How to make dishwasher tablets and a web page update

I sent out a few samples about a month ago and it was pointed out to me that I should probably update the website www.winkos.co.uk with all the new products we have. Today I can announce that I have pretty much updated everything, bar the formatting, adding pictures, checking for spelling mistakes not to mention grammar and punctuation, and all the other things that I am meant to get round to. If you happen to visit and would like to make suggestions or corrections then please do, I’m always open to new ideas and red crosses next to my work Smile

So why am I posting about how to make dishwasher tablets? Because I foolishly mentioned on one of the pages on the website that I intend to add links to tips, tricks and other products out there that may help the planet out a bit, and for whats its worth I’m kicking off with how to make dishwasher tablets.

I wont get into the debate about which is best, washing up by hand or using a dishwasher as we do both in our house, but if you do have a dishwasher then making your own tablets will cut down on the number of harmful chemicals that you are adding to an already toxic world, and that alone can’t be a bad thing.

I just checked eBay and all the ingredients  are freely available in the UK so I’m assuming that you can pick them up pretty much anywhere in the world. I would suggest at least a kilo of each, or 5kg if you are thinking about the economics of the process.

So here we go, on with the lesson.

You will need:

A big bowl

A spoon

1 x Salt

1 x Borax or Borax substitute (the latter is better)

1 x Bicarbonate of soda

1/2 x Citric acid

Silicone moulds or plastic tray at least 1cm deep

Choose your measurement, I just use a cup, any old cup. Of course you could get all organised and measure the total capacity of your moulds and then divide it by 4.5 to define your own unit of measurement, but like I said, a cup works for me.

Method

Mix it all together in the bowl with the spoon, once mixed well tip the mixture into your mould(s).

Thats it, well other than waiting for a day or so for the mixture to pull a bit of moisture out of the atmosphere which will turn the powder mix into a solid. It can also be used in powder form if you dont want to wait.

Next time you put the dishwasher on just chuck in a chunk (dont worry about the little draw thing, all that does is release the tablet about 30 seconds after you start the wash) and add you rinsing aide. And here’s the real secret of the whole process, get rid of your fancy coloured chemical laden rinse aids and use white vinigar, yes thats what I said white vinigar. YES VINIGAR! Any will do but white spirit vinigar works best from experience.

 

Be amazed by the results!

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Carnivorous compost

I often write about the many animals that we keep, not only the daily chores and routines that revolve around them, but also the entertainment and companionship that they provide and I’m hoping that we will soon marvel at the wonder of birth when the new goats arrive. Continue reading “Carnivorous compost”

Straw bale on the BBC

It’s always good to see any news on straw bale building, but it’s normally resigned to the likes of Grand Designs or YouTube channels, so when I first heard the report on Radio 4 and then read further on the BBC website about a couple of straw bale houses going up for sale in Bristol (UK) I just had to read more and spread the news. http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-31156579

Now I know that there are a lot of enthusiasts and traditionalists out there that may ridicule the construction methods and declare that this isn’t really a straw bale house, but I would argue that this is indeed the future f straw bale.

If straw bale is ever going to become mainstream then it has to adopt to modern techniques and technology, rather than trying to adapt old methods to meet todays exacting standards.

Of course I would never even consider building a house based on this new modular and factory fabricated methodology, but then I’m an enthusiast not a builder and I like curvy walls 🙂 I like the aesthetics and the fact that our timber frame and infill method was very accessible for someone with no building experience to tackle. For the brave you could even try the Nebraska load bearing method, but for us the additional skills, uncertainty  and possible problems with planning were things that we decided to avoid.

The point is that the new technique still ticks most of the boxes that people who decide on straw bale say they ticked when asked why they decided on this method of build. It’s environmentally friendly in the materials it uses in comparison to the other modern building systems. The high insulation properties mean that the running costs leave a small carbon foot print over a long period of time and it creates a healthy living environment free of harmful toxins that may otherwise exist in synthetic buildings.

It’s just not curvy!

