Thursday, 31 March 2011

Wednesday 30th March 11

I got up early as I was due to cycle into school with our youngest, and was ready for 8.30 with his bike waiting out at the front.  I waited for well over half an hour and he didn't get himself ready... eventually Gill told me to go on to  Edwina's without him, as he wasn't well enough to go to school.  This all put me in a grumpy mood.  When I was young I went to school whatever I was feeling like... I had to be REALLY ill to miss school.

I had strapped my wrecking bar to my bike frame, and checked with Edwina that the garage was open for me.  I got to hers at what I thought was 9.40, but I hadn't altered my phone time so in reality it was 10.40.

Anyway, I got busy and started demolishing the little wall which Edwina wanted out, it was a tough job, and I interspersed this with pulling out weeds and chopping up brambles into the new compost bin, which is in a temporary place.  This work cheered me up, as the weather was nice and I enjoyed the work, despite it being difficult.

Edwina was in but not feeling well, so I worked solidly for 3 hours, finishing at what I thought was 12.40.  I was due to meet Richard at David's flat at 2pm, so I had a bit of a slow lunch in town, and went to David's at what I thought was 1.45... but I realised much later that my phone didn't automatically change last weekend, so I was late to this meeting.  Linda, David's friend and cleaner, was there to meet me and to sort out times that we're working for David when Richard goes to France, in 2 weeks.  We've met before, at St Nicks, apparently!

And then I visited Barnitts to look at chainsaws, and then to Country Fresh, and then home.

I was feeling very achy and tired, but did another couple of hours after tea in the garden.  Gill had a bath and the water was still hot so I had a soak after her, to see if that helped my aches.  I came down at 10 and my phone went; it was Lisa saying that Liam, her son, was at York Station and was I going to meet him?  I'd been expecting him tomorrow night, not tonight!  I texted Liam with our address and said to get a taxi.

Was good to see him, and we chatted about interviews etc, as he's got an interview for a University place tomorrow.  He bedded down on the futon in the front room at about midnight, and asked to be got up at 7 tomorrow, to get a train soon after 8.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Tuesday 29th March 11

A mixed day... our youngest went to school in a taxi all by himself for the first time and I got ready to go to John Bibby's to continue chopping up his huge log.  I delivered a rhubarb root, sprouting several leaves, to Keith as a thank you for fixing the chainsaw, and then delivered a receipt of payment to a gent who lives near John.

I soon got busy with the log, cutting it with the saw and then using the maul effectively to break chunks off.  I filled their car and just as I was getting to the end of my stint, the chainsaw broke... the motor was able to go round but the chain didn't.  Bummer.

I had a coffee with Shirley and then also John joined us, and Shirley told me about what they'd experienced in Palestine on their recent visit.

I then cycled home and 20 minutes later, John arrived in his car and I unloaded the chunks into the builders bag ready for splitting.

Had lunch, can't remember what I did after lunch but at about 3pm I took our youngest's bike down to the Steiner School on my trailer and we cycled home together.

I had a difficult phone call with my agent who's got hold of the wrong end of the stick about something and I'm not very happy with the outcome, but will go along with it to 'keep the peace'.

I had a cycle around the neighbourhood to collect signatures for the nominations papers for me and Luke, who's my running mate in the forthcoming elections. Will D then came round and collected them, and at 8.15 I went to visit Jane, as she wanted some help with doing an event page for a dance event she's organising.  So that was pretty straightforward, and we had a good chat.  I got back at about 11pm with two pallets.  Whilst rescuing the pallets from a skip, I witnessed an argument between a male and a female and when he hit her, I ran over towards them shouting 'stop that' and said I'd ring the police.  She begged me not to and urged the male to go with her, but she twice called out thank you to me.  Sad to see that sort of thing going on.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Monday 28th March 11

Up early as I took our youngest to school.. well, he cycled himself, mostly, with gentle pushes up the hilly bits and a few other places.  Got to school in about 20 minutes.

I then cycled back and got a message that our son's Maths tutor wasn't well and had called off.  I had a busy morning doing assorted admin and paperwork, but at midday went out to The Maltings to see my Green Gathering friend Stu Oolong for possibly the last time, as he's moving to Los Angeles with his partner Shaari, and although he might come back to the UK occasionally, his family is 'down south' so trips to 'oop narth' might be few and far between.  He was chatting with Lou and Rich; was good to see them again, and I spent over an hour there.  Stu gave me some vinyl records that he wanted to offload before the trip... I'll have to get my amplifier sorted out to listen to them!

I then went to the building society to get out a cheque for the cost of replacing my brakes with better bigger ones, and the chain-set, block and sprocket.  I was a bit gobsmacked at the cost but I hope the new bits will keep me safe...  I picked up my bike and refitted the trailer and came home, via a pallet pile and a Freshways donation...

Did some log stacking as we've used up the stack to the left of the front door (looking out).  I collected our youngest too, at 4.15 as he's having extra French lessons to catch up with the rest of the class.

After a small tea I cycled to the Hospital to see David and amongst other things, we discussed when I was going to go back to work with him.  Collected logs on the way home.

I wonder how many miles I've cycled today?

Monday, 28 March 2011

Sunday 27th March 11

I had a bit of a lie-in which was good, and when I came down I filled in the Census form, although I found it complicated and had to make a few corrections, crossings out, explanations, and I accidentally spilled some coffee on it. Whoops.  Methinks the American arms manufacturer who has won the contract might not make any profit on our form.  The boys filled in their sections, and then Gill did hers; she too had to help the form administrators understand what she was putting.  It's nice to know a real person will be dealing with our information, not some faceless computer.

However, as it was lovely outside I got out into the garden as I still had more compost stuff to sort out, and I got quite a bit done.

But then after lunch I remembered I was supposed to take my bike to Cycle Heaven to get the new disc brakes fitted, as the original ones wear down really quickly and the little plastic wheel used to tighten the pad has broken off and the mechanism gets too difficult to tighten up even with pliers.  Very unsatisfactory.  So, at some expense, I'm having disc brakes fitted with pads which are twice as big, and hopefully will wear down half as fast!  I also need a new front chain wheel, or sprocket, but the stainless steel one hasn't arrived yet so I'm having an ordinary one fitted to make the bike safe, and if/when the more resilient one arrives, that will replace the one being put on today.  So I cycled down and left my bike and trailer there, and came home on a replacement bike, which doesn't have all the three gears working. 

I popped in on Rich at Country Fresh and bought some fruit and veg, and loaded a box and a bag of recyclable materials on the rack, and came home and continued my work in the garden.

Gill came down the garden at about 7pm and suggested I come in and watch Countryfile and have tea, which was pasta and mushrooms.

I was glad to come and sit down as I have been very busy today, and I watched a programme about the Japanese Earthquake and then a Brian Cox offering about light whilst playing Scrabble.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Saturday 26th March 11 - UK Aware 2011 day two AND London protests

I woke up fairly early and spent some time with Lisa before breakfast and getting ready to go into London.  Lisa and her son Liam were going into London for the anti-cuts demonstration, whereas Ian was staying at home and taking their daughter to her dance lesson.

So Liam and I walked along to Honor Oak Park station and Lisa (who went back to collect song sheets) joined me on the platform, and we travelled into London Bridge together, and were joined by more flag-bearing protesters, and some of Lisa's choir too, the Strawberry Thieves.  I said goodbye to Lisa at London Bridge and got the Jubilee Line to Westminster, so I could go to West Kensington.  As I was waiting on the platform for the Westbound District Line train, there was an announcement that the station was now closed, so please leave the station.  The train drew into the platform, and I thought, great, leave the station.... but then the train sped up again and didn't stop.  So, went up to the surface where protesters were already gathering, and apparently this was why the station was closed, as the authorities didn't want crowds of people coming up out of the station into even larger crowds next to Parliament.  I asked a policeman about getting to Kensington, he suggested walking to St James's Park and continuing Westwards from there.  I enjoyed this walk as there was no motor traffic, just people milling around and getting ready for the march.

So, walked from West Kensington up to Olympia, got a £1.20 pastie for lunch as the food at the UK Aware was so expensive.  I made contact with Philippa to let her know I was here on the day I was supposed to be talking, and went to have a wander around.  I decided to spend my very limited amount of money on two things... a packet of two USB rechargeable batteries for Gill's portable clock radio and a small salt crystal deodorant which will replace my pitrok when that wears out or is dropped and shatters; the crystal I bought is entirely natural and is from the Sahara.  Both these reduce waste.  The rechargeable batteries don't need a special charger, they plug into the USB port of any computer and take a tiny amount of electric current to charge up, and can then replace ordinary batteries.  They'll recharge 500 times.

I had my lunch and chatted to people, then went to see Brigit Strawbridge's talk on bees.


Saturday, 26 March 2011

Friday 25th March 11 - UK Aware 2011, day one

A very early bleary start at about 6.30am (yawn) as had to be on the 08.11 train to London, and I hadn't got all my stuff together last night.

