Posts in Lifestyle
Off Grid

“We work with people who aren’t scared to look at things differently, that want to make a difference and who are willing to go (a little) off grid.”

Find out more about Kim and Sally’s nomadic approach to design within their digital agency by watching the beautifully made video below…


Check out the website here or find Off Grid on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Earth-Based Living
Image:  Annie Spratt

Sometimes it’s hard to define what you feel most passionate about, especially when it goes against the grain, and there’s no specific word or phrase to describe it. I’ve titled this piece ‘Earth-Based Living’, because that’s about as close as I can get to describing the lifestyle I have come to adopt over the past five or so years, but it still doesn’t quite encapsulate everything it entails.

I’ve never been a devout follower of… well, anything really. When the ‘religion’ box appeared on forms and questionnaires, sometimes I’d tick ‘Christian’, other times ‘Agnostic’, but neither sat well. Around 2014-2015 I started to read more non-fiction, in particular the new wave of nature writing that was emerging at the time (John Lewis-Stempel and Rob Cowen were favourites), and as my reading list expanded, so did my perception of faith, belief and what I valued in life.

I started to ground myself in the seasons, to really try and notice the small changes in nature as the year progressed. I bought The Seasons: A Celebration of the English Year by Nick Groom, and fell down a rabbit hole: this book contained everything that I wanted to include in my life - nature, the seasons, tradition, literature, celebration, folklore, adventure - but I didn’t know where to start. So I spent the following few months devouring everything I could that sparked my curiosity. Poetry from John Clare, the concept of microadventures, the emerging idea of slow living (which at the time was virtually unheard of on the internet, and especially on Instagram).

One day my dad recommended I read Glennie Kindred’s The Earth’s Cycle of Celebration, and handed me his copy. The introduction alone was enlightening: ‘We can empower ourselves in new and exciting ways, break free of old outworn attitudes, damaging dogma and concepts. We can transform and change in our own unique and individual way. Best of all we are free to embrace a holistic understanding of all things being interconnecting vital parts of a whole.’ It goes on to explore the Wheel of the Year, its festivals and celebrations, and how it can bring focus and structure to our lives (if you’re not sure what the Wheel of the Year is, click here). She writes: ‘The Wheel of the Year is not just a matter of changing from one season to the next. Beneath the manifestation of seasonal change, there is also change in the energy of the Earth. These energy patterns affect us all whether we are conscious of them or not. By understanding the flow and direction of that energy, we can move with it, in harmony with it, as true inhabitants of our planet earth: belonging, part of, changing on all levels of our being.’

I realised that subconsciously I had already started to sculpt a life defined by the ebb and flow of nature. I was already feeling the impact of the Earth’s energy at different times of year, changing up my routine, what I was eating, the activities I enjoyed doing. What I hadn’t realised was that this wasn’t a new concept: people have always been guided by the seasons, and the transformative power of nature; it is only in the more recent past that our connection has diminished.

I spent more time reading, researching, and thinking about how everything linked together, and to begin with, my thoughts and ideas were incredibly scattered, which I suppose is natural when you’re forming a belief system. I felt very much like the odd one out, and didn’t fit neatly into any one category: I wasn’t a Pagan (though I resonated with the Wheel of the Year and the importance of ritual), and I wasn’t a Buddhist (though I agreed with the importance of meditation and lasting values in an impermanent world). I wasn’t (nor did I aspire to be) a monk, but again, many of the beliefs rang true (a rejection of mainstream society and the importance of simplicity, for instance).

My beliefs, values, and approach to life and work evolved over the next few years, and though I’m still learning today, I feel better equipped to talk about the lifestyle I aspire to lead.


 

EARTH-BASED LIVING

MOVING THROUGH LIFE GUIDED BY THE EBB AND FLOW OF THE SEASONS, AND THE ENERGY OF THE EARTH.

 

My earth-based approach looks like this:

  • I believe that we are all members of one Earth community.

  • I believe in the power and wisdom of the Earth, and practice gratitude for all that it provides.

  • I adopt a ‘slow’ approach, managing and balancing the different priorities in my life in order to focus on what really matters to me.

  • I use the Wheel of the Year as a framework for planning, celebration and intention.

