Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Solstice

Happy Solstice Everyone

Its down hill all the way now into spring!!
Thinking about –
Days getting longer - lighter later.
Sowing Seeds
Outdoor fires
Full moons
Clear nights, crisp days, calm seas
Garden plans
2010 calendars full of exciting events.

Have a great Solstice and New Year.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fleecing cold

Minus 3.5 overnight last night!  I am waiting anxiously to see if my attempts to protect my more vulnerable vegetable has been successful.  I fleeced the carrots, beetroots, peas, celery, broccoli, but not the spinach & rocket.  The temperature in the greenhouse got down to + 7 last night so I am not concerned about the tomato plants yet, have yet to see what the temperature was in the Polly tunnel.  Inside the house our wood stoves are keeping us cosy!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Snow (not sea!) Dog

Merri's sculpture of Zero our dog.  About 10cm of snow yesterday and the scool closed for the last day of term - much to Merri's relief (she had been hassleing us mercilessly!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Its up to us now!

As predicted the Copenhagen summit seems lokely to fail to deliver the action on climate change we need.. On the positive side there is a rapidly growing grass roots movement to tacckle th problem ourselves.  It has always been true that the way humans use the earth and her resources is a matter for personal responsibility.  There are now lots of groups such as the Transition Movement and loads of information on the web. Changeing our life to be less damageing to the world and our future has never been more satisfying.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rainforest for christmas

I have found a great site for giving rain forest for Christmas presents!  Give your friends a present with real meaning this year (with a clear concience!)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Solstice or Christmas

In common with many other people I guess I find this a difficult time of year.  It seems to have become a time dedicated to consumerism instead of what is to me a turning of the year when the night start to become shorter and the days longer.  I know we have the coldest time of the year to come but somehow I feel more optimistic and start to think about the spring instead of the winter.  My favorite way of marking the season is round an outdoor log fire, not something that is easy to do in a town!  I also like to think abnout the seeds I want to plant in the new year and to sort through the seed boxes.  Anyway, wether you are thinking about Christmas or the Winter Solstice have a good celebration.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

On the Radio!!

Just had an interview on BBC Essex about EcoDIY.  The Copenheigan talks are raising interest about saving CO2 etc so a good bandwagon to jump on I recon!  Graham Bannerman who was a sympathetic interviewer though I am always kicking myself after these interviews about the things I didnt say such as plugging the ever growing numbers of people involved in sustainable living through Transition Towns and other networks. Still it all helps and many drips wear away the stone etc etc.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Our abortive trip to westminster

Our trip to the climate change wave was scuppered by national rails's chaos. We got as far as Colchester (with 6 other people an there we stayed for two hours till we gave up and came home!  We videoed a 'wave' on colchester station in solidarity (will put it on facebook later) Still we had lots of time to talk with the other 'wavers' which was great and still had time to hang walpaper in the extended bit of the kitchen (a cloud with a silver lining)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Seeing the light!

We just received two LED light bulbs bought from the internet. These bulbs are ultra low power consumption but in the past haven't been able to produce as much light as we needed and the light was quite a cold white. I am happy to report we are very pleased with the new bulbs, they give a nice warm light and enough of it to light the spaces we are using them in. The bulbs have a GU10 fitting so they replace halogen bulbs in the GU10 fittings. We bought two cheaper bulbs at £5 these are about 2watt and rated to give the light equivalent of a 25 to 30 watt halogen bulb and one
4w GU10 Maxilux Zenigata LED at £23 rated to give equivalent or 50watt halogen. The bulbs came from These LEDs are expensive at the moment but we will be investing in more of them and watching out for developments as the price (hopefully) comes down in the future.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A (Tail) Tale of a fish

  The  tale of the fish and the ducks.   A sad end to the experiment of the ducks and the fishpond this morning; I hoped that the ducks would confine themselves to eating greens, invertebrates and small fry when I gave them access to our pond. This morning I had the sad sight of two of the larger fish that the ducks had mauled to death in the effort to eat them (they were to big for them to eat). So the ducks are banned from the pond. I am starting to think that the ducks won’t fit easily into the ecology we are trying to balance here in our small (half acre) space!

Good news on co2 emissions.