But as usual I managed to get to the station on time, and got myself nestled down into my booked seat.... and then blow me, who should come and sit opposite but my neighbour's son Joe, on the way down to some kind of induction into a Mariner's organisation on a ship moored on the Thames.  We chatted a bit but then he immersed himself in his Kindle or iPad or something.

Fortunately, a lovely Chinese lass came to sit next to me, Faye, who's at the University of York doing a Masters in Education, her aim is to teach English in China.  We got on really well, and covered many subjects, and I hope she'll contact me after her trip to China to see her family.

So, as there was intense conversation, the journey went quickly, and soon after 10am, we were on Platform 0 at King's Cross.  I'd worked out my route last night, and headed for the tube to Earl's Court.  What I hadn't known was that to get the train from Earl's Court to Olympia the Olympia trains have to be running, and they weren't.  The tannoy said to go to a station South of Earl's Court, so I got this train, with some nice folks with an ADHD son, heading to the Dr. Who Exhibition.  But I hadn't heard that from this we should get the overland train, and I said I was sure we were going in the wrong direction, and we all went back to Earl's Court.  Here we got the info that we should have taken the overland one North up to Olympia, so we went South again to catch that.  However, when we got to that overland train platform, there was a sign saying 'next train to Olympia, 55 minutes'.  So we asked the station person, and she said get the C1 bus.  We got this, a largish group of us by now, and by midday we were at Olympia 2, for UK Aware.

I was first confronted by a rather hyperactive photographer taking pictures of the people coming through the door, had a show guide booklet thrust into my hands, and went to the front desk to register.  As I'm a speaker, I was told to go and pick up my badge from the side desk, and here I met Philippa whom I'd had a lot of email contact. It was good to meet her, and hopefully she was able to mentally tick off one more thing to worry about from her list.... the urban composting presenter is safely in London and has found the venue!

The show area had a lot of cars, bicycles and funny looking scooter/motorbikes on the left, so I had a quick look there first.  The cars were the various electric ones, which cost a lot but only cost a few pennies per mile to run, and give out no 'tail pipe' emissions.  The motorbike-like things were more my cup of tea (apart from the retail cost, starting at £1500) but were being tried out on a test-track... they can accelerate up to 20mph really quickly.  These were from solstis bikes and Quantya bikes

Near these was a hydrogen-powered fuel cell van owned by Camden Council. A model of a new wind turbine with swept-back blades which make it completely silent was in front of a bus covered in astroturf, 'The Big Green Bus', doing a week-long tour of London to promote Climate Week, and it's green as it runs on waste vegetable oil.  The bus is also sponsored by Armadillo LED lighting, which had an impressive and powerful set of lights on show.

still tbc!

Friday, 25 March 2011

Thursday24th March 11

I worked late into the night using Lucy's laptop and WiFi to write up the past couple of days events, and went to sleep on their fold-out couch/bed well after 2am.

And was woken up at 7am as I was booked onto the 8.06 from Weston to Bristol.  I had some cereal and toast with the children, and Lucy was driving past the station anyway so she dropped me there and came onto the platform for a few minutes to see me off.

In Bristol the 9am train to London was waiting, I had got a cheap route via Reading... a longer journey but cheaper ticket, so got into Reading at just after 10 and then waited for the Newcastle train which came in at 10.35 and left 5 mins later, with me esconced on a reserved seat.  Got the laptop out and half dozed, half deleted emails, chatted to Ernie behind me at one stage of the journey, and a lady opposite too, who was interested in my dried fruit and swapped some for a bag of crisps.

The train was early into York, getting in just before 3, and I went down to Cycle Heaven to see if they'd got my bike parts.  The brakes had arrived but not the indestructable sprocket ring, and Ash had forgotten to book my bike in for Friday, so Ben dealt with it and said come in on Sunday. 

I was pleased to get home and people seemed pleased to see me.  I did my emails and had a couple of phone calls, including one from my brother Tom telling me that my Uncle Eddie Potok had died last night.  I rang Aunty Lizzie and we had a nice chat.

Gill made spaghetti with a nice mix of vegetables for tea, and later still I had a bath.  I spent quite a bit of time getting stuff together for going to London tomorrow, as I'm going to UK Aware. I'm staying with Lisa and Ian and looking forward to that, and may get to see my Oxfam Carbon Footprint friend Anna too.  Exciting times!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Wednesday 23rd March 11 Wipe Out Waste Welly Boot Camp.

I was woken by Ben who had been sleeping next to me in the adjacent bunk, and most of us in that dorm got up soon after 6am to go for a wander round the farm, to look for the canyon and see how much wild food was available.  Several people commented on my snoring, despite my warning them that I snore.  One chap snored so loudly that he'd had the sense to bed down in the kitchen area, away from everybody else where he wouldn't disturb them (or, apparently, vibrate people out of their beds!). 

A group of teenagers joned us for the early morning walk which was good, and Robin and I led the expedition, with questions about tree identification and some of the foodstuffs from plants, including beechmast, gorse flowers and nettles.

We came back for breakfast and then the mentors went down to the Yeo Valley 'Lakewood' Conference Centre; Ben was happy to take me and all my gear down.  I got set up for my 11am til 12pm first show and had a bit of time to see whether the laptop and wifi worked together, which they did.  The assorted schools appeared... Dixon City Academy, Abbots Hill School, Hollyfield School Kingston, St. Lukes, Mountbatten School, Sidcup School and Saint Timothy's from Glasgow who'd flown down.  There was an intro from Karen from Footprint Friends and Tracey Smith the main organiser of this event, and Graham Keating from Yeo Valley, who amongst other things, showed a very slick (and funny) advertising video.

Then it was time for the first session; I had a group of maybe 16 youngsters, and I explained that I was going to do my circus skills show and workshop, and that when they came up to volunteer they would be helping themselves to learn how to present information, to 'act' in a way which might help them prepare for their presentations to the Eco Dragons in the summer, to (successfully) showcase their idea.  Other groups were starting with media training, to et them used to working with TV/video cameras on them.

The show went very well, some talented and keen people, and I was really pleased with how they responded to my challenges.

I had 30 minutes free after that, before lunch, which was a tasty veg lasagne which I had on the veranda overlooking Blagdon Lake from way up the hill. A spectacular view.

After lunch I had my second group, again a talented bunch, with several diabolo players in amongst them, and a good unicylist or three.  They went off to do a brainstorming session to develop and improve their idea, and I got tidied up and then went to join the mentors in the main conference hall for the final session which was mainly feedback.  Professor Fiddlesticks got a mention in all but one of the feedback presentations, which made me quite emotional, in a positive way!

It took quite a while to get the stuff all packed up and away, as I think Ben took a wander to go and take more photos!  At the top of the hill too, he stopped to take pics and it was here I discovered he's into Urban Exploration, and 'knew' Mozaz (through an Urbex website only I think)  But eventually we got back to Fernhill Farm where we had a bit to eat and a debrief.  And a walk to the canyon, which Tracey hadn't seen.  Robin came with us and enthused about hairy bittercress, lords and ladies (starchy root if prepared well) fiddleheads from heart's tongue ferns, dandelion, wood sorrel and nettles.  This time I tried a nettle, raw and scrunched up... it was delicious!

But we were running out of time and had to get back, and Ben offered to take me down to Weston Super Mare to Lucy and Colin's house, and when we eventually got there, came in for a cuppa before driving back to Southampton.  He enjoyed seeing the sunset (more photos) and Cheddar Gorge, which is always gorgeous!

I had a lovely balloon modelling session with the two children, and when they'd gone to bed, a good long chat with Colin and Lucy. 

One of the best days I've had for a long time. 

Tuesday 22nd March 11 Fernhill Farm

Lovely day, including the two train journeys, and meeting several people whom I know through the 'net but haven't ever met in real life.

I started off by filling the analogue stacking wormery (ex seed-sprouter) with finished worm compost in the bottom layer, working compost with worms in the middle layer and new compostables in the top layer.  Then the whole thing went back in it's box and I'll be taking it to London on Friday.

Then got stuff ready for going to Bristol and the Wipe Out Waste Welly Boot Camp.  Loaded the bike trailer with all my circus gear, overnight stuff including a sleeping bag.  I'd booked on the 11.30 train and got a seat booked too, and on the way to Birmingham had good conversations with the people round the table... and then on the Birmingham to Bristol train, another nice chat with my seat-neighbour, who was really interesting.

Ben Edwards met me at Temple Meads and we just managed to get the stuff in his car, and he used Googlemaps on his mobile, attached to his windscreen, to get us to more or less the right place.  However, once heading for Burrington Coombe, we took the wrong turning (no signpost) and ended up in Blagdon.  Eventually he admitted he had a map, which I'm really good at reading, and I found a way up to the top of the Mendips and to Fernhill Farm.

