Monday, 30 November 2009

Monday 30th November 09

Not too bad a start to the day, came down to ensure things didn't go too pear-shaped and therefore it was a smooth start, fortunately.

I made a start on the many demijohns in the loft which have sat there since we moved in 2001 and I've done nothing with the contents. This house doesn't lend itself to winemaking, somehow, and also I was aware of my drinking having a negative effect on my health, so I didn't resume my hobby. So, there were 30 or more demijohns of assorted wine, cider and unknown brews to basically get rid of. They are in the way of the work which will take place the day after tomorrow.

I took the bung out of each gallon jar and tasted it with a straw. Many were vinegary or bitter or yuk... but one, an elderberry and apple 1998 was wonderful, so I bottled it. Another, an experiment done by an old, now sadly deceased, friend called Lin, was orange tango and tea... I bottled this as it was interesting and drinkable... not excellent, but drinkable. There was also an interesting Metheglin... honey and herbs.

I bottled 3 gallons and poured 8 away. Only another 20 or so to go!

The day went far too quickly. Gill went to town to do the charity shops, and bought a dress from Age Concern for £3 and something else for £2... and was given a card as a thank you. When she came home, she discovered that it had a £10 voucher in it, as a thank you. Littlewoods will donate £2 of it to Age Concern. How good is that?

I got a call from Lynn asking if I would be willing to help out at a LETS members' parents house later today, moving some heavy furniture and pulling up some carpets. So of course, I said yes, and at a few minutes to 6, I zoomed over to Huntington Road to help, spent 45 minutes there and sped back, in time to eat a fantastic tea Gill had made... a stew made on the woodstove then topped with cheese scone mix and popped in the oven. This 'cobbler' thing is really delicious and very easy to make.

A quiet evening, washing up, stoking both stoves as it is cold tonight, and playing Scrabble on facebook. Oh, and promoting the good news that Age of Stupid will be shown on BBC4 on Monday 14th December at 10pm. Great!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Sunday 29th November 09

A really good day, despite the very wet weather.

Gill and I did a bit of tidying in the loft prior to the solar panels going in but it needs SO much more!!!

I didn't do very much outside apart from picking the last of the runner beans out of the apple tree and also cropping some late nasturtium seeds (and flower buds) which would have turned to mush in the forthcoming predicted frosts. I'll wash these, put them in a jar with salt, wait until they are completely dehydrated, wash off the salt and fill the jar with vinegar. Or I might do some pickled pumpkin and used the dehydrated and washed seeds in with that.

I did visit Richard at Country Fresh and brought back 3 sacks of wonderful goodies.

Peter rang during the afternoon and asked if he could come round and see our stoves, as I had offered to show him as he is considering getting one. He came round at 5ish and I gave him a 'guided tour' of both our Clearviews. Later he sent me an link to an excellent website, the 'What Stove Review' site, which I have added to.

So quiet, happy day, not a lot happened, but I enjoyed the day lots.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Saturday 28th November 09

Had a bit of a lie-in and then spent over an hour finishing off my blog from the FERA conference.

Then lunch!

Did some chainsawing and a bit more tidying up the bricks from the chimney... I now have a stack of 60 or so cleaned-up 'clamp bricks' which I'll re-use to plug a gap between the back of the house and a wall which is now part of the conservatory. Currently it is filled with some wooden battens with horizontal fence-type wooden planks (just one brick long) and this needs to be replaced. These bricks will do the job. But I won't. I need to find a brickie, and maybe one who has a brick-saw to cut the bricks down, as they fill the gap quite tightly, leaving no space for mortar.

Gill went out and the boys played in the garden, then read quietly. A very peaceful and low-key day. Gill and I had a game of Scrabble after tea, and I played lots of Scrabble on Facebook. Interspersed with peeling and slicing fruit for the drying racks...

Friday 27th November 09

A good day!

Did quite a bit in the garden and building a logpile on the left of the front door, looking out, visited Richard at Country Fresh and met a nice law student called Gita, who knew of me as 'Compost John' from discussions at the Students' allotment.

Spent quite a bit of time sorting out the stuff from there, loading up the big Compostumbler with shredded hedge and greengrocers' unsold goodies.

I had an early tea... an aubergine thrown out for no good reason, and some slices of 'nutolene' that Gill found in the loft, in tins from a Suma order years ago. They are dated best before sometime in 2008 but as far as I'm concerned, it's OK, and 5 hours later, I'm not dead. I sliced this and fried it on the stove, and made two 'burger' things with Foccacia rolls that Gilly bought, with broccoli, baked beans and some home-made coleslaw.

Then I went out to 'The Climate Connection' meeting organised by York and Ryedale Friends of the Earth at the Friends Meeting House in town. This was a meeting to give information about the path towards the vital Copenhagen talks next week, and a chance for York people to hear what some local decision makers think about it, and ask them questions.

My friend Kate Lock chaired, and the panel were Andreas Heinemeyer from the Stockholm Environment Institute, Andrew Waller who is the leader of the City of York Council, Hugh Bayley our MP, and Mike Childs from FoE. The format was that they each had a chance to say what they wanted and then faced a couple of questions before the next panellist came on. Then all four of them faced a 'Question Time' type situation.

Andreas presented his take on climate change, which as a scientist had plenty of facts and figures, but as a father, had a soft side too. I've seen him present this before and he's one of the best, very accessible and easy to listen to.

Andrew Waller had a slide show showing some of the ways which York is responding to the issues. He had just come back from the Leeds City Region Housing Strategy and learning that York is to have it's own 'Urban Eco Settlement' where the British Sugar site was. He had slides of the Eco Depot, built with straw and with an innovative automatic ventilation system, and the Clifton Moor Eco Business Centre built by The Helmsley Group. I didn't know that York has a Passivhaus, (here's a good pdf from Leeds Metropolitan University on the development) but I did know about Elm Tree Mews in New Earswick, six homes heated by one ground source heat pump and with other built-in innovations. He mentioned the Joseph Rowntree Housing Association's other eco-experiment (to-be) at Derwenthorpe, near Osbaldwick and a 1930's semi they've bought and are retrofitting to high ecological standards. Andrew then turned to the carbon emissions from Council activities and property, which they have promised to reduce by 25% by 2013 using a carbon management system. This includes a new school which is heated with wood pellets, and a campaign to get shops to keep their doors shut in cold weather, keeping the warmth in (but hopefully not the customers out!)

Hugh Bayley was on good form and he too was pleased about the 'Eco-District' to be built on the brown-field British Sugar site. I didn't make any more notes about what Hugh said, nor any from Mike Childs apart from he was talking about leadership and the power that ordinary people have to lobby our leaders. The Climate Change Act only got through because of the thousands of us pushing the Government into it.

The Question Time bit of the meeting was excellent, with a first question on population and another on economic growth. I asked if any of the panel had measured their carbon footprint and which calculator they'd used. Mike said he had done his but had forgotten what the figure was, and that he 'was doing enough'; Andreas said he'd done lots of them and they all came up with different figures, but as he refused to fly, he was pleasantly surprised how low it was, Hugh admitted it was something he was going to have to do, to be able to say whether he manages his personal 10:10 pledge, and Andrew also didn't give a figure. Kate was the only one who knew her CO2e footprint had dropped from 16 tonnes to 12 over the 2 years she was writing her book. I suggested that people try The Carbon Account as it was so easy and visual. It actually doesn't matter which one you use... what's important is that people measure it now, make changes, and use the same calculator again to see the changes. Kate added some information about the Green Streets Challenge which she is involved with (door knocking!) and there were further questions about the Local Transport Plan and a complicated one about outcomes and policy.

All together it was a packed evening, with lots of information and I really enjoyed it.

I didn't hang around for too long, and was home by 10pm. I read Gill my notes and then typed up my blog whilst listening to music on BBC 2 and then Channel 4.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Thursday 26th November 09 FERA Conference

I got up as Gill was taking our youngest to school, and got ready to cycle out to Sand Hutton, North East of York, where there is a big complex of buildings which used to be called the Central Science Laboratory, and is now 'FERA', the Food and Environment Research Agency, part of DEFRA, the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

I got a phone call just before I was going to leave, from a company called The Power Collective, who are developing a product called Ridgeblade, which is a horizontal wind turbine mounted on the ridge of the roof... it's very discrete and you cannot see any moving parts, and the company are working closely with the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. I had contacted them offering my roof as a friendly place! They are about to go into 'pre production', as all of the models so far have been hand-made, proving they work, and they are about to do a load of trials. So the production models are a bit of a way away, but I'm on their list of interested parties.

