There is something weird about Braywick Nature Reserve situated in the depths of the Thames Valley – it rather unnaturally undulates and looms over the surrounding area. That’s because there is something rather unnatural about Braywick, it’s a former landfill site.
This weekend I decided to spend a rare Tiny-Overlord-free day with The Conservation Volunteers Berkshire, to put something back in to the natural environment that I so often mentally and physically take from. Our task at Braywick was a woodland management one, to cut down some Field Maple and to open up the woodland floor to increase the prevalence of wild flowers.
Before I met The Conservation Volunteers (and subsequently took this brilliant course with The Open University) I didn’t really ‘get’ woodland management. I mean, because chopping trees down is bad, it goes against all my hippy instincts, right yeah man? But I’ve learnt that a lot of our ‘natural’ landscapes in the UK are actually created by human, and that by managing Braywick’s woodland and opening up the woodland floor we will actually increase biodiversity. And here in the grey airport and motorway dominated Thames Valley, here in Braywick on hills that are literally created by tonnes of human rubbish, that can only be a good thing?
Fuelled by biscuits and tea we felled selected trees by hand for most of the day. And I my arms ached. And my heart ached from being away from the Tiny Overlord. And I got blisters on my hand from clutching the saw so tightly. But the satisfaction of doing something outdoors was so overwhelming, I came home to my boys buzzing and enthused. Vowing once again to give the Tiny one the ‘natural’ childhood that he deserves. Because there is so much nature for me to explore with him. So many things that are good and free and natural. Even here in the Thames Valley. Even on top of an old landfill.
Every year I look towards Christmas with the best of homemade intentions. The level of consumption we are encouraged to undertake at Christmas makes me extremely uncomfortable. For Christmas 2012 I managed to make (nearly) everyone’s Christmas present. But 2013 a combination of the crazy weather, nothing growing in our garden as it should and having a baby (had I mentioned that we’ve had a baby? Baby, baby, baby…) meant I managed to rustle up a mere 4 jars of jam and chutney. So I bought everyone books and framed photos of a very smiley Tiny Overlord in fairtrade photo frames instead.
But I felt a little peeved that my gifts, whilst lovingly chosen from the best shop in Reading, lacked the homemade touch. So I’ve started a new tradition of at least making people a handmade decoration each year. Hopefully this is something the Tiny Overlord and I can do together in the future. But this year, with him only being 2 months old, I went it alone and made a selection of hangable Christmas trees from my button stash and felt.
I must confess that my birth-and-baby-addled brain didn’t entirely come up with the design on my own, and I took more than a small amount of inspiration from these decorations I’ve had pinned forever by MissyMaddoxDesigns. But I was mightily pleased with the result. I wrapped the books up in brown paper and string (saved from our vegetable boxes – never knowingly overlook an opportunity to recycle) and a button tree on each one was the finishing touch. Now all I need to do is to start scouring Pinterest for this year’s decoration inspiration.
2013 was a big year, not only for the cooking and birth of the Tiny Overlord. But it also saw two of my ‘little’ brothers get married. As with any special occasion, I decided to mark these wonderful events with a little bit of cross stitch:
Both cross stitched were based on designs I had found online, but were customised for each of the happy couples. The inspiration for each design came from the proposals – Simon proposed to Amy in the sea and Alex proposed to Jenny over dinner with a card made from Scrabble tiles.
I’m really rather pleased with both of them. Now I just need to think of something to stitch for 2013’s new arrivals…