Hi there, and welcome to the website for the Trafford eco-house, our little patch of 3-bed pre-war eco heaven in sunny Sale, south-west Manchester. To ensure you don’t miss any of our successes or failures you can click here and get updates by email or follow our eco-nattering on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TraffordEco.

You can find out what the Trafford eco-house is all about on the About page, and don’t forget to have a look at what our partners are up to: Urban Grown and Trafford Council.

Trafford Eco House

Our latest planning application is in – we’ve made many, many, changes to placate the council but have managed to keep the main elements that improve the house’s performance:

  • 200mm of external insulation
  • Extensive solar PV
  • Locally-made triple-glazed windows
  • A large thermal store, heated by solar thermal and a woodburner

Overall we’re still targeting a reduction in heating requirement of up to 95%, and to be a net producer of energy. All of this can only get built though if we can get planning approval though, and to date that has been difficult.

We need your help

We need to show that there is support for this type of sustainable building. We’re getting our neighbours to write letters of support, and add supporting comments to the planning application online – but the more we can get, the better.

What you can do – by November 27

Have a look at the planning documents, our application number is 81791/HHA/2013  and the documents can be seen here

If you have any questions, please contact us and I’ll do my best to get back to you quickly. If you’re happy then please send in a supportive comment. You can do that in three ways:

Online

The quickest way is to add your comment using the council’s online form with our application number – 81791/HHA/2013

Send an email

Or you can send your response to planning@trafford.gov.uk. Please be sure to include the planning application number (81791/HHA/2013), your name and address and your comments.

Snail mail

You can write to the Chief Planning Officer, but please be quick – we need all comments in by the 27th of November:
Planning and Building Control, PO Box 96, Waterside House, Sale Waterside, Tatton Road, Sale M33 7ZF

 

Please do what you can – we only have until November 27 to get comments in!

Viva Vegan CookbookA couple of years ago I gave my initial impressions of this book, but now, having had a decent amount of time to use it, I thought it was worth an update,:

Let’s face it, we’ve got far too many cookbooks, but there’s always room for one that changes everything! We know we need to eat less meat – for health reasons, to save money, and to help the planet – but somehow we never seem to quite get around to it

Sticking Viva Vegan on my Christmas list was a bit out of left field, but it has turned out to be fantastic. The recipes are really delicious Latin American staples with great Vegan twists, and there are some really interesting meat-substitutes that I can’t wait to try – and I’m sure I’ll get to soon. As a bonus, most of the recipes can be made from store-cupboard ingredients – albeit pretty specialised store cupboard ingredients!

As I’ve embarked on a recent on-again, off-again love affair with the VB6: Vegan Before 6 diet I have found myself making the recipes more often, and I’m definitely developing some favourites.

Our top recipes so far are the Cashew Crema – a replacement for the ever-present sour cream used in many recipes – and the Drunken Beans, although we have yet to make the Vegan Seitan Chorizo, which I am really looking forward to.

Making Seitan is one of the things we just haven’t tried yet from the book – it took me a while to source the Vital Wheat Gluten, which is essential to the recipe – none of our local health food shops had it, so I had to resort to Amazon. While I was there I stocked up on some of the more unusual ingredients she mentions – I’ve listed them below to make it easy for you to find them. Any day know I’m going to get the time – and courage – to give it a go, and then I’ll report back . . .

Our favourite recipes

As with every recipe book, we have grown used to several of the dishes, and they get cooked regularly, with varying local tweaks:

Peanut Sauce – Salsa di Mani
This is a quick, simple sauce which makes an easy addition to steamed veg-and-rice. Loved by all the family.

Cashew Crema
Slightly less well received by the whole family, but one of my favourites. We’d use it more if you didn’t need to soak the cashews beforehand, as we’re always after creme fraiche.

Drunken Beans with Seitan Chorizo
I do this one all the time – albeit without the Seitan Chorizo, as I’ve only just got the Vital Wheat Gluten. Some point soon I’ll do the whole thing – it should be even more delicious.

And some recipes we’re keen to try

As well as regular favourites there are a few dishes that I somehow just haven’t got to yet, but which are definitely on my shortlist:

Seitan
Used in lots of vegan dishes – this is a meat substitute based on Vital Wheat Gluten. Getting the ingredients was the hard bit. Now I just need to find time to try making it.

Black-Eyed Butternut Tostadas
Crispy-fried tortillas stacked with toppings – what’s not to like?

Chocolate Chile Mole Sauce
I’d just love to see the kids’ faces when we serve them something covered in chocolate . . .

Mashed Potato Pancakes with Peanut Sauce – Llapingachos
These could be perfect for a VB6 vegan breakfast – and a perfect alternative to Bacon & Eggs!

And there are plenty more where those came from.

Essential Vegan store-cupboard ingredients

In addition to large bags of cashew nuts, peanuts, dried beans, brown basmati rice, and a garden full of vegetables, there are a range of interesting store cupboard ingredients we’ve bought to fill the gaps for our more unique Vegan recipes. Hard to find in your local supermarket, but surprisingly easy on Amazon:

Wheat Berries, a delicious wholegrain alternative to rice, perfect for VB6
Vital Wheat Gluten Flour, essential to make Seitan – the delicious meat substitute.
Liquid Smoke, for adding that essential barbecue flavour to Seitan.
Engevita Yeast Flakes for more meaty flavour.