Tracey Smith was in the kitchen preparing food with Karen Cannard and Dave Hampton, the Carbon Coach.  I've been looking forward to meeting Tracey and Dave for ages.... and was due to meet them for the first time this weekend at UK Aware, but then Tracey invited me to help with the Wipe Out Waste 'Welly Boot Camp'.  There was Martin Gillard, a key player in the emerging renewable energy market, and Joe Wadsworth from Good Energy, both of whom I was pleased to meet, and later, Robin Harford, of Eat Weeds fame, another person I'd been looking forward to meeting after being in contact through facebook. Eventually Karen Ford surfaced, the founding Director of Footprint Friends, which is running the Wipe Out Waste Awards.

The food prep was happening in an amazing building, semicircular and newly renovated.  At one end was the kitchen and a dining room, then a lounge cum posh bedroom with a big double bed and a huge sleep-in canary cage on top, then the boys' dorm and then the girls' dorm, each with their own toilet and shower area.  The whole building had been done out with locally sourced wooden beams, whole tree trunks in many places, and was very plush and wonderful with lovely decoration.  I think it has under-floor heating as it seemed very cosy.  They use a biomass boiler, running on logs.

There was food prep going on... so I did a bit of washing up and then helped Ben find wood for the fire area. I met Jen and Andrew Wear, the land custodians; it was good to meet Andrew again as I'd met him briefly at the Big Green Gatherings here where I'd been head compost dude.

We lit the bonfire and food was eventually served.  Lovely food, over 30 of us eating, including a couple of the school groups, teenagers and their teachers who will be participating tomorrow.  Tracey had booked a pair of musicians to come and provide entertainment, so they set up next to the fire and most of us sat around that and talked, waved joss-sticks around, toasted marshmallows next to the fire (I don't eat marshmallows as they're not vegetarian) and generally enjoyed ourselves.  I was interested to see an iPhone app which could 'see' the stars in the night sky and put an outline of the various constellations onto the screen.  And Tracey led a short guided meditation, one of my first 'official' meditations actually which involved looking up into the universe.

It was a fine end to a really good night.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Monday 21st March 11

I had planned to go to Edwina's today with my wrecking bar to dismantle a little low wall which she wants out, and I had checked with her that it would be OK to go.  I had also agreed to deliver something to a friend, and pick up some freecycled bits and bobs.  However, first I went to put in two cheques, bought a pastie for lunch and then cycled out along the Boroughbridge Road to Edwina's.  She'd given me a key to her garage, and said it would not have the bolt across the inside.

But the bolt had been slid across and I couldn't get in.  I texted Edwina and we had a brief conversation, but she was working in Manchester and there was nothing she could do.  Her lodger had bolted the doors.

So I went to my other friend's house, delivered and picked up, and cycled back into town. 

I have been thinking about my forthcoming 'urban composting' gig at UK Aware next weekend, and what props I'll need.  I'd like to take a wormery but they're too big to take on the train.  I do have a 'desktop Bubble House wormery' but it doesn't really demonstrate the tray structure that I want to show, which is seen best in the Can Of Worms stacking wormery or the slightly bigger Worm Cafe.  So I've been wondering about using a seed sprouter. I visited several places in town, and found only one very expensive version (£17) so I gave up.  But then I had a brainwave... I went to Alligator and they had one called the sprouter, which they let me have, as a thank you for the composting help I've been giving.  I was pleased with this, despite it not having a lid which I'll have to make.  I'll also need to paint it black or at least encase it in something dark.  I collected the Alligator biodegradables and got home for 1.30pm.

Lunch was nice... I had the pastie.

I spent the entire afternoon sorting out my untidy composting area, where I had emptied a New Zealand bin into it's next-door neighbour, and then needed to dismantle it, to redo the anti-rat wire netting. I then started to refill it with a lot of accumulated gumph.  I really enjoy this work.  It doesn't provide much of an income, hardly anything for the time I spend on it, but I am preventing LOADS of biodegradable materials going to landfill, and making great compost which is available for anyone who wants it.

I did pop round to Jamie's just before it got too dark to carry on, and picked up the last 3 bags of homefire he didn't want to take down to the live-on-boats area.  There's one or two more loads of wood to pick up and then I'm done.

I did assorted jobs inside after tea (yesterday's pasta with leek/potato soup sauce on top) including stripping some electrical flex to get the copper wire out, and melting a series of larger holes in the seed sprouter to make it into a wormery.

Also getting ready for going to Bristol tomorrow for the Wipe Out Waste Awards.  I'll be on the 11 something train, getting into Bristol soon after 3, then going to Fernhill Farm and will meet Tracey Smith and Dave Hampton for the first time, and then on Wednesday, a day's activities at Lakewood.

Back on Thursday!

Monday, 21 March 2011

Sunday 20th March 11

An enjoyable day... up quite early and after a session with muesli and my laptop, I went in the garden and dug out a cubic metre of semi-rotted compost, putting it into the next-door New Zealand bin.  When you compost relatively large volumes of fruit and veg, some materials get squashed and 'mummfied', so this digging out allows these layers to get broken up and mixed with air and twiggy bits, and the next time I dig this material out, it will be finished compost.  This first 'turn' also allows me to find whole onions which haven't decomposed, and I chop them and throw them back into the mix, and various bits of plastic... windows from envelopes, bits of tape from cardboard boxes, wrappers off cucumbers.  I take out anything I find which is a 'contrary' and bag it for landfill.

I came in soon after 1pm and had a good wash, lunch and then got ready for my paid work.  This was my third gig with the Jewish community in Leeds; the first two were actually in the Synagogue, but this year's Purim celebrations were in the Lubavitch Centre, on Shadwell Lane.  I got the 3.15 train, and had a good chat with an aging punk called Tony, off to see Stiff Little Fingers in Leeds. Then I waited for the number 45 bus which arrived soon after 4pm, and delivered me close to the Synagogue and Lubavitch Centre. The room where Rabbi Cohen wanted me to do my show was first used for a reading from the Book of Esther, an incredibly fast chant called the Megillah, where the Rabbi reads in Hebrew, and the listeners follow the words in their copy of the Book of Esther, and at half a dozen times during the recitation, they stamp their feet or bang or rattle something.  I felt quite honoured to witness this ritual.

The Purim celebrations are important, and there was another entertainer booked: Trevor Organ, a comedy plate spinner.  My circus show was split into two halves, and the children were rowdy and excited, making the gig quite difficult.  However, I got through it and most of the children seemed to enjoy it, but as things had started late, I didn't have enough time left at the end to give out balloon models to every child before my bus back to Leeds was due, which I wasn't happy about.  I suppose I could have stayed a bit longer, and caught the 8.47 bus, but Rabbi Cohen said go at 7.30 so I could get the 7.47 bus, so I did.

I missed the Scarborough train by 30 seconds but had only 20 minutes to wait for the slow train to York.  I snoozed.

And was soon home, with Trevor Organ's joke whirling round my head, about his dog Minton, who had a habit of eating shuttlecocks, whereby Trevor had to say 'Bad Minton, bad Minton'.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Saturday 19th March 11

Woken by the phone and it was Richard, David's cousin, saying David's scan earlier this week had revealed something not too good, and he was therefore in hospital.  And therefore don't come at 4pm to work for David.  I may get time to go and see him in hospital in the next few days.

At about 11 I set off for the Steiner School for the financial interview for next year's fees.  As we only submitted our info a few weeks ago, the info hasn't changed and so our contribution is the same. 

I came back via the log pile just off Fulford Road.  I've found out the land belongs to the MoD and therefore they don't want the logs.  The treesurgeon took most of them, but because I spoke to them, they've left some for me.  So I came back with a very well loaded trailer, and did a bit of splitting and stacking, and later some chainsawing too.

I also did some cooking; I prepared some leeks and potatoes and an onion and stick of celery, and made a leek and potato soup which Gill and I had for tea.

At lunchtime I got confirmation that I'll be able to see Colin and Lucy next Wednesday after the Wipe Out Waste event, so in the afternoon I went to town to get my return ticket from Weston Super Mare to York.  I called in to Cycle Heaven as my front sprocket (chain wheel) is wearing down, which is why it's been jumping when I've pushed hard on it.  Also, my brakes are really not up to the job, and I find them very difficult to tighten.  So Ash tightened my brakes and said he'd order a stainless steel sprocket and replace the brakes with much better ones.  That'll be done next week when I'm in London.

I cycled on to the station and then on to Millers Yard and along the cycle track to home.

I popped round to collect more wood off Jamie, and met his wife Bernie. 

The leek and potato soup was lovely, had it with a couple of mini pitta breads warmed on a sheet of aluminium foil on top of the stove.

Gill and I had a game of Scrabble and I chopped up red peppers and put them for drying.  More yummy sweet paprika on the way....

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Thursday 18th March 11

An early start... but not a good one.  Gill forgot to set the alarm and she woke at 8, and then was in a panic about getting to school as she was setting up the shop.  I got up with her and made our youngest's breakfast and lunch, and then made breakfast for our eldest.  They were both awake before us and apologised about not waking Gill when there was a no-show at the normal time. 

However, despite the short time to get ready, they were waiting for the taxi when it came and apparently weren't more than a couple of minutes late into school.

