Sunday, 31 May 2009

Sunday 31st May 09

Lovely morning, lie in with Gill, then a bath... in gas-heated water... the first time this year I've needed to use gas for a bath.

But I cannot go to work dirty!

I left for work clean, hair washed and shiny, plaited by Gill. Left at midday, bike trailer loaded up with bag-o-tricks and unicycles, with my back pack of costume, feathers and balloons on my back. My reading matter, party contact details and sandwiches were in a pannier.

I got my ticket and waited 10 minutes for the train to Huddersfield, chatting to a nice older woman called Jo who was visiting her very old parents in Liverpool. She and I chatted on the platform and then she chose to sit next to me on the train and we had a good chat... no time for me to eat my sandwiches or read, but she was good company.

Nigel, the birthday boy's Dad, met me at Huddersfield, and drove me to the party place, a little village hall in very scenic hill country near Holmfirth. I entertained at their wedding 5 years ago, when their child was nearly 2. So this was his 7th birthday... and he'd invited the whole class.

The party went completely as expected, and I got the 5.30 train back to York. I dozed.

Gill had taken the boys to see a film at City Screen, so I had pasta for tea and went into the garden to muck around there for a bit. The family came in and Gill was exhausted after a trying and difficult day. I got my stuff ready for tomorrow, a playscheme where I'm doing composting etc, so I have to take assorted samples!

I had a peaceful evening, watched a bit of telly and played Scrabble on Facebook.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Saturday 30th May 09

A nice sunny morning so I got up reasonably early, and at 9.30 got ready to go to John Bibby's again, as yesterday I'd promised to help his wife, Shirley, move her compost bins, as the new development (they've sold a chunk of their garden and a house is due to be built) will be on top of where their compost bins are. I took my 'compost mate' tool as it is the best way to extract the top layers from a dalek bin, so they can be put back in the new empty bin. Once I had a wheelbarrow full of the most recently added stuff, I installed an empty bin in a new place, and put a load of prunings and cardboard in the bottom before putting the semi-rotted stuff on top of this.

The base of the compost bin was full of well-rotted material, so I just lifted it up off the pile, and installed it in the new place, leaving the pile of rich compost for Shirley to use in a new border, which will go in front of a new fence. I shovelled one wheelbarrow's worth into the barrow and left the rest for Shirley to do. I reckoned an hour and a quarter was enough. I filled the trailer, panniers and rack with another batch of logs and cycled home, slowly.

Gill was just getting ready to go out with the boys and one of their friends to Pocklington by bus... there's a lovely garden there, Burnby Hall and Gardens, where there are fish to feed and water lilies to look at. And a Sainsburys.

So they went out and I had lunch and got on with various things in the garden, including log chopping and splitting, sorting out an old compost heap... a pallet version which has finished rotting down and some of it's contents have fallen through the base, so I took it all to pieces, tidied up and put everything in a builders bag. Also did more weeding... green alkanet, ground elder, nettles, all growing much better than any crops!

I did a load of stacking too, round the back under my covered woodpile, and then Gill came back; they'd had a nice time and the bus journeys were easy, and the fish were hungry.

We all had egg, beans and chips for tea, and whilst they watched Robin Hood I did some more wood wrangling, getting in at about 10. I love these light nights.

Late on, I played Scrabble and watched a version of The Midwich Cuckoos, a film called Village of the Damned. John Wyndham was one of my favourite authors when I was a teenager... I gobbled up Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, lots of science fiction. Now I don't have time (or inclination?) to read fiction... and I prefer science fact anyway now! Some of the stuff I read in NewScientist is stranger than fiction anyway!

Gill went to a little party gathering next door, Diane and her sister, female friends only. She enjoyed the company. It's not often she goes to a party!

Friday, 29 May 2009

Friday 29th May 09

Spent most of the morning on the computer, doing washing up, preparing fruit for drying and various other domestic stuff. With the Euro elections approaching, there's a lot of political stuff winging its way around the web, and I found this. I thought it might be fun to see if it predicted my Green intentions. But I couldn't get it to tell me which way to vote. I wonder if others can?

I responded to a Freecycle offer of lots of logs; my friend John Bibby has a neighbour who's taken down a large horse chestnut, an apple, a pear, a huge laburnum and some softwood. I agreed with John that I'd cycle round at 5pm, he'd get his car ready to take some logs over to mine, I'd load and then unload the car, and he'd take me back to pick up my bike with a trailer full. Sounded like a good plan.

I did a bit of work in the garden but it was too hot. I cycled down to Country Fresh with three carrier bags of very mature compost, and picked up a sack and two boxes of compostables plus a bit of shopping.

Came back and tried to make some space in the front garden ready for the log arrival, but my chainsaw is being difficult and only working now and then. I think it has a loose connection, so will have to get it serviced.

At 5 I cycled over to John's and we did two loads, only a small percentage of the large volumes of wood they've got. Arrived back after 7 having done two car-loads and a bike-trailer load. I did a bit of chopping with the chainsaw which seemed to be back working. Weird!

Gill had made Brazil nut sausage things, and cooked some cauliflower, and I was absolutely ready for this.

Later, I spent quite a bit of time doing the York in Transition diary on Facebook.

Thursday 28th May 09

Up at a reasonable time and Gill was planning the trip to the IMAX cinema in Bradford, as the boys wanted to see The Night At The Museum 2. She bought tickets over the phone yesterday and had sorted out which train to get, and booked a taxi. But due to factors which I don't fully understand, the boys said that they didn't want to go this morning, so Gill did a second round of ringing round and cancelled everything, and will hopefully get her money back from the IMAX.

So, both Gill and I spent quite a bit of time in the garden. I was busy most of the day, potting up peppers and more tomatoes, sieving compost and loam to use as growing media. I did a load of weeding, mostly ground elder and green alkanet. Also compost heap building, so a perfect day in the garden.

Our youngest is complaining that his bike is too small for him, so after tea I cycled with both boys down to Bikerescue via Walmgate Stray and the Millennium Bridge. When we arrived at the Parkside Commercial Centre, the Bikerescue dog, a friendly enough hound, was there, and my son who is scared of dogs ran away and had to be coaxed and cajoled back, and I asked the chap who dealt with me to put it in the office so my boy's fear didn't prevent us deciding on a bike. We chose one, and it needs a bit of work so I put down a deposit and was told it would be ready in a week or 10 days. We cycled back a shorter way.

I cycled back into town immediately, as I'd agreed to help a friend who's moving house soon. She cannot get into her loft as the hatch is quite narrow and her hips are not! So I went up to the loft space and handed down assorted boxes, bags, piles of books, electrical items and more. Then we had a good chat before I came home, getting in after 9, but doing some sorting in the front garden before coming in.

A quiet evening, enjoyed watching 'Surgery Live' on C4 with Gill.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Wednesday 27th May 09

Another nice 'n' late morning, I'm loving these holidays, not having to get the little darlings up and ready for school.

So, up after 9 and phoned Pauline as there was an outstanding invite from her to go and cut up some old Xmas trees for her little stove. I said I'd be along later in the morning.

So got up and out of the house after 11, and zoomed over to Pauline with loppers and bowsaw to do a few minutes woodchopping, collecting a pallet from a skip for her, and a builders bag so she can turn out her fabric compost bin and refill it. Then I had a real coffee with her, and a very good in-depth chat. She is such a caring person, concerned about a mutual friend and discussing how best to help a complicated situation.

I arrived back home bearing a magazine called Living Woods which she has subscribed to, as she has dreams of owning a little woodland. It looks excellent! I look forward to having time to read it...

I sorted out the sacks of goodies I brought back from Country Fresh, including 3 big red peppers and about 17 big tomatoes. So I washed and trimmed the tomatoes, nothing seriously wrong with them, just some physical damage, so had to reject the equivalent of about 4 of them. The rest I added to a big saucepan with a finely chopped onion, 3 garlics (also thrown away!) and a stick of celery, and stewed this all on our faithful logburner. When simmered for half an hour, I added some basil and bouillon, and Gill whizzed it to make a pizza topping. Gill made pizza dough and then two pizzas.

Immediately after tea, I zoomed off to the Merchant Taylor's Hall in town to give blood. As I hadn't booked in, I had an hour's wait... perfect, just perfect for reading Living Woods, which I really enjoyed. And when the time came to donate, I managed to do my pint (?) in 4 minutes 56 seconds! Fast! And a fast cuppa and biscuit, I cycled home, finding a large willow log at St Nicks and naughtily lifting it onto my trailer. My puncture wound did not explode! I also picked up a couple of sacks from Freshways and was home before 9, feeling great.

Gill gave me some cake and a coffee and I settled down to try to write my last column for Community Care. I am very good at getting distracted, though!

Tuesday 26th May 09

What a treat, a lie-in til maybe 9am! Maybe our children are heading towards teen-dom, when late mornings will be the norm? In fact, I was up first, at about 9, and our youngest appeared on the landing as I came out of the loo. They are usually up much earlier!

A very happy family day... the boys played on the computer for most of the morning and I did too (of course I don't play! I work... allegedly!) and after lunch Gill walked into town with them as they are outgrowing shoes and wanted to get more computer games.

