February 2010


We’ve been taking (false) hope from all these false springs and started our January plantings with tomatoes. Planted them in little seed trays in an unheated propagator on January 24th on a beautiful south-facing windowsill and here’s the result two weeks later:

They are Beefsteak tomatoes “Big Boy” and Sweet Olive cherry tomatoes, and have been going really well. They survived a week of us being on holiday and a couple of days ago were ready to be potted up. I really wanted them to go straight into the polytunnel, but that is still dropping to near freezing overnight, so now we have them lined up along the windowsill in the kitchen

Before potting up:

And all the beefsteak seedlings, now without propagator lids, on a slightly cooler windowsill:

We didn’t have space, or enough pots, for the sweet olive tomatoes – they’ll have to hang on for another week or so.

Feels great to be growing seedlings again!

It’s been a while since I posted our Carbon Footprint results, and what better time to do so than just after such a brutally cold spell. This really highlights the difference between the light, warmer months and the dark cold winter.

Our Energy Consumption: 4478 kWh

That’s a major difference from our starting month (August) of 1396 kWh – and all the increase is due to gas used for heating.

Interestingly, there was not a significant change in electricity consumption, even though the aquaponics system is now running and we did use an electric heater in the polytunnel on several occasions.

Our Carbon Footprint: 994 kg of CO2

We just scraped in under 1 tonne, mainly thanks to an extremely low mileage this month (thanks to being snowbound mainly).

And, as we’re still with Good Energy, who only supply electricity from renewable sources,  we can remove electricity from our carbon footprint:

Our carbon footprint with 100% renewable electricity: 781 kg

So there we go – still going up rather than down! Very interesting going through our first winter in the house, let’s hope the consumption is down from here.

Another great step here at the Eco-House, chitting our first potatoes!

We’ve been collecting eggboxes for a little while now so we’d be ready, and today I took the kids out to the Hulme Garden Centre in advance of this Sunday’s Potato Day. Here’s our haul, all ready to “chit”:

I got a whole range of different ones to try, to try and liven up one of our less exciting, but important, crops:

Swift – First Early

Pink Fir Apple – Salad Variety

Maris Peer – Second Early

Setanta – Highly Blight Resistant Maincrop

Kestrel – Second Early

Sarpo Mira – Blight Resistant Maincrop

Sarpo Axona – Blight Resistant Maincrop

Salad Blue – Blue-fleshed Salad Potato



In my quest for perfect bread, I’m starting to understand a little more about the science of bread making, spurred on by some disastrous loaves from my previously reliable bread recipe. The first main earning point is that all yeast is not equal. Originally we were using Sainsbury’s own brand yeast, but a move onto Allinson yeast proved a bit of a disaster I haven’t quite worked out what went wrong yet, but even after a lot of tweaking, the Allinson yeast is not giving us such reliable results. In playing with the recipe a little I realised that the extra yeast I was adding needed more sugar to reach its true potential!

So my new reliable bread recipe is this:

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

And here are the results:

It’s about another inch taller than my previous efforts, and is perfectly light and delicious – so maybe I can tick something else off my Aims and Achievements list.

 A quick plug for an event I’ll be presenting at this weekend: Concrete Utopia. It’s on Saturday from 10am, and I’ll be tackling the subject of how we’ll be living in the year 2020. I should be good, challenging fun, so get along there!

It’s being organised by the impressively effective, omnipresent, Call to Real Action, and you can get full details over at their blog – http://calltorealaction.wordpress.com/concrete-utopia-sat-feb-20th/

This post has been a long time coming – I think I’ve been looking at trees for a couple of years, and planning this particular orchard for about 9 months! Finally, the trees have arrived and are in! We’ve beaten the weather (finding a two-day slot in between heavy coverings of snow) and here are the pictures to prove it.

First, the “before” pictures, including large piles of ex-shrubs that had to come out to make space. Here’s where the apples, a plum and gage are going, on the north side of the Aquaponic Polytunnel:

And here’s where the pears, and a plum are going:

Not a witch’s broomstick – here’s how the trees arrived from Agroforestry:

And here they are unwrapped:

Quite cool, minimal packaging really – especially the flax used as a tie and the green bamboo used as a reinforcing pole:

It took us a couple of days to get them all in, including digging the new holes in the ex-lawn, and then the snow was back. Here’s what it all looked like just after the thaw. First the Apples, Plum and Gage:

And then the two pears and remaining plum:

I haven’t got any pics of the raspberries or the peach yet – I’ll post them when I can.