Sunday, 28 February 2010

Sunday 28th February 10

I got up late and didn't do much until going down to Cycle Heaven with Gill's bike (cycling mine and holding hers with one hand... Gill thinks it's dangerous) as somehow several spokes have been broken in her back wheel and need replacing.

I picked up a load of compostables from Country Fresh and came home, had lunch.

The boys had a couple of friends around and they went into the garden.

I had earlier replied to a freecycle offer of a metal dustbin with a lid, from just 2 minutes cycle down the road, and I got a phone call offering it to me. I had explained in my email reply that I wanted it to put wood ash into so that I could offer wood ash to freecyclers from time to time, or use it myself at the correct time of year. So I brought this home on my trailer and I'm really pleased with it. It is a good solid bin with a well-fitting lid, from a couple who are moving house soon. It will get it's first dollop of woodash tomorrow.

A bit later I went into the garden to deal with the compostables and found a lot of damage had been done... a table had been broken, plants destroyed, some lovely fungi on a log had all been bashed off, and other things wrecked and strewn around. This left me depressed.

I don't care who did it but I suppose I just have to live with the difficulties of what children do to things.

I stayed outside, clearing up, until I was asked to come back into the house to help with the situation inside. This was also depressing.

A really difficult evening.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Saturday 27th February 10

Up at a reasonably civilised time of 8am in order to get ready to leave the house for about 9.30 with the boys, to get the 9.40 bus and the 10.44 train to Sheffield.

Long ago my younger brother Thomas had arranged to host a family get together so that our boys, who don't see their grandparents very often, could have a meeting... also with their cousins whom they get on with extremely well.

Over the past couple of days we agreed too that Gill could have a day off, away from the male dominated environment, and have a peaceful few hours. Although Gill loves seeing the extended family, she felt that she needed to have a rare bit of 'me time', and everyone concerned was happy with that. I suggested that instead of doing housework or tidying or stuff like that, she could do some art... making the cards with her water-wash and ink technique which she enjoys so much. Her eyes lit up at the thought!

So, we arrived at about 10 and I got tickets with the family railcard making the one adult and two children well under £20 for a day return. We spotted that the next train to Sheffers was 10.25, so we got that... and it was a fast train, via Doncaster, so just 50 minutes. Tom had asked us to arrive between 11.30 and midday so we walked slowly to his house (which is only 10 minutes brisk walk from the station) and when we arrived, my parents were already there, and it was good to see them as I haven't had much contact for a year or so.

Immediately all the 5 children resumed play... they just play together so nicely, as if they've been apart for just a few minutes! Soon my sister and her husband arrived, so all three siblings were together for the first time in ages. Various people had contributed to lunch, and there was a good spread with something for everyone (the youngest cousin just wanted a slice of bread, but Tom and Kate have a breadmaker so there's always a fresh loaf available) and I liked the caramelised onion tart best.

Tom has made friends with a local tree surgeon who had delivered a load of logs plus a large pile of shredded tree... and Tom wanted the shreddings to be put in his woodland where I think my Dad had been busy with a lawn-mower, making paths through the ivy, and the wood-chips were destined to cover these paths. We did perhaps 30 wheelbarrow trips between the three of us, and my mother and Tom's youngest filled sacks with woodchip so that Anna can use it for her work compost bins, which are currently under performing with too much fruit and tea bags and no carbon-rich material.

After the woodchip removal, we had a coffee and Madeira biscuit and then Tom and I did some log-wrangling... he has a petrol chainsaw with a not very good chain (at least one tooth missing, and pretty blunt) so he did the chainsawing and I split and stacked. Home from home!

We worked til after 6pm whilst the children played.

However, all good things have to come to an end, so at 6.35 we set off back to the station and caught the 6.50 train back to York. I think the boys would have liked to stay!

Tom had made us peanut butter sandwiches for tea on the train. We got the No. 10 bus back as far as Merchantgate but the First service stops at 8pm now, so we walked from town to home, getting in at 8.15.

Gill had been busy with her art and had created a brilliant canvas based on a picture of a Peter Randall-Page photo of one of his boulder sculptures under a tree (it's on the front of 'Granite Song' with photography by Chris Chapman). She had really enjoyed her peaceful day.

A peaceful evening too, boys exhausted and happy.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Friday 26th February 10

A much better day, health-wise, but it started with lots of shouting and banging but as soon as the children went to school, this stopped. Amazing!

I had a quiet some photos in the post to scan in for the new website, and did some fruit drying, washing up, various other domestic stuff. It was raining so I didn't feel like going outside. By the time I was bored of being inside, it was snowing and bitterly cold, but I did manage to snatch an hour down the garden just before dark.

This is the third day in a row that I haven't ridden my bike. Unheard of, unless on holiday.

So, another quiet day. Perhaps something more exciting tomorrow?

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Thursday 25th February 10

Gill woke me at 8.30 as I'd asked her to, but I wasn't well still. I came downstairs for breakfast and spent some time on the computer but at about 10 I went back to bed, and after 3 phone call interruptions, I fell asleep and slept til about 3pm, when Gill woke me again. I had a small lunch.

But I didn't get dressed, and stayed in my dressing gown all day. Shocking!

I did a lot of reading and some outgoing emails but generally had a very sedentary day, coughing and feeling poorly.

Glad there was nothing important that I missed today, although I'd have loved to go out and meet up with Helen and friends, as she's got a job out of York and tonight was her leaving do.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Wednesday 24th February 10

I woke at 8.30 feeling awful. I was sneezing and coughing and had blocked sinuses. I wondered if it was the pollution I'd inhaled yesterday putting out the St Nicks bin fire, or whether it was just a virus.

I didn't feel like breakfast, which is more or less unheard of for me. But also, I'd run out of muesli, so I made some up with the 10kg bag of Suma organic muesli base plus chopped-up home made dried bananas, apples, pears, homegrown pumpkin seeds and some assorted nuts which were in their shells, so I spent the best part of an hour shelling local almonds (thank you Melody!), hazelnuts and I think the walnuts might be local too. Then I had breakfast.

So I had a quiet day. Gill went to town by bus to meet up with Melody, Natalie and Alison for the Ladies Who Lunch meeting... and also Melody's birthday.

When Gill came back I got dressed and did some housework, although still feeling very grotty.

At about 5pm, freecycler Fraser, who posted a message saying he wanted some topsoil or compost came round. I had offered him a free sack of compost, but told him that I could also let him have some more for a donation. He was really pleased, as he is making raised beds for vegetables. He was fascinated to see my composting set up. I took the wheelbarrow down the garden and loaded up 5 sacks for him. He gave me £10 for the four sacks and also found out he is living in Katharina and Ulrich's old house!

I decided not to attend the York in Transition meeting... I'd already done several emails and facebook messages with regard to some of the content for tonight's meeting, so it wasn't that important for me to go.

I tried to fix our vacuum cleaner which has the spinning brushes not working. We need the motor fixing. What a nuisance. I successfully repaired the indoor clothes airer, which has a pair of plastic clips which hold it up... or held it up until it broke. Some while ago, I fixed it with a length of wood with two grooves cut out of it, which did work. However, the metal bars the wood went around had bent with the weight of the damp towels and other clothes, so I suggested to Gill that I affix some string between the bars, using hooks to hold them in place. Gill got a packet of hooks from the fix it shop round the corner and I used four of them with the strong but thin string that I take out of the potato sacks. It seems to work.

