I am not, for the most part, a stress head, but I have struggled this week.
I have had a tax return to complete, I've been worried that my financial future was looking a little 'insecure,' one of my daughters had a concern about her football training, my partner and son were ill and everything just felt very overwhelming. On the scale of it, not that big a deal, but sometimes everything feels like it comes at once.
Five and a half hours pruning today. It's been warm (maybe 10 degrees warmer than last weekend!) and dry, and the trees are still in their winter dormancy. Which would be about as perfect as it could be, if it weren't for the wind...
I absolutely love sharing skills and knowledge and I genuinely do think we don't do it enough. I'm not sure whether this is because a lot of people don't see what they know as valuable or special (it is), or whether it's because we don't want to appear big headed or superior. But here's the thing: if we really do want to build a society that uses its resources wisely, that is truly equal, that is self-reliant, then we have to share!
I have to admit I am a compost obsessive. I will upend the entire rubbish bin to salvage the piece of orange peel that slipped through the net and, sad but true, I have often been more excited about the possibility of composting packaging than the thought of what's inside a parcel.
I love the thought of turning our waste into something useful. I lift the lid of the compost with the same relish as some people gaze longingly through oven doors at cakes rising inside. Will it work? (It always does). How long will it take? (6-12 months). What little critters are hiding and doing the biz?
Here's our system: we have a little plastic caddy for the kitchen, which I line with something absorbant. Sometimes if I'm lucky I'll have an old paper bag, sometimes it's shredded paper, straw, dried grass... It still gets yicky inside, but it makes it easier to tip out. In the summer, this usually lives outside although sometimes I'll have a designated bag in the freezer instead, which stops any smells or fruit flies. The caddy is next to the regular bin and the recycling, the first one you come to, and raised to dropping-in height. I make it as easy as possible so it's done (there is a permaculture principle in action here, but I'll talk about that some other time).
We compost almost everything. All the veg scraps, brown and unprinted card and paper, cotton wool, the cellulose sponges I use to clean, the bamboo toothbrushes we now use and any food scraps (we don't waste much and it's all veggie, mainly vegan).
The caddy is tipped into one of six dalek bins outside - three in the front garden, three in the back (again to make it easy!) These are numbered 1-3 in each garden and they're filled in succession, ie. once no. 1 is full, we move onto no. 2 etc. Added to the kitchen waste is garden waste - grass clippings, hedge prunings, the leaves that collect on the drive - and sometimes, big bags of shredded paper I salvage from work! Composting people talk a lot about 'greens' and 'browns' and getting the right mix, but I literally throw it all in. If it's looking dry, I might add more kitchen scraps (which have a high moisture content); too wet and I seek out paper and card and twiggy material. It happens naturally, no need for too much science and I think this scares people off starting...
I've emptied one completed bin this week, and it's perfect. Brown, crumbly, no smell, and no evidence of what it was originally! There are few insects - they've long since finished their work. I've added a thin layer, maybe just a centimetre or two, to the top of my small veggie beds. No need to dig it in - the worms will set to work doing that so by April they'll be well nourished and good to plant into again.
If there's one thing I'd urge people to do to tackle waste (it really does change your perspective), to cut their carbon footprint, to improve their gardens, to fascinate and delight their children, then it's home composting. Give it a go!
I am not a gadget person. And my rule of thumb is always to use physical rather than electrical means. But I am a lover of bread.
Where others have a weakness for chocolate or cake, bread is my thing. I usually have some sort of fancy loaf on the go as well as a loaf of supermarket bread for the kids' sandwiches. It's expensive, not very sustainable and an ongoing commitment to regular shopping. I made a decision to try and home bake bread partly to save some money but also to cut down the plastic bread bags. We reuse these several times over but it's still waste and something I wanted to cut down.
But we're a loaf a day (sometimes more) family, with busy evenings and I just couldn't keep up. Kneading at 11pm, staying up whilst dough is proving when your body's crying out for sleep - not good!
I've treated myself to a breadmaker. I have only one other kitchen gadget which is a stick blender that gets used on a daily basis. I've eyed it suspiciously since its arrival, mentally calculated the number of component parts and how far these have travelled, squinting at its plastic casing and imagining the oil that made it... It really does not sit comfortably at all.
So when I made my decision, it had to be right. I factored in the absence of bread bags, not having to turn the oven on for a single loaf, being able to use organic flour at a reasonable cost, not contributing to the palm oil issue by buying bread (read the labels - staggering!), minimising ingredients and cutting food miles AND having beautifully fresh bread, cheaper. I bought the best I could afford with the largest capacity. I think it makes sense.
One week in and it's my new friend. We are warming to each other. It's been used every day at least once, the kids like it, it's quick, I like it. Cheaper? Probably not. But my goodness, it's worth it for the smell!
Treading Lightly is simple living, within your means and the means of the planet, and making a minimal impact on the Earth. Find out more here about Catherine, of Barefoot Solutions, does this from day to day.