Sunday, 31 October 2010

Saturday 30th October 10

Not a brilliant start to the day.  Something is whirring round my mind, a situation I want to resolve and make better and I'm feeling quite annoyed and angry about it.  But I got on with the day, did some wooding; a neighbour came round and asked if I'd like their shed which they'd taken down... I went to look but most was painted, and I don't burn painted wood.  But there were a load of floorboards and structural timber from inside, so I came away with a trailerfull. I chainsawed this up and quite a bit more. 

Mid afternoon I set off for Pauline's house, as she too is preparing for winter with her Clearview Stove. She's getting a bit old to chop logs and relies on a few willing volunteers to help.  In return for doing a bit of sawing, I get what can only be described as 'good counsel' and the benefit of her wisdom, although I'm sure she would deny that she has much of that.  I would argue strongly that she is someone who I trust with all sorts of difficulties and issues, and she always has something worthwhile to say.  I really value her opinions and observations.  Today was no different, as I shared my dilemma, and she picked out the crux of the problem, looking at it from the point of view of a mother and woman of mature years... just the perspective I needed.  She helped me see that anger and frustration were not going to get me anywhere positive with this, and to be gentle, measured and apologetic would probably have the better result in the long run. 

Our coffee and stollen and conversation finished at about 5pm and I cycled down to the Millennium Bridge, through the allotments (I had a quick peek at the YUMI plot) and along to Simon and Melody's house, as they had invited us to a party.  I arrived about 3 minutes before Gill and the boys rolled up in a taxi; Gill had made a cake with a spider's web design on and a pumpkin pie made with bought flaky pastry.  She'd spent most of the afternoon trying to find a costume for our youngest to wear, no time for making pastry therefore.

I was pleased to see Natalie, their daughter, who has come back from her first term of Fine Art at Oxford.  She'd made a very good pumpkin soup which was delicious.  Gill's pie was nice too.  There were fewer visitors than usual, Lee and Christine came and I had a nice chat with Christine who works for English Nature and knows our friend Sarah Woolven.  The children seemed to be happy and occupied, and near 8pm started to get excited about Merlin on TV.  I came home via a woodpile. I do not get excited by Merlin on TV, and was glad of a TV-free evening when I got in.

I enjoyed a facebook chat with my friend Loony who is staying with my sister in Sheffield.  Loony and I have a similar sense of humour and outlook on life, but of course, I'm not as loony as she is!  I'm glad my sis is having a good time with Loony, and will be doing Halloweeny things tomorrow with our niece and nephews.

The partygoing family members came in well after 9pm, closer to 10; they'd walked back.

Did fruit and washing up, and was awake when my laptop clock went from 1.59 to 1.00. 

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Friday 29th October 10

Quite a tough day; woke late after the late night last night, and certain household members suffering from 'Cabin Fever'.  But I kept busy... sorted out the last of the pumpkin seeds from their pulp, now all are on about 10 sheets of newspaper drying.

I went to the bread shop at lunchtime and later, took the St Nicks bucket back to them, plus two Apple Day posters which had been left on a lamp-post, and I'd taken back home for safekeeping and re-use.  I went on to see Rich at Country Fresh... and he was creating more pumpkin Halloween Lanterns, so he gave me yet more pumpkin seeds.  I really do need a little gadget or machine which de-hulls them.  I wish someone would engineer something which did this.  As it is, I either have to eat them with the tough outer coat on, which I don't like, OR have to peel them one by one, by hand, which isn't difficult but is time consuming. 

I did a bit of compost heap management but not all that I have to put on a heap actually went on, so I'll have to do some more tomorrow.

Gill got our eldest to make tea... he made a batch of savoury biscuits, something he invented and is good at making, and to go with this he made a pumpkin, veg and Bulgar wheat pate which went well with the biscuits.  He also sorted out some cucumber and celery sticks for dipping into hommous, coleslaw and mayo.  It was a good meal.

And then, I was delighted that both my sons and one of their friends accepted my invitation to take them to see Illuminating York.  There was a bit of discussion about how to travel, since the boys don't use their bikes now, as school is so close, so they aren't in a usable condition. There was talk of getting the bus, or walking down and getting the bus back... but I walked down with them, all the way to the Minster, leaving just before 8pm.  There was a big crowd at Minster Gates, the junction of Petergate and Stonegate, but we got through to Deangate which was more open and had plenty of space.  The installation 'Rose' by Ross Ashton and his wife Karen Monid was really good... at one stage it looked like the Minster was beginning to float up into the air! 

After we watched this for maybe 15 minutes, we walked round to the other side of the Minster, to see the various installations in Dean's Park.  I liked the 4 metre high sphere called 'Lightweight' best, but my friend Vanessa's community stained glass piece 'Unifying Light' was good too.

Then we walked home... Monkgate, Heworth Green, The Gasworks alleyway, James St, St. Nicks and home.  I was impressed that all 3 boys managed this quite long walk, with minimal fuss (only one was making a fuss, the others just kept walking) and we got in at 9.45pm.

So a good finish to a not so good day. I spent quite a bit of time refilling the drying racks with pears and apples til late...

Friday, 29 October 2010

Thursday 28th October 10

A good day, up fairly early and cycled out towards Stamford Bridge to see Julie, who is interested in going greener and I think I may have persuaded her to get a compost bin.  Spent an hour or so with her and on the way back I found some honey fungus growing on a tree stump.  I collected a few of these and a bit closer into York, picked up some branches which will make good kindling.

When I got in I had a good session of stacking outside the front door, and then a late lunch.  A low key afternoon, mainly within the house, washing up and dealing with pumpkin seeds and fruit.  I had the honey fungus for tea along with an assortment of other bits and pieces.

I popped along to Dylan T's house to sort out his recycling problem (their green bin, supposed to be used for green waste, is full of bottles and cans and mixed waste) and met Tiger, a keen cyclist whom I get good vibes from, and then I visited a friend who is battling alcoholism.  They also use their green bin for cider cans... it was completely full, and we calculated that there was about £100 worth of cider there... or the empty cans which used to contain the cider.  I had some deep conversations with this person, they voluntarily let me confiscate 5 cans left in the house, which I'll pay for not with cash (which would get converted into alcohol) but by getting some fresh fruit and veg tomorrow.  I'm trying to be a good friend. I really don't want to lose this person, but I think it is quite likely that their addiction will kill them.

In the evening I waited in to see my Fiddlesticks photo projected onto a Warsaw building, part of an advertising campaign by Aviva, called Be The Big Picture... I participated as the company said that they would give £2 per photo to Save the Children.  So at 9.23 BST my family watched for the approx 3 seconds it was up... after which I went out to the York University People and Planet Bonfire on the Allotment.  I had some lovely conversations, met some good people, some of whom I'm friends with already, some I interact with mainly through facebook, and some new people too.  I rolled in at 1.45am....

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Wednesday 27th October 10

Well, not too bad a day, as I had a relatively late start and got busy with assorted household things, and also some stacking, splitting and chainsawing.  I got a fantastic booking for next April, a big event where I'll be performing to over 100 people - and a good fee promised, too.

During the afternoon I made a pumpkin loaf for the York Rotters Pumpkin Evening.  I used a wholemeal loaf which I made into breadcrumbs in the blender, and also a big spoonful of very dry Meridian peanut butter from the base of the pot, which all blended in very nicely.  I then added a whole onion, chopped, and a red pepper, chopped, and about a third of a pumpkin, grated, and a handful of chopped mixed nuts.  For flavouring I used some red wine, Balsamic vinegar, bouillon and mixed herbs... and a dash of cumin.  Then to bind it, an egg.  I mixed it really really well, and turned it into a greased dish which I'd lined with mixed seeds.  I microwaved it for 10 minutes, and then turned it out onto a baking tray and bunged it in the oven on Mark 6 for 20 minutes... and left it in the oven with the gas off for 20 minutes before taking it to St Nicks in a cake tin.

