Sunday, December 30, 2007

The pie maker

Fresh Pies by Paulo Viveiros
Fresh Pies

Occasionally I manage to have a conversation over the phone with a supplier who not only sounds authentic but who enthuses about his products and tells me exactly what is happening, what is going wrong and what their plans are for the next year. Today I talked to a man who is passionate about his pies. I know why, they are fantastic, made with real, local ingredients and we had a fantastic conversation about food miles and cardboard boxes.

I basically asked him whether he wanted to have his boxes back and was told that he would love to, but that unfortunately they cannot be brought back into the food preparation area because of problems with contamination of bacteria. I understand that, and I applaud his efforts to make his boxes from recycled cardboard. The only option we have is to either recycle them or offer them to customers who want to send an item in the post. Its a useful box, it packs flat and is very sturdy. When the pies arrive, they are priced immediately and put in the display cabinet and the box is quickly disposed of.

We also talked about the costs of transporting the pies and he was trying to see if he could share transport with another of our food suppliers that was close to him, but there was no match.

I loved this conversation; discussing genuine difficulties and possible solutions to a company that due to its own success is ready to expand into a larger production area and with it, is trying to tell me that in the future, I might not be viable to deliver to as it stands. What a dilemma? I guess the company owes its success in parts to small village shops who enjoy local pies made with local ingredients while at the same time, expanding his business might just mean losing the shops that have sustained him while he was a small business.

I hope not, I hope they find a middle way through this. In the meantime, we shared a passion for the environment and the dilemmas caused when making decisions.

I look forward to seeing him in the future when he comes on a visit as he will do in Spring. Guess the climate for food producers who make a genuine authentic not run of the mill pie are as difficult as remaining a sustainable village shop. I also know that I would not have had such a productive and honest discussion with a supermarket supplier.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Crashing the party

Christmas Tree by Albert Chevallier Tayler
Christmas Tree

The whole holiday period has been a test of endurance in a good sort of way. Not only did we move at the end of November and took over a village shop but at the same time, our usual houseguests arrived, expecting the same comforts they have been getting over the last years. The house did not disappoint; the last of our guests left today and with it some nice memories.

On Christmas Day, my friend Maggie invited us all over for Christmas lunch so this was the first year I managed to open my presents without dashing into the kitchen to check on a turkey. That was an extreme luxury and I am very grateful to my friend for that present. It was a lovely afternoon and the boys behaved really well.

My boys and their Grandad were glued to the computers and had quite a competition going as to who could get in the hotseat; no leaving your place for a minute for a cup of could guarantee that a child or even Grandad would be on the screen watching something. I am extremely proud of my Dad that he communicates with his grandchildren over MSN although he does not always understand their speak.

My DD helped me with the accounts and stem my little panic over a butter and cheese mountain as well as an ever increasing wine lake in the storeroom; we have had a great laugh about that ( just as well) and if at the end of January it has not drastically reduced we will just have to have a fabulous housewarming cheese and wine party.

On Boxing Day, DD and I left the house for a bit of girl quality time and drove for ages to find a place open to have a cup of tea and a piece of cake. After a round tour of the coast and usual haunts we decided on the pub next door as a last resort but came upon a Manor House we had visited in the summer. It looked hopeful; cars and lights. We had been there before for refreshments and music and were greeted by a lovely man, holding a cup of tea and helping himself to a piece of cake. I enquired politely if we could have a cup of tea and was told that yes, I could, we could but we had just entered a private Christmas music weekend. We could have a cup of tea and cake if we could put up with him telling us about the wailing ghost, the priest hole, the facade and the open fire, the hidden doors in the panelling etc. You get the picture. We were enthralled to have partaken in some intelligent conversation with musical people; we basically had a lot of fun while at home, the folks would be waiting for their next meal to be cooked. Having established that a teaplace on Boxing Day in this area could make a fortune, we did find some fun in the most unexpected place and agreed that there is still some hospitality to be found too. Having told the volunteer where the shop is, I guess it is not inconceivable that one day, I will be entertaining thirsty morris men with a cuppa and some cake. It adds to the merriment and diversity in this area.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Parsnips and roots soup

Hot Soup
Hot Soup

If you find yourself with a glut of parsnips after the Christmas break you can either compost them or you could make parsnip soup....yummy and lovely warming soup with a chunk of home made bread.

Here in the shop we were left with about 2 lbs of parsnips and as yesterday we had some chicken I made a chicken stock on the Rayburn and used it in the parsnip soup.

a quantity of parsnip
1/2 its weight in potatoes
1 onion
1 tablespoon of currypowder, and some coriander, just a pinch
salt and pepper
1 litre or 2 pints of chicken stock or vegetable stock
1 or 2 stray apples that are getting wrinkly
a know of butter

Take a pan and put knob of butter with diced onion, on low heat until onion is slightly transparent, add diced potatoes and parsnips, curry powder and cook on low heat for about 5 mins, then add stock and other ingredients, bring to a simmer and cook for about 1 hour until the parsnips and potatoes are soft. Liquidise, put in a bowl, add a dash of leftover single cream, take your bowl and chunk of bread and enjoy.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Christmas Eve by John Barker
Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve was a very strange experience. Sooty, one of our black cats had been missing for a few days and the shop was heaving. People collected the ordered goods including capons and turkeys. There was a capon missing and I argued with the butcher who told me that a chicken would do fine and I argued back that if the customer had ordered a capon I wanted a capon. ( I felt like a toddler having a tantrum). At lunchtime we descended on the pub for a well deserved beverage and then made a simple lunch for the extended family and guests.

After a small nap I decided to listen to the phone message we had not been able to deal with in the morning:

First a panic by the vicar asking whether we knew where Baby Jesus was. ( How many drinks had I had I wondered?)To explain this a little, the village children have Mary and Joseph figures to stay in their homes until Christmas Eve and as we now live directly opposite the church it made sense for us to have them to stay. In reality we gave them very little attention as we were busy but room was found in the store room for them. Indeed we had noticed that Mary was accompanied by a baby which by rights should not make its entrance into the world until after midnight that night. I was asked to bring the figures in and ' discreetly' place the baby somewhere where it could be found later.
The only sensible solution seemed to put the baby back into the figure and we took the figures back before the Carol Service and left a message with one of the choir members:

Please tell the vicar that the baby is exactly where you would expect it to be at this particular period in time.

All went well.....all was well and the usual festivities went ahead without a hitch.

Second phonecall related to Sooty who had been lost...he had wandered back to our previous home but had been greeted by 5 dogs and lived happily in the fields. He had been sighted many times. We eventually collected him in a basket and brought him home on Christmas Eve where his brother sighed........Sooty got all the attention and Magic made a lot of small sounds as if to say:
What about me, I have been good, I have been here all along and you give him all the attention.

Happy endings all around : the lost baby has been found and returned as the black cat. Time for a bit of cider and a mince pie to round the day off and early to bed. A good night's sleep was had by all apart from our guests who were awoken to the sound of churchbells ringing in the village announcing the happy birth of baby jesus. Disaster has been avoided and all is well in the village.

Shopkeepers after all can still create a bit of Magic.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Feet not touching the ground

This a time of busyness...moving 3 weeks ago, starting a business and having family around for Christmas is just madness. My feet are not touching the ground but all in all we are buzzing.
The customers are in a happy mood albeit very cold as the frost descended on the village today and many are staying in to keep warm. The church is being decorated for the festive season and there is a lot of activity around.