 Now for some good news - A report from the United Nations show a fall in CO2 emissions due to recession and energy efficiency measures see -  A respite we must take advantage of before growth becomes rampant again!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bad news for Clacton and Jaywick

The BBC is reporting today that a group of prominent polar scientists are saying that the Antarctic ice is melting fasster than expected, they are predicting a sea level rise of up to one and a half meters (over 4 ft ) by the end of the century -  more than enough to flood Jaywick and large areas of Clacton and the Essex coast.  See 
Meanwhile our MP is rubbishing climate change on his blog and in a recent Guardian interview,  Help!

Monday, November 30, 2009

Lady Godiva rides again!

No, really, that is the name of the pumpkins we grow for the seeds. The seeds of Lady Godiva pumpkins are hull-less like the ones you can buy from whole food shops. I harvested some today, cutting the pumpkin in half and squidgeing out the seeds from the pulpy insides. The seeds I will dry gently next to the stove or in the solar dryer (if the sun shines) The flesh isn't great to eat but can be made into curry's etc or in our case cooked in the oven and fed to the poultry. The seeds are said to be high in zinc and very good for you!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Ducks and hens get pally!

I have let our 4 ducks in with the chickens (they seemed keen and I wanted to let them feed on the pond for a while)  I was amazed at how laid back both the ducks and chickens were about it - no hassle at all!  The main issue is that ducks seem to be able to eat at 90miles an hour and they are very greedy!  if i let them get on with it they would eat most of the food and the chickens would go hungry.  I solved the problem this time by scattering grain for the chickens while the ducks ate their vegetable and bran mash.  I still dont know which sex they all are but I am confident there is at least one spare male for christmas dinner (not looking forward to doing the deed though!!)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Processing our quinoa

Our quinoa crop is one of our experiments that seem to be successful. We had a good crop in spite of very dry weather. I sowed a main crop of Temuco sold by The Real seed Catalog and a few plants from a bag of organic quinoa from a whole food shop. The Temuco cropped well but produced smaller seeds coated with a yellowy substance that requires the cooking water to be changed a few times to wash it off. The whole food shop seeds produces a better quality of crop of larger seeds without the yellow coating. Needless to say I am saving seed from the white ones to sow next year.
To harvest the crop I first rubbed out the seed heads between my hands to remove the seeds then sieved them through two sieve. The first sieve (made from a sky dish reflector) allowed the seed through and the second a finer sieve retained the seed and let through any dust. A slow process!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Waste not want not!

The pace is stepping up in the process of Essex County councils plans to incinerate the bulk of the black bag waste here in Essex. This would be disastrous for future progress towards more recycling (which the world will be desperate for as resources dwindle and Co2 rises) The elephant in the room however is over 80% of waste which comes from commercial sources and which is often not recycled even when it would be easy to do so. Currently what happens to commercial waste is not the responsibility of local councils (crazy, why!!) and the government seems to give it little attention. This is not a rational position and we need to campaign on it whenever possible.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Celebration day!

The results of the planning inquiry have arrived and the inspector has supported the plan to build 5 turbines on a field at the southern edge of Clacton. I spoke at the inquiry and the bulk of people there were local residents concerned that the view of turbines from their kitchen windows would be too much to bear! The planning inspector didn't agree. This takes us a very small step closer to the governments target for us of 10% electricity from renewables in our area by 2010 and 20% by 2020.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Winter tomatoes and vegetables

I like to experiment in the garden.  This year I have planted out some (self sown) tomatoes in the greenhouse to grow over winter. At the moment they are doing well (will add a picture later) Our greenhouse is double glazed with recycled polycarbonate and has a solar heat storage system to keep it warmer at night so it may work.  I will report on their progress. As well as the tomatoes there are carrots, beetroot, pak choi, ivy leaf spinach, sugar snap peas and winter lettuce growing in the poly tunnel. Outside there are carrot and Feltham first peas (under cloches) broad beans, onion seed and sets, garlic, lots of rocket, rape (as green manure and chicken food) mustard and tares (as green manure), purple sprouting and winter cabbage. 