I also took one of my boys and a friend who lives up the road, both of whom enjoy carving pumpkins and had a good evening.  I took my biggest pumpkin for the competition... mine weighed no more than 2kg, the winning one was over 40kg.   I spent most of the evening peeling dried pumpkin seeds, and then sorting out fresh ones from the pulp.  Two people requested my nutloaf recipe, so I'll send them this link.

The three of us got home at about 8pm and our visitor stayed for another 45 minutes or so.  I had a fairly relaxing evening... washing up, sorting out pumpkin seeds (I have a bucketful to deal with!) and keeping the stove going.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Tuesday 26th October 10

A very full day.  I started by cycling down to Country Fresh with Gill's big pink rucksack to pick up 16 pumpkins, 15 for the St Nicks Pumpkin Carving Evening, and one for me to make a pumpkin loaf from, to take along for people to try.  However, the pumpkins this year are a bit smaller than last year, and I got 10 in my trailer and 3 in each pannier.  So I didn't need the rucksack.  I also picked up a box of compostables, and cycled along to St Nicks, put the pumpkins on the landing, and went to the Komp compost bin with the perspex front to put some of the compostables in.  There were a large number of pumpkin seeds and pulp in there, so I retrieved a few of the seeds as for me, these are a valuable resource, although time consuming to prepare. 

When I got back I did a bit of wooding, and then had lunch.  After lunch I went back down Heslington Road as I'd met Zaf earlier, and he'd massacred a Laurel bush which had a honeysuckle growing through it, and he'd asked if I wanted it.  I decided that although this material was only worth composting, having almost no woody bits, I'd tidy it up for him, and I took a big builders dumpy bag to put the stuff in.  I spent half an hour sorting that out and brought most of it back, although a sackful remains.  Then I spent a happy half-hour shredding, and now have a good few tens of kilos of slightly woody, fibrous stuff for layering on the current compost heap between the more putrescible fruit and veg 'resources'.  When I'd finished this, I cycled round to Keith in Burnholme and he gave me the wood which was not picked up yesterday.  This was another huge load.  Before it got dark I popped round to Janet's to pick up some more pears, and I gave her some dried pears and apples as a thank you for the last load of pears.  As it got dark, I went round to Mick and Judy's old house, where builders said I could pick up some logs from their devastated garden, and whilst I was there, Dylan T. arrived as he's living there at the moment, and we had a nice chat. I came back with another trailer load of stove-fodder.

I jarred up more dried apples during the evening and sliced a load more... it's a good production line!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Monday 25th October 10

A much better day.  I got up early as Gill and the boys were heading to Whitby and I had been asked by Keith to deliver some compost at 10am.  So I gathered four sacks of best mature unriddled from down the garden and one large carrier bag of riddled from the side passage.  I cycled slowly round to Keith's in South Bank.

He had his Thai girlfriend Arie staying with him, so once I'd brought the sacks of compost round the back, and Keith had made me a coffee and we were sitting chatting, lots of the conversation got partially translated into her language, which Keith has been learning for 5 years.  I was pleased to see them both together, they are a lovely couple.

On the way back, clutching my newly-earned £20 note, I went into Cycle Heaven and was surprised to see my friend Dylan T. working there, and he checked my gears which have been jumping a bit.  He adjusted them... and I spent £21 on some reduced-price cycling gloves, as the last ones are wearing through.

And home via Alligator and Country Fresh, the latter to arrange the pumpkin purchase and delivery for Pumpkin Evening on Wednesday at St Nicks.  I'll do that tomorrow.

I got home to find that the family hadn't gone to Whitby.  For assorted reasons, a peaceful day at home was the preferred option.

I went onto my laptop and scanned Freecycle and there was a message from the other Keith, in Burnholme, who had offered some wood for burning which I'd responded to.  He said the bits of wood were taken but there were two tree stumps which needed chopping down, and if I could do that, I could have them.  So I had lunch and cycled round with my electric chainsaw and carefully removed the two large softwood stumps, chopping them into movable pieces for ease of packing and transport.... I only just managed it, there was such a lot!  So a win-win situation there, Keith got his stumps chopped off close to ground level and I got some good chunks of wood. 

I got home safely and had a bit of time in the garden preparing for my next visitor, Fern, another Freecycler.  She'd asked for some compost so I did my usual thing and said she could have one free bag or sack, no obligation, but that if she wanted more, that I'd be happy to come to an arrangement.   So she came round at 4, and was keen to learn about composting, as currently she's just collecting kitchen scraps in a bin liner.... not a good method!  I showed her all the different composting systems including the wormeries and tumblers, the different stages of composting, the sorts of things that can go in and how different things decompose at different rates.  She was happy with the free sack and wanted another 5. I was happy to oblige.... and earn another £20. I took the barrow full of compost sacks to her car.

I did a bit of wood chopping and stacking and at 6pm had a chat with a journalist film-maker who was researching something, and then later, after a cauliflower cheese tea, I visited a friend who is feeling lonely because their youngest child has left home and they are all alone in the house, then I picked up a huge lot of dead Lavender bush, another Freecycle job for someone.  I'll probably shred it.

So, a busy day, and much more upbeat than yesterday.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Sunday 24th October 10

A mixed day, with some nice time by myself doing assorted stuff in the garden, but some difficult times too which I won't dwell on. 

I collected several sacks and boxes from Country Fresh and it was nice to see Richard, but I really wasn't feeling too jolly.

I escaped into the front garden and chopped logs but I had a very grumpy day.  I enjoyed a good programme about David Attenborough but after that went out on the bike to collect another log or three.  Going out on my bike always makes me feel better and collecting logs has a doubly good effect.

Saturday 23rd October 10

I had a lie-in which was really welcome, and because of this, I didn't get up to Hartrigg Oaks for the midday lunch with my friends from AVP, some of whom had already had a Facilitators meeting.  I'm a volunteer with AVP North East and East Midlands... my only official role is the Health and Safety person.  This afternoon's meeting was 1.30 til 4, and I got there just in time.  I was really pleased to see so many people around the table, a baker's dozen of us.  There were attendees from Lincoln, Sheffield, Harrogate, Scarborough and of course, quite a few of us from York, and one from Manchester.  NEEM members are responsible for putting on, overseeing or managing AVP workshops in Doncaster, York, and Newcastle, and there are plans for more. Our Facilitators work all over the UK and several people in the room are active within various parts of AVP Britain.

One of the things we discussed was the possibility that we should employ someone to manage the group... several other AVP regions have a paid manager and our region has now got the level of support and activity to merit a paid worker.  I volunteered to help prepare an initial proposal to start the process, and I'll be working with a chap I don't know at all, Colin, from Wakefield.  I'm looking forward to that.  I also volunteered to look at publicity and social networking with Cecile, whom I've also not worked with before.

The meeting finished on the dot of 4pm and I stayed a while to sort out the meetings I need to attend.  On the way home I collected some sticks from a hedge in New Earswick, and then on the cycle path near Haxby Road there was a pile of freshly dumped Elder logs, so they just managed to fit on the pannier rack.

I was pleased to get back and have a coffee, but at about 5.45pm I went outside to do a bit of log stacking and then chainsawing... not a lot, less than an hour, but the front garden is looking a bit full, so it needs sorting.

I came in before 7 and as there was too much Strictly Cum Dancing on the telly, I went upstairs and listened to Tracey Smith doing her weekly radio show on Apple AM. I like her sense of humour, also her interests overlap with mine... for instance, she visited a landfill site recently and is thinking of doing a programme about it.

I had my evening meal at 9pm and had a fairly relaxing evening, although there was a mountain of washing up and I got through some of it.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Friday 22nd October 10 Sunderland Food Waste Day

Wow, what a fab day!!!  A very early start, a long day, very stimulating.

So, after 4 hours sleep, got up at 5.30 and before I cycled down to the station, I remembered that I wanted to take some extremely well rotted humanure compost with me, as I thought the children would be interested in that.  I'm really glad I did!