  • I look to the Wheel of the Year, and the lunar cycle, to utilise the best conditions for my actions, and to help to explain what I feel in my mind and body. I do not use these cycles to try to predict the future.

  • I look to the Earth for wisdom, whether that be through ritual, meditation, forest bathing, grounding or creative acts.

  • I try to eat seasonal food and practice seasonal yoga flows, inspired by Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine.

  • I use seasonal rituals to help align my everyday with nature (e.g. lighting a candle at breakfast in the winter).

  • Most of all, I try to get outside whenever I can, and feel the grounding power of the Earth.

I don’t get it right all of the time (who does?!), and I certainly find things more difficult when I’m going through a really busy period in my life or work, but it really helps to have a set of principles to turn back to every so often, to remind myself of what’s important to me. As Satish Kumar remarks: “We are all part of this healthy web of life maintained by soil. The Latin word humus means soil. The words human, humility and humus all come from the same root. When humans lose contact with soil, they are no longer humans.”

Let’s make time to reconnect, with the Earth, with soil, and with the cycles and rhythms of the natural world.


If you’re interested in finding out more about Earth-based living, my new course - Reconnect to the Earth - might be for you. Find out more here.


An Introduction to the Wheel of the Year
Image:  Olena Ivanova

My approach to living slowly and seasonally is to be guided by the Celtic Wheel of the Year, an ancient calendar guided by the transition of the sun throughout the seasons. Many religions celebrate the festivals within the Wheel of the Year (paganism, for example), but my approach is not inspired by any one religion, rather it is rooted in a love and reverence for the natural world.

Each twelve month period is split into eight segments.

The beginning of each season is marked by a Cross-Quarter (or fire) Festival: Imbolc (February 1st) for spring; Beltane (May 1st) for summer; Lammas (August 1st) for autumn; and Samhain (October 31st) for winter. Though these dates may seem early, they are suggestions that a different energy is emerging; the smallest of signs that change is on the horizon.

The height of each season is marked by a Quarter Point (or solar festival): the Spring Equinox (20th - 23rd March); the Summer Solstice (20th - 23rd June); the Autumn Equinox (20th - 23rd September); and the Winter Solstice (20th - 23rd December). These are thought to be non-Celtic in origin, but are celebrated as part of the cycle nevertheless. From each Quarter Point, the season begins to wane, until we reach the next Cross-Quarter Festival that signifies one season has ended, and another has begun.

Using these eight markers provides natural pauses in the year, a chance to consider our lives and choices in a way that makes sense in relation to the Earth. For instance, at Beltane (May 1st) nature is full of life: the dawn chorus is building, flowers are blooming, and everywhere is beginning to look very green. In alignment with the Earth’s increased energy, it is a time to move forward with plans and intentions, for turning the potential of winter and early spring into reality.

In addition to working alongside (rather than against) the energy of the Earth, we can also use these markers to create ceremony, whether alone, with friends and family, or with community. We can use the markers as a reminder to look to the seasons and what’s going on in nature, and perhaps to adjust our own rhythm and rituals accordingly. So for Beltane, that might include waking a little earlier one day to watch the sunrise, eating more meals outdoors, keeping a posy of wildflowers by your bedside; small reminders of the season, but powerful when included in your everyday (or every week).

You can read more about Beltane, the next festival on the Wheel of the Year - in this post from Sarah, in which she explores Cornish traditions.

If you’d like to find out more and discover ways to celebrate the seasons guided by the Wheel of the Year, membership might be for you. In your monthly printed mini book, you’ll find a whole section on celebration, and you’ll also receive additional resources like guided meditations and journal prompts to help you mark the festivals in other ways too.

Raising a Generation Who Are Connected to Nature
Image by    Annie Spratt

Image by Annie Spratt

As adults it is our generation who have a huge – and unenviable - job on our hands. We need to be the ones who are making unprecedented changes to the way that we live and the way we consume. For a sustainable future we need to make it so that our children cannot remember a time when we had six plastic toiletry bottles around the side of the bath or discover that humans have destroyed the planet to the point that words like badger are taken out of the junior dictionary.

The importance of convenience has trumped everything else for so long that we are finding it hard to change our ways. I’m one of the ‘we’. I have times when I really want to buy a roll of cling film because I think it’s faster and easier than the alternative of putting leftovers in a long-term reusable container or wax wrap. I’m not sure either is true - though our generation has been brought up to believe that it is.

