Monday, 28 February 2011

Sunday 27th February 11

Another quite relaxing day.... although I did do some hard work in the garden.

But the day started with a telly morning... Country Tracks, which I enjoyed, interspersed with washing up, which I am bored of.

But a good lunch... Gill had bought some tasty tomato bread and I had some with hommous in, really good.

In the afternoon, I did some moving stuff around in the garden.... half emptied the Compostumbler which has only half composted the last batch, but I need the space so I transferred the material to a half-full dalek which is now completely full.  I put about 10 bucket loads of gunk into the Compostumbler, including a load of compost worms which will find conditions in there very favourable, I'm sure.

Toward the end of the day I visited Richard at Country Fresh to do his resource recycling for him, and got a bag of reduced price veggies in return.  I picked up a large sack from Freshways too.  All this went down the garden and went either in one of 3 tumblers or a static pile, depending on the materials.  Anything that rats really like eating (for instance, potatoes and avocados) go in tumblers where rats can't get at them.  Things like cauliflower stalks and mooli are not so tasty to rats and go in an ordinary 'open' heap, one of the New Zealand bins raised up off the ground to reduce rat ingress. 

I got a text from Debbie but by the time I responded, she'd gone out but I had some conversations with the feral children who live near her, and they enthusiastically got some aluminium cans for me, and stamped them flat too.

Lots of Scrabble in the evening, and assorted conversations about the Census, and a zero-growth economy, and the fact I look a bit like Jack Nicholson in The Shining, apparently.....

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Saturday 26th February 11

Quite a relaxed day, managed to have a read before I got up, which is a rarity these days.  Usually I read for a few minutes before I drop off to sleep...

The weather was initially not conducive to going out, so Gill and I did some tidying and sorting... going through papers and putting rubbish in the bin, putting the recycling out, hoovering the carpet, bagging up several kilos of nails and other ferrous rubbish from the stove, that kind of thing.  It's always good to have a blitz.

However, in the afternoon, I did a bit of pallet butchery, chopped up 6 of them, and did a load of stacking.  I had some woodpile-arty-fun with some of the sycamore logs I brought back yesterday, splitting them into 6 or 8 wedges, and then stacking them in their original shapes, as unsplit half-rounds, and I may be able to set them into the logpile as rounds, with the splits just showing like lines on a jigsaw.  When I've finished this, I'll take a photo and post it here....

I had a good phone conversation with the woman who rang me from the garden centre in Huddersfield, and she booked me for 19th June to do some Professor Fiddlesticks and John the Composter. It's a small family-run firm and I'm looking forward to going already!

In the evening I put a last lot of 29 supermarket bananas on the drying racks, and jarred up some of the ones I dried earlier in the week. 

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Friday 25th February 11

Another good day.... not quite as busy as yesterday though, thankfully.

My first appointment was at midday at the People and Planet allotment on Low Moor, as part of their Green Week. Phoebe wanted me to do a composting talk and demonstration, so I was only too happy to oblige. As she wanted me to do a workshop, I took one of the most recent sacks of 'resources' (about 30kg) and a box (less than 10kg) and bunged those in my trailer, with a knife, secateurs and the Compost Mate.  I got there soon after midday and waited for 15 minutes for the students to come down.  There were four that I knew (and may have heard my talk before) and four Chinese students who I'd not met and who knew nothing about the subject.   I started off with photosynthesis and carbon being fixed from the air, then respiration with that carbon being released by bacteria, fungi and animals.  I covered all the basics, about natural decomposition, landfills versus incineration versus recycling, the benefits of composting food and plant waste, and a bit about the carbon rich vs nitrogen rich ingredients.  I felt this 20 minute talk went well, and was keen to get busy with the 3 heaps, two were mostly finished material, the other was a large unruly pile of brambles and earthy sods and root balls, mostly left from the previous occupant.

We (me and two Chinese girls) moved all the nearly finished stuff into one bay, leaving one bay free to take the stuff from the top of the unruly pile, which we chopped with secateurs, and layered with fruit and veg material.  The bottom of the mature pile will be able to be put through a riddle, and I'll sort that job out with Phoebe soon.  I'm not sure how long I spent there, but I wanted to go and check out a strip of unused land just off Fulford Road where some trees have been taken down and they are just dumped there.  I've been watching this since before Christmas, so I investigated it and found a pile of dumped large Sycamore logs, a trailer load of which I liberated and very slowly cycled home, as I had at least 100kg, including a huge lump on my pannier rack.

When I got in, I made lunch (it was after 2.30) and I got a phone call from my friend Carolyn, who has a friend who would like a bit of help on a fairly regular basis.  She didn't know if I was looking for this kind of work, but she wanted to find out.... and if I was interested, she'd organise a meeting between the gentleman, who's a wheelchair user in York, and me, to see if we got on.  So a bit later, she rang back and I'll be going to meet him on Monday.  This work could come in extremely handy, specifically the money earned!

Then I got a phone call from Christine, a parent at the Steiner School who does some of the gardening there.  I'd rang her this morning as we'd tentatively arranged to meet this afternoon... but this morning there was no reply.  But she was ready to go down, so I said, OK, let's meet at 4pm.

I cycled down via the Sycamore logpile and picked up a second large load, and 10 minutes later, Chris arrived and she gave me a guided tour of the school grounds.  There are two main jobs... keeping bushes trimmed and tidy, and sorting out the compost bins.  There are two large wooden New Zealand bins, overflowing with twiggy bits, and two or three plastic dalek bins with mainly fruit in.  I plan to mix this stuff up and make a good compost.  I look forward to doing a fairly regular stint and to making a difference.

I cycled home and did a bit of stacking and splitting, and came in after 6... Gill had made some tomato soup and fried some boiled potatoes, a simple but filling meal.  Later I made up my muesli and popped out at midnight to collect 3 pallets from a builder who said I could take them.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Thursday 24th February 11

A very full day, enjoyable too.  I got up  early as I needed to get 10 sacks of compost ready for today's delivery, and be back in the house in time for Sue visiting; she had booked to come and look through our Suma catalogue and sort out an order.  She arrived at 10 with her cousin Robert, who's come to stay with her from Devon, where he spends a lot of time sailing.  It was good to meet him; he was curious about the fruit drying and our lifestyle, and we chatted whilst Sue sorted out her order, which always takes her ages  (almost two hours) despite being only 3 items!  But it was a friendly visit and I'm fond of Sue as she's more unique than most, is quite 'off the wall' and unusual.... and anyway, I've known her for the best part of 20 years and I'm fond of her.

She got finished just in time as I got a message from Sam from Sheffield.  She'd contacted me yesterday saying she was coming over to York with Emily and assorted offspring, to visit the National Railway Museum... and would I like to meet up with them.  They were in Wakefield at midday and would be at York Station by half past.  I loaded up my trailer with 5 sacks and dropped them off at St Lawrence's School, and sped off down to the station, where the 5 of them appeared about 5 minutes later.  I persuaded them to walk into York to have a quick look around before they went to the NRM.  They met Purple Man and saw Barley Hall, and we ended up at El Piano for a few drinks; I had my usual vegan hot chocolate.  It was lovely to see Sam and Emily again, this time in happier circumstances.... last time was at Mozaz' funeral, or rather the wake.

We parted company after this, they went to look at the Minster I think, and I put some cash and a cheque into the Co-op Bank, and came home.  I got in at 2.15pm, just enough time to have a sandwich and then load the trailer with the second 5 sacks of compost, plus a sack of sawdust for their compost bins as a free extra.  Laura Potts met me at the gate and took me down to where the school have their raised beds and compost bins, and I met Grace, a teacher there.  They were delighted with the compost, and paid me what I'd suggested, in cash, and asked for an emailed receipt.  Then they showed me the school field, some of which is about to be converted into an orchard, and today they were digging the holes.  I'm so delighted that this is a primary school which is actually addressing the issues, is DOING something.  When I was involved with Green Thumbs at Lord Deramores, we discussed planting a row of trees along the line of School Lane, but there wasn't enough enthusiasm to make it happen.  There still isn't an orchard planted at Lord Deramores, and I must have a look sometime at their compost bins, to see what's happening there.

I came home with an unwanted Christmas tree, and stopped off at the house which is having a conversion and took some more spare waste wood offcuts.

Gill and the boys were heading off to Heslington for Melody's birthday party.  I dealt with two Fiddlesticks enquiries, one a garden centre having a green fun day, so I explained about my other 'John the Composter' hat, and I'm hoping she'll get back to me with a booking.

At about 5pm I got myself ready for the Stockholm Environment Institute Annual Seminar, 'Equality and Ecological Responsibility in an Age of Austerity'.  This was at the Science Learning Centre at the University of York.  I met lots of friends there; I feel very lucky that we have this resource on our doorstep and so many brilliant and expert people in our midst.  The seminar was chaired by Liz Barclay, a very recognisable voice from Radio 4, and had presentations form Professor Kate Pickett, an epidemiologist and co-author of 'The Spirit Level', and Jonathan Porritt, who is perhaps best known for his involvement with FoE and chairing the Sustainable Development Commission, as well as The Forum For The Future.