So, with a small rucksack and two canvass bags, I set off to get the 06.37 to Newcastle, with the tickets which had been sent to me by the Sunderland Sustainability Team.  The trip up was uneventful... I kept on failing to read my NewScientist as I was too tired, and the highlight was pre-dawn Durham, and then the Metro trip to Park Lane, which I got to soon after 8am.  David, one of the Sustainability Team people picked me up and drove to an industrial estate where there was an office complex with a large meeting room suitable for the groups of schoolchildren visiting the assorted stalls.

I was pleased to meet Suzanne from Peta, who was doing fruit and veg kebabs and presenting information about Meat Free Mondays. There was also a nice gent called Craig from Groundwork who was making things out of waste... hanging baskets out of plastic milk bottles and paper pots from newspaper. Then there was an excellent project fronted by Richard Smith, called Dig It,  They were doing seedling based stuff, parsely seeds I think.  Another lovely chap was Paul from Food for Life, he did a little presentation at the end too.  There were also people doing a taste test between quorn and beef mince and tasting unusual fruit.

My stall had several items of 'going off' fruit and veg including a mouldy cauliflower and a carrot with black patches, a small collection of other suitable compost items such as a loo roll, a balloon, a bit of wood, some EcoLeaf toilet roll packaging, which is compostable plastic made out of potato starch, and another small collection of non-compostables.  Then there was a box of compost beasties... worms, slugs, woodlice, a few centipedes.  Always popular, these!  I'd prepared two compost bottles (which I think is my invention as I've never seen them elsewhere) (OK, I just found these, but my design is simpler and better!!!) (OK, I've just found loads of similar designs on the net.  How could I have thought that I invented these?) I suggested to the groups that they might like to try making compost bottles.  I had 3 bags of compost: one with material just a year old, then one with riddled and very mature, and finally, the bag of humanure/sawdust compost.  This was just SO popular, with loads of questions and interest.  At the question and answer session at the end, most of the questions were on this.

I enjoyed chatting over lunch and loved doing the composting stuff with the small groups of 9 to 11 year olds.

However, I was glad to be packing up at about 4pm, and to get driven to Sunderland train station for the 5.30 Grand Central train back to York.  This got in at 7pm and I cycled home quickly, tired but elated.

Later Gill and I watched BBC2's 'Life Without Work' which focussed on York's Seebohm Rowntree's report on poverty about 100 years ago.  An excellent programme, and available on iPlayer for a short while.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Thursday 21st October 10

Woken early and a dreadful start to the day, but despite the headache the day got better.  I gathered paperwork together and headed for town to put in a cheque, get out a cheque and pay a bill.  I went via Heslington via a gent who offered a couple of rhubarb roots on Freecycle.  I took him a sack of compost as a present. 

I came back home via the almond tree, which had given up more of it's bounty, and then passed a large skip brimming with logs and mature privet.  I knew I'd be revisiting this later.  I had lunch and did some work preparing stuff for tomorrow.  Then I went back to the skip and there was no problem... a garden clearance with several lilacs, laburnums and cherry trees.  I took six trailer loads, including some thick privet trunks which I chopped down with loppers.  This made me very happy.

Back at home during the evening I chopped the membrillo into cubes and boxed it up in a plastic tub.  Both boys tried some and loved it... it will be an occasional treat, as it's 50% sugar.

I've been thinking long and hard about the upset I partly caused earlier in the week and this evening I sent a carefully worded apology to the two family members involved.  I'm hoping that polite and friendly relations can be regained.  I don't set out to cause problems.

I had a bath as I need to be shiny and fresh tomorrow.

Wednesday 20th October 10

A much quieter day, although still feeling a bit low... not helped by a bit of a cold or runny nose.  I spent all of the morning dealing with some paperwork... well, e-paperwork, composing and sending off two invoices, one for a past gig and another for a forthcoming one.

After lunchtime I did some garden work and put together some resources for the food waste event in Sunderland I'm going to on Friday.  I'm creating a couple of plastic pop-bottle composters, and tomorrow I'm going to get a load of assorted compost beasties and some fruit and veg in different stages of decomposition.  And some riddled finished compost.  And maybe some humanure compost.

But a generally low-key day.  I need my cold to go away before Friday. 

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Tuesday 19th October 10

Woken at 6am by banging, shouting and screaming.  I groggily tried to help with the situation .

I was woken again at 9 by a phone call from a nurse or public health professional called Jenny, who is presenting something about bacteria and the importance of washing hands to a reception class tomorrow, and is looking for some balloon models to represent the different sorts of bacteria.  She said she'd like to come and see me on the way into town, so I got up and washed and dressed and breakfasted... she arrived 45 minutes later and brought with her a sheet of paper with some cartoon images of different bacteria.  I agreed I'd have a go and she said she'd be back at 4pm.

Just before she left, there was a delivery from Cozmic Balloons, £85 worth of mixed colours Qualatex 260s, some clear 260s and a bag of Bee Bodies.  What a co-incidence!

I went to buy bread and medicines for the house full of ill people.

I decided to do the sculptures after lunch, and think about what to do in the meantime..

However, after lunch Gill asked me to get some bits and bobs of shopping and I thought I'd put in a cheque in and get a cheque out, and I went into town via Sainsbury's.  However, when I got to the building society I discovered I'd left my pass book at home.  Duh me.  I decided to call in on Alligator to pick up their unwanted resources, and they had just had a delivery of wonderful looking purple cauliflowers, so I brought one of those home...   Via Country Fresh, who had 3 boxes for me.  Lots of composting to do!

I got in sometime after 3 and immediately got busy with the balloons.  I made some Bee Bodies into an apple shape but hid the stalk in the middle, to make a series of roughly globular Bacillus.  I inflated 3 caterpillar balloons with sad or angry faces, and tied their knots all together and then twisted all 3 together so it looked like a load of rod-shaped cells, the top 3 with the faces on.  I tried to do a virus with some heart balloons all tied together and a pair of legs, but it wasn't that successful.  I also did another couple, I've forgotten the name of the bacterium but I used three 260s twisted together into lots of small bubbles and twisted these all together into a load of cells all together.  Jenny arrived at 4 and was happy with all of them apart from the virus-type things, and suggested that I use a caterpillar balloon and give it four legs, and this was really good!  She paid me £10 for doing these... a fun challenge!

After which I decided to chop up the pallets I'd rescued yesterday, and I brought some bits of old pallet up the garden and a plastic bucket which has 'kicked the bucket' and needed to be binned.

In the evening I jarred up a load of dried apple rings and chopped up 15 large juicy pears and balanced them on the racks for drying.  I watched a good HG Wells adaptation 'The First Men in The Moon' which I enjoyed, as when I was a teen I loved HG Wells books, but then watched a second film which portrayed his life 'HG Wells: War With The World' which I really enjoyed, as I felt some kinship with him.  Gill and I both watched this and she looked him up in her Cambridge Guide to Literature; it was a very stimulating programme.  Later still, one of my friends contacted me, needed to talk, as someone she knows and cares about was seemingly preparing to kill themselves, and my friend needed to talk about it, and I'm not sure if I was able to help or give any advice, but I'm glad I was available for this person.  What a sad situation. 

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Monday 18th October 10

The day started reasonably well but both boys were unwell and off school, and due to this there was an incident which left me feeling crap.  I do my best to be a good parent but sometimes feel like a failure.

I spent quite a bit of the morning talking to various people on NHS Direct, which is a wonderful service and i felt really well looked after.  The results of the conversations may well be positive.

Later, there was another incident, to do with a misunderstanding by another family member and caused by the thoughtlessness of another, which resulted in bad vibes all round.  I was hoping for an apology from the person who caused the problem by accidentally betraying confidence, but just got rudeness and a snub.  It is true that you don't choose your family, and it's odd that I still love them all, despite everything.

I do not set out to upset, provoke and cause distress.  I am sorry that both people are feeling the way they are.  I hope communication can resume soon.