Anyway, I got going at 9.40 and cycled up through Osbaldwick to Murton and then onto the A166 for a short while before turning off to Holtby and through to Warthill. I knew I was looking for a road off to the right soon after Warthill, but I didn't see one and arrived at the Snowball Plantation and I knew I'd overshot. I cycled back... and found it wasn't a road but a muddy track. I decided to do it anyway! It led to a farmyard and then to the road near to FERA and I arrived a bit mud-splashed but on time, before the 10.30 start.

The chair, Steve Willis, introduced the organisation and the event, called 'Wellies and White Coats: Science driving excellence in UK farming. FERA is dealing with some of the biggest issues we're facing... increasing population and moving populations, food security, water security, climate change, and is a major dealer in 'knowledge transfer'.

Next was the chief scientist, Professor Nicola Spence, who continued with an overview of what the four FERA centres do. Their roles can be split roughly into three areas:
Regulation , Policy and Risk - with regard to plant health, honeybee health, plant varieties and seeds;
Research and Assurance - scientific research plus analysis and evidence for our government, other governments and commercial customers;
Response and Recovery to emergencies.

The next speaker was Melvyn Askew, inspirational and good to listen to. He described the future as full of challenges and opportunities, and quoted Martin Bell MP 'Politics is far too important to be left to politicians'. He despaired at the lack of co-ordination that the free market has resulted in... he knows carrot producers who every year clamp (store) their crop in straw, but since Drax power station has recently been buying up all the straw to put in it's furnaces, the carrot producers cannot keep their crop.

Melvyn is very interested in biofuels, and talked about a newish crop, Miscanthus. This sells for £20 to £40 a tonne for fuel, but for horse bedding can fetch £45 to £70 a tonne. However, to 'add value' if it's sold as bagged-up horse bedding, it can go for £160 to £200 a tonne! Many other plants can be grown for their fibre... straw and hemp are used in composites (such as
this car), hemp to make hemcrete, nettles are being researched at FERA, and bracken, which grows naturally in many areas of Britain can be harvested and used as fuel (see this pdf). Even beech trees yield 'lyocell' which makes very soft luxurious fibres similar to silk, apparently! Another industrial use of agricultural products is the use of starch in car tyres, which may reduce the vehicle's fuel consumption.

He then brandished a bottle of what I thought was whiskey, but was actually locally grown 'cold pressed' rape seed oil. This is very similar to extra virgin olive oil, the extra virgin bit meaning the first oil which is cold pressed out. More oil can be made to come out of the crushed seeds if it's heated or mixed with hot water, but the first pressing is the highest quality. This is the best oil for health, and to my surprise, when I mentioned it to Gill, she said she'd been using it for a while. The taste is slightly fruity, so it's good for making pastry with for puddings, or in cakes.

But how can we tell it's rapeseed oil, or extra virgin oil? Well that's where the next speaker came in, Paul Brereton, who's an expert in food fraud. Fraud in food is done deliberately, and deceives the customer but also damages the producers, as people lose confidence in the product. When a country discovers food fraud, it is unlikely to shout about it... as this would damage its international reputation, so FERA does a lot of detective work in identifying whether food and drink is genuine or not. He told us about traceability using Terra Creta Olive Oil which has a lot number on each bottle which allows you to see where the olives were harvested, the temperature the oil was pressed at and all through it's processing and packaging through to the point of sale. I learned why the Melamine in Chinese milk fraud happened (and the 'justice', Chinese-style, which has been delivered), and about the Spar Vodka fraud, and others. FERA has developed a system called TRACE, with many European partners. This uses isotope mapping and DNA analysis and many other ways of ensuring 'Food Assurance'.

Dr. Theo Allnutt gave an overview of how GM crops can coexist with conventional crops, and the role of the GM Inspectorate. There's been a lot of research about how GM crops can get mixed with conventional crops, and it's not just through pollen transfer. The same machinery is used to harvest and process the GM and non-GM crops, so with Bishop Burton College, they've been assessing how much crop is left in the machine which might get transferred to the next harvest. The best way to prevent pollen transfer is to keep the crops separated distance-wise, as the transfer is heaviest if GM and non-GM are grown close to each other. FERA have developed a 'best practice' document and a GM calculator tool for farmers. There was some subsequent discussion about people's feelings about GM... after all, these crops have been growing and being consumed in the US and India (amongst other places) for many years. There are many ways of modifying crops... conventional breeding allows a whole bunch of genes to be transferred, whereas cysgenesis is where one gene from one species can be transferred into the same species. This is a long way from some of the Genetic Modification that many of my friends and associates don't like, which is where genes from one species may be put in another organism of a different species. GM is just one small part of the wider biotechnology which is more and more finding uses in agriculture and food production. A lot of what FERA does has biotech and molecular genetics at it's heart.

After lunch, during which I had some chats with other delegates, we had a presentation from Dr. Nigel Boatman on 'Integrating Environmental Management into Agriculture'; this was about 'ecosystem services' like soil fertility, pollination, biological pest control, pollutant breakdown and clean water. You can read about what this team does here.

This led nicely into Dr. Carmel Ramwell's talk on Resource Protection... water and nitrates, phosphates, pesticides, silt and sediment, and soil structure and organic matter content. She concentrated on water and how 'buffer strips' at the edge of fields and at the edges of watercourses could reduce nitrate run-off. She explained how the pathway from fertiliser application to watercourse could be disrupted, to reduce the likelihood of our waterways being polluted by nitrates, which is a big problem.

Then Dr Robbie McDonald, who researches bovine tuberculosis and badgers. The results of some very interesting work shows that where badgers are culled, the incidence of bovine TB goes down, but the surrounding area gets more badger movements and increased contact between cattle and badgers. He had some good videos of badgers in grain stores and nose-to-nose with cattle in barns, and the results of badger-proof buildings... if used correctly by farmers, which is not always the case! Badgers can now be vaccinated against TB, and there is a project just starting to see if this helps reduce the incidence of bovine TB, in six areas of 100km2 where bovine TB is a problem.

The last speaker was Dr. Tony Harrington, who told us about FERA's role in the national seed variety listing and plant breeders rights. More can be learned about this here, and a
gazette newsletter is available.

There was a question and answer session and then I got a tour of the buildings which was very interesting indeed. I'm really glad I attended as I've learned a lot, about what happens at FERA and about modern agriculture and food science generally. I' m glad too, that I'm going to be able to give something back. One of the stallholders on the foyer had lots of jars of stored foodstuffs with infestations of assorted insects... and I'm very interested in invertebrates so I chatted with the stallholder. I told her about my many compost heaps and my role as a compost 'expert'. She told me that when the culture was 'spent', they just threw away the grain or whatever contents were in the jar, and she wanted to know if it was compostable. So I promised to send her an email with an overview of what she could do with this material. I'm excited by this... my helping a Government Agency become more green! WooHoo!

I cycled home a shorter way, through Stockton on Forest, which was just 6 miles whereas my outward journey was 7.75 miles.

I spent most of the evening trying to record this fascinating day, but didn't get it finished, despite writing til past 2am.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Wednesday 25th November 09

I came down briefly as the boys were getting ready to go to school but as everything was going smoothly, I wasn't needed (infact my presence might have been counterproductive!) so I went back to bed, read and fell asleep. Gill joined me when she got back from delivering our youngest to school.

So, a lazy morning but got going just before lunch by cycling round to the bread shop for 'Yesterbake', the unsold bread from yesterday sold at vastly reduced prices. Great to reduce waste. Good on the pocket too, when on a low income! I called in on Lynne too, to pick up the remaining posters about the LETS Xmas Fayre which I hope to deliver on Friday to places which will display them.

I've been very moved by the scenes of destruction from Cumbria following the heavy rain last week and the flooding which ensued. Lives have been wrecked, businesses disrupted, and it'll take years to recover. But there's something doubly bad about this, and similar weather-related catastrophes. It is almost unquestioned now that a warming world will have more energy in weather systems and therefore stronger winds, heavier rain, greater extremes. So we need to expect more 'one in a thousand year' events, more often. BUT, the aftermath of these events has an even bigger carbon footprint that 'business as usual'. Looking at the Cockermouth example, with bridges washed away, people are no longer able to walk from one side of the town to their work or school on the other... they now have a 2 hour drive. Every house affected by floodwater, often contaminated with sewage, will throw out furniture, electricals, carpets, foodstuffs, cars... plaster off the walls even. And most of this will be replaced. Think of the carbon cost of that! And the same goes for rebuilding the bridges and getting the roads and other infrastructure back in working order... not only will this cost many tens of millions of pounds but it will have a huge carbon footprint, adding to the already vast problem.