Personally I have been working in the background at my health and hygiene schedule. ( Oh yes you need one). Every day there are a variety of jobs and chores to be done to keep the place looking clean and tidy and we need a record of it so that if in the future we employ staff to clean the shop they need to know exactly what needs doing and how to do it. It seems common sense but when you get an inspection from the authorities you want to be able to show that at least there is a plan. You need to sign and date every activity to ensure that it is carried out.
It is really no different than running a home, apart from the fact that noone has the authority to check on your cleaning schedule. I therefore have adapted the flylady system to the shop and I am happy with it.

I have way too much cheese. I obviously have a bit of a weakness there and got carried away, but it keeps. The other thing I got wrong was that DH wanted 12 bottles of a particular wine and I ordered 12 cases. We need to work a bit on the communication in our team but the two go well together and there will be no lack of cheese and wine.
Tomorrow we offer mulled wine ( ha.....I can use some of that wine) and mince pies to the customers and we will don our christmas hats with flashing lights. Hopefully I will manage to capture that festive moment for you on camera.

So far so good....feet up tonight with a glass of wine. Well deserved!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Backyard pictures

Found the camera at last and had a few spare moments to go out there and provide you with a tour of the wilderness. As is the case with the house, the garden will need some major attention but that will be soon when there is more daylight to play with and when we have a better routine in the shop.
The above is the only southf acing area and on the right is a shed that will become the greenhouse in time to come.

The above is designated as the salad patch.....use your imagination.

There is little space but with a little planning and magic we hope to achieve a miracle and grow a variety of edible plants, herbs and flowers. Thought you might like to see the pictures before and then follow what happens after.

This week we are taking orders for produce for the holiday season and will be closed on the 25th and 26th December 2007 to play with the children and maybe...just maybe wake up a little later than 6 am ( that depends on the kids but I am not banking on that!)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Green energy

As a business we use an awful lot more energy than merely domestic. We have already started cutting down by using the off peak tariff for doing the washing etc, but nonetheless we are forecast to use some 19000 units in a twelve month period.
With the help of costgard, we have negotiated a contract with EDF on the green tariff because I do believe that where we have a choice we can choose green energy. I had no idea that businesses paid a global warming levy but if you choose green energy you become exempt of that.
We should be getting a certificate we can display in the shop showing what we are doing. Commercial energy rates are different to domestic rates and contracts are negotiated for periods of between 1 and 3 years. We have opted for a fixed rate which will enable us to plan and budget for our energy usage.
The same principles apply than for domestic energy :

  • check that renewable green energy is available from your supplier
  • choose a rate that appeals
  • commit to a contract for a period of time and switch.

Next is measuring the actual amount of energy we use. We have a lot of fridges and freezers which are a must in a food business, as well as electric machinery such as measuring scales and slicers. Over the next few months I will be measuring how much each unit uses and how we can reduce the electricity used in the house.

Mildred in the meantime, keeps us warm and cosy in the kitchen ( that’s the name of our Rayburn, 60 and going strong).

Friday, December 14, 2007

the hearth of the home

Cozy Cabin by Judy Gibson
Cozy Cabin

I am certain that houses have a soul and a spirit that reflects their history. When we arrived at the shop, it felt like entering a morgue, so cold, so dark and so soulless. It was depressing and when you looked in every corner, there were cobwebs, broken light bulbs, dripping taps and a feeling of neglect and disrepair. There were reasons for this, we know this from the previous occupants, but it made feeling warm within far from a reality.

Every room felt cold, and walking in my nightgown at 6 am to the bathroom as appealing as when you stay in a campsite and you need the bathroom. More light bulbs broken, doors creaked and in general I began to wonder whether it had all been a mistake and had a severe pang of homesickness to Berry Cottage. When on Saturday the water came through the walls, I seriously wondered what would stop this house falling apart and gently put my hands on the walls upstairs and willed it to please be patient, we would get there and give it some attention.

The house is made up of 3 houses, in an odd non linear arrangement and upstairs there is a very long corridor which spans all three upstairs of 3 cottages, with rafters and beams, small doors, different levels and all in all, it resembles a Hobbit home. The houses were built of stone and cob in late 1700 and have plenty of character.

Last week the chimney was swept and the chimney sweep came and removed 3 bags of twigs that the jackdaws have thrown down; today the Rayburn man came. I thought he would condemn the Rayburn,( a type of range) it looked sad, not at all giving me confidence but he looked at it, scratched his head, put on an apron and uttered the words : Well, lets see whether this here beauty can give some soul back to this dim place. She is not at all cosmetic but then if you had not been looked after for about 4 years you would be looking a bit rusty. Any chance of a cuppa? He got his tools out, a mirror to look up the chimney, asked for some paper, kindling wood, and some coal that was lying about and got a flicker of light. A heartbeat he called it, then he tapped it, cleaned it and said, for about 60 years old its doing OK. With instructions, I am going to be busy keeping the Rayburn topped up with logs, and the last remaining coal until we can get some more logs together. The last words he uttered were a bit strange : she is missing some major bits but she will give off heat and I will be back in the spring to put her together if by then you have not given up on her like the last people.

Do I have the time to stoke her up before I go to bed, at 6 am when I get down before we do start the day, prepare the papers, get the vegetables and fruit delivered? You bet. When after hours I walked upstairs through the rooms they did really feel a bit warmer or could that be my imagination?

Hestia, the heart of the home has been restored and when the frost comes up tonight, I will sleep a bit sounder in the knowledge that the soul of this house is awake and well.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Cheesy business

Taking over a shop a few weeks before the holiday season is just like diving into the deep end of the pool, or a steep learning curve. So far we have had and advisory visit from the Health and Hygiene officer to see what we do and with that came a whole book and checks to be made. The shop is a listed building so changes are going to be limited.
We are having a rush on cheese and I am discovering all the other cheeses that are on offer in the UK, together with their lovely names. Roll on Christmas, crackers and cheese will be a must in our shop.
The daily vegetable and bread orders are going well and we are introducing some new varieties there as well. I am keeping a check on what is available locally, fresh and seasonal and there are many new ideas on that front in the pipeline.
Produce prices are up, and I am not certain whether this is part of the growing trend or whether it is just for the holiday season.
Our days starts at 6 am and finishes at 6 pm when we manage usually to sit down as a family and find out whether we are all fine. The difficulties we have dealt with last week were a leaky roof, leaking taps, water running from the walls as guttering was missing in between the two houses that make up the house and shop, cold very cold weather.
The waste collection system is beginning to get clearer. Lots of plastic and cardboard gets folded and recycled although as a business we pay for our collections of waste. We have invited the local people to continue bringing in their plastic bags so they can be reused and are offering the smaller cardboard boxes to people who want to send presents abroad, pack presents or local businesses who send small items in the post.