During the evening the whole family watched a remarkable documentary on BBC2 (Natural World) called 'A Killer Whale Called Luna' which had us all enthralled. A young male Orca had become separated from its pod in the waters off Vancouver, and had become used to the company of humans in boats and had seemingly been friendly and enjoyed the company of humans. I strongly recommend watching this programme... despite the commentary being just a bit schmaltzy, it is a brilliant story, very moving.

Still felt poorly and hope to go to bed relatively early... but will the decongestant keep me awake?

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Tuesday 23rd February 10

A peaceful start to the day and at 10, Michael, a German chap who has a son at our son's school arrived, as he had invited himself round to find out how to make a compost heap which didn't attract rats. He lives near a farm which has lots of rats and his 'dalek' bin has regular rodent visitors.

So we went down the garden and I showed him the various 'dalek' bins which are on concrete or paving stones, and one on a proprietory plastic base, all of which are rat proof (OK, rat resistant!) and haven't ever been gnawed through or tunneled into. I showed him the GreenCone, which has (or had, as I set a trap) a rat living in the basket under the cone, having tunnelled through the soil and munched through the basket. I showed him the 'New Zealand Bins' made of pallets, which I construct on top of several pallets to raise them off the ground, and line with chicken wire. These are also rat deterrant, as the only way they can get in is through the top. I showed him the Compost Mate tool which I use to disturb the heaps, making rat peace and quiet impossible.

Then I showed him the four sorts of tumbler, all of which are either rat proof or would be really difficult for a rat to get into. He really liked the Sun Mar Compost Flow 400 litre jobbie, and I asked him to let me know which one he decided to get.

So then the next 'feature' of the day was lunch, and whilst having lunch and after, I contacted several organisations through their websites, to ask about using some photos for the website I am working on.

Then I emptied the wheelbarrow (sacks of compostables) and used it to take the logs I cut yesterday and took them to the new logpile for fresh logs which is on a pallet in the shared pathway between us and our neighbour. Some needed splitting too, which not only helps the thick ones dry faster, but makes the stacking easier and safer.

I had tea early, a pile of pasta parcels, broccoli, cauliflower and pumpkin, as the Hull Road Ward Planning Panel was at 6pm today, rather than the usual 6.30. We had a lot to deal with, including some quite complicated applications, and ones where we disagreed.

We finished at 7.10 and my next meeting was at 7.30 in the Black Swan, the first planning meeting of the 2010 York World Naked Bike Ride. Tony and Hugh came... Tony is the main organiser, and he'd prepared a check list/agenda which we worked through, including the route, publicity, police/council liason and assorted other bits and bobs. A good meeting, and on the way back I checked out a logpile, some of which found it's way into my trailer.

On the way out of St Nicks Fields, I saw two youths running off up one of the paths, from a rubbish bin which they had just set light to. There was another chap there, just standing and using his mobile phone. I stopped and looked into the bin, saw that it did indeed have some contents on fire. I parked the bike and said to the chap standing around that it ought to be put out, but I'd just had a pee so could he help? He declined, so I scrabbld around to find enough snow to chuck into the bin to eventually put out the small fire. The only thing the chap said was in response to my saying 'I wish there was more snow'.. and he just said 'you don't hear that very often'. I tried to chat to him a bit more but he was in a world of his own.

I came home, unloaded logs, put the bike away and came in, tired but happy that the meetings had been productive.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Monday 22nd February 10

A tough morning trying to get both children to school. BUT they did both go, which was a result!

I had a meeting starting sometime between 10 and 11 (Jim at Semlyen IT is very relaxed) and this went well too... the website that my Canadian colleague Rory and I are working on is coming on well. Jim has a colleague called James, who's a student, who is putting it together using Wordpress.

I am so looking forward to getting it unveiled!

The meeting went really well, over an hour discussing lots of variables and listening to Jim's advice. But I didn't have time to write up our meeting to send to Rory as straight after lunch I had another meeting at St Nicks, the follow up to the difficulties I had last November when some complaints were generated because of how I behaved at a York Rotters stall at the Big Green Market. John at St Nicks has been having some conversations with people at CVS about how to proceed and how to find solutions to the problem.

Edward, who is an experienced facilitator and well versed in conflict resolution came along to be my buddy or some kind of moderator... he's known me for at least 15 years and he also knows John quite well... and funnily enough he was involved in designing the Environment Centre, although I'm not sure exactly what his role was.

We recapped on what the complaints were, and I was surprised to learn that three out of the four complaints were made by one person. I don't know who that person is, but my guess is that they probably have a general problem with me, and even if I had behaved perfectly, they would still have had a problem with me! So that person was upset about an ill-timed and inappropriate joke about burial positions (which I agree was a mistake) and also accused me of shouting at a member of the public which I didn't do, although I do know that I did make a comment back to someone who responded to my invite to tell me about their compost bin with a 'I don't bother to compost'. My question back at them 'Don't you care about the environment then?' was deemed by the complainant as unprofessional. Maybe it was, I don't know. They also didn't approve of me answering a question about Promession, the composting burial process that I'm very interested in. A separate complaint was made by a Rotter who said I'd interrupted them and contradicted them. As I don't know who this is, I cannot remember saying or doing any of that, but it wouldn't surprise me if I had done that if incorrect information had been given.

I am really pleased with some of the solutions that St Nicks are going to try. To enable me to go back to the stalls and work with members of the public, they are looking for a buddy for me, who would know something about challenging behaviour, ADHD and Aspergers, and would be trained up as a York Rotter. Their job would be to keep an eye/ear on me and to rein me in if I got too excitable and if I strayed into subjects that the Council, our funders, are uncomfortable with (ie compost burials and compost toilets).

I'm also going to be invited to help make a video, where the editing will enable my enthusiasm and knowledge to shine through, but any gaffs to be removed. The Rotters newsletter will have a featured Rotter section, so that individuals can write something about themselves, which might help other Rotters understand them a little more. All St Nicks volunteers will be invited to participate in 'diversity awareness training' which will cover disabilities and developmental disorders, sexuality and orientation, religion and race and probably more. This is a fantastic 'plus' for St Nicks to get out of what could have been quite a negative issue. Rotters will be offered communication training, so that we can all learn to speak to members of the public a bit better. I look forward to this.

The only as yet undecided things are how I deal with my role as the 'founder' of York Rotters, which St Nicks dispute as I only suggested the organisation be started, and it was founded by a team effort, with the Council and St Nicks in partnership, with me at most meetings. However, many people see me as the person who got the ball rolling, and I am therefore sometimes a spokesperson for the group. So, as yet, we don't know what to do if a media organisation rings up and asks my opinion about a composting or green subject, and wants to refer to me as the founder of York Rotters. I am comfortable with this, but I don't think the other management are.

We agreed to review the situation in six months time. I am pretty pleased with this. I do wish that the (critical words removed by request) person hadn't complained in the first place... but we cannot change what has happened, and nor the fact that people like me do sometimes piss people off!

I did a bit of work in the nature reserve for half an hour after this, and then loaded my trailer with some of the spare packing crate wood which wasn't used by the bee hive makers.

Home via Freshways, and then did half an hour of chainsawing until it got dark.

Tea was baked potatoes with the remains of the Quorn stuff from yesterday. The potato was delicious and I'd have the Quorn again to add variety to my diet, perhaps a couple of times a year...

I did a lot of writing during the evening... a long email to Rory and recording today's activities here. I feel it's been a really good day.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Sunday 21st February 10

Got up at 9 as I'd arranged to meet a Freecycler who had asked for some compost. My response was to offer one free sack, which I could deliver (for free too!) But I said that if he wanted to have more than one sack, then I wouldn't be willing to give him the extra ones for free, and that I'd swap, barter or be happy with a donation for the extra ones.

