Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Rain rain, go away and come another day

I am not sure how much more rain we are due but most of my days are spent indoors.
Yesterday I had to venture out to town because my trusted vehicle needed its annual inspection, which it passed. As the garage offered me a courtesy car, I declined because I really wanted to explore whether in town I would be able to do my errands and visits using public transport.
If you have not travelled on public transport, I guarantee you have not seen life as it is. I realised how cushy it is when I travel in my car and how actually a lot goes on when you take a bus.
Timetables are not that familiar so required a bit of searching. My first visit was 3 miles out of the town centre and a direct bus would only go every hour as where a bus in that general direction was available very 30 mins. I waited in the cold and rain, getting wet and....wetter and.....wanted my comfy car deep down. I resisted.....I resisted.....and the bus came. I had to walk quite a bit from A to B but arrived on time and met some other wet people. The bus back was the direct one which was a lot smaller and had a friendly busdriver who insisted on telling me a story although it took time as he had a speech impediment. I felt humbled that he wanted to tell it to me and reflected on how patient I had become. At the end of it he suggested I should go and get a transport card which entitles me to free transport in the county. ( I was unaware that this existed being a mere usual car driver in my own metal box on the highway!). Buspass, me...?
How do you while away a whole day in town without wanting to buy and consume. ( Its hard...very hard....)
I have visited clothes shops ( just to see what the trends are and marvel at the sixties fashion which I am unlikely to follow with my earthy, rotunde figure).
I marvelled at the crazy prices people are prepared to pay.
Thought of having an eye test but that was on my desperation list.
Spent time in the library where you can sit, browse, read, knit etc and surf the internet for free.
Had my treat drink in starbucks and sat in the armchair knitting while life went on around me. well people stared but who cares......

At the garage, I got shocked again at the lovely price tag I was offered ( the danger of downshifting and not buying anything is that when you have to pay regular prices you are usually about to faint from shock). The car still needs work doing to it....but I have postponed it till next month.
Wet, shocked and horrified at prices, I drove back calmly into the countryside, telling myself what a lovely day it had been, people spotting, being different and out of flow with the rest.

The news today speaks of a crash of the Dow Jones and FTSE.....is this a new trend....is deconsuming going to upset the economy?

Monday, February 26, 2007

lemons and vinegar

Lemons by Alma'ch

Instead of reaching for the chemical cleaners available you could use items you have in your kitchen.
Lemon juice is a natural bleach and can remove stains from clothing and work surfaces.
Bicarbonate of soda : sprinkle at the base of a crusty oven, dampen slightly with water, leave overnight and the next morning all the dirt can be wiped off with a damp cloth. I mix it with some lavender essential oil, sprinkle it on the carpet overnight and hoover the next day ( keeps doggy smells at bay).
You can leave some bicarbonate of soda in a pot in the fridge and it will remove bad odours.
Vinegar : cleaning windows with a spray bottle filled with water and a dahs of vinegar can make your windows sparkle.
To clean toilets with vinegar, pour a capful or two into the toilet, leave overnight and flush in the morning for a sparkling bowl.
Cleaning cloths can be made from old Tshirts or shirt and I also use teatowels with holes in.
The following links offer info on cleaning with eco friendly products :

www.ecover.com
www.greenbrands.co.uk
home made cleaners from organized home

Sunday, February 25, 2007

meme

I was tagged some time ago by Simple Katie http://simplekatie.blogspot.com/index.html
The Rules: Each player of this game starts with "6 weird things about you". Each person who gets tagged needs to write a blog post of their own 6 weird things as well as clearly state this rule. After you state your 6 weird things, you need to choose 6 people to be tagged and list their names. Don't forget to leave a comment that says "your tagged" in their comments and tell them to read your blog for information as to what it means.

1. I was a child model;
2. Apart from yarn I collect teapots.
3. Although I love bread and waffles, I am allergic to yeast.
4. Don’t talk to me before I have had a shower, I am too dazed.
5. My favourite shoes are crocs.
6. I am originally from Belgium.

