Sunday, 7 June 2009

Eco shed nears completion...

It's almost a year to the day since I ordered my shed from the Llangollen garden show. Last weekend I finished making this workbench. I made it from FSC approved timber bought from just down the road, and cut and drilled everything using the renewable energy provided by the windmill and the solar panel.

A year since it began, my eco-shed project is almost complete. Fitting the solar panel has made a huge impact on the usefulness of the shed. We charge loads of stuff up there and now it's kitted out for woodwork. With a ton of summer projects ahead it'll be a great place to work, and I'll be able to feel very worthy as I drill, emission-free.

So what's left to do? Well definitely I need some guttering to collect the rainwater that's bouncing of the roof, and as we're in north Wales, that's a lot of water. And finally maybe some heating, although I'm hoping the summer bucks up enough for me not to have to worry about that for a bit.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

The coffee works!

Well I can report that I'm pretty sure that the coffee slug-repellant thing works. Look what happened to this here pumpkin plant. I didn't use enough coffee beneath the left-hand leaf. And this is what happens to your basil seedlings when you forget to put the coffee in altogether.

The only thing is that you need a lot of coffee. And if it rains you have to apply it again. But it's greener than comercial slug repellants. There's no way I can drink enough coffee for the whole veg patch so next week I'm off to Starbucks again for some more free stuff.

I know how it works. They can't handle the caffeine. I know how I feel after 3 cups of coffee. Lord knows how I'd feel after lying on a whole bed of the stuff. They must buzz for hours! Serves them right after all my salad seedlings they've had.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Sunny Delight

A couple of weeks ago I installed this solar PV panel on my eco-shed. Buster here provides the scale. He also looks slightly guilty, although I haven't found out why yet. It's a 30w monocrystalline panel from these guys. It's transformed the whole eco-shed thing. The difference is amazing. We can barely keep up with it. We've been charging everything: batteries; laptops; phones. It seems to charge faster than we can use it. Having said that, it's turned the shed into what I wanted: a normal room that we can use whenever. This Friday my wife used it for a full working day. I used it all morning today. Doesn't matter if it's windy or not. Wind just means you can do more stuff! I'm delighted.

My wife said, fairly enough, it's not eco if I keep buying stuff. She's right of course. I've almost finished now. I just need to make a workbench for woodwork and fit some guttering for rainwater capture (for the veg patch) and I'll stop buying shed stuff.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Coffee Slug Bugger

I'm not the world's best gardener. Far from it. The neighbours think I'm cultivating dandelions. I think part of the problem is that I'm time-poor so I tend to binge-garden. I planted a whole load of seeds in seed trays. When they started to come up I removed the propagator lids and the slugs had 'em. I hate slugs. No, not slugs, I hate what they do. Love the slug, hate the crime.

So I've been looking for an organic way of banishing them from my veg patch. I've tried taping copper tape round the sides of the raised beds. Last year I did slug patrol every night with a torch. It worked but was a bit labour intensive.

But now I've heard that coffee grounds work. But I don't have real coffee very often. Starbucks give away coffee grounds by the bucketload, free, fair play to them. So I got a few packets and I've sprinkled it all around the lettuce and radish seedlings. Will it work? Is this the end of slug patrol?

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Is 'Reduce' the hardest R?

Reduce, reuse, recycle, the 3 Rs. How well we know them. Most school children can recite them by heart. Now, I can recycle, God knows I can. Every fortnight I put out two bags, full to bursting, for the recycling lorry.

I've recently recovered from a cold. I swore I'd never again take the use of both nostrils for granted. But a week later I don't think twice about it. Recycling came late to Denbighshire (don't laugh Surrey), it's only a few months since we've been able to put out huge bags of plastic, cardboard and glass. But now I don't think twice about it. A month ago it was my daughter's birthday, and as I was stomping on the 10th mound of cardboard packaging from a battery-filled plastic import to squeeze it into another blue bag it occurred to me, did we always put this much refuse out? Where does it all go? And how are we going to stop consuming so much?

So I can recycle. I can reuse to an extent. I haven't bought new socks for ages. But can I reduce? Well this is harder. Kids' toys, books, the latest gadget, this is all too desirable. And there's too much packaging. But is a change on the way? Easter is coming and egg manufacturers are starting to respond to our concerns. Computer manufacturers are starting to tout products with fewer toxins and greater recyclability. So maybe less is the new more. If the market responds to our desires, the trick will be to desire fewer, better things. In smaller boxes.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

New 12v circuit for the eco-shed!

Last week I added a new 12 volt circuit to the eco-shed. The idea is that this can be used charge mobile phones and battery chargers etc. without switching on the inverter. The inverter draws power itself to raise the voltage to 240 volts, so it seemed a shame to then use a mobile phone's transformer to take it back down to something like 5 volts again. So I bought a 12 volt adapter, such as you might get for a car for charging 2 items from a 12 volt socket, cut off the bit you plug in, wired it to a 1-way light switch and ran a 2-core cable to the battery. Great!

The bad news? My mobile car phone charger is for an older model of phone and doesn't charge my phone. And the universal adapter I bought to solve that problem doesn't seem to work either. What have I done wrong?? Well I would check but I accidentally left my multimeter on & the battery went flat. And it's a weird battery too, a 12v 23 amp one, so I'll have to order a new one before I find out. Drat!

Monday, 16 February 2009

Does environmental protest work?

I read Plane Stupid's latest blog with mixed feelings of mild amusement and futility. There's some useful contributions to the climate change debate on their website, and there's no doubt that the right to protest is an important part of a functioning democracy. But I have big doubts as to whether waving placards in peoples faces, interrupting public debates and normal peoples' working day has any effect on anyones behaviour at all. It's a democracy. Engage in debate, sure, but don't stifle it, that just leads to stronger polarisation of everyone's views, wastes energy and prevents positive change.

In all likelyhood the global economic downturn will have a bigger effect on airlines that any banners or placards. If you really want to affect change, 
Want to change the world? Change yourself.