I'm thinking ahead to when London floods in the same way as Cockermouth just has, or Canvey Island and the East Coast in 1953. This could happen anytime... in a few weeks, with a storm surge plus high tides plus extreme heavy rain, or in a decade, with higher sea levels and extreme weather, or many years ahead. It will happen, we just don't know when. If the barriers are topped in the next few years, it is likely that much of the damage will be repaired and Londoners will try to get back to 'normal'. But in a few decades, when the price of resources and fuel have risen because of peak oil and increasing consumption, it may be deemed too expensive to try and rebuild in the same place. It may be deemed silly to try to rebuild, as the risk of flooding in the same area will be steadily increasing due to sea level rise and even the fact that the East of England is slowly subsiding, geologically-speaking.

The UK has plenty of land well above sea level, but places like the Maldives, Kiribati, Bangladesh and the Netherlands are particularly at risk. The sea level rose about 20cm last century and that has been enough to engulf a couple of islands in Kiribati, and contaminate fresh-water wells, wash away farmland, etc. Kiribati today, London tomorrow.

These scenarios are just one of the reasons I'm committed to living a low carbon lifestyle. I don't want to be 'blamed' for these kind of difficulties. I really have a desire to be remembered as a 'responsible ancestor', but one who had fun living that way too.

If readers are interested in flood maps connected with sea level rise, visit this interactive map and go to the part of the World you're interested in and put in the level of sea level rise you're concerned about. Predictions are a metre higher by the end of this century, but it could be such a lot more... depending on the amount of, for instance, ice melting off Greenland. If this all goes, we should expect 6 to 8 metres increase in global seal level. This is unlikely to happen in this century, but it does depend on the amount of warming the area is subjected to. Sea level rise is not just caused by melting glaciers etc, but also by the water expanding as it gets warmer. The science is clear and simple, but the predictions are very varied.

I didn't spend all of the day pondering this or researching it... I did a good bit of work in the garden and some housework too, finishing the tomato soup I started yesterday, cooking the other bits for tea, on the woodstove of course, as I get increasingly unwilling to use the gas rings to heat things up. I did some more log stacking as we're going through a lot more now the weather has cooled down and our big stove is going 24 hours a day.

David popped round at lunchtime to deliver the CD with my new Fiddlesticks publicity leaflet on it, and some of the photos he's taken to prepare for this document. Now I have to find a printer who is prepared to use recycled card and run me off a few hundred of them...

I had a phone call from the BBC film-maker to ask a few questions and to find out if I'm available to go into the Look North studios next Wednesday. They'll show the short film with the low carbon footprint person and the don't care person, and then have a discussion live in the studio. They invited Gill and the boys to come too, and watch how the programme was made. This will be confirmed in the next few days.

Anyway, a nondescript evening with the only high point being Justin Rowlatt's one-hour outing recycling much of the Newsnight stuff he did travelling across America. Good to see it packaged up in one programme 'This World: Can Obama Save the Planet' (BBC2, 7pm). Sad not to see Joe Jenkins my composting toilet hero. I watched this whilst peeling pumpkin seeds... I have rather a lot to do!

Later on, more fruit drying and washing up... pretty standard stuff in this house!

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Tuesday 24th November 09

Up at a much more normal time and got my paperwork together to get three cheques out and to pay one cheque in.

Cycled down to town to the bank and the Building Society to do those chores, back for lunch, via Country Fresh to pick up the recycling. a sack and a box... including a load of reasonable tomatoes which look soup-worthy to me!

During the afternoon I spent an hour preparing the tomatoes and made a load of what should be very tasty soup. The only 'paid-for' ingredients are one onion and a splash of extra virgin olive oil. The tomatoes and peppers were thrown out as unsaleable. But that doesn't mean they were unusable!

In the evening Gill did a simple stir fry with cabbage and cashew nuts, parsnips and sprouts. I had mine with a couple of dolmades, or stuffed vine leaves. The boys had a cheese toastie with theirs.

Then I went out to the first York in Transition Directors meeting, at Barry's house, and this went well. I walked some of the way into town with Edward who was very supportive with regards to my difficulties at York Rotters, and offered a bit of a solution. I'm glad that I have so many people around me who think I have wonderful strengths and don't seen to mind my frankness, occasional faux-pas and talkativeness. I'm sad that some people cannot cope with these same qualities!

I got home and did some washing up and watched Channel 4's provocative drama 'Cast Offs' which I'm not sure that I like.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Monday 23rd November 09

I got up at the normal time and helped get the children ready for school, but went back to bed soon after. Gill went down to Lord Deramore's with our youngest and went to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park on a school trip.

I was woken at lunchtime by one of Gill's friends ringing and wanting to catch up with her, I had a nice chat, then had a late lunch and did some housework. At 3ish I went to Freshways and picked up 3 sacks of greens and exotic fruit... all too far gone for doing anything edible with, so destined for the compost heaps...

People came home happy, which was good. I went out to the Co-op and bought pasta parcels, boiled some parsnip and sprouts to have with them, all cooked on our trusty woodstove. The boys had a friend round who had tea with us. Gill did a banana and chocolate cake in the microwave and that went down well too.

I had a quiet evening... still tired.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Sunday 22nd November 09 'Sound Mind' gig

What a day! I got up and packed my juggling stuff, balloons and Fiddlesticks costume ready to get to the station to pick Jess up at 10.30... but got a phone call saying she'd just missed that train but would be on the next one. That gave me a little bit more time and although she didn't get off the train I thought she would, I found her wandering in the portico area and we picked up my bike and walked in to El Piano for a cuppa and some lunch.

At about 12.30 we made our way to The Duchess where I was due to compere a ten-hour fundraiser for York and District Mind, called 'Sound Mind'. I got into my Fiddlesticks attire and pretty soon it was time for the first act to be announced, 18 year old Natalie Clarke. She started by singing a version of 'Fever' whilst playing the bass guitar and then did a handful of songs whilst playing an electric piano. Towards the end of her 20 minute spot, it became clear that the next performer hadn't turned up, so she had the opportunity to do an encore, but decided not to. I announced an open mike... and was surprised to see her 10 year old brother, Peter Clarke, come up on stage and play a piece on the piano. What a brilliant start to the day!

Then there was a poet, Laurie Farnell, followed by the wonderful Chechelele Choir who were too numerous to use the stage so they used the centre of the venue and blew us away. Another poet, Brin Price, followed with five very personal poems, and then, for me, one of the highlights of the afternoon, Calabash Drums. This local group, like Chechelele, couldn't use the stage so sat in front of it and did some very clever pieces with just a large number of hand-drums, bongos, Djembes and perhaps one snare drum. Oh, and a pile of pint beer glasses! Awesome!

Then followed Holly Taymar, one of York's favourite singer songwriters, accompanied by Chris Bilton, who played a percussed box called a cajun. Two unaccompanied singers with guitars followed, first Leesa Mae, then Aimee Ryan. Casee Wilson then sang whilst playing her keyboard.

At 6.30, the first of the bands went on, an new outfit called The Dark Roads, who were good and rocking, and then Player 1 whom I recognised from a York Green Festival. Boss Caine followed... as soon as I'd introduced him, Jess, Helen and I popped out to get some food. We went to the nearest Pizza place and had a pizza and salad to take out... and back to the Duchess where we filled our faces. Yummy!

Then there was a comedian, Sean Wilkinson, after which I pulled raffle tickets out of a bucket and a table's worth of goodies was won, bit by bit.

I was absolutely delighted to introduce my favourite York band, The Falling Spikes, who did a storming set, which took me right back to my heyday of musical enjoyment, in the mid 1980s, Spacemen 3. Well, some of the way back, anyway!

Finally, Faces of Dorian played a good set, and whilst this was going on, the money raised was totted up. The Duchess did reduce their surprise fee, which Sound Mind is very grateful for! One performer works for United Utilities, and 'match funded' the event with a donation of £250, which meant that the event raised £650 profit PLUS a single person promising to pay £10 per month as a standing order.

I enjoyed my 10 hours of 'on duty' work, though the work itself was very easy for me. I was really happy to have the company of Maggie, Helen, Charles, Jess, Brin, Mike, Rich, Moz and lots of others.

I cycled home and got in after 11pm exhausted. But I had to do my blog before going to bed!

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Saturday 21st November 09

The day started well and got better, despite Gill being not very well. Once I was washed and dressed, I went to the bread shop and got some 'Yesterbake' bread plus a couple of pasties which will make tea easy to do.

