Saturday, March 31, 2007

Down the garden......

The sallow tree in our garden has a buzzing sound surrounding it. This is a native tree of the British Isles and the first one to provide pollen and food for the bees and insects. It is quite a fantastic experience to see bees and other insects humming around. To us it means that spring really cannot be far away although the cold nights and frosts could tell us otherwise.
This is the first earlies planted at the end of February, they will provide us with potatoes at the end of April, May time. Just need to water them regularly, hoe and keep the chickens off.....

Even when the weather is dull, the broad bean plants provide some colour in the poly tunnel. We are not great fans of broad beans but they add nitrogen to the soil and I like them stir fried with bacon, feta cheese, small tomatoes on a bed of rocket. That's something to look forward to in a few months.

When the grass starts to grow, I know the weeds will not be far behind. Gardening to me is a bit like my housekeeping. I divide the garden in 6 areas and rotate where I go, hoe and weed. The chickens or compost bin get the goodies. How do you dust your garden?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Food Storage - 2

Good Housekeeping, October 1925
Good Housekeeping, October 1925

Over the last week hopefully you will have created a list of menu items that your family use on a regular basis.

The next step is to apply maths........

On a sheet of paper, you need to look at each menu suggestion and break it down into the ingredients that you use :

Example : Spaghetti Bolognaise ( apparently the most popular and easy dish created in the UK!)

You will need :

Pasta 6 oz
minced beef 8 oz
onion 1
carrot 1
tomatoes 1 tin
binding agent 1 tbs of flour
tomatoe puree 1 tin
pepper and salt
cheese 4 oz

Continue to do that for every meal on your list and you will have a list of ingredients that your family use as a staple.
Look at your breakfast options and staple foods such as bread, milk, eggs etc.
This list is going to give you the most used ingredients on a monthly basis.
When completed you add up the amount of each ingredient.

Next comes the maths .......

Plan on preparing 80% of your meals from this storage planner. Other meals for the year and storage will include foods that you eat less, short term seasonal foods, special meals, holidays and basic storage items such as beans, rice, etc etc.

80% of 365 days is 292. Divide the total number of dishes or meals in step 1 into 292. So if you have 10 meals the factor is 0.0324
Multiply each food totalled on your list by the answer above. This will give you the amount of food that is needed for 80 to 90% of a years supply of foods most eaten.

Other items are easier to calculate:

If you use 1 loaf of bread per day and it takes 500g of flour, you will need 182.5 kg of flour in the year.
If the flour comes in 3 kg bags, that means that over the year you will need 60.83 bags of flour ( lets make that 61).
Now the average shelf life of flour that I buy is 3 months, so the quantity I need to 3 months = 20.33 kg
My supplier charges carriage per 27kg so I know on average that one order every 3 months will satisfy my requirement for 1 loaf of bread per day.

Knowing that I need 61kg of flour per year with the time I can store it, enables me to search out special offers. So if for instance my local supermarket does a special offer on flour, I would check the use by date......lets say it is 3 months ahead...I know that the maximum I should buy of that is 21kg.

You probably have a headache by now, but the principle is simple and if you have worked out what fruit and vegetables you consume on average over the year, it will help you put together a list of plants that you can grow yourself.

On my list for example is blackberry and apple pie, at least each month. Over the year I will make 12 of these. If I use 8 oz of each fruit for that, I know that I will need to freeze or can at least that amount of fruit to have blackberry and apple pie on the menu each month. Why store more? It should curbe enthousiasm for 26 kg of apples that I am not going to use.

Another one is that this family quite likes apple sauce, so the question is will I freeze the apples or prepare and can the apple sauce and in which quantity?

Next we will look at how to store items,. how to keep track and explore a variety of ways to preserve food.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The principle of the second element


I have been listening to a tape on Chronic Fatigue by Deepak Chopra which introduced a few interesting equasions to consider.

The first one is this :
Knowledge has organising power through the Mind-Body connection, knowledge affects the body and creates health.

On the subject of downshifting, I accept that learning new skills and practising a closer connection to nature, growing vegetables and creating a simple life are going to be beneficial in creating a lifestyle and environment that suits me and my family better.

The second equasion is more interesting :

The principle of the second element states that the ultimate solution to any problem is not on the level of the problem itself. The solution lies in bringing in a second element which is opposite to the problem.

