Week 4, Day 3

April 7, 2011 § 4 Comments

Total purchases: 0 (hurrah, and what’s better I think it’s 2 days in a row. Maybe I should have some golf style monica’s for such occurrences)

Things planted: 3 – Carrots, salad, sweetcorn (very good)

Trips to allotment: 1 (and it was mine today, unlike yesterday where my good intentions were subverted by offer of lunch and later cake at someone else’s allotment)

Hours spent at friends house: about 4, and jolly nice it was too (especially as it included pancakes for lunch and chocolate crispies).

This evening, I’m mainly considering nettles.  I was mildly flattered to find I have inspired a more proficient gardener than myself to do some blogging http://canleyfoodproject.blogspot.com/2011/04/nettle-drying-digging-and-salad.html and note with interest that she has been drying nettles harvested from her allotment to make tea.

I too have nettles.  In more than one place at my allotment.  I don’t think I’d drink nettle tea (indeed I’m pretty sure we have had some commercially  bought bags lingering in the cupboard for several years), so I looked up what else I can do with nettle tips (you only use the young leaves) in Wild food for Free by Jonathan Hilton (which I gave Him for Christmas) and the River Cottage Cookbook by Hugh Fernley-Wittingstall (which we got as a present ages ago).  The options seem to be

  1. rinse them and wilt in the resulting drops of water that stick to the leaves and then serve with butter and pepper, like spinach (both books are in consensus on this – although the latter comments that nettles are mildly laxative, which is vaguely worrying, but then so is orange juice)
  2. make nettle soup – Hugh suggestion,  complete with recipe where he describes it as a “truly luxurious dish”
  3. brew into beer – which Jonathan Hilton suggests adding (to my astonishment) that it takes about a week.  But then no further information is given

I don’t think I have ever eaten nettle leaves (although I do remember sucking the nectar from the flowers as a child).  Things seem to be pointing that way, if only so I can reclassify several patches of my allotment as “cultivated”!

I’m intrigued by the soup .  Nettle soup and luxurious were not two words I expected to find in the same sentence and I like the fact that one option is to thicken it with rice cakes instead of potato. But I’d need to buy some of the ingredients (including cream, which I don’t normally buy, and celery, which I probably couldn’t get locally), and I don’t have any proper stock as recommended. Plus, my children are notoriously bad with soup.

So for tomorrow, I think I’ll try a variation on 1. I doubt I’d persuade children to eat wilted nettles, but they do eat wilted spinach chopped and cooked with scrambled eggs. And I have a now thriving spinach plant at the allotment (about the only thing that currently is apart from the nettles). So I’m going to try spinach and nettle scrambled eggs, possibly with some of the wild garlic leaves that are still in the fridge (from my veg box) added too.

If it works, then I’ll try option 2 at a weekend, when it’ll be easier to cook soup and more people will be around that will eat it (rather than dip their bread into it once at most).

And if that works, then maybe I’ll try the beer.  A quick search on google has found a recipe from an interesting looking site, http://www.selfsufficientish.com/nettlebeer.htm, unless anyone has a tried and tested recipe they can recommend?


4 weeks!*

April 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

Total Purchases: cat food, breakfast cereal, fruit and veg (good) oh and a paper (not so good as definitely not essential, or even interesting as it turned out)

Total Cafe trips: 1 (but I was recovering from the mystery illness that resulted in 12 hours sleeping the night before, and cat food is heavy)

Best comment about my cooking: “so, you’ve got your cooking mojo back then?” (not quite full strength, but I’m working on it)

The most I can remember about yesterday is being thwarted on trip to allotment by whingey tired child. Just when I’d uncovered a whole heap of bindweed roots.  And then later being very tired and whingey myself and sleeping lots.

So today I’ve taken it easy, succumbed to my cafe weakness (without children, luxury) and started whittling down that washing up pile again.  Oh, and did some more “letters”.

This particular project started a while ago with my 4 year old’s interest in the concept of alphabet (as opposed to just letters) and I thought “I know, I should buy him an alphabet frieze or poster or something”.  Then (this was in the run up to lent) I realised my first reaction was to BUY something.  So instead of lining the pockets of the bus company yet again) and Early Learning Centre, I decided to combine the concept with my kids insatiable appetite to craft.  For some reason, I did the upper case first**, cut out of pizza boxes (from the birthday party that I never got around to blogging about) and mainly decorated by letting them stick bits of cut up (used) wrapping paper on them (I have a box of pre cut approximate shapes – this is the kind of reason my washing up pile is so big) plus a bit of felt tip (including the oh so cute turning the O into a railway circuit by drawing a track on it). They’ve been up along one wall of their room a while.

