Monday 28 March 2011


Mmmmm.... having just switched on again after another deliciously slow and simple off-grid Sunday, I'm feeling completely recharged and ready to take on the world. I wish everyone could tap into the kind of energy I'm filled with after a full 24 hours away from the machine.  It's not like the kind of energy you need to run a 100 metre sprint;  more like the energy you need to run a marathon. I feel calm, clear headed and fully recharged rather than just 'topped up' - if that makes sense? I also feel more at peace, have regained my perspective and am less likely to be flustered by the stresses and worries of everyday modern life. It really is a great way to start the week!

One of the things I'm really starting to to appreciate and tune into more is 'daylight'. I've started to notice the different qualities of light at different times of the day and have become especially fascinated by the twilight hours around dusk and sunset.  I have no idea, need or desire to know what time it is. Measured time is becoming irrelevant, unimportant, even alien to me. Nature doesn't need a clock to make decisions about what to do and when to do it; she just 'is'.  When the sun is shining the woodland flowers open; when it disappears behind a cloud or goes to sleep they close. Bees wake up and start foraging when there's sufficient daylight and warmth for them to fly, and moths and other nocturnal creatures manage very well without a clock to tell them that night has fallen; they just 'know'. Erkhart Tolle would call this being 'fully present'.

If we all just took the time to watch, observe and learn from nature, we surely wouldn't need self help books!

I can't help wishing I could transport myself back to a time before human beings learned to measure everything in a linear way; to a time when we didn't have appointments, meetings and deadlines - all precisely arranged to take place at 'exactly something o'clock' and all having absolutely nothing to do with what time of day or night it really is in natural terms. We must be the only creatures on earth that go against our natural body clocks and I'm sure it's not a healthy way to exist. Some cultures manage at least to take siestas in the middle of the day - and seem to function better for having succumbed to their body's needs and requirements. Maybe we should all listen more to our bodies instead of ignoring them the way we do...

Yesterday I spent hours walking on the hills and in the woodlands. I listened to birds whose calls I didn't recognise and thought it rather odd that I know more about the French Revolution than I do about our native bird songs. I'm so glad that our primary education system is starting to include things like 'forest school' these days.

I could write for hours about the new things I'm experiencing through reclaiming these precious hours away from the merry-go-round of modern life, but they'd just be my own thoughts and experiences - so  wouldn't be the same as if you experienced it for yourself.

I'll write another post later about the beautiful solitary mining bees I watched for a few hours yesterday, but in the mean time here's a link to a short video about the Piraha, an amazing Amazonian tribe who's lives are still completely immersed in nature...

Have a beautiful week!

B x

Wednesday 23 March 2011


I've been thinking a lot about bees today...

Bees are amazing!!! They pollinate a THIRD of all the food we eat, as well as half of our wild flowers. Not only do they pollinate many fruits and vegetables, but they also pollinate crops like alfalfa which are used for animal feed... so the consequences of mass bee extinction would be enormous. A world without bees is unimaginable, but the unimaginable could happen if we don't get our act together and work harder to stop the decline. We're simply not doing enough.

It's not just honey bees that are in decline; we're losing bumblebee species at an equally alarming rate and although I haven't seen any figures on declining 'solitary' bee populations I'm sure they must be suffering too.

There are numerous different reasons for the decline in honeybee and bumblebee bee populations, but two issues stand out above all others; namely 'pesticides' and 'loss of habitat'.

Pesticides kill bees.  So, we must stop using them!!!  I get incredibly frustrated when I people say things like "I'd like to stop using pesticides, but what about my roses?" We must be living in some kind of weird blinkered bubble if we believe having perfect looking roses is more important than looking after the bees that pollinate them in the first place. We really do need to start getting our priorities right before it's too late.

Bees and other insects are exposed to a whole range of pesticides and herbicides, but a new group of pesticides has appeared recently that are particularly dangerous to bees. They are called 'neonicotinoids' and they are 'systemic'. 'Systemic' means the seed is coated with the pesticide so that it infuses the whole plant. Any insect feeding on the stem, leaves, flowers or roots of the plant will ingest these pesticides that will, at the very least, cause damage to their central nervous system. At worst it will kill the unfortunate 'non target' insect. These pesticides have been restricted in many European countries... but have not yet been restricted in the UK.

This is a very complicated issue; the most up-to-date information on the pesticide/neonicotinoid issue can be found on this site - 

I'll include more links at the bottom of this post for anyone interested in reading more generally about pesticides and how to avoid them.

Since the 1940's we have lost 97% of our UK grasslands and wildflower meadows. That's a pretty staggering loss.

Along with the meadows and grasslands we have also lost most of our hedgerows and many of the roadside verges that used to be brimming with wildflowers. This loss has had a devastating effect on bees and other wildlife.

