Thursday, 30 April 2009
I then had breakfast and caught up on emails etc and just before Will arrived I got washed and dressed. Will came to work towards another attempt at a funding application for YorkLETS, so that we can go from a paper-based organisation to an 'online' web-based one, where members can control their own offers and wants rather than have to go through the core group. Will had downloaded and printed off the Awards for All information, so we went through this and transferred some of the info from the previous application form which we ran out of time to submit.
We had coffees and chats and it was really nice to see him on good form. I then had to do some more emailing to sort out various LETS issues, and at about midday made a return phone call to Community Care who phoned yesterday, and was told a new date for my next column, and the one after that... and then the reason for the phone call yesterday, they are making some changes and that second column will be my last. My blog will also finish. I have mixed feelings about this as I've enjoyed the chance to write about things I care about, and I've enjoyed being paid to do the columns, but it's been really difficult to find something new every week to blog about. So in July, I'll stop writing for them... and will be seriously looking for another publication who'd take me on. Anybody want to give me a job? Maybe this space will give me time to finish my book!
Later in the afternoon, we all took a trip into town and ended up having a family meal in Pizza Hut which was quite nice. We don't eat out very often and this was a bit of a treat. We walked home.
We had an interesting day, first at a meeting then at her home where she's sorted out her garden, compost bin, wormery, bokashi bins, raised beds and more. I was impressed with her new low energy bulbs, replacing wasteful high-heat producing halogen spotlights. She also has an eco-kettle which has a reservoir of water and you press a button which lets just exactly the right amount of water into the boiling chamber. This means you don't have to boil too much, then let it cool down, wasting that initial energy.
At 3 we went to collect Ali's daughter from school, and she was very thrilled to see me and took me to see the chickens. I liked that school's allotment. Excellent!
For the next couple of hours I was used as a climbing frame and I was glad to have pizza and salad for tea.
At 7, Ali had to go to town to collect something so she dropped me off at my brother's house, and it was lovely to see him and his family. I spent a couple of hours there, drinking beer, playing table tennis, viewing the garden, chatting to the kids.
I then got the 9.54 train back home and was back in York by 11pm, home soon after... with a load of compostables from Country Fresh... you cannot stop a Rotter! Gill had had a very peaceful evening and was pleased to see me.
Tuesday, 28 April 2009
I also did some weeding as some weeds come out more easily if the soil is wet, and did some compost heap management, piling several sack's worth of assorted veg on the current pile, with a good layer of woodchips from a stumpgrinding operation at Woodlands last year.
We had leek and potato soup with some garlic bread... Gill's home-made bread... and the last slices of yesterday's nutloaf.
At 7pm I cycled down to the Museum Gardens to attend the meeting of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society in the Tempest Anderson Hall, a lecture by Dr John Barrett from the Stockholm Environment Institute at the University of York. I've been to quite a few of John's lectures and they're always good, this one was called 'The Carbon Footprint Of Everything We Consume' and although I knew quite a bit of it already, I learned new things about 'consumption based emissions' and 'greenhouse development rights', and things which will hopefully come to pass at the Copenhagen Climate Talks in December. I have quite a bit of research to do...
I asked a question at the end about carbon calculators and John suggested two I could try, the WWF calculator and he B&Q One Planet Living calculator, both of which were developed by SEI, with the B&Q one in association with Bioregional.
I have been meaning to join YPS for some time, so tonight I did. I was then able to go to the small gathering in the Gatehouse for a few chats and glass of wine.
Zipped home in order to see Newsnight which I had hoped would have the Ethical Man meets Joe Jenkins, author of The Humanure Handbook, 'the book which changed my life', but unfortunately he wasn't featured, he was left on the cutting room floor as it were. Relegated to a mention on the blog. How sad! How disappointing! Missed opportunity BBC!
But, on searching the blog for the mention, I find that there is a vid of the piece they didn't broadcast. Seeing this made me happy. Another 13 seconds of (nameless!) fame... just over 2 minutes in, and how nice to see my hero Joe. Cool. (not Joe Cool, Joe Jenkins...)
Gill and I watched a film 'Wimbledon' which was quite good.
Monday, 27 April 2009
Although it was raining, I did some logsplitting, some of the big rounds of sticky pine from my neighbour, and then stacking it in the back garden under the logstore cover. This is one of the only places there's space at the moment.
Mid afternoon I made the first part of a nutloaf with breadcrumbs, peanut butter, chopped nuts, onion, leek... and then Gill finished it off.
I also did some work in the composting area, and got a load of purple sprouting broccoli up to the house just before tea... so that's what we all had, nutloaf, lightly steamed broccoli and a few other bits and pieces. Fruit and ice cream followed. Delicious!
The boys did their homework with minimum of fuss and we had a quiet evening.
Sunday, 26 April 2009
As soon as I got home I set out again with a single sack of the same compost as Lynn had indicated that she needed some... and would swap it for a couple of squash seedlings. Lynn wasn't in but her daughter was and was happy to take the bag of compost... but didn't know which squash plants might be mine, so I said I'd be happy to have them another time.
Home for lunch and all too soon it was time for me to head down to town to go to the screening of The Age of Stupid at City Screen, hosted by York in Transition. About 140 tickets were sold, so the auditorium wasn't full, but we were reasonably happy with the turnout. This was the third time I'd seen the film but it still moved me to tears. But I sorted myself out by the end as I had been asked to sit on the panel table alongside Andy Chase the Green Party candidate for the Parliamentary seat for York Central, Daniel Vockins from Not Stupid and Andrew Waller the Lib Dem leader of the Council. Daniel talked about the film and the Not Stupid campaign first and then there were questions from the audience. This went well, apart from Councillor Waller firing off cheap party political jibe about Ralph Nader (Green Party in US) being responsible for Bush getting in. But apart from that, it was a good Q+A session.