Friday, November 20, 2009

I despair of our MP

I have been following our MP Douglas Carswell's blog recently and have had some correspondence with him as well.  Although he may be a good MP for getting involved locally his voting record and general lack of acceptance of the things that are important to me fills me withy despair!  He doesn’t accept the coming peak oil crisis (fuel prices rocketing as the rate of using fossil fuels outstrips supply, he doesn’t believe in climate change and as a result (incredibly) doesn’t seem to expect a rise in sea level.  How this works with a council commissioning a recent report to quantify how much the sea defences would cost to protect Jaywick from the sea level rise predicted by the environment agency I can’t imagine.  I can’t see how this is good for Clacton when we should be fighting our corner to get national funds to protect us from the climate change effects
Link to Tendring report:

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I took Zero (our dog) for a swim yesterday and was impressed by the forest of wind turbines that had appeared since my last visit.  I counted about 10 turning and lots more aparently finished (this is an old picture)  I find the whole project exireing and am glad to live here and be able to see it first hand.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Green Fair - wet but undetered!

Through gales, rain and hail – the snow (sorry, show) must go on!!!

Bit over the top I know but I can’t resist drama.

I think the Green fair was a success, the hall was nice and bright and big enough we hand a nice live singer (Maria) and the energy was good in the hall.  We raised a decent amount of money for Colchester Green Party funds and ate too much great cake!  The best part for me though was meeting lots of interesting like minded people, networking and sharing info and enthusiasm (good to have a boost when so much attention is focused these days on the ostriches and deniers. If you came and helped or came and looked - many thanks   pictures at

Friday, November 13, 2009

Weather for ducks

Oh no! the weather forcast for the Green Fair day tomorow is wild and wet. Lets hope they are wrong.  Maybe Colchester folk are hardy and will turn out whatever the weather?

Here the duck experiment is progressing: We have put them (4 large ducklings)down in the vegetable garden in the hope that they will do less damage than chickens (chickens will scratch the soil off the deep beds and eat the brasicas and salads).  So far they have nibbled the spinache and I have put low barriers arround the beds with rape and rocket growing.  I hope they will concentrate on eating slugs and other pests hiding around the deep beds and keep down the grass. 

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Just picked a nice bag of mushrooms (ate some last night and I am still alive!) Will try and dry them to store for later, yum!

Conspiracy to hide Peak oil exposed!

Another step in the chipping away of denial of peak oil was made public by the guardian see:
and another good site and report (if you can do the work to understand it!)

Good luck and keep wearing the sweaters!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Count down to saturday

Getting set for the Colchester Green fair on Saturday. All the stalls are filled. I am busy making boards and posters to ensure a good turnout. Should be an interesting day and there are some good information stalls (low carbon living etc) as well as craft stalls and the food is always great (I'm looking forward to the cakes!!)
All we need is a dry day (keep your fingers crossed!).

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sad day for Talkwood

Talkwood is an enterprise consisting two parts: Talkwood recycling is a new business taking pallets which would have been land filled and turning them into kindling for sale on garage forecourts. The other part of the business is an allotment where flowers and vegetables are grown for sale to the public.   Their workforce is mostly people who might find it difficult to find employment elsewhere. Talkwood has been funded by the mental health Services. The funding has run out and the business must close after less than a year.  On the face of it they are very successful .  They are finding loads of businesses which will pay to have their waste wood taken away.  They have a market for their product.  They are reducing land fill (something the government and council are committed to do) and they are reducing CO2 emissions by providing people with waste wood to burn instead of fossil fuel based firelighters.  Surely the small amount of funding they need to keep them going till their business is profitable can be found by one of the parties interested in any of the objectives met by the list above!!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Last sunny day for planting?

What a beautiful day, took advantge to sow some rape (seed scrounged off the road at the farm my bees are at!) as a green manure that the hens will apreciate in the spring.  Should grow ok if the weather doesnt turn too bad in the next few weeks.

Friday, November 6, 2009

On the treadmill getting no where?

