Archive for February, 2008

One more quick rant…..

…. then I’m off for the weekend!

I know I shouldn’t talk about work, but this made me sooooo angry I had to vent, and I’m not going to name names. I’m working on a presentation for businesses about preparedness and one of the questions for consideration regarding climate change was whether or not air-conditioning systems could cope with prolonged periods of hot weather.

Ummmmmm…… Yes, really identified the nub of the problem there, haven’t we?

Not whether air-conditioning systems were necessary when most buildings have windows.

Not whether air-conditioning systems might be contributing to global warming.

Not whether working from home is better for your carbon footprint than working in an office.

Not whether having us all in air-conditioned boxes propping up the consumer economy might be unsustainable and bad for the planet.

Nope.

Aaaaaaaaaargh. Think OUTSIDE the box, people!!! We do not live a vacuum!!!

And, having completed and probably exceeded my rant quota for the week (though I did talk about seeds as well), I am heading off to the Big Smoke for a reunion with gap year friends, bearing a vegetarian curry for my friend who has recently given up meat for environmental reasons and a plant for the friend whose floor we are crashing on (and who couldn’t face improvising an extra, vegetarian curry after only having just got back from holiday yesterday).

As of next week, I shall be a wage-slave again instead of a freelancer, for the duration of paying off my student loan and saving up for my five acres and cow (so until 2070 then!!) and though I’ll still be at home most of the time, I should probably at least give a respectful nod to normal working hours and not being on the internet the whole time, and so updates may get a tad less frequent. Boo, hiss, vive la revolution and all, but needs must…

At least I’ll be on PAYE and will no longer have to wrangle with the Tax Office….

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February 22, 2008 at 3:45 pm 1 comment

Delia, love, what are you doing?

Oh, Delia, you silly woman!

I admit, I have never found you particularly inspiring, but I have at least always respected in you what seemed like a very sound attitude to food and diet*, and been grateful for the ‘How to Cook’ books, in which you explain for the novice how such things as caramelising sugar work, where other recipe books leave you foundering in a hot, toffeeish mess.

If I could be bothered, I’d go and get the aforementioned egg-boiling-for-beginners books and quote them, but life is too short (I have some potatoes to peel) so you’ll just have to trust me that they say things like, ‘Don’t eat strawberries out of season – they’re rubbish,’ or ‘Local, seasonal vegetables are tastiest and most nutritious,’ or, ‘Making your own bread isn’t rocket science and even busy people can do it.’

And now I find out that, apparently, people who can’t afford free range chicken or organic vegetables should instead buy things like instant mashed potato and Aunt Bessie’s Yorkshire puddings, even though if you bought potatoes, flour, milk and eggs, you’d probably save enough money to buy the free range chicken.

Harrumph.

Yes, we all have days when we have neither time nor energy to peel, boil and mash potatoes. I long for the days when I am no longer the indirect stooge of big business and can spend 40 hours a week in the kitchen instead of at a computer, but until then, there are going to be nights when I am too tired, cranky and, quite frankly, lazy to cook anything remotely fancy. On these nights, I do not reach for sauces in jars or pre-prepared ingredients. We are not such snobs that we do not keep these things in our house** (we don’t make our own pesto or mayonnaise, for example, or yoghurt, because I’m a cretin), and we have the odd take-out and the odd pizza from Waitrose, but, honestly, just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you have to eat processed crap. What’s wrong with a poached egg on toast? A salad with oil and vinegar? Some pasta with olive oil, garlic and chilli, followed by some fruit? Even a marmite sandwich?***

It certainly is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card for compromising on the quality or ethical provenance of ingredients.

Or are we as a nation so hopelessly incompetent that even boiling an egg is beyond us now?

* The ‘Dieters, please stop berating me, I’m not saying you should eat puddings with double cream after every meal, but when you want to treat yourself occasionally, and there’s nothing wrong with that, here is a recipe’ was, I felt, particularly inspired.
** Though we don’t have tea bags or instant coffee.
*** I fully accept there are other sorts of sandwiches which are also nutritious and simple, but Marmite is the absolute laziest I can think of, as spreading is easier than cutting cheese or ham, for example.

February 21, 2008 at 6:21 pm 1 comment

Seeds of hope

Is that title totally naff? Probably, but I can’t think of another one and I’m hungry.

