Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Wednesday 31st March 10

Up at 8.50am when Gilly came upstairs saying she had to get washed and dressed, so she could take something into school which had been left behind. I told her that I would do it, and quickly got washed and dressed, got my bike out and delivered the thing to school by about 9.10.

Then Gill and I sat on the sofa, chatting whilst I was doing email stuff, until about 11, when I needed to get ready to deliver my compost to Rich and Moz... and have lunch with them. I also needed to get a shopping list together as I was planning to come back via Sainsburys. I set off with 4 sacks of very well matured compost at about 11.40, slowly as this was perhaps 70 or 80 kg, and I used the cycle track to get over to Burton Stone Lane where my buddies were waiting for me, and happy to show me their new house. They have a small yard with some pots of old soil in, and mainly dead plants, and the compost is to pep up the existing soil to enable them to grow a few crops and flowers to brighten up the yard.

I met Alex, who's the new singer with The Falling Spikes, who was visiting and writing songs with the more long-standing members. We chatted and listened to assorted tracks, on Spotify and YouTube... and then at 1.30 pizza materialised and that went down a treat.

Moz and I walked up to his ladyfriend's house, and Jenny was expecting us... she'd invited me to give her some advice on ground-elder removal. I was unable to give her good news on ground elder, apart from it being edible... which she knew anyway.

I left at about 2.45 and bombed into town, through to Sainsburys to get margarine and bread, and I was tempted by a bottle of cheap Baileys.

When I got home at 3.20, another visitor was waiting... Sue, whom I'd met at St Nicks a few days ago, had said she'd be coming sometime between 3 and 4, to collect some 'tiger worms' to start off her wormery. So we chatted a bit and when the restof the famly came in, we went down the garden to pick up some worms. Many of my compost bins have quite tight fitting lids, and worms seem to like sitting in the lids, which makes collection or harvesting very easy. So we collected quite a few... certainly enough to start one or two small wormeries. Sue also wanted a carrier bag of riddled compost, so altogether I'd had a good day of sales and info-sharing.

I had meant to get into the garden to sort out some compostables, but I got a email from some people in Bradford who wanted info on community composting, and this reply took some while.

And then tea was ready... a really thick tomato soup, and a slice of tasty nutloaf with fried mushrooms. Yummy!

And then it was soon time to go to the Black Swan for a World Naked Bike Ride planning meeting. Good to see Tony and Hugh... we more or less finalised the route, and discussed various other issues.

I got back soon after 9 and watched some of the 'Canoe Man' drama, washed up, played Scrabble on facebook, and did more washing up.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Tuesday 30th March 10

A very smooth morning... excellent. Wonder why some mornings are filled with tears and difficulty, whereas others are really easy? Weird!

Anyway, a good day followed. Gill and I continued to sort out the upstairs rooms... I rehung a door which had been bashed off it's hinges, and Gill had refilled the screw holes with plastic wood and this seemed to hold the screws pretty well, and the door is back on.

Once I'd done this I spent some time in the garden getting some compost ready for delivering to a friend tomorrow... and when I came up to the house, the Suma delivery had just been and Gill was signing the cheque.

At 1pm I went to the Black Swan and met a new friend, Maxine, and had a coffee and a chat. I think she'll come to the next Green Drinks. I'm happy to promote sustainable lifestyle choices with individuals, groups, or to people I've never met, like through this blog or using journalists. And I love meeting new people.

From here I cycled on to Bishophill, to see Pauline and help her with her renewables. A few days ago, she was down to her last log to feed her smokefree Clearview Pioneer, but she did manage to get a few off another friend... enough to last til today, when I arrived with my bowsaw and chopped up assorted lengths of timber she's acquired over the past few weeks. And in return, I had a very nice cafetiere of coffee and a relatively short chat. But at 3 I had to go... via Country Fresh, picked up 3 boxes of recyclables and a bag of groceries.

When I got in, Gill had gone to school to pick up our youngest and I stayed in to wait for our eldest... but he didn't appear and came in quite late after going to drama club, which we were happy to hear about. A bit later, Sarah, whom I know through St Nicks came to pick up her share of the Suma stuff... and she was happy to have a tour of the composting demonstrations, which she found inspiring, I was glad to hear!

Rice-based tea, assorted phone conversations, lots of emailing, and rounded off the evening with an excellent film called The Flying Scotsman, about a rather quirky cyclist, Graeme Obree. A good day.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Monday 29th March 10

Woken by screaming and yelling at 8am. I feel so sorry for our neighbours. I came down to see if my quiet presence might help smooth the exit off to school, and it did, with one child. Great!

However, there was an absolute refusal from our youngest so I quickly got dressed and got my bike out and Gill and I plonked him onto the pannier rack and took him to school, and he was not late. Hooray. (and, when he arrived home at 3.40, he reported having a brilliant day, so it was worth it)

I had a lot of assorted paperwork to do and Gill did a vast amount of sorting and tidying upstairs. I was doing the washing up after buying bread before lunch and she came down, beaming at me, told me she loved me, and pulled my left hand towards her, and slipped on my long-lost wedding ring. This went AWOL at least two years ago... I had taken it off as I was getting eczema underneath it and put it 'safely' in a pot on the sideboard (so I thought!) and that was the last I saw of it. I wondered if it had slipped off into one of my compost heaps, or had disappeared somewhere else.. but I had obviously put it safely somewhere, just forgotten where. It was on the dressing table in our bedroom; this hasn't been tidied or cleaned for, ahem, some while!

After lunch I cycled round to South Bank to visit a Freecycler who had advertised some logs on Sunday. I'd emailed him and said I'd be unable to come on Sunday but if there was anything left on Monday, that would be good. So, as there were some logs left, I popped over and picked some up. The householder, John, had moved in less than a year ago and had just finished doing up the house, and was starting on the garden. There had been a row of huge bushy Leylandii, two collapsed apple trees and a selection of other trees. I was the seventh visitor to take some wood... most of the apple had gone, and so I only got a few chunks of that, but I took a trailer full of Lilac sticks up to 7 cm diameter. We had a chat about fruit trees, compost and conflict resolution... the usual range of conversational subjects I have with strangers!

From here I recrossed the Ouse on the Millennium Bridge and cycled into Fulford to my agent's house, as I had a booking letter from him I needed to get back to him. And from him through the University back home.

I had a quick tea... mashed potato, pastie and peas, and set out on my second Freecycle trip of the day. Someone else had offered a load of bricks... so I thought that I'd add to the bricks for the wall, and get a trailer load. I managed to get 37 in one load... 6 in each pannier and 25 in the trailer. The Freecycler didn't have time to let me go and pick up a second load, but an extra 37 'clamp bricks' for nothing is worth having.

Despite the rain, I did an hour of shredding before it got too dark to continue. I came in and helped with some homework, cut some fingernails and settled down to watch Newsnight and do more washing up.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Sunday 28th March 10

Another work day, so I started with a shave as I was feeling a bit over-fluffy, and wanted to make a good impression. I'd been invited by James to come and do a Fiddlesticks party for his young daughter, who turned 4 this week. However, this wasn't a usual booking, as James had found me at least a year ago via this blog (I think) as he has a keen interest in green issues, and we'd become facebook friends and chat pretty regularly, comment on each other's posts, etc... but never actually met. So I was looking forward to meeting James.

I left the house with all my kit in the trailer just after 11.30 and got to the station in good time, got my ticket and went to wait for the 12.18 on the usual platform. The train looked like it wasn't going anywhere and I hoped the train strike hadn't started early. I checked the board and whoops, the Harrogate train was leaving from Platform 10, in 2 minutes. I got to it with 30 seconds to spare... phew!

I had lunch on the train and was pleased to see James waiting at Pannal station, as agreed, when I left the train. He took me to Follifoot Village Hall where I met his wife and some friends... I got changed and then his 4 year-old daughter showed up with Granny, and soon lots of party-goers too. Virtually all of the 30 or so children were 3 or 4, with perhaps one older one.. but all the parents stayed and that made it a really good audience. I was very pleased that some of the grown-ups were 'game' and were happy to join in, and the show went well, as expected.

Then birthday tea, and after that, there was the balloon workshop... again, the parents did really well and helped their offspring make balloon animals, and I helped a bit too... The competitions at the end were fun too, and we finished on time, and everybody was happy, especially me, as I enjoyed myself, as usual.

James and family were happy and he took me back to the station in time for the 5.20 train. I slept lightly for most of the way back, as I always find gigs really tiring.

I came home via Country Fresh which was closed and they hadn't left anything out for me, so went to Freshways who had got 4 sacks for me, which I somehow managed to balance on my unicycles, pannier rack and handlebars to get them home... i do like my compost heaps to keep hot, so the more the merrier!

