Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Tierentyen Mustard

Tierenteyn Mustard The Belgian's taste for mustard goes back at least to the Middle Ages when these little seeds, yellow and black, started to become available in trading cities like Ghent, which in the 13th century was second only to Paris as a leading centre of manufacture and trade. The use of mustard entered Belgian culinary tradition and never left, for mustard, both as a flavouring and as a condiment, did wonders to perk up insipid meats and was particularly useful in masking any meat that had become a bit too aged. Mustard merchants, each one with his own secret methods and ingredients to combine with the mustard seeds, thrived. Mustards were flavoured with wine, beer, vinegar, or verjus (the juice of sour grapes). Various spices could be added along with salt and sugar. Today everyone knows the mustard of Dyon, the capital city of Burgundy, but few people outside of Belgium have heard of the dark brown, rather potent mustard that is produced in Ghent by the House of Tierenteyn. This is a mustard of exceptional flavour. When its aroma hits your nostrils, your eyes water and your taste buds awaken in expectation. The House of Tierenteyn is located in the heart of medieval Ghent in the Groentenmarkt (the market square where farmers come to sell their produce.) It is a tiny shop, tucked between an old little bakery and a grocery store. It has been there since 1790 and, to this day, sells mustard only of its own manufacture-the famous Tierenteyn mustard of Ghent. When you step inside. you feel that here time has truly stood still. Your eyes rest in wonder and appreciation on the neat rows of blue spice-filled porcelain jars on the shelves and below them, the wooden barrels of freshly made mustard. At the same time, your head is filled with the aromas of nutmeg, bayleaves, cinnamon, and, of course, mustard. In this shop, Tierenteyn mustard is produced from a recipe that dates back to 1790. And while anyone who knows enough to come here can buy their mustard, the exact combination of herbs and spices is a secret, guarded as carefully as a pot of real gold. The pungent Tierenteyn mustard has inspired many cooks. It is a traditional condiment to be served with pates, terrines, charcuterie, and a variety of cold and hot meats. It is also very successfully incorporated as a flavouring in recipes using rabbit, lamb, pork, poultry, and even vegetables and fish.

A grain of sand

In the desert where time drifts between dark and light, every grain of sand lies independently from another. It is an entity on its own and yet when moved, it creates an ever changing landscape. The wind plays with sand, shifts it, moulds it and yet does not control it as each grain lies independently from another. It may seem like a barren landscape, yet when the wind sings and the moon shines, the grain of sand can glitter like gold yet it is only a grain of sand. It moves not until it is carried. It does not matter whether it is on top of the dune or at the bottom, it is an entity on its own, it flows, it shifts and it is part of a beautiful landscape.

In the desert where time drifts between dark and light, a storm gathers. The sun shines and warms the grains, the wind whips them up and shifts them in a different shape. The grain on top, now finds itself buried by others, lying together yet an entity on its own. It is still there, the wind does not play, yet animals burrow and shift the grain aside to create a path through the darkness. Some grains go deeper, others rise, lying together, individually and together, quite independent from each other. In the coolness of the darkness there is no movement, there is no sound, only stillness, there is no sun, only darkness. The grain cannot move, an entity on its own and quite independent from another. In the darkness it cannot glisten, yet what arises from the deepness is a trace of water, embracing the grain with its coolness. Some grains go this way, others that way, moving as they are carried in the path of the waterdrop.

In the desert where time drifts between dark and light, every grain of sand lies independently from another. It is an entity on its own and yet when moved it creates an ever changing landscape. The desert can be fearful to one and beautiful to another. A grain of sand has no power, it cannot move until it is carried, it knows no fear, it knows not its beauty, it is and entity on its own, independently from another and yet it can create and shift mountains, sing with the wind and glisten in the sun.

In the desert where time drifts between dark and light, a grain of sand lies independently from another, an entity on its own, yet infinitely connected, moved when carried silently.

copyright Moonstone 2005

Monday, October 30, 2006

Finish each day

Angels in the home

This article by echo of the green hills caught my attention :

