Monday, July 30, 2007


There is not a single thing you HAVE to do, but there is a whole host of to dos that might need doing when the sun shines.

The polytunnel is steaming and there is a real difference in the health of the plants. The cats and dog are out on the lawn, soaking up rays.....and there is a feeling that this is a precious moment. I am therefore not going to delay and take my book out there and sit in the shade, soaking up the warmth and goodness. I am not a pessimist by nature but boy have I missed the warmth in last few weeks. Off with the sweaters, back in shorts and T'shirt. In which other country can you currently experience all 4 seasons in one month? And best of all there is the laundry to catch up with..... I off to watch the laundry dry.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

10 ways to find time

Ribbons of Time by Flavia Weedn
Ribbons of Time

The link between time and reality is insoluble. We can divorce ourselves from time only by undoing reality, or from reality only by undoing the sense of time. Categorical time is measured by clocks and calendars; existential time is that which is experienced, lived in, rather than observed.

Mann, J Time-Limited Psychotherapy ( 1973:4)

I recommend you to take care of the minutes, for hours will take care of themselves" Philip Dormer Stanhope - 4th Earl of Chesterfield Letters to His Son

How can you simplify time? What we have in common is that we all have 24 hours per day, our perception of time may be different but we have the same slice. How can you find more time?

1. Check out what is taking your time, what obligations, debts, relationships, clutter is taking up your time and stopping you from using available time to do the things you enjoy?
2. Scale down your possessions : everything you own costs money, space and time to
maintain, clean and store. If the items do not give you joy, declutter and give them away to charity, freecycle and relieve yourself of the time consumed in engaging with the
3. Change your shopping habits. When you are next in the shop wanting to buy something,
look at what it is, where will you store it, what will you do with the bags etc. Does it add to your time for joy or rob you of time and space that you could be using for something else. ( If you want a lovely new car, think about the debt, the garage space, the petrol bills, your ecological footprint...give it a test drive, get the feeling and leave it alone!).
4. Turn off the TV. On average people watch 20 hours per week. Why are you watching it? be selective and use your time for what you want to. Change the TV habit, it will save energy and reduce your temptations to purchase other items.
5. Start to say no. Much of the subscriptions to magazines, social clubs, gym membership, music lessons, committee you still want to give it your energy and time
commitment. I learnt about the assertive no......Thank you for thinking of me, but no thank you.
6. Get yourself off the junkmail list and reduce clutter on your email computer. Add anti
spam measures, create inbox files and ensure that you spend time reading what you want. Use email subscriptions to blogs to save you having to find the websites. Join
downshiftingpath by email if you enjoy the posts. Incoming junkmails, means you spend
time reading it, then disposing of the envelopes, put it in the paper recycling and then have
to carry it to the roadside, Stop it coming in and you not only save time but the planet.
7. Check the storage space you have in the house. Thinking you want a bigger house usually means you are not making full use of what is available.
8. Do not put off now what you can do.....if you commit it to the future you are robbing time in the future. Do it now or plan how much time you are prepared to give the task.
9. Ask for help. life can be chaotic but when you feel time is running out, ask friends and neighbours for help. You might get a no thank you, but most people have individual skills to offer. If you hate painting but you are a great cook, invite your friends to paint your room and give them a slap up meal in return. Do what gives you joy and ask for help. We all like to be valued.
10. Change the way you talk. The beliefs you hold and language you use create your reality. If you say that you cannot do things or that you are always in chaos, nothing will change. You can do it, you can get help with it, you can plan to change your language, your beliefs and your reality. Spend time wisely and let it bring you joy.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Life...for a limited period only


The importance of relationships with your neighbours and the community you live in is ever important when everything is going allright in your life, but when it is not, they can be a vital lifeline.
In my community people keep a distance generally, we say hello and we talk, but when an emergency happens within the community, some invisible task force unites and starts to work.Its something I admire in the British stiff upper lip society, in an emergency, they work very very hard to get every possible resource mobilised and do not generally give up easily.

My friend's partner was in a car accident, was given first aid by a kind lady in the community, then airlifted to hospital with major injuries. Support arrived very quickly at her side to accompany her on the long wait in the waiting room. At her home, plans were made for laundry to be taken care of, animals to be cared for so that she could concentrate on the priority at that moment, being with her partner and spending time together.
Life is precious and I ,like many others ,do not enjoy being reminded of it. In the midst of pain and tragedy, quietly in the background, unassumingly, the community help with small tasks to take on some of the seamingly trivial tasks to hand. Its worth investing in.

Life....for a limited period only.....engage while you can and engage with the community around you. If not now, for when the going gets tough. Sometimes it does not get tougher than this.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Energy-part 3

Close-up of Washing Machines in a Laundromat
Close-up of Washing Machines in a Laundromat

The next step has been to look at all the other appliances that are plugged in the majority of the time.

I was surprised to note that the microwave was used for about 3 mins per day but was on standby with clock for the rest of the time. Apparently it uses up 98% of energy when it is on standby so we have unplugged it and only switch it on when needed. It is cumbersome as it asks you to reset the time but as with everything, this can be learnt automatically in about 3 moves by non geeks too.

The washing machine is always in operation with a household of 5 and you can make savings by :
  • selecting the lowest temperature - i.e. 40degrees is sufficient
  • selecting short washing times where possible.
  • soaking heavily soiled items overnight and then washing at low temperatures.
  • Dry clothes on a line in the fresh air.
Dishwashers - opt for a cooler setting and use when absolutely full to the brim. Check the type of cleaner you use. We use ecover.

Any appliance you buy should have an energy label on it and you can check energy saving recommended products on the energy savings trust website.

DVD's, digiboxes, TV's and other items on standby will consume energy and if you can , switch them off when not used. Again there is a device for this if you want a gadget, its called the power saver and switches it off for you with just enough energy to reset it by remote.

For computers, there is handy gadget called the intelliplug which shuts off all printers and other items connected to your computer when you shut it down.

If you have no idea how much each appliance uses, you could use the wireless sensor called the electrisave.

I do not advocate buying any of these products in an effort for you to save energy as I believe that some actions using your digits and brain can achieve similar effects but if you want to use gadgets to perform these tasks then it will cost you. The choice is yours.

Action today is to check any other electrical items plugged in and make a comparison with costs and usage. Choose to unplug those that are non our case the microwave is the favourite item for this action.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pruning tomatoes

Podchef mentioned this on his last podcast and I wondered what the science was behind pruning tomatoes and whether it would have an effect. The weather has been so dark that although we have managed to get some fruit on the vines, it is time to get them to ripen and for that the need light and heat. Pruning made sense.