I went round to Maria's with our eldest for his science lesson, and I got busy in the garden.  There was minimal work to do with the compost, and Maria asked me to take out a tree stump.  I found a really good 'trenching spade' which I've never had cause to use before, and with this I was  able to dig a trench round one side and under the bole, and the roots were fairly rotten so the spade went through these, and by 10am, I'd got the trunk tipping over, but it was too heavy for me to lift out by myself, so I'll wait until Johan is around and we'll heave it out together, I should think.

I came home and gave permission to our son to do exactly as he pleased until Gill came home, as he'd started early at Maria's and worked hard.  I did my emails and then went in the lovely spring sunshine and started to prepare the composting area for the re-erection of a pallet compost bin, choosing the pallets to use carefully and wiring them together securely too.

At lunchtime I came in and watched the news and did emails etc, and bought my train ticket to Bristol next Tuesday, as Tracey Smith has invited me to go and help with the Wipe Out Waste Awards.

I did more work in the garden, getting the chicken wire into place and starting to fill the new bin with the contents of the old one which is full.

Had a freegan tarte thing for tea, and then went to the new University Campus for a sort of presentation about the future of energy in the UK.  This was quite good but I didn't learn a lot... except that petrol cars are just 25% efficient, and big diesel lorries are about 35% efficient at turning fuel into motion.  I sat with Carolyn and Geoff, which was interesting.  Came home via a log which was too big for my trailer so I stopped off at Paddy's house and picked up his prunings, as requested.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Wednesday 17th March 11

I got up early as Gill was taking our youngest to school in a taxi, and I got up to do some work with our eldest on elements, and then I had a confirmation from a facebook contact in Lahore, in Pakistan, that he wanted to have a Skype conversation this morning with me about how to present his forthcoming Master Composter course.  We'd discussed it previously and suggested that this morning might be convenient.

As I'm currently using Safe Mode on my laptop due to it not working in normal mode, it doesn't have sound, so I got my son to set Skype up on Gill's laptop, and I was able to have a conversation with Kurt and Nimra from Waste Busters and Sustainable Pakistan. Although I couldn't hear Nimra, just see her instant messages appearing, but I could chat with Kurt initially.  The Skype connection was not brilliant, and I'm not sure I got the group call thing worked out properly.... but we spent over an hour, and I hope that I'll have helped them with their Master Composter scheme. 

Then it was nearly time to go to the Feed the 1000 event at Vanbrugh College at the University of York.  I'd been an initial link in this event, as Bryony Pete from Love Food Hate Waste had contacted the University with the idea and been rebuffed.  She'd then approached the recycling team at the Council, and they suggested that I might be able to help.  I introduced Bryony to the wonderful People and Planet group, and that opened doors.  None of the People and Planet crew had heard much until at the beginning of the week, there was information about the event today.  So, there was waste food, rejected by supermarkets and manufacturers, and a team of cooks making it into meals, and a 'TV Chef' doing cooking demonstrations about how to use up leftovers, and the Love Food Hate Waste stall with information.  I arrived and found Bryony, who was chopping onions, and congratulated her on the fantastic event.  I later found out they'd fed 2000 students; I wonder what the final figure will be?

But I didn't get any food as I'm not a student.  I didn't mind.  I really like sandwiches for lunch, so I cycled home again and had my usual peanut butter and marmite, plus a hommous and thrown-away red pepper.

Just in time to go to St Nicks for a York Rotters management meeting, which was as usual really good.  However, I first helped put together a new wormery which needed two people to do it.  I contributed most to the ongoing discussion about producing a video or videos, and by the end of the meeting, I had a couple of jobs I had to do. These included emailing several seed companies to get quotes for promotional seed packets, and sending Catherine info about carbon footprints and composting.  I was pleased to see Jo (the second-most enthusiastic composter in York!) come into the centre and the conversation which ensued resulted in my promising to take in some leafmould tomorrow, for some kind of display or workshop.

I came back home and spoke to Pauline on the phone; she'd requested some emergency logs to tide her over til her next delivery next week, and she was available from 5pm til 6pm.  I volunteered to go and see her just before 6, and then go round to Clement's Hall with her and twiddle my thumbs for a bit before the People and Planet meal at El Piano at 7.30.  She was very glad of he 2 sacks of logs and a small bag of coal.  We walked round to the 'recycled building' as she calls Clements Hall, and she worked in the office whilst we chatted and I read Resource magazine.

At about 7pm I cycled down to town and went to El Piano, and waited for the lovely P+P people... we had a £10 meal, which was a lot of tapas selections.  Good conversations, laughs, food.  Very enjoyable.

And back home.... couldn't resist a visit to a supermarket skip and got some goodies which will be consumed over the next couple of weeks.

Another full and interesting day.  I emailed about 10 seed companies last thing and look forward to their replies.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Tuesday 16th March 11

A tough day, but mostly good.  I had agreed with my friend Edwina that I'd go and help her with her garden project today; she said she'd be in from 11am.   I set off in good time to go and get two compost bins from a freecycling friend, who was in this instance not freecycling but selling them, as they were new just a few months ago. 

However, my journey didn't start too well.  I was cycling along Thief Lane where Newland Park Drive comes in from the left, and a car was coming along.  I could have accelerated and gone in front of the car, at some risk of pissing the driver off, so as it was the car's right of way, I coasted and waited for it to pass, then pushed hard on my pedals, in too low-a gear (I hadn't changed into an appropriate gear for starting off) and the chain slipped and I fell off.  Beware standing on pedals!  I fell onto the road, banging my knee, and my cycle helmet on the ground, and the handlebars walloped me in the stomach.  Fortunately there was no traffic that close, just a van driver who stopped and asked me if I was OK?  Well I was walking wounded; I knew I'd bloodied my knee but my abdomen felt worse, bruised.  However, I just had t continue on my merry way.

I got to Woodthorpe and rescued the compost bins and put cash through the letter box.  They went on the trailer one inside the other, and I went round to Edwina's house just 5 minutes away, and got busy in the garden.  I put one of the bins in a temporary position, on a sheet of plastic, and when the garden is done, I'll be able to transfer the bin and materials to a permanent position.   I did a lot of bramble removal, and then started digging a border, which had nettles and dandelions in, and a few daffodils which I transplanted into the lawn at one side.  The brambles were difficult to dig up, partly as several had rooted into a low wall which I'll need my wrecking bar to remove.  I worked for 4 hours, with a short lunch break. 

At 3 I went via the racecourse and a logpile to the Millennium Bridge and on to the Steiner School, to pick up our youngest.  I had a nice chat with Catherine Heinemeyer about the possibility that the Steiner School, which is a private fee paying school, might become a 'free school'.  There is a lot of support for this, but some strong dissent, people happy with the status quo, and it seems likely that the will of these people will probably prevail.

A good cycle home, and I collapsed for an hour before cycling down to see Richard.  We spent quite a bit of time together, he smashed up a pallet and I converted 3 boxes worth of compostables into 3 sacks and a carrier bag of chestnuts, which I'll try to salvage.  I collected a sack from Freshways and came home, washed up, boiled a pan of chestnuts, did emails, had tea, decided not to go out to the Steiner School AGM and had a quiet evening in.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Tuesday 15th March 11

A good day, busy busy busy....

I wondered if I was going to go to Edwina's but I got a message first thing saying she'd be at home tomorrow, not today, so that meant I had a free day... more or less! 

Gill took our youngest into school by bike, and I waited in for the Suma order to be delivered.  I lit the stove so our eldest could have a bath and hair cut.  I washed up and stacked some wood, visited Jamie and collected another 4 sacks of smoke-free 'Homefire' coal which he wanted me to have.  I initially refused, when he asked about the logpile, saying that I didn't burn coal, so he said he'd take it down to the boat moorings and see if he could sell it there.  But when I saw him yesterday, he asked me if I had a fundamental objection to using coal, and I ummed and erred... he said that he really didn't want to drive it down to the moorings to see if he could flog it, and he'd much rather I had it, 10 sacks for £10.  Well at that price, and with that story, I couldn't refuse.  I do have one sack already, which was rescued from a skip several years ago, and I just haven't got round to using it.  Anyway, this long-lasting coal will supplement the wood, and I'll use it when it's very cold, and to keep the stove going overnight (which I can do with wood anyway!).

I helped do the lugging around of the Suma delivery.  Later, Marian came to pick up her single item, and look at my usable wood collection in the garage; she picked 2 pieces which she'll be able to use.

After lunch I went down to the Steiner School with pliers, wire, screws, Maurice's rawplugs and masonry drills, and some paperwork for the school, and using his battery-driven drill, I made 2 holes in the wall behind where the new compost bin is, to attach it to the wall, so that if/when a Steinery child climbs on the pallets, they don't come away from the wall and fall on the kid.  I hope!  I sorted a bit of roughage into the base prior to dealing with the assorted dalek bins which need wire netting putting underneath... so yes, their contents will be put in layers in the new bin, with the very woody material overflowing from the school's New Zealand bins.

