Tuesday, July 31, 2007
this strapping churl had walked some way--with his own hands he whipped up her dress,
and under her girdle (as she stood there) thrust something stiff, worked his will; they both shook.
This fellow quickened:
one moment he was forceful, a first-rate servant,
so strenuous that the next he was knocked up, quite blown by his exertion.
Beneath the girdle a thing began to grow
that upstanding men often think of, tenderly, and acquire.
Go on then - what do you think it is?
So what, if any, are the drawbacks to a book which unites all beekeepers?
- It's not a light bedtime read, unless you suffer from insomnia. It's extremely dense and detailed. This is what makes it so valuable, but if you try to read it cover to cover (as I did)your brain will eventually dribble out of your ears.
- Hooper writes from a British perspective. For example it deals almost exclusively with National hives, which are by far the most common in Britain. In other countries, different hive designs and even different bees predominate.
- The book tells you everything you might want to know, but it doesn't tell you what to do. I'm sure this is deliberate - I'm all in favour of encouraging people to develop and use their common sense, rather than relying on dumbed-down instructions for every situation. But some of the other students on the course I attended a few months ago yearned for a clear set of instructions, at least when they were just getting started.
- Some of the instructions do seem downright dodgy. For example I read the section on moving colonies very carefully before collecting my bees a few weeks ago. Hooper said one should knock two-pronged staples into the hives to hold them together in transit. My other major beekeeping reference (Yates and Yates Beekeeping Study Notes) disagreed, saying this was a really good way to annoy the bees and make lots of holes in your woodwork. I agreed, and relied on ratchet straps and a lot of sticky tape instead.
If you keep bees, or would like to keep bees, and are British, you really have to own this book. Make sure you get an up-to-date version. The early editions pre-date the varroa mite, for example, and other important recent developments in British beekeeping, but the latest editions have been brought up-to-date. Once you know the book inside out and back to front, you can choose to ignore the advice in it and keep bees your own way. But when you are starting out you should follow Hooper's advice closely, and you won't go far wrong.
Monday, July 30, 2007
It's a bit like rolling a dice. If you roll a normal dice hundreds of times, you'll roll a "1" one time in every six. But imagine if I gave you a loaded dice that rolled a "1" one time in every three. Now you roll the dice a few times until it rolls a "1". "Is that 1 due to the fact the dice is loaded?" you ask. But the question doesn't make any sense.
This lot were mostly Kestrels. They gave a good yield and the spuds were a good size. We've separated the biggest off into a bag labelled "bakers", and we'll definitely grow them again to provide baking potatoes.
Sunday, July 29, 2007
Stephanie chatted to the mayoress, the kids all made puppet dragons, and won prizes by hooking plastic ducks in a bowl of water, and we all ate ice-cream and had a super time. The festival is also on today so if you're in the area I'd recommend you go along. Admission is £1 for adults, free for children.
Saturday, July 28, 2007
I love this. I sympathise deeply with the people v. cars dimension. I love the "power to the people" element. And the humour and whimsy of it is also very appealing.
Onions are very cheap to buy in the shops, and home-grown ones don't really taste different from shop-bought ones, so a lot of people don't bother growing them. But there are arguments in favour of growing them:
- Onions are very easy to grow
- Fewer food miles
- Organic onions are more pricey than conventionally grown ones in the shops but you can grow organic onions easily
- They keep well so you don't have to mess about with successional planting, just grow a crop and store it until you need it
- The sheer satisfaction of having a few months' worth of onions hanging up in the garage
- Everyone uses lots of onions
Friday, July 27, 2007
She seemed to get a buzz out of it (sorry), and it gave me a boost to pretend to be an expert to someone who knows even less than I do. I'm rapidly regaining my confidence and enjoyment for working with my bees.
Sift 10oz wholemeal plain flour with a pinch of salt and a tablespoon of baking powder. Beat 2 eggs, half a pint of milk and 4oz melted butter together in a large bowl then fold in the flour gently. Add 3oz sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla essence and something else, such as:
- chocolate chips
- chopped apple and mixed spice
- lemon rind and poppy seeds
- fresh berries, such as blueberries, raspberries, chopped strawberries etc.
Drop dollops of the mixture into cake cases or holes in a muffin tin. Bake in a moderate oven (about Gas 6/200degrees C) until they're done (it depends on the size of your muffins - 10-15 minutes for little ones, 20-25 minutes or so for huge ones).