Afterwards I gave out leaflets and some Calendars of Climate Change which Diana at Flipside Vision has sent me. Then a good chat with Bill who works for the Youth Service, about the Youth Parliament (I think it's called) and a myriad of other things, over a coffee. I also had a good chat with Alison and then Carolyn, before getting away at about 7pm.
Gill had made a rice and veg dish, which I had when I got in, and I then had an hour or so in the garden til just after 9.
Saturday, 25 April 2009
Reached Malton at midday and cycled up out of the town to the West to Amotherby, and then North to Kirkbymoorside. We did have a short break at Normanby, just to rest our 'fizzy legs' and reached Kirkby at 1.15. 13 miles in an hour and 10 minutes... just about my average of 10mph!
The Springboarding, or launch of their Transition Town project was taking place in the Memorial Hall... with stalls on the ground floor and more upstairs, plus various talks and a couple of singing groups performing, and then in the basement, the 'dugout', there were more talks. It was pretty vibrant and busy.
I needed to get some lunch so went to Thomas the Baker for a pastie and then walked round looking at all the stalls. There was someone selling rabbit, locally caught, skinned, eviscerated and frozen, and giving out samples of different ways of preparing it, and at a different table, cookies and cakes, presumably not made with rabbit. Ryedale LETS was there, and several energy saving stalls, such as North Energy, the Energy Savings Trust, with leaflets from recoVAIR Valliant ventilation and heat recovery systems, Windhager wood gassification boilers including one called the LogWIN which uses logs not wood pellets. solar and renewables UK, ecoenergi, Homebuilding and Renovating and more. I was pleased to meet John Brown from Ryedale District Council, a well respected Recycling Officer, running a stall with recognisable stuff on from Luna's 'Love Food Hate Waste' campaign and composting stuff from North Yorkshire Rotters. There was a stall selling fair trade goods, https://www.fairgrounds.org.uk/ and a lady from the Bat Conservation Trust with a Common Pipistrelle, a Brown Long-Eared and a Noctule... all absolutely lovely, and brought back memories of when I was a youngster and kept a bat for a while. I was also very interested in the information from the Esk Valley Community Energy Group, and a Yorwoods project to sustainably harvest hardwood from Bishop Hagg Wood near Spaunton. On one table, a group of women were busy with their sewing machines and every few minutes, a handbell was rung and a cheer went up... the Kirby Baggers had completed yet another morsbag, designed to use waste fabric and replace plastic bag use. These were just a few of the projects, the ones I brought home info about or remember!
I had a chat to Nelly, who's part of Lazy Dog Tools used for hand weeding docks and thistles without chemicals. A about 3pm the heavens opened and there was a terrific thunderstorm, hailstones and heavy rain... but it soon cleared up and at 3.30 I gave my talk in the dugout on low carbon living. Bryony followed me with her take on green living, and some info on York in Transition. This was followed by Andrew Price, author of Slow Tech, a book about resilience and robustness... an interesting take on the issues. He gave me a copy of his book to read and review.
After this a small group of us went for a half pint, and then Bryony and I cycled back to Malton, arriving with just 5 minutes to spare before our 7.10 train came in. When we arrived into York, I picked up my trailer and collected more ivy from Pauline and came home. Simon had rung up asking me if I could babysit for an hour whilst he went out to collect the piano his daughter has been using at a concert she's performed in, so at 11.15 I cycled off to Heslington and spent an hour reading a fascinating report from Corporate Watch on Technofixes to the climate problem... what will work, what is pie in the sky, etc. I picked up a log on the way home and got in at 1.15 am.
An amazing day, most enjoyable!
Friday, 24 April 2009
I just love what this guy, Danny MacAskill, is able to do... I think this is Parcour on two wheels!
After lunch I cycled (in a normal, non-parcour way) down to town to visit several financial institutions.. my building society to get some money out to pay Diana for her Calendars of Climate Change and my annual National Insurance bill, and then to the Co-op Bank to pay the water bill (£50 a quarter for 20 cubic metres of water supplied and sewerage services), and then to the Post Office to pay a £1.17 fee to get an envelope with some leaflets in it... grrr to the organisation which didn't get the envelope weighed before sending it... Finally to my GPs to get a prescription, and home via the cycle track to pick up sticks...
I went round to a neighbour to pick up some softwood logs he's saved for me... he chopped down an enormous fir tree so I got 4 wheelbarrow's worth of big discs up to 60cm across. Then down to Country Fresh where Richard was in a good mood and I took a box of compostables and bought a bag of veggies, and got flour and caster sugar in the Spar next door, as Gill wants to make a cake.
Melody popped in with her son who loves trying to split logs with my maul (splitting axe) which is really too heavy for him... but he had a go with the fresh pine... not easy to split!
As I'd had quite a busy afternoon, I decided not to attend the party I'd been invited to.. I felt an evening in with Gardeners World would be more relaxing... and I've a busy day tomorrow with the Kirkbymoorside Transition Town Springboarding Day. I'm catching a train with Bryony and cycling from Malton. And back afterwards.
Gill came in after lunch bearing two quite rusty flat irons. We wondered what we could do to make them usable again? I think there is a chemical product which when applied to rusty metal, reacts with the oxidised iron and makes it wholesome again... but I have no idea whether this might work and where to get it from. I probably need to speak to a car restorer or something like that. And then, to make the bottoms really flat and smooth. How to do this? Sandpaper??? At the moment, the irons are useless for Gill's needs. Any flat-iron restorers out there? Advice gladly received!
Gill once again went to school and got our youngest, she's doing this regularly from now on as part of her exercise regime! I sorted out some growing media in the garden, and then cycled down to Country Fresh with 5 carrier bags of riddled rich compost for sale. I came back with 3 boxes and a sack of juicy rottables...
