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that someone viewed an old post regarding the frequency of emptying the toilet, information that is considerably out of date now.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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nkosChoice

It’s probably the best weapon we have to make changes, but it’s also the probable cause for many of the problems that we face; I know it’s all a bit philosophical for me and I don’t blame you if you don’t read any further, it’s just another hippy rant; so be warned!

I used to live a pretty comfortable life, earning decent money and owning a third of a successful and flourishing business; I wasn’t rich by any stretch of the imagination, but I was able to afford most of the things that took my fancy. Given the choices available to me I happily spent my money on the latest and greatest technology available, with scant regard for the true cost of an item, i.e. the resources that they consumed in their manufacture and the on-going harm that they may do during their life not to mention in their disposal; my electricity bill was the least of my worries and landfill was something to do with the composition of a photograph! This attitude spread to the model of car I drove and the way I drove it, holidays that I took, my choice of food, furniture, fun and my lifestyle in general; very little was done with regard for anything other than myself. In short given the varied choices made available to me, provided by the clever manufacturers and marketing front men, I often made choices that were based more on style than substances. I was a dream customer because I wanted choice and because of the choices I made.

About eight or nine years ago I decided that it would be nice to have an allotment, grow my own so to speak; the concept was gaining popularity again due to the likes of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall and I convinced my aging farming neighbour that I would be able to help him out with his vegetable plot in return for a small patch for myself. My sister also had a great passion for growing things and as she started to live a more sustainable lifestyle in Spain and I became hooked on the concept as I helped out on holidays and planted her fruit trees and dug her garden over to make it more productive.

I made a good choice.

As time went on and after a fantastic first growing season, I started to read a little bit more and with the eighty year advice of my farming friend my little vegetable patch flourished and I started to rush home from work to get on the land; the satisfaction that I got from working with the earth seemed to fill a gap that I was unaware existed. Propagating, planting, weeding, watering and harvesting seemed to take away the everyday stress of my normal working life; I was so successful that I even started to supply work colleagues with the surplus crops as the glut came on; this soon ended up in doorstep deliveries to a wider circle of friends and I was even know to take a bag or two of runner beans and tomatoes to client meetings. All of this was done gratis; I wasn’t doing it for the money, rather the selfish pleasure of feeling good about giving. I have to admit that as my chilli’s did exceptionally well, that and the fact you can only eat so many and cropping was far better than I could have imagined, I sold a few at the local garage.

Meeting Gosia about six years ago spurred me on even more, her Polish background and the simpler life that she was born into inspired me to make even more changes in my life and my past avarice slowly slipped away and the choices I made began to be influenced by something more meaningful than a label, a logo or an advert.

Ok, you’re doing well if you got this far, more than 600 words, way past my norm and no pictures or links! Make yourself a brew and take a break, there is a possibility it may go another 600.

It’s worth pointing out that these changes hadn’t actually cost me anything; in fact I had started to save a bit of money, even if it was at the expense of my time, but time is the one thing that is free to spend and the sense of achievement was far more gratifying than making a quick short term feel good purchase of yet another gadget.

But at the end of the day, even with all the changes we had made, we still had to stay on-board the merry-go-round of modern life; going to work, paying the bills and consuming more than we probably needed to, we even did what every government wants you to do and borrowed some money, although our reason was better intentioned than just buying more things, as we purchased our plot of land in Poland; we may have slowed the fairground ride down, but it still kept turning.

So when, through an unexpected twist of events, the company had to be sold we were given an opportunity to make a really big choice; clear out and try and make a new more sustainable life in Poland, or cash in and improve our lifestyle in the UK, thankfully I didn’t want a new Land Rover, so after taking a year to tie up all the loose ends we headed off Poland bound; another good choice.

As you will imagine this led to a whole host of choices that many people never have in their lives and we consider ourselves lucky and privileged to have the opportunity to make them, so we wanted to make sure that we made the right ones when building the house and straw bale construction, composting toilets, grey water irrigation systems, wood burning boilers, solar water heating and a closed circle method of farming and maintaining the land are all big choices that we made; it has to be said that it’s a lot easier to make these choices when you start from scratch, so hopefully we have made the right ones.

I hadn’t intended this post to be so biographical, it’s just gone in that direction; which probably isn’t such a bad thing, although I suppose I have only really pointed out the big choices and changes we have made. The point I was hoping to make was that we should all consider the choices that we have when they are presented to us in daily life, no matter how small they are.

Choosing glass over plastic, paper or cloth bags over polythene, water from the tap rather than the bottle, flushing the toilet only when required, using more eco friendly cleaning products, choosing items on merit rather than marketing, buying local instead of driving to the supermarkets (I’m talking about your butcher and baker rather than the local Spar), making food from scratch and dropping your reliance on fast food, composting everything you can (you will be surprised what you can add to the pile), walking or cycling instead of driving and when you do drive then doing so in a more sensible and therefore economical way, buying second hand clothes and furniture (or antiques if that sits better with you), turning lights off when they are not in use, filling the kettle only as required and trying to resist the urge and impulse to buy something new unless you actually need it; OK I’ll stop!

If we stop to think, just for a moment, then we can ultimately make very big changes collectively by making very small choices; we can also change the way that things are sold and marketed to us. Believe me if the manufacturers see a change in the way that we purchase then they will change their strategy to meet that demand, you only have to look at the plethora of green, environmentally friendly products that are available now; because one thing’s for certain and that is that the world will keep on turning with money as its fuel, I’d just like to see a change in how we spend it to power the rotation.

