Friday, 16 December 2011

Insulated cooker, moved chickens and beginning of forest garden

Ok I have been mightily slack in not keeping on top of this blog at all.  To make up for it here is a great article about edible gardens here.  What a fab idea and something I am trying to get involved in with the home ed. group here in York although trying to get it organised is proving to be more tricky than I thought.  Will let you know how I get on with that one in the New Year and probably when it gets warmer!!!

Here are the garden improvements we have done since the last entry.

We got a pile of free wood from a friend which is brill.  Half of it is being used to keep the chickens in but we need to build a new chicken run when the weather improves so hopefully it will be used in that and/or in a new raised bed on the patio.  The patio is turning into a more fluid project as we work out what we do and don't want in that area. As you can see at the moment though the patio is mostly being used to store wood!!

Below is some of the wood being used to keep the new chickens in.  We got 3 new chickens from Meanwood Valley Urban Farm and they have settled in really well and there has been no hen pecking even though little Frizzle Flapjack is very small compared to them.

Planted raspberries and trees to start forming this part of the forest garden.  Hopefully they will take but we will see!!

And below is the bare area where the chickens were before we moved them.  Hopefully there will be loads of planting happening in there in the Spring.

Below is the fab insulated oven that Dave constructed out of left over insulation blocks.  It works really well although we need to find some better fitting pots to go in it.

Really good use of materials that most people would throw away!!

Here is another good use of unwanted material!! We all had fun yesterday dismantling next door's piano and it will now be used on our lovely wood burning stove.

Will try and be more organised in the future to tell you what is going on here in York.

Friday, 28 October 2011

I'm a bicarb babe and mushroom forager

Well I gave in this morning after nearly 14 weeks of not washing my hair with shampoo.  I washed it with a bicarb of soda solution as it was not looking like it was ever going to stop looking wet so that was that.  I am now a converted bicarb babe as it worked really well.  Not sure how often I am going to have to use the bicarb but will keep you informed as I go along.
Looking freshly hair-washed I attended my last acupuncture session.  It went well and was relaxing as ever but due to it being my last session I had to get them to take a picture of the needles in my back as I wanted to see what they looked like so here is the photo.

I then zoomed home and went on a mushroom foraging walk with Jesper which was brill.  I would highly recommend this bloke as he is fun, informative and great with kids  We found loads of mushrooms and had a great feast at the end of the afternoon.
Hopefully going to do some more walks with this guy over the next few years as he does herb walks and foraging stuff.  I now have a list of things that I need to do with the load of non-edible mushrooms we came home with.  We have loads of hoof mushrooms which can be used for tinder as well as dried out and used like leather (I could do with a new wallet after getting burgled last week!!)  We also have loads of the birch polypore mushroom which we used on the walk as antibacterial plasters and can be used as a knife sharpener and tinder.  Watch this space to see if we manage to use our collection of mushrooms for any of these things!!
We even found some elderberries on our walk which you can see in the mushroom photo above and we also collected some wood for our wood-burning stove.
And here is our first mushroom plaster made from one of the birch polypores we brought home.  Zack was most impressed (although you cannot really tell from this photo!!)  How cool that I got to show you that before I had even finished my blog entry and the plasters self-stick.
Anyway I am signing off to go and eat gluten free apple crumble made from our cooking apple tree crop which is nearly coming to an end :-(  XxX

Monday, 17 October 2011


Compassion poem
1 September 2011

When you are heart-broken, turn and give the heart-broken love
When you are ill, turn and give the sick healing
When you are bereaved, turn and give those who have lost loved ones hope
When you feel off-kilter, turn and give the unbalanced steadiness
When you have lost your way, turn and bring those who are lost home
When you feel unworthy, turn and give those who feel unworthy your full attention
When you are in pain, turn and give those who hurt, wholeness
When you are lonely, turn and give those who are alone friendship
When you are tired, turn and give those who are tired a place to rest
When you feel drained, turn and give those who are weary energy
When you feel betrayed, turn and give the betrayer trust and forgiveness
When you feel bewildered, turn and give the confused faith
When you feel overwhelmed, turn and give the overwhelmed calmness
When you are at war, turn and give the warring peace
When you feel cold, turn and give warmth
When you feel anger, turn and give a hug
When you feel the tears roll down your face, turn and give a smile
When you feel trapped, turn and join those who are stuck in a dance
When you turn back you will realise you are not the same person you were before
Feel deeply, Give deeply
And from those depths, compassion flows
Through a river of tears and sadness, joy and laughter