Mid afternoon I went to Country Fresh to pick up tickets for tomorrow's gig... I'm the Compere so I don't need a ticket, but I've been asked to get two tickets for a couple of friends. Richard, who works there and is the drummer of The Falling Spikes, who are playing at Sound Mind at The Duchess to raise money for York Mind. He told me that the venue, who are going to make loads of money on the bar, and had originally said that the venue would be free, have just announced that they'll be charging £250 for the venue. So that's £250 less for York Mind. I am unhappy about this as all the performers are appearing for free, and the idea is to raise money for a worthwhile charity, not to make extra profits for a venue. Maybe they'll change their mind... I'll certainly be asking the management tomorrow.

I collected a sack and a half of recyclables from Richard, plus some veg and fruit, and a bag of apples and pears for Debbie who I'd popped into on the way down there.

Gill was feeling very poorly... her leg was aching and had swelled up so she rang NHS Direct, but they were too busy and cut her off. She rang the emergency doctor and a GP rang back. His advice was to go to Accident and Emergency, so when I got back from the greengrocers she rang a taxi and went to the Hospital. But she rang me from there saying the place was absolutely full of coughing and sneezing and spluttering people, some of whom had been there since 1pm (over 3 hours) so she got a bus back home.

Whilst Gill was out, we finished the game of Scrabble which was started with the boys last night. I won, but both of them got some awesome words and good scores.

I cooked some potatoes and Gill did the cauliflower, and we had a simple tea.

More fruit drying during the evening... yet another three thown-away pineapple sliced and placed carefully on the racks on the woodstove. They only take about 24 hours to dry, and are greatly improved by the more concentrated flavour. I'll be taking a jar of mixed dried fruit to the Sound Mind gig tomorrow as a raffle prize.

Enjoyed a programme on More 4 about Antony Gormley. I like sculpture... he's not my favourite sculptor, but he's pretty good!

Friday, 20 November 2009

Friday 20th November 09

I got up in time to get to Pauline's for 10am. But whilst I was eating my breakfast I was watching the news, about the 'freak' rain and devastating floods in Keswick and Cockermouth in the North West of the UK, I heard someone say that this was a 'one in a thousand year event'. The floods which affected the same region in 2005 were apparently a 'one in a hundred year event'. So I changed my facebook status to:
2005 'one in a hundred year event'
2009 'one in a thousand year event'
c'mon folks, when are we going to understand that something is going on?

I just hope some good comes from this horrible time, with houses and property trashed, four bridges swept away, at least one life lost. If it takes a tragedy to get people to realise that we have to change our ways, or suffer much much more of this kind of thing, then it is worth it. But we have a long way to go before we can reduce our CO2 levels back down to 350 parts per million, which scientists suggest is a 'safe' level which will only increase our average global temperature by about two degrees Celcius. However, the level of CO2 today is 385 ppm, up a third since pre-industrial revolution levels of about 280 ppm. The current level of CO2 will give us an increase in temperature of possibly 4 degrees, and as the levels of CO2 are still rising, we might expect an increase of 6 degrees, which would probably give us runaway climate change due to amplifying feedback loops. This CO2 count isn't the only greenhouse gas which is increasing. Methane is probably the best known 'other greenhouse gas' but there are quite a few others, see green living tips for a good simple overview, and Micheal Bloch's other website carbonify has lots of information too.

Anyway, I cycled round to Paulines to help her remove her exuberant potato vine tree, as requested. Her delightful 4 year old great grandchild was there, and she helped in a cute way. As per usual with Pauline, I was rewarded for the work by a good 'real' coffee and soya milk plus chat. I regard Pauline as one of the 'wise women' in my life as she often gives me sound and sensible advice.

I came home via Country Fresh and Freshways and had lunch. As it then started to pour with rain here I did a wash up, and went outside once it had cleared up a bit. I split the logs I collected yesterday and then, as I wanted to stack these, I needed to move the bricks that the chimney removers had left where my logpiles normally are. There were about 60 whole bricks, most of them with mortar still attached. If we're going to reuse these bricks, they have to be mortar free, so I found a hammer and did about 45 bricks in an hour and a quarter. Four of them broke but these might still be useful as hardcore in the wall/fence build foundations. But, as my concentration perhaps wandered towards the end, I hit my thumb nailbed with the hammer, and although it broke the skin, it wasn't painful at first. But a couple of hours later, the pressure under my thumbnail was very painful. I think the nail might come off.

But a happy family evening with good food (yummy fruit salad!) and telly watching together.

Started a game of Scrabble with both my lads... both of whom look like they're going to be good players. I was pleased with how well they did. We didn't finish the game though, but left it on the table to finish tomorrow.

Later, had a lovely long phone chat with a friend whom I've met through facebook, not in 'real life', and it was good to do this. We may never meet but that doesn't mean the friendship is any less enjoyable.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Thursday 19th November 09

Up early to finish the large job of tidying the back room to make it acceptable for BBC audiences!

Took all my paperwork off the floor, bits and bobs from around the hearth, tidied jars of dried fruit, and used our new super vacuum cleaner. I even cleaned the glass of the stove!

Anna arrived a bit late as she got lost and needed to be talked here from Bootham. She came alone and had her camera, tripod, sound stuff, batteries and tapes. First we just chatted and had a cuppa, then we got down to business.

She first interviewed me inside, sitting at the table, about my small carbon footprint, how I achieve it and why I live like I do. Then she filmed me taking the readings from my electricity meter and gas meter, and inputting them into the Carbon Account on my laptop.

Then we walked up the road to where yesterday, a nice Polish chap had invited me to pick up 5 pine logs. I'd asked him if I could leave it til today, so I could be filmed doing it. He was happy to let me do this. So I walked up there with my bike and her with her equipment. When we got there she realised that she had forgotten her empty tape. So she walked back and got it whilst I looked after the camera on its tripod. We did loads of 'takes', all at different angles and from different places... they'll be edited together and will make up one half of a film about two people with different carbon footprints, me, a little one, and Adam, a York-based radio presenter, who has a big footprint and feels he HAS to use his car as he lives in Tadcaster and works in York.

Then we came home and she filmed me cycling along the road, turning into the drive, unloading the trailer, and finally, me introducing myself. By 2pm she was finished... but I showed her the garden before she motored off and I had a peaceful lunch.

The footage will be shown on Yorkshire Look North (6.30pm, weekdays) during their 'green week' which is in the first week of December, coinciding with Copenhagen.. The other film she's doing is to look at two families, a 'green' one and a non green one. The green family is, by chance, someone I recently met, John Grant from Sheffield, who is an excellent communicator and I am delighted he's doing it as I know he'll be able to explain things well.

The rest of the day was much less 'full on' and I just did a bit of housework and stuff on the computer.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Wednesday 18th November 09

A very full of paperwork day, and general sorting.

I put 3 cheques in the post, which was good. I did a lot of deleting of inbox stuff as it was full AGAIN!

I had some communication with a BBC researcher who is wanting to do a carbon footprint piece for (I think) Look North to go out during their 'green week', and she's coming tomorrow to do a bit of filming.

I decided to do a bit of tidying up outside, some sacks of rubble to go to the rubble skip at Hazel Court. I went via St Nicks where I needed to discuss with the Rotters management about whether I was allowed to mention composting with the BBC person, and I had a good little discussion there, and decided that I wouldn't be mentioning composting.

I went to Hazel Court Civic Amenity Site to put my rubble in the recycling skip (well, the rubble skip... not sure it's recycled) and got a talking to from a very pleasant chap about the mortal danger I am putting myself in by being on a bike with trailer up at the top of the area where all the, shock, horror, CARS are. I was very polite and told him I had no intention of tipping my rubble out at the pedestrians area, as I paid my Council Tax to use the skips not to employ the staff to clear up after me, and that I was happy to be there 'at my own risk'. He did his job well, and I explained that he could note me down as someone who wasn't afraid of polite civil disobedience in the face of stupid regulations.

I then cycled on to Country Fresh to see Richard and picked up 3 sacks of assorted compost-to-be. And back home via Freshways where I was offered another sack of mixed unsold veg and seven very aromatic Pakistani melons. I had some of these before and didn't like it to eat fresh but think it will be quite good dried. so that's a rack-full to do later this evening...

I made a nutloaf for tea using some spare granary bread, peanut butter, a plateful of yesterday's rice and beans, chopped mixed nuts, a leek, a grated carrot, two eggs, a slosh of red wine, some soy sauce, bouillon and herbs. This was very well mixed, and turned into a greased dish with sesame seeds round the edge. I microwaved it for 10 minutes and turned it out onto a baking tray and put it in the gas-oven for 20 minutes to crisp up. Gill did potatoes and sprouts.