On a negative, still no internet collection but the camera has surfaced and will post a picture next time. Hang on in there with us please, its about to get interesting.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

new start

Still no internet connection......
Running a business as well as running a home make life interesting. Whenever I step out from my kitchen door, I find myself in the shop and as such in public domain. Not that different from when you step onto the street you may say, but when I am in the process of trying to make a casserole for dinner in the slow cooker, I get a knock on the door and a question asked....The children too are not used to being put second to customers and burst through the door at the end of their day with news, only to receive a frown from me, and then being ushered in the kitchen where they can tell at hearts content what has happened.
We are running...not as smoothly as we would hope but then that would be normal. The house is still in need of a lot of care; leaking taps, pipes, hanging drainpipes, no light bulbs in some rooms etc etc. The downstairs does not appear to have any heat at all, which is an added discomfort. Interestingly, the first night in the house felt a bit like going to sleep in a fridge. This was highlighted the next morning at 6 am when I stepped outside the shop only to find that it was warmer there than in the house. It appears that out house has stone walls that are not able to breathe and will need some remedial work. That will be fun.....

The priority items have been unpacked: bokashi bin in place, compost bin in place and pathway to both cleared. Its a long way off from feeling like a home, but at least I can deal with waste in a way that is comfortable.

No iron though.. I wonder how long that will stay hidden in a box.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Moving house

The move has gone well but taking on a business as well as moving house is different. There has been no time to do any unpacking as DH gets to grips with the paperwork, suppliers, meat slicers etc. Its an early rise and an early to bed day but everyone in the family is chipping in and being patient. My regular internet will not be connected until after the 12th December so posts will be sporadic but I wanted to let you know that we have arrived and are up and running.
No pictures as the camera is in a box somewhere to be discovered.

I am reminded of the words to live and not live to work.

My challenge today is to use up a batch of mushrooms which will be turned into mushroom soup and to set up the compost bin which has travelled in pieces with us. Recycling will be more than necessary as I cannot tell you what wrapping and cardboard boxes get delivered and need dealing with.

Friday, November 16, 2007

500th post -going public

If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. If we really know how to live, what better way to start the day than with a smile? Our smile affirms our awareness and determination to live in peace and joy. The source of a true smile is an awakened mind.
From Nhat Hanh -Peace Is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life, Bantam reissue, 1992, ISBN 0-553-35139-7
Introducing the person behind the blog:
I started using this blog to express my thoughts on reducing our carbon footprint and to regain a perspective on a healthier lifestyle. The advantage of doing so in an anonymous way has enabled me to express those thoughts more easily than if I had been asked to speak in front a group of people about my passion for nature, the environment, what is possible and what is difficult.

This is the 500th post and having just published a selection of posts in Rich Pickings from Berry Cottage, I want to thank you for all your responses and encouragement.

When I return in December we will have moved into our local village shop with a view of continuing our vision of reduced carbon footprints not only for our family but involving the whole community. Can we get our village to take steps to go green? How will we deal with trade waste, what are the options, the choices faced, the opportunities. Join us for the next instalment.

What makes you smile?

Working with preschool children and watching their capacity to embrace each day, each new experience with all their senses makes me smile. Young faces smile, old faces smile, emocicons smile but many people rarely do. If smiling is our outward sign of happiness lets show each other that life is worth embracing by smiling. When the boys were little we would go splashing in puddles, dance in the rain and fall in a soggy heap on the floor. When the robin comes close to me while I sit in the garden, or when during sleepless nights I observe the stars in the sky and the moon lighting the world, I smile and I am grateful to be here. Going out on a cold day when the sun shines and the snow is on the mountains makes me smile, the world smiles at us in many ways and lets us know it is happy we are here. Can we smile back?

I dare you to try an experiment : take a walk and smile. The world will look different and people will react differently. Then take the walk without smiling and notice the difference within and in the world. If we can show our life energy with a smile, imagine what that would do to the world.

I was introduced to meditation by Brandon Bays, and it helps me focus on the parts of my body that are in pain. I listen to the spaces in between and ask what can be done today to help my body heal, feel more relaxed and happy. It brings inner peace and it makes me a lot nicer to live with. A daily dose of smiling, joy and beauty are a necessity.

Smiling is very important. If we are not able to smile, then the world will not have peace. It is not by going out for a demonstration against nuclear missiles that we can bring about peace. It is with our capacity of smiling, breathing, and being peace that we can make peace. Nhat Nanh

And to celebrate 500 posts, I leave you with Charlie Chaplin until I return at the beginning of December for the next chapter.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A drop in the ocean

Action: Drop of Water
Action: Drop of Water

It only takes a single thought to move the world.

The importance of water is taken for granted and yet it is one of the two elements without which we cannot survive. We only seem to notice water when we lack it or when we have floods and yet it is a matter of substance.

Everyone knows that the earth is covered in about 70% of water but do you know that our bodies are made in the same proportion?

If you could imagine your body to be a vessel of rivers and oceans that carry a variety of life giving and purifying matter around, as well as channels that reduce toxicity , would that change the way you look after your water landscape? Did you know that the water in your body does vibrate with music?

Water has a very important
message for us. Water is telling us
to take a much deeper look at our
selves. When we do look at our
selves through the mirror of water,
the message becomes amazingly,
crystal, clear. We know that human
life is directly connected to the
quality of our water, both within and
all around us.

If you had a goldfish in a bowl and the water started to get mucky, would you take the fish out of the water or would you change the water? ( Taking the fish out of the water will kill it and staying in the toxic water will also eventually kill it)

Water, pure water is a luxury. For health reasons we need to drink a certain amount each day and the water wiki gives clear indication about how to work out the quantity.
Increasing water intake gradually has helped me in reducing the levels of toxicity in my body. Its also the most beautiful thing to watch,rivers, snow and seas are all fantastic manifestations of water. I visualise clear rivers in my body to enhance the potential for healing.

A visual and musical representation of water

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Reinard leaves a message

A Red Fox Peers Through Foliage by Phil Schermeister
A Red Fox Peers Through Foliage

Dear woman in the cottage,

As you have been winding down your gardening activities I have been watching you from behind the compost heap. I overheard you mention that you would be moving and that the chickens would be moving out too. I thought you had gone already as not much has been happening so I thought a swift take away might be in order.

I do so prefer free range. When the chooks were cooped up in the hen tractor, it was a lot more difficult for me to get my dinner sorted. I have my pick of young and old pheasant, lost rabbit but I have to say for variety in my diet a chicken has not been easy to come by. I can hear about 500 of them in the battery place up a mile but that is a dangerous place to go and the smell is enough to put you off. I really applaud you for having gone free range and feeding yours organic feed stuff. ( I am all for organic). I have been watching and waiting every day until after lunch when you have let them go out.

You did not know it was me. I was silent, I was clean ( only left a small wing behind) and thanks to the tasty experience I thought I would come back for my next dinner. Shame I met your husband on his way to feeding the chickens. I was hiding but we looked into each others eyes and he startled me when he clapped his hands.

Woman, its colder now, I am getting hungry and now that roaming the countryside is easier for me I hope you will not mind if I come by from time to time to enjoy a free range bird or 2. I promise to be clean, quick and only take one at a time ( what do you hold me for, some hooligan! Give me some credit here and respect)

I took your message on board, LESS IS MORE!

Will be missing you,
( and the ready organic meals).


Reinard Fox.

Dear Mr Fox,

However beautiful your coat and eyes, my husband and I are not against wildlife trespassing the garden ( as Badger, the squirrels and pheasants do) as long as their passing does not impact on our way of life. We want to thank you for dealing with stray pheasants and rabbits as part of your natural diet but cannot say that we are pleased that you have taken one of our chickens. The chicken deserved better. ( Even a quick,selective and silent take away is still daylight robbery!)