When I was in my first year of university I was taught about "the Angel in the Home". The pious Victorian woman, the epitome of female grace and beauty, managing her household with calm efficiency, the adored helpmeet of her husband, the gentle mother of many happy and healthy children. I was taught that this was a myth, that women were mistreated, sexually abused, legally inferior, beaten and forced by these miserable circumstances into mental breakdown. To a certain extent my lecturers, and the books they used to teach from, were correct. There were many women who were abused in the Victorian era, many women who were legally inferior (in the UK at least) to their rich, male, masters, many women whose lives were tainted by mental illness. I was then taught that the fight for freedom which occurred in the 1960s/1970s freed women from such degradation, that the differences between male and female were down to cultural conditioning and not biological difference...that the appropriate gender was neuter, like in some German nouns.
However, on this point, my very bright and efficient teachers were wrong. The whole of my course was wrong. I remember reading Jane Eyre and being told that an appropriate reading of the text was as Bronte's treaty on sexual repression and the confinement of Victorian female gender roles to "Angel in the Home", passionless, pallid, good (Jane) and "Madwoman in the Attic" a repressed female sexuality, full of passion and yearning for freedom, downtrodden by the evil patriarchy. I read it differently, Jane was good and brave, yes, but I never doubted that when the lights went out after "reader, I married him" her marriage to Rochester was both passionate and loving. As for Bertha, in the novel she was just plain old mad...there were hints of inbreeding, but as for a sexually repressed victim of the patriarchy, it's not in the text of Jane Eyre, you'll find it in Jean Rhys's prequel A Wide Sargasso Sea, written in the 1960s. We project onto literature what we want to see, and feminists are just as guilty at this as an old-fashioned romantic as myself.
So, why do I believe "the Angel in the Home" to be a myth? Simply because it is an ideal, there are very few of us who come close to such perfection and to assume every Victorian housewife was indeed such an "angel" is just as revisionist as the feminists believing she was terribly downtrodden. I truly believe that there was just as much degradation, abuse, murder, intolerance and metal illness in the Victorian times as there is today. The only difference between them and us is that they *tried* to make a difference. The Victorian middle classes had a strong moral centre, a high moral standard which most tried to live up to. Yes, they failed, and often they failed miserably at upholding these standards, and perhaps it turned them into hypocrites. It is such hypocrisy that the generations that followed were so disgusted by, which made them want to change things. But the modern rejection of Victorian moral standards means that instead of trying to make the world a better place we flounder like beached sea life on the shores of moral relativism, not bothering with bettering "society" because we don't want to offend, and it's none of our business anyway, and who knows what is right and wrong.
So what are we left with? Confusion, finding solace in excessive materialism, our young people ignored and our elderly forgotten, excessive violence and people who will never know what is right and what is wrong. I think it is time for this to stop and I think it is we women who have the answer, but unlike the feminist answer, it should not based upon us aping the worst traits of men, but on us returning to our true femaleness - our ability to nurture. If the "womb is the seat of compassion" then let us be compassionate, let us nurture. We have more resources and information at our fingertips than any Victorian "angel" and our children are the new tomorrow. If we bring them up with kindness and respect and knowledge of what is right and what is wrong, then surely they will grow into balanced and compassionate adults, adults who take their responsibilities seriously.
If we, as adults of the 21st century try to create a new moral centre, one which is based upon the way we live now, then at least our children have a watermark, something to aim for because to achieve anything you must have aims, and to achieve a better society you need to aim high. What we need is for all adults (both secular, Christian and peoples of all faiths) to realise that to be a good and fully functioning grown-up takes sacrifice and an understanding of the meaning of responsibility. If we women have to give up our well paid, enjoyable jobs so we can actually "mother" the babies we gave birth to, then so be it. If our men need to give up the sports car and the golf so that they have the money and time to be sufficient role models and fathers, then so be it. We may never get to be "angels" in our homes, but perhaps we should at least try to be adults.

Energy reduction in progress

I had to give the latest meter reading to the electricity supplier and had a look at what other features they provide on the website and the above graph does show that our consumption has been reduced so far each time we have had a bill, so that is after all encouraging, although there has to be some variation due to the summer.

One little tip on those appliances that are on standby :

Plug them all in an extension lead and then you can switch that off at the plug at night or when it is not required, it helps those moments when you are on hands and knees trying to figure out which plug is which. I had no idea for instance that some appliances, even if they are off and the rechargers are in the plug, that they actually consume energy ( that relates to rechargeable battery chargers, game and phone chargers).

The chancellor today made a speech on how the Uk is going to lead the change on global warming: I stand amazed and watch for the actions to come rolling in. I guess it will be in the form of taxes on this and that....which will mean that those with money are unlikely to change their habits and will just carry on as usual. I may be wrong of course, what do you think?

For some wonderful nature pictures as wallpaper or screensavers the BBC has a treat here.

Friday, October 27, 2006

The many T's of transport

T stands for :
terrific service
time delay
terrible service
time tables

It does not however spell FRUSTRATION!!!!!!!
How did it go.. I hear you ask. On the whole not bad, not bad at all, just a few glitches which overshadowed the voyage. Here’s the lowdown.

The first leg was the trip to the station. Ok we cheated here and got ourselves to be driven to the station ( but we shared transport). The train to London was on time but overfull so standing room only at 10.30 am and an apology over the tannoid that the printer in Penzance had broken down and so no reserved tickets had been printed. ( Ok, maybe but lame nevertheless!). Luggage stacked the walkways, children sat on laps and many of us just stood in the corridor. A miserable way to start.
In London, we managed to get a taxi straight away and that was a very enjoyable, however expensive way to travel. Time was good, service was good.
The Eurostar connection was brilliant however, no room to wait for the train ( there are about 100 seats and probably 500 on the train...you get the picture). The waiting area was dirty and poorly serviced with bits of people’s lunch scattered in the tables. Not a pleasure to wait. The train was on time and departed on time, was clean, comfortable and arrived in Brussels on time.
The Belgian railway system was great, clear instructions as to which platform your train is departing from and an architectural outline that means that each platform has its own escalator and set of stairs with a central corridor running through. The train arrived when it said, there was plenty of room, room to hang your coat on and store your luggage. You did not feel like sardines in a box let alone standing room. An extra bonus is that to get out of the train you just press a button to open the door ( makes sense) compared with the British train which requires you to roll down the window put your hand on the outside, find the handle and then open the door that way.
The transport system in Gent was pretty unproblematic. You buy a travel card which you punch each time you enter and the cost of each journey is very small. To make the tram or bus stop you press a stop button and they stop at the next available stopping point. Every stop has a timetable telling exactly when the tram or bus will arrive and all in all it does arrive on time. Its clean, reliable, safe. cheap and comes with clear instructions.
The return journey was startling as we started out in a clean lounge for the Eurostar where if I had wanted to, I could have eaten off the floor ( the marble floors shone). There were many waiting areas with comfy clean seats, a TV set to look at what the UK had to offer and some cafes you could buy a drink. The coaches of the Eurostar are numbered so you know exactly where you need to go and each carriage has a guide to help you in. I liked it.
In London taxi trip reversed worked very well. At the train station, I looked at the timetable and found we had 10 mins to the next train. Then we were told our ticket did not allow us to go on that train and we needed to go and stand in line and go and ask. It required us to exchange our ticket, pay a supplement to take an earlier train. We eventually took our place in the family coach, and the luggage slotted neatly in place. So far so good. Then on the way, every time the train had to stop, it smelt of burnt plastic in the cab, ( maybe it was the brakes), and when you wanted to use the toilet, you needed to walk 3 carriages further as all of them in between were out of order.

