Monthly Archives: January 2007

wood for the taking

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Today we went to the local Normanby Hall Country park, as they are still cutting down trees from the strong winds a few weeks back. It was a treat for me as there is loads of free wood going, great if you have a log fire or a pole lathe and an art degree. We helped ourselves to as many logs as we could carry beech and oak, but also aquired some beautiful Wellingtonia pine slices from the trunk of the tree about 2 feet across. I thought I might try and make tables out of them but I’ll see after I’ve scratched my beard for a while. The best part about the pine is that in the middle it’s almost bright pink possibly due to the effects of rotting but I’m no expert.

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We also watched a huge tree being cut down, I was in my element, so much so I forgot to take a photo. The little lad loved it too. It’s another thing that I have never seen before, so simple but it made my day.

I had a chat with the head Ranger at the park and was sad but not surprised to find that most of the wood is just burned. Some gets sold to local wood yards but they only want it if it is right next to the road and cut up into lengths. As the park does not have the facilities this rarely happens. They cut up as much as they can and people are invited to collect it but this only applys to the large trunks which need to be removed, much of the smaller branches are still burned. My permaculture brain was working overtime trying to think of a better solution but it was money and time against them. The Ranger said she felt the same but there was not alot she could do.

The artist in me would love to work there turning the huge trunks into sculptures, like one of my heros David Nash but it’s not an option they have to be removed as soon as possible, this is a council run park. I also wonder whether this type of storm will be on the increase in the years to come but only time will tell.
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Here is a tree goblin that was seen just after the tree was felled it muttered something about ice cream and ran off.

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forget the words just save the world

When talking to people I often find that there are so many phrases that describe being less wasteful and doing things for yourself, such as ethical shopping, your eco foot print, permaculture, low impact, sustainability, self-sufficiency, voluntary simplicity, downshifting, organic gardening, for example, that I confuse myself, am I a organic gardener? a permaculture student? or an ethical shopper? Although they all are different principals they all share a common goal, to make less of an impact on the environment, to not rely on manufactured goods and to produce less useless waste.

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in the phrases that I forget that they are all essentially, working towards a common goal. People sometimes ask me how can I be self-sufficient when I have no garden? Well the honest answer is you can’t sorry. But would you want to be ? I know there are too many thing that I like and would not like to give up or could not commit to providing for myself every day, cheese the odd packet of crisps etc. When given this answer most people seem to give up, if I can’t live on a farm, cut off from the world, I’m not going to bother. I used to be that person.

I don’t grow all the veg we use as a family of 5, I don’t produce any of the meat fish or eggs and I don’t produce any of my own energy, I can’t at the moment I’ve not the room or the skills. Does this mean I should give up all this hippy talk forget the environment forget the children making clothes in the far east forget it all buy a hummer and drive the kids the two minutes to school, no. I can’t tick the ‘self-sufficient’ box, but I don’t waste water, I try and buy locally and seasonally, repair things and I recycle as much as possible. By worring about the phrase you can often feel that you are not achieving a target as you are not 100% self-sufficient or 100% carbon neutral.

The first step is to not give a name to what you are doing, it will not help you reach your goal. I have done this, that’s why when I talk or write this blog I tend to change the phrase according to what I’m talking about. Think about it this way, in the WW2 growing veg was a necessity not self-sufficiency and if it was to have a name it came under the banner of ‘Dig for Victory’. In Cuba when they had the peak oil energy crisis, and then started to pick themselves back up, did they use the term permaculture or self-sufficiency no they called it their ‘special period’.

I don’t want you to think that I don’t respect the work that is put in by many different groups around the world, what I am talking about is the average person who wants to do their bit but is confused by the technical terms and ideology of each phrase. Just get the facts see what you are capable of doing and get on with it and when people ask what you are doing just tell them you are a ‘downshifting student of Gaia attempting to live by permaculture principals in a self-sustaining way in order to have a low impact organic fair trade existence there by neutralising your carbon footprint and saving the world’. I bet they will never ask again and you can get on with life. Remember it’s what you do, that’s important not what you call it.

soil association peak oil conference

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Last week held the 2007 Soil Association conference it was focused on the urgent need to develop new models of localised food and farming systems. This is in anticipation of the central role that farmers and growers will play in averting climate change and delivering food security in an era of scarce and expensive energy.

you can listen to the podcasts of the various talks on the website, check blogroll.