He emailed back absolutely delighted! And asked when would be convenient to visit. We arranged this morning at 10.30. But when I got up I saw that it had snowed quite heavily overnight. I sent him a message suggesting that it might be best to reconsider this morning's meeting, and postpone it until later in the week. He phoned me back and said he'd been thinking the same thing. We arranged another meeting.

So I had a lazy morning in some ways... watched Country Tracks, which had some info on the new Feed In Tariff (or was that Countryfile this evening?) and did bits of washing up and fruit preparation.

After Gardeners Question Time on R4 I cycled down to see Richard who told me the saga of how he cut his hair, by accident (!), and I bought a large pile of goodies, and loaded up my trailer with 2 x 20kg sacks and 3 x at-least 15kg boxes of compostables, and slowly cycled home, stopping off at the Co-op for hommous, margarine and goats milk.

I was asked to come in to ensure that peace had broken out, and when this seemed to have happened, I had half an hour in the back garden to take the compostables down to the current heap... which has an internal temperature of over 60 Celcius, even though there's snow all around.

I got too cold to continue chopping up green potatoes so I came in.

Gill had made a spaghetti and Quorn mince thing, just as an experiment, but neither child liked the Quorn, although I didn't mind it. The mince version is far better than chunks. I like the fact it's made from a soil mould! Watched Countryfile.

The rest of the evening was peaceful. Thank goodness!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Saturday 20th February 10

Got up at 8.30 as I had to be out of the house at about 9.20, and at the Burton Stone Community Centre before 10, when the family fun day was to get underway. I cycled in costume along the off-road cycle path from St Nicks, past the Rowntree factory and along to Burton Stone Lane, getting to the Community Centre at 9.45. I was allowed to bring my bike and trailer into the Gym where there was a bit of space for me, amongst stalls from various organisations, some of whom had people I knew behind them.

I started by doing some 'meet and greet' at the front door, just saying hello to people who came in whilst spinning my devilstick, and telling them that one of the St John's student helpers would take them to the part of the building they wanted to go to. I only did an hour of this, and then went into the gym and did assorted circus demos and workshops, plus balloon models, pretty continuously until nearly 3pm, when it quietened down. I did manage to have a few minutes for lunch, and chatted to some stallholders.

So, by 3.15 I was cycling home again, and picked up a log from the cycle track where some trees have been pruned and felled, with some logs just left there, specially for me, I think! I might pop back later and get a trailer full. This time I had space for just one, on my pannier rack, as my trailer had unicycles and juggle kit in it. I also stopped off at the log with Oyster mushrooms on it, and picked a few more. I fried these on the stove when I got home, to add to the evening meal.

Gill had been having a mixed day and was glad to see me. She had doctored the pumpkin soup to make it into a stew, with big chunks of potato, and this was well received and much nicer than my plain soup yesterday.

I was tired when I got back, and though I'd wanted to use the rest of the daylight to do stuff outside, I didn't and I just flopped, did my mushrooms and once I'd got changed, filled the woodbasket and did the washing up... and before I knew it, it was dark and I couldn't do that much outside.

Enjoyed 'The Virtual Revolution' on BBC2; I am an example of Homo interneticus as I spend a lot of time on facebook and blogging, reading other blogs and e-newsletters, surfing and catching up on tv and radio that I've missed. Tonight I listened to Farming Today:
on iPlayer, after a facebook friend suggested that I'd be interested in it as it's about renewable energy.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Friday 19th February 10

A reasonable day, certainly the first part was. Our young visitor went to see one of his other York friends and our two played reasonably happily on the computer all day.

I spent the morning inside but just before lunchtime did a short stint in the garden, coming in at 1pm for lunch. I was just sorting out some potato sacks which were not worth keeping for re-use, and was taking out the nylon thread which I'd rather not put on the stove (nylon is a type of plastic) and there was a knock on the door.

I'd had a message yesterday from the wife of an old friend saying they were passing through York today, and might pop in. I replied saying great, what time, and if they could ring me first and warn me that they were on their way, I would be ready for them.

But they arrived unexpectedly and yes my hands were covered in slimy potato sack. But it was good to see them; I've known Glenn since I was 18 at Nene College, and Joanne is his wife and has recently booked me to do a Fiddlesticks appearance at her school where she is head of science. So, despite composty hands, it was lovely to see them. I cleaned myself up and made hot drinks and for over an hour and a half we chatted, covering a lot of ground.

They left after half two and I had my lunch. At 3pm our guest came back and there was a lot of excitement before it was time for him to be taken back to the station to get his 5.30 train back to Leamington Spa.

I did some stacking... logs I cut yesterday got stacked on pallets down the garden where they will dry for a year or two before being transferred to the stacking area outside the front door for a final drying, under cover, before converting into heat.

I had spotted that my prize-winning pumpkin which has sat on a kitchen work surface since harvesting (with a brief trip to Pumpkin Day at St Nicks, where its large size won me a 'Worm Cafe') had just started to go mouldy near the stem. So I gave it a wash and chopped it up, taking the seeds out to dry them (and to eventually remove the succulent kernel for eating), and made a soup on the woodstove with about a third of it. Fortunately only a very small amount of pumpkin was rotten, and I now have lots of onion/pumpkin and red pepper soup, and 2/3 of a big pumpkin left to do something with.

Our youngest didn't go to town, and luckily his friend from up the road rang and came round, and they spent time together playing computer games. I went out, leaving the soup cooking and kids playing, and visited Ros up the road who has some sticks and branches to dispose of. I offered to take my shredder up to her house in the next couple of weeks to render the pile into a useful material... shredded stuff for her, fuel for me.

Gill and our eldest came back and we served tea. My soup wasn't very well received. Gill thinks she can improve it for tomorrow. I liked it. I had a mushroom toastie with it.

The evening after this was best forgotten. I washed up and kept myself out of the way as much as possible. When I was needed, I tried to achieve the right mix of setting a good example as a role model whilst being a 'normal' parent/father and ensuring that boundaries are observed and that other family members are protected from violence, the right mix of hands-on involvement and rising above the provocation and threats. Life is tough at the moment.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Thursday 18th February 10

Not too early a start, as I was up til 4am last night/this morning watching the Winter Olympics half-pipe snowboarding which I find very exciting and enjoyable. Gill snoozed earlier in the night but when the half pipe was on, she was glued to it too. So getting up at 10am wasn't too bad!

A busy day doing assorted email and facebook things... but also did some chainsawing, went up the road to pick up the last of the packing crate wood and deliver a note to Nadia about the Bee Day event this Saturday.

I was pleased that our eldest and his friend went on the bus together to Clifton Moor Vue, and picked up tickets that we'd bought over the 'net and went to see a film.

The most productive e-things I did were to update the York in Transition facebook page and create an event page for the Dance and Film night on 17th April, and to proof read a newsletter and make some helpful suggestions. I also negotiated a Fiddlesticks booking for a date in May out near Wheldrake. Glad I'm still getting some paid bookings!

I cycled down to Anna's after 9pm and picked up some tickets for the 17th April event and on the way back got another three logs. The front garden cannot remain log-free for long!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Wednesday 17th February 10

Up early so to get the train to Birmingham at 8.45am. I cycled down to the station as I was ready by 8, but the family were rushing round trying to get ready for the 8.10 bus, and I decided not to engage with the stress, and got to the station at 8.15. There was another reason too... Laura had left her jar of dried bananas with me when we parted last night, so I told her (via facebook last night) that I'd leave it in my pannier in the cycle racks near Platform 1, if she was going into the station today.