Gill fed me... well, gave me a plate-full of pasta and I fed myself, and soon after 7.30, Will popped round as he had asked me to provide him with a bag of seed compost and some tomato seeds, as he wanted to conduct an experiment using two different growing methods... one using hocus pocus, planting in moonlight and chanting, and the other just 'normal' planting. Well I think that was what he was going to do! Anyway, happy to let him have 10 Yorky's worth of compost, tomato seeds and egg boxes for planting in... and I look forward to the results!

A funny old evening, not sure what I got done but I seemed busy most of the time.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Saturday 27th March 10

A busy day planned, so up at 8 so I could be ready for a 9am start... to cycle just over 3 miles to the Folk Hall in New Earswick for the AGM of North Yorkshire Credit Union. I got there in time for a coffee and a chat to my friends, some of whom go back to the early days of getting the Credit Union started.

This AGM is the first since the common bond was enlarged from living or working in the City of York, to the whole of North Yorkshire. The enlargement has been tough for the organisation, but things are looking good.. lots of people needing the services, and membership continuing to grow. I enjoyed the meeting.

I cycled quickly home as I didn't have much time. I had a quick lunch and packed my trailer with a lot of workshop stuff... and cycled the 7 miles to Wheldrake, via Elvington. The roads were very potholed and there was quite a strong wind, so it took 40 minutes. The gig was with some older Guides, aged 15 to 21. The venue was a nice hall, called the White Rose House, and I did a version of my show but less silliness and more showing how things work, then a workshop, which was great as they were so able.

So I really enjoyed this, and came back the same route... got home towards 5pm. So, parched and tired, I didn't do very much after getting in, apart from lighting the stove.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Friday 26th March 10

Upbeat day, although spent the morning on the computer catching up on yesterday's conference.

Then after lunch I took two medium sacks of seed compost down to St Nicks as Ivana had asked for some more. She also gave me the cheque for doing the Extreme Composting talk last week.

I cycled out of the back of the nature reserve to the Council depot, Hazel Court, with two broken toasters for their WEEE recycling. No hassles here this time.

Then down to my building society, to put that cheque in and transfer some money into out Co-op Suma account, as we're doing another order. And then to the bank to put that cheque in and one from a friend who participates in our food Co-op. I met my friend Jenny H and discussed a possible mediation session, but she might not be the best person for the situation which needs mediating.

From here I went to Country Fresh and got two carrier bags of fruit and veg, plus one sack and 4 boxes of lovely compostables. I got home just after our eldest son did, and he helped me unload the groceries. I then got busy in the garden... I pruned two of the small pear trees, removed honeysuckle from the James Grieve apple tree, pruned a shrub (can't remember it's name), cut down some brambles and dug out a compost heap into plastic sacks, to make space for turning another. I expect I'll do that on Sunday evening.

Gill created a noodles-based tea, with mushrooms, cashew nuts and asparagus. It was delicious. She'd made a microwaved cake for pudding which wasn't her best, according to her, but I enjoyed it...

Later I rang my Auntie in Norfolk and we chatted for nearly an hour. I also enjoyed watching Professor Brian Cox on the Jonathan Ross show, quite entertaining...

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Thursday 25th March 10, 'Natural Burial' Conference

I got up at about 6.30 so I could leave the house at 7.15 and be on the 7.44 to Sheffield. The train was crowded but I took my laptop so I could reply to assorted emails and delete some, as my inbox is too full again.

Just the other side of Leeds, the train stopped and after 10 minutes, an announcement came through that due to a broken down train in front of us, we were going to go back into Leeds and then take a different Sheffield the conventional way, although 20 minutes late.

I went to the taxi queue and asked people if anyone was going to the University... and luckily, there were a pair of sisters, farmers from Herefordshire who were going to the conference. So as well as having some interesting chat, the cost of my share of the taxi was just £2.

The Natural Burial conference was fully booked, about 100 people. It was hosted by the Department of Landscape, but with help from Sociology too... I registered, gave in my cheque and donned my name badge, and found people to talk to and share my interest in greener funerals.

In the lecture theatre, the head of the department Professor Paul Selman welcomed us and introduced the team. Andy Claydon told us about the mapping they have done. They have got 207 existing sites in the UK, 24 in the planning stage, and 11 proposed sites. The UK has the greatest concentration of 'green burial' sites, although the concept is spreading to Holland (2 sites), Germany, the US, Canada and Australia.

The difference between a traditional burial ground and a 'natural burial' is pretty small, in my opinion. A cemetery around a church or one of the big Victorian 'park' cemeteries have lots of headstones ('memorialisation') and graves in rows, and often little wildlife value. The graves may be deep enough for 4 coffins, with the top coffin lid being a minimum of 3 feet below the surface of the soil. Natural burial can be woodland burial or meadow burial, may be in an existing woodland, or a field which is becoming a woodland. Natural burial grounds often don't allow headstones, and most don't permit solid wood or chipboard coffins, or bodies which have been suffused with embalming fluid. Natural burials are often higher up in the soil profile, at 2 or 3 feet below the soil surface, which in theory gives a greater chance of an aerobic decomposition, reducing the amount of methane generated, which is one of my main 'issues' with ordinary burial.

The survey of British natural burial grounds showed that there is a lot of variety in their size, ownership, management, intended habitat and services available. Demand is growing, but it is still a tiny percentage of the total number of body disposals, as 70% in the UK are cremated, although this wasn't common until the 1940s.

After the coffee break, Jenny Hockey spoke about her research which was sociological, looking at the sites through the eyes of bereaved people. This was very moving, and showed why the relatives chose to inter their loved-one at a natural burial ground rather than a traditional cemetery or to go to the crematorium.

Then there was the report about the interviews with the funeral directors, celebrants and local community, also interesting. I learned such a lot!

Lunch was OK, but nothing was labelled so I had to try and guess what was meaty/fishy and what was veggie. The nicest looking thing there was one of the 'PJ taste' staff, a very petite student with a cheeky smile. But I had a cheese sandwich instead....

The afternoon session, back in the lecture hall, was started by Ken West, and enthusiastic and humorous retired chap who in his working life had done over 100, 000 funerals, based in Carlisle. He is one of the founding fathers of the natural burial movement. He took us through the legislation surrounding natural burial, which is far from simple or clear.

Then John Mallatratt from the Association of Natural Burial Grounds talked about that and its parent body, the Natural Death Centre. Lots more learning!

Then we broke up into our chosen workshops, and I went to one called 'the long term future of natural burial', and then 'the opportunities and constraints of natural burial', both of which were reasonably interesting. These were followed by the plenary feedback session... and suddenly it was 4.30 and time to finish. What a day... I learned SO much, a real eye-opener to a world I knew very little about.

I'd arranged for Ali to pick me up at 4.45 so we could go for something to eat together before I went home. I stood on the corner of Crookesmoor Road and Conduit Road, and the big church on Crookesmoor Road near this junction looked very familiar. It had been done up and was in use, but about 18 or 19 years ago, soon after I moved to York, my friend Rat moved up from Northampton to York, and lived on Haxby Road for a year or so, then moved to Sheffield, and lived in that church, which was squatted. I went to stay with him for a few nights, it was quite an experience! I'd love to know what happened to him... he has a very distinctive tattoo on the top of one of his arms, an eye with a tail, drawn by my then partner at a party in 1988, which he got tattooed on the next day...

And, weirdly, when in Blue Moon later with Ali, my old partner M came in and we chatted for half an hour, which was really nice. We also chatted to Jillian Creasy and another of Ali's friends, so it was a very social time.

I got the 8.56 train back to York and was glad to get into the house at 10pm to rescue the situation which was just getting a bit out of hand, pre-bedtime pre-teen madness.

I had a very late night, writing things up and catching up on emails, washing up, paperwork, but nothing planned for tomorrow so that's OK.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Wednesday 24th March 10

A good day! I had a bit of a lie in and was getting up when Thomson rang with details of their web-based service. I could try it out for 3 months, it's a 'pay per click' Google advert.

I spent the rest of the morning on the computer, dealing with the new website, and the business cards arrived, from Rory, my Canadian friend and business partner. I had a bit of Fiddlesticks paperwork to attend to and an invoice to prepare for 'John the Composter'.

After lunch I sorted out the Yam tubercles I promised a blog reader called Duncan, and one of my facebook friends Zion, and popped those in the post first class. I also put the potatoes in egg boxes for chitting, and later, prepared another large load of seed compost (3 half sacks and 6 carrier bags full) which will mean that over the weekend I can plant seeds.