Detailed instructions on the science behind it and how to prune your tomatoes can be found here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Blogpoll update and downshifting bookclub

Thank you to all who participated. The majority of you seem happy with the way things are, followed by wanting more posts about reducing your ecological footprint. I will do a poll from time to time, dear reader, to keep you informed.

I also want to say a big thank you to the readers who leave comments and expand the conversation. It can feel like a monologue sometime so its nice when you add your experiences to it.

This summer's read is going to be How to be Free by Tom Hodgkinson available in the downshifting bookstore.

Its emphasis is on questioning why it is we go to work and how we can free our personalities from the drudgery we have bought into. Its compelling reading so far!

Have you ever wondered why you bother to go to work? Why so much of consumer culture is crap? Whether there might be a better, freer, happier way to live our lives? If so, this book is for you. Following up his cult bestseller "How To Be Idle", Tom Hodgkinson takes us on an inspirational journey towards true freedom and happiness. Read "How To Be Free" and learn how to throw off the shackles of anxiety, bureaucracy, debt, governments, housework, moaning, pain, poverty, ugliness, war and waste, and much else besides. ( Amazon)

Monday, July 23, 2007

Energy - part 2 the fridge freezer

Granma's Kitchen II
Granma's Kitchen II

It continues to rain and so my efforts are focussed inside the house instead of the garden. The weekend offered us one day of dry weather in which we tried to tackle the weeds with some amount of success. I am still thinking about all the people whose homes are flooded and those who are dealing with the aftermath of the flashfloods.

This weekend and last week I have been measuring the amount of units we use and to explore ways of changing that.
I found out that when the children are at home, electricity demand doubles. As it was raining and playing cricket was definitely out of the question, I observed what was going on in the household.

  • the TV was on most of the time, as well as a playstation and computer.
  • DH used the washing machine a lot and then dried everything in the drier.
  • The children had little idea what could be done otherwise.
  • DS 1 was not on the computer as he was engrossed in the latest Harry Potter novel.

I concluded that we are still a long way off making progress and that any rainy day beckons us all to fall back into the comfort zone of eating KWH of energy.

How can we reduce our energy requirements? It needs some more investigation.

The lightbulbs have all been changed and there is a limit to the reduction I can make ( especially if the weather is so unseasonal).
The outside chest freezer has been out of action for the last 2 months so I looked at our fridge freezer in the kitchen as well as the microwave that stands there idle most of the time.

Fridge Freezer:
Is on all the time and consumes on a regular basis. I could reduce the amount of energy used by:
  • ensuring that the doors are closed most of the time
  • the freezer is defrosted at regular intervals
  • clean the fridge on the inside. (A perfect job to do on a rainy day I hear you say)
  • clean the elements at the back of the fridge freezer.

In addition I could fit a savaplug which has a sensor that reduces the amount of electricity needed by as much as 20%. There are certain models not compatible with this so it is worth checking out if yours does. ( with the manufacturer or windtrap) The cost of a savaplug is between £ 19.99 and £ 22.00. One possible source to purchase one from is windtrap.( who by the way show pictures of what to do when the kit arrives....need you know any more).

The SavaPlug is an award-winning plug, developed in conjunction with the Department of Energy. When fitted it helps fridges and freezers run more economically by adjusting the electricity supply according to the motor's needs.

This is how it works: When the thermostat on your fridge or freezer switches on the motor to pump the refrigerant around the system, full power is required to start the motor. However, once the motor is running, full power is no longer needed. Most fridges and fridge-freezers just keep right on at full power though.

The SavaPlug senses this and reduces the flow of electricity to match the motor’s actual requirements. They’re easy to fit, you simply replace the existing 13A plug on the appliance, and by doing so you will make typical savings in electricity running costs of 20% (for domestic appliances). It’s particularly effective on larger and older models, and you can tell it’s working as it has a red light on it which glows as savings are being made. Over half a million SavaPlugs are already in use, saving money and helping the environment by reducing CO2 emissions. The SavaPlug is British made with solid state technology and comes with a 10 year guarantee. Savings amount to around £120 over its life. Not a bad investment - as well as over a tonne of CO2

Action for today : check model of fridge for compatibility with the savaplug order savaplug clean fridge freezer by defrosting it, cleaning the inside and taking the dust of the element at the back.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The day after the rain

The UK has been battered by rainfall. in some places about 4 inches of rain has fallen in one day.
There are wide reports of people stranded in their cars, others not able to use public transport as the country in places has come to a standstill.

It should be summer and yet, this feels like September/October weather. I do not need any further proof that the climate is changing and out of whack. It works to a certain extent but not as you would want it, its not smooth and any change has an effect on other biosystems.

If you have been affected by flood, the environment agency's website offers a lot of information and advice on how to prepare, a list of how to deal with the aftereffects etc.

On the 27th June Sheffield was struck by floods and the following film gives you and indication of the scale of damage caused.......yesterday was similar and again in the same areas of the UK as well as Wales.

Here we have just had an aftermath of rain. We are situated higher up but the garden and land are simply not coping well with the amount of water cascading down. The reservoirs are full.
The french beans in the garden are awash with little snails and large snails as all animals are aiming for higher ground. The tomatoes in the polytunnel are not really progressing as the temperature is at 17 degrees and would usually be in the region of 23.

There is still plenty to harvest, but the aftereffects of this rain will be felt in all areas of production in the Uk and result in price increases. Insurance for flooding will become more expensive. Last year we had a heatwave at this time, this year, we are awash with water.

Not all news is negative, my beetroots are giant as where last year they were tiny and hard inside due to lack of water. It is at this time that I believe that canning and preserving makes sense, not every harvest can be guaranteed and maybe we are getting back to having to live with uncertainty about our food production. It therefore makes sense to look at what is available locally and create relationships with local producers, harvest what you can and preserve it in ways that are not dependent on electriciy alone. When flood strikes, there is no electricity and no mains services....they too are affected.

How prepared are you?

Friday, July 20, 2007


The family gathered to the hearing.........after Mum had announced that cereals bought in the shop would be killed off. Gasps and screams were heard in the kitchen as all gathered around to hear the case being presented:

Mum : I bring before you today, a list of reasons why I am no longer prepared to buy cereals in boxes from the shop and why I want to introduce a different breakfast variety called chompers muesli. ( faces look glum......)

Cereals in boxes have a high salt content and sugar content plus a whole host of other added ingredients. The making of these cereals and bringing it to the table, involves a lot of processes and food miles, although this is not the only criteria.

Exhibit 1 is the article by the Green Parent about advertising, foodmiles, additives etc.

Exhibit 2 offers details of the ingredients in a cereal against the recommended daily intake of sugar, fat, salt etc.