The 6 people, I'm tagging: ( whilst crossing fingers at the same time).

mother of all needles
Living the simple life I want
irish craftworker
ihanna
little jenny wren
ninth muse

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Food clubs

Food buying clubs are about more than just saving money. They are also about creating community.
A food buying club or co-op is an association of people who get together in order to purchase food. As a group, their purchasing power increases and allows them to access the wholesale marketplace, which is usually prohibited to individuals. By buying through wholesale distributors or directly from farmers, the food buying clubs can save money. The food buying clubs place pre-orders with the distributors and buy for their own consumption. Food buying clubs or co-ops are not retail food co-operatives, which tend to have a storefront and buy goods for resale.
Food buying clubs first became popular in the 1970’s for pretty much the same reasons people participate in them today. Many people want better quality and often organically grown food, and they want better prices. Circumventing the supermarket and going directly to the wholesale distributor and the farmer are the best ways to do this. There is some work and time involved in participating in a buying club, but there are lots of perks along the way.
Food buying clubs are an international phenomenon and are strongly linked to the co-operative movement. For example, in Japan, han groups are known as consumer co-operatives, and they operate like a food buying club. Some han groups get involved in product testing and development, which can influence the marketplace. In the United States, there are thousands of food buying clubs, often known as food co-ops. Many of the US and Canadian food buying clubs are connected to the co-operative distributors.
Most wholesale distributors deal in large volumes. Each one has its own unique policy and terms. Some require vendor permits or other official documentation. Others only require that you fill in an application in order to start an account. When dealing with a local farmer, the club will work out the details of delivery or pick-up and may even establish an exchange of labour for food.
Although there are many ways to run a food buying club, there are basically two models. One is a co-ordinator model, the other is a co-operative model. In the co-ordinator model, there is one person who takes the lead organizing the club, makes key decisions, and is responsible for most of the work, although they may delegate some the tasks to the members. In the co-operative model, members work together, each taking on a role and ensuring that their tasks are completed. Decisions are made as a group. In the co-operative model, skills and knowledge needed to run the club are shared amongst the club members.
In both models, a community is created. Often the discussions will centre on the food: recipes are exchanged, unique products are discovered, and health-related information is shared. Members learn from each other and share their own stories. In many buying clubs, there is a sense that the group is achieving something very special.

It takes work to start, run and maintain a food buying club. 12 to 16 committed members works well. It is advantageous to have a variety of talents in your group such as the following:
• An organized person to co-ordinate and oversee the efficient running of the club.
• Two to three people to do the compiling of the orders. They should be detail minded and good with numbers. You could use a computerized catalogue diskette, which saves time and simplifies the ordering and invoicing procedure.
• Two to three people who offer their home for the day of the delivery.
• Approximately six people who are available at order delivery times to sort food.
• Two people who are willing to be treasurer. They must deposit everyone’s cheques into the bank on time so that the cheque written to the supplier does not bounce.
Building commitment within the group is essential. I believe it is very important that everyone takes on some responsibility in order to feel like they are part of the food buying club. If all the members do not pitch in, certain members will feel they are being taken for granted, which can lead to burnout and the demise of the club.
One of the procedures is to plan a schedule for the whole year, which includes the following information:
• Submission dates when all member orders must be sent to the compiler.
• When the compiler must fax the collated order to the supplier.
• When the order will be delivered and to which house.
• A list of sorters for each order.
• A treasurer for each order.
To maintain communication, you can use a telephone chain. Everyone has a copy of the members’ names and telephone numbers.
Decide on how often an order is placed.Due to the number of members, each member has only to work on the food order every four months. Each member is responsible for ensuring their task is performed, which includes finding a substitute if they cannot do it. A member does not have to place an order every time nor does our club require a minimum order.

To see what is available in your area you can check out www.bigbarn.co.uk its a site full of information about local produce and producers and if there is not a foodclub nearby, why not set one up after finding out what the demand is.

the sweater bee project



Its raining, again, but having visited a yarn shop yesterday and having chosen his colours, B has designed his colour scheme and all that is left to do is to get on with the design.
The colours are personal to him. I drew the shape and he used the tape measure to figure out how long he wanted his custom sweater to be. He got the colouring pencils out and coloured in the space. I have told him that if we run out of green I reserve the right to change the stripe effect of the sleeves but he understood and has told me that its OK I can use blue if I run out.
After that we wound the hanks of yarn into balls ( grenades to him) and his arm was aching.
DS 2 also bought some yarn and has started knitting a scarf today, it will be brown and brown and have a space for his MP3 player in it somewhere in a hidden pocket.
I do believe they are taking some pride in their fashion design and although it is basic it is giving them the opportunity to find out what they like and to make their own clothes which is going great to share.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Daily bread

Fresh Bread, Trogir, Croatia by Russell Young

Lets talk about food and how we can stop doing the habitual weekly shop.
First of all, I have to tell you that its a work in progress and I have not entirely cracked it, I have lapses of convenience and surprisingly, there is very little information out there on how to not shop in the supermarket. And...a lot of regulation as well.

