Tuesday, 31 March 2015

So long and thanks for all the fish

Blogs have been getting rarer and rarer on this site. Recently I've had to accept that living The Green Life is taking up so much time that I can't find time to blog anymore. So, for the foreseeable future this site will be on pause. Hopefully it will be unpaused in the future but for now I hope you've enjoyed my mussing over the years on everything from English wine to litter.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Fairly Normal

Yesterday started national Fairtrade fortnight but due to sickness the blog is a day late. I've blogged about the huge variety  of Fairtrade products that are now available in previous years. Why not have a look at my blog from 2012 here.

From earnings to bananas Fairtrade is becoming more and more normal. What new Fairtrade product will you discover in the next 13 days?

Monday, 16 February 2015

Meat and Two Veg (or a few more...)

I've no idea what I'll be getting for dinner this week, but my shopping is ordered. I know I'll have milk, cheese, some fruit, some veg and some meat but it will be a surprise what exactly arrives.

Over the past few months we've converted to ordering Riverford's "Fruit and veg box plus meat" each week, and we add onto that the extras of milk and cheese. Of course, I can find out what will be delivered but often I don't bother until it arrives when I bring it in from our doorstep on Thursday mornings.

We've enjoyed the variety the boxes give us. Rather than our usual habit of chicken breast, beef mince, peppers, onions, apples and potatoes we have bee eating turkey mince, venison stew, Jerusalem artichokes, grapes, blueberries as well as all the usual staples. It does mean occasionally we have to think about what we'll eat with what (do parsnips go better with venison or turkey?) but we've also discovered new favourite dinners including beef stir fry, chicken harrisa skewers and home made burgers. The variety of fruit and veg has also made eating more interesting as the veg becomes more a part of the main event rather than  just being a filler on the plate.

It's not the first time I've blogged about Riverford veg boxes (see here, here, here, here, here and here). Over the years I've picked them up and put them down again depending on how it fits with life but I always come back and since I discovered their (relatively recent) addition of a veg AND meat box (rather than seperate boxes that don't always suit a couple without a freezer) I can't see myself stopping again for a long time.

The ease of ordering, excellent quality of taste and longevity of produce (most of our veg will be fine a fortnight after delivery) are all reasons to keep going. Another is the cost. Three types of meat (including a joint for two), five types of veg and two types of fruit along with milk and cheese normally adds up to about £40 a week, which for the quality of food (even the not too fussed husband says the veg tastes really good) is fantastic.

So, I've found a love of food again (I never really lost it...) and each Thursday morning is a mini Christmas of opening boxes to discover what exciting food we'll be eating over the next week. Mid week dinners still feel like a chore, but with good ingredients they're more interesting and much tastier than in the past.

Honestly the fact that the food is organic, local and ethical is an added bonus that I often forget, but it's a very nice one all the same.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Grey Ghost

Last Friday I had an incredible visit to an incredibly cold nature reserve with three of my four favourite people. This week's blog was going to be about that visit but one of my companions has got there first! So because father knows best here's my Dad's description of our visit to the brilliant Nene Washes. With hot chocolate and two new species of bird to add to my life list. Possibly a perfect day.


Sunday, 1 February 2015

Winter Walks

Last week turned out to be too much fun to fit a blog in! I even failed to complete my Big Garden Birdwatch. While visiting Norfolk with friends over the weekend we discovered our holiday house didn't have a garden. And it seemed rather unscientific to use the only view from the house which looked out onto The Wash. So I'll wait for next year.

The holiday did give us a chance to visit the RSPB's Titchwell reserve and enjoy the gorgeous reedbeds, a flock of avocets and more greenfinches than I've seen for years. 

This week has been another busy one, but with time for a walk along a Leicestershire canal seeing bullfinches, buzzards, redwings and black headed gulls. A cold walk but with sunshine and birdsong in the air a welcome hour.

Sothe message for this week is get out and into nature whatever the weather as winter's got some magical moments to offer!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Peddle Power

Winter can be a hard time to get outside. It's dark, it's cold and (at least in the South West) it's often wet too; not the most appealing conditions. But as much as I'd like to I can't  hibernate at home (except for the occasional glorious frosty walk) for the whole season so go outside I must.

It's a 30 minute walk for me to get to my office and an hour walk for the husband (his extra time, he reminds me, is up a massive hill too) and although it's a very pretty walk along the riverside with the chance of kingfishers, long tailed tits and cormorants we often find ourselves easily convinced to walk the five minutes up to the bus stop instead. Despite the bus having a higher top speed with waiting times and so much traffic in Exeter this journey actually isn't any quicker for  me than walking!