Please do not come back for any more chickens even though you have congratulated us on the plumpness and the taste. ( Is your middle name sly?)

Be warned, our black dog is on patrol.
Good luck over the winter period.

Best wishes

all at BerryCottage
PS - I hear the new occupants have guns so am afraid they may not take lightly to trespassing.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I am one

Compliment d'automne - With the compliments of autumn.

"I am only one, but I am one.
I cannot do everything,
but I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do something that I can do.
What I can do, I should do.
And what I should do, by the grace of God, I will do."
by Edward Everett Hale

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Lest we forget

Poppies by Jenny Frean

Remembering today the many men and women, who with hope in their hearts set out to defend the freedom of those they loved.

Today is an opportunity to connect with those around us and be grateful and thankful for the freedom we enjoy.

Familiar words to many generations;

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning We will remember them.

While the wind blows lets whisper a thank you and let the wind carry our thanks across the devides.

Path to Freedom - Homegrown revolution

I have been following the Dervaes family's example for the past 3 years and here is their video explaining what they do, how they do it and how urban homesteads or small acreages can produce a large amount of food. ( 9 mins approx).

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The space in between

What Lies Behind Us - Ralph Waldo Emerson
What Lies Behind Us - Ralph Waldo Emerson

What sets humankind apart from any other species is the ability to pass on knowledge and to work together to reach a solution. Some call it community spirit, others a feeling of belonging. Whether I acknowledge it or not, we are connected, visibly or invisibly. There are spectacular examples of humankind working together in particular in this century during the second world war and more recently when natural disasters strike like the tsunami, flooding in the UK and the New Orleans hurricane Katrina. What happens at that moment, is that we connect and align with the other human’s experience and very little that seems important to us, seems important at that moment, while we pause in the connection, the space between. Some people will galvanise that impulse into action, others will digg in their purses to give help and others again will feel a sense of helplessness faced with the enormity of the situation. Then the connection has gone in a flash.
All these responses combined however create a network of support : those who dig in their pockets respond to a call for resources, physical resources to which some respond; and those who feel helpless do provide a supportive connection in different ways. Some will compare this to the power of prayer or intention.

Recently my children argued around the table as to who was the best ( since they are boys that is a natural response to fight for a place in the pecking order), and I asked them what they felt they were good at and what they were not so good and how they would decide who was the best. When they discovered that the areas one excelled at another was not so good at, and that what he was good at, they were not so proficient in they looked blank. We work best as a team in our family, that is the basis of our approach; but when we want to all be at the top, we can feel driven and alone, tired out to a point where our strength diminishes and our weaknesses take over. What usually follows is appalling behaviour and a lack of tolerance. What stunned them was the possibility that they could combine their talents and efforts and together achieve something beyond their wildest dreams. That together they could work out and connect to get an idea to take shape and have the ability to carry the idea through to completion. Individually they would have struggled. It would take them a period of listening, silence, reflection and connection. Then something interesting happens : one speaks, the other takes it from there and they end up with a completely novel way of tackling the challenge. Social media give us that opportunity today.

The point about downshifting for me is not only that I have all I need, but that it allows someone else in the world to up shift, to have an opportunity to improve their standard of living and create a balance. When I work at creating that balance from my side, I feel the connection and joy that someone else is moving in a different direction.

What lies behind me is a drive to have plenty, to have the best house, the perfect marriage, lovely children, a brilliant career, etc etc
Now, my priorities are more aligned with my values and beliefs and they will be different for everyone. The energy when you truly align with your authentic self, is that it creates a connection to the vast potential within you, where solutions happen to arrive, with no effort at all. Where there is struggle, there is a point to ponder.

My house sale and purchase are not going smoothly and I have to be patient...I have difficulty with that, to stay in the moment and trust that when the time is right, everything will align and effortlessly carry us to the next moment. I am not perfect by any means, very fallible in fact.

What lies behind us matters little now
What lies in front of us...matters little unless we go forward
What matters is now, this moment.

What I am missing here is taking the time to connect with the vast potential within me.......and listen to the potential of others.

Mother Teresa was asked what she did when she prayed. Her answer was that she listened. ( This stunned me as usually any prayers that I have heard or have uttered have been generated by a desire to speak and be heard)
When asked what Mother Teresa thought God was doing when she was praying she answered....he listens too. We both listen to what lies in between.

How does this relate to my attitude to business?
Usually profit comes first, and we plan how we can achieve the highest profit; this often dismisses the impacts on people, the environment and the big picture. Is it really about competing with the best product, at the best price, in the quickest time regardless?
When we put our health first, people first, listen to the potential they have within them and align that to our values and beliefs and theirs then we have the ability to listen to what other people are reaching out for and together we can work out how we can make something out of that. No preconceived ideas, just listening and effortlessly connecting. And although profit figures in that, it can be complemented by a whole host of other things. It brings me back to that connection we glimpse when we connect in a negative situation; how would it feel to connect and build on that in a positive way?

Lets see how that works out in practice for us in the future.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Musical interlude

But to feel music is an extremely individual experience. It’s made by the individual and for the individual. In order to be lowered in that “empty tree” that are Mozart and Bach, we need an education to listening. Only then one succeeds in gathering the pure transcendence that emanates from some of their compositions. In those pages - according to the moments and the state of mind - I reach different levels of reading, partly even unconscious. I obviously find God there, but also the cosmos, the Mystery, the Everything. Which perhaps are the same thing. Because after all the point of arrival of whatever spiritual music is the same, even if we call it with different names. For this I don't have doubts: the sacred music is the most beautiful music that there has ever been in West.
Angelo Branduardi

Some of the music that inspires me is that of Angelo Branduardi and Andreas Vollenweider. Both are storytellers that use music to tell modern stories. Angelo Branduardi uses ancient texts and poems as his material and Andreas is a visual musician using the palette of the orchestra, Quite unique sounds. Both men have found a different way to express their potential. They have found their voice.


Innovative ideas

This post connects to yesterday's post about engaging with the negative and is an example of how Shidulai in Bangladesh has looked at the equation of global warming, what the difficulties are likely to be in the future through flooding and what can be done now to prepare and to engage with the situation instead of accepting that this is the way it is and that change is not possible.

If you watch the video by Green TV to the end, the last words provide the same sentiment as those I voiced yesterday, just in a different situation.

What Shidulai realized is that the rivers are not barriers to communication but can become channels of communication. In the same way Global warming is not just a negative that leads to extinction, if we engage with it we can harness the resources presented to ensure survival.

Tomorrow' s post will explore the changes in attitude that a business can implement to effect solutions and include the proposals within our business plan to test these out on a small scale.

The answers are out there if we engage with them.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Engaging with a negative

Keep Going- Winston Churchill
Keep Going- Winston Churchill

Just because my life is defined by my limitations does not mean that my potential is limited.

Global warming does not happen because we want it to happen.
Becoming disabled is not something that happens because we want it to happen. Sometimes it happens by what we believe to be an accident. However it happens, it provides in its devastation 2 ways of reacting. We can feel devastated by it or we can start growing from it. In nature, some plants cannot germinate until the land is either flooded or burnt to a cinder. I look at my disability in the same way. You can look at any personal, global crisis in that way. My disability did not come at a welcome time, it did not make life easy; in fact it burnt my entire career to the ground, it took my confidence away and created a life of limitations.