Professor Pickett's presentation revolved around these slides, which basically show that in societies where there is a big gap between the rich and poor, lots of things are worse.... child wellbeing, reduced levels of trust, working hours are longer, less foreign aid is given, people recycle less.... all sorts of interesting correlations.  So a more equal society is better for everybody, because over a certain income, people don't get any happier.  Unequal societies have higher carbon emissions too, even higher levels of biodiversity loss!  This is a fascinating area of study, and Jonathan Porritt followed up with his take on the importance of dealing with both environmental sustainability AND social justice, or 'fairness' as it might be less confrontationally put.  His talk covered issues such as fuel poverty and doctors prescribing therapeutic interventions, such as retrofitting houses with improvements, or prescribing environmental 'voluntary work', like the BTCV Green Gym, as these often have much better outcomes than prescribing drugs, and are far more cost effective in solving social problems.

The discussion at the end was interesting... I asked about whether they saw Transition Towns as a viable way forward, and later on there was an exchange about how higher taxation had been demonised by the right, but actually it was a good thing as it was a way of sharing, or investing in everybody.  Places with high taxation are not less happy or less prosperous.

I had a chat with Jonathan Porritt afterwards and told him about my interest in green funerals.  He hadn't heard of Promession so I gave him a Novaterium business card and invited him to check it out.  I also chatted with several SEI people and explored whether there might be a way I could do some work with the Institute.

I got home at about 9pm, exhausted but determined to do my blog.  I love sharing what I get up to. 

I was amused/uplifted to get a link to this video which shows protesters invading the York Council chamber to protest at the cuts, and associated media reports including The Press and the BBC. One of the protesters explained why she'd done it, on her facebook page:

I've tried letter writing, I've sat in on lots of smaller cold boring meetings leading up to this, I emailed every councillor (most didn't even reply), I've got more signatures on my petition than the council got responses to their budget consultation, I've been the official service user rep on the future planning of Mental Health services in York, and it's got nowhere - just councillors patronising & ignoring me, and *laughing* and talking about party politics whilst discussing cuts that are going to cost lives. This might be the noisy visible bit, but it's the result of a lot of quiet, polite, patient hard work being thrown back in my face.

So those protesters get my respect and thanks for making a stand. 

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Wednesday 23rd February 11

A good day, took a while to get started but was busy... a phone call inviting me to hand over money to advertise Professor Fiddlesticks in the Yorkshire County Gazette.  I suggested that I might be willing to write an editorial if they gave me a free ad... or indeed, I wouldn't even need an advert, just a mention under the writing about green entertainment.  But when the email came through, they still wanted £52 off me.  Not sure what to do.

Later, I made up a batch of seed compost, 9 bread bags full, and I decided to try to sterilise or at least reduce the numbers of viable weed (and tomato!) seeds in it, by microwaving each bag.  I did 4 bags, and cycled them down to Richard so that growers can have something local and home made to start their plants in.  I used 2 buckets of leafmould, 1 bucket of loam (from skipped turves), and 3/4 of a bucket of rich compost, so a fairly low nutrient and dense growing medium (heavy and dense because of the loam) which is good for starting seeds off in.  I mixed the ingredients on the riddle, and when all was riddled, mixed them in the pile before bagging them up.  Each bag got 2x 5 minutes in the microwave oven, turning it over to do both sides.  I've suggested that they should get a donation of £1.50 or £2 per bag at the shop. I'm not really bothered how much I get really, it's just good to know that growers are avoiding peat, and using recycled materials.

I kept myself reasonably tidy and clean though, as at 7.30 I was due to be ready to work at the Fulfordgate Club.  I actually arrived there shortly after 7, to suss the place out and see where I was due to work.  The event was a British Legion fundraiser, organised by a charismatic old chap called Jack Redfearn.  He'd got a good selection of entertainers for his cabaret, the first to go on was the Main Street Sound, a 'Ladies Barbershop Chorus', who rehearse in Acomb.  They were excellent, I especially enjoyed their version of 'Aquarius' from 'Hair'.  I had initially been told that I'd be going on after the 'Barber Shop Quartet' as Jack called it (there were 17 of them!) but at the last minute, Jack changed the running order and 'squeezed' an accordion player in after Main Street Sound, so my slot of 8.15 to 9pm now started at 8.40.  I got ready during the accordion singalong ('We'll Meet Again' etc etc) and then launched into a truncated version of my show... I knew it would be shorter than my usual one hour, but I managed to do it in 30 minutes.  If it hadn't had been for Lisa and another Main Street member coming out and doing things, it would have been even shorter!  But it seemed to go all right and several people came up afterwards and commented on it, positively.  Several people asked for my business card, so I might get some bookings off it....

I did a few balloon models round the tables and was then persuaded to go and get some food, as there was a good spread provided.  There was beef curry, chicken curry, beef and leek pie, chicken and mushroom pie, and I think even a dish with chicken AND beef in it!!!  I had a small plate of trifle... but I reckon the jelly stuff might also have been gelatine-based.  I got changed, picked up my paperwork, loaded the bike trailer and came home.  I was glad I'd had something to eat before I'd gone off to work.

A late night as I watched a video off Peter Reynolds' blog, which was very good.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Tuesday 22nd February 11

A really lovely day... doing one of my favourite activities, working in a 'special school'.

So I had a small lie-in but got up before 10 and packed up all my gear, my backpack with costume, balloons, feathers, 4 wheel and 2 wheel unicycles, my kit bag with sticks, juggling balls and diabolos, my small unicycle and big unicycle, plus my 'handbag' with reading matter, diary, and sandwiches.  Gill plaited my hair, which I washed last night so it was lovely and shiny.

Packed the bike and headed to the station at about 11, as I needed to get my tickets for my trip to London at the end of March.  I am travelling down on the Friday morning and back on Saturday evening; my talk is Saturday afternoon.  I got my ticket to Brough too, and headed to platform 7 for the 11.53 train.  I'd ordered a taxi last night to pick me up from Brough and take me to St Anne's School, and it was waiting for me.

I was ready to do my show by 1.10, and I had about 20 children come along, with a good number of adults with them, as many of them needed support and help; some needed preventing from coming out of the audience area and interfering with the equipment behind me.  However, a core group were happy to watch and interact, I got 4 children up to do devilsticks, maybe 10 to balance feathers, they loved 'Derek the Diabolo' especially when I had to tell him off for misbehaviour, and several volunteers had a go on the 4 wheel unicycle.  The balloon show and workshop was fun too.  We finished sometime after 3pm, I got changed again and Kay sorted out my paperwork, and I got a lift with Carol who was going back into Brough.  I had to wait for the 4.22 but I read my NewScientist. On the train, though, I dozed.

I had been invited to go and see Caroline Lucas on her flying visit to York, scheduled to be at 4.45 at the library.  I knew my train wasn't supposed to get in til 5.15, so I thought I'd miss half of her talk.  We got in early at 5.08, i loaded my trailer and cycled like the wind along to the library, locked up, gathered all my clobber, and as I walked in, Caroline was just walking through the library into the side room where the Green Party meeting was.  She'd just finished giving an interview with Radio York (interview here, 2 hours 6 minutes in).  She spoke very eloquently to the group who had come to hear her speak, about the Green alternative to the ConDem cuts.  The Greens would invest in green jobs, such as the 100 jobs created in Kirklees, insulating peoples' houses and fitting energy efficiency measures, which help people keep warmer for less money.  These workers pay tax and their income means they are able to buy goods, which also raises revenue... the work they are doing cuts carbon emissions and improves quality of life.  This scheme was brought in by Green Councillors.  There are countless other green jobs.... for instance, we have one of the World's best wind and wave resources, and we could be heading towards energy security if we invested heavily.  The Greens would not renew the nuclear submarine Trident scheme, saving £100 billion over 30 years, and would introduce the 'Robin Hood Tax' which wouldn't take away from ordinary people at all, but big financial transactions between banks and traders would have a very very tiny tax slapped on.... raising £20 billion a year, just in this country! 

In the questions at the end, I asked about whether she thought that in the referendum about electoral reform, whether the Alternative Vote system would help the Greens.  Her answer was that it might, to a limited extent, but that if we get AV this time, we are far more likely to get proper fair Proportional Representation in the future.  So I'll be voting for change, for AV, despite not liking AV that much, as it is not nearly as good as PR... but we haven't been given the choice of voting for that.

Caroline left to go and visit Leeds and Wakefield, and after a bit of chatting, loaded up my bike again and cycled over to Bishophill to meet a Freecycler, Tracy, who'd offered a packet of dried kidney beans.  I'd been chosen as the lucky recipient... her reason for giving it away was that whenever she thought to have them, they needed soaking first, and she never got around to doing this the previous day!  Well Gill and I often plan meals a day or two in advance, so this won't be a problem for us.  Thank you Tracy!