The garden was my solace... for a while, and I also popped round to help a neighbour round the corner who'd emailed me to ask me to take some wooden pallets away.  She showed me her newly built 'insect hotel' (I'd call it a hibernaculum) and then one of her neighbours offered me some pears.

I spent a considerable time inside, doing washing up, dealing with fruit, playing Scrabble on facebook and trying to manage the second situation. 

Later, I lit the front room stove for the first time this Autumn.  The first time the stove is lit after a few months cold, the dust burns off and there's a bit of an aroma.  So I lit it quite late on, after the boys went to bed, so that if we need to light it with the forecast cold snap in the next few days, no-one complains about the smell.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Sunday 17th October 10

I had a fairly chilled Sunday morning, including half-watching Country Tracks, but I had the York in Transition Alternative Energy Event on my mind, and how I could best contribute to this.  I had a phone conversation with Anna Semlyen, who has organised this event, and decided to find or create a placard to stand outside the Mansion House.

I got some cardboard and wallpaper lining paper, and secured a stick handle into the card, and after lunch took that on my trailer, plus marker pens, down to The Mansion House on St Helen's Square, arriving at 2.30pm.  Anna supplied two posters which I stuck on each side, and I wrote FREE TODAY above the poster and RENEWABLE ENERGY below it.

My self-appointed task was to stand outside the venue and announce: "FREE ENTRY TODAY TO THE MANSION HOUSE, USUALLY £5 ENTRY, TODAY FREE.  ALSO FIND OUT HOW TO GET FREE ELECTRICITY" and similar messages.  There was plenty of interest, not just from people wanting to find out more about renewable energy, but a few (tourists) wanting to see the Lord Mayor's residence.  At about 3.30 Ivana came down and said that Anna had just finished her short talk so it was my turn to do a talk on woodstoves.  I had about 6 people listening intently and asking questions afterwards.  I went straight back out and continued pulling them in.  At about 4.45 I did another talk to just 5 people this time, but all were potential woodstove buyers.    The venue closed it's doors at 5pm, and the chap on the door told us we'd had 241 people through... we were delighted!  So were the three solar installers who had their info for people to see.  I'd been asking people on the way out if it had been worth going in, and most said it had been really useful.

So, in anybody's terms, a highly successful event.  About two thirds of the people who came in did look around the stalls and took leaflets from the Energy Saving Trust, who didn't attend but did let us have leaflets. So between 150 and 200 people got information about putting solar photovoltaic panels on their roof, or solar water heating, insulation, heat pumps, woodburning stoves and more.  York in Transition got a load more email sign ups to add to the 500+ we have already.

I came home pretty quickly, picking up two bags and a box from Countyr Fresh which had just closed, and some scrap metal out of their bin. 

Carrot soup for tea, and a bit of rice the kids didn't eat, and then I sorted out some beans which I'm drying, and some nectarines, and I sliced the membrillo into thick slices as it has dried off and set sufficiently, although the centre of each slice is soft, so I put each slice on it's side to dry further.  I tasted it again and it's wonderful.  Despite being time consuming to make, I'm sure it is worth it.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Saturday 16th October 10 Apple Day at St Nicks

Not too early a start, but not so late that I had to rush.  After breakfast I combed the garden for recent windfalls and put them all in a plastic fruit box, a mix of James Grieve, Cox and Bramley, and took them down to St Nicks.  I showed the volunteers who were preparing apples for the grinder and press how to use the fruit press, as it's not that simple, and a 5 minute 'workshop' helps.

Then I raced home and had lunch, washed and got changed into my Fiddlesticks gear and loaded up my trailer with bag-o-tricks, unicycles and pedal-go things, and a bag of balloons to give out as 'dogs with apples in their tummies' as prizes (my usual 'dogs dinner' model!).  I got to the Environment Centre just before 1pm, the start time.  It was a slow start, as it had rained at about midday, but over the course of the next 3 hours, we had 170 people through the gate.  I did a 3 apple juggling workshop at 2 and again at 3.15, helped with the 'apple olympics' (apple bobbing, apple and spoon races, apple skittles) and helped with announcing, as I have a loud voice which carries.  My favourite activity was helping with the juicing, and I think we juiced enough apples to get about 10 gallons of lovely juice.

There were more stalls there than previous Apple Days, the 'in house' haiku stall, longest apple peel competition, apple pudding competition and a kids storytelling and facepainting area, one stall from Grace working with Abundance, to make some 'apple butter' using a fire-pit made from a washing machine drum and a huge saucepan. Fulford Community Orchard had a stall, as did Jane Thurlow with a big selection of her apples.

I enjoyed two small portions of two apple puddings after the winners were announced, and especially enjoyed meeting Claire from Grace, and Claire's Mum... and we had some good conversations and agreed some bartering next year... I think my pea beans might very well end up in some Grace pickled vegetables!  I was given a jar of hot 'apple butter' and a jar of the delectable Grace onion marmalade. 

I spent an hour and a half helping finish off the apple juicing and then the clear up afterwards, so I didn't get away at 4, and helped wash down the fruit press before it went back with Barry Potter. I brought a demijohn of juice back, which I'll let turn into cider.

So back before 6 and I collapsed after putting  my circus stuff away and bike away.  Later, I made a big saucepan of carrot and apple soup on the woodstove.... inspired to add some apple by today's activities.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Friday 15th October 10 'Blog Action Day' on Water

I had a lie in.  And then a fairly lazy day.  However I did go to Country Fresh for some potatoes and a cauliflower, via St Nicks with 5 demijohns for cider-making tomorrow.  I came back via Freshways, and did a bit of compost heap loading.

I also did a good lot of fruit slicing for drying, pears, apples and a couple of hands of bananas. I turned out the quince leather stuff, membrillo, and it wasn't completely set, so it went back on the stove on a metal sheet to dry off and set a bit more. I hope.  However, it tastes FANTASTIC!!

So, a pretty nothingy day... and what has this got to do with water, being as it's Blog Action Day, with the subject of water?

Well, I try to live my life with low levels of consumption of fossil fuels, resources and of course, water.  So, as today was a 'normal' day for me, what did I do, or not do, to reduce my water footprint?

Well I have a 'pirate wash' every morning, running the cold water tap over my flannel about 6 times and after each time, wiping my body down with that.  I don't really like showers but I have a bath once a week.  And this kind of low water use wash every day.

Diet is really important when considering embodied water.  Some foods are much more 'water heavy' than others, and meat is a good example of a foodstuff which has a huge water footprint.  So if I'd had a burger for breakfast (or equivalent, say a bacon sandwich) then that could have had a hidden water use of 24 litres just for one burger and bap.  But with a vegetarian diet, the embodied water is vastly less. See this water footprint calculator for some comparisons.  For breakfast, I have a bowl of cereals and soya milk, and a cup of coffee.  For lunch I always have sandwiches... nearly always vegan, ie bread, dairy free margarine and/or mayonnaise, hummous, peanut butter, marmite or avocado.  However, today one of my sandwiches was cheese and red pepper.  Cheese has a higher water footprint than plant-based foods, so a black mark against me here.  My evening meal was macaroni and cauliflower with a soya-milk and goats cheese sauce... reasonably low in embodied water, compared to a meat-based meal at least.

The biggest direct water use in most Western houses is the flush toilet.  We have two of these in the house but I much prefer to use my home made compost toilet, sometimes known as a dry toilet or sawdust toilet.  The only water I use directly is from a water butt to wash my hands afterwards.  However, the recycled tissue paper does require water in it's production, but I'm not giving that up!!!

The other activity connected with food is washing up.  I do the washing up in our house, and I'm very careful to keep the water use down here too, although I rinse the plates and saucepans with clean water and then leave them to drip dry/air dry, rather than wiping a (dirty) tea towel all over them... a great way to get bacteria all over your washed crockery.  I re-use the washing up water in the summer in our conservatory, but at this time of year the plants don't need as much, so today, the water was just tipped down the sink and would get cleaned up at the sewerage works.