Sugar addiction is common in children and adults and when you become addicted to sugar, you want more and cannot help yourself. What is the link between sugar addiction, behaviour and weight? Kathleen Desmaisons offers information of how being sugar sensitive can change your brain chemistry.

When you are addicted to sugar, you are likely to eat more of it, lining not only the producers profits but also adding a sizeable chunk of weight to your body. As your body continues to transform sugar into fat and is continuously adjusting to the high sugar content you are giving it to work with, the body's own sugar production regulator , the pancreas( the organ that produces and regulates insulin), starts to malfunction. ( If you were the pancreas and your job is to produce insulin and the person just keeps adding sugar, would you bother making insulin?)Although sugar consumption is not directly linked to diabetes, obesity is.

DS2 - But I like sugary foods and how am I going to change?
Mum: If you change gradually you are not likely to feel deprived. I am not currently asking you to give up sugary cereals all together, I am bringing it to your attention and asking you to think about what other alternatives there are.
DS2: What is in that bowl?
Mum: I have made a muesli recipe, which I am going to call chompers muesli for you to try. Its sweet and it has other ingredients in it. I want you to test it and see what happens to your sugar rushes, your energy during the day and you come back and tell me what is happening.
DS3 : I am going to try some now. Whats in it?
Mum : Good question...what is in it. You ask me what is in it because it looks different and has things in that you do not know about, do you ask the same question when you open the packet of sugary cereal?
DS2 : Well no, we trust that its OK because we know it, have been eating it for a long time.
Mum: I understand you reasoning, why you trust what it says on the cereal packet, but should you?
DS3 : Do they lie then?
Mum : Well no, they are giving a lot of information on food labels but I am not sure that many people pay attention to it. Why eat 14% of your sugar requirement in a small bowl of cereal, look at the weight, lets weigh the amount they talk about.
DS2: Wow, thats a small amount, I eat more than that.
DS3: What is the green stuff in the cereal?
Mum : Pumpkin seeds
DS3: What do they do?
Mum : Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of minerals.
DS3: Its OK Mum, but it takes ages to chew this cereal.
Mum : Let me tell you about the digestive system.
DS2 : I think I will have more toast in the future.
Mum : I am not asking you to change overnight but I am asking you to think about what you eat, why you eat it and whether you can make choices about that.

The jury is out........and the cereal killer is awaiting a fair trial.

Ingredients for chompers muesli:
pumpkin seeds
maple syrup

Thursday, July 19, 2007


The colours purple, pink, lavender and white permeate the garden here at downshifthingpath and one of my favourite occupations is to sit and watch the butterflies visit the buddleias. I think its a red admiral, not sure as I am only just discovering the beauty of these creatures,

Downshiftingpath- readers poll

Its a conversation, and I am interested in what you would like to read on this blog, so now's your chance dear reader, please add your voice.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


In order to keep things simple and to make the reading easy on your eye, I have made a few changes. It feels lighter to me, more open . Let me know what you think.

Also added :
  • you can now subscribe by feeder - press feeder button
  • you can now subscribe by email and get updated direct in your inbox

Zucchini cookies

Zucchine by Claudia Ancilotti

Its still raining and the water content is making the courgettes or zucchini ( I prefer that name) to swell at abandon in the polytunnel.
One of the new commitments I made in this varied lifestyle is to engage in my relationships with friends and family and to share the abundance we enjoy here, in a variety of ways.( also per blog)
The day therefore started with picking some green beans for freezing. I do a walkabout every day to check what is getting ready for harvesting and dream of the many gardeners in the past, who worked big gardens next to country homes. They would have picked fresh produce in the morning and then brought it to the cook in the kitchen. The cook would then go to work and create some masterpieces to feed the family out of what had been provided. Only difference here is that we live in a small cottage, smaller kitchen garden and I fulfill both roles of gardener and cook, but that has its advantages.

I found a cucumber, some more green beans and some zucchini. I packed it all in a small basket and decided to add some zucchini cookies. ( please do not pass judgement yet on these....they are not too bad).

If you are at a loss what to do with the many courgettes your garden produces, or simply have no idea what to do with them, check out the varied selection of recipes on the net. You would be next recipe is definitely going to be the zucchini lasagne with walnuts.

The boys did not really see the green bits in would have been commented on.

Zucchini cookies

Its not precise so you will have to be creative and start judging as I do not weigh the courgettes....

1 cup. grated zucchini, undrained
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup. sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 egg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup of flour...keep adding until it has drop consistency.
1 cup raisins
Mix above ingredients together in large bowl. Sift together the following dry ingredients and add to first mixture. 1 tsp. cinnamon 1/2 tsp. cloves 1/2 tsp. salt
Stir well and add flour and 1 cup raisins. Drop by teaspoon on baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until light brown. Makes about 2 dozen.

I travelled to see my friend, visited the wholefood shop for some supplies so that I can make our own crunchy muesli, the recipe of which I shall share with you soon. It was such a pleasure to share some goodness from the garden and some items made by hand. Cost me very little as in the past I would have brought a bunch of flowers or some chocolates. We shared a salad and it felt good.

Back home I was greeted with an empty tin ( they did not spot the green bits after all) and a request for a chocolate cake for the school picnic tomorrow ( as apparently the teacher was told that my cakes are 'legend'). DH also informed me that he has nominated me to be the ' green' school yes I would say, my life is changing. It is taking shape in a completely different way than I had imagined, but in a good way.

Energy - part 1

Wind Turbines at Sunset, Caithness, Scotland by Iain Sarjeant
Wind Turbines at Sunset, Caithness, Scotland

I want to go back today to the post about 90% cut in CO2 emissions and elaborate a bit on a the energy section .

. Electricity. Average UK usage is 4900 kwh PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR,( it is 11,000 KWH per household in the USA) . 80% reduction would mean using 81 kwh PER HOUSEHOLD PER MONTH
• Solar Renewables are deemed to have a 50% payback - that is, you get twice as many watts.
• Hydro and Wind are deemed to have a 4 to 1 payback over other methods - you get 4 times as many.

Where to start to figure this thing out ?
Our current supplier gives us an accurate picture of the energy we are consuming on a daily basis which has gone down from 20 units per day to 16 units per day on average. In percentage terms that means that we have cut 20% so far through awareness and changing the lightbulbs. We still consume more than the average household at 5840 units.

The breakdown of the average energy consumption in the Uk would be :
5% cooking
13% lights and appliances
25% water heating
57% spaceheating

The home energy check goes through detail by detail and then provides you with a report on what could be done. ( Mine had an error in it so am still waiting for the info). Looking at the 10 tips does not give me any further confirmation of what I could change that has not been changed already.