Daughter (Zack, CK2 and Indie) poem
26 January 2011 at 19:02
A poem I wrote about my molar pregnancy miscarriage.  CK2 is the name I gave the baby because there could never have been a gender.  Indie is the daughter I had a year and a half after the miscarriage.  Zack is the boy I had 2 years before the miscarriage.

I look at you my sweetie, And there is a wall, That stops me from seeing, It is way too tall
Before you were born, There was another, A sister for Zack, Or maybe a brother
I want to hold you, But it's not comfortable, Like there's a ghost, So intangible
I watch you play, And there's an aura, Of a precious life, That came before you
I have to grieve, To really see you, I need to cry, To truly hold you
I feel great shame, About the other, Like it was my fault, Not a good enough mother
I dishonour you, I dishonour me, I dishonour my unborn, Who was not to be
So I need to grieve, To truly see, The wonder of you, Not my miscarried baby
It wasn't my fault, And it wasn't yours, You are a wondrous gift, Who I want to adore
So CK2, A painful blessing, Here's to you, For you I'm grieving
And in my crying, The mists are clearing, The walls come down, My pain is freeing
I see my daughter, Here soul so clear, Indiana Nova, My new one so dear
In honouring her, I honour the lost, And the pain I feel, Doesn't seem such a cost
There's a place in my heart, For all I hold dear, But now to the living, My daughter's right here
She needs to be seen, In her own way, Not as a shadow, Or as an echo of pain
So I grieve, I cry, Send CK2 a kiss, I see my dear Indie, As she truly is

Wobbly bits
15 January 2011

I love my hula hooping
It really is a joy
To class as exercise equipment
Something that is a toy

But when you first try to hula
Most people look quite weird
A bit like those old ladies
Who seem to have a beard!

There are those bits of you that wobble
Which you didn't know you had
And those parts of you you knew would move
That you woudn't show your Dad

It really is good exercise though
Do not get me wrong
But until you are an expert
Or can keep hulla-ing for quite long

I woudn't show a soul
Your hula hooping tricks
Not unless you want them to see
All your wobbling bits

It is best to hula in private
Unless you want a giggle
Or unless you are an exhibitionist
And want to show off your wiggle

But as exercising goes
It really is a laugh
Even if you look a sight
And really feel quite daft

I'm glad I found the sport of hooping
I enjoy the hula spinning
And maybe in the future
They won't be so much of me wobbling

Hands held high poem 
23 March 2010

Keep hoping, keep dreaming
Through your mist the sun is streaming
Keep crying, keep listening
Through rising mists your sun is glistening
Keep hugging, keep sharing
Keep striving, keep caring
Keep loving, keep growing
In the day-break our unknowing
Turns to beauty, skies so clear
In your heart - wishes held near
Don't lose hope, your friends are waiting
To hold you up if you are breaking
Your soul held high under the sun
With all the love it makes you one
Your soul reborn, your hands held high
Spread your wings and you can fly

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Permaculture AGM, Diploma update and Zopa loan

Went to the Permaculture Association (PA) AGM in Manchester yesterday and met up with some of my PDC fellow students.  It was a great day mostly because it was fab to see so many like-minded people in one place discussing interesting projects and sharing ideas.  Also great to hear that the PA is moving forwards and some exciting things happening - go and check is out here. Going to try and get over to the Leeds gatherings sometime (if I can fit it in) - see Leeds Permaculture Network website.  Whatever happens I am going to get more involved somehow just because I think it is a great organisation.

Doing well with some of the parts of my diploma.  Haven't stepped foot in Tesco since the 1st October!!  Extending our lembas bulk orders.  Lembas are like Suma but based in Sheffield so we are now going to get some of our frozen stuff from them.  Still getting a veg box from Able and Cole and that seems to be going well.  Dave came home with a huge box of onions from the allotment the other day which is always great and we are still eating our way through the fruit from our trees.  Planted some of our other fruit trees the other day to start off the forest garden transformation.