It may not be as accessible to people who want to self build on a budget, stick to the niche books and websites like this, but it is most definitely the future of straw bale and for that I’m happy to shout about it.

All that remains to be done is to invent a usable composting toilet system that people are happy to use 🙂

Eight buckets!

No Gold rings, partridges or turtle doves, and whilst the maids a milking may have brought them I was only left with the eight buckets, that’s what my true love got me for Christmas! With a capacity of 20 Litres, standing 33 cm tall and 33cm in diameter, not to mention the snap close, air tight lids and sturdy carrying handles. What more could I possibly want?

The white plastic looks almost food grade and it is polished to a high sheen which is soft and smooth to the touch, it wasn’t long before I had put the first one into service, confidant that it will serve it’s purpose well and will be in service for many years to come.

Having multiple buckets brings many advantages, but most of all I’m looking forward to the balance they provide, although it’s only my theory that two buckets are easier to carry than one? It’s also true to say that I will be able to set my own schedule, no longer a slave to a single buckets capacity, with the added luxury of multiple buckets (with lids) I may be able to wait out even the most inclement weather for the right moment to venture out.

I can’t speak for each individual bucket, but I am confidant that collectively they would save our family over £1500 over ten years in water charges, if we were connected to the mains. And that figure is assuming no increase in the price of water, which is very unlikely, not bad for a £20 investment.

I suppose the only downside to the gift is the work ahead to fulfil the promise that I made once I had the buckets in my possession, but I’m secretly looking forward to the challenge, even if some of my design ideas never passed Gosias scrutiny and exacting standards.

So what are the buckets for?

The composting toilets of course!

Although I don’t like to bore people with humanure facts, I’d like to share the startling calcualation that it takes between 1,000 and 2,000 tonnes of water to deal with 1 tonne of crap in it’s various stages before its released back into the wild. Just because you forget about it after you flush it down the loo doesn’t mean it’s journey devouring resources has finished. So consider this, with a population of only 6 billion there isn’t enough fresh water in the world for everyone to have a flushing toilet, never mind the 8-10 billion we are heading towards by 2050.

Anyhow, must go, nature calls. Smile Happy New Year!!

P.S. I noticed that someone viewed an old post regarding the frequency of emptying the toilet, information that is considerably out of date now. So for the record and to provide some clarity, a family of three (yes Malina is contributing) I am changing the bucket every four or five days. With the added buckets I expect to empty two buckets every week or so and I’m less likely to have to stand up to have a shit!

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I’m following a tree

Tired of following other blogs? Looking for some excitement and purpose in your life, have a camera and two minutes of free time once a month? Then you need to follow a tree as suggested by our friends  over at the provocatively named Loose and Leafy!

Solarbeez first brought my attention to it and I thought it seemed like a good idea, all that remains for me to do is choose a tree and post my updates. Find out more here http://looseandleafy.blogspot.co.uk/p/what-is-tree-following-and-list-of-tree.html

I am torn between one of the old oak trees that sit at the side of our track on the way down to the house; a good option if I want to get the house in on the shot, or a buk (Polish for beech) tree that I planted last year after rescuing it from a certain death my strimmer.


Ok, I’m going with the buk, if only because I planted it myself and it should be an interesting journey to see how it develops, or even survives considering the damage it has already taken from deer last autumn.

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Food for the deer

Standing at 2.5 meters high, it’s quite a slender specimen, probably as in it’s previous home it was surrounded by lots of other trees, my intervention with the spade may well have saved it from a certain death as it was crowded out by bigger and faster growing neighbours.

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A lone buk (beech I think)

The climate in Poland is quite extreme, ranging from –35 in the winter to +35 in the summer, although this year we have seen mild winter and spring seems to be here early with temperatures into the teens during the day, dropping back down around freezing during the night. It looks like it’s just starting to come into bud.

All pictures taken on the 11th of March. Now to set a reminder on the computer to do this again in a months time!

