Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Hectic life - what's new?

Ok.  I was supposed to be posting way more often than this!!!  But as always life seems to get in the way.  At this precise moment I am supposed to be doing week 5 of my Open University (OU) Design course but here I am writing a blog post!!  I haven't eaten lunch yet because I have just had to capture 2 escaped chickens AGAIN.  There are a list of other things that I am supposed to have done today or yesterday or last week.  Does any of this sound familiar?
Let's turn it around though.  I have sorted out about 10 home ed outings for the coming months.  I have just captured 2 chickens and put them back in their coop.  I have got my daughter to have a long overdue bath this morning.  Over the last few months I have made a video of our family trip to see the Dr Who experience and Cirque de Soleil (see here); started my OU course and just about kept on top of the work load; tutored someone in maths so that their predicted grade is now higher than it was when I started; started my Shamanic Practitioner course and started the ball rolling with getting the electrics and kitchen conversion done on the house.  I have also enrolled on a PTLLS teaching course so that I can maybe do more tutoring, oh and I have been doing a pole dancing class!!

As part of my Permaculture Diploma I wanted to make sure that family videos and photos didn't just get lost in the digital ether out there where no-one will ever see them so I am really pleased with the video of our day trip to London.  I am hoping as I get more proficient with the software these will be become easier to do - the London one took me 4 hours!!  I still have one to do of a tobogganing day we had with our neighbours.

The Shaman and teaching courses are trying to get me to a place where I can get back into working and earning money but more flexibly than a 9-5 job.
The pole dancing was just another way of trying to get fit but in a fun way and I can say that it is fun but really, really hard work.  I haven't ached so much since I first started hula-hooping.
I have also been trying to get some Gaia University courses over here to the UK and the affiliated European Branch of Gaia called the GALA (Gaia Action Learning Academy) are doing some training courses in June that I am helping to organise.  If you want to know more visit here and pass on the information to anyone you might know.

The courses are:
Life Designing is a workshop designed to give you the opportunity to gain the skills, knowledge and tools to implement your visions and goals.  This course would be a good place to start if you want to kick-start your Permaculture Diploma where the Project Management course is more geared to starting a eco-business or Transition Town movement or something like that.
Integrative Project management - transferring the eco-social Permaculture way of thinking into project management - looking at how our organisational processes and our actual project results can be designed to manifest our Permaculture Ethics. We will explore how we can ‘obtain a yield’ to make ourselves, our projects & our organisations more effective through design.

So I have been busy - hence the no posting on my blog.  Glad I got this post done and now off to have some lunch!!

Monday, 2 January 2012

Wood, potential mushrooms plus Zopa update

We went for a walk along York river and here are some of the bits of wood we found along the way.  Very happy with that and also think we found a good place to go mushroom hunting in Autumn as well.  

Sad news that Flapjack the last of our three original chickens died during the night.  That means we are down to 3 but we seem to be getting enough eggs from them not to consider getting any more at the moment.

More good news though - the money we put on Zopa that I mentioned back in October has all been loaned out to people!!  Really chuffed about that as when I checked before Christmas we had only lent out about 20% of the money we had put in.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year and Happy Re-zoning

The festive season has been a time of re-zoning and de-cluttering.  I seem to spend a lot of time de-cluttering mostly because I have a lot of clutter so nothing new there but the re-zoning seems to be making the de-cluttering easier which is great.

Basically my nearly 7 year old daughter has many interests and they just don't fit into her room and I want a dedicated craft area so I can leave my sewing machine up and leave projects half finished and still be able to find them again!!!

So Indie's room is now in the attic space (which was a play room/guest room) and her room has become that guest room/craft room.  This has meant de-cluttering all the stuff that is dumped in the loft space and finding room for the stuff that we actually need to keep.  The bottom of the attic stairs (photo below) now houses the kitchen stuff that was in the loft because we haven't had our kitchen re-done yet (that needs a whole other blog update all to itself!!)

Anyway this is what the loft looked like just after I had started clearing out the cupboards (below).

There is a fire escape window behind the scaletrix boxes and the high chair (below) - that was regulation when we had our loft converted in 2006 but not any more or not until "they" change "their" minds again!!

Here is the start of Indie's Sylvanian toys area!!  It is all starting to come together - very, very slowly.

Luckily some of that junk did actually make it to the recycle bin (see below.)  Mostly due to the shame I felt at having so many files of school work and other things that I am NEVER going to ever look through again.  Fortunately my DH Dave's work has a scanning machine that can double-side scan A4 documents and send them to you as an email attachment.  I am therefore throwing some stuff away after he has scanned them so I can still hoard but I can do it in an electronic non-cluttering type of way!!  Is that cheating?

Here is all the stuff that is going via Freecycle - I LOVE FREECYCLE.  Bye-bye Thunderbird toys and books that I now have on a Kindle (Kindle or any e-book reading are fantastic for the book-hoarders amongst us.)

So those are some of the pictures from the mad tidying fest that has been had in the CK household over the festive season.  I will post some more when I have managed to take the pictures of the finished rooms and the knock on effect it has had on the rest of the house.

That is the fact I do love about tidying - it does seem to have a great effect on other ideas about how things should function/work in a house.  Permaculture zoning does actually work.  Work out what you want your house to work like and fit it into the space you have.  And if all else fails do a human pyramid and everything seems ok with the world again!!

Happy New Year everyone and here's to a permaculure-y fab 2012

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 http://www.jesperlaunder.com/.  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 www.zopa.com and cut out the middle man altogether.  Come and join me at ZOPA