Today was a grim and foggy February morning, but I still made good on my resolution to drag myself out of bed and use the shower when the hot water was already on, rather than stay curled up under the duvet, get up into a cold house then fire up the hot water mid morning. I know, I know. Hardcore. =)

I said goodbye to the bf, dithered around drinking tea and reading forums and blogs, and then heard the postman trying to push something large and rustly through the door. I bounced over to see what it was, and was humongously excited to see it was my seeds and my John Seymour book. Hurrah! Little shards of spring and sanity in a wintry world. Also, I just love the concept of a seed company that gives you advice on seed saving. Love it.

And, appropriately, I then got an email about the Victory Garden Drive. You can read about my ‘companion planters’ here (and see a picture of me looking distinctly clean and un-gardener-like!!). I’m sooo fired up with enthusiasm now, and wish there was something I could go and dig.

Ooh, and I’ve started washing up with my dishcloth, and it’s GREAT. So much better for getting inside glasses than a flimsy sponge.

February 20, 2008 at 12:06 pm 2 comments

First knitting group meeting

I trekked into Reading last night to knit. I was a bit late as the train was delayed, and then couldn’t find the school it was held in, but made it eventually and had SO MUCH FUN. Everyone was really chatty and friendly, and someone sprang up as soon as I arrived to make tea to my exact specifications (she also helped me pick up some stitches when I dropped them later), and we talked about how people look at you funny if you knit when you’re under 60, and there was home-made cake and scones and all sorts. I’ve now finished my second dishcloth, although it’s considerably smaller than the first one and one corner is smaller than the rest, as I ran out of yarn. Bah. I also get a discount on yarn after I pay my subs, and there may be a talk by someone in Newbury who dyes her own yarn at some point.

Yaaay!

February 19, 2008 at 11:18 am 2 comments

Seeds (and other things)

Right, I have finally done my seed order. Having no greenhouse and limited indoor space, I needn’t have been in such a hurry, but all my forum friends with polytunnels are ordering seeds, so I felt left out. =)

I didn’t need that much, having managed to swap things on various forums and received some as my SSish Secret Santa present (I STILL don’t know who it was from….) but I wanted some beans and peas (got some dwarf peas which should be happy in a box) and then I bought some tomatilloes on a whim. I don’t even know what they are, apparently a cross between my two very favourite things – lemons and tomatoes. Sounds mighty peculiar. I was intrigued.

Oh, and I bought ‘The Fat of the Land’ because it seemed really hard to get hold of and the Real Seed Co had it for £9. Yay!

And a chilli plant. On ebay. On a whim. I must go and repot it before it gets dark.

I’ve also been discussing my potential new job and beavering away explaining how commuting is going to a) take 3+ hours of my day and b) cost nearly £4000 a year, and these are not good things, and have been slowing increasing the working at home quotient. Phew.

I love working from home. I probably spend about as much time working as I would in an office, but if I was in an office, I’d be subject to the peculiar, stringent double-standard custom of, ‘if you have nothing to do right now, sit around at your computer and look busy, your time is MINE and I want you here till 5 dammit; but, yeah, tomorrow, can you stay till 6???’ As it is, when there’s no work (or if I’m super-efficient and don’t spend all day blogging) I can go for a walk, or bake, or read or something. Or I can choose to go out in the garden when it’s still light and make up for it by working in the evening. I can go to the farmer’s market. I can make meals that don’t require any more chopping or preparation than what we’d eat if we did it at 6 pm, but because they can sit in the slow cooker all afternoon are about half the price.

I know that there is a point at which it is more economical to work less for cash and more for your own needs, and we do aspire to that. But it requires more land, or at the very least more soil, and I have a student loan to pay off. Realistically, we aren’t there yet. And I thought I was going to have to cut back on a lot of what I can do on that front (and a lot of what makes it easy – not possible, it’s possible to be green while working 9-5, but it’s not easy – to be ‘greener’) but it doesn’t look like I will after all. And into the bargain I get a bit more human interaction every now and then, a job that requires more thinking and less monkey-work (so less RSI!! hurrah!! – okay, it’s not total monkey-work, monkeys can’t punctuate, but it can get repetitive) and the odd trip to London to combine with meeting friends and going to the theatre.

We got a good veg box this week. Parnsips AND purple sprouting broccoli (of which I am, as you may have guessed, a big fan), and a bag of salady things. Mmm. Leafy. Parents coming this weekend, so they can help us eat stuff up. We have a surfeit of carrots. Our massive bag of farm shop potatoes that we bought in October is also going a bit soft and sprouting like no-one’s business. The bf is meant to be picking some tires up when he gets something done on his car so we can grow our own potatoes this year.