Done some clothes swapping with people recently which was great and planning on going to a swishing gathering on Saturday.  Haven't really missed clothes shopping to be honest as I always found it disheartening that I never quite fitted things well.  I dusted the sewing machine off the other day and did some linings for a few of my crochet bags but really need to venture into adjusting clothes.  Not a great sewer though so that could be fun!!!

I have just set up my first Zopa loan which is very exciting.  "At Zopa, people who have spare money lend it directly to people who want to borrow.  There are no banks in the middle, no huge overheads and no sneaky fees, meaning everyone gets better rates."  Cutting out the banks has to be a really, really good idea (see my previous post!!) so although this is a bit of a scary prospect it is also very exciting!!!  I reckon everyone should go and check this sort of thing out though.  It seems a great idea.  UPDATE - only an hour later and already £60 has been lent out to people - very exciting!!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Halifax's new accounts are a bit of a laugh - oh no I meant a total nightmare

A weird blog for me so far in the blogger's experience but it was such a weird experience I reckoned what the hell I would tell you all about it!!!

Today I went to my local Halifax branch as I have over the last 4 years to close my kid's regular saver accounts. This used to be a relatively pain free experience because both my kids had a save4it account that their matured regular saver would transfer into at the end of it's 12 months.  I could therefore withdraw a cheque for each of them from their save4it account and leave the standing order going into their regular saver which now had the new yearly interest rate attached.  All simple and easy.

Well Halifax has 'improved' their accounts so today I tried to do the above but instead the woman had to try to transfer the matured amount across to the save4it account as it doesn't go their automatically.  When she discovered that accounts had indeed matured (there was a debate about whether they were or not as it wasn't clear on their 'new' system) she then explained that if I leave the standing order in place it will go into the regular saver account and just earn a really low interest rate.  To open a new regular saver I would have book an appointment and bring the kid's birth certificates in (even though they already have these on file from 4 years ago when I opened their accounts at that time.)  This I will have to do EVERY year if I want to keep opening accounts.

Also a child can only have one regular saver with the Halifax now even though before this September different relatives could open a regular saver on behalf of their grandchildren or nephews, etc.  Well that is customer service for you!!!!  And improved service where it takes 40 minutes to close 2 regular saver accounts and explain to me how their new accounts are operated.  When I tried to explain that this all seemed really complicated and meant that I now had to come into the branch and waste more time setting up accounts the assistant looked at me like I was mad (which I probably was a bit by then.)  I was only expecting to be in the branch for 10 minutes for goodness sake.

So I have closed all my accounts with them and they will not be getting my service from now on.  I will be telling all my relatives to do the same although to be honest if this is new banking services at one bank I can bet my bottom dollar that soon others will follow suit and try and say that having extra staff on to attend to your banking needs (or to needlessly open regular saver accounts by looking at birth certificates they saw last year, and the year before and the year before that) means that they actually care because you have to see them face to face!!!  I'm not buying it and hope that I can find a sensible bank out there or more likely I am going to put my money in something like and cut out the middle man altogether.  Come and join me at ZOPA

Friday, 30 September 2011

isn't nature abundant - free food and herbal recipe

Been major busy since the last post and doing that busy stuff has meant I have lost 4 lbs of weight.  As I said in my previous post I am not doing the diet thing but it is nice to occasionally get on the scales and find that some weight has disappeared whatever.  My 6 weeks of elimination diet has actually finished but I am not rushing back to wheat and diary any time soon.  I did eat a piece of swiss roll the other day and woke at 3am in the morning with a gurgly tummy and couldn't get back to sleep so not sure if that is a coincidence or the wheat.  Got my appointment with the nutritionalist on Monday so will see what they say about everything.  Definitely going to cut back on wheat though and probably try and eat a lot less dairy as I haven't missed it as much as I thought I would.  How long this idea will last we will see!!!  

Well went to an event on Wednesday and learnt some interesting stuff about herbal medicine and foraging.  Here is a mindmap of the info I learnt.

