Monday, 30 April 2007

Monday 30th April 07

Woke late and feeling grotty with throat feeling swollen, but decided to get up and get on without fuss, and as I have so much to do, starting with Fiddlesticks confirmations, as the summer bookings are coming in. I have 4 to reply to today, two which need an invoice and one which also needs a risk assessment.

We had three visitors for coffee in the morning, two residents of Emerald Street where we used to live and one of their young sons who was very cute, even though he wasn't feeling very well.

Then for lunch my friend Jo came and met Gill for the first time and we all had a nice chat over a sandwich.

After lunch I did some washing up and 3pm came so soon, my time to go and get the kids. But immediately I arrived back I cycled down to town and picked up my recyclables and paid in a cheque and also popped in on Bernie at Bikerescue, a bicycle recycling organisation which is organising a 3 day cycle event at the National Railway Museum, and I have been booked as Professor Fiddlesticks the unicycle teacher, on Saturday 5th and Monday 7th May, next weekend.

Nice tea made by Gill, based on bulgar wheat.

Sunday, 29 April 2007

Sunday 29th April 07, Day-trip to Sheffield

A horrendously early start, 6.15, don't know why, apart from loud sparrows squabbling outside the window..

Got up anyway as have to be up early enough to get the 9.20 to Sheffield, as I'm helping to do some gardening at Anna and Douglas's house in Middlewood. Gill decided to stay at home and do some sorting, I cycled down to the station, tailing my 9 year old and with my 7 year old sitting on my crossbar. The roads were almost empty, good for practice cycling for my little beginner. Easily got the 9.20 and were met by my brother Thomas and his 3 kids at Sheffield Station, and we walked through the City admiring the various stainless steel sculptures and water features which are fairly newly installed. Also went into the Winter Gardens, before catching the tram up to Middlewood Terminus which is in the valley below where our sister Anna and her hairy hubby live, up a hill.

Good chats with Tom, proud to have taken part in a run (10km?) with 700 participants, he came 350th, ahead of his wife Kate, who goes out for regular runs and was therefore slightly put out. Their two 7 yr olds also did a short run, and Tom has also dabbled in a cycle race and said I should have a go as I'd be good at it. Never know, I might!

It was lovely to be all together, the three of us and Douglas, and the children all playing well together. Nice lunch and did a load of gardening... had been asked to revamp the compost heap but also did lots of convovulous root removal, nettle pulling and brick and rubbish excavation. Did a lot of work... oh and also helped Tom to take a wardrobe up their stairs which was a tight fit!

Tom and kids left after lunch but we stayed til after 4, and got the two trams back to the station and got a train within minutes, changed at Doncaster and were back in York by 6pm.

Very proud of my little boys who have behaved so well and been lovely, and also Gill who has worked extremely hard tidying the conservatory and the garden, ready for a couple of visitors tomorrow morning.

A long and exhausting day, not helped by a streaming nose and regular sneezing fits... possibly pollen allergy, don't really know...

Saturday, 28 April 2007

Saturday 28th April 07

A relaxed but productive day, spent with my family in the house and garden. The main thing I did was to get the boys to plant a lot of 'Jack Edwards Pea Beans', a climbing French pea bean which I first got from Sheffield Green Fair several years ago.

However the day started early as I was expecting a Freecycler to come and look at the big tricycle I want to sell (he didn't recieve a free one, and initially took up my offer of seeing mine with a view to purchasing it) but he didn't turn up. However Chris the more reliable Freecycler who wanted 'hessian sacks or similar' arrived to pick up a sack full of paper potato sacks, had a tour of the garden and was inspired. He said he'd just taken on an allotment so I gave him a sack of compost and a small baggie of dried Jack Edwards pea beans, which I urged him to plant immediately. I have just recieved a nice email from him thanking me for my generosity and also for inspiring him and his wife in their allotmenting and composting.

My children had fun riding the big trike (my wife cannot manage it as the steering is weird, compared to a two-wheeler) and I built a woodpile and tidied the front garden a bit. Gill made a start on sorting out the conservatory which has gotten very cluttered and needs sorting before the tomatoes go in.

Planting our favourite beans was fun... I made up lots of seed compost from loam, leafmold and a bit of rich garden compost, and mixed it 50:50 with some commercial seed compost I found in a skip last year. I had rescued a large number of plastic hot-drinks cups from a skip on Heslington Rd a few days ago and last night washed them and with a hot wire placed in the embers of the stove, melted two tiny holes in the base of each cup, four or five at a time, for drainage. The boys filled the cups with planting medium, dibbed a hole and poppoed a soaked peabean in each one. They must have done nearly a hundered, enough for us and lots to give to others. They are too good a plant to keep to oneself, everyone needs a peabean as they are truly delicious, and easy to grow.

At 1.30 I set off for Will's house in Clifton, along the cycle track ('Route 66') because one of his neighbours had given him about 400 vinyl albums to Freecycle or give away... this was advertised on Freecycle and YorkLETS, as a music giveaway from 2 til 4. I came away with about 20 records, including some Queen (which I don't know that well but want to hear more of), an original Jimi Hendrix, some Pet Shop Boys, Ultravox, some soundtracks to musicals which the boys might like, and more. I will write to Will and his neighbour and thank them. Quite a few other chaps turned up and everybody left with armfuls of old records, all free.

I spent most of the rest of the afternoon putting accumulated bits and bobs collected in the conservatory in several of the compost heaps, but I didn't manage to finish this task as the pile of cardboard, shriveled artechokes and sad onions was too big to get through, even though I continued after tea whilst the others watched Dr Who which I don't like.

My tea was good, though. I picked some chard and broccoli, and steamed that with thin strips of carrot, fried tempeh chunks and home-grown leek in sesame oil, added yesterday's cooked cauliflower at the last moment, and did a rich cheese sauce with red wine and stilton... terrific.

A quiet evening, just a bit of housework and my now habitual blogging which I enjoy doing.

Friday, 27 April 2007

Friday 27th April 07

Yet another good day, as I recieved a Freecycle goody... a person who is moving house had two lawnmowers going for free and I cycled over to Stockton Lane to pick one up. Ours is about 5 or 6 years old and is on the verge of breaking, is making a horrible noise and needs either some attention, the motor reusing for a robot or other similar project, or putting in the WEEE skip (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) to be recycled.

On the way back, called in on my friend James who was in a bit of a state (he has an alcohol problem) but was pleased to see me, I think. I owe him a eucalyptus tree pruning, in part payment for his old chainsaw. Will do this within the next couple of weeks.

Then home for lunch and Gill went to a 'reading group' meeting, her first, organised by Melody our friend, who knows Gill doesn't get much time for reading. I went to the allotment to put in another two varieties of potato which was a very pleasent hour. I then went to school to pick up the kids, and as pre-arranged, went back to Suzanne and Andy's house and had a coffee and chat, as my boys played with their daughter. We left in time to get back for 5 and the boys' tea, which Gill had created, a veg stew, realy nice.

I immediately went to the veg shop for a compostables collection, came back for tea and then went down to town to collect an enormous load from Out Of This World, back again for 7.30pm and relaxation infront of the telly. Enjoyed our usual Friday TV, Gardeners World.

Thursday, 26 April 2007

Thursday 26th April 07

A good day as the morning was very structured by the fact a group of us had to choose 6 applicants from 22 for the York Rotters part-time management post. Shortlisting for interviews next week, it's a fascinating process, but important we do it well and with integrity as it is someone's life we are dealing with, infact more than one person as 21 people won't get the job.