Oh, and, bizarrely, this week SSish appears to have turned into a gun-toting, baked-bean-hoarding, hardcore survivalist forum! Rather amusing really! I tried to point out that investing in your local community is a quite effective form of self-preservation (albeit a more challenging and less adrenaline-fuelled one than stocking up on ammo) but everyone thought that made me a loony idealist who thinks we should all just sit around and sing ‘Kum ba yah’ and nothing nasty will ever happen. Oops….

February 15, 2008 at 3:01 pm Leave a comment

Heathrow expansion

If you haven’t already done so, could I make a quick plea for you all to go to the Department for Transport website and fill out the public consultation form about the Heathrow expansion (preferably saying you think it’s a terrible idea 😉 ).

I know it’s very long and involved, you’ll have to read the summary of the report and comment on the individual bits of it, so you might have to set aside 20 or 30 minutes or so, but it’s very important that people who are concerned take the time to do this as well as just signing petitions (although you can do that too), beceuase it makes a much stronger statement when you are prepared to sit down and give a well-thought-out response. The Stop Heathrow Expansion group are also keen for people who don’t live in the areas directly affected to voice their opinion, as, again, it makes a much stronger statement and makes it much harder to dismiss the objections as nimbyism – the effect of the increased emissions will be global after all.

The government claims to want to act on climate change, but is already set to miss its target of reducing CO2 by 20% by 2010. According to the BBC (roughly a year ago), the transport sector contributes 26% of UK carbon emissions, of which aviation was responsible for 70%, but regardless of the exact numbers, there are two very good reasons for not increasing aviation capacity:

  1. We are running out of oil.
  2. We need to start reducing CO2 emissions NOW and not encourage activity that will produce more.

Even George Monbiot, proponent of the intriguing theory that we can cut emissions by 90% without even noticing any impact on our quality of life, admits that there are no two ways about it on this one and we simply have to stop flying.

There’s a rally at Central Hall in Westminster at 7 pm on the 25th for those who are near enough and feeling a little more hardcore.

The consulatation closes on February 27th.

February 15, 2008 at 9:37 am Leave a comment

Cinderella, you SHALL go to the craggers meeting…

Unfortunately I missed my dressmaking class last night, because I slept sooooooo badly on Monday that the thought of pushing myself to make my deadline as well as going into Reading to get a pattern and fabric (without which I’d have been sitting twiddling my thumbs at the class) and then going out and having to operate machinery with pointy bits just felt like too much. As it was, I was asleep by 9 anyway, so probably just as well!!

I’m regretting it now, though, as I’ve just found out that next week is half term, and having carefully arranged my holiday so as to be the week after the last class, I now discover I’ll be missing the last one too. Bugger. V disappointed.

Still, every cloud, eh? It does mean that next week I get a triple whammy of knitting group, asking awkward questions about consumer goods at the CRAG meeting and going to see ‘Crude Awakenings’ in Bracknell. In short, a week of, ‘aaargh, we’re all dooooomed – let’s knit!’

An excellent philosphy, I feel.

Ooh, and the organiser of the knitting group is going to start selling yarn at the market in town in March. Finally, proper wool without having to get on a train! I feel my budget taking a hit….

February 13, 2008 at 11:41 am Leave a comment

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The Heritage Crafts Network

Rob Hopkins, Transition Handbook

“Environmentalists have often been guilty of presenting people with a mental image of the world’s least desirable holiday destination – some seedy bed and breakfast near Torquay, with nylon sheets, cold tea and soggy toast – and expecting them to get excited about the prospect of NOT going there. The logic and the psychology are all wrong.”

Barbara Kingsolver, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

"Food is that rare moral arena in which the ethical choice is generally the one more likely to make you groan with pleasure."

Carlo Petrini

"A gastronome who is not also an environmentalist is an idiot. An environmentalist who is not also a gastronome is, well, sad."

Sharon Astyk

"I am, of course, firmly opposed to consumerism and corporatism in all its forms, and I believe that we are deeply confused about material needs and wants. Now let me explain how books and yarn are totally different than the material things that other people want ;-)…."

Raj Patel, at Slow Food Nation

"Biofuels, which is the preposterous policy that we should grow food not to eat it but to set it on fire."