The carbon emission calculator is pretty and should give you an idea of where you are and how much you need to change. Our foot print is lower than average. I am confused by it all now.

For grants and offers on more energy efficient heating and insulation you can go visit warmfront and see if you qualify for a grant.

The next step after that is the low carbon buildings programme where you can get a grant towards fitting solar panels or windturbines to your property.

Back to the calculation and the target of reducing energy consumption by 80%. The easiest option to increase the target amount times 4 is to change to renewable energy. That would bring the total amount we use to 3888 or an average of 10 units per day. I'll stick to that as my target then.

Where would you go to change to renewable energy? ( for Northern Ireland) ( juice from npower)

or visit the green energy marketplace
electricity ino at
socially equitable electricity available from

Climate change blogs

The low carbon kid
David T is a novelist and environmental journalist. His blog is about fighting climate change without supporting nuclear power. Writes extensively about renewable energy technologies.

Climate Change Action
Calvin Jones writes extensively on climate change, global warming, environmental, greenhouse effect, Kyoto protocol, aviation, sustainable development, climate change mitigation and more.

Climate ark / blog
The Climate Ark is an Internet search tool and blog that provides access to reviewed climate change, global warming and renewable energy conservation news, information retrieval tools, and original analysis and action opportunities.

World Climate Report
The web's longest running climate change blog. Gives detailed and fascinating synopsis of climate change, which is both accessible and informed.

We are already on renewable energy tariff and I will need to monitor the amount we use and how I can reduce our dependency on that. This is not going to go away and will need some action.

Today's action : check your energy consumption and change to a green tariff

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Waste reduction

One of the contradictions about reducing waste is that if you are going to declutter your home, you are actually going to compound the problem of dealing with waste as you will be adding to the pile going out.

Yesterday's post about 80% reduction makes it all sound overwhelming and yet we still have the opportunity to reduce the waste we have in our homes, while in the future at some point, it will be an obligation with penalties for those who do not.

Some points on how we reduce waste :
1. Stop adding stuff in the house ( it has to leave somewhere). Monitor what you are actually bringing in the house. Today, I have managed to bring back a book.......its relevant and I will recycle it, but nevertheless I am adding to stuff by the things I bring in.
2.Before disposing of anything in the dustbin, think about what can be reused or recycled.
If you spend some time analysing what is in your bin, it will give you a clue how you can source alternatives and the usual stuff you accumulate.
3. Look at the packaging you bring in, and the plastic bags you accumulate ;shop using cotton bags, paper bags and boxes, as well as baskets. Supermarkets will be bringing in a charge for bags in the future ( already happening in other countries). I reuse my plastic bags as inner rubbish bags in small bins but we need biodegradable bags if anything. Newspaper can be used as binliners as it is compostable. Shopping locally can be done in baskets.
4. Milk bottles are a difficult thing to deal with and we have had difficulty changing to a milk delivery in glass bottles ( easy when you live in town, not so easy in the countryside). I still get milk but in the largest bottle possible, then go and recycle it in the recycling centre).
5. If you need to buy something in packaging, go for the type that can be recycled, glass, tin, plastic, aluminium etc. On the base of the item it should give you an indication as to whether it is recycleable. Avoid anything that is plastic wrapped.
6. We compost all our green matter, grass clippings, chicken bedding, and a variety of other things in the 4 compost bins we have. Recently I added some worms to it to make it go down faster and yes, with a little help of the worms the compost is looking richer and quickly decomposes.
7. The chickens deal with leftover bread, grains, pasta, some overgrown cabbages and lettuces and in return get some extra nutrients for their egg production. They seem happy enough. The litter I use is straw and that gets added to the compost heaps on a regular basis.
8. Eggshells, get dried and then used against slugs and snails in the garden.
9. Cooked food and kitchen scraps are put in the two bokashi bins we have and I have dedicated one of the compost bins to be the bokashi bin with a view that it will be incorporated in the earth when we add it to the raised beds.
10. Some of the leftover veggies are given to the dog. She is always willing to eat anything that is leftover.
11. Catlitter is made out of recycled woodpellets and is compostable over time. I have a fourth compost heap that is for any weeds and other items I am not sure just stays out for the elements a lot longer.
12. Despite all this we still need to do more. Paper, tins, plastic, etc it all gets sorted at home so it does not end up in the landfill.
13. We give away, regift, create other things with what we have, freecycle, swap and generally look at dealing with our stuff in sensible ways.
14. We cut down trees for logs, smaller branches for kindling, the rest gets shredded as mulch for the flowerbeds.
15. Old wood gets recycled in creative ways ( wood pallets make good compost bins) and any useless wood gets taken to the recycling centre or simply burnt in the woodstove).
16. Old plastic buckets make good containers to grow things in : small yoghurt pots with holes can serve as small pots to grow plants in. Or you can make a bell with birdfood inside too.

It could go on.....if you have any unusual recycling ideas....leave a comment and share your knowledge.

There is still too much stuff. Whenever I want to put anything different in the bin, I check what parts can be recycled. It takes time and effort and yet in the future I can envisage a time when we will have to pay for the amount of rubbish that we create.

If you want purpose made containers and other recycling stuff you can check out

Monday, July 16, 2007

Downshifting book Club June

No response from any of you about this. A good review of Duane Elgin's book Voluntary Simplicity can be found here.

I enjoyed this book, a bit technical in places but the way he positions voluntary simplicity as a lifestyle is important.

80% reduction in CO emissions

Simple living reuse and reduce have started in June to reduce their emissions to 90% of what the average american uses. I have copied Sharon's text and made amendments where possible. Go check out how she is doing.

As a way of comparing what we can achieve, we have decided to join the experiment and comment on how its going here in the UK. We may be deluding ourselves that we are reducing our emissions and yet it is useful to continue on this path and support eachother.

I have therefore taken Sharon’s list and worked on 80% reduction. Not all figures are available so if you can add to them in any way, feel free.

1. Transport and petrol/diesel consumption
The amount of miles driven by a car is averaged at 10,000 miles per year. An 80% reduction would reduce that to 2000 miles per year. That is a tough target when you live in the country but I am going to check it out and report back on how we are doing with that one.

