Three Things Thursday: 12 October 2017

My weekly exercise in gratitude – three things that are making me smile – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog [or Twitter account or Facebook page or diary or life in general] with happiness.

First, ethical coffee. Every two weeks I receive a (completely biodegradable) package of coffee. Our postie loves delivering it because it fills his van with a wonderful aroma, and I love drinking it and reading about the producers that it comes from. The company who sell it, Roasting House,  is able to support small-scale coffee growers because it’s a club not a shop, so they don’t have to guarantee large stocks. This is the latest; just read what they say about the project…

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Coffee or Cocaine?

 

Second, more socialising. Last Saturday we attended a Tweet-up (meet-up for people who know each other through Twitter) of Welsh smallholders. Yes, I know we don’t exactly have a smallholding, but we have the ethos. These get-togethers are always good – great food, lovely company and the opportunity to see someone else’s set up.

tweetup

Smallholders’ Tweet-up (c) Philippa Pickworth

 

Third, sitting on a parcel. This made me smile because it was so silly. I had a parcel to send to the USA yesterday. I packed it very carefully, but I wasn’t sure that it would be quite thin enough to go as a ‘large letter’ rather than a ‘small parcel’. Since the difference is about £5, it’s quite an important distinction and it was dimensions not weight that was critical. So, I drove to the Post Office whilst sitting on the parcel… and it worked! Sometimes there is a simple solution.

So, that’s what’s making me happy this week. How about you?

-oOo-

Emily of Nerd in the Brain originally created Three Things Thursday, but it’s now being hosted by Natalie of There She Goes.

Three Things Thursday: 11 May 2017

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog [or Twitter account or Facebook page or diary or life in general] with the happy*

Inspired by Emily of Nerd in the Brain here are my Three Things Thursday.

First, tomato futures. The limery provides such great growing conditions that my first tomatoes are appearing already. I see lots of passata in my future!

Heritage tomato: Veepro Paste

Second, potting-up. Every day now I am spending a bit of time potting up plants: lemongrass, peppers, melons and summer purple sprouting broccoli in the past few days. There are also seeds to be planted and surplus plants to be given away.

Third, working from home. Almost all my work these days is done from home. It means there’s no commute and no dress code, but best of all, it means I can intersperse my day with coffee, homemade biscuits and crochet in the limery.

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So, those are three things making me smile and that I am grateful for this week. What is making you happy?

Tiny packets – no thank you

Whilst I was away I stayed in a hotel with tea and coffee-making facilities in the room. I knew this was going to be the case, so I went prepared… happy to use the kettle, but eschewing the teeny packs of instant coffee and various tea bags, not to mention the bottled water.

The goodies provided by the hotel

The tray provided by the hotel

Instead, I took a jar of fair trade, organic instant coffee (the remains from when the builders were here), containers of loose tea (black China and redbush), an infuser, an insulated mug and an enamel mug for taking out and about, and my own water bottle:

My beverage kit

My beverage kit

Since I don’t take milk in any of my drinks, there were no issues with storing dairy. And so, on my trip I managed not to use any disposable cups, tea bags, water from plastic bottles or teeny tiny packages. It’s a small amount of packaging to avoid but every little helps and, in addition, all my drinks were to my taste.

My trip coincided with Zero Waste Week, so it was good to feel that in circumstances where I might have been seduced into producing more waste than usual, I did not, all with very little effort and just a bit of planning.

Deluding myself

Once upon a time, I thought I had found the holy grail… plastic packaging-free coffee. I used to go to the little local tea and coffee shop, they weighed out 500g of organic beans from the glass jar onto the scale pan, then tipped them into my (reused many times) container. In my mind, the coffee arrived at the shop in Hessian sacks, like I’ve seen on the internet. In my mind there was no packaging involved that could not be composted or reused.

And then, one day, I decided to buy 1kg of coffee beans and my illusions were shattered…

Oh no!