But no time for processing those as was off to the LETS bring and share meal at Lynn's, which was very enjoyable and social, as I met several new people. I too dried fruit and flapjack to share... as usual the fruit was very popular! One of the new LETS members was Michael (his wife Suzi was there too) and he was cycling (she was in a car) so when I left at 7ish, he came too and we cycled together as far as Bishopthope Road, where he went on to Acomb and I peeled off to The Stables for a York in Transition meeting.
Barry chaired, there were 13 of us there, a good turn out. And a swift meeting, covering a lot of ground... we'd finished by 9. I decided not to go on to a pub as I wanted to get home. I stopped by Country Fresh as I'd seen a lost and lonely pallet which I bungeed onto my trailer, then to a skip where I found another two! So, an excellent haul of pallets, which goes some of the way to replacing a pallet compost heap which I've had to take up and break apart, as it was becoming too rickety and falling to pieces. Infact the one I've taken up is the original pallet heap that was in the garden when we moved here in 2001, so it has had a lot of use and lasted well. It's replacement will be slightly bigger and raised up off the ground to deter rodents. I'll need two or more horizontal pallets on the ground, and then four sides on top of that, wired together. It results in a tall heap, but less access for rats, who like burrowing into compost heaps at soil level, and as mine are now mostly above soil level, there is nowhere for them to go.
Gill was pleased to see me and we had a relaxed evening.
Wednesday, 22 April 2009
Gill came in and got a picnic together and went on the bus down to town to meet her 'Ladies who Lunch' friends, Melody and Alison, and had a picnic with them in Museum Gardens.
I just mooched around, dealt with a couple of phone calls, did some housework and planted some broccoli, calabrese and curly kale seeds.
My friend Robin had made contact with someone who lives near him who has just taken down a holly tree and passed my her details to me, so I rang her and she said it would be OK to go within the next hour. So I refilled my chainsaw with lube oil and got the loppers, and cycled over to near the Hospital along the Route 66 cycle track.
She'd taken down one holly, and I cut up the two trunks which she'd denuded of side branches. But a sizable one metre stump remained and I eventually removed that, leaving a 30cm stump. There was one other job she wanted doing, removing an overhanging branch of a sycamore. This was more difficult as my chainsaw, or perhaps the electric supply to it was malfunctioning. But I did manage to get some of it down.. but after an hour and a half working there, I'd had enough so I loaded up my trailer with some of the holy logs and went. I'll go back in the next week or so and finish the job.
Home to a happy house, nice tea and pleasant evening. I was disappointed that Newsnight focussed on the budget and didn't have Ethical Man on.
Gill got the boys ready for school and whilst she was taking our youngest, I got a phone call from Nick at the Credit Union reminding me that he'd booked me to attend an event at the Racecourse run by Business Link, on the phenomenon of Social Networking and how businesses and other organisations can benefit from it. York Credit Union is due to expand into North Yorkshire, and is intending to use some kind of Social Networking as well. I had discussed Facebook and blogging with YCU staff, so I went along to see what more I could learn, and to see if I could help YCU with that side of things.
So when Gill got home, our possible lazy day was made into a busy one... Gill found me some very smart (for me!) clothes and I gave myself a beard-trim to make me more presentable. At about 10am I set off and was at Priory St before 10.30 and met Nick for the first time. We cycled together along to the Racecourse and immediately found people to talk to. After coffee we were herded upstairs and sat down to listen to Shaa Wasmund give an interesting talk. She is somewhat of an expert when it comes to Social Networking and is a successful entrepreneur.
Many, perhaps most of the business people at this seminar were not familiar with Social Networking, so Shaa's talk started (after her intro biog) with what it is and how it's different to the old memes of advertising and similar 'one way' communication. Examples of social networks are Facebook, Linkedin, Second Life, YouTube, blogs and Twitter. I learned quite a lot, despite my having two blogs and an active Facebook life. I will be having a play around with various things... for instance, I've never looked at Twitter, although have read posts from friends who've 'Tweeted' to Facebook. I enjoyed participating in this event and will of course report on my experiences in due course.
Lunch at 1pm was quite nice and the conversations over lunch were really interesting.
Cycled back home over the lovely Millennium Bridge and Low Moor, in time to say Hi to Gilly before she elected to go down to school. I started to research and write my next column, which is on cosmetics. Fascinating stuff.
At just after 6 I set off for the Hull Road Ward Planning Panel with all the paperwork that I've been sent over the last 3 weeks, only one of which was an actual planning application. Five of us turned up and had a lively discussion, and were finished by 7pm, when I zoomed off down to Fulford for the York in Transition Credit Crunch discussion meeting. I was representing YorkLETS. Other organisations there were the Energy Efficiency Advice Centre, Citizens Advice Bureau, York Credit Union, Freecycle and the Women's Institute. Unfortunately there were more presenters and organisers than members of the public, but it was still an excellent evening, well co-ordinated by Bryony... and I learned a few bits and bobs here too.
I cycled back thought Heslington at 10ish and got home to find Gill asleep on the sofa. I think today must have been one of the most stimulating days I've had for a while. Didn't get to bed til after 2am.
Monday, 20 April 2009
After lunch I put my trailer onto my back rack and carefully cycled it down to Cycle Heaven where I'd checked that they'd be able to fit the new inner tube it needs. I had to be very careful cycling down as part of the trailer was sticking out, but got to the shop without incident. They sorted the problem within 10 or 15 minutes, replacing the shredded inner tube and putting a new tyre on, as the old one had torn. It was good to get back on my bike and have the trailer bouncing along behind again!
I went through town and to my GPs and then to inSainsburys and then via the cycle track where there were still logs and branches to harvest, so came back with a trailer load plus Freshways stuff on top of this too!
I planted some more seeds... courgette and zucchini tromba, a weird-looking curved courgette, I grew one last year so this year am planting quite a few more.
