Thursday, December 22, 2011

Western Capitalism - what next?

The capitalism we have today is at root an immoral system as it depends on exploiting (over the recent century’s and in preset day) the powerless, using their resources (natural resources from other countries) and labour (from our own underpaid workers and those in the third world) to add to our capital to give us a better lifestyle.   Add to this the use of cheap energy which in effect exploits the future generations by creating climate change and wasting that fossil fuel capital.
Any system based on immoral ground will become corrupt as ours has.
Somehow we must come up with a new vision of what green sustainable capitalism would look like. If we are to win the argument it must be based on sound moral and ethical ground.   
Some ideas:
  • A great principle - From each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs.
  • A ratio between earnings in a firm of the highest wage not more than 10 times that of the lowest wage.
  • Local banks, credit unions, crowd funding to reform the credit system.
  • A return to 'sound' money where the money supply is connected to real GDP not created out of thin air. 
  • A figure of GDP and therefore growth that measures the positive healthy, activity that adds to well-being of the country and doesn't count other destructive activities as being 'growth'!
  • Community based self reliance - supporting local producers and businesses.
  • Re-skilling formal and informal being supported in every way through apprenticeships, adult education, evening classes, cheap venues in local halls etc

More ideas please.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Chainsaw Mill

Yes we have bitten the bullet (after looking at all the Wood-Mizer etc options) and bought an Alaskan Mill.  With my MS 280 Stihl saw we can cut about 15 inches of width.   The saw is working hard and its slow progress.   I have decided to buy a bigger saw (from Ebay) and won a Stihl 046 which is older but much more powerful.  I will be able to leave this in the mill which will save me time.   Hope we will soon have some nice oak and chestnut gateposts and planks to sell!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Buddleia garden sticks

Now is a good time to prune buddleia bushes and as a bonus the prunings make great garden canes for next year.
On another topic;  We have had a very nice feature about EcoDIY in the Essex Gazette see  (its a Pdf download)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Holey apples batman

Here is our wwoofer Charlotte making apple rings for drying.  The rings are dried on canes and racks by the wood stove or in the solar drier
The rings make great snacks and additions to cakes etc.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

A new solar PV system for the workshop

The roofers fitting the PV rails to our oak stringers

The completed 16 PV panels
Yesterday was an epic day here as the new 4kw solar PV panels arrived.  We had already spent a week digging a half meter deep trench to take 45meters of heavy armoured mains cable and a network cable from the workshop to the house - the dry clay we had to dig out was like concrete!
Steve and Fraser digging the trench

Then we fitted the stringers to the galvanised workshop roof which we had cut from one of the oak trees cut in our woodland.
Chris and Steve fitting the oak stringers
We are hoping to log the performance of the system by PC using the network cable.  Watch this space for reports.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Insulating our floor - a tough job completed

Yippee!!  we have just finished insulating our floor with recycled insulation (with Steve's help)
This was probably the hardest job I have ever had to do! it involved crawling under our house fitting the insulation offcuts which we had cut to fit between the rafters under the floor.   Dark, dirty and cramped, in the course of the work we had to slide over , under and round the sewer pipes, plumbing and gas pipes (without damaging them).  The pay-off is that as well as a warmer house I now have a garage and workshop which can be used for more productive things than storing the insulation - celebration time!!
Cutting the insulation to the spacing of the rafters. 

Disappearing under the floor

We cut a hole in our office floor!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Urgent information about FIT (feed in tariff)

Information from an accidently published document from the Energy Saving Trust;
If you are thinking of installing Solar PV in the near future be aware that the government is proposing to drop the FIT on systems installed after 12th December 2011 to 21p per unit!!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Second crop of figs

Our largest fig tree is ripening a second crop of fruit this year, I have picked five ripe figs so far.  This is the first year I have ever seen this happen!   has anyone else experienced the same thing?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Late courgettes and beans