At 3.30 I cycled home with our youngest. We passed a ripe skip and I asked the builder about the piles of wood in it; he was happy for me to have that, so I went back and filled up my trailer twice with lots of planks and dismantled pallets.

I had an early tea, rice-based, and got ready for work.  I had a booking for St Chad's Scouts group from 7.15 til 9pm.  I did a quick show and then there was 50 minutes for free-play workshops.  This all went well.  I'll be doing another session either in a week or 3 weeks, depending on what Tracey Smith comes back to me with about a possible gig next week.

So a good day.... apart from the disturbing news of mass homelessness, thousands killed and now the radiation leaks in Japan.  Very sad, shocking.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Monday 14th March 11

Another hard-working day.  I took my chainsaw over to John Bibby's as he had got an enormous log in his garden... I think it's been there for a decade, and a seat had been cut out of it, an L shaped cut.  However, John had indicated he wanted it removed (last year, actually, when I collected all of the chunks of wood from his garden which is now having a house built on it) so today, I'd arranged to go and see if I could do anything with it, using my little chainsaw. 

So I got there at about 10am and eventually we found an extension lead, and I started cutting part-slices out of it.  John only had a tiny axe, and I wished I'd brought my maul with me to clout the chopped chunks to break them off.  However, a few well-aimed kicks worked!

John was going over to the University, so he asked me to load up his car and he'd take it over to Hull Road, I'd unload and get on with my day.  So at about midday, I'd filled his car with big chunks and I cycled back with a trailer full of smaller ones and my chainsaw, which had done very well with the massive log.... I think I'd dealt with a third of it.

I had lunch and as usual, put my laptop on to get emails etc, and it just wouldn't get past the 'start' menu.  Frustrating.  However, I couldn't spend time trying to work out what to do, as at 2pm I was due to start work with David.  He wanted to go round town, and my role is to be his enabler/driver.  We went to the paper shop, his bank, Barnitts, the library, another paper shop to get a newspaper that the first one didn't have, and back to his place where I did some sorting out of his fridge, which had some very out of date items in.

I left soon after 4, and took a trailer-full of newspaper out of his bin to Sainsburys as they have paper banks, and I needed to do some shopping there anyway.  I got mayo and our favourite bread, and some dairy-free ice cream for Gill.  I met Debra in there and we had a chat at the checkout.

Home via Freshways, picked up 3 sacks, and came home to do a load of stacking, splitting and more stacking.  Jamie stopped by and chatted.

I enjoyed tea... Gill had made a pie for Pi day (3.14, ha!) and I had some of yesterday's pasta with it.

I phoned Ben and asked about how I might get my computer working... and he reminded me about 'safe mode (click F8 on start-up) and so to write this, I'm on 'Safe Mode with Networking'.  Ben suggested a hard-disc clean, and told me to save any documents I needed to save onto a dongle thingy.  We got a free one from Suma last year, so I'm going to do that, and Ben will deal with my over stuffed hard-disc.  Hope that helps!

Monday, 14 March 2011

Sunday 13th March 11

I really enjoyed today, despite it being very tiring.

I got up before 9 and after breakfast I went down the garden to find another 5 sacks of compost for the Edible York collector today.  Barry had been tasked to transport 30 sacks to Peaseholme Green and 15 sacks to the Barbican bed; but I'd only got 10 sacks ready for this second delivery.

I found some very mature compost in a builders 'dumpy' bag and dug some of it out and filled 5 sacks with at least 20kg per sack.  These came up the garden in the wheelbarrow, and I brought a carrier bag of riddled mature as well, to show the Edible York volunteers what it's like!

This took about 45 minutes by which time it was rapidly getting towards my next deadline... I had to be in Thorpe Willoughby near Selby for 1.30pm, which meant that I should ideally leave home at about 11.30am, to allow 2 hours cycling to get the 16 or so miles to the Sports Club on Field Lane at the South West corner of the village.  I allow 10 miles per hour and then some time for stops and for cooling off after I arrive!

I had a short stop in Stillingfleet but got to Thorpe Willoughby at 12.50, just an hour and 20 minutes after I set off.  I had lunch sitting on a bench on the green, and arrived at the venue before the partygoers.  I spoke to one of the staff and she opened up a back door to the room and I got my bike into the room.  My employer arrived, with her football playing 7 year old daughter.  She'd invited 17 of her friends.  I got changed and my equipment ready.  I welcomed the guests by being silly, introducing them to the birthday girl and suggesting they might like to be friends.

When all the partygoers were at the venue, I got the grownups to sit on chairs at the back and all the children to sit on the floor in front of them.  I did a fantastic show, really enjoyed it, and as I wasn't doing the balloons, i spent a bit longer with the circus show, including letting a self-confessed diabolo player have a go with my smaller diabolo.  One of the more vocal kids said, towards the end of the show, that it was 'the best party he'd ever been to' which was nice, with his shrill voice quite loud, so everybody could hear!

I finished at about 3.15 and packed up, took the bike out of the back and round to the front, so I could go back into the building and get changed.

Then i cycled home, by the same Cawood, Stillingfleet and Naburn route.  I saw a dead deer (roadkill) and a badger, and a pheasant, plus live hares chasing round a field.

I got in after 5pm, and immediately rang David, whom I'd said I'd go and work for at about 6pm.  I wanted to have a bit of a rest before going to see him, and wanted to get to him at 6.30.  But he'd arranged to meet Geoff at 6, so I had a quick potato salad and cheese sandwich and quickly cycled down to town, getting to his house at 6pm on the dot.  We went round to City Screen and had a coffee, and Geoff arrived. 

We got talking with a nice woman called Alison who's an acupuncturist, and her daughter Erica, a chef from the South of France, and Erica's boyfriend Alan.  David enjoyed chatting with them.  Geoff didn't stay long; for me the highlight of his being there was showing me a tee-shirt which had written on it "Christians Who Fly are Christians Who Kill".  He asked if I'd wear it at the UK Aware event, but I declined.  I don't set out to upset people.... and although I agree that flying (in aeroplanes!) is contributing to climate change and therefore killing people, it's not a teeshirt I would wear as it could be misconstrued.  My agnosticism sets out to respect other peoples' religious leanings.

I took David home and put the wheelchair away, and made him soup and veg.  I also cooked him some fish, as requested. After I'd washed up, David suggested I sit and had a glass of wine, so I said, OK, stop the clock and I'll have a drink and a chat.  I did 2 and a half hours for him this evening, then 40 minutes chat.

I was very pleased to get home... a long day, but a goody!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Saturday 12th March 11

Laura called on the mobile quite early and I went to collect her from Piccadilly.  We spent the morning together, ending up, as often with Laura, at Afflecks. I chatted with Colin, who like me, is not a big fan of shopping, whilst Nomi and Laura tried to find a belly-dancing outfit.

Colin and I went to Night and Day early, and bagged a table for the people who turn up for the social.  I really enjoyed meeting my friends.... was especially glad to see Janie, with her friend Jonathan, and Ian who turned up with his Canadian friend Lyndsay, Grant, who turned up unexpectedly, and Tess, who wasn't with Fiona (but it was lovely to see Tess anyway!) and lots of other fab people. 

I had a beanburger and chips for lunch, and at about 5 as other people were peeling away (a bunch of them were all going to see a burlesque show) I went back to Piccadilly and got a 6pmish train back.  It was full of kids who'd been to see some 'X-Factor' singing show, and they were very high spirited, so I made a handful of them a balloon model....

Home before 8pm, must try for an early night as working tomorrow....

Friday, 11 March 2011

Friday 11th March 11

First thing went to Maria's with our eldest for his science lesson.  I finished digging out her second compost bin and crumbling it into her third one... lovely finished compost.  Then I started moving the current heap's contents into the now empty second bin, breaking up lumps and compacted layers of grass clippings, and mixing it all up with the fresh stuff near the top, which was full of worms.  I completely filled the second bin, which will need a good wetting with washing-up water, urine or rainwater, and it will be completely rotted in a year.  The first bin just had a little bit left in it, which wouldn't fit in the second bin, so the new garden and kitchen materials will go in on top of that.

Came home and did assorted paperwork whilst watching the shocking pictures of the earthquake in Japan, and the tsunamis.  Gill is very worried about the island nation of Kiribati (pronounced kiribass) which she visited before she met me.  She had a lovely time there, they are very friendly and kind people.  We spent quite a bit of time doing the Suma order, which has various bits for 3 of my friends, as well as Melody, as usual. 

I planned my trip to Manchester this afternoon... checking maps and train times.  After lunch went into the garden to bring more sacks of compost up to the front for Sunday's collection.  I sorted out another 10 sacks... and will have to dig out a further 5 out of a mature heap on Sunday morning!!!

I went into town earlier than I needed to, to get my train at 4.40, so I could put some money into the Suma account and put in a cheque and get out some cash.... and got to the station in time to get an earlier train.

As usual, I enjoyed the journey, chatting with people which made the journey go very quickly.  I chatted to a friendly couple who were going to their son's 40th birthday party, a fancy dress event, and they'd not been on a train for a long time, and were a bit unsure of their change at Manchester.  So I helped them; carried their case and made sure their train was from Platform 14, and showed them to the travelators, and gave them the case back.  A nice couple.