We are now in year 3, so be gentle on yourself....it will not happen overnight. Find out where you are on the steps to food freedom and do whatever next you wish. Basically not everyone wants to become self sufficient so it is important to find where your comfort zone is. Every person and family also has food habits and types of food they like better than others so what we eat is not going to be the same as you or even prepared in the same way as you do. The following is a guide of what we have done so far and are doing. There is no simple formula. I am not going to tell you how and what to do that suits your family. I am hoping to encourage independent thought and action. ( heaven forbid!)


My food shopping strategy was non existent when I worked, it simply was a shop and grab exercise at the supermarket on a weekly basis in which I would buy what I thought I needed, what I seemed to like or was persuaded to like etc etc.

The first step for me was to create a weekly menu. ( Sounds boring but it worked for us). This provided evidence of what exactly we were eating or planning to eat and made me realise how boring and without variety my menu actually was. This provided me with a working shopping list, the ingredients of what I needed to make the dishes, and also on the fridge is a shopping list of items that are running out and need replacing such as spices, flours, rice etc etc.

From weekly menus we have graduated to monthly menus and I now sit down and plan a monthly menu. I ask for feedback so family members can vote on dishes they would like to have repeated and those that are NOT EVER to cross the table again. Each month I challenge myself to eat something new and seasonal and test the family out. Fish for instance is not a usual food in our family and whenever it arrives on the table it gets greeted with distinct suspicion ( that is because they had no idea what fish was apart from fish fingers). Expect criticism for your efforts and keep your sense of humour.

With a monthly menu you can shop monthly or every 2 weeks cutting your travel and shopping time considerably.

Next I wanted to find out what our usual consumption of certain foods and consumables was. Example :How many toiletrolls does your family use on average. To find out you need a black pen. When you start a new pack, you write the date on the outside and when the last item is finished you use maths to work out the total. So lets say your family needs 6 rolls per week, that would make it 312 rolls per year. I add 10% for unexpected events ( don't ask me what that is...I am sure you can guess), which leaves me with a total number required of 313. When the special offer comes ( 9 rolls for the price of 6) I know that by buying in bulk my families requirements are as follows :
weekly 6 rolls
monthly 26 rolls
3 months = 78 rolls
etc

When the offer comes along, I can buy 9 packs which will give me a 3 month supply.

Wait I can hear you say, where do I store all that stuff? When you declutter the house, you will find places for food and home items and you may not want or have the space to store the above amount. Find what suits you.
This calculation should enable you to know what you family needs and how much you can store and can buy in bulk.

Having a blueprint of what your family eats on average over a year, you can then start looking at where you can purchase these items in bulk.

I had no idea for instance that you could buy in bulk. Most supermarkets do not like you buying in bulk and do not allow you often to purchase above a certain number.

When T suggested we get together for a wholefood order, I had some idea of the amount of flour I need for our daily bread, the amount of almond butter, maple syrup, rice and beans we consume. You have to ofcourse allow room in your budget to buy these items in bulk but in the long run it averages out and simply becomes a different way of managing your food purchases.

The staples you buy have to be used in rotation and having a list of what is used, you can then take stock control and see how your maths have worked out and take advantage of offers as they come along.

Next step will be looking at the foods you buy which you can make yourself or grow yourself and where locally these can be found.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Being generous

For some of you this is lent and you are giving something up.
I want to inpire you to join a community of people who give generously. Being on a downshifting path is a gift to me as well as the environment. Think yourself generous and check out the website about living generously for a year Simple actions that might simplify your life and put you on track to a slower life.
Some of the actions are as follows :
  • Join the library
  • Join a local food cooperative
  • become an organ donor
  • use less bags when shopping
  • Plant some bulbs
  • share a meal with someone out of your comfort zone

If nothing else, it will make you think about actions that make a difference to others. Give up some time this lent and give generously.

Growth spurt

The boys and I are playing the clothes robin game today. Don’t know it?
Starting with the eldest boy, we take everything out of the cupboards and sort into three categories:
  1. rags
  2. passover
  3. store

The result is a tidy chest of drawers, and a list of items to search for in either the charity shops or clothes shops. I can find good quality items on ebay if I search for a while.
Then onto the next boy and the same thing happens. We sort the clothes into rags, passover and store. Then he gets to chose from the passover basket items he likes or needs and then we go onto the next child. They do not have more than 7 outfits as they grow quickly and I am happy washing the clothes so they get good wear out of it.
Not every child is built the same way or has the same taste in colours ; trousers do not always fit from one boy to the next.
I also purchase one neat outfit when special occassions call for it. I find this way of sorting clothes a frugal way to clothe our family. Shoes are not skimped on and bought when needed. The children have 3 pairs. One pair of wellington boots, one pair of school shoes and one pair of trainers. That about covers all eventualities.