The courgettes we planted in pots in august and then put into the poly tunnel when some tomatoes plants came out are now cropping well, producing a courgette each per day.  I planted the late crop of purple climbing french beans in ever corner I could find in and out doors including some places in the poly tunnel where the cucumbers had finished. The indoor beans are now cropping and the outdoor beans just starting, as long as the frost holds off we will have tender autumn beans this year.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Cutting the super willows

Yesterday we harvested the superwillows planted three years ago.  They would have shaded out the solar PV we are putting on the roof of the workshop and it was time to harvest anyway.  We cut a good load of wood for burning, some cuttings for planting and the rest was chipped by our WWOOFer Ales and put round the raspberries as a mulch.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Start of the timber harvest.

It was an important day in the life of our wood yesterday.   We took a half ton (green) oak log to a friend with a large saw and he cut it into 75mm planks.   Sounds easy when you say it like that doesn't it!  The reality was two hours of experimenting using an engine hoist to get the log into our (newly bought) trailer, pulling the trailer onto the road using our old tractor and a nervous trip in the van to the boatyard where the saw was.

Anyway, now we have all this lovely wood!!! Steve helped by cutting the planks into rails to go onto the workshop roof to take the solar PV panels we are planning to install there and the rest of the wood should re-appear out of Steve's workshop as beautiful furniture sometime in the future.
This should be the start of many more trips to the saw as we convert our oak and chestnut buts into saleable posts and planks.  Yippee!!!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Permaculture Association LAND learning centre success

Rosie and I are celebrating this week passing our assessment to be a Permaculture Association LAND learning centre.This means that groups can obtain funding from the Permaculture Association to come and visit us here and see what we are up to.  We are looking forward to having (and learning from) lots of interesting visitors.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dealing with powdery mildew.

We get problems with powdery mildew on peas, courgettes, cucumbers etc this seems to happen (particularly with peas later in the season.  I have discovered a simple cure - a dilute solution of baking soda (about a teaspoon to a pint of water) sprayed on the leaves kills it off and seems to act as a deterrent.  We have courgette plants starting to flower in the poly tunnel (a late sowing experiment!) and they were coming down with mildew.  This treatment has stopped it in its tracks.
We had great fun harvesting our walnuts this weekend (no squirrel this year?) and had a bumper crop of 9 kilos.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Harvesting our beans, seeds amd fruit

Harvest time is here again;  This time its dry beans (4 different kinds as part of this years experiment) sun flower seeds (for the birds in the winter and us) and bottling and jamming fruit.   The beans shown are Canadian, purple climbing french and Canaletto.  We are bottling our fruit this year to save space in the freezers as well as drying fruit and making fruit leather.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

New friends at the EcoDIY open weekend

I am happy to report that the weather was kind to us for our open weekend.  We had over 80 visitors and spent many hours talking to lots of interesting people.   As a result there were 14 people at the Tendring Eco Group meeting here last night and we are starting a wormery (to add to our list of livestock!)
Exhausted but happy - Chris

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Puffball fungus

I spotted this puffball across a field while walking the dog yesterday, we had it sliced and fried in (wicked!) butter - delicious!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Eco house open weekend

Yes its that time again!   We are opening our house and small holding from 10AM to 5PM on Saturday 10th and Sunday 11th September.   No booking is necessary and directions can be found at 
We are focusing this year on food growing and how to extend the season and the range of crops.   We can also talk about keeping chickens and keeping bees in a more bee-friendly way.  Have a look at the website for more information on the house and small holding

Monday, August 29, 2011

Usefull report on energy and growth

Check this useful DFID sponsored report on the link between energy and growth and the possibilities for growth in developing countries.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Wasp attack

We are under unprecedented attack from wasps this year, especially on our grapes!  The bees are also under attack but defending their hives successfully now I have made the entrances smaller.
We were looking forward to a great harvest from the vine on our veranda until about 10 days ago.  The grapes are nearly ripe - quite sweet and edible.
We have tried, imitation wasp nests and traps without any great success (they keep on coming!) and in desperation I have started protecting the bunches in plastic bags, will see if that works.

