Monday, February 28, 2011

How to make raspberry wine

Was checking out the news on That Roundhouse and saw this video. Lovely stuff. I can only dream of having a space to grow so many raspberries I don't manage to eat them all before getting to do anything else but still, dreams are good... ... ...

Friday, February 25, 2011

EU ban on barren battery cages

In 1999 the EU agreed to a ban on barren battery cages, giving a generous 12 year period to Member States to prepare for it. This ban is due to come into effect in 2012 but there are still doubts that it will actually happen, in particular because Poland maintains that as they did not join the EU until later, they have not had as much time as other countries to prepare - a very disingenuous position given that it was still public knowledge and they could easily have been making preparations while doing everything else they needed to become a Member State.

Compassion in World Farming has been running a campaign to try and make sure that the ban does come into full effect as planned. If anyone is living in Europe and feels stronlgy about this, you can send off a message from here to the Polish Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister. I'm never sure that petitions and online letter-writing campaigns such as this really work (I tend to be of the opinion that no politician really cares what I think) but it will take a few seconds of your time and may do something. Of course, it is also important to vote with your purse and not purchase cage-based products to avoid mixed messages. :)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Trademarking urban homesteader

Just saw this story about the Dervaes family, who have inspired so many people with their life and path to freedom website. They have applied, and from what I understand on the second round also received, a copyright on the phrase "urban homesteader". I've only read a small amount so far but here is a link to Mrs. Mac's post which has a few links in it, most of which also seem to have further links. One comment I read on clicking through is that so far they are also restricting, or attempting to restrict, a couple from marketing their book called Urban Homesteading, which I find shocking as well. Shame on them. It just seems to defeat the whole purpose of what they seemed to have stood for for so many years.

The two ronnies - Fork handles

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Mitchell and Webb Situation - Farming

This makes me laugh and nearly cry at the same time. For such a simple little sketch I keep finding layers upon layers of thoughts welling up in me. Mostly ending with something along the lines of "don't be so silly, it's just a comedy skit" - but the best comedy is often that which makes you think. What bothers me perhaps, is that lots of people might see this and not think about it at all. Which leaves me pondering if it's worse that there are so many people like that, or, that I may be attaching too much thought to something not intended to be taken at all seriously.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Lifestyle Nutritionists

Hard to know what to post after last Thursday, so I'm taking the easy way out and may just post a few silly videos and links for a few days.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

No-one I know has ever died in a plane crash

About an hour ago, the title of this post ceased to be true for me.  I feel very strange.  There was a plane crash in Ireland this morning and all day I was kind of half keeping an eye on the breaking news to make sure no-one I knew was affected (my sister's in-laws are from Cork as well as a good friend's family).  But since I couldn't really think of anyone who would need to be flying from Belfast to Cork, I wasn't paying that much attention.  And then saw the headline and realised that one of the six dead is someone I used to work with.  I'm a little bit in shock I think and this is one instance where I am feeling the big cultural difference between Germany and Ireland.  Two people happened to be in my office when I read it and, knowing at least one of them would have worked with him on a project a couple of years ago I told them (well, I also said 'fuck' and possibly 'shit' quite loudly when I read it - what can I say, my first reactions to anything shocking are almost always going to involve curse words) so they realised something was up.  And I got nearly zero reaction.  And then they went off about their business.  In Ireland there would most likely have been a bit of chat, "who?", "where was he from, which one was he again?", "oh yeah, I know him"... ... ... kind of like a six degrees of separation thing.  And it doesn't matter that you're talking crap, it's all about , I don't know, processing the information and at least spending a couple of minutes talking about the now dead person, which is of course not giving any more meaning to their life but at least it's, well, I suppose, sort of acknowledging them.  Or something.  Sorry, it's hard to explain and I've never really spent time thinking about it.

He was a lovely guy, quiet and gentle in any dealings I had with him.  We sat not too far away from each other for a year or so and then he moved to the Belfast office so I only saw him a couple of times a month when he was back down and looking for a desk for the day.  But we'd almost always have a bit of a chat.  And the first time I went back to Dublin after moving here, he happened to be there and we had a lovely chat as well.  But that's kind of the way things are in Ireland and not so much in an office (at least not in my office) in Germany.  That was nearly two years ago and I haven't seen or talked to him since.  And yet, I'm still feeling sad.  My heart goes out to everyone who lost a loved one on that flight today.  If the way I feel about someone I barely knew is this horrible, I cannot imagine how distressing it must be to lose someone you love in such a sudden, shocking way.  R.I.P.

Need ideas

Am going to a potluck type dinner with a Spanish theme on Saturday.  Main course is taken care of so have to bring a starter, side-dish or dessert but am all of a sudden drawing a complete blank when it comes to ideas.  So, if anyone has any suggestion, I'd be very happy to hear them.

Monday, February 07, 2011

How much will I need to go travelling/wwoofing for a year?

I recently came across this blog, called Married with Luggage.  The couple in question have basically sold off almost everything they own (including their house) and are spending the next few years travelling the world.  I'm looking forward to reading a bit more of their blog but what has caught my eye at the beginning is the fact that they seem to go into the financial side of it quite a bit, which is particularly interesting for me.