Our DS1 who is now a teenager gets his own allowance. At age 12 we give him a regular allowance to do with as he wishes. The only thing is he has to buy his own clothes. We buy school kit and shoes , the rest is up to him. This method is used to teach him how to use money and the cost of living. If he really wants a designer label, he has to save for it or find other ways.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Downshifting as a community

Shopping Trolleys Outside a Brugsen Supermarket, Tollose, Sjaelland Island, West Zealand, Denmark by Martin Lladรณ


Living a clean green life is a lot easier and fun when you can do it together with other people. It gives a chance to share experiences with others, find out what works locally and what does not.
You can find out about local initiatives at the library or from friends and neighbours. If there is not anything available, have a go at being inspired to do this yourself.

My neighbour T has sent a wholefood catalogue around inviting neighbours to do a wholesale order instead of travelling to the healthfood shops on a regular basis. Three of us are banding together to try and put in an order and see if we can expand this in our neighbourhood. We have not yet decided who will take responsibility for ordering and distribution, we may set up a rota to do this. Shopping together in bulk makes sense as it centralises packaging and gets it delivered to us instead of 3 families doing a 15 mile journey each in their car. It will take some planning to see what we use, but it is an excellent way to plan your staple foods. ( flour, pulses, beans, even chocolate).

The following are some suggestions :

Some excellent information on diet and wholefoods at Suma,
although to be a supplier you need to have an order value of £ 375 which might suit larger communities.

Wholefood net
The widest choice of wholefoods, healthfoods, fresh bread, vegetables, dairy produce, planet friendly household goods, personal and infant care and healthcare products you are likely to find. All delivered to your door (at work or at home) anywhere within the UK.

Green Drinks International
Every month people who work in the environmental field meet up for a beer at informal sessions known as Green Drinks.
We have a lively mixture of people from NGOs, academia, government and business. Come along and you'll be made welcome. Just say, "are you green?" and we will look after you and introduce you to whoever is there.It's a great way of catching up with people you know and also for making new contacts. Everyone invites someone else along, so there’s always a different crowd, making Green Drinks an organic, self-organising network.
These events are very simple and unstructured, but many people have found employment, made friends, developed new ideas, done deals and had moments of serendipity. It's a force for the good and we'd like to help it spread to other cities. Contact your local node to get the latest info about coming along.

LETS schemes in your area, exchange your skills, your produce for a bartering currency

Monday, February 19, 2007

Communities working together

One of the reasons why I partake in the community retreat is that you get to meet a variety of people you never meet in the rural area. We may all live within 15 miles of each other but do not always meet socially.

For the last 20 years, members of our community have left for a weekend retreat to enable them to take stock of what is happening and what the needs are of members of the community. They then brainstorm together and create a plan to enable actions for change in the community we live in.

The area we live in has an large proportion of elderly residents and when you get to really sit with them and listen to their concerns it becomes apparent that many become housebound rurally and lonely because they can no longer drive. One suggestion has been a community car share network which should help people call up and book transport to venues which seems a positive move.

Lots of suggestions came up and interesting debates took place. Now all that needs to happen is for them to be actioned.
Amazing what you can achieve with 50 people, good food, rain and no TV for the weekend.
While the adults work hard and debate, the children are entertained by a youthworker and have their own things to look at.
We both left feeling more connected to the community we live in.

Elephants on a rainy day

The weather at the retreat was very wet and DS3 enjoyed a daytrip to the local zoo to look at all the animals and enjoyed a treasure trail around the gardens. The most exciting trail was the ‘poo trail’ which if you are 8 is probably fascinating. Most grown ups at the evening meal did not know where to look when he wanted to tell them all about it. ‘
You could even buy some rhino poo in the shop’
probably to keep domestic animals off your land.
Upon my return, the kitchen was not finished, and I was advised my DS 2 that Dh had had a case on ‘ manflu’ which had delayed the painting. Thus I have 1 wall in cream and 3 walls in bright white but I am hopeful, it will be finished soon.
Decluttering a room is a lot easier when you take everything out to paint it and then only bring back what you are using. I have a table left outside which has a lot of stuff on it that will need a new home, freecycled etc.
Today has been down to doing mondaine things such as copious amounts of ironing, washing and cleaning. What else can you do on a rainy day. The boys decided to leave the house with DH and go on a farm visit. When they return, hungry, wet and muddy...I will be ready to deal with the next load. Would not have it any other way.
I gave my digital camera to DS 3 so he could take some pictures and the best one is of the African elephant who is visibly unimpressed by having his picture taken again by a small boy. I know why he took the picture because I love elephants, frontal view mostly though!