This week we’re decorating the lower case ones.  Most of them were painted (which combined nicely with a mixing paint experiment which may, if I’m lucky slow down the “what happens if you mix red and yellow and red” type questions we’ve had a lot of of late).  But one empty cereal box was not enough, so today I cut out the rest of the alphabet and some were decorated with painting pencils (as inherited the other week, a new concept for the children that bought me 20 mins relative peace). I stuck a ribbon across the wall first as a line, so I could sit or stand the letters on it as appropriate (one initial in our house is P and I’ve been questioned on the difference between big P and little p).

I would love to put a  picture up when it’s all finished, but I have to find/acquire a new camera to computer lead first as I lost ours the other week (the same day as I lost a coat).  On the flip side, I manage to realise I was about to loose another coat the other day and retrieve it, and accuire a printer (and buying a new lead clearly uses less of the worlds resources than a printer).

On the inspirational things front, I haven’t done any more reading, in part due to excessive sleeping (although did wish I had the book with me today instead of the paper I bought). I have been pointed today in the direction of an internet course http://scienceblogs.com/casaubonsbook/2011/04/what_is_adapting_in_place.php (apologies, can’t get that to link right now, will try and correct later), which looks interesting but don’t think I have the time to commit to such a course at no notice right now – but I’ll keep an eye out for when they finish writing the book as the I like the sound of the idea.  That website in turn pointed me in the direction of an interesting looking blog I may browse more in future http://adaptinginplace.blogspot.com/2008/12/introductory-post.html (same problem with link) from someone who is clearly more insane than me, as well as determined not to live in a yurt (or 4 acre off grid homestead as they more practically put it).

Phew, when you put it like that, maybe I didn’t have such a low key day after all.


*the exclamation mark mainly denotes my happiness that I’ve got the timeframes down to small numbers that I can remember again. Think I’ll go modul0 7 (i.e weeks and days) from now on.

**apparently this is not considered best practise and you should really teach kids lower case letters first. I can kind of see the logic in this, but mine started out on the first letters of their names (especially important at Christmas time so you know which parcel is for you), the first letters of names of others in the household (they’re not entirely selfish), the letters of buses, street signs (pokeable/traceable height once you can walk) and the sign next to the push chair space on the bus that’s all about “wheelchair users” – all of which are examples of  upper case letters so that’s what they learnt to recognise first.

Coming Out

April 3, 2011 § 5 Comments

or I’m a mother, a blogger, and a Quaker (well, almost)

I feel I should confess.  I go to Quaker Meeting a lot.  In fact I’m practically a Quaker (I just get all ditherety when I try and get around to writing a letter applying for membership. But seeing as how they have asked me to be on a committee, I can’t  imagine they’ll say no when I do get around to it).

This is always a bit difficult to explain to th0se with no or limited understanding of Quakers (or the Religious Society of Friends, to give them their proper name).  It is notoriously difficult to explain what Quakers believe in and I’m not going to try, as for starters I haven’t met them all  yet. In my meeting there are Christian Quakers for sure (as historically they all were), also Buddhist Quakers, Atheist Quakers and I’m sure many more besides. Part of the point for me is that there is no “List of Beliefs to Sign up for” on the door.

The worship/meeting bit is a bit simpler to explain.  A bunch of people, sit around in silence, probably for an hour, and anyone who wants to can speak (or minister) – although you’re only supposed to if you feel moved. On a good day its fantastic, although by no means always. It usually makes me think, it often helps me clarify issues in my life, and it is quite often challenging personally, to a greater or lesser degree.

If you’re really interested in knowing a bit more, I guess you should check out the British web site, http://www.quaker.org.uk, where people with more practice at doing so, have put it more coherently than I’m ever going to.

But what I really like about them, is there propensity to do things. To Let Their Lives Speak.  To be involved in stuff, from ecumenically accpomanyiers in Palestine, prison Chaplins, work with sex offenders, woodland burials, carbon counting, fair trade, peace work, non violent communication, hospital visiting – and that’s just a few off the people of the top of my head that I can think of here in Exeter.

I’ve tried to unravel how much I do/think what I do because I go to Meeting, and how much I go to Meeting because I do /think what I do (usually this is one of the distractions to writing That Letter) and not got very far. It’s probably a bit cyclical.  But it’s all caught up together somehow.  A lot of my reflection time comes in meeting for worship (a whole 50 minutes sitting down, with no jobs to do, and the children being taken care of upstairs, bliss!). A lot of my oldest friends are Quakers. And whenever I go do something, from a knitting group to a Transition meeting, I often find one there (especially at the latter).