I made a risotto using the method I watched Beth do the other day... similar anyway. I fried onions, celery and garlic in the big pan on the woodstove, then added chunks of courgette and butternut, raw (Beth baked hers first) and when that was all softened, added red pepper paprika, bouillon, sage, then rice and boiling water and simmered it for 25 minutes. I also dry-cooked a load of home-produced pumpkin seeds so they popped and puffed up, then added a load of spinach beet or chard chopped leaf, which wilted down and was served as a side dish to the rice.

I went in the garden and planted beans, peas and squash in the radiator bed, some calabrese and cauliflowers in the raised beds, did some composting and weeding, then did a load of riddling and made up some growing media and potted up peppers and cucumbers in the conservatory.

The family came in and I fed them. Well, they fed themselves, but I put food on their plates.

I relaxing evening, watched a programme about the interesting 47 million year-old fossil primate which is a link to our pre-human past.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Monday 25th May 09

Beth woke me up at sometime after 7 as I needed to leave the house at about 8, in order to get to the nearest station by 8.28, to get to Peckham Rye by 9.30 and meet Anna. A quick breakfast and goodbyes, walked up to the station, got a ticket to where I wanted to go and caught a train four minutes earlier than expected all the way to Victoria, as suggested.

However, when I got to the ticket barrier at Victoria, it wouldn't accept my ticket... and the member of staff looked at the ticket and pointed out that it said 'not valid via London' and he said that I'd have to speak to the barrier person at platforms 1-7. So when I did this, they wouldn't let me through either, and told me to go to the ticket office to get sorted out. I did this and the only option was to be sold a ticket from Clapham Junction to Peckham Rye for another £2.10. This meant that I got through the barriers and on to Peckham Rye by 9.30, and Anna arrived with my keys, a teeshirt and NewScientist. So much for leaving in a hurry the previous morning...

I gave Anna a book I'd got at the conference on Sunday morning which I thought she'd be interested in... she was delighted as it definitely was right up her street, so her walk to the station was worth it for her too.

I got the bus to Kings Cross, waited for the platform to be announced and got on the train which left at 11. I had some nice chats with the family sitting in the 3 seats with me, but I couldn't use my laptop for very long as the plug socket in the carriage wasn't delivering any power, and the battery on this thing doesn't last very long without the mains, perhaps about 30 or 40 minutes!

Anyway, York appeared soon and I cycled home via Country Fresh and Freshways, getting in at 1.30.

The boys were delighted to see me, they'd all had a good time, with a visit to Scarborough and fun with Simon and his son, and Gill was pleased I'd got such a lot from the conference. I don't think she missed me, perhaps as I did ring every evening to see how things were!

I had lunch and Gill asked me to go and do some shopping, so I did that and then spent some time in the garden, planting beans, squash, peas, and weeding and piling stuff into a couple of dalek bins. Nice to be back!

Gill made a quiche and cooked the potatoes I bought, and we had a lovely evening together, watching Ideal and talking over some of our weekend.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Sunday 24th May 09 Transition Network Conference (day three)

I was woken by Anna's sweet little girly, at about 8.30, a much more civilised time! Had a quick breakfast and tried to get all my stuff together and set off for the bus with Edward. I'm so glad I've stayed with Edward... we've had some excellent conversations. I'm also really happy to have introduced Anna to Edward, I love being a networker!

Arrived at the Battersea Arts Centre just in time to witness the 'Energising Group Activity' which some of the conference-goers were participating in, and then it was off to the workshops.

I participated in 'Making The Most Of The Media' facilitated by Catriona Ross, who has a lot of experience in dealing with publicity issues, newspapers, representing organisations, and I think is involved in some aspect/s of the Transition Network, although I'm not sure what.

However, the workshop was interesting, starting with a who's who, why were they there and what was their experience of working with the media?

The first 'link' Catriona gave us was to Rob Weston's Groundswell website.. I didn't see the relevance of it until I got onto the computer and found it. Very interesting! Well worth a good long read, probably more interesting than this blog!

Then we talked through what 'News' is, and why do we bother having relationships with the media, and we found out the newspapers and other media that the workshop delegates read, which was over 50% The Guardian. We looked briefly at where 'News' comes from and discussed using agencies and other resources such as the Guardian Media Directory and the Writers and Artists Yearbook.

We looked at some of the reports about traditional media going through its own transition, due to the rise of electronic media and the economic downturn and decreasing advertising revenue. However, we learned that this could also be an opportunity for us!

We undertook a rather hurried exercise which our little group didn't fully understand, but this may have been the speed at which the instructions were delivered. All in all, a really interesting session.

Following a short coffee break was the third 'Open Space' conversation tables time. I chose to go to a table with 'Working with Local Authorities' as it's title, but no-one turned up to host it, so I did, and did some of the 'scribe' work, taking notes on flipchart-sized sheets of paper. About 8 people contributed to this. Then I found another table with the subject of 'Garden Sharing' which was nice to go and listen to; I contributed my experience of having other people with no composting facilities using mine to dispose of their compostables... An excellent chat about EcoSchools and food growing and composting in schools. I decided not to say about the school I'm involved with taking advice from someone saying composting isn't allowed in schools.... after all, this conference is about positive solutions not steps backwards.

This was followed by the closing ceremony, done in a huge circle, with roving microphones allowing some individuals to pass comment, sing, offer thanks and more. I enjoyed this, and whilst the group photo was being taken, gave some pea beans to Alexis the Councillor, and several other people.

Finally, it was lunch, which I spent chatting to Mary Fee from LETSlink UK, very nice to see her and see how she felt about the YorkLETS delay over getting the software. She didn't have a problem with it at all, and respected our desire to do it properly!

I said my goodbyes and walked (with Mary) to Clapham Junction where there was a train very soon to East Croydon. I walked the route I'd memorised from Street View through Croydon and was at Beth's house in about 20 minutes, perhaps less. How wonderful to see her, after all this time, 28 years! What a lot of catching up to do! So many stories to tell and hear.

She showed me her garden and shared her dream of growing some foodplants, and cooked tea (spinach soup followed by risotto with roast butternut, red pepper and tomato) and I gave her the presents of pea beans and home made paprika, plus the remaining dried fruit.

At some time during the evening I realised I had lost my keys so I emailed Anna and she rang and said yes, I had left them at hers, duh! I said I could come and get them tomorrow, and she said she would meet me at Peckham Rye at 9.30am.

We talked til 1am, after which I tried to do my blog sensibly but not too sure how it's come out as I've several glasses of wine in me... what a day, what a weekend, what a life..................

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Saturday 23rd May 09, Transition Network Conference (day two)

Up much earlier than usual because of the shrill and squeaky and very enthusiastic voice of Anna's 6 year old daughter, who is adorable, very expressive and even more excited to see me again. We last met when I came down to do her fifth birthday party, which she has lots of memories of! So, I'm not John to her, but Fiddlesticks. Anna was going to have got up at 6am and go for a bike ride, but didn't so we all had breakfast together, and then at something after , Edward and I trundled off to the bus and one came within 10 minutes, dropping us off outside the Battersea Arts Centre about half an hour later.

So we were there in good time to have a coffee and listen to the announcements at 9.20, and then it was straight into the first workshops of the day. I had chosen 'How communities can take control of their food systems' with Julie Brown from Growing Communities, based in Hackney. This is a social enterprise employing 18 people part time, providing a veg/fruit box/bag scheme to about 530 households. It is fully organic and 93% of the customers come to the pick-up points on foot or by bike. The boxes/bags are delivered to several pick-up points by an old electric milk float called Maisie, which (who?) is painted up like a cow. The box scheme uses local green salads grown in market gardens ('Hackney Salad') and is just starting an experimental scheme using salads grown in a vicarage back garden! This links in to their Key Principles, which link it in to the wider perspective of sustainability. They have developed a manifesto and food zone diagram which looks at where geographically and distance-wise the food in the boxes is produced. This has figures for what is actually in the box scheme now (divided into veg and fruit) and a target contribution. For instance, at the moment, they would like 17.5% of produce to come from zone 2, peri-urban land, but currently none does. They would like 20% of their produce to come from the rest of the UK, but currently just about 3% does.

There was some discussion about where the UK gets its food from and a short workshop looking at what we, as small groups, thought the problems were, what the barriers to change were and what some of the solutions were. All in all a very useful and interesting example, inspiring.

This over-ran a bit, leaving little time for coffee and cake, and the coffee had run out so it was more or less straight into the second set of Open Space conversations. The matrix was up on the wall and I was intrigued by four of them, Population, Avoiding Burnout, How To Engage People Other Than The Usual Suspects and How To Deal With Denial. I only managed two, most of the time on the Population table, and a short time with Burnout. I didn't take note with either of these, but suffice to say the conversations were interesting, wide-ranging and enjoyable.

Lunch was preceded by a lot of queueing, but when I eventually got to eat, it was lovely.

