Sunday, 30 March 2008

Sunday 30th March 08

Woke at the usual time but it was later than I thought as the clocks had gone forward so most of the morning had gone already... but did have some good family times then watched Countryfile between doing bits of washing up.

The weather was fine and we all spent some time outside, I chopped some hedge sticks to again try to reduce the still large pile of stuff removed to put the fence in. Even an hour of working with secateurs hasn't made the pile any smaller, it seems. But it was good to be outside and the children played on the trampoline and in the little house that Gill built.

Gill made a simple tea using a couple of oven-bottom 'stottie cakes' given to us by Debbie, who's a Geordie and had brought them back from Newcastle the other day when visiting. Gilly made a kind of pizza-analogue and something she called a Russian Salad with some leftover cooked carot, potato, cauliflower and some chives, spring onions and other fresh bits.

I had to do a column by the end of today so I spent some of the day researching 'healthy hobbies' and typed it in before midnight. However, this meant that I didn't do much of my paid blog, and whilst in the middle of it, I had a very intense conversation with K in America via Skype, which put paid to any more straight thinking...

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Saturday 29th March 08

A good start to the day as was woken by noise from boys, but HAPPY noise which was good, not fighting but playing!!! As the weather was good, went into the garden and did the inevitable compost heap management!

After lunch went to the York Rotters 'end of year party' at St Nicks. Catherine had compiled a quiz (I wonder if this was in work time???) and after a 'go round', which was a bit like a 'composters anonymous' meeting, we were asked to pick a coin out of a bag and look at the date on it and tell the group something from that year which we remember. I got a 1985 two pence and told people about my time at college when I was 19 and had an experience which resulted in me turning 'green'. Then we got into teams and our team won! We could choose a prize and I chose a little packet of chocolates over a ceramic compost caddy or an insect hotel... I particularly enjoyed this meeting as my competitively-green CRAG friend Robin was there with his little boy and his dog, also my mad-keen-on-composting friend Jo, over-enthusiastic-about-everything-green friend Chris and even our lovely Lib-Dem (shortly to defect to the Green Party?) Councillor Andrew. I also met some new Rotters, two of which I teamed up with to win the quiz. A good accumulation of Rotters, very jolly. Thank you Catherine for organising this.

I picked up a log on the way home and delivered this to home before cycling down to Country Fresh and picking up a sack of manky lettuce and a big box of other compostables... and bought some cranberries and potatoes, plus some kiwi and oranges for my friend Debbie. I popped in to Debs on the way home and had a 10 minute chat with her and her daughter, always a friendly welcome here.

I do feel lucky with my social life. This is a real benefit about living in a city, there's lots of opportunities to visit people and socialise.

A late tea... quiche and potatoes... and during the evening I started to compile a log of all the composting outreach work I've done in the past year, going through my blog, day by day, and noting all the stuff other than doing my own garden compost into a file, which when finished, I'll send to Catherine for her records. A very slow and tedious job... but interesting too!

Friday, 28 March 2008

Friday 28th March 08

Up reasonably early to sort out some fruit which has been hanging around and Gill's asked me to remove. Washed, halved, cored, peeled and sliced a tray-full of pears and melon for drying before breakfast... then had breakfast and went back to bed for 45 minutes to finish off a NewScientist. I'm still a month behind!

Then got up and did more tidying.... why are we so messy? Having children doesn't help, especially if they're either fighting or trailing round after you saying 'I'm bored'. Very frustrating... and when asked to do some simple bit of help, they say 'Don't want to do that' and I then feel like saying 'P*ss off then' but I don't, as swearing at your children isn't a good idea, so I smile sweetly and tell them to go and find something to do in their rooms and not get under our feet.

Rang my parents to see if any of the German part of the family are coming over this morning, but they are undecided and are coming over to York but not this morning, we may get a visit this afternoon. I've asked that they ring first as I may still have my Channel 4 visitor, who's coming at about 12.30. She's from 'Diverse' and they might be making a programme about people who take being 'green' very seriously, as it's all too common to hear people say 'I recycle therefore I'm green' or 'I use public transport instead of my car once a week, therefore I'm green' but obviously they aren't as being green entails many changes, root and branch. But this is an exploratory meeting to see if I'm the right person for the programme.

Lorraine came at 12.40, she'd got a train from London and then the No. 10 bus up here. She chatted and had a herb tea as I had lunch and Gill got the boys ready to go out, and when they eventually went, we did the filming, starting with the woodstoves and then the logpiles and materials recycling, then the composting and food growing, compost toilet... lots to show her and only a short time in which to do it. Hopefully she'll have got some useful stuff and her colleagues at C4 will decide I'm one of the people to be used in the programme. However it doesn't matter really if nothing comes of it, I'm sure someone else could do just as well as me.

She went soon after 4 and I went to the fruit shop... not just any fruit shop but the new! improved!! repainted!!! "Country Fresh" on Heslington Road and picked up a sack of stuff and some mushrooms so the boyos could have something tasty for tea... and of course, I love to have a bit of a cycle every day!

When I got back, the family hadn't come home so I went down the garden and did a little bit of compost management... but had a sneaking suspicion that Uncle Bill and family might be coming.... so I went to the front to be there incase they came. Funnily enough, just half an hour later, I glanced up to see a car going past with waving people in it and a couple of minutes later, my 3 cousins Micky, Christopher and Margarita, and Uncle Bill all trouped in. Micky has been studying in Sheffield so I've seen him recently, and I bumped into Margarita at the Big Green Gathering a couple of years ago, but I haven't seen Christopher for 34 years, apparently. And it's always good to see Bill as we are quite alike. My father tells me that as he goes senile, he'll start to call me William as I'm just like his older brother...