Sift 8oz organic self raising flour with a pinch of salt. Rub in 2oz butter and stir in 1oz sugar and 2oz sultanas. Beat an egg in a measuring jug and add enough milk to make 1/4 pint of liquid. Mix the liquid with the flour and butter mixture until it forms a stiff dough. Roll it out and cut it into dinky little circles. Brush the top with the leftover egg and milk mixture and bake on a greased baking sheet in a moderate oven until the tops are golden (about 10 minutes). Serve warm with Steph's homemade hedgerow jelly and extra thick double cream.
Last night I made this cake stand out of three charity-shop plates, two charity-shop sherry glasses, some araldite and some very careful measuring to find the centres.
We got the idea from Making Stuff: An Alternative Craft Book by Ziggy Hanaor and Victoria Woodcock.
Just got to make some cakes now.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
- First, reduce, then
- reuse - then, and only then
Recycle is the last-ditch option (not counting the unthinkable - landfill). Recycle is not the first option.
If you're recycling more than your neighbours, don't feel smug. Ask yourself "Is there any way I could reduce the amount of stuff coming into my household in the first place, so I'd have less stuff to recycle? And is there any way I can reuse any of this stuff rather than recycling it?"
We all know we're supposed to "slim our bins", and send less stuff to landfill. The next step is to persuade people to slim their recycling, by putting reduction and reuse first.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
You know me well enough by now to know that this is uncharacteristic behaviour. I think it's fair to say I'm freaking out.
The good news is a nice chap from the local beekeeper's association is coming this afternoon to move the bees back from the WBC hive into the National hive. Then this evening we'll move them to their emergency temporary accommodation. So they'll be gone, and my neighbours and husband will be talking to me again.
The thing is, despite what Ed says, bees don't act like that. That cartoon thing of enraged bees following you around and stinging random people out of sheer spite. It just doesn't happen. Except, yesterday, when it did.
The exception is when bees are starving, sometimes they swarm and then they're really aggressive. It's very very rare - the Uber Bee Guru who taught the course I attended in May said that he had only seen it twice in his long beekeeping career. But consider the facts:
- Very agressive behaviour of previously mild-mannered bees
- Smoking had no effect (smoking makes bees fill their stomachs with honey in preparation to escape from a forest fire. Starvation swarms aren't calmed by smoking because they have no honey to feed on)
- It has been very poor foraging for months so we know honey stores are low
- The hive we opened did have honey stores but they could have robbed that from the hive next door
- So maybe it was the hive we didn't open that sent a starvation swarm
They still need to go, to fend off lawsuits from the neighbours, the GPO, and divorce proceedings from Ed who is insisting he knew it would end up like this ("But no-one could have predicted this, it's a freak occurrence", "Well I predicted it", "Oh yes, your in-depth knowledge of bees gained from watching Winnie-the-Pooh cartoons is better than my measly knowledge gained from going on a course, reading lots of books, attending hive meetings at my local beekeepers' association...", "Well, it does, yes, because I predicted this and you didn't..." ad infinitum).
I feel better thinking there's an explanation for their behaviour other than they're just nasty evil bees who hate me and my neighbours.
But still, I have a confession. I'm now a bit scared of my bees.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
I've always known there were frogs, toads and newts in the garden. One year a toad hibernated in our compost heap, and I loved going to have a peek at him. But I've never seen so many of them.
Monday, July 23, 2007
This month I've been writing about carbon - what a carbon footprint is, how to calculate it, what it has to do with climate change, and so on.
Our modern lifestyles have released a lot of extra carbon into the atmosphere. Can we somehow trap it again? Trees trap carbon, so does the soil. Can I fly to Malaga as long as I pay someone to plant a bunch of trees for me? Does that work?
There's an interesting video about carbon sequestration which you should look at if you have about 9 minutes to spare. It explains how organic farming can help trap some excess carbon in the soil, which just adds to the long list of reasons why organic farming is a good idea. I love the guy who narrates it, Percy Schmeiser. He's pretty rubbish at looking natural in front of a camera and reading from a script, but this somehow makes his statements more convincing. He must know what he's talking about because he sure as hell wasn't chosen for his presenting abilities.
But that's different from paying someone to plant trees for you so you can fly to Malaga with a clear conscience. Carbon offsetting is a last-ditch option. It's like having chemotherapy when you've got cancer. You don't say "Oh, I might as well smoke as many cigarettes as I like because I can always have chemotherapy if I get cancer". Similarly we shouldn't say "It's perfectly OK to live a high-carbon lifestyle because I can afford to offset it by planting loads of trees someplace". It's a radical attempt to fix damage already done, not a "get out of jail free" card.