I could have stayed there, within my limitations, but I realised that becoming disabled did not change the person within me. It just changed the way others saw me, the way I thought others saw me and the way I reacted against that. I felt less, it affected me and for a time I became my limitation. I thought this was it, I would stay like that forever.

But when I realised that I was still me, that within me still lie the dreams and the potential that had always been there, I started to visualise a new life. There is no point pondering on the things I could do and can no longer do, when I do that, I struggle, I feel bad and life seems pointless. When I turn that around and look at what I can do, then there is room for movement.

Just because my life is defined by my limitations does not mean that my potential is limited.

I joined a class in tai chi because I saw the possibility that this practice would engage with my energy and in a sense enable me to work with the chi within me. The first lesson was pointless. I was in agony, I was tired, I felt ancient. While most of the people in the room were doing tai chi as part of a cardiac rehabilitation and in their seventies, while they moved graciously, I would sit there, with invisible tears in agony thinking I would never be able to do this. ( creating my own limitations) The tutor told me not to try so hard. To not do the 6 repetitions but to do 1 and then imagine doing the others, because with intention the movement and energy would flow.

Can I do intention, can I look at the potential within a body that is not functioning and stop defining myself as a disabled person? I know that some of my functions have been disabled ( but can be done by mechanical means such as speech software etc), but I also realise that some functions and abilities that were dormant are now starting to flourish. That is the power of a crisis, it can disable aspects that seemed important but that detract from what is the new important pathway in your life. ( Sounds deep but follow with me). Without my disability I would not have looked at the benefits of not walking, of not driving and using the car less. I would be too busy, to engaged in the ratrace. Reduced energy makes you look at what you can do with less and surprisingly I discovered more. The Families in the Coal House are also experiencing that hardship and no water, electricity and heat is giving them less and they are gaining in other ways.

Just because my life is defined by my limitations does not mean that my potential is limited.

What follows from that is that when I visualise possibilities, the resources I need to accomplish my task can be summoned and eventually what seemed impossible within a life with limitations suddenly becomes reality.

How can you relate that to the larger picture of the environment, global warming and a different way of living.
First I need to accept that change is possible.
Then I need to have the intention to bring that change into awareness.I need to face my fears and limitations, I need to challenge them.
When I am aware that change is possible I can follow through with the intention in a visualised way.
Then solutions and resources will materialise.
Then change will happen.

It sounds too simple I hear you say : to know where you want to be, you need to visualise the place, plan how you can get there and then give it energy and action.

How can I be grateful for having a disability? Loaded question. I know what it took out of my life but I also know what it has made possible in my life. I would not be writing without it, I would not be engaging with you without it, I would not be going to farmers markets, I would not have graduated without it, I would not be supporting bereaved families without it, I would not be singing in a choir without it and I would not have noticed that the toxic levels around us are reaching a high. I would not be wearing organic cotton, I would not be enjoying time with my kids, I would not be contemplating growing a small organic garden, I would not have learnt to can, I would not have rediscovered seasons, I would not have appreciated joy and I would not have tackled my limitations...but most of all I would not have discovered the authentic me.

Just because my life is defined by my limitations does not mean that my potential is limited. Neither is yours.

What is your disability? What will it enable you to do or to become?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

On a serious note

Just when you think that the subject might become serious and you are about to get depressed....then this comes in. Enjoy.
Serious message but you get to have a laugh too......

Check out this video: Grocery Store Wars

Add to My Profile | More Videos

We still have not exchanged contracts on our sale and purchase and am feeling the pressure in limbo. Maybe today.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Farmer and the Bishop

To Guardian reports on unfair practices from Supermarkets in their dealings with Farmers and states that the reason Farmers are not speaking out is because they do not want to upset their relationships with food retailers.

Supermarkets are guilty of "invisible and pernicious practices" that threaten the livelihood of farmers, the Church of England warned yesterday.

I find that incredibly sad and at the same time, I can entirely empathise with their feeling of ' not wanting to bite the hand that feeds you'.

The report, Fair Trade Begins at Home, highlighted instances where farmers had suffered in the supermarket's pursuit for cheap produce.

In my work supporting families in crisis I listened out not only for what was being said but what was not being said. When you take the time to listen to the silences, the spaces in between the words, you could sometimes feel the fear. Often in their situation it was the fear of having their children taken into care, others were unable to speak up because their partners abused them in a variety of ways and speaking up would put their lives in danger. It makes me believe that farmers are alone with pressure from all sides, the government legislation, the supermarket's purchasing power, financial hardship, pressure from banks......quite a lot to be pushed about. How can we the consumer throw a lifeline! If you are a farmer, please feel free to leave an anonymous comment.

The UK has a free market economy and as such we should be able to spend our money in ways that reflect our values and beliefs. I am not sure what the article evokes in you but as consumer it makes me uncomfortable.....

An inconvenient shopping experience

Farmer's Market by Linda Carter Holman
Farmer's Market

To be encouraged to go to a Farmer's Market is likely to be difficult. There are obstacles and there are always going to be obstacles, and in all honesty it probably is a lot more convenient to go to the supermarket: I know this for a variety of reasons and yet I am passionate about overcoming the obstacles because to me it matters.

Its too far !

I realised today that Farmers and I have things in common : they produce in the privacy of their land and I write in the privacy of my home, and both of us like to remain private and not make a fuss.

I do not speak often about why it is difficult but I have a disability which limits the energy I have available and the obstacles that are most difficult relate to mobility : I cannot drive easily and I cannot walk far. So, in practice a supermarket with a disabled car parking space and battery operated shopping trolleys does a lot to make shopping for food convenient. So why on earth would I want to undertake a journey of 15 miles each way to go and purchase food, as well as growing vegetables in my garden. The reason is that I notice the difference and the benefits I personally have from locally produced food. I do no longer have the luxury to be able to eat just anything, I have developed allergies and food sensitivities and local food does not contain many of the preservatives that activate these allergies within me. Food traceability is important to me : at the Farmer's market I can talk to the producer directly and ask them what they feed their animals on for instance because indirectly, whatever goodness they receive so do I. What I get from talking to producers is their pride in what they do and between us there is an understanding about the difficulties each one of us faces. Mine is getting here to the farmers market, theirs is being visible and accountable for what they produce. Both are uncomfortable new states of being and make the initial contact clumsy, but when you take the courage to ask the farmer about the product, and you can get him talking about it, you get a glimmer of the pride, the enthousiasm which is lacking when you get your apples or beef from the supermarket. Their strength is to produce the quality but sales training bypassed many of them.( Sorry chaps!) At some level I empathise with that. Yet when you engage with the farmer about his product, you get straightforward answers. He can tell you exactly how long the meat has been hanging, where in his pasture he animals grazed, how long the cheese took to mature, what they use to press the apples, whether the bread is made with fresh yeast, with locally produced wheat etc.

It costs more!

In many cases it just looks that way. Its an argument between quality and quantity. There is a reason why champagne was was rare, had an exclusivity about it but when sparkling wine came along, did we want to pay for champagne ( I think not). It is the same with locally produced beef. When you go initially, you may be shocked at the price but it is a realistic price at which the farmer can make a living and grow his product to the standard as consumer we would like it to be. Surprisingly, I have noticed that I need less of protein in weight from a farmers market than from a supermarket, and so the price becomes immaterial. I also know that when I have beef from a particular farmer at the market I do not suffer agonizing bellyache, as where I do when it comes from the supermarket; to me in any event, there are very real, practical reasons for buying fresh, locally, traceable, sustainable food. ( I am still working on reducing my dependency on animal protein but having less of it is my starting point)

They have limited availability?