How so? I have had to look at that one a few more times to let it sink in and apply to what I know.
Lets look at the problem for example, of not having enough money.
The problem does not appear to lie then in the fact that there is not enough money. You can spend time finding out where the money is going, how you feel with less money etc.
What would be the opposite?
If Time = money then the solution to not having sufficient money would appear to lie in the opposite of the second element of time.

Downshifting changes that equasion....more time, less money.

The question is not why I have less money but how I spend my time and what values and beliefs I attach to that.
It appears therefore to be a vicious circle.....if I think I do not have enough money, then my only option would be to go and earn more. By pushing harder to earn more, I feel too tired to cook a meal and to feel better I go out with my family ( because I am too tired to cook) and spend time in the mall shopping for stuff I may not need, but it makes me feel better. The reaction to not having enough money means that I am going to push myself harder ( to earn more), I am going to feel bad and want a quick fix ( which costs me money), and then feeling even worse because I know that there is not enough money ( and there is not going to be now for sure after a restaurant meal), I go and buy stuff to make me feel better. ( Those are behaviours and emotions which in fact have not got anything positive to add to the solution).

lets turn that around.

If I have not enough am I spending my money? What am I doing with my time?
If earning more money makes me feel bad inside, then how would I like to spend my time? How do I bring back balance?

The above is only an example, in the end analysis I have enough......

If the problem is that children are spending too much time inside playing video games? The solution would appear to lie not in how we can stop them playing video games and how bad it is for their health, how much we spend on it, how we worry......the solution lies in the second element of the can we encourage our children to go outside and find enjoyment in nature?

Could it really be that simple?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Worms and podcasts

I am a great fan of podcasts, actually I love technology but the fact that they are free to listen to, do not use paper all add to the enjoyment. ( Yes they do require electricity or battery power to listen to them).

Here is my selection of podcasts which you might enjoy :

Wiggly Wigglers : A weekly podcast hosted on the wiggly sofa by Heather, Farmer Phil, Richards and guests discussing anything from cats ( don’t go there),wildlife, farming, recycling, bokashi....the list is endless. Some novel concepts and always with a sense of humour....... Monty provides interesting factual information about worms too. : Matthew and AJ’s move from the UK to Nova Scotia. They have been in Nova Scotia for 11 months now and are currently looking forward to spring.

Talking of worms....and waste....

The food waste management system we have in place works quite well and despite our best efforts we still have a variety of waste clutter to deal with. So here are some pointers of how we deal with waste so far :

  • Stop buying
  • Create menus and target shopping lists
  • Look at the packaging on items you buy and try and find alternatives
  • Find the right portions for your family....reduce waste
  • Compost, recycle paper, cans, glass and reduce plastic
  • Feed some leftovers to chickens ( no meats though).

The one I am stuck on is the waste of prepared foods. One of the options is to feed the dog but then she is not really in need of extra food ( labradors eat anything standing anyhow). Heather’s site wigglywigglers has a bokashi alternative that I am keen to explore. It sounds good but is a bit pricey for me at the moment. I can see it would solve the problem of meat and fish waste which for the moment is going in my bin, but the dog still sounds cheaper at the moment. Its on my wishlist. I need to explore bokashi a little further before committing myself here.
Podchef talks about making bokashi here

Monday, March 19, 2007

Pheasant visit

Captured in the front flower patch is a male pheasant. He is a frequent visitor and simply sunbathes when the sun is out. Occassionally he can be seen around the back of the house wandering amongst the chickens. He does not appear to have a mate or else the female came to a sticky end during a shoot.

The hailstones arriving yesterday did their best to dent daffodils and small seedlings, but I am hopeful that that is the end of it and winter is just a lingering in the background.

In the polytunnel, I feverishly planted seeds of nicotania, peppers and tomatoes under heat, transplanted some hispi cabbage and watch as my bench gets filled up with trays full of seedlings. This time of the year is mainly used to sew and nourish little seedlings.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Food Storage : Why and step 1

Canning Day by Janet Kruskamp
Canning Day

Having touched on the subject and had a few comments, I propose to do a series of small steps towards creating a food storage plan.

I do not intend to tell you what to store, that will be for you to work out, but what I can offer you is some ways of thinking about food storage, the reasons why it makes sense in today's society and a variety of practical ways to store food.