But it was reasonably easy to do as we were able to put all our combined favourites in one pile, discuss the 'maybes' using a tick-box grid based on the job spec, and get to our 6 for interviewing without much difficulty. We also discussed the questions we want to ask at the interview and who will ask them, and how we organise the 6 interviewees and the two parts of the interview process... the formal part and the less formal visit around St Nicks.

This all finished for lunchtime and I got home and had a good lunch and did some emailing and blogging and googletalking and then it was time to go to school...

The evening went well, a small meeting of the Green Festival organisers at Space 109... infact just two of us, but a good meeting nonetheless, and we kept it to one hour. This left time for a drink at the Blue Bell on Fossgate, which was really worthwhile.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Wednesday 25th April 07

An excellent day, perhaps a little full, but towards the end of it was feeling really good, as I have achieved a lot today.

Got up as usual as the children were about to leave for school, and by the time Gill had got back I had justabout done my blog from yesterday, which I didn't feel like doing yesterday night...

Then went to visit my good friend Edward Harland, who is a little bit famous for writing a book called 'Eco Renovation' which explains various ways that houses can be improved to make them more eco-friendly, sustainable, low impact, low carbon, cheaper to heat, etc etc. It's a good book. He is running a project called Oasis which is connected with sustainability and wellbeing, and wanted to ask me some questions for inspiration and ideas, I think. We always get on well and connect brilliantly, I hope my visit was of some use to him.

Cycled back via Out Of This World and Oxfam (for Cafe Direct fair trade coffee big tub) and another friend for a quick coffee and met one of her friends Illaria, who was nice.

Then back in time for lunch and some housework and then oh so soon, off to school to pick up the boys. They'd had a good day and I was ok to go and do a bit of compost heap management, finishing off yesterday's turning from one dalek to another, and putting a fresh layer on the big hot heap.

Made my own tea on the woodstove.... leek and tomato with chunks of tempeh, a sour but tasty fermented soya bean sausage, with potatoes and lottie broccoli, and salad.

A productive evening because I managed to start the Green Festival Blog, the address of which is and email address is which my mate Simon has sorted out for us. Nice one Simon!

Also had another lovely googletalk chat, am really enjoying this. However got finished before midnight, amazing!

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Tuesday 24th April 07

Well I got up before the boys left for school. When Gill came back we decided there was no time to go back to bed as when we get up again she wonders where the morning has gone, and today there's too much to do!

I needed to go to the allotment and try to get the first of the potatoes in. I spent nearly 3 hours there, did loads of weeding... mainly dandelions which are flowering all over the place and a few invasive thistles coming in from the edges. Also managed my lovely compost heaps.... in order to put some compost in the two potato trenches I dug and planted, just the first of 13, as each variety will go in a different row.

Home for lunch and then went to St Nicks to pick up the applications for the York Rotters part-time management post, which we are to shortlist on Thursday. On the way into the site, met a woman who was staring into Osbaldwick Beck which flows into a culvert and goes under St Nicks, she was Sylvia from the wildlife trust, the person responsible for wet environments, and she had recieved a report of a mink. Her interest in verifying this stems from the fact that mink eat watervoles, and there are currently no mink on the River Foss system and therefore the voles aren't threatened, but could be if mink appeared.

I picked up the 22 applications, photocopied an article in NewScientist about packaging waste for them, and also picked up a report about food waste packaging recycling.. compostable plastics I think.

Home and all too soon had to go to school as our youngest had reportedly had a headache and had burst into tears, so we'd been called to take him home. As soon as I had got him home I had to cycle back to pick up the other one. After this did some compost management, dug out and turned two of my bins, including one that had the bony remains of a cat, duck and rabbit, nearly totally composted apart from the bigger bones which went straight back into the current working heap.

Gill did a lovely tea of quiche, allotment potatoes, broccoli from the lottie and a kiwi jelly pie with some of the two trays of reject kiwis I was given last week.

Spent most of the later evening chatting with my old friend currently residing in America... didn't feel like doing any work or blog, but did email BBC Radio 4's 'Word of Mouth with some 21st Century Proverbs that Gill had written.

Monday 23rd April 07

A fairly normal morning for me, got up before the kids were taken to school by Gill, I had breakfast whilst she was out and then tempted her back to bed when she came back. Lucky we have the time to do this... But I had a lot going through my mind and got up soon and started writing my 'Community Care' blog, on paper first. I've been told to get it in by Weds as the new-look magazine is published on Thursday and the blog goes with my first column, in this issue.

But it's also Monday, my compost collection day, so I broke off my writing to cycle down to town and visit Out Of This World and had a nice chat with Marianne the manager, whom I'm trying to persuade to visit my composting operations some day. Also popped in on the Coop Bank for cash and Boots for my asthma medication refills. I've had asthma since childhood and it's now totally managed, so well I wouldn't know I have it... unless I stop the twice daily puffer when it gradually makes itself known again.

In York, wheeling bike and well-loaded trailer along, I met Jeremy Piercy who when I first met him in 1987 when I moved to York had just opened a shop in Goodramgate called Fairer World. Within a few years it had changed its name to Shared Earth and is now in Minster Gates/High Petergate, and he has another 6 branches all over the place. He is passionate about Fair Trade and his shops support quite a few communities in far-flung places. He told me of his plan to do a walk through Britain next summer promoting Fair Trade, and asked if I might be interested in helping with the cyclist-with-luggage bit of the walk. He also wants publicity, I said I might be able to assist.

As it was gently raining I didn't go and plant the potatoes, which urgently need planting, but got on with my blog preparations. Enjoyed my big pile of sandwiches for lunch and got on with writing. An interuption from David the Freecycler and Vicky his friend, who have given us a couple of redcurrant bushes and returned the trowel they borrowed. Vicky wanted to see the garden so that took a half-hour out of my afternoon, but didn't mind as she was delightful and interested, and if a tour of the garden might inspire someone else to grow their own or compost their wastes, then it's worth it.

Collected the kiddies at 3 and then got on with some various activities before being fed cauliflower, carrot, out-of-date tofu sea cakes and an experimental savoury pancake made from potato flour. I like experimental!

After tea spent under one hour typing in my Community Care blog before going out to the second CRAG meeting. This is either Carbon Rationing Action Group or Carbon Reduction Action Group, apparently there's been some debate about it on a CRAG discussion forum. a good meeting, about our mission statement and aims, and some other bits and bobs.

Had two pints of Strongbow with 'lemonade top' as it isn't sweet enough for my liking without it, and the meeting was jolly and good natured and ended late.

Home in time for..... blogging!

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Sunday 22nd April 07

Awoke not too early and went downstairs to find my sister, Anna, still asleep after her late night at Joseph. The boys were being asked to keep quiet to let her sleep on, but she soon woke up. Weirdly, their late night with an 11pm bed-time didn't result in them sleeping in any later, they were up at 7am.

Anna awoke and she and the boys had pancakes for breakfast, I had my usual habitual cereals and muesli. We had a wander down the garden and Anna requested more compost for her garden, how could I refuse? She had praised it highly and said their border needed more... so she took 2 more bags and we put them in her car and she soon drove back to Sheffield.

I spent some time in the garden, got quite a lot done. Potted on some squash and courgettes, from their seed containers into bigger pots.

Melody came after lunch and we talked about the future of CrUST and its connections with the Green Festival and funding for that.

In the evening I tried to do some work on the computer but had a few problems getting onto the site I wanted, but persevered.