Then I came home, via 2 sacks of recycling from Freshways, getting in at 7pm.  For tea I had some rissoles Gill had made from the remains of yesterday's rice, some new potatoes, and the unusual mushrooms found thrown away on Friday night.  They were quite nice.... the texture was rather soft, and I wouldn't buy them, although rescuing them from a bin is a completely different matter!

A happy evening; my New Zealand relative Wendy hasn't been squashed in an earthquake, and I'm deeply saddened for those who have, or rather their families and friends.  So I watched YouTube vids of that quake and the devastation (for instance, this), and other online things, and then caught a programme about David Nash, a sculptor who works in wood, and I think he probably becomes my 3rd favourite sculptor, after Peter Randall-Page and Andy Goldsworthy.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Monday 21st February 11

Up fairly late, first thing was a phone call from my old friend Laura Potts who is currently helping with the gardening club at St Lawrence's School.  They have some growing areas with very poor soil, and have requested a load of compost to improve it.  So I arranged to meet Laura later this week with 10 sacks of compost.  Excellent stuff!

I had a fairly sedentary day inside dealing with lots of admin, washing up and various other boring stuff, and a bit of cooking to help Gill out.

I did another 18 bananas for drying and 16 large South African plums which I just split and removed the stone, and laid skin-side down onto the rack.

I did manage an hour outside, in the rain... it's the outdoor stuff which keeps me sane I think.

Later, I had a bath in wood-heated water, as I'm working tomorrow in a special school and need to be as presentable as possible.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Sunday 20th February 11

A nice long lie in, which considering I went to bed after 3 last night, meant that I got 7 hours sleep.

Breakfast with Country Tracks.  Lunch at 2pm, listening to Gardener's Question Time. 

After this, collected a sack of compost which I'd selected for Bronwen and Hector and delivered that, then cycled on down to Peaseholme Green to see the raised bed that the Council have given to Edible York.  Chloe had told me that they'd offered to remove the shrubs, and she'd expected them to be dug out.  However, the bushes have been cut off level with the ground.  This means they will re-grow, and if they are to be taken out, it will be a lot more difficult to do, as shrubs and bushes are MUCH easier to remove if there's something above ground to hang on to!  However, a couple of hours with my wrecking bar, a good sharp spade and maybe a bit of help, I reckon I could get them out... most of them anyway.  I'll tell Chloe that I'm willing to do it, or help do it.  It may be that the Council will respond to her asking to remove the roots.

From here, I cycled up Foss Islands Road to Heslington Road and popped in on Rich, who was feeling positive after last night's gig at Fibbers... which I hadn't been feeling enthusiastic enough to go to.  I bought some groceries and picked up a sack and a box of compostables.

When I got in, I did a small amount of work in the garden, and came in to watch Ski Sunday, and shelled pumpkin seeds.  I did a lot of writing this evening, something on the benefits of growing foodplants for a friend's website, and emails to support two friends who have stopped going out with each other, and the break-up is very painful.

Later on, enjoyed watching Jack Nicholson playing a very unpleasant bigoted OCD sufferer in As Good As It Gets.  Gill and I both think it's an excellent film.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Saturday 19th February 11

I forgot to list some extra things I got last night... a packet of 5 onion bagels, 2 croissants and a cluster of buna-shimeji mushrooms in a packet.

I got started fairly early, so I could attend the York in Transition event at St. Nicks, a Seed Swap and Garden Share talk from Edible York.  It was snowing and quite windy, so I didn't expect to see too many people there, but there were maybe 20 attended, and lots of packets of seeds swapped, and plenty of home-harvested ones too.

Chloe gave her presentation on a project that Edible York wants to get started. Peter introduced her with a short introduction about York in Transition, which is where Edible York grew from, and John Brierley did a 30 second intro to St Nicks, and then it was over to Chloe who had a powerpoint slideshow.  She explained about what Edible York had done so far, which is the demonstration bed (or 'Propaganda bed'!) near the Barbican, and Abundance, which has mapped lots of fruit trees and last autumn, distributed loads of unwanted fruit to people who wanted it.  There are several other related projects in York, including Edible Schools, the proposed Edible Libraries, and a scheme where the Council will grant a resident a licence for just £1 to use a patch of Council land to grow things on.  There are several partner projects, including Garden Able, Fulford Community Orchard and YUMI York.

The next stage of Edible York is to open several more public beds... one opposite the Black Swan on Peaseholm Green, one in the Scarcroft area, two next to libraries and possibly one near the Minster.  And then the main purpose of today's presentation, how to go forward with a garden sharing scheme.  Apparently there used to be something similar in the 60s or 70s, but nothing exists now.  Successful Garden Share schemes have been set up through Transition Towns in Totnes, Cambridge, Tunbridge Wells, Brighton and Hove, and closer to home, Beverley.  There's a national Landshare website, set up by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, but the success of a local project lies in a 'personal touch'; having a co-ordinator, so that person might be based at St Nicks.  I was very inspired by this talk and joined Landshare, and got quite busy on it!

I came home for lunch and had the two rescued cheese sandwiches.  Not sure where the rest of the day went.  I had a lie down and finished a NewScientist, and dozed for an hour.  In the evening I set up a Green and Eco Friendly Funerals group on the Union-Funeral website.  I spent ages reading about Landshare, and set up a York group.  I hope this doesn't annoy my friends in Edible York. It can be removed if I've done the wrong thing....

I ate a huge meal of 100% freegan food and felt full all evening.  Gill beat me at Scrabble by 5 points.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Friday 18th February 11

An interesting day.... our youngest wasn't well so he didn't go to school, but Gill was volunteering in the shop so she went in, and then went to town afterwards to visit charity shops.

Our eldest wasn't feeling great either so he didn't go to Maria's, so we all had a very quiet morning.  I did a pile of washing up and assorted online stuff.

I then spent quite a bit of time down the garden.... I emptied a pallet heap into a builder's bag (over a cubic metre) and then dismantled the pallets and sorted out the rodent home underneath.  Much though I like nature and animals, I intend to make life as difficult as possible for unwanted beasties under my compost heaps.  I've found that if they are raised up on top of other pallets, they are less of a comfortable place to live.  So I bagged up a load of finished compost and moved stuff around so I can reconstruct a rat-proof compost bin.  I had a constant companion with a robin, and I enjoyed listening to all the other birds.

I came in as it got dark and had tea.  Gill took our eldest down to see Simon for his computer graphics lesson.  I had a phone chat with a student called Daniel, who's doing a dissertation about greening festivals.  We chatted for an hour, I answered his questions and I was very pleased to have helped him. He said I was the most enthusiastic person he'd interviewed, and knew most about the issues!

I got a phone call from a woman involved with a special school in East Yorkshire, wanting to book me for next Tuesday.... which is great, apart from I'll miss a workshop on the same day called Climate For Change.  How annoying.

I sent off a bunch of emails and facebook messages to London-based friends asking them if they'd like to host me at the end of March, as I've been invited to talk at UK Aware about urban composting.

At midnight, I went to wait outside the house as two of my student friends had invited me to go 'skipping' with them.  There's a supermarket which deliberately leaves it's gates open so that the bins are accessible; I think the stuff which is taken means they pay less for their landfill charges, or maybe they have a conscience.  It was just amazing what had been thrown out; bread, cakes, sandwiches, wrapped biscuits and cakes, a luxury curry in protective atmosphere packaging, in date, loads of potatoes, Cauldron veggie sausages and curries, cranberry juice, onions, plums, raspberries, little oranges, apples, cashew nuts, a tub of hommous, a tub of mango chunks, a bunch of lovely fresh carrots, a shrink-wrapped cabbage, lots of ready to eat salads, bunches of roses, and vast numbers of bananas, about 3 bin bags full.  The students planned to cook up a big meal and share it with their friends.  We cycled home to their place to share it out... and I was home before 1am and then had a lot of sortig to do!  Freeganism is fun, but I have mixed feelings.  I'm saddened, no - disgusted -  by the amount of waste just on this one night.  This is multiplied by 365 every year, and by I don't know how much by the number of supermarkets and shops that have this kind of waste.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Thursday 17th February 11

Up very early for me, at 7.30, as had to make up my sweetie-jar of muesli and then have breakfast and then get the bikes ready and then cycle with our youngest down to the Steiner School. 

We arrived very early; Gill had said that he'd need to get off and remove gloves, get off and remove coat, walk at the Barracks because of oncoming traffic, and various other nonsense, none of which he did... he was a brilliant cyclist and we took about 15 minutes to get there.  Gill had predicted 35!  Of course, he might behave completely differently with Gill....

I showed him how to lock his bike up and he looked after the key, gloves and reflective jacket.