Another delicious meal enjoyed by all the family. I washed up and started on the fruit, and tidying around the stoves because of the camera coming tomorrow. I can't be seen to be untidy! (hoots with laughter!)

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Tuesday 17th November 09

Up at a civilised time in order to get to the Dentist's for just after 11am. My dentist was pleased with me that I've cleaner teeth than some previous times, and the scale and polish took just a few minutes.
I then bought my next year's one-week-per-page 'Trees For Life' Diary which I've been using for at least 10 years... I love the photos, and the size of the space for each day is just big enough for my busy life. Just!
Then to the Building Society to get a couple of cheques out to pay for advertising, my biggest expense as Professor Fiddlesticks.

During the afternoon I did quite a lot of paperwork... well, composing an email to my friends and colleagues at York Rotters. I did get some time outside which was lovely and reminded me of what I find important and fun.

During the evening, David my photographer friend rang me to invite me to go and watch Leonids from somewhere darker than York. I accepted.

David was already going out, whether or not he had friends with him, so I said yes, I'd go to the Hole of Horcum, between Pickering and Whitby, to find really dark skies to watch the predicted meteor shower. But as we got near Pickering, it started to rain and when we were at the parking place at the Hole of Horcum,it rained quite heavily and the clouds were continuous. We chatted in the car in the dark. But at about 10.20pm the clouds parted somewhat and we could see some stars... but thin cloud meant that we didn't see any meteors. So we came back at about 11pm. David was disappointed to not be able to photograph any shooting stars but we had some good conversations, so nice 'male bonding'.

When I got back at close to midnight, Gill had had a nice evening and was busy painting lovely abstract pictures and singing along to some obscure stuff on the telly from before my time. A happy house!

I made a large load of sweet red pepper paprika from several hundred red peppers which have come my way over the past few weeks, and I've dried and stored, and tonight put in the blender, reduced to dust, seived and jarred up... wonderful to add to lots of recipes!

Monday, 16 November 2009

Monday 16th November 09

Up early, not sure why, had a lot going through my mind.

Immediately after breakfast I rang CVS to discuss whether a volunteer has any protection when it comes to disability discrimination. They don't, not in the same way as an employee. But organisations do often have equal opportunities statements and this might be a way to ask them to acknowledge the unusual and possibly challenging behaviour that people on the autism spectrum might display. And not to just acknowledge it, but to make what they do as accessible as possible.

And whilst on the subject of disability awareness, I'd like to invite readers to take a few more minutes to watch parts one and two of this film, 'Talk', from the Disability Rights Commission.


I find these very moving and educational, and I'm grateful to my friend Mark Hallam for alerting me to this.

Today I had no appointments or meetings (well I could have gone to two in the evening but I chose not to) so I had a good day doing things in the garden, including some runner bean picking, compost heap piling, log splitting and stacking.

When I was looking for somewhere to put a sack full of greengrocers waste, sorry, resources, I had a look into my fabric compost bin, which was pretty well rotted down. On the top surface, to one side, there were three brown hand-sized spongy blobs... they really did look like bathroom sponges. I've never seen anything like them before. I took one of them off the surface of the compost and took it inside to take some photos.

This is the sponge sitting on a potato sack, the top side.

This is the underside... note a partially rotted tomato skin and grape twigs.

This is the same organism in my hand, to show scale.

So, what is it? Well I believe this is a 'slime mold' which is fairly closely related to fungi, but it's different. It has a really interesting life cycle. It starts as a spore, which germinates and becomes a single celled organism, maybe similar to a bacterium or amoeba. It is motile, ie it can move around. Then, due to some environmental cue, these single celled organisms club together in groups, and start to behave like a multicellular organism, somewhat like a slug. Some cells become the foot, some the front end, etc. They don't develop a mouth or gut though. What happens next is that it settles and starts to grow into what looks more like a fungus, with surfaces or specific parts where sexual reproduction takes place, releasing spores like a fungus. These disperse and become the next generation. So, unless I'm told something different, this is what I think this thing is. Apologies for the poor quality of the photos, Gill's camera isn't designed for close-ups.

I had a quiet evening, watched some TV with the children and prepared a load of bananas and melon for drying. Enjoyed the 3D films on Channel 4.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Sunday 15th November 09

Quite a late start, which was nice, and didn't have much to do until an arranged meeting with David at 7.30, to show The Age of Stupid to some of our friends.

But I did do some work in the garden, some chainsawing, stacking... not that much though.

It was a relatively quiet day. I tried to deliver the DVD to David but he wasn't in. I picked up a small sack of recyclables from Country Fresh, and also some cans and glass jars which a neighbour had thrown in... I'll put them in the recycling.

I did do quite a bit of housework, the usual washing up, log-basket filling, taking now-dry pumpkin seeds off the sheets of paper they were drying on and putting them in a box lid to finish drying and then somehow be processed. I wonder if there is a simple machine which would remove the husk or outer shell, leaving the seed inside? Currently I do it by hand, individually... but I have tens of thousands to do... no easy job. Commercial pumpkin seeds are from a type of pumpkin which has 'naked' seeds.

Anyway, I cycled down to Davids for 7.30 with my copy of Age of Stupid, and David told me that our friend Will was coming, with his Austrian friend Otto. We had a chat afterwards, I explained about Copenhagen, Not Stupid and 10:10. Good to get another few people to see this film.

When I came home things were quiet. Later I watched a powerful film called Hard Candy, about a teenage girl getting her revenge on a paedophile.

Saturday 14th November 09

A very late start to the day but got busy immediately with housework and fruit drying.

Did do a little bit outside but the weather wasn't very conducive to outdoor stuff.

I popped down to Heslington Road to give David my DVD of Age of Stupid which he's showing to friends tomorrow but he wasn't in. I picked up a load of compostables plus edible vegetables from Richard at Country Fresh and came home again, spending half an hour in the cold and wet to get them into one of my tumblers.

I had a quiet few hours before going to Anna's Carbon Pledge 10:10 Party, which was really good. I contributed a large amount of dried fruit which was well received. I enjoyed the live music, provided by Ben, Rich and Camilla, especially a Bonzo Dog Doodah Band number which I didn't know but recognised from the style, with kazoo! Anna ran a quiz which was quite good. Lots of good conversations especially round the little bonfire-in-a-washingmachine-drum.

I got home well after midnight feeling refreshed and happy. Parties do this for me.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Friday 13th November 09

Up early and to the station for the 8.30 train to Sheffield. Met several friends on the train; Andy spent some time explaining about his work on interfaces and architecture. I was left reasonably baffled. I did understand some of what he said. Melody and her daughter were off to Birmingham to an audition, as Natalie is a singer and has the potential to go far.... possibly further than Birmingham.

I got the first tram up towards where Ali lives and walked the last mile instead of waiting for 20 minutes to get the tram to then walk half a mile.

We had a good day together, went to pick up her little daughter from school who was very over excited to see me as she'd requested a diabolo workshop. This didn't go particularly well as she has a disability in one arm/hand caused by Cerebral Palsy, which meant she couldn't hold one of the diabolo sticks. But she has such a strong character that I think she'll find a way to overcome it, perhaps by strapping one stick to the non-functioning arm, or by using some type of belt or corset which will enable her to hold the stick still. Ali spoke on the phone to the local Green Top Circus and they have a trainer who is a specialist with young children and people with disabilities. I'm looking forward to hearing what happens! There are several circus and performance tricks available to people with only one functioning hand, and I'm going to get her a yoyo and maybe a set of yoyo balls, and there are other things too. I'll have a think and an ask around.

We went out for tea at a local pub, and a bit later I got the tram back to the station, the train back to York and my bike back home.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Thursday 12th November 09

My 1000th blog post on Low Carbon Lifestyle. I wonder how much lower carbon my lifestyle would be if I hadn't have done all this blogging?

But hey, no-one's perfect... especially me, as today's events have reminded me.

Today I was due to attend a York Rotters management meeting, but yesterday one of the other managers rang me to tell me that there had been some complaints about me following the Big Green Market last week when I spent over four hours engaging with the public about home composting. So today, instead of the management meeting, I went in to St Nicks to listen to the accusations, and to try to work out how to deal with the issues.

So, what did I do? Well, it was acknowledged that I am an excellent communicator of composting information and there is no-one more enthusiastic and keen. But, on one occasion I was listening to another (novice) Rotter give some (incomplete or incorrect) information and when they had finished, I spoke to the member of the public and said "actually, you CAN compost that", and told them how. The other Rotter felt they had been contradicted and they didn't like it, and complained. So, first complaint, unjustified I think.