Comparing it with flying, this way of travelling costed me more, it lasted longer and provided some greater stressy periods and I have to say that if I were not that committed to reducing my ecoprint and carbon emissions into the atmosphere I would not have bothered. To be honest, unless the Uk get their public transport in better shape, safer, cleaner and more reliable, travelling by public transport is going to be an interesting nightmare. I might be saving the earth but not my sanity.
On the other hand, I could just stay at home, come to think of it, that might be the best option after all.

Seriously, if you want to save money, public transport in the Uk is going to be a no no and if I as a committed downshifter am feeling it as a bind,then most people who do not even take the eco argument to heart are simply going to continue to do as they always do, drive, fly and...I cannot say I blame them. Dealing with the transport question in the UK is going to be the hardest nut to crack for us and for politicians.

It was very TRYING with a capital T

Back from Gent

Survived the public transport of the UK and wallowed in the efficiency and cleanliness of the public transportation system in Belgium. Its been quite an adventure upon which I will reflect over the next couple of days with a few hints on what to see, to do and eat locally there. We stayed in the fantastic monasterium hotel which is the site of an old monastry, simple rooms with Tv and shared bathroom but oodles of atmosphere and right in the centre of Gent. Living in a rural place in the UK means that going to a city can be an interesting experience and I really enjoyed my time there. Will get back to you tomorrow but have to go and pack a suitcase for one of my DS who is off to a twinning school trip to France and there is washing to catch up on. Ah, the pleasures of being back at home......

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Trains, tube, tunnels and trains.....

I have not visited my parents lately as they live quite a way away but had planned a short trip after spotting a bargain train fare in the papers some weeks ago. Usually I would have flewn to see them, which would take a 2 hours car journey followed by 1 hour flight. This time though, I am planning travelling using public transport which will be a 10 hour trip. It has been challenging to find times and journeys that match with not to many waiting times in between but then I hope to reflect on a different travel style. I have made a commitment to no longer fly if possible in order to reduce my carbon footprint and there seemed no better time than to just be getting on with it. We leave Monday and will be back Thursday which will give us some time to do some sightseeing and also visit relatives and spend quality time together. It will require some navigation skills.
I always travel light as in the past I have found that even the smallest backpack can accommodate clothes for a few days. I have always found that I could purchase toothbrushes etc at my destination. One thing I am packing for sure is my knitting, a good book and some water. My 10 year old DS has been waiting for this trip for some time which we were unable to do due to me being poorly for such a long time. This means a lot to us both and I will enjoy showing him where I was born and where my roots are. It will also be good for me to touch base with that. Our values and beliefs colour how we behave in our world and from time to time it is good to revisit how we picked these values and beliefs up, which ones we changed and why and which glasses we use to read the world around us. I’ll get back to you soon.

Thanks to AK and others who left comments about the school travel project, there were some excellent ideas in that, go check it out if you can.

I leave you with a quote from Reshad Feild

If we are truly in the present moment, and not being carried away by our thoughts and fantasies, then we are in a position to be free of fate and available to our destiny. When we are in the present moment, our work on Earth begins.

Chestnuts and autumn leaves

We took to the hills this afternoon not that far away from home. It meant putting the dog in the car with the children who had been bickering for a while inside. At the top of the hill is a most magnificent view of the patchwork of fields, upon which the sun shining through the rain clouds seemed to pause and move on with its rays of light. We gentlly walked down the path, the children playing hide and seek, we all had a go at tag and the dog had a mad moment of sheer joy. The damp smells of autumn remind me of childhood, we spotted mushrooms and an old chestnut tree that was shedding its fruit. We did breathe in some air and the children visibly calmed down. At the end of the path we discovered a picnic bench with a great view although it was quite exposed and made plans to return soon with a flask of hot chocolate and a nice cake to share. A winter picnic idea. Why not? When the heavens opened, we pulled our hoods up and sheltered under the canopy of a tree. The boys created gates we had to pass using code words and we walked hand in hand up the hill. We did not meet a single person on our walk and the car park was empty. Guess the holiday season and tourism is no longer relevant at this time of the year. Its a time of change in the woods, where the silence of rustling leaves is only disturbed by footsteps and some children’s laughter. The steam train in the distance chugged away and used its whistle to fill the woods with a faint sound. When we got back home, muddy boots littered the hallway, boys organised cookies and milk and we sat around the table savouring the time we spent together, noticing rosy cheeks and a healthy glow all around. Its these simple pleasures I delight in these days, a walk with my big and little men, grateful for the laughter and joy we share. I noticed how much I had missed that view over the hills towards the sea and how we must make time to come more often. The landscape will change and maybe our winter picnic could happen when crisp snow covers the woodland paths and the warmth of a woodstove will beckon us home. Its good to dream of simple pleasures and capture that moment in my memory before venturing on a small trip away.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Going to school

