Small Changes Redux

Remember last year in January, I wanted to make some small changes that would improve my life/make it slightly more sustainable? Then two months later, we went into lockdown and I sort of abandoned the whole enterprise..

While we are not back to normal and I’m not entirely convinced we’re out of the woods yet, the work from home life, hardly seeing any of my friends and only one of my family members is pretty normal so it’s time to think about this again.

Being at home practically all the time has lead to some changes in the flat and how I live in it. I bought an instant pot and that has been fabulous for making yoghurt as well as all it’s other uses.

Over the summer, I re-arranged the cupboard of doom to make it slightly more organised and to give me room to store the things I preserved this year. I completely rearranged the living room to accommodate having a desk and that meant some rearranging of the bedroom and new bedroom curtains (finally – it only took 11 and half years!).

Necessity meant I had to buy a new hoover and I bought a very cosy mattress protector but think that’s it for things in the flat.

None of that is particularly sustainable though, and there is an argument that the most sustainable thing you can do is stop buying things, which isn’t wrong but these things have helped how I live but I’m making best efforts.

Compost

On the plot, we set up a composting system, one of my Christmas presents was a bokashi bin system that means I can compost all of my food waste at home without exciting the foxes at the allotment. I also replaced the broken shredder at home with one that works and now all that paper waste goes into the compost too.

The elephant in the room here is peat, I’ve bought a lot of compost in the last five years and it’s not going to change this year. Wickes (my compost supplier of choice) has committed to reducing its use in their products to zero by 2025, but that’s a way off and I have about 4000 litres of compost to buy this year. Increasing the use of my own compost should help reduce and we will look at buying compost without peat in it next year. However, peat free compost is hard to get hold of in bulk and expensive so this year, I’m going to make the less environmentally friendly choice because I can’t afford to buy the amount I need in peat free compost (yes, it’s all wrong, products with peat should be cost more than those without but they don’t). It’s something I’m working on but I don’t have a solution for this year. Last year, we decided not to buy any more plastic pots and we haven’t so that’s all working ok.

Reducing waste at home is still a work in progress, my rubbish and recycling bins are collected every other week and they are never full but I’m still slightly horrified by the amount of recycling that I put out each week. Most of the cardboard goes to the plot to help improve soil and compost there, food and paper too, I’ve used less tins this year because all beans and tomatoes I preserved myself in jars, I do save some jars for other things but most of my recycling is glass and plastic.

I’m trying to think a bit more about plastic waste as I think that glass and metal are pretty easy recycling options (that may be wrong and it may be that I’ll learn differently). I’ve stopped using clingfilm and started using soap instead of shower gel and handwash (which has been much better for my skin). I’ve also stopped buying kitchen roll, when my face flannels get worn, I move them to housework so for cleaning, dusting and mopping up. I also stopped using baby wipes (it’s stupid but I didn’t realise that they have plastic in them and so don’t decompose), instead I have another set of flannels that I keep damp in a plastic box and use for the stuff I used to use baby wipes for. Finally, I haven’t replaced my body puff thing for washing with and have gone back to using a flannel. Everything gets washed on a hot wash and the whole system is working well with an added wash every week.

Laundry day

One of the things that didn’t entirely work for me, was the washable sanitary towels. (Look away now if you’re funny about this stuff). They were really comfortable but the leaking was insane and while I didn’t leave the house much this year, there is a hard limit on how many times I want to change my clothes each day and the bedding in the course of a week. So I’ve reached a comprise position, I use them towards the end of my period when things have slowed down and stick with my other ones for the beginning. (No I’m still not going to use a mooncup, I’m sure they are fantastic but I can’t make tampons work so I’m not the best person for a mooncup)

What else? This month, I’ve signed up for smol laundry detergent fabric conditioner and housecleaning sprays because that should reduce my plastic usage. I’ve also stopped buying washing up sponges because they have plastic in them, at the moment I’m using a silicone thingie, which I don’t love but will probably last for a while, so I’ll use them until I can’t and they go to recycling, then I’ll look at the compostable loofah ones. If I ever get around to a greenhouse on the plot, I’ll try growing a luffa plant and see if I can grow my own!