I have, on and off, semi-calculated bits and pieces of how much I would need to finance taking a couple of years off work.  One big issue is that I don't intend to sell off everything I own so will need to find out costs of storing it (possibly trying to make a decision about where I might end up when I come back and putting it in storage there immediately).  Having just furnished an apartment, mostly with second-hand stuff, I am loath to have to let all of that go and have to start again after having been away for a couple of years.  On the other hand, I will need to carefully consider how much keeping it all in storage will cost, i.e. would it cost me more to keep it in storage than it would cost me to just buy new (to me) stuff when I get back.  And there are, of course, all of the resources I have been building up over the last few years such as reference books, glass jars and other preserving supplies.

As I am now too old to qualify for a year-long working visa in most countries (obviously not an issue in the EU but Canada, Australia and New Zealand are definitely out from this point of view), I will not be able to rely on working for a couple of months to finance the next few months.  So I have to try and figure out everything that will need paying for and have the money saved up in advance.  The main reason I am thinking of heading down under is that my sister is living there.  She is currently in New Zealand, which I am very interested in visiting but will need to move back to Australia in a couple of months due to work.  So I will have a place to stay but I think I'm restricted to six months visitor visa - I'm not checking into the details too much now as it all may have changed in a year or two anyway.  Many of the places I would like to go are within the EU or not far from it so financially, that should be a bit easier as I would, hopefully, be able to pick up occassional bits of work to keep cash flowing a little bit.  However, my feeling is that I need to at least have covered the cost of, well, what I'm leaving behind for the full period I head off for (I would love to be able to stretch it towards two years).  Plus at least the first part of actual travel money.  If I head down under that means a return flight paid for in advance.

Having found the blog mentioned above and read a few comments on some of there posts, it seems like there are lots and lots of blogs out there written by people who are travelling the world.  So that's a whole other genre of blogs to start getting to know in an attempt to inform myself about what I might be in for.  My trip will differ from many in that I mostly want to gain experience farming/homesteading rather than the more touristy aspects of travelling and it will be interesting to see if that is really true or if I will promptly find a whole load of blogs about people who are wwoofing for a year or more.  My list of what I would need to be paying for is not very long at the moment and needs some working on.  Please feel free to leave comments on any suggestions for things that will need to be added to this.

  • Travel costs - return flight to/from Australia and/or New Zealand plus ...? 
  • Pension cotss - I would like to have enough set aside to be able to continue making a small contribution every month to my pension plan.
  • Phone - I will likely try to bring my Irish mobile phone with me and just top it up every once in a while.  Otherwise I'd be relying on call centre/internet cafe type places for communicating.
  • Health insurance - in addition to ordinary health insurance while travelling, I will need to find out how to keep my new additional dental plan going, if that is even possible.  As with many of these types of plans, full benefits don't actually kick in until the fifth year (you get increasing amounts of coverage each year till then) and I would hate to lose whatever I've already built up in time and have to start over again.
  • Travel insurance
  • Storage costs

Sunday, February 06, 2011

10:10 campaign

I finally watched The Age of Stupid all the way through.  I first saw the making of it shortly before the premiere but it seemed to be taking it's time to come to Germany.  A friend mentioned it to me the other night as she had just seen it (and she somehow wasn't surprised I knew about it, isn't that nice?) so I thought I'd better actually watch the full thing.  I have to admit, I did just watch it on via megavideo but I felt a bit bad about that so I went and checked out the website and have now paid for a download of it.  At six pounds, it's really not a lot (and there is a facility for contributing more if you have the money for it as well).  So please, if you do decide to watch the film, consider downloading or streaming (that costs four pounds) it from the Spanner Films website.  I'm going to get McLibel soon too as that's another one I've wanted to see for a long time.

On the Stupid site, there is a link to the 10:10 campaign, which was started last year to encourage people and organisations to sign up and commit to reducing their emissions by 10%.  They've extended the campaign to run in 2011 as well and although German isn't listed on the front page as one of the countries where it's being run, looking further through the FAQs etc., I found a link to the German site.  Coming so close on the heels of my having gotten my annual electricity and gas readings, it seems like the kind of time when it might make most sense to start and for now, I think my commitment will be to reduce those readings by 10%.

On a side note, I had to laugh at one of the first sentences on the German website.  As a lot (maybe even all?) German verbs end in 'en', Germans have a tendency to make up new verbs by adding 'en' to a word, particularly using lots of English words to make new verbs.  As a native English speaker I find this kind of annoying because having spent time learning the German words for things, I find lots of Germans now use English words (it's called Denglish) but at the same time, if I use those words, the Germans are often very quick to explain to me what the proper German word is.  Can't win.  But sometimes it is amusing, such as on the 10:10 website, where you are encouraged to join in and "ten-tennen" your energy use.

If anyone else is interested in watching the film, it's very interesting.  Even though the film is barely two years old, I find that the unpredictability of the weather these days is even more apparent given what was being talked about in the film (there are some news clips about the drought in Australia, for example) and what we have just so recently heard about (massive flooding and a huge cyclone in Australia).  I'd love to hear if anyone else decides to join in the 10:10 campaign too.

Age of Stupid : "The Making of The Age of Stupid"

Friday, February 04, 2011


I have a half-day from work today as I was invited to lunch with a colleague who is moving to a different office (and I wanted to make sure I could make it to that and not be stressing about getting back to work on time) as well meeting a friend this evening for a singing bowl event in my local fair trade shop (and therefore didn't want to risk being stuck late in work).  My plan was to come home and spend the afternoon cleaning up my pigsty of an apartment.  It's badly overdue.  I wanted to do before and after photos too but I forgot to charge batteries for the camera.  Oh well.  Can't just put it off because I want to show complete strangers what a mess this place is!