There are many initiatives in place now to encourage farmers to increase the amount of land they set aside for wildflowers and grasses, but increasing habitat and foraging for wildlife is also something that we, as individuals, can help with. It couldn't be simpler. All we need to do is provide a few wild patches in our gardens where bees can nest and hibernate - and plant more nectar and pollen rich flowers.

The difference you can make by planting more flowers cannot be overstated. Whatever size garden you have - even if it's just a couple of window boxes - it will provide valuable and vital food sources for bees of all species.

Before I add links to sites containing information about which flowers are best for bees, I should mention that it's important to make sure you plant a selection of plants to flower in succession from early spring through to late autumn. It's also important to choose organic plants and seeds wherever possible.

Thank you so much for reading this. Bees need all the help they can get.

Further information

Which flowers to plant -
Gardening for wildlife -
Info about Neonicotinoids - 
Pesticide Action Network - 
The Grasslands Trust -

P.S......If you only have room for one flower; plant Borage!

Monday 21 March 2011

Back to nature

Yay...I've just reclaimed another Sunday!

It's beginning to feel as though my Sundays now truly belong to me instead of belonging to the machine. By 'machine', I mean the 'system', or the 'merry-go-round' that has somehow got to the stage where it is going so fast that we are frightened to jump off. In fact, for most of us, the merry-go-round has actually become our main point of reference. We seem to have forgotten that there's life outside...or that there was ever life before the machine. It is my belief that this is what's making us sick.

So far, I've only had the courage to jump off on Sundays, but already I'm moving further away each week from what I had previously come to think of as normal. I'm becoming more and more aware of how disconnected we are from the natural world and how desperately our souls are longing for us to reconnect. It seems bonkers that we are the only living beings on the face of the earth that fight so hard every day to go against what is good and healthy for us.

Nature is amazing! She heals, nurtures and sustains us...whilst we, for the most part, completely ignore her. When we're not ignoring Nature we're trying to control, harness or dominate her. If only we could collectively remember that we are all a part of nature rather than apart from nature, I truly believe we could solve many of the problems we are experiencing today.

Going off-grid on Sundays and spending just one day a week without using a car, mobile, money or computer is a drop in the ocean compared to those who have jumped off the merry-go-round to live completely off-grid, but it's changed my point of reference for ever. Spending 24 hours without knowing what o'clock it is has reconnected me to nature's cycles of day and night; sitting without the usual stimulus of electrical appliances has taught me to still my buzzing mind; and walking for hours in the woods and on the hills has opened up a whole new world of sounds, smells and sights. I've got a long way to go, but my new point of reference is 'Nature' and it feels pretty good!

It's quite hard to put what I feel about what I'm experiencing on a deeper level in a short blog, so I hope all that makes sense if anyone's reading it?

If you, also, are wondering how the human race became so disconnected from nature, you might enjoy reading 'The Ascent of Humanity' by Charles Eisenstein.  It's by far the most thought provoking book I've ever read.

Here's a link to a series of short videos of Charles Eisenstein speaking about our disconnection...

Have a beautiful week! x

Saturday 19 March 2011

Nettles and Wild Garlic

I'm supposed to be staying of the computer as I'm suffering a bit from RSI (sore arm from using the computer too much without the right mouse/chair/posture etc), but I can't resist making a quick post to share a few useful websites with anyone who's thinking of going off-grid this Sunday and is wondering what to do with all that wonderful spare time they'll have on their hands....

As part of my efforts to get closer to the cycles of nature I've been trying to cut out as much 'unseasonal' food as possible. Although I share and allotment with some friends and have a small garden, I can only really grow a fraction of what I need fruit & veg wise.  I'm fortunate to live in an area where I have access to local organic growers, so I'm able to tap into a ready supply of healthy, pesticide-free produce. However, as I'm also trying to reduce my dependance on the monetary system, I've been looking into ways of cutting my food bills and - apart from growing your own - the best way to do this is to add in a bit of foraged food.

I'm not going to write a whole blog on foraging as I'm only a 'beginner' but thought I'd share a couple of links to some sites I've found useful.

The first that springs to mind is written by my wonderful, weird and wacky friend Fergus Drennan. Fergus is a forager extraordinaire!  He has actually survived for over a year on very little other than foraged food, so his site is a 'must visit' -

The second site is a fantastic site all about 'nettles'.  I came across this site a few days ago when I picked my first nettles of the season and wanted to find out more about their medicinal/nutritional properties. What it's author, Simon Mitchell, doesn't know about nettles is really not worth knowing! -

There are some yummy wild food recipes here -

And finally, a link to a great little video from the gorgeous guys at Natural so you can identify Ramsons (Wild Garlic). Ramsons are extremely tasty and out in abundance now -

Whether or not you are 'Reclaiming Sundays' I hope you enjoy the above links!