During the afternoon, I went to the front garden to get a sack of kindling sticks which had been drying in the garage for ages, and I'd brought to the front ready for bringing in. I swiftly grabbed it and brought it in, and tipped it into the kindling basket. There was a bit of rustling which didn't sound like the sticks settling, and I looked in and saw something move... perhaps a mouse? Help! I put another basket on top of this one to hopefully prevent it getting out, and took the whole lot to outside the front door, pulling it to behind me. I took the basket off the top and a young rat jumped out and headed down the garden! Oh wow, I am SO glad, so very glad it didn't jump out in the house! That would have been awful, absolutely awful. Next time I bring a sack of sticks in, I'll give it a good rattle outside. This experience left me quite shaken up, heart beating fast. When Gill came back from town and I told her, she was freaked out too.

At 7pm I decided that I was going to go to the Transition meeting, and was glad that I did. I chaired the meeting and it was quite a toughie, with a lot to get through and some potentially difficult negotiations between key players. But it was a good meeting. Home soon after 10pm.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Tuesdat 23rd March 10

A day with several meetings. But I started the day by making up my muesli... organic muesli base, bought walnut pieces, bought sesame seeds, home grown pumpkin seeds, home made apple rings, chopped up, also chopped dried pears and chopped dried bananas. Yummy.

At 10.30, the man from BT came round and we discussed my Fiddlesticks advert in the BT Phone Book, and their fairly new service, a website and 'optimisation' with Google. Just after he left, I got a phone call from Thomson, who have provided the fewest leads over the past year. They will be ringing back as I didn't have time to talk to them. I'll be discontinuing my ad with them, I think.

Then I had a meeting in town, and then I went to the bank to transfer funds to Jim for building the website. We are just a few days from launching it now... well, maybe a week or two...

Then over to Sainsburys for mayonnaise, bread, cheese, and some of Gill's favourite vegan ice cream.

I picked up some wood on the way back, and two sacks from Freshways, and when I'd put the groceries away, I did some log manipulation... some stacking, chainsawing, splitting and more stacking.

Then it started raining so I put things away and came in... lots of assorted paperwork and emails to sort out.

A reasonable day, enjoyed the cycling the most.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Monday 22nd March 10

Soon after I came downstairs for breakfast, Gill told me some interesting news: the duck is on its nest. This story goes back about two weeks. We have an area just outside the conservatory which is nearly always in the shade, it used to be where a coal-house stood, and it has a concrete base. I put a load of leafmould in there and planted ferns: it's our fernery.

So, a couple of weeks ago, we saw a pair of Mallard ducks investigating the area, and they pushed over a mushroom log. I removed the log, to let them continue their interest in the area. A few days later, I found 5 eggs in a roughly formed nest, which had been partly covered over with some fern fronds. But the duck was nowhere to be seen. The eggs were cold. I told Gill and we were saddened that they'd been abandoned. Then a few days later, another 5 eggs appeared! But still, no duck. At last week's City Farm event, I asked if anyone knew if wild duck eggs were edible and could I eat these abandoned eggs, and would they have a chewy embryo in the centre?

There was fortunately a duck expert there, who said that ducks laid eggs over a period of days, and they remained viable(and edible!) for a long time if kept cold, but in 'suspended animation'. They start developing when she starts sitting, and she will incubate them for about 30 days. I was advised that she wouldn't be able to look after 10 chicks, and up to half of them would become 'rat food'. However, I'm not a huge fan of eggs so I didn't do anything with them. And today, the incubation has started! Exciting.

Not sure what happened with the rest of the day... I did some work outside, Chris my Permaculturalist friend rang me and asked if I'd like some wood he'd just cut (he's a gardener) or he'd take it to the Council green waste recycling skips... well of course I was happy to have it. He thought it was Witch Hazel, and it had trunks up to 15cm in diameter. He brought me a car-full. At 11.30 Radio Leeds rang up and asked if I knew that Leeds was going to get trollybuses? Would I like to comment on that on the Radio live at 12.40? So they rang back an hour later and asked my opinion. I had a meeting at school at 1.30, and assorted parenting duties later in the afternoon. Before tea I de-twigged the branches, and cut up the thinnest sticks with loppers. The rest I think will cut easily with the bow saw.

A Freecycler in Burnholme contacted me... I'd responded to his offer of some wood, as he's having an extension built, so I cycled round and picked up a trailer-load of kiln-dried timber offcuts. Nice.

Gill had made a lovely tea, a stew, broccoli on the side, and garlic bread. I did a fair amount of post-meal tidying and sorting... the usual.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Sunday 21st March 10

I would have liked a lie in but no, I was up at sometime soon after 8 as there was a good deal of noise happening...

Gill walked our youngest over to the University for 9.15, as he was participating in a Drama Festival, and this morning it was a practice until 10am. Gill waited for him and walked back, getting in at 10.40.

The York School Drama Festival was due to start at 2.30pm, with tickets on sale at 2pm for those who hadn't got them through school.. we hadn't as there was some confusion whether our boy was going to go. I offered to take him down there on the bike... but then there was dissent in the ranks about who else was going to go. So I said, OK, I'll stay at home with our eldest and Gill and our youngest go.

This option caused ructions too, and the original offer was accepted. I said that I wouldn't buy the tickets for them until they arrived at the Central Hall, as I wasn't going to buy tickets for them if they didn't turn up. I bought mine... and luckily, they arrived just as the last few tickets were being sold, and therefore they did get to see the performances. I was stressed though.

I watched the first half, and enjoyed my son's school performance, which was about a missing fish.. a nice simple plot, easy to follow, with humour. There were a couple of performances which were as good as this, or better, but at least 3 were complete gobbledygook to me, I couldn't hear the performers nor could I follow the plot, and I found myself falling asleep.

I left at half time as the thought of another hour or more of this was too much to bear. I'm glad I saw my son doing his thing. I picked up some sticks and a big log on the way home, and then did washing up and tea preparation until the rest of the family came in at about 5.45. I'd prepared fried home-grown yam slices on the woodstove, and got enough boiling water to cook tagliatelle and broccoli.

I went out when they came in as the tension was too much for me. I did some stick breaking and stacking until Nick popped by, to ask my opinion on his composting experiment, which hadn't gone very well due to being put in a dustbin without drainage or ventilation, and he and I chatted in the garden for a while. He wants to get experience of building a pond, which is another project we'd like to do as there is an area of the garden which would be a good pond. So hopefully, sometime this year, we'll get that underway. Nice one Nick for offering to help.

The tea was nice.. I cooked my own tagliatelle and a red pepper rescued from the collected stuff yesterday. Filling and delicious, especially the yam rounds.

I spent an hour upstairs whilst there was a programme on TV I couldn't cope with, but came down for some good science stuff from Brian Cox exploring atmospheres.

Felt quite low this evening due to assorted factors. I feel under pressure and don't feel as if I'm getting enough done.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Saturday 20th March 10 York in Transition Seed Swap

I woke at 9 and it didn't take me long to get things together to get everything ready as I'd prepared things a day or two ago. I took the seeds from the Lottie Shop, some of my own pea beans, the 10 bags of seed compost, the rotasieve and the three carrier bags of unriddled leafmould, clods of mature compost and some loam fresh from a pile of well rotted turves.

I got there on the dot of 10am and already there were loads of seeds available, mostly vegetables, but a few wild flowers and others. I added my bought seeds and took my compost-related stuff to a covered area at one side of the building, outside as the riddling process would be slightly messy, despite being on a sheet to catch bits. Within half an hour quite a few people turned up, mostly bearing seeds, all eager to see what was on offer. We had a collecting tin out for a £1 donation per person.

I busied around, chatting to people, answering questions and giving people a bean pod if they liked the sound of my climbing pea bean, and introducing people whom I thought might be potential collaborators. What a lot of enthusiasm, knowledge, experience... and enquiring minds, questions, learning.

I did my seed compost demo and talk twice. All the bags of compost went, and children enjoyed using the rotasieve to riddle the assorted materials. At about 11,30, Assif the trainee journalist arrived and I was able to introduce him to various people and show him around. At midday Chris Chidlow gave his whistle-stop tour of Permaculture, with photos, in under 45 minutes.

There were over 25 people in the room, and some had already gone home so I reckon there were more than 30 attendees.

I reloaded the bike trailer with stuff I needed to take home and Assif and I walked along to Country Fresh where Richard seemed very happy to give an interview about the shop's green credentials, and I loaded up one large sack of compostables and half a box worth. We then walked back to Freshways where Assif talked to one of the guys there, who also sang my praises as a recycler... and gave me a litre of out of date long-life cranberry and blueberry juice... much appreciated! They also had a sack of compostables for me, so we walked up to the house pretty well laden.