Never has there been more people creating and providing ways for us to make better choices. There are no-plastic websites, zero waste shops, plastic alternatives for almost everything we use, forest schools, outdoor education coming into schools and a trend to buy less stuff and be more mindful of what we are consuming as we move though life. I find it very inspiring.

I believe that connecting children to nature lies at the heart of helping them make better choices.  And I believe they will have a much deeper connection if it’s one that comes from lots of family time outside.

 

“No one will protect what they don't care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced” David Attenborough

 

If our children love being outside, walking though bluebells woods, spotting wildlife, digging in mud, pond dipping, climbing trees, making wreaths with willow and spending time outside I believe it will be so much easier for them to make choices based on what is best not what’s fastest.

I understand fully that not all convenience is bad; I have some things in my life that I find very useful and believe they have more of a positive impact than negative. For example I get a meat box once a month so that I know where all the meat has come from – saving me the visit to a butcher - and I buy biodegradable wipes online.

And part of my business also offers convenience. After 18 months of running forest school stay-and-play sessions for pre-school children I wanted to find other ways to get parents outside with their children. I know it can be really hard to find, prep and then deliver new activities when you have little spare time. So I have created a season activity box for children aged 2-6 years old and for their parents or guardians that provide a range of activities which allow the children to develop their skills, interests and understanding though practical, hands on experiences in the natural world.

I hope that the activities encourage conversations, a sense of achievement, belonging and greater understanding of one another as well as giving the adult an insight into their child’s way of thinking.  

Training to be a forest school leader and spending an increasing amount of time outside (I have a dog and a family holiday home on Anglesey so I was already quite outdoorsy) has changed my life. I have a different perspective on things, I’m calmer, more mindful and notice the simple pleasure of life more easily now.  If I can pass that on though forest school sessions or seasonal boxes then happy days.

Some of my favourite things to do outside as a family:

·       a simple dog walk, no plan, no phone

·       jumping in puddles on wet days

·       chasing each other’s shadows on sunny days

·       filling small match boxes with treasures and then seeing who fitted in the most when were back home

·       a flask of hot chocolate and treat on a cold walk

·       searching for a seasonal flower

·       acting out a book such as The Three Little Pigs or Going on a Bear Hunt

·       looking for tracks and making up stories around them

 

What’s your favourite thing to do outside with your family?


Ellie Kelly runs Wonderwood Explorers in Farnham. Check out Ellie’s seasonal activity boxes here.

LifestyleContributor
Community Meet-ups
All images thanks to    Eleanor McAlister-Dilks

All images thanks to Eleanor McAlister-Dilks

Nature, the seasons, living simply, and making time for creativity - all were up for discussion at our two community meet-ups these past few months. In day-to-day life we may not all have the opportunity to converse with others about these topics. With the love and passion we have for them, meeting like-minded souls who feel the same is so empowering!

Conversations and connections that enrich our lives were continued or begun during those few short hours.

First, in October, we headed to the Attenborough Nature Reserve in Nottingham. New faces were welcomed as we sat in some late summer sun, before heading out on one of the circular walks. Eleanor led a few mindful activities along the way, such as “grounding”, where we connect with the earth beneath our feet. Unfortunately the earth beneath mine was a patch of nettles but I enjoyed the concept all the same!

We stopped a while as the waters lapped by our feet to enjoy a warming tea, an apple from our orchard, and a little crafting from foraged twigs to create a star. Mine still hangs from the shed and lightens my day as I reach for my wellies each morning.

Our second meet-up in Edale was hampered by train strikes, but those who made it through met in the tiny National Trust cafe and talk began of the new year that had only just begun.

Soon we braved the weather, and as the harsh winds bit our cheeks we walked on and were prompted to write some seasonal reflections on what surrounded us that blustery day. A hard-earned rest beneath a bridge was accompanied by mulled apple juice and a brief wassail to fortify us to complete our walk.

Our connections and feelings of community were also fortified, and plans were devised for more meet-ups around the country. Larger ones planned by Eleanor for those that can travel, but smaller gatherings too, arranged and attended by those in closer proximity to each other. The relative ease of these for other to attend will mean our community continues to grow, to flourish, and to nourish.