There’s still a lot of plastic in my life (handcream, shampoos and conditioners, lip balm, deodorant, toothpaste, toilet roll, face and make up collections to name a few) but I need to use the things I have and then I’ll look at things that use less plastic or are more recyclable it’s a work in progress.

Finally, this year I made a change to how I eat, there were lots of reasons for this, but this Lent, I gave up eating meat during the week. It wasn’t as difficult as I was expecting, so while I’ll never be vegan, I am eating less and better raised meat so that’s a change that I’m planning to continue.

Dorset Meats Box

None of this is perfection and I’m aware that all of it is a drop in the ocean of what needs to happen. If we are going to stop the damage that climate change and pollution is causing it’s going to take more than the tiny things I’m doing. It’s going to take governments and industry, a mindset change about what we are ‘entitled’ to and deep systemic change. It’s also really important to note that some of the things I’m doing are rooted in privilege, of living in the first world and being able to afford to do this. I’m not saying everyone can do it or that it’s easy or cheap, I’m just saying that I’m trying to do something about it in how I live.

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Monday Miscellany: Slightly more productive

Happy Monday!

I took an unintentional week off posting last week, it was my first full week back at work and I was not firing on all cylinders and started the week still tackling the backlog of emails. Usually, I can delete about half the emails in my inbox when I get back to work but this week there were more requests and less meeting notifications. However, I caught up and have a plan for this week and you never know, I might actually be ahead of the game by the end of this week, it’s always possible!

It’s been one of those weeks where I’ve tackled some things at home that were bothering me, like removing the dust from bedroom light shade and rehabbing my house plants, you know the stuff you notice but never get around to doing.

The NHS opened up vaccination slots for over 45’s on Tuesday and I’m booked in for mine and had my first on Wednesday. I also had a bit of a reaction to it, on Thursday afternoon, I was basically cold, shivery and v. tired and retired to bed with some hot water bottles. It was done by Friday morning, but it hit at the exact point that I’m PMT’ing and on the weekend I had the worst migraine I’ve had in a while. The joy of perimenopause. Anyway, we are almost on the way to having the family vaccinated, my mum has had both of hers, I’ve had the first of mine and my brother is due sometime next week, all we need is for my sister in law to be done but she needs to wait for her age group to open up!

Other good news, Chelsea and PSG are through to the semi finals of the Champions League. We’ve done a family draw ever year for the last 10 years and I have never won, not once. I think my sister in law has won the most. Last year I had 3 teams in the quarters and none of them got to the semis, so this year I have two teams in the semis and I’m expecting that neither of them will reach the final but it’s progress! And Chelsea have reached the final of the FA Cup, I have no money on that one just pride!

My plan for this week is more of the same except I really need to clean the oven and make sure I get out for a walk before I start work! I wish life was more exciting right now but it isn’t and it wasn’t that exciting before the pandemic!

Have a good week people!

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Sunday’s Coming

In what is now a Good Friday tradition….

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Friday Links on Thursday

As is usual at Easter, Friday Links becomes Thursday Links because I don’t like to post links on Good Friday. Just like I haven’t eaten chocolate this week even though my 40 days of Lent finished last Sunday!

Here are this week’s links:

Wheel life with the ladies in the van

All is not rosy for UK gardens as Brexit hits supplies and Covid hikes demand

Extreme weather is wreaking havoc on olive oil production.

Turmoil at London school hit by flag and hairstyle row. The minute I saw this, I thought it was one of Lord Nash’s schools and so it is!

How did the man with no self-control swallow the words ‘Barnard Castle’?

Covid should have been a boon for Deliveroo – but it still hasn’t turned a profit

Despite the Sewell report, No 10 can no longer remain in denial about racism.

David Cameron’s lobbying didn’t appear to break any rules. That’s the problem

You Might Not Realize How Much You Miss the Office

We Need to Talk About the AstraZeneca Vaccine. Interesting.