Saturday, 21 April 2007

Sat 21st April 07

Got up early to complete yesterday's blog and get ready for a long day chairing an important meeting of 'AVP NEEM' the North East and East Midlands branch of Alternatives to Violence Project, a UK organisation (AVP Britain) which organises workshops on conflict resolution, in prisons and for the wider community. I owe a lot to AVP as I could have got into big trouble for my lack of self contol during my 20's, when I did an AVP workshop and learnt about what my triggers were, how violence starts and where it ends up and how to manage that energy and emotion creatively and sustainably. I believe that AVP is part of 'social sustainability' as it promotes social cohesion and helps hot-heads, bullies, those bullied or abused deal with their problem. It enables people to learn how to communicate in a non-violent way. It has helped me with my environmental activism, NVDA (non violent direct action), family life, my work as an entertainer and many of my inter-personal relationships.

I cycled up to New Earswick to Hartrigg Oaks where the meeting was due to be held, and as usual, was a few minutes early and waited for the others to arrive. When a few had come, I asked one person how Harry was, he lives at Hartrigg Oaks and used to be the Treasurer of AVP York but he has gone blind and is now in the care-home part of the Oaks, so I asked if I could visit him. He has begun to develop dementure but he did work out where he knew me from and we had a nice chat, just 10 mins, but it cheered him up, he said.

By this time the other five AVP NEEM (Alternatives to Violence Project North East and East Midlands) representatives had arrived so my chairing abilities were put into operation and we had a 2 hour session in the morning, lunch, and several hours in the afternoon. The structure of the organisation has changed and AVP Britain now has 7 members which are regions. We have a lot of organising to do and it was a full meeting.

I managed to pull it to a close at 4.30 and bomb off to Heslington Road where Richard was just shutting up the shop, he gave me 2 sacks of 'ready to compost' stuff and two trays of kiwis which weren't selling and were surplus to requirements so I got 2 trays... sounds like a kiwi leather to be created.

Anna my sister rang soon after I got in and said she was near to York, and arrived 10 mins later in time for tea, then they all watched Dr Who, which I don't like, and immediately after that the taxi I'd booked came and my boys and their Aunty went to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at the Grand Opera House.

Gill and I played scrabble and watched telly. Got a phone call during the interval saying they were ok and enjoying it. They got home at 10.30pm which is the latest they've ever been up.
Both happy though, although the youngest very tired.

Friday 20th April 07

Awoke very early when Gill go up but went back to sleep again, and slept til after 9 when Gill woke me to say bye, as she was off to Scarborough with Simon who's got a car, to visit Uncle Tom and help him vacate his flat so he can stop paying rent for it as well as the care home he now lives in. Fortunately that's in Scarborough too, so he'll not lose his friends or the places he knows so well, but he's giving up his computer and lots of his personal posessions. This must be really difficult, a sort of forced downsizing, preparing to spend his last days/months/years in a small room, with much more stuff being done for him after such an active and independent life.

It makes recieving his computer feel really sad, not a good feeling at all. So I got up and lit the stove and got water for a big wash-up, my late-night blogging and google-chatting means I am not doing the washing up in the evening so much, as I used to. I spent an hour or so doing housework and dealing with Fiddlesticks enquiries, then tore into town for my compostables pick up, which now includes, once a week, Miller's Yard Healthy living Centre on Gillygate. Nice chat with Dylan there, he is such a calm, chilled guy, even in the face of my high energy bouncyness!

Spent loads of time in the garden and then went to get the boys at 3. Gill back when we arrived in, with a big pile of Uncle Tom's stuff and tales of a frustrating and tough day.

Simple tea of vegetable omlette and bread. One more foody thing, our milk delivery (in reusable pint bottles) has stopped as our milkman is very ill in hospital and the couple have decided to sell the round. We are missing these deliveries, as now we have to get all our milk in plastic bottles, which although recyclable, are not nearly as 'green' and low impact as reusable glass ones. I know cow's milk isn't the greenest choice, and I wish we could get soya milk in reusable glass, delivered, maybe with the next milk delivery (optomist!). We did ask our previous one but he said it wasn't available. Hope we get a new delivery soon, and hope Graham the ex milko gets well again.

After tea did some more outdoor stuff and found a pile of plant pots requested by a nearby Freecycler, cycled them round to her.

Enjoyed the one-hour Gardeners World with Gill, but then she fell asleep and I spent a long time on the computer. Intense and fun times with friend in America over the net... really good to be back in touch and sharing our lives again.

Bath after midnight, with all the hot water heated on the woodstove.... wonderful and luxurious, and 'low carbon', low fossil carbon anyway.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

Thursday 19th April 07

Gill had offered to support one of our friends whom had herself volunteered to support a woman who faces deportation, so Gill went to court with our friend to meet up with the woman who feels she will be killed or persecuted if she returns to her country of origin. Therefore I got up at 6.30 to complete the children's morning routine and take them to school. Feeling tired and grotty, have not been getting enough sleep and have a runny nose, probably connected.

However, have to make best use of the day and lit the stove, got hot water together, did lots of washing up and soaking labels of bottles, glass in recycling and squashed the plastic ones so more fit in the recycling and sorted accumulated stuff whilst listening to a good programme on symmetry on R4.

Contemplated returning to bed!

Did return and read my Growing Heap magazine, journal of the Community Composting Network. I have a mention because of my Ethical Man composting. Also part four of 'Composting in Schools', a subject close to my heart!

But didn't spend long as had a carrot and pumpkin soup to make, and more housework.

Lunch was with Jo, a new Rotter who seemed almost as keen on composting as I am, and I invited her to ring me and invite herself round. So she did and she was very interested in the various systems. We talked about loads of things over a sandwich and spent an hour and a half together, I hope we'll meet again. She helps run a scout group so she may get to see me as Professor Fiddlesticks as scouts are a speciality!

Phone call from Gill and our caring friend, they are taking longer in court than planned so I'll not expect them back and I'll pick up the boys. When I picked them up they were invited to go and play with a friend so I cycled home alone, picked up a giant log and when I got back, Gill was just home. A harrowing day for her, but fulfilling. I had several bits of good news... I found out that Dr Sentamu is going to be the patron of York Credit Union, I have been contacted by a professional coffin-maker and green burials person about possible compost burials, and one of the teachers at school has suddenly realised that the school isnt doing much recycling and is now my ally. All these positive things for the future make me happy.

Picked up the boys and they came home for tea, I ate some soup and sandwich and went to bed and fell asleep til 7 when Gill woke me to watch 'It's Not Easy Being Green', and spotted a Clearview stove.... they're catching on!

Lots of computery stuff, mostly googlechat with my re-ignited flame in America. Early night!

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Weds 18th April 07

A nice day. Was rung quite early by a Press photographer wanting another photo, because they're going to run a story about composting human bodies, so I said that now was fine and in 20 mins the chap was here. He got a series of photos and was off in 30 minutes, and then it was time for me to go to my dental appointment next to the Minster, a brief clean. I was very happy to hear that I am looking after my teeth well and they required less scaling and polishing than usual, and was told to rebook in 6 months.

Home via Sainsbury's (got a new toothbrush and a 3 for 2 toothpaste offer!) and then Richard at the fruit shop, lunch and a good chunk of afternoon in the garden, more riddling. 3pm came oh so quickly, so picked up the kids and they cycled home very quickly. Then went into town again to see Pauline and go to Out of This World. Pauline had asked me to come and try her new Freecycled bowsaw out on some skip wood she'd retrieved for her Clearview stove, and the saw turned out to be very good... it had a blade protector and was sharp and quick to cut. I also helped her with a couple of composting jobs, and was rewarded with a delicious Magnum ice cream and our usual friendly banter. OOTW had about 15kg of stuff for me and it went on the trailer no problem alongside Pauline's prunings.

Home again, had a good tea of pumpkin and cauliflower with cheese sauce plus two past sell by date 'sea cakes', tofu and seaweed thingies from you know where... another cheap and fulfilling meal cooked entirely on the woodstove (well, all the stuff I cooked).