I then cycled to Cycle Heaven, where Ash said he'd be able to mend the mudguard, rather than replace it (green win, repairing things!) and fix the front light and back brake.  He said it would be an hour, so I took the shop bike and got money out, picked up my prescription, went to Sainsburys, went to the chemist to get my asthma drugs and was back at Cycle Heaven 45minutes later.  Ash was just putting rivets in the mudguard.

Home, via Country Fresh which had 2 pallets for me.  I spoke to a builder who was working on Mick and Judy's old house, converting a garage into a student bedroom, and he was happy to give me some bits of wood and invited me to go back and pick up more.  So I did.  He had a pallet and about 5 small sacks of ready-cut wood plus a trailer-load of other chunks... a really good haul, which would have gone to landfill, I think.  I had a good chat with the builder, who has a home-schooled child, so we had something in common.  A nice guy.

Gill was getting fed up with one of our doors, made of thin panels which don't grip screws at all well.  The hinges do not hold the door firmly, so I suggested getting some fixings which have wings on the back... they slip into the hole and open up and allow things to be tightened up.  I visited the fix-it shop round the corner, and described the problem and my imagined solution.  However, the device I described is suitable for holding things onto plasterboard, not hinges onto doors.  The fix-it person said that there were some plastic plugs which when pushed into the hole would open up and grip when the screw was tightened up.  So I bought them and Gill and our eldest worked together to mend the door, which now seems to be fairly secure on it's hinges.

On the way round to the shop, I saw a chap digging out the base of a large conifer he'd massacred.  It was about 3 metres tall.  I asked whether it was wanted or whether I could remove it for him.  He seemed very happy to let me have it.  So I went back and removed soil from roots and just managed to get it onto my trailer. 

Quite soon after this I cycled back down to Fulford Road to pick up our youngest, and we cycled back happily, chatting, not hurrying.

I did some chainsawing and stacking, and Gill made a pasta, cauliflower and broad-bean concoction which was very nice.  I had a quiet evening, writing, playing Scrabble, watching The Human Planet and a good programme about how two spices are produced and sold, peppercorns and cinnamon.  Interesting stuff!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Wednesday 16th February 11

A good day, especially meeting with Pat at St Nicks to review last Saturday's York Rotters training.

I got up fairly early as Gill asked me to pump up her bike tyres, but they were really hard, so her difficulty on the bike is due to some other factor.  She thinks it might be the bearings in the crank-case.  I'll have to have a go on her bike to see if I can work it out. 

So Gill cycled to the Steiner School with our youngest, and I spent a bit of time with our other son, and did a bit of housework.  Justin came to fix one last bit of wiring problem; in the conservatory a wire had been damaged by something banging it at waist height. We moved a storage box to get to all of the flex, so Justin could put some protective trunking over it, and found that a rodent (we had a rat in there a few years ago) had chewed the flex at ground level, exposing the wires.  This ran to a socket which I don't think we've ever used, so instead of replacing that cable, Justin just disconnected it and tidied up the junction box.

Gill went to get some bread and I had an early lunch.  I had an appointment at 2pm at St Nicks, but also had two cheques to put in and one to get out, and some recycling to do. So I cycled down to town with a large load of drinks cartons and a sack of shoddy... clothes which won't be able to be re-used, but will be recycled for rags or wiping cloths.  I decided I had enough time to pop in to Cycle Heaven as I need a couple of little jobs doing on my bike... they will do it tomorrow.  I then went to the Building Society to do my paperwork, and on to Hazel Court to put the sack of material into a recycling bank, and the 2 sacks of soya milk cartons into the carton bank.  I got to St Nicks at 1.55 where Pat was waiting for me. 

She had looked through the feedback forms from Saturday's Rotters training, and went through them with me.  I was really happy... all of them were positive, some extremely so.  There were a couple which had suggestions for improvements, but even these said that the trainer was enthusiastic, knowledgable and used the powerpoint well.  Actually, using the powerpoint was one area that Pat and I think I could have done better with.  We also discussed the layout of the room and the timing of the different bits of the training and when we stopped and went to look at the compost bins.

I came away happy.  Got home and spent a bit of time in the garden, and then at 5pm, cycled down to see Richard, bought a bag of veggies and picked up four boxes of 'resources'.

Tea was an interesting mix... some potatoes (rescued!) made into a salad with mayo, and two homegrown shiitake mushrooms fried up with a waste mooli, which is the first time I've had this radishy vegetable.  I compost loads of them, and will from now on harvest a few from the rubbish and eat them.  The taste is not too strong, but I'll have to find out how they are usually prepared.

During the evening I did quite a bit of admin stuff, organising a first planning meeting (on facebook here) for this year's World Naked Bike Ride, and putting my friend Dawn's event 'Run For All Life, fundraiser for Dr Hadwen Trust' onto facebook.  The page is here, and this year's event is here.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Tuesday 15th February 11

I got up early to leave the house at 8, so I could get the 8.27 to Sheffield.  But I had lost my bag with diaries etc in, but I didn't panic, and just set off at ten past.  I raced to the station, got there in about 10 minutes and got my ticket and easily got the 8.27. 

I met Ali at 9,30 at Sheffield Station; she'd taken her daughter to school and her son to work, and then picked me up. 

I did assorted jobs, including cleaning out her Can Of Worms stacking wormery, which had lost it's population over the winter, through lack of food and being frozen.  I restocked it with worms I got out of the base of her compost bin, which mainly has rabbit bedding in it... but some was reasonably composted down and I filled a small plastic sack with the stuff out of the base.  There were plenty of worms, lots of babies just 5 to 10 mm long.  I put a load of bedding into the wormery and some food waste too.  Hopefully it will sustain if fed regularly. 

Ali took me for lunch at a pub she regularly goes to, and we had some good conversations.  She is very sensible and wise; I should take her advice.

Later I cut the beech hedge with a powerful electric hedge trimmer.  I enjoyed using this, although it was heavy and made my arms ache, and I got a huge pile of trimmings off it, which I raked up and left in a pile as in Sheffield they don't have a green bin garden compostables collection like there is in York.  There might be a 'green sack' collection, though.  However, there were no available sacks....

Helena, one of Ali's PAs, cooked a Quorn and vegetable-based shepherd's pie and an apple crumble, and I was invited to stay for tea, which was really nice, and I left for the bus into Sheffield at about 7pm.  I chatted to a chap on the bus who had been attacked by a mob with a crowbar about 10 years previously, and left disabled and unable to work.  He got off and an old chap got on and desperately wanted to talk to me; he was about to celebrate his 80th birthday and he wanted to know if I supported United or Wednesday, whether I gambled, and much more besides!  I got off at the station and I only had 10 minutes to wait for the 7.54 train.

I got home just after 9pm, and all was well at home.  I reloaded the log baskets, did some washing up, peeled some old bananas for drying, and caught up with over 50 emails.  Gill had found my missing bag left at St Nicks and had collected it for me.  What a darling!

Monday 14th February 11

A good day, despite most of it being inside and doing assorted paperwork and admin stuff.

At 10, Will came to meet our eldest and to see if they could work together... Will is a maths enthusiast and we've asked him to help us home educate our eldest.  He's coached two GCSE students already, so we discussed that too.  They just had various discussions and tried out various number games, but next week I'll start paying Will 10 Yorkys for the hour's tuition. 

Just before lunch I had a good telephone conversation with Nathan from Promessa UK, sorting out a few facts to help me write clearly about it on

I also had some conversations with Keith, whom I know from Freecycle.  He responded to my 'wanted' post, where I asked if anyone had a spare electric chainsaw as mine had ceased to be able to be used.  I explained what had happened, and he said he'd have a go at fixing it.  However he was having a busy day himself, so we arranged to meet later.

I got a message from a teacher in France asking if I'd be willing to talk to her students about being a 'freegan'.  I replied immediately and said yes, she was delighted and found me on skype, and at about 3pm we connected and I answered questions about my green lifestyle.  They were a group of 20 year olds, not sure what lesson it was, but that didn't matter.  I had their questions relayed to me by the teacher and they listened to my answers.  One student later found me on facebook, saying he'd lived as a freegan for a couple of years.

I did a couple of hours work in the garden, and sorted out some Mediterranean-grown new potatoes which had been thrown out as they had blemishes and damage from the harvesting.  Later, I washed them and trimmed them, and cut them into cubes and made a potato salad on the stove.

Gill made a celery soup (just 2 potatoes, an onion and a whole head of celery) and an apple crumble with stewed apple from the freezer.  This was a delicious tea.

Justin called to pick up his cheque from the two days work he did, and to leave us the certificates and circuit diagrams of the house wiring, so that anybody doing any further work knows what is what, as this house has really weird wiring.  I told Justin that the lights he said wouldn't work after he removed some crappy flex were actually still working, so he'll need to come tomorrow and check the status of that wire, to check there isn't some problem there....

