Category Archives: Reading

Living the good life by Linda Cockburn

 I found this book on one of those tables full of books in a warehouse shop or Countrywide stores, mostly they are filled with cook books or nice card-notelet sets or books that hold no interest to me but just sometimes they hold a real little gem and this is one of those gems.

Living the good life by Linda Cockburn

Living the good life is mostly written by Linda Cockburn and it is a record of her families attempt at not spending a penny for six months. It is mostly written in diary form, which is my favorite style of writing and also includes lots of information about the topics that come up during the six months e.g. compost loos, water storage and lots of yummy sounding recipes.

The book was written when the family lived in Australia, although I believe they have since moved to New Zealand, and so it felt a little odd at first that they start their challenge at New Year when they are already well into the growing session but I soon got use to that and loved reading about all the exotic food they were able to grow which are just ‘normal’ foods for their climate and enjoyed even more reading about their day-to-day routines like feeding chickens and planting out seedlings.

I’m not really sure how to explain in words how much of a pager turner I found this book or why but almost all of the way through I was sat thinking “I want to move to Australia and have my own power from the sun and grow food like that… But they have a serious water shortage and I should be thankfully for what is here”

I got the impression, or perhaps it just said it somewhere in the book, that they have been planning for their challenge for a few years and so had time to put in place water collecting systems, compost toilets and solar power for the house.

It was interesting to read throughout the book how the family, or Linda at least, stopped wanting to buy things. Not completely, I think everyone has a list of things that would make life easier, but stop spending for pleasure any way and I think that has helped change my own mind set about spending as well.

 Spending money to cheer ourselves up seems to be a mind-set that people are almost born into now a days, which is so sad as it means we can easily miss out on some very pleasurable things just by being in the cycle spending all our time working to pay for or buy the things that we think we want or are too busy to do for ourselves and then all too quickly feeling unfulfilled and having to work hard for the next thing we think we make us happy.

I think there is a real art to only spending money on things we really need and being happy with what we already have and this book shows it off beautifully.

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Permaculture in a Nutshell by Patrick Whitefield

I have read another book! And it was well worth the two month wait for the library to get it in.

I’m been interested in the subject of permaculture for a while and the more I found out about it the more interested and the more of a good idea, or right way of doing things, it seems to be. But it is a massive subject, and it is very hard to work out where to start with it but this book is excellent starting place, easy to read and, possibly most importantly, it makes it easier to see how permaculture can be made use of.

After reading the book I have decided on two smallish projects that will make a real difference, with very little work and with mean less of a work load in the long run.

Firstly; water butts near to the chickens and goat housing. We did have water butts by the goat house, isn’t that far from where the chickens and rabbits are kept, but the main one fell over twice (the garden isn’t very level in places and it wasn’t the best made or placed stand for it) and then the tap broke and it hasn’t been used since, meaning that water has to be carried all the way from the top of the garden by the house to the bottom of the garden where all the animals are. It also comes off the mains, which is not ideal.  We have a few water butts that could be used, they just need taps and putting in place. And now is the prefect time of year to do this seeing as we should be getting all the winter rain soon.

The input for this will be small maybe a few hours work, and minimum cost, the out come and productivity of it will be less carrying of water by people, less use of mains water, rain water is probably better for the animals, making use of a resource that would have otherwise gone to waste and the guttering on the goat housing (which is already up until the new housing is finished) will help stop some of the run off into the goat pen which makes is wet and bogging in wet weather.

Secondly; I am going to use a ‘no-dig’ method to bring the new allotment ground into use. The beds will be 1.2 meters wide, and the length of the allotment long, and the paths will all be 1 meter wide. After the beds have been pegged out (which has already started being done) they are ‘lined’ with cardboard boxes, which our local supermarket are more than grateful to give us, so as all of the ground and any weeds are covered and then this is covered in manure. This can be planted straight into, so long as the manure isn’t to fresh, and a layer of grass cuttings or straw (hay is not a good idea as it probably has lots of grass seeds in amongst it) to keep the moisture and warmth in.

The input for this will be a lot less than if I dug over each bed by hand, and added manure and then dug this in. It will mean weeds are less of a problem as the cardboard will block off the light to them. It will also mean that the ‘eco-system’ that builds up in soil to break things down and turn them into usable materials for the plants will not be disturbed and so can carrying on building up as the field was turned from grazing to allotment plots in April. Hopefully resulting in better soil and better crops.

Some other interesting bits from the book:

  • The first LETS was started in Canada in the 1930s in a small mining town, when the mining company pulled out of the area people were left with skills, and a need for other skills, but no way of earning a living and so the first LETS was born.
  • Growing vegetables in the tradition rows of beds is not the most productive way of growing them but where they are grown in this way than beds should be 1.2 meters way meaning the middle can be reached from either side, and paths should be 1 meter wide.
  • If you are already doing any of the following then you have already started practising permaculture: Enjoying the beauty of nature, growing some of your own food, walking, cycling or taking public transport instead of taking the car, making decisions about what you buy on the basis of how it affects the earth, reusing and recycling materials, supporting nature conservation

Found it!

At last years Big Green Gathering I bought the 21st Century Smallholder for something like £4, it’s a great book. The most useful it I find part is a month by month planner of jobs. I hadn’t seen the book for a while, had sort of even forgotten that I had it, until when I found it again along with a pile of other books that had been stored under a table.

I didn’t, however, manage to find the library book I was looking for. Which is now over due with a 5p fine, still cheaper than buying the book but doesn’t fit with my moneysaving idea of not spending money on books just ordering them from the library instead

New Books

It’s my brothers girlfriends birthday tomorrow and last week I order her a book I hope she’ll like.

Of course, as I was already paying postage for one book I thought that I might as well order a few books I’d been keeping an eye on as well, only because I was already paying postage of course.

The Self-Sufficiency Handbook arrived on Thursday and ever since then I’ve been flicking through it when ever I’ve got a spear minute. It’s a lovely book, with gorgeous drawings.

When the real work begins

Last night I came home from work cut work for the stove, cleaned out half a goat house that was deep bedded over the winter, feed everyone (animals not people), had a talking to the house of quail who haven’t started laying yet, added the two new pages on here, designed a flyer for a gig Rhys and a friend have booked, hard boiled and started pickling the build up of quail eggs, watered the seedlings and made lunch for today. I got some much more done with the three hours that I had after work than the seven hours at work, or that’s what it feels like. This evening hasn’t been much different.

On Friday I started eight, well seven, of Mr. & Mrs Quails eggs to hatch. On Saturday I added the egg that Mrs. Quail had laid, eight is a good round number of chicks to have, but had to stop myself doing the same on Sunday. They should hatch over May Day bank holiday, all of my hatchings seem to fall on bank or school holidays. Friday night I also started of a load of seedlings, mostly salad mixs. It was a very nice way to spend the evening, sitting on the bed spooning compost into paper pots and adding seeds (Rhys was out which is how I got away with sitting on the bed with a load of ‘mud’)

It rained all Saturday and Sunday, so other than the normal jobs I spent most of the time reading or pottering. I’d done my normal thing with reading and instead of with the book I’ve already start I picked up a book of short stories. So that’s three books I’ve started this year and not finished.

Niff has started to ‘bag-up’, infact I’ve seen goats kid with less of an udder, she’s not due for another six weeks and is still really tight round her back.