They came in and sat and chatted, then Gill and the boys appeared. Soon I took them for a short tour of the garden and at about 6.30 they went back to Sheffield. I don't see Bill very often as he lives in Germany, I don't know where Margarita lives and Christopher is a lorry driver in London, so might not see him much. However, good to see them all together.

A bready tea and a quiet evening, quick skype call with my friend in the US, with webcams working this time... the first time they have both worked perfectly for a long time. Hers often 'freezes' and she thinks this may be to some of the other things that I've got open on my computer... but nothing was different so I think it could be at her end. Weird. But good to chat and really good to keep it to an hour as I wanted to spend some time with Gill this evening.

Delighted again to see the chaos at Terminal 5 continued today... long may this continue! I want to see FEWER flights!

Thursday, 27 March 2008

Thursday 27th March 08

A good day as Gill's niece Helen came over from Leeds and she's one of our favourite family members. Whilst she was chatting to us, I made soup for this evening out of spring onions, a leek top and an onion (all rejects) and a bought potato and three carrots. I fried the alliums first then added the roots, put in boiling water and herbs, balsamic vinegar and bouillon and cooked it up on the woodstove for several hours. This turned into the best stew/soup I have ever made, it was fantastic!

I cycled round to the bread shop and was reminded that I had found a foreign object in a bread-roll last week, so decided to ring them when I got in and take it in to save them a car-journey out here. No point in them driving here when I can cycle it there!

Later, I did some work in the garden, and after lunch, cycled the bread-roll with a nail in it down to the Environmental Health people at St Leonards Place. I found this last Friday and as the Council folks were on holiday, I popped it in the freezer. So I gave it in and signed a statement prepared by the student EH Professinal (not 'Officers' anymore!) and then visited Dylan at Millers Yard, Macdonalds Furniture Store in Fossgate to get a coatstand, as requested by Gill (had to collect this from James Street warehouse) and then on to what used to be Martin's Country Fresh on Heslington Road, which this morning has been rebranded 'Country Fresh', so that it can be Martin's, Richard's, or even Shirley's Country Fresh.

I picked up several sacks and boxes there, and had a friendly chat with a bricklayer from Leeds called Phil, who was very positive about what I was doing. I hope he visits, I gave him my details, as I think he's a potential 'Green Convert'!!!

The folks were away when I got in so I went down the garden and dug out a sit n wait compost heap, completely filling a builders one-tonne bag, and then rebuilt a new pallet bin, off the ground to discourage rodents. It is on a pallet, raised off the ground, and has four pallets wired together as sides. I broke up the old container and used some of the wooden slats to fill the holes in the base pallet. I'll refill the bin tomorrow.

The two lovely ladies and three boys (our youngest had a friend to play) came back from town where they'd walked down to the walls, walked a section and then got a bus back. Soon after this, Helen had to go. I hope we see her again soon.

Had the fantastic soup for tea, watched a bit of telly whilst doing computery stuff during the evening. My spirits were raised to see the chaos at the new 'Terminal 5' at Heathrow. On the lunchtime news there was film of a 'flashmob' anti airports protest which looked really good, but on the evening news there was nothing about this, just the fact that the whole place had got clogged up with the luggage machinery not working and the staff not being able to cope... and therefore quite a few flights were cancelled. The really good thing was that it was mainly 'short-haul' flights. The lazy greedy bastards who use these should have gone by train instead (much lower carbon emissions). So this kind of chaos makes my happy.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Wednesday 26th March 08

An early start as the Everest people are here to do the front and back doors...
We had a family conference about what the boys wanted to do, and as someone had to stay in to supervise the door chaps, Gill and the boys went to the National Railway Museum.

Everest were here from 9am to just before 4pm, drank 8 cups of coffee between them and got two doors installed. Excellent! We now have a warmer home as the old front door, which was leaking heat, has been replaced by a sealed one. Also more secure.... all good!

Gill and the boys came back soon after the fitters went and I went to the Co-op to get some provisions as they'd had a good day at the NRM.

During the evening Gill and I enjoyed watching a telly programme about a woman who was experimenting with smoking dope, in Amsterdam. It was quite entertaining and educational.

Tuesday, 25 March 2008

Tuesday 25th March 08

A good day as the boys were lovely and we all got on really well. I started the day by typing in my paid blog post which I'd written several days ago but not been able to type in... it is on my experiences in London last Wednesday. Then Gill and I spent some time preparing for the new door being put in tomorrow... Gill moved stuff from inside and I removed the logpile from outside... and then I cycled down to the Credit Union to get a cheque out to pay the door installers tomorrow.

After that I popped in to see Pauline who had requested several paper potato sacks for use transporting wood offcuts from a nearby renovation job where they have said that she can have any offcuts for her stove. And the very good news is that her new neighbour, Alan ( a friend I know through the Green Party) has offered to saw her wood as a sort og 'useful workout' instead of going to the Gym... nice one Alan! More good news is that a relative of Pauline's has recently become quite a lot more empathic and warm towards her, after Pauline helped out with a family event... over and above what she had to do. This has made Pauline very happy. She also showed me an article in a glossy magazine about a chap who's decorated and fitted out his basement flat using mainly found and reused materials. I speed-read the article and said 'it's a perfect example of Permaculture' and Pauline agreed and said she was pleased that nowhere in the article did it say 'eco'... even though it was more 'eco' than many of the so-called green makeovers with loads of gadgets and expensive power generation stuff.