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Allotment Adventures: Build More Beds

It was the last weekend in March and it was like a starting gun went off. We planted the potatoes out and sowed broad beans, peas, carrots and beetroots. We also planted out some white hyacinths I’d bought in Sainsburys, so many of the bulbs I buy are impulse bought in supermarkets!

Then we got on with the building the squash bed, it’s roughly 360cm by 90cm, the weedfinder general doesn’t like the beds to be any wider because then she can’t weed them, which is why we decided to change the layout from last year. Last year that large bed had cardboard and compost laid on it (a lot of compost) but the soil underneath is still rock hard and unhappy and there was quite a bit of bindweed in the beds, so I wanted to make the beds a little deeper to bury the bind weed.

So we’ll build another alongside it and put arches in between for things to grow up, hopefully it’ll be pretty as well as practical!

One squash bed

The plan was to then raise the sides on what had been the kale bed. I was convinced it was 180cm long by 90cm wide, which is more or less, the size of all the other beds we’ve build. Nope, this was a surprise size of 120cm wide. I don’t know how or why we made it this size but there it is. Anyway we raised it up and next week, we’ll fill it and sow parsnips and salsify.

I’m not working tomorrow so, I’m going to make sure we have enough wood for two more beds and to raise the sides of the current chard bed (the one with the blue hoops), which I’m going to turn around so it’s in line with all the others. I’m also going to finish weeding that patch of grass in path next to it because it’s driving me nuts!

At that point, we’ll be nearly finished with building but also out of wood. Over the course of April, we’ll build another four beds, the second squash bed and three more of the 180cm by 90cm beds. We’ll also get another 1800 litres of compost to fill them and then building is done for this year. Hurrah! Of course, next year I have to start replacing the beds that we made with lawn edging but there are only four of those!

Also on the list for work during my time off are:

  • Painting the shed
  • Building the compost riddler thingie (mostly to get the box out of the shed so Mum can stop moaning about it!)
  • Sowing celeriac, salad and the salsify and parsnips
  • Sowing tomatoes and basil
  • Weeding around the apple tree
  • If there is woodchip, I want to fill the black compost bin with it, so next year I can use for mulch.

Other than that I also want to spend some time admiring my handiwork and all the blossom.

Blueberry blossom
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Monday Miscellany: A Consequence of Middle Age

Happy Monday!

My friend Sarah, used to talk about her ‘angel of death’ phase, there was a period of years where it seemed like all the important people in her life died. I had that phase from 24 to 34 (Grandad, Dad, Kier Stef). It was a really weird period because your 20’s aren’t usually the time you have to deal with dead people. Since Stef, I haven’t been required to do that curious combination of grief, gatekeeping and admin that happens when parents and ‘next of kin’ people die.

But I’m nearly 50 and while I haven’t had to do it, lots of my friends have and at the moment the hits seem to keep coming. This is middle age, we start to become the responsible generation and part of this our parents dying (although mine is promising to get to at least 100 and I believe her!).

Plans for this week are basically work for three days, then a day of arsing about, followed by a day or two on the plot, then Easter lamb and mini eggs.

Have a good week, people!

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Friday Links: Pandemic Tired

Happy Friday!

Rising from the rubble: London pub rebuilt brick by brick after illegal bulldozing

Tips and tricks for the tastiest tomatoes. I’m still holding off sowing mine, but this is quite interesting, I do a lot of leaf removal of my tomato plants. I basically strip all of the leaves below the first truss of tomatoes and don’t cut all of the leaves away but at least half. Mostly so I don’t water the leaves and to increase airflow to prevent disease.

Punctured, pecked and stolen: hot tubs leave home insurer drained. They don’t seem to be that popular in Ealing, I suspect that we don’t have big enough gardens.

Italian army accused of fowl play after tank accidentally fires rounds into chicken farm

The questioning of women. Boris Johnson and his inability to answer a question.

I think this is about where I stand on this…

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Allotment Adventures: That difficult patch of weeds

I finally got to the weeds next to the squash bed. It also required dismantling the squash bed but it’s done.