Then was the highlight of the day for me, I think, the 'Transition Movie' which was made in an unusual way, perhaps even more unusual than Age of Stupid's 'Crowdfunding'. The film-maker, Emma Goude, had a very limited budget to start off with and wondered how she could get around the World to see all the exciting Transition projects on just a few quid. She had the bright idea (or someone did!) of getting different projects to film themselves and send her the tapes and discs. When Rob Hopkins, co-founder of the Transition model, heard this, he said 'Oh great, a Wiki-Film', which is what it has become, except Emma spent a month loading up stuff from 70 tapes and DVDs that were sent to her, plus 55 of her own tapes, and then 2 months sorting it out and cutting it into a meaningful story. The film is not finished yet but it is fantastic, and got a standing ovation. One of the reasons for showing the film here was to get feedback, and plenty was offered. This may improve the resultant product, released sometime in the Autumn.

The final chunk of the day for me at the Conference was a workshop or seminar run by David Wasdell, called Climate Change Goes Critical, and it was basically his work on the various feedback loops which exist and drive climate change. A well-known accelerating feedback in acoustics is where sound put into a microphone comes out of the speakers and goes back into the mic and a scream or screech occurs. On the planet, there are several similar occurrences connected with temperature. One 'easy to understand' one concerns methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. When the permafrost melts as it warms up, it releases trapped methane and frozen material starts to decay, both releasing methane. This accelerates the warming, releasing more methane, and a heating 'scream' begins to happen. This used to be known as a positive feedback, but in this scenario, it is far from positive!

This information is certainly worth trying to get your head around, as it indicates the depth of the problem we have, and the speed at which it is happening. One of the more recent complications is that we now realise that these different feedback loops do not happen in isolation, they feed each other, and this is why some of the measured changes are happening more quickly than anticipated. I recommend visiting the Apollo-Gaia project website, and spending some time watching the video resources. There is also a DVD of his lecture available, and a book which is almost as up-to-date. These are called 'Planet Earth, We Have A Problem'.

I was really keen to hear if he favoured any particular remediation or technology to 'solve the problem', but he shot me down saying you wouldn't ask a guru for straight answers, as the answers are withing the people around you... He said he wasn't an expert on technology, just feedback loops and 'non-linear systems'.

I knew I couldn't take much more info, especially as I knew there was an excited 6 year old (and possibly her friend) waiting for some entertainment back in Peckham, so I had a quick chat to Edward and headed to the bus. Good chats with another buzzed-out Transitioneer, and soon back with Peckham Anna. I'd bought her a copy of Wasdell's book as a present, just the sort of thing she gobbles up, uses, lends to friends, etc etc!

My entertainment services were much needed, which helped me temporarily forget the climate nightmare which faces us, the unimaginably steep hill we have to climb together if we're to overcome this situation we find ourselves in. These two little girls didn't have a care in the world, until the visitor burst her balloon, and her little world fell in on itself.... I did manage to make her a new one, eventually, when her Dad came and she regained some of her composure.

Anna rang up and ordered a take-away curry. I went to collect it, with her little daughter bouncing along beside me. However, bouncing back resulted in her falling over and grazing both knees and screaming oh so loudly...

But the Curry was nice, and once the little one was in bed, we watched the DVD which came with the book, which was good apart from it had a scratch on it which spoiled the middle of the film...

Edward came in just after we finished that, he'd had an excellent evening with the discussion and 'Transition Everywhere' talk, with some of the leading characters in the movement.

We all chatted til nearly midnight... I then did my blog-record of this conference, finishing at 2.04am.... head for bed!

Friday, 22 May 2009

Friday 22nd May 09 Transition Network Conference (day one)

Woke quite early as Lisa's family were getting ready for a normal day.

Usual breakfast, then tried to get onto the 'net to do emails, but Lisa didn't have the password for her WiFi connection so I gave up and got ready for quite a long walk. Lisa had told me which trains I could get but I decided to walk, as I like walking in London, and Lisa had printed off a map for me to follow.

So at about 9.30 I set off, crossed the railway line on a footbridge/cycle track and walked past Honor Oak, Camberwell New Cemetery. Cheltenham Road and across Peckham Rye Common. East Dulwich Road and up Dog Kennel Hill, Champion Hill, Denmark Hill and over Ruskin Park. It was very sunny and warm, I was hot with the rucsack, laptop and carrier bag. I decided that as Coldharbour Lane was pointing in the right direction to get me to Clapham Common, that I'd get a bus... and as I'd walked for 90 minutes, I was happy with the £2 bus fare to a stop within 4 minutes walk of the Battersea Arts Centre, a huge and imposing building where the Transition Conference was being held, is actually, as there is a WiFi hotspot (not that hot actually, as connection is erratic and speeds slow. But, it does work! You may be reading this on the day of the conference...)

I had pre booked and pre paid, so there was a badge waiting for me and I had an offer of my bags being put into storage, instead of lugging them around. I put my rucksack in, but kept my hand luggage and laptop with me.

The main conference hall is a lovely place, huge and beautifully lit with ever-changing LED colour spotlights. Apparently the lighting, all low energy, has been installed specially for this event. There was food available and Edward arrived and sat with me and a bunch of people from Cambridge, which is where he is originally from.

At 1pm, there were greetings and intros, which included the excellent news that Ed Miliband MP (Sec. of State for Department of Energy and Climate Change) was here in the capacity of a 'keynote listener', which raised a laugh! After this, there was an interesting 'mapping' exercise... all the tables and chairs were moved to the side, and standing up, we had to organise ourselves into 'elders' down at one end of the hall, and 'youth' at the other. I found myself in the middle, along with other not-old, not young 40-somethings. The roving Mic was used to introduce a couple of oldies, sorry, respect those elders, and some of the younger contingent. Other mapping involved looking at the size of the population of your Transition Initiative, the highest being Hong Kong with 6 million plus, and the smallest being a settlement in North Yorkshire with 400. We did geographical mapping too, which finished with a group of us from the North East and Lincolnshire, Sheffield and Gronningen in the Netherlands all getting together and doing an exercise with a sheet of paper, post-it notes and 'what went well, what is challenging and what are you looking forward to' colour coded.

When I had a look around other regions versions of this workshop, some had been much more creative with paper wind-turbines and annotated spirals and wonderful stuff. Ours was tame by comparison!

After tea and cake it was the first 'Open Space' event, and I had volunteered to do one on, guess what, home composting! I had two lovely conversations. Both very worthwhile.

I had also volunteered to help facilitate the Energy Descent Action Plan thing after tea, so I posted a quick blog, ate some lasagne (again, and not a patch on the one last night!) and just got finished before the EDAP prep meeting.

EDAP is a Transition methodology for 'doing a Transition Initiative' and it has 12 steps, which are:
Set up a steering group ans design its demise from the outset;
Awareness Raising;
Lay the foundations;
Organise a Great Unleashing (aka a launch, or if in Kirkbymoorside, a 'Springboarding';
Develop physical manifestations of the project;
Build bridges with Local Government;
Organise a Great Reskilling;
Honour the Elders;
Let it go where it wants to go;
Create an Energy Descent Plan.

These do not have to follow this order, and some may take place at the same time.

So, this evening's EDAP work was for an imaginary place 'Anytown' and was with 400 or so people and took just two hours!

Some of the things that were contained in this session:
Information from such as graphs and other information;
This little film 'Peak Oil, How will you ride the slide?'

The following subject areas were used as what I know as a brainstorming as part of the 'unleashing 'stage:
Food, Transport, Health, Arts/Play/Learning, Work and Livelihood, Heart and Soul, Water, Waste as Resources (this is the one I helped facilitate), Buildings, Landuse, Local Democracy and Energy. This was really good as everyone got involved and the ideas, aimed at what we envisioned 2029 to be like, or wanted it to be like, were written on big sheets which were to form the pages of a huge book.

The physical manifestations section was presented using a film called Haringey Connections, about some of the recent activities in Tottenham, with the Wards Corner Coalition and the Living Under One Sun allotment group. Well worth a watch.

The local authority stuff was very well described by a local Camden Councillor, Alexis Rowell, who moved from being a BBC correspondent and then a businessman to having a 'green epiphany' and running for election, and becoming the Camden Eco-Councillor. He has done amazing things in Camden, and has been wholly or partly responsible for the council having a policy of installing decentralised energy in all new projects (such as 20% of the predicted energy use to be generated on site), installation of free cavity wall insulation and roof insulation for all properties, whether poor or wealthy, mandatory green roofs and grey water recycling in all new builds, free fruit trees if a sensible place is suggested in which to put them, and a real push for local food growing wherever possible. Have a shufty through the Camden Council website to see if it mentions any of these!

For the reskilling, a ball of string was used to demonstrate that there were loads of skills in the room which could be shared, that people were able to offer and teach these skills, and that there were ample takers or people who were interested in learning them. The string went from person to person, making a huge web of skills offered and wanted...

In 'Honour the Elders', a local gentleman, John Prince, born in 1928, was interviewed and told some of his life story. He was born in St Kitts / Nevis, and grew up in Antigua with his grandmother who grew all her own vegetables plus cash crops. He worked as a teacher, but since retiring has worked on his poetry.
I chatted to him afterwards and he gave me the text of the poem he read out. This was written just a couple of weeks ago.