Came back via Martin's country Fresh to buy potatoes and cauliflower, and collect 3 sacks of compostables which I despatched into a tumbler with some shredded twigs as soon as I got home.

During the evening I did a huge pile of washing up and had a game of Scrabble with Gill who beat me... just! I also made time to squeeze 7 lemons (no idea what was wrong with them!) and then soaked some dried pear slices in the lemon juice, and also squeezed 15 limes and soaked the other half of the jar of pear slices in that juice. I particularly like citrus pears... the sweetness of the pear goes so well with the tangy flavour of the lemon or lime. I'll redry them tomorrow after an overnight soak.

Monday 24th March 08

Today we went to see my brother in the Norfolk Park part of Sheffield, and he cooked a loaf in his breadmaker and made us sandwiches so we had something to eat on the train on the way home.

We walked down to the bus station for 1pm and caught the bus to Meadowhall, where we had the sandwiches and then got our train back to York... via Pontefract as we like this route, and I snoozed and the boys were quite well behaved. Later we thanked them for their good behaviour during this weekend as it made it bearable.

There was a bus just 10 minutes after we got to York and we were home by 3.30... so good to be home and lit both stoves to take the chill off the house. I heated both cans of water for the boys to have a bath, and Gill cut their hair too.

Sunday 23rd March 08

Woken very early by one of my children shouting about there being snow on the ground.

I lay in bed awake until about 8 when I got up and there was indeed snow. I had breakfast and went outside and did some more work outside.

Soon my sister and her Husband arrived. It's my sister's 40th birthday soon and today she is having a party and several of her friends have been invited as well as me and my family and my brother and his family.

So it wasn't long before a couple arrived from near Coventry, and then a couple from near Nottingham. We had some lunch and Anna opened her cards and presents. It was a really good celebration.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Saturday 22nd March 08

Was woken by shouting downstairs so came down to see if my being there might calm things down, which it did appear to, but an hour later, in the middle of a game Gill was playing with them to keep them occupied, and I'd been joining in with a bit, there was another unprovoked bout of shouting and throwing things which set off my feelings of depression again.

However, my computer was working again this morning... I wonder if the problem was with the server last night not me? I escaped from the anger in the other room and within a few minutes all was calm again. Unfathomable.

The rest of the day went well... a slow continuous pulling together of assorted bits so that we could go and celebrate my Sister's 40th birthday. We got a train at just after 3. We headed for Sheffield via Pontefract, which today is quicker than going the mainline way, as today the York to Doncaster line is having work done on it so the trains are going via Leeds and they are taking an extra hour or something, so the Pontefract brach line, which takes just an hour and 20 mins is a good one. We also like this route as the trains are not too packed and there's usually space to sit down.

So got to Meadowhall as the last mile or so is also being worked on, so we got a tram to the City centre, and then a bus to Walkley. It started snowing which was pretty.

I was a bit stressed seeing my folks as things are not always easy, but things went quite smoothly and I was able to help them by filling a compost compound which my Dad has created, so I used my energy and enthusiasm to move the compost pile I turned last time into the new pallet-bin compound. This kept me out of the way and gave me 'Brownie Points' before teatime.

Had a peaceful evening.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Friday 21st March 08

A good start to the day, after a comfortable night on the new mattress.
Lit both stoves as it was really cold, got some bathwater ready for Gilly.

The children were off school for the first day of the Easter Holidays and so I kept out of the way as far as possible after the first outburst. I am not coping very well with dealing with this behaviour, and by the end of the day I was feeling quite low because of being shouted at and disobeyed, and my reaction to this which can also be loud and sometimes physical. I do not respect myself for not being able to cope even though what we are going through is not the usual type of child behaviour.

It does not count that there is often an apology soon afterwards.... this is heartfelt and genuine, but it doesn't undo the feelings of hurt and hopelessness that I feel when it is happening and it certainly doesn't mean there won't be another angry outburst soon afterwards.

Hey ho, take one day at a time, try to control my desires to punish him for the disobedience, violence and destruction, try not to swear at him, try to disengage and walk away if possible, unless he's attacking Gill or the other child. Not easy to do. Being 'disengaged' is not my best quality, infact it's the exact opposite of my personality.

I did get out mid-morning to buy some bread... and in one of the rolls I bought, I found a nail, a metal one! I phoned the Environmental Health people at the council but they were on holiday so I put the breadroll in the freezer so I can take it to them next week.

I managed to get some stuff done in the evening, fruit-drying wise and washing up, but my computer wouldn't connect to the internet when I wanted to write my paid blog and this compounded my feelings of inability.

Thursday, 20 March 2008

Thursday 20th March 08

An exhausting day.

Woke early as in an unfamiliar place on a carrymat on Anna's living-room floor. Anna and her daughter were getting ready to go to the little girl's breakfast club and then Anna to go to work. Anna took her child to the club and then came back to have her breakfast, get her lunch ready and then she walked with me to where she could point out where the bus stop was. There was quite a long wait for the bus and when it came the driver said he wasn't going all of the way and I'd have to change buses. However I chatted to a friendly old lady who used to train greyhounds for racing, and that helped the hour with 2 bus journeys go more quickly.