Here is one of the recipes we learnt when we were there:  onion syrup for coughs or colds.  Here goes ->  sterilise a jam jar and lid; layer chopped onion at the bottom of the jar; then layer sugar (or honey if you want more expensive/posh stuff LOL); then layer onion; then sugar all the way to near the top ending with a layer of sugar; seal the jar and leave for 24 hours.  You can start getting syrup off and using after 12 hours but after 24 hours strain the onions off and start using.  It will keep in the fridge for a few weeks.  You can add other things like ginger, cloves, etc but the basic recipe is just onion and sugar and who doesn't have those ingredients lying around?  The lady doing the workshop managed to cram alot into an hour - I was very impressed.

Today we went out for the day and this is what we came back with for free - result!!  How awesome - you have to love food for free.   So Dave is going to be making pie, cake and crumble all weekend!!

The only sad-ish news recently is that I am not doing my Open University (OU) course starting tomorrow as I feel it is the wrong time to start more stuff.  I am looking to do something more general and more fun maybe in February depending upon what else I am doing at the time.  My choice though and I do have a tendency to overdo stuff and therefore end up getting overwhelmed.  Also I could just get a computing book and learn from that rather than waste money on another OU course.  I am however helping a few people set up websites so that will keep my hand in computer wise so...all is good

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Bored of this diet thing now (but also exciting stuff)

If I don't write this now I know I won't get around to it for another few days.  I am half way through the 2 weeks of no wheat and no dairy and I am thoroughly fed up with it to be honest.  It fell across a week away seeing various family last week which stopped me having food the same as others at cafes; at the pancake house at Center Parcs (they could do gluten free but the pancake mix had milk powder in it :-( ) and no puddings anywhere.    Also I tried to get a salad at Marks and Spencers on the way home and NONE of their salads are dairy or wheat free.  I couldn't believe that!!!  I don't know how allergy sufferers or concerned consumers do it to be honest and I am still eating oats and rye and other gluten containing grains.  I think I need to do a bit more research into the gluten thing though as I don't think that eating as much porridge and rye bread as I am at the moment is doing me any good.  Anyway enough of the whining.
The exciting stuff ->  the forest school taster morning was fab and I want to look more into that as a way of sharing nature with my kids and others as part of my Permaculture adventure.  Collected loads of fir cones and fire-lighting stuff at that forest and at Center Parcs.  I so love that nature provides all these cool things.  Also have been eating blackberries all over the place over the last week.  Also as part of the PD (permaculture diploma - PD is what I will call it from now on) I have made a pact with a fellow PD student to spend less time on facebook per day as an incentive to get more stuff done.  So from today (and yes I have managed it today so far) I am limiting myself to less than an hour on facebook.  It might help my mood as well as I do tend to be a 'grass is greener' on the other side type of person where I see what exciting things other people are doing and wish I was doing those things too - thus not giving myself enough time to do the cool things that others are doing!!!!  Ah - the social-network-vicious-cycle.  My not-washing-my-hair is in its 8th week and it has been quite yucky for the last week and still is so not quite sure how that is going to be honest.  I am going to stick with it though as even though it feels greasy at the moment I still prefer the way it looks and want to see how it goes past 8 weeks.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Putting things off never makes it better!

I know why I haven't written here for a few days.  I try to persuade myself that it is because I am sooooo busy and I am indeed busy.

There are all Zack's parties - I tell you if anyone ever asks me if I am worried about the lack of socialising that my kids have because of being home educated I am just going to laugh hysterically.  At the moment I have concerns for my sanity with how to fit all the socialising that my children want to do into our schedule.  Trying to find a week to go and see my friends in Glasgow resulted in me consulting my diary and between the kids and my social life the first free week we had was November 21st!!!!

Anyway here I am am putting off what I came to this blog to do - my new healthy eating plan.  I want to do the deed and tell you folk what my vital statistics - the full horror of one of the reasons as to why I need to re-evaluate my eating and exercise habits.

Deep breath - here we go - I weigh 13 stone (82.5kg); my waist is 39 inches (99cm); hips 43 inches (109cm); thighs 23 inches (58cm) and breasts 43 inches (109cm.)  I am a size 14/16; 165cm and although I am more healthy now than say 2 years ago I do need to do something about my BMI being 30.3 which means I am technically obese.