Gill made some cheesy scone pastry and made a pie with it, using yesterdays spaghetti and tomato/bean mixture, with new potatoes and some salad from the garden. Lynn had emailed me inviting me to provide her with some composting worms, so I went to delve in a wormy heap for pets for her new wormery (actually one that Ben had made out of stacking plastic boxes, and sold on the LETS).
I came in for tea and enjoyed the whole plateful, and asked Gill what one of the salad leaves was. She said 'Good King Henry' and I said I hadn't noticed her picking that, as I'd put that right down the bottom of the garden, near where I was harvesting worms. I asked where she'd got it, and she described the place where I thought I'd put some 'black salsify' or Scorzonera, so I looked that up to see if the leaves were edible. I found that Scorzonera leaves were totally different to the leaves Gill had harvested... so what had I eaten? I knew I'd harvested some tasty roots from that plant, so I looked through various books and on the web to see if I could find it. Eventually, with family panicking around me, wondering if I'd been poisoned, I found it was Skirret, Sium sisarum var sisarum. I cannot find anywhere about the leaves being good to eat... just indications that it might be like some other Umbelifers, ie not good to eat...!
Anyway, I stayed conscious during the meeting at Lynn's house, which was a LETS working group discussion about the constitution and managing the membership, and I was able to contribute quite sensibly. I also remembered to take the worms with me, and enjoyed seeing Lynn's garden.
Got back home after 10 and did a load of washing up as Gill had fallen asleep as soon as the children were in bed. Then onto the computer...
Nice photo of me in the Press:
Sunday, 19 April 2009
My first job, apart from making a couple of sandwiches to take with me for lunch, was to carefully load my trailer with a sack of drinks cartons... mostly soya milk which we've used, but also some of our fruit juice cartons, and some smaller drinks cartons from the school bins, as they don't bother to recycle. Then various electrical equipment... a video player which got the video stuck in it, and was thrown away by someone near Country Fresh, and the AVP computer tower, monitor and assorted cables, a bag of scrap iron from various places including nails from the stove and Pauline's stove, some batteries and a wok I found in some bushes...
This I cycled to the Council-run recycling 'dump' (Hazel Court) where I now know that 'officially' bikes are not welcome. There are limited recycling facilities for pedestrians and cyclists at the gate, but not for scrap metal, waste electrical equipment or drinks cartons. So I again ignored the rule which I think is stupid and was delighted to be welcomed by two staff members, who joked to each other about whether I'd applied for a permit for my trailer... I shouted back that my application had been refused. I put all my potentially recyclable items in the right place and cycled off, thanking the staff and feeling really good that I'd been treated with respect and like an ordinary punter wishing to use the facilities like anybody else. I decided to not reply to the letter telling me I do not qualify for a trailer permit, and that bikes are not allowed in the compound. I think that my occasional use of this facility, maybe once every month or two, will continue and that I'll just risk the potential of being told I'm not welcome, and in this eventuality, having to decide to ignore the person telling me I'm not allowed in, or to comply and dump the stuff on the ground at the gate, which is what I've been advised to do! What a complete farce!
Next I headed over to Country Fresh where Richard was just opening up the shop, and he had a small box of compostables for me, which I took up to the allotment and made a layer on the latest heap of mainly bramble stems and dandelion plants with parsnip-sized roots. I met one of my new neighbours, Caroline, who works at St Johns and is doing an excellent job on her plot, and at midday we walked down to the Low Moor Allotment Association Annual General Meeting.
There were about 25 people attending and it was a low-key affair really, just reports about the past year with the new shop building, the seed and potato order, the number of plots available and the waiting list, the kids allotment and various other bits and pieces. I gave out some Age of Stupid leaflets. I chatted to an American couple, Californians with unusual names that I cannot remember (!) who wanted to pick my brains about their composting attempts. They've been using bokashi and putting the material in a fabric composter and they'd brought this to the lottie today to start a compost heap on their plot. I helped them get it up to their allotment and they'd made a couple of pallet bins so I enthused and helped empty the compost out.
I spent another hot hour on the lottie weeding and preparing the soil for onion sets and potatoes.
At 2.20, zoomed off to Bryony's house in Fulford, where Barry was waiting too. Bryony wasn't around, so we waited for her and 15 mins later she arrived with her Mother after a trip to a Freecycler which took longer than usual. We had an hour discussing the meeting on Tuesday, the York in Transition Fulford Credit Crunch Discussion meeting at The Bay Horse. I'm presenting info on LETS, and we needed to work out the order to do stuff in, and who did what. Bryony has done an excellent job organising it.
I then cycled to Pauline's to remove a load of ivy she's taken off a shed. She had four sacks full and some 'matted sheets' of ivy stems from the side of the building, which is being taken down. I loaded my trailer and realised I had a flat tyre. I pumped it up but it didn't last long, going flat in less than 5 minutes. But I got most of the way home with just one stop to re-inflate. But at 2 mins from home the whole tyre/inner tube came off and the inner tube shredded when it wrapped itself round the axle. Very annoying, and I'll have to get a new tube tomorrow.
Shredded the ivy in my lovely Mountfield quiet shredder, a task I really enjoy.
Gill made spaghetti and beans for tea, home grown (dried and soaked) beans! Boys watched Robin Hood on their computer before bed time.
Got up quite early and both felt like doing some spring cleaning and sorting out. Gill made a start on the conservatory, which has become somewhat cluttered, and I did some washing up including a load of storage jars which have been building up.
Gill also rang a chap who'd advertised two flat irons in the back of the Press. She's been wanting to have a couple of these to heat up on the stove so she doesn't have to use electricity (despite it being from renewables, and us not using very much, it still costs, so using less would be good!). Gill isn't into ironing everything, but the school uniforms and my work clothes need to look good, and the electric iron is quite heavy on the juice. So a pair of flat irons will be a good addition to our low carbon lifestyle. The old fella wanted a fiver each, as they were antiques, but was happy to hear they'd be used. He lives in Easingwold so Gill might take the bus out there next week to get them, or he might deliver if he's coming down the Hull Road.
Soon after this telephone conversation, we discovered our phone handset wasn't working... it was completely dead. Gill tried to 'ring home' with her mobile but only the base rang, not the handset. So, with the phone being important for my work, it was essential that we get it sorted. So, within the hour I cycled down to town to take it to where we bought it to see if they knew what was wrong with it, or maybe buy another handset. I felt a bit daft when the chap in the shop told me t was just the batteries which had expired. I thought they were rechargeable, but apparently they don't keep recharging for ever. I bought new batteries... and a second pair for when this happens again!
I also visited the Friends Meeting house where the old AVP computer has been waiting for me to pick it up and bring it home to erase the hard disc data, before taking the whole lot to the recycling depot at James Street. The monitor is huge! It only just went in my trailer but with bungees, it came home safe and sound. I set it all up and tried to run the DBAN 'boot and nuke' floppy disc that Ben had supplied, but I didn't quite understand the commands so I phoned Ben and asked him if he could pop round and press buttons in the right order.
Gill was doing wonderful things with the conservatory and I helped too, being ruthless about throwing stuff away, for once! Ros came round with her son, and she stayed and had a coffee and chatted about some of the stories from when she was a customs officer. Our boys played happily all together.
Ben came round and found that the software would work if the computer was tweaked slightly first, and so he reset a password by doing something to the innards and then set the disc to AUTONUKE and completely wipe the hard disc. He also showed me how to take out the disc afterwards and extract two very strong rare-earth magnets, which make excellent fridge magnets. After 40 minutes nuking, the monitor declared it was now 'done', so I switched the whole thing off and extracted the hard disc (actually 3 of them in a stack) and the two magnets. The rest of the hardware will be going to Hazel Court tomorrow for recycling.
I then found time to sort through seeds and plant some courgettes, squash, pumpkin and basil. This felt extremely satisfying. All three boys ate together and then played til 9pm when I took our visitor back up the road to Ros. I spent some of the evening peeling some giant pumpkin seeds I found from last year, and sorting out old seed packets from newer ones which I will hopefully plant up soon.
A very productive day. And destructive too, with the mangling of the old computer and throwing away of loads of unrecyclable and unusable stuff. Satisfying!
Friday, 17 April 2009
I didn't plant seeds... I made tea so when Gill got in she didn't need to do too much. I did a nutloaf with a layer of spinach in the middle, from the garden. Gill put some potatoes in the microwave when she got in, and I popped down to Country Fresh where I was delighted to find they had some tomato plants in... a 'Shirley', 'Moneymaker' and 'Super Sweet' which were 89p each, or £1.50 for two... Richard gave me a bit of a better deal than that. I'll have to riddle some more finished compost for him to sell... it's that time of year! So I came back with these three little plants and two sacks of compostables.
I popped into Scummerfield to get some stuff Gill wanted and came back to take stuff down the garden. Gill called me in an hour later saying that if I was any later, the nutloaf would be dried up! So came in for that and it was delicious. The children both said it was lovely! Hooray, a hit.
Watched Mastermind and Gardeners World. GW is turning into Blue Peter. It's got a cute squeaky kid and a 'make' ('here's one I made earlier') and a thing on Gnomes. HELP!
Later, on Jools Holland (hahahaha) I really loved seeing Grndmaster Flash... took me back over 20 years back to my days of body-popping... excellent!
Thursday, 16 April 2009
Melody came round whilst I was doing this and her son played with ours. So writing was a slow affair as there was chatting and coffee drinking... but by 1pm I was finished. I got dressed and had a late lunch. Lit the stove and did a big wash up and at about 5pm went to the allotment and dug out lots of dandelions and cut back brambles, ready for spuds going in. Rebuilt a pallet compost bin and pulled out loads of sticks from the stuff which came out of it, putting these back into the new pile.
Came back at nearly 9 and reheated the food which Gill had left for me... potatoes, peas, squash and a slice of quiche followed by lemon cake. Yummy.
A very quiet evening.
Then on to Brunswick Organic Nursery to get some vegetable seedlings. But they are not quite ready for sale yet, except the Calabrese. I bought some lunch and ate it there, and had a brief chat with Adam the chief honcho which was nice.
Then on to see Pauline... but I stopped on Bishopthorpe Road where a vehicle had come off the road a while ago, uprooting a stretch of hedge, which I trimmed with my bowsaw and took the biggest chunks in my trailer. Then cycled to Pauline's to chop a few of her logs, with my big bowsaw, which has a log blade on it, whereas hers has a blade which is better suited to dried wood. Had a coffee and chopped her logs, chatted to her grand-daughter who was helping her with some painting.
Then towards 3pm, to 'York Beach' which is under Ouse Bridge, on the Queens Staith side of the river. Members of York in Transition had arranged to meet a Press photographer here to publicise the Age of Stupid showing at City Screen on 26th April. He arrived and had quite a few suggestions about what and what wouldn't work, so Edward, Candy and I did a variety of poses for the camera! We then all went to City Screen to get another few.
We had just finished when I met my friends Trish, Dexter and Miladdio, which was nice.
Then onto Country Fresh with an AoS poster, and St Nicks with my second AoS poster and flyers.
Then home! The family had gone into town to go to the Warhammer shop, as both boys are getting into these little models, and they came back and started painting them up and gluing them together. I spent some time with them and had a word game with my eldest.
Minimal tea, enjoyed Newsnight as it was Ethical Man's second USA outing.
Tuesday, 14 April 2009
Good to be home! Opened letters, read the Press, made some phone calls, lit the stove, did washing up. Just usual stuff, back to normal.
I went to Country Fresh to collect what they had got put aside for me, and Somerfield to get a job-lot of pasta. They have a good 'two for the price of one' deal; I spent £11 on about 12 bags of pasta, lots of different sorts. Had pasta and home-grown purple sprouting broccoli for tea.
A peaceful evening.
Monday, 13 April 2009
I cut Linda's front hedge and spent some time on the computer, and read, between seeing that Gill was OK and making sure that Linda's dog was too, as she'd left him with us.
Linda came back with the children at about 4 and they'd had a brilliant day with storytelling, Egyptian mummies, lots of activities and fun and education. I helped Linda make a simple meal, which we all had together, Sophie and Dankie coming back just as it was served.
Gill got a bit better during the evening and came down to watch Secret Millionaire which was very good, as usual.
Sunday, 12 April 2009
Helped Linda in the garden, digging up a dying Rosemary bush and replacing it with a lovely-looking small tree or shrub which I could not identify. The children were persuaded to go on a slug and snail hunt. These were put in a bucket with something to hide under, ready for relocation.
Gill was having a migraine, poor thing, so stayed in bed all day, and Linda looked after her when the rest of us went out for a walk with Sophie, Dankie and all the children. We drove, in two cars, to Mousehold Heath, an area of woodland and heathland which has seen lots of gravel extraction, and therefore has lots of hillocks and dips, great to run around, and we found a rope swing and had fun on that. Other members of the group started making a den with sticks and branches, and after energetic rope-swing activity, everybody joined in with this. We climbed trees and threw sticks, I pushed over a large rotten silver birch tree. The snails were released, and we heard woodpeckers drumming. I collected litter in the snails' bucket and some polybags I found. (33 pieces of recyclable can/bottle type litter, plus lots of throw-away stuff) After all this activity we had an ice cream and borrowed some young adults' football and had a kick around. Most of the children had a fabulous time and we all enjoyed this place. What a pity Gill couldn't see it and join in.
After tea, I did a balloon show and workshop for the children which they mostly enjoyed and I was delighted to see how good some of them were at making a bird model! We got the sleeping arrangements organised sensibly and I had a much better night's sleep.
Saturday, 11 April 2009
A slow start to the day, but then walked into town to go to a museum or two. We first went to one with lots of animal skeletons, but it was closed. However, there was a huge whale skeleton displayed outside, and this was fascinating. We would have loved to go round this museum as it looked brilliant... through the windows! There was even a narwhal skeleton with two tusks... they usually only have one!
So we moved on to the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences which was stuffed with fossils and rocks, I could have spent much more time there but some of the group needed to move on. So, in the same building was the University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology which was excellent. Again, I could have spent quite a bit more time here but my concentration span is considerably longer than the children's. I do really recommend visiting these museums.
We walked back to Elissa and George's house, and then George drove us to the station where we got the train to Norwich, where Gill's sister (and George's mum) Linda lives. We are all very fond of Linda as she is very like Gill, and it was lovely to see her. She collected us in her tiny car... quite a squeeze. One of Linda's other offspring, Sophie, and her husband Dankie, and their three children were already there, so it was quite a houseful. Fortunately, there are a selection of futons and extra beds, and a converted loft-space. But this didn't mean a settled night for me as the excitement with all the children charging round meant that their bedtime was late... too late, and this meant a case of 'musical beds'/bed hopping to try to get people settled and I therefore I slept on the sofa downstairs. I had a quite uncomfortable night.
Friday, 10 April 2009
We had a nice time with them and then in the early evening, walked into the City and went out for a meal at the Rainbow Vegetarian Cafe, where Elissa is a regular, as she used to live opposite, in a room in the gatehouse of the University. There was one table big enough for our group... but we had to wait for half an hour for it... but it was worth it. When the food actually arrived (another half hour, we were ready for it!) It was delicious and wholesome, and not cheap, but hey, it was a special occasion as we hardly ever get to see these relatives. George is especially good with the children, and I really like Elissa's directness and frank opinions. She doesn't mince her words yet she is careful how she phrases things. We discussed journalism as she, like me, works as a writer, and, like me, is untrained, having landed in the role almost by accident. She writes for The Africa Report, and was at the G20 talks interviewing a top African economist. I read one of her articles and it was very good. I hope she continues with this career.
We enjoyed the walk home... Cambridge is a beautiful place, and walking leisurely and chatting
made a good end to a really lovely day.
Thursday, 9 April 2009
Spent much of the day sorting out more logs in the front, and compostables in the back, and brought a load of finished compost up to the front of the house so Ali could collect it for her raised beds.
Gill went into town and all was quiet and chilled in the house.
When she came back, I visited Country Fresh to deliver four bags of specially mixed seed compost, made from some loam, leafmould, a bit of compost and some fine sand. I collected a fairly small amount of compostables.
Ali came at about 5.30, her daughter very excited to be here and see the boys... they let her play on the computer and were lovely with her. Ali took 3 sacks of riddled compost and about 5 sacks of mature, finished but unriddled compost. That ought to sort out her garden!
Gill made a cauliflower cheese with macaroni and baked squash... really tasty. Tried to give our eldest a haircut with my new shaver, but his hair was too long and wiry for the beard trimmer, so Gill did a haircut first with her hairdressing scissors... then the trimmer! All the hair went for composting...
After tea I spent another hour trying to get through the backlog of green potatoes, which need chopping up and putting in one of the tumblers... A very peaceful contemplative experience. In just before 10, but had to go out again to deliver something to Simon. Busy busy busy...
Wednesday, 8 April 2009
David the photographer, who had planned to come and record today's event, had phoned in unwell so I just got on with what I am good at; a one hour show and workshop, followed by a freeplay workshop, then lunch, more freeplay workshop, finishing with the balloon modelling workshop. The 20 or so children had a good time, so did I, and was finished by about 3pm.
