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Hello Again

Well, after a long break from blogging – 6 months – I’ve finally got enough time to myself to contribute some more thoughts…
In the time I’ve been away lots has happened: I have tried very hard not to aquire more stuff, ethically reduce the amount of stuff I have already, and to live as lightly as possible. But I have fallen off the wagon a bit and need to refocus.
I will be blogging over the next few days about each of my goals/interests and also introducing a couple of new things into the mix.
I’m using my work laptop just now so don’t have many photos available to make this post a bit prettier but I’ll have a browse now for something.

The Beach at Holkham, Norfolk - one of my favourite places.

The Beach at Holkham, Norfolk – one of my favourite places.


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Living Lightly 2 – Bye Bye Plastic Bags

I have been trying to cut out using plastic bags – especially single use plastic bags for some time. Like many people, my intentions have been good but, from time to time, I still find myself accepting a bag when offered in a shop. Even when I am determined to say ‘no thanks’ I find myself saying ‘yes please’!

So, inspired by ‘Polythene Pam’ and her Plastic is Rubbish blog  I have decided that from now on I will NEVER use a free plastic, single use carrier bag or produce bag again. I will also avoid, as much as I possibly can, plastic packaging and other disposable plastic stuff.

I have bought some re-useable produce bags from Onya. They are made of a nylon mesh and are very light so loose fruit and veg can be put in them and weighed. They can be washed and reused 100s of times saving 100s of plastic bags from ending up in landfill.

I’ve also bought some PLA tubs and lids. These look like clear plastic deli pots but are made from corn starch and are compostable. I will use these for buying olives, houmous etc. as well as storing food in the fridge and in our packed lunches. They can be used a few times before they start to break down. I will use new ones for shopping so as to not freak out the deli counter people too much.

I’ve also bought some compostable kitchen caddy liners and bin liners. I will use these in place of a plastic bag for instance when buying fresh meat and fish as well as lining the bin. This will probably freak out the butcher/fish merchant but I’m sure they’ll get used to it.

The other investment I’ve made is in some sandwich wrap mats – wipeable, washable, reusable wrappers for sandwiches so I can stop using cling film.

Being technically backward, i haven’t managed to insert links to the products mentioned above so I’ve listed them below:

plasticisrubbish.com (very inspirational site – if i can be half as dedicated to ridding the world of plastic rubbish I’ll be chuffed!)

onyabags.co.uk (reuseable produce bags, sandwich wrapnmats etc.)

all-green.co.uk (compostable bags, bin liners, caddy liners)

vegware.com (compostable PET containers and other eco friendly catering/household supplies)

Plastics-bags

Look like jellyfish don’t they?


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Living Lightly – Mobile Phone

Hello everybody.

This is the first of my living lightly posts. I am trying to find more sustainable, Eco-friendly ways of living.

The first thing I have been looking into involves reducing the impact of my mobile phone.

Phones on the Scrap Heap

Phones on the Scrap Heap

Firstly the mobile phone itself. I really hate the fact that it is so tempting to upgrade things like mobile phones whenever a new model comes out. Even if the old one is sent off for reuse/recycling, if it still works fine why get rid of it at all?  And I’m not convinced that the    phones don’t end up being sent to third world countries for breaking up where the dangerous elements are released without proper safeguards for the health of the workers or the environment. Anyway, the long and the short of it is that I will keep my current mobile phone for as long as it works and then research the best way to dispose of it and look into ‘green’ mobiles for the replacement.

 In the past it has always been that the battery stops holding a charge and, when I enquire about a replacement battery, that model is no longer made. Therefore a whole phone has to be discarded rather than just the battery. I find this extremely irresponsible on behalf of the   phone manufacturers and would be interested to hear if anyone knows of any companies who have a better environmental ethos.

 The other things I am now doing are trying to reduce the electrical power needed to keep my phone charged and extending the life of the battery and the phone itself.

I have changed the following settings on my phone to conserve power:

1. Turned down the brightness to its lowest level.

2. De-activated the scrolling photos wallpaper to a plain one.

3. Changed the ringtones to the factory installed ones rather than having downloaded music ones.

4. Switched off the vibrate and led light notifications.

5. Switched off the keystroke sound.

6. Set the screen timeout to the minimum.

7. When I’m somewhere I’m not allowed to use my phone I switch it off rather than just to silent.

8. I intend to clean my phone carefully inside and out from time to time. Apparently dust build-up can reduce battery life.

