Archive for June, 2011


Domestic Energy Crisis!

We had our electric bill today.  To say it caused some palpitations is to put it mildly.  According to npower, our daily electric consumption increased three-fold from November onwards, though has now returned to normal, and as (weirdly) it’s taken them this long to realise this, our arrears are now daunting to say the least.   We are perplexed.  Yes, obviously we’ve just endured a particularly cold winter, and we did have some electric heaters on during those bitingly icy weeks.  But since the log-burner has been back up and running, the heaters have been packed away, so surely that cannot account for the massive jump in our usage (no kidding – the guy at npower asked my husband if we had a swimming pool!!).  Either there is something amiss with their calculations, or we’re in deep trouble.  Our anxiety has been exacerbated by the fact we’re paperless for billing, and owing to some problem with their website, we can’t currently view our previous bills to check previous consumption and meter-readings. 

A quick mental inventory of our electrical items would include:

  • the oven (on sometimes, but as you all know, I’m not a huge fan of cooking, so surely not the culprit)
  • the kettle (on frequently – but not for long in each case!)
  • the microwave (on for seconds or minutes at a time and certainly not overused)
  • the fridge and freezer (both small)
  • the washing machine (on a fair bit, but not excessively – and over the winter we couldn’t use it because the pipes froze!!)
  • laptops, printer, the wireless box thingy
  • phones, chargers for various things
  • the telly, DVD player, the freeview box
  • lights and lamps (nearly all with low-energy bulbs)
  • the iron (used far more frequently than I’d like!)
  • the vacuum cleaner (probably not used frequently enough!!)
  • alarm clocks
  • radios
  • hairdryers and straighteners
  • one of those digital photo frames
  • a pump for the mini waterfall on our little three-tired trickling-stream effect pond
  • heaters (including one for the dog run in the worst weather) – but they’ve not been on for months…

We already turn everything off at night so we’re not powering anything on stand-by.  We know our house is terribly poorly insulated, but in the winter, we put curtains across all the doors, and have draught-excluder snakes like your Nan had!  The loft is insulated (I know, because I cleaned it out!). 

If the bill is accurate, perhaps it’s time we considered solar heating after all!  Or installing a wind-turbine!  We’re certainly going to have to think of ways to cut back.

I’ll just have to stop using my laptop and go back to pen and paper (by candlelight of course!) – so no more blog.  😦

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Definitely Jammy!

In need of immediate snack fest on return from work this afternoon, I had toast with raspberry jam.  I finished off the last of last year’s on one slice, and had my first taste of yesterday’s on the other.  Well now, I don’t want to blow my own trumpet or anything, but I have to say, yesterday’s is absolutely yummy!  I guess the fruit was perfect, and really fresh, and I resisted the temptation to “just give it another couple of minutes” on the old rolling boil, so it has a really good consistency – not too firm.

Recipe is dead easy – equal weight of raspberries and sugar (you probably need at least 1 lb of each to make it worth while).  Put both in a big pan – need lots of stirring space.  Heat gently until sugar dissolves and the fruit goes all mushy.  Then whack up the heat and keep it on that frothing, scary rolling boil – at just a little less than “oh-my-God-it’s-going-to-go-over-the-top-of-the-pan” for ten minutes (says  5-7 mins in my book, but it’s always longer than that – though I’m usually doing larger batches which is probably why).  Before you start, stick a small plate in the fridge, and when it’s nice and cold, drop a spoonful of your jam onto it to test the consistency – when it wrinkles when you push it with the spoon, you’re done.  Pour into clean jars (warmed in the oven), and cover with those little waxed paper discs, and seal.  Those lids with the pop-up bits in the middle are great (I try to save the ones without brand names emblazoned everywhere!) – the button will be sucked down as the jam cools, thereby proving you have it properly sealed.

It’s universally agreed that I can’t cook, but I think I can now safely say, I can make jam!  😉

First batch of raspberry jam made today.  Gorgeous plump berries – so hope the jam will be gorgeous too.

   

Had a friend over yesterday – so for lunch we had omelettes with fresh eggs, spinach from the garden, and freshly picked lettuce.  Really satisfying to be able to use produce from the veg plot now.

Completely Potty

Trying to tidy up the garden a bit yesterday, I decided to put all the old plastic flowerpots we seem to have collected over the years to good use.  I would make a flower-pot man to hang in the chicken run, thus hopefully scaring away the evil egg-thieving crows, and bringing a little amusement to the garden.