Eventually got to Kings Cross/ St Pancras and found the info about a train which would get me to where I wanted to be.... and it left at 11. I split my journey and visited a friend, getting back to York at 5.3o... but the roads were packed and the bus home didn't come til 6.10, getting in at 6.40. I'd phoned Gill from a payphone in the station and she had a baked potato ready. I had to go out again at 7.10 to go and pick up the key to Space 109 where there was a meeting of York Green Festival at 7.30.

This was a very good meeting, well attended and I'm so glad that Baz is heading it up this year and my roles are smaller and well-defined. The meeting lasted 2 hours and I got home just before 10.

Wednesday 19th March 08 MEETING MPs

A totally amazing day
breakfast with Oxfam
Meeting Hilary Benn MP at DEFRA
Meeting Peter Ainsworth MP ant the Palace of Westminster
Watching Prime Minister's Questions
Meeting Steve Webb MP
Attending a Lib Dem meeting with MPs and Lords
Doing a photo shoot for CRAGs and nearly getting arrested
Going to the Oxfam Office and chatting
Going back with 'Peckham Anna' to her place via two childrens' nurseries to pick up her child and a friend's child
Doing a short balloon modelling thing for the kids whilst Anna cooked pasta
Talking with Anna during the evening

A memorable day

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Tuesday 18th March 08

Not a brilliant start to the day, as one child refused to go to school and I just went with the other one who was very upset at the behaviour of his brother. However we got to school just on time and after the other one had calmed down and cleaned up the mess he'd created, Gill and he cycled to school.

I tidied up some planks of wood next to the garage so to give access to Artur the roofer who is replacing some broken corrugated plastic which blew off in the high winds last week.

I did a tad more chainsawing and stacking before sorting out last minute stuff before my trip to London this evening.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Monday 17th March 08

A good day, on the whole. I took the boys into school with minimum resistance, although the youngest refused to cycle so I gave him a lift on my pannier rack.

Did a bunch of paperwork in the morning, for the Student Loan Company, asking them to again defer the repayments I incurred in 1992, 3 and 4 as I do not earn enough to fall into their 'repay now' category. However they need lots of proof that I'm on a low income, which is a bind. But better than having to pay it back.... and anyway, I believe that education should be free and I don't agree with loans.... and my Environmental Health degree has not got me anywhere or earned me any money!

And so to some housework and other stuff, sorting out various bits and bobs.

I got the children and then went to Martins Country Fresh for a few vegetables and the customary sack of compostables. Also did some chainsawing to make the front more tidy as my neighbour has complained that the logs look untidy. I made no comment about his car looking ugly to me, for what it represents and what it is capable of doing. I just listened and promised to try to tidy up a bit...

At 7.30 I attended a meeting at the Deramore Arms in Heslington with a fairly large group of the Green Thumbs gang.... to discuss the structure of the project, who does what and when things happen.... a good meeting.

Back at 10pm and tried on various outfits Gill had got together in order that I look smart for going to London and meeting the MPs. Watched some TV with her and then had a go on the computer but Gill felt rather alone so I came off untill she wanted to go to bed and I came to finish off the Green Thumbs emailing and complete this blog....

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Sunday 16th March 08

Woken by howls of hysteria as a child had trodden on a splinter downstairs. However, as soon as it had blown up it subsided when the shock of a small pain went away ago. Maybe it was practice for the Drama Festival later today?

So I got up and had breakfast and then went back to finish off a NewScientist before taking the dramatic child off to the University to do a dress rehersal, at 10.15. I took in my laptop and plugged in (with permission!) to reply to an email enquiry about successful usage of 'dalek' bins. The dress rehersal didn't take long and I only managed the one email reply... although it was quite a detailed one...

My son emerged elated and happy, all had gone well. A happy cycle home, in time for me to catch the last bits of Countryfile and the weather forecast for the week ahead.

Lunch went quickly and 2pm approached all to soon, so we all set out on our bikes to go to the Central Hall for the Citywide Youth Drama Festival, based on the Mystery Plays.

When we arrived, my son had forgotten the bear mask and dummy that Gill made as part of his costume... so I cycled back home and got them and cycled back to the University in time for the first performance, which was from another school, not my children's.

So we all watched the different performances and were glad that our boy's one went well just before the interval. I took the youngest one home and Gill stayed there to see the other 4 performances. I got home and made pasta and veg, and some carrot soup for tomorrow.

During the evening, discovered this but didn't have as much time as I'd have liked to explore it... may go back to it...

Saturday 15th March 08

Up at a reasonable time, in time to go to the Credit Union AGM which was at CVS at Priory St, starting at 9.30, with time to have a cuppa and a chat from 9.15, which is when I arrived. I was very pleased to see some of my CU friends whom I haven't seen for some while.

This was the second AGM, following the first full year of trading. The CU is doing well, with plenty of members and savings and loans going out. The Union is well managed and the auditors say they are happy. This meeting made me happy.

Then came home and had a brief lunch before going down to town again... this time to the library where the Carbon Reduction Action Group was holding a public meeting on carbon offsetting, whether it is part of the solution or a just a way to carry on as nomal but pay some money to ease your conscience....

I had done lots of research about carbon offsetting, as I was putting the pro-offsetting point of view. This was initially difficult for me as I was skeptical about it, but the reseach had moved my opinion towards thinking that it is part of the way that someone who has reduced their footprint can reduce it further.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Friday 14th March 08

A much better day... a really peaceful and happy morning. I took the boys into school.

At 10am I had a skype chat with Richard at Wiggly Wigglers (hey, that's the first time I've used that!!! I'm coming on with my abilities, hey?) so that the conversation will be made into a podcast... about York Rotters and Master Composter Schemes and Compost Doctors...