An email received today invites me to take part in creating a different travel to school plan for our children in the village. A recent questionnaire highlighted that although our children would like to walk and cycle to school it is not always possible and safe to do so. What has resulted, is a working party that will work with the children to look at obstacles to getting to school without using the car.
Most children get driven to school and that has consequences for their health as well as their development. How are they going to figure out which way to walk, which street to take, if they sit in the back of a car? As a child I had to walk across town to school and while walking, I used my senses to find my way through, I would meet people, get an awareness of what was happening. On other days, I would pass shops before they opened and see people starting their day, some would smile and others would be too busy but within all that was a sense of belonging, and a connection between home and school which took me on a familiar route. When my daughter walked to school, one neighbour used to set her watch by it, when my daughter left, it signalled the start of her day. I feel some of that has been lost over the last 10 years.
Living in town, its quite easy to navigate and learn road safety but in the countryside, drivers drive fast and children and adults can often not be seen and then to avoid collision, pedestrians often have to jump in a hedge, literally to get out of the path of a fast driving car. There are no streetlights in the country lanes.
In the meantime, walking to school for my son would mean a 3 mile walk each day which would probably be good for his health, He would require boots and wet weather gear during the wintertime and certainly a torch and reflective lights. He could cycle but then again, there is no storage at the school for his bike and he would need to have a lot more training on road safety and also learn the basics of how to look after a bike, how to mend a puncture etc.
I am excited to be part of this study, which hopefully will engage not only the children, staff and parents but also the wider community to make a change and reduce our dependance on fossil fuels and cars. What is exciting also is that some footpaths may well be rediscovered and used which in turn will mean that the children and adults will discover the wildlife and wild flowers that make the hedgerows their habitat.
Going to school by car may have been quicker but a lot has been missed too. Go discover a new route....to school, to work.....


The paddock is full of mushrooms and fungi at the moment and as they say
‘ every mushroom is edible at least once!

I have no great knowledge about them, so am hoping to go out there and have a closer look with my little book, magnifying glass and find out what has landed on our plot.
The chickens looked rather damp and miserable yesterday. There are days when the colour of the sky turns grey, the whole valley is covered in clouds and a blanket of mist covers the earth. Although I miss the sunshine on those days, desperately, I always find that the landscape is a magical one.
The trees, the paddock and the main elements are the same, some animals can position themselves at will in a different place, yet nature can create a different landscape picture every day that has the ability to influence the way I perceive it. The sun will be in a particular position, the trees will have leaves or be bare, the grass will be long or short. Their essence of being present is not changed, they are what they are and I am what I am, and yet....the landscape allows us to immerse in it every day.

Emerson defines nature as an all-encompassing divine entity inherently known to us in our unfettered innocence, rather than as merely a component of a world ruled by a divine, separate being learned by us through passed-on teachings in our experience.

On misty, dark days, when I long for the sunshine to warm me, I look for the wonder in the landscape and am not often disappointed.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A bit of fresh air....

Gardening together with walking in nature can have many healthbenefits. Its not all hard work. The temptation when the sun disappears for autumn and summer is to go and hide in our houses. In a recent well-being programme the idea of exercise got reframed in my mind. Its not just going jogging, hiking, swimming and running. The moderate forms of exercise can be found in gardening, housework and walking. I would argue that for many they would be ideal ways of getting some fresh air, a connection with the earth, time spent together in contemplation and reality of nature and life. Spend more time with plants and people and you can see real impacts of lack of the right growth conditions and find solutions. Spending time walking around the countryside can give you a better feel of seasons, a different perspective of the 9 to 5 time clock we all seem to have accepted in our lives. Our bodyrhytms have a natural connection with earth rhytms and we cannot forever fight against them.
Today we spent 1 hour in the garden, clearing the ground, planting daffodils and tulips. Planting bulbs in autumn and sewing flowering plants at this time of the year gives me hope that although the gardening season seems to come to and end, we can plan for the spring when small shoots will come up giving us hope that the summer days are ahead.
I also spent time organising and categorising our dried seeds and putting them away until next year. We identified a flowering fuschia plant that we would like to see in the garden and talked together about how we could create a nicer environment.
This was followed by a soup lunch where we looked at the achievements of not only today but our life together so far. This too is a bringing in of the harvest, acknowledging the growing we have done together and where we can go from here......