Yes, we should be planting trees, returning to organic farming, collecting methane and all the other carbon offsetting things. But we should be doing them to offset the damage we have already done, not as a sort of "indulgence" permitting us to carry on with our planet-damaging activities and still sleep soundly.
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Saturday, July 21, 2007
Friday, July 20, 2007
Thye bread turned out really well, and the potato and coconut slow cooker curry was delicious. Easy, delicious, home-grown and economical. That's the kind of meal I like.
I like eBay for second-hand bargains. I ought to shop in charity shops more but I haven't the patience. They work best if you pop in a few times a week with a shopping list in your head, ready to snap up the perfect pair of shoes in your size (or whatever) as soon as they come in. I tend to only go shopping when there's something specific I want, so the sheer size of eBay means that if I want, say, a pair of size 7 cherry red pre-owned Doc Marten boots, they have 15 for me to choose from.
I also like Craigslist which is similar to eBay. In fact I prefer it to eBay because it's free, it's local, and it has stayed close to its hippyish roots. There's a funky counterculture feeling to it which tickles me immensely.
I have to admit to spending a lot of money on Amazon. My voluntary simplicity, anti consumerist, downshifted principles fall apart when it comes to books. I buy far too many books. I do also make regular use of my local library, which is a greener way to feed my reading habit. And I frequent my local bookshop. But I am trying to kick my Amazon habit and patronise Abe Books instead. You can search 13,500 booksellers selling over 1 million used books so I should be able to find anything I want there and salve my conscience at the same time. Maybe I should also release some of my books into the wild, via Bookcrossing.
But mostly I try to shop as little as possible. I am appalled that shopping is said to be the most popular leisure activity in Britain today. I am bewildered that a typical large supermarket will stock around 50,000 different product lines. Over-consumption is not only bad for the planet, I think it's also bad for the individuals who over-consume, in the same way that eating too much food or drinking too much alcohol is bad for you even though it may seem enjoyable at the time.
I try to think before I shop. First, I think whether I need to buy anything at all, and second, I think whether I could buy something second hand instead.
All was going well until I tried to cycle over a railway bridge. I made it over the bridge (barely) but it took everything I had, and afterwards I had jelly legs. I had to get off and push for the last mile, but even then my legs kept giving out on me.
I'm familiar with this phenomenon from when I used to do distance running. Your legs don't hurt, they just won't hold you up. It happens when you push too hard. I used to get it doing speed work (when you sprint for a while, then jog for a while, then sprint, then jog etc.) So I understood why the railway bridge had done for me. When I got back home I sat down, ate a banana and drank some water and I was right as rain in a few minutes, so don't worry. I didn't do any damage, I just tried to do something my legs aren't strong enough for yet.
More practice required, I think. I'm determined to get the family cycling to school next September. I've just won an auction for a pink girls' bike on eBay for Eleanor, so now we all have bikes. The summer holiday has just begun so daily cycling trips are in order - avoiding bridges.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Do you agree, or do you think the wealthy and powerful make all the running, and it makes little difference what you do?
That's my girl!
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
For example, it has a list of fifteen suggestions to get started - simple but effective things you can do to green your lifestyle. And I was pleased to see a few things on there I haven't got around to myself yet, such as foil behind the radiators. That's a good idea for a future Bean Sprouts Challenge.
They also have a simple-to-use carbon footprint calculator (you'll need an electricity and a gas bill, and some idea of how many miles you drive per year). I just checked my footprint with it and it said I produce 5.81 tonnes of carbon per year, compared to the UK average of 9.4. Which isn't bad, but could still be a lot better when you consider that the worldwide average is 4 tonnes, and the average Indian, for example, produces 1.2 tonnes. Apparently domestic energy use is my downfall - above the UK average (probably because I work from home). Time to get some foil behind the radiators!
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
If you pop over to read them, don't expect much about saving the planet or recipes for wholemeal yogurt (although I wouldn't rule it out). But do expect to laugh your socks off.
Does anyone have any good coconut recipes?
More importantly, does anyone have any tips for getting the meat out of coconuts easily?
Edited at 11:06
Thanks to Steph for pointing out this website that explains how to easily deal with coconuts. I just opened three coconuts and got out the milk and the meat, all in under ten minutes. Plus the bit where you wrap the coconut in a plastic bag, swing it over your head and smash it down on a concrete step is brilliant for working out your frustrations. Maybe Clodhopper should give it a go.
Monday, July 16, 2007
If you are rowing your boat down the river, and another boatman crashes his boat into yours, you will shout and curse at him and tell him what a fool he is, and all day you will feel angry about the stupid boatman, and you will go home and tell your wife about the idiot boatman who crashed into you.