2. Electricity. Average UK usage is 4900 kwh PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR,( it is 11,000 KWH per household in the USA) . 80% reduction would mean using 81 kwh PER HOUSEHOLD PER MONTH
• Solar Renewables are deemed to have a 50% payback - that is, you get twice as many
• Hydro and Wind are deemed to have a 4 to 1 payback over other methods - you get 4
times as many.
3. Heating and Cooking Energy - this is divided into 3 categories, gas, wood and oil. Your household probably uses one of these, and they are not interchangeable. If you use an electric stove or electric heat, this goes under electric usage.
• Natural Gas (this is used by the vast majority of US households as heating and cooking
fuel). For this purpose, Propane will be calculated as the same as natural gas. Calculations
in therms should be available from your gas provider.
• UK Average Natural Gas usage is 20500 KWH gas PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR. An
80% reduction would mean a reduction to 4100KWH PER HOUSEHOLD PER YEAR
• Heating Oil . I cannot find any figures for the Uk so if you do, let me know. I am making a
guestimate here ( we do not have oil in this house)
• Average US usage is 500 Gallons PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR. A 80% cut would mean
using 100 gallons PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR. Biodiesel is calculated as equivalent.
• Wood. This is a tough one. The conventional line is that wood is carbon neutral, but, of
course, wood that is harvested would have otherwise been absorbing carbon and
providing forest. There are good reasons to be skeptical about this. So I’ve divided wood
into two categories.
• Locally and sustainably harvested, and either using deadwood, trees that had to come
down anyway, coppiced or harvested by someone who replaces every lost tree. This is
deemed carbon neutral, and you can use an unlimited supply. This would include street
trees your town is taking down anyway, wood you cut on your property and replant,
coppiced wood (that is, you cut down some part of the tree but leave it to grow), and
standing and fallen deadwood. You can use as much of this as you like.
• Wood not sustainably harvested, or transported long distances, or you don’t know.
1 cord of this is equal to 15 gallons of oil or 20 therms of natural gas.

4. Rubbish collection - the average UK generates about 1.64kg of garbage PER PERSON, PER DAY. An 80% reduction would mean 328g of garbage PER PERSON, PER DAY.
5. Water. The Average American uses 100 Gallons of water PER PERSON, PER DAY. A 90% reduction would mean 10 gallons PER PERSON, PER DAY. No idea on the UK average so I am going to stick with the American average here and limit it to 8 gallons per person per day ( in our household that would be 40 gallons)
6. Consumer Goods. The best metric Sharon could find for this is using money. A Professor at Syracuse University calculates that as an average, every consumer dollar we spend puts .5 lbs of carbon into the atmosphere. This isn’t perfect, of course, but it averages out pretty well.
The average American spends 10K PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR on consumer goods, not including things like mortgage, health care, debt service, car payments, etc… Obviously, we recommend you minimize those things to the extent you can, but what we’re mostly talking about is things like gifts, toys, music, books, tools, household goods, cosmetics, toiletries, paper goods, etc… A 90% cut would be 1,000 dollars PER HOUSEHOLD, PER YEAR ( 80% cut therefore is £ 400 per year per household in the UK)
• Used goods are deemed to have an energy cost of 10% of their actual purchase price. That is, if you buy a used sofa for $50, you just spent $5 of your allotment. The reason for this is that used goods bought from previous owners put money back into circulation that is then spent on new goods. This would apply to Craigslist, Yardsales, etc… but not goodwill and other charities, as noted below. This rule does not apply if you know that the item would otherwise be thrown out - that is, if someone says, “If you don’t buy it, I’m going to toss it.” Those items are unlimited as well, because they keep crap out of landfills.
• Goods that were donated are deemed to be unlimited, with no carbon cost. That is, you can spend all you want at Goodwill and the church rummage sale. Putting things back into use that would otherwise be tossed should be strongly encouraged.

I am going to go with this and find a way of reporting the facts for the downshifting household. I will need to put my thinking hat on that one.

7. Food. Sharon says : This was by far the hardest thing to come up with a simple metric for. Using food miles, or price gives what I believe is a radically inaccurate way of thinking about this. So here’s the best I can do. Food is divided into 3 categories.
#1 is food you grow, or which is produced *LOCALLY AND ORGANICALLY* (or mostly - it doesn’t have to be certified, but should be low input, because chemical fertilizers produce nitrous oxide which is a major greenhouse contributor). Local means within 100 miles to me. This includes all produce, grains, beans, and meats and dairy products that are mostly either *GRASSFED* or produced with *HOME GROWN OR LOCALLY GROWN, ORGANIC FEED.* That is, chicken meat produced with GM corn from IOWA in Florida is not local. A 90% reduction would involve this being AT LEAST 70% of your diet, year round. Ideally, it would be even more. I also include locally produced things like soap in this category, if most of the ingredients are local.
#2 is is *DRY, BULK* goods, transported from longer distances. That is, *whole, unprocessed* beans, grains, and small light things like tea, coffee, spices (fair trade and sustainably grown *ONLY*), or locally produced animal products partly raised on unprocessed but non-local grains, and locally produced wet products like oils. This is hard to calculate, because Americans spend very little on these things (except coffee) and whole grains don’t constitute a large portion of the diet. These are comparatively low carbon to transport and produce. Purchased in bulk, with minimal packaging (beans in 50lb paper sacks, pasta in bulk, tea loose, by the pund, rather than in little bags), this would also include things like recycled toilet paper, purchased garden seeds and other light, dry items. This should be no more than 25% of your total purchases.
# 3 is Wet goods - conventionally grown meat, fruits, vegetables, juices, oils, milk etc… transported long distances, and processed foods like chips, soda, potatoes. Also regular shampoo, dish soap, etc… And that no one should buy more than 5% of their food in this form. Right now, the above makes up more than 50% of everyone’s diet.
Thus, if you purchase 20 food items in a week, you’d use 14 home or locally produced items, 5 bulk dry items, and only 1 processed or out of season thing.
Ok, let me know what you think and if you are still in!

lets stick to this formula and really check what we buy, where it comes from and how we are supporting the locally produced factor.

All in all a tough target to meet and I am not certain that we are going to succeed on all fronts but I am going to give an accurate reflection of what is going on in this household and how we deal with the practical issues of reusing, reducing etc. Are you coming with us ?

Gardening in ususual places

When the cats slumber during the day, the weather is going to be wet. Its a sure weatherforecast in this house. They are brothers, half wild and yet very affectionate. Difficult to tell them apart though.
DS 3 decided in between showers to go and tackle a bit of undergrowth. This is an area next to the house that is not developed. It would make a lovely seating area and the plan is to make it a rock garden and herb garden. There is little soil underneath, its generally bedrock. It will need raised beds to ensure that the cultivated and wild get separated a bit.Our garden is about 1/2 acre and lies within an old stone quarry. About 12 metres higher lies a large field in which generally sheep graze. We own a small piece of land at the top of the quarry but that is definitely the wildest place, untouched for decades and is the ideal place for beekeeping I think.
The beauty of gardening in unusual places is that it has a life of its own.It was a secret uncultivated garden for many years. Jackdaws come and nest in springtime, bees swarm around the sallowtree in spring and housemartins and swallows make a home here too. It is sheltered from the northwinds and a haven for birds and insects. our buddleias show plenty of butterflies and moths over the summer. The cats have culled some of the bird population but that was before I knew they were so horrible to wildlife. I am happy for them to deal with vermin ( rats and mice) if they are around, but I am sad when they catch a robin. We feed them well, they are halfwild and they just do what they think is right.

