Choose hope

Seen around and about in recent weeks.  In Bristol, Bath and Gloucester (not necessarily in that order).  Enjoy.

♥ ♥ Choose hope ♥♥♥

Posted in Climate change, Community, Do what you can with what you have, Inspirations, Reflections on life (and death), Seeing differently, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments

2019 goals: use less water – April update

We received our latest water bill yesterday.  I was interested to see whether or not we had managed to achieve any reduction in how much we used.

Well yes, we have.  Down from 23 cubic metres in the previous 6 month billing period (April to September) to 21 cubic metres this time. Not unprecedented – my data shows that our usage dipped that low back in September 2015, but since then it has generally settled around the 23/24/25 cubic metres mark for 6 months.

The bill also usefully indicates that this latest bill equates to using 110 litres per day, compared to our last bill at 123 litres per day, and the equivalent bill for last year at 119 litres per day.  It still sounds like a staggering amount of water for 2 people to be using every single day.  Just imagine if we had to walk to collect and carry that on a daily basis, instead of turning on a tap.

Our water provider, Wessex Water, say that the national average 2 person household uses 301 litres of water a day.  For a 1 person household that figure drops to 181 litre per day. That is a staggering amount more than our actual daily use, which spurs me on to continue being thoughtful about how we use water, and see much much more we can reduce our use.

There are a couple of things I began doing during this period, and I think the bill shows that they are having an impact.  Including a financial impact: whereas on our previous bill we owed £8.59 (in other words, our direct debit payment was insufficient), this time we are to receive a refund of just over £30, and our direct debit payments will go down by about £2.50 per month.

  • I now use reclaimed or reused water for at least one toilet flush most days.  On most days I wash up some dishes by hand.  It takes a while before the water runs hot in the kitchen.  I collect the ‘wasted water’ and pour it into a bucket.  I also pour much of the washing up water into the bucket once I’ve finished, letting only the last litre or so go down the drain.  That provides plenty of water for a toilet flush.
  • If the weather is very rainy and the garden water butts are full, I draw off another lot of water into the bucket for toilet flushing
  • We don’t flush the toilet every time we use it (“if it’s yellow……”)
  • (You may think this is a bit ‘hard core’ ) When I know I’m going to be out on the allotment that day I may well wee into a (different) bucket and take that with me to add to one of my compost bins – free compost activator, if you like.  Why waste what can be used?

I don’t do any of these things as often as I could – I think the lesson from this 6 month period is that they really are worth doing.  So one resolution for the current period is to do more of the same.

I’ve also noticed that in the course of an average day I wash my hands quite a few times.  Unless I’m just in from a heavy gardening session, the water is rarely very dirty.  I’m going to get a small bowl to place in the wash basin and add that for reuse for toilet flushing.

I have spent a little on achieving this – I bought an old enamel bucket with a lid at a vintage market, which is what I keep the flushing water in.  That has been more than paid for by the cost saving in water, and will continue in use for the foreseeable future.  Likewise the bowl I plan to buy (maybe at the same vintage market).

There’s no point in us wringing our hands about the climate emergency if we’re not prepared to take some very simple measures ourselves.  And if not now, when?

I wonder how low we can go?  If you have other simple suggestions for reducing water use, I’d love to hear them.

Like water itself, our useage graph is (mostly) flowing downhill.  As it should be.

Posted in 2019 goals, Climate change, Do what you can with what you have, Frugal, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Poetry and cities, in March

In these increasingly difficult times, sometimes poetry can bring us hope, or inspire us, or  express how we are feeling.

We can go looking for it, but occasionally it just comes looking for us.

  1. Bristol – on the side of the Arnolfini, I first came across the poet Salena Godden and her inspiring poem ‘Pessimism is for Lightweights’.  Yesterday I happened to switch on the radio for Poetry Please (R4), and who was there with Roger McGough choosing the poems but Salena Godden.  It was a treat to hear her choices, and especially to hear her read one of her own poems and learnt that she has just published a new book of poems, called (what else!) ‘Pessimism is for lightweights’.  Definitely a book I will have to search out., and a poem for our times.