Why store? The world we live in today is fast moving, ever changing and full of surprises. On top of this, there has never been a time when the average family has had less food in their homes than now. A hundred years ago, people generally didn’t go to the store very often. As a rule, families were much more agrarian than today, with people growing the majority of the plants and animals they ate. Today, many of us would be at our rope’s end after just a couple of days of not being able to go to the grocery store. Listed below are some of the things that can happen to break up a normal family’s food supply channels:

  • Loss of employment
  • Strikes
  • Fire
  • Floods
  • Droughts
  • Hurricanes
  • Wind Storms
  • Earthquakes
  • Civil unrest

It’s a good guess that every family will have at least one serious crisis during their life time. During such times, a family shouldn’t have to worry about what they are going to eat.

a. Create a list of 10 to 20 meals.
b. Create a separate list for breakfast and lunch foods, as appropriate and if desired.
c. As you begin this process you may not think of many foods. Post this list in a prominent place in your kitchen for the coming 2 weeks. Each time you think of a new food write it on the list. Ask the family for ideas and suggestions. Make the list reflect what your family typically eats and enjoys.

It will be different for each family, but in order to store the foods we are most likely eating we need to do some research.

In the meantime, whatever you store, the main thing we need to stay alive is water. Go check the availability of water in your home, check how you can save water and what you need to make water safe for consumption if it was not available.

On your shopping list this week, purchase 1 bottle of water for each member of your family.
For a family of 5 and 1 dog I have calculated the amount to be 40 litres in the house. That would be for 1 week if there was no water at all. Watre in the stores comes with its own sell by date, so check what the length of storage is and then find a place to put it in your home that is accessible. Rotate.

Friday, March 16, 2007

For all mothers

Family by Jean-pierre Gack

This came in the mail today and I thought I would share it with you if you have never seen it before :


This is hysterical. If it had been presented this way, no
one would have done it!!!!

Mother, Mom, Mama, Mommy, Momma, Ma

Long term, team players needed, for challenging permanent work in an, often chaotic environment. Candidates must possess excellent communication and organizational skills and be willing to work variable hours, which will include evenings and weekends and frequent 24 hour shifts on call. Some overnight travel required, including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in far away cities. Travel expenses not reimbursed. Extensive courier duties also required.

The rest of your life. Must be willing to be hated, at least temporarily, until someone needs money. Must be willing to bite tongue repeatedly. Also, must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule and be able to go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds flat in case, this time, the screams from the backyard are not someone just crying wolf. Must be willing to face stimulating technical challenges, such as small gadget repair, mysteriously sluggish toilets and stuck zippers. Must screen phone calls, maintain calendars and coordinate production of multiple homework projects. Must have ability to plan and organize social gatherings for clients of all ages and mental outlooks. Must be willing to be indispensable one minute, an embarrassment the next. Must handle assembly and product safety testing of a half million cheap, plastic toys, and battery operated devices. Must always hope for the best but be prepared for the worst. Must assume final, complete accountability for the quality of the end product. Responsibilities also include floor maintenance and janitorial work throughout the facility.


Virtually none. Your job is to remain in the same position for years, without complaining, constantly retraining and updating your skills,so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you


None required unfortunately. On-the-job training offered on a continually exhausting basis.


Get this! You pay them! Offering frequent raises and bonuses. A balloon payment is due when they turn 18 because of the assumption that college will help them become financially independent. When you die, you give them whatever is left. The oddest thing about this reverse-salary scheme is that you actually enjoy it and wish you could only do more.


While no health or dental insurance, no pension, no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays and no stock options are offered; this job supplies limitless opportunities for personal growth and free hugs for life if you play your cards right.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Jam Today...Jam tomorrow

Raspberry Preserves by Mar Alonso
Raspberry Preserves

In answer to Gillybean’s comment :

Bread and Jam have been staples in our house for years. For many reasons, partly because we are addicted to sweet things ( as most people) and because it is such a simple snack. I have been making jams from our fruit harvest for years because I like rows and rows of it in my larder ( as any sugar addict will know, you like it to be available!) but also because it makes nice presents to give to others when I visit. Our favourites are raspberry, strawberry, blackberry and apple ,and plum ( of all sorts).. I did make marmelade last year but I usually make it for the older people in our village who no longer make it and have grown up with toast and marmelade.

The 3 rules to making jam are that you need a sugar concentration of 60 to 65%, a pectin content of 0.5 to 1 % and a PH of 2.8 to 3.4 ( acid).
That is the scientific rule. Jam is a good way of preserving fruit and although messy at times, quite fun to do too.

In addition you need jars and a preserving pan.