The weekend was very soggy here but we took part in the village breakfast which is held every month. The whole village has the opportunity to go and have cereal, cooked breakfast and toast, served by men in bowties for the princely sum of £ 4.00 per person. Its a good place to meet up, chat and network. It felt very autumnal and we were tempted to put the woodfire on. Not in July surely? Instead we put on a sweater and socks and drank hot chocolate together and took the opportunity to go and visit friends.

Friday, July 13, 2007

10 ways to pamper yourself

Woman Being Pampered at Spa by Dynamic Graphics
Woman Being Pampered at Spa

Frugal pampering, not just for women, we all deserve a bit of pampering from time to time.
Here are 10 ways on a budget to pamper yourself:

  1. Take lunch to the great outdoors and sit quietly watching the scenery unfold.
  2. Keep a basket with thank you notes and compliments about yourself and take them out when you need a self esteem booster. ( I had this at work when I was feeling jaded). This makes me feel wonderful from time to time.
  3. Go out just before sunset with a few glasses and a bottle of wine and watch the sunset followed by a bit of stargazing. ( Needs 2 to make it magical)
  4. On a rainy day, watch a film at home, with popcorn and drinks just like the cinema( just no advert breaks).
  5. Take a bath or shower before bedtime, snuggle into your favourite bathrobe, turn back the bedcovers, switch on your bedside light and give yourself 30 mins reading time. It’s a gift of peaceful alone time.
  6. Go pick fresh flowers from the garden and enjoy their scent and colour.
  7. Beauty night : a manicure, pedicure, hot oil hair treatment, foot massage…….whatever you need, book a night out with yourself in the home-spa.
  8. Go visit the library, browse and take in a cup of your favourite brew. They have all the latest magazines, papers to have a look at. No rushing.
  9. Visit an open garden near you and refresh your inspiration. Take a sketch pad and some watercolours, your camera, your notebook to put the colour to memory.
  10. Give yourself some dreamtime: create a space for yourself with a candle, soft music etc and create a list of all the things you need in your life to make you feel good or memories of good times : here are some pointers, Places. people, pets, animals, activities,peak experiences, spiritual figures, textures, scents, tastes and sounds. When you have your list you will have created an endless amount of possibilities to pamper yourself in the future.

I am off for some quiet reflection, candles on, music peacefully in the background as yet again……it is raining.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Where has summer gone again?

Lime green nicotania - a must for flower arranging. No scent but it acts as contrast in a posy.

I am certain that my dog and cats grow fur when it gets colder and shed it again when the heat moves in. Despite being uncomfortable for humans, it is the perfect weather for plants, a bit of sun, lots of rain, some darker resting days, then growth spurts again.Zinnia Giant Dahlia Mixed.

Despite the lack of sunshine, I am picking flowers. This means that I enjoy the beauty inside the house while looking at a damp and rainfilled sky.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Downshifting week in the USA

Conscious consuming is expanding downshifting week in the USA.


Boston, MA, July 2, 2007:

The USA will soon be celebrating its first National Downshifting Week, an
awareness campaign sponsored jointly this year by Tracey Smith, the founder
of National Downshifting Week in the UK, and Boston non-profit Conscious
Consuming. National Downshifting week is scheduled for July 7-13, 2007 and
is designed to help participants "Slow Down and Green Up."
To downshift means to cut out unnecessary expenditure and cultivate a
simpler lifestyle with time to do more of the things you want to do. Data
from the mid-90's from the Trends Research Institute shows that about 10% of
Americans identify with downshifting, voluntary simplicity, and simple
living. Duane Elgin, author of several books on voluntary simplicity, calls
this a "conservative estimate." While there is a definite trend toward
voluntary simplicity, too many Americans sacrifice themselves to their work.
According to Lisa Steubing, Executive Director of Take Back Your Time, more
than half of Americans will take less than a week's vacation this year.

Smith says, "Downshifting can leave you excited, encouraged and upbeat and
can reduce your stress. A positive approach to living with less helps you
re-think ways to enjoy time with your loved ones without reaching for your
wallet; changes to your spending habits should happen because you want them

Donohoe notes that the dates for National Downshifting Week (July 7-13th)
were chosen to coincide with the birthday of America's most famous
downshifter, Henry David Thoreau (born July 12, 1817). "Modern downshifters
don't have to move into a cabin in the woods to simplify their lives, but
would to well to stop chasing money and material things. Happiness depends
on knowing when you have enough, and spending time doing the things you love
to do," says Donohoe. "Downshifters can live deliberately, leave a lighter
footprint on the earth, and have even more time with their families and

National Downshifting Week’s slow down top tips are targeted at individuals,
companies, and children and schools, and include things like cutting up a
credit card and planting a garden.
During the UK's 3rd National Downshifting Week in April 2007, almost 11,000
people from 96 countries and 24 American states visited the website. Over
the past 3 years, many thousands of visitors have used the Downshifting
an inspirational printout, which allows individuals to track their
progress on the road to leading a simpler, happier life.
For further details see


Susan Donohoe
Boston, MA
Conscious Consuming, Public Relations Coordinator

Nature as a school

Years ago I trained to work with children from the age of 0 to 8 years. I very much believe that the first few years of our lives mould how we experience the world and how it nurtures our innate potential. Or otherwise. My counselling training and experience as a therapist show how our beliefs and values sponged up during those years, still hold true whether appropriate or not.
Our time on earth is limited and what we can give eachother every day are opportunities for memories as well as opportunities to share the magic that surrounds us. Some of it we see, other things we need to be shown to see. For example, Mark is brilliant at capturing the insects beyond our usual vision and I am grateful to be reminded of something that I usually do not stop and stare at. It rekindles however memories in me of the wonder I had as a child and as early years educator around the subject of creepy crawlies. Also of the memories of wonderful wonder moments my children have exhibited.
Mum, look how pink the flowers are on that tree. Look, its pink.

Such moments create a split second awareness of wonder. Children live in the here and now, they absorb, they use all the senses they were given. They feel part of the world and as they grow up, we tend them and nurture them as we would small plants. Their potential lies in our hands.
Yesterday while watering the plants in the polytunnel my son came up to me with the following gem:
Gardening....Mum I am so glad you are doing that...its so ecofriendly?

What I cannot put into words is the smile and the feelings that these little comments generate to me. It confirms that how I am nurturing these souls in my care, is the right way to do so, contrary sometimes to the belief of our education system.