Our water use has gone up recently.  Both boys now need to wash more, being as they are getting to 'that age' where boys start to emit adult male odours, and therefore they now use the shower more, and the washing machine has a few more smelly clothes to deal with.  This means our household of four uses 92 cubic metres of water a year (it's on a meter!), which is about 252 litres a day, or 63 litres each per day (23 cubic metres per year), if shared out equally.  This is direct water use, of course, as embodied water use is much more difficult to work out.  However, I did a rough calculation using this Water Footprint Calculator and it came up with 479 cubic metres per year for my personal water footprint.

I have written a special 'page' about my water use, as I feel it is a really important subject.  This can be found in the top right hand corner of the blog, or by clicking on this.  Thanks!

Friday, 15 October 2010

Thursday 14th October 10 Hull Road Ward By-Election

I was up early and ready to go and stand in a polling station. But, I didn't actually get out til after 9, and they'd been open since 7am...  So, I went to vote, walked down with my friend Debbie, and then I stayed there and did the 'door smiler' role, not taking numbers as the Green Party isn't targeting this ward and therefore isn't trying to get every last Green supporter out.  But Labour and Lib Dem were working really hard, door knocking and there was even a leaflet saying 'today's the day, please get out and vote'. I popped in on the Tang Hall Lane polling station to thank the staff there, as it's a quite boring day and I think they do a great job... and as it's a thankless task, I like to buck the trend.

I came home for an early lunch and then loaded the trailer with a job-lot of squashed soya milk cartons and went to see Ginnie who was at the polling station at St Nicks.  They had been very quiet, apparently just 7 voters in over 2 hours.  It was obvious there would be a low turnout.

I cycled on to Hazel Court- there's a back way out of St Nicks which I use to go to and from James St occasionally, and I put my cartons in the recycling container with minimal hassle... one of the chaps there said I could use the 'pedestrians' recycling bins down at the entrance, but I told him that bikes were now allowed up at the top as Yorwaste had seen sense and realised that even car drivers walked around at the top, so cyclists weren't a special case re 'Health and Safety', and the 'no cyclists' sign had been removed.  I told him I really wanted to use the top, like any other normal person in a vehicle.

Then I went on into town.  I put in a Fiddlesticks cheque and had one made out for the  City of York Council for Council Tax.  Went to the bank and got cash out, to make up the balance for the Council.  I was able to pay it all in at 9 St Leonard's and I met my old friend Trish who was doing something similar.  We're now paid up til next spring.  From here I went to the station to buy some train tickets for a gig in Bristol I've been invited to do, in November.

And then home, via the Abundance raised bed, where there were three black sacks of annual plants which had been weeded out.  Unfortunately, some of the perennials and biennial plants had been moved, not sure why, and were looking very sorry for themselves.  Biennials should be left where they have grown in their first year, as disturbing the roots at this time of year means they won't thrive next year, and there's a good chance they will die over winter.  I picked up a box of compostables at Country Fresh and two sacks at Freshways.

I than had an hour or so at home before I was due to go to Vanbrugh College and speak at the 'Activist Cafe' event.  York Rotters had been invited but said they couldn't go, so I said I'd do it instead.  I was due on at 5pm.  I explained about the situation of my having been instrumental in starting York Rotters but currently unable to represent them in front of groups of people, so I was talking to them as just John the Composter, but that this gave me more freedom to mention compost toilets and how to compost cooked food on an ordinary compost heap, subjects completely banned as a York Rotter.  So the talk went well and there were some good questions at the end.  I overshot my 30 minute slot by nearly 10 minutes, but they were fired up to start a campaign to persuade the University to start composting the food waste from the canteens and residential blocks.

I came home via a new logpile and had tea, a baked sweet potato and a thin nutloaf thing Gill had created.  I'd found two Parasol musrooms in the woods on Windmill Lane, and I fried these in olive oil on the woodstove, and they were a good flavoured garnish on the nutloaf...  At 9pm I set out for the count at Archbishop Holgates School, popping in to say thank you to the bored polling station staff there.  Soon after 10pm the ballot boxes arrived and my agent Andy Chase, and two election buddies (not sure that this is their official title!) Ginnie and Andy D'Agorne arrived, and the count got underway.

It was in three sections.  First the number of ballots cast were counted.  1468 out of a total possible of 7992, meaning a rubbish turnout of 18.3%.  Shame on the voters of Hull Road Ward for so much apathy.

Then the ballot papers were sorted into the different candidates voted for.  It was absolutely clear that the Labour chap, Mick Hoban, was going to win.  I went to chat with him and it turned out he works for the Forestry Commission and seemed like a really nice guy.  He said he had admired my logpiles and we chatted about assorted wildlife, and pollarding and coppicing, and a potential project he had thought about quite near here.  My guess is that we'll meet again and talk trees some more. 

Finally, the ballots for each candidate were counted into piles of 50.  I was relieved to see I'd got more than the racist BNP.  There were 3 spoilt ballots which all candidates had to agree were not filled in properly.  The results were as follows:

BNP 42 votes, 2.9%
Green 84 votes 5.7%
Dim Leb 183 votes 12.5%
Tory 296 votes 20.1%
Labour 860 votes 58.6%

So, as expected, the Greens were behind the 3 main parties and ahead of the fascists.  I was pleased with this.

I came home at 11.30 and had a bottle of perry as a little celebration.  I sent out an email to the Green Party to thank those who had helped, and documeted the day.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Wednesday 13th October 10

Up at a sensible time and when I went on my tiscali email at breakfast, I found my inbox was downloading all the emails I've received since December 2008, ie at least 3600 of them, which showed up as unread emails in the inbox next to the ones that are stored in my inbox, already read.  I was aghast!

I went onto Tiscali webmail which is now on the TalkTalk website, and didn't find anything in the list of common questions, so I rang them up.  The Indian guy who answered was difficult to understand, but I did eventually hear that they had received loads of similar complaints, and the Tiscali engineers were working on the problem.  I didn't find out if the unwanted emails would disappear from my inbox (I suspect not) but I did find out that my one-click 'send' button should be working again soon; currently I have to press 'File', then 'Send Later' and then 'File' on the main Mozilla page and a fourth click on 'Send Unsent Messages'.  Obviously, I'll be very happy when the 'Send' button works again!

Gill and I watched the Chilean miners rescue on the TV for a bit; wonderful to see them coming out from where they were trapped and could have died. 

I got up and about before lunch and did quite a bit of tidying up in the garden, and filling sacks with mature compost, ready for next year's Edible York raised beds.  I had a good afternoon, doing more garden work. I need to put all the pea beans on a tray to dry them... mustn't let them hang around and go mouldy!

A simple tea, baked potatoes and stir fried veg, including a bit of spinach beet from the garden.

And then zoomed down to town, to the Green Drinks meeting which this month was focused on food. I arrived but had nowhere to put my bike, and then Graham and Ceri turned up so we all put our bikes near the Minster and walked up to the Three Legged Mare.  The back room was pretty well packed.  I got myself a pear cider, and after a while, Jenny introduced the speakers from the various food projects.  The first was Holgate Windmill, which will soon be back grinding flour with wind power.  Next was Edible York and Abundance, and I followed Dave with a bit about zero-carbon fruit preservation, and passed round a jar of dried apple rings for people to try.  Next was Sasiki and YUMI, and finally Colin said a bit about  the Fulford Community Orchard.  Some fantastic York projects focusing on local food.

I had some good conversations, including with Oliver from People and Planet at the University of York, who invited me to come and do a talk tomorrow tea-time at the Activist Cafe, as York Rotters cannot attend, so I'm going as a non-York Rotter and will do a 30 minute intro to home composting.

Andy Chase my election agent arrived and gave me rosettes for tomorrow.  We discussed who might help by being a 'door smiler' and who would come to the count.

I came home and got busy with the cooked quinces.  I pulped them, added some pectin and a load of sugar, and boiled it on the stove which made a bit of a mess as it splattered all over the place as it was gloopy, but it boiled and I poured it into a dish for setting.  I just hope it sets!