Jam is made up usually of about 65% sugar. There are sugar free spreads available on the market and fruitspreads which are not jam, but in order to make jam with other ingredients, such as honey.....? What would be the answer.

It is possible to make jam with less sugar but it requires more pectin. Much of that is commercial and chemical.

I tried to make some raspberry jam with less sugar, as pectin is high in raspberries but it was a bit tart! If you cut down on too much sugar, then you risk using not enough to preserve the fruit and could end up with a scientific mould experiment in the cupboard.

Honey can be used to replace sugar. Light, mild flavoured honey would be the best kind to use as the flavour is not likely to compete with the flavours of the fruit. In recipes without added pectin, honey can replace 50% of the sugar. When pectin is added, 2 cups of honey can replace 2 cups of sugar in most recipes; 3/4 to 1 cup sugar can be replaced by honey in recipes with a smaller yield, up to 6 half pints.
Ball Blue Book of preserving

In the USA pectin is available freely and my sister in law in Canada has been known to send me some for Christmas as a gift. Last year I tried Pomona Universal Pectin which is a natural pectin extracted from lemons. The jam is of course less sugary ( which did not appeal to the boys as yet) but I believe it is the only way currently to achieve a reduced sugar jam using pectin, honey, and you could also experiment with artificial sweeteners if you so wish.

My reason for reducing sugar and using honey is that honey, locally obtained, is a sweet product that as yet is untouched by chemicals ( apart from what the bees get as a byproduct). In addition to honey, the bees would pollinate the fruit trees and flowers and we would gain all around. ( That would be the principle behind it for me anyhow).
When the boys are older it certainly will bee ( ha) something that I will look into. We have a small copse area that could house some hives. To do that though I would have to overcome my squeamishness about bees and their stings and calm down an awful lot more into a relaxed lifestyle. Honey and beeswax have for centuries contributed to health and beauty products people made at home. Imported sugar was easier to obtain but it leaves a legacy of addiction which I have talked about previously and it travels many food miles to get to us.

I am working on producing a larder that has sufficient quantities of food in storage for 1 year for my family and the suggested amounts of preserves are as follows:

The family preparedness book by James Talmage Stevens suggests that an adult’s annual consumption in your larder of sugary goods should look something like this :

70 llbs of honey ( stores indefinitely)
10 lbs of sugar ( white, brown, maple)

Honey is sweeter than sugar and also has more calories per spoon than sugar.

Fruit and vegetables are preserved using canning and dehydration mainly.
Jam stores for 12 months. I have a rotation and bearing in mind that tastes change and fashions change, make far too much for the needs of my family. Outlets could be gifts, farmers markets or alternatively, making jam for others or reducing the amounts you make.

One of the gift baskets I make for Christmas is a Cream Tea basket which has the recipe and ingredients of scones, 2 pots of jam, a small table cloth and 2 napkins in a small basket. Sufficient for summer days, in the garden, at the beach or out on a picnic for 2.

The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday - but never jam today.
Lewis Carroll

Fishy Business

Stand Out
Stand Out

A few posts ago you may remember my neighbour T and I getting together to put in an order to wholefood net. It was a success although DH was expecting a wheelbarrow full of stuff to come back. When T phoned him to say it had arrived and he replied ‘ Oh yes, I’ll come with the wheelbarrow’ ( as I was away that weekend) he was rather stumped when she replied that she would be putting it all in the pushchair and wheel it around. To my defence, it is a double pushchair. Yes, the complete order was there, yes it fitted in the pushchair and was filed neatly away.
When I got back and phoned her to thank her, she apologised for having dubbed me in it with my DH. She had told him the price of the order and was sorry if he was expecting a wheelbarrow load and got a pushchair full.
She is forgiven and Dh knows that the stuff I bought is pricey anyhow if you buy it by the case, but cheaper in the long run.

To my surprise, T phoned today to see if I wanted to tag along on her fish order.
My reply:
Sounds lovely but would be fishy.....( joke) if DH found out you need the pushchair to make a fishy delivery ( will we live that one down!).
Joking apart its a lovely idea...let me know when you order something, might do a sample, I do fish but the others are not too keen. I blame the mother who made them fishsticks when they were younger and now has to pay the price of boys and men that do not like anything resembling natural consistency, heaven forbid if it actually has bones!

I feel very blessed by having good relationships both in the home and with my neighbours and......some people who share my sense of humour ( even if it is warped at times!)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Dig, dig......