As I arrived back at the front of the station after securing my bike, the family walked in... they'd got an East Yorkshire bus and it had gone a faster route to the station and got in at 20 past.

Our train was a bit late but we had comics and sandwiches and I took my laptop, to do 'inbox' and 'sent items' deletion, and deal with any un-dealt-with emails...

A very slow journey, but peaceful. Both boys played with their Nintendo DS games. We got into Birmingham 25 minutes late because of a broken down train in the way near Newcastle, and cable theft near Leeds.

Our friends Ulrich and Katharina were waiting, with their two sons who are the same age as ours, and their new baby daughter who is 10 months and very cute!

We went to a restaurant called Cafe Rouge which was quite expensive for the size of portions but was a nice place to eat, and we spent quite a bit of time there. Then we split up, with Gill and Katrina and the baby going for a wander round, and the male contingent going to the IMAX cinema which was about 25 minutes walk at Millennium Point, in the sleet which wasn't very pleasant. I was impressed with the escalators in this building, some of which sense where the crowds are, whether they are going up or down, and switch directions to accommodate this. Ulrich had booked tickets so we were in the queue quite soon, and got a good seat in the cinema.

My sons and I have seen Avatar in 3D before, at City Screen in York, but the chance to see it again, and at the IMAX huge 'engulfing' screen was well worth it. Ulrich and his boys hadn't seen it before and were impressed. I like seeing a film twice... I often spot things the second time that I miss the first, and today was not a disappointment.

Afterwards we had an interesting talk about Lovelock's Gaia Hypothesis, as for me, this film gives a nod to that with the Goddess Interconnected Life Force 'Eywa' being not unlike the word Gaia.... but maybe this is in my mind only.

Then we walked back into the centre and met Gill and Katharina in Waterstones and we first all went to a Tesco for some sandwiches and bread/spreadables, and then headed for the nearby shopping mall which sits on top of the New Street Station, where we had a coffee in Starbucks and the Tesco teatime stuff. Katharina and Ulrich left their eldest with us and he came with us on the 7.30 train back to York. He'll go back home on Friday.

I used the journey to compose some lengthy and difficult emails and delete another 186 from my inbox and sent items. Good stuff!

I was pleased to see that Laura had taken the jar of bananas, and I raced home, only taking 5 minutes longer than the taxi that the others took.

Spent ages watching the Winter Olympics and emailing, washing up between times until the wee early hours. Brilliant day!

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Tuesday 16th February 10

A peaceful start to the day, and I got ready to leave at 11am to cycle to the station to meet my friend Laura and her parents, who are staying in York for a couple of nights.

They arrived at 11.35 and we walked into town to El Piano via Barley Hall. I had a hot chocolate and the others had drinks too, and discussed where to meet later. Then we split, Laura and I wandering through town via a pastie shop and the market, Anti Gravity Shop and then on to St Nicks where I had my pastie, and then showed Laura around.

On the way home I found some more Oyster mushrooms, and when we got back I fried those immediately. Laura was pleased to meet Gill and the boys, thought the boys were very engrossed in the computer and didn't communicate much, but although Gill and I see Laura as young, they see her as an adult!

We spent an hour or so at home and then went back into town... I cycled with her on my crossbar (a favourite way of transporting someone!) and we ended up at the Minster, which we wandered round. I followed Laura into the shop and was highly amused to see a wealth of 'Green Man' carvings and teeshirts etc... this is a very pagan or Celtic symbol of a man's head with ivy coming out of his mouth, symbolising rebirth (see Wikipedia for info and images). I like the Green Man symbolism... I suppose the rebirth meme is consistent with Christianity, so no actual conflict really.

Then we walked through the Shambles and to the Castle, Clifford's Tower, and up to the Pizza Hut where we ate. As we still had an hour before she needed to meet her parents, we walked down to the Millennium Bridge, over it and back up to King's Staith, where the Ghost Walk was to leave from, and we met up with Laura's parents... and I left her with them. They had been back to Barley Hall where an archaeologist from the Hungate dig was doing a talk, which they had enjoyed immensely.

I came back home, stopping to talk to my friend David, who has had a good photo session with a fairly well known York science writer. When he said her first name, I knew her surname before he said it... I'm a bit of a fan as she writes for NewScientist, and I like her writing. I've never met her but would like to.

I got home at 8.30 and helped put the boys to bed.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Monday 15th February 10

A good day... up in time to cycle into town to go and see my dental hygienist who is very nice. I went via Morrison's where they have cash machines, as I need to pay for every other visit to the dentist.

So, a good scale and polish, and a chat... as always! Then back to Goodramgate to the newly refurbished Oxfam where I bought a big can of coffee, which has increased in price to £17. Then on to Sainsburys to get one of their delicious loaves and some mayonnaise. Home via Country Fresh where Shirley let me have two sack's worth, and to home, where I did a bit of splitting and stacking.

Lunch was good.. and an active afternoon, preparing some waste nectarines and peaches for stewing, some pears and kiwi fruit for drying, and a butternut to add to tonight's tea.

Later, did more website prep, getting ready to send stuff off to Jamie at, whilst watching the Winter Olympics. I watched Panorama and was very moved by the stories of abuse directed at disabled people... this needs to be made a criminal offence the same as racist abuse. Currently, it is just 'breach of the peace' or something like that, and not much of what goes on is reported, and there have been very few prosecutions. I'll be writing to my MP about this.

Later still, more exciting snowboarding etc. Part of me wishes I'd given something like this a go when I was younger... but as a child I apparently had 'no stickability' and couldn't focus on anything. Classic ADHD, combined with my fidgeting, talkative nature, ability to annoy people and the rest. Glad I'm normal now... hahahaha!

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Sunday 14th February 10

Well, a reasonable morning to start with but things deteriorated and after lunch, Gill took both boys to town to buy some Lego, which is one thing which absorbs them completely.

I then had a quiet lunch and did loads of washing up and then got trapped with the Winter Olympics and facebook, and then at 2pm, Gardener's Question Time on Radio 4. Always enjoyable!

As soon as the family came home I went out to start sorting out the conservatory, which has a lot of stuff built up in it. There were lots of potato sacks. There were lots of elastic bands. Lots of drinks cartons (mainly soya milk) which I flattened and put in a potato sack for cycling down to the civic amenity site sometime soon. I took wooden veg trays to the front for recycling into kindling, lots of stuff to the dustbin which is full for the first time I can ever remember, and lots down the garden for composting.

I was really busy for about 3 hours... but the conservatory still looks extremely untidy. Perhaps will do some more tomorrow.

I came in when it was too dark to do any more. Gill had made a rice-based dish which was filling and tasty.

Quite a peaceful evening, watched the exciting Winter Olympics and then Derren Brown who is another great performer.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Saturday 13th February 10

A really good day, a nice late start, waking slowly and gradually becoming aware of things... I love waking like this! I made up my muesli before having breakfast and it is good to have my home-made cereals again. I use Suma Organic Muesli Base and a wide range of chopped-up home-made dried fruit.. today, apple, pear, banana, pineapple, pumpkin seeds, some out-of-date cranberry and white chocolate muffin topper stuff and some broken walnuts. Delicious! Each time I make up my big jar of muesli I do a different mix... sometimes with sesame seeds, sometimes some leftover chocolate flapjack. Sometimes I have some fresh fruit on top too, and I have a layer of shreddies or shredded wheat, then bran flakes, then my muesli, and often some crunchy cereal on top. I like unsweetened soya milk on this. For me, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

So, I had breakfast and did emails, and was reminded that today at midday there was a commemorative tree planting at St Nicks in memory of a York Rotter called Carol Skelton, who died last year. So I got there on time but was waylaid by a local policeman who was keen to mark my bike with a UV pen with a serial number, so that if it gets stolen, and I report it, anybody caught with a similar looking bike might have it scanned, and there is more chance that I would get it back.

