Saturday, September 30, 2006
Friday, September 29, 2006
...funky urban henhouses for the iPod generation. They look like someone has disembowelled an iMac and attached a run on the front.I thought I was being original and witty, but if you google for eglu+imac you'll see that almost everybody who has written about eglus has made the comparison.
We decided to save the £400 and make a henhouse out of an underused wendy house, and very swanky it is too. But if you don't happen to have an old wendy house knocking around, then an eglu isn't a bad way to go. I applaud them for making poultry-keeping accessible to the masses.
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Edited at 14:04 - This is a shoutout to my dad, Bill, who has finally been dragged kicking and screaming into the 20th century, and is getting to grips with this new-fangled interweb thingy. Bet you can't figure out how to leave a comment, baldie.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
Saint Francis Xavier
It's a nice way to spend a wet autumn evening, discovering accidental poetry in seed catalogues.
First Earlies, Second Earlies, Maincrop:
Wilja, Maris Peer,
Pentland Squire, Desiree,
Peas: Early Onward, Feltham First,
Kelvedon Wonder, Alderman,
Runner beans: Lady Di, Margolis,
Monday, September 25, 2006
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Yogurt Soft Cheese
Line a colander with a clean non-fluffy cloth and pour in a pint of home-made plain yogurt mixed with two teaspoons of ground sea salt. Fold the cloth over the top and put something heavy on top - I use a cast-iron pan full of water. You want to squeeze all the whey out of the yogurt. Leave it overnight on the draining board, then wring the yogurt in the cloth. Clear liquid will come out. When thick white creamy bits start coming through the holes in the cloth you know you have wrung enough. Scrape the thick yogurt cheese off the cloth into a container. Now you can add any flavourings you want, and keep it in the fridge.
Use it just as you would use any soft cheese such as Philadelphia. I like it spread on crackers with a slice of tomato or cucumber.
Friday, September 22, 2006
On doing without
There is nothing better than having all that you want - but doesn't that make life a little empty? Doesn't having all you want make you want more - even if "more" is not really important in itself. Doesn't wanting more leave you with closets full of things that you either don't want or you want but have no time to use. Have you got a collection of music that you have no time to listen to, or a collection of books that you have no time to read? Have less. Enjoy what you have. Work hard for what you need. Sometimes you will have to wait - sometimes you wait for a very long time, but you have the joy of expectation. You have the joy of need and the joy of expectation.
Now, however, kids can find an endless supply of whatever they want to watch; if they want to watch three episodes an hour of ScoobiDoo then they can. Add to that the absence of the old films anyway, the serendipity of afternoon TV has gone, probably for ever.
In our age of choice it's unusual to choose to do without, but I believe there is much to be gained from it.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Q. We still have a lot left on the plant. Some people say take it off and use it, others say leave it on the plant to die off over winter - what should we do?
A. Dig it all out, tarmac the area, paint it green, and buy fresh from Tesco. Bound to be cheaper, and more convenient.
Well, it made me laugh. And then it made me think - that's true. It is cheaper and more convenient to get your food from the shops, to buy your clothes and bedding, your furniture and soap and gifts. So why do I make many of those things myself? And why do I yearn to make even more of them, to become as self-sufficient as I can?
The answer surprised me.
And what surprised me even more is that somebody else has already come up with the same answer and written eloquently about it. This is an extract from an article by Ray Lovegrove:
On the joy of work
Compare if you will, the joys of chopping a pile of firewood with filing your monthly sales figures. Compare a trip to the supermarket with collecting eggs from your chickens. Compare sitting in a long, long meeting on a spring afternoon with sowing vegetable seeds. Imagine falling into bed so tired with your efforts that you fall asleep at once, never giving a thought to how to hit your monthly target. Imagine the pure satisfaction in building your own chicken coop or knitting your own sweater - simple joys but real joys. Sure, you are giving up your paycheque, but oh, what a joy to work for yourself to produce what you need.
The joy of work. That means a lot to me. Life is too short to spend 38 hours a week doing something you hate. But I've never been attracted to winning the lottery and living a life of indolence. Ray has something to say about that, too. I'll write some more about it tomorrow.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
There's a Met Office Weather Warning, with severe gales expected in the next few days. That could be the end of my runner beans for this season. I'll be picking them daily until it hits us.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Monday, September 18, 2006
This is mainly because appliance manufacturers have no reason to design their products with efficiency in mind -- after all, they don't pay your electricity bill!