This is not to say that everyone I know Doing Stuff is a Quaker, far from it (Quakers are notoriously evangelical and respectful of others choices, at least among Quakers they are!).

So, there you are, I’ve put it on the record. It was trying to creep into my posts anyway, just like all those family members keep doing that I try to leave out.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, the oats people, they weren’t really Quakers.  It was a marketing scam to cash in on a good reputation. Now, Cadbury’s on the other hand …

Day X+2

April 1, 2011 § 2 Comments

Total purchases: bus ticket, groceries (good)

Butternut squash seeds planted: 5 (good)

REAL hot cross buns consumed: 1 and a bit (extremely good)

fairly successful children’s group activities run: 1 (good)


Today has been calmer (although still had an over 5 minute tantrum about cushions, but I did get an unprompted apology at a random time afterwards).  I even briefly saw the bottom of the washing up pile.  Think I may be marshaling my paperclips into some semblance of order.  Albeit my mind has not been occupied overly with “higher things”, but after yesterday, I’m not complaining.

I realise as I try and recall todays purchases that I’ve bought bus tickets again.  I do that a lot.  Before children I would have cycled into town, but their weight combined with that of the trailer is getting far too heavy.  Plus I was never really confident negotiating the on road route to town with a trailer.  And it’s too far for at least one of them to walk.

When you live somewhere like I do that’s large enough to be a city,  but not large enough to have a decent public transport system, it can be frustrating if you have small children.  Lots of people I know take their children to the beach, or to the forest, or to the place with the woodland walks and the climbing frames. I don’t blame them for one minute, they are all lovely places to go.   They go in their cars.  I have been to all these places in cars too. I can get to the beach by public transport, but it’s a day trip. The forest I don’t think is possible. The woodland walks are again a day trip and involve a 45 minute walk along country roads with no pavements.  It’s slightly ironic that the “green” things to do with your children around here need a car.

Of course, there are other good things to do without even using a bus or train, let alone a car.  A lot of which I do do. Today  I was heartened to find out just how wriggly, can’t keep still, big grin, animated talking, jiggly excited they both were about planing butternut squash seeds. From looking at the packet, working out what the picture was on, discussing how it was one of the ingredients of “rocket stew”, finding the pots, adding the earth, watering, examining the seed and discussing it’s size, planting, positioning on their window sill to making some labels from a cut up milk bottle. It was all extremely exciting for them.   And hence for me.  Lets just hope we get more than 1 1/2 fruit this year!


Day X + 1

March 31, 2011 § 2 Comments

One of the things I was browsing on the internet last night, instead of going to bed, was this blog, http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/.  And today, her concept of the paperclips of life floated back into my mind.  Rather than badly paraphrasing it, I better quote some of it

… all meaningful work in the world, [involves] an awful lot of attention to seemingly trivial, energy-sucking, ordinary real-world details.  Taking notes.  Returning phone calls.  Paying bills.  Organizing filing, grading homework, keeping a seating chart, and making sure to have enough pencils and worksheets on hand each day.

This is what I think of as the paperclips of my life.  And no matter how much meaning and purpose anyone tries to build into their life, they will never really make a difference anywhere unless they are handling paperclips.

She was talking about the paperclips of a therapist, teacher, hospital administrator.  I don’t have a job descriptions, but I think the paperclips of my life must include making sure everyone is fed,  watered and toileted, anticipating and preventing mishaps, arbitration, negotiation, the usual kind of things when you have small children.

Well, I handled my paperclips extremely badly today.  What with child falling down stairs disasters, tantrums, mis-timings, wrong buses, unexpectedly sleeping child to cope with in town, missed lunches, lack of fluids, broken eggs, the list goes on.

This is not a punt for sympathy. We have all survived today, mostly intact (apart from the eggs), and I’m even feeling quite chirpy now.  But this is the context of my life against which I’m trying to “do the right thing” / be mindful / reduce my consumerism etc, and whilst some days work better than others, all those paperclips don’t go away. They are why I have ruled out the “go and live in a yurt” option. Even if I gave away my wordly possessions and became a hermit, those paperclips would still need doing, just not by me any more.

And they are why I’m so frustrated at times that there isn’t an easy answer for me.  Such as a “suit of imperviousness to advertising” and “glasses of abitlity to make right ecological choice when buying something” that I can just wear without having to think about it. Sometimes I just don’t need any more complications in my life!

Oh, and in case you were wondering

Total trips to cafe’s: 2

Other purchases: the fateful eggs, bread, brocolli, potatoes and rather a large amount of wholefood on the bimonthly bulk order from Essential.

