January 2013


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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At some point I’ll manage to document the roller-coaster ride that was our first go at Aquaponics. Suffice to say it was a mixed success – we got to eat lots of delicious trout, but lost quite a few on the way too.

After a major redesign to get the fish out
of the polytunnel we are finally ready to go again – the system has been split to allow for different sizes, and different species, so we’re now eagerly awaiting our first Carp delivery ….