I then walked up to Shudehill bus station and waited for Nomi, and we had a pleasent evening.

Thursday 10th March 11

Up early as had to be at Mill House on North Street for 10am, and as it was very windy, I set off in good time as when it's windy... and blowing from the direction you're travelling in, it really slows you down.  But when I reached town, I saw I had 15 minutes to spare, and then I saw a skip with assorted pots and planters in it, so I rescued some of them, and got to the meeting with 5 minutes to spare.

The meeting was with the Council's Event's Officer, Liz Topi, the Police, Licencing and Highways, and was to discuss the forthcoming York World Naked Cycle Ride.  What the organisers would like is for the ride to go ahead with a Police escort, to 'cork' junctions and allow the group of 100 or so riders to stay as one group, rather than being split at traffic lights and other junctions, and risk getting motorists in the middle of the cyclists, which we feel is unsafe.  However, in York, the Police have decided that they are not responsible for managing traffic, and this is left to the Council.  So, if we wanted to be an official event with a Council Traffic Order, and junctions controlling, this would apparently cost thousands of pounds.  If we requested the Police do it, they too would charge for the service, if they were allowed to do it.

So, we are going to go ahead with the less safe situation of the riders obeying the rules of the road, but getting split up in the process, and having to stop on the highway to regroup.  Far from ideal.  In Manchester and Sheffield, the Police look after the riders and ensure motorists don't get tangled up with the cyclists.  We had lots more discussion, about a risk assessment, insurance, a change of route to avoid the Carnival, which Liz says will have 800 children there and she doesn't want the cyclists to 'upset' them.  But the organisers' main concern is that the ride goes ahead and is safe and fun for all, and makes the point about our vulnerability on today's car-infested roads. 

Right towards the end of the meeting there was a fire alarm, so we concluded the meeting outside.

I cycled home and wrote up the notes from the meeting and emailed them to all concerned.

I got an email from Chloe at Edible York confirming that they'd like another 15 sacks of compost for the Barbican raised beds.  To be collected on Sunday.  I'm very pleased to get such a big order, and even more so that the beds will be used to grow food.

I did a bit of moving stuff around; sawdust down the garden, compost up the garden, vegetables down the garden.... logs down to the woodshed. 

I came in at about 6... Gill had made some celery and sweet potato soup, so I had that and went out to Central Hall at the University to see Greg Dyke talking about the Yes campaign to reform our voting system.  This was good, and I'll be voting Yes to introduce AV, which is a first step towards Proportional Representation, my preferred method of electing representatives.

I chatted with Charles afterwards, and collected all the burst balloons, and then on the way home... found a pile of logs! 

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Wednesday 9th March 11

Well, a sort-of nothingy day really, Hector arrived at about 11am as agreed, to finish off the plumbing job and to sort out the drawer-front which now no longer has a drawer, as the sink is a different shape to the previous one, and the drawer doesn't fit.  But there's still lots of storage space in the cabinet.

Hector took a couple of hours to finish the last bits, and we sorted out the payment.  He charges £7.50 plus Y7.50 an hour, or if a non-LETS member, £15 an hour.  He'd be happy to hear from York people if there's a plumbing, decorating or woodworking job you need doing; ring 01904 427483 or email him.

Whilst Hector was doing this, I got a message from Edible York about the cubic metre of compost I've put together, which will be collected on Sunday.  The message asked about a further 15 sacks to put in the Barbican bed, suggesting that riddled would be a good idea.  There was a query about the cost of the approx 20kg sacks, so I had a search around the internet for prices, and did some weighing of my compost.  I found that a litre of freshly riddled compost, ie quite fluffed up, weighs 500g, therefore a kilo is about 2 litres.  I think that compost from the bottom of the heap is probably a bit more dense and as less air-spaces in it, so might be 600g per litre, or a bit more.  The weight will also depend on how wet the compost is.  The sample I used was just moist.  So the approx 20kg sacks contain approximately 40 litres.  I sell the sacks for between £3 and £6, which is similar to some of the commercial compost prices.  My riddled compost, in 4kg carrier bags, is available for a suggested donation of £1 to £3, at Country Fresh, or I'm happy to deliver.

So then it was lunch and I got 11 carrier bags of riddled compost ready to take down to Country Fresh, 8 in the trailer, one in each pannier and one on the rack.  I cycled back with 3 sacks of compost-to-be.

When I came back, I went round to Jamie's round the corner, and collected another 3 trailer-loads of logs.... mainly very dry softwood, in lengths up to a metre.  So, to date, I've had 8 bike-loads and a wheelbarrow full.  There is more to come!

For tea I had the reheated pasta not used yesterday, and then at 7 I set out for the 3 Legged Mare where Green Drinks was due to happen.  Jennie and Tom were there, and then one other person appeared.  I was about to go at about 8.30 when Jane McWeeny arrived, and had posters for the Last Chance Saloon Band Ceilidh, on Sunday 20th March at the Tramways Club on Mill Street. (contact me if you want t a ticket!)

I got back at 9ish and had a quiet evening from then on in...

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Tuesday 8th March 11

A good day as a lot got done.  Gill took our youngest into school in a taxi, and I got up as Hector was due to arrive at 10am to replace our sink and to put up a shelf.

I've met Hector through YorkLETS, I supplied a couple of bags of compost to Bronwen his wife, and saw that Hector did all sorts of jobs, including plumbing and joinery, for half Yorkys and half Sterling.  So we booked him to come and install the Freecycled stainless steel sink and drainer, and put up a shelf as we desperately need more storage space in the tiny kitchen.  We do such a lot of cooking and food preparation, this kitchen just isn't really suitable.  But there's not much we can do... and another shelf is a good move.

Once he'd got the old sink off, he could tell that the new sink fitted the hole -just - and that he needed some silicone sealant, some pipework to put the half-sink bowl (where a macerator could go) to attach it to the U bend, and brackets to hold the shelf up.  So I went to B+Q, and eventually got everything I was looking for.  I found a large plank in the garage, something I'd salvaged a long time ago, and Hector cut it down  to the right length, and it's now up over the top of the gap which connects the kitchen to the living room, the missing wall which is partly responsible for the lack of storage space.

Gill went to town with our eldest after lunch, to eventually pick up our youngest.  They went to Barnitts for something. I stayed in until Hector had finished, and then got my 30 sacks of compost up to the front, where I piled them all into a builders 'dumpy' sack, which holds a cubic metre.  The 30 sacks take up more than that volume.  They'll be collected on Saturday when I'm away, and used for Edible York's raised beds.  I emailed Chloe to ask if she wants the other 20 sacks brought to the front too.  They are destined for the Barbican beds, whereas the 30 sacks will go to Peasholme Green.

That took quite a while, but I also riddled a large pile of mature fine compost and got 11 carrier bags of sieved or 'graded' compost together.  This will mostly go down to Country Fresh.  I might offer some to Freshways too.

I really enjoyed washing up tonight.  The new sink is a bit of a novelty, and isn't fully plumbed in yet... Hector is back for an hour or two tomorrow.  But I like our nice shiny new-to-us sink.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Monday 7th March 11

A grumpy day mostly.  I got up early as Gill was taking our youngest to school in a taxi. and then going on to the Credit Union to put some money aside so we can pay the Steiner School for the second term in May.  So they were ready more or less on time and as they got going, the taxi broke down.  So they had to wait for a replacement one.  Apparently they weren't very late and people were rolling in behind them.

I tried to do some home education and failed. This is what caused my stress today.  I was glad to see Will, who arrived just before 11, to do some maths with our home-schooler.  Gill arrived back then too.

I helped Gill do some sorting out, as we have Hector coming to install a new sink tomorrow, a Freecycled stainless steel sink which we hope will be less yukky than the white enamel one we have now... He's also going to put up a new shelf, which will give us more storage space.

I managed to get outside and do some more prep for getting the 50 sacks of compost up to the front.  I think I'll need to do this for the best part of a day... but maybe it won't take that long.  I stacked a load of cut logs from the front into the covered shed down the garden, and dismantled another compost bin ready for re-installing it in a rat-proof  way, up off the ground more than it was previously.  They like hiding places, so the less cover they have, the less likely they will be attracted to the heaps.

At 2pm I set off with some of my circus gear to the Steiner School, plus our youngest's bike on the trailer. Angela, the class 8 teacher, had requested that I go in and help one of her 3 children (yes, a very small class!) with his 'walking ladder' trick.  I cannot do the walking ladder, but as I do assorted other physical skills, including balancing and unicycle, I was able to go through some of the science.  So I covered pendulums (as a ladder or unicycle are similar to a metronome or upside-down pendulum) and gravity, and how best to learn (little and often) and how playing and experimentation is the best way to learn too.  The 50 minutes seemed to go well. 

