July 2009


After a lot of experimentation we’ve finally got a recipe that reliably produces delicious bread! It even looks like the real stuff, rises properly, slices nicely and tastes great. Don’t believe me? Here’s one I prepared earlier:

Home-Made bread

Now I know the recipe it takes me less than 10 minutes to prepare it, and it’s then baked in exactly an  hour. OK, you’ve guessed it, I am cheating – I’m using a breadmaker that we freecycled from my Mother-in-law. It’s a Kenwood Rapid Bake and has an express, 1-hour cycle – it uses only 0.24 kWh to bake a loaf. I have a feeling that’s less energy than it’d take for us to fire up the oven and bake it conventionally, and it does the kneading for us.

Kenwood BreadmakerHere’s the model we’ve got. Not sure how much they cost new, but definitely worth it if you can Freecycle one!

The recipe is simple:

  • 310 ml of lukewarm semi-skimmed milk
  • 450 ml of strong flour (I use half white, half wholemeal)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp sugar (I use golden caster sugar)
  • 25 g butter
  • 7g sachet of dried yeast

Put the milk into the breadmaker, followed by the flour. Add the salt, sugar and butter into each corner, then make a well in the center of the flour (not all the way through to the milk) and pur in the yeast.

Then  just run it on the fast cycle and – one hour later – delicious bread!

As I was writing this I came across another great bread article – includign the cost of making it – have a look at it here: the only bread recipe you need.

Advertisements

As part of our Energy Descent Plan we’re trying to progressively reduce our energy consumption – fuel for the car, electricity and gas in the house. This’ll save us significant money but also will reduce our carbon footprint and dependance on Fossil Fuels.

The first thing is to work out how much energy we’re using, and to that end we’ve started measuring it monthly. We’ve just finished the second month of monitoring our car usage, although they have been two crazy months (due to moving in to the eco-house) so the results may not be typical of our normal lifestyle. We’re converting all our energy use to kWh/day so that we can compare fuel/electricity/gas on an equal basis:

Month Miles MPG Litres Used kWh kWh/day
June 429 46 42.4 454 15.12
July 423 47.2 40.74 436 14.06

So we’ve already seen a significant drop in our daily energy consumption from the car 😀

I’d have to say that is a bit of a fluke – we haven’t tried particularly hard to reduce our consumption yet. It’ll be interesting to see how our consumption changes as we settle into our new routines here.

As it’s the first of the month I’ve just taken the first Gas and Electric readings in the eco-house so we can work out our standard consumption for those next month too – it’ll be interesting reading and will give us a base to measure our changes.

One of the first learning  points from this is that if we had a plug-in electric car we’d have to have at least 15 kWp of solar panels installed – that is a LOT of solar panels. It makes you realise how big an impact the car has on our energy consumption.

Slugs When I went out last night to take some pics of the new Almond trees we’ve got I noticed that the wet weather seemed to have woken up a whole cohort of slugs. It was incredible – I collected this pot-load of slugs in about five minutes, just by strolling around the edges of the lawn, and having a look at their usual favourites. To have an up-front and gruesome look at them just click on the pic to get the full-size effect.

If I was being scientific about it I’d claim that this Hosta was planted as a Companion Plant to decoy the slugs from other things we wanted to protect. However the reality is that slugs and snails just love Hostas, and this is the result:
Slugs on the Hosta
I got three slugs off this one plant – you can even see two of them in the pic – the one in the bottom left was over six inches long!

Having collected them all, how was I going to get rid of them? I opted for the tried and tested method of chopping them into little bits with the trowel. It’s a lot more face-to-face than sprinkling them with salt or covering them with boiling water, but for the sake of my Karma, I thought a quick, clean death was best.

Not sure if I’ve made a great dent in the local slug population, but there certainly weren’t any more waiting for me when I strolled around later. I’ll have another look tomorrow and assess the scale of the invasion!

In doing a bit of research on this I found some great links, and now know far too much about this subject. Apparently the tool of choice is a needle on the end of a stick, and a head-torch so that you can go strolling around the garden at night. Apparently if you do this you can end up with hundreds! I think I might just try and encourage more frogs, toads, hedgehogs and beetles – and maybe add some nematodes too.

Resources

Almond Trees Just took delivery of the first trees for the forest section of our eco-house garden. These have a dual purpose – they’re also the trees we’re planting for the littlie’s naming day we’re having on the weekend. These are Almond trees – Prunus Dulcis ‘Robijn’. And apparently we can expect them to fruit, even up here in chilly wet Manchester. OK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, I think we will need to get some sun to get reliable fruit on them. This particular variety don’t flower until May so if they’re in a nice, south-facing sheltered area the flowers should avoid frost and therefore survive to fruit. And just in case I’m wondering what those Almonds would look like – there is one on each tree!

An Almond Another Almond

They’re pretty impressive trees – probably about 180 cm tall already, lots of nicely pruned branches. It’s been quite hard getting tham at this time of year (most of the trees we’ll get will go in bare-rooted in November time) but we found these potted trees at Flora Select and they have been really helpful all the way through the process and delivered them on the day they said they would. Here’s the info they have on these trees:

Prunus dulcis is a small bushy deciduous tree native to Asia and North Africa having pretty pink blossoms and highly prized edible nuts enclosed in a hard green hull.
Fruiting will start two to three years after planting. The flesh of the fruit can be eaten as Almonds are closley related to Peaches and Nectarines.

Plant in well drained fertile soil. Avoid heavy pruning as Almonds flower on second year wood.

  • Eventual Height: 4 mts
  • Eventual Spread: 4 mts
  • Full Sun
  • Deciduous
  • Fragrant
  • Flowering Time: April-May

Now I just have to dig the holes ready for the planting to happen at the Naming Day party on Sunday! That’ll be fun.

OurVictoryGarden

The bottom half of our garden was a victory garden during the war – and we’ve managed to get hold of a picture! It’ll be very interesting to compare the traditional row-and-path planting they’ve got here with the wide-bed garden that we’re planning.

Many thanks go to the previous owners for leaving this picture for us!

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.

Rainwater Harvesting system Current Capacity: about 2 litres, I think we can do better!

No, seriously, this is the only thing collecting water from the house at the moment. A single plastic jug under one of the downpipes. It’s a little below the 6,000l capacity I’ve been planning in my thoughts on Rainwater Tanks.

(The rocks were kindly donated by the littlies, who are currently filling it full of anything in the garden that sinks !)

Next Page »