Oh no!

The glass jar did not contain a whole kilo, so the shopkeeper went into the storeroom and emerged with a sealed 1kg plastic bag of coffee (silent sob). I restrained myself and suggested that rather than open the bag and weigh out the contents, I’d just take the whole bag. And so I came home with some single-use plastic (which I carefully recycled) and something to think about.

And this is the thing… just because you don’t see the waste, doesn’t mean it’s not there. I consoled myself with the fact that I had used less plastic than if I had bought a smaller amount and had it weighed into yet another single use bag (the shop uses paper/foil/plastic combination bags) and that I had recycled the packaging rather than just sending it to landfill.

It does tick all sorts of other boxes

It does tick all sorts of other boxes

It’s very hard, if not impossible, to track the whole life of any product that you use. Often there is no information about waste, and what information there is has to be taken on trust. However, this is not going to stop me trying to make a difference and reduce the amount of waste I am responsible for. I was, therefore, very pleased to come across PALL: Plastic A Lot Less. Michelle’s idea is to think about consumption and try to reduce it, but not to beat ourselves up if it’s not possible. Just think how much the earth would benefit if we all took this approach. So, next time you’re making a buying choice, think about whether there is a ‘less’ option (for packaging, transport, or whatever) and make a real difference.

Zero waste coffee

I do like a good cup of coffee – the real stuff made from beans. And it was whilst preparing my coffee this morning that I realised that (at least as far as what happens in my house) it’s zero landfill waste… so on day 5 of Zero Waste Week, I thought I’d tell you how I manage it:

We buy our organic coffee beans from a small shop in Aberystwyth called The Mecca; they sell loose teas and coffees and we always take our own containers so we generate no packaging

coffee beans

coffee beans

We grind the beans ourselves (solar electricity on a sunny day) and store any not used immediately in a glass jar

all ready to go

all ready to go

The water is filtered with charcoal, which comes wrapped in tissue paper in a cardboard box:

charcoal in the water jug

charcoal in the water jug

and is boiled in a Kelly Kettle:

on the boil

on the boil

using, for fuel, twigs from pruning the willow hedge

willow waste

willow twigs

and newspaper, both scrunched up and made into ‘sticks’ as my nan taught me

newspaper sticks

newspaper sticks

The ground coffee goes into a cone lined with a heavy cotton fabric, which is washed between uses and used over and over

coffee in the cone

coffee in the cone

We pour the water on and store any excess hot water in thermos flasks for use later

steamy coffee

steamy coffee

And very quickly, there’s a mug of coffee

my coffee

my coffee

Being lactose intolerant, I drink my coffee black and I don’t take sugar.

Eventually the charcoal needs replacing, but we just put it in the soil, and the filters need replacing, as they do finally start to break down with the action of the acidic coffee and the repeated rinsing, but they get put on the compost heap, as do the coffee grounds. The cone and jug are more than 15 years old and still going strong; the Kelly Kettle was bought in 2009 and has been repaired once. So, all-in-all, about as low waste as we can manage – a great drink for Zero Waste Week.

 

One more cup of coffee…

After the slightly icky post yesterday about the colonic irrigation of chickens (apologies to any new readers, it’s usually much more tasteful here… actually, you probably won’t be reading this as you were so appalled by yesterday’s ruminations) I thought I’d turn my mind to something much more palatable… my morning cup of coffee…

I have mentioned coffee in earlier posts, but I like it so much that I think it deserves to be the subject of a post in its own right and I read an interesting post yesterday about making coffee drinking more green, which inspired me to write something myself.

When I went out to work, I used to take a big flask of homemade coffee with me every day because otherwise I would have spent all the money I earned on buying coffee… some people say something similar about child care; I don’t have any offspring, but I do have a coffee habit (and a sick chicken) to support. Now that I work from home, in a sedentary job, it would be easy to OD on coffee because I could have a constant supply if I wanted. What’s worse is that I drink it black (I’m lactose intolerant) so it’s just me and the coffee. In fact I was never keen on cappuccino even in my milk-drinking days – it always looks like somebody hasn’t rinsed the washing up liquid out of the cup properly! But to avoid sitting around vibrating, I stick to one large mug of coffee with Mr Snail-of-happiness mid-morning.