I cycled home with our youngest, a good ride, but as he arrived home he too had a teen turn and this didn't help my headache. 
Ros came round and needed help with her bike, as it had a flat tyre and her pump seemed to be letting more air out than in... However, I managed to get it hard and ride-worthy. 

Gill made toasties for tea.  Then, although I wasn't feeling like it, I went to the LETS meeting, as I have an obligation to go... and within about 10 minutes of the company of my friends there, I'd cheered up considerably.  It was a laughter-filled meeting, minimally chaired by Melody.  At the end of the meeting, I gave a copy of 'The Curious Incident' to Kay and Ben (to give to Jill).  After the meeting I went looking for the skip which had the beer in it a few days ago, but it had gone, so no rooting around in that tonight.

I was happy to get home and warm up as it was cold in the pub.  I did one batch of washing up and then got trapped into facebook and Jango.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Sunday 6th March 11

A really lovely day.... I managed to speak with my friend Edwina at last after several failed attempts, and I agreed to go and see her this morning.  I cycled towards the Millennium Bridge as she lives in Dringhouses, and then realised that this morning I'd be able to visit the Allotment shop, which is open on Sundays from 11 til 12.  To get though the kiss gate with my bike and trailer I had to uncouple them, but it only takes a minute.... Once on the allotment, I met Amanda, who was trying to carry a heavy sack plus something else, and she plonked the sack in my trailer.  But a minute later, whilst walking along, a chap with a wheelbarrow with a flat tyre passed us, and he asked me if I had a pump.  Which I did.  I had to change the fittings round, and even then it didn't fit as the valve on the wheel was pointing in a skewed direction, and the pump wouldn't fit on fully.  Amanda had by this time gone on her way, so I wasn't able to continue the conversation with her.

The shop had just opened, so I renewed my annual membership (£2) and bought 3 lots of seed potatoes for a pound a kilo, and some sweetcorn seeds, squash seeds and some onion sets, and that all came to about £7.  So I stowed them in a pannier and carried on to the Millennium Bridge, over the racecourse, turned the trailer over on a corner with some uneven ground, which damaged my new back mudguard (boo hoo) and when I'd sorted that out enough to continue, I cycled up to Edwina's house, which was easy to find as I'd memorised the map.

She has moved back from Manchester where she's been working (as a Police Officer) as her mother has died, so she's doing up the house.  The garage is going to become a living room, and she's built (or had built) a large wooden building in the garden, to house the garage stuff.  She wants to put in some shrubs, to clear some brambles and bits of concrete, and tidy up, and to possibly put in or help put in a path and some gravel.  Then she asked if I knew anyone who wanted a petrol lawnmower, so I suggested Freecycle, and over a coffee, I helped her register for that.  She had a skip outside her house, with two nice logs in it, so I asked if I could have them.  There was also a bit of copper sheet, some lead, lots of ferrous metal and various other bits, and she was happy for me to take a load to get it recycled.

She also wanted to get a compost bin or two installed, so I cycled round to a friend who is moving and has two recently installed bins that she doesn't want to take with her, and has asked if I can find a buyer.  However, my friend wasn't in, but a message later got a positive result.  I'll buy the bins, uninstall them and transport them round to Edwina's.

I cycled back over the Millennium Bridge, called in to see Richard, and picked up a box and a bag of goodies for the compost, and scuttled back home, for a late lunch.

I managed a bit of time in the garden after lunch, after Gardener's Question Time actually, and loaded up some stuff into the Compostumbler, including a roadkill duck, and found a load of worms to give to Will tomorrow to re-stock his wormery, and riddled some rich mature compost which will end up down at County Fresh.

I came in at 5 as I needed to get myself tidied up so I could get to David's for 6pm, as I was due to do my first bit of care-work for him this evening.  He lives near Stonegate so I went into town via Foss Islands Road and Monk Bar, and turned left at the Minster.  He was looking forward to going to City Screen for a coffee and a chat with Carolyn, whom he hasn't seen for a little while.  She's helping him get a care assessment.  An Austrian bloke and his two cute kids came to sit near us, which was a nice distraction.

After an hour I pushed David back to his house and he explained how he liked his meal making... soup and vegetables.  I did exactly as he had instructed and he said it was lovely.  I also washed up and tidied a bit.  I finished at 8pm, and came home.  Before having my tea, I cycled round to Jamie's to give him the money for the logs he's offered me, and a copy of 'The Curious Incident', both of which I think he was happy with.  Well, cash is always welcomed!  And a free book isn't to be sniffed at either....

I had a 'use it up' tea, the leftover linguine and veg from yesterday and the leftover couscous from the previous day.  It was a reasonable meal.

So, a good day... topped off with a celebratory 700th edition of The Sky at Night which was very entertaining.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Saturday 5th March 11 Community Composting Network Conference,

I woke early and thought that I should get up as I had to get going soon after 8.30.  It was 8.25 so I had a very swift bowl of cereals, said hello and bye to my brother and Katie, and the kids, and cycled off towards Norfolk Park, up Granville Road (so steep I had to tack, or zig zag) and then right and left onto Manor Lane.  There was another steep climb, but I was soon in sight of some ruins and the quite well preserved Manor Lodge.  I knew I was at the Discovery Centre, as I'd found it on Google Maps on Tom's computer last night.

So, Manor Lodge Discovery Centre, a new-build steel-framed building, with a green 'living' roof! Today was the AGM and annual conference of the Community Composting Network, which I've been a member of for years.  I parked my bike, covered my saddle (Brookes saddles shouldn't get wet) and got a coffee, once inside.  The Annual General Meeting was first, and was quite swift, probably about half an hour, and there were about 23 of us there I think.... much better than the previous one in December 09.  My only contribution was to revisit the idea that we might consider putting two stalwarts of the CCN, Nicky Scott and Richard Boden, who stood down after years of service in 2009 forward for some kind of recognition, or an award of some sort. They also do lots of other great work in the world of community composting, and of course, if they were to get some kind of award, the CCN would get publicity too!

Then the conference started, with a presentation about a new project, to investigate the possibility of getting Accreditation for the compost product made by community composters, a 'standard' or kitemark something like the fair trade products symbol.  There is already a standard, PAS 100, but this Quality Standard is expensive and onerous, and not really suitable for most community composting set-ups.  However, there are changes to the legislation coming in from the EU, which will make it much easier to sell the compost, and the new standard would take into consideration the wider social and environmental benefits of composting.  The CCN members have indicated that the standard should only be available for 'not for profit' composting operations, the feedstocks must be known (transparent) and local.  There are various other parameters such as the end-product requirements, the process.... which must have a good mix of materials, must achieve a thermophilic or 'sanitation' phase of above 45 degrees Celsius... above 55 degrees kills weed seeds and pathogens, must have the correct moisture content, and then undergo stabilisation so it matures and stops being phytotoxic.  There was debate about whether the finished material should be graded or riddled, but all agreed that the finished material should be free of animal and plant pathogens and propagules (destroyed with the correct time/temperature profile).  The finished compost would have to undergo occasional plant response tests, to check for germination and growth.  Sites would need to demonstrate they were dealing with any vermin issues, and keep adequate records. 

So with all these things, the CCN would need to work out how they were 'policed'... whether by other community composters, or by the CCN, or an independent body.  Lots of work yet to do on this one.

Then we had advance warning about some probable changes in legislation, the most exciting of which for home composters is that it is possible that the 'import/export' regulations might be relaxed.  In my experience, one of the barriers to home composting in urban areas, in small yards, is the regular question 'what will I do with all the compost?'.  At the moment, the official advice is that it must be used on the premises... so, in planters, on borders, on lawns, etc.  It would not be acceptable to give it to someone else to use, or to go and sprinkle it under a neighbour's hedge or around a park tree.  But this might change.  I certainly hope so!

Just before lunch we heard the results of the 'Micro AD' work the CCN has been working on.  In this country, Anaerobic Digestion is used in sewerage works and on farms, and is usually a very large-scale.  This technology takes biodegradable materials and puts them into an anaerobic environment where instead of composting, they degrade with methanogenic bacteria, and a gas comes off which is a mixture of CO2 and CH4, or methane.  Methane ('natural gas') is flammable and a useful fuel.  This is widely used in developing countries like India, Pakistan, China, and in Africa, on a small 'household' size.  There are very many designs, and the gas is often used for cooking... replacing wood or animal dung, which give off smoke when burnt on an open fire, and contribute to respiratory ill-health.  So the CCN Micro AD trial is one area where 'the West' is learning from 'The South'!  The different layouts of an AD project were described, and one of the biggest issues is the energy input needed to make the process work.  The Animal By-Products Regulations mean the material has to be pasteurised, heat treated, and the AD vessel must also run at warm temperatures. For more detail, check the CCN website on Micro AD.

I'll write about what happened next after I've had some sleep!  Suffice to say, I got home in one lump and spent most of the evening writing..... TBC

Friday, 4 March 2011

Friday 4th March 11

Quite an early start as I went round to Maria's with my eldest so he could do his science lesson and I moved about 20 sacks of compost in the wheelbarrow from the back garden, through Johan's workshop and tipped them out into the front garden, in piles all over, so that Maria can rake or brush them over the soil.  I finished that in about 40 minutes and then carried on digging out the second New Zealand bin and putting it into the third, removing sticks and stones and rubbish... not that there was a lot of rubbish, but a few uncomposted tea-bags, bits of plastic, etc.  The sticks went on the top of heap number 1, with all the fresh material on.