Friday, February 16, 2007

Back soon


(Copyright Gospel Communications International, Inc - www.reverendfun.com)

Jam tarts

When I make a pie ( today's flavour was apple and blackberry) I make jam tarts with the leftover pastry. ( frugal...do not waste anything).
This is the plate 10 mins before the boys came back from school and when I came back in the kitchen to say hello........the plate was empty.
And this time, it was not the dog.........boys were licking fingers and smiling. Its an image I will hold onto while I rest......and rest.........and ....yawn!

Confused pooch

Our dog Lucky ( and never call a dog lucky its tempting the universe- she has had 2 leg operations as a puppy), is very confused. She sleeps in the kitchen near the Aga and she is unsure as to why everything is being moved out. Look at the expression which is saying something like ' Are we moving? Where is my food bowl going? Why is everyone so stressed? Are you off on holiday?
I do not speak dog actually, but her expression looks so cute and...well she is right on a couple of things.

We are not moving but I am going away into respite retreat. I have to......its been planned for months, simply because I cannot be in the house when my foodfactory kitchen is being painted by DH.
There are many reasons for this:
  • I get very distressed and stressed when my environment changes ( Ok can be labelled as control freakish tendencies)
  • My DH gets stressed when he paints. ( Go away...I need to be alone to do this...moan!)
  • I would not be able to cook meals while he is painting( going in the room might attract strange looks,probably because I am territorial and when he is painting he is territorial)
  • Going away and letting him get on with the job seemed the kinder thing to do.
  • I am off with DS3 to a christian retreat centre, we will be fed well, he will be entertained and there is no TV, mostly silence and time for contemplation.

That may sound like hell to some of you, but look at the alternative.........its just been Valentine's Day and I would like to make another married year. It works best this way.

When I come back, the kitchen might look great and refreshed and so will I.
My DH's fav saying is:
It is not as simple as it looks'

He has managed though to get invited for a meal by our friends ( with the two remaining boys) and an evening to the pub ( he deserves a treat too).
I am confident that the kitchen will be great........I am off for that rest. It will be allright..... and I have a book about a village where the vicar goes off on mission work ( probably has a murder in it) so that my imagination can run wild. Also accompanied by a small boy who will have his story read, and my knitting and podcasts.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Do what you love


and the money will follow.

In her book, Creating a life worth living, Carol Lloyd explores how to design a career for aspiring artists, innovators, entrepreneurs and other creative types. It was a facsinating book to read and I recommend it if you are a creator in hiding like me.

To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself
Soren Kierkegaard


I know my parents wanted the best for me, they gave me a wonderful education and lots of support to make it out in the world. I have had a string of careers in finance, sales, crisis management and social work and yet deep down, all the creative stuff that I used in finding creative solutions to other people's problems just did not cut it with the inner creative person.

Downshifting for me, is an opportunity to explore my creative person and to give it an airing instead of giving it a creative opening from time to time. I have previously talked about following your bliss and as hard as it can be, I am trying to follow mine. Problem is that you can be so good at splitting that part off from you that finding it can be a bit of a journey.

The above book explores what stands in your way, how you sell your creative time to sometimes get a dead end job and provides a 12 week programme to get you on the creative path, doing what it is you do best and effortlessly.

Following my bliss, I have tentatively listed a few things on etsy......but be gentle I am just coming out of hiding and am not always giving myself permission to play with yarn and let loose...but thats what I am aiming to do. Will it make me rich slowly, I doubt it. It will however allow me to have the satisfaction that I am trying to share the sensational colours that surround us, and how we can wrap ourselves in them. It will also allow me to stay at home, drive less and use the natural materials that surround me in the place I live and am growing to love. A sense of place, a feeling of home, following your bliss......should be a career path.

Dumblittleman has an interesting post about finding your career here.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

To blog sibs - with love on valentine's day


Love: Love Simply, Simply Love by Kim Klassen


here's a collection of blogs I am enjoying reading most days = and as its Valentine's Day I just wanted to say --Guys I love what you do!

Rebecca's blog An Irish Crafters Good Life, makes me smile most days and makes me want to craft more and more.

Ihanna, because I love pink and there is such a lot of inspiration on her site.

Downshift.me.com A podcast about Matt and AJ who left the Uk to emigrate to Nova Scotia and start a new life there

Peakoilpremonitions For those that believe mankind needs to re-evaluate and change the role one plays in our ecosystem of finite resources and our impact on future generations and their way of life.

Path to Freedom an great resource to accompany you on your journey to self sufficiency.

Frugal for Life the title says it all. Practical advice on being frugal and getting the most out of life.

Frugal cuisine one dish at a time, for very little cost.