2. Leiden – earlier this month we went to Delft for a few days, somewhere we seem to have fallen in love with.  One day we visited Leiden, and I was surprised to see many poems painted onto walls.  What a delightful idea. I photographed just a few, to share with you.  (I don’t know what the last one means, nor who it is written by.  Nor I realise now, whether it is even a poem, though it looks like one.  But I particularly loved the way it is has been carefully painted to give the impression of a page and a shadow.  A double work of art.)

Posted in Community, Do what you can with what you have, Inspirations, Poetry party, Reflections on life (and death), Seeing differently, Travels | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Two shoes, one shoe

Once upon a time I needed to buy myself some new shoes (last autumn, to be precise).  My lymphoedema foot and leg no longer fitted into my existing shoes or boots.  I was advised to stick to sturdy lace-ups, and to adjust them to fit with changes in the swelling.

I decided that if I was going to have to wear that kind of shoe, I’d go for something a bit more funky.  My first ever pair of Doc Martens.  I went to the shop and the very helpful assistant was so patient and kept fetching me larger sizes, as I gradually worked my way up from the size five and half I’d worn for all my adult life up through size six, six and a half, and finally seven until we found the pair that fitted ok on both feet.

I was feeling a bit sorry for myself that I’d had to abandon the boots I’ve loved wearing for years.

The shop was quite quiet, so I noticed when another customer came in with her child.   She was young, good looking, and very chic.

Then when she stood up I noticed that she only had one leg.  Which rather put my self-pity into perspective.

I love my DMs.  Even more with the purple laces I bought for them.  (Little granddaughter loves them too, especially those purple laces).  They are the most comfortable boots I’ve ever worn.  I bought the soft leather version, and they are perfect.  I comfortably walk miles and miles in them.

You can see from the photo that the right lace is done up looser than the left, to accommodate the extra bulk (and the pressure stocking).  But even this is way tighter than when I first bought them last autumn, and as the swelling reduces, I’ve been able to lace the boot tighter still.

I’m optimistic that when I go to buy some new shoes for the summer I may even be able to buy a smaller size.  Whereas the woman with one leg is never going to grow another one.



Posted in Do what you can with what you have, Inspirations, Reflections on life (and death), Seeing differently, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Planning backwards

For now at least, some of our weeks have settled down into a more regular pattern, with some anchor activities determining how other things fit in alongside and around them.

In particular, our regular day for visiting our granddaughter (and yes, we are immensely fortunate that for now at least she lives close enough for us to see her every week)  is Tuesday.  We see her after their singing session at the local library.  We start by taking her for a long walk while she has a good nap, then we all have lunch together, then some fun play time, giving her mum a bit of welcome time to catch up on some of her own things.  Yesterday for the first time we took her to the play park – she loved going on the swing and watching the older children.

We take a few things over there with us, including a loaf of bread, to share for lunch and leave for them to finish off.  So it makes perfect sense to have my weekly bread-baking session first thing on Tuesday mornings.

Working back from there, the sourdough starter must be taken out of the fridge first thing Monday morning.  I refresh half for future batches, and set the half I’m using this time to work with a little white flour and some water.  After lunch I add more water and enough additinal flour to give a porridge-like consistency, and let it sit some more.  Before I go to bed I add salt and the rest of the flour, cover it, and let it sit overnight.

First thing on Tuesday morning, before I’m really quite at one with the day, I knead the dough and set it rise in the bread tins.  The oven goes on, and the bread is left to rise again while I have my breakfast (and that all-important coffee).  Once the oven is at temperature and the bread has risen it can go in the oven.

We’re left with either 2 or 3 loaves for us: plenty to take us through till the following week.  Whatever isn’t needed straight away gets frozen.  Sometimes I use one loaf worth of dough to make a baguette or rolls with half, and the other half to make us pizza either Tuesday or Wednesday evening.  When I’m making tomato sauce for something else, I make extra and freeze 3 small pots – each one just right for pizza for two.  So there’s a quick and delicious supper for us one evening (so long as I remember to get the sauce out of the freezer in time…).

I love the way one thing in life flows from another.  Sometimes if you look forward to see what’s coming, then work backwards, it can make life that little bit easier and more pleasant.  It makes all the difference.