The second was more serious... I was talking to another volunteer and we were talking about ethical burials... I'm not sure who initiated the conversation, but that doesn't really matter. The problem, for the complainant, was that I talked about my plans (Gill and I have a burial plot booked in York Cemetery)and was explaining about Promession, which would be my preferred disposal route, and I told the joke which Gill made when we got the plot, that if I died before her, she'd request to be buried face down. Most people find this amusing, but some over sensitive volunteer complained. They thought it was inappropriate as another volunteer Rotter had died the previous week. I am quite matter of fact about death.. I see it as a consequence of life, but I do know that some people are not as comfortable with the thought of this inevitability. So, this complaint was perhaps half justified.

The next one is inexcusable. How I get members of the public engaged is to wait until someone looks at the cut-away compost bin and I then say "Would you like to tell me about your compost bin?" Many people stop and tell me. A few say "No thanks" and on one occasion someone said "I don't bother to compost" and on this occasion I said "So you don't like recycling then" and this I agree was unprofessional of me. Black mark against my name.

The final thing is the thing I'm most sorry about. One volunteer said they wouldn't want to be on the stall with me again, and another said that they felt like not being part of York Rotters after their experience. I am mortified about this as I started York Rotters in 2004 and love the fact we have been so successful, have lots of active volunteers and are a vital part of St Nicks.

So we sat and talked about my behaviour, the fact that I have been diagnosed as on the autistic spectrum, but don't tick quite enough boxes to be given the Aspergers Syndrome label, despite Gill, my mother, my friend Ann and probably others thinking I have all the classic symptoms. And if I do have AS, then it could be classed as a disability, and this puts an interesting spin on the whole situation. However, I am willing to try to improve and learn to be more empathic, more appropriate, and I will again look to try to secure some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy through the NHS, which might help me.

So, the result of this meeting was that I have been suspended from York Rotters for a month to see if we can resolve the situation. I cannot think of any 'quick fix' here. But in the meantime, I won't be wearing the York Rotters teeshirt, won't do any Rotters volunteering, and won't attend any social events. This is sad but if it helps, and enables York Rotters to continue more smoothly, I can accept the situation.

This was a really difficult meeting for my friend and colleague at St Nicks and I don't want to put that person through this again. Nor do I want to upset the other volunteers (whether or not I think they are oversensitive) or members of the public.

Anyway, I cycled home, had an early lunch and cycled off to see Robin who had asked me to help him install his new solar tubes on his roof. We spent an hour getting ready, with the help of his neighbour, and then when I was in his loft poking a sensor wire through the tiles, he realised he had made an assumption about the new set of tube-holders he had bought. His existing set was configured one way round, with water in at one side and hot water out the other, but unfortunately the new set was made the other way around. This means that he will have to replumb his pipework in his loft. What a nuisance. Poor Robin!

I then went into town to pay in a cheque and to get out another to pay for some advertising.

Then back home, via Country Fresh and Freshways.

I had a quiet and fairly subdued evening. I prepared some pears for drying.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Wednesday 11th November 09

Quite a slow start to the day but went to pick up some apple logs from the front garden up the road, and also picked up some paperwork connected to the LETS Xmas Party from Lynn. Soon after lunch I had an appointment with North Yorkshire Credit Union, to get them started with a 'Friends Of' group, starting on Facebook.

I met Polly who works for NYCU and she was au-fait with facebook, so we got a new group together 'Friends of North Yorkshire Credit Union' which will precede the real 'Friends Of' group, which I'll help start next year.

From here I went to the MIND office to discuss the Sound Mind fundraiser gig which I have volunteered to help with. I was glad to meet Mike Parker, the organiser, and my friends Moz (from my favourite York band, The Falling Spikes) and Mike Beckett, who is the Director of York MIND. We hammered out a few vital bits and pieces, a good meeting, lasting about an hour.

Home via Country Fresh where I was given a large number of punnets of grapes. The shop had been giving them away free and just wanted rid of them.

Later in the evening I cycled down to The Black Swan for the monthly 'Green Drinks', which was really good... lots of conversations and ideas floating around.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Tuesday 10th November 09

A better, smoother start to the morning, and I was able to get to my 10am appointment with Ann up the road, who asked me last week if I was able to help her with a pile of partly cut down apple tree logs. So I took my electric chainsaw there and she took me to see her 91 year old Mother's garden, next door but one, where some wide-boys had partly taken down the tree, been paid, had problems with their chainsaw, and disappeared. Without finishing the job.

So, John to the rescue. I chopped up the big logs from this once splendid 100 year old + Bramley, which they had cut down as they couldn't use the apples and the fallen apples and autumn leaves were 'untidy'. I think that this is almost criminal, but it was done, there was little point bemoaning it's loss. The whole garden had been covered in gravel and it was so ugly.

The job was bigger than I thought and I spent two hours helping them, for no payment, just the logs, which should be about 10 cycle trailer loads full. Glad it's nearby.

Back for lunch and spent the rest of the afternoon wooding, chopping existing logs in the front garden, splitting them, and stacking some by the side of the house where I removed the stacks when the work was done last week. I didn't bring any more from up the road as I haven't space.

Later I popped down to Country Fresh to get potatoes, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms and onions. Came back with what I went for plus two sacks of 'resources'.

Gill was feeling poorly so I made tea... pasta and veg with tomato and onion sauce, really simple but both boys asked for more, so it was well received.

I spent some of the evening doing yet more of the huge pile of persimmons... I've only about 20 or 30 left now, but they dry quickly and are really nice when dried.

Late on I had a good conversation on facebook chat with Sabine in Germany. So a good day in many ways, despite my feelings of anger about such a big old productive tree being chopped down for no good reason that I could understand...

Monday, 9 November 2009

Monday 9th November 09

Woken by anti-school noise but children did go to school.

However, this got me up and I did some moving of broken bricks from our shared driveway down to where the wall/fence is going to be built.

Pauline rang following an email conversation over the past few days and I agreed to go round today and pick up the Freecycle-request credit card holder she has found for me, and to help her with her wooding. So I got 3 sacks of logs together as this is my 'traditional' seasonal gift to her, loaded up my trailer and cycled round for 12.30.

I helped her stack the logs in her outhouse and then used her bow saw to chop a few bits of wood for her Clearview Stove, and brute force to smash up an old chair she found in a skip.

This didn't take long and at just after 1pm I had my sandwiches and Pauline made me a coffee, and we caught up on assorted news. I didn't stay too long as I had to go to the Building Society to put in a cheque from the weekend and take out a big cheque to pay off the last of our Council Tax, which I then went to pay. I cycled back via Country Fresh where I met some fairly old people trying to ineffectively break up a pallet outside the shop. They were happy to accept some help... and I showed them how to do it, by slamming the pallet down on one corner and then on another corner til it falls apart... which i was very glad it did, because it made me look like a veteran pallet smasher (which of course I am!!). Picked up two sacks worth of compostable items and some dryable ones too... includung four 'dragon fruit' which are very expensive and weird, not brilliant to eat but do make an interesting addition to a bag of dried fruit. I'm now thinking ahead to the LETS event in December where I'm going to do a very large number of bags of fruit, and try to do a bit of a clearout.

Got home in reasonable time to load up two of my tumblers with a load of stuff.

For tea I had a veg stew that Gill had done on the woodstove plus half the last slice of quiche and three slices of roast squash. Very filling!

At 8pm there was a meeting at the Yorkshire Terrier on Stonegate to do some planning for the Towards Carfree Cities Conference. This is going to be the 9th international conference run by the World Carfree Network, and it is to be at the end of June 2010 in York. My friend and Green Festival colleague Randall is heading this up (he's been involved in this organisation since their first conference) and Ivana and Richard met in Prague whilst working in the Carbusters office, as far as I gather. I also met Graham Titchener from Cycling City York and Andy from my favourite cycle shop, Cycle Heaven. I think I'll be doing some volunteering with this event, although I don't know exactly what yet.

Home at nearly 11pm, went straight onto the computer to sort out emails and record a good day.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Sunday 8th November 09

A bit of a late start to the morning, as one of the children joined us in bed during the night following a bad dream or something. I was also bunged up and woke with a swollen throat. But got downstairs at 10 to find Gill listening to the Archers and making bread, proving it next to the stove. An hour later she was dancing round feeling very pleased with herself and saying she'd made the best bread she'd ever made. And it is delicious.

