Sunday, October 25, 2009
Saturday, October 10, 2009
We've tidied up and rearranged the garden a bit, and have got rid of lots of the pots we don't use. Inside the house I'm in the process of going through all my textiles and crafts items and chucking out the stuff that I don't use any more. We're getting rid of a few books here and there and I'm slowly redoing my bedroom too (hopefully going to be using reclaimed timber furniture!). But until now I have never really realised just how dependent we are on plastics.
Everything we use is plastic. I always thought I was quite careful about avoiding over-packaged goods but everything we eat and buy comes in plastic, from crisps and oven chips to health foods and fruit and veg. Even the stuff packaged in metal, glass or plastic is still printed in a plastic-dependent process or stuck together with plastic tape. I've been rifling through plastic beads, acrylic yarns, nylon pipecleaners and even the bags I use to store them or throw them away in are plastic.
We have always reused our plastic shopping bags and use "bags for life" but even then there is always the odd occasion when you've forgotten a bag and so have to use a new one from the shop. We buy a lot of stuff from the co-op in the High Street, and they use only potato-starch biodegradable bags, but is it really better to use food crops for plastics? I worked at the nursery on Thursday when I had a day off from college and Jim showed me some new very expensive pots he was trialing. He says he wants to give up plastic pots, and these ones were made from rice. He insisted they were made from by-products such as husks etc. but I'm still sceptical: one of these days, we will have a food crisis, and if there's no rice, he won't be able to buy any rice by-product pots either.
The fact is that we are utterly dependent on plastics. The things we use that are not made of plastic are more than likely produced in industrial conditions, and guess what - those industrial conditions rely on plastics. Everything from our cosy jumpers to kagouls and wellies, windows, furniture, and our food packaging is made from plastic. It's pretty scary to wonder what if we woke up tomorrow and all the plastics had gone or had never been invented. We wouldn't have anything.
But I'm also sceptical about the alternatives. If we justs topped using plastics, what would happen to all those plastic goods that are already in existence? They'd either be incinerated (can we really capture all those harmful gases?) or put to landfill. I like using natural fibres in my textiles work, but would it really be better to rely on wool for our clothing, house insultaion, etc? And could we really put precious land down to fibre plants without struggling to produce enough food, and would many of them grow without petrochemical fertilisers? Would, for example, rice by-products really be a realistic option in a world without plastic parts for aeroplanes, ships, and machines?
I'm still not sure what I think about all this but I think the best thing we can do is continue to use plastics, just not make so much of them. I think we're in too deep to stop using plastics, and look at all the good things they do for us - medical supplies, for example. I think we just have to reuse and recycle all the plastic we can. So I'll be trying to throw away as little as possible during this big clear out. Someone out there on ebay or Freecycle will have a use for all my junk, and hopefully that will keep it out of landfill.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Tuesday, August 18, 2009
- Every month I will make (and finish) an item of clothing/accessory/cosmetic.
- It will be made from scratch.*
- I will try and use recycled or natural materials wherever possible. I think I'll allow remnants from the fabric shop too - if I don't buy them they might go to landfill.
- The things I make must be finished and useable by the end of each month!
*I'll allow myself to use existing clothes but the rule is if it's a top I have to change it into a skirt, i.e. I have to use it to make something else, rather than just decorate it.
I'm pretty excited about this. It might seem a bit of a departure from my usual topics of bees and vegetables but the textile and clothing industry is a huge contributor to all the things I don't like: environmental and human degradation, irresponsible consumerism etc. So if I can make just 12 fashion/style related things this year whilst harming the planet and people as little as possible it can only be a small step in the right direction.
Hopefully it will also push me to learn some new skills! Every time I flip through a fashion magazine I find myself thinking "I could make that" and then I get to my sewing machine and find that actually I can't. And of course money is pretty tight this year so being able to make clothes that actually last for a fraction of the price they'd cost in a shop would be fantastic. So this year I will learn to make clothes etc. and I will go to the ball!
I've decided that my first project will be a hat for winter. It'll count for September as we're already halfway through August. I'll knit it from my weaving teacher Carole's homegrown Corriedale fleece, handspun by me, according to the instructions for the Slouch Hat in Lexi Boeger's "Intertwined". I don't think you can get much more handmade than that.
So wish me luck...I expect that in a month's time I'll really be wishing I'd set myself something easier but oh well...it could be fun ^^.