Had a busy but good day.

I collected the boys

Did some compost management, log stacking and tidying, and during the evening did lots of research about carbon offsetting. I feel pretty well prepared to speak at tomorrow's meeting. Just hope the predicted rain doesn't put too many people off coming....

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Thursday 13th March 08

A tough start to the morning... because our boys go to Self Defence/Martial Arts class on a Wednesday, one of them hadn't done his maths homework last night and got it out at 8am this morning. However, the photocopied sheet did not make it clear where the answere had to go... they could have been put in the margin or below the lists of figures to get averages/means/spreads for, or on the back of the sheet, or on a seperate sheet... and this uncertainty resulted in a lot of shouting and verbal abuse, resulting in him getting to school late as he initially refused to go to school. However, after a short cooling off period in his room, he went to school. The other child wasn't feeling well (depression?) and he stayed at home.

Things are not easy in this household right now and the large amounts of homework and the frequency of it does not help... where has their fun childhood gone? Then there was a piece on the telly about some teaching union coming to the same conclusion that kids are set too much homework and it is giving them stress, ill health and putting a strain on families. I totally agree.

The day got better as the bedridden one did his homework and went to school at lunchtime.

I went into town and paid a bill, collected compostables from Martin's, put them on the lottie heap, came home and had lunch and had some time with Gill before she went to school to collect one of the kiddies, and I went to school to attend a Green Thumbs meeting, which was just with Julia and was very nice. We had some wide-ranging discussions about various things and decided that the meeting on Monday night would be enough, and as several people couldn't get to the possible Tuesday 'AGM-type' meeting, we would postpone it til after Easter.

I collected my Dramatic son from Drama, he'd been getting ready for a Drama Festival over the weekend.

A relatively peaceful evening until homework was mentioned and then it all broke down AGAIN! I had to go out to a CRAG-public-meeting planning meeting, we had to decide who did what. I drew the short straw and I'm going to be the pro-offsetting person. However I do have two films to support me, one from CO2Balance and the other about a project in India where kerosene lamps are being replaced with solar panels by the Carbon Neutral Company (I think).

Got back shortly before 9 and the boys were in bed and Gill and I watched a programme on Tibet (a low-carbon way to see the World!)

The rest of the evening was on the computer, emailing and researching offsetting....

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Wednesday 12th March 08

A good start, a peaceful household and as there was a lot of very gusty winds, Gill walked down to the school with the boys. I received a phone call from Catherine, our 'York Rotters' paid worker, offering me the chance to share a lift to the Compost Doctors event at Elvington Airfield in her car. As it was very windy, I accepted this offer, so she picked me up at 9.40, soon after Gill got back looking windswept.

The Compost Doctors event was really interesting and inspiring. The scheme was started about 18 months ago by the Community Recycling Network and the Community Composting network ( and the idea was to promote the composting of catering waste on the site where it is produced, such as schools, hotels, farm shops and prisons, with equipment provided by the project, and expertise provided by a 'compost doctor' who is available to manage the system initially and help train the users so they can take it on.

I was delighted to meet some of the well known people in the Community Composting world, including Nicky Scott from 'Proper Job' in Devon, and Richard Boden from 'WyeCycle' and Mary Goldsworthy from the Community Waste Network, Yorks and Humber, who sends me a regular e-newsletter.

The presentations were really interesting.. Otter Rotters with a Deli and cafe (Joshua's Harvest Store) using a home-made rotating drum composter in a polytunnel, WyeCycle with a farm shop using two 'Keenan Feed Wagon' mixers and a tractor with Power-Take-Off, a 'waste reduction' operation, not to produce good compost, although the material will be used on a field currently growing Xmas trees. Then Dean Community Composting using a home-made double chambered rotating barrel to compost food waste from a restaurant/craft centre/market garden. Then the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust working with The Pear Tree Hotel in Purton using a 'Rocket', my favourite hi-tech mechanical composter although it needs electricity to run it. Proper Job was next, using a very simple but effective insulated rotating composter called a Jora 270 and a 'Scotties Hot Box' for maturation and 'Big Foot Wormeries'.... both these two made in East Yorkshire by the Worm Research Centre. Wiltshire Wildlife Trust came on again to tell of their work with the Bridge Inn with a Jora 270, and an aborted project with Centre Parcs in Longleat. They had started enthusiastically with a 'Big Hanna', a Swedish machine with rotating internal cylinder, temperature sensors and data loggers, making it 'Animal By-Products Regulations' compliant, and odour control biofilter... but a few months into the project, the company had been bought by another company, they'd sacked all the environmental team and then said they didn't want to have the composter as they wouldn't use the compost, partly as the land doesn't need the enriching effect of compost as it is a naturally low fertility area, and adding compost would damage natural biodiversity. So the Big Hanna had come to Elvington Airfield, and we then went to see the machine which was not far away. The Compost Doctor managing this was Steve from the Worm Research Centre, also managing another Big Hanna at a prison in Wetherby, a Jora 5100 in Brough and 'Worm Pads' at a golf course in Boothferry. Busy man!

Lunch was good, lots of it and pretty diverse... sandwiches and chips and salads and lots more savouries and lots of opportunities to network and meet interesting people.

After lunch we had a presentation from the administrator of a new funding stream called 'Local Food', from the Big Lottery, just coming on stream in the next few days and open to food composters as well as many other food projects. There was also a review of the Compost Doctors project, and a look to the future.