 

Early May

Ok, I’m trying out my new idea for the format of my posts to see if it works; it will also give me an opportunity to catch up on events, if not for you then for me. And if you are wondering how I have found the time to type this then it’s down to the weather and administration; the weather has turned wet and Gosia is in town ticking boxes for those nice people at the EU donations office. I don’t have long, so I better work quick!

A couple of things from April first, things that need to be recorded; the wild plumb tree came into flower on the 26th of April, the sweet cherry, sloe berry and plumb not far behind on the 29th. Apple, pear and quince just starting; looking over the valley you can spot all the fruit trees in flower indicating a house, occupied or indeed derelict. One worrying thing seems to be the lack of bees, I have only spotted bumbles so far; Gosia recalls a lot more buzzing last year, I guess the proof will be in the crop as it is highly dependant on pollination, although I not sure if this is exclusively from bees though?

The swallows are here at last, although they don’t seem to have taken up residence in the barn, not to worry; I know they must be nesting nearby as they are taking mud from the pit on the building site.

The coppiced trees seem to be doing very well, I’m getting about a 50% success rate with the silver birch and almost 100% with the willow. We have also had unintentional good luck with the elder which I cut two years ago to get rid of them; they have all coppiced and we now have an abundance of greenery soon to become flowers and berries!

Wild plumSweet cherry treeBlossom across the valley

5th, 6th of May: Looking at the 10 day weather forecast we convinced ourselves that we should be frost free from now on so we headed for the garden and top field; I think we also needed a bit of a break from the house. 45 or so pumpkins in along with maybe 20 butternut squash. These were joined by about 20 courgette and 20 sweet corn on the 10th. I will check for damage later today when we return, I think we are tempting fate by not putting up the electric fence.

As the dandelions are up I had a quick wiz round with the mower before they set seed; a job that will have to be repeated more often than I have my hair cut 🙂

I heard the first cuckoo of the year and the oats that we cast are starting to sprout, giving the top field a new look of dappled green. Also noticed the Lilac tree flowering and the odd sight of horse radish in flower, which I had never noticed before. We have lots growing around the land and we are careful to avoid them when strimming as they are a key ingredient in many pickles and preserves.

LilacHorse radish in flower

7th of May: Good news, bad news; the electricity was finally connected without drama or tripping fuses, I’m all set to tackle the rest of the house now. Bad news, the plaster around the windows is cracking. A combination of vibration from the opening and closing of the windows and our poor attempt at getting lime render to try and stick to wood and expanding foam; the fiberglass mesh we used to help the process has failed to perform as we had hoped. The rest of the day was spent chipping off any loose render so that we could have another try. I guess we were lucky that we hadn’t started to take down the scaffold!

8th of May: We have been thinking about getting another dog and Gosia has looked at quite a few dog rescue websites to find a suitable playmate for Jackie (not quite true as Jackie doesn’t like other dogs) but you never know. Gosia finally found what can only be described as a Springer, Setter cross’; Zara. We headed off  first thing in the morning and she was part of the family by noon.

Zara

We think we have a solution for the window surrounds; the render that is used for the polystyrene insulation is quite flexible, so we have decided to give it a go. First coat completed by the end of the day, ready for a second tomorrow.

9th and 10th of May: Whilst the new render solution isn’t ideal in that it’s not a natural product, it does seem to be doing the job. second and third coats applied as required, then sanded down to blend in with the lime surround.

New render around windows
New render around windows

Jackie fell off the top level of scaffolding! All I heard was the thud as she landed on the bottom level, about 4 meters below and Gosia shouting for me to get there asap. I ran round the building shouting to try and find Jackie’s location, heart beating fast and a sense of dread; but of course I couldn’t find the black lifeless shape of a dog anywhere, she had already dusted herself off and was heading back up the scaffold! A heart stopping moment and a ban on dogs on scaffold has now been imposed.

Spider dog

And just in case you are worried about an overflow, I emptied the composting toilet, although this was in no way related to the events of Jackie falling off the scaffold:)

11th of May: Final sanding down of render and painting with a primer so that the lime wash will take, a good tidy up, a weed around the various plots of land and eviction notices left for the few mice that seem to think that our house is available for occupation. Chicken soup tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it.