Yesterday we tried making chocolate eclairs......the reason being that I had inadvertently bought a huge quantity of organic double cream. I have made Ice Cream which is yummy so wondered what else I could make that would not completely set us on the road to a heart attack. This one is left.....lonely but we all have had our fill of them.
This morning with sunny weather on the horizon, and having indulged yesterday there was only one thing to do.....exercise, wellies on and prepare the bed for the onions. Potatoes were planted out ( King Edward variety - I save some for planting in September in the polytunnel), and DH is still clearing the paths out there ( now why would that be, did he indulge more than me?). Bad bad for you these delicious thingies. Did I want to eat them or be size 12. ( Both but I did want to eat one after all that effort)

The beauty of downshifting is that we have a sense of humour and although we take life seriously, we probably don't in other ways.

Chocolate eclairs used to be a 'luxury' item we bought from time to time, but apart from hard graft of making the choux pastry, they can be made at home. Its very time consuming but then after that, you need an excuse to indulge in all that cream and chocolate.

chicken wisdom

It's Mine by Ans Van Dijk
It's Mine

The weather has been much kinder today, the chickens do not appear to be wading in mud, although the dust in the polytunnel is giving them a good time. ( I need to get Dh to brush the erarth back about every 2 days).
On the other hand, the longer daylight has put them in egg production. Despite the mess in the tunnel and their skipping around the garden, we appear to have happy healthy hens with a will of their own. With 36 eggs awaiting in the kitchen I have had a go at making ice cream today, which was fine but is not going to do very much for my cholesterol levels. ( Everything in moderation and it will have no hydrogenated fat and artificial sugars in it anyhow).

The sweetpea teepee has been built and the plants planted out, surrounded by crushed eggshells which I dried in the Aga over the last weeks. I dry them, then crush them with pestle and mortar and keep them in a tin until I go out and plant little seedlings, to ward off slugs. I have no idea whether it will work completely but I go out from the viewpoint that eggshell may act as a deterrent and is environmentally friendly.

A bit of weeding took place which gives my chickens some greenery and at least some interest. I am not really looking forward to having to pull their coop along every day, but then that is preferable to them picking my crop in the tunnel. ( I know they are not partial to broadbeans or parsley as they stay clear of that at least)...chicken wisdom.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The debate about ' saucisse!'

( its not rude!)
Dick's Sausage by Moore
Dick's Sausage

So why are we doing this in a big way lately.
I am a facilitator in many ways, and although farmers may be good at farming, they have got it wrong with regards to supermarkets. Our weekly food bill used to be ruled over what was available in the supermarket, and if they did not have it, then the argument would be that the consumer does not want it. What is more likely is the supermarket’s attitude, to coin a phrase

Do I look bothered?
As a consumer, I am making full use of my freedom of choice.

Today, was a landmark. We spent less in the supermarket than buying locally, which tips the balance in the right direction. I do not want potatoes from Egypt when they are available from Cornwall, I do not want carrots from Kenya and beans from South Africa, if I can wait and eat in season locally.( or the ones I froze from our garden).

The choice at the moment may appear limited, but I am learning every day step by step.
We had a sausage contest today. ( what, really I hear you say). I dare you to take the challenge and test your tastebuds. 6 sausages came on a plastic tray clingfilmed, the others were bunched together in a plastic bag with label saying, sausages, weight and dates.

The results were interesting :

I cooked 2 sorts of sausages together and asked the children to taste and give them a score out of 10. Here are the remarks :

No Mum, I can manage only 1 today, not 2.
They taste firmer and meatier.
They have taste
They are big.
No fat on my plate.

Supermarket saucisse ‘ 3 points’, local saucisse.......8 points.

So why only 8, well there is room for improvement. They are apparently too big for my consuming buds.

I have 4 sausages left over from usual quantities. ( those have to be the supermarket ones!)
The pan I grilled them in, had no sign of fat oozing out ( is it fat at all, I don’t know..please do not answer that I would rather not know now).
They were horrendously expensive compared with the supermarket’s sausages but if I say that I will only need half the quantity at double the price then we can call it quits I think. ( It all depends on your point of view).

I suppose what I am asking you is to make use of your intelligence and not to feel brainwashed by the slogans about ‘ its not just food.... etc’ it travels miles across the world to line their profit plates and not your tastebuds.
My local cheese producer also supplies the supermarket, it has a picture of him on the front, and when I saw that I wondered why I was not buying it direct. Australian Cheddar, zillion miles, local cheddar.....4 miles. Now which one would you go for?