I will no longer leave it charging overnight, even if it still has quite a lot of power left in it. I will only charge it when it goes down to 10% unless I know I’m going to be unable to charge it when I might need it. (Hardly ever). Apparently this is better for the life off the battery than continually topping it up.

I will stop leaving the charger plugged in and switched on even when nothing is charging. 95% of the energy is still drawn from the supply even when nothing is plugged in!

I have also been looking into alternative technologies for charging up electronic devices. There are now solar powered, wind powered and wind up chargers. The best one I’ve seen is a Kinetic energy charger which gets it’s power from the movement of your body when walking, cycling or running! It’s a bit expensive though, so I might need to save up for it. My husband is a keen cyclist so it is tempting to attach something to him or his bike to store up his energy.

I need to do a bit more research into these devices and I will report my findings. If anyone has any experience of using these I’d love to hear from you. Also any other ideas about green mobile phone use would be very welcome too.

Next time I think I will tackle the thorny issue of plastic bags…..

 

 

 

Time to Observe

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I have been taking time out over the last few days to observe what is going on in my garden. I posted some photos of some of the selection of flowers I have available for my fussy honey bees, one of which I identified from a post by Fodrambler entitled “Great Mullein and the Mullein Moth”. I didn’t have Mullein moths on my plant but, when I went back to look at it, a quite impressive Longhorn Beetle was sitting there on one of the leaves so I took a photo of it and here it is…

Male Red Longhorn Beetle - Leptura Rubra

Male Red Longhorn Beetle – Leptura Rubra

Quite uncommon in the UK apparently only recorded in Breckland, Norfolk until fairly recently.

Uncommon or not, he is very welcome in my garden:)

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FUSSY BEES

I think my bees may be quite fussy eaters… Before they arrived I planted them a lovely patch of wildflowers.

WILD FLOWER MEADOW

WILD FLOWER MEADOW

VERBASCUM

VERBASCUM

They have campion (red and white), ox-eye daisies, self-heal, verbascum, foxgloves, thistles, knapweed, teasels, woundwort, ragwort, red and white dead nettles, speedwell, hemp agrimony, forget me nots, etc

IMG_20140712_200634

TEASELS

OX EYE DAISIES

OX EYE DAISIES

SELF HEAL

SELF HEAL

Add to this all my carefully chosen garden plants: Lavender, fennel, origano, thyme, hyssop, bergamot, spirea, sage, crocosmia, nicotiana, oriental poppies, coneflowers, californian poppies, lithospermum, chives, petrovskia, cistus, red hot pokers, scabious, blanket flower, delphiniums, geraniums, sedum, astrantia, mint, buddleia, senecio, lambs ears, roses, lamium etc…

BERGAMOT

BERGAMOT

 

ROSE William Shakespeare

ROSE William Shakespeare

CROCOSMIA Lucifer

CROCOSMIA Lucifer

BLANKET FLOWER

BLANKET FLOWER

CAN'T REMEMBER?

CAN’T REMEMBER?

ASTRANTIA

ASTRANTIA

BUDDLEIA WITH RED ADMIRAL

BUDDLEIA WITH RED ADMIRAL

Not to mention all the weeds (wildflowers) that I have allowed to make themselves at home amongst my flower beds: feverfew, musk mallow, herb robert, lemon balm, dandelions, bindweed

FEVERFEW

FEVERFEW

HERB ROBERT

HERB ROBERT

MUSK MALLOW

MUSK MALLOW

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the hedgerows full of blackberry flowers, wild roses, honeysuckle, crab apple blossom, hawthorn and blackthorn – these last three have finished flowering by now as have most of the tree blossoms – willow, oak, beech, birch, alder and ash.

DOG ROSE

DOG ROSE

HAWTHORN

HAWTHORN

CRAB APPLES

CRAB APPLES

BLACKBERRIES

BLACKBERRIES

ALDER

ALDER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the only flowers I have observed my honey bees on in my garden are….buddleia and lambs ears. – especially the lambs ears.

BEE ON LAMBS' EARS (Stachys lanata)

BEE ON LAMBS’ EARS (Stachys lanata)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If anyone thinks this post is just an excuse to put up photos of lovely flowers you are absolutely right!


