Saturday, October 31, 2009

The art of giving

The house is beginning to look a little larger and warmer. I am avidly watching freecycle noticeboards and surprisingly I usually can come up with some way of granting someone's wish for a weird and wonderful object that has been lurking in some dark corner of the house, unwanted and unused. Now my children are reaching teen years it seems absurd to hold onto a travelcot and small bikes and when I offered a selection of lego my boys were heartbroken. When the question of ' and when did you last play with lego' received no answer they did realise that indeed it was OK to give some away to a child who really had no lego and would have liked to build something.

Life does not stand still and our desire for change of stuff is inherent. My youngest son has a room that literally could be packed in about 10 mins. His prize possessions are limited and he is very limited in his needs and wants. We looked at the sale of cricket bats as he is a huge fan and astounded me when he said : Not bad but if you just manage to change the grip on my bat, it will look brandnew'. At least one convert to an unstuffed life.

A shoebox scheme is being organised and putting together a box of useful presents is a good way of sharing resources. I have knitted a series of hats that will keep teenagers warm and cosy in foreign countries.

It surprises me the amount of items sold on Ebay and sent to a good home. The money raised has been used to microfinance entrepreneurs in other countries via Kiva. Giving the use of money to someone who needs it to enhance their living standards seems a lot more appealing now than a pair of black trousers.

Now if I could only find a home for the snake bed that was left behind by the previous owners although I am sure it will be on someones wishlist.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sheet mulching- blog action day

The last months have seen me on all fours examining the soil in our garden, in particular in the raised beds. It is indeed teeming with soil life and as a result the plants grown in it seem to be healthy.

My initial gardening efforts were childish, in that I really did believe that sticking seeds in the soil would give me great beans, cauliflowers and courgettes. My children have over the years come home with a bean plant in a cup and not surprisingly 2 out of 3 have died through neglect. This exercise is given to them to establish what plants need to reach their optimum potential.

So it is with humans. We have a finite life, start of as seedlings that need nurturing and as to whether we reach our optimum potential is going to depend in what soil we stand and what growing conditions we find along the growing seasons.

Global warming will create challenges of sorts that will be beyond our control as a result of decades of using fossil fuel energy and every positive action we can create to counteract the possible effects of that on our growing medium in the garden can only reap benefits.

Permaculture helps to create a synergy between the growing cycles and in Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemingway a whole chapter is dedicated to the building of soil life. We have the initial elements of creating compost and mulching the beds with compost but he also suggests sheet mulching. So lets see if in this garden we can harnass the creative energies of soil life to the benefit of all.

Sheet mulching starts off with a layer of cardboard and is topped with about 30 cm of organic compost. If you do this in autumn, the mulch will rot over winter. We have an area that currently hosts but weeds and over the next weeks I am going to give this method a try which will give me a comparison to a raised bed. I will grow the same plants in it over the season and we shall see what results we get.

Ingredients needed are :

  • cardboard, old clothing, newspapers
  • lime, rock phosphate,bonemeal, rock dust, kelp meal and blood meal
  • straw, hay, leaves, seaweed, ( 1 strawbale in my case)
  • 2 feet of compost
  • a layer of rotted manure
  • topping of straw, woodshavings, seagrass

By composting in place the soil organisms are not disturbed and an intact subterranean ecology develops. Its worth a go and perfect for an autumn project.

First I need to do some networking and go for walks on the beach to find some ingredients.

Pictures to follow.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Personal power : Our fantastic life sustaining energy system.

Personal power : Our fantastic life sustaining energy system.

What the world eats by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio is a coffee table book with a difference. It identifies 30 average families in 24 countries and creates a photo of the family with a week’s worth of food. The results are worth considering : the family in Bhutan eats meals made up of fruits, vegetables and rice which look barely enough to feed a family of 7 adults and 7 children. The family of 4 people in the USA has a diet almost completely made from processed and packaged foods. And many countries in between. They all have some energy.

If we could compare health statistics in both countries we might find that there really is a correlation between our health and what we eat. The reason we eat is to create a constant energy cycle that enables us to function in the environment we inhabit and make a contribution to the overall well being of the planet.