To come back to farmers, if you are one, do tell us, do not get bullied or depressed by not being able to make a sustainable living, do not be dissuaded from sticking your head up and be proud of what you do, we are.
Local saucisse is on the menu again!, but less of it.

Another less is more success.

10 ways to healthy living

1 Use whole grain flours
If you are eating white bread, gradually change to brown flours or a combination of both. Consider making your own bread. Purchase the flour in bulk from wholefood, organic sources and if you want to invest in a grainmill to mill your own flour.

2. Drink and cook with pure water.
Our bodies are 75% water and we need at least eight glasses of pure water daily to cleanse away impurities and toxins. Chemical contamination of our water supply is increasingly being implicated in a wide range of degenerative medical disorders.

Chief among these contaminants is chlorine and trihalomethanes (by-products of chlorine
interaction in water). Over 1000 chemical contaminants have beenfound in our nation's drinking water supply. Most bottled water is reprocessed tap water and is even held to less regulation than tap water. In addition, it is much more expensive per gallon than a good filtration system and you need to deal with the plastic bottles. Use a filter to filter out some of these.

3. Eliminate refined sugars from your diet. Most of the convenience foods and cereals available in the supermarket are full of sugars and fats. Completely cutting out sugar cold, is dangerous as it is an addiction like any other that has the ability to change our brainchemistry, making us crave more and more sugary items. Many of the behaviours exhibited by children in schools are due to a drop in blood sugar levels due to a high of sugar followed by a low, which can cause depression. If you want to read more, you can find details on Katherine Demaisons site, potatoes not prozac.

4. Incorporate whole grain pasta and brown rice into your menus. Refined flour pasta and white rice adversely affect blood sugar just like refined white sugar. Whole grains used for many meals, including breakfast, are nutrient-dense with many essential vitamins and minerals and do not have the same effects on blood sugar as do refined flours.

5. Increase your consumption of fresh vegetables and fruits. Most nutrition experts
recommend five or more servings of fruits and vegetables per day. For some of us, this will take planning and effort. Offer 2 or 3 choices of vegetables with meals, make soups and fruitjuices to increase availability.

6. Eliminate hydrogenated fats from your diet. Did you know that most commercially
produced baked goods contain hydrogenated fats? The easiest way to eliminate or significantly reduce hydrogenated fats from your diet is to begin baking your own
whole grain breads, muffins, quick breads, cookies, and even crackers with quality ingredients.
7. Eliminate preservatives found in fruits, vegetables, cereals, and commercially baked goods.
Watch your labels, select organic when possible. Grow and preserve as many of your own produce as possible. Health and economy-minded cooks "can" or "dehydrate" whatever is in season year round, including their own soups!
8. Learn to prepare family meals from basic whole food ingredients to promote health and save money. Your taste buds will gradually adjust to the new healthier ways of eating . Keeping a weekly, monthly and yearly menu will show you what you used to eat and how you can introduce different ingredients and meal choices. Most of us use about 10 dishes and rotate those around. Check what is available locally and try something new each month, if its a success, add it to your menu, if not try something else.

9. Use lots of freshly extracted fruit and vegetable juices for a refreshing, nutritious beverage.
Drink two glasses a day for health maintenance and four glasses a day when you are sick or run

10. Reduce your use of fast food. Instead of getting commercially prepared pizza with its white flour, hydrogenated oils, etc., make your own and improvise with toppings. You could use the pizza parlour’s menu as inspiration. We recently had a pizza with roasted vegetables and goats cheese which was different and yummy. Not always does it need to be pepperoni or cheese and tomaotoe. Children love to decorate their own pizzas.

And the winner is.....

Thank you all for your input....the winner is Little Jenny Wren: if you would like to email me at journey dot bc at mac dot com, with postal details and your choice of book, that would ge great.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Which Austen heroine are you?

I am Elinor Dashwood!

Take the Quiz here!

I recently did an essay on the character analysis of Elizabeth Bennet of Pride and Prejudice, alas I am not she ( sigh!)

I do enjoy the books of Jane Austen which happen to take place in the beautiful english countryside I am surrounded with. Even downshifters can still escape with a book, especially on rainy days.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007


How do you turn frozen tomatoes into the contents of a tin of tomatoes?