So I am cutting down on dairy and wheat as I know I have intolerances to them and I am going to try and eat more intuitively.  I have tried this in the past but I am going to blog about this journey so hopefully this might be more successful.  I am not going to go mad about weighing myself and forever measuring my waist, etc because I do not think that is healthy mentally.  I am also not going to go on a diet because I want the changes I make to be sustainable.

I am glad that is out of the way!!!  Hopefully my next blog will be to show you guys pictures of where I have planted my fruit trees in the start of the forest garden makeover!!  Anyway lets end on a high with a picture of me in one of my new purchases from the local charity shops and another picture of the free food I gathered with my husband yesterday (some of the elderberries made it into the crumble we had for tea this evening!!)

Saturday, 3 September 2011

De-cluttering and re-zoning

Typical that on a day I am supposed to be tidying the house for one of Zack's parties tomorrow I am actually coming across too much stuff that either needs to be thrown away, given away or stuff that really needs to be homed somewhere more appropriate to it's use.  Here is the photographic evidence of the non-tidying, de-cluttering:

Re-zoning stuff from under the stairs to the porch

Putting stuff in the porch that we need more regularly for outside

Putting stuff from porch into bike store that we use less often

Stuff that is on freecycle at this very moment!!
As you can see I am making a right mess but hey that is pretty normal.  Hopefully it will be worth it in the long run even if it means that I am up all night actually tidying!!!

Ethical clothes shopping

Got my ethical consumer magazine in front of me and here are the scores for different places to buy clothes (scores out of 20):
New Look (organic) 9.5
New Look 8.5
M&Co 8
GAP 7.5
Monsoon (fairtrade and organic) 7.5
Marks and Spencers (fairtrade or organic) 7
Peacocks 7
H&M (organic) 6.5
Matalan 6.5
Marks and Spencers 6
TK Maxx 4.5
Primark 3.5
Sainsburys (fairtrade) 3
Sainsburys 2
Tesco (fairtrade or organic) 1.5
Tesco 0.5
Asda 0
So obviously none of these places do particularly well ethically but there are some that are much better than others with the big supermarkets way down at the bottom.  I don't think I will find it too difficult to try and buy from charity shops for me but not sure I am going to fare with getting kids clothes.  Many of Indie's clothes come from lovely friends (thanks guys) but Zack doesn't do as well.  Anyway this stuff isn't supposed to be too easy otherwise everyone would do it.

Friday, 2 September 2011

It's the little things in life

Looking into changing my diet so I eat less wheat, dairy and gluten, I have been quizzing people and now have some great ideas and recommendations.  The lovely Louise is going to send me recipes for crepes and biscuits using gluten free flour and the lovely Lyndsey got me to try rye sourdough bread today (loved it!!) and oatcakes (don't like them!!) and recommended some books.  Amazing how all this great knowledge is out there without too much looking.
I also got home today to find lots of post half of which were catalogues which I never read so I have sent an email to them all asking them to take me off their catalogues lists.  Not a big life change I know but hopefully ever little thing can make a difference especially if we all did the same little thing.
My no shampoo hair experiment seems to be going well.  My hair is definitely looking a bit greasy but not as bad as I thought it would after 5 weeks of no washing .  Still loving the fact that my hair has more body and my scalp feels much better.  I am nearly at the start of week 6 and happy to keep going.
The start of my not buying new clothes or non-fairly traded clothes for two years was yesterday as was the start of  no more shopping at Tesco or Asda (not that we ever shopped at Asda anyway) for two years and all is going well LOL  I feel that maybe I should have made more of those two things yesterday but to be honest I haven't been to Tesco for about a week anyway and the last things I bought clothes wise were fair trade.  I want the no new clothes thing to help me make more use of my lovely sewing machine though so I am really going to try and not buy any new clothes at all even fair trade ones so watch this space.

Thursday, 1 September 2011


Well here I am sitting in my pyjamas at 10.45 when I am supposed to be tidying the house in time for my son Zack's 10th birthday party on Sunday.  That in itself is a scary thought - Zack turning 10 but that isn't why I came on here.  I was writing an account of how I ended up on a Permaculture course this August and what major life events had got me to that place and at the end of a very cathartic account of my life I ended up writing this and I just felt like sharing it with you lovely people out there.