If you have any other suggestions do let me know.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Processing tomatoes

Yes its that time again!  Many kilos of tomatoes are ready to process and we are trying different ways of preserving them for the winter. Our favorite is to cut out the hard core and roast in the oven with onion or garlic until reduced by about half.  We then 'whiz' them and freeze or bottle the 'pasata'
We also have tried drying them and bottling them whole in brine - both work but don't seem to be so useful.   Home grown tomatoes are a different animal to those bought in the shops, much sweeter and with a thinner skin so this process works even though we don't skin them first.
We are also drying our surplus figs before freezing them to make an ingredient for cakes etc.  We cut off the stalk end of really ripe figs and slice them into quarters before drying them on a mesh near our stove, works well.  We store these in the freezer,

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dome moan

We are about to set off for camp!  I have stored our (homemade! ) Geodesic dome in the trailer over winter.  What an error that was!!  Half of the 75 poles were destroyed by woodworm.  So it was off to the wood for hazle replacements and 2 days hard work to make them into poles.  The shave horse came in useful as Rosie is demonstrating.

Friday, July 29, 2011

panoramic pictures

I have been playing with my photo software and made a panoramic view of our garden. You will need to click on the picture to get the full benefit!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Feeding our crops

We are now harvesting (and eating!) 22 different vegetables and 8 different fruits (as they come into readiness).
  This makes me think of how we feed the plants and keep the cycle going with local organic plant feeding.

  1.  Good compost; We make compost from chicken bedding, vegetable waste (including peelings from neighbours and friends who don’t have a compost heap), grass cuttings (from 2 professional gardeners to save them other disposal costs), cardboard (egg trays and boxes are ideal), our own pee, non-seeding weeds, spent pots and grow bags (out of skips) and wood ash sprinkled on as an occasional layer..
  2. Well rotted horse manure, treat this with great caution and do a test sowing in it of beans or peas to check it is not contaminated with herbicide, (we collect and stack this for a year before use.)
  3. Liquid feed made from any deep rooted weeds, nettles and comfrey leaves left to rot in water in a dustbin.  Makes a good breeding place for hover flies which eat aphid in our garden.
  4. Our pee diluted 5 to 1 as a liquid feed
  5. Grass cuttings as a surface mulch to feed and keep the moisture in.
  6. Top dressing with wood ash to provide potash (round fruit trees for example)
  7. If I can scrounge fish heads and guts from the local fish monger these are buried where the runner beans or sweet corn are to be planted. Any feathers and remains from the chickens we eat are used the same way planted under fruit trees, bushes or vines.
  8. Occasional use of fish, blood and bone where the soil needs a boost i.e., planting greens straight after another crop. I also sometimes (but rarely) use rock dust, calcined sea weed, and SM3 seaweed liquid feed to provide specific elements I feel might be lacking.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Liquid feed, hoverflies and carrot protection

Liquid feed and home for hover fly larve
Liquid feed tub where we put all the nettles, comfrey, and serious weed roots to rot also makes a good home for hover fly larvae (rat tailed larvae). It’s very smelly so we cover it and leave a small gap for the hoverflies.
The peacock eggs (I know - peahen eggs!) came from our wood where an escaped peahen has set up home and is laying eggs out in the open (inexperienced i guess?)
I have used some secondary double glazing we were given to make carrot fly barriers - hope it will work, I will keep you posted.

Hat full of peacock (hen!) eggs

Anti carrot fly barrier

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Belated Happy Solstice!