Reminiscing on the Lea, by John Prince

I sat on the bank of the River Lea,
Pondering the global, human tragedy.
Here, once had been a paradise of earth,
Where flora and fauna balanced the beauty,
In perfect co-existence of a fragile complex ecology.
I sat on the bank of the River Lea,
Thinking of the past, remembering
When across the face of London City
We fished in rivers, which flowed freely,
Enhancing life: developing human communities.
But no more to be seen,
Progress covered the waters clean
And turned them into sewers.
No more the River Fleet;
No more the River Tyburn,
No more the River Westbourne
They are covered and forgotten;
The measure of our progress:
Exchanging rivers for sewers,
Disrupting earth's natural ecology
To inherit a toxic polluted wasteland.

Millenniums created the evolution
Of species and habitats;
But we, in centuries, created the degeneration
Of earth's harmonious ecology;
And we continue its destruction.

We need humility, a new philosophy,
To guide our co-existence on Mother-earth.
The alternative is global catastrophe;
Like the cosmos-created ice ages,
Which nearly eliminated our ancestors.

I sat on the bank of the River Lea
Thinking of the past, remembering
When across the face of London City
We fished in rivers, which flowed freely,
Enhancing life, developing human communities..

(I have reproduced this exactly as it was written on the sheets John gave me)

The big cake which had been made (I'm not sure of it's significance!) was cut up and given out and Edward and I got ready to go. A number 345 bus took us all the way to Peckham and we were soon knocking at Peckham Anna's door, whom I first met through the Carbon Rationing Action Group website and subsequently, when we were both winners of the Oxfam Carbon Footprint Competition, and we (along with Kat from Scotland) spent a day talking to MPs including Hilary Benn at DEFRA. Anna's housmate was away, which meant there was plenty of space for us both, most welcoming and comfortable. It was great to see Anna again, I love her enthusiasm for low carbon stuff.

Spent another hour and a half doing my blog!

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Thursday 21st May 09

Up early as got a lot to try to do today. First had a hunt through various bags and piles of paper, to try to find my Oyster Card, for travelling in London. Did find my London map, though, which is good.

Gill took our youngest to school and went on to the dentist, I went down to the Nationwide to get a cheque cancelled. I had to wait quite a long time, but did eventually get this done. On the way out of there, I met my friend John Forrester from the Stockholm Environment Institute and had a nice chat, then off to Bishopthorpe to the Brunswick Organic Nursery to spend my vouchers (for volunteering with York Rotters) and when there met my friend Marit, and again, had a good chat. She's building an accessible allotment at the Glen Allotments in Tang Hall, a good project.

I found a range of veg plants; squashes, courgettes, cucumbers, calabrese, cauliflowers and tomatoes, just enough to fully pack-out my trailer, even so I cycled slowly home so not to bounce them around too much.

Home for just after 1pm, enjoyed lunch and did a quick email before getting on with sorting stuff out and getting ready for my trip this afternoon/evening.

I left the house soon after 3 and got to the station in very good time to get the 3.54 to London. Had a nice chat to an inorganic chemistry student called Michaela, and then to a chap involved in railway signalling, and soon we were in King's Cross. Thameslink was easy to find ad I got the 6.24 to Crofton Park, and chatted to a researcher in mental health. At Nunhead, a drunk with an aggression problem caused a 20 minute delay, but there was general good humour in the carriage about it. I found Lisa's house very easily, having used Googlemaps yesterday to check it out. Good for 'Streetview'!

Lisa's 15 year old son had made a lasagne, I'd taken some squash soup down, as well as gifts of home made sweet red pepper paprika, pea beans to grow and some dried fruit. I did a little balloon workshop with Lisa's 7 year old daughter, and had a very pleasant evening. One of the things we did was to go out into the back garden and Lisa watered some recently installed plants, and behind the house is some railway land, on the edge of a cutting, covered in trees... a pretty wild area, which her son and his mates use to escape from Mum... a clearing for a campfire, lots of dead wood around. Whilst we were there, we heard a lot of squarking and I spotted a colourful (Green?) Woodpecker leaving a hole in a dead tree, and obviously the noise was a clutch of babies. They've also seen foxes there. A lovely resource to have access to.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Wednesday 20th May 09

A quite relaxing day, in many ways. Gill went to Art and I eventually went to the allotment with some chitted potatoes and got two rows in! Hurrah! I also pulled out more nettles, by hand (there really isn't any point wearing gloves as part of the love of gardening is being in contact with the soil and plants) and deconstructed a compost heap which fertilised the potato rows.

Home for lunch and then spent the afternoon with Gill, before she went out to have a stitch removed, left from her gall-bladder removal, this one got left behind! I went to school to get our youngest, and took a large plastic sack to collect a dose of school fruit waste. Came back with over 30Kg... would have been thrown away if I didn't rescue it. I wonder when they are going to address the composting situation? I've heard nothing since a 'Health and Safety' **** said 'composting isn't allowed in schools' and my working compost bin was removed.

Gill came home, minus a 1cm long piece of thread in a jar. Greatly relieved! She skimmed the small ads in the Press and saw someone was selling a unicycle for £15, so I rang up and it sounded fine... except it was up in Wigginton, about 5 miles North of here. I decided to go and get it, so cycled up through Haxby, popped into the Cemetery to see a tree I planted in memory of a friend Lin. The tree and plaque I bought were not there. I was a bit upset, but wrote down the details of the people to contact, and will write to them both, just to see if it has been moved...

I then cycled on to where the young man was selling the unicycle. He'd bought a bigger one, with handles on the saddle, to catch when falling or jumping off. I chatted with the whole family, and demonstrated unicycling backwards, paid the asking price (a bargain!) and cycled away with it in my trailer, down the Wigginton Road this time. Near Clifton Moor I found a pallet in the hedge (a rather larger piece of litter than most I pick up!) so brought that back too, coming along the cycle track from near the Hospital all the way to Hull Road, where I picked up a sack of biodegradables from Freshways, and as usual, some friendly banter with the gentlemen who work there.

Home for some squash soup, which was delicious! Had a couple of bread rolls with it... and that was a perfect tea. A relaxing evening, but starting to get ready for going away tomorrow.

Nice bath with woodstove water.... ahhhhhhhhhhhhh!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Tuesday 19th May 09

A morning of admin and dealing with officialdom. Also went to the Guildhall to sign something for doing Charles' proxy postal vote.

A quiet afternoon, Fiddlesticks enquiry, sorting stuff out prior to the Transition Conference, and WASHING UP!!!

I created a squash soup: I'd got three small thrown away Butternut squashes, chucked because they were starting to shrivel a bit around the flower end, but still perfectly edible. So, chopped a small onion, 3 small leeks and 2 sticks of celery into the heavy pan and gently fried this, then halved, peeled de-seeded and cubed the 3 butternuts and bunged them in, and poured water in til it just came up to the butternut chunks. Then simmered it on the stove for several hours. When it was all soft, I whizzed it with the hand held blender, with a dash of balsamic vinegar, pinch of mixed herbs and teaspoon of low salt bouillon powder. Then simmered it a bit more... will be ready for tomorrow, as we've found that soup tastes best the day after it's made.

Gill made a cauliflower macaroni thing for tea and during the evening I wrote my penultimate column on campaigning. Trying to get people aware of the importance of the Copenhagen talks in December.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Monday 18th May 09

I woke with a phone call from Thomson Directories AGAIN pestering me for payment for advertising. I am unsure what this invoice is for, as I already sent them a cheque earlier this year. I rang Thomson directories back to find out what the two cheques were for and got nowhere. I rang my Building Society to see if the previous cheque had been cashed, and was told that someone would get back to me by the close of the day. They didn't.

However, I had a couple of things to do in town, and called in to Cycle Heaven to ask about tightening my disc brakes. I left my bike with them and walked into town, and when I got back less than an hour later, I was told that it had seized up slightly and they'd tightened it up, but the next time it needed adjusting, I'd need replacement brake pads. Disc brakes are good, they are not wearing out my wheel rims like with previous bikes (I needed to replace my rims every other year) but the downside is that the replacement thingy inside the brake is about £15 a pop, more expensive than brake blocks!

Anyway, came home via Country Fresh (one box) and Freshways (two sacks) and within these there were two pineapples, so Gill made an upside-down pineapple cake... slices of prepared pineapple in the base of a cake tin, and sponge cake mixture on top of this. 6 minutes in the microwave and voila! A cake! A delicious cake!

I had some time potting up tomato plants in their final position in big planters in the conservatory, using home-made potting medium. Very satisfying. I had an early tea, just sandwiches, as I was going out to two talks with no time for tea between them.

The first, at 5.30, was the Professor John Whitelegg Inaugural Lecture about designing a zero-carbon transport system. This was in the Physics department at the University of York. The lecture was streamed and recorded, and I'll put a link to the recording when I find it! It was an excellent lecture, and I like John Whitelegg's enthusiasm and delivery. This finished at just after 6.30, and I skipped wine and nibbles to cycle swiftly over to the Priory St Centre to see another Stockholm Environment Institute researcher, Andreas Heinemeyer, give a talk to the Co-op Members Group. I know Andreas reasonably well, but I've never seen him present a 'Transition' style talk. He was very animated and injected lots of humour, I really loved the way he delivered the information. I stayed for the meeting afterwards and spoke to the item on York Green Festival receiving funding, and put in two items of AOB, one on York Credit Union becoming Yorkshire Credit Union and one on the Transition Picnic.