Yes I was on my own treadmill at Colchester hospital today, wired up to an ECG machine!! was an interesting experience with no nasty discoveries except that I must eat less cake and greek yoghourt!! boo.
A more serious treadmill was highlighted by the bad news todaty about Copenheigan.  It seems that it may take another year to acheave an agreement! lets hope we have that ammount of time left? So us campaigners must keep on pegging on the treadmill of pushing our policiy makers to give it a high priority (and the public to accept as a proven fact as well)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Colchester green Fair here we come

On the last run down towards the Colchester Green Fair (Sat 14th at the bunting Rooms 10.00 to 4.00) Trying to persuade people to come and help or to have a stall or to send back their booking form!! sigh, I know it will be fine on the day so relax and have faith eh!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The shortest fast in history

Off to the docs today for a 'fasting' blood test and ecg I had top go without breakfast till 10.30 - the nurse seemed concerned that I might faint! I reassures that my last fast was for 5 days and I survived that unscathed! I am trying to understand the government's new proposal for reducing CO2 (coming into force next year) as I am supposed to be doing a talk at the green party meeting this evening. Takes some ploughing through! and its still a bit short on detail. I think we need to watch their plans for 'sustainable' biofuel (planned to make up 10% of our transport fuel by 2020. The sustainable heat incentive looks good though - paying for the heat from solar thermal panels etc. Have started pages on our website to give information and links about the current and upcoming grants and payments, not finished yet but under construction.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Nice cup of tea anyone?

Anyone for a nice cup of tea - as long as its next year!! No seriously, I have just sown some seeds that promise to become tea shrubs (like the ones tea comes from in hot countries!) I will let you know how they do.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

New page on website on grants

Stormy stormy Sunday! No temptation to go and garden so I am working on a page for the website summarizing the grants and other payments encouraging the installation of renewable energy (solar hot water, electricity, wind power etc) and energy saving measures for homes and businesses. Its not easy getting clear information and the proposed changes for next year are still sketchy (tho encouraging!)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Last chance to sow ?

With storms looming I am taking a chance to sow green manure (tares, mustard, field beans) on the last of my bare ground. Hopefully the rain tomorrow will water it in nicely and the weather wont be too cold too soon to let it sprout!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Douglas Carswell

So Douglas Carswell (our MP) has gone public and made it clear that he is one of the dwindling band of ostriches who deny climate change. Its shocking that someone who we expected (hoped!) would be clear thinking and intelligent can subscribe to this kind of unscientific Ludditeism. 
Here in Essex we will suffer more than most as the land sinks and the sea level rises.  It would be nice to imagine that someone in the  corridors of power was fighting our corner against the other low lying areas competing for government money to improve their sea defences!.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Indian summer

Still incredibly warm for the time of year, in the last 10 days i have sown rocket and rape seed outside and they are both coming through.  Broad beans, carrot and feltham first peas also coming through.  The carots and peas will be covered by a cloche before the frosty nights arrive.  Heve planted some self-sown tomato plants in the greenhouse as an experiment.  Will start to experiment with ways to process the quinoa this week (a good crop!) 

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

lets get political

I guess blogs are a good place to sound off! so, I ill take advantage:  Firat about the issue of formal education for very young children.  The one word I havent heard mentioned is creativity!  The one most usefull skill/talent in life in my experience is the ability to aproach problems creatively and come up with unique solutions.  Play is essential to deceloping creativity and the school system as we have it is not great for developing that part of ourselves.  Forcing formal schooling on very young children will help to kill that developing ability (that children naturally have) at the start of their developement.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Green Fair in Colchester

Working hard to make the Colchester Green Fair a sucess (November 14th 10 till 4 ) we still have space for more stalls and lots to do on the day if you can help for a few minutes.  Our neww wwoofer David arived yesterday so we will be on the roof working on insulating the flat roofs and in the garden for the next few days.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Great meetings and great contacts

I have attended two local partnership meetings recently Essex County Council summit on Mitigating Climate Change and Tendring LSP conference on the Environment.  Both were great for networking (and commiting me to further work!) have started to contact the people I met and hope to be able to input useful stuff.  To date I am on the LSP environment commitee - an interface between the District council and voluntary bodies.  We shal see what turns out oto be useful.  Also have an offer of a display in the library and contacts for the new Tendring Eco Group sub group on community gardens and alotment projects I am part of.

Monday, October 19, 2009

A new start for a new season

My fist post on our new blog.  The first cold morning of the autumn - almost frosty (but not quite I think!) I hope the runner beans survived.  Lots of seeds planted in the polytunnel and green house to see us through the winter; Japanese salad, spinach, carrot, peas, beetroot, lambs letuice.  Outside have sown rocket, peas, onion seed and sets, carrot (under cloches).  Prepareing to plant trees in the few spaces left, apricot, apple and who knows what else.