Made up my muesli, using organic muesli base from the 10 kg bag from Suma and a generous mix of home-dried apple, banana, pineapple, nectarine, kiwi and raisins, home grown pumpkin seeds toasted and popped on the stove, and brazil nuts, supporting sustainable forestry in Amazonia, and a treat, yoghurt-covered raisins.... what a delicious muesli. I eat this twice a day, first thing and last thing...

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Tuesday 17th April 07

Due to another late night talking with my friend in America on Googletalk, I woke quite late, after 9am, with my wife coming in and talling me the York Press was on the phone. I came down to answer questions on 'ethical death' following the Newsnight programme last week, and I chatted for half an hour about composting cadavers, aerobic vs anaerobic rots, the less ethical approaches to disposing of dead bodies such as burial and cremation. I look forward to the Press article on it.

Then breakfast, and round to Debbie's to fold Green Party leaflets and Castle Area Campaign ones, and then a fairly quick delivery round.

Home for lunch and a quiet afternoon with Gill, a bit of riddling compost and preparation of growing medium, and collected kids at 3.15.

A fairly nondescript day.

Monday, 16 April 2007

Monday 16th April 07

Last day of the Easter Holidays for the children, and I wanted to do something nice with them. However our youngest still hadn't finished his homework, which was doing a diary of the fortnight's holiday, so I told him we could do something if he was finished by midday. However he was still working on it mid afternoon so we didn't go out, just stayed at home.

I went quickly into town to do my compostables pick up, also popped into Banks Music Shop to get a book of 'teach yourself piano' for the boys, both of whom enjoy messing about on the piano we have got on long term loan from a friend.

I spent much of the afternoon in the garden, had a visit from Jules the Freecycler who has a shared interest in logs, stoves, composting etc, who was delivering some spent hops from a brewery in ?Harrogate (they've advertised them on Freecycle) and was picking up a petrol chainsaw I had bought off a friend who has become disabled and cannot use it. Jules will swop it for a log delivery, I owe my friend some pruning of his eucalyptus tree. A funny non-currency transaction triangle.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

Sunday 15th April 07

Got up and spent an hour or more redoing my blog from yesterday which wouldn't publish. As I'm on dialup I get the page on screen and go offline and type. When I go online again I sometimes find I cannot connect to blogger and I don't know what to do about it. It's SO frustrating!

However it didn't take too long and I was able to finish before Uncle Douglas arrived, over from Sheffield, at about 10.30. He's my brother in law and we get on very well; they'd been given some tomato plants from my mother when they visited Weston Super Mare last week, and Douglas was delivering them to me, and collecting 3 big bags of mature compost for top-dressing their border. He also took the SUMA stuff he and Anna had ordered, and stayed less than an hour.

Had a nice lunch and did some paperwork and washing up and family stuff. Encouraged kids to do homework.

At 4pm Nicola a Freecycler arrived with several sacks of wooden offcuts which they didn't want to put in a skip, and took a wander round the garden and had a cuppa and a chat. She's a composter too and didn't want a bag of compost, but it was good to help her out with her wooden offcuts and meet her and her husband.

An evening with lots of writing... did a column for Families in the Vale Of York Magazine, on ethical/green entertainers. Also lots of Googletalking with my friend in America, til very late.

Sat 14th April 07

Awoke at 9.10 and got up quickly as I was due at St Nicks for 10! I have been booked by Keely to teach at the latest York Rotters training session, to do the 'basic home composting' part of the course.

This covers what composting is, and some terminology, and where it happens in the wild, and how we tame it for our benefit. I talk about why it is good and why the alternatives are bad, and the range of materials which can be composted. This includes the two basic types of materials, greens and browns, or wets and drys, or high nitrogen and high carbon, which when layered or mixed make a good heap. We briefly discuss the living organisms which populate a typical 'cold' heap and 'do' the composting for you, fungi, bacteria, protozoa, worms, insects, mites, other arthropods and the complex ecosystem within, and of course how the heap's diaspora fuel the wider ecosystem of arachnids, amphibians, birds and mammals. And of course this touches on some of the percieved problems of composting, flies and rodents, and how to dissuade them.

We covered hot turned piles and cold 'sit n wait' heaps, different compost bins and containers, and how to use the material once made. We went outside to view the range of composters on display at St Nicks, and the leafmold pile and the wormery. This led onto 'advanced composting' which Keely led, on composting in urban yards and how to do cooked food, including using 'bokashi' which is a pre-treatment with a culture of bacteria and fungi which 'pickle' the food materials anaerobically before they are composted, making them much less appealing to vermin. I was allowed one minute to talk about my compost toilet, and how I use partially composted sawdust to cover and compost the humanure with.

Then we had lunch which was an opportunity to chat with some of the new people who had attended and re-connect with some old friends who had come for their first official compost training or for a refresher. I was pleased to chat with 'Kate the Columnist', perhaps gathering more material for her writing, my good friend Jenny who helps run AVP Britain, and I first met over a decade ago through the New Economics Foundation before we started York Local Agenda 21 and before I went on my first conflict resolution workshop run by the new AVP York, which I then joined and helped to manage for the next 10 years or more. We have now morphed into AVP NEEM (Alternatives to Violence Project North East and East Midlands)! And I was delighted to chat with an old LETS contact Anneliese who is a fabulous poet and wordsmith and is gathering ideas for a series of poems about, you guessed it, home composting!

After lunch and chat we met up with Izzy and Hel from WRAP who'd come to teach us 'compost drumming', samba rhythms performed on compost bins and caddies and other items connected with recycling. I've tried drumming before and never really got on with it, but Hel was a good teacher and I did better than ever before. We learnt a basic rhythm and a few breaks and are now ready to perform at the May 6th York Green Carnival... except I have paid work on that day and won't be able to fully participate. But I'd like them to come to the Green Festival in July.

One of the new Rotters, a South African called Sarah, was interested in seeing my composting demonstration garden, and as there was no reason to defer this, she cycled back with me and had the tour. She was also interested in the Ethical Man stuff, and as she doesn't watch much TV, I put the tape on and put a glass of juice in her hand and let her see what the Beeb has been doing over the past year.

Gill and the boys had gone into town on the bus to go to the City Art Gallery for a hands-on art day, and they also went to the Yorkshire Museum for a dinosaur exhibition, and between these visits had gone on a boat trip up and down the River Ouse, and eaten a picnic they took with them. They came in just before Sarah went, and they'd obviously had as enjoyable a day as I had.

We concocted tea between us, a stove-top stirfry of pumpkin/squash slices, mushroom (including home-grown shiitake), tomatoes and vegetatian sausages, with baked beans, cabbage salad, pickled beetroot and guacamole. As this was nearly ready, a person appeared at the front door, a woman who we've been friendly with in the past, but whom had on one occasion been very agitated and abusive, and then on a subsequent occasion apologised and told us she had a mental health problem and had been admitted to Bootham Hospital because of this. She was in an agitated and paranoid state, and was saying that she was unable to return home because her neighbour was persecuting her and the police would be waiting, and she had nowhere to go. I offered her the chance to sit in our garden with a cuppa in order to calm down, and I'd talk with her when I'd eaten my tea. I made her a herbal tea and had my meal, and then went to see if there was anything I could do to help. She was unable to suggest any practical actions I could do to help, and refused/ignored all my offers, as I would have really liked to help as she was in distress. I told her she seemed agitated and that I couldn't just listen to her tales of woe, and she became abusive to me saying that I was as bad as all the others and she left in a huff, saying she was just going to have to walk the streets of York all night with nowhere to go and no warm clothes. I was left feeling quite sad as I wanted to help but her mental state wasn't compatable with being able to accept help. I feel sure that she will probably spend some more time in Bootham. I will talk to her about what I should do if she turns up like that again when she is out and more rational.