Cycled home, arriving for 10pm, and had a bowl of pineapple cake and cold custard whilst watching the news. Had a chat with Ali on the phone about her creative writing which she wanted me to read and hear.

Got a lot of writing to do this evening... still!

Blog page view counter (from Bravenet) went past 10,000 since September last year. I'm amazed!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Sunday 17th May 09

Woken by shouting but things seemed to calm down, thankfully. Our eldest got ready to go to Games Workshop with a friend. This is a shop space in town where people can buy different models, mostly plastic, and there's a central table where the different games can be played. He took sandwiches for lunch and ate those outside the shop.

I did quite a bit of paperwork, Gill got some documents photocopied at the Co-op and I sent those off.

So Gill and our youngest had quite a bit of time in the garden. I filled three containers with a mixture of old used compost and fresh rich compost, and planted three varieties of potato. I also planted two types of sweetcorn seed (Indian Rainbow and Blue Jade) in modules (little pots) and several sorts of beans, including unidentified runner beans, Cherokee Trail Of Tears and my favourite, Jack Edwards Climbing Pea Bean. Some of these bean seedlings I hope to sell at Country Fresh, but most will go in the garden and at the allotment. I sorted out a lot of detritus from the conservatory and planted yet more tiny yam balls, some of which were beginning to sprout on the floor of the conservatory.

Gill and our youngest went to visit Ashley and family up the road, leaving me to wait for our eldest to get back.

Charles rang up... he's a Green Party friend but he's going away for a Scottish Mountain-Climbing holiday over the Euro-Election season, and won't be able to cast his vote, either in person or by post. So he's asked me to be his proxy, and a postal vote will be sent to me to fill in and send off. We had a good chat and a wander down the garden, and the family returned from their various travels.

A good tea; spinach, chard, broccoli with pasta and chunks of yesterday's nutloaf, with garlic bread and cheese.

Bathed the kids (hey, they do it themselves these days, but I carry the water upstairs!) and watched telly and played Scrabble.

Wondered whether to do my Community Care Blog on the new North Yorkshire Credit Union which has opened this weekend. This means that the services of a Credit Union are now available to anyone living or working in North Yorkshire, as well as the City of York. I am feeling very pleased, and indeed a bit proud, since I started the ball rolling with York Credit Union, and am member number 0001. I've had nothing to do with the development of North Yorkshire Credit Union, but am still really happy that the Credit Union advantage is now available for so many more people, in Selby, Scarborough, and all over the County.

Watched my counter approach 10,000 page views since September last year...

I did eventually write my Community Care blog! It took over two hours.

Saturday 16th May 09

Heaved myself out of bed at 9 after going to bed after 3am... I'd have liked a bit of a lie-in, but had arranged to go and visit Andrew, a Freecycler who offered an unwanted train-set layout, ie a board with some track on it. It was raining so I took a load of paper sacks to cover it up. I helped him get it down from his loft... and there was a bag of bits and pieces with it too! This had been well loved when his children were children... but they are my age now, so it was probably 30 years old or thereabouts! The track was rusty... old oo gauge track was made of simple steel and rusted when moisture condensed onto it, and it needed rubbing with sandpaper to ensure the contacts with the electrics in the engine. Modern track is stainless steel or nickel steel or something... and it doesn't corrode, so we'll replace the track.

It wasn't raining as I came home so it didn't need covering up, and I picked up a sack of compostables from Country Fresh, which went on my pannier rack. Home to find that Will, my friend from LETS, was going to visit, as he wanted to see how our boys worked the Wii. It was good to see him, and he enjoyed making a Mii and having a go at conducting and a few other things. Then he felt tired and Gill asked him if he wanted to have a nap on the sofabed in the front room. So he had half an hour before heading into town to participate in an arts event, not sure what.

After lunch, I spent some time washing up, made a nutloaf.. a bi-colour nutloaf, one half with carrot soup in, the other with chopped and lightly steamed spinach-beet from the garden. I lined the baking dish with slices of a spherical courgette... one of the shops had thrown out about half a dozen of them, don't know why as there is nothing wrong with them. The result, microwaved and then turned out onto a metal tray and baked in the oven for 20 minutes to crisp it off, was awesome! We all loved it! Gill put some salad together, and olives and pickles... it was delicious. Gill made a banana cake with some thrown out bananas, with chopped Brazil nuts and home-made sultanas too. We eat like, well, like it's a restaurant! A five star restaurant! But Gill and I have both worked in catering... Gill ran pubs (cooking for 200 every Sunday) and I was a Pizzaland person for two years , and had a season at Gillygate Wholefood Bakery and Cafe Co-operative in the late 1980s, cooking good veggie nosh.

I did manage some time in the garden, and also did some work in the conservatory, pruning the Kiwi tree (hope it fruits this year!) and sorting out little yams to plant up. One of the yams from a couple of years ago is already several metres long and snaking its way all over the kiwi and up to the roof... an amazing plant. And each year the tuber triples in size. At the leaf nodes, little balls develop and fall off... these grow into yams if allowed to, and it was handfuls of these I was collecting from around the back of the Kiwi pot and other big planters. I expect I'll sell some or give them out at the St Nicks junk-swap event.

A quiet evening, chatting to load of different people on the computer and watching the telly.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Friday 15th May 09

Got up late as went to bed at 3am. But once up and boogieing around, had a productive day, despite it raining. I cycled into town straight after lunch, popping in on Hazel Court Civic Amenity Site with a sackful of drinks cartons and an electrical flex, all to put for recycling (and the sack to come back for re-use!). Despite there being a ban on cyclists using the facility, no one took any notice of me whatsoever... rather disappointing actually as I am somewhat looking forward to seeing how the operatives might try to enforce the rule! But no confrontation is good.

From there I popped in to Sainsbury's as we rather like their multi-seed loaf, despite it being an expensive £1.19. But we save in other areas so now and again a pricey fresh loaf isn't too much.

From there went to the Council office to deliver the Planning Panel paperwork, and then to Boots for my asthma medication, two prophylactic puffs a night keeps me asthma-free (hope that reads right!!!) and home via Country Fresh where I picked up three boxes/sacks plus some shopping.

Home in time to get some plastic 35mm film canisters ready for a Freecycler who wants them for his school, as they are good for certain science experiments. I got a huge sack full several years ago from a photography shop, before digital was so popular. I've still got loads left, but was happy to share a carrier-bag full!

I had an email from a Freecycler who posted an offer of a train layout on a board, no rolling stock, but track and perhaps scenery, saying he'd be happy to give it to me. So I said I could pick it up this evening, but he said he was going out so I'll pick it up tomorrow morning. I don't think he believes it will fit on my trailer!

A little bit later, a chap called Mark arrived, whom I'd met through Freecycle, hoping to find an adult-sized tricycle. I'd said that if he couldn't find a free one, I was selling one and he was welcome to come and look at it. He hadn't really expected to get a free one, and checked the one I bought for Gill several years ago. At that time, Gill was less confident on her bike, and needed to cycle with our little boys, so I bought her the trike but she hated it, as it didn't lean like bikes do, and she found the steering most weird, so she just got better at cycling on 2 wheels... and now she's as confident as an average person. I was very glad to sell this, as it has freed up space and will be used by Mark's wife and 15 month old child.

After tea and Gardeners World, I did a bit of sorting out... putting stuff back in the garage and compostables down the garden, and a storm broke, which I love... an electrical storm at dusk, heavy rain and me working in it... lovely, but a tad damp.

Came in and got an email form a Green Party friend with a link to an amazing document published in March this year by people in Chester, a guide/blueprint to Chester 2050... how it will/may look like, and how we'll have to live if we're to be living sustainably. It is a very long read, much of it applicable to anywhere in the UK or the World, some of it pertaining to Chester and the local area. Lots of useful links, and a good document to send to decisionmakers and activists everywhere. Click on

Thursday 14th May 09

Did some paperwork this morning... emailing and various Fiddlesticks and Green Festival stuff, including getting a phone call from Ed at the Co-op North Yorkshire Area Committee telling me that they had decided to sponsor York Green Festival again. This is such fantastic news!

After lunch I went to the allotment and dug loads of clumps of grass out, dandelions, thistles, nettles, weeded around the asparagus, and got perhaps enough space to put in my spuds, late but not too late! They'll romp away once in. Someone has stolen some pallets from around one of my compost heaps but pallets are easy to get hold of so I'll just get some more and rebuild.

I love being there, but my hands are now fizzy from all the nettles!

Gill and I made the tea together... I did some potatoes and some fruit for fruit salad afterwards. I doctored the soup with some soya milk and used up some dead spaghetti from a couple of days ago... a right big mix of stuff.

At about 7, went to Lynn's with the bags of clothes she let us look through... Gill only wanted a few bits, and wanted to get shot of the bags of spare stuff. Lynn had also got two squash plants for me, grown from seed from a commercial squash. So, no knowing what might grow from them!

Then onto St Nicks for the York in Transition meeting. Lizzie our facilitator today had gone to the wrong place... The Stables, and cycled fast across town to get to us. It was worth it, a very good meeting.