Last year we had a bumper crop of tomatoes and a friend told me that if I did not have time to process them I could just pop them in the freezer in 1 lb bags. The price of a tin of tomatoes is very small and so far I have hesitated to use my frozen toms, but as I am clearing the freezer.....
It seemed a lot of hard work, and to some degree I am conditioned to use a tin of tomatoes.
Take the tomatoes out, pour boiling water over them ( this pops the skins right off), and then simmer until soft. If you want to sieve the end result and boil it down to a thicker consistency then you can. It worked great and had that home grown tomatoe flavour in my pasta sauce.
I am not short of tomatoes ( another 15 lbs await to be used up before the next harvest takes place but that is in July I guess).

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Downshifting week

An interview with Tracey Smith :
What is the story behind downshifting week ?
In 2002 my family traded a mad-rush lifestyle with limited family time, for a more peaceful, self-sufficient one. We work harder now than ever before, grow our own organic fruit and vegetables and raise chickens, ducks and guinea fowl for their eggs and the table. We live very simply and buy most things we need from the charity shop, with pride I might add!
The 3rd National Downshifting Week, an awareness campaign, takes place between Saturday 21st and Friday 27th April 2007 and is designed to help participants slow down and lean towards the green.

You are using different means this year to promote downshifting week, can you tell me how and why you came to this decision?

I’m promoting simple, green living and leaving as light a carbon-footprint as I can. I will be using public transport, Shanks’ pony and car sharing to get me to my destinations and if I physically can’t get somewhere, I’ll use another method to communicate my point!

We can be more effective in business if we travel less and focus our energy on getting our message across by another means, saving time, money and carbon emissions; corporate giants would do well to follow this lead, instead of flicking employees onto planes for 10 minute meetings.

Tracey will be using her local radio and TV studios, video conferencing, the Internet, email and the phone to spread the good, green word.

What can people do and how can we encourage children to take part ?

Everybody can slow down a gear and the benefits are endless; more time to spend with our children and loved ones, improved health, less stress, better food by cooking from fresh and supporting local producers, being just a few. Also, many enterprises are exploring energy/money saving ideas and investing it directly in their employees. Examples include encouraging unused equipment and lights to be turned off and having fresh local fruit in the lunch areas, or Fair Trade and organic beverages for tea breaks.

Simple communications technology can provide cost effective, eco-friendly solutions. It also keeps sole-driver ‘gridlockers’ off the road and gets people home to their families after a day in the office, not in the air.

Children are the leaders of the future and we should nurture sustainable attitudes for everyday activities, like composting, recycling, even volunteering in our communities.

National Downshifting Week’s slow down top tips are targeted at Individuals, Companies, Children and Schools and include: -

· Cut up a credit card - “Learning to live within our means is key to downshifting and positively embracing living with less is better still.”

· Plant something in the garden you can cultivate and eat - “Grow a few tomatoes or chillies on a windowsill if you have no garden; pesticide-free produce tastes amazing. It also breaks the myth that all food comes from the supermarkets!”

· Contact local food producers and re-think your vending machines at work – “Low mileage food and drinks and Fair Trade and Organic treats in the workplace…whatever next!”

· Book a half-day off work to spend with someone you love, no DIY allowed - “How can we have ‘quality time’ with great people, if we spend so much of it chasing the money? Money can’t buy you time.”

Monday, March 05, 2007

Carbon Gym

From time to time I check how our foot print is measured and measures up against the average Uk household and person.
Try out the carbongym which works out the amount of CO emissions you put in the atmosphere.

Reassuringly, we are doing about 20% of what the average person does which is a start.

I really enjoyed a sketch on the now show about transport and the fact that many people had added their name to the 10 Downing Street petition against road charges. If you have a chance you can catch up via the podcast or direct from radio 4.

Sally Lever's free newsletter has an interesting article about how to check that your business is sustainable.

If you’ve made the decision to live more sustainably and have left the Rat Race in order to set up in self-employment, it makes sense to incorporate sustainability into the new business plan. That way your business is run in alignment with your interests and values and working in it ultimately leads to a higher level of enjoyment, fulfilment and meaning.

So, what is a “sustainable business”? One official definition goes something like this:

“A Sustainable Business is a constituted organisation that takes full account of its triple bottom line – i.e. managing and contributing to social, environmental and economic improvements in its business practices.”