Everyone does the best with the resources they have , but do we really?
In heating our homes for instance, we use energy to heat the space around us first ( from the outside), instead of looking at ways to create energy from the inside.

Our bodies have a need to process energy just as much as any energetic entity in the world sphere but the way we get our energy and the way we use it has changed over the last century.The most muscle power used in a working day may be to get up and move a computer mouse.

Over the last few years, I have been looking at how my body processes energy and whether it is possible to manage that at all and have come to some startling conclusions. The food we used to eat provided a quick fix of energy followed by a real low and left my body to adjusts its energy supply by slowing down and demanding a fuel that would create boosts of energy from outside. This however slowed down the processing of slow releasing foods, slowed down my metabolism. To start a fire you would find paper, firelighters to boost the flames and then you hopefully would find logs that burn slowly releasing a constant temperature into the room. Different types of trees give out different heat exchanges. The same principle applies to the food we eat and how our bodies process that. Firelighters on their own will give you a spark but nothing else and to get your fire going with big logs is going to take a very long time. When we do not eat sufficient quality calories, our bodies start storing energy in fat cells ( in case the situation continues) and our metabolism slows down to stop us burning so many calories. As you get fatter and your circulation reduces, your body gets colder and you will find a need to seek out heat from the outside.

When our bodies function at peak, we do not feel the cold so much and we want to generally keep moving so that we create our own heat using the resources we have personally. It all changes when we age or when we become ill because energy is required to fight infections and protect our own planet.

Looking after you own physical, mental and spiritual body will go a long way to look after the planet in the same way.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Sunday, October 04, 2009

What fuels the need to buy?

When deciding on a purchase, we can differentiate between a need and a want as a first step, but we rarely consider the consequences of our buying decision at the point of purchase. Also, we often do not recognise the factors that have created the need.

As we run a family business, time together is at a premium and we considered a family holiday away from home and business. After consideration of what each person’s expectations were of a holiday, the majority decided a skiing break would be very enjoyable. This was followed by a lot of research, places we could go to using trains instead of planes( ecological consequences), type of accommodation etc and the financial costs of such a trip. The end result was that a week skiing would set us back £ 5000 by the time we had rented equipment and acquired the appropriate wardrobe. Thinking about your purchases does take some fun out of it; it slows the process and leaves time to consider.

We then tackled the situation differently and asked the children to decide if they each had £ 1000 whether they would actually be spending it on a week skiing and the answer fascinated me. There were three resounding negatives to that equation. Each young adult could find a better way of spending that money, from newer technology that would give year round joy versus a week’’s holiday to saving the money or spending it on keeping warm this coming winter. The end result was that the need for a week’s holiday was shelved and gained a new perspective. We grew in our understanding of what motivates each family member and how easily society can offer us a fix by creating a need to buy a possible temporary solution or even an escape.

Even if the brochure tells you that the holiday will be less that £ 400 per person, such a holiday can escalate to £ 1000 per person.

Another example is the need for a new games console. If we dig a bit deeper we can understand that the need has arisen because there are arguments between brothers on sharing equipment and that games are more expensive for one type of console than another. The need can be satisfied by buying a new games console but could be managed by helping them to set boundaries as to their usage of the existing games console and by finding other free leisure pursuits. By asking the children to look at their perceived solution and its consequences we ask them to look deeper at what exactly has prompted this need that demands an instant fix to be purchased. As each buying decision is openly discussed at our dinner table, we all gain a better understanding of what drives us to buy. We can see a genuine need to stop the anxiety, frustration and unhappiness created by a lack of sharing and peer pressure.

The consequences of a haircut can mean the need to spend 10 mins each morning washing your hair, then applying a rather expensive gel but then heck I know all too well that at 14 image is very important. Just who created the need I wonder?

It is unlikely that we can stop our children buying into a consumer orientated society but if we can give them tools that give an insight into establishing whether it is their need that drives the purchase or an instilled need by society, then they can make a responsible purchase in the full knowledge of the consequences. I believe my generation lost sight of that.