One week last November we realized that we hadn't walked once, in either direction. So five days ended without any exercise worth mentioning, and having spent roughly £16 (£1.60 each way) each on unnecessary transport. Enough was enough, that Saturday we visited our local Halfords and spent some of our wedding gift money on new bikes, helmets, high-visibility jackets, lights, panniers and locks. I'm very pleased with my new helmet; it's high-vis green!

I won't pretend that this was all cheap. There are some things you don't want to be stingy about (for most of the safety equipment and locks you get what you pay for) but while we took the easy option of buying everything new and off the shelf a quick Google search of "second hand bikes Exeter" reveals loads of places where starting cycling doesn't have to break the bank. See here, here or here. Also, we found that when we compared the price of bikes to how much we would be saving by not taking the bus it didn't take long before we were breaking even!

So with all this new kit and the excitement of my first brand new bike since I was ten the initial few days were easy. Speeding down the riverside looking out for wildlife we were amazed as how much quicker our journeys were. I quickly gave up taking a change of clothes to the office, as the extra 5-10 minutes it took to get changed meant I was still leaving as early as if I'd walked and after a week or two I wasn't really sweaty or out of breath enough to need to change. It only takes me 15 minutes to cycle now so we also get an extra 30 minutes each day which means more sleep and more spare time in the evenings.

Since the new year we've been tempted by the buses twice. Once due to extreme weather (so windy we were literally peddling to stay still) and once because we were going out in the evening after work and didn't fancy cycling home separately (it's hard to chat on single track paths). But that's not too bad. We're getting 30 minutes exercise most days and although cycling actually uses less calories than walking at the speeds I'm going at least I'm doing the activity rather than sitting on a bus. The fresh air makes a difference too. We've both found that cycling home helps us clear our heads, when walking or busing found us still mulling work problems over dinner.

It's not the first time I've blogged about cycling (see here and here) but I've already kept it up for longer than ever before and after two months we're both still firm bicycle fans. We've been adventuring along the local cycle routes at weekends too discovering that pubs and favourite nature spots are within easy reach and most have cycle racks which we'd never noticed before. I've even found that cycling to my local choir is quicker than sitting in evening traffic! The speed, fresh air, cheapness and small amount of exercise cycling provides all add up to a great reason to swap the bus or car for the bikes this winter, and if you can get through the winter enjoying the outside just think how good spring and summer will be!

Speaking of the seasons, this weekend is the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch and I'll be spending an hour with friends discovering the wildlife in a garden away from Devon. Come back next Monday to find out where we were and what we saw. Don't forget to count the birds in your garden this weekend too!

Monday, 12 January 2015

Energy Without The Guilt

How much energy we use has always been a heated topic in our house. My husband has reasonably normal requirements like being warm enough not to be shivering when inside and having enough light that you don't need to feel your way around the house. If left unchecked my habits however become a little fanatical in terms of saving energy. When home alone for the day I'll normally be found either wrapped in jumpers and quilts insisting there's enough light ( until a light is turned on and I'm amazed how much better I can see) or tucked into our tiny kitchen which is kept toasty by our washer/dryer.

The reason for my refusal to use more energy than that needed to keep the pipes from freezing is partly concern for fossil fuel use, and partly habits left over from student days when an extra light being on was a considerable cost.

But recently I've had to reassess my mantra of ' turn that light off, it's killing the planet' as we've switched to Ecotricity. With 100% renewable energy leaving a light on only hurts my pocket ( still bad enough) not the planet. The husband is enjoying my new found confusion as for the first time in my life a house full of light has no green guilt. I'm finding it hard to adjust but it is nice.

Ecotricity is slightly more expensive than our previous provider EDF, it will probably cost us about £50 more a year; really a very small amount compared to our annual bill. Also when we joined Ecotricity gave a £60 donation to the RSPB as part of a promotion, so I'm happy to pay the little extra it costs. When deciding to switch; a friend, who'd already done it, explained their choice this way

" I see it as paying my normal cheap energy bill and then the extra is a donation to a company developing green energy, as all profits Ecotricity make go back into expanding the business"

This made real sense to me. Choosing to pay more for energy feels counter intuitive but for to options of 100% renewable rather than 13.5% with EDF is worth it. The amazing customer service is an extra lovely bonus too!