Spent time on the laptop doing the YiT facebook page, doing an event page for the Transition picnic and multi-sports day on the 31st May. And chatting to Lynn and Ali.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Wednesday 13th May 09

Up early, well, 8ish... and had a busy morning. Did loads out in the garden, but also some bits and bobs inside. I emptied two compost bins... one was a 'ready to riddle' bin, next to one which has just about filled up. So when the finished one was empty, and in about four sacks, I used the Compost Mate tool to take the fresher rotting stuff out and shake it into the maturing bin. This separates the compacted together layers and allows a new period of decomposition to take place. I put some of the mature stuff straight through the riddle, and put the uncomposted sticks and stuff which wouldn't go through the riddle (and a large number of worms!) back in the base of the empty compost bin, which will help with drainage and provide a good bank of beasties to get to work on the new material I put into it...

I used my huge ladder to put a wire around the top of an upside-down tree which I am using to grow beans up... last year, they got up as far as the main trunk but as this was too wide, they couldn't curl round it. So, this year, they should be able to find their way to the top by using a spiralled wire which I've attached at the top, middle and bottom. I found some Yams (Angela's Cinnamon Vine) beginning to sprout in the raised bed I was clearing, so transplanted them to under the upside-down tree, where they will scramble up it. I dug up some invasive raspberries and hopefully will be able to get these to Chad at St Nicks who I seem to remember wanted some.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Tuesday 12th May 09

Got up late and spent time on the computer during the rest of the morning.
Through my 'Feedjit' widgit (which still thinks I'm in Leighton Buzzard!) I found 'Amused Cynisism' and which have links to my 'How I Compost' photo post. Both these blogs have a lot of stuff worth looking through. I enjoyed some self-indulgent Facebook stuff, playing Scrabble whilst cooking the carrot soup on the woodstove for tonight's tea. I have over 20 games going on...

Also had a lot of emails to answer and various other things to do... research for my next column, which has a deadline next week.

A quiet inside afternoon... I went to school to pick up our youngest and was approached by a teacher who knows I'm somewhat keen on recycling, offering me a huge sack of envelopes to compost (at home) so I cycled back with about 20Kg of assorted envelopes and about 20Kg of fruit waste... since I've stopped composting at school they've been throwing away about 7Kg/day of fruit and veg material, this was a completely full plastic rubbish bin which I've been using to collect compostables in. By now, the school head teacher will have had a meeting with the Council waste people so I'm hoping to hear from either of them soon with a way forward. Only then will my anger, despair and disgust subside. If a school cannot recycle, what chance do we have for the future, when children see all the recyclable materials being thrown away.

I've another gripe with the school... there is a pre-school group based within Lord Deramore's, and they have milk in small drinks cartons. They would like to recycle these cartons, and the Council DOES have facilities... at the main civic amenity sites, such as Hazel Court. So, the pre school group asked me if I could collect these and take them for recycling. I said yes, could they be placed in a receptacle in the bins area? The pre school people asked the school if this could happen... and guess what? Apparently, someone from Health and Safety says they cannot! Can you believe it? I would happily deck the Health and Safety person at the school I'm so angry. So I will have to collect the sack of milk cartons as and when I can, the pre-school doesn't want them in the classroom as they might smell, and I think the obvious place to collect them is in the bins area which already has a bin for paper recycling (although it often has other things dumped in it, their quality control is so poor). What a shambles!

Anyway, came home and washed up, helped Gill get tea ready. Ben came round to dispense advice about the childrens' 'dongle' which has stopped working, and the reason my ADSL usage is so high... blame it in the BBC iPlayer which has been doing 'Peer to Peer' stuff and using my computer to send stuff on, apparently. Ben showed me how to turn off that function. At 6.15 I headed off to Tang Hall Community Centre for the Hull Road Ward Planning Panel. Four of us turned up, and had a really good discussion about the different planning applications, mainly house extensions to make (we assume!) student houses.

Then cycled over to the Groves to pick up a Freecycled clip-frame, and cycled slowly down my old street, Emerald St, where I lived for 13 years. Memories!

Back via Freshways where I had an accident with the clip frame. Damn. I did clear up the mess though... what a waste. Silly me.

Back home, all was peaceful and tea had gone down well... the boys got off to bed pretty easily and I stayed up working til after midnight, as usual with Gill snoozing beside me... lovely!

Monday 11th May 09

Kids at school today, Gill making a cake for Tony who is 65 today. She made it in the shape of a narrow boat, as Tony is very keen on canals. She spent ages icing it, making it look pretty and , well, rustic (not rusty).

I did more clearing up in the garden, went to the bakers and the Co-op, made carrot soup out of some very large and mysteriously thrown out carrots (I really don't know what's wrong with them!) and some tomato/onion base for tonight's tea, spaghetti.

But yet again, I didn't get to the allotment to plant onion sets or potatoes. It is getting rather late!

Our eldest did his cycling proficiency training today, but left his bike at school by accident, so after he came home, I cycled up to school and picked it up and cycled back with it.

I really enjoyed the Green Party Euro Election broadcast... if you missed it, here it is:

At about half 7 I loaded the cake carefully onto my bike rack, and the two quiches (one with home-grown broccoli in) and headed off to Tony Martin's birthday party in Clementhorpe. This was a fairly small affair... a Planning Panel member called Dave, John, an ex head-teacher and Labour Party member since the age of 17, now 71, my old friends Rowena and Adrian, Isobel, and Andy Chase... so, not that crowded, but good people to chat with. Tony had organised a curry delivery, and this went well with the quiches. (I thought so, anyway!)

The cake was admired, photographed and devoured, well, most of it!

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Sunday 10th May 09

Well, a quiet day, had hoped to make it to the allotment to put in my spuds, which are very well chitted, but lots of things got in the way.

It was a busy family day in the morning, boys playing Wii Music and I don't know what else going on, and then I spent some time repairing the broken tiles around the raised beds.. they are quite brittle and a kick will break them. Several have been kicked and therefore I have had to remove the soil from behind them, excavate a space for the tile to slip into, and replace. Fortunately, when I recovered the roof tiles, I got some spare, so more can be kicked and I'll be able to replace them for some time to come...

I added some home-made compost to the soil as I'd taken out loads of roots and it did seem quite impoverished. It won't be long before we can replant that bit of bed. Tomorrow maybe?
Also made some more growing medium, compost, leafmould and loam.

I popped down to Country Fresh to get assorted veggies, some for Tony's quiches for his birthday party tomorrow. Also brought back plenty of compostables... and a huge pawpaw (papaya) which made a good fruit salad base and lots of strips for drying.

In the evening I helped our eldest with some homework (amazing!) and then did two lots of washing up. Gill made quiche bases (pastry) and a chocolate cake in the shape of a narrow boat, as Tony is more than keen on canals, and is one of the lock keepers at the Foss Barrier.

Saturday 9th May 09

A good morning... Gill and I did some gardening together, sorting out one of the raised beds, removing 'poached egg' (Limnanthes douglasii) which is seeding itself all over the place, and some self seeded hawthorn, docks, brambles and other weeds. This bed will soon be ready for the broad beans and possibly some other stuff.

I then riddled a large load of compost, leafmould and loam (from turves from a skip a year or more ago) to make the perfect planting medium for the containers which are going to get the various tomatoes etc in the conservatory.

But all too soon it was lunchtime and soon after that, time to go to the Ruby Milnes Memorial Cycle Ride, which was due to start at 2pm from near Baile Hill in Bishophill, which is where the Milnes family live. Ruby was killed a year ago whilst cycling back from college along the cycle path near the Racecourse. A lorry travelling along the service road which crosses the path hit her and killed her, more or less instantly. She was very well known and loved, although I didn't know her. However, I was very moved by what happened, and I know dozens of people who knew her and loved her. I met David, her father, and Michael Brian Nugent, a cycling paramedic who organised the Facebook group 'RIP Ruby Milnes' and today's ride. He has got to know the family and stayed with them last night. I knew lots of people on the ride, it was good to see so many riders.

We all set off for the spot where the accident happened, and when we got there, David gave a moving speech about Ruby's life and how she died. Someone played 'The Last Post' on a trumpet and there was at least a minute's silence. I counted about 85 cyclists leaving this and head up to Bishopthorpe, but there were pedestrians too. Mike Tipping the Press photographer was there as this was as big an event for York (and for me, more important than York City losing the match in London...). I cycled down to Bishopthorpe with Tony, one of the organisers of the World Naked Cycle Ride. He was clothed.

Had a pint with Dylan and others in Bishopthorpe, but didn't stay long as wanted to get into town to go to the Guildhall where some of Gill's artwork is on show, along with lots of other artists. I met Tim Morrison, her tutor, and had a good chat with him. She'd been in earlier with the boys.

As I left just before 4pm, it began to rain, glad it held off for Ruby's ride. I went to Country Fresh, and then to Peter's house to meet with Andy and discuss the York in Transition Arbitration Group. Good coffee and a very productive meeting. I took some notes and will type these up and send them around. I got home at about 7pm.

Gill had made cauliflower cheese, and a Brazil-nut and rice loaf thing... quite delicious!