Jessica Townsend creates slow and sustainable fashion at House of Flint. Follow her behind-the-scenes on Instagram here.

Lifestyle, CreativeContributor
Lady Farmer Slow Living Retreat 2018
All images by Meaghan Clare Photography

All images by Meaghan Clare Photography

Lady Farmer is a sustainable apparel and lifestyle brand, striving to cultivate a community for those seeking independence from existing food and fashion systems that are harmful to the planet and its people. They offer functional, fashionable, sustainable clothing and products for the intentional lifestyle and a resource for the modern woman of all ages who yearns for a simpler way of life. 

The first Lady Farmer Slow Living Retreat was held in November at the beautifully restored Zigbone Farm in Sabillasville, MD, located just over an hour outside of  Washington D.C. and Baltimore, MD.  This gathering was a weekend exploration of a sustainable living, celebrating community, connection and self-care, designed for the modern woman seeking an inspired and healthful life through changes in energy management, consumer behaviour and daily rituals. A full weekend immersion in workshops, speakers and a supportive community, all taking place in a beautiful natural setting with exquisitely prepared farm-to-table meals,  this experience was intended to provide participants with the tools to create more slow and intentional living for themselves and their families. 

The retreat began on Friday evening with a reception welcoming approximately forty-five women arriving from locations far and wide, from local to international.  Many came from Washington, DC or nearby locations in Maryland and Virginia, but others came from distant states or from as far as Canada and France. A heavy rain meant that the planned bonfire was moved indoors to the living room of the cozy old farmhouse, where strangers soon became fast friends over wine and snacks around the woodstove. 

The weekend programming was launched on Saturday morning with opening remarks by Mother-Daughter team and Lady Farmer co-founders Mary and Emma Kingsley, followed by a presentation by keynote speaker Amy Dufault, a sustainable fashion and lifestyle writer.  Amy is the Director of Digital Content & Communications for the Brooklyn Fashion + Design Accelerator and a co-creator of the Food & Fibers Project,  a project that looks at the connections between what we eat and what we wear. Speaking on the problems in the fast fashion industry and conscious consumerism, she was the perfect spokesperson for the intersection of sustainability in food, clothing, and lifestyle.

The rest of the day unfolded as participants were given a selection of workshops to attend. Topics included slow gardening, affirmation journaling, exploring personal cycles and rhythms and gathering energy and power from nature.  Though there were numerous talks and workshops offered, scheduling allowed for attendees to take time to reflect, explore and get to know the rest of the Lady Farmer community gathered. 

The day culminated in a special meal on Saturday evening, a beautifully prepared farm-to-table dinner featuring delicious, locally sourced fare, including organic, biodynamic wine and a signature dessert. It was a highlight of a weekend celebrating the best of slow living-- community, sharing, learning, and nurturing. 

The retreat continued on Sunday with a full day of programming lead by environmental educator Shayn Gangidine, exploring the healing benefits of being outdoors. In an engaging talk,  Shayne discussed our historic connection to the land around us, as well as modern research in the effects of nature on brain patterning.  Workshop participants went outside to observe their surroundings, gather objects or meditate, mixing relaxation, mindfulness, and whimsy. These and other guided activities, such as nature art and prompted journaling, gave them the knowledge and tools for enhancing their lives and those of others through meaningful interaction with the natural world. 

Mary and Emma closed out the retreat that afternoon with a Q and A conversation wrapping up the weekend and a sneak peek at what’s next for Lady Farmer.  In addition to an abundance of learning opportunities, the weekend was a wonderful experience of friends old and new coming together to be nourished, restored and inspired by all things slow living.


So, you might ask,  who are these Lady Farmers who gathered for a weekend retreat in the country? What drew all of these women together? 

Whether she owns and cultivates country acreage, tends to a home garden or dwells in the city with a desire to create space in her life for more sustainable living, the Lady Farmer sows the seeds of slow living all around her.  She is any women who cares deeply about personal connection, cultivating meaningful relationships with the people in her life and the land under her feet. She chooses, uses and purchases thoughtfully, understanding her individual impact on the world and the future. She has a motherly instinct, whether for her own children or all children, embracing the idea of the world as a village and tending to the growth of her community. She brings an open heart and a conscious mind to living on the earth. These are the women who came together for the  Lady Farmer Slow Living Retreat 2018. 