Simply put, a business’s “triple bottom line” can be expressed in terms of the three Ps – People, Planet, Profit, and, most importantly, in that order. So now, rather than taking the conventional view and running our business primarily for profit, we are running our business primarily for the welfare of society and of the environment as first priorities.

Let’s face it, for most of us there are a host of different ways in which we are capable of earning money, even if some of those ways, we believe, wouldn’t generate “enough” income for our current needs. When we set up our own businesses, hopefully there are reasons other than money and capability that prompt us to do so. These reasons form our Business Purpose and they stem from our Business Values. They are what’s most important to us in our business lives: the non-negotiable parts. Examples of business purposes might be “providing enjoyable education programmes for adults”, “helping others to improve their health”, “enhancing the lives of children/the elderly/new parents”, “making marketing ethical and easy”.

Let’s look at the elements of the triple bottom line in more detail:


Think about all of the people who are involved with your business. Even if you don’t directly employ anyone else, who else do your actions affect? Who else does your business depend on? Your answer might well include your suppliers, your clients, your associates and colleagues. A sustainable business treats all of these people in a way that’s in keeping with its business purpose and sustainability, for example, by employing staff who live locally and sourcing from local suppliers. You could reduce your clients’ needs to travel by providing your products and services local to them rather than centralised wherever possible.


Many of you will be familiar with the term “Reduce, Re-Use, Re-cycle”. Maybe you are not aware that those instructions are stated in order of priority. That is, it is more important for us to reduce our consumption than it is to re-use items and re-using items is more important than re-cycling our waste. So, uppermost in the sustainable business owner’s mind will be minimising the negative impact on the planet of running that business by reducing consumption of energy, fuel, water and toxic substances.


Just because profit has now been relegated to third in the business’s bottom line does not make it any less important as a concept. For a business to be sustainable in the sense of growing and surviving long term it will need to generate a profit (unless it was set up as a not-for-profit organisation.) What the triple bottom line does is to remind us to keep profit generation in perspective with the other elements. With our business accounts, as with our personal finances, if we keep our costs to a minimum and minimise our consumption, the income we need to generate to cover our costs and pay ourselves is reduced.

To help you in your business planning, Sally has produced a “Sustainable Business Checklist."

Friday, March 02, 2007

peace- deep peace

Peace - Unknown

Butterfly Bush by Casey

I am off for a residential weekend with my course which will be centring on the transpersonal and spiritual aspects of our lives. For many people this will be a personal relationship with their spiritual leader in one form or another, a relationship with their beloved.
In today’s society where speed and technology reign, it can be difficult to find a moment of quiet in which we can access that ‘ peace that passes understanding’. I have made full use of knitting as a pain relief method and I do believe that when I knit, all my senses are engaged and my thinking process is disengaged and can have a peaceful moment. I can get quiet in my mind, I can drift off with lovely soft yarn in my hands, following a rhythmic noise of clicking needles or the whirring of the spinning wheel. It could be on a similar par with meditation and mantras.

I do believe that the resurgence of knitting and the addiction to yarn and making our own clothing stems from a desire deep within to access that connection to our creativity, to earth and to that spiritual part of us that no mobile phone has access to.
Breathe deeply, relax and cast on.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Garden update

The only way to spend some time in the garden is by being in the polytunnel. Apart from a slightly cold temperature this morning, wrapped up I can see there is some progress with my seedlings.
To the left are the lettuce seedlings, middle is onion seed where nothing seems to be happening fast and then last one is the onion bulbs.
I also am waiting with anticipation for the potatoes to push through and the broad beans are about to flower.
The reason I plant seeds in guttering is that the black plastic warms up and acts as a sort of mini heater underneath. When I am ready to transplant, I can slide the plantlets out and they end up being neatly in a row ( with some help from my DH).
I am waiting to get my seed order for tomatoe plants and this year will be growing alicante and sungold only. I have not been successful with the large beefsteak tomatoes. To be fair I also still have about 15 packs of frozen tomatoes in the freezer and need to get on with making sauce when my recipes call for a tin of tomatoes.

Lent give away

In a previous post I mentioned that lent was about being generous.
Its still raining so I am feeling generous.....
The book I want to give away is a choice between :
Live Well on Less than you think by Fred Brock


Soothing Soaps by Sandy Maine.

To take part, all you have to do is leave me a comment about what generous thing you are doing during lent. The draw will take place on 7th March 2007, so you have about a week to have a go.

I will then draw the winner and post all the generous things you are doing.