Archive for February, 2012

And home…

Much later than I expected I left work (not late for most people I guess!) and got back to find my bike where I left it – which is a bit of a relief.

I didn’t rush back on top gear up the long hill, but kept it at a steady pace utilising the cycle paths along the way.  It does surprise me how bad the cycle path actually is, though I’m glad my main road has one.

The journey took around 15 minutes and I was relieved to see I made the journey without a heart attack.  It seems like a big deal over a 2 mile journey but it’s cycling on the local areas busiest roads and I don’t think I held the traffic up too much where the cycle path just stops.

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Final day of parking

Today was my final day of parking. I’m ditching the car for my bike.  The trip will save me 70p a day in fuel and (according to the Toyota website, it’s 143g per mile of CO2) 657.8g of CO2

Over the course of a year (assuming 226 working days) 1.48 tonnes of CO2 and £158.20.  I also won’t need to pay £881 for the parking ticket – that’s £1039.20 a year…

I’m always whinging about the fact I’m unfit and would go to a gym if I could see some sort of point and there was one on the way to work which was convenient etc (by some sort of point I mean some sort of tangible benefit that can’t be killed by a few beers after work and a packet of pork scratchings).

In fact my parking ticket is actually the cost of a joint membership at my local fitness first.  I made my wife cancel her membership because she was never really using it and it made sense to save the £75 a month and buy gym equipment off eBay and equip a room with it. Worse comes to worse she can always sell the machines later on and she’s had the benefit of getting fit.

My cycling will be my gym.  If I can hack it…

I pay out for a new lock, lights and cycle insurance.  The lock was about £25, the lights £8 and the insurance £26.  This means I’m now covered if I hit anyone and if my rather natty Claude Butler Urban 100 gets pinched, at least I’ll get a free taxi ride home and a new bike in a few days.  This is quite likely as the local station which doesn’t involve long and dangerous hills is a bit of a hot spot.  Oh well, the bike was only gathering dust!

Wish me luck for tomorrow!

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New lights

The first set of energy efficient lights have arrived for my kitchen.  These are 4w compared to the normal 50w – though they’re only saving about 31w an hour because we were using lower wattage bulbs.

They’re day bright, came from ebay for about £3.80.  When you consider that’s only about 1,226hrs of use before they earn back their outlay and an estimated 50,000hrs of use.  Let me know if my maths is off

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First burn up of the year


First burn up of the year. No angry shouts from neighbours yet…

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Spring has sprung!

Before picture of shed area

This weekend we’ve done a bit of tidying, painting, put the decking down properly by the side of the shed (see below)


Spring has sprung! First few leaves of rhubarb sneaking through the manure

First few leaves of rhubarb

Our neighbours gave us some elephant garlic last year and we planted it straight in our raised beds – we’re already seeing the results

Elephant Garlic growing

And the first real indicator, not only did my pruning effort not kill the cherry plum but it’s in flower.

Cherry plum blossom

The rest showing our new cloches, the first outdoor seeds being sown and our kitties. We’ve also cat proofed the bed we’ll be using for the brassicas this year by laying branches all over it.

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Sprouting seeds


Fantastically the first sets of seeds (mispoona, rocket and marigolds) are coming up! I’ve decided to replace the lids with something more substantial though.

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Bleeding animals


These are cat foot prints. No idea how they got in. They’re not in my good books. Could have been worse though…

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Sowing time


It’s itching into spring now, though you might not realise it.

I dug out the seeds from last season (our ones from the real seed company haven’t yet arrived, it being only one day since we placed the order) and got a sowing. I have no faith many of the seedlings will make it, or even germinate. I’ve sown an arctic lettuce (should have sown about sept last year), rocket, chard, chillies, watercress etc but I hit upon an idea… Why not try planting kitchen spices? Obviously not the ground type but fennel, coriander, cumin etc.

I’ll keep you updated how they fare over the next few weeks.

I’ve also ordered a grow light to prevent them becoming too leggy, but they’re in the sunniest indoor spot that being our south facing front window!

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Energy usage

Chart showing energy usage

Since all this talk about water consumption, it put me in mind of the amount of energy I use.  I’m a high user – I don’t mind admitting that.  I have a large house with four bedrooms and only two people in it.  We have a lot of gadgets and one of the rooms is electrically heated.

The other motivating factor is the size of the bill that just dropped on the mat.

I’ve taken the statistics for the last year and I’ve created this graph.  The red (electricity) shows a sharp spike in January. This may be due to not giving a proper reading in December/January.  Of course we’ve had snow and the heater in the room has been on pretty much constantly.  Gas shows pretty much what I’d expect.  You can see that during June to October the majority of the usage is purely hot water (we don’t have gas cooking).  The rest is heating.

We’ve moved onto a more green tariff, and the good news it’s giving us savings as well.

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Drought declared & 10 top tips on water saving

Today, offically the South East has been declared as in drought.

If you’re a regular reader to my blog, you’ll know I’m not that worried because I’ve beefed up my water catchment to just under 4,000 ltrs.  Currently they’re all full (infact overflowing!) and I’ve been draining them to make room for the next rainfall.  The backgarden is so full of water I’m constantly wary of being sucked under when making my way about – and when I return to the house I’m usually a few inches taller due to the mud.

I’m also already on a water meter.  My showers are a mere 3-4 minutes a day and at a push I’d be happy to shower every other day.

I don’t think everyone has the room for 3×1000 litre IBCs above ground, but if they did I think they’d find the idea of drought much less terrifying.

Some tips:

1.) Don’t leave the tap running when brushing teeth
2.) Avoid power showers, when showering turn off after wetting down, soap up and then wash off miltary style.  I’m proud my wife has been doing this for years… I hate doing it and rather have a shorter shower – but I have GI Joe hair.
3.) Use a bowl when washing up.  Throw excess water down the toilet to ‘flush’ it.
4.) Install a flush bag – contact your local water company, they have lots of free clever gadgets for taps and toilets.
5.) If washing up, whilst waiting for the hot water to run through, catch the cold in a bucket, it can be used on your veg.
6.) Only slightly soapy water can be used on flowers.
7.) Like a long shower?  Take the washing up in with you.
8.) Ignore the lawn.  It’s grass and it’ll grow back.  Concentrate on fruit and veg plants.  Install a root waterer (cut the bottom of a bottle off and bury it next to the roots – or use a section of drain pipe!) and water the roots direct
9.) Only water plants last thing at night or first thing in the morning before the sun comes up.
10.) Mulch round plants with straw/manure.  This just means spreading some around the base of the plant.  Less water is lost through evaporation.

Is there likely to be a hosepipe ban in Essex?  If the BBC’s website is to be believed, possibly not as we’re only listed as a moderate risk as opposed to Londons high risk.  Only time will tell!

More to the point, tens of thousands of new homes are in the planning stages around the area, yet where is the water coming from to supply them?

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