I watched the Sky At Night on BBC iPlayer about the tiny impactor which was crashed into a shadowy crater to see if there was any water ice in the material at the bottom... but it was a bit of a non event in many ways because all the people expecting a huge 'splash' of material were very disappointed. Then I listened to a Radio 4 programme on Listen Again on crickets and grasshoppers. So a very sedentary morning.

But after lunch I did a load of fruit sorting... took dried fruit off the rack and put another load on... 30 small bananas from Freshways this time. I did this whilst listening to Gardeners Question Time on Radio 4.

But then I went outside and replenished the stack of logs outside the front door; this one's on the right looking out, so to keep the house warm and cook, we're now using the stack on the left which has been drying for one or two years in the open air, in the wind, rain and sun, and has had a few weeks under cover in our porch. I judge whether something is dry enough to go on the stove by just picking the log up and feeling the weight. Although the weight of a dry log depends on the type of wood it is, I can tell when they are dry enough. There is also a visual clue, if the log has split radially, and has developed cracks in it, it has lost enough moisture to burn.

Anyway, I continued this task til dark. I built a good pile which won't collapse as it dries off fully, as the logs are interlocked and even as they shrink the last little bit, I predict this one will be OK.

Gill made a good tea, quiche, potatoes, avocado and a slice of baked squash, reheated in the microwave. We watched 'Life' on BBC1, about fish, then Countryfile.

This evening I really enjoyed the music played by Equinox, who broadcast in York on 103.7 FM on Sunday afternoon/night, and on the web at Cranky Radio (well, sometimes!) and they hold events too, find out more here. I phoned in a dedication for Gill and the boys, as they were all enjoying the music. Lovely!

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Saturday 7th November 09

A work day today... got up early to ring various people who have left messages on my answerphone, also did a load of washing up which we ignored last night as we were playing Scrabble and doing our best to celebrate.

Gill ironed my costume and made my sandwiches, I gathered my stuff together and loaded the bike, getting to the station at about midday. I had arranged to meet the party host at Garforth, as he was coming through from Leeds towards Sherburn in Elmet and was happy to pick me up. The alternative was to get to Sherburn just 10 minutes before the party (not enough time to prepare) or to arrive in Sherburn at just after 11 and have nearly 3 hours to wait for the party.

So I got a single to Garforth, and then as the train times were good to get home easily after the party, a single from Sherburn to Selby and a single from Selby to York, cost £18.20. I really enjoyed the trip to Garforth as i chatted with a young Judo competitor, heading over to Manchester for a competition.

I met Rob in the carpark at Garforth and his two children, the younger one had just turned 6 and it was her party. When I got to their house I was made welcome by Nansi, who was very talkative and jolly, I ate my sandwiches in the garden and then walked up to the church hall with all my gear and Nansi, got changed and ready to entertain.

The party was not the easiest as there were 33 children and as many adults, some of whom hadn't seen each other for a while and took the opportunity to catch up, one group talked nearly all the way through both shows. I did ask for quiet a few times and no-one got upset and it did go OK, but because of the talkers, and a hyperactive 2 year old who kept wriggling out of Dad's arms and running into the stage area, it was one of the more difficult parties I've done. But fun, and successful, and at the end, several people said they had enjoyed it. Rob took me to the station... I don't know why but I said South Milford, without thinking that it was actually the wrong station. I had actually looked at getting back to York from all the nearby stations, and had written the South Milford return times down. I realised that I had longer to wait, as the Sherburn train was at 16.27 (I was in time for this, just the wrong station) and the South Milford train to Selby was at 16.40. I was fortunate that the train guard allowed me to use my Sherburn ticket... but the train drew into Selby three minutes after the York train left.

The next one was at 18.06, over an hour to wait. I went to look for the bus, as the bus station is nearby. The next bus was in less than 15 minutes. I decided that I would probably get this rather than wait for the train, despite already having the train ticket. I met a very nice chap at the bus stop and that clinched it for me, I got a single for £3 and spent half an hour on the bus chatting. However, the Selby bus stops in Piccadilly. This is a good 10 minutes walk from the station. And it was raining. I got to the station to load up my bike at the same time as the train was probably leaving Selby.

Gill welcomed me home with a large plate of pasta, cauliflower and home made bread!

I had a sneezy and ill evening. I have caught something somewhere. I need an early night.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Friday 6th November 09 'Tenth Wedding Anniversary'

And, tomorrow, the 16th anniversary of our first kiss... the beginning of our loving relationship.

We had intended to do something like get the bus to Beverley, have lunch and come back in time to get the children, but due to yesterday's chimney removal, we needed to replace the TV aerial and the person we rang said they could do 11am today.

So at about 10, Gill went to have her hair cut and I loaded up my trailer with 5 sacks of aluminium cans and several sheets of lead (which came off our chimney), and cycled down to the metal merchants on Foss Islands Road. They weighed in at 24 kg alu (£7.20) and 20kg lead (£13) so I came away with £20.20, which was OK. I remember a time when aluminium cans were worth almost twice this... but it's still good to get money for stuff I find lying around.

We had also wondered about going to see a film at sometime after midday... but guess what, the aerial chaps didn't come til midday, so no film.

After lunch I popped down to Country Fresh, came back via Freshways. I tidied up the passage way between 127 and our house, as the chimney removal left it messy. I did another big batch of waste fruit for drying.

We spent most of the afternoon together pottering around... preparing tea and tidying.

Gill went down to school and came back with our youngest and two of his friends in the pouring rain. No mini-bonfire this evening! It was lovely to hear them all laughing and playing.

They had pizza and baked squash, a few bits of salad. Followed by chocolate cake which Gill made this afternoon.

When they had eaten theirs, we had ours, with a glass of wine which one of the boys' parents brought us as a present.

We had a relaxed evening, the boys played on the computer and we played Scrabble until after midnight, with the logstove keeping us nice and warm and some good telly... Joolz Holland is always good to listen to.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Thursday 5th November 09

An earlyish start as the builders came at 8.30am and started putting up the noisy scaffold tower. I got up and made them tea and coffee, and asked about the TV aerial which is attached to the chimney which is coming down. I was prepared to go and buy a new bracket/fixing, but realised that I'd need a new pole or pole extension... and might also need a cable extension, so I decided to ring round various areal people and see if a professional can do it.

After several phone calls, I found someone who can sort it tomorrow.

Then I had to get rid of a pile of compostables from the kitchen, and whilst I was doing this, collected a load of composting worms which conveniently put themselves in the bin lids... perfect fro harvesting and relocating into my new 'worm cafe' which is already filling up.

Then I cleaned myself up, had a wash and found a clean York Rotters tee shirt. I was due in town for midday for 5 hours of volunteering at the Parliament St and St Sampson's Square 'Big Green Market', where York Rotters and the Council's Waste Minimisation Team have a stall.

As I walked through the market stalls, I wondered why it was called a Big Green Market as the majority of the stalls were not what I'd call green.. Venison burgers and dead duck pate, trinkets from the other side of the world, lots of stuff to buy which had a huge embodied carbon footprint.

But then again, I'm a purist. I found the Rotters stall and locked up my bike nearby and got myself launched into the unsuspecting public, using the usual ruse 'Would you like to tell me about your compost heap?' when someone looks at our cut-out dalek with the perspex sheet in, behind which are examples of assorted compostables. These include a rubber glove and a cardboard box with coloured printing, plus some plastic fruit and veg, flowers, scrunched and shredded paper, some fabric, wool and other bits and bobs. This format is immensely successful... because punters expect you to try to offer them something ('do you want one of these?') but my question is the other way round. But it's a hook. They bite, mainly saying 'yes, my heap is '... and occasionally 'I haven't got one'. This then has a response 'What do you do with your banana skins and apple cores?' Those with compost bins are about half 'working well' and a quarter 'too dry' and a quarter 'too wet', each answer can elicit a question about what do they put in the bin. Anyway, I'm in my element during these kind of events, I really love them, my enthusiasm knowing no bounds.

After each meeting I logged the information about whether they were a 'non composter' or 'existing composter' and whether they were from York or out of York. It's important to record how many people we are engaging.

I went for a wander around for my lunch break at half past one, and got a pastie and a sandwich, and bought a 'turks turban' squash for a pound which will be delicious roasted in the next few days.

During the afternoon I met a young lady I met before on the train coming back from Sheffield Green Fair (she recognised me) and I chatted with her and her partner, who have moved to York... and I think I'll be meeting them again. Also floating around were Kate Lock, on the Oxfam stall, my old friend Mary Brandon, older friends Sue Lister and John Whitworth, Rakesh and quite a few others. Jo turned up, to be the next most enthusiastic Rotter, Candy came too. It was a good session.