I also chopped some pears for drying and watched the last of the Chilean miners being rescued.  Glad they all got out.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Tuesday 12th October 10

A much better day than yesterday, much less to do although I was just as busy.  I did the usual round of emails etc in the morning, including answering a composting question from Singapore, and other various things... always interesting, although time consuming.

Before lunch I did a quick bit in the garden and again afterwards.  Later, I went to Country Fresh as Gill wanted to make some tomato soup, requested by the children.  As well as a selection of fruit and veg, I brought back a single sack of goodies for the latest compost heap.  One of the more time consuming jobs in the garden was to reclaim a 'turf wall' I built about 2 or 3 years ago, made from turf out of a skip, and these had rotted down to a lovely loam.  I got 5 or 6 sacks of loam, maybe 20 or 30 kg each, which I'll use next spring to make potting compost, mixing it with leafmould and rich compost.

Even later, I collected a large number of windfall quinces from the tree above the garage, which has had a good crop this year.  I'm hoping to make membrillo, a way of preserving the quince flesh, which my friend Florencia told me about.  What a palaver!  First I washed the quinces and carefully cut them in half... not easy as they are really tough.  Then each half was cut in half again, and then each of those cut again, into eighths, to allow the woody core and seeds to be cut out.  I think I spent close on two hours doing all this, and put all the washed pieces into the preserving pan on the woodstove to bring them up to the boil.  The next part of the job I'll do tomorrow.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Monday 11th October 10

A mixed day, as had a fair few meetings and things to do.  My first appointment was at St Lawrence's to help Barry move the apple press, which had been left in the staff room since Saturday, out to his car, and I then cycled down to St Nicks and he drove... I got there first... and then we got a third person, a young lad volunteering at the Centre, to help us carry it in.  It is a big heavy piece of equipment, but three people can carry it easily. It will next be used for Apple Day on Saturday.

I cycled back home and then only had a short while to wait until a midday appointment to deal with and wrap up an incident I was involved with a few weeks ago, and then at 3, I met a friend in town who is experiencing quite severe mental stress and she'd asked me to meet her to bounce some ideas off, so we had 90 minutes together in a cafe, and I hope I was a good friend and was a good listener and helped.  But I had another appointment at 5, so zoomed home at 4.35 via Country Fresh and Freshways, and got in just as the Peter the Freecycler was ringing to say he was on the way.  He'd advertised that he wanted an electric bike, whether working or not.  Several years ago, I'd bought a 'Yamaha Easy' electric motor-assisted bike, second-hand, for £100. It needed a new battery, which cost another £100.  I used it a bit, but my trailer didn't fit on it as far as I can remember, and I lent it to a friend and it never worked properly after that.  So since then, it has sat in the studio just taking up space.

So, I hope that Peter is able to rectify any problems and get it back into use; I think it's for his wife, and I've asked to be told if it is brought back into working order.  I'd be really happy if it is used, and helps someone with increased mobility, rather than gathering dust and taking up space.

So after this I spent a few minutes building a logpile with some recently chopped dryish wood, and came in and lit the stove and flopped. 

I had the tea that Gill cooked yesterday but didn't eat, and then had a series of interesting conversations and phone calls.  I eventually got some time to chop up some fruit for drying, as I've emptied the racks and they are crying out to be refilled.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Sunday 10th October 10 10:10:10 Global Work Party Day

Well, a mixed day for me.  I was very sneezy and had a running nose, especially during the first part of the day.  Also, I'd offered to take one of the children swimming to help him with that, but no, he'd decided that the cycle to Yearsley Baths was too much.  I cannot understand why a 15 minute cycle is enough to put someone off.  In fact there were several parenting issues this morning and I felt like a crap Dad, and was glad to get outside and away from the house at midday.

Today has been on my radar for some while.  I am very positive about people making a special effort to 'be green' but I do it most days, my whole life is 'greener' than most.  So I hadn't planned to do anything special for the 10:10:10 Global Work Party.  But I thought about it and the nearer the date, the more keen I became to do something myself.

I only decided to run my event on the evening of the 8th, and it only went live on the website on the 9th, so although I posted it to facebook, there wasn't much publicity.

I wasn't expecting many people to come, and in the end, no-one did.
BUT I had a really good day managing my composting operations. I had rescued about 200kg of waste fruit and veg from the landfill bins on Thursday and Saturday, and cycled it back home in my bike trailer. I'd also pruned a lot of brambles which fruited earlier this year, so I was able to build good layers on two of my 40 compost heaps. I put the brambles on first, then cardboard, and the chopped wet and sloppy fruit and veg on top of that. The heaps are contained within pallets and material kept in with layers of cardboard up against the wooden pallets.
Additionally, I dug over a builder's bag (one tonne) of mature compost, removed uncomposted sticks and lots of plastic windows from envelopes which were given to me from a school last year for recycling. The plastic will unfortunately get landfilled and the sticks went into the top of one of the heaps I'm currently adding to. The builder's bag full will get bagged up soon in 20 -30kg sacks, and will end up being cycled round to a nearby raised bed being planned by Abundance York, who grow foodplants in public places in the city.

Gill mowed the top lawn and we worked together pruning overgrown shrubs and fruited brambles. That part of the garden is looking a lot tidier now.
However, just as I was finishing my work, Melanie and one of her friends came round and said they'd wanted to do a 10:10:10 action, and decided to plant trees. However, the garden centre was closed, so they drove round to me and asked if I might have any trees they could plant. I plant tree seeds every year, so I was able to give them a Horse Chestnut about 1m tall and a Walnut about 40cm tall, and they took these to the Buddhist Centre about 12 miles East of York, to plant there. This was an unexpected extra to the day for me, and I was really happy to have been able to help.

They came just as I was getting ready to go to the St Nicks Photo Exhibition at the National Trust Shop on Goodramgate.  So I didn't set off for that until nearly 6pm... but there was still plenty of food and wine left.  I met a nice Mexican composer called Claudia, and a chap who works in the shop called Nick, and an ex St Nicks Recycler called Sophie, plus quite a few of my existing friends.  Ivana had taken most of the photos, and there were also lots of the Haikus written during the birthday celebrations. I enjoyed the hour I spent there.

So this wrapped up a mixed day.  I'd enjoyed my composting activities despite feeling low with my dribbly nose and problems with the children, and was very pleased to be asked to provide trees for this 'special' day.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Saturday 9th October 10 Eco Family Day

An early start as I had to be at St Lawrence's before 10 to help set up... I thought my fruit press would be there but it wasn't; it was delivered at about 10.30.  But the Transition stall was there, as were lots of other campaign and community groups, the Council's 'Nappacino' stall with reusable nappy information (it costs the Council thousands of pounds to landfill disposable nappies), some people doing fruit smoothies, a bike and trike try-out demonstration outside in the playground, and more.  Anna had done well to co-ordinate this event. 

A fair few people came through the doors and the York in Transition stall got another half-dozen signatures for the mailing list.  I chatted with a nice lady called Karen who runs or works for 'Grace' preserves.  I met my old friend Kate who was with the cycling try out.  Chloe and Dave from Edible York and Abundance brought loads of apples and washed them, halved them and they got put through the grinder and into the press, and we made loads of very sweet and tasty juice.  This was popular!

Cleaning up was not too easy. The press and grinder are easiest to clean with a hose, but we only had a jug and a sink.  We left the press at the school, to be picked up on Monday and taken to St Nicks ready for Apple Day next weekend.  I took home a large amount of apple press solids and the bits of fruit skins etc from the smoothie maker.  Oh, and a large pile of compostable paper cups from her too. 

Andy D'Agorne took the remaining leaflets and a map of the roads in Hull Road Ward which haven't yet been leafleted, and a few hours later he popped in to give the remaining undelivered ones back and the map. 