And when you have done that....... you can

Get rich slowly well it has some good ideas you might not have thought of. Young and vibrant

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

How to shop cheaply

Stove II by Lisa Audit
Stove II


Split the allowance into 5 equal sums, one fifth for fruit and vegetables, one fifth for eggs, fish and meat; one fifth for bread and cereals; one fifth for milk and cheese; one fifth for bacon, fats, jams and other groceries.

How to shop cheaply

  1. Shop early when possible.
  2. If you are able to shop before closing time, you can often obtain great bargains in perishable goods.
  3. Don't make up your mind about what you want to have until you have looked around the shops. Sometimes there are cheap offers. Take advantage of them.
  4. When there are food sales, buy foods that store well.
  5. Pay cash and carry home your purchases.
  6. Examine what you purchase before paying for it.
Elizabeth Craig's economical cooking 1930?

Slow cooking

Long winter days, curled by the fire or busy days out in the garden or walking in nature, the stove can be found cooking my slow food for dinner.

A classic beef casserole serves 6, is magically cooked as follows :

1 1'2 lb beef skirt
1 oz seasone dflour
1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
1 oz butter
1 large onion
3 carrots, thickly sliced
2 teaspoons on mustard
3/4 pint of beef stock

Cut the meat in large cubes and toss in seasoned flour. Heat the oil and butter in a large fyring pan and brown the meat on all sides. Drain and place in a casserole dish.
In the heated pan, suate the oinon and carrots until the onion is just starting to colour and slightly soften. Add to the meat. Stir in the mustard into the pan and scrape the residue from the base of the pan before stirring in the stock. Stor well, bring to the boil and pour over the meat. Bring to the boil and transfer to the simmering oven for 4 to 5 hours, or electric at 140 C. Thicken gravy before serving if you like.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Eye candy


The weekend was spent with friends. Winter seems to offer us the opportunity to meet with friends we have not seen for a year ( as they are too busy). We enjoyed some laughs, some good home food and the boys had time to explore their world together.

Yesterday, we were entertained and introduced to more people in our community. Some we knew, some we did not and we enjoyed lunch with 25 other people. The reason for our invite is that I have been spinning the alpaca blanket for the hostess, which she proceeded to show off to many at the party. It suddenly dawned on me that maybe this would increase word of mouth about what we do, in a way that advertising just simply would not achieve. I met artists, men who paint, people who do lectures on local history, someone building an eco house, an actor who played in the local pantomime and someone who plays the accordeon and is a wealth of knowledge on folk songs and local customs.
It is a change from the lunhes and functions we attended in the past, where there was a definite outcome, a definite way to be dressed, be seen etc. How refreshing to relax in good company, with people who have stopped pretending to be someone and actually show exactly who they are and what they do.

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.
The concept of time studied in a normal group of children ranging from age three to six years old, found that when they learnt to tell clock time, external factors became increasingly important in establishing time sense. Prior to this age,with many individual variations, to be sure, diurnal rhythm, the concept of the day as a unit of 24 hours, was described in terms of personal experiences.

These first included physiological functions, such as bowel movements, sleeping, and eating, and later said factors as interpersonal and play activities. The seasonal time, with its enormous and often unpredictable variations, was poorly understood in all the children studied.

The emergence of the concept of time in children is the result of the interaction between the child with his private experiences and his own rhytmic needs and an external world with external physical forces ( lights, dark, cold, and so forth) and significant adults, both of which have rhythmic patterns of their own. They postulate that the sense of past, present, and future follows a hunger feeding satisfaction sequence that necessitates an adequate mother- child relationship as well as physical need satisfaction.

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


The world may be speeding up, or is it really. Is this a sense within ourselves that we are working a 9 to 5 job, hurtling through life and its experiences at a speed that is not actually compatible with our inner life rhytms? Why do we have to be reachable by cellphone at every opportunity, why do we need to respond to deadlines? These are time limits imposed on us by others. Quite rightly the world as it is, the business world, may not function if we do not have a sense of time, chaos would prevail, but it is my opinion that the way we use time and the clock currently is not compatible with the body and mind we have at the moment. This in principle is the cause of stress in many our lives.

A friend told me recently that her father had been discharged from the hospital and sent home to be cared for by his wife, because they decided he had only about 6 weeks to live. The fact is that the man is still alive 6 months later. It is obviously not yet his rhytmic time to stick to the 6 weeks given by the doctors. ( what gives them the right anyway!). In the meantime, the daughter travels every weekend and spans 300 miles in a car to visit home, and this is showing signs of stress as it is not compatible with looking after her own family and holding down a full time job. The mother who is looking after her husband, is suffering stress and a variety of physical symptoms, not only because she is facing the death of a loved one, but because apparently no help can be provided as he is not going to live longer than 6 weeks.