*Jim is my boss at the bamboo nursery. Last night he managed to randomly find the blog and all this morning was quoting the things I wrote about him. So I'm going to have to be terribly complimetary about him now, at the expense of The Awful Truth. Apologies. Although he did give me a hydrophobia unknownii to take home today (some kind of ginger, I dunno the name).
Thursday, August 13, 2009
This year we've been converting to OSB hives and yesterday we finally made a huge leap forward. We had 2 colonies still in 14x12" nucs and at last they have made the move into OSBs. As they were both big, busy colonies it was about time that we pulled our finger out and moved them!
Becuase the frames the bees were on in the nucs were much bigger than OSB size we cut them down - that way they'd still have some existing brood in their new home (the rest of the frames used to fill up the hive were a mixture of drawn, partially drawn, feed and foundation combs). Cutting them down involves sawing through the wooden side bars and cutting through the comb with a breadknife. Of course this means that you get covered in honey and "larvae juice".
^ The bees clean up some of their comb for us.
The best thing was however, on one of the off-cut pieces of comb there was a worker bee trying to emerge from her cell. I needed to get the comb into the bin bucket but I hated to see her die just when she was about to start life as a full-grown bee! So I very gently pulled back the capping and one of the sides of her cell. She was still caught up in her chrysalis so I had to VERY carefully wiggle that off her too...however eventually she was out and it was amazing! I can't describe what a cool feeling it was! (Perhaps a bit like giving birth, I suppose). Anyway, I put her down on the roof of the hive and she was wonderful. She started walking around immediately but was unsteady on her feet, her legs kept slipping out too wide under her. And she was covered in soft grey velvet...amazing!
Because we have to keep our bees in out-apiaries (away from home) we never really sit and just watch what's going on with the hives - we're always lugging equipment to and from the car and by the time we've finished inspecting I'm hungry, Dad's tired and we want to go home. We never just sit down and watch how the bees behave and how their society works...and as I learn more about Permaculture the more I realise that observing nature at work is the best way to learn about it and how to help it (I've also noticed that forcing myself to really look at things has so helped my creativity - my art and writing are improving so much just because I look at things more. So I have been well and truly won over by this Permaculture principle...as well as the rest of them, but this one in particular). Seeing that baby bee take her first few steps was absolutely lovely...so perhaps I will start taking a folding chair with me so I can just sit and watch!
Amd finally, I have another couple of recipes for you (again, I'm afraid, without a single picture). We seem to have been doing a lot of cooking recently but Dad's Sweet Potato Bread is definitely one of our best inventions to date, and my Moroccan soup never seems to last long.
Dad's Sweet Potato Bread
1 batch of basic bread dough - enough for a nice big loaf (Dad used Jamie Oliver's recipe from "The Naked Chef")
12 oz left over roasted sweet potato chunks (we used mixed sweet potato and squash, cut into chunks and roasted with cumin and black mustard seeds).
It's easy - mix the sweet potato into the basic bread dough. Put into the oven for 20 mins at 225 degrees C. This made a medium-sized loaf and a few rolls for us. The bread browns wonderfully on top and the crumb is the most beautiful sunny orange, with a lovely moist texture. We served it with my Moroccan Soup (see below) and is lovely to mop up the juices of the vegetarian Moroccan tagine with apricots Mum made last night.
My Moroccan Soup
This one started out as a recipe in Good Food magazine but I've adapted it to suit our taste. I usually make double. The lemon juice makes this soup really zingy and special.
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
600ml hot vegetable stock
red pepper - perhaps 2 big shopbought ones, or lots of little ones from the garden ^^
1 tin tomatoes
1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 sticks celery (with leaves if home grown!)
1 carrot (optional)
1 - 2 tsps chilli powder
1 - 2 tsps cumin seeds
1 - 2 tsps cayenne pepper / Ras-el-Hanout spice blend / cinnamon
juice of 1 lemon
Heat the oil in a heavy casserole dish. Fry off the onion, garlic, celery and carrot if using until starting to soften. Throw in the cumin seeds and fry for another minute or two to toast. Add the peppers and cook for another couple of minutes. Fling in the stock and the tomatoes and cover, leaving to simmer for 20 minutes. Add the chickpeas and stir. Simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes. Break up the tomatoes a bit, and add the spices and a good grind of black pepper too. Taste and season with salt if you think it needs it - I never do. You can serve it up immediately or save for later - 5 minutes before serving, squeeze in the lemon juice and stir, and allow to simmer for a couple more minutes. Serve beautifully hot with a Sweet Potato Bread roll. You can also add the zest of the lemon with the cumin for extra zing.