Called in on David on the way home to wish him well, and came home to find a reasonably calm house. I had a bit of peace and quiet and then did some more sorting out in the garden. Got some more of Ali's compost ready, and a bit later, had a chat to her as she wants to come and collect some, to mix with the topsoil she's been given on Freecycle for her wheelchair-user friendly raised bed garden.
Ate tea all together and had some good giggles and chats, a peaceful evening mostly.
Enjoyed Newsnight as the return of Ethical Man was on, saving America from it's huge carbon footprint... well, kind of!
Tuesday, 7 April 2009
And a good day followed too, I did quite a bit of work outside, and finished my arty logpile.
I tidied up some more stuff down the garden, shredded the ivy delivered a day or to ago, with help from one of our youngest son's friends, which was nice.
At 7pm, headed off to St John's to a York Green Festival meeting, Rand chaired and I took notes. It was a good meeting, lots of energy and enthusiasm.
Came home via the cycle track and just manhandled a large tree stump onto my trailer, I took the plastic box out and put that on my pannier rack, filled with woodchips from the shredding the tree surgeons did. A good haul!
Emailing as usual until late, interspersed with a bath as working tomorrow, and no-one likes a smelly entertainer!
I then went to chat to the proprietor of 'One' Ethical Boutique, about a possible publicity stunt for the film, and my building society to pay in a cheque, the council to give in some paperwork, and finally to see Dylan at Millers Yard, and a good chat and collected several sacks of oranges and coffee grounds, which I promptly took to the St Nicks Fields composting area. All that pet shop sawdust needs some nitrogen-rich stuff!
Home for a very late lunch... 3pm and then did a bit in the garden, clearing up some of the riddling before tea and then another meeting, this time a YorkLETS meeting which I chaired and I think was a successful meeting.
Home by 10, and had to do more writing, this time the proposed text for the Age of Stupid flyer/poster.
Sunday, 5 April 2009
The boys played in the garden too, my eldest helped cut up a pile of green potatoes thrown out by the grocers so they could go on the compost heap and have a chance of not growing!
Rakesh rang me and asked if I'd take some sacks of ivy he's cut down from a tree in his garden, as he cannot take them to Hazel Court as he has a van and it requires a permit, which he hasn't applied for. I told him I'd be happy to recycle his ivy for him, so he drove round and dropped it off. I'll feed it through the shredder and bung it in the now empty Compostumbler along with the next couple of week's greengrocer's 'resources'...
Gill made pizza dough and did a brilliant pizza, with the first of the purple sprouting broccoli out of the garden as a side dish, and potatoes from Country Fresh.
This weekend must have been one of the best weekends we've had for quite a while, pretty peaceful, lots of friends to play with and good weather so outside activities were possible and fun.
Let's hope for more days like these.
Saturday, 4 April 2009
Our youngest went to the Yorkshire Museum quite early, with Ros and her son, to wave the 'Roman Coin' at the Portable Antiquities people. The consensus was that it was a reproduction... what a pity!
Simon came round with his son, and our eldest played with him whilst Gill and I chatted with Simon over a cuppa. I then cycled over to Goodramgate to visit Oxfam which sells big tubs of Cafedirect instant FairTrade coffee, 500g for £14.99, a somewhat better price than the Scummerfield 100g jar I got yesterday (as we'd run out!) for something like £3.40 I think. Anyway, I like to buy stuff from Oxfam. I then went on to Sainsburys and spent the same again on assorted things and came back along the cycle path and brought back sticks.
Then did a load of composting jobs... dug out a static tumbler (one which has ceased to rotate as the frame broke but I still use the drum for putting tumbled compost in, to mature) and then emptied the Compostumbler 600l machine, forking the stuff into a dalek. The children helped me with some riddling, using the Rotaseive. Did loads of this, after they'd done a couple of loads. They played on the trampoline and made mud bricks and built a wall.
A lovely but hard working day.
Friday, 3 April 2009
Came back to find Ai's wormery has been delivered. WRAP has a deal with assorted local authorities, through the Recycle Now website, they offer reduced price composting equipment. You put in your postcode and a range of different compost bins and wormeries comes up, with different prices in different areas. In Ali's area, there wasn't a Can O Worms available, but there was in York and North Yorkshire, so she ordered one to be delivered here. Se did this just in time, as now I cannot find any wormeries available on this website! The best price deal that I've found today is in Lancashire, where a 'dalek' compost bin can be had for £3 or £5, with a delivery charge of £5. But I put in postcodes of people I know in Shropshire, Cambridge, Norwich, Hebden Bridge and Leeds, and there are good deals to be had in all of these. My 'top buy' is the 330 litre Compost Converter 'dalek' bin.
I had lunch with Gill and then got on with processing the large logs out the front. I just managed to saw through the really thick cherry trunk and split the chunks, stacking them by the side of the house to dry. One of my neighbours told me that he thought my logpiles were untidy, and that he sometimes smelt smoke from the stove. I apologised for the occasionally poor management of the stove, which only burns smoke free when burning hot and with the air coming through the turbobaffle. Sometimes Gill opens up the air under the grate to get it burning well, and then forgets to close it. Sometimes a log goes on which doesn't catch properly, and it smoulders rather than burn cleanly and heat up well. So these stoves are only smoke free if they are well managed. I didn't tell my neighbour that I found his cars ugly, but I did, in passing, mention the invisible and smell-free carbon dioxide pollution that cars emit in very large amounts, but this was dismissed. Depressing. We ought to live in a smallholding really, where having a few tonnes of logs stacked around the place wouldn't upset the neighbours.
Gill did the school run and the boys had some visitors to play with. Melody and Ros came to drink coffee and chat. I visited Country Fresh and Freshways, to collect my not very fresh stuff.
Melody left soon after I got back, and had been given some garlic bulbs by Gill as I've got dozens and she pickles them. Next to the front door were another 50? or so garlics, thrown out by the veg shops, and I'd been intending to pickle these. I gave them all to Melody, as she's far better at doing pickles than me, she was ecstatic. In return, she'll give me a jar or two of the finished product, yippee!