When we got home I lit the stove and made a sandwich for lunch, and chatted to Assif about various aspects of 'freeganism', from bin-raiding, skip diving, recycling metals and turf, logs and free heating, growing my own food, giving freely to the community, sharing resources and other related subjects. He'd bought a sandwich for his lunch, and he had some of a cup of tea I made off the stove, after which he had a wander down the garden to see the composting and fruit trees etc. He also talked to Gill a bit who was very honest about what it's like living with an obsessive recycler like me.

He left at about 3pm, and I didn't do much more after that as I was exhausted, but happy.

Salads for tea, and later, as the TV was ridiculously football and rugby-dominated, I watched the 'In Transition' DVD, which I found very moving and inspirational. I'll do a review of it for the York in Transition newsletter to see if we can attract people to the April 17th event with Ceilidh and film.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Friday 19th March 10

Up far too early... 6am... because I had to be on the train heading for Scarborough at 7.25.
So I got my bike loaded up and everything ready by 6.55 and bought my tickets, and just got the train with a couple of minutes to spare, and had a smooth trip over... mainly reading NewScientist.

Glenn was waiting for me at 8.15 when I arrived, and he took me to St Peter's School where Joanne his wife is head of Science. They have had a whole week of science events, and my show was the culmination of the week.

I had a coffee and a sit-down, then got changed and was ready for 9am... when something quite interesting happened. The school do an activity every morning called 'wake and shake', which is about 10 minutes of music and movement, to funky modern pop music, with teachers leading the movements. The idea behind this is that when the children go and sit down in their classrooms, they are eager to start learning and have woken up and got some endorphins flowing. There were two sessions, first the older ones and the the little ones down to Reception.

It looked fun and the majority of the children took part and seemed to enjoy it. I think it's a great idea.

Then at 9.20, it was my turn. I had the eldest children first and did my full hour's show. I love doing my Fun Physics show and workshop... and today I did it four times, although the afternoon sessions were just 45 minutes each, which was a bit tough.

Glenn picked me up at 3.15 and took me to the station, I got changed on the train. I met Christine in the train and talked with her about mediation and related subjects.

I picked up some compostables on the way back home, balanced on the unicycles on the trailer.

Exhausted but my next door neighbour had a load of bricks delivered so I got the wheelbarrow and helped him move them.

I cooked my own tea too, carrot, broccoli, pasta.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Thursday 18th March 10

Up early enough to be ready to get to St Nicks soon after 10am, where there was a meeting of the Federation of City Farms.

My talk on 'Extreme Composting' was on the agenda for 10.45. I had 8 of the 11 attendees, the other talk/workshop was about organising events.

I started with the basics of composting as there were a few people from a new project in Scunthorpe who claimed to know nothing, and I soon moved onto how to compost cooked food, the 'unofficial' way (just bung it on your heap!) and moved onto Bokashi, the official way home composters can recycle cooked, processed and fleshy food. A quick mention of Rockets and Big Hannah technology, and then onto humanure. Then I told them about what used to happen in New York state, where there are thousands of deer killed on the roads every year, and these created pollution problems etc just left on the side of the road. So the solution now is to compost them in windrows of sawdust and woodchip. This led on to how to dispose of human carcasses, and a discussion of Promession, the yet-to-be implemented compost burial method. Finally, a quick tour of the compost bins and wormeries.

The talk went down well, and I enjoyed it too. Next we all went for a walk down to the Tang Hall allotments where there is a newish project called Garden Able. This is an accessible allotment, with pavers and raised beds made of tyres. Unfortunately there is a huge amount of resistance from the council, and they have declared the tyres unacceptable (no reason given, as they don't leach toxins and are extremely stable) so these will be replaced with raised beds made of wood.

Then back to the centre for lunch. I chatted with the proprietor of a restaurant from Scunthorpe who has land and is hosting a Community Supported Agriculture project. We chatted about composting all types of food waste. I told her about the Ridan, hope she contacts me as I'm sure I can help.

Lunch was awesome... delicious soup (tasted like a mix of squash and carrot, with lentil) plus baguettes, cheese, salads. Yummy!

In the afternoon there was a talk about a project called OPAL, which is all about wildlife, animals and plants, and I need to research more about it as it seemed really interesting. We then did some pond dipping with Sarah from OPAL, and found a few nice beasties... this took me back to my childhood as I haven't done pond dipping for so long!

I left after 3pm to get back home before our eldest, got in just 5 minutes earlier than him.

I did a load of housework before I got changed out of my tidy clothes and the went into the garden til 6.45 when I came in for tea... cauliflower, potatoes and a Gilly nutloaf.

Quite a peaceful evening, watched my favourite politician on Question Time.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Wednesday 17th March 10

I got up early as I'd arranged to take some compost round to a friend for 9.30, so before breakfast I took the wheelbarrow down the garden and picked up 5 sacks of very old mature and lovely compost and put them in my trailer. Then I had breakfast.

The compost was appreciated, and I should get paid Yorkys for it, but I don't know how many yet... we didn't discuss that. What I did do was to check my friend's CV, as there is a job recently advertised that looks very desirable. I was able to pick up one mistake and make a few suggestions about other things to add or ways to improve the document.

I got back at about 11am, bearing cereals and bread from the Co-op and Thomas the Baker.

At midday, a chap I've met just once through York in Transition, Nick Haines came round, to discuss the Seed Swap which he is officially in charge of. He was pleased that I'd bought the 69 packets of seeds and he reimbursed me the £14. He'll claim that back off YiT once the event has happened. We talked about other aspects of the day, including whether I can do a presentation about how to make seed compost, and whether I can bring some ready-made seed compost to sell, or to give to people and ask for a donation, which is usually what I prefer to do. He agreed to canvas opinions of the other YiT people, and get back to me. He had printed off some colour posters, and we talked about publicity.

I gave him a little tour of the garden and by 1.15 he had gone. After lunch I cycled a poster down to Country Fresh, and picked up two sacks of biodegradables, then on to Alligator, who took two posters and gave me a bag of 3 dead cabbages and some red peppers which had started going off, I then came back home via Freshways who had a polystyrene box of mainly over-ripe bananas to be recycled. They also took a poster.

I then made a load of seed compost. I do a mix of 7 parts old riddled leafmould, 2 parts loam and one part rich garden compost. I prepared this with the big riddle and then the rotasieve, and bagged it up... 10 carrier-bags about half full. If this isn't going to be used at the Seed Swap, I'll either sell it via Country Fresh or just use it myself.

I came in at 7pm and Gill had made a rice-based tea which was lovely. At 8 my good friend Will arrived, as I'd asked him to come and help me interpret my questionnaire for my book, which I really must get on with. I showed him the questionnaire and the data so far, and the bits of the book I've already written. I think with him involved I'll get on a bit better. He is well organised and asked me to give him deadlines to do the various bits. He wants to be paid in Yorkys.

So, a busy day, productive and social. But I'm looking forward to tomorrow even more!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Tuesday 16th March 10

Up early and got into St Nicks to talk to John about the talk on Thursday that I'm doing, entitled 'Extreme Composting'. I'd already emailed him with my plans, and he was happy with them, and I'm really looking forward to it.

I'd taken in a couple of sacks of greengrocer's 'resources' and my garden spade, and I completed the shovelling out of the old sawdusty compost from the main bay, and filled the second bay... and then started refilling the now empty bay with layers of sawdust/wood shavings from the pet shop and the veg from the veg shop. I did this for just over an hour, and left it tidy.

I got back in time to say bye to Gill who was heading into town, and I did more work outside as I was fed up with inside stuff. I finished riddling the enormous pile of sawdust... and have about 10 sacks of sawdust, 10 sacks of good-n-woody compost cover, and about 10 sacks of bark, twigs, sticks and other combustibles which I've stored in paper sacks to dry off and be ready for kindling next winter. I am very pleased that I've finished this job... and I celebrated by getting my chainsaw going again and chopping up some more logs. I also did some stacking.

I had a small tea and then cycled round to Tang Hall Community Centre to attend the Hull Road Ward Planning Panel. We had just one application, a small house in a newish mixed estate, wanting to double the size of the house. This generated a lot of discussion, and we eventually decided that we opposed the application, as it was 'over development' and would set a precedent which would mean that the estate would look completely different if more houses did what this one's owner wanted to do. I wonder if the planners will think the same as us?

I came back via the logpile and came back with three large willow logs.