Ok that’s it, you will be pleased to know that my little rant is over and if you got this far I owe you a beer, served out of a returnable glass bottle:)

One last thing, I would like to say thank you to the shape of things to come who planted the seed in my head to write this post in the first place, that and my urge to provide a wider explanation to why I keep going on about plastic bottles, although I feel she puts it far better than I do.

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?:)

Czyz nie dobija sie koni? They don’t shoot horses do they?

Don’t worry Pete, I’m not about to start reviewing films; I will leave that to the experts; but I have made a mental note to add this one to my (your) list of films to watch.

I’m not sure why this film title popped into my mind when I heard that the horse burger scandal had moved on and eventually traced the source of the contamination, especially as I have never seen the film; I can only guess that it has entered my subliminal mind as I scoured the internet for information on the root of the problem.

You will all be pleased to know that it was an industrious Polish company that managed to fool the Irish into believing that the packet of horse meat that they shipped over to Ireland contained beef; simply by changing the label!  It also seems that they have been getting away with it for over a year and that Silvercrest (the company who process the meat into burgers) have lost the contract with Burger King to supply burgers, as a result of the scandal; it’s only worth 30 million Euro per year, so no great loss! That’s a lot of burgers, so where else have they ended up? All over Europe by all accounts, I just haven’t the time to check exactly where; although Spain and France are mentioned, not that they would worry about horse meat, nor indeed do the English. Cheap food tastes good, who cares what it’s made of?

The whole point is, is, that what we believe to be eating may have no relation to what we are actually eating. I know this of no surprise to many people, myself included, but its a sad state of affairs that the scandal now seems to have turned into the ‘devastating effects’ that this may now have on the Irish beef exportation market; surly the emphasis should be on tightening the regulations so that we can trust the label on the food we eat?

Anyhow, I don’t want to become a bore on the subject; although its possible I already have, I just wanted to put a little bit more information out there on the off chance that it might change one persons mind. And that that person then stops buying food without giving a thought about where it comes from, and decides instead to check the provenance of the food and makes an informed decision to spend a little bit more money for a product with a known history.

Incidentally as a certified organic farm we are now shipping pasture grown, free range pork joints for the unbelievable price of just……..:)

I had always wondered why I hadn’t seen that many horses in Poland!

And what do the Poles think about it all? Just the same as the majority of other  news reports, there is no health risk so don’t worry about it! http://www.thenews.pl/1/12/Artykul/125614,Poland-investigates-Irelands-horsemeat-burger-claims

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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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I was in a Tesco cafe and the waitress asked if i would like anything on my burger, I said yes, I’ll have a fiver each way!

I’m not too sure how far internationally the news has spread about the discovery of horsemeat in beef burgers sold in Tesco’s, so apologies if the above joke leaves a blank look on your face. Of course you may not find it funny, the joke that is, which may equally leave you with a blank look!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-21038521 This BBC article should provide you with a better overview of the news.

I have to say that this discovery does not surprise me, aware as I am of some of the methods of food processing that the modern world uses to provide us with low cost nutrition. In fact nutrition is probably the wrong word to use as it is often the last thing considered by the manufacturer of a product which simply has to come in under a certain price point and fill the space in your stomach.

The biggest drivers of this need for cheap sustenance seem to be the supermarkets, of course we drive them by our demand, but they seem to have provided the catalyst in the first place; the promise of low cost food all in one convenient location was too much of a temptation for the masses to ignore and now we have reached the point where they dominate the retail sector and supply about 75% of all our food.

Of course with such a dominant position in the food supply chain they can use their power to drive down prices to provide us with low cost food, but their ability to purchase globally enforces unfair market conditions which then leads to a decline in the market of locally grown and reared produce, as they simply cannot compete. That is unless you produce a substandard product and \ or use unorthodox methods to make your product at the price point demanded of your supermarket purchasing department. No wonder horse meat ends up in your burger!

The really worrying thing about this is that if it wasn’t for an Irish government departments decision to carry out an investigation then this could have gone unchecked, which also means that it is more than possible that it has gone unnoticed for many years, even decades and may well effect a bigger part of your shopping basket than you would like to think.

The inability and sometimes reluctance of some countries, even those within the EU, to adhere to the food standards that we have drafted over many years in the UK; it is hard to believe that those without any framework at all have any obligation or inclination to follow our rules. Their rules are those dictated by the supermarkets, and if all they have to do is tick a box to say that the pigs where not fed on other animal products or that the meat is only from one type of animal then the box will be ticked, and very rarely checked.

But I wonder, will an incident like this actually change the shopping habits of people who insist on spending less than 10 % of their wealth on the most essential of all things, or will they simply continue to eat whatever is put in front of them irrelevant of ingredient or nutritional value as long as the price is right?

I could go on, and on and on; as I am sure you have guessed I’m not into globalisation and can only hope that one day the cost of transportation or the mass failure of monoculture will drive the cost of food to a realistic and sustainable price point allowing the majority of people to eat locally produced food once again without the temptation of chickens from China or pigs from Poland sullying our dinner plates. Well I might eat a pig from Poland, but then I hope I will have reared it!

By the way, thanks to Chris Oliver for the joke; it was only a matter of time before they started to fly and also thanks to Friends of the Earth and the USDA for the spattering of statistics I used in this post.

And one final thought, the French and Italians spend almost 7% more (nearly twice as much) on their food than we do in Britain, I wonder if this has anything to do with their gastronomic traditions, love of food and pride of its regional origins?