Keep it simple

One of the things that can help to increase sustainability is simplification. For example, simplify the food chain by buying direct from a local producer and you can reduce food miles and keep money in the local economy.

Something that has been niggling at me for ages is what I spread on my bread. Although lactose intolerant, I can eat dairy in the form of butter or margarine in small quantities and do use it on toast and sandwiches; plus Mr Snail-of-happiness is not lactose intolerant, so we’d use it anyway. Because I like to be able to spread the stuff, we have been using a dairy-based margarine that can be used straight from the fridge. However, it contains lots of things:

Vegetable Oils (31% Seed Oils), Buttermilk (27%), Salt (1.7%), Cream, Emulsifiers (E471, Sunflower Lecithin), Natural Flavourings, Colour (Natural Beta Carotene)

And I’m wondering whether¬† those vegetable oils (although not hydrogenated according to the manufacturer) include palm oil – I think they probably do, as I know they did in 2010. Anyway, all those ingredients must require lots of processing. What I’d really like to do is to have spreadable butter, preferably produced locally and organically. This also makes sense in terms of health benefits, since recent reports suggest that unprocessed fats, like butter, may well be good for the heart.

I was delighted, therefore, to come across a blog post a couple of weeks ago that seemed to offer the solution… a simple way of storing butter at room temperature, but without it being exposed to the air: a butter bell. It’s a French idea, involving a thing like a large egg cup that you fill with butter and a container into which you put water. The egg cup thingy is then inverted into the container of water so that no air can get in and, hey presto, you can keep your butter for several weeks at room temperature. I just had to have one:

Butter bell without butter

Butter bell without butter

Add water to one half and butter to the other

Add water to one half and butter to the other

Lower the butter bell into the water container and keep at room temperature for spreadable butter that won't be tainted or go off

Invert the butter bell and lower it into the water container then keep at room temperature for spreadable butter that won’t be tainted or go off

Sadly I had to buy a mass-produced one, because I just couldn’t find one from a local potter and I wasn’t clear enough about the design before I had seen a butter bell for real to be able to commission one to be made.

There is a slight problem at the moment, in that it’s not very warm in our house, so the butter in it is not very spreadable. I’m sure that it will function well for much of the year and I’ll just have to find it a slightly warmer spot for it to live (top of the fridge?) for these chilly months.

The strange world of blogging… and why I’m here

The portal to the blogoshpere

My portal to the blogosphere

I started writing this blog about a year and a half ago as a way to harvest my thoughts and research about sustainability and living a more sustainable life. I wanted to share my ideas and tell other people what I had found out. I wanted to show that we can make relatively small changes in our lives that can have a big impact, especially if we all work together. I also thought that it might be a good way to publicise the courses I teach and the crafts I make. I chose to blog with WordPress quite at random – I had seen someone else’s site, liked it and didn’t have much desire to spend too much time researching the options.

So, I chose a theme (quite an unusual one it turns out… don’t see many other bloggers using it… it’s called ‘Comet’ in case you are interested) and set to with the writing. I soon decided that I wanted to steer away from the very personal style of blogging… I didn’t want to share my inner feelings, whinge about the bus driver or get therapy from my blog readers. I wanted to share ideas and information about practical aspects of my life and making it more sustainable… and that’s the sort of blog I like to read too. That’s not to say that blogging doesn’t feel like therapy sometimes and it certainly helps me to get ideas straight in my head simply by writing them down and receiving feedback.

There have been some unexpected yields… I never expected to form friendships via my blog and to feel such strong connections to people all over the world, most of whom I will never meet. I never expected that my readers would engage so enthusiastically about some of my posts. Who’d have thought that a post on bartering would generate so much interest or one on how to deal with human remains? I also didn’t expect so many people who I know personally to read my blog and to feel that it was a good way to know what I’m up to. Perhaps the strangest thing is to go to events and have people exclaim “so you’re The Snail of Happiness” (my real name is Jan, by-the-way, for those of you who don’t know).

The Leibster award

The Leibster award

This is my 20th month of blogging and I’m celebrating it by participating in NaBloPoMo – a month of blogging every day. Here we are then, on day 11 and since this is a blog post about blogging it doesn’t feel too out of place to mention that I have received a blogging award from my fellow blogger The Belmont Rooster. They are funny old things, blogging awards… really a bit like a chain letter – you get an award and you get to pass it on to some other bloggers. So I have been nominated by Mr Rooster and I get to nominate some other folks. I don’t usually participate in this sort of thing, but I decided to make an exception this time; first because Mr Rooster asked me so nicely (thank you so much), second because it gives me an excuse to direct you, my readers, to a few blogs that am really enjoying at the moment and that you might enjoy too (they are my nominees below) and third because NaBloPoMo is making me completely blog-obsessed at the moment!

So, here are my nominations and recommendations for some good reading:

free food for rats is written by the lovely Anja, She describes delicious seasonal cooking as well as activities with her young family.

Permapeach: One person’s urban permaculture story documents Rachel’s permaculture adventures in an urban setting, with descriptions of community gardening, her allotment and her business, all based around permaculture ethics and principles.

westywrites may be my favourite blog right now as she describes her attempts to eliminate single-use plastics from her life.

gettin’ fresh is (and I quote) ‘not only about gardening but also about getting all that delicious produce to the table in a form that will tempt even the pickiest of eaters’.

and finally

Ecology is not a dirty word has some thought-provoking pieces and is written by another ecologist… always worth a read.

Hopefully these five bloggers will make their own recommendations and lead us all on to new discoveries. Meanwhile, for me that’s another blog post written in November and I’ve manage to accept my blogging award in a slightly unconventional way*.


* There was a set of questions to answer, most of which I have in the text of this article… you can find them here if you are interested.

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