Visit the Lady Farmer website to sign up for their newsletter and get more information on their sustainable apparel line, lifestyle products, blog and upcoming events.

Lifestyle, CreativeContributor
Emotional Cosiness in Your Home
Image:  Bright Corner

Light is fundamental to our well-being and happiness.


“The light that surrounds us on a daily basis has a huge impact on our brains, our mood and our mental health and yet, on the whole, we tend to pay it very little attention.”

Karl Ryberg, Light Your Life: The Art of using Light for Health and Happiness


Sunlight increases serotonin levels which in turn makes you happy but during the winter months our source of natural light is greatly reduced. Therefore, lighting your home correctly is important to make sure you create emotional cosiness, leaving you feeling happy.

The Danish have a word called Hygge, meaning a quality of cosiness and comfortable feeling of contentment or well-being. Mood lighting is a massive part of this, big bright lights like hospital or office lighting makes you feel uncomfortable and on edge. For a well-lit happy room, you need to have several light sources, creating areas of darkness as well as light, giving a space character and personality, creating an inviting atmosphere.

Flickering light from candles and fires are also great for a space, they create a sense of life and energy making you feel relaxed. Fairy lights also have that twinkling, magical effect, they add a sense of wonderment and adventure to a room.


“You want to create small caves of light around the room”

Meik Wiking, The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living


Colours such as red, orange and yellow evoke feelings of happiness, optimism, creativity, success and energy. So warm coloured light bulbs with a low lumen number, are best for that cosy, dimly lit, happy vibe.

Winter can be tough, especially after the festivities of Christmas, so leave your fairy lights up all year round. Good interior lighting design is crucial for emotional cosiness. Look at your lighting arrangement in your home, make sure it creates mood and ambience making you feel inspired, warm and happy.


“Light is the magical ingredient that makes or breaks a space.”

Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz, Elle Decoration


Chloe Harrison is the founder and owner of Bright Corner, who design and make simple wooden LED lights. Follow her on Instagram to inspire a happy home with a calm and cosy atmosphere.

LifestyleContributor
My Countryside: Jessica Townsend
annie-spratt-707871-unsplash.jpg

Today Jessica Townsend tells us a little about ‘her’ countryside.

Callum: Where in the world is ‘your’ countryside?

Jessica: The heart of the Lincolnshire Wolds, a small village surrounded by fields and sky. It’s where I grew up and I was instantly drawn back here when I left the big city life for a slower pace. This landscape is home - from the muddy paths leading to my front door, to the bird who every day calls me to the second tree on the left in Farmer Terry’s field – I know it all so well.

 

Callum: Earliest countryside memory?

 Jessica: The land where our house now sits was once part of the fields that surround it. I remember when my parents first bought the land, seeing nothing but long grasses and running through them getting stung by nettles. When I do the same now it always brings me back to that moment, when we first came to this place and called it home.

 

Callum: Why do you love the countryside?

 Jessica: I love the quiet and the noises that disturb it - the chatter of birds, the rustling leaves, the whispers of the wind. I love the absolute solitude that can be found just moments from my door, and the inspiration that can be found in it. But most of all I love the amount of sky. The Lincolnshire Wolds are relatively flat and at times it can feel like the whole world is nothing but wide, open skies. It makes me feel free.

 

Callum: You have 24 hours, anywhere: describe your ideal day in the countryside.

 Jessica: I would start the day with crisp, autumn sunshine overhead and a steaming coffee outdoors, followed by a walk with the dog through paths of red and gold. Rosy cheeks are a must, and a stroll through the woods wouldn’t go amiss. The day would end with a lakeside pub and a warming cider as we wait for the stars to appear.

 

Callum: Favourite season and why?

 Jessica: Spring first comes to mind, as I love the sense of new beginnings and nature coming to life. However, after becoming part of the Creative Countryside Community I’ve been shown such beauty in the autumn months that I may be a convert, especially after the never-ending summer we just had. Autumn is also a time I can wear socks, boots and jumpers everyday and that definitely has my vote!


Check out Jessica’s slow fashion at House of Flint.

LifestyleCallum Saunders