We choose to drink Fair Trade or Rainforest Alliance coffee at least and preferably something that is grown organically or as part of a community-centred project. There are projects that grow shade coffee, social projects such as those on Mount Kilimanjaro,  co-operatives in many places like Guatemala… I could go on, but just search for ‘ethical coffee’ on the internet and you’ll find lots of information. There’s loads of choice now and you can support great projects around the world through your purchasing . I acknowledge that coffee has to be transported a long way, but generally it comes by boat and without its sale there would be communities with no source of income from outside their local area. I like to support small projects where I know the growers are not being coerced and where they get the money directly… I hope that I am doing the right thing.

Sometimes I order coffee on-line and sometimes I buy from a little local shop that sells the beans (or ground coffee) loose. If the latter, I take my own container for the beans to be put in after weighing to minimise packaging. This way I’m also supporting a business in our area. If I do buy on-line it’s from a small company supporting specific projects.

Anyway, once the coffee beans have arrived we like to grind them either using solar-generated electricity (if it’s a sunny day) or in a little hand-grinder if not. Actually, we have got a bit lazy recently and grind more than required on sunny days to avoid using person-power when it’s dull (we need to keep our energy for the radio on dull days!).

The grounds are then transferred to the most low-tech coffee maker possible: a plastic cone (over fifteen years old) lined with a thick piece of cotton fabric. The water, boiled in our Kelly Kettle (powered by wood from our willow hedge),  is poured onto the coffee and collected in a jug below. After use, we collect the grounds and they go on the garden and the cloth is rinsed out for re-use.

The best location to drink this ethical-as possible (I hope) coffee is in the garden, where we can ponder the vegetables growing around us and discuss future plans for the garden, house, chickens, sustainability, Mr S-o-h’s next book… all powered by coffee.

Drip-drip-drop

All the April showers recently here in the land of snails have been making me think a lot about water…

Nearly half of all UK water use is domestic, so I try to be thoughtful about what I do with the stuff. In particular I think it’s wrong to use drinking-quality water for things like watering plants and flushing the toilet, especially considering how much energy is needed for water treatment. It’s easy enough to install a water-butt or two if you have a garden and downspouts, but next to impossible if you don’t. We have three collecting water off the roof of the house, one on the greenhouse and an IBC (which holds a cubic metre of water) collecting from the shed roof. This may seem excessive for a relatively small garden in a wet area, but much of the saved water is used to flush the toilet… we fill the cistern manually from 5 litre bottles of rainwater. We have a hose pipe from a raised water-butt (on a wooden stand constructed by Mr S-o-h) that siphons into the bottles stored in the bathroom (we live in a bungalow, so no pumping is needed). Sounds like a fiddle, but it’s a low-tech solution and saves us some money since we are on a water meter. If we are running low on rainwater in the summer, when the priority is growing food, we save grey water from the shower and use this for flushing.

We have a low water-use washing machine, although it’s about 12 years old, so I’m sure a more efficient one would be available. Of course this raises the issue of when to replace our possessions. Currently we try not to get rid of anything unless its broken and cannot be repaired, so the washing machine stays. Actually, the embodied energy and water in any product is usually so high that this generally seems like a sensible option.

So, I try to think not only about the water that I use directly, but also that used indirectly… am I taking water from a region or country that can ill afford it because of my purchases? The answer has to be yes, so I try to be mindful of this, for example buying my coffee from Ethical Addictions, who support coffee growing projects aimed at reducing water use and supporting communities.

I’m always looking for ways to save more water, both directly and indirectly… any ideas?

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