This was the theme

There may be differing views on exactly when the tide will turn on our oil and carbon reserves, but many analysts predict that it is likely to happen before 2010. From the perspective of climate change, this is not a moment too soon. Although reserves will ensure reasonable availability for many decades subsequently, oil prices are likely to rise sharply, completely changing the dynamics of cost effectiveness in transport, food production, housing and alternative energy sources.

A new and irresistible driver will then, over the next few years, force change in the way we live, farm and buy our food. Whilst many of us have anticipated these changes, it has been the debate over environmental care, closer connection between citizens and the land, and animal welfare that has raised awareness of the need to change both our methods of production and the means by which we process and distribute our food. In the future, however, what has been ‘nice to have’ will become imperative.

The Soil Association’s role, working with many others, is to anticipate and prepare for these changes, for the benefit of our farmers and growers, food networks and society. This conference is an opportunity to take both a big picture look at what the surprisingly near future will bring and to discuss strategies that will allow us to move confidently forward into a world post peak oil.

What pleased me was to see such a high profile organisation tackling such issues. For them to actually mention peak oil and have guest permaculture speakers talking about the need for localised farming, will bring the issues into the mainstream.

walden; or, life in the woods

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Walden; or, life in the woods by Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862)

Thoreau an early environmentalist moves to a cabin beside Walden pond, while he lives there for two years he observes nature farms and studies life in general.

Not only is this book filled with everyday activities from his journal but it is a critique on modern life society and other topics which is still as relevant today as it was nearly 200 years ago. If anybody is the father of voluntary simplicity and downshifting then Thoreau is the man.

“men have become the tools of their tools. The man who indepemdently plucked fruits when he was hungry is become a farmer; and he who stood under a tree for shelter a housekeeper. We no longer camp as for the night, but have settled down on earth and forgotten heaven. We have adopted Christianity merely as an impoverished method of agri-culture.”

I could quote this book all day but I will leave it to you to find the great passages within it. He is credited in influencing Tolstoy, Gandhi and other thinkers, and when you read it you will see why. The tradegy is that these thoughts of voluntary simplicity are not new to us at all but we are still a long way from finding a balance with our natural environment.

unlucky few weeks

I have not posted for a while as I ‘ve been in the worst health for a few years, getting a cold which turned into a flu then finally get better and get toothache which has now turned into an abscess meaning my face is all swollen on the left side but at least the pain has gone away. I treat toothache with clove oil for pain as it seems to work really well for me and salt water for the abscess which kills bacteria. Luckily it’s in a tooth which needs to be pulled anyway so the pain is not so bad, I will have to get some antibiotics soon though so that the infection does not spread.

Also the old lady who’s garden I’m trying to buy off the council has moved out, I’m glad that she has finally got somewhere smaller as it was causing her alot of stress looking after a house on her own. However part of me is worried that if they move a family in with three kids they will not want to lose the garden. I tried to phone the planning officer but he is off sick, bugger.

I also missed the Farmers market again, it’s on once a mounth I have never been able to get there in the past as it is in a local village but this time I had worked out the bus route and it was a beautiful day, well there is always next time.

The house work is piling up, and I’ve neglected the little lad over the past few weeks as I’ve not had the energy to entertain him, I just want to get back to normal now. It’s times like these which really test you , it would have been all to easy to get a take out or not not bother where the shopping comes from. Even though I’ve felt like crap I’ve tried to keep to my ethics throughout. Family and friends become more important too I would not have been able to cope without the support of everyone, meals cooked by my mother-in-law etc even the kids helped. Being the one who normally does most of the housework and shopping I realise how important it is to have support when you get ill, this is why I think it’s important that the kids learn how to cook and wash up, it’s not only an important life skill but invaluable when somebody gets ill.

Thanks to everybody who has helped.