This example to me highlights how we are living in a time managed environment and at the same time, what should be the ending of a life, in its own time, is being scheduled in.

Here on the homestead we also have time, but my experience of it is that it does not rule my mind and body to the above extent. We get up and the children go to school, but for the majority of the day we can make decisions as to how we are going to spend our time. We have rhytms and actions that take place every day, such as dog walking, feeding the chickens etc, and yet within that is some movement for unexpected events. We are more aware of downtime in winter and up time in summer, how our bodies need rest in winter and can spend longer out during the summer time. Plants grow when the light and heat conditions are right and with climate change this too is changing. Just because the packet says, plant in February, may simply not be feasible in the future. With climate change comes an awareness that our perception of time and its seasons, the expected patterns are changing. We may be able to still control our clocks and calendars but they are based on what we perceived to be certain facts and rhytms. These are changing........could this be a coincidence?

If you need to be at a meeting at 9 am, the train you want to take is delayed, you might get stressed out. I have observed people in a bus ( the train was not running) being furious at the railway system for causing a delay.

Slowing down is incredibly difficult to do as many people experience when they go on holiday, and yet, I am convinced that we are not yet adapted to living in an environment that speeds up on a regular basis, we may not quite have evolved for that. Being pushed by time, challenging our physical and mental abilities, speeding up has an impact on our personal experiences and the world that surrounds us.

Not so long ago, man was in touch with nature and the natural rhytms........a clock may be ticking ..............

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Onion trial


Having bought seeds and planted them in the polytunnel in plastic guttering I am running a trial this year comparing that with buying bulbs and starting them off in the plastic guttering and then transplanting them outside.
I have chosen a variety called setton, which should give me a crop in August. I have not been succesful with onions yet so if this does not produce a harvest worth mentioning, it will be eliminated from the growing catalogue. Simply because I have little space and onions are a crop that are cheap and easily obtained locally.

The weather is cold and snow was forecast last night but did not arrive here, some small patches on the hills that surround us. No outdoor work today, a bt of cleaning, spinning and making lasagna sauce for friends that come to dinner on saturday. I could also catch up on reading, next to the fire and finish a sock I am knitting. Such hard choices on the homestead!

Chicken safety

Avian flu arrives in the UK and no one seems to be clear as to how it is being spread, apart from speculation that wild birds may have something to do with it. An outbreak was discovered at the Bernard Matthews farm and factory I cannot help but reflect on the reasons why we still encourage large scale meat production of this kind.
The cost of cheap meat may not be immediate but you get what you pay for and poor living conditions, and stressed birds are going to reduce the bird's immune system and leave it wide open to virus infections, just the same as humans.
There is a requirement to register flocks of 50 or more birds with Defra, so that they have an idea of where each chicken is ( on satellite probably). I understand this to be a sensible measure, probably involves a lot of bureaucracy and form filling, that enables the government to tell flock owners at risk. The usual procedure is mass extermination of the birds and complete disinfection of the areas they occupied. Strangely enough, owners nearby the site have not been contacted and the question is, why would they say their birds are not at risk. Has it got to do with the fact that they roam free, have excellent hygiene and feed them when they want to...i.e. the birds are less stressed? Some people have panicked and killed all their chickens even before there was an outbreak.
It seems ridiculous that they want to know where each chicken is, but they cannot find criminals or illegal immigrants or lost children. It surely is a matter of time before we all get computer chips in our bodies and they can find us with sat nav. New passports have a chip implanted for that particular reason I am sure. There has to be some computer somewhere that tracks human movement across the globe in the interests of national security. So, soon, all animals, humans and anything that moves will be registered and seen from the sky.

Practically there is little I can do for my birds apart from making sure that they live in an excellently clean henhouse, have clean water every day and have plenty of good food to eat. If the outbreak gets closer we will have to monitor what happens.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Don't buy the feeling......

The definition of fun is
Fun: Playful release of energy to achieve healing through balance or transformation.

A children fun was part of our vocabulary, actually most things we enjoy bring us some kind of satisfaction. When we are told what we should, ought to, must, do.......then some of the fun seems to miss from the equasion.

The implications of doing something we enjoy are that chemicals in our body, endorphins are released that make us feel happy and contented. If we do something that we have to do, but actually do not enjoy, we release negative chemicals into our body and this can lead to toxicity , illness and disease.

Many of us make decisions not for what is good for us as individuals but what we need to do to keep up with the trends that are sold to us via the media. Every advert for 4 x 4 cars is about adventure, fun, climbing sandbanks in the sahara desert, mountain climbing as where most people with a 4 x 4 drive them in the city, maybe hankering after that adventure that will make them feel good. So when you are persuaded to buy a product, you buy into the feeling of having the product and so, you must have it. Scary thoughts.