The family arrived, Carol's sister from Harrogate, and quite a handful of nieces and nephews, and others I didn't know their relationship. We all walked over to the Stone Circle and a hole had been dug, and a wheelbarrow of rich soil was ready to put in the Birch tree which had been chosen. The children held the tree and shovelled the soil into the hole over the roots, and some photos were taken. Then we walked back to the centre where there was a lunch... baked potatoes and salads, it was nice to be able to chat to some of them, and show a few around the centre.

On the way back I found some really good Oyster mushrooms, the same log which Simon's been harvesting. I've never seen so many on one log, there were literally hundreds. I picked three small clumps.

Home for about 1.30, and after a coffee I went outside to try to finish off the packing case wood, as it's looking very untidy.

At 3.30, Faith, a media student from Leeds arrived... she had been set a project to find out about 'freeganism' and had found the UK Freegans website, and JD the site supervisor had put her in touch with me. I'd talked to her by email yesterday and this morning she said could she visit this weekend, so I said yes to this afternoon if she wanted.

She recorded her questions and my answers, and then we went round the garden which I think was an eye-opener for her. She recorded some of our conversations round the garden too, so she got plenty of material.

After Faith went to get the bus back to the station, I continued with the firewood situation and got a lot done.

I harvested a bunch of Velvet Shank mushrooms from the garden and added these to the Oyster, and had these with the stir fry which Gill made.

A very nice evening chatting with friends on facebook. And washing up.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Friday 12th February 10

An easy start to the day and I got the 11.20 train back to York. I managed to delete 130 unwanted emails from my sent folder and inbox. And reply to a few which needed replying to... which I saved as drafts and then sent when I got home.

I got in at 1pm after picking up a sack of compostables from Country Fresh. I had lunch and did emails and then went to the St John's Playing Fields, where the grounds maintenance staff had put a large pile of shreddables from some of the other bits of the campus, and told me that the largest chunks wouldn't go through their shredder so I could have them. Yippee!

I got two loads and there is more to get. An excellent local resource. I also did some chainsawing and stacking. I love my outdoor activities...

Gill did a veg stew with the butternut I rescued a day or so ago and pre-baked in the microwave, and she made scones to go with it. It was delicious.

We had a game of Scrabble later and although Gill slept through bits of the game, she still won. Amazing!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Thursday 11th February 10

Up early (8.30am) and got going... breakfast, emails, bit of facebook stuff, bit of sensible simplicity forum stuff (compost toilet advice) and then got dressed and outside, as it's a lovely day, and I've got to leave for Sheffield at about midday.

I got the 12 something from York which went via Leeds and Wakefield to Sheffield... I had my laptop and managed to delete loads of inbox stuff.

Got into Sheffield just before 2pm and Ali and her carer were there... and my job was to be Ali's official PA during her University course. I really enjoyed this, as the class was interesting... about literature from people who migrated, either forced (slaves) or voluntarily, historically and current (refugees) and it was really good. I had to try and remember that I was there to help Ali and wasn't a student!

We went to a Pizza Hut after this and had a cheap deal which was good, but we had a plate of salads with it which meant that we ate too much. But a nice evening.

Wednesday 10th February 10

An early start and got busy finishing off my blog post from yesterday, which took a long time and I hope is worth it, for people interested in following the process of working out what could be done with The Earth Centre site.

I spent several hours on that, but did get outside in the afternoon (before it snowed!) and dis several layers of compost and a bit of logpile building.

For tea I had the oyster mushrooms that Simon gave me yesterday, with some pasta, and a slice of home-made pizza. Very nice!

I decided not to go to Green Drinks as I was tired and tomorrow I'm working and staying over, so staying in was the better option.

Today's good news is that a Newcastle based Hindu Holy man, Davender Kumar Ghai, won his appeal against Newcastle City Council who had told him that he was not allowed to choose an open-air wood pyre funeral, which is what his religion tells him is the right way to dispose of his mortal remains. The High Court stated that as long as the ceremony happens within 'a building', which could be a courtyard shape, with the centre open to the sunlight, and that the building has planning permission and that all other issues are covered, there shouldn't be anything preventing this.

I approve for two reasons. Firstly, I think that an individual ought to have choice as to how their remains are disposed of, and secondly, using a few hundred kilos of renewable wood to do the deed is FAR better than using 50 to 120 cubic metres of fossil gas.

So, I started a facebook page to celebrate this:!/group.php?v=info&ref=nf&gid=294998179262

I had a nice evening in, answering composting questions and posting my new group to various other pages and groups.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Tuesday 9th February 10 Visit to The Earth Centre

Up early as had to get a train at 9.30am. So by 9 I was on my bike and heading towards the station and I managed to get the 9.27 which allowed me to get a train which delivered me to Conisbrough soon after 10am. The meeting was due to start at 11am.

I wandered over the bridge over the River Don towards the main site and when I was coming back there was another chap wandering across, he turned out to be another John from York, a Union man, and involved at one time with Remploy. We chatted and waited for others to turn up, which they did. Also the 3 core members of We Love The Earth Centre arrived... they hadn't managed to get the required information into the facilitating organisation, the Rapid Technology Transfer Group or RTTG, so unfortunately none of them were in the visiting group.

At about 11.15 we all had our visitor badges and the selected group went across the bridge again and entered the site. We first went to the Conference Centre. This is a building based on cages of rocks called gabions, and is based on nice curves... it's a more or less circular structure, with a large stainless steel woodstove in the lobby area, a circular main room and a series of other side rooms. The gabion walls were perhaps a little difficult on the eye... I would try to soften them with hangings. I liked the re-used radiators mounted on the walls, it was a nice feature. This building seems perfectly usable and seemed in good condition.

Then to the main open area between the galleries and the restaurant, much of which is covered by a huge area of photovoltaic panels, which I learned are still generating but aren't connected to the national grid, which seems like madness as they must generate thousands of pounds worth each year. We had a quick look around the deserted restaurant, last used by the war-gamers who hire the site from time to time.

Then into the huge building which is The Gallery, which was once an exhibition centre showcasing information and ideas about our planet, animals and plants, ecosystems, energy, all sorts of things, but looking very dated and one comment was that some of the arty exhibits are a bit pretentious. This building has a huge gas heating system and a really good kiddies play area, lots of climbing and crawling through wooden structures... what a waste!

One of the visitors, John O'Callaghan (another John!!!) was very excited to find the remains of the Mongolian Yurt and some Mongolian horse bridles.

My favourite area was next; the water/sewage treatment plant called 'The Living Machine'. This has been kept working and the fish and aquatic plants are still alive, although the exterior of the building is in poor condition, as it has been damaged by birds pecking, and water sitting on the plastic membrane. Near this were the gardens, with lots of fruit trees and obviously reasonably fertile ground. But all very overgrown, with hawthorns and birch seeded into it, ivy and brambles.. reverting to scrub and if left, woodland.

Then we walked down to the river, which is canalised and is navigable from the Humber to Sheffield. The Earth Centre site has a landing, although the regular floods have given it a deep layer of silt (and vegetation, of course), and alongside the river are stands of willow which really need to be coppiced.