Tea was delicious... I cropped some of the Shiitake mushrooms and gently fried them in olive oil on the stove, appreciated by all the males in the house (don't think Gill's too keen) and some of yesterday's lasagna and pastie and potatoes.
A warm and cosy evening. Did more dried pears.
Thursday, 2 April 2009
Then to the main Post Office, as someone has sent me a package with not enough postage on it, and to the Council to give in the Planning Panel paperwork. Walked through the footstreets and then, cycling down Walmgate, saw a 'ripe' skip containing some good-looking wood, so stopped and chatted to the builders who were happy to help me load up some very old oak beams. Then, on Hull Road, as I was pulling up to the traffic lights, a van overtook me with a good pile of tree-prunings in the back, including some huge cherry logs. I pulled up alongside and asked them if they would like to drop off some of them just up the road. They asked where, and when I said it was just a minute away, they said they'd follow me, so I sped off, despite my heavy load, and they followed. Well worth it, as they gave me some massive chunky and dead-dry cherry logs, one trunk is about 50cm in diameter!
Stopped for a few minutes for lunch, but then got going again, sorting out some of the wood at the front and then started to prepare tea, ingredients for a lasagna. I did a roux and added lumps of cheese for a cheese sauce, and brought some sliced carrot and cauliflower up to the boil to take off the crunch before adding it to the lasagna. When I got back from school I layered up the sheets of pasta (no-pre-cook type), dollops of butternut and leek soup, slices of tomato, slices of carrot and cauliflower florets and the cheese sauce. I only put the cheese sauce in one of the bottom layers and all over the top, and then microwaved it for 10 minutes. Then, to finish it off and crisp the top, I bunged it in the gas oven for a few minutes. Gill arrived in and after saying hi to us all, tottered off upstairs to go to bed; she needed an hour's rest after going over to Ilkley and seeing her nephew's new baby and their delightful toddler too.
The lasagna was really good, both boys loved it, and so did I. I don't cook as often as I used to, and should do more really. At least I don't leave it all to Gill to do... and I won't let her do any washing up as I'm definitely better than her at that!
We had some fruit for pudding and then the boys went outside to play. Gill came down and I put the remains of the soup on the stove for her, this is what she had said she wanted. I went out to finish off the shredding. I was nearly done when our next-door neighbour Ken shouted at me to come and look at something. He showed me his lawn, which had two patches of pigeon feathers on it, and Diane, his wife, told me she'd watched a Sparrowhawk pulling the feathers off the pigeon and eating the whole thing up. There were literally only feathers left. It is fantastic to know that this urban environment supports a top predator like this. I've not seen the Sparrowhawk here, but Gill saw it swoop towards our bird table a while ago, but it didn't get anything that time.
I showed the boys the evidence of the Sparrowhawk, and then it was time for their supper, and at about 9 they were both heading for bed, having had a happy day. Looking forward to the holidays!
Wednesday, 1 April 2009
Gill took our youngest to school and went on to her art class. I did a bit of emailing and Facebooking, and then got dressed and made some leek and butternut squash soup, and started building a logpile of dry wood outside the front. This one isn't going to fall down!
Had a good day, doing bits around the house and garden, nothing very focused but had a productive day. Shredded a load of twigs (mainly from John round the corner) and took apart a large clump of tough grass/sedge which Gill dug up ages ago. The soil had dried so I could crumble that off and pulled out the bits of the plant with roots, and shredded these too. The soil I added to my store of turf/soil/loam in one of my many compost bins. This is used to make potting composts, mixed with rich compost from fruit and veg, and leafmould, in varying proportions depending on what I'm using it for. I emptied one of my tumblers, putting well rotted stuff in a large plastic sack (for continued decomposition and eventual riddling and use) and unrotted sticks, paper and cardboard in a pile, ready for putting back with all the shredded twigs, sedge and a vast pile of cauliflower stalks, bad oranges and off potatoes. All this went straight back in the tumbler, filling it right up in one go. Compost bins are rarely empty in this garden! I took the temperature of one of my recently loaded pallet bins, just over 60 celcius in the centre... a veritable sauna for the microbes in there!
I also did lots more weeding, as we have an excess of deep rooted Green Alkanet (Pentaglottis sempervirens) and easy-seeding Geranium species (some type of Crane's Bill) and the always-on-the-make Ground Elder (Aegopodium podagraria) which is perhaps the most invasive thing in this garden, apart from the encroaching compost bins... I pulled out some nettle seedlings, baby brambles, docks trying to sneak their roots way too deep for me to get them and dandelions trying to be as tenacious as docks. My fingers are now tingling pleasantly from the stinging nettles, a feeling I quite like.
I found one of last year's yams, just beginning to grow, and tried to dig it out, but it was so deep, the main body of the tuber was over 60 cm below the soil and it broke off, just giving me 50 or 60 cm of thin rooty tuber hardly worth doing anything with. I'll replant this bit, probably in a pot as it's easier to get the crop! I bought this as 'Angela's Cinnamon Vine', 5 tiny balls which form in the vine where the leaves branch off, it climbs several metres up, and produces a bigger tuber every year if left. So far my biggest tuber was about 70 cm long, after 2 or 3 years growing. The vine dies off during winter.
Gill called me in at 7.30 and reminded me it was tea time... I just get completely lost when I'm in the garden, there's always more to do than I have time for, and eating gets put down the agenda (or falls off the end of it until it's too dark to do anything more). I had a two bowls of leek and butternut soup, seasoned with marmite from a nearly empty jar, washed out with hot water to get the last of it. This with a hunk of bread and hummus and blobs of pesto, and some cucumber out of the compostables... one end was unsaleable, the other end delicious!
An evening not worth writing about, as I spent most of it writing...