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Lovely Evening in Norfolk

I have spent a lovely evening at home here in Norfolk, UK. I didn’t do anything special or different but it was an evening where I felt so happy and at ease and blessed by what I have.
The weather was nice, kind of sultry with a storm in the air as the dusk fell. The air is beginning to smell ‘harvesty’. That lovely high summer, grass mowings, cereal crops ripening, flowery sweet atmosphere.
I spent a bit of time wandering in my garden trying to photograph some bees and butterflies and just soaking up the contented feeling.
I think we should all try and stop from time to time and just take a few minutes to reflect on the good things in our life, stop worrying about the future and regretting the past and concentrate on how good right now actually is.


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More Stuff Gone!

Yesterday my Husband finally got round to sorting out his clothes.

He has had 2 1/2 wardrobes, 9 drawers and 4 baskets full of stuff, about 70% of which he never wears. After the big clear out there is 2 wardrobes and 5 drawers in total. Also 2 of the 10 or so coats have gone. (still too many coats for one person in my opinion but there we are). The thing I’m most pleased with is the shoes. He has been holding onto several pairs of running shoes from years ago for sentimental reasons and he has now let them go.

I’ve loaded 4 bin bags into the car and tomorrow they will go to the local charity shops. I will share the stuff out between them as I feel guilty taking too much stuff into one shop for them to sort out. Guilt is a hobby of mine….

Anyway I can’t tell you how much lighter it makes me feel to be able to go to bed without piles of clothes which won’t fit into the wardrobes like leaning towers of Pisa looming over the bed!

Suffolk Reed Beds

Suffolk Reed Beds


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More Naughtiness – Or Bad Beekeeping?

My Beehives

My Beehives

Well, my second queen bee, Victoria has left her palace to set up in the wild with a load of her workers. Not sure when they went but they’ve definitely gone.

An experienced beekeeper who has been advising me says that this has been a really bad year for swarming. The warm June and high pollen levels have convinced the bees that they can make a go of it on their own and they’ve followed their natural instinct to spread out and start new colonies. (A bit like the British in 200 years or so ago. Hmmm maybe Victoria wasn’t a good name to choose for one of my queens?)

I suspect my problems have been caused mainly by me being a bad beekeeper. I don’t think I have been ruthless enough in destroying the unwanted queen cells which has encouraged the bees to swarm. So today I went through all the frames and squished every single queen cell except one nice big one in each hive. Hopefully I’ll soon have 2 new queen bees who will be better behaved than Liz and Vicky.

One consolation is that I have inadvertently boosted the local wild honey bee population which can only be a good thing.


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Naughty Bees!

My followers will recall that I became the proud owner of two beehives last month each with a queen and a nucleus of 15-20,000 workers and a few drones. I named the queens Elizabeth and Victoria and their hives (palaces) Sandringham and Balmoral respectively. Everything has been going on brilliantly – the numbers of workers increasing and the honey stores building up. Elizabeth’s ladies in waiting have been very docile and well mannered and her palace and all her children have been very well tended. Victoria’s workers have been a lot more feisty and less well brought up but the numbers in Balmoral have increased more quickly than in Sandringham. So much so that last week I noticed some queen cups had been made and wondered if it was a sign they were thinking about swarming. However I had been told more than once that they probably wouldn’t bother swarming in their first season so not to worry too much. No sign of queen cups in Sandringham where the ladies were quietly going about their business as usual. I usually check the hives on Friday/Saturday each week provided the weather is OK and this Friday I went through Balmoral first. I immediately spotted a lot of queen cells with big, fat grubs in them. This is a sure sign that the colony is preparing to swarm. The new queens would emerge and whizz off to pastures new with half of Victoria’s workers or Victoria herself would clear off with 1000’s of her girls, leaving the new virgin queen to take over what was left of the old colony. This would result in insufficient honey for us humans if the bees were to have enough to last them through next winter. “Eek!” I thought. Victoria was wandering around amongst the bees so I (look away now if you’re squeamish) set about squishing all the princesses in their cells. I decided it was lack of space to lay her eggs that was causing this behaviour so I put a super on top of the brood box and beneath the queen excluder to give Victoria more space to lay her eggs. Fingers crossed! In Sandringham I was surprised to also see lots of queen cells with larvae inside. (Gruesome bit coming up) I set about squishing them as before. I worked my way through all the frames without spotting Elizabeth but there were quite a few eggs in the cells so I wasn’t too concerned. – If there are eggs there must be a queen in residence. Afterwards I couldn’t stop wondering if all was well with Sandringham and Elizabeth. Were there fewer bees than there had been last week? I decided to go in again and check on Saturday. Well, I opened up Sandringham and went through all the brood frames three times – no sign of Elizabeth. And there were definitely fewer bees. Conclusion – Elizabeth had zoomed off with half her ladies in waiting to start a new colony somewhere else. And I had murdered all the princesses! Or so I thought… Luckily I found another queen cell that I’d missed tucked into a corner so I’m hoping that, with the care of her sisters, a new queen will emerge in a week or so to continue the dynasty. I can’t believe that my nice, quiet, well mannered queen has been so treacherous. Still, the good news is that I also checked up on Victoria and she was happily wandering around her new loft extension and has already laid lots of eggs. So, hopefully the crisis has been averted. I should get some honey from Balmoral this season. I think Elizabeth II will have to concentrate on building up her household staff at Sandringham this season and I will look forward to some honey next year!