Bus rides: lost count

Uplifting achievements (eg planting, making, inspiring, creating something): 0

Day X*

March 30, 2011 § 2 Comments

Total purchases: 1 daily bus pass, veg, cake and drink (good)

Total futile trips across town with fretting child and heavy boots to fantastic independent cobblers that laudably shuts on a Wednesday afternoon: 1 (v bad, especially as I should have known it was shut and  it nearly made me late to pick up the other child)


Had a lovely time at our brand new food shop and cafe today, The Real Food Store, that came out of Transition Exeter.  It was absolutely heaving with people and I saw lots more peering in windows from the street (not sure why you’d be too shy to go in a shop and have a proper nosy, but hey).  Many of those inside were familiar faces. The onsite bakery made the shop smell divine too and it was nice to be able to buy some local veg when the farmers market isn’t on (without a trek to the best wholefood shop in Exeter, Seasons, which is  just outside the city centre).  It wont be transforming my shopping habits though, as the shop stock tended towards the expensive (if fantastically tasty) treat, rather than the kind of thing I can afford to put on my table every day.

I had a nice lunch bought for me by one of those faces in the upstairs cafe (there I go in cafe land again) and was really impressed with how efficient the service was considering it was their first day and it was so busy.  It was hard to eat with a large child sleeping on my lap (an unexpected event that probably can be construed as an emergency to justify the trip), however that did mean we could put the world to rights without interruption, which was great fun! Our discussions ranged across feminism, religion, non violent direct action, political engagement, time constraints, economics, parenthood and beyond.  If  I could guarantee that kind of conversation every time I’d be there every week!

It’s also inspired me to do a bit more reading of my lent book, which has slid a bit with all that’s been going on the past week or so (and to think I was having to strictly ration myself at the beginning I was so keen). If only because I’ve been highly recommended another book, The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better and better still I’ve been offered it on loan so I don’t have to worry about how to procure a copy before the end of lent.



*ok, so I’ve lost count and cant be bothered to work it out.  Counting is for computers.  If you’re really that worried about it, then this simple formula should help:  X = 30th March – 9th March + 1**.

**Now I’ve put it like that it does seem a bit pathetic not to write the value of X, but I like X’s and I miss seeing them around these days.

Half Way?

March 29, 2011 § 3 Comments

Total purchases: 0 (second day in row, very commendable)

Number of muddy knees: 2

Things planted at allotment: leeks, brocolli, cauliflower (good, if slightly random in execution, due to being assisted by 3 under 5’s!)

Quality time with family and friends: lots (very good)

No of people inspired to do planting soon: 1-3, depending on how you count (good).


Fairly obvious there what I’ve been doing today then.  Luckily the threatened rain held off.  I also had a request for a brief summary of my lent challenge half way through for the sustainable consumerism page.  Hmm, first draft not so brief, so I’ll put it here instead and try again!

Buy Nothing: Except the Obvious.  My thoughts half way through.

Despite my taking the mickey out of myself, I don’t buy that much excess “stuff” regularly (although I do tend to splurge sometimes), so cutting it out hasn’t been that much of a problem. But working out what “the obvious” is is a bit harder, as it’s all subjective.  I could in theory cut down to “(basic) food, water & shelter”, but I can’t just step away from my life, the mortgage, bills, children, commitments.  So it’s all up to interpretation.  Then you have to walk the tightrope between bogging yourself down in self imposed rules, or not thinking too much and acting as normal.

Visitng family and friends at first was wierd, as in some ways I had less to buy, but in others there were expectations (driving there, eating out a lot, even ironing), that meant I had to compromise what felt right (especially in the difficult circumstances of our trip to a family funeral).

Back in the everyday, I think I’m doing ok.  I certainly haven’t gone for groceries and come back with highlighter pens and a new top.  In fact, stuff wise, the only physical thing I think I’ve bought is a 2nd hand bike for my son, which was on the cards anyway.  Oh, and some seeds (see how easy it is to forget).  But on the cafe’s front I’m doing less well – again mainly due to interactions with others and social expectations. Maybe a hard and fast rule would be easier here.

I have times when I feel the “buying any food is ok” is a cop out – I may work on this one.

Also, I’m currently contemplating a challenge from an inspiring friend, who with the help of ecocel (http://www.christian-ecology.org.uk/n88.htm) is trying to cut her carbon foot print to a sustainable level over a 5 year time table, currently this is about 15% of the UK average (she’s at about 45%). It’s such a simple, obvious thing that we all clearly need to do in the medium term that I feel on a moral level that I should just sign up now. The rest of me is still cogitating and trying to catch up with that sentiment.