I loaded up one of the heaps with shredded apple and shredded twigs.  I want it to be hot for tomorrow when I'm holding a 10:10:10 'Work Party' to show people composting and invite then to help dig out a large heap.

I was tired and didn't want to be subjected to the Come Dancing nonsense so I had a couple of hours upstairs and found a nice dance music website called Limbic Frequencies.

Later, had a real game of Scrabble with Gill, not on facebook. 

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Friday 8th October 10

A good day.  I did a fair amount in the garden; I had about 6 sacks of greengrocers stuff waiting to be slopped onto the heaps, so I pruned loganberries and blackberries, the bits which fruited this year, and they formed a good 'airy' layer to put some cardboard on, with the really wet fruit and veg on top of that. 

I also almost finished the new stack of fuel next to the front door, started yesterday.  I did a lot more fruit drying... I'm speed-drying apple rings now, in about 24 hours.  I could do with more drying space as I have more apples than I can cope with.  In between times I stripped cable to get the copper wire out, so I had a busy day.

At 5pm, Barry from Transition/Abundance came round to pick up the fruit press and apple crusher, to be used at tomorrow's Eco-Family Day at St Lawrence's School and Family Centre.  I'm on the Transition stall, but I expect I'll help with the apples too.

Not sure what else happened today, but I'm feeling happy at the end of it.  Maybe it's because Steve Miller Band is on Jools Holland...

Friday, 8 October 2010

Thursday 7th October 10

Up fairly early so I could get round to Debbie before 10am, and go and deliver leaflets with her.  I went at 9.35 and we spent about 2 hours delivering in Badger Hill, using the 'leapfrog' method, going on the same side of the street and staying together and doing alternate houses, sometimes two houses with a shared driveway or no hedge/wall between the properties making it easier for leaflet the postie or political leaflet deliverer.... This method also allows you to chat, and if accosted by someone, to support each other.

So, a lot of walking and was glad to get in at about midday to settle down and have lunch.

Had a busy afternoon but didn't do any more leaflets.  I did do a bit of pallet butchering, and then at 6, Alex and her partner Larry the Freecyclers came round to pick up some pea beans, to plant next year on their allotment.  I gave them some perennial spinach beet seeds too.

Nice warm evening burning pallets and removing nails.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Wednesday 6th October 10

Not too early a start but I soon realised I had an appointment at the RSPCA animal home at 11 to deliver compost to Julia, who's doing a garden there.  So I got 4 sacks of very mature compost plus a sack of leafmould, and cycled it round there.  Julia was waiting for me and she took me to see where she's making raised beds, and showed me her compost bins which she's using to compost animal bedding.  On the way out I asked the person in the office what they suggested I do with any squirrels I caught in my live trap.  They said they wouldn't be able to accept them.

I didn't spend long there but as I left I noticed some clear plastic sacks of garden waste had been dumped in the undergrowth, so I emptied them out (it was all biodegradable) and took the sacks with me... they'll come in useful for something composty...

I cycled back towards town, and passed the Minster Vets in Salisbury Road, and decided to find out if they had a policy on squirrels.  After some discussion, the answer was they would have to kill it or 'put it down' as this is euphemistically called, and charge me £24 for doing so.  A very unsatisfactory situation. This issue of 'pest animals' is a real ethical dilemma for me.  I think I need to write a note about ethical dilemmas.(now done!)

I came back via Country Fresh, and after lunch went to do a load of leafleting in the Tang Hall area.

In the evening I attended a 20s Plenty for York meeting at Anna's, and was glad to meet a York Press reporter who's keen to cover the campaign. I have a few actions against my name.  Our main focus is to persuade people to fill in the consultation, despite it being very poorly worded. The information about the consultation is here, but a pdf of the YourCity is here, with the 20 mph consultation on page 4. The council also provide this information. I'm backing the 20's Plenty for 3 main reasons: lower speeds mean if there is a collision, there is a reduced likelihood of injury or death; reduced speeds mean less acceleration and braking, and therefore reduced fuel use; lower speeds mean quieter roads. Additionally, lower speeds may encourage people currently scared of cycling to get back on their bikes and cycle to work, school or the shops.

I came home via Country Fresh again and brought a broken pallet back.  Not a lot of wood in it, but it would have ended up in a skip if I hadn't have brought it back. It will make good kindling.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Tuesday 5th October 10

A day with a lot of walking... I did some deliveries in the morning, and then got a reminder phone call from Geoff about collecting his bag from the Seahorse and delivering it to the Credit Union, which I did, and then when I got home, John Horsley had put a message through the letterbox saying that a builder was wanting to give me some offcuts, so I cycled to where John said it was but the builder had gone home.  So I delivered some more election leaflets, in Tang Hall.

Then at 6pm, my Election Agent Andy Chase came round and we did most of Badger Hill, til about 8pm, when I needed some tea.  Pasta and broccoli, with other bits.

In the evening one of my facebook friends, Sarah, who runs Moors Wood Environment Centre, told me about a woodstove she's been to see today, and fallen in love with. For some time she had set her heart on a Clearview, but this stove, the Burley t3, looks even better. She'll probably have this installed by early next year.  I want to see one!

Oh, and we had a SUMA delivery at about 10am which was earlier than we expected, and Melody came later in the day to pick up her stuff.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Monday 4th October 10

Quite a good day, despite my having a headache for much of it.  Before lunchtime I did a bit of leafleting, just an hour and a half, and met one of my Press friends, investigating a shed fire which might have been something more sinister.  I spent an hour and a half on that round, and at the end, popped into see Debbie and spent 15 minutes with her... then lunch, then assorted stuff around the house.

Probably the most interesting thing today was that I had a conversation on the phone with Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak , the inventor of Promession.  I'd found an interesting website about high speed, high temperature aerobic decomposition of food waste, called Vertal.  Susanne saw the link and wanted to talk to me about the process, and share her opinion about it, which was very interesting.  We then discussed the latest developments regarding Promession, and it's UK-based competitor Cryomation.  See this blog post for a description of some of the conference last week that I couldn't go to. I wish I'd been able to go... but I was at a York Rotters meeting.  We then had a chat about another 'green funeral' development which I'm involved with, and I was surprised with her feedback on that, but I respect her views as a biologist and as someone who's been researching biological disposal of bodies for years.  I was really glad to have this conversation.

At 6pm, my Green Party friend Will arrived, and he took a load of leaflets and went to deliver them in one of the areas of Hull Road Ward.  I had my tea, pasta and cauliflower with a few other bits, and at 7, went down the garden to find some apples and take them to the YorkLETS meeting. This was, as usual, at the Seahorse Hotel, and the attendance was a 100% increase on last month... there were four of us!  A good meeting, we made a decision about the percentage of sterling allowable in any LETS trade. I sold 3 Yorkys worth of apples.

When I got home, there was a phone call from Geoff, one of the attendees, who'd left his bag at the pub, and asked if I could retrieve it tomorrow.

Through facebook, I had a good conversation with the American woman who's developing the 'green funeral' concept, and we talked through what Susanne had said.  Fascinating subject area. Another good conversation.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Sunday 3rd October 10 Beverley Food Festival

A very wet day ahead... the forecast was for continual rain, and it did rain all day.  I was picked up by one of my facepainter friends Maggie just before 8am.  She was a replacement for Lesley, who phoned last night saying she wasn't well, and that Maggie would pick me up.

I like Maggie... she's friendly good to chat with.  She's a careful driver too, just as well in the conditions.  We got to Beverley before 9 and found a free car park about 5 minutes from the town centre, which is totally taken up with stalls from the Food Festival.  I found Helen and introduced her to Maggie, who's not done this event before, whereas this is my fifth, I think.  Helen found Maggie a spare stall and after a quick walk around with Helen, i decided that I too would do best at this stall.

I was already in costume so I was ready to start work immediately. I made several balloon models as demonstration models or decoys... to draw in the punters... and it worked, with the added pull, directed to adults with children in tow, of  'Hello, do you know anybody who likes balloon animals?'.

