Monday, 25 February 2013

Mysteries and Dreams

I had a wildlife disappointment this week. After spending a large chunk of Saturday night happily dreaming I was watching three pine martins playing in a clearing I woke to remember that I've never seen one pine martin, let alone three playing together. Who knows what brought on this pine martin moment but I was very disappointed when I woke up.

While these lovely creatures are now missing from England and Wales there are still places they can be seen in Scotland and mainland Europe and hopefully, with a conservation status of "Least Concern", there's a good chance I'll be able to see them in the future, not just in my dreams.

After three weeks of having my bird feeder up on the window no-one's seen any birds showing any interest. So another wildlife disappointment, or so I thought until this morning. The feeder's still got lots of seed on it, but there are hardly any dried meal worms left! So, presuming meal worms don't blow out of the feeder faster than seeds, something's got a taste for meat.

There are lots of robins locally which is probably the best guess, but being close to the river means there are pied and grey wagtails around too. As well as other insect eaters like wrens and thrushes which I've seen less of. Unless the mystery is solved soon I may have to invest in a feeder cam!

I've managed to stick to my resolution of one veggie day a week so I'm upping it to two. There are loads of very yummy looking recipes in Hugh F-W's book River Cottage Everyday Veg which will give me some inspiration. And I've harvested my first home grown crop of the year, cress! Not a very demanding plant I know, in fact I ignored it for a few days, it wilted and then revived itself when a little water was added. But while I wait for my iris plants to grow and hopefully the peppers to it keeps me entertained and adds something to egg sandwiches.

Monday, 18 February 2013

Grow Your Own

There's been a lots in the news about where our food comes from recently. The long chains of production between the farm and the shop mean that it's hard to imagine, let alone be sure of, where our food originates. One way to keep a closer track is to buy local from places like farmers markets and farm shops. I've been to a couple of farmers markets in the last week and the stall holders seem to be doing well in the current food crisis. Being able to tell your customers about the fields the animals grew up in is reassuring but once the latest food scare is over will people still remember to buy local?

At home, I've been doing as much gardening as our first floor flat allows. I got lots of seeds as Christmas presents and so I've been busy planting cress, peppers, strawberries, melons and various bulbs. Here are my results so far.

My cress is growing really well, and I've got lots of seeds left. It's such an easy one to grow and eat!
 The peppers aren't doing much yet, but if they're like the chillie we grew last year they should spring up ina  few weeks.

Strawberries and melon seeds are hopefully keeping warm under these home made, recycled mini green houses.

With all this growing going on it almost feels like spring!

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Charity Starts At Home

One person's rubbish is another person's treasure is the phrase that sprung to mind this week. After a big spring clean and finally finishing unpacking I was left with a large pile of stuff that we didn't want or need anymore but that had moved with us from Preston. There were similar piles of recycling and rubbish but this was a pile of stuff that was perfectly good condition, we just didn't have any use for it anymore. But someone would, and so it all got taken to a charity shop.

Which charity shop I donate to is normally determined by which is closest to a car park and which is open at a convenient day for me to drop stuff off. So with this in mind I ended up outside a local animal shelter shop opposite a car park which only required me to cross one road to get to it. More often than not the charity shops I donate stuff to (and buy stuff in) are not the charities I would normally donate money to which I find quite interesting. I will donate my old stuff to anywhere it might be reused, and I'll shop in any charity shop that has stuff I need or want. I like this, because while my money tends to gravitate towards nature charities I still end up supporting others too which are just as worthy.

As I entered the shop I had a surprise though. Normally when I donate bags of stuff the shop assistant will motion to the back of the shop for me to drop it off and say a quick thanks then go back to what she (it always seems to be a she) is doing. But this week the assistant was hugely grateful with lots of "thank you so much!" and "It's great that you've donated to us!" for both boxes of things I brought in. It was lovely! There's nothing like being praised and I felt great walking out of the shop. They really made me feel like I was doing something good, and actually making a difference. It's not often I get that feeling when dropping my old stuff off somewhere and whether it's their policy, an enthusiastic volunteer or they're just desperate for donations it's made them my favourite charity shop in Exeter and I'll be donating there again as soon as we've accumulated enough stuff for another trip.