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Green and greener

We participated in a wine and wisdom evening which involved us sitting around and answering questions while sipping wine and enjoying good company and raising money for our local school.
In between the sheets of questions, we shared food brought by everyone, a bit like a potluck supper.
There were salads and then there was our salad. It stood out, it felt as if light and greencolour shone out of it, the peppers were red, the brightest red and ripe red you can imagine and it had a healthy glow. The other salads with leaves bought at the supermarket were translucent and lipid. I felt grateful that I had managed to team up with nature to provide such festive colours and a spicy salad mix which actually tasted of something and not blandness.
I enjoyed a smug feeling, enhanced by a good deal of laughter and a conviction to continue this pathway, a simpler and yet more colourful way to live, to love and spend my time on this earth.
I can celebrate the air I breathe, the joy I feel and the responsibility I sense we all have to make the most of what life gives us. I also have an awareness that the glow of the salad or the lack of it has an effect on my health.
Nature’s abudance is available to all of us, it does not have to be as it is now. There will always be choices, what’s yours?

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Safely brought in....

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting
Its been a glorious day in the garden. Many plants are coming to their end. The beans in the foreground are Borlotti beans which can be eaten fresh or dried ( you need to boil them 45 mins either way). The butternut squashes were a first for me this year. I have decided to store them all in the polytunnel as it is cool and dry there and so I can visit from time to time and go and pick some vegetables to eat. If you look closely you can see a little bit of the red peppers that are lingering. The little pottery man, is Wilbert, a gift from my children, a flowerpot man.

It is so satisfying, tonight we had quiche and salad and a apart from the ham and the pastry, everything else was produced at home. The above will provide us with some heartwarming soups in the months to come.

The day started a little on the frustrating side as a washer went on a cold water tap, which meant we lost water supply for a few hours. Amazing how often I went to get some water! Must get that bottled water in the larder for emergency use!

I am reading Active Wellness by Gayle Reichler, which talks about a wellness programme including diet, exercise, stretching and strengthening, relaxation etc and I am learning to put some of that into practice. In order to regain and maintain health, I started with the diet, almost organic hence the vegetable growing. She talks about gardening, housework, walking etc as light exercise. Did she ever try digging? In the end, all movement is exercise, but it is good to be reminded that I need not go to the gym for any of this. How did we get there.....hmmm my middle DS thinks he is too fat so we thought we would go and get measured, weighed and BMI calculated. Needless to say he was happy with his proof that he is OK and within limits. I left a tad depressed......... Everyone needs a starting point and as mine was bedbound nearly 3 years ago, I am doing great......not super great but great.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Eating the planet

Planet enters 'ecological debt'

Rising consumption of natural resources means that humans began "eating the planet" on 9 October, a study suggests.
The date symbolised the day of the year when people's demands exceeded the Earth's ability to supply resources and absorb the demands placed upon it.

The figures' authors said the world first "ecological debt day" fell on 19 December 1987, but economic growth had seen it fall earlier each year.

The data was produced by a US-based think-tank, Global Footprint Network.

The New Economics Foundation (Nef), a UK think-tank that helped compile the report, had published a study that said Britain's "ecological debt day" in 2006 fell on 16 April.

The authors said this year's global ecological debt day meant that it would take the Earth 15 months to regenerate what was consumed this year.

1987 - 19 December
1990 - 7 December
1995 - 21 November
2000 - 1 November
2005 - 11 October
2006 - 9 October
(Source: Global Footprint Network/Nef)
"By living so far beyond our environmental means and running up ecological debts means we make two mistakes," said Andrew Simms, Nef's policy director.

"First, we deny millions globally who already lack access to sufficient land, food and clean water the chance to meet their needs. Secondly, we put the planet's life support mechanisms in peril," he added.


The findings are based on the concept of "ecological footprints", a system of measuring how much land and water a human population needs to produce the resources it consumes and absorb the resulting waste.

Global Footprint Network's executive director, Mathis Wackernagel, said humanity was living off its "ecological credit card" and was "liquidating the planet's natural resources".

"While this can be done for a short while, overshoot ultimately leads to the depletion of resources, such as forests, oceans and agricultural land, upon which our economy depends," Mr Wackernagel said.

Fredrik Erixon, director of the European Centre for International Political Economy (Ecipe), a Brussels-based think tank, said he applauded the authors on their innovative way of focusing attention to the issue of resource depletion.

But he added he found the concept of ecological debt to be "quite ludicrous".

"When it comes to using footprints as a way to follow the micro effects of various economic behaviours on the environment, it can be quite good," Mr Erixon said.

"But the way they are collecting and assessing information is wrong. We don't really get any serious information out of this."

He also questioned the use of the term "debt": "A debt is where you have over-savings in one area of the economy, and under-savings in another.

"Then you have a transfer of savings from one actor to another in the form of a loan. But who are we indebted to?" Mr Erixon asked.

"Perhaps 'ecological exuberance' is better than ecological debt."

He added that history had shown that technological advances had led to more efficient uses of natural resources, and had sustained economic growth.

