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Kicking my heels

Happy New Year Salisbury Transitioners! I realise it's been a very long time since my last blog, but with nothing obvious happening around here, I had nothing to say for once!

On the gardening front: despite adding compost and leaf mould, my thin ‘hilltop’ soil on the no-dig beds became very depleted by late last summer, resulting in even more rubbish veggies than the years variable weather warranted. So when I finally pollarded the 4 ash trees (suffering dieback) this autumn, I decided to put aside the branches to create 'hugelkultur' beds. These are raised beds built on a base of branches and leaf litter, which then decompose over time with lots of benefits to the soil and of course locking that carbon back into the soil ‘sink’ (3 times bigger than the atmospheric store according to wikipedia ). I still have stacks of logs from the larger branches drying for next winter and lots of chipped wood/bark for mulching. Meanwhile I shall keep an eye on how the pollarded ash manage.

Lots of seedlings are coming up in the garden ‘forest’ section, and it will be interesting to see if they have any resistance should any of them make it to maturity. My forest managers are down to just 2 (aka Scruffy and Fluffy –their names change monthly according to the moult situation) and I was devastated to lose the two glossiest and most productive egglayers. Still, on the plus side, I have less ‘manure’ to step in.

Shock, horror! I inadvertently discovered (during a random discussion with my solar system installer on the performance of my battery system); that in fact neither battery nor solar panels would work in the event of a power outage. So much for feeling smug in the face of energy mayhem out there. I have taken the plunge to replace my Solex battery for one that can operate independently of the grid in case of supply blips or power outages ahead, but now I have an expensive but redundant piece of kit for which I will have to calculate the carbon and resource footprint, or find a way to re-use (any experts out there who can offer advice??). Lessons learnt from the battery debacle: I will definitely have to read the small print, and ask the stupid questions.

On the retrofitting front, investigations showed that my cavity wall insulation is deficient and even absent in some parts of the house, but I am still awaiting a decision on whether I need an internal or external ‘skin’ (insulation envelope), which apparently might affect the type of cavity insulation. So to take my mind off the lack of actual progress, I am off to increase my knowledge at the National Self-Build and Renovation Centre in Swindon next week, and I am also booked on an eco-refurbishment course at the Centre for Alternative Technology in April, which should be fun.

In the quest for sustainable transport, my poor Subaru is still mostly parked up, apart from ‘group’ adventures, protest and volunteering. My imposition of self-inflicted fines for misuse are reducing (although up to around £200), but on a trip to Waitrose to pick up their out-of-date food for the Pantry Partnership, my car battery terminally failed. The simple but painful lesson is: disconnect the battery when the car is not being used. Feeling a bit silly really.

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