So we made our way out and in a convoy of cars (and I was in John H's van) we managed to find our way to our hosts for the afternoon, Senior Architectural Systems, based in Denaby.

We had a good lunch... filled rolls, quiche, orange juice, and Mike Marchant was introduced by his RTTG partner, Bill Robertson.

SAS make aluminium and wood windows, as far as I can work out. I'm not sure if Mike works for them too, and my question about the relationship between SAS and RTTG wasn't clearly answered. But it was clear that both Bill and Mike care deeply about environmental and social issues, and have started a venture called MiUni, where (I think) a company suggests areas where they could improve on sustainability issues and then a 2 or 3 days syllabus is created and then a mobile classroom is taken to the business park or company premises to act as a space for
learning. (I think this is the set-up!) The third member of RTTG is a younger chap, Mark Ducker, who is involved in promoting recycling and might be connected to a company called Sustainable Energy Connections, though I can't find any mention of this...and, music to my ears, he's interested in fuel poverty and I chatted with him about woodstoves afterwards.

So Mike told us about RTTG, and that they had already had some success when a company they were connected with (probably JCB) had developed a cab for their diggers which was so safe for the operative, so soundproof and break-proof, that the door was difficult to close. (maybe the cab was airtight?) So the RTTG put the company in touch with another company which was able to present a solution immediately. Now digger drivers can have a quiet and safe working environment AND close the door on their cab easily!

The RTTG do not yet have a plan for what they could offer to The Earth Centre site. This meeting was the first of a collective plan, which would need to be
1) productive, in terms of revenue, learning, the economy and jobs;
2) inclusive, with different technologies, occupations and communities all considered and involved;
3) open to different ideas, expertise, interests and ways of communication;
and 4) highly regarded in it's activities, research and development.

Then the 20 or so attendees introduced themselves, and were asked to say what they thought they could bring to the table, what they could offer, or what their vision was for the site.

John Wilson from Remploy was a bit new to this sort of thing but he anted the needs of disabled people to be taken into account, and employment opportunities for disabled and older people.
Ben from CO2 Sense, involved in promoting glass recycling said he had no particular vision but that obviously CO2 Sense and Yorkshire Forward were happy to contribute ideas, expertise and possibly funding to any appropriate development.
David Wilde from Groundwork Dearne Valley, whom I met a few years ago when he was presenting a day's course on Education for Sustainable Development wondered about a new headquarters for the organisation.
Bernd Hoermann, from the sustainable development department of Sheffield City Council was generally enthusiastic about what the Earth Centre was and what it could be.
John O'Callaghan disclosed his ecoactivist roots and his passion for sustainable solutions, and offered the services of his company Techead.
Joanne Wehrle from Dearne Valley Eco Vision was representing a key partner.
Phil Walker and his nameless friend wanted to use the site for American car displays... and although the process is supposed to be inclusive, this is one of the things which wouldn't fit with the vision I have of The Earth Centre site!
Jayne Evans from Beta Technology has connections with DEFRA and European links too.
Lee Brooks has had the bright idea of showing schools and other groups how to recycle aluminium drinks cans using a small scale smelter and die-casting system, and this relatively new project is called 'Casting Innovations'.
Mike Reid was one of the original Earth Centre team, before the second stage was built with the many millions of pounds of Millennium money. He seems to be a proponent of the low tech and person-centred approach, and is, like me, a big fan of what the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth have done. He is involved in Pedal Ready which looks like a good project.
Sue Crockford is a film-maker and champion of the underdog, and has had a long career of working with and documenting community struggles.
Faye Leo is with MET UK who provide training, and she has a special interest in renewable and repair technologies.
Marcus O'Hagan was a volunteer with the Earth Centre in it's first format, before the Millennium funding 'destroyed it'. He is responsible for the wharf on the River Don which would enable boats to be used as a transport option to and from the site.
Sally Walker from Native Architects, specialist in sustainable buildings (and friend of Imelda from BlueFish Regeneration who brought me down for the last We Love The Earth Centre meeting, who was unable to be here today)
Tracey Fairfax of the Yorkshire Ambulance Service, who run training and first aid courses, would be interested in using the existing facilities.
Kirsty Chamberlain, a teacher at Abbey special school which has sustainability at the heart of everything it does.
Hannah Booth from Natural England, Liz Reeve from the Don Gorge Community Group and Dan Hall from the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, all interested in the woodlands and SSSis which are in the Don Valley.
Steve Hinton from QED Consulting.

These introductions served to start several interesting conversations and will help the people who wish to help the RTTG write their business plan get it broad enough to be considered by the Council when they decide who is to have the job of co-ordinating the redevelopment.

I was one of the last to go as I wanted to chat with several delegates, and then walked back to the station with John Wilson. Good conversations on the train all the way home...

I got home just after 6pm and knew I'd been invited to attend a Fishergate Ward Committee meeting to 'speak to' a couple of funding bids that Anna had put in for York in Transition events.
So 40 mins after I got in, I went out again!

But soon after I arrived, I was told that Ivana was also there to do just that, so I cycled home again.

Simon was visiting when I got back home, he'd found some Oyster mushrooms and had brought me some, and was collecting the Suma Order which arrived today.

A late evening typing up most of today's stuff. Didn't finish it though... will be finished tomorrow!

Monday, 8 February 2010

Monday 8th February 10

I spent most of the day re-writing an email into two web pages to send off to my new colleague in Canada, and he'll make those into good looking web pages (I hope!!!) and then these will be delivered to our website techies.

I had several distractions but it was lovely to see Charles and his son; Charles came round ostensibly to try to get his head around the different eco-ways to make his house warmer and generate power and hot water. But we ended up chatting about sculpture and all sorts of things. He also helped me take the old sofa up to the loft so there is now space for the new (OK, second-hand!) futon which Gill found in the back of the Press.

So, by midnight the writing was done. I do look forward to sharing this with blog readers.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Sunday 7th February 10

Woke late, and got up to watch Country Tracks which was good.

I eventually got dressed. A bit later I cycled down to St Nicks via Country Fresh, picking up a couple of sacks of bits and bobs, plus the fruit and veg we need over the next few days. And so to St Nicks to get busy again with the compost bays. I worked really hard and have now turned about half of the material. I picked up a couple of logs on the way home, and said hello to my friends at Freshways. They were dealing with some drunk youths. One of them fell over my trailer. He was initially abusive, but soon apologised to me for being abusive... walking towards me, I thought he was going to hit me... but he shook my hand and then wobbled off.

Later, after dark, Gill asked me to return the DVD which she'd got out yesterday, so I cycled down there and came back with another load of logs from the dump the tree surgeon uses.

Another quiet evening, although I tried to re-write an email I once sent about a complicated subject to make it part of a web page. All will be revealed soon enough!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Saturday 6th February 10

Up at a reasonable time so that I could get to St Nicks for soon after 10am, as I'd promised to dig out the compost bay which is over-full, and it needed turning into the next bay.

I took my fork and spade down in the trailer and fully expected to have a couple of hours work by myself... peace and quiet, with the birds singing around me and an occasional dog walker passing by.

There was a lot of work to do; the composting area is a concrete base with 4 walls of breeze blocks, about 6 metres long, a metre high and about a metre between each wall. Each bay therefore is about 6 cubic metres of space. A pet shop regularly drops off sacks of sawdust and pet bedding, and this makes up the majority of the material, but I have on occasion added stuff and other people probably do too. But no-one is completely in charge or responsible.

