What a year 2020 has been! The plant on this photo is a good metaphor for 2020. I can view it either as an unseemly plant with evil spikes, or, if I look from another angle, a bunch of tiny stars reaching out towards one another 🙂
Over the holidays, the community of the Guilty Feminist (one of my favourite podcasts) is sharing personal silver linings from lockdown (check out some of the short videos here). The aim being to focus on gratitude and create a wave of support for displaced people all around the world who are living in refugee camps, via the organisation Choose Love.
Having more time to volunteering at a farm on the outskirts of Amsterdam and learning about local regenerative food production was my silver lining in lockdown. I’m so grateful to have gotten to spend those Sundays hands deep in the soil digging up Jerusalem artichokes, planting pumpkins, turning over the compost heap, harvesting parsnips, planting trees… It was particularly great because in a time of reduced social interactions, it allowed me to meet fun people and, while safely keeping our distance, have lots of inspiring conversations and good laughs.
If you’d like to hear more about it, check this episode where Josie Naughton the co-founder explains the amazing work that Choose Love does. Because in winter I often have cold feet and wear two or more thick pairs of socks at once, I purchased some warm winter clothes and shoes from the Choose Love website. Items start at just £5 or if you prefer to act more locally, donate an organisation supporting refugees near you. All these small actions add up to make a difference 🙂
One morning last week, I was disturbed by the sound of a chainsaw coming from one of the gardens that my balcony overlooks. I went to check what was going on and to my horror, found that a tall conifer was being sawn into pieces. The combination of the sound of the chainsaw as well as the thud of branches and logs crashing to the ground below made me very anxious and sad. In about 20 minutes it was over. Silence returned and all that remained of the tree was some scattered sawdust.
But this is not a sad tale about neighbours preferring a little more sunlight over a living tree. Coincidentally a few days later, I went to help at my local CSA where over the course of two days volunteers would help plant over 1000 trees that will grow into a thick hedge around the crops to protect them from the wind. It felt like a chance to set things right.
It’s impressive what a small group of people can achieve with team work, motivation and the right guidance. It was a cold Sunday morning, barely a few degrees above zero, but I had piled on lots of warm layers and working with our spade warmed us up immediately. We made precise trenches, digging out the compact clay. Then placed the trees twenty centimetres apart. We broke the clay soil into smaller chunks and after mixing it with rich compost distributed it around the roots. Finally we watered the trees and added a layer of mulch (steaming autumn leaves salvaged from a nearby golf-course) around their base.
There was a wonderful atmosphere, chatting about all sorts of things as we worked, and the sun even came out over the beds at the end of the afternoon. The trees may look a little underwhelming right now, but I am really grateful to have participated and cannot wait to see how the trees wake up in spring, growing together to protect the crops and create more bio-diversity.
We rounded the day off with some delicious glühwein whilst warming our cold fingers by the fire. Cycling on the way home, I was rewarded with a beautiful moody sky over the water.
Planting trees is a very effective way to combat climate change and it’s easy to contribute even if you don’t have a garden. Search for initiatives in your area to participate in person or donate to. If you are in Amsterdam, for example you can consider supporting this local food forest which is crowdfunding at the moment. Another easy thing to do is using Ecosia as your default search engine, so each time you satisfy your curiosity you’ll also contribute to planting trees. Feel free to add other initiatives you know of in the comments too!