Then I cycled round to Keith's house in Tang Hall/Heworth, to see if he could fix the chainsaw.  The problem was that I could not undo the nut securing the blade, to tension the chain, as the bolt was turning with the nut as I tried to undo it.  Somehow the bolt had come loose.  He had a good poke around, trying to see if he could get to the base of the bolt to hold that still, but no.  So he undid the screw/bolt things holding the plastic casing together, which then showed that the base of the bolt was encased in the plastic casing.  After some thought, he reckoned that putting a blow torch on the bolt would enable him to pull it out of the casing as the plastic would soften.  This worked, once he'd found the blow torch!  The hole that was left was the right size for a bolt he had in his extensive collection.  He decided to anchor this two ways... by drilling a hole across the head and also into the casing of the saw, and sliding a pin through both case and bolt.  He also had some glue called Sticks Like Sh*t which he used to fix the bolt head into the hole and the pin in place.  We then had a bit of bother getting the case back in place as there were a couple of springs which needed easing into place, and the on-switch was difficult too.  BUT we got everything back in place AND the machine worked!  Whether the chain stays taut when I'm cutting is another matter, but we shall see!

Keith didn't want anything in return... as he'd offered to help me.  I said that if I ever asked him for help, I'd expect to give him something.  I asked again if there was anything I could do by way of thanking him, and he said, well, he was looking for a rhubarb crown.  I said I'd be able to help him with that!

Keith is an example of a person I would like more of in the community around me.  If more people were like him, the world would definitely be a better place.

I got home and did more washing up, cooked potato salad, helped Gill open a PayPal account as she wants to buy something tomorrow, and I found out I won't be in York tomorrow as Ali has two ill PAs and wants me to go over and work... hence Gill needing to open the PayPal thing, as I was going to do that transaction for her, but won't be around.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Sunday 13th February 11

A lovely slow start to the day... came down just as Gill was going back up to listen to The Archers, so I had my breakfast and watched a bit of TV whilst eating and checking my emails, and then went upstairs again and we didn't come down til midday!  A very luxurious and indulgent morning.

This set us up for a good day, mostly inside due to damp weather.  We enjoyed Gardener's Question Time on Radio 4, and I did a fair amount of work online, including creating an invoice for the presentation I did yesterday.

I sorted out some fruit Richard gave me, shelled pumpkin seeds (whilst watching Madagascar with the wonderful David Attenborough) and took apart the assorted electrical bits that Justin kindly put aside for me to dismantle and reclaim the metals. 

Just before bed, we watched Bridget Jones The Edge of Reason AGAIN.  Whilst I blanched grapes and peeled pears and did the washing up...

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Saturday 12th February 11

I got up at 8 as by 9 I was due to be at St Nicks to set up for the York Rotters 'How to Compost' course.  I popped down the garden before going to get some samples, to show the attendees some different sorts of composted materials, including mature garden compost and leafmould.

I got to St Nicks at the same time as Pat, who was my buddy today, and we had a fraught few minutes trying to get the padlock open on the front gate.  I eventually did it, but the padlock needs oiling or something to make it easier to use!

We opened up, lit the stove, got the laptop and projector out, got the slideshow ready to show, my first time using Powerpoint, and then found the screen so the projector had something to project onto, and by this time there were people arriving.  We had about 20 people, and the 2 hour session went really well.... I thought so anyway!  Pat joined in from time to time; I wasn't expecting that but it wasn't a problem... it was good to have her there to keep me in line!

We went through the slides first, and I answered questions as and when they cropped up,  and then at 11.30 we went outside to see the compost heaps, wormeries etc.  We finished just after midday, and over lunch I gave out the quiz, and at 12.40 went through the answers.  Sandra Gere who was teaching the 'Growing Food in Small Spaces' course arrived on the dot of 1pm, giving us a few minutes anxiety as we didn't know if she was coming or not.  Her course was from 1pm til 3pm, and I chose not to attend as I have seen her talk already.

I came back home and had a coffee and a rest.... and then came over so tired that I went for a lie down, and got up again after snoozing til 3.30.  Then I did some chainsawing... and oh dear, my electric chainsaw has I think gone wrong.  The nut and bolt which hold the blade on have been problematic and today I could not undo the nut to loosen the blade to tighten the chain, and when I turned the nut with a spanner, the bolt rotated too, so no way to tighten the chain.  And no way to take the blade/chain off, which is a real nuisance, since it is a new chain.  I think I'll probably have to get a new one... I could try Freecycle of course!

So I split chopped logs and stacked some, as it is due to rain lots tomorrow.  Then as it was getting dark I popped round to see Gladys, my 85 year old friend, and then Debbie who lives very close to Gladys.

I came home for some old potato salad and a pastie, and had a quiet evening... with a HUGE pile of washing up being the main feature. 

Glad that my boys have had a fab day... youngest went out with friends to see a film, Gnomeo and Juliette, and eldest had a friend around and had a really good afternoon.

Friday 11th February 11

Well a mixed day, with a really good outcome for one thing and two not so good things.  The day started well as I went round to Maria's with our eldest son and whilst he had his science lesson, I finished digging out her oldest compost bin and bagging the contents, and then started to turn the second oldest bin's contents into this now empty bin.  However, the lesson finished before I could finish this task, so I stopped and walked back with my lad.  The science lesson had veered off science, and via wind turbines and planning permission, had arrived at a discussion about Sharia Law.  This is one of the beauties about home education!

When I got back I got a message from a Freecycler called Tim who wanted the roadkill rabbit.  He came to collect it over lunchtime and I asked him what he was going to do with it... and I was pleased to hear that he keeps birds of prey as a hobby and liked feeding them on roadkill because the animals don't generally have shotgun pellets in them.  He has a Peregrine Falcon and a Gosshawk.  If he feeds them animals which have been shot, the birds run a risk of getting lead pellets in their gizzards.  Then he uses the birds to catch rabbits and pigeons which he likes to eat.

He said he liked my Freecycle message as I asked if there was an 'ethical carnivore' who wanted it and that made him smile. 

At about the same time that he arrived, my gardener friend Mark arrived with his estate car weighed down with some big lumps of cherry logs... a tree which had a trunk diameter of about 50cm, making it a very large tree.  I think it had died as the wood was quite dry, and was quite easy to split.  All but one of the lumps was the right size for splitting and stacking, only one will need chainsawing in two.

So, at about 2.15 I set off for my rendezvous with the People and Planet students who'd booked me to show them round St Nicks.  Nine of them had said on the facebook event I'd created that they were coming, but by 2.50, 20 minutes after the 'official' start time, none of them had turned up.  I felt quite pissed off as I'd organised my day around doing this tour, so I went home and got busy in the garden.

Later, I put my laptop on, and got a weird message about my computer having assorted spyware on it, and hardly any of my programmes worked, including the virus scanning ones.  However, Google was still available so I Googled 'System Tool' and found it is a fake virus scanner which is in itself a virus.  I found a website which was supposed to scan the computer and remove the virus, but after a scan (which didn't find evidence of an infection!) it asked me to part with £70, so I Googled 'free system tool remover' and found that I had to put the computer into 'safe mode' which was a new procedure for me, and then scan with Malwarebytes, which I already had installed.  So I did this and Malwarebytes didn't find anything.  I did a Microsoft scan, which spent well over 2 hours looking through over half a million files, and found nothing.  However, System Tool is still making things difficult and I haven't managed to get rid of it.  It periodically switches off my laptop and is a nuisance.

However, I am still able to use the computer for short periods and I hope that I'll get a solution soon.

At 7 I took our eldest down to Heslington for his computer graphics lesson, and on the way back I picked up the most enormous log I've ever put in my trailer.  I almost pulled a muscle in my back!  Then at 8, cycled down again and we both cycled back together chatting about colloquial English, as he is very literal and I had to explain that a person who describes themself as a carnivore may still be an omnivore, but it is perfectly acceptable to call themselves a carnivore.  After all, we don't label ourselves herbivores, and in conversational English, we call it 'vegetarian'. 

I had a frustrating evening but got water heated up for a bath, and shave, as I want to be tidy for tomorrow, as I'm teaching a York Rotters home composting course.  I got an email from Tim the ethical carnivore saying that the rabbit was in such good condition, he quite fancied eating it himself.  I was really glad to get this unfortunate casulty of our car culture recycled.  Yah boo to the anonymous complainant on yesterday's blog!

Friday, 11 February 2011

Thursday 10th February 11

A reasonable day, despite having a headache for most of it... lack of sleep I think.  I need to try to go to bed before midnight tonight....

So, in the morning Gill took our youngest into school... she tried to get ready in time for the bus but missed it and ordered a taxi, but that was late so she was in an annoyed mood as she left at 8.45.  She came back by bus. 

I had a bit of time on the computer commenting on a few websites and news articles about greening funerals, and then did some logging and stacking, and I've built a very good looking logpile.

In the afternoon I got 4 sacks of compost together for Keith, and I cycled down to Country Fresh and saw Shirley, and picked up 4 boxes/sacks of goodies plus a few groceries.