Monday 13th of May: Catching up with the blog 🙂 Hope to read a few before we head off later today.

Completing the cycle

Yes it’s that time again, time to add to the heated heap of nutritious goodness that is our humanure pile. Truth be told this is a late entry as the deed was done on Wednesday the 1st of May after our daily schedule was completed, but as you may have noticed my posts are centred around the weekend at the moment when we allow ourselves time to relax on Saturday night and Sunday back in Rzemien.

But a diary date is a diary date and I will endeavor to keep my promise to myself to keep a composting toilet diary, especially as we are now using the first of the compost for planting. Left to mature for 18 months we have around three wheel barrows full of sweet smelling, light and crumbly humanure; sorry to any of you fecophobics out there, but this really is top class compost and to try and prove the point further I hope to run an experiment with a batch of tomatoes plants when they are ready to go out; a control group planted up normally and a second batch with humanure incorporated in the soil; so watch this space 🙂

Would you use humanure if it was available to you? And for those of you who do, do you use it on food crops or just flowers and trees?

Humanure
High quailty organic nutriants: Humanure

I don’t normally post news, but I was happy to see this on the BBC

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-22335520

I hope it’s not too late and I hope the rest of the world do the same; as one commentator said “at last an EU directive I agree with” 🙂

Check out http://solarbeez.com// for some great bee enthusiasm and interesting links.

 

One green (PET, HDPE,PVC, LDPE, PP) bottle standing on the wall

(Edit 19th March 2013) I have edited a link on plastic types as my previous link pointed to a defunct website, so it’s possible some references may not make sense.

I know I’ve posted about this before but the issue of recycling has been highlighted to me again as I try to infuse my hippy doctrine on my unsuspecting family in Yorkshire.

After spending a couple of hours rearranging the shed, sorting through a couple of week’s worth of items for recycling and checking the local council’s website for information on where to go and what can be recycled, I set off with my first boot load of tin cans, glass, paper and plastic; all of which can be recycled at the local facility according to the North Yorkshire County Councils web site.

True enough, tin cans, glass and paper could all be recycled, but I failed to find the plastic recycle bin; so they all went in the general rubbish wheelie bin that I found close by.

It then struck me that the reason that they may not have a plastic recycling facility is that it probably costs too much to separate the many different types of plastic that are used in manufacturing; why do we have to have so many?

Checking out the lifewithoutplastic website and reading what the various plastics are used for and indeed the dangerous chemicals that some plastics contain, it seems that the number of plastic variations could quite easily be reduced e.g. PET and HDPE have very similar uses, so why manufacture both? Why can’t an industry standard be decided upon, making recycling easier and no doubt lower the risk to humans with regard to leaching chemicals; with a little bit of new technology thrown in for good measure I’m sure they could reduce the risk to human health.

Of course this is a very simplistic view to take and the cost of making the changes would be sited as the reason why it will never happen, but I’d be ready to put money on it that the cost of separating the various plastics (over time) far outweighs the cost to the manufacturers and the strain on out thinly stretched resources. So why should we be paying for it through extortionate council tax bills, when the cost could be more easily borne by the multimillion pound manufacturer?

I guess it’s the same old story, the might of big business and the money and power that goes along with it ultimately wins over the protesting populous, as big business will always have the politicians’ ear; it’s no surprise. But here’s the thing, threaten public health, create a health scandal about the industry and the manufacturers would have to fall line; the horse meat outrage is a great example of this, not to mention the many food scares we have had in the past. So maybe that’s what we need, a direct link to the public health relating to the use of multiple types of plastic; perhaps if we all approached the NHS with back problems brought on by bending down sorting the recycling, or eye sight exertion trying to differentiate the PET from the HPDE, or maybe even conclusive proof that the chemicals used in their production, or ones that may leech out whilst in use, are a risk to our health. Maybe then the government would have to step in, demand a new plastic standard, put the onus on the manufactures and save us all a lot of time and money.