New technologies have emerged making it possible to reduce standby power by as much as 90%while maintaining all features that customers want. The most important innovations are higher efficiency power supplies and improved circuitry designs.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Friday, September 15, 2006
Thursday, September 14, 2006
"Three Sisters" system of planting sweetcorn, runner beans and squash all together. The runner beans grow up the tall sweetcorn stalks instead of needing canes, and the squash gorw on the ground, crowding out weeds. Supposedly you get more yield in a small space than if you grew them all separately.
Blackcurrants. They're delicious and versatile.
Pink fir apple potatoes. Someone gave us some they had grown and we really enjoyed them.
Rainbow chard, ditto.
Potimarrons - you can get free seeds for these chestnut-flavoured pumpkins, as long as you promise to keep some and give some away to a homeless shelter.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Scarecrows on an allotment are a vandal magnet.
Lettuces and radishes are quick, easy, and fun.
Rhubarb - you can have too much of a good thing.
I didn't have any luck with planting broccoli and cabbages direct into the ground. I don't know why not. Next year I'll try them in pots first.
Pumpkins also didn't work when sown directly into the ground. Try these in pots first.
Beetroot on the other hand worked really well, but I don't actually like them all that much. Don't plant so many next year.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Monday, September 11, 2006
It's the time when every bright sunny weekend could be the last one of the year. This leaves me with a dilemma - should I spend the precious warm dry days working on the plot, or enjoying the sunshine with the family?
I tried to compromise - I got down to the allotment early and picked 4 carrier bags full of veg (including 2 1/2 kg of runner beans), then in the afternoon we all went to Blackpool.
Blackpool is the biggest, brashest, most famous sea-side resort in Britain. It's the spiritual home of saucy postcards, fish and chips, candy rock, kiss-me-quick hats, trams, deckchairs, men with hankies on their head, donkey rides, Blackpool Tower, and of course the world-famous Blackpool Illuminations. You're not really British if you've never come home from Blackpool with a killer sugar rush and sand in your knickers.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
My hubby who works in the electronics industry says that flourescent tubes take over 500 times the energy to start when they're boosting compared to when they're running. But as it only takes 10 secponds to 'strike' a flourescent tube, do the math ie turn it off if you'll be out the room more than an hour and a half.But he says that the switch mode power supplies on modern tellys will pop a lot faster due to inrush current if they're switched on & off at the mains, as opposed to standby. BUT our telly is 25mAH standby(so that's 25 milliamps, ie 25 thousandth's of an amp, per hour) so if our telly is on standby for 24 hours, it will use 0.138 of a killowatt a day, so that's about 1.86 pence based on 13.55 pence per unit electricity, so that's £7.12 a year for our modern telly on standby, with a class A stanbdby rating.BUT, older tellys with a higher standby current will work out more expensive. For our telly, I choose to keep it on standby, cos I don't want to shorten the life of the appliance due to the inrush spike to the power supply by turning it on at the wall multiple times a
Personally and I am an electronics engineer I switch them off. If they're not designed to be switched on then they won't be any good in the long run anyhoo. My TV is quite old (for some values of old) and still works perfectly and most nights I switch it off, my amplifier is getting on for 20 and has taken that treatment for all its life (ok it doesn't have a standby function). Repeated switching on and off may blow some devices but not a couple or so times a day. Also somethings like monitors and TVs need to be switched on occasionally to degauss them.But Martin, who works in the alternative energy industry, had this to say:
[translated from Sheddese]
Its all far deeper than just "b****X!" For a start, electrical engineeers have a damned good idea how long components will last, often their "life" is quoted - they can pretty accurately work out how long they'll last (built-in obsolescence). So we then consider our test telly (a modern one, designed to be on "standby") - if a few components were of a higher spec., they may well be able to last indefinitely, but they don't fit them. The way economics are balanced these days, and there is so little residual value in electronic equipment, it is often cheaper to replace the whole thing with a new one, rather than having one or two minor components replaced - a great cost to the environment! I think Chickpea hit the nail on the head - it ISN'T a simple question. I think the one thing we should agree on is that all consumer goods should be designed for longevity, repairability, and recyclability!
