Sunday, 15 April 2007

Sat 14th April 07

Awoke at 9.10 and got up quickly as I was due at St Nicks for 10! I have been booked by Keely to teach at the latest York Rotters training session, to do the 'basic home composting' part of the course.

This covers what composting is, and some terminology, and where it happens in the wild, and how we tame it for our benefit. I talk about why it is good and why the alternatives are bad, and the range of materials which can be composted. This includes the two basic types of materials, greens and browns, or wets and drys, or high nitrogen and high carbon, which when layered or mixed make a good heap. We briefly discuss the living organisms which populate a typical 'cold' heap and 'do' the composting for you, fungi, bacteria, protozoa, worms, insects, mites, other arthropods and the complex ecosystem within, and of course how the heap's diaspora fuel the wider ecosystem of arachnids, amphibians, birds and mammals. And of course this touches on some of the percieved problems of composting, flies and rodents, and how to dissuade them.

We covered hot turned piles and cold 'sit n wait' heaps, different compost bins and containers, and how to use the material once made. We went outside to view the range of composters on display at St Nicks, and the leafmold pile and the wormery. This led onto 'advanced composting' which Keely led, on composting in urban yards and how to do cooked food, including using 'bokashi' which is a pre-treatment with a culture of bacteria and fungi which 'pickle' the food materials anaerobically before they are composted, making them much less appealing to vermin. I was allowed one minute to talk about my compost toilet, and how I use partially composted sawdust to cover and compost the humanure with.

Then we had lunch which was an opportunity to chat with some of the new people who had attended and re-connect with some old friends who had come for their first official compost training or for a refresher. I was pleased to chat with 'Kate the Columnist', perhaps gathering more material for her writing, my good friend Jenny who helps run AVP Britain, and I first met over a decade ago through the New Economics Foundation before we started York Local Agenda 21 and before I went on my first conflict resolution workshop run by the new AVP York, which I then joined and helped to manage for the next 10 years or more. We have now morphed into AVP NEEM (Alternatives to Violence Project North East and East Midlands)! And I was delighted to chat with an old LETS contact Anneliese who is a fabulous poet and wordsmith and is gathering ideas for a series of poems about, you guessed it, home composting!

After lunch and chat we met up with Izzy and Hel from WRAP who'd come to teach us 'compost drumming', samba rhythms performed on compost bins and caddies and other items connected with recycling. I've tried drumming before and never really got on with it, but Hel was a good teacher and I did better than ever before. We learnt a basic rhythm and a few breaks and are now ready to perform at the May 6th York Green Carnival... except I have paid work on that day and won't be able to fully participate. But I'd like them to come to the Green Festival in July.

One of the new Rotters, a South African called Sarah, was interested in seeing my composting demonstration garden, and as there was no reason to defer this, she cycled back with me and had the tour. She was also interested in the Ethical Man stuff, and as she doesn't watch much TV, I put the tape on and put a glass of juice in her hand and let her see what the Beeb has been doing over the past year.

Gill and the boys had gone into town on the bus to go to the City Art Gallery for a hands-on art day, and they also went to the Yorkshire Museum for a dinosaur exhibition, and between these visits had gone on a boat trip up and down the River Ouse, and eaten a picnic they took with them. They came in just before Sarah went, and they'd obviously had as enjoyable a day as I had.

We concocted tea between us, a stove-top stirfry of pumpkin/squash slices, mushroom (including home-grown shiitake), tomatoes and vegetatian sausages, with baked beans, cabbage salad, pickled beetroot and guacamole. As this was nearly ready, a person appeared at the front door, a woman who we've been friendly with in the past, but whom had on one occasion been very agitated and abusive, and then on a subsequent occasion apologised and told us she had a mental health problem and had been admitted to Bootham Hospital because of this. She was in an agitated and paranoid state, and was saying that she was unable to return home because her neighbour was persecuting her and the police would be waiting, and she had nowhere to go. I offered her the chance to sit in our garden with a cuppa in order to calm down, and I'd talk with her when I'd eaten my tea. I made her a herbal tea and had my meal, and then went to see if there was anything I could do to help. She was unable to suggest any practical actions I could do to help, and refused/ignored all my offers, as I would have really liked to help as she was in distress. I told her she seemed agitated and that I couldn't just listen to her tales of woe, and she became abusive to me saying that I was as bad as all the others and she left in a huff, saying she was just going to have to walk the streets of York all night with nowhere to go and no warm clothes. I was left feeling quite sad as I wanted to help but her mental state wasn't compatable with being able to accept help. I feel sure that she will probably spend some more time in Bootham. I will talk to her about what I should do if she turns up like that again when she is out and more rational.

This occurance rather put a damper on a good day. Another damper was that late at night when I'd spent an hour doing my blog, it refused to publish and I couldn't do anything about it. I lost the lot. I had to retype it all in on Sunday morning.

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