Maria and our lad did experiments to see how quickly hot water cooled down in differently insulated receptacles.  Simple, but good hands on experiments, good to see scientific technique being done.

We came back at the same time Gill came back from the Steiner School, she'd been volunteering at the shop.

I was sorting out something outside when a neighbour, Jamie, stopped by, and invited me to see his logpile!  He was planning on getting a stove; he'd visited me a couple of years ago and seen the stoves.  However, he hasn't got round to it, and he's just learned that his wife has a serious illness, so he's selling his logpile for £50.  I said yes, because it is a mix of hardwood and softwood, well seasoned, and there's a lot of it. I think £50 is a good price.

I came back for lunch, and arranged to go and see David on Sunday night. 

In the afternoon I needed to sort out various things as I'm going to Sheffield tonight to attend the Community Composting Network meal, and tomorrow the AGM and conference.  I'll be staying over at my brother's house.

I popped down to see Richard to give him another 5 bags of seed compost, collected 4 sacks of 'resources'.  I also collected two trailer loads of logs from Jamie round the corner.  Then needed to get ready to go to Sheffield!

I got to the station in good time to get my ticket and take the bike (no trailer!) over to Platform 9 to get onto the Plymouth Train, which went via Leeds and Wakefield to Sheffield.  I got into Sheffield just before 7 and it didn't take me long to cycle up to the Blue Moon where the Community Composting Network members were gathering for a social meal.

As usual with Blue Moon, the food was excellent, and I enjoyed meeting the other CCN people, some of whom I knew and others I got to know!

It wasn't far from Blue Moon to where my brother lives, behind the station, and I found myself slowly tacking up a huge hill but it was really only about 5 minutes cycling uphill, the rest was either flat or down a gradient.

I got to Tom's at 10pm, and he and Kate were out at an event, so I knew there were babysitters there.  They left as soon as I'd got my bike into the garage, and I went on Tom's computer to chat on facebook, before peeling off to bed and reading more of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, my World Book Night title.

Thursday 3rd March 11

I woke early with a sort of sense of urgency... not sure why, although I did have several meetings today, and I'm awareI haven't got 50 sacks of compost ready to be collected next weekend and I really need to get that done!

But I didn't dive into the garden, as I had various things to do inside.... lighting the front room stove, as we had a meeting scheduled in there, and the back room stove, as it was cold and we needed washing up water.

Then I washed up.  At 10.30 we were expecting someone to visit, one of their roles was to see how our eldest was getting on with home education.  She didn't turn up... and then we got a phone call... she was expecting us to go there.  However, she hadn't said this.  She came in a taxi, with her guide dog, as she is blind, and spent well over an hour talking with us.

I had another meeting at 1pm, so I grabbed an early lunch and bombed off into town.  After this one, I went to the Steiner School to start the compost bin build.  I leveled some ground a bit and placed two pallets at right-angles against a wall which was also a corner, so forming the other two sides to the heap.  Maurice said he'd bring in a drill with a selection of masonry bits... I'd then choose the right sized bit for purchasing (or finding!) a screw, hook or one of these plus a rawplug to help it stay in the wall.  This will allow the pallets to be fixed to the wall, for safety, as Steiner Kids are all brilliant at climbing and will definitely try to climb on the compost bin.  However, I did sort out a bit of stuff for the base, some assorted twiggy bits.

After this I had a conversation with Angela, one of the teachers, who has a pupil in her class who is trying to learn the 'walking ladder', and has asked me if I'll go in and give them some feedback.  I agreed, despite not being able to do the walking ladder myself!  So that's on Monday.  Should be interesting!

I came home via Alligator, and the Waterstones, where I picked up my 48 copies of Mark Haddon's 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time' for World Book Night. Later, I got an email with the 48 unique codes of my books, so I wrote them out in the back cover, so that wherever they end up, my book can be traced back to me as a giver.  However, I had real problems trying to log into their website. 

I enjoyed today, was a good one.  Tomorrow promises to be just as busy!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Wednesday 2nd March 11

Gill had offered to sort out a blocked drain at the Steiner School today, as we have a good set of drain rods.  However, I couldn't see how she could get them to the school safely, as she doesn't have a trailer or panniers.  So last night I said I'd cycle to school with our little one and take the rods and do the drain clearing.  But this morning he wasn't very well and so didn't go.  However, the drain was overflowing and needed doing asap, so I cycled over anyway and did it. 

I couldn't get the drain grate up with my hands, so I went back to the office and Maurice took me to the cellar where there were a selection of tools, and I selected a couple of potential levers which looked as if they might work.  One of them did, easily, and then the drain rod plunger did the trick pretty easily.  There was a horizontal drain flowing into the bigger drain, and I shoved four rods up this too, as it seemed to have a lot of muck in it, and that was a good thing to do too, as a lot of muck came out!  A good job well done.

I took advantage of the fact that I was near the waste-land sycamore logs and branches and brought another load home! 

I spent most of the rest of the morning doing some work in the front garden, and continued my attempt at doing an arty logpile.  Then I came in for a couple of hours over lunch and continued outside afterwards.  At about 4pm, my eldest son came out and helped with the logpile art project, which was really nice.  I worked til after 6 and came in as at 7, I was going to go to Cafe Scientifique with my boy who likes that meeting, but he wasn't feeling well enough so we stayed in.

I had a fairly quiet evening, punctuated by a phone call from Nomy about meeting up next week in Manchester, and I also did some planning for the forthcoming Community Composting Network Conference and AGM in Sheffield over the weekend.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Tuesday 1st March 11

A busy day with rather too many meetings in my diary.  However, the first was at 2.30pm, so I spent the morning in the garden, sorting out compost for the huge order that Edible York have asked me for. 

Soon after 2 I set off for El Piano, where I'd agreed to meet Richard, David's cousin, so he could give me a bit more background information about the situation that David has found himself in, with increasing age and infirmity.  I was able to explain some more of my experience as a PA, and as they are completely new to the subject, they are glad of any tips and ideas.  We chatted over a hot chocolate and tea, til about 3.35, and I made my way over to the Guildhall for the Environment Forum.  This was not as well attended as last month and wasn't as stimulating, but we did some good work... including about the website we need and our new project 'Tree-mendous York'.

We finished at 6, and I needed to speak to Councillor D'Agorne about the Council's announcement of solar PV panels being fitted on Council houses... my next meeting was at 6.30 at Tang Hall Library, the Hull Road Ward Planning Panel.  I'd already said that I might not be able to make this, and as I arrived home at about 6.30 i didn't feel like going straight out again, so I didn't go. 

I got busy lighting the back room stove and 20 minutes later, doing the washing up (that's how long it takes for the kettle to heat up from cold) and for tea, I just had sandwiches as I couldn't be bothered to cook.  I settled down and then forgot there was another meeting in the diary, the World Naked Bike Ride planning meeting at the Seahorse.  It was due to start at 8pm, and at 8.15 I got a phone call from Tony reminding me.  I zoomed down and had a good meeting with Hugh and Tony, and we fixed the date of this year's York ride as Saturday 4th June, in the late afternoon.  We fixed the route, too, and worked out who was doing what.

I got home at 11ish and got to bed before 2.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Monday 28th February 11

I enjoyed today.  We were all getting up sometime after 9 as Will was due at 10 to do some maths with our eldest, but Will arrived at 9.35 and we weren't ready.  Anyway, we hadn't got any graph paper, so Will went to buy some.  We were up when he came back!

The maths session went really well and I'm delighted for both parties. 

At 11.30 I headed into town to meet a gentleman called David, whom our mutual friend Carolyn thinks I might get on with, and might be in a position to help.  I found his City Centre house, where he's lived for 40 years, and met his cousin Richard, who's been helping to look after him since he's not been so well.  We chatted about all sorts for a couple of hours.  I might be going to do some PA/carer work for him.

I went to the building society and paid in two cheques, and came home for lunch at nearly 3pm.

The rest of the afternoon went quickly and I had a really simple tea, pasta, red kidney beans and half an avocado.  I'd arranged to meet John at 8 in The Golden Ball, and we had some good wide-ranging chats including a brief resume of the Climate For Change workshop which I missed because of work.

I cycled back home via the wasteland with felled trees near Fulford Road, and came back with 5 lovely lumps.  Had a nice chat with one of my facebook friends Juliet before going to bed, and it was good to link up.  I do love facebook for networking with people with shared interests.

The thing I nearly forgot to report was that I got a booking for the festival of Purim, from a Synagogue in Leeds.  They booked me years ago, twice, and it was quite an eye opener for me as I didn't know much about Jewish culture.  The Rabbi was pleased that I remembered Purim, and I'll be going back there on March 20th.