I finished just before 5pm and went to the Oxfam shop on Goodramgate for coffee, and popped into Kyi-Po for a vegan mayonnaise but they didn't have the one I wanted. Then onto Sainsburys for a general groceries shop, including goats milk as the nearest Co-op is having problems with keeping enough stock, and have been running out of it. Somerfield never used to! I treated myself to a treat(!)... a few months ago my cafetiere glass got broken, and as I do now and again like 'real' ground coffee, I bought myself another one, for £9. But Gill had also asked me to try to get some sparklers for the boys. Sainsburys had run out. So I popped into the Co-op on the way home but they didn't have any. Quite by chance, Lynn was in there and overheard my request, and she said that she had some spare!

When I got home, Gill reported that some lads had come asking for some logs and she said to come back later when I was at home after the Rotters stall. So I bombed round to Lynns with a bag of dried fruit in swap for 20 sparklers, and cycled back just in time to catch the lads again (students?) who wanted a small bonfire in their back garden. I let them have two half sacks of kindling and about 15 or 20 split logs. They offered me £3.90 in loose change. Seemed reasonable!

Then as I was finishing that transaction, a lady cycled up and introduced herself as the person who had left a couple of messages on the answerphone as she has some apple logs she wants to get rid of and an apple trunk still standing which she wants cutting down. I agreed to go and do this for her next week.

By this time I needed to go in and warm up. I made my own tea... some finely chopped chicken of the woods which Simon found growing on a pile of woodchips near where he works, which he'd shared with me, with 'trombone' courgette/squash, green pepper and the last of our own tomatoes, with rems of nutloaf, with a baked bean and cheese sauce. Terrific! Delicious! The best meal since... well I don't know, but it was very very tasty. Cheers Simon. And I only had half of the mushroom he gave me!

Some nice chats with family before the boys went to bed and I settled down to some email deletion as my inbox is again full. Whoops.

An enjoyable day. Tiring, but I was still up til 2am doing assorted things round the kitchen and on the laptop...

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Wednesday 4th November 09

A busy and good day. I got up relatively late but got up and about soon, as had some paperwork to get on with... quite a lot, invoices to send, stuff to do with advertising, various stuff.

Whilst on the computer I downloaded a suggested AVG antivirus update, and after that my email wouldn't send, it wouldn't accept my Phone Co-op password and I was totally flummoxed. I rang them up. A couple of hours later, a Phone Co-op chap rang me back and through a little sequence of key strokes he instructed me to do at my end, he took control of my computer... it was most weird seeing the cursor moving around 'by itself', but he only took 2 minutes before he found a box had been ticked or unticked somehow and after that, it all worked. I wonder if it was anything to do with the AVG download? Seems unlikely.

After lunch I spent over an hour moving the remaining logpile from the side of the house and tidying the area, sweeping up lots of leaves from the Wisteria. I bagged up three sacks of dry logs to take to Ann C later this evening when I'm in her part of town because of the Transition meeting.

I popped down to Country Fresh and chatted to Shirley, bought spuds and broccoli and brought back several bags of compost heap filler.

When back, I boiled the potatoes and Gill made a nutloaf, and then when she went out, I finished the nutloaf and did roast potatoes and broccoli for tea, which was delicious.

Then at 7ish, I cycled over to South Bank to deliver logs to Ann and to attend the Transition meeting, which was good. Only 5 of us, but we got a lot done.

Gill told me a little story tonight, and this is an example of what we're up against. She was in the bread shop and overheard the following:
Customer: "Hello, you all right?"
Shop Person: "Yeah, good thanks. You all right?"
Customer: Yeah, been getting Christmas presents. I've just got nine. But I haven't got the big one yet. I was thinking of getting a 30 inch flatscreen telly for Kelly's room. But me Mam said not to as she was only 3 and it would be wasted on her.
Shop Person: (grunts)

Unbelievable, eh?

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Tuesday 3rd November 09

Up early as builders coming to remove the unused chimney and put on new boards at the edge of the roof.

But it was raining hard and when they came they realised that my logpiles had to be moved. The workers rang the boss and he rang me back to say they'd be around on Thursday. And yes, I do have to move the logpiles. They offered to do it, but building a new logpile is an art, so I'm doing it. I've never seen somebody else build a better logpile than me, apart from Alastair Heseltine, who is an artist and sculptor whom I think is inspirational. Do have a flick through his website, click on the photos on the left of the screen to move around...

I moved one of the two logpiles at the side of the house to the side of the passage between our garden and our next door neighbour. I'll move the other one tomorrow, and tidy up. I didn't move the second one today as there was a thunderstorm with hail and driving rain.

I spent some of today peeling and slicing and drying a huge load of Persimmon, sometimes known as Sharon Fruit. They naturally have a couple of dark marks on them, and can get very soft and squishy but are still delicious and edible. However, one of the greengrocers has chucked out about 20 to 30 boxes, each with six fruits in. Each fruit makes 4 slices so that's a huge amount of dried persimmon, but it is really worth it as it's lovely, a great texture and flavour!

I got ready for work at about 4pm, as was booked to go and entertain at the 20th anniversary of the University of York Nursery. I was able to take my bike and trailer through to the back where there is a covered outdoor area with a soft surface, and I did about half an hour of walkabout and making faces to the kids inside the building, their laughing faces pressed up against the window, and me either sticking my tongue out or crossing my eyes, or thumbing my nose... all silly but good fun interaction. Then I did my show... a big audience of at least 40 children and same numbers of adults, a very quick show but a good un! Finally, I made a lot of balloon animals, just giving them out to whomsoever wanted them, til about 6 when there was a firework display at the front of the building. I had a baked potato with beans and cheese, packed up and cycled towards home. Lovely!

I popped in to Simon and Melody as both their children went to that nursery, and I had mentioned this during the booking discussions and as I left today, one of the staff said to give their regards to the family. So I did so.

Home for a bit of fruit, cake and ice cream, and out again to the Seahorse for the first 'Climate Argument Club', an offshoot of York in Transition. Some of us are engaged in debates, discussions or even arguments with people about things connected with climate change, so we met to discuss how to handle them, and whether to do some kind of training to help us deal with the sorts of arguments and opinions we face. We felt that if people understood the science, then we wouldn't need to do too much else, but we also recognised that people are affected by emotions, traditions, religion, 'gut' feelings, where their heart leads them and of course, misinformation and propaganda. We didn't come up with any firm conclusions, but I'm sending a couple of files and links to Bryony, Dan and Sue, as these would help or come in useful.

I had promised Gill that I'd be in by 10pm... I just managed it!

But I then had a lot of email and facebook stuff to do, plus the obligatory blog post, and there's space on the drying racks as stuff shrinks.

Monday, 2 November 2009

2nd November 09

Up reasonably early although I was really tired. We got a phone call saying the builders are coming tomorrow so I checked with them that it was OK to leave the logs which are along the side wall of the house (it was).

i had booked my bike into Cycle Heaven as I had found that I was unable to tighten the disc brake on my front wheel, and i thought it needed replacing. But one of the guys had a quick poke with a 'torque driver' and showed me how to tighten it without trying to grip the little plastic wheel, which is falling to bits. I was pleased with this and went to Paxtons to buy a torque driver... but they only had sets of umpteen of them, so had to get a set, plus a handle, setting me back £10.90.

Home via Country Fresh and Freshways... loads more compostables!

After lunch Gill and I moved the bricks which we reclaimed from the coal-hole demolition which I did soon after we moved here in 2001. Our neighbour is going to use the bricks to build a wall under the new fence he's going to put up where I've taken the hedge out.

I had some 'use it up' tea and went to a LETS meeting at 7.15 which was good although I was still tired.

I took the minutes and when I got home, typed them up ad sent them out.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Sunday 1st November 09

A late morning but as slept on a spare bed had a better night's sleep.

I went with Ian on the tube to his house in South London and had lunch there, and then to the playbarn place where his and Lisa's daughter, who has just turned 8, was having a party.

I did a little minishow of circus tricks straight after their tea, and then whilst they were playing in the last half hour, I made all the partygoers a balloon animal.

I got the 5pm train back to Victoria, and a tube to Kings Cross, and was in good time for the 6.20 Grand Central train home.

The train journey back home was good, sitting with three sisters who had been to see a musical and were celebrating with a bottle of wine, and were quite jolly and chatty.

The train was a bit slow on one part of the journey (it apparently 'got cautioned') and got into York at 8.30, so I got home at 9pm, very tired but happy to see my little ones and my wife, and a harmonious house.