But if an empty boat crashes into yours, you will push it away with your oar and carry on your journey. You won't think about it any more.
So when something happens to frustrate you, tell yourself "It doesn't matter. It's just an empty boat", and don't think about it any more.
I like that a lot.
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Ed cleared a bed we had weeded and dug but never planted anything in, and I dug up over 10 stones (over 60kg) of desiree and pink fir apple potatoes. There are still kestrel, red duke of york, and random unknown potatoes still waiting to be dug.
We also picked some blackcurrants, spanish onions and radishes.
Ed thinks that we need to do little and often on the allotment. I'm glad he's come to this decision himself - I didn't want to constantly nag him, but I was getting depressed by the state of the plot, and feeling too overwhelmed to tackle it alone.
We'll go over there again tomorrow and plant something in the beds we cleared - probably salad and fast "catch" crops. And we'll try to clear a little more.
Saturday, July 14, 2007
Friday, July 13, 2007
I've learned that:
1. The way I've set up the hives, I can't easily smoke hive 1 at the entrance
2. I don't have a whole lot of room for manoeuvre, the space is rather cramped
3. Smoking bees really is magical - they change from inquisitive and noisy to quiet and calm at a puff of smoke, but...
4. The hardest thing about beekeeping is the fine art of keeping your smoker alight
5. That's not quite true - the hardest thing about beekeeping is finding the bloody queen. If anyone can breed a strain of bees where the queen is fluorescent pink and flashes like an LED, I think they'd be onto a winner
Thursday, July 12, 2007
Thanks to Augustus from Skooperbox for donating the prizes. If any other green companies would like to donate prizes for competitions, we'd love to hear from you.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
She emailed me back to say she spent half an hour clearing weeds on my plot, and gave me an update about what's ready for harvest. I felt so touched, I almost cried.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
2. It's better for your children. Because of their smaller size, children are more affected by pesticides in their food than adults, but feeding them organic food has been proved to significantly reduce their intake of pesticides.
3. It's better for the farmers and their families if they don't have to use pesticides and other toxic chemicals. This is especially true in countries which have less strict health and safety legislation.
4. It's better for the farm animals. Joyce d'Silva of Compassion in World Farming said "Organic farming has the potential to offer the very highest standards of animal welfare."
5. It's better for wild animals. In one study, organic farms were found to contain 85% more plant species, 33% more bats, 17% more spiders and 5% more birds than conventional farms.
6. It's better for the planet because it doesn't lead to soil erosion. Conventional farming is responsible for unsustainable soil loss, but organic farming actually builds the soil.
7. It doesn't lead to waterway pollution.
8. It doesn't depend on oil-based agrochemicals.
9. It uses less energy because it relies on people rather than machinery. David Milliband said “in many, but not all cases, [organic food] produces fewer greenhouse gases”.
10. It tastes better, and don't believe anyone who tells you they don't. Many years ago my sister Stephanie was helping me chop some carrots for our lunch and she ate a slice of carrot. Immediately she started exclaiming "Oh, oh, these carrots are wonderful! Why do they taste so good?" She hadn't known they were organic carrots.
Convinced? Why not sign up for an organic veg box to be delivered to your door?
Remember there are only two more days to enter our Skooperbox competition. There have only been seven correct entries so far, so your chances are excellent of winning a package of Skooperboxes, the recycled biodegradable dog poop scooper. All correct entries will be entered into a draw and winners will be announced on Wednesday.
Monday, July 09, 2007
A friend of mine with a big van and a bee suit (thanks Tony) drove me to Ally's place in mid-Wales. Ally and her lovely partner B sold us 2 colonies of bees in pretty WBC hives. That sounds quite simple doesn't it? But actually it took all day and was quite complicated. Ally and B also entertained us and fed us delicious soup and plenty of tea and coffee. They're lovely people and I'm so glad to have met them. They're going to be fantastic parents.
Driving for almost 3 hours with two colonies of irritated bees was a peculiar experience, and I have to admit the occasional feeling of "What the hell am I doing? I've changed my mind. Let me out!" But we had no escapees at all, probably due to the unstinting amounts of gaffer tape we used to hold everything together. We finally got back to Poynton after 11pm, moved the hives into my front garden and opened the entryways - the bees were making quite a racket inside the hives but they didn't come pouring out looking for blood.
This morning I can look out of my living room window and see the hives with bees busily coming and going. It's a really good feeling. There's nothing quite as relaxing as watching somebody else hard at work is there? And I could do with a rest now.