So, I must have done about 50 models today.  I looked after Maggie's stall whilst she was at lunch and when I went, she kept an eye on my stuff.  During a part of the afternoon, when it was just drizzling, I had a request to run a unicycle workshop, so I did, with a small boy trying the four wheeler and two wheeler before the kids one wheeler.  It provided a change for me.. which was good.  It became less busy after 2.30 and I'd been asked to be in the main marquee for 3 to present a 10 minute piece on composting food waste.   This went well, and there were some questions from the audience afterwards.

I bought a stick of Brussels sprouts on the way back to Maggie, who was packed and ready to go.  We walked back to the car and in the pouring rain, drove carefully back to York. There was loads of standing water on the roads and the horse lorries were sending up fountains of spray, quite spectacular.

So, I was soon back at home, and took quite a while to warm up, but did loads more fruit and lots of writing.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Saturday 2nd October 10

A work day... but a different sort of work to my usual stuff.  I'd been booked by the Pickering Civic Society to help with their Eco Day, and talk about low carbon living and carbon footprints and the Credit Union.

So I got up soon after 7am and got myself to the station for just after 8, and waited for the bus which was timetabled to arrive at 8.22.  I met a gent who's a York Rotter and chatted with him in the queue, but when I got on the bus there was a single space on the front seat on the top deck, which was good.  I chatted to a nice woman from Leeds, Adele, who works at Jimmy's in the shop and was very pleasant.

I met Judy from the Civic Society when I was walking through Pickering, she was putting up notices about today's event.  I walked on to the Civic Hall where there were stalls from the Energy Saving Trust, including a driving simulator which gave a score about how energy efficient the driver was, a local school which is beginning to grow foodplants, compost and undertake other sustainability measures.  There was a permaculture stall and John Brown the Recycling Officer.  There were a couple of beekeepers, and Susan had brought some tree seedlings and insect hibernacula... plastic pipes and bottles with hollow plant stems, corrugated cardboard and straw in them, to provide overwinter shelter for insects such as lacewings and ladybirds.  There were also hot drinks and biscuits available.

My role was to chat to visitors and help the day flow.  I was able to talk with dozens of people about carbon footprints, diet, transport, peak oil, composting and quite a few other related subjects.  I also gave out quite a few Jack Edwards Pea Beans, in their pods.  I think Susan and Judy were happy with what I did.  I had a sandwich and a coffee for lunch when it quietened down but was busy from 10am til 2.45, when I said my goodbyes and walked back to the bus stop and soon the bus took me back to Malton, and a change of bus to get back to York.

I was glad to get on my bike and go home, via Country Fresh who loaded me up with compostable resources.

So, a good day, and although I'm not sure, I think there will be a cheque in the post.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Friday 1st October 10

As it was raining all day, I did relatively little outside.  I was awake early and did a fair bit of sorting things out around the house... but spent a lot of time on the computer.

The 10:10 organisation, which I'm proud to be a supporter of, had announced last night that in the morning there was to be a new mini-movie released, and I posted the message onto facebook to suggest to people that in the morning they should check it out.  I got an email to say it was released, and I watched No Pressure... and was really shocked and horrified.  It depicted a teacher and a class of children, talking about climate change and the teacher asked who was doing the 10:10 carbon reduction, to which all but two put their hands up.  The two who weren't doing anything were asked to confirm that they weren't bothering... and then the teacher pushed a red button and blew them up; lots of strawberry jam and ketchup splattered all over the other children.  The scene switched to a workplace with a boss talking to his workforce, similar situation with two people saying they weren't bothering.  The boss was handed a red button and pushed it, exploding the two non-participants.  Then there was a scene at a football pitch with an iconic footballer saying he wasn't interested in 10:10, and he was similarly blown up.  The final 'victim' was a voice over person finishing a take, and in answer to the question 'and what are you doing personally to reduce your carbon emissions?' she answered that she thought that doing the voice over was enough.  The interviewer then pushed the red button, splattering the studio glass with the pretend blood and guts.

I found this horrible and very negative, nasty to watch, and the wrong message to put across.  I would never advocate killing someone who wasn't getting involved in reducing their emissions... nor would I joke about it, suggest it or even think about it.  Sure, I get angry with frequent flyers, indulgent meat-eating gluttons, petrol heads driving everywhere and other people not behaving responsibly in the light of the climate emergency... but they don't deserve to be killed!  I feel that there is enough anger about the issues for some people to consider environmental terrorism... after all, some people believe what they believe so strongly they become suicide bombers or plant IEDs to kill and maim their enemies.  We don't need this behaviour transferring into the environmental movement.  Also this film could be used to portray us eco activists as over the top, wacky, etc, and I think it is unhelpful to 'our cause'.  I found the 10:10 contact details and rang them, spoke to a nice person called Harriet, and explained my feelings and asked them to remove it from the website. 

There was a lot of comment, on the Guardian website and on facebook, with at least one well-known supporter of 10:10 saying he'd taken off the tag and was parting company from that arm of the sustainability movement henceforth.  Many people said they disliked the film, thought it was horrible, did the cause no favours.  Other commentators thought the film was funny, or might shock some people into action.  It was fascinating to see the comments coming in, and to follow this story.  I don't know what time it was, but some time in the afternoon, sense prevailed and 10:10 took the video off their website and offered an apology.  I rang Harriet again and thanked them. I'm glad that people power isn't dead!

I didn't spend all day on the computer.  I visited Debbie over the road mid morning as it was her birthday, and gave her one of Gill's home made cards and chatted with her for 20 minutes.  I did a bit of work in the garden late afternoon dumping a sack of gubbins onto a heap, and collecting the crop of windfalls.  I got a trailer load of logs together for Ann's party, as she'd asked if I could bring some as a birthday present.  I also got a small bag of dried fruit together, and a small nut selection too, as I thought she'd appreciate these.

So I had a bite to eat at 5pm but at 730ish set out to go to Ann's on the other side of the river.  It was still raining.  I really enjoyed this party, and had good conversations with new friends Penny and Kate, current friends Sarah, David, Will and Helen, and old friends Jonathan, Belinda, Jadzia and Keith.  I had a super time... I love parties, and haven't been to as good a one as this for quite a while.  Almost at the end I did a few balloon models, and left at midnight, taking less than 15 minutes to get home.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Thursday 30th September 10

Woke at 8 and was told that I'd gone to bed at 9 last night and although I said I'd like to be woken at 10.30 to come and watch Newsnight and get on with housework, I'd grunted at 10.30 and turned over and slept right the way through.  11 hours sleep is rare for me, I usually get 6 or 7.  But I woke feeling refreshed and much bouncier.

It was a good day, the boys went to school and Gill went to physio, and I used the sunny dry day to do some chainsawing and work in the garden.  I also did some fruit drying... pineapple, banana, pear.  I did some paperworky/admin stuff, preparing for the weekend's work. I got a phone call from BBC Radio York who wanted to interview me in Pickering on Saturday, for their Transition event, and they wanted to do a sort of 'my top year and three songs', and we had quite a good conversation.  Right at the end I asked him whether he knew I was standing in an election.  He didn't know there was an election.  I told him about it and he said he'd get back to me about whether it would have any bearing on the interview.  Much later in the day, he rang back and said that it was borderline whether my being interviewed about green issues and standing as a Green Party candidate in an election was a problem, but to be on the safe side, they'd decided not to use me this time.  I think they've got to be careful not to be accused of bias.

At about 7pm I set out to go to the York in Transition meeting, via my agent's house as I've not been able to contact him.  I left a message through his letterbox.  Then over to Andreas's house, and I was pleased to see his wife Catherine before she went out to work.  Edward and Peter were at the meeting too, and we had a productive meeting and all of us have things to do to take York in Transition forward.  I cycled back via an almond tree I'd discovered and picked a bag of almonds.

Back at 11pm and settled down to the usual mix of computer and washing up... and then there were screams upstairs.  One of our boys was being sick.... poor him.  It took ages to clear up.