This occurance rather put a damper on a good day. Another damper was that late at night when I'd spent an hour doing my blog, it refused to publish and I couldn't do anything about it. I lost the lot. I had to retype it all in on Sunday morning.

Friday, 13 April 2007

Friday 13th April 07

Woken up by our boys fighting outside our door, shouting and throwing things at each other. Oh dear!

The day didn't get much better really, as they were bad tempered and we sent them out into the garden and we went back to bed, which was nice, but one of them came back in and disturbed us and rather spoilt the moment... oh dear.

Anyway, we got up and on with parental responsibilities. I popped out on the bike to get some groceries and when I got back a bag broke and a bottle of perry fell and smashed all over the kitchen floor. Oh dear again.

At 1pm a photographer, Simon, was due to come to get some images for the Community Care mag to use, he was late and we spent nearly 2 hours getting a wide range of shots, including woodchopping (axe and saw) posing by woodpile, riding bike with load of compostables, compost heap posing, riddling, digging up parsnips and more. He was nice enough but I had a headache. I hope it doesn't show on the pictures!

Then I had to go to see my GP who has had a message from the Primary Care Trust, who are willing to send me to the Maudsley in London for a diagnosis to find out if I have ADHD (or if I'm just a Great British Eccentric!) IF the Maudsley wants to see me! A bit odd but I'll go with the flow, I don't really mind either way at the moment as my life seems to be going well and I'm using my high energy levels productively.

Did a short Sainsbury shop for cereals and some wine and visited Out Of This World for my recycling pick up.

Still headachey but a productive evening with various paperwork accomplished and the usual e-communications.

Thursday, 12 April 2007

Thursday 12th April 07

Up early again, and I have to go to Abbey to sort out the problen they're causing for YorkLETS. I was dealt with swiftly this time, and by an efficient person who understood the problem and hopefully managed to sort it out. Although she was able to provide the paperwork which will enable us to open our Co-op account, she wasn't able to give the passbook back or pay the closing balance, and she said that head office had no record of the passbook being sent to them. I'm afraid I will have to write to the Financial Services Authority about their appalling service. I will do this to try to protect other community groups falling foul of the same poor service and inconvenience and waste of volunteer time.

Anyway, left Abbey with some paperwork to pass onto Co-op. I visited another organisation's office about a book I'm writing (sorry this has to remain secret, but it's too sensative an issue to share in a public diary YET... when published though, it will be public!) After this visit I popped into Out of This World to pick up some items left yesterday, and onto Liz from LETS to drop off the Abbey info, but she wasn't in so I just left it for her.

Then I dropped into Miller's Yard where Dylan and Claire were just opening up. We discussed composting and other aspects of life, and I had a coffee mocha which was nice. The healthy living centre cafe sells Belu bottled water, which I met first at last year's Big Green Gathering. the bottles are made of a biodegradable plastic called PLA, I think polymerised lactic acid, which will rot in 'commercial' heaps which stay warm for ages. I am trying to compost one in my Compostumbler, which does get hot for weeks at a time. I won't be taking the Miller's Yard Belu bottles though, but I did offer to see if I could broker a deal between Yorwaste and Dylan, as I'd have thought that Yorwaste would like to do a trial in their big hot heaps.

Got home and took the compostables down to their destination and had lunch. Had a visit from a Freecycler I'm doing a swap with, he (David) had some blue storage jars and wanted some compost to add to soil to grow some salad in. Freecycle is rapidly becoming a social networking tool! He enjoyed the tour of the garden and we had some interesting chats.

I had to prepare some paperwork for tonight's CrUST meeting, and then go to an anti incinerator demonstration organised by YRAIN, York Residents Against Incineration who are lobbying the City of York Council and North Yorkshire County Council not to put in a PFI bid to build a waste incinerator. We stood next to a scaled-down chimney and I had supplied smoke pellets (from my environmental health training days) and the Press took photos. I personally don't want an incinerator built as they burn fossil fuel (plastics) which should be recycled and conserved for future generations and not added to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. I also think there is more than a chance that human error or mechanical breakdown will allow dioxins to get into the air we all breathe, and we don't need any more carcinogens around us. Finally, having an incinerator alters the economics for recycling, making it less likely that there would be investment in materials recycling. As I'm pro-composting, I feel that putting compostable materials in with the plastics is a waste, and there is still a landfillable proportion left after the incinerator has done its work.

This demo only took 10 minutes, so I bombed off down the Tadcaster Road to pick up more Freecycled stuff, this time some plastic planters from Felicity. They'll be good for tomatoes and other crops.

Got home across the Racecourse, Millennium Bridge and Low Moor for ten to seven, gathered my CrUST stuff together and got to Space 109 on Walmgte for about seven fifteen, just one minute before Tracy who had arranged the venue and had the keys. The meeting went very well, Tracy chaired and there were several new faces and lots of contributions.

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Weds 11th April 07

A lovely day weatherwise so got started early with some Green Party local election leaflet deliveries. I went with Debbie who enjoyed the round last time and had asked that she could help again. This delivery was Fishergate Ward, but a different area, someone elses round. It didn't take long with the two of us and we visited some housing we hadn't seen before, new flats and small houses off Hull Road.

I cycled into town to do my Wednesday compostables pick up, and got some vegan ice cream for Gill who reacts badly to cow's milk products. Vegan products also have less of a carbon footprint too, as cows produce loads of methane and use lots of resources such as water and feed, which has it's own carbon footprint. The 'Swedish Glace'ice cream also tastes lovely, but is a lot more expensive than dairy.

I also visited the Yorkshire Museum with the Morel fungus I found over the weekend on the allotment. Pip Strang the expert there says she will identify it... I was suprised to hear from her that there are 18 British species, my book lists just two! She'll contact me with a identification in a couple of weeks.

During the afternoon I did a lot of riddling of finished compost, to make the stuff usable and separate the uncomposted sticks and non-compostables (stones, little bits of plastic) from the fantastic crumbly rich particles of 'humus' or biologically active carbon-rich matter, perfect for adding to growing media for healthy plants and crops. The seeds are in, I need lots of compost to add to leafmold and loam to grow them in. So I'm bagging up the riddled stuff ready for this season. My riddle is a sheet of chicken wire mounted on a wooden frame, about 1.5m square. I also have a 'rotaseive' which is smaller and has smaller holes, producing a finer grained compost.

This afternoon's York Press had our letters published, mine about the lack of response from Lloyds TSB about my offering to help them with reducing waste, and one from Gill saying she considered me an Eco-Lover not an Eco-Warrior.

In the evening I attended the first meeting of York CRAG, Carbon Rationing Action Group. This was interesting and I enjoyed it a lot. The basic idea is to help citizens to reduce their carbon emissions and save resources for future generations. This will be done by offering a carbon calculator to measure annual emissions, and setting a target to try to aim for (or under!). There will be regular meetings to inform, educate and encourage, perhaps themed to get people with different interests involved and on board. We may perhaps set a penalty for those who go over the target, a financial penalty per kilo, which would be paid into an account and used to offset those extra emissions. The offsetting could be local, such as helping to pay for insulation or energy efficient lightbulbs for a CRAG member who's finding the target difficult to attain. We're meeting in a fortnight and will debate and agree Mission, Aims and Objectives plus discuss (and agree?) the structure of the group.

I got home just in time to see the Newsnight 'Ethical Man' special, in which I featured, helping Justin Rowlatt with composting and helping Ethical Man go on his way ethically, by composting him. It was a good programme and I think was a fitting end to his year-long project. And I've benefitted as I now have a column in Community Care magazine (starting at the end of the month) and a new career begnning.