That’s the update – even if you are a dyed-in-the-wool carnivore there are some great dishes for you to try!

OK, time to come clean, this is the project I’ve been inspired to create from discarded pallets. We’re looking at building a decent-size covered woodshed to hold all the firewood we’ll need once our woodburner arrives. I’m sure ours won’t be anywhere near as beautiful as the woodshed in this video. particularly as I’m going to try and make ours almost entirely from reclaimed timber, keeping the costs down to just fixings and waterproofing for the roof.

 

At the risk of becoming seriously eccentric, here is another post on building with pallets.  This site has an amazing range of projects built with pallets – from some that clearly need to be hidden, to some that need to be shouted from the (pallet-built) rooftops.

I love this shed (found halfway down the page):

And some of the wood sheds are giving me ideas . . . .

 

My pallet-based-building obsession continues – and here is a great site that details every step of how to build your own tiny house out of pallets. It’s a little tricky to navigate, but if you start with the floor, it takes you through every step. I particularly like the details on building the walls.

I’ve just realised that I haven’t made enough of some of the great people I’ve met who are also undergoing this amazing green journey – downshifting or re-moulding their lives to their views of the new reality we face. There are so many of them I won’t attempt to get them all into one post, so here is a teaser for you . . .

Becoming Domestic

Living the dream – a rollercoaster ride into the realities of downshifting with a family. Inspirational and nailbiting, as well as practical and down to earth . . well worth a read – becomingdomestic.co.uk

The ultimate pantry

Green Cottage

From someone who faces the workday reality of trying to tackle climate change through the constraints of local government – and at the end of the day he walks the walk – combining low-cost renovation of a Victorian terrace with high-effort regeneration of a woodland – ourgreencottage.wordpress.com

Away from green cottage – valley wood

La Ferme de Sourrou

La Ferme de Sourrou is where I see myself in another life – without the daily schoolrun or the pressures of catchments and SATs. Amazing tales of self-building and self-sufficiency, wonderful gardens and animals – read more at lafermedesourrou.blogspot.co.uk – and have a look at the gorgeous photos.

It’s all about the chickens

We’ve been trying to reduce our carbon footprint in lots of ways, but I still love to travel. To try and square that circle we have stopped flying. I’ve had to get on a plane for work, but as a family we haven’t flown on holiday for nearly three years.

The great thing is, living in Britain, that there are loads of great holidays we can still have by road, rail, and sea. Some of those holidays can be a bit trickier to plan than the average package holiday, so I’ve teamed up with some good friends to share what we’ve learned. Together we have put together a site – RoadRailAndSea.co.uk – with all our experiences, and we’re adding to it all the time.

So whether you’re after a weekend in Brussels with Eurostar or – my favourite – an overnight train to Venice, we have found a range of great places to go, and you never have to wait in Airport security again . . .

I keep seeing so many pallets floating around that I ended up doing a quick search for what to do with them – and there are some great people out there doing some amazing stuff. I’ve been inspired to come up with our own project, which I’ll tell you more about as soon as I’ve got the plans sorted. In the meantime, how about this for an inspirational thing to do – a fast-build emergency or semi-permanent house where the entire structure is made from pallets.

I love the whole thing, but particularly the furniture and the sleeping deck!

The carp have arrived, and seem to be enjoying their new home. It was slightly surreal coming home to a box of live fish, but after a gentle introduction to our tanks they all swam off happily, showing no ill effects.

We got a couple of kilos of carp food delivered with the fish, but as they’re far more omnivorous than the trout we’re keen to try something a bit more home-grown.

Some of our sumps are doing well at growing duckweed so I thought that would be a good start and added a net-full of duckweed to their tank.

They’re much gentler feeders than the trout, so I haven’t seen them aggressively attacking clumps of weed, but it is steadily disappearing.

At this stage, with tiny digestive systems, they need to be able to “graze” through the day, and I think the duckweed helps with that between their main feedtimes.

As they grow we’ll try to expand their diet further to see if we can eventually produce all their feed in-house – ideally from waste, or areas we’re not using for our food.

This is a really interesting range of insulation solutions. It covers the classic (loft) the intensive (internal wall insulation) and the budget options available for a retrofit.

Well worth a read to get you thinking about what you can do – particularly as the cold weather returns…

Green Cottage

I was recently working out the carbon footprint of Green Cottage, and came up with a very favourable figure of less than one tonne of CO2 a year – this being associated with the grid electricity I use. I’m with Good Energy who use 100% renewable energy, but for the purposes of counting I take the figure for normal grid electricity as that’s what comes to my meter.

I was quite pleased with this – but the figure doesn’t tell the whole story. My heating in the winter is wood fuel, and in a cold winter I tend to use a LOT of it – maybe 6 tonnes or more during one of the bitterly cold winters we had a couple of years back. I don’t really feel comfortable with this – for a terraced house it seems excessive, and unsustainable.

The way to get fuel consumption down is of…

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