B x

Thursday 17 March 2011

Staying warm...

When I first decided to reclaim my Sundays I was more focussed on the challenges it would throw up than the benefits. It was early January and we were going through that really cold spell, so I knew that keeping warm would be my priority.

I have to admit that if I hadn't been fortunate enough to own a wood burning stove I probably wouldn't have contemplated trying to go off-grid in the middle of winter. I know I could have worn extra layers; coat, hat, scarf; mittens; etc... but I suspect I might have given up quite quickly if I'd set myself that level of commitment. However, one of my friends (Mike) who's joined me on the 'Off-grid Sundays' path has no alternative way to heat his flat, so he goes for a huge long walk in the morning to warm himself up, then spends his late afternoons/evenings reading on the sofa (by candle light) wrapped in a blanket and using only the candles for heating; pretty impressive!

One of the many things I wanted to achieve by going off-grid one day a week was to learn to rely less on the background gas central heating and more on my wood burner. I have a very small, open plan house, so it's quite easy for the heat from the stove to reach most of the rooms. This means if I want to be really warm I need to sit close to the burner, but the rest of the house still reaches a perfectly acceptable ambient temperature.

I've got into a bit of a routine on Sundays now. Whatever time I wake up, I go straight downstairs to light the wood burner. I've always set it the night before, so it only needs a match. I stick a saucepan on top with exactly the right amount of water for a cup of tea, huddle by the fire whilst I wait for it to catch sufficiently, then close it down a bit and go back to bed with a cup of tea and my thoughts. I leave a kettle full of water on top to heat up ready for a wash.

By the time I've finished my tea and had a wash, it's beautifully warm downstairs and there's enough natural light to read by. So, I spend the next hour or so curled up on a bean bag, by the stove, reading a book.

By mid morning I'm toasty warm, wonderfully relaxed and ready for a walk. Whatever the weather is like I always get out and walk on the Malvern Hills for a couple of hours. I have absolutely no idea what time of day it is because my mobile phone is switched off and I don't have a watch... but it doesn't matter anyway!  When I start to feel hungry I head back home (with an arm full of fallen branches to store for next year's kindling) and warm up whatever soup is left over from the day before. Then, depending on the weather, I spend the rest of the daylight hours either reading by the burner or pottering in my garden.

When it gets dark (4.30pm on my first few Sundays!) I light candles and my neighbour, Louise, usually comes over for a cup of tea. She always notices how different the house feels to usual. There's definitely something different in the whole energy; it's more peaceful and 'natural'... as if time itself has slowed down. It's difficult to describe, but it's almost tangible. You'd need to try it out for yourself to understand what I mean. I put it down to not using any electricity and, especially, to not having mobile phone or wi-fi computer waves bouncing around all over the place.

Anyway, by the time I've eaten an evening meal I'm pretty much ready for bed. I heat water for a hot water bottle and head up to bed with a wind up radio. I listen to the radio till I drift off to sleep. I'm beautifully warm... completely relaxed... and ready to face whatever the new week brings...

Monday 14 March 2011

What off-grid Sundays mean to me

Anyone else noticed how crazy the world has become? We seem to be stuck on some kind of merry-go-round...  it's going faster and faster... and I want to get off!

Towards the end of last year I visited some lovely friends in Devon and they took me out on a magical mystery tour around the beautiful North Devon coastline on the Sunday. They mentioned that they didn't usually use the car or computer on Sundays; which got me thinking... wouldn't it be great if I could rely less on my own car, mains electricity, gas, mobile, laptop etc?!

I've already reduced my home energy use considerably over the last few years and I try really hard to live as ethical and low impact life as I can, but I know there's a lot of room for improvement.  I wish I was brave enough to close my eyes and jump straight into the unknown and go completely off-grid, but I'm not. I like to dip my toes in the water first and do things gradually, then, by taking things step by step I'm far more likely to make some lasting changes. So I decided to start my move towards a less crazy life by 'Reclaiming Sundays'.

Reclaiming Sundays means (for me) going back to a time when Sunday was a day of rest; a day to slow down and reconnected with nature. With this in mind, I thought it might be good to combine lots of other things that were bothering me about my life and see if I could work them all into the one day......

  1. Spend less time on the computer
  2. Spend more time doing things I love like reading, walking and sitting on the hill.
  3. Reduce my dependence on the grid system
  4. Reduce my use of energy and other precious resources
  5. Learn how to use my wood burning stove to cook meals
  6. Stop spending money
  7. Allow myself time by myself
Having come up with some parameters to work with I just needed to get on and do it, so I chose a date for my first grid-free Sunday, made sure I had plenty of candles and a wind up torch and started reclaiming my Sundays!

That was 8 weeks ago - and I can't believe what a difference it's made in so many ways. Will write about that next time......