I had two good phone conversations in the evening, one with the organiser of the Seed Swap, with a few questions and suggestions, and then from a trainee journalist researching freeganism, and wanting to come and see some of the things I get up to. I suggested he come on Saturday, and attend the Seed Swap, the Permaculture introductory talk, and then come with me to Country Fresh to see the collection. I'm well pleased... for him, as he'll meet quite a few people who like growing their own food, recycling and reusing, plus he'll see my input to the community.

So a happy day, very positive. I am happiest when I'm active and busy, and outside.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Monday 15th March 10

One of the most sedentary days I've had for ages.

I spent nearly all of the morning doing some e-paperwork... basically trying to compose an email to try to sort out something... and then, after lunch, I finally got down to editing the new website that my Canadian friend and I are developing. Jim and colleagues had provided a user guide, how to edit Wordpress, and I understood enough and remembered enough from my short workshop to be able to add some Googlemap web links to the site, but the first one took over an hour, and needed adding to two places in the site, and the second one was a lot easier, and also needed adding to two places. It was very frustrating and difficult, but I was pleased with the outcome. However, when I reported my 'success' to Jim, he replied saying he'd thought that it ought to be done differently and he'd invite me back into the office to show me how to do it properly!!! Well, learning anything completely new at my age is bound to be a bit slow...

I was due to go and see the Premiere of Dirty Oil at 6.30, and had got two free tickets as I'm a Co-op member. So I cycled down to City Screen and met up with Lynn, who is also a Co-op member and is just as concerned as I am about climate change, health and democracy.

I met several people I know and had a good chat with Chris, fellow Rotter, and an old friend Ginny whom I haven't seen for ages. Lynn arrived and we went to Screen 1. Before the film there was a live link to The Barbican, London, with a chap from the Co-op with a good presenting style and sense of humour introducing the film, the film-maker Leslie Iwerks, and the narrator, Neve Campbell.

The film is a documentary about the extraction of oil from the deep soils in large parts of Canada. These sediments are sand, clay and water mixed with oil. The first oil humans found and extracted in any quantity was under high pressure and when the rock above was punctured, it just squirted out. These wells were capped and the oil piped away. Then came the oil which had to be pumped out. Now the price of oil is high enough for it to be economic to extract the 'difficult' oil, such as that in the tar sands and oil shales. With the tar sands, the sandy oily stuff needs to be mixed with hot water, the sand and clay separates from the oil and water, and then the oil has to be separated from the water. So, this oil takes a lot more energy to extract than 'normal' oil. And obviously, this input of energy creates a lot more carbon dioxide.

Secondly, these tar sands are extracted by open-cast mining... so all the vegetation is removed (trees, forests) and the layers of oily sand dug out and transported to the plant which uses natural gas to heat water to extract the oil. The waste sand and clays, mixed with water and some oil which wasn't removed, is pumped out to vast 'tailing ponds' where the solids slowly settle out and the dirty water seeps into local rivers. There is the obvious impact on wildlife, and the indigenous people,and as their drinking water is polluted, and they are breathing particulates and chemicals from the refineries. So in one community, levels of rare cancers have increased enormously. These Canadian tar sand deposits are providing most of the oil that the USA uses, for cars, planes and chemical feedstocks, for pesticides, fertiliser, lipstick, plastic and fireworks. An area the size of Florida has been destroyed to provide this oil, and the Canadian government has given permits to increase production hugely.

The effects aren't just local. If the allowed extraction is allowed to take place, and the oil is extracted and burned for its energy, this will release enough carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases to increase the global temperature by over 2 degrees Celsius, which will push our little planet into runaway climate chaos and make the future of human life more than difficult, as well as increasing the rates of extinction of other life forms.

This is an excellent film. The aim is to inform, and to persuade viewers to take action on the companies responsible for the planned expansion. Information about this campaign can be found at Toxic Fuels, and more info about the film found at Dirty Oil and Babelgum. If you have a pension, you should ask your pension provider to back the tar sands resolutions, as you will probably be a shareholder of BP and Royal Dutch Shell plc, through your pension.

One of the main backers of this film is The Cooperative, who do not invest in fossil fuel extraction companies. So if you don't want your money to be used to fund the tar sands development, switch your bank account to the Co-op.

I had a coffee with Lynn after the film, and had a brief chat with Graham Martin, then cycled home via a place where a load of huge willow trunks have been felled and left in a ditch. This is my renewable fuel for next winter. I cycled home with two large logs in my trailer.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Sunday 14th March 10

Well, an early start, not sure why. I had to go to the allotment shop before midday, but that didn't necessitate such an early start.

However, wasted time til 11 and then cycled off to Low Moor to get seeds for the forthcoming York in Transition Seed Swap at St. Nicks next Saturday. It was suggested that we'd get maybe £15 worth of seeds as a starter, so there was something to swap even for the first person who arrives. I volunteered to get some as I'm a member of the Low Moor Allotment Association (£2 per year) and this gives me access to cheap gardening supplies.

So this is what I got:
4 Mizuna, 4 Sorrel, 10 Basil, 4 Chives, 4 Coriander, 5 Lollo Rosso Lettuce, 5 Iceberg Lettuce, 5 Little Gem Lettuce, 5 All Year Round Lettuce, 4 French Breakfast Radish, 4 Bright Lights Chard, 5 Spinach, 5 Calabrese and 5 mixed Broccoli. 69 packets of seed for £14... brilliant!

I cycled round to Country Fresh and got a big bag of veggies plus two sacks of compostables, plus had a laugh with Richard who was in a jolly mood.

I popped in to Freshways on the way back home and they just had some out of date sliced bread, some of which we eat (ie today's haul has a best before date of 13th March, and is perfect for toast for a couple of days) but there's always too much to eat, so it gets dried by the stove and when completely dry, it makes great kindling. (really!) I'd rather it didn't end up like this... but the alternative is landfill, or I could compost it in a tumbler, but they're all full at the moment. Gone are the days when out of date food could be fed to pigs... now they are fed with foodstuffs specially grown for them. If our omnivorous meat animals could be given 'pigswill' (out of date and waste food, mixed and brought to the boil) their carbon footprint would be considerably less. But due to the stupid policy of feeding herbivores (cattle) rendered down protein from other animals, including bovines, and this causing the prion disease 'BSE' to develop and spread, causing the 'mad cow disease' outbreak, the practice of giving commercial food animals waste food was banned. Now it mostly goes to landfill. Madness. Additionally, the BSE problem led to the most ridiculous composting legislation, the 'animal by products regulations' which mean that processed food which might have been in the vicinity of some animal-based food may not be commercially composted in, for instance, council windrow systems. This material now has to be composted in 'in vessel' composting equipment, despite there being no proof that this treatment destroys all prions. The only beneficiaries have been the producers of 'in vessel' composters.

Fortunately home composters are not affected by the ABPR, and may freely compost kitchen waste in their compost bins, as they should.

Anyway, rant over. After lunch I chainsawed up a couple of pallets and soon after 3pm, my visitor arrived, Ansar, and his brother, Amjid (I think) who had driven over from West Yorkshire to see my Clearview stoves. Ansar had been researching woodstoves as he wants to install one in his rather cold and drafty house. He found this blog (I think) and contacted me. I tried to persuade him to use ethical transport, and gave him train and bus info, but like many, he is a petrolhead and preferred to drive here. Hey ho, at least he's wanting to make his house warmer using renewables. It's a start. We had a long chat about how the stove works, chimney lining or not, logs and different sorts of wood, storage and more.

Right before they went I mentioned my environmental education stuff, and mentioned Muslims the York Mosque... and so they headed on down there. I hope they found it. Nice chaps. I hope the visit was helpful.

Not sure what else I did... just a bit more work outside and then inside, more fruit drying and housework, made some tomato and onion base which Gill modified with celery and red pepper, and added some cooked macaroni, and we had this alongside some asparagus.. a Mother's day treat Gill said.

Lots of email traffic to do. I'd like a break, a few days when I had no emails or phone calls, and I could concentrate on my book, which I haven't touched for over a year. But today I did download the 116 replies to my questionnaire, and asked a mathematically inclined friend if he'd like to help me interpret the results.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Saturday 13th March 10

Got up early and after breakfast I did an hour of work in the front garden.

I had arranged to meet Tomoko at 11.30 at the station so I bombed down there and we spent the rest of the day exploring York... it's great showing somebody around as you learn lots about your own City.

We had a small lunch at El Piano, and a coffee somewhere else. We went round the Minster, and for the first time I went down to the Undercroft and Crypt... absolutely brilliant, learning about the previous buildings on the site, from a secular Roman one to a Norman (I think) large church, replaced by the Medieval Minster. We went to Barley Hall, Clifford's Tower, Shambles, watched street entertainers.. all sorts.

