Saturday, 29 September 2012

Feast or famine year

Where did the summer go ? What summmer...

This morning, almost the last day of September, I sat for a short while watching a spider carefully spinning her web. It is so easy on these autumn days to sweep aside their precision engineering, when hanging out the washing, or in search of an apple from the tree. Often I try to negotiate under, over or around the web, only to completely forget on my return trip, breaking their world.

Along with most people I talk to, the garden has really been unproductive this year. I popped down to the community allotment, having missed most of the fortnightly workdays since spring. The grapes in the greenhouse have once again been a bumper harvest, and there are late raspberries to pick, and a few squashes nestling on the beds.

A Red Admiral butterfly alighted on the bench, and fluttered off, too quick for me to photograph. This year, there seems to have been loads of them feeding on the plum tree at home. I guess they rely on the birds or slugs to break open the skin, but must then be attracted by the strong scent of ripe plums. I haven't seen this feeding frenzy before, but I think I heard that they have forsaken their customary migration southwards to Africa in recent years, presumably preferring to stay and gorge on our autumn abundance and then try and find a warm place to overwinter. Given this year has generally been bad for wildlife too, it was heartening to see.

But whilst vegetable gardening has gained great popularity, the effect of failed crops for us is just to resort more quickly to supermarkets. They will be quick to inflate their prices, both with real costs that they bear, and probably opportunism to boot.The impact for those who depend on either growing their own food from necessity, or growing to provide a modest income, is probably a different prospect, much as the feast or famine that our forefathers faced. Whilst we maybe should count our blessings for not relying on what we can personally grow, the planetary impact of our lack of self sufficiency is a perpetual worry.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Bikeless - so inconvenient

They always say you appreciate something more when it's gone. Some lightfingered soul pinched my bike and trackpump from my garage on Sunday night, leaving me in more distress over how to do the journeys I need to cover this week, than over the loss of the bike itself.

Although it was only 3 years old, we've covered quite a bit of ground together. No great journeys, but lots of little ones, across the heath to work, on the train to and around Dorchester and Bournemouth for work, and many times to the allotment, sailing and meetings around Poole.

And the simplest of things. Yesterday I had to go to Dorchester for work, and I'd forgotten that I had also promised to go to a GP surgery in Poundbury to help sort a problem out. Easy and quick to pop over on the bike, but bit of a long trudge by foot. Today I was up early for a long train journey to Cambridge, and walking to the station, misjudged and arrived for the train before the one I intended (and was meeting a colleague on). And for the rest of the week, my plans for cycling to work and evening meetings in the promised heatwave are now dashed.

Its so inconvenient. I can afford the loss, the insurance may pay out, but the logistics and distress are the bigger issue. There is violation of space. Someone avaricious sneaking around, dismissing most of my junk, but seeking which of my things they can turn into their cash. And probably at such a poor rate of return, compared to the hassle and cost this causes me. 

Momentarily despair of folk, of spending my time trying to make my corner of the world a better place for people such as this. If it were my car, there would be so much more that the police could and would do, but my prime mode of green transport doesn't register beyond 'another one' on their radar.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Harvesting rain

We've done quite a bit of rain harvesting at the Tatnam organic patch, and I it try at home too. I have 5 water butts, connected to different roofs, and when a kind donor offered an IBC (1000 litres), I jumped at the chance.

And then it was delivered to a friend's and quietly forgotten until last weekend, when he was under orders to clear up the garden. My planned location involves moving 3 compost bins, a significant haircut for several bushes, and moving stone and existing waterbutts around, so instead I plonked it on the drive, next to one of the two linked water butts that seem to instantly fill whenever it rains, as the whole downpipe from a significant part of the roof empties into one of them, whilst a rainsaver tops up into the other.

It took a while and several attempts to get the syphon sorted (for this temporary location), but that done, the result was that two linked waterbutts were much depleted, with rain forecast.

And only today, when I happened to be home having dodged a shower, did I notice that much of the rain was pouring down the outside of the pipe due to a docking failure way up high, and also that the watersaver from the other roof was not doing its business.