Problems began when my husband came to see what I was doing and (after a suitable period of eye-rolling) accepted the task of drawing on the man’s face.  Overuse of red marker pen resulted in our pot person definitely being a woman – thus was created Beatrix Pot-her (after much side-splitting laughter…..you kind of had to be there….!).

She is now hanging in the hen run (in a rather macabre manner, from a tree!) – and supervised my cleaning out of the hen house this afternoon. 

Scary, huh?!  😉

So, despite the fact that as I type this it’s raining here, in some areas of the country drought has now officially been declared, and concern is widespread in other areas (http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/jun/10/drought-east-anglia-england-wales).  Whilst we collect rainwater in a butt from the outhouse roof, and I do use that for the garden when I can, we cannot meet the demands of the whole veg plot in this way, so I’m afraid I use the hosepipe a lot.  If there’s a hosepipe ban, I fear my poor veggies will die which would be very galling given the amount of work I’ve put in this year.  We really should start thinking about more comprehensive water collection (some info on this at:  http://www.goselfsufficient.co.uk/using-rainwater-in-your-home.html) though I’m not sure what would happen if everyone collected all their roof run-off water – would it make a difference somewhere else down the line because it’s no longer going into soak away?

Of course, we have our lovely recently installed shower now which must have made a difference to our household water consumption.  But sometimes there’s just no substitute for a long soak in a hot bath…and now I feel mildly guilty about indulging in this most simple of pleasures!

We realise the lovely new gypsy caravan hen house has a slight design flaw – it’s too inviting for crows to hop in and steal freshly laid eggs.  We’re thinking of putting some netting over the windows, but to discourage the crows from swooping into the run in the first place, I’ve stretched strands of wool across the top and so far it seems to be working.  I’m also being more vigilant about collecting eggs as soon as possible after they’ve been laid.

I realise the crows probably have young to feed, but I’m surprised how annoyed I am that they should have the nerve to steal eggs from my hard working girls!  Let them find somewhere else for a free meal!!

It only takes a few moments:

http://www.petitiononline.co.uk/petition/oppose-plans-for-breeding-beagles-for-vivisection-in-uk/2877

Had one of those flyers through the door the other day from a firm offering to install a solar system in your house.  Had a read through, and in the first line of the literature, there was a missing apostrophe.  OK, no big deal, except the whole thing was about “uncompromising quality” and “stringent standards”.  I felt it was a bit like when someone’s CV says they have brilliant communication skills, and yet it’s riddled with typos. 

Whilst I’m very interested in the possibilities of domestically produced solar energy, I don’t know anything about how one goes about installing such a system.  This means I’d have to trust the firm to know that they’re doing.  I do know a bit about apostrophes though, hence I spotted the mistake.  I can’t help feeling that if the firm doesn’t get right the thing I know about, how can I have confidence that it’ll get right the thing I don’t know about?

A tiny thing, and I’m probably being unnecessarily pernickety, but as so often, the devil is in the detail.

Plot’s Progress

Quick update on veggie successes and failures to date.

Potatoes:  second earlies – all flowering beautifully.  No sign of flowers on the first earlies which went in weeks before….go figure!  Main crop – starting to come through now after a slow start (sure today’s rain will have helped). 

Peas: growing strongly, just started flowering – so far avoiding pigeon damage!

Onions: also growing well

Parsnips & carrots: plants in general looking good and seem to have survived the transplanting with one or two wilting exceptions.

Spinach: top, top crop – really pleased with it.  When it’s growing too fast for us to eat, the hens love it, so it won’t go to waste.

Lettuce: half original crop damaged by pigeons, but surviving half growing strongly.  Newly sewn row just starting to come though now.  (Rocket never germinated – either old seed, or something got it straightaway.)

Broccoli: now safely netted, recovering well from initial pigeon attack!  Plants looking healthy and only slightly nibbled in places…

Courgettes: I was late with these, but plants starting to come through now.

Cauliflower: I think they’re germinating, but very slowly! 

Herbs: all looking good with the exception of the sage which was looking very woody and which I’ve cut back a fair bit.  May take some time to recover and get its shape back.

All in all, looking good for plenty of veg this year – and hopefully no E. coli!!! 😉

The Woodland Trust have just launched their Jubilee Woods Project – and they want to get everyone involved.  Whether you only have space for a single tree, or you fancy planting a whole wood, click on the link below to find out more.

http://m.fw-reply.com/www/2K3VXN/A9cxzA/B9oCN7/W9ooD7/email.htm