I took most of the sides off and used them to create, one side of the ‘new’ bed. It’ll be deeper that the original, to help smother the weeds and half the width (90cm by 360cm), I’ll finish building it next week, when I do the others!

That done, this is what I needed to clear.

I did think about just covering it with cardboard but there were two small raised beds on that path, so I needed to level it too. So I weeded it, it took a while.

Then I covered the space with cardboard and woodchip.

At some point before May, I’ll build another bed of the same size the other side of the weeding chair and we’ll put some kind of arch or arches up to grow beans and little pumpkins up.

That’s pretty much all I managed. Next weekend is bed building and sowing and I’ll have some time off over Easter to crack on with weeding under the apple tree, strimming the grass paths and all the other jobs including sowing tomatoes and ordering more compost and wood for the last of the raised beds.

Work is never done, but we’ll so close to having all of this year’s planned changes sorted and then we can concentrate on food production. Because it’s on it’s way.

Gooseberry blossom
Cabbages

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Monday Miscellany: Spring

Happy Monday!

Despite having walking issues this morning (heavy day at the plot yesterday!) The Spring Equinox was on Saturday and next week in the UK the clocks go forward. Spring is on it’s way!

Not my dog!

Last week wasn’t great, no major drama, just a bit blah. I was due to have the afternoon off, but we had deadline that stretched a tad and I decided to move it to this afternoon. I was ok but it threw me a bit.

I spent the weekend with a headache. Not a migraine, just a headache, but as I’m in my monthly migraine window, I decided to have a lazy Saturday and an early night. It didn’t work so on Sunday, I took myself and my headache to the plot. It didn’t help the headache (it’s still with me) but I felt better about myself!

I also got to have a chat with Jo and Ms T, modern technology is amazing, there they are in Keyna and we get to have a real time conversation while I’m on the allotment!

So plans for the week, well it’s still lockdown and life is unlikely to change until it’s not and I’m vaccinated and honestly I’m not holding my breath! So the usual – plot, house and lots of work. I’m stretching the Easter Bank holiday a bit so I won’t be doing a full work week until the mid April, which means I need to spend time now, so I can go on leave with a clear conscience!

I’m also counting down to the end of Lent, I want to eat all the sweets right now but I shall resist until Easter Sunday!

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Friday Links:

Happy Friday!

I was supposed to take this afternoon off, but something came up! It’s been that kind of a week. Here are this week’s links

My father was famous as John le Carré. My mother was his crucial, covert collaborator. I just love this, a son making sure that his mother isn’t overlooked as just ‘the wife’.

Johnson wants to move on from Covid – 125,000 deaths shows why we need an inquiry

Why can’t Britain handle the truth about Winston Churchill?. Because overall, it can’t really stand the truth about itself. It’s hard to think of yourself as an oppressor, I don’t feel that any of my ancestors particularly benefitted from Empire, but rising tides do raise all boats. Did my working class family struggle, yes, did we starve, not in the last couple of generations. But it’s hard to look at your efforts and struggle, and see privilege. It’s much easy to be a victim, if people would understand how hard you’ve worked. That also means that everything you have, you worked for, it’s not as a result of your privilege. So you cling unreasonably to the ideas that are about your greatness, about what makes you right and hard done by. If Churchill was racist, what else about what you think of yourself is wrong? It’s not right and I’m not sure that I have an answer for it but it’s pretty easy to understand.

Women killed: 118. Statues ‘killed’: 1. So guess which is the national priority?

There Is No Vaccine for Grief. Like the buffalo, I like to minimise the time I’m in discomfort!

What Happened to Christian Pulisic? The last couple of weeks, the reaction in the US to the Sussex drama and this article have really highlighted how culturally different the US and the UK are…

What Sarah Everard’s Murder Illuminates—And Might Obscure

Women Aren’t Nags—We’re Just Fed Up. This is one of the many reasons I’m single. I carry that kind of labour as part of my job. Living alone means that if my house is a mess, it’s down to me and I’m the only one that can fix it. Having to do that work at home for other people would drive me demented.

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