What a day!

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Tuesday 10th April 07

A good morning as I had some post from the BBC, Sara the Newsnight Ethical Man reporter sent me 2 DVDs, one with the Panorama programme and the other with the filmlet about water which went out on Newsnight last year and featured my compost toilet. She advised me that the 'Death of Ethical Man' filmlet was due to go out on 11th, that's tomorrow!

After an early lunch went into St Nicks to meet up with the 'Crossroads' crew and split logs with them (rather, oversee them splitting logs with an axe!) and I met the Crossroads boss, and gave her my card in case she wants to have me for anything. We managed to finish splitting the logs and stacking them, well done all!

Monday, 9 April 2007

Monday 9th April 07

A fairly early start and as a nice day I bombed into town to do a visit to Out Of This World, who had obviously been having a clearout, and waiting for me was a large pile of assorted stuff for my to recycle, some to compost and other stuff to recycle in other ways!

The most exciting thing that happened today was a visit from Dave Taylor (Green candidate, Fishergate Ward), with his 'Castle Area Campaign' hat on, with some posters about the forthcoming election and which parties and candidates had opposed the proposed development of a shopping mall around Clifford's Tower, and a brief note about those who had been in favour of the unpopular development. As I spoke at the Public Enquiry about the development, and don't support the building of yet more shops, especially in that area, I am listed in the 'Vote For' section, as are lots of other Green Party candidates, some Conservatives, a Labour candidate, a Liberal, the Respect Candidate and the Looney. The Lib Dems are the only political party who have sided en bloc with the developers, and the Castle Area Campaign suggests voting tactically to push them out.

The next most exciting thing was that I made such a filling tea, and the boys had eaten so much chocolate, that halfway through tea, as they were struggling, Gill suggested taking them on a cycle ride to check out the Fair on St Georges car park. So we cycled up to Green Dykes Lane, to the University and accross Walmgate Stray through the Barracks and down to the River Ouse near the Millennium Bridge where we turned right and went all the way into York. We walked our bikes round the Fair but it wasn't that exciting as hardly anyone was there, so we cycled on and then through town, Coppergate, Piccadilly, Walmgate and home along the Hull Rd. Their cycling is getting so much better! When they got home they both finished their tea.

Gill and I had the same basic nosh, marmite water bulgar wheat and couscous (washing out a finished marmite jar) and a stew of leeks, tomatoes, chard/spinach from the garden and cashew nuts. I also had a 'sea cake', a tofu burger with smoky seaweed from Out Of Date World!

During the day I made up some more seed compost and planted a load of pumpkin, squash and cucumber seeds. I've planted over 20 Butternut squash as they seem to do well on the allotment and I can't get enough of them. I'd eat it every other day if I could.

My evening included washing up, making raisins by blanching grapes and setting them to dry, and having a very long e-conversation with an old flame I'm back in contact with.

Another satisfying and productive day.

Sunday, 8 April 2007

Sunday 8th April 07

Easter Sunday, and before I awoke Gill went into the garden to hide a load of milk chocolate mini eggs, wrapped in coloured aluminium foil, which were given to her from her sister Jane for the boys. Gill hid them in twos, plus the two Dubble larger fair trade chocolate eggs in their play shed toy oven. This egg hunt is a bit of a tradition, and the boys love it, as does Gilly.

So when I got up they were just on the way out to search for them. I don't do Easter really, but Gilly's a bit more traditional, although not religious. I didn't even have an egg for breakfast, just my usual bowl of cereal.

A quiet morning, just a bit of stuff in the garden and then a break inside for Countryfile and lunch.

Then a phone call from a friend from school, Rolf from Germany, father of a super little boy in our youngest son's class, who's seemingly very fond of me, asking when would be good to come round. Before the end of term we suggested they visit over the holidays and try out the trampoline one day, so today was that day. I had a quick cycle over to the other side of York to a Freecycler Shirley, who has offered a 220 litre 'dalek' compost bin, and by some chance I got it, lucky ol' me!

So I cycled this home and joined in the trampoline fun, instigating a game of headstands... I can do a good long headstand in the centre of an unmoving trampoline, and it's a safe enough place for others to learn the technique. Which is, for those blog readers who find that somebody elses online diary isn't that interesting enough, try putting your hands and head in a triangle shape on the flat still surface (a cushion on a floor is fine!) and slowly pushing your back up, and when that's upright, slowly lift your legs up, perhaps resting them on your arms as you push up. Don't do any movements quickly! Come down slowly the way you went up, or if you come down onto your back, make sure first that there's enough space around so that you don't hit anything.

Saturday, 7 April 2007

Sat. 7th April 07.

Went to the lottie in the morning, to prepare for the spuds going in. I wanted to take both my boys as Gill wanted to pop into town to get some 'little fiddles' (as she calls presents) for the boys to put in their reusable papier-mache easter eggs, to go with their Dubble 'fair trade' chocolate ones. However, our 9 year old refused to come with me, and I don't like taking just the younger one as he gets bored by himself, won't help on the lottie and needs lots of management, and then whines or cries. He's only 7 and still quite babyish in many ways. If they both come, they play together, sometimes spend a few minutes helping with something and are generally easier to deal with.

So I 'laid down the law' with my bigger bolshier one, and, much shouting later, he grumpily went to bring his bike to the front, as I'd got it out so he could come. He found it had a flat tyre so he couldn't come. So they both stayed at home, and because of the shouting at me, they won't get any extra presents tomorrow. Gill mended his tyre, she's getting good at it.

On the lottie I didn't manage to do much prep for potatoes. I cut back lots of old dead brambles and chopped them up onto one of the compost heaps (always a priority with me!) and did some digging out of dandylions and clumps of grass in the place where I thought the spuds could go. They probably still can, but not yet. More work to do.

One brilliant thing, though, I found a Morel, a rare fungus which in theory is edible, except this one had been alongside a weed and was damaged and covered in soil particles. It's the first Morel I've ever found. I brought it back and will try to identify it, whether 'common' or 'edible', except they are both edible and apparently delicious.

Home for lunch, house smelled lovely as Gill was making leek and sweet potato soup (yesterday's compostables included a large pile of leeks with some slightly yellowing leaves, the stems were fine!) and she'd done the bike, just needed help getting the tyre back on.

The boys wanted to go to the woods where Simon had taken them a few days ago, so we three set off and they took me to beyond Heslington, past the 'Outgang' and down a track to a small patch of woodland. The dens made by Simon's son were there, one a 'lean to' of sticks against a tree and the other a 'bender' with interwoven sticks. We played a bit, and I picked up a load of beer cans which had been left lying around, so I could bring them home for recycling.

When we got home, the Press had been delivered and I was in it with my Lloyds TSB rubbish bag story and photo. Then there was a phone-call, a woman wanting to remain anonymous, but congratulating me on 'doing the right thing'. She said she was nearly 80 and regularly picked up litter for recycling, and was right behind me with my direct action. How nice of her to ring with her support! She said that she expected me to get some flack over it, so she was ringing with 'a bouquet'. Later, when I went to the front door, tucked up against it was a box with a pack of four fruit and yoghurt deserts. They'd been left there, as a gift. Was this the same person? Was it someone else, with a positive response to the media report? Was it unconnected with the Press article... We may never know!

The sweet potato and leek soup was stupendous, with olive bread and toasted cheese. Followed by Strawberry flan and raspberry trifle and one of the fruit desert things, once again Gill said, 'don't we live well?' This always makes me laugh, I'm glad she's happy. We all are, it's the real 'Good Life'.

Friday, 6 April 2007

Friday 6th April 07, A 'Good Friday!'