Attending that Permaculture course in August was just the perfect addition to a fair few years of self-development and discovery.  I believe I have always been open to learning more about myself however painful and hope I will continue to do so until the day I die.  I want to stretch myself: to go beyond my comfort zone and really challenge my pre-conceptions and battle those non-beneficial patterns and habits that have been handed down to me by my forebears.  I want to find compassion for the planet, my fellow human beings and for myself.  I want to truly live without contributing to the destruction of the earth and I want to honour my friends, my family and myself by being the best person I can without any strings attached.  By the best I mean the greatest with all the blessings of those that went before me.  It doesn’t involve competition or superiority – it is a personal challenge that doesn’t take me away from others but brings me closer to everything and everyone.  That is my goal and my dream.  Life is a journey that is worth truly exploring, experiencing and investing in and I want it all.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

My new super-duper Action Learning Plan

I have spent part of the day building my Action Learning Plan for my Applied Permaculture Diploma.  It is going to be a living, breathing document that I amend, update, review on a regular.  It embodies the things I would like to do over the next years including actual projects but also skills I want to learn and things I would like to achieve.  Go and have a nosey at The Goals tab gives the best overview of the things I am trying to accomplish over this time.  As always comments very welcome as to what you think.

Monday, 29 August 2011

A day of building the first patio raised bed

Before the raised bed construction

Before construction

Before construction

The area has been cleared and construction begins

One down, three to go

Here's mine.  This was the first time I had used the compound  sliding mitre saw!!

Getting there

Nearly done

Flapjack - the Frizzle chicken wants to know what is going on

Viv - the espalier tree

And here's Silkie - the black/brown Silkie cross having a nosey
A successful day all round I think.  I did the clearing a few days back and we had enough wood to nearly finish the raised bed.  Think we are going to plant the plum tree in the main bit and I am going to try and train it along the wall.  The lemon and lime trees are going to stay in their pots but go at either end so they get the benefit of the heat from the walls on either side.  Then I will try and companion plant to help the plum with plants like horseradish (a pest confuser); tansy (good for all fruit trees); garlic (dynamic accumulators of sulphur, fluorine and manganese), nasturtiums (good nitrogen fixer) and maybe peas.  Will have to see what we can get hold of when we start planting.  A good day though and fun too!!

forgot - oops

Forgot to say that I am also not washing my hair to try and save on shampoo (the non-SLS stuff that I have been using for 10 years now is pricey and so hoping this will save some money) as part of number 4 or 5 (haven't decided where to put it) and my website and this blog is part of my learning new skills part of the diploma project.

Have a look at my growing website if you want!!

Overwhelming or fun?

Well I seem to have at least 5 projects on the go at the moment and I am getting a bit overwhelmed/excited.
1. planning stuff for the forest garden - we have the offer of raspberries; comfrey and strawberries from a friend we have just given 10 paving slabs to.  And my Dad is offering lots of things that we can take cuttings from in the winter
2. we have some wood for the raised beds and I have cleared the patio area and moved the BBQ for that (need to take some pictures)
3. have got some books to read about what to do about my health issues (migraines, low energy levels and weight loss) and food choices
4. I have set the date to start my "buying only second hand or fairtrade clothes" project that is going to last over at least 2 years - it starts on 1st September (and no that isn't because I am getting my wardrobe started but just because it is a nice date to start - I have already stopped buying new clothes and started shopping at charity shops!!)
5. we are going to stop shopping at Tesco anymore and just getting lembas orders; a weekly veg box and getting everything else from co-operative (1st choice) or lidl (which is ethically more sound than Tesco) - again this is starting on 1st September

Well writing this it seems more manageable then it does in my head and great to see things starting to happen.  I know number 4 and 5 weren't on my 1st diploma project mind-map so I need to re-evaluate that already.  Totally part of the design life-cycle so all good :-)

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Added links to my website

Actually worked out how to add links to my website so that is great.  Had a mad house full of children today and now there is a major sleepover going on upstairs.  Means I actually got to watch a film with my husband.

Trying to sort out the design of my blog

How do I make this text bigger?

The website is slowly growing

Well I have moved my blog to blogger because it is easier to use I think.  We will see if I can link it to my website though