Saturday, 10 April 2010

Ornamental Kitchen Garden revisited

Picture credit BBC - Alys FowlerIf you didn't catch it, I urge you to watch Alys Fowler (should be Flower) and her Edible Garden series on BBC 2. The first of six episodes was on Wednesday, so you can still watch it on i-player. Alys, I think, is a modern day Geoff Hamilton and this series is at first glance is a new twist on Geoff's wonderful Ornamental Kitchen Garden series from 1990 (hmm, showing my age, or perhaps not as I do own a copy of The Geoff Hamilton BBC Collection (40th Anniversary Gardeners World DVD Box Set) which is also brilliant).

Nevertheless whatever interest you have in gardening and growing your own food, from beginner to expert, this series will be inspirational and just lovely to watch of an evening with a bowl of freshly picked beans to munch on.

If having watched the first episode you desperately want to get to work and create your own edible garden, or if you are outside the UK and can't access the BBC site, don't panic, Alys has a book out "The Edible Garden: How to Have Your Garden and Eat It". Timing eh? Brilliant :)

What's even more brilliant is that the BBC are giving away FREE seeds with instructions and stickers (don't you just love stickers). Just visit the website, fill out the form and you will be on your way to self-sufficiency!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Earth Hour 2010

8:30pm 27th of March 2010. Sign up for Earth Hour 2010

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Bad GCH pushing my GSH

no thermostatic radiator valve
When we first moved into our second Transition House (which I'm going to call TH2 from now on and TH1 for our previous house), the first thing I noticed was that none of the radiators had thermostatic valves. That didn't really bother me, because I didn't really use them in my previous house. A room was either being used with radiator on and the door was open, or it wasn't radiator off and door shut.

The second thing I noticed was that there is no wall thermostat to control the heating - this I thought very odd and further investigation showed that there is no control for the hot water temperature either! It's very old.

The central/water heating does have a timer and it can be on twice a day for the hours we choose. There is also a switch to decide whether it is off, heating the water only, or radiators and water.

Due to my panic last week, the radiator heating is off and the water heating is only when we need it. The result of course is that the house is very cold, but I am pleased with the graph :) - we are now only using the same amount of gas in TH2 with no heating, limited hot water and cooking as we were in TH1 when the lovely gas-condensing-combi boiler was keeping us lovely and warm with hot water on demand.

So I guess I need to go through a few of the major differences between TH1 and TH2.

TH1 - Cavity wall insulation and 250mm loft insulatation
TH2 - None.

TH1 - Double glazed and no draughts between the glazing and the walls.
TH2 - Double glazed, but badly fitted, so draughts between the windows and walls.

TH1 - Came with the double glazing - insulated and double glazed, no draughts.
TH2 - Oh my, you can see light underneath the front door!

Heating and hot water
TH1 - Gas-combination-combi boiler, thermostatic valves for everything, totally controlable.
TH2 - Gas, timed, no thermostatic controls.

TH1 - Electric
TH2 - Gas

Ability to make changes
TH1 - Limited only by money and time (we owned the place)
TH2 - We rent this house, so can't make major changes

So what next?
Well, there are plenty of things we can do within the scope of our tenancy agreement to help us save money on our bills (and of course reduce gas use and all the associated environmental effects).

The first thing we have done is shut the doors to the rooms that we are not using, so that we don't have heat escaping to those spaces.

The next thing I am going to do is sort out all of the draughts. That will be the next blog post.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

OMG I have just had a fright

Long story short. We've moved house, into rented, loads of things different, will tell you more in later posts. Just inputting the meter readings into readyourmeter and shock HORROR our gas readings are over 300 times larger than the house we moved out of!!! PANIC !!! check and double check readings ..

Was the gas measured in cubic feet before? find bill, yes
Is the gas really measured in cubic meters now? check meter, YES.
Have we really used 232m3 in one month? YESSSSSS
Is the data input correctly into readyourmeter? YESSSSSS!!!!!
Is it really showing as 300 times more gas used? YES! ARGGGHHHH
Is the heating on now? YES
Is the heating on now? NO!!.
Dare I tell Mr Transition House? ...


gonna have to ....

We panic together and Mr Transition House quickly works out how much it will cost.


I double check Mr TH's calculation, only to find he didn't convert cubic feet into kilowatt hours correctly, (he'd forgotten about calorific value and correction factors).

[I can't really type what I thought]

Then Mr Transition House notices the "Gas used (100s cubic feet)" on the bill from the last house. Thank goodness. I'd input all of the data for the previous house at 100th of the actual gas used.

Phew. We are now only using 3 times as much gas as we did in the first transition house!

Brilliant! (but not of course, 3 times as much, that's really quite bad - I'll write about why and what we do about it in later posts).

The heating is still off. We have put on a few more layers of clothes and think ourselves lucky.

The new graph showing (correct) old house and new house meter readings is below (and to the right).

Sunday, 24 January 2010

I'll show you mine if you show me yours ...

electricity and gas meter readings that is ;)

Many thanks to the readyourmeter guys for adding the embed graph functionality to their site. I hadn't ever thought that a few graphs could be sooo much fun.

It's snowing!You can really see where we whacked up the heat during that snowy spell over Christmas - look at that gas use spike! And I was wearing lots of jumpers!! Now to be extra frugal to try and get those graph lines to go down again.

At least it has stopped snowing (actually I love the snow, it's snow much fun!! - pictured Ginger the snowman and me) so it should be easier to keep warm, I suppose not spending all afternoon building snowmen and getting freezing will help too.

Friday, 1 January 2010

10% in 2010

10:10 campaignLets face it the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference was a total COP out. It's time to ignore the politicians, get serious about climate change and do whatever we can with or without them. The 10:10 campaign is something that is tangible and totally do-able plus it will help reduce household bills too. Beat climate change and the recession all in one go - something every thrifty housewife should want to do!!

The 10:10 campaign is all about reducing your carbon emissions by 10% in the year 2010. The website gives all kinds of advice about how people can achieve that so go there now - no after you've read the rest of this because the 10:10 site doesn't say how as an individual you can baseline your carbon. There are a few carbon calculator sites the Transition House site reviewed last year.

If you really want to reduce your household carbon emissions you need to take notice of your electricity and gas consumption. is a site created by David Mackay (top geezer) and colleagues from Cambridge University. The site draws lots of nice graphs for you once you've added in your meter readings and it very kindly works out for you your CO2 emissions - very clever stuff.

By being interested in the charts it's almost impossible not to try and get those lines to go lower and lower (and horrible when it's winter and you have to turn the central heating and watch those lines rise (yes I am wearing several layers of jumpers)). Look out for electricity monitor free give aways too, the devices tell you which appliances are using the most electricity - some libraries have them to loan out to you like books ask your local library about them (and if they don't lend them out, suggest that they do!! :) ).

You can even compare your emissions against other houses, search for the "Transition House" stats. To check out how we are doing.

So join me and thousands of others and go for your 10% in 2010. Good luck and let me know if you sign up for the readyourmeter site so that we can compare charts.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Global Age of Stupid premiere

Just in case you didn't know it's on the 21st / 22nd of September...

It's going to be one hell of a premiere!!

PS. Sorry about the silence, lots of things going on. I'll be back soon...