Queen Cell under Construction

Queen Cell under Construction

Queen Cups

Mini Beekeeper

   

No my hat is not on fire!

No my hat is not on fire!


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Where do all the hours in the day go?

Well I’m back again after a short break from blogging.

I haven’t been idle during my absence (chance would be a fine thing!). I have continued to rid my home of unneeded items as I’ve come across them but still feel far from minimalistic.

I have found that I need to involve my family as much as possible with my new way of living. I spent a week noting down how long I spent on each task I ‘have to’ do. – I know, I know, sometimes I can be very sad! It proved to be interesting. I was already aware that I don’t have enough hours in the day to do what I ‘have to’ do let alone what I actually WANT to do but this has clarified where all the time goes. I’ll give you an edited version of my findings:

Laundry – 12 hours per week. I have modern laundry equipment and detergents so I’m not having to carry it down to the river and scrub it all by hand so why does it take up so much of my valuable time? 2 reasons I think: 1. The children put clothes on and then get changed more than once per day sometimes. At the end of the day they just chuck it all in the wash so a lot of what I wash isn’t even dirty. 2. A lot of my time is spent folding and putting away clothes. So, now I’m trying (and partially succeeding) to get them to keep one set of scruffs to put on after school and only put their clothes in the wash when they need it. – Do the ‘look at the front and back test’ followed by the ‘sniff test’. I’ve also been putting a pile of each person’s clothes on their beds and they can put them away themselves. This also helps them to know where all their clothes are when they’re looking for something. Husband’s clothes now look like the leaning tower of Pisa on top of the chest of drawers.

Tidying Up – 9 hours per week. This is just simply picking up things which have been left out and putting them away. This has had to stop.  Each day I now spend 10 minutes walking around the house, picking up anything that has not been put away and piling it all on the culprit’s TV chair/beanbag. They can then not watch TV until they have put all the stuff away. This has worked quite well with the children. They have been trying to keep their things more tidy and have sorted out their books and toys to reduce the amount of stuff they have cluttering up their playroom and bedrooms. We did a big tidy up which took 2 days and they now know where everything ‘lives’ and are spending 10 minutes per day picking up their stuff and, on the whole, their space (and the rest of our home) is a far less cluttered place to be. The person who ends up with the most stuff on his tv chair every day is my husband. He is not really getting it yet. After a week of having a great big heap of stuff to put away every evening before he can watch the world cup, each new day’s pile doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller. It is certainly true that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks ha ha! My tidying up has now gone down from 9 hours per week to 4.

Work – 24 hours. This is my ‘proper’ job as the finance director of our company. This varies depending on the needs of the business and was quite a short week.

Childcare – 12 hours. This is mainly ferrying them around and driving them to and from school. It also includes ‘persuading’ them to do their homework, testing spellings etc. I don’t begrudge any of this but it can be exhausting.

Other Work – 24 hours. This covers cleaning, cooking, filling/emptying the dishwasher, washing up, dog care, shopping, putting out the rubbish, home paperwork/admin. Boring but necessary.

So my working week was 81 hours. 13 hours per day Monday – Friday, 8 hours per day at weekends. No wonder I’m knackered.

My leisure time was a total of 24 hours. This seems a lot but it included sleeping before 10pm or after 6am, eating, showering/bathing, getting ready to leave the house (dressing, makeup, hair etc.), time spent with husband/friends/children, tv, beekeeping, gardening, walking the dogs, time spent online…..what I would really like is some time spent doing absolutely nothing at all.

I think the worst thing is I feel as if I’m on a treadmill, doing the same old stuff which I feel I have to do and never being able to get off it to follow my dreams. I’m 50 next year so I’d better get a move on!

So, apart from the laundry reduction and tidying revolution above, what else can I do to reduce the workload? Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!

Holkham Beach Nofolk

Holkham Beach Norfolk – wish I was there!