If you have never heard of forest schools, go and explore. Its never too late. We all have some fantastic memories of living under the stars, building camp fires, sharing a meal together on the beach.
I can teach art, science, literacy and numeracy in my garden.
DS3 is looking at yield per potatoe plant, size and texture. We talked about how long the stalks were, how long the growing period was and the difference between tubers, roots and beans.
The opportunity is here to talk about texture, smell, shape, quantity, volume and all in a trug full of spuds.
Problem solving comes up every day...Here was the question :
I have 12 green cabbage plants
I have 12 red cabbage plants
I would like 3 rows
How many in each row?
I also want a pattern of red/green.
How can you make that happen.
Look at root structure. How deep does it need to be planted? How far apart? How do you measure that?

Fun...did anyone mention fun in education?

Monday, July 09, 2007

Path to Freedom videos

Now that the weather has switched to hot, there is little let up on work out there. We are harvesting, planting, transplanting while the going is good.

If you checked out Path to Freedom, and feasted on all the information available you might have missed the 13 videos to watch about sustainable urban living. Check them out....

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Juicy beets


We have not always enjoyed our veggies in this household but one of the discoveries we made last year is that contrary to belief, they make excellent juicy drinks. And very colourful too.
This one is called juicy beets and is excellently tasting. Not too earthy, but very sweet.

You need
1 beetroot
freshly picked from the soil and washed in a bucket of water. Water then chucked back in the garden.
2 or 3 carrots and 2 apples
Then press it through the juicer and see the lovely juice flow out....first carrots and then apples and when you add the beetroot it turns the most beautiful red colour.

Positive Global Change Award

Thank you thank you...for alllowing me to share our life here at downshifting path with you. I believe in gratitude and spreading it about......Thank you Mark for nominating me for this award.

The award is the brain child of Climate Of Our Future to commemorate blogger's efforts around the world to share their knowledge, thoughts and inspirations in making this a better, healthier, more sustainable world.

So, in keeping with the participation rules -- I, in turn, pass this Bloggers for Positive Global Change Award to the following 5 bloggers:

Frugal for life - Frugality is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, and yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying. The consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things. ~Elise Boulding. Dawn shares every day, a tip to reduce consumption and live a content life in a simple, frugal way.

Path to Freedom.- the Dervaes family seek to live more enviromentally conscious, simple, agrarian and self-sufficient life by bringing about change in our daily lives - one step at a time in an urbgan setting. They hope that their journey will insprire fellow travellers who are on the path less traveled.

Our family's mission and struggle will be to continue to acquire the total package of brains, guts and knowledge necessary to become self-sufficient pioneers and better earth stewards.
"To use our hands as weapons of mass creation and to walk the path to restoration and renewal."
~ Jules Dervaes

Beansprouts - Melanie with 4 otherslive in a very small ex-council house with a very small garden on the edge of farmland. They grow some of their food on an allotment a couple of miles away. They try to be "green", whatever that means.

Down to earth Rhonda Jean lives with her husband on an acre of land which they share with two Airedale Terriers, some chooks, a cat and a worm farm. They live a simple, partially sustainable life in the foothills of a rainforest mountain range in Australia.

The Kitchen Garden The Kitchen Garden Network provides information on the world of food matters. Through our blogs, photos, podcasts, videos, interviews and demonstrations we empower consumers and diners with what they need to know about food, cooking and the intersection of agriculture with politics. Check out Podchefs mission and links to the podcast

Go and say hello, explore and enjoy.

Fellow Positive Global Change Award recipients, it’s easy to participate in this meme. At minimum, you can proudly display the BPGC badge( Click here for the image url )on your blog and bask in the glow of our collective good will. If you are sharing the kudos, however, please make sure you pass this list of rules to the blogs you are tagging.The participation rules are simple:

1. When you get tagged, write a post with links to up to 5 blogs that you think are trying to change the world in a positive way

.2. In your post, make sure you link back to so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.Link

3. Leave a comment or message for the bloggers you’re tagging, so they know they’re now part of the meme.

4. Optional: Proudly display the “Bloggers For Positive Global Change” award badge with a link to the post that you write up.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

harvesting rainwater

The Red Hose, 1981 by Kyohei Inukai
The Red Hose, 1981

Harvesting of rainwater is the collection of water for domestic or commercial use that would otherwise go down the drain. Various techniques have been practised for thousands of years to collect and store water, especially in areas of low rainfall. Today, rainwater harvesting systems can be installed in both new and existing buildings and can range from a quick, cheap water butt to a more complex system.

The simplest collection method is a rainwater butt connected via a diverter to a downpipe from the roof - water collected can be used on the garden, using a watering can. More info here too.
In a rainwater system, water is collected from the roof and taken via pipes to a storage tank. A filter removes leaves and other debris and a settlement tank allows small particles to sink to the bottom; floating debris is skimmed off the surface via an overflow pipe, and clean water extracted from just below the surface. Water can be pumped directly from the tank to appliances or to a loft header tank. A float switch in the tank will automatically top up with mains water if the level is too low

The benefits of harvesting rainwater:
• rainwater collection removes the need for the energy and chemicals used to produce pure drinking water - unnecessary if all we’re going to do is clean the car with it or flush it down the toilet
• it also reduces the need for the pumping of mains water, and the energy use, pollution and CO2 emissions that go with it
• it reduces demand on rivers and groundwater:
• other benefits: rainwater is soft, and leaves no limescale; washing clothes in soft water requires less detergent and so reduces water pollution from these compounds; plants love rainwater; it doesn’t contain chlorine, which is thought to be carcinogenic; large-scale collection of rainwater can reduce run-off and therefore the risk of flooding

How do you get started?

First, cut your water use: average UK per head domestic water use is around 55m³/year (160 litres / day). This can easily be cut to less than 30m³/year by installing low-flush toilets (or better still, compost loos), getting rid of the dishwasher, fixing dripping taps, washing the car less often, and having showers instead of baths (especially if you share with a friend). Then find the rainfall figures for your area and your roof area, and see how much water (in m³) you can expect to collect per year. For an average property with average rainfall, you should be able to get around 100m³. Water is metered at between £1-2 per m³. If you’re not metered, your water supplier is obliged to install one for free (currently around 25% of UK households are metered).
The costs of a rainwater harvesting system are in the region of £ 1000 to £ 1500 and may be prohibiting. Maybe rainwater harvesting is something you want to do regardless of length of payback time.

There are no UK regulations concerning rainwater use for toilets, washing machines and gardens, though the back-up from the mains must be in accord with standard regulations.