At 6 I cycled home and found the family happy after playing in the garden (Gill had worked hard clearing up some of my mess too) and so she was happy for me to accept Tomoko's offer of taking me for a meal at 7.30.

We went to a pizza place and I had a really nice mushroom and olive pizza, we shared a salad and had a desert course too. What a treat.

Home soon after 10pm... bearing a couple of pallets I found on the way home!

Friday, 12 March 2010

Friday 12th March 10

A good start to the day, despite Gill waking late and rushing to get the children ready. We worked as a team... I washed up necessary bits and made a sandwich for packed lunch, and Gill got the homework ready to finish.

And it all worked like a dream... amazing. What a turn around!

The rest of the day went very well too... didn't spend too long on the computer in the morning and after lunch, cycled to school to give in a letter, then to the post office to post a book which accidentally came back with me from Sheffield, than down to town to get a cheque out for a forthcoming conference... in Sheffield... and then to Alligator to see if I could find some wheat grains so Gill can re-make a wheat sack, as her old one had virtually caught fire.... But Alligator didn't have more than a single tiny packet... but Steve took the opportunity to ask if I'd be prepared to do their composting!

Graham used to work there and at St Nicks, so he took the compostable materials to the St Nicks sawdust-heavy piles, but as he's stopped working at St Nicks, the stuff now goes in the bin. And this is completely against their values. So, sucker here, unable to turn down a sack of compostables and equally unable to say no to helping people out with working towards sustainability, said yes and picked up my first sack from them. About 20kg of mainly tomatoes and red peppers.

I called in on Country Fresh on the way back and picked up easily another 80kg of lovely stuff. And then I called in on Freshways and only had space to put their sack on my handlebars. Ridiculously overloaded... but it all would have gone to landfill if I hadn't have picked it up. I really need to get rid of a load of finished compost. Maybe I should have a compost super roadside sale? One more thing to do. Maybe.

Also today I got two really good pieces of 'John the Composter' work confirmed... One at St Nicks to do a presentation of 'Extreme Composting' to a visiting group (I am SO looking forward to this!) and one postponed talk to a group connected with Bradford University, where they have a Rocket, one of my favourite composting machines. (see the pdf here and other info about the University of Bradford 'ecoversity' here).

I also had a message from someone I met recently who I invited to see York if they were ever to visit... and they have decided that it's tomorrow! So that's tomorrow sorted then!

I did get quite a bit of time in the garden too... mainly at the front, and I had a visit from Shirley the Freecycler who offered some seeds and asked for some climbing beans... I emailed and we agreed to swap. Brilliant.. she's got pea beans and yams, and I've got squash, pattie pan Summer squash, sunflowers, kohl rabi, spinach and kinghorn yellow wax beans... wow!

Pasta and broccoli for tea, cooked on the stove once it was too dark to continue outside.

Gardener's World was good. Tried to do the washing up before bed this time.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Thursday 11th March 10

A quiet indoor morning until I cycled round to the bread shop, got lots of 'Yesterbake' but also two veg pasties and two 'Yorkshire Pizzas'.

I then did loads of work in the garden... got a lot more sawdust sieving done... and filled several more sacks of fine sawdust, for compost toilet cover, several paper sacks of larger chunks of bark, small sticks, and bits of burnable stuff... it just needs to dry off. Also several sacks of material which is too small to bother drying off for fuel, but too big to make compost toilet cover... but perfect for ordinary compost heaps, which is where some of it headed... and all the rest went into plastic sacks for future use. So, the logpile waste all mixed up is useless, but split into 3 streams it is very useful, and it's worth spending time on (perhaps 8 hours every 6 months) to get it sorted.

Down the garden I tidied up two raised beds, the ones made of bay-window radiators. Both of them need refilling or topping up before planting up for this year's crops, but needed old roots removing and the soil de-compacting... and I found the yams which I put in last spring as tubercles the size of peas, now up to hens egg size. I'll replant them quite near the surface of the soil so they don't head down right to the bottom of the raised bed... they had put themselves about 10 to 20cm down as it was! They are very brittle and need gentle excavation to remove them... any pulling and they just break.

I came in after 6 as it was getting dark, and had a tea made up of leftovers. During the evening Gill and I made a decision about our summer holiday, which will be in South Wales, in a village called Mumbles, near Swansea.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Wednesday 10th March 10

Up at a rather early 7.15 am in order to be out of the house by 8, to get the 8.27 to Sheffield.

I had a very interesting talk with the guy who came and sat next to me before we left York Station... he was heading to Sheffield too, as he was doing an MA in housing policy. His name was James and he recognised me and seemed to know quite a bit about me, but I didn't know him (but hope to get to know him better. I got on well with him). We talked about housing mainly... and how to do a consultation about a hypothetical new-build EcoTown.

We were soon in Sheffield, and I met my friend who had got a hospital appointment and I'd offered some support.

It was a long day, and I was tired, but my support was welcomed. I was glad that I was able to be there.

I got the 6.54 train back and was in York quite soon, home by 8pm.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Tuesday 9th March 10

A good day, despite not spending enough of it in the garden. After breakfast I did my emails etc and then at about 10.30, got ready to get to Robin's for 11am, which is when he'd asked me to get to him to help him install his solar water system.

We had a go at this before Christmas... but he found the ?manifold had the sensor doobrey on the different end that he was expecting, so he had to alter things and today, all was ready and in the right place. His plumber/electrician friend Andy was there to help, so Robin did the on the roof stuff, tied on with climbing rope and carabiners. I climbed the ladder with the tubes and reflectors. Andy smeared 'Chinese Toothpaste' on the copper ends (prevents oxidation apparently) and helped clean the tubes.

What a great team! BUT... sad to say, on the 15th and last tube, Robin got a bit over enthusiastic and banged the tube on his knee... not hard, and by accident of course, and it broke. Fortunately he had a spare. These tubes work by heating a copper rod in a vacuum, the rod warms up and the heat is transmitted to the end of the tube which sits in the water flow, warming the water. Despite the day being overcast, these tubes heated up significantly... the tubes themselves didn't, but the copper rod did. Amazing though simple technology. Also, as water doesn't actually flow in the tubes, if one breaks, it can be replaced easily.

I left at just after 1pm and came home via a place where a large number of willow trees have been felled, and conveniently chopped into large chunks and just left... although willow isn't the best wood for fuel, I'll take anything! So, one huge chunk of willow and home.

Lunch. The rest of the afternoon went too fast. I had several Fiddlesticks enquiries.

I did manage to do some outside stuff, keeping me sane.

During the evening I had three long phone calls, one from a Channel 4 researcher who wanted my input to a programme about an interesting approach to reducing supermarket food waste, which I may be able to help with, and two long chats with people I know, all good conversations to have.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Monday 8th March 10

Woke at 9ish feeling somewhat better and mid morning I'd got both the large cans of water warm enough for a bath... the first one in some while! Shave, hair wash, lovely!

I felt much better after this, not that low mood is necessarily connected with grubbiness...

I did lots of washing up after this and after lunch, did some work in the garden, including a job I've been wanting to do for a while but not had the enthusiasm. I've been chainsawing logs on the front garden on top of a large tarpaulin sheet, to catch the sawdust and other bits... the sawdust is my compost toilet cover material, the largest bits and bobs are bagged up and dried for kindling, and the medium sized bits, wet bark and small twigs etc are a useful 'carbon rich' constituent of my compost heaps. So I got the large flat riddle up to the front garden and put it on a bedsheet, and started riddling the large pile of sawdusty twiggy barky stuff... I filled two paper potato sacks with kindling-sized bits, 3 plastic sacks of sawdust and 3 plastic sacks of compost additives. I am perhaps a quarter of the way through the job, but there is several months worth of cutting and splitting frass which needs putting to good use. Anyone want a sack or two of compost toilet cover material?

At about 4pm I loaded up my trailer with our old television which has been going on the blink over the past few days, and has finally stopped working. I took it down to the repository for dead electrical equipment, the 'WEEE table' at Hazel Court. I also took two loudspeakers that I rescued months ago and didn't find a taker for, and a plastic bag of metalwork from the stove (mainly nails from pallets) and some metal from various street-skips. I had no hassle whatsoever from the nice skip-site workers, who obviously don't give a damn that i use my bike trailer to deliver recyclables to the right place. I approve of this attitude.

From here I picked up a few logs from where tree surgeons had dumped stuff and also a sack of compostables from Freshways.