We watched a curious film called The Big White with Robin Williams.

Friday, 8 May 2009

How I Compost.

It is Compost Awareness Week and so I am posting this special photo-blog to show how I do my composting. Regular readers will know that I have an arrangement with a greengrocers to purchase their compostable resources for a penny per sack. This financial transaction keeps us both within the law. They have a duty to do some sorting/recycling, so putting all the biodegradables separately fulfils this, and then as I'm not a registered waste carrier, I buy the resources so they never become waste. So this is how they come home. This load is probably about 60Kg.

So, the load is taken off the bike and trailer, and this is a fairly typical selection, 6 boxes and a sack.

Quite a bit of the stuff which I bring home is not actually mouldy or bad, just unsaleable. Like these pears, about a third of them had a brown core and the skins were a little flaccid after a long sit in a chiller, so presumably customers had either turned their noses up at them, or some might have been returned. So the whole batch was slung out... my way. These got taken in to the house, and over a couple of evenings, washed, halved, cored, peeled and each half cut into 3 slices and put on drying racks over the woodstove. An excellent penny's worth!

This box had cabbage leaves, bits of fruit, a cracked egg, corrugated paper, screwed up envelopes and nothing worth saving. All of this was composted, with the box used as a side to a pallet compost heap.

This box was more promising for a freegan soup-maker, or freegan wife pizza-maker. Delicious tiny tomatoes, some manky and horrible, but a good percentage, enough to fill the saucepan, were perfect. The shop keeper didn't have time or patience to sort them... a large percentage were unsaleable, but I always have time to sort stuff out if it's as delicious as tiny tomatoes! Some of those pears were dried, and some of the mango too.

Oh no! More pears and mango! Plenty for the compost, and plenty to dry or eat fresh. Some of these pears were gently stewed, (on the woodstove of course) and served when cold with vegan ice cream. We sometimes feel we live like royalty...

Not much in this box for re-use, so oranges and Kale leaves for the compost...

That avocado was slightly bruised, and was delicious in a granary sandwich with mayonnaise. The grapes were sorted and washed, blanched and dried into raisins.

Some of my loads are chopped up and put in my 600 litre 'Compostumbler'. I put in shredded hedge, wood-chips, sawdust, straw, cardboard, plus many tens of kilos of fruit and veg, also roadkill and cooked food. Temperatures in the tumbler can reach 7o Celsius, extremely hot. This is a batch composter, with perhaps 1000 litres of material being put in over a few weeks, then turned for a few weeks, and taken out with the fork and placed in a dalek or pallet bin 'sit and wait' heap, for maturing for a year or more.

This is a slightly smaller tumbler, with an ingenious system for putting the material in the top, and taking it out, composted, from a hatch in the end. Made by 'Sun Mar'.

This is a 'GreenCone', supposedly for composting cooked food waste and allegedly rat proof. It has a plastic basket buried in the ground, and double-skinned walls. It isn't rat proof, they can burrow in the soil and chew through the plastic basket. I place a rat trap inside this, and when I get one, I put the dead rat in the hot Compostumbler.

This is a pair of bay-window radiators, being used as a 'sit and wait' compost heap.
Pallet bin. This is wired together, and when it needs turning, un-wired and dug out. Cardboard makes an excellent liner to stop stuff falling out of the slats. This one is atop several other pallets to make it less habitable for rats, which like to be able to access heaps from underground.

This is what is turned out of the pallet bin. It has sat in the cube for several months, and this is it's first turn. Again, I put it in a load of cardboard. This enclosure is lined with some plastic sheeting I found in a skip.
Emptied pallet bin. The black bin bag is there as when I tip stuff in, I take out as much plastic and non-compostable material, for landfill.

My workers.... well the visible ones! Worms. Wondrous worms....

The next time I visit the stuff, it looks like this... very well rotted, but still needing riddling if it's to be used within a potting mix, but it can be used as a top dressing on soil just like this.

Another batch of finished compost in a builders bag supported by pallets.

This is a typical rubbish bag from when I turn the compost. There's assorted plastic, some 'glue-strips' which used to fix cardboard boxes together (and the cardboard has rotted away), and small bits of metal, glass and other non-compostables.

Another special edition will be uploaded sometime showing riddling and use of my compost.

Friday 8th May 09

A good day. I spent most of the morning writing my Community Care blog, which was quite difficult and took me about 3 hours, but I like what has come out.

Lunch was just after 1pm, the usual sandwiches, and then, after washing up and preparing a huge load of apples (very slightly wizened 'golden delicious', I got a bag of about 40 of them = 160 apple rings, now drying on the stove), I went into the garden and spent a few very happy hours doing assorted compost-related activities.

Gill transplanted self-sown Aquilegias into the top bit of the garden to make space for broad beans to go in the raised beds.

A happy evening.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Thursday 7th May 09, my birthday..

My children came into the bedroom as I was waking up singing Happy Birthday, and gave me a card and a little present... a plastic liquid-filled tower which when turned has bubbles of air bubbling up and globules of liquid dripping downwards, either side of a spiral barrier. I do wish they hadn't bothered! But birthdays aren't just for the celebrant, they are partly for the people celebrating your life. I was sensible enough just to thank them, not to go on about green issues then! I later learnt that my youngest had bought this for himself, and then had realised that I hadn't got a present, so he I think volunteered to give it to me. How sweet are my children?

Anyway, a normal morning ensued, Gill again took our youngest to school and came home and we had a nice hour together, before the first visitor of the day. This was in fact two people, Margaret and her daughter, to collect a load of jam jars for marmalade and other preservation. They were fascinated with the stove and dried fruit, and had a tour of the garden. Lots of opportunities to give then info about green choices... which Margaret had indicated she was interested in talking to me about.

Our second visitor arrived before the first ones went, it was Tony who had left his walking stick here when he came to help bury Andy's cat. Tony drank some tea, chatted and went... with his stick!

Gill and I had lunch, and after lunch Gill did some transplanting of aquilegias which had grown in the wrong place, and I cycled to Oxfam for coffee and Sainsburys for assorted groceries.

At 3.45, our next visitor arrived, Tim, who was picking up our old front door for a project at Poppleton Station where a group of volunteers are rejuvenating the old nursery and are going to use it as horticultural therapy, mainly for people involved with Bootham Hospital. Excellent idea! I of course offered my services as a compost enthuser! (If that's a job title, or even a word...?) Anyway, good to see the back of the jars and door.

As the boys came home, the charity walkers from Meningitis UK came by, so we put some money in their bucket and Gill took a couple of photos. They are walking from Blackpool to Bridlington! Respect!

Birthday tea was rice and veg, and then I gathered myself together to go to St John's to the York Green Festival meeting.

After which we went to the Olde Starre Inn on Stonegate and had a leaving do for Anika, who's moving to Derby. Had some excellent chats, with a film and TV lecturer, my friends Baz, Rich and Martin, and some other of Anika's friends. I had three pints of pear cider, which is a lot for me... my usual consumption is a single pint. But, when people offer you a drink on your birthday, it would be churlish to say no and go home early. So got home at midnight, tipsy but happy.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Wednesday 6th May 09

Woke at 7.30 and soon got up to help get things ready for a quick getaway for Ali to take her daughter to school and me to get the tram and train back to York. I got the 8.54 and was back home by just after 10, enough time to get washed and scrubbed up ready for my Fiddlesticks gig today.

I took the 11.38 train to Malton and walked up to Norton to meet Tony, who's an NLP practitioner. This was an interesting gig as I don't often teach one-to-one and not often adults. And he wasn't learning the skills because he had a particular interest in circus skills, but he wanted to use them in his NLP work. Neuro Linguistic Programming is used by people to (usually) achieve more in their business or personal lives. It is based on modelling what successful people do, and those things are identified and can be used by others who wish to improve something, overcome something, or learn something new. Tony also told me about a number of other things he's it was very interesting.

I caught the 3.10 train back to York, and popped in to Country Fresh, but Richard was off and so Martin the shop owner (Richard's brother) gave me the compostables, two sacks and a box.

Good to see my family. All was well and happy. Decided not to go out to the Cafe Scientifique, but spent the evening preparing fruit and chatting on Facebook.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Tuesday 5th May 09

Cycled into town as I had a dental appointment, a check-up and spring clean... I was very pleased as I like making my dentist happy... and I did today as my teeth are much cleaner than they used to be and my gums don't bleed anymore. It is also much nicer for me as there's much less scraping and ultrasounding. I'm obviously doing the right thing!

After this I went to the railway station to get tickets for the trip to London later this month and for my gig tomorrow in Malton. Then went to Building Society to pay cheques in and get a cheque and cash out, and then came home via Freshways who had one sack of compostables for me and a box of green potatoes.

Did a bit more paperwork and washing up then headed into the garden. When I came in I had a message from Ali saying she really needed some help this evening and could I come over?

Gill was fine about me going over to do some 'emergency PA work', due to Ali being unwell and having a hole in her care package at the moment, as Sarah has just left to go and live in Leeds.