One charity reuse activity that has irritated me this week though is the plastic bags asking for clothing donations that come almost weekly through our letter box. Since my charity shop trip we have discovered a hidden stash of unwanted clothes but they need sorting before we take them to the shop. When a charity bag came through the door I was pleased, because I could give the clothes to charity (again one I wouldn't normally think of supporting) without even having to leave the house. But when I looked at the bag as I got home at about 6pm I found that it had to be put out early the next day. I didn't really have time to sort the clothes out before the bag had to be put out for collection. I guess collecting the day after putting the bags out means people are less likely to forget to do it, but it meant I couldn't give to a charity that I would have been happy to support. The clothes will have to wait for another bag to arrive, which I expect wont take long.

With the boxes of old things at the charity shop there was room in the house for a few (sort of) new things too. A friend who is moving house was looking to home some old furniture and so we gained a DVD rack and some chairs for free. The friend gained some space and we got some great new furniture so it's win win for everyone. So whether you're clearing out your old stuff, or rehousing something new to you when it comes to reusing, recycling or up-cycling charity definitely starts at home!

Monday, 4 February 2013

Easy Green

Some weeks it feels almost impossible to be green, others it just seems to come naturally. Thankfully this week has been the latter with green possibilities cropping up all over the place.

Travelling back from London to Exeter at the start of the week I took the train. I don't think I'd ever consider driving that trip, train is quicker, easier and I don't have to find parking at the end. However, on some train journeys I do think longingly of a quiet car journey with my choice of radio rather than a packed, noisy carriage with no signal. But this trip I felt I was really being rewarded for my good green behavior. With a young-person railcard I traveled home for about £20 on a relatively busy train but each seat had a screen on the back so you could watch TV programs for free through your journey! This luxury was amazing and a Doctor Who episode and half a murder mystery  later I almost missed my stop because I was so absorbed in the entertainment. If more trains were like this I bet more people would travel by rail.

I also found several signs that green produce is becoming more mainstream. Whilst sipping a nice cool fruit beer and watching the rugby this weekend I noticed that not only was it organic but it was also produced here in the UK. I do often seek out local and organic drinks but this time I'd just grabbed the first yummy looking bottle from the shelf so it's nice to discover more of these products around. And I could keep drinking with a smug smile on my face for my eco-friendly beverage as well as the England-Scotland score. The (Edinburgh born) fiance was less smug about the score but he was pleased that he'd easily found some Scottish beer to drink during the game. It's probably much easier to find UK produced ale than any other type but it's something we should celebrate. In modern times it can be so hard to find local produce that when there's something that's easy to source locally we often overlook it. So I raise a glass to all yummy local beers.

Another chance green purchase (this time a little more pre-planned) was our new sofa bed. Furniture that does two jobs means saving space and also cutting down on what we consume because we don't buy two items, just one. While we were deciding on the sofa the lady in the shop explained the different types of fillings for the mattress/cushions and I was excited to hear her say that the filling was recycled jeans. How fantastic! I'm always looking for ways to use up old jeans and it makes me really happy to know that my comfy new sofa is filled with reused old fabrics.  Again, an unexpected green item without looking for one.

As well as all this lovely chance green-ing this week I've had a couple of lovely wildlife moments too. I've seen the best two views of  goldcrests I've ever had both when sitting in a car park looking absently out into a hedge. These tiny little birds are just gorgeous and the fact that I have no memory of ever seeing one before this January means that any sighting of them makes it a very exciting day for me. If I ever need a little boost to remind me why nature is worth saving just show me one of these.

I doubt I'll get any goldcrests (here's hoping) on my new bird feeder but I'm still looking forward to discovering what wildlife is around locally to me now it's up. A stick-on ledge feeder with a mix of seeds and  meal worms is now attached to our spare room window. Nothing's been sighted yet but it has only been up 24 hours. Robins should love the meal worms and other locally spotted wildlife such as blue tits, great tits and long tailed tits might happen upon the food too. Perhaps I'll even finally succeeds in attracting a goldfinch to one of my feeders! Buying my feeder and food from the RSPB is also a good green purchase, because the money will go to all their conservation projects, so I'm helping the birds twice.

So, a great green week. I wonder what the next one will hold...