After tea I cycled round to my Freecycling (and soon to be unicycling!) friend Mark, who had responded to my Freecycle request for a TV. His Mother in Law had upgraded her system and was going to chuck out her old TV and freeview box... so he said, no, I'll put it on Freecycle and someone will be very happy with it. And indeed we are. It is slightly bigger than our previous one, which was £20 from Woodlands MS Respite Care Centre, and had a scratched screen. This one has a really clear picture, good colour and no scratch! Brilliant, thanks Mark. One unicycling lesson as and when you want it!

After I delivered this home, for Gill to install, I went to a friend on Melrosegate who had some sticks for me,and I brought those back home. And I did some more after-dark riddling too, before coming in and sorting out hot water for yet more washing up....

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Sunday 7th March 10

Still feeling quite 'blue' today... not a change of political colour, just my mood is down on usual. But I'm lucky, as I never get down enough to stop me doing things, and today was no exception.

I was woken by shouting and came down to see if I was needed... wasn't really, and I had breakfast and did my emails, and watched a bit of The Big Questions which is often though-provoking. Around this time, Robin arrived with his home-made compost tumbler which he has had to get rid of, as he's reorganising his garden. He's lent it to me on permanent loan. It is a standard wheelie bin, riddled with holes for ventilation, and a centrally-placed pair of holes surrounded by a metal ferrule to strengthen them, through which goes a rod, acting as a pivot. This sits on a wooden stand, allowing it to rotate. The lid is kept shut with some kind of strap and tightener, which took me ages to work our how to use... but I did, eventually. I left this in the front garden for now.

At 11 I cycled off to the allotment, despite my not having one anymore, I've decided to rejoin the Association as firstly I really believe in allotments (despite it not being a religion!) and secondly it allows me to purchase reduced price gardening supplies... so today I spent just £11 on four types of seed potato (£1 a kilo), 'Masterpiece' broad beans, 'Sutton' broad beans, two packets of F1 'Earligold' sweetcorn, two packets of 'Incredible' sweetcorn, mixed broccoli, calabrese 'green sprouting', calabrese 'Chevalier', cauliflower 'Autumn Giant', cauliflower 'Rafael F1', leek 'Musselburgh', courgette 'Bambino', courgette 'Zucchini' ad a packet of 'Early' butternut squash. I also rescued a few bits and bobs from my ex allotment which as yet doesn't have anybody tending it. I might go and rescue my expensive asparagus before they start growing, if I can find them!

As I was coming home, my bike chain, which has been giving me some trouble, broke, so I had to scoot home. As soon as I got in I rang Cycle Heaven and hooray, they were willing to drop everything to have my bike in, as soon as I wanted, and make it better. So I had lunch and scooted/walked back into town and delivered my bike. I was told that I needed a new derailleur mechanism, as mine has been knocked and that's why it has been jumping and causing me problems. So I said yes, and walked into town again to get some money out of the hole in the wall, and then walked on to see if Pauline was in... which she was, and she was happy to see me. She always talks sense and an hour with her made me temporarily forget my woes. We had an interesting conversation about an ethical dilemma. We both have one... hers is sorted, mine hasn't yet happened but I might need to act on some information some time and Pauline had an answer about how best to do that. She is a great friend and in my opinion, a wise woman.

I then picked up my bike and it felt wonderful again! Called in on Country Fresh and Freshways, arrived home very laden. I got home just in time to be useful with the boys, but soon escaped down the garden to install the new tumbler, and filled it completely with assorted garden stuff and greengrocer stuff. I think it'll be a good bit of kit.

A few weeks ago I'd found a bike on the side of the road so I'd rescued it and after a few days, reported it to the Police as lost property. Amazingly, someone had apparently reported it missing and today the Police rang to say they wanted to collect it, so I brought it to the front of the house in anticipation. This is the first time any bike I've found has been claimed. I am very pleased.

Tea was nice.. a rescued avocado, and an experimental pate made by our youngest, who loves cooking (watercress and cashew nut... interesting!), plus a macaroni cheese with cauliflower and broccoli. Good stuff!

However, I still had the blusey feeling hanging over me and I felt quite lethargic during the evening, just no energy or enthusiasm at all. I'm hoping it will blow over.

Saturday 6th March 10

A funny day, didn't get up til 10 and had a moochy day, various things outside including cutting back some of last year's now dead growth, filling more compost bin with this and greengrocer's stuff, riddling another 9 carrier bags full of good mature compost, cutting up some hedge which our neighbour has taken out so the wall/fence can be constructed... I cut off the tops and whippy bits and they'll be shredded, and the sticks I chopped up into lengths and put them in wooden fruit trays where they'll dry and be ready for kindling next winter.

I did the usual rounds of washing up and home-based things, attempting to be a good Daddy type things... and in fact this did work during the evening as I invited them to watch The End Of The Line with me, and my eldest took it all in and we had some interesting conversations afterwards about algae and oxygen and dietary choices and more. Neither of them have ever eaten seafood, and I haven't since my early 20s when I went to Crete and had octopus. So I watched the programme with some degree of contempt of all the people who eat fish and seafood and don't need to, who don't care that half of it is 'stolen' and falls outside quotas, and that the people who set the quotas ignore the scientists who are telling them to set smaller quotas to conserve stocks. I get quite angry, as the seas and oceans are a shared resource and I want them left in good a condition... but most people don't care, they are selfish. Selfish for shellfish.

But, hey, I do my best, and very rarely preach, hardly ever say 'should'. I just do what I think is right. And who's to say who's wrong or who's right on any particular issue?

Friday, 5 March 2010

Friday 5th March 10

Up early to help keep the peace. And lo it was a peaceful morning!

Once the children were at school Gill and I were able to spend a quiet hour together and then I went out into the garden to gather the riddled compost into carrier bags... I filled 7. I also finished emptying out the Composphere which I should have returned to York Rotters in December (whoops) after testing it. The material within was only partially rotted so I put it on the top of a heap I've just finished filling with fresher stuff. I need to write a review, for York Rotters and for Composphere, so here it is:
Links to the Composphere:
the manufacturers: Crompton Mouldings
several retailers: Original Organics, Green Rewards, home4eco, Natural Collection, and there are several others. Prices range from £75 to just over £100.

I've had the Composphere since June I think, but had some problems with it falling apart when I rolled it, but eventually the manufacturer sent some replacement bolts which do work, and hold the two halves together well. I filled it quite quickly with garden materials and fruit and veg from the greengrocer. I rolled it now and again, certainly not every day, but maybe once a week, and over the next month added a bit more as the material rotted down. I did notice that the holes in the base were quite small and rested more or less on the grass, and the contents remained quite wet. My view is that it could suffer from poor drainage due to it's design, but this could be improved by careful siting to allow maximum drainage. Over the winter months it was very cold and this would have slowed down the rate of composting, and I rolled it less often due to snow. However, I did still roll it around, and the half-full sphere was quite unwieldy... you need to be strong to roll it, and you need quite a few metres of free space to be able to roll it over more than once, although in a small space, you could swivel it round and continue rotating it in the direction needed to tumble the contents.
Yesterday and today I emptied it, using a medium sized garden fork. This was not that easy, although the aperture was just big enough for the fork I was using, but as I took the partly rotted material out, some got knocked off by the sides of the hole and it was a bit untidy. Some of the material had compacted a bit, the simple rolling motion had not broken apart the clumps and there was stuff in these which hadn't rotted as well as it hadn't received enough oxygen. None of the material was ready to use, and this was to be expected as it is ridiculous to expect to be able to make compost in less than 6 months... especially during cold winter months. I forked the stuff into a garden bucket and put it on one of my working heaps to continue to rot down.

This is a batch composter... it needs to be filled and then rolled regularly with no more additions, as it mixes newer material with older. After a couple of months with no new additions and regular rolling, it can be emptied and the material placed for maturation. I would regard this as a bit of a gimmick, a 'fun composter' for enthusiastic and strong gardeners with plenty of space. It is not the best tumbler on the market, nor is it rubbish. I give it 5/10. I don't think it will be a 'best seller', but it will be enjoyed by some. It certainly seemed sturdy and fit for purpose. I wouldn't mind having one to add to my collection.
John Cossham, March 2010
I will send links to this review to York Rotters and Crompton Mouldings.

Anyway, I loaded my trailer up with the seven bags of riddled compost (which is 2 to 3 years old, but recently riddled) and the now empty Composphere. After lunch, at about 2pm, I cycled off to St Nicks to return the sphere to York Rotters for someone else to trial.