Today really started with a phone call from a photographer from the Press who was supposed to come at 10am but rang wanting to come earlier... so he arrived at about half past nine to get an image of me with a bin bag I took off the pavement outside Lloyds TSB in order to find out what kinds of materials they were throwing away, and if there was any personal information that people could get at... I found lots of recyclable materials and evidence of very wastful practices, so I recorded the evidence and wrote to the bank complaining. I copied the letter to the council to keep them informed, and eventually recieved a reply which thanked me for my committment to waste reduction and warned me that if I removed bin bags off the pavement again I could be prosecuted. This juxtaposition warrented more publicity so I contacted the Press.

Soon after he went, my friend Suzanne arrived, with her daughter who's in our youngest son's class on Fridays, as she goes to another school for the rest of the week. She has dyspraxia and recieves special help in the other school, but when she goes to the secondary school she'll do better if she has some friends there. Suzanne came round to see the garden and recycling, and I gave her some plants ('Poached Egg', Limnanthes) which are good at attracting beneficial insects. Had a really nice chat and cuppa, she left at midday.

I went into town after lunch, to deliver some leaflets about next Thursday's CrUST meeting about the Green Festival, and to pick up the compostables from Out Of This World. Whilst cycling round to give out the posters about the meeting I visited Miller's Yard in Gillygate, wher my friend Dylan and his partner have set up a healthy living centre. I used to work in the same buildings nearly 20 years ago, when Gillygate Wholefood Co-operative was there. I had one summer's employment and fell foul of the two feminist lesbians who ran it. One morning I greeted them with 'Hello Ladies' and they took umbridge and growled at me that they weren't ladies, they were women. I didn't understand, but this confrontation led me to discover a bit about sexual and gender politics, feminism, and from there, discovered the Green Party and 'environmentalism' (later known as sustainability)and the rest is history.

I hope Dylan's venture succeeds. He has a cafe which just sells hot drinks and juices so far, and a series of treatment rooms and a meeting room and a yoga/pilates room. He's invested everything he has into it, and he's the lovliest, gentle, kind chap. I hope to be able to have some meetings there.

So home with compostables to process, which included a large number of punnets of strawberries, each with about half the fruits inedible and going soggy, and the other half perfect for making into fruit-leather. So at midnight, after having much trouble trying to write my blog and failing to get it to publish (lost an hour's worth of typing, very annoying) I chopped up the strawberries and some apples, liquidised then, rubbed the puree through a seive and poured the slop into one of the non-stick trays we have primarily for drying fruit. This was balanced on the stove for an overnight drying. It should take just a couple of days befor it is dry enough to turn out onto another non-stick sheet and finish off the drying. Then I'll get busy with the scissors and create a jar-full of delicious strawberry snacks...

Thursday, 5 April 2007

Thursday 5th April 07

A fairly quiet day, compared with yesterday. Lovely sunny weather and a good day for doing stuff in the garden, however did pop into York to visit a Freecycler who had offered some veg seeds, and to pick up my 'Wednesday's' Out Of This World compostable materials.

Simon invited the boys to go and play with his son, who has created a den in the woods. Gill made a picnic for them and they all cycled off had a good time. Gill spent quite a lot of the day trying to book a late summer holiday in Norfolk, just before her older sister's 60th, to which we're invited. I think we've secured a week in a static caravan in Wells Next The Sea!

Gill also put up a small shelf in one of the boys' rooms, and doing that, knelt on the the bit of the futon on the 'stomper bed' which cannot take that weight, and it broke under her. I had rescued some nice pine boards from a skip just last week, and fortunately these were of a size which fitted, when sawn to 59.5cm long. I got two reclaimed supports from each board, and put 8 of them in. I think they'll be stronger than the original chipboard.

I got a phone call in the morning from one of my LETS friends Patrick, who occasionally borrows my quiet shredder. He was dismantling a willow bender in his garden and wanted to render it into a mulching material, so he drove round and picked it up, delivering it back just 6 hours later. He brought it back with his partner Jo and she spotted some 'three by two' wooden lengths in the front garden, again rescued from a skip, and asked if she could have three for a little job in her bathroom. I am only too happy to see stuff being reused, and I'm glad I hadn't sawn them up immediately. They looked as if they could be reused. There's lots more, so they'll go in my garage waiting to get another life. I was happy to be offered 12 Yorkys for the shredder loan and the wood.

As well as doing the usual composting jobs, I sowed some basil seeds in modules, plastic trays with planting voids, each with a drainage hole. I put in 3 types of basil; bush (small leaves), Genovese (larger leaves) and 'Freecycled' (looks like the Genovese on the packet!).

Nutloaf from Tuesday for tea, with a quick ratatouille stewy thingy to add moisture and interest. Enjoyed 'It's Not Easy Being Green' on telly, caught up with e-paperwork.

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Wednesday 4th April 07, Day out in Whitby

Up early as we were having a day trip to Whitby as a holiday. Got up early enough to get the bus to the station where the Whitby Coastliner leaves at 8.15am, and goes via Malton, Flamingoland zoo and funpark, Pickering, Thornton Le Dale, Goathland and Sleights. Whilst waiting in York met a very pleasent lady called Helen from Derby, and when all the teenagers got off at Flamingoland, we were able to chat with her.

Whitby at about 10.30 and set off for Shepherd's Purse, which has been a good veggie place for food and drinks, but the food and drink place is now seperate and is accessed from a passageway nearby, but we had a lovely coffee/hot chocolate break there. Then onto the main reason we were going to Whitby, according to our children, the 'lucky duck' shop where tiny glass ornaments are made. The lucky ducks have some old story behind them, I just think the story confers luck on the shop owners and workers, as they sell lots of them and make a living selling them. However they bring happiness to my little boys and they had a lucky duck and a serendipitous serpent bought for them by me. Gill was going to get one, and I said I wasn't going to as it's carbon footprint was too much for my low impact lifestyle, and suddenly Gill didn't want one either.

Climbed the 199 steps to the Church and Abbey, and went into the Abbey visitor centre cheaply as we'd got some money-off vouchers along with our bus tickets. I'd not been in the Abbey before, and it was beautiful, especially when the sun broke through the sea-fret. The boys were trying out a couple of point and click cameras, and got very enthusiastic about pointing and clicking. We had lunch, a simple picnic Gill had made, lovely in the warm sunshine and with the splendid view. Then down into the town again, over the swing bridge and to the beach. The tide was coming in, ideal for building sandcastles and watching them being engulfed. Lots of fun.

Then, as the beach was rapidly disappearing, we walked up the slipway and spotted a steam-powered charabanc, which was doing tours of the town. The boys were enthusiastic about a trip so we got on and paid up £8 for the pleasure of a ride in 'Elizabeth' a steam lorry converted to carry passengers. She consumes a third of a tonne of coal per day and spends most days going round Whitby giving tourists an unusual ride around, the noise being the weirdest thing about the experience for me. It was a circular tour so we were soon back where we started, so a walk out along the harbour wall was called for. The lighthouse was open for visitors, and as Gilly doesn't like heights, just the three of us went up. After a bit more exploring and watching the impressive waves crashing around, we went looking for food for tea, from a local bakers, greengrocers and co-op shop. There is just one chip shop in Whitby that we know fries in vegetable oil, so we got chips there and had them overlooking the harbour with our pastie, egg sandwich, flapjack and fruit. The 6.10 bus departure was coming soon but popped into the train station to check out the timetable for the new Pickering to Whitby service from the North Yorks Moors Railway which starts soon. We like the idea of getting a steam train into Whitby, perhaps later in the year, in Summer maybe.