At about 6 I set off for a multiple use ride, taking 4 sacks of compost to Keith in South Bank, and I was let into his back yard and I took them in there for him.  Then I cycled on to Copmanthorpe and found the home of the first Freecycler who had left 4 old feather pillows for me, ones which were too manky to let someone else use.  I'll compost them.  Then I found Adrian's house, quite close, and picked up a saucepan rack thing, which hangs from the ceiling and has hooks and might help free up some space in our cramped kitchen.

On the way back, coming home via Bishopthorpe, I found a freshly roadkilled rabbit on the road, so I picked that up and when I got in, put it on Freecycle in case someone wanted to eat it.  If Freecycle won't post the message (some moderators can be a bit funny about some things!) or if no-one wants, I will compost it.

A much earlier night than usual...

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Wednesday 9th February 11

Up early as we had a visitor booked... Dave the Education at Home Assessor.  However, Gill and our non-home-schooled child had an adventure in town; they went in on the bus and got stuck in town as there was a bomb scare so they got out and walked all the way to the Steiner School.  Apparently town was full of sirens and traffic backed up.  Gill got home quickly by taxi, via Heslington, at about 9.30am.

Dave the Assessor is independent of the City Council, and a very experienced ex teacher, and he arrived on time at 10am.  He talked to our home-schooled child, and us, and found out about all aspects of his weekday activities, what he enjoyed doing, different subjects, and we told him about the help we were getting from Maria and Simon, and going to Cafe Scientifique.  We discussed GCSEs and College, University and a lot more besides.  He was a lovely chap, and made us feel a lot better about what we've done.  He was completely satisfied that we were doing the right thing, and doing enough education and other beneficial activities.  We were all very pleased and in good spirits for the rest of the day.

I had a late lunch and got a bit stuck on facebook because I got drawn into a discussion about a conspiracy theory which I had vaguely heard of, but was a bit incensed by the way someone tried to involve the Rio Earth Summit in it.  Apparently, there is a group of people who caused World War One, World War Two, financed Hitler, caused the Ethiopian famines, and hijacked the Rio Earth Summit for their own ends.  I think it sounds like a mix of nonsense and paranoia, but it is interesting to se how some people think.

I also had a good phone conversation with Philippa from UK Aware, discussing whether I might be able to get involved. 

But I escaped from the confines of the house and went to St Nicks to learn how to work the laptop and projector in preparation for Saturday's Rotters training, which is full, with at least 25 people booked., I was shown what to do by fundraiser and computer expert Graham.  I came home via a pile of willow logs.  Then I did some chainsawing and splitting, and stacking.

A quick tea and out at 7pm to go to the Green Drinks at the 3 Legged Mare.  It was a lively discussion, with Jenny and Tom arriving soon after me, then Kit and June, Julian, Tracey, Melanie and Richard.  I really enjoyed this gathering.

Left at about 10.30 and came home via where I'd seen a stray, unwanted, unloved pallet, which followed me back as I think it knew it would get a warm welcome!  Ha, it will do in due course!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Tuesday 8th February 11

A slow start to the day but soon got busy, made up my muesli... this time with dried banana chunks, pineapple, nectarine or peach, and some almonds, either the foraged ones or some that Melody and Simon harvested and gave to us as they had so many.  Oh, and my home-peeled pumpkin seeds.  I do love my muesli.

Gill was preparing for a visit tomorrow from someone from the Council Education department, to check that we're home schooling well enough.  I sorted stuff out in the kitchen whilst she vacuumed and tidied.

I had a meeting at 4pm at the Guildhall, the monthly Environment Forum, and I planned to come back via the cycle path where there were some pruned-out trees which I could harvest, so I took my loppers so I could tidy them up for transport.

The Environment Forum was very well attended... over 20, which I think is a record.  I was pleased to see two new members from People and Planet, whom I'd introduced to Kate Lock, our Chair, yesterday at the Green Party talk.  Kate steered us through a packed agenda, including info about the Local Sustainable Transport Fund, which could have been used to fund a city-wide 20 mph limit, except that Steve Galloway, one of the Lib Dem Councillors (who in this case is the decisionmaker) wasn't convinced that there was enough evidence that it would make York's streets any safer, so he vetoed it. I wish we had Councillors who were a bit more bold and had a vision of a sustainable city.  Guy Wallbanks presented a piece on the Local Transport Plan, and Chloe Smee told us about Edible York, which got a round of applause!  Then there was a fairly long discussion about the Vision Document which several members have been preparing, and I offered to ask Jim Semlyen if he could put a website together for us, as we don't want to print such a big document, and publishing online would be best.  There was information about a tree-planting strategy which Kate has called Treemendous York, and there are quite a few different tree-planting projects happening already, including a BTCV-run 3500 tree project on Bootham Stray.  Finally there was a bit about Climate Week, which is March 21-27. 

I chatted with a new member Gwen, who works in developing countries, and then cycled off and headed to the cycle track, and gathered the branches I'd had my eye on for a while.  There was another bit of wood I've been thinking about for months... at the entrance to flats called Tradewinds on Hull Road, there's an ornamental tree which last September had a branch partly torn off.  I spent a few minutes lopping it off.  Whilst I was cutting it up for my trailer, a young lady approached me and asked if I was 'Compost Tom' so I said nearly, and she said she'd met me at the Caleb for Heslington Launch Party.  Her name was Alice.  We chatted for a bit an she continued walking up Hull Road, and I finished loading up my trailer.  I overtook her a minute or two later and asked where she was going.  She was heading for People and Planet.... except she was about an hour late!  And she was going in the wrong direction... she wasn't from York University and didn't know where she was going.  So I unloaded my sticks and walked to the University with her, and then cycled home, getting in after 7.30.

I had a mix of tomato and squash soup plus a hommous sandwich for tea, and spent well over an hour sorting through about 30 red peppers, putting strips of good firm flest to dry, to make sweet red pepper paprika.  Bed earlier than yesterday.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Monday 7th February 11

A good day, as I finally got the last of the sawdust riddled!  The huge pile which has accumulated in my logging area over the past 6+ months, on top of a blue plastic tarpaulin, has been separated into 13 sacks of fine damp dark sawdust, perfect for compost toilet cover, for compost heap carbon-rich layer, plus four sacks of larger bits of bark, twig and wood chips which didn't go through the riddle but are too small to try to dry off, and will go in layers on the compost heaps and in the tumblers.  Finally I got 4 paper potato sacks full of big chunks of bark, sticks, bigger chunks of wood which will dry over the next year in these paper sacks in the garage (which is well ventilated, unintentionally!) and will end up as kindling for the stoves.

This was the bulk of my outdoor work today.  But before lunch I went to Thomas The Bakers and got £2 worth of Yesterbake, ie two loaves and 4 bags of rolls.

After lunch I cycled down to town, battling the wind, to go and get a cheque out for Justin, our 'pet' electrician.  I called in to see Dylan and cycled back along the cycle track from Rowntrees all the way to Hull Road.  I picked up a few sticks on the way, plus one willow log.

For tea I had the potato salad with a fried egg sandwich, followed by an out of date and therefore free yoghurt.  I'd never buy yoghurt, as it conflicts with my 'wannabe as close to vegan as possible' lifestyle, but I'd rather eat the yoghurt than put it on the compost heap or let it go to landfill.

Then soon after 7pm I cycled down to the Seahorse to attend the monthly LETS meeting.  I was pleased to meet Melody locking up her bike, and inside already, Will and Kay.  We had a fairly quick and very upbeat meeting, and then a good chat to sort out forthcoming social events, which will include a seed swap at Melody's, a possible Equinox party out at Escrick, and a Multicoloured SwapShop party at Kay's in May, on my birthday...

Melody and Kay went, Will and I stayed and chatted, and another two chaps came in to have a drink.  We overheard something they were saying, having found a leaflet about the Quilt Museum, so Will and I both had a bit of a story about that, and then they overheard our conversation about my youngest going to the Steiner School.  Turns out that one of them, Tom, had gone to the Steiner School and had loved it.  He was really positive about it.  It also turned out we have some friends in common.

We left at about 10 and I came home knowing that I had to wash up our 'Le Creuset' casserole dish and use the onions and tomatoes I'd saved from the Freshways bags I'd just picked up on the way back from the LETS meeting.  So that's what I did between 11pm and 1am, but this made all the rest of my regular evening routine an hour later, so went to bed after 3am.  But at least my family will have some delicious wholesome tomato soup to eat tomorrow. Or is that later today?

Monday, 7 February 2011

Sunday 6th February 11

Another fairly relaxing day.  I slept til about 10 and then got up for breakfast and watching Country Tracks, but I missed most of it as I had a long phone call.  But after lunch I got busy and did some tidying in the conservatory which has become a dumping ground, and then sorted out both my stacking wormeries (Can Of Worms and Worm Cafe) which both have healthy populations of worms in, despite freezing temperatures and no insulation over the winter.