Posted in Do what you can with what you have, Family, Food, Reflections on life (and death), Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Making the most of the (food) seasons

We’ve had allotments for well over 30 years, and eating our own produce is an ingrained part of our family life.   Alongside that, I’ve increasingly bought produce in season to enjoy at the time but also to preserve.  First pears, then tomatoes, then cherries, now lemons.

Many years ago (maybe 10 years?), one February we set ourselves a challenge to eat almost entirely local and seasonal food.  Our exceptions were fair-traded sugar, coffee, tea and spices.  We learnt a lot from the experiment, and permanently changed some of our buying habits as a result.

I’m increasingly trying to avoid freezing produce and use other methods of preserving – fermenting, chutneys, pickles, dehydrating, bottling (or canning, as it’s called in the USA).

So far my success with bottling has been limited, so my one of my challenges for this year is to get it right.  This seems to me a more sustainable approach than freezing, and anyway, we don’t have a large enough freezer to store very much food, and it seems to me best to focus on using it to save any ‘leftovers’ we can’t use immediately, and batch cooking to avoid having the oven on for say just one loaf.  So for example I always bake 4 loaves (the max I can fit in our oven) when I’m baking bread.

To do this successfully and eat well all year round, you really need to be on the ball with what’s in season and what’s not.  It helps to be able to lay your hands on reliable and favourite recipes at the right time.  For example, that courgette cake that tastes delicious and uses up some of the annual courgette glut.

To make this easier, in 2008 I set up a book where I keep things in an organised way.  I bought a hardback book (to be sturdy and last well for many years), which I could organise by month (mostly), to remind myself what to look out for/buy/make each month.  I have an additional section at the back for my all-year-round favourites.

This is what I came up with.

 It works for me.

Posted in Allotment, Food, Frugal, Growing, Local food, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Taking stock

It’s all too easy to stay on repeat and just grow the same things and make the same jams and preserves year after year.  But a minor mishap meant I needed to clear off the garage shelf where I keep our stock of preserves, and as I put it all back I realised several things that I need to act on this year.  I’ve made a note to self to remember this next year (and the year after, and the year after that).

  • I have way too much crab apple jelly.  Delicious though it is, we still have jars that date back to 2016.  It’s still fine to use, but really I shouldn’t make any more until we’ve used all this lot up.  Likewise grape jelly from 2015.  Whereas the grape juice I made last year was delicious and we could have used far more.  Lesson learned.
  • I only need to make marmalade every couple of years.  It keeps well, and I prefer to make a larger quantity to last longer than several smaller amounts.
  • We actually don’t eat a huge amount of jam.  Our sons and their partners enjoy it, and I enjoy it, but there’s only so much we can eat.  Malcolm eats very little jam (unless I make blackcurrant jam or cherry jam).  Making smaller quantities of our soft fruit jams is sensible.
  • Labels are VITAL!!  Occasionally I have filled small jars and been certain that I would know what was in them.  How foolish.  Now I know to cut labels into smaller pieces to fit the tiniest of jars.  Thus avoiding the surprise when a train picnic results in a roll with chutney not a roll with marmalade.  Not that there’s anything wrong with chutney, you know, in its place…
  • I love drinking elderflower cordial, but it is just flavoured sugar syrup.  And therefore not something someone keeping an eye on their weight should drink too much of.   I have several years supply sitting on the shelf.
  • Likewise sloe gin.

One of the most sensible things I’ve read about fruit and vegetable growing is that the only crops worth growing are the ones you actually pick and eat.  Of course this comes into the ‘bleeding obvious’ category, and yet how often I’ve found that I’ve carefully grown something and then don’t get out there in time to pick and use it.  Likewise, I often find myself coming to the end of March and finding that I still have lots of potatoes left and they’re getting soft and sprouting.  Not sensible.  To avoid this I need to:

  • only grow what we enjoy eating
  • only grow what we will eat, preserve, or give away
  • eat what I’ve grown (ie remember it’s there and use it)
  • give away anything we can’t / won’t use ourselves.

I wrote this on Monday, and went straight out to the allotment to get started on this year’s season.  Such an exciting prospect!

Posted in Allotment, Do what you can with what you have, Food, Frugal, Growing, Local food, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment