Thursday, September 28, 2006

and, oh my goodness...

...isn't it hard to stop writing sometimes when you start?


I've been reading a new (to me) blog over the last week or so - ...slowly she turned - reading through the archives I've just come across a post from January 2006 which is called soup with bacon, taters, cabbage, and corn (among other stuff) and the first line is Mmm, boy! You'll never go back to Campbell's soup again.

This really resonates with me because for years I've used Campbell's chicken soup as a base for making sauce for chicken pie. Mixed with mayonaise (for the fat version) or some yoghurt and/or milk (for the healthier version) I didn't think you could ever beat it. I hadn't made a chicken pie for over a year and a while ago I bought a whole chicken and was determined to use the entire thing. I roasted it but unfortunately I forgot to put some of the meat into the freezer and had left it in the fridge. Having seen a post somewhere from someone who'd made a pie I suddenly remember I hadn't done one for a long time and it seemed like a great idea. My sister, who recently left to travel the world, had given me some food she had in her cupboards. I passed most of it on to my brother but the one thing I kept was a tin of Campbell's chicken soup. Serendipity I thought and proceeded to make up some pastry one evening after work. The pie was good although I don't think I'll use grapes next time (seemed like a good idea at the time, I was experimenting based on a recipe I've recently learned for chicken veronique). But I could really taste the "artificialness" of the soup in it. The next day I had some in work for lunch. After finishing lunch I was asked to do something straightaway so it was an hour or so before I was able to bring my plate into the kitchen to wash. But at that stage I just had to because the smell of the soup/sauce was just too much. It was strange because I'm sure a year ago I would have thought it was lovely. I think I've finally started to get used to what food is supposed to smell like.

Anyway, it was another nail in the coffin as far as I'm concerned for me buying very processed foods.

My brother has also started reading a lot about similar issues recently - for example, we both started reading Fast Food Nation in the last couple of weeks without realising the other was reading it - we've both intended to read it for so long that it was funny to be reading it together. I told him that I'd started a blog but I'd like to keep this a bit anonymous for a while so told him he'd have to just come across it as I don't want to let people I know know that I'm doing this for now. I enjoy the freedom of most people not knowing exactly who I am. It's partly to do with being Irish I suppose. This country is just too small and you can't do anything without someone knowing about it. Or so it feels sometimes!

And then I realised that I'd sent my sister a link to ...slowly she turned (as I think she's got a lot in common with Laurie). And this morning I left a comment there mentioning Ireland. So if my sister reads the comments there's a good chance people I know might be finding me sooner than I had intended. But, oh well, it's not the end of the world I suppose.

Was also reading about Buy Nothing Day on Laurie's blog. I remember this happening (but not really happening) last year. I think I'll make a conscious effort to participate this year and, perhaps more importantly as I don't have enough money to shop much anyway, encourage friends and family to do so as well. I think I may add my own little spin to it such as to aim to not shop on Sundays anymore.

It's so handy to pop down to the supermarket on a Sunday but it's a habit that just a little bit of organisation would take care of. I'm agnostic (although was raised as a Catholic) but I do think it is a good idea to have a day that's just for a time-out for want of a better word. It's a good thing to aim for in my opinion. To make Sunday a day where you stay at home but aren't stressing about cleaning the house or working, only work if it's doing something you love (cooking, pottering in the garden), maybe invite friends over for a relaxing afternoon, maybe go to a friend's house for a relaxing afternoon.

I used to start each Sunday morning by getting up as soon as I woke up (usually about 8), throwing some clothes on and leaving the house within a few minutes of waking up, driving up to a spot in the mountains and walking for an hour or so. This was something my therapist recommended I do and it is good advice for anyone who gets depressed and may have a tendency to simply keep turning over and ending up spending the entire day in bed. Just get out of bed, throw a tracksuit on and leave the house - don't stop for anything more than going to the toilet, not even to have a cup of tea or coffee just stop somewhere en route if you really need caffeine, just get out of the house before you have time to realise what you're doing.

Unfortunately I injured my foot at the beginning of summer and have not been able to do that anymore. I still try to get up as soon as I wake up though and have taken to trying to arrange to be meeting someone, driving my brother to work, having people over for lunch and so on just so that I absolutely have to get up. My foot has greatly improved over the last couple of weeks and I've slowly started walking again. I'm aiming for a 30-40 minute walk three times a week for the next month or so and will see how it goes then. Everybody, please appreciate your feet now. You don't know how important they are until they're not working properly anymore. I will never take mine for granted again. Mind you, you could probably say the same thing for any part of your body!

It'll be nice to get back my Sunday morning strolls in the mountains. It's a very spiritual thing to do and a fantastic start to the day.

Random quote of the day
Something I read once, which Ghandi said and which I really like: "Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it"

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Posting more than once in a day...

... am I becoming addicted already? Well, a bit maybe but mostly I'm very busy and don't have much time to be online but there are just these couple of things I wanted to get down. As well as the useful (albeit also enjoyable) skills I mentioned below there are a few others I'd like to learn just for fun:

Dancing - I have no rhythm but would still like to be able to dance "properly" - waltz, foxtrot, etc., etc.

Piano - had lessons as a kid and would love to have a piano someday to play a little bit. I'll never be good but it's fun and I could probably manage to play the music I learned then (still have most of the books)

Singing - I sing with a couple of choirs but I'd love to have singing lessons some day to really hone this skill.

oh, and forestry too

Yes, as well as carpentry I think I'll need to know a bit about forestry. I'd like to be able to grow trees to use the wood for a woodstove or range of some kind. Wouldn't have thought of it myself probably but read about coppicing etc. on The Good Life blog (link at the side) and it seems like a good idea.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Trying not to get overwhelmed

It's tough sometimes to not become completely overwhelmed with life. Even the sheer amount of stuff I need to learn in order to achieve my goal of living more sustainably and simply is a bit intimidating. However, I try to remember that I have five years to try and gather some of the skills I think I will need in order to become more (if not totally) self-sufficient.

My cooking needs to improve to start me eating a wider variety of foods which will make the whole task of eating locally and seasonally a bit easier. I'm quite a picky eater really although not half as bad as I was before I went to college - potatoes, meat, bread, apples, bananas, crisps and sweets were pretty much all I liked although I was forced as a teenager to eat vegetables (which was a huge contributing factor to my problems with food but that's a whole other story). During my college years I spent some holidays and a semester living in Germany and having to cook for myself and experience a different country as well as visiting my sister in France quite a bit really spread my food horizons - pasta, tomatoes, cheese, rice, onions was just the beginning! At any rate I still have a long way to go to get past just using the "traditional" vegetables.

Preserving/canning is something I would like to be able to do. One major consideration though is space. In my shared, rented house there isn't much of it so although I could probably make room to fit in a big boiler canner yoke (which I've seen pictures of on other blogs), I wouldn't really have anywhere to store anything I bottled up. Hmmm. It would still be good to learn the basics so that eventually when I have a bigger garden I can use, giving me lots of lovely fresh produce, I will know what to do with any extras.

I need to learn how to darn. Where does one learn stuff like that? No idea. I must check out evening classes in the area and see if basic sewing is done anywhere. Sewing is also something I need to learn anyway. My sister and I bought a sewing machine last year - she took it home with her and now she has gone travelling and I have it. Have at least a year before she comes back so would like to have the basics mastered before then. Would love to make my own clothes but will settle for being able to make curtains, pillow covers and minor repairs.

I did learn how to knit when I was a kid but never got much past knit one, purl one. I think I remember how to decrease and increase but that's about it. I only ever finished one thing (a stuffed toy for my then new niece) but one of my sisters helped me on that and did the complicated turning bits. I think I'll take a trip into town soon and buy some needles and wool though. Maybe a scarf would be a good project to start with. I'm pretty sure I have the "My First Knitting Book" I got when I was 9 at home somewhere (yes, I'm a hoarder, something else I'm working on!).

Gardening/growing vegetables - I've been reading around this subject over the last few weeks and of course this year I did actually grow my own courgettes and almost some lettuce. I think a mixture of reading and actually just doing is what's needed with more doing than reading. There is (or was) a community garden a few miles from where I live. It was some waste land beside a factory that a group got together and cleared up. I think it'd be good to get involved with something like that so must try and find a contact.

Keeping animals is also something I would like to do - at least a few chickens or hens and perhaps eventually some pigs. However, I'm still not sure I'd like to live right out in the country so this will be subject to some change before I ever can decide. I think living in a small country town or village might suit me better as otherwise I could end up in a situation where I go days without seeing anyone else. I think this is something I'll need to just wait and see how I feel about when the time comes. A lot can happen in five years, maybe I'll even be part of a couple by then which would change a lot. At any rate I need to learn at least about keeping poultry. I've been reading John Seymour's The New Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency - I think this book is going to be very useful to me.

Building/basic mechanics/learning how to cobble things together into functioning items. This is something I'm at a bit of a loss on. They do say that necessity is the mother of invention so there's no saying what I might be able to do in a pinch. In the meantime I do feel that it would be a good idea to learn basic mechanics, a bit about electrics, a bit about carpentry and so on. Actually, perhaps just making friends with mechanics, electricians and carpenters would be a better idea! Building a composter is my first project in this direction - a very simple thing to do (considering two sides of it are going to be old pallets) but has been on hold for the last couple of weekends due to the horrible cold and chest infection I've had. Hopefully I'll get a bit done on it this weekend.

That's a lot already and I'm sure there are other things I'd like to be able to do that would help me to get along without having to pay someone every time I need something done. I'll get there one day.

I've also been thinking recently that in some ways I'm lucky to live in Ireland. I've been reading Fast Food Nation and also read this excellent article by Michael Pollan a few weeks ago:
Having read that article I asked the following week at the farmer's market if the beef was grass-fed or grain-fed. It seems that grain feeding is fairly rare in Ireland and most cattle here are raised in a fairly natural way. I need to do more research on this. It's probably going to be one of the biggest things to deal with when I eventually leave Ireland (which I'm fairly sure I will do). I know it's generally easier to get local produce in Germany and France. But against that I'll be starting from scratch with the questions of what is normal practice, how do you grow that, how do you raise cattle etc. etc. etc. And if I do move to France I'll be needing to spend time becoming more fluent fist so that I can even ask those kind of questions! As I said above it's all a bit overwhelming. I suppose it's time enough to be worrying about that when I'm experiencing it! For now, I'll try to remember - one day at a time and in the meantime, Carpe Diem!

Monday, September 25, 2006

More lists...

I need to get down on paper things I use which are definitely not the eco and/or local choice. Some of these items are ones I'm not prepared to do without but I feel that if I write it all down, it'll focus my attention a bit more and perhaps lead me to changing these choices too.

Chemical cleaning products at home - I decided when I wanted to switch to eco products that it would not be a good idea to simply flush away the products I already had and am still trying to use them up (a year later! I was always a sucker for special offers, didn't realise how much I of a stock I had built up). At this stage I think I'll try and give them away.

Shower gel/body lotions etc. - as above, I've been using up what I had. Nearly finished.

Deodorant - tough one this. May use some holiday time to experiment with eco products - it took me years to find a "conventional" one that works for me.

Toothpaste - need to replace soon and will try Kingfisher or similar brand.

Make-up - I don't wear much so will stick with what I already have and think more about it if/when I need new stuff.

Face wipes - so convenient. Have been reducing use but can't quite give them up yet.

Sanitary towels - have used organic ones before and they're okay, need to try and get them more often but they are more expensive.

Petrol - until I can afford a hybrid/runs on vegetable oil type car the only thing I can do about this is minimise my use of the car. Already use bus for to and from work. Must get fit enough to use bike.

Philadelphia light - a Weight Watcher's necessity. I have a serious weight problem but eating more fresh food and less processed food will help a lot. There are certain products that are very useful in making low-fat meals and this is one of them.

Colour catchers - can't afford to keep buying new white underwear.

Clothes - don't buy many and because of my size don't have much choice anyway. When I lose weight I would also like to start looking at buying more organically.

I'm sure I had a dozen more to add but can't think of them now - will have to come back to this list later.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Blogging etiquette

I'm sure there is a page somewhere to find out about acceptable behaviour when it comes to blogging. For example, I've added a list at the side of my blog now of some of the blogs I read. Should I mention to the people who own those blogs that I've done so? Seems only like good manners. I'll have to find the time to contact them all or leave comments for them or something like that.

In other news, there is no other news. Have been laid up with a bad cold (it's much too early in the year for that kind of nonsense!) so got very little achieved over the weekend. Did make it to the market though and stocked up on some delicious sweetcorn which I've blanched and frozen so that I'll have some over the next month or so.

Very big freezer is one thing that needs to be added to my list of things I'll need when I eventually have my own place and want to start really living locally. There's such a short growing season in Ireland really that it'll be important to learn how to preserve stuff properly as well as freezing. Liz from Pocket Farm and Katie from Simple Katie both talk about canning stuff (although I think that's an American term for preserving as their photos are always of jars of stuff rather than cans. Or maybe it's called canning over here too and I just know nothing about the subject!) and I think that's something to aim for so that fruit and veg are available in winter as well. There's not much point in trying so hard to eat locally during the summer and then falling back on flown for miles food in winter.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


I love lists. To start me off here's one of things I would like to achieve in the garden by next summer. I think this was a good time of year to start off on this adventure as nature is winding down a bit for the winter and so I should have some time to read and research and hopefully get prepared for planting next spring.

Tidy up garden - weed existing beds, sweep concrete

Clear out shed and hopefully make room for barbeque rather than leaving it out to rust for another year!

Build composter - I have a couple of pallets already (thanks to Freecycle), just need to check out the plans I had before for building a composter and amend to take account of using pallets instead of building from scratch. Need to buy chicken wire or similar to line it and also find something to use at the front as a "gate".

Empty pots and dead courgette plants (my small start this summer) into new composter. Leave pots ready for use next spring.

Source organic seeds if possible (and not too pricey).

Aim to grow: courgettes, tomatoes, oakleaf lettuce, lamb's lettuce, bay tree - these will mostly need to be grown in pots or growbags. I'm going to try the lettuce at the end of the garden as I was told this year they don't like the sun much and it's a very shady spot down there.

Build/buy a water butt to use for watering plants.

Source organic compost (if mine not ready) and topsoil for containers.

And so it begins...

I've created this blog mainly to be able to get my own thoughts down on paper (so to speak). My typing is much better than my handwriting so it seemed easier to do it on a pc - as well as that there is also the chance that others may read this blog and perhaps leave the occasional comment.

I'm very much a newbie to the world of blogging though, so if anyone is reading, please bear with me.

I've started reading other blogs recently and it has been an eye-opener for me. I always knew there must be other people out there who shared similar beliefs to mine about sustainable living, simple living, local living, gentle living - call it what you will. Until I started finding other people's blogs (must figure out how to link to some of them from here) however I sort of felt "alone". It warms my heart to have found out that I'm really not. In fact, I'm way, way behind a lot of other people when it comes down to it.

How and ever, everyone has to start somewhere and I hope to use this blog to record my experiences in trying to make my life the way I want it to be (rather than just waiting for it to magically become the way I'd like it, which I've wasted a good part of my nearly 32 years doing!). It should also serve as a record for me of what I have done and what I hope to do to achieve my aim.

As an urban dweller and living in rented accomodation there are limits to what I can do. As somone who was very careless with money for a few years in my twenties I cannot currently choose to leave Dublin. I do like my job and it pays me well enough that I can afford to repay my (now huge) loan. That should be finished with in a little less than five years and so I've made my peace with the fact that I can't make any major changes until then. What I need to do now is make all the small changes in my life to prepare me for a bigger change in 2011. While somehow keeping in the back of my mind that life is what happens while we're busy making plans and so all of this could end up going in a totally different direction over the next five years. Que sera sera and all that!