I did some clearing up in the garden too, cut a couple of dead branches off apple trees and putting more stuff in compost heaps, including brambles, chopped into short lengths.  I cleared out the Envirocycle tumbler and refilled it with mushy potatoes and mummified apples plus sheets of damp cardboard.

I did yet more sawdust riddling... I've still got more to do!

In the evening I dealt with a bit of fruit and cleaned and chopped 3 very large new potatoes which had been thrown away as they had a developmental split in them, and presumably the retailer thought they looked funny so lobbed them.  They are now converted into potato salad, boiled briefly on the stove but left with some firmness.  I'll add chives or spring onion tomorrow, and probably mayonnaise.  That's one bit of tea done anyway.

Did the washing up before bed.  And watched interesting UFO videos on YouTube.  I'm a skeptic but still like trying to work out what they are. 

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Saturday 5th February 11

Quite a good day... had no paid work and the weather was mild and initially not rainy, so I riddled yet more sawdust and did quite a bit of chopping stuff up and piling it on a 'New Zealand' heap, and in two tumblers and two daleks.  I must have done about 100 kg.

Inside, I finished making the butternut squash soup, by adding bouillon, a dash of cumin and some mixed herbs, then I whizzed it and put it on the stove to heat through.  It was delicious!  I followed a bowl of that with a slice of nutloaf.

But apart from the sawdust, compost, soup and the inevitable washing up, I had a nothingy day, which was very nice.  Oh, in the evening I had a good chat with Nomy who is feeling a lot better than she did a week or two back.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Friday 4th February 11

Up early, at about 8, in order to go round to Maria's with our eldest, as Maria had asked if I would help with emptying one of her 3 compost bins in return for teaching our boy science.  Gill went to school in a taxi again, as getting our youngest on a bike first thing in the morning or on a bus even earlier is neigh on impossible.  Gill stayed at school to learn how to run the shop.  She came back after her 9 til 10 shift.

I spent 90 minutes digging out the compost heap, sorting out uncomposted sticks to put on the current pile, and uncomposted bits and bobs like twist-ties, nylon pyramidal tea bags and assorted other plastic, and a few stones, and some broken pottery too.  I filled 13 sacks, but have another half of the cubic metre of compost to do, perhaps next week.

At 10.30 we walked back, talking about energy, today's subject.  I cleaned up and at about 11.10 set off to go to town to meet James Houston in El Piano.  He wanted to talk to me about two aspects of
The Galtres Festival... the possibilities re composting, and what Professor Fiddlesticks could add to the event.  I heard what has happened about waste and recycling in the past, and then outlined four scenarios for what could happen.  The Fiddlesticks chat was a lot simpler and shorter, but it looks like I'm going to be booked to do one or both roles. However, I've got to write an email summarising the compost options.

I cycled home via Alligator and picked up a trailer load of goodies... including a huge butternut squash which had a couple of small patches of rot, so later I washed it, cut those out and made a big pan of butternut squash soup.  I was planning on attending a campaigning workshop with Adrian Ramsay, the deputy leader of The Green Party, but there was such a huge pile of washing up after my being away yesterday that I lit the stove, washed up, did the butternut soup, and made a nutloaf instead.  I had that all done by 5.30, so I then went to the University to hear Adrian Ramsay give a talk on what the Greens would do instead of the awfully damaging ConDem cuts. 

I was pleased to meet Adrian, who was just finishing off his evening meal in the canteen, and I told him about Jillian Creasy's comment about how Mozaz always challenged people, including her, and that this was a valuable role that gritty irritating people had.  We then walked over to the lecture theatre and I was pleased to see Kate Lock, so I sat with her, but there were quite a few of my Green Party friends, and People and Planet friends, and the meeting was well attended.

Adrian was a good speaker, and presented a fairly short overview of what the Greens would do if they had the chance, and then there were a wide range of questions.  This easily filled the hour allotted.

I came home and had a slice of nutloaf with baked beans and some slices of fried home-grown squash left over from a few days ago.

Later in the evening, I had a long phone call (one hour forty one minutes, according to our phone!) with Emily who was Mozaz' friend.  We'd chatted a bit on facebook but the chat thing wasn't working too well so I said she could ring me if she wanted.  What a lovely person, I think I've got another friend there.

Friday, 4 February 2011

Thursday 3rd February 11, Mark 'Mozaz' Wallis' Funeral

Gill took our youngest to school in a taxi... I was going to cycle in with him and then on to the station, but he wasn't feeling up to cycling so we used the taxi again. 

I got out of the house soon after they left, to get the 9.28 to Sheffield.  I didn't take my trailer and cycled extremely fast through York and got my ticket and put my bike on the train.  I had a good chat with a pair of transport planners who were on their way to a meeting with Yorkshire Forward, and soon it was Sheffield.

I bought a road map in the WH Smiths in the station, although I'd memorised the route up to Grenoside Crematorium, and then set out to get to the Penistone Road, which I planned to follow some of the way.  I decided, as I had plenty of time, to visit a place that Mozaz really liked, a derelict factory called George Barnsley & Sons, on Cornish Street.  I then cycled on to the Penistone Road and up through Hillsborough and then up Fox Hill up towards Grenoside.  This hill was so long and steep that I got off and walked for some of it.  Above this, Skew Hill, was a delightful little road, and had an amazing view back down over Sheffield.

I got to the Crematorium at 11.15, and fortunately there was a cafe there where I could have a coffee and visit the loo, and cool off.  There were a rag-tag bunch of people starting to gather, I could tell that these were people who knew Mozaz.  I locked my bike and joined them.  There were a few Sheffield Greens that I recognised, and other friendly but subdued people.  More and more people arrived, a very diverse bunch.  Then the hearse arrived, with a nice wickerwork coffin, and an A4 paper in the window saying 'UnderclassRising On Tour', and another in the other window with some other words connected to his life, such as '0742' (one of his 'names') and 'The Subterranean Tourist Board', and 'Bucolic'.

We filed into the room after the casket; there were so many people that there weren't enough chairs and people had to stand at the back.  He would, I think, have found it difficult to believe that so many people cared about him.

The service was facilitated by Deacon Dave Havard, someone who's known Mozaz for more than 20 years.  He welcomed us and offered a brief overview about his memories of Mozaz, and then introduced Sam Walker, who's been the main organiser of the funeral.  Sam told us how she became aware of Mozaz when he started following her around, many years ago, and their lives had run in parallel for a while before crossing and getting much closer.  At one stage, when Mozaz was homeless, he even lived with her, but reminded her that he was celibate so 'don't get any ideas' or words to that effect.  Their relationship was more similar to brother/sister than anything else, and Sam especially enjoyed it when he took her 'urban exploring' into empty factories.

After Sam there were recollections from Heather, Emily, Dan, Pete and Rachel, and a very interesting story from Green Councillor Jillian Creasy, who said that the best thing about him was that he constantly challenged her, and others.  With her GP hat on, she explained about why he didn't get a flu jab, because he didn't have a regular GP and had such problems with authority figures that he'd been labelled a 'violent patient' so he couldn't just go to a GP when he needed, he had to book to go and see one and then he could only go if they got security guards in.  So, no flu jab, he got pneumonia in December and then in January, H1N1 Swine Flu, which was too much for his rather battered body to cope with.

Then there was a time for reflection, with a series of photographs of him, and Carole King's 'You've got a friend'.  For me, my tears were interspersed with laughter at some of the images.  He was quite a clown, as well as an anarchist, provocateur, irritant, demonstrator, angry ranter and kind-hearted idealist.

After this, various people got up to add their thoughts... Smiley Steve Marshall, Anthony Goddard, Rob, and an interesting character going by the name of Tyran Oh Sore Arse, who when not in drag, is a chap called Stan, I think.  Deacon Dave then closed the ceremony... but Sam and Emily stepped up and said they had to do something before Mozaz went.  They explained that on occasion he had joked that they weren't 'real women' and they should prove to him that they were.  Then whilst he was in intensive care, they'd said to him that when he was better and out of hospital that they would prove it... but this was not to be.  So, they said, better late than never, turned their backs on the attendees, faced Mozaz in his coffin, undid their blouses and 'flashed' as they coyly put it.  Not something one would expect at a normal funeral!

And nor was the leaving music, Anarchy in the UK by the Sex Pistols.  A classic.

I cycled away, enjoying the steep and long hills down back into the city, and within about 15 minutes was at the Philadelphian Working Mens Club.  Sam and friends had laid on a good buffet, and I chatted with a very sad Andy, who is someone else who'd known him since he was young.