So, I started getting the second bay ready for the contents of the first, and did about half an hour, with a short chat to Sue the Priest, out walking her dog, and anticipating the service in Doncaster this afternoon. Then I was joined by a 20 year old student, who offered to help and I let her have the fork, which is easier to use, and she worked at one end of the pile and I started towards the other, but in the middle whilst standing in the empty bay and adding to the pile that she was also adding to. We talked about all sorts of things, her history degree, her half Chinese ancestry and peoples' attitudes to race, lots of other subjects. We worked together for well over an hour. I think we shifted about a quarter or a fifth of the compost. Lots more needs doing!

I went into the Environment Centre at about 12.30 and the Eco-Active volunteers were all having lunch, and John invited me to have lunch too. I did, and chatted to a nice Chilean guy and a female student from Minnesota.

Home to a peaceful house... our youngest had gone to a birthday party and wasn't due back til 7pm. I busied myself in the front, trying to tidy up after the unwanted planks and packing wood had been almost tossed everywhere after yesterday's sorting of good from bad. I chainsawed up quite a bit more and built a good stack on the right of the door.

When I came in for a coffee I chopped up two huge onions, rejects because of surface blemishes, and slow-fried them on the stove, hoping that they would come in useful for tonight's meal.

Later, Gill decided to treat our eldest to a DVD from Blockbusters and a bag of chips from the Chinese takeaway just beyond it. So they ate together and I made myself a meal based on the onions. I had couscous (free as the bag had split), sweet red pepper paprika (made from thrown-away peppers) cooked in marmite water (to clean out the nearly empty jar) and a couple of, shock horror, bought mushrooms. Oh, and there was a 'crust' of Edam cheese left in the fridge because Gill cuts this cheese parallel to the rind, leaving a half centimetre of wasted cheese..... but not if I can help it, so I chopped that into small cubes and mixed them in just before I plonked it on my plate. Delicious! And 90% free materials... only the olive oil, mushrooms and cheese was paid-for. Even the heat to cook it was free. I really like meals like this!

A nothingy evening followed... bit of telly, kept the stove going as it's another cold night, played on the laptop for ages.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Friday 5th February 10

Gill woke me up at 8.30 as requested, and I was breakfasted and dressed by 9 which was good as Carolyn was on time, to come and 'triage' the wood that I've got to decide which is good for building bee hives and which is fit just for burning. The wood which came yesterday from Hull also had some pieces which seemed OK for beehive construction... very opportune that they came yesterday and the wood was needed today!

So Carolyn cycled away with some, and I'll take a trailer full down to St Nicks at lunchtime, after my next visitor.

On the dot of 10am, Lizzie arrived. I met her through a email discussion list we're both on, and she asked if anyone who fitted her criteria would be willing to help her with her dissertation. This is an undergraduate linguistics degree, and Lizzie is wanting to study how people tell stories about their life, or 'narratives'. She's less interested in the content, the story, but more into analyzing the language used. So I messaged her and she sent me the consent forms, and today she was visiting a friend in York, so this morning she walked up from Walmgate and arrived, as intended, at 10.

The study took about 2 hours, and she recorded nearly all of it... only switching off when I went to make a coffee or load the stove. Her questions were fairly general, things like 'Can you tell me about one thing that stands out as a memory from your childhood?' and 'tell me about four important people from your life', and a string of similar questions. I enjoyed telling her about these bits of my life, I am naturally a 'sharer' and I'm not shy or at all private. So it was good for both of us. I'm looking forward to learning what she does with the transcript, and what interesting linguistic stuff she pulls from it.

Lizzie then left to walk into town, and I loaded up my bike trailer with all the planks which Carolyn had sorted out as 'good for building a beehive with', and cycled down to St Nicks, where Carolyn and I popped them in the lock-up. She's making a first one as a test, and then on 20th Feb, there's a public beehive making meeting/workshop. This fits nicely with a series of workshops about bee keeping I've seen advertised, the first one is this Tuesday, and I think Peter's going on it.

Home for lunch... and after lunch felt very tired but I kept going and did various bits and bobs around the house.

I popped into to Country Fresh on the way into town, and picked up one sack of mainly cabbage leaves. Then onto my building society where I took out cash and then went to top up our 'Suma' bank account with a cheque from a friend on our food co-op, my cash, and I did an electronic transfer too... so that there is enough money in that account to pay for next week's Suma order. I also paid out water bill. Then I came home, but decided to deliver the cabbage leaves to the St Nicks compost area, where I occasionally put excess materials. They have ample sawdust, dumped there by a pet shop, so I always cover up the fruit and veg with the sawdust. It is quite convenient.

On the way, I met my friend Sue, who is a priest, and we often have some interesting conversations. We talked for about 20 minutes, covering a range of subjects.

Then I went to put the compostables on the sawdusty heap and and as I was doing that, David from St Nicks told me I should have asked first... I thought I just had to inform the staff I d added to the heap, not ask permission. So I had a chat with John, and agreed that I would turn this compost over the weekend. A kind of penance? Well, a voluntary act of trying to make things better...

And back home. A very quiet evening. A fair bit of chatting with friends on facebook and email.
Lots of angst about the changes that facebook have made to celebrate their sixth birthday, but I'm sure we'll get used to it.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Thursday 4th February 10

A very interesting and busy day.

I took our youngest to school, a very easy morning, thank goodness.

Chatted to the St John's Grounds Maintenance team chaps who were about to feed a lot of pruned vegetation into their shredder, and they were VERY happy for me to take the large Christmas tree trunk on my trailer, and said they'd sort out any other big sticks and branches for me, and leave them for me to collect. Nice chaps!

So, home with a big load of waste tree trunk. I then had a short time to get several sacks of mature compost from the bottom of the garden in the wheelbarrow up to the top, as a bit later today I'm expecting visitors from Hull to pick some up. I found 6 sacks of 10 to 20kg and one sack of perhaps 30kg.

I then came in and cleaned up, as at 11 I was expecting our first visitor, Chris from Ploughcroft, who I asked to give us a quote for putting a solar photovoltaic system on our roof. This company had given a competitive quote to Anna Semlyen, and I'd been inspired to see what it would cost us, bearing in mind the grant of £2400 and the forthcoming 'feed-in tariff' which will guarantee a financial return for 20 years.

Chris arrived soon after 11 and told us our roof was perfect for the photovoltaic panels, as it is South-facing, and the hot water panel is off to one side of the roof, leaving enough space for the electricity-producing ones. He calculated that we could get 6 panels on, which would generate 1200w whenever it was daylight. He told us that the feed-in tariff had been set somewhat above the expected figure, and was at 41.3pence per kwh. This system would cost in the region of £6500, but the grant would bring this down to within our reach at just over £4000, and would bring in a steady income from the electricity generated. He will send a detailed quote soon, and the company's electrician would visit early next week to check our electrics.

I liked Chris, we talked about quite a few green issues, social issues, personal politics, etc, and I would be happy to have his system. We'd have to borrow to pay them, would then pay back some of the loan (the Credit Union doesn't give penalties for early payback) when we got the grant, and we'd use about £2000 of our savings.

Chris left soon after midday and within half an hour, Jayne and Derek arrived from Hull. They contacted me through Vyouz, the virtual skip site. They wanted to give me some waste wood, and take away a sack of wood ash (this was free) and give me something for the large load of compost. They came in and had a cup of tea each, and we chatted about the stove, their allotment and lottie shop, and then we went down the garden to see where the compost makes itself. When we got back up to the top of the garden again, we loaded up their boot, and they offered £16 for perhaps about 90kg of compost. I was happy with this. Nice people, hope they enjoy using it!