I was able to tell the delegates about my forthcoming meeting with Hilary Benn and invite them to suggest ideas for me to suggest to the Minister which would be easy, quick, his decision, and carbon cutting. During the next session... Compost Doctor surgeries, several people came to tell me what they'd like me to ask Hilary Benn, including changes to the way that waste/recycling rates are calculated and changes to the disliked Animal By-Products Regulations and complicated licencing system.

Catherine and I came away just before 4pm and got back into York safely. I was buzzing with the possibilities and all the positivity there...

A happy evening, with my son dealing with an embrio anger attack very well and defusing it somehow.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Tuesday 11th March 08

A fine start to the day... Gill awoke me at 8am and I got washed and came down, saying 'good morning' to the boys and told them that I'd be taking them to school in 25 minutes and I got on with my breakfast, and then when it was 22 mins past I reminded the whole room that I'd be going in 8 minutes. One child was still reading and I asked him to get dressed, which resulted in huge anger, as Mum had told him that he could finish his chapter.

Anyway, that resulted in my not being able to take that child in, so I cycled with the other one and Mum said she'd bring the other. I had to get to school as I had a 'Green Thumbs' meeting at 9.

It was a good meeting, although I was worried about how Gill was coping and wondering if she'd got our child to school. The meeting was to decide where the garden plot was to be, and some other issues, and we decided this during a walk around the school grounds, looking at 4 or 5 possible places. Two were dismissed as they were likely to attract vandals, and one or two areas were too close to the football pitches. We chose an area which is enclosed by a hedge and is not very visible from the outside. One tree will ideally have to be pruned back to give more light, but there's a Dad who's a tree surgeon and we will ask him if he'll do it!

I got home at 10.45 and found out that Gill had managed to get things calmed down and our boyo into school at just after 9am. A sigh of relief!

The rest of the day went smoothly, did quite a lot of cleaning and sorting things out and tidying... and at 2.30, our final 'external insulation expert' came to survey the house and then get back to us with a quote.

I went to pick up the boys, the youngest wanted to go and play with a friend so I came back with the eldest and one of his friends came back with us.

I did some work in the garden til just before 6, when I came in and started to prepare tea... cauliflower and pasta... I made myself an onion and cheese sauce.

A peaceful evening, thank goodness!

Monday, 10 March 2008

Monday 10th March 08

Woken at 7am by Gill wanting me to come and help downstairs as our child had shoved everything off one worksurface onto the floor. I came down and helped clear up after making him go to his bedroom.
Things did calm down and breakfast got eaten, I took them into school and spoke to the OFSTED chap about the help and support we've been given about the difficulties we are going through right now.
Home to do some tidying as at 11am, was expecting a Press videographer to come and take a tour to see how we live our low carbon lifestyle.

This took about an hour and resulted in this:

which I'm pleased with.

I got the children back from school.

We had a quiet and well behaved afternoon and evening.... all of us!

Late on we had a visit from a friend who was in a bit of a state, with alcohol and feeling unable to help their aging parents, mentally ill sibling and nearly adult child who is making their own decisions about life.... however we heard them out and listened and were good solid friends, which is all we could do and was what was needed.

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Sunday 9th March 08

A lovely day to start with, a lie in whilst the children played with lego, then breakfast and I went on the computer to email my Newsnight and 'One Show' friend Justin Rowlatt about my Oxfam competition win, and the possibility of getting the subject onto Newsnight and/or the One Show.
I also emailed Newsnight direct and kept Oxfam in the loop. I want to take this opportunity to get carbon rationing and low carbon choices into the public arena again, and as many people as possible to consider what they can do to cut their emissions.

Watched Countryfile out of the corner of my eye too... multitasking with several electrical appliances on....

Saturday, 8 March 2008

Saturday 8th March 08

Quite a good start to the day but a simple disagreement between the boys developed into a huge angry outburst which resulted in a mug getting broken. But I had to get ready and go to the Fair Trade Festival which I'd said I'd go to support as Professor Fiddlesticks and do an hour of entertainment for free. But I went with a heavy heart, it's difficult to be jolly and funny when you're depressed.

So arrived in town at about 10.30 and met up with two of the organisers Richard and Sarah and very soon the Lord Mayor and her posse arrived, and we had our photo taken.

Then I did an hour and a half of circus and balloons, a mix of juggling and devilsticks and unicycle, with balloon models being given to the younger ones. Had quite a good time, and was pleased to meet an old friend called Robin, whom I met whilst at Leeds Metropolitan University doing Environmental Health... who's now doing Health and Safety at North Yorks County Council.

I finished at 12.15 and came home via the fruit shop, told Richard I'd come by later when I was coming back from Foxwood, where I had wanted to go to get my bicycle microchipped. However when I arrived home Gill and our youngest were in tears because of the other difficulties going on. Gill asked me not to go to Foxwood. So I had lunch and things calmed down, and so to distract away any further crap behaviour, she took them to town to use a book voucher. I reluctantly let them go, and I just felt like going to bed and crying.

However things got better and I perked up a bit during a quick Skype chat (thanks K!) and then the family came back with a pile of books and some lego, which kept them occupied and happy. I went out to split some logs, tidy up sawdust for my compost loo, put sacks of sticks away before it rains and also did some composting and weeding, getting in at 5.30, feeling much happier as this kind of busyness is just what I need to keep me sane in a difficult world.

I had a simple pasta and tomato/leek/bean tea... and was delighted to see the Press had published the article about my Oxfam competition win, with a lovely photo of me next to a logpile.