There were more announcements, anecdotes and stories from the stage, and I read out something which Ali had asked me to write in a condolences book (but there wasn't one) so I got up on stage to read out:
'Mozaz died too soon, leaving a world worse for his loss but the better for him living here at all.  Thank you Mozaz, true beauty will never be forgotten.  Love Ali'.  Sam and one of her friends read out a solicitor's letter describing an incident where Mozaz had randomly sent out a fantasy 'Tweet' about having two AK47s and enough bullets to get all of you c**ts, meaning the police.  A couple of days later, he was arrested in Sheffield City Centre under the terrorism act.  The house search revealed no guns, and eventually he was let go.  The solicitor's letter contained some of the dialogue about the incident, written in dialect, it seemed, and Mozaz's humour had been very present, and the letter was hilarious.  Another story was when he's taken part in the anti poll tax protests, and wound up in court.  Most protesters had asked for a McKenzie Friend to help them in Court; Mozaz took a Sooty hand puppet and used that as his McKenzie Friend.  Just brilliant!

I had some good conversations with Mark from The Land Is Ours, (who paid for some leaflets for We Love The Earth Centre)  and I hope that he'll visit York sometime.

I left shortly before 5pm, as my Sister Anna had said she'd be back home in Hillsborough at about 5.  So i cycled back up the hill, and was really pleased to see her, as it's been quite a while.  I had my sandwiches as she was making a stir fry and we talked about a wide range of things.  Her hubby Douglas came in just before I had to go, as my brother Tom, in the Norfolk Park area, had said he'd be in from 7pm.  So I shot back down the hill, all the way down Penistone Road, around the ring road and then up the hill past the Park Hill Flats.  I love cycling in Sheffield, it's an exciting city.  Tom was dealing with his 3 children, the youngest read me some poems and it was a lovely visit.  I had a glass of wine and an hour's chat once the children were in bed.  Kate was at her life-drawing class.

Soon after 9.30 I got myself together and cycled down to the station, and jumped on the 9.54 which arrived in York an hour later.  I cycle much more quickly without a trailer, and was back home before I thought it was possible.  I had the wind behind me too.....

Was good to see Gilly and then she fell asleep as I spent til 3am dealing with emails and typing up this bog.

Rest in Peace Mozaz.... in fact, you're probably ashes by now.  But in my memory, you'll live as long as I do, and maybe there will be a long term memorial to this Sheffield Legend.  Keep your eyes on this website for details of an art exhibition, and other post-Mozaz activities.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Wednesday 2nd February 11

A hardworking day, dealing with the untidy front garden, riddling more of the accumulated sawdust and sawing up most of the logs and wood that I've collected over the past few weeks.  The sawn up logs were split and stacked either on a new stack of 'green' or wet logs, or if dry (like the wood from Mandy) next to the front door for almost immediate use, or on a pile which doesn't need much drying and should be ready by the summer or autumn.  The green wood will take a year or two to completely dry.

One of the best things to happen in our son's home education for a while was that today he discovered that there was speech recognition software on Gill's laptop, so he installed that and 'trained' it with his voice, by reading out a load of sentences presented to him on the screen.  Then he got on with his science homework from Maria, and finished 8 questions.  Had he been writing these, he'd have probably got two done.  Yay for speech recognition software!

And Yay! for Richard at Country Fresh who always brightens my day!  I cycled down there, via a Freecycler who had bits of used candle to give away, (always good to have a bit of candle wax to help light the stoves), and I popped in on St Nicks to give Ivana a sack of riddled sawdust for their compost toilets, and then on to Richard to buy broccoli and onions, and pick up compostables.

The only other significant thing which happened was that we got a hate letter from someone we know which was full of disgusting slurs and accusations.  Gill was so angry and wanted to go and remonstrate with the sender but I persuaded her to leave it.   I'm used to criticism and I wasn't too bothered... sad, for the sender, but I've far more people in my life who like me, think I'm doing the right thing and have the right approach to life.  I've never said I'm perfect or get it right all of the time, but I don't think anyone should have to receive treatment like that.  I am currently composing a 'page' about the assorted criticism I've received and this letter will definitely go in that.  I wonder why some people read my blog?  If reading something makes them angry, why oh why do they read it?  Some people are daft.  Or maybe I've missed something?  Maybe it's like the thrill of watching a horror film... something else I don't understand, or do!

At 9, I watched a good programme with our little science expert, about the science of waves.  Really interesting stuff... I learned lots too!

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Tuesday 1st February 11

Up early as Gill took our little one to school and I had to be up for Justin to come and do the second day of sorting out the electrics.  He did a few more tests with the power off, and then a load with the power live.  One of the problems was apparently our outside lights, which are connected either with hifi speaker cable, or something called 'festoon cable' which is used to string temporary lights up, and the lamps just screw directly into the cable.  Ideally we'd need this replacing with proper cable, but we can't afford to do this so Justin has disconnected the most dangerous bits, such as the garage 'spur' and given us a certificate for the bits which are safe.

I worked with our eldest on a project about the Romans, and I think I've suggested something he likes the idea of.  So I helped him develop that, chivvied him along.  Justin got to the loft where there was a socket which had been damaged by an impact, so he was going to drive up to B+Q to buy another, but I suggested that I went instead, and he said that would be a better use of his time.  So I bombed up there on my bike and spent £1.48 on a new 'back box' which was the part which was broken.

At 1pm I had lunch and at 2 I rolled up to St Nicks for a meeting with John and Edward, to review the new arrangements with my volunteering as a Rotter.  The meeting was short as all is going well.  I had a productive chat with Catherine about the compost training I'm presenting on the 12th February, and then I had 3 things to discuss with Ivana.  I was cycling away by about 3, and as arranged, popped in on Maria to discuss the science lessons she's giving our home-schooler.  She loves doing it, and can take him up to GCSE in Chemistry and probably physics.  In return.... and I'm so pleased with this, she's asked me to dig out her compost heap. I'll bag it up and then either I or she will spread it on her front garden.  Woo hoo!

I got back to an empty house as Justin had finished and Gill had gone to pick up our youngest and had taken our eldest with her.  I was able to go on the net for the first time today, as for the rest of the day, the power had been on and off, so I hadn't bothered.

Once done, I did a bit of sawdust riddling... I now have about 6 sacks of riddled sawdust, a mix of recently produced white/yellow particles and the stuff underneath, on top of the tarp, which has started to decompose and is dark coloured.  This is ideal compost-toilet cover,and is good for any compost heap which has a lot of nitrogen-rich materials, such as grass cuttings, fruit, veg or manure.  I wonder if I could sell it?

I had soup for tea, with a pile of pasta shells and broad beans in it.  Lovely, and exceedingly simple.  At about 6pm I sped off on the bike again to Langwith College to the People and Planet meeting.  I wanted to see how the Waste Food Feast meeting went today, but it seemed that maybe it didn't happen today.  However, we did some planning for the Go Green week, which I'm going to do some stuff in.  Should be good.  I was reminded that Phoebe sent me a document about composting at the University which I said I'd comment on, so that was my work for this evening once I'd got home.  I did however get distracted by a very good programme about explosives.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Monday 31st January 11

Gill woke late and leaped out of bed at 7.30 to get our youngest off to school in the taxi she booked last night.  We are using the taxi today as Rachel has offered him a lift back home on Mondays after school.  Gill was then going on to the Credit Union to get a big cheque out, almost the last of the Uncle Tom money, to pay for one term of the Steiner School.

I was woken by the phone.  I got downstairs just too late to speak to the caller, but used 1471 to get the number and ring back.  It was Justin, our electrician friend... and yes, he'd rung last week and said he'd be available on Monday, to check our rather dreadful wiring.  We've had to turn the loft spur off as when we used it, it tripped fuses, and the 'under the stairs' area looks like electric spaghetti.

So Justin came back and explained that he would first check the state of the sockets with the power off, then with them on.  But when he got to the junction box, it was such a mess that he said it needed to be replaced, so he got on with that.  It'll cost us a small fortune, but we really do need the wiring sorting.  When we bought the house, we took advice from my father not to get a survey done.  We are now regretting that as we didn't know that actually, the best thing to have done would be to rewire the house.  It has been installed by a succession of amateurs, and bits added here and there, and it is a fire risk.  Hopefully, two days of Justin will make it a bit safer.

So, we had the whole day with no electricity.  Glad to have the stove to make hot drinks.  I got on with some tidying outside, stacking, pruning and tying in the loganberries.  Gill set our home-schooler a task.  We kept Justin fed and watered.

Half-way through the day our Polish roofer friend Artur arrived... I'd seen him in the street a while back and asked him to come and fix a couple of slates that had been dislodged by the chaps who took the chimney down and installed the solar panels.  Artur and his chaps fixed the missing slates in about 15 minutes.  Good to get that done.

Justin worked til after 4pm, and will be back at 10 tomorrow.

I cycled round to Amanda's to pick up another load of her waste wood.   I started to riddle the sawdust from the front, to separate fine sawdust from bigger bits of twig, wood etc.  The sawdust is my compost toilet cover, and the bigger bits of woody stuff goes in layers with the fruit and veg composting, so a productive day.