My young son just loves it when I get my anvil out to shoe my own pony. He always asks for a hammer and I let him hammer on a shoe to help me. Maybe he will make some pan racks for me one day!

Maybe he will make pan racks for me one day

Even though the winter is now officially over I am still sourcing wood for my wood burner. There is something so warming and wonderful about lighting a fire in the evening to sit close to and hear the crackle and creaks whilst reading a good book. Something I am partial too. Fire is enchanting to watch and I frequently get transfixed by the beauty of it. The coal in my forge has also got a charm of its own. Hot iron, heat and flame are magical things to work with and I feel very lucky.

I have been busy collecting fire wood from a friends wood where he is coppicing Chestnut trees. It make great fire wood because it needs no chopping! Maybe some of the trees I plant for my sustainable pledge will be turned in to heat one day, that would be really eco friendly.

Heating a house with wood

The trees I pledge to plant every year have finally turned up. They went astray somewhere but are now here in Suffolk and are in the process of being planted. This year I have approximately 150 of varying species.
Pan rack trees
I just adore planting trees. It feels so good and to make it easier a friend left a spike that makes brilliant holes just perfect for the trees to go in.

I learn something every day and today I learnt that when I plant them I should cut them by about a third and as we are planting late in the season I need to water twice a week for a while.

Self sufficiency is on the tip of my tongue most of the time. It is constantly in my thoughts. I am aiming to live as self sufficiently as I possibly can. This is quite a job when most of my time is spent at work paying for my mortgage!

I don’t want to be one of those people who have spent my life acquiring wealth and then spending my retirement and the money I have made trying to get back my health. It is a very difficult thing though to follow my dream when I need time to dig and tend to my vegetables and organise other ways of making my life not so dependent upon a large income.

I have decided that I need more of a balance so that I spend more time mentally and physically with my family and am working hard on switching off from “paid work” when I am not doing it. In this society so much is at stake financially if one does not make money. I am going to aim to cut my green grocery bill this year by half. My goal is to grow as much salad leaves as I can under glass right now (without a green house I intend to make a makeshift glass protectors on my raised beds) and then plant out seeds when the time is right.

We use a huge amount of shop bought, bagged leaves such as rocket, spinach and salad type leaves all of which we could grow given a little more time. I am going to make the time and hopefully we will reap the rewards of having green salad leaves on tap. How we are going to grow them throughout next winter will be another puzzle to figure out later on in the year.

It was partly due to Feng shui that we decided to clear up and really organise our very small kitchen. When space is at a minimum one needs to get creative. Finding the right pot or pan when they are all stacked on top of one another inside a dark cupboard is annoying and time consuming.

We were continually breaking glasses and chipping china bowls so we made a plan. The plan was to use every space of wall so that our utensils and other cooking essentials were at hand but not necessarily on the work surfaces.

The rails and ceiling racks that I made have meant that we have a place that is handy and immediate for all our utensils and pans. Making the most of the space we have has felt really good and if one believes in the power of Feng Shui then the energy in our kitchen has been moved around, improved and that can only be a good thing.

How green are you? My wife began incorporating green smoothies into her daily life a month before Christmas. The look of them just puts me off but she has convinced me that they have such health boosting properties and regeneration results that I felt I wanted to have a taste finally!

I was absolutely amazed at how good it tasted. She has been researching and experimenting with various fruits and vegetables and superfoods then wizzing them all up in a blender. Today I drank a good half litre and felt energised and ready for action, that is until about 11am when I felt very hungry. But it is a good thing to eat when one feels hungry rather than when one feels like it.

It is exciting to know that I can use up all the glut of lettuce and parsley in our morning smoothies this summer. In the meantime Sainsburys organic will have to do!

Going green tastes better than I thought

The snow has been on the ground now for over a week and the big news is that song birds suffer in cold winter snaps. Basically they can’t find insects and they can’t find food. So we all need to put out extra food for them.  

The experts say that a selection of fruit, apples and grapes are great. Seed mixes, fat balls, crusts of bread and  especially water because in icy conditions because they cant find water to drink. Some small birds only weigh a few grams. A wren typically weighs 5 grams and at night it will fluff up its feathers to keep warm but can still loose up to a quarter of its body weight over night. So rake around your kitchen cupboards, cook some fat balls and find time to feed the birds in your garden. You get the added benefit of watching them from your window.

It is precious Sunday and I have been having a brilliant invigorating time with my 3 year old son in the snow. It takes us at least 20 minutes to tog up to go out. Firsty there is the thermal vest and long johns, socks tucked over the top then trousers then waterproof over trousers. As many layers as possible under a thick jacket. Then there is the elastic that needs to go over my sons boots, gloves and hat to finish. Then its my turn.

It is all worth it because we have had such fun on a big empty horse feed sack and a small plastic sledge plus a hill. This weather does put some people out but I refuse to get put out by it. I rather make good use of the extra time I have at home plotting and planning my year and the extra time indoors cosy by a big roaring fire feeling the warmth of all my hard efforts collecting, chopping and stacking the wood we burn.

I am recovering after shoeing today in freezing conditions and came across this picture in the summer of myself with my pony. I give him a cuddle everyday as I dont have much time for the thing I like most which is driving him out. He loves a cuddle and I think he especially likes it because I bought him from a horse dealer who had bought him from the side of the road. He did not know anything about love but does now. If I showed him my hand he would show me his bottom! Now he nudges me for attention. I feel he is a lucky boy but I feel even luckier.

Over Christmas I have been busy thinking about when to put in all the trees that I have pledged to plant. Exactly when is what I am deciding, as I know it needs to be in the dormant winter months.

 I came across a really informative website

 of which I am sharing a paragraph below. One of their core principals is sustainability; one of my core principals.

It is generally accepted that our environment has taken a battering due to the activities of humans, especially in the last few hundred years. We see and hear of the consequences of this everywhere.

Fortunately there is a growing number of people that realise that a change from the ‘old’ wasteful and destructive days is necessary, not only for our environment, but also for our own feelings of well-being.

This is certainly very evident in the tree industry.  There are articles on sustainable woodland management, using wood chips as a source of renewable fuel to heat homes, wood burning power stations supplied by locally coppiced woodlands, building more energy efficient timber framed houses, new developments in environmentally-friendly wood preservation, initiatives and grants to plant more woodland and so on and so on.


 An International definition of Sustainability often quoted is..

‘Development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ *

It implies living with current natural resources, and using them prudently and efficiently and ensuring that their use is within a constant cycle of renewal. In other words, the rate of using them does not exceed the rate that the natural environment can regenerate them. At the same time, whilst respecting this cycle, we are also protecting the environment by reducing damaging practices and attitudes, and recycling, repairing and reusing as much as possible.

It is not going to be easy for all of us to make a change and live in a different way that more sustainable but if we all try to do something then the knock on effect will be very powerful.