Archive for April, 2008

Elephant-spotting

If anybody listened to the Today programme this morning, at about 8.30 there was a discussion on rising oil prices, during which Roger King (Chief Executive of the Road Hauliers Association) said the following:

“The government should establish a benchmark, say $110 a barrel for fuel, and every time it rises above that, reduce the element of fuel duty to give the opportunity for a more stable transport cost within the UK.

We cannot go on like this. If the fuel price is going to rise ever higher, then there is going to be a very, very substantial problem for the whole of the UK and we need some kind of government intervention, I think now, because otherwise we are facing a real crisis.

Transport is at the bedrock of our modern civilisation… We have got to contain the rising costs of that element in our society, otherwise the consequences are going to be substantial. We cannot go on facing ever-increasing oil prices without somebody adopting a strategy to accommodate the worst impact of this, we cannot just leave it to the market.”

Now, I’m not an economist, so I don’t really feel qualified to comment on the suggestion of stopping taxing oil after a certain amount (aside from a gut reaction that we want people to drive less, not more, and to be less dependent on oil, so making it more affordable is only going to exacerbate the problem, or at the very least only ease it in the short term – but don’t take me as an authority on this, please!), but while I was listening to this, I wanted to jump up and down pointing at the huge elephant that had just lumbered into the room.

Okay, so it was refreshing to have such an honest, frank acknowledgement on the Today programme of just how much oil underpins our society and just how vulnerable we are when it gets more expensive: these are things we need to talk about very loudly. However, to quote Crude Awakening, “they aren’t making a whole lot more dinosaurs these days”.

Maybe our strategies for accommodating the worst impact of this could be something other than scrabbling around trying to prop up our oil-dependence with short-term fiscal measures…. Maybe? Anyone?

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April 16, 2008 at 8:13 am 2 comments

A whole village that grows its own food!

Look! An article in the Mail that doesn’t make me want to scream and tear my hair out!

April 15, 2008 at 7:13 am Leave a comment

Hair update

Well, for those of you who don’t frequent the SSish forum, the day I started using my new, solid, handmade, polar bear-saving shampoo bar, I also conditioned my hair with avocado oil, which turned out to be something of a disaster.

I clearly used far too much, though it didn’t look like much, combed it through my damp hair and waited for it to dry. About four hours later it still hadn’t, and I was supposed to be going to London that evening to go out to dinner in some swanky restaurant with Scientist Boyfriend’s swanky friends who work in the City or are studying Art History and my hair looked like it would actually drip off my head… Ew, ew, ew. Now, I’m not generally ashamed of my eco-warrior ways, but there are certain times when, and I mean this in the nicest possible way, you really don’t want to go out looking like a greasy hippy.

I panicked. I went and rinsed it at least three more times, with increasing thoroughness, thereby totally negating any environmental benefit of me not using my old shampoo, still to no avail, and after a slightly edgy post on SSish managed to get it a bit more presentable through the judicious application of large quantities of vinegar (is there anything vinegar can’t do??).

Anyhow, I gave up on the avocado oil, but kept on using the shampoo and my hair carried on being greasy and disgusting, and yet also dry and flyaway at the same time. Weirdness. Then last week I cracked and used my old shampoo cos I was so fed up of it, and it went back to feeling nice and manageable again, but this morning I used the solid shampoo and my hair is still nice and manageable. Now I’m wondering if it just took a LONG time and a lot of nasty shampoo to get the avocado oil out, and the solid shampoo will be fine from here on out, or if once the nasty shampoo wears off it’ll be back to greasy and weird….

April 14, 2008 at 8:47 pm 5 comments

My weekend and a wee quiz thingy

Another long break between updates, apologies folks. Wrist been hurting again and don’t want to totally knacker it and end up not being able to work, knit or stir cake mix, so have reluctantly had to cut back on blog and forum activity.

Busy weekend, what with the gardening course and the Creative Living meet; both were lots of fun and I’ve met lots of very interesting people. I wish I could show you some pictures of the garden I was at on Saturday: in the middle of suburbia there’s an oasis of biodiversity. She had a little area outside the house with a small lawn with an apple tree on it and a pond, which would be a lovely place to sit with a drink in the summer, chickens at the bottom of the garden, a veg plot with raised beds and even a polytunnel tucked around the corner! And flowers all over for bees, butterflies and general aesthetic appeal. It was amazing – so immensely productive, but not self-consciously utilitarian.

The CL meet was also good fun. Lots of good food and good conversation, I had my knitting rescued when I dropped stitches, I acquired a bar of soap, various other people who didn’t have to take trains home acquired various other beautiful things and I drank rather a lot of damson vodka, forgetting I’m only 5’2.

Got home to find that Scientist Boyfriend had marinaded some chicken legs in mixed herbs, including lavender, and put self-raising flour in my sourdough. Chicken was rather pleasant (it’s very trendy, at the moment, eating flowers) but the sourdough is looking distinctly sorry for itself and splodgy. Better than last time I went away, though, when he killed all of my plants.