I agreed to get there by 8pm , so got the 6 something to Sheffield, and the tram up to Ali's. On the train I chatted to a lovely old chap form Stratford upon Avon who was a keen train enthusiast and as now retired, travels all over the place, often with his 'our kid' brother, and he had assorted stories and anecdotes about his mini-breaks.

I was able to help a bit, I don't know how useful I actually was but I guess it would have been much more difficult for Ali to get her little daughter (who also has a disability) ready in the morning. I slept on a sleeping bag on the couch, not as uncomfortable as it might have looked!

Monday 4th May 09

Bank Holiday Monday and not much to do apart from a LETS meeting this evening.

A slow start but soon realised that I had a 2 foot high pile of paperwork to sort out as I got a phone call from my agent saying I hadn't returned a couple of bits of paperwork, so I had a good sort through and found them, signed and bunged in his envelope, and found three other things to send back, some phone calls to make, envelopes to tear up (plastic windows out, rest in compost) and spent til about 3pm doing this.

But I hate paperwork and needed to get out into the garden to do some more management... weeding, loading the Compostumbler, and later, planting this year's Jack Edwards Climbing Pea Beans, the best-tasting and heavy cropping green beans in the world! They'll be ready to plant out by the beginning of June and be giving us beans by July.

Just before 7 I came in for a quick tea and at 7.20 headed out for this month's YorkLETS meeting. This was well attended, well chaired by Ben, almost certainly well minuted by Lynne, and contributions from Helen, Jill, Will, David, Ann and myself. We discussed the constitution, AGM, fundraising, next newsletter, Lynn's socials past and future and lots more. It was SUCH a good meeting that some of us didn't want to go so we stayed back and had another half and a good ol' chin-wag. What a lovely bunch of people.

Collected some Freeccled stuff off Lynne before she went, and then on the way back home collected a pallet from outside Country Fresh. Got in just before 11.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Sunday 3rd May 09

Woke slowly and suddenly realised that I had a visitor booked in to arrive at 9.30 so leapt up and raced downstairs and gobbled breakfast and was washed, dressed and outside the front by 9.30 when Gordon from Freecycle arrived with his female friend who's name I've forgotten.

He had posted on Freecycle that he wanted some compost so I replied that I could let him have a bag of it for free but if he wanted multiple bags, I'd like a donation. He said that he wanted to grow a few vegetables so I emailed back that I'd let him have some Jack Edwards Climbing Pea Beans as well. So, we'd already had a lengthy email conversation before he arrived.

I gave them a tour of the compost-making facilities and he had got a 35 litre rucsack and a bin liner, which we filled with riddled best mature! He was very happy with the beans too, and gave me a donation for them. I hope we meet again as he seemed like a very nice chap.

I then set off for Rowntree Park where York Rotters was holding it's annual Worm Charming competition. The aim of this is to try to get earthworms living in grassland to come up onto the surface, buy running on the spot, drumming, putting water on the soil and other methods. The secondary aim (primary perhaps!) is to have a compost information stall which dispenses advice, leaflets etc. I arrived in time to help set out the plots, although Catherine's husband was already on the case with the tapes marking out the 2m x 2m squares. I did some announcing with my big voice, and we got most of the 16 plots filled with a team. Kate and I dispensed pond water from watering cans when requested, but there was a severe lack of worms... not surprising as the Park 'lawn' was post-flood, almost devoid of grass, and very very compacted.

In the 30 minutes, with perhaps 30 people drumming, jumping, wiggling forks and banging metal waste-paper bins with drumsticks, and lots of water, only ONE worm was found! The winning worm was only about 2cm long as well! But, a good time was had by all, and the stall attracted a lot of interest and I talked to a few people about composting, and helped them find leaflets about Bokashi, composting in yards, dealing with rats and reduced price compost bins, all of which they took away to peruse at leisure.

I came back via Country Fresh and brought back a couple of sacks of compostables, a pallet and some scrap wood for the stove.

Lunch was delicious... avocado sandwich and hommous sandwich.

I did some emailing etc whilst listening to Gardeners Question Time and then went out into the garden... and spent the whole afternoon there. Bliss. Friendly robins, really cheeky birds, completely unfazed by human presence, including perching on me from time to time, and allowing me to watch within centimetres its foraging in the compost heap I was turning. At one stage, one of them had 8 prey animals in its beak... a centipede, several beetle larvae, an adult staphylinid beetle, a couple of pupating beetles... and I was less than 20 cm away. I did a lot of compost management, dug out several bins including the Compostumbler. I also did a load of weeding, some more hedge cutting... a lovely several hours.

Came in for tea at 7. Did lots of fruit for drying. Washed up too. Busy busy busy...

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Saturday 2nd May 09

Thanks to Dave Hampton 'The Carbon Coach' for this:
What did the Climate Change Activist say about the Frequent Flyer?
'The Swine Flew'.

A good lie-in today til 10ish and at about that time Simon came to pick up our eldest to go on a picnic down at the Outgang with Simon's son. Our youngest played on the computer for a bit, and I lit the stove and did a large amount of washing up, but soon the lovely weather drew us all outside.

Gill got the electrical cable out so I could mow the lawns... I did this and also cut a hedge, riddled some compost, emptied a dalek compost bin ready for riddling and refilled it from the one next to it, did some weeding, tidying piles of now-dry hedge sticks which have been sitting in piles for a year or so.. they need to be broken up and chopped up and bagged ready for next winter's stove needs, and also cut back lots of brambles and shredded them. A really hard-working day, got lots done and Gill was very pleased with the change she saw when she came down the garden. I was kept company all afternoon by robins... they have no fear of people and came very close whilst I was moving stuff around and managing the compost heaps. Their favourite food is centipedes, as far as I can tell from watching today. They are also adept at catching several wiggly beasties despite having one or more already in their beak. I love these robins. I love the assorted songbirds too... I've had a very pleasant afternoon.

I had tea at about 7pm and then did another hour until it was too dark to do anymore. Exhausted! Played Scrabble on Facebook, washed up, watched telly.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Friday 1st May 09

A good day. I got up at 9 or about that and our eldest had gone to school but youngest had not slept well so he was off for part of the morning and Mum was doing things with him, homework think.

I had a York Rotters meeting at 10 at St Nicks, with our worker, John the Saint, Pat the Saint and Rachel the Recycle. We have surpassed our targets for last year and have set new ones for this financial year. The WRAP compost bin offers finish in September as DEFRA have cut the funding to WRAP, so get your cheap compost bins in now! We're going to be working with a secondary school this year, for the first time, and I find that exciting, could be more challenging than with primary schools. We have a busy week ahead as it's compost awareness week next week.

After this meeting I spent a few minutes putting some compostables on the St Nicks composting area and covering it with sawdust from the many sacks of pet bedding which are regularly left there. I spotted some sacks of chopped pine logs mixed with twigs and lots of loose needles, so I sorted out one of them, harvesting the logs and chunks, and taking them home, leaving the pine needles and twigs for the compost pile. There's another 3 sacks of this material to sort through... another day!

Home just before midday, when I was expecting a visitor for a rather sad ceremony. My friend Andy has had to have his cat put down. It was originally rescued by Andy's friend Tony from the Cat's Protection League, as an already mature cat. However, it had developed a tumour on it's jaw and was gradually finding eating and drinking increasingly difficult. So Andy had seen me walking back through town yesterday and asked if he could use some of the ample space we have here to bury his cat. He did this with his last one, where the raspberries now are. So, Andy arrived with his euthanased cat wrapped in a sheet and in a City of York recycling bag, and I'd found an area with enough space for him to dig the hole and place his loved companion in. This area too will soon be a raised bed.. with his cat almost a metre underground. Tony arrived too, to see the hole being dug and to support his friend. It was reasonably solemn, not tearful, just matter of fact and a bit sad.

They had some lunch with me and left at 2pm. I popped down to Country Fresh and back via Freshways, and then had an early tea before the Mayday Critical Mass Cycle Celebration. I got to the Minster for 5.45 and over 30 people turned up. We headed down to Walmgate where we picked up Rich with the sound system and we then had a good tootle around, heading towards Clifton and then back into York via the Leeman Road area... where an impatient car driver tried to overtake and because of oncoming traffic pulled into the group of cyclists and got dangerously close to some of us. I banged on the side of the car as it was going along at about 10 miles an hour, and the driver swerved left deliberately pushing me into the kerb and off my bike. I yelled as I came off and Rich indicated to the driver to stop, pulling across the front of his vehicle. The driver continued to drive on, despite having knocked someone off, and rammed Rich so that he slid up the bonnet of the car. Fortunately this was enough contact to cause the driver to stop, where he was surrounded by cyclists. Someone rang the police and a few minutes later, a very sympathetic copper came and interviewed all three people involved. It turned out the car driver was going to the Rock Church, with several children in his car. I think he was showing off.

The policeman says he will be summonsed to court, but as there were no independent witnesses, he will get away with his stupidity. I ended up with a graze on my leg, which I could claim compensation for, but I probably won't. Rich said his leg hurt, and his bike was damaged, mine wasn't.

After this half hour break, we were free to cycle off and we headed on back to the Minster where we all parted company, and I cycled home. An eventful ride!

A peaceful evening followed. I invited Gill to have a game of Scrabble and she won... grrrrrrrrrr!