Original article here

25 ways to a simpler life

        1.        Can you give up a car?
        2.        Plan your meals, start with planning them for a week, a month then keep nthe months to refer to each year.
        3.        Eat what is in season, its creative, it should be cheaper and is better for you and the environment
        4.        Order our groceries online. It makes shopping easire, no travelling, it comes to you and its easier to stick to your shopping list.
        5.        Sort out your budget and give adults and children an allowance to spend as they wish. It makes it less depriving and allows the children and adults to make spending decisions as they wish and can afford. Whatever is affordable as allowance but stick to it.
        6.        Devide spending budget into small portions and do not spend more than allocated ( swimming, clothes, books?)
        7.        Start a vegetable garden, even if its juts a herb box. Start small and grow what you eat. Increase variety and check amounts each year to ensure you have a continuous supply.
        8.        Can, freeze any surplus and look around for surplus of other gardeners.
        9.        Buy secondhand goods, check freecycle for wanted and offers.
        10.        Don’t use paper towels or wipes.
        11.        Close the curtains as it gets dark, saves energy and keeps the heat in.
        12.        Dry your clothes on the line when possible.
        13.        Take a shower instead of a bath.
        14.        Spend time with people instead of shopping.
        15.        Get into vintage things
        16.        Make some of your own clothes; knitting, sewing etc
        17.        Bring and buy to charity shops.
        18.        Love reading, discover your library.
        19.        Love learning
        20.        Read good books and pass them on.
        21.        Turn your thermostat down one degree
        22.        Do everything possible to pay of debt and avoid taking on new debt.
        23.        Move to a smaller house with larger garden if you can.
        24.        Insulate your home.
        25.        Save water

What can you do at the library?

What can you expect from your local library service?
• Free books to browse and borrow

At least 6 free books per person
• A wide range of reading resources
From bestsellers to new and older titles, books you won’t find in your bookshop, talking and large print books, magazines, newspapers and text books
• Any book from anywhere
Order any book through your library (even out of print books)
• A community of readers
Connect to other readers through reading groups and recommendations
• Modernised, customer friendly services, right for the community
Convenient opening hours to suit local people Easy to join, get answers to questions and borrow books, CDs and DVDs
• Internet for all
Every library has computers and staff trained to help you use them
• 24 hour access
Through your library’s online catalogue, online reference and other services
• Expert, helpful staff
To answer your questions and offer advice on reading and information
• Free, independent information
From a trustworthy source
• Events programme
Regular events, including activities for readers and author visits
• Family activities
Family reading and learning activities – baby rhyme time, homework clubs, holiday reading challenges...
• A place for young people
A safe local space with things to do
• Help with learning
Resources and advice for learning, including improving reading and writing skills
• A well maintained and equipped building
A safe, accessible, local community space that’s a pleasure to visit
• Have your say and get involved
The best libraries have a lot to offer you. To find your local library go to

And then there is the audio collection too. When did you last discover your library?
I am going to expore whether they will get me a book that is on my list to read and that does not seem to be on the catalogue.
Thank you Nat for your comment and putting me in touch with the Love Libraries website

Saturday, October 07, 2006


If there is something you are passionate about in your efforts to change the world ( small steps) and you want other people in your area to know about it, you could register with the Action Network which has been set up by the BBC. It should give you some idea about what is happening in your area, who is doing something to create a change on a small scale and enable you to network with others in your area or community.

For instance :

  • You might want to share your produce and belong to a Lets scheme
  • You might want to collect old growbags and recycle them into enriched compost
  • You are concerned about your school closing and want other to know about it.
  • You are starting a knitting group ( just in case)
  • About sharing transport
  • Get in touch with other people in your community


This is a neat idea submitted by AK


I'm an Aussie in Japan and have been reading your lovely blog for a few months. I don't remember exactly how I found it, perhaps from the Path to Freedom site ...

Anyway, some of my friends and I here have another way to enjoy books (English selection in libraries is limited!). We began a book circle where each member sends the next on the list a book on the first of the month. It does cost postage, but if you meet the next friend, you can simply hand it over. But it is wonderful getting a 'new' book in the post each month - like lots of birthdays! The next month, you pass that book on to the next person. If there are 6 members, your own book will come back to you 6 months later. We also write a comment sheet that is inserted into each book, so at the end you can read everyone's reviews.

I feel happier knowing that some of my treasured books bring enjoyment to others, and that the 2,000 or so yen I spent on them is shared. Postage for the average book costs around 300yen, so that is a considerable saving, even without thinking of environmental and simplicity issues.

Happy reading!

If any of you are interested in getting a simplicity book circle going that way in the UK, email me and we can see how we set that up.



Mostly, I would like to be remembered
As someone who was passionate for life.
The days of unsought ecstasies are numbered,
However long we linger in the light.
I was one who cultivated wonder,
Less of one contented to explain,
Delighted by the promises of hunger,
Enduring for their joy the years of pain.
Gifts I had aplenty: Some I savored,
Others sacrificed for others' needs.
Remember me as someone who was favored,
Despite constraints, to tumble in the leads,
Ocean to what winds I could not be,
Nightrider through what worlds I could not see.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Energy gadget

Here’s one that might be fun to have around, although I am struggling a bit with the price of the Wattson.

If you are geeky, you want to save energy and you have about £ 350 to spare, go for it and let us know how you are getting on with it. My geeky nature would say, wow neat toy, but then again, I can use paper, eyes, pencil and head to do the same work.

Innovative idea......

Fear -v-Love

If you have heard enough about the Amish post - look away.
What follows is a wider perspective I have had today about that.
What do we usually do when we are hit by violence? We go in denial, retaliate, we create boundaries of fear, we ask why and we want revenge.
Imagine being shown a different way, a way in which it can be recognised that it can be overcome with Love, forgiveness and support?

Yes it is probably easier to summon an army, create guns and go after the ‘ other’ party that has injured you and your family. Does it not say ‘ an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’. That would be one way of reacting and one we follow quite often.