Granted, we cannot eat strawberries in January from the farmers market locally and cabbages and apples may become a tad boring over the season. Again, if I buy my apples at the supermarket I get a few varieties that I can get all year around and that is a shame but convenient. There is food succession even in apple can get them from August to January but you have to look, and they have odd shapes, they can be smaller or larger than you are used to, but the taste is...spectacular and not bland. Through making a menu over a period of 12 months, and looking at it again, I realised that in practice the types of food I was eating were very limited. If you do not know what it is, just like when I introduce something new to the children, they look, they smell and some may not even have a go at trying it. I am forcing myself to try some new foods at least once.

Its too cold to go to the Farmer's Market in winter

Sure. It is a lot easier and more convenient to get the supermarket to deliver. Initially unable to leave the house, I liked the idea of a personal shopper doing it all for me and getting it delivered to my house. After a while I started to resent having peppers that looked a little past their best and products changed for other brands( as they were not available and conveniently more expensive). I did have the choice to send them back but in reality that was a lot of hassle. What I gained in convenience, I lost in my ability to choose what I wanted. Going to the farmers market enables me to ask the producer......hmmmm do you do basil? When he tells me that it is not the season I can only take his word for it ( and I feel stupid because I should have known that). I grumble mildly but notice my surprise when in August he calls me and says, Anne, if you want Basil, it will be here next week.

When I started using butter instead of margerine, my children asked why and I said I trusted cows more than scientists. ( no offence meant!) In reality, I trust the farmer more than the supermarket but I suspect that the farmer has no idea what I think unless I go out there to meet him in the rain, with a small bag, an umbrella and my walking stick and ask him embarrassing questions as to what I can do with a neck of lamb and why he does not have Basil.
The farmer tells me that he had no idea.....he trusted the supermarkets to tell him what the consumer demanded and he did his best to grow the stuff only to be told that when it was ready, the consumer demanded a lower price and they had bought it in Spain.

It reminds me about how children cruelly tell tales about eachother and how convenient it can be when there is no direct communication.

When it rains, and I stumble to the car, drive 15 miles, grab my stick and bag, walk the 50 yards from the nearest parking space and grumble about the wet weather, the numb fingers and how awful it is going to be to stand there, slowly opening my purse and counting coins, slowly and clumsily,handing them over for an item that is going to be heavy, that is going to make my arms ache, and returning home will mean I need to rest for 1 hour in bed, I can see entirely that I would be mad to go to a Farmers Market and instead it would make a lot more sense to go to the supermarket where it is warm, I can park and the trolley awaits me. What choice would you make?

When I am at the Farmers Market I have to do a scary thing, I have to become visible, I have to talk, I have to ask questions, I visibly struggle with my shopping, with cold hands, with dripping hair and yet the benefits are immense.......

It is inconvenient but I promise to keep trying because it matters.

So instead of taking on the logo ' every little helps' mine is ' every little change matters'.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Conversations with Downshiftingpath

a selection of post...
By Anne Howe

In creating a personal present to my family and friends, as well as a tool to create a memory of the place we live in, I have created a book with a collection of posts from this blog. I am edging towards the 500th post and that too seems a landmark achievement.

It started with an idea from the PodcastSisters and via Blurb I created a book which has about 200 pages and a variety of photos. It also includes some material that was posted on Angora's Journal.

The cost of the book is the cost charged by Blurb for publishing it and sending it to you. Making it public made me feel very nervous and excited at the same time. The books arrived today, and I am pleased with the end result.

The last 3 years have been a very difficult period in my life and I realise that that has not always shown through in these posts. Downshifting requires engagement on all levels and being able to respond and make an active choice is a very challenging process. I am beginning to be more comfortable with the idea of sharing the reality of that with you, the reader and in doing so, I would like to invite you to engage with me too by leaving comments if you can.

The daily soup

Chicken Noodle Soup by Catherine Jones
Chicken Noodle Soup

My grandmother used to make soup every day. It is still part of my family's main meal and I guess there were more reasons than merely ensuring that we had a certain amount of vegetables every day.

The WI is backing Wrap's campaign with a list of recipes and tips on how to create leftover dishes such as bubble and squeak, shepherd's pie, chutney and bread and butter pudding.( BBC article)

The lost art of leftovers reminded me of how I make soup whenever the want takes me and so I offer you my basic recipe for a nourishing soup.

Take 1 onion, spring onions, leeks ( whatever is in your fridge) and put it cut up with a dash of butter on a slow heat.
Add variety of seasonal vegetables ( today carrots and some leftover broccoli)
Add enough stock to cover .
Add a variety of beans or pulses ( today fresh borlotti beans, could be lentils- if using a type of pulses that need soaking, please soak first)
Simmer until ready ( I put it in the bottom oven of the Aga and forget about it till lunch).

If you like a thick soup ( liquidise some of the soup- 2 to 3 ladles) and return to pot.( Or add some cooked rice, potatoes)
Serve with a sprinkling of parsley and a slice of fresh bread, or toast or whatever is at hand.

On the question of stock, I make stock traditionally with the carcass of an organic roast chicken or use vegetable bouillon.

I never thought of soupmaking as an art but if it is, lets be trendy!

Friday, November 02, 2007

Memories are not just for Christmas

Laughing Couple Opening Christmas Presents Beside Christmas Tree
Laughing Couple Opening Christmas Presents Beside Christmas Tree

54 days to go I think?

I sent this in test it on my friends. The feedback has been great so I thought I would share it with you all.

Dear Fairy Godmothers

I would like to propose a dramatic change in the way we approach Christmas this year and am writing to ask you if you would be happy with the following :

adults - tokens only. I would rather see you in person and spend time with you in whatever way makes you happy ( as long as it is legal!) so lunch together, cinema trip, day at health farm, trip to a yarn festival, farmers market,wellie throwing? whatever send me your wishlist, share your passion with me.( If you want to go riding, and share that with me, let me know, whatever it is, as your friend I am willing to give it a go)

children over 16 - I propose to send them virtual giftcertifiicates in order that they may buy something that aids their education or musical tastes, or book tokens. (Boring probably but I am not sure they want to spend time with us). Small thing under the tree.

children under 16 - I will be limiting the gifts in monetary value this year. Again, come and spend some time with us and create memories:, go ten pin bowling, share a meal,teach them a skill ( test you patience), take us to the zoo, drive diggers, go to a cricket game, rugby game, theatre...

The reasons are that for our family in any case Christmas has become so commercial and in reality we like gifts, but relationships are more important. When the children were small, an overloaded tree seemed magical. This year, we will hopefully have moved house and Christmas will be about spending time together.

I hope that does not offend anyone and will make your Christmas shopping lighter and not less magical.

Memories are not just for Christmas but for a lifetime!

Best wishes

the other fairy godmother

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Taxing waste

Plastic Bag Floats in the Shallows of the Yangtze River by Eightfish
Plastic Bag Floats in the Shallows of the Yangtze River

Disposing of waste is likely to increase living costs.