Soooo tempted by all the herbs on the Tamar Organics website atm, but I don’t really want to buy lots of packets of seeds when I’ll only use a handful to grow one perennial plant. Hmm. *ponders* Maybe someone on a forum will go halves with me.

————–

From Lucy over at The Smallest Smallholding:

What Was I Doing 10 Years Ago?

I was in my 3rd year at secondary school, probably choosing my GCSEs. I think I’d just discovered my passion for languages and cherry tomatoes after an exchange to France during the Easter holidays.

My To Do List for Today/Diary of What I Actually Did

Very little of interest. Caught up on various blogs and forums after a weekend away, proof-read something for work and trawled through some other documents to dig out technical terms for a glossary.

The bf and I are going to roast a chicken for supper, have it with salad and roast potatoes.

Snacks I Enjoy

Ooh, I love little dips and things. Hummus and tapenade especially. Also love olives and dried mango. And M&S chocolate buttons – they’re yummy!

Things I Would Do If I Were A Billionaire

Quit my job and buy loads of books and yarn!!

Hmm, thinking about this seriously, it would be my opportunity to really invest in the things that could see us through the transition to a post-oil/low-carbon economy, and by ‘us’ I mean both my immediate family and my community.

Somewhat selfishly, I think the first thing would be to buy a smallholding somewhere, or at least a house with a big garden and scope for pigs nearby. We’d get a woodburner/aga and some hens and plant an orchard.

I’d use the rest to either make donations to worthy causes or set up a worthy project and start an apocalypse-resistant business of some kind. Either something foody, planty or textiley, or buy loads of land and rent it out for allotments/start a community orcahrd. Or all of the above, I suppose – as I said, it’s a lot of money. I haven’t really figured out the details yet, but I would want to donate to or start some kind of environmental/sustainable project, preferably funding an economically self-sustaining one through start-up rather than just giving out a load of handouts.

Three of My Bad Habits

I moan and rant about things without actually doing what I can to make them better.
I don’t really take responsibility for money and finance and stuff and I let the bf do all that.
I often start drinking and then forget I’m only 5’2.

Five Places I Have Lived

Born in Solihull, then lived at the bottom of a valley in Northumberland for a long time. I moaned at the time, because all my friends lived miles away in town, but I yearn for it now. I was at uni in Oxford and loved all the libraries and the covered market. In Wokingham now. I’ve not really lived anywhere else for a long period of time, but I have spent stretches of a few months in Paris (as an au pair), Eldoret in Kenya (as a primary school teacher) and in Lome in Togo working for a women’s organisation.

Five Jobs I Have Had

I was in charge of ordering jam, displaying cakes and sorting through vegetables to take out the squishy ones at a farm shop in Northumberland. I also had to price kippers, which is probably partly why I haven’t eaten fish for the last five years.
I spent a summer trying to find ways of engaging teenagers in learning English. I showed them Garden State and tried to explain what cricket was and created elaborate lesson plans around Motown and Coldplay.
I worked in my college library taking every single book off the shelves, scanning its barcode and possibly moving it.
I worked as a support worker in a variety of homes and day centres for adults with learning difficulties. Shockingly undervalued and underpaid work, and I’m sorry to say that drove me out of it once I realised speech therapy was an unlikely long-term prospect.
I now give myself RSI typing up corporate jargon into reports, minutes or transcripts. I occasionally get to make the kind of interesting, challenging decisions language professionals have to make, but often it’s just correcting CEOs’ terrible grammar and cutting out the word ‘actually’, which is vastly overused.

Five People Who Write Interesting Blogs That I’d Like to Tag

Hmm, there are lots of people with interesting blogs. I can’t choose any in particular to tag, but I shall use this and the award GTM nominated me for last week as an incentive to instead contact some of the people whose blogs I read but who aren’t on my blogroll and ask if I can link to them too. So no specific tags, but I will enter into the spirit of it by drawing attention to other blogs I like!

April 14, 2008 at 3:36 pm 5 comments

Erm…

I’ve just heard on the radio that politicians are annoyed about the SFO dropping that BAE arms case and said the judges ‘ignored the wishes of ministers’.

Erm…. now, I may be wrong, but isn’t that the point of ‘rule of law’?

April 11, 2008 at 7:16 am Leave a comment

Photo-fest

Just pictures of plants, pretty much!

These are my seeds. And the chilli plant. (Not pictured, scraps for the compost heap.)

This is the parsley that’s been growing on my kitchen work surface. It’s by far the most appetising thing I’ve grown from seed yet!

Note the last ever plastic milk bottle to be seen in my kitchen. Got proper old-fashioned ones now, please rinse and return…. (Not pictured, huge pile of washing up.)

These are the garlic cloves I just shoved in a spare pot. They seem to have shot up. Weird.
Note the tasteful pot. Classy, me!

These are my blueberry plants which arrived this morning.