One of the joys/hazards of collecting rainwater is that it is best tweaked when it is, er, raining, and so you get wet. The rainsaver was full of leaves, now why didn't I sort that on a dry sunny day ? And finding a short section of guttering (lying within reach of the problem) I soon sorted (or should I say bodged) the downpipe escape. All fixed, so inevitably it has now stopped raining. Ah well, the next shower I will catch. And a cautionary tale to clean it out if you haven't checked your rainsaver recently. They do tend to catch detritus perhaps more efficiently than rain !

As a sailor, I do find the website great, but it is also good for the garden, as it predicts the rain quite well. Plenty more rain is forecast for later in the week, before I know it, everything will be filled, and (I think) it will be touch and go on whether the IBC overflows before my downpipe.

The other job I got around to was to provide some shade for the IBC. This is to try and reduce green algae growth in the tank. Had I purchased, I'd have gone for a black tank to avoid this problem. I have some thin tongue and groove, secondhand, and varnished on one side. Since it was cluttering up the garden, a bit of sawing, and the top is roughly covered. Which reminds me, I left the saw outside. Better go and retrieve it.

Postscript: Gone back out tonight to take a picture, it is a bit messy, and it blocks my woodstore, but there's a great permaculture principle that Gary often quotes - get a harvest. And if there's a dry summer ahead, I have over 1000 litres already in store.

Transport blues

Every time I need to take a journey I do try and look at the alternatives, and one has to conclude that despite the rhetoric, the UK government are either impotent, complacent or complicit in making it very hard to be green, and making public transport options far too expensive.

Of course the green sages would say don't travel. Well maybe the world comes to them, but for work, I need to go and see how the hospital at St Helens and Knowsley are managing the transition from paper records to electronic practice. In their case, Electronic document management, ie scanning the paper and showing the result on screens as much as possible.

It's a trip organised by our local acute hospital, so we started with 'the project manager will be flying on this particular flight from Southampton to Manchester, who wants to share a taxi'. Well, for team building and being in the meeting at the right time, we all would. But for sustainability, internal UK flights really shouldn't feature.

So I looked at the train. From Poole, there used to be several direct services a day to Manchester, Edinburgh and other points north. To convenience the train operators, they were allowed to truncate services some years ago at Bournemouth, saving 5 minutes off the journey, (or even Southampton for some services) but meaning changing trains and wasting between 1/2 and an hour waiting. Targets and stupid privatisation of the railways.

The 05:00am train (crikey, I'm used to getting up early if I have to, but not that early) would, via London, get me to St Helens around 10:30am. No wait, that is £100 more expensive than the plane. Avoiding London is £2 cheaper than the plane, but gets me there at 11:30am.

So despite wishing to do the right thing, I am booked onto the flight. I'll take that same train from Poole to Eastleigh Airport at stupid o' clock, but should be at Manchester about 8am, and then a taxi.

And then I found that the meeting is due to be 09:30-2pm, so my train options would have made me very late. Or to get there on time, spend the overnight 5 hours on Birmingham New Street station (which I did after a Genesis concert years ago).

When you look at the options that are available, they are all rubbish. And our government seem set to make them less attractive. I am not a great fan of the idea of High Speed Train, (I prefer more frequent trains across the network) but time is an issue when working, and the logic is not green at all. :(

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Dorchester Community Farm

I work quite often in Dorchester, and lunch is often a rushed affair between meetings, sorry to say with a cheap sandwich from a supermarket. But I do try to at least take a little time to visit a quiet corner of town, where the green shoots of Transition are growing ever more strongly.

Under Lache Farm was a green and somewhat windswept field when I first visited, with some markings for a pond and a row of dry raised beds. We were asked and tried to gather support from Transition Poole to go and help erect a polytunnel with them. Sad to say, when it came to it, after several delays, only Cherry and Andrew managed to get along to help.

So I was delighted this week to pop in, (no-one was about), and to see the polytunnel well stocked with winter salad crops, 10 inquisitive chickens running across their coop to see me, and a stand of four 1000 litre IBC containers which look like they have been connected to the drainpipe of the roof of the industrial unit next door. They are making brilliant progress, and far more organised than we tend to be at Tatnam Organic Patch.