Saturday, September 09, 2006
This version is by Banksy, a guerrilla artist whose work I have admired for some time.
Banksy's version of Monet's painting also makes me want to cry.
Friday, September 08, 2006
Sadly I can't take credit for this excellent idea. It's from Mrs Nesbitt's blog. I'll certainly be making use of her great ideas on presentation.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
One of my favourite cranks is Pat Gardiner, who maintains a website called Self Sufficiency In Style.
The writer, a rather conventional businessman, was forced to retire early. He miserably roamed the highways and byways of Europe in a beat-up pick-up truck half-heartedly searching for a new life. Eventually, he owned up to an lifetime's ambition to grow his own food. With his wife, he resurrected a dream, bought a smallholding and made a new happier life. They now live in a lovely cottage, in a beautiful setting, eating well and enjoying life to the full. This is how they did it.
The website is frequently updated. It's full of Pat's articles on practical things like keeping livestock, buying a smallholding, or making cream. It also has philosophical musings on the difference between self sufficiency and survivalism, the four seasons, or leaving a legacy. Just for balance there are very funny essays such as a boobs and blunders, a wry look at fashions, and a comparison of American and British attitudes to transport. Although the site is large and doesn't follow standard advice on website design I find it easy to get around and easy to read due to Pat's style of writing in short manageable sections, interspersed with pictures and cartoons.
I've also found Pat to be very approachable and ready to answer questions and help out a struggling beginner via long and detailed emails, so why not spend a little time visiting his site?
This is the last quilt picture in this week-long online personal quilt show. I have other quilts and maybe I'll post more pictures in a while. Today's quilt is a Hug Quilt, which is a quilt made by a group of friends for another friend who is going through a tough time. Some of my friends on rec.crafts.textiles.quilting made this for me a couple of years back and needless to say I treasure it very much.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
- 8 people (31%) I've gone green! I have started boiling just enough water in my kettle.
- 14 people (45%) I was already green! I have always boiled just enough water in my kettle.
- 3 people (12%) I don't accept your argument! I will continue to boil just as much water as I like in my kettle.
- 1 person (4%) I'm greener than thou! I don't have a kettle.
Today's quilt is one I made for my gorgeous Goddaughter, Rebecca. And as an extra bonus, you get to see her lying on it.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
packaging and publicity about not boiling too much water in their kettles. Well today I got this email from Tetley:
You recently sent us a suggestion to add a note about the energy usage of kettles to our packs and adverts. This was discussed at a recent meeting and I just wanted to let you know that we will be incorporating this, and other suggestions made about energy, into our website and printed materials.
Adding information to packaging is more complicated! At Tetley we change our packs when we have to adhere to changes in labelling legislation or, about every 2-3 years, to make a few design updates. Due to the volumes we use, it isn't practical to make this more regular. This review was only completed at the beginning of 2006 so it is a while until the next one but we will try to
incorporate your suggestion at that point.
Kind regards Charlotte Moss Tetley
GB Consumer Services
I think that's fantastic.
Today's quilt is one I made for Thomas. It has cute jungle animals on the front, and a leopard print on the back, so when he goes to university he can take it with him and put it on his bed upside down. It will look cool, not babyish in student digs, but only he will know it's his jungle animal quilt on the other side.
Friday, September 01, 2006
Modern communities are often not based on geographical proximity but on shared interests. I can't remember the names of my next door neighbours, but I have friends in America, New Zealand, all over the world who share my interests. In particular I participate in communities of quilters and we do have our modern versions of quilting bees.
The quilt pictured is a "round robin". Several quilters get together (via email) and agree on the rules. Then each member makes a centre (mine was the string pieced star in the middle of this quilt) and mails it to the next quilter on the list. When you recieve a centre, you add a border to it, then mail it to the next person. After six rounds, you get your completed quilt top back. In the meantime you have added something to five other quilts. I think this quilt is a stunner, and the panel on the back with six names embroidered on it reminds me of my quilting friends all over the world.