Archive for June, 2011

Removing trees


I have a Gransfors Bruks small forest ax. It’s a very sharp ax. So much so, I can actually shave with it.

I have a spade. It’s a good spade.

I have a hawthorn tree. It’s a small hawthorn tree even with the proper tools. It’s a complete b*$t£%d to dig/cut out. So much so, I feel a quiet nap coming on!

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When we moved into our house, there was a scrubby little frame with some kind of dead climbing plant attached to it. My wife wanted rid, I decided to leave it. Turns out it’s Jasmine – my favourite of all garden flowers since a trip to Budapest where the trees were full of it – the scent was amazing and whilst I’ve had it as a house plant, it’s always ended up dying on me the moment I go on holiday.

This well established plant seems to be doing well, but I suspect the much needed trim I’ll give it will probably end up killing it as normal 🙂

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Ginger Beer Plant on the guardian

A couple of months ago I got in contact with River Cottage after seeing a repeat More 4 on the ginger beer recipe with HFW and John Wright.  John Wright got in contact and I offered him some of my GBP to make some beer – he was very interested!  So interested he wrote an article on making ginger beer for the guardian, published today!


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Finally the day came where we had to remove the shed from the allotment. We carefully took it apart, untangled the fully fledged grape vine and Helen got a good scream when the resident rat went for her. Back at the house Helen gave it a good dab of paint and it’s ready to be reinstated as the new chicken shed (well it will be when I get chickens…)

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Sodastream – greenwash?

When I was a kid in the 80s and 90s, sodastream machines seemed so cool and I envied those who owned them. I vaguely remember seeing someone make a drink from them but can’t remember being overwhelmed by the taste.

These days however they’re making a revival and being touted as ‘green’.

So what’s green about them? Their new machines hold bigger canisters (60l as opposed to 35l) though the 35l offer better value for money but from a manufacturing point of view they’re not so heavy so less (a negligible difference no doubt) transport in fuel. Their new bottles are BPA free.

The biggest difference is the lack of plastic bottles generate. From their site: One SodaStream gas cylinder makes 60 litres, equivalent to 180 aluminium cans or 30 large PET bottles!

I have no idea how costly the production of the machine and the metal canisters are – but I guess the footprint of them will reduce the more you use it. The real issue comes down to whether the flavours are good and how often you use it. If it tastes horrible and you keep it in your kitchen cupboard, chances are this is all just greenwash.

My wife actually has one from her childhood in the cupboard. She doesn’t drink much in the way of carbonated drinks, but I do. For the past week I’ve been using up the remains of the canister (purchased in 1997) in the old BPA ridden plastic bottles with squash to see whether I’d actually use it. It’s pretty convienent though I’ve struggled getting the bottles out. Since sodastream are offering a taste pack and I manged to get a cut price one from ebay.

The day it arrived, the canister ran out.

I popped out to the local supermarket. Vague nostolgic recollections about sodastream machines were present, but the bottles were not. I popped round to two or three other locations where I vaguely remembered them, but no-one stocks them any more. In Maplins I had a little more sucess – they do have the new 60l bottles which don’t fit in my machine.

A bit of investigation on the sodastream website showed they’ve still got the gas bottles in stock, at £4.99. Unfortunately you do have to stump out a deposit and shipping. Assuming you return the bottle, the total cost is £10.99 – or about 30p a bottle assuming you use the minimum carbonation that a 35l gas bottle will give you. The new bottles which I can pick up vaguely locally work out about 17p a bottle – a bit better. Unfortunately the 35l bottles will no longer be available after September 2011. Sodastream will offer you 20% off the online price. As the local Maplin lists the new machines at £49 and the online price is £55+£5.99 P&P it’s probably not worth it (You can get free shipping over £59).

Syrups cost about £3.99 in normal shops – but you don’t need to use sodamachine syrups. It’s not like a Tassimo coffee machine where you buy pods. The sodamachine carbonates plain old water and you then add the syrup of your choice. Therefore you can make your own.

OpenCola is an open source recipe for cola – It’s even caffeine free – you need to add the caffeine yourself in the recipe so you can omit it if you want!

To make creamsoda, you may be suprised that you only need sugar and vanilla essence. You can even make your own essence by seeping vanilla pods in vodka for a couple of months. I use 1-2 pods in a 1/2 litre bottle of vodka.

No shock, but orange, apple, pineapple etc can all be made from fresh juices and sugar or alternatively you can use a squash or hijuice from the supermarket.

The only new flavour which seems pretty unique is the caffeinated ‘redbull’ style drink – ‘Xstream’ and diet varieties and along similar lines they have an isotonic sports drink. I’d have no idea where to start with making those.

Making your own of course is much cheaper, even less plastic and you control what you’re drinking. Green? A little maybe but the real judge will be whether you use and abuse your device or use it as a dust collector in the cupboard.

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Allotment blues…



It’s a sad day when you realise you can’t carry on with everything you used to. The new house really has taken it’s toll and with a job move, we’re not ideally placed to rush over the lottie and water/prune/weed etc.

As you can see, things were getting a little over the top and we needed to start setting up the plot closer to home.

Today we’ve started to move all the gear and empty the shed. Very little plant wise will be going with us. Mostly just rhubarb, strawberries and gooseberries.

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