My dear friend Mary M. rang me up and congratulated me, which was lovely as we have a mutual admiration relationship as I really appreciate her work with projects like York Fanteakwa Link and various other things connected with developing countries, poverty etc etc.

The boys had a good evening with near perfect behaviour, and once they were in bed, Gill and I had a good game of Scrabble, a tough one which Gill just won by 7 points. Made her feel a lot better...

I went on the Press website to see what had been said about the article and posted a reply to correct some misaprehensions and thank supporters...

Friday, 7 March 2008

Friday 7th March 08

A good day... a very peaceful start to the day, oh what a relief! I took them to school and the head teacher collared me and asked me to come to school on Monday as there are OFSTED people coming and she wants them to hear about the Green Thumbs. Also had a good chat with Andy, a very friendly Dad with an even friendlier daughter

When I got back, Gill wanted me to come to town to look at mattresses (as we've worn ours out!), so I cycled in and delivered posters to the library and got a cheque out to pay my National Insurance and then met up with Gilly, who'd found a good selection of mattresses... and we tested about four of them and decided on one with so-called 'memory foam' and pocket springs... not the cheapest but worth having as we value our bed times (sleep!) a lot!!!

It didn't take long, and I then visited the Energy Efficiency Advice Centre to give them the CRAG meeting poster.

Came home for lunch, and had a short time before going to school, where our youngest was picked up and walked home to play with a friend, and we had a meeting with the teachers, who are very caring and lovely and put time aside to help, over and above their paid hours.

I took the little bike home on the trailer and raced the other cyclist, with Gill arriving in 5 mins later. Had a quick tea and got ready to go to Critical Mass, with my eldest son, as a treat (yes, he does enjoy it!!!)

So we set off at about 5.25 and got to the Minster some time before 6 which is when we set off, and we were joined by two people from Scarborough, one of them my friend Jane, who would like to organise a Critical Mass Cycle Celebration in Scarborough and had come over to see how it went here. Had a very good little cycle around, no aggro from car drivers, which was good, and just before the ride finished, my boy wanted to go home so we peeled off and came home. It was such a treat... for me.... to have this ride with him.

A quiet evening, just lounged about, not feeling up to a game of Scrabble, and had an early night... just after midnight!

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Thursday 6th March 08

A good day... only a little fighting this morning.... but before we set off, the fighter calmed down which was good. Gill and I sighed a big sigh of relief when I got back....

I had a pile of CRAG leaflets to deliver plus the press release to the Press and Radio York... so I went to the Press first and talked to a reporter about the CRAG meeting and the Oxfam competition. Then went up to CVS to put a poster up there, and then to the Council office on North Street, and on to the library which was shut for staff training, which was a disappointment. But on to the St Leonard's Council office and Radio York, Miller's Yard, where I had a good conversation with Claire's grandmother... and then St John's College, Sainsbury's notice board and then Morrisson's notice board. So lots of cycling round and giving out publicity.

Back for lunch... Gill was in town by this time, so I did my emails and had a lot to read.

Gill came in just before 3 but I went to pick up the youngest and very soon after coming back, went to pick up the older one who had enjoyed his drama class.

I had sandwiches for tea and at about 7.30 went out to Fibbers, where there were four bands on, including my favourite band 'The Falling Spikes' who were supporting a Californian band called Dead Meadow. When I arrived there was a pretty grungy outfit called Mantra, too loud, then the Falling Spikes went on and they were excellent.... despite sound problems as they'd not had time to have a soundcheck, but they only had half an hour. Then Youthmovies came on... from Oxford, but they were not as trippy or flowing, they were quite jangly and stop-start and I wasn't into them. Finally, the headline Dead Meadow came on and I went down to the front, and they weren't that special, certainly not as good as the Falling Spikes, so after a couple of tracks I went to the back and sat on the sofa.... and after another couple of numbers I decided to go home. So once again, my favourite band stole the day!

Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Wednesday 5th March 08

A good start to the day. There were no angry noises from downstairs and the children went to school with no hassle at all, a very pleasant surprise.

We pottered around til 10.30 and then went to our parenting class, which was good as we did our biogs... Gill first and then me. Gill told the group about a book she had as a child which she treasures, and her 'clear blue' pregnancy test (she's kept it!!!) which told her about her first pregnancy at age 43. I did about my devilstick and how it was one of the first things which really grabbed my attention and subsequently became my way to earn a living, and through that I met some unusually behaved children who were labelled with ADHD, and this alerted me to the possibility that I might have a named developmental/behavioural difference, which has led to me being told by the ADHD specialists that I don't have that but probably have Aspergers with Hyperactivity.... and I'm now awaiting an assessment with Autism experts. Knowing more about my condition has been very comforting and helpful. Then I spoke about my recycling activities and showed the group some compost made from waste fruit and veg and some dried fruit.

Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Tuesday 4th March 08

A better day although both feeling wobbly still after yesterday's horrible-ness. There was some anger before going to school but as there was a school visit to a stadium starting at 9am, there was only a bit of misbehaviour,as more would have resulted in missing this.

We went to visit Gill's GP about the stress caused by what we are going through, and his advice was to make sure we had a 'unified front' as any differences in parenting style would be easy for the child to push apart and get between. He also suggested working out a 'long term strategy' with the people who are helping us with this issue. No short-term fixes, got to just get through it and hope he grows out of the phase...

After this I went to visit Pauline to chop some wood for her, then popped in to the Council office to pick up some Planning Panel stuff, and on the way home popped into St Nicks to pick up some posters/flyers advertising the CRAG meeting on the 15th on carbon offsetting.