This would of course mean that very thing would cost a penny more; the industries answer to the share holders, but in my mind that wouldn’t be a bad thing and in truth a very small price to pay. You may even find over time that we ultimately go back to a better time when liquids are only available in reusable, recyclable glass bottles and good old paper bags become the norm rather than the unrecyclable LDPE bags that we consider as the norm.

I visited the village butcher the other day and asked him how business was now that people have started to question the source of their food; he said it was like going back thirty years; not a bad thing?:)

Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)

Now I know that a few of my readers may well have already gone red in the face, in the knowledge that all that money that is paid into the EU is then distributed to farmers to ensure they can continue to run round in Landover Defenders; well maybe not all the money, the latest figures allocate about 30% of all EU funding to agriculture with an additional 11% to rural development which encompasses more than just farms. Still that’s a lot of Range Rovers, although if you are from the UK you can take solace in the fact that they are manufactured in England!

My personal gripe about the CAP is that its emphasis is \ was on larger farms, the consequences of which led to the massive food surpluses of the 1980’s; back then almost 70% of all EU money went to farmers and this resulted in a more American monoculture way of farming, which in turn impacted heavily on the environment. Greater use of pesticides and fertilisers, which amongst other things effected the bee population, polluted natural water aquifers and ultimately leaves the land unusable unless chemically enhanced. No doubt the chemical industry bosses are driving round in Ferraris courtesy of EU funding, albeit indirectly.

Of course now I have a slightly skewed view, in that as the owner of three and a half hectares (around 7.5 acres) of agricultural land I am in receipt of funds from those nice people in Brussels. But before you start screaming at me that I’m sponging off the UK tax payer I’ll quickly mention that we receive approximately £300 per year, which just about covers the fuel required to meet the requirements set down to be able to claim the funds in the first place. How daft is that? I’d probably be better off without it!

But then I realised why the CAP could be a good thing, with the emphasis on could; as the powers that be have positioned themselves over the decades to be able to mould how farming is carried out in the future. As all farmers in Europe receive some kind of funding then conditions could be applied to ensure that greener and more sustainable practices are followed. And, believe it or not, that appears to be the direction that they are now taking in Brussels. Although as you would expect they will probably take a number of years before they come into effect.

Without boring you too much, in fact I’d be surprised if you got this far, the two key points that interest me most are:

· Steps to encouraging more crop diversification, maintaining permanent pasture and ecological focused areas in larger farms, whilst relaxing rules for smaller environmentally certified farms (like us)

· A cap on the amount of money paid to larger farms with an overall reduction in payments to the largest farms of up to 70% (this is the farms that claim €300,000 + every year)

So here’s to the CAP and the EU, it looks like they may be heading in the right direction at long last. Although you have to wonder how farming in Europe would have developed had we never had the policy in the first place? I’m pretty certain that each member state would now have far better food security and we wouldn’t have destroyed a lot of the biodiversity that used to make a farm a farm.

Hopefully these changes, if they ever happen, will allow Gosia and I to have a working ‘closed cycle farm’ running alongside what I can only described as a ‘Farm House Bed and Breakfast’. And if we are lucky enough to get a few hundred pounds a year to subsidise our dream then I’ll happily accept it. Incidentally I drive a Lada Niva 🙂

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Refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle

Having just read Petes blog post on recycling I thought I would throw in my tuppence worth, not that Petes observation surprises me, on the contrary its just another example of what really happens behind the facade that many of us hide behind, fooling ourselves that we are doing our bit for the environment by separating our waste. How many of you actually thought that those lovingly sorted piles of rubbish stayed that way as they made there happy journey to the appropriate specialist recycling factory to be turned into something that may have worth once again. The sad fact is that unless it has some value and can be treated and traded as a commodity then there is little chance it will stay in its allotted pile and will simply end up in landfill or be incinerated.

Stonehead made a similar observation to Pete and added further posts to explain the issue in more detail (just search his blog for recycle), and one of the points I think he makes best is that if we all followed the mantra ‘refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle’ we might not create so much waste in the first place. He goes on to point out that the refuse part of the mantra seems to have been dropped and the emphasis is on recycle rather than reduce; after all if we refused and reduced how would we keep the economy in growth!

