Tiny Homemaking

Tiny House Living book on steps

Last month I mentioned my plans to spend some of the summer reading about log cabins. The plans to read have, perhaps inevitably, fostered plans to build. I found a fantastic book about the tiny house movement that resonated with so many of my thoughts about living well, it felt like a hundred disparate thoughts all finally tying together. I’ve joked for years about running away to build a cabin in the woods. I now realise that by mentioning it so often it’s shifting from an impossible dream to a determined goal. Other people do it, why can’t we? Heck, my Grama did it, so it’s in my blood!

The drive to consume (information, fuel, electronic goods and more) is thrust at us from so many directions that resisting it feels subversive. But the tide is changing. I regularly come across people sharing their stories of cutting the clutter from their lives. I’m inspired by the conscious choices people share, about what fills their houses and their days. I like the idea that building something with our own hands make us conscious of how we live and what space we need. It would be a privilege to live well outside of the mortgage trap, to find out how little we can live on and grow our lives from there.

I’m in the middle of reading Klein’s book, This Changes Everything, and boy does it. She presents information in a compelling way that demands we pay attention and be informed about our part in the global picture. I’m only a short way through, so I’ll spare you any misinformation, but I really would urge you to read it.

I hope that the trend towards minimalist design goes beyond style. I hope we are becoming more conscious about what we consume, how we travel, where we spend our free time. I hope that I can be more conscious, informed and brave. And while building a tiny house is a pipe dream for now, I can certainly start by reducing the unnecessary ‘stuff’ in my house and being conscious of the wider impact of my choices.

Wild Summer Reading

Feral book by George Monbiot, sitting in the grass

June’s read became July’s, readily interrupted by the growing pile of ‘how-to-sort-your-dog’ books (embarrassing, I know). Once I recovered from my brief hiatus into behaviour modification theory, I relished returning to the Appalachian woods where Kingsolver’s ‘Prodigal Summer’ is set.

If you want a dose of fresh air and organic thinking, I’d heartily recommend this book. It weaves ideas on our relationship and responsibilities to the natural world in to some very readable fiction. Kingsolver creates beautiful sentences and charming characters (the grumpy old man being my favourite).

Tom and I are off this weekend to indulge in a fresh pile of books for the summer break. We’ll be out in the Island countryside for much of the holiday so I’m sticking with the wild theme and choosing Feral for one of this month’s read. I also want to buy a book on log cabins; I won’t be building one any time soon, but it’s fun to entertain the thought.

Any holiday reads to recommend? Let me know on Twitter or Instagram. Join in with Laura’s Year in Books here.

The Year in Books: 2015 So Far

Book cover photo collage

Last year I accepted Laura’s challenge to read at least one book each month. I enjoyed the prompt to write about books and read recommendations from others. Somehow it fell by the wayside this year. I’ve lost the daily hour of reading that my old commute carved out and have struggled to find my reading rhythm without it. Despite this, I’ve enjoyed some beautiful books this year. This rainy day seemed the perfect excuse to read through my book of books and catch up on the year so far.

Last year I discovered a love of nature writing, which carried me in to January on a dark musky trail in pursuit of badgers. I now spot many more tracks and setts, but haven’t gone to the same lengths as Barkham to spot the animal itself.

In complete contrast, I read about the history of women in skateboarding and felt outraged and inspired in equal parts, by the prevalent machismo and the success of many women regardless.

It would be hard for The Goldfinch to live up to all the hype, which made me hesitant, but I wasn’t disappointed. It really was a delicious big fat read, full of life and love in its many facets. Both The Son and A Fine Balance offered up grand swathes of life on opposites sides of the globe (Texas and India) whilst Lemon Cake was a little quirky slice of a child’s life in LA (with the added magic of tasting emotions in food; what a burden!)

Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver

Despite the storm that passed through our town last night, I am optimistic in my reading, and have chosen The Prodigal Summer for this month’s read. Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is one of my all-time favourite books, but I’ve never before read any of her fiction. I’m looking forward to getting started. What are you reading this month? Why not join The Year In Books?

2014: The Year in Books

Old books on shelves

2014 was the year that I discovered my love of nature writing, the slow pace and startling discoveries made by others. I often plough through fiction and forget much of it, but I usually hold on to the pictures painted in a nature book: the creak of a wild wood in Suffolk, the buzzing insects on a still day in New Mexico, the dark peaty depths of a Cumbrian bog in November.

The natural world is pretty incredible, in its vast greatness and its tiny delicacies. I suspect we are all struck breathless by it at times, yet we don’t talk about it very much. Instead we talk about the immediate: our next meal, what’s coming up on the channel, or what he said to her yesterday. So, reading the words of someone else, hearing how nature inspires us individually, feels like a joy shared.

My favourite book of the year was H is for Hawk. Helen Macdonald’s tale of taming Mabel the Goshawk is wild, beautiful and heartbreaking. With her exploration of wildness, our place in it, and how we choose to respond, it was the perfect read to end the year.

I’m starting out this January with Badgerlands: a delve in to the dark, deeply trodden trails of badgers across Britain. With thoughts of Grahame’s Badger and his perfectly appointed winter kitchen, it’s a good book for the season.

With thanks to Laura who got me reading (and writing!) more these last twelve months.

Flower with hills in the background

Just A Wee October Read

James Yorkston tour diaries book being held up

I have been a dedicated lover of James Yorkston’s gentle singing since our long past summers spent in the muddy fields of Green Man Festival, when it was just us and 2000 other stinky revellers.

All heaped together in the Big Top, a fug of smoke, with the rain dripping steadily off the canvas door, relaxing to his gentle humour, circling guitar, and the surprise beatbox accompaniment of a particularly keen soundman.

I defy anyone to not fall in love with JY’s music. His songs have stuck with me all through my fickle musical swings, like a ship’s mast in a storm.

So, this wasn’t to be any ordinary tour diaries. And yet, his ordinary stories were exactly what made it so wonderful. The natural, poetic patter that is so evident in this tune came through in his writing.

Yorkston pulled out delightful details from his touring days – things that weren’t intricate plot devices or building to some greater symbolism, just interesting things that caught his eye. A perfectly lovely read from a not-exactly-rock-star.

For November I’m indulging my love of nature writing with this beautiful recent hardback (awarded the Samuel Johnson prize only yesterday!) My November shall be full of visions of hawks and austringers.

With thanks, as always, to Laura who inspired this year of books.