The York-bound bus was busy but the journey went quickly as I chatted all the way to a couple of Americans who were visiting the UK for a few weeks. Lots of interesting chats, about politics and the church, habits and giving them up, carbon emissions and ethical living, international businesses and local goods and services. I may be hearing from Marsha again, I hope so as we got on swimmingly. We got off in Heworth and walked the mile or so to our house, arriving in at 8.40pm, tired but all very happy.

Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Tuesday 3rd April 07

An active day, a fair amount of housework during the morning, and a SUMA delivery. Gill and I have for several years been running a food co-op for ourselves and some friends, and we get a few regularly-used items like peanut butter, loo paper, muesli base, pasta. As we buy it in bulk it means we can afford to buy organic, supporting agricultural practices which do less damage to the environment and are better for wildlife, and fair trade, which gives a better deal for the producers.

After lunch went to St Nicks as agreed with John the Centre manager, to chop some logs. I'd suggested I could do this for St Nicks, as I sometimes take logs off the pile which is regularly added to by tree-surgeons offloading their unwanted tree wastes, and it is only fair if I give something back. A poplar had come down and been sawn up into rounds, and needed splitting.

The centre has many visitors, today it had a group of youths, teenagers, who had come into contact with the authorities through anti-social behaviour or misdeeds, and were under the care of 'Crossroads'. I know nothing about this, they seemed like fairly ordinary young adults to me, and I was assigned several volunteers to teach how to split logs and stack them. These tasks may seem simple but there is a knack to both. For instance, rounds with a side branch split best when done in line with the side branch, so it splits too, rather than at right-angles to it which can be more difficult as the knot may extend into the log. Rounds with side branches also split best from the lower cut surface, ie with the log upside-down as the branch leaves the round at an angle and having the split start where the branch begins to leave the trunk seems best to me.

Also stacking a logpile is quite an art if it isn't to fall down. The activity attracted a queue of participants, male and female, all wanting a go at smashing the rounds in two. Even the leaders had a go. We also had to use the centre's 'log grenade' too, a wedge in a sort of pyramid shape which is incredibly effective at blowing apart difficult to split rounds.

We all had a lot of fun, I gave lots of positive feedback and encouragement, and just occasional direction, mainly putting the rounds in the right orientation for easiest splitting, and getting out of the way quick. I was pleased to meet a friendly leader, Chris from Crossroads, who seemed fascinated by my lifestyle and told me he'd invite me out for a drink, I hope he does. He said that the youth service should be paying me for the help I'd given, and I gave him my Professor Fiddlesticks card as I may get some paid work with the group.

I'd cycled to St Nicks with my boys, my mate Simon and his son. Simon spent time with the three boys, playing, exploring, keeping the peace. I am very grateful to Simon for being a lovely responsible grown-up with my boys, I couldn't have done the logsplitting work without his help.

Got home and quickly made a nutloaf with bread, peanut butter, onions, rice, grated carrot and seeds, bound with egg and microwaved and then put in the oven along with a chocolate cake Gill was baking. Had this with a cheese sauce and new potatoes.

Put the boys to bed early as we've a busy day tomorrow with an early start.

Enjoyed learning about the connection between Tourettes and creativity. I have an interest in such disorders as I have many of the traits of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and I am a very active, enthusiastic and creative person. I haven't had a diagnosis but I would love to know if I do have ADHD. Lots of the people who know me think I do, and I feel more comfortable with that label than what I have previously been called, such as 'eccentric'. ADHD is thought to be connected with lowered levels of dopamine in the frontal lobes of the brain, and Tourettes is also connected with dopamine, but increased levels in temporal and frontal lobes. Interesting stuff.

Monday, 2 April 2007

Monday 2nd April 07

Easter Hols, for the children, so had a relatively late morning in bed. Spent some time re-reading 'The New Woodburner's Handbook' by Stephen Bushway, which Bill and Dinah brought back to me. It's American but an excellent overview with much detailed analysis.

Once I'd got up properly I did some outside stuff, including making a lot of seed compost as the boys want to plant their Morning Glories, Sunflowers and my Squash seeds. There's lots more to plant too, so I made a lot. It's mainly leafmold with a small amount of seived loam and garden compost. I also added a quarter bag of commercial seed compost from a bag rescued from a skip.

When Gill had come back from getting bread and milk (although we have a doorstep milk delivery we sometimes need to 'top up' with Co-op shop milk in plastic bottles, which are recyclable but not reusable like glass milk bottles) I went to town to pay in my Out Of This World composting money into York Credit Union, collect the OOTW compostables, buy some goats cheese for Gill and zoom home in time for lunch.

A lovely sunny day, spent much of the afternoon in the garden, as did the kids.

YorkLETS had a meeting in the evening, and it was a good one although not many turned up. We discussed whether to put an advert in the Local Link magazine for new members, and also a combined LETS/Freecycle social. I agreed to contact CAB because they are helping people find ways to get by using less money, and may be holding an event later in the year which we could be invited to. I reported my successful York Co-op Members talk about LETS which resulted in one new member. We planned the AGM in June. A good meeting.

Watched Newsnight hoping that Ethical Man would be on, but he wasn't. Never mind, it could be tomorrow, or sometime later in the week.

Sunday, 1 April 2007

Sunday 1st April 07

A rather late morning, as was up very late last night. I watched the third 'qatsi' film, whilst having a Googlemail conversation with a friend. This was a first as I've not used this service before. It was great, a sort of instant email chat. I hope we'll do it again sometime...

So slept til about 9.30 andwas woken by my wife coming back to bed... at about 10 got up as the boys were making a lot of noise and wanting some grown-up attention. What they're really into is 'bundles' which is basically play-fighting, wrestling, attempting to overpower me, which they can't do yet. They are capable of hurting me but I always 'win', so far anyway. A time will come when they are too strong, and perhaps they'll grow out of it, one or the other! So I watched 'Countryfile' whilst being bundled. After this we had lunch, and as Gill wanted some tomatoes in order to create a pizza, I volunteered to cycle down to Martins Country Fresh. With a small amount of persuasion the boys came too and as I'd picked up some compostables they suggested we go to the allotment. They weren't interested in the allotment at all really, they wanted to utilise the slope of Lamel Hill to cycle fast down whilst I attended to the four 'New Zealand bins' I have there, and chatted to a friendly older lady called Josephine who was a gardener in her younger days and now lives in Dower Court, the block of accommodation near the lottie site.

Got back and Gill had been busy in the kitchen making pizza dough and an apple and loganberry pie. Our Bramley apples from the garden, stored since picking last autumn, are getting to the end of their stored life, but still some usable apples amongst them. The loganberries are very prolific and we 'open freeze' them on a tray, and when frozen, pour them into a polybag and put them back into the freezer. We've still got some left, even though we use them all through the winter as a taste-memory of summer.

I spent a while in the garden, doing some riddling of mature compost ready for the coming season's planting. The boys played in their play-house which Gill made from a shed that a friend was going to dump and on the trampoline, lots of laughter there.

The pizza and salad was lovely. I am so lucky to have a great cook as a wife, and she enjoys creating lovely food. On my pizza I had a large, home-grown shiitake mushroom, in thin slices. The large oak log it grew on was innoculated with mycelium a couple of years ago, by inserting dowels with the mycelium growing in them. I placed the log in a north-facing shady area and waited. The fruiting bodies come in flushes all year round, with up to 12 weeks gaps between the fruiting. They taste great and they are my second-favourite edible mushroom, my favourite is 'chicken of the woods' and I have a tree trunk innoculated with that too. It's fruited twice in two years.

In the evening I popped out on my bike to the lottie with the rhubarb and was busy til dark.

A very nice day, didn't feel too shattered from last night's late finish. Earlier to bed tonight...