The question is what can you do that makes you happy, is fun and comes from your inner soul. My children still have a sense of inbuilt fun, but as an adult I often hear myself say things like ' well that sounds like fun, but I am too old for that or ....I really ought to go and do this or that'. I am not talking about being irresponsible and having nothing but fun in your life, we all have responsibilities but what I seek is a balance.

If to feel good, I have to buy something that costs me a fortune and means that I need to go and work for another 4 years to pay it off, then that seems to create a spiral of discontentment. If on the other hand, a walk on the beach, toes in the water is going to make me feel connected and doing something that I consider fun, then I can do that, I have the time, I am 3 miles from the beach and why not take a picnic and make a day of it.

Needless to say, I do not have a 4 x 4!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Delegating

My DS 2 son is not a natural organiser. I know this because he frequently forgets things and likes to still be guided by his Mum and Dad on what he needs for a successful day. He often feels a failure and even talked about wanting to be homeschooled. My fault I believe. You can so easily think that all your children are alike when it gets to motivation and get irritated when one falls out of line. I told him it was probably my mistake to let it get to this stage and decided to give him a folder with the student handbook at flylady. He has his launchpad ready, he likes the routines set out on paper and his room looks well.......tidy enough to hoover. This is day 3 and there is a marked improvement, his confidence is slightly up as he is able to make his bed, find his pyamas and give some thought to what he needs for the following day instead of getting us all in a panic at 7 am.

I am not sure how , but we were always told to tidy our rooms although no one ever told us how to do it. You just got shouted at on a regular basis and told your room was a mess and to get it sorted. Seems like I have done the same to my sons. Hopefully, it should enable him to get more control over his space and help him to get organised, but in the long term it will simplify my life too if the clothes are in the washing basket and not just lying on the floor or under the bed.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Tribal games




The day had come, the marshmallows had been brought and apple tree growth spurts looked perfect as sticks to use. The only thing that was missing was a bonfire.
So when exactly is a good day to have a bonfire? Traditionally in autumn after the trees have been pruned many bonfires spring up in November when it is Guy Falks in the UK. A dry day is a must and if you want to make some smoke signals ( as we did) you need there to be very little wind.

The boys collected some dry straw from the shed and found small sticks to make that traditional wigwam shape. DS2 was cutting big branches into smaller ones. The logs had been carted away in the wheelbarrow and filed in the woodshed. Weeks have gone by where the field was simply to wet to do the job and a clear day seemed a perfect day to go out and get some fresh air and have some fun.
When the sun went down, the fire glowed on and the boys had enjoyed a magical outdoors day. Who said work could not be fun? let alone an opportunity to show them how to keep themselves warm with a fire built with small sticks. It grew enormous in the end and even too hot to stand next to, but perfect to roast those marshmallows.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Starting a garden

Over on get rich slowly there is an informative post about starting a garden so if its your first year, read on and roll up your sleeves.

J and M came over today. J has about 27 varieties of apple trees and last July I asked whether he would be willing to show me how to prune my 3 apple trees. He did some research in the varieties and armed with my secateurs I was shown the following :
Find the leader and cut by about 1/3 to 1/2
lateral shoots - prune to an outward bud 3 or 4 out.

It sounds simple, then you have to cut out all the branches that are crossing from the outside in. He told me that the shape you are aiming for is the shape of a bowl( on standard trees). The reason we did not have many apples last year is because I had not pruned them and all vigour was going into growth not fruit. He also suggested for one variety to be staked with a 2 m stake as it is a 'whispy' tree and when laden with fruit would bend over. He was reassuring. He did not do the work but made me cut the branches and just made suggestions.

The potatoe bed needs forking over, compost added and that is a job for the weekend. Its been drier and thus we can start making a giant bonfire to deal with branches left over after storm damage. Surprisingly the grass is already growing, about 4 weeks in advance so I am going to take a gamble and take that as my cue to do some planting. I guess it will be about 6 weeks before we have no frost in sight. The onion seeds are in. M gave me another tip, she buys onion bulbs but plants them in pots at this time of the year and when they have grown roots they are planted out. If not, the birds take them all out too easily.

We enjoyed eachother's company and shared a simple lunch. We only meet at this time of the year as in the summer we are all too busy. We also share tomatoe plants, meaning that I sew one variety and she does another and we swop plants. That way, we get variety. It is their ninth year in their garden so she has worked out what she needs to plant and sow and how much each plant will yield on average. A very scientific method. I got carried away with the seeds in the book, planted too many and had a bumper crop, too much to eat in many ways. Canning was good but why can things you actually do not like?