I'm not one for New Year resolutions in general. The thought of depriving myself, or making sweeping changes to my life, is not something that particularly appeals to me, not least, because I already like it pretty much the way that it is. One thing that does drive me however, is passing on knowledge to my children. Readers who are familiar with our blog will know how much I love spending time outside with the kids; walking the dog, foraging for fruit and crafting with natural items. It was on one such walk, way back last summer, when the seeds for this project were sown. Our favourite haunt is Neigh Bridge Lake in the Cotswold Water Park where I walk at least a couple of times a week, and it was here that I realised my knowledge was fast running out. We had found wild mint, sucked on the flowers of dead nettles to taste their sweet nectar and spotted meadowsweet. I was enjoying watching my happy kids and dog explore, when one of them pointed to a plant and asked what it was - and I didn't have a clue.
It turns out once you start pointing out all the plants you cant positively identify, rather than the ones you can, you start to see the world in a very different way. I grew up in the country, and have always been interested in the natural world around me, so would say I have a reasonable, but not deep knowledge of British Flora and Fauna. I don't want the kids to stop learning about the beauty and uses of plants, simply because I have passed on the extent of my knowledge. I have therefore set myself the personal goal of making 2016 the year where I try to learn the identity of all the plants growing around our beautiful lakeside walk.
We plan to do this in a number of ways. Firstly, I am very excited to be going on a foraging day in the spring led by Robin Harford, the author of the Eatweeds Cookbook and Blog. This day out is my Christmas present from my brother, and I cant wait for it to come around! Although the foraging day is in a different area to the one we live in, I know that being shown how to approach wild plant identification by an expert will really boost my own confidence in recognising both the edible and non edible.
Secondly, The kids and I are going to use Instagram to record the plants that we find during our walks that we don't recognise. One of the difficulties I have with plant identification is that by the time I am home and ready to look something up, I either can not recall the plant with a great enough accuracy, or if I have picked a small sample of it, my sample no longer looks how it did in the wild. There is also a legal issue in picking some wild plants in Britain, and if I don't know what they are, I cannot be sure whether they are protected or not. By using Instagram to record the plants in their setting, at a particular point in time, should really help with their identification. We are new to Instagram, but hope that over time we will connect with other users who also have a love of nature and the outdoors, and may perhaps even be able to help us in our plant identification. If anyone who reads this would like to join in with our project we'd be delighted, or if you are experienced with Instagram, and have any ideas of how we might be able to facilitate our project on there, for example with ideas for hashtags, I'd really love to hear them - we really are newbies and need all the help we can get! You can visit our Instagram page here...
The thought of spending the year learning and growing while doing something that we enjoy is such a lovely prospect. We'd love to hear about any plans you have made to increase your knowledge and skills this year, so please let us know in the comments below.