What I forget to post yesterday!  Happy Solstice everyone.  The garden is a powerhouse of green and producing more that we can eat!  a bumper year for raspberries so freezing, bottling and jamming.  A great contact for kilner jars at better than supermarket prices for bottling fruit  . Yesterday we went to the estuary by Brightlingsea for a (very windy ) solstice celebration - very elemental. 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

New cleaving brake in wood

I have now (nearly) finished a tripod cleaving brake in our wood. Now I just have to practice using it!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Saving seed

yes it is that time of year again and I am collecting and drying plants with seeds - currently; Rocket, pak choi, lettuce, spinach.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Blooming June

Just a couple of pictures of the vegetable garden in full production.  Lots of flowers visible, I like to mix all sorts of plants together so calendulas all over, borage and phacelia (full of bees) various things going to seed for saving for next year - rocket, lettuce, parsnip, radish (and for eating the pods)
Lots of borage

Squashes centre stage

Saturday, June 18, 2011

We are still suffering the effects of Clopyralid (Persistent herbicide)

We are still suffering the effects of Clopyralid (Persistent herbicide) in our compost.  The latest problem is in our main crop peas (see picture)  I have also had trouble with my sunflower seedlings and bean seedlings in pots and in the ground. The pot problem is particularly frustrating as I was planting in pots to avoid low germination problems and inadvertently managed to use contaminated horse manure in the compost.   The Internet seems to offer only time as a healer for this problem! see this useful article;
 Distorted peas

Damaged sunflower head

Monday, June 13, 2011

All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace

I thoroughly recommend downloading the three episodes of this BBC series from i player (you can download on to your pc and have a month to watch them) and on utube. Helps to understand the process that led up to our current world economic situation and the role that the states played in the whole mess.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Gardening top tip!

Instead of sowing herbs like basil and parsley buy a tray of plants from your supermarket (intended to cook with).  My tray of basil plants contained 25 plants and cost me 50p - bargain!  These trays are often reduced in price as they reach their sell by date to be even cheaper!!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Rain at last

Strawberry tart - yum yum
Yes 21 millimeters of rain yesterday! All the tanks are full and I can plant out the winter brassicas today with no worries.  In the wood the new tarp collected 35 gallons - result!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Everything is early

Yes this is a spectacularly early year!
We are picking; Raspberries, strawberries, courgettes, cucumbers, peas and sugar snap peas and would you believe our first ripe tomatoes! According to my gardening diary of last year two to three weeks earlier for most things!
On the rain front; we have had 10mm of rain in the last month.  They are promising rain tonight so we are working hard to make the most of it.  Here is a construction we have made in the wood to funnel rain into a depression and capture it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Phacelia in bloom

Bumble bees working on phacelia flowers.  We grew phacelia as a green manure over the winter. I left a few plants to go to seed so as to save the seed for another sowing.  I didn't expect such a striking flower - would be at home in the flower border as well as the veg patch

Poor hatch from our broody hens

We are getting very poor results from our broodys this year.  Some of the failures are infertile eggs and I guess our cockerel may be struggling to cover our twenty four hens.  We have also had lots of eggs developed but not hatched and I am wondering if this is to do with the dry weather.  I have built the nests with soil as usual but the soil is dryer this year.  Anyone else had similar experiences?  The last hen to hatch was distressing for me as she hatched some chicks but killed them all herself -young inexperienced mother I guess freaking out when the chicks appeared underneath her!!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Now the wind!

Yes, on top of the drought (three months and counting since significant rain!) we have strong winds this week battering and damaging the plants - especially the courgettes and squashes.  I have had to cover them with cloches to protect them.  The Bees swarmed yesterday in spite of the 40mph winds, they hung very tightly together on a tree and were easy to shake into a basket and run into a hive.  The good news is that the solar water heating panel and the solar PV (electricity producing panels) have done very well over the last two months averaging more electricity than ever before.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

WWOOF helpers are great!

We have just had a family from WWOOF staying with us to help in the wood and smallholding - a great week with very nice (highly skilled ) people.  WWOOF is a great idea, people stay with us (usually for a week ) living as part of our family and trade their help 5 hours a day 5 days a week for board and lodging. No money changes hands and we have made several good friends in the process.
Nessa, Christoph, Gabe and Alma removing bracken in the wood