Look what I got off Freecycle! A window box! From a lovely, lovely man who had a friendly dog and a garden that gave me a glimpse of what mine could be like if I was allowed to do anything exciting with it. Productive and attractive, with lots of bird feeders. *dreams*

He also gave me lots and lots of small plastic pots, which I’m going to start some other things off in. Except I haven’t got a round tuit yet.

The window box is planted up with valerian (smelly insomnia tea), salad burnet and soapwort. I anticipate the soapwort with glee. It sounds intriguing.

Also non-plant pictures:
my cushion, my latest attempt at yoghurt (which has actually turned into something other than milk, but I think it might be ricotta) and the lime schnapps I’ve started, after finding this wonderful website: www.danish-schnapps-recipes.com. I want to do almond schnapps now. Mmm. Need cheap vodka. Trip to France, anyone? =)

April 4, 2008 at 3:55 pm 2 comments

De-chemicalising the house, part two: cleaning products

Spring, ladies and gentlemen, has sprung.

How do I know? Because I’m not wearing any shoes!

I gather the weather tomorrow (when I’m going to be outside waving cardboard planes around in the market place to convince Gordon Brown to include aviation in the Climate Change Bill) is going to be mingy, but for today, I have dug out my flip-flops and flung open the windows and am trying to forget that I only had three hours’ sleep last night. Blimmin’ work. And sourdough. I just flopped into bed and remembered it needed more flour and water stirring into it so had to get up. Quite why I felt it was so urgent when I was getting up in three hours is beyond me, but I suppose it stopped the jargon swimming around in my head.

So, appropriately enough for spring, here is the long-awaited post about my cleaning habits.

It should be quite short, we have a small house and we’re lazy, so cleaning is pretty minimal.

Here is my kitchen cleaning cupboard:


Again, there are many mainstream, petrochemical-filled products, largely inherited from the bf’s old student house. Yep, the other housemates moved out, leaving a box full of unfinished cleaning products, because, obviously, just buying new ones in their new place was easier.* So we swiped them! Then I decided I didn’t want them, I wanted vinegar instead.

Vinegar is fab stuff. As well as stopping me smelling on a daily basis and (more or less) sorting out my hair after the unfortunate avocado oil debacle last week, it can also be used as fabric softener and as surface cleaner.

And in salad dressing.

I have a little spray bottle which I bought in the hardware shop and have now invested in a huuuuge bottle from Summer Naturals (bulk buying = less packaging and fewer pennies).

Lemons are also good. The bf will be nagged until August to get me a lemon tree for my birthday, when I will be able to grow my own in the sitting room. Self-sufficient in lemons. Awesome. So, lemons, as well as being good for (blonde) hair and salad dressing (and cheesecakes and and making lemonade), can be used to descale your kettle, and I scrub any particularly persistent stains on the hob or work surfaces with them too. They have a myriad of other uses too, I’m sure.

Bicarb is another good cleaning product, and has successfully got some red wine out of our carpet.

The only products specifically bought in bottles for cleaning that I use regularly are toilet cleaner, washing-up liquid and washing powder. As we use up the stuff we have, we’ve been replacing them with Ecover or Bio-D products, although I’m not entirely happy with Ecover’s rolling five-year rule on animal testing, and there is still the packaging issue, as I can’t find anywhere nearby that does refills. Grr.** The washing up liquid, floor cleaner and toilet cleaner have all worked fine, but there was a small quality control issue with the laundry liquid didn’t get things clean.***

On the basis that using solid soap, flakes or powders is better than liquid (doesn’t require so many preservatives) and I wanted something that actually worked, we went for some Bio-D powder. It seems to get things cleaner, but left some white powder marks on the bf’s black shirt, and he sulked and wants something else. (However, he still doesn’t get to choose the next lot, as I refuse to take advice on laundry from someone who doesn’t separate whites from colours unless you stand over him and threaten to move to a bedsit in London if he ruins your white bra.)

I also bought some borax, but I don’t know what to do with it. I’d just read about it and thought it sounded useful.

Anyway, I have to toddle off and pick up some plant pots from someone on Freecycle. Maybe I should have thought of this before I eased open the ancient, creaky sash windows. Hmm.

Ooh, and GTM nominated me for an award, which made me feel very grown up, and I will come back later once I’ve had a proper think about who to pass it onto.

* One of his housemates was a nut, though, and properly anal about cleanliness. She’d tidy the
sitting room up and leave all your things in an outraged pile outside your door, and then you’d be taking an important phone message for her and couldn’t even find a pen. I shudder to think how she’d have reacted if we’d wanted to clean things with lemons.

** The ever-wonderful Wiggly Wigglers offer refills. I think you have to buy from them in the first place, though.

*** Let’s just say, I’ve never had a problem before with stains from that time of the month, but since I’ve been using Ecover, I’ve ruined quite a lot of underwear, a pair of pyjamas and a pair of jeans.

April 4, 2008 at 11:24 am 2 comments

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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."