Over the last few days, we have been shown an alternative way to respond. We human beings have the power to stand united, in love, together and consider all the victims of a situation and they can be found in both areas of conflict. And instead of firing a gun we could, maybe we just could reach out a hand and see that the other person is hurting just as badly and listen to that pain. This has got to be hardest thing to do, and yet if the Amish are capable of doing so, that means we are humanly capable of doing this and we do not always have to start fighting.

Guess that,s what diplomacy does, trying to find the common shared beliefs and values and build a dialogue around that. Its Ok to be angry, its Ok to feel pain ....the real courage comes from meeting whatever happens with compassion, love, forgiveness and courage.

Think about it and how together we could apply all the love, compassion, forgiveness to the earth and all its people. It needs courage.....

reaching out to the Amish people

Amish Study #1833
I have admired the way of life the Amish lived, the plain and simple life the Amish Communities live, for many years now. My library has many books about their way of life and although their segregation from the world is considered strange, their way of life has a lot to teach us about looking after the earth, our family, forgiveness and service. They are hard working families, living and working together, looking after their families, old and young. Their way of living may sound romantic from books, but it is also a focussed life based on their beliefs and their strong faith. That this way of life and their children would meet with such planned violence makes it a very sad occasion.

It is always difficult to reconcile whatever drove the man to do what he did, with the death of young children, as well as the traumatic impact of this on all the families concerned. The Amish work, care and worship together and do not like to be put in the limelight. Forgiving is at the heart of their religion and this surely has to be the most difficult of times to carry that through. Yet in order to heal and understand what is happening, they will most probably do exactly that because not forgiving the death of their children would give the occasion more life and negative energy in the world. This is a bravery that as a mother, I would find hard to do, in fact neigh impossible. These are not my children and yet I can only imagine what I would think feel and do.

You may know that they have been put in the limelight over the last few days as a result of a man shooting children in their community schoolhouse. This is the equivalent to 9/11 to their society, a hit from nowhere. This touched my heart deeply. I am not sure that I would be that forgiving if it happened to my children and yet, that is their belief, to be supportive to eachother. My work was in supporting families. Despite a tragedy, these people rally around their families, the families affected by this shooting and support in every way possible.
Compare the way the Amish react to this tragedy and what happened when hurricanes hit Missisippi? They may look like a closed group of people, but when their world is hit, they forgive and get together to rebuild their lives. I admire their dedication ,faith and belief in hope. It is my hope that this tragedy will be used for good........in some way or other.

If you want to find out how the lives have been affected, you can see an update on Homemade Simplicity ‘s blog.

Especially in a simple life, deaths of family members are felt very deeply.

In any life, the death of a child upsets the natural order of things.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Books on a budget

I am quite addicted to books, It has not always been so. As a child I was surrounded by books and my parents read a lot. Books represent knowledge to me and one of my learning styles is still learning through reading books and then applying the knowledge in a practical way.
Books however, add to stuff. That is the sad fact about them. Sometimes I really want a book and have it on my shelves so I can refer to it from time to time. Cookery books with recipes are like that, knitting books are like that and I have a great stack of gardening books.
Ordering by simply clicking at Amazon and having the book sent to me, originally maximised my pleasure, books make good gifts. I used to have magazine subscriptions too and yet apart from giving me that lovely feeling that is equated by putting my feet up, reading a book, eating a piece of cake and drinking a cup of tea or hot chocolate. Ah warm evenings ahead by the fire. My antidote to summer days, a fall day, a winter day, a small walk, and then home for a browse through the library. Poetry can also be found in books and in a recent assignment I wrote;
“ The relationship and the process happening to the reader of a book have the power to enable the reader to evolve, to learn and to grow by integrating the learning within their own levels of functioning. Jane Austen’s book Pride and Prejudice, written in 1830, although not a face to face encounter, nevertheless has the ability to engage me on a variety of levels of functioning as well as providing me with a character study for this essay.”

I have however a wish to reduce the ‘ stuff’ in my life and needed to look how I could change that automatic consumerism that had crept into my life.
As its raining today, I ventured out of the house on a little mission. I have an adventure book in which I write what I want to do so when I find myself with a little time and no idea what I could do with it ( this does not often happen), I can look at my plans and make an outing.
I had indicated in the adventure book that I wanted to reduce waste, stuff and in applying this to books I thought I would go and explore exactly what it was about books that was so important to me.
Apart from the above, I realised, walking in a bookshop that I like the experience of browsing books, followed usually by a pleasurable drink at Starbucks ( mentioned previously) and then a little moment of glee at looking through the books I bought.
I don’t think I explored alternatives lately, mainly due to ill health, but also because I now realise that it is so easy to stay stuck in patterns we have created.
I did find the town library. A large building with a different sort of atmosphere than a bookshop, ( it is not that enticing actually, the posters are missing!)but I can browse the catalogue which has been laid out like the Amazon lists with reviews ( did not know that?), and although some of the books on my list to read were nowhere to be found, I did browse by category and came home with a small selection. It did not cost me a penny, the books that is.
I also noticed that they have a CD library, video and DVD library and spoken books which sounded inviting. I took a little trip down memory lane and took out 2 CD’s which meant a lot to me at some stage in my life. ( that cost me £ 2, but would have cost me £ 30 on itunes!)Nice to reminisce this afternoon with that at very little lost. OK, I did need to drive to town but I can incorporate that in my planning. They also do a coffee shop in the library now, so maybe that is worth exploring. There is also a great reference library and study area, magazines, newspapers and periodicals to browse through.