The government have given the go ahead to do a pilot scheme in a number of local councils to test whether charging consumers for the amount of waste they produce is feasible.
I know it will be unpopular for various reasons :
  • waste collection is meant to be part of the charge paid by residents to their local council so charging extra for collection of waste will be seen as an extra tax.
  • As long as companies continue to wrap cauliflowers and sell things in large boxes, in plastic tubs etc, there appears to be little progress possible.
  • Some councils offer residents up to 4 bins to recycle in (how practical is that when you are older?)
Against that is the fact that people could do with incentives to recycle more and yet penalties seem to be the only tactic that is being put forward. The reason for this is that the UK will face a penalty of £ 180 million a year. ( If we have 60 million people in the UK that would be £ 3 per head). Compare that to a suggested charge of £ 50 per household?

It comes as MPs warn the UK could face fines of up to £180m a year from the European Commission if it does not cut the amount of waste dumped in landfill.( BBC news article)

The question begging to be answered is as to why, as consumer,we are asked to pay a price for the waste being given to us by the producer and why producers are not paying too? Surely, a consultation about how to package things and finding routes to recycle packaging would bear some innovative results. How about each company figuring out what the cost was of recycling the material and putting the actual cost of packaging to the consumer in their bin on the product? We have food labels, why not waste labels with clearer instructions. Why if we have Value Added Tax, can they not tax producers a waste tax instead of asking the consumer? This surely would mean that companies would bear a responsibility and if they as a result have to put the price up? I guess it is probably a lot more complicated than a logical answer.

As consumers we are meant to have the choice.....but in reality do we?
The responsability for the huge waste produced is a shared one surely; a shared responsibility by the producer and consumer?

An example of producers taking environmentally concerns seriously in respect of packaging are Wigglywigglers ; their catalogue was distributed without plastic cover, and is completely recyclable. It therefore shows that it is possible to emulate this practice in other areas.

We may soon need to ask ourselves more questions :
  • Where does this product come from?
  • What methods of packaging are used?
  • Is it recyclable or will it cost me to dispose of the item and the packaging?
  • Do I really want it?

( Think not only monetary value, but the time it will take you to dispose of it.Example, if my hourly rate is £ 10.00 and it takes me 15 mins to dispose of this by recycling, the cost to me will be £ 2.50. If I cannot be bothered to do that, and stuff it in the waste collection, it may cost me X as a penalty).

Shopping locally, with a basket seems suddenly even more attractive. Think about this before you set off to do your Christmas shopping this year.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Farmer Preservation Society

Let's Have a Beer!
Let's Have a Beer!

There is ofcourse no such thing (I googled for it and drew a blank).
Should there be I wonder, there are a variety of other preservation societies :

The British Brown Hare Preservation Society
There is a Farm Machinery Preservation Society

but no society for the preservation of farmers.
There is also the Cloud Appreciation Society with stunning photos.

I am hoping that my little gesture tonight will spark off some debates in our village.
After a mellow autumnal day, where the leaves gently fell down and the sky looked rather stunning with stars we decided to waddle down to our local pub. They have a roaring fire going with a seat and it is always free as the heat really is unbearable to most but for me, it is just about right. The pub is where it all happens in our village; if you want an electrician, a plumber, your garden place to find the man is in the pub. Its a local hub of activity and a good place for eccentrics.

Before we left I had the following conversation with the landlord:

Say, what is the price of a pint of beer these days?
Well that depends on what kind you have.

Average then, what would the average price be?

( At this point my DH looks at me with suspicion, as he knows full well that I do not drink beer and am allergic to yeast so beer would be a bad thing to have, however he remains silent, the look was enough).

About £ 2.40.

Well then, I would like to buy a pint of beer for a farmer who feels a bit down in the mouth.
That would be any one of them then said the landlord.

You choose, give him a pint with my compliments to cheer him up.

You should have seen the faces of both landlord and DH. Stunned. That alone was worth the gesture. I have not asked who this will be, I need not know, I am happy to hopefully have started at least the Farmers Appreciation Society.

I am hopeful that there are other good natured consumers out there who will venture to do the same. If you do, I can assure you that you will be stared at and will stun the landlord into silence.

I cannot wait to hear what happened when the farmer actually got his pint!

Members of the Farmers Appreciation Society will know who they are ;

membership fee -a donation of the price of a pint at your local.
no committee meetings nor officers
Members know who they are......but keep it secret.
Spread the word.......

And listen out for farmers in the pub who are stunned that people are buying them a drink.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The fisherman

A Fisherman Lives Here With The Best Catch Of His Life
A Fisherman Lives Here With The Best Catch Of His Life

The definition of financial security is the ability to meet future needs while keeping pace with day-to-day obligations.
This can be a combination of things :
you can be rich in money, you can be poor in experience
you can be rich in money and rich in experience
you can be poor in monetary terms but rich in experience
you can be poor in monetary terms and poor in experience.

The most bizarre one is where you have the illusion that you are rich but on closer inspection you realise that you are up to your eyes in debt, you are committed to working long hours and you have no time for leisure, no time for relationships and no time to look after yourself.

I love the story about the fisherman who was happy with his single boat, lived in a small cottage with views over the sea, drank beer with his friends in the pub, happily married with children who met with a man who asked him:

You could be rich, buy a fleet of boats, get people to work for you, fish lots more and make a racket from selling fish to the masses.

And what would I need to do for that?

Well we would be happy to give you a loan, 10 boats will multiply your profits and then you can save for your retirement, sit in the sun man and drink beer. Mind you we only would buy fish that are the same size.

Thank you but no thank you said the fisherman.

The man was stunned. Looked him in the eye and said :
How can you turn down such potential profits and riches?

Because said the fisherman, I know that the sea can crush my boat overnight in rough storms,that fish come in different sizes and by following your lead to the potential you see, I will have to go out and work my guts off, shout at 10 employees, worry about 10 boats and men, fish more than the sea can produce to end up, sitting in the sun and enjoy what exactly?

Well you could go out fishing when you want to, sit in the sun and drink a beer at night with your mates.

Exactly said the fisherman, and how is that different to what I do now and he danced off in the sunset, feeling the richest man in the world.

( adapted)
To feast...another folk tune this time by Great Big Sea, get those dancing shoes on.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Local Food Shop

Farmers Market by Beth Logan
Farmers Market

Shopping locally online is about to become a reality in the UK thanks to LocalFoodShop.

Farmers markets work as well as websites to enable the consumer to find you but require an awful lot of inconvenience and social media knowhow : as a consumer you need to know where they are, when they are at the market and thus falling into your usual shopping patterns is far too easy.

What does LocalFoodShop do?

As a consumer you can put in your postcode details and it will bring up participating foodproducers in your area with links to their website. This means that you can go and check them out if you want to with the ability to order online from them. Good, local food delivered to your door at the click of a button.

What does it do for farmers and food producers?

It enables them through social media to turn virtual consumers into real ones, without having to meet them. It means that local producers can make customers aware of what is available, in season and the true cost. The actual cost of registering as a producer and having real e- commerce possibilities is surprisingly low cost.

I have no experience with this service but will give it a go. It makes the prospect of reducing my diet to 100 miles radius a reality. It also meets with my personal values of supporting locally produced food, growing our own and putting money back into the local community.

Producers and consumers alike, go and check it out.

From a downshifting point of view, the handy distance calculator will also give you an indication as to how far your food travels, i.e. 6 miles is my nearest food producer. You also get to know what your area is rich in producing.