I had a chat with John, who is uncomfortable with my writing about the meeting we had on 22nd Feb, which he thought ought to have been confidential, as it concerned the complaints made about my over-enthusiastic and possibly unprofessional behaviour at last Novmber's Big Green Market, and my subsequent suspension as a York Rotter. However, no-one suggested that it should be confidential, and actually, I don't think that there was anything in the meeting which needed to be kept confidential. I don't mind anybody knowing about what I'm going through, and none of the complainants are named (I don't know who they are either!). Indeed, I think the process is quite positive, and I'm pleased at how the issues are being dealt with, despite being annoyed by the complaints in the first place.

For me, confidentiality is about protecting someone, something, or other information, and preventing that information going public. I cannot see anything in this process which needs protecting, but John asked me to look at my blog and consider removing anything which I thought might be upsetting to anybody or that could get taken out without detracting from the fact that it is my diary, and it's a meeting about me and my role in the organisation.

Later during the evening Edward rang up and we discussed openness, honesty and related subjects, and he agreed the world would be a better place if more people were honest and open, but that the reality of the situation was that many people cannot cope with it, and were in some instances frightened. I told Edward that to try to help the situation, I would remove any things that I thought were the most likely to be causing an upset. I could only find one. So that is now blanked out.

After dropping off the Composphere, I went down to town to see if I could give back a cinema ticket which I will not now be able to use (City Screen gave me my money back!) and then doubled back on myself to Country Fresh, where Rich was happy to have the bags of fresh compost. I picked up one large sack and two boxes of fruit and veg, and also two sacks from Freshways.

After a brief sit down with a coffee, I spent another hour in the garden... lovely and peaceful.

However, later on I felt a bit low as I have some paperwork and admin to do which I need to make time for and it's difficult to find the time and enthusiasm to do this.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Thursday 4th March 10

I got up early as the forecast was for a sunny day, and I got into the garden soon, and did a lot of compost tidying and riddling. Country Fresh has got rid of several carrier bags of my riddled compost, and Richard has asked me to supply some more. So I'm riddling a load more and will take it down to the shop tomorrow.

One of the builders bags had a youngish compost in it and this was absolutely teaming with worms. I put some of this material on the riddle (a sheet of chicken wire on a frame) and hand-picked the worms out, putting them into a polystyrene box with some bedding in. I could market these to help people re-stock their wormery or get a new compost bin going. I wonder how commercial worm farmers harvest their worms?

Gill and I both had an appointment in town after lunch, so Gill went on the bus and I cycled in.

I came back via the cycle track where some trees had been thinned and I brought back a trailer load of logs.

Before the light faded, I did another hour or so riddling and compost managenent.

In the evening I read a DEFRA consultation on the use of wild animals in travelling circuses, which is something I have a lot of interest in. The information about the consultation is all available on this page, and it finishes on 15th March:
It is important that this is read first:
The consultation required quite a bit of thought but I hope it has positive results, and that animal welfare improves.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Wednesday 3rd March 10

Quite a good day... had a lie in! But up at 10.30 and I got busy straight away as it was a nice day and I had an appointment at 2.30 at Jim's office, to learn how to edit Wordpress websites. I did emails first and then the washing up and recycling.

The visit to Semlyen IT went well... Jamie took me through the website and showed me how to do various things... I now have to go and play with the website and add things before we launch it to the unsuspecting public.

I came back via Country Fresh as Gill had asked me to try to get something which could help her make a costume for our youngest's World Book Day. He is dressing up as Ergum the Barbarian.

When I came back my eldest was arriving home and we chatted and then I helped him with some homework, just encouragement and one or two ideas, and the resulting piece of work was brilliant.

A very positive evening, what a relief!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Tuesday 2nd March 10

I took my youngest nearly all the way to school... he walked the last bit alone and I cycled slowly back, stopping to pick up quite a few aluminium cans for the metal merchant, steel cans for the kerbside recycling, and several bits of wood for processing into stove fodder. I also found a large clump of edible mushrooms which I picked. I went straight on to the chemist on Tang Hall Lane to get assorted over the counter medications. I'm getting more headaches than normal, I think it's stress.

I spent an hour on the computer, and was happy to be of use to a friend up in Scotland who is in the middle of launching a bicycle-powered delivery service, and wanted help with a letter to go out to potential customers. I was able to partly re-write the letter to make it read a bit better. This help was appreciated.

Gill went into town on the bus, and I did quite a bit of sorting out in the front garden, chopping up treestumps and some sticks, stacking, cleaning out the stove ash pans, and washing up, the endless washing up.

But it was nice to be working outside in the sunshine, but the remainder of the day went all too quickly.

After 4pm I loaded my trailer up with 3 paper potato sacks of drinks cartons, all squashed and mostly packed inside each other, and an old toaster I found in a skip, and went to the Hazel Court Civic Amenity Site, where I never know if I'm going to be waved in with a smile, ignored, or confronted and told that cyclists aren't allowed in, and I have to explain that I'm choosing to ignore that stupid rule and I will kick up a HUGE fuss if I'm prevented from using the recycling services. This time, I was ignored on the way in and when a chap walked towards me whilst I was pushing cartons into the carton bank, he was just loading a dead neon tube into the neon tube recycling area, and he was friendly and didn't comment on my mode of transport. I put the toaster in the WEEE area and unloaded some batteries, and left, with no hassle whatsoever. Great!

I then went on to Country Fresh and got assorted fruit and veg for a very reasonable price, and loaded two bags of compostables into the trailer for recycling.

The rest of the day was reasonably quiet... Tea was pizza, with a large pile of Velvet Shank mushrooms I picked this morning on a tree stump between school and home. After this, I was tired and went for a lie down after taking a large can of water up for our youngest to have a bath. I went to check the temperature of the solar heated water in the loft, as I ran the hot tap as well as the stove-heated water, and the tank thermometer was reading 59 Celcius, which is warm enough to bypass the boiler. Excellent! I must find the commissioning certificate and set up the system with Good Energy for our HOT ROCS credits. Life is hectic and I'm disorganised, and I don't know where the certificate has gone.

I dozed from 7.30 til 8.30 but was woken by shouting. Homework. I came down and hovered around, and things calmed down. I half-watched Horizon but didn't concentrate much on it as I was feeling depressed. Life is tough at the moment. We will work through this and hopefully things will be easier in the future. Parenting is very hard work.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Monday 1st March 10

A good day, got a lot done. I had a slow start, with emails and stuff, but at 11 went to buy bread from Thomas' 'Yesterbake' (actually Saturday's bake) and got (fresh) veggie pasties too, to make tea easier.

I did quite a bit of work in the garden... pruned back all the fruited loganberries and chopped them down to thin bits for composting and the thicker straight lengths all went into a wooden fruit-box to dry off and become kindling for the stove next winter.

Then I tied-in the loganberry shoots which grew last year and will fruit this year. It looks really tidy now, a good job done.

The large sack of smaller twiggy bits made a good thick layer on the new compost heap which I started yesterday. I added another huge load of greengrocer stuff on top of it, surrounded by flattened cardboard boxes to keep the material from falling out of the pallet-sided cube.

At about half five Gill came down and reminded me that I had taken her bike to Cycle Heaven yesterday to have the back wheel repaired. I'd said to them that if the wheel was not repairable, they could replace it, so we rang to find out what they had done and the cost. They had replaced the wheel and the tyre and done some other work... costing £56... sharp intake of breath!

We hadn't actually got that amount of cash between us, so one of our sons offered to go and look in his piggy bank equivalent, and found £40 to lend us, mainly in coins. I took this and hopped on my bike and scooted off down to Bishopthorpe Road. Very soon I was cycling back towards town with Gill's bike wheeling along next to me, and I decided to pick up a film ticket for the weekend, and then onto Millers Yard to pick up orange halves. Dylan gave me two nice pine chairs which he said were surplus to requirement, so I loaded these onto the trailer too. If we don't need them, I'll put them on Freecycle.

Home with the two bikes, two chairs and about 60kg of compostable oranges. Slowly.

Gill was glad to see me, and her bike, and I came in to help.

She had made some leek and potato and cheese sauce thing to go with the pasties, which was good. I had to head off to the other side of the Racecourse then for a York in Transition Directors meeting. Four of us attended, and we have just about finished the structure we need before we can ask for a volunteer Treasurer. We need quite a few policies in place, but when these are sorted, we'll be in a much better place to get funding for projects. It was a good meeting, and our host had worked really hard getting the different policies written. Some changes were suggested, these will be incorporated and then the documents sent round for comments and then adopting.

When I got in, Gill was once again very glad to see me. I assisted in getting the children off to bed.

Later, had my first googletalk conversation with my Canadian colleague about the website we are doing. And after that, whilst on facebook, Gill's nephew Jonny who is in Australia was on the chat function, and Gill had a nice conversation with him. I wonder if Gill will consider joining facebook?