All in all I could be having the experience without cluttering my home, spending money and creating packaging and books travelling miles to get to me.

I do believe that libraries do accept donations of books so thats worth finding out about if you are de-cluttering. Share your enthusiasm and knowledge with someone else. Reduce waste, clutterm spending but maximise the experience. From now on, I will consider a trip to the library followed by an indulgent experience at Starbucks as a treat. Go on, inspire someone else, read, write and share your joy with someone else.

Little Boy Reading Book in Library">

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Thanks for the comment of the energy audit. I posted the energy calculator earlier this year whicc may give you some info on usual appliances. Looking back at the post I underestimated the amount used per day as I stated it as 15 units as where in reality it is 18 plus.

How do you do an energy audit?

Read your electric meter, gas or water meter at a starting point for 1 month and then devide by the amount of days - this should give you daily output.
Based on the fact that certain items run 24 hours per day, you take a reading before you go to bed and then when you wake up, the difference should give you an indication of the energy eaters that are continuous. If you have data for 12 hours say, and it shows you have used 2 units then you can be assured that your appliances use that when you are not doing anything with them. This could be anything from alarm clocks, videos, computers on standby but also fridge, freezer etc.
The calculator can then be used backwards to check whether what you are estimating is actually correct.
( Scientific methods)

There will be fluctuations by season etc. I am now doing the audit every month to see whether what I am changing has actually an effect on the overall consumption. As stated, I need to find a balance between the energy I need to use ( comfort level) and the one where I am going to feel deprived. In the meantime, I log the info, make small changes and monitor.
Winter for instance is predicted to increase energy supply due to more lighting, indoor activities etc but I will not find that out until I do this audit. There are no hard and fast rules as it will all depend on how many people in your household and what you use.

The breadmachine usage I use is a Panasonic one and I gave it 0.5 units per day as I used a daily loaf. If you are on low cost night electtricity you could use the timer to make the loaf and cut that amount by a small percentage.

Pay as you throw

Councils begin 'pay as you throw'

Councils face tough decisions over what to do with waste
More than 30 councils are fitting microchips to wheelie bins to work out how much households are throwing away.
It is the latest attempt to encourage more recycling to curb the amount of rubbish that ends up in landfill.
The chips would weigh the contents of the bin to within 500 grams.
The Local Government Association is expected later this year to propose councils be given greater powers to change the way people remove rubbish.
Many councils are in favour of "pay as you throw" and are already anticipating the changes, according to the information uncovered by BBC One's Real Story.
But Paul Bettison, chairman of the LGA's Environment Board, appreciates that certain councils have taken the wrong approach.
"Any council that's issued chipped bins and hasn't informed their residents I would say has scored something of an own goal. We need to work with the public and it's sad that seemingly some councils didn't," he said.
Chipped bins could record the date, time, bin identification serial number and the weight and the contents of the container.
Once weighed, a bill for the waste would then be sent to the owner.
Tough fines
With an estimated nine years of land fill space left, councils up and down the UK are faced with a tough decision about what to do with Britain's waste.
Simply burying rubbish in the ground is no longer an option.

Local authorities now face tough fines from the Government on what they do bury, to force greater levels of recycling.
Each council has introduced different recycling systems to encourage householders to separate out their waste and put less in their main bin.
But in some areas recycling is now compulsory, meaning if people do not comply, rubbish will not be cleared away and they could face prosecution.
Alternate weekly collections are one way of tackling the problem but they have not been warmly welcomed by residents.
Claire Harvey, from New Holland in North Lincolnshire, faces a weekly struggle to get rid of her waste.
"The council only actually recycle newspapers, glass and tins," she said.
"The plastics and the cardboard you have to dispose of yourself. They have provided a system, but they need to collect the domestic waste more frequently."
Paul Bettison believes that if people want to keep weekly collections of all household waste they will have to face the reality that it is going to cost them.
"You are paying for a collection every week and that is what you are still getting," he said.
"And now if you wanted us to collect both bins each week that would mean doubling the number of collections and that's fine and actually that would add approximately £100 a year to your council tax.
"There may be people who wouldn't want to pay that."
Real Story's report on rubbish is on BBC One on Wednesday 4 October at 1930 BST.

Still here

Life is settling back to normal, Dad is on the mend and we can settle back into our comfort zone.

At the beginning of October I checked the amount of energy electricity units we have used and average is down to 18.3 for September so I am well pleased with that. Things we did were :

turning computers off not just putting them in sleep mode
Changed washing machine programmes to less running time

This month I am doing an audit on the appliances we are using and whether they are required. I.e. how vain am I to use a hairdryer when I do not go anywhere, could I cut that down maybe?

The garden requires still tidying up mode, the pumpkins and butternut squashes are harvested. Herein the UK we will be celebrating harvest festival. Its a community thing, it culminates in a harvest supper where we get to chat, drink and be merry and toast our gratefulness of the harvest safely gathered in.
I love fall or autumn, not because it gets cooler, but because there is a richness of colour and scent, both inside and outside and it signals time to rest. The garden will rest and so will I, feet up, reading books and planning my garden plots for next year.