All this without having to leave your home? That scores highly on my list. Now how about spreading the word to your favourite food producer; currently word of mouth is still the best way to spread the message. I am of to get some cheese.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Purple Tulips by Sybylle Pietrek
Purple Tulips

The indications are that by 2015 small businesses will have ceased to exist as we know them, that large supermarkets and corporations will have the upper hand. We are at a turning point. Do we engage with the picture that evolves or do we continue along the path feeling powerless and watch as choices diminish. Personally we are about to take a leap of faith......and swim up the creek against the trend.

We plan our lives according to a dream that came to us in our childhood, and we find that life alters our plans. And yet, at the end, from a rare height, we also see that our dream was our fate. It’s just that providence had other ideas as to how we would get there. Destiny plans a different route, or turns the dream around, as if it were a riddle, and fulfills the dream in ways we couldn’t have expected.” ~ Ben Okri

So this weekend, I have cleared the polytunnel of its last tomatoes, the boys planted out a full border of lupins that will greet others in the spring and potted up some plants that have meaning and that I want to take with me to the smaller garden.

Autumn is a season that enables us to shed our leaves as trees and to plant seeds and bulbs that will bring us hope in springtime with the promise of renewal and the newness of life. Its a time when nature shuts the door on warmth, we all retreat to our safe homes or nests and snuggle down either to slumber for winter not to wake up until spring, or to face the cold weather. Its a time to look at what has gone well, what has not gone so well and what we hope to start with next year.

Celebrate.........all your achievements....... and plant seeds for spring. My favourites are sweetpeas and tulips.

It is time.......for change. We are getting ready to exchange contracts on our sale and purchase and are feeling a little scared at the thought of leaving a cosy existence and leap into a new venture. Will we survive? Probably but to what degree will it be successful. To answer that question you must figure out what success means to you and that answer will be different for all of us.

Our world is about to become very local and we will be sharing the realities of that existence with you as we go along. Next week we plan a last trip to purchase essentials, do some more market research and by the end of November we hope to have settled ready for the next chapter.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

For the love of books

Historic Reading Posters - October Bright Blue Weather
Historic Reading Posters - October Bright Blue Weather

I have a strange affinity with books. As a child I did not like them ( probably to do with having to read them) and now I quite delight in sitting down, near the fire with a good book. So in an effort to make them go around, I have found the following ways to apply the reduce, reuse and recycle message.


I have a real problem with that, having an Amazon wishlist makes my appetite for books insatiable, its a good tool, not just for buying books but for making a list of the ones that I would like to read.

I see whether they are available for free at the library or whether I can persuade the library to buy a copy for general consumption ( Am I really the only person who wants to read this one?).

Next you can share a book with a friend who has the same taste in books, or you just think they have the same taste, it gives you something to talk about.

There are books you only read once and those you want to keep forever and read again and again, reference books and beautiful books.

By now, the shelves are groaning and something has to be done.

Here are some useful sources :

Free ebooks. I use these with reading software that turns them into audiobooks.
Project Gutenberg - There are over 20,000 free books in the Project Gutenberg Online Book Catalog. A grand total of over 100,000 titles is available at Project Gutenberg Partners, Affiliates and Resources. Good source of classical works and just lovely to browse.
Similar available from questorbooks.


A good local source for me is the Oxfam bookshop and those situated in university cities offer a wider range of material.
The charity shops in my area also have a system where any donated books are sold for a fixed fee ( as we are a holiday area this is great for summer beach literature).

In the USA you could try booksfree.
Search for books on ebay
You can buy books secondhand on amazon too.
A trip to Hay on Wye the capital of secondhand books in the UK. ( also has excellent coffeeshops so I hear!)

BookCrossing. An unique system for the adventurous travellers in search of books. A very basic explanation: read a book, label it with a unique book number, and then leave it somewhere. Anywhere. You can leave it in a coffeeshop, with a friend, on a park bench ("releasing it into the wild"). There are designated book crossing spots all over the world, but they're not required. If someone picks up your book, if they find it, they write a review of it online, and you can read all the reviews of the particular book you "released into the wild".You can also look at book crossing spots in your area to see what books have been left there, and go pick it up if you want. Interestingly, there's a map that shows where books are "released" or "caught" all over the world — in real time. Quite interesting to add some interest if you do not want to go shopping , go and hunt for a book. Live dangerously....

BookHopper. List books that you're willing to post to people, and when they're requested, you post them (at your cost). You can also request anyone's books. The more books you list, the more you can request.

Bookmooch - a bookswapping service where you earn points, another one is paperbackswap, and readersunited.

If all else fails, donate or recycle as paper. Or use as craft projects, to hold up your bed as a student, to paper the walls with, be creative......share the gift of reading.

Who would have guessed that reading could be this fun....great activity to do during school holidays, go hunt for a book for free.
Added as recommended by Jake - readitswapit in the UK

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Energy Saving Week

This week is energy saving week. The energy savings website is full of ideas on how to make savings and commit to a 20% energy reduction.

Its going to be an annual event; Energy Saving Week (Monday 22nd to Sunday 28th October 2007) and the aim is for all of us to commit to a saving of 20%.

previous articles on this blog about energy are :
Check energy consumption and change to green energy
Cutting energy consumption from household appliances

10 ways to save energy:

  1. Turn your heating thermostat down by 1 degree C and wear a jumper.
  2. Turn your water heater down to 6 degree and wash clothes at lower temperatures with a full load.
  3. Keep the heat in through insulation and by closing the curtains at dusk.
  4. Turn off lights when you leave the room and keep asking others to do the same. Change your lightbulbs to energy efficient ones.
  5. Don’t leave appliances on standby and remember to switch off chargers when you’re not using them. A useful appliance to turn off is the microwave: we may use it for 3 mins per day but it could be on for 24 hours?
  6. Fill the washing machine or dishwasher before switching on (or at the very least use the half-load setting). Wear clothes a little bit longer : do you really need a change of clothes every day?
  7. Only boil as much water as you need for your tea or coffee. An eco-kettle makes this easy.
  8. Shower instead of having a bath.
  9. Shop locally, eat fresh produce instead of frozen products.
  10. Don’t use the car for short journeys. Walk or cycle instead. Plan car journeys and share transport with others.
The video from green Tv shows energy wastage of buildings :

Sunday, October 21, 2007


A blog award in support of farmers worldwide:

Rooting is the process of putting forth roots and beginning to grow

I have received a few blogging awards recently and I would like to sow a blogger
award into the world, one that is given to bloggers who are using social media to unite, inspire and sustain local farmers and farming.

The rules to show your support:

Tag your post if possible with ‘rooting for farmers’ and lets raise the moral of farmers in the community.

The rules are :

1. Write a post about what farming, farmers and local food mean to you.
2. Nominate three bloggers who epitomise "Rooting for farmers "

3 .Link back to the person who nominated you, and link back to this post

4. When you receive the award, you may display the "Rooting for farmers" button on your blog by pasting the HTML Code listed below on your blog.

So here goes:

My nominations go to
Heather from around the world in 80 megabytes

Neil from the Gastrocast

Farmer Jake

and a special award and thanks to Mark from The Green Fingered Photographer:
who generously gave his permission to use the pig picture.

HTML Code For The Button

<a href="
<img src="
/SupportForFarmers-1.jpg" border="0" height="60%" width="60%" />