And that to me seems to be the problem, the emphasis is always on growth and ever increasing targets, making more and more money so that we can spend it on more and more things in the blinkered belief that it will make us happier, but it’s only a temporary fix and we are destined to be disappointed when the next model is released or your colleague buys one that is better and you are left with an inferior product.

But I’ll try not to get on my soapbox because its a sentiment that is echoed all too often, just read the BBC website for a great example of our excess http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-20968076 published today, or take it even further and read this article from last year http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-17829665 I could also point you to a dozen other websites that take the matter seriously and you could spend the best part of your life just reading about how the planet cannot sustain the growth that business needs to survive, but I doubt it would stop the rot; even if you were better informed.

No instead of that I’ll ask a question that has gnawed away at me for a little while now, even more so as I have walked the dogs and I have too much time to think, and it goes back to the original theme of Petes post about the recycling of plastic bottles. Why does the world buy bottled water? Of course many parts of the world don’t have access to clean,safe drinking water, but in most parts of the western world and most definitely in the UK we have mains drinking water, or council pop as we used to call it, out of the tap . We all pay for it and yet refuse to drink it, reserving it for washing and flushing. It just doesn’t make sense to me, to go to Tesco, or whoever your favourite retailer happens to be, and give them your hard earned cash for yet another plastic bottle full of something that no doubt came from a bigger industrial sized tap with a bottling plant attached. Only to then fill half of your rubbish bin with the empty plastic bottles!

Of course in the past the only bottled water available came in ornate and embossed glass bottles and generally from natural sources, and if you subscribed to this lifestyle you had to be able to afford it. And that just the point, the marketing boys jumped in and told the masses that you too could live the life of the rich and famous and drink water from a bottle, omitting the facts about the environmental damage as only marketing people can, and sold a whole continent into drinking water out of plastic! I wonder how much of the plastic waste in the world is down to bottled water?

Out of interest I thought I would check on the environmental impacts of glass and plastic, to see if one was better than the other and whilst you might think the obvious answer if glass it’s not that simple; although it does have many advantages. Glass can be recycled indefinitely and at worst when it eventually gets broken down and used as aggregate it is at least inert; after all it’s just melted sand. It also preserves food better and does not leach chemicals and I’ve even read in the past that you can store water in glass bottles for many years.

Plastic on the other hand can only be down-cycled, i.e its chemical integrity deteriorates with each stage of recycling and a bottle will never be a bottle again; it will probably end up as a chair or a plastic casing for a TV and it’s useful life is unlikely to make it past that. It also has a tendency to leach chemicals over time and if you place your plastic bottles too close to other chemicals there is a good chance that they will taint the contents.

So it sounds simple, glass is the better option? Well yes, unless you count the cost in money; once you look at the transportation cost of a much heavier glass bottle, in the globalised market that we live in, coupled with our desire to have it all at the lowest possible monetary cost, the answer is plastic!

Of course if we go back in time, or move to Poland, business is still run at a (relatively) local level; the soft drinks firms and breweries still work with glass and the good old fashioned deposit system, compelling you to go back with your empties, turns the tables on plastic once again. Because if a glass bottle is reused its cost reduces; not only environmentally but monetarily, and there is no getting away from the fact that beer tastes so much better from a bottle 🙂

My only hope is that as the worlds oil reserves deplete and the cost of producing plastic (dervived from oil) increases, then we will have no option but to return to glass.

As you may imagine I could go on, but I think I’ve probably exhausted you if you got this far; but I will leave you with one final observation as I drink my Tatra beer out of a returnable glass bottle at a cost of 1.90Pln (38p,$0.65, €.049) If I go to Tescos (yea right) then I would pay almost double that for a can of Carlsberg (or any choice of tinned European beer)

Thankfully beer doesn’t come in plastic bottles yet, or there would be a real environmental disaster!!