we are really starting to get to know our little stranger. As he lies across my lap looking straight up into my eyes and chatting to me in scribble talk, we laugh and smile to each other as though we are sharing a private joke. I guess we are both finding this journey as hilarious as each other.