At downshifting path, we are not in a position to install a rainwatersaving system as such, but all watering in the garden is done either by natural means ( monsoon rains currently), or water butts, or using the submerged claypot irrigation system. We also mulch and plant plants closer together in raised beds to minimise evaporation of water on sunny days.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

This and that

One of the pleasures since downshifting has been to grow not only vegetables from seed for consumption, but also to revel in what flowerseedlings can turn into in the garden. Even when it rains, I can be seen out in the garden with my enamel coffeepot, a pair of scissors and looking around at all the beauty, I buzz from flower to flower, snipping some of the joy and beauty to take indoors.

The weather was particularly dark when I went out, windy with monsoon type rains and I just had to rescue the iceberg rose feeling it would be better in my coffeepot near the fireplace than out there being lashed by rain.

Currently we spend a lot of time looking out of the window, wellies at the ready, hats on.....rushing out there when the weather breaks to do a bit of weeding, cutting the grass or simply hunting for snails. Did anyone say it was summer?

Even in this attire, I feel rejuvenated by the rain. I ask myself why I find such pleasure in being in the rain, dripping wet, stomping about in my wellies......where I could have been sitting in an office in front of a VDU typing mindlessly away....thinking of a summer holidays near the beach.

Even on days when the weather disappoints, even when I am having my cup of tea, searching my conscience and getting a bit low in mood at the weather forecast and the cashflow forecast....I can honestly say.........its worth it! ( at this point, imagine a contrasting hair is not shiny through shampoos but I am sitting at the kitchen table, mug of hot cocoa in hand, and actually enjoying it!) No commuting ( well no further than 10 yards to the garden), no traffic jams ( the wheelbarrow is the only thing in the way on the gardenpath).

I am lucky......

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Downshifting book club

Just a reminder, if you read the book and want to submit a review with link to your blog, please email me the details to journey dot bc at mac dot com.
Review will follow soon with July's book selection

garden update July

In between showers, I venture out there for about 15 mins at a time to check on possible signs of blight on the potatoes. Rain is very good for the apples as they are swelling visibly every day. When it rains at this level, there is a chance that mould and damp will appear on many plants and it is worth being vigilant. No blight here in any case, if you find that the stalks have gone soggy, cut them off and leave the potatoes in the soil. Check from time to time as blight creates a slimy mess of your harvest.

The polytunnel is the preferred destination for the moment. Courgettes are growing well, tomatoes are beginning to set but very slow as the light and temperature are low this year. The cucumbers have a few fruits on too and butternut squash is slow to get going.

The mangetout peas are coming to their end and the lettuces in that bed have also been devoured. I always grow too many lettuces but the chickens are happy to have it as an additional green thing every day. Green savoy cabbage and red cabbage are in pots awaiting to be planted where the potatoes are. Sprouting broccoli seedlings needs transplanting as well as some lupin seeds that I planted to give colour in a shady spot next year.

Outside, beetroot is ready for harvesting and french beans try to set. They need warmth so again are a little delayed. The borloti beans are climbing up but cold too and are not growing as lush as expected. Carrots are ready...1 row of them. Never been that good growing them and they take a lot of space for 1 meals worth but the flavour promises to be something else.

My garden plan of lettuce every day and 1 green vegetable seems to be paying off this year. Not that the boys like all the vegetables that appear on the the table especially beetroot and courgettes! I love courgettes, it is such a generous plant, beautiful flowers and you can cut them any size you want from baby vegetable for stir fries to marrows for...well whatever you do with marrows.

To plant this month:

2 x 10ft rows of french green beans
12 plants of raspberries for next year
ongoing lettuce - merveille des quatres saisons variety

To harvest this month :
french beans

To preserve this month:
strawberry jam
blackcurrant jam
raspberry jam
( am way late on this as picking fruit in the rain is not recommended)

Monday, July 02, 2007

10 ways to save water

Watering Cans II by Dee Morgan
Watering Cans II

It sounds ridiculous to be writing about saving water but as it is falling in plenty supply at the moment, we could add it to a crop to harvest just in case there is a heatwave in store in July. Here at downshifting path we have 2 waterbutts which we use to water the plants in the polytunnel. We used to have a hosepipe and just simply switch it on, but we now water where it is necessary with the water we have in the waterbutts.

  1. Remember to turn off the tap while brushing your teeth - A running tap wastes over 6 litres per minute.
  2. A dripping tap wastes at least 5,000 litres of water a year - Thats enough water wasted to fill a paddling pool every week for the whole summer. Mending your dripping tap washer could save you over £18 per year. check the health of your taps today and make sure you have spare washers in the cupboard to deal with leaks as and when they appear.
  3. Compare your water usage when you wash the dishes. Hand-washing dishes typically uses about 63 litres per session - If those dishes are rinsed off under a running tap the total water used averages 150 litres. You could compare that with a modern dishwasher that uses as little as 15 litres of water per cycle. Make sure that you fill the dishwasher or you'll be wasting even more than if you were to wash up by hand. If you are looking for a new dishwasher, look for the energy efficiency 'A' rated machines since these usually waste the least amount of water. If you take a closer look at the energy label, it should tell you how much water the machine uses. Make responsible choices.
  4. A bath can use up a lot of water (over 100 litres!) - which is the equivalent of 3 people taking a shower.Many power-showers actually use more than a bath if you shower for more than 5 minutes. If you really cannot give up a bath, you can minimise your water use by reusing your bathwater to water your houseplants or garden. Wigglywigglers have a good gadget to help with this.
  5. Before starting your washing machine, wait for a full load - A full load uses less water than two half loads; so, you'll be able to save money on energy and water. Just like dishwashers, washing machines labelled 'A' on energy efficiency tend to be more water efficient.
  6. Fill a jug with tap water and leave it to cool in your fridge - This way you don't have to run the tap for ages just to get a cold drink.
  7. Rather than washing your car with a running hosepipe, try using a bucket and sponge instead - Fill the bucket with water from the water butt. Just 30 minutes with a hosepipe will use more water than the average family uses in a day. Using a bucket will give your car a much more precise wash. I know, you need to give it more elbow grease but there you go, its good for you.
  8. About a quarter of all clean, drinkable water we use in our homes is flushed down the toilet - If you're in the market for a new loo, consider buying a water efficient toilet or one with a dual flush. If your loo is still as good as new, put a hippo or other displacement device into the cistern to save some water. Give your water company a ring; they can give you one of these devices for free.
  9. By washing your fruits and veg in a bowl rather than under a running tap, you could cut down on water waste effortlessly - As an added bonus, you can use the leftover water to feed your houseplants.
  10. By using a shower timer - you cut the amount of time you spend in the shower. Try taking shorter showers to reduce the amount of water you use.