Home for lunch, made a leek/tomato/bean stew for tonight's tea. During this, got several Fiddlesticks enquiries and a phone call from Oxfam saying I had won the Carbon Footprint competition and they were inviting me down to London to meet up with MPs about the issue... wow oh WOW! Amazing!

When I went to get the children, Julia who has started the Green Thumbs gardening project rushed up to me and thanked me for putting her in touch with Melody, my friend who works for CVS as a funding information person; she has told Julia that it will be easy to get a grant of about £1000 for the project, and Julia was delighted and very complimentary.

Had a good evening, including a good TV programme by Kristina Murrin, about reducing road traffic. The programme this week was about Boston, where car use is high and so is obesity. She had a tough time trying to persuade people to give up their cars, even for one day. But I respect her approach and admire her.

Monday, 3 March 2008

Monday 3rd March 08

Not a good start to the day, the usual Monday morning playing up followed by huge angry outbursts which we found really difficult to deal with. He wouldn't go to school so we phoned around trying to get some help. Parenting is so difficult, at the moment I wouldn't reccommend it to anyone.

We are trying to be good parents and set boundaries and give a mix of advice, praise, instruction, love, understanding etc but children are individuals in their own right, they cannot be controlled or moulded like plasticine into what you want them to be. We try to be good role models and are attending a class in order to try to become better parents. However, many people find parenting difficult, not because they are bad parents, but because their child hasn't yet learnt how to fit in and behave appropriately. Children also get messages about their 'rights' and have learned that it is OK to answer back and express themselves. As physical punishment is no longer an option, they feel free to disobey as there are no punishments we know of which seem to make any difference, and anyway, we don't enjoy punishing our children, or want to do this.

I was brought up with a 'rod of iron', a very strict regime, which included being smacked, spanked, caned and given lines to write when I started to hit back. I certainly knew what I could and couldn't do, and should and shouldn't do, and maybe this is why I have a strong moral code that I live by, a sense of right and wrong. I am having to go against my own upbringing by trying to be more relaxed and less authoritarian, I don't want to treat my children like I was treated. However, this is far from easy, and my children might have inherited some of my 'free spirit' (that's a polite way of saying I was difficult to live with when I was younger!) which, of course is not their fault or mine. I hope they have inherited some of Gill's placid, easygoing attitude as well. She is a good influence on all of us.

Gill took the boys into school before lunch, better late than never.

I had a very low day, feeling inadequate and like giving up. I had a bath and did more fruit, sort of on autopilot. After lunch I went into the garden and attacked brambles and hedge and got the chainsaw out to deal with an enormous log from Heslington.

In the evening I went to the LETS meeting at The Seahorse Hotel, still feeling low, but I was cheered up by Ann, and then David came, and Rakesh and Frances. Whilst we were in the middle of the meeting, a member of the public came in, as it's not a private room, and although he looked like he wanted to leave, we told him he could stay...

At the end of the meeting we got talking, he came to York a few years ago with a partner but now he's single, and I think I have a friend with Kevin. He was interested in my dried fruit experiments and may visit. We talked til after 11, after all the LETS people had gone home...

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Sunday 2nd March 08

A very good start to the day as the children played on the computer with a free copy of Monopoly from a newspaper yesterday. Gill and I had some lovely time together and this was very healing.

I stayed in for most of the day, it was windy outside so not much inclined to go out, and I watched Countryfile whilst washing up and preparing fruit, had lunch and then we had to decide what our eldest was going to do. I had wanted them all to come to a LETS Social with Ben and Gill, just round the corner, as I thought that there would probably be some interesting things to do, and I wanted Ben and Gill to meet the boys and see what children were like. He got a phone call from a friend inviting him to go and play, and he decided to do that.

At 2, Gill and I and our youngest went to the LETS social, which was really good. Ben did have some fun stuff for playing with, and Gill the hostess had made cake and biscuits, and after we'd been there for a while, David turned up, and we had some good chats. However, after an hour and a half, I went as the veg shop would be closing soon and I wanted to pick up their compostables, four sacks today, perhaps 60 kg.

Our eldest came back at 6ish but wasn't in the mood to do his homework, which he'd refused to do on Saturday morning, when we'd asked him to do it. This caused a bit of a row and he did eventually do it after 8pm, after his bedtime, not a good thing really..

I had a busy evening researching e-democracy and online participation, plus green webhosts for my paid blog, and because of interuptions, got that written in by midnight.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Saturday 1st March 08

Not too early a start, and after breakfast went for lie down which was a treat. However, too sunny a day to stay in, so I went out to restart the hedge processing, as the pile of chopped hedge has just been sitting in a pile, so I really need to continue that and get it all chopped and into potato sacks for drying.

My neighbour is putting up fenceposts where the hedge was, so we chatted a little bit. But I also did some weeding, finished digging out/turning a 'sit and wait' compost heap and started refilling the same set of pallets with shredded twigs and the last of the contents of a large feather mattress that someone gave me for recycling, plus a layer of fruit and veg.

Also cut some hedge and pruned a couple of small pear trees to make them into more of an open shape, removing some crossing branches and cutting off the ends of long straggly branches, so they don't bend down quite so far when they bear fruit.

So a good day. Inside, after lunch, I washed and prepared a large pile of leek tops, cut off the white stems by the wholesaler, and then I chopped them into the big Le Cruset saucepan on the woodstove, with some olive oil, potatoes, onion, yellow pepper and tomatoes... ready to make a stew/soup for tea.