I then had lunch, and chatted to Gill. Then I got a phone call... it was Chris from Ploughcroft. He said that he'd got bad news for me... he'd just heard that the Government had stopped the photovoltaics grant, as of last night. This was about 7 weeks before they were due to do this. This was a blow. With the added cost of £2400 to our final bill, we probably won't be able to put these panels on our roof... but we'll continue with finding out about the different installers and systems available.

Gill ironed my Fiddlesticks clothes and I got ready to go out to work... off to the Bishopthorpe Beavers, about 20 minutes cycle away. I'd done my circus show for them before Christmas and tonight it was balloons. I got changed and stuck inflated balloons between my unicycle spokes, I'd brought it along specially to hold them. The boys were delighted to see me and we had a brilliant hour, loads of fun.

At 7, I got changed back into 'civvies' and cycled back to my side of town, picking up a long branch on the way. I was due at St Nicks for a York in Transition meeting and I chaired, as well as participating. We had an enormous list of things we could be doing so we went through the list and kind of weeded some of them out, things we haven't got the time or personnel to do.

Home just before 10pm and all was well, I went onto the computer and dealt with emails and other stuff. At about 1.45am there were a series of short power cuts which made nearby house alarms go off and our fridge make a funny noise. Oh dear.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Wednesday 3rd February 10

I got up quite early and took our youngest to school and then continued sorting out the waste packing crate wood, which has 'arrived' just at he right time, as we've used a lot of the very dry logs and the majority of what we have left are more recently cut. So this very dry stuff will help eke out the logs which are ready to burn now.

Gill went out, to meet her sister in town, and I kept busy outside but had the phone outside too, and received several phone calls. One was a photovoltaic panel installer, who is coming to give us a quote on Monday. This stems from my friend Anna Semlyen, who has had four quotes for pv panels, and posted the two cheapest quotes on facebook yesterday. I hadn't realised that firstly, the price has come down about 50% since I last found out how much it would cost, and secondly, the government grant of £2400 finishes at the end of March, and thirdly, 'feed-in tariffs' start in April. Anna had worked out the costings and pay-back times... and suddenly, photovoltaics look just within our reach, financially.

I got trapped in an email vortex after lunch... and another photovoltaic company responding to my enquiry this morning... they are coming tomorrow. I had two questionnaires to fill in about green festivals, one for a 'United Nations Music and Environment Initiative' and the other from a guy who's doing a dissertation.

Gill rang at 2.45, she was just about to get the bus back from town, so I cycled down to school to pick up our little one. We walked back together, chatting. The class had all signed a petition asking for a longer PE lesson, at the expense of French. Active Democracy at school... great! I wonder what the result will be?

I did some more wooding and got the backlog of logs finished... everything in the front garden (woodyard) is now cut, and there's a large pile of logs to split.

Gill made a quiche for tea, with sliced and stir-fried sprouts with tomato, and a really good potato and sweet potato with cashew nuts and sesame seeds thing. What a wonderful and creative cook!

Later on, I had to do some writing for the forthcoming Earth Centre visit.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Tuesday 2nd February 10

A good day, I took our youngest to school... most of the way, as yesterday.

I picked up another load of packing case wood and then did some sorting of this and some sawing, but it started raining so I put the stuff away and came in, at about 11am.

But we needed bread and stuff from the chemist so I cycled round to Tang Hall Lane, and then, as I had to take back a carton of soya milk which when I opened it, was curdled like yoghurt, to the other Co-op on Hull Road.

Then some inside stuff, emails and facebook messages, washing up and talking with Gill, and lunch.

I had a few bookings and phone calls to deal with after lunch and all too soon it was time to go to school to pick up our youngest, and he came back home sitting on my bike rack.

I popped down to Country Fresh for groceries and brought back a load of compostables too. I spent about an hour in the garden before it got too dark to continue.

Sad to get a message during the evening that a friend of mine has seemingly tried to end her life and is now in hospital, having been found after a friend reported her missing. I arranged to go and see her in hospital tomorrow.

Nice teatime, quiet evening...

Monday, 1 February 2010

Monday 1st February 10

A good day. I walked down towards school with our youngest but left him at Field Lane to walk the last bit on his own. Later this year he'll walk to school by himself, or probably with a couple of local friends. When he goes to secondary school in September, he'll have to walk in either by himself, with friends or with his elder brother.

I cycled back to this end of Windmill Lane (picking up the weekend's aluminium beer can harvest!) and turned right to go and deliver a letter to the other school. On the way back from there, I saw a large pile of packing case wood in someone's front garden, so I cycled in and rang the doorbell. I asked if the wood was unwanted, and if it wasn't, could I have it as some of it would be great for helping to construct the beehives. I have no idea what had been packed in this, but there was loads... in fact, so far today, seven trailer loads of clean softwood pallet-type planks.

At 11.30 I was back at school to have a meeting with the headteacher. We discussed various educational matters, and also how the school is attempting to deal with the green agenda. We spent just over an hour talking, and I went away reassured and feeling a lot more comfortable with going there. I look forward to hearing about the green audit and to seeing how they change their waste and recycling situation, currently poor, and having gone backwards since I was forced to stop composting last year. I made several suggestions including weblinks to some rotating composters and ideas about renewable power generation. I remain optimistic.

Home for lunch, more wood collecting, cycled down to school for a third time to collect our youngest... but he wanted to come back with a friend in their car, so I cycled back and picked up another load of packing case wood.

A simple tea of baked potato and cauliflower cheese, and then out to the LETS EGM, an 'Extraordinary General Meeting' which I chaired. We debated two issues... whether York Local Exchange Trading System needed to change its membership fees structure, and whether we should have a Co-ordinator post at the next AGM. Currently, we charge £5 or Y5 (five pounds sterling or five Yorkys) as an annual membership, plus Y12 as an annual admin fee. But this meeting decided that we would simplify this to an annual fee of £12 or Y12 or any combination of the two currencies adding up to 12, with the membership due in April, with reminders to non-payers sent out with the AGM info (held in July)and if not paid by the AGM, the membership would cease. We agreed that we would have the post of Co-ordinator available at the next AGM.

It was a good meeting, two new members and several old friends. It was a quick meeting, I was back by 9.30.

I had my pudding which I'd helped Gill make, but hadn't had time to eat before the LETS meeting: bread and butter pudding with extra fruit. We had a waste loaf... white sliced bread just past it's sell-by date, obviously still edible but unwanted by one of the shops I help with their recycling. So, a greased bowl. Margarine (or other grease of your choice!) on bread. We put a bit of sliced fruit in amongst the bread slices, and a bit of sugar sprinkled over, only this time Gill used maple syrup, and the fruit was banana and kiwifruit slices. Then Gill mixed 3 eggs with a similar volume of milk, whisked it up and poured it over, and bunged it in the oven on Gas Mark 5 or 6 until it was cooked. Delicious!

I watched the lecture by Sir Terry Pratchett about how his Alzheimer's has made him look at how society deals with death, and arguing for a dignified system for people to be able to end their own lives legally when faced with a terminal/debilitating illness. Having been thinking about my friend Jean's demise, I have to agree that if that is what someone wants, then a civilised society should respect that, and facilitate a way for people to die before they are in such a state to not be able to express their pain, frustration and poor quality of life. I am not scared of death, but certainly don't want to experience the long slow deterioration that affects so many. I'm fearful of that kind of 'pre-death' experience. I would choose a self-induced demise if I could see the inevitable future of incurable cancer, or Alzheimer's, or any other terminally degenerative disease. But I know that many people don't agree with this view, and I understand it is a difficult debate. The programme left me thoughtful.