Thursday, April 15, 2021

Not really my academic summit but all adult education pays off

 Today, I am reminded of my Stop Food Waste training when we had to conduct an inventory of our kitchens. I didn’t think I’d have much as I am a person who loves to live like an astronaut, rehydrating and sprouting pulses and experimenting with flavours and all things good for you. As I live plant-based, nearly everything lasts for ever and wouldn’t do you much harm and possibly some good if it had gone on to the fermenting stage. I got for my studies which were highly academic and involved, a Masters in Composting. So enjoyable, thank you Carlow County Council. An academic tutor like myself, needs a Masters of her own eventually, rather than just getting everyone else’s papers over the line, in style.

Then I thought of Ronnie Kaufman who is a great coach and was my coach a few years ago. He told me to encourage myself as I worked (sometimes being self-employed can happen in a bit of a vacuum can’t it) So I said to myself, Good Job! And then found myself saying out loud: “Such a good job, it looks like you've done this before!”…well that was a step too far as I haven’t actually fully cleared out that cupboard since my parents gave me the kitchen second-hand 7 years ago! That made me laugh and sent me on another train of thought which was gratitude-bound. 

So I put in Amy Montgomery’s unusual merchandise artwork “As long as you treasure what you receive, there will always be sunshine over your stormy seas”. You should listen to her music, totally epic. And I know what she means because, guess what the first thing is I found in that cupboard, which had rolled to the back? A connoisseur’s choice bottle of wine, from my birthday a whole six months ago! Happy Days!

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Top Tip For Going Organic

My brother said, why not be a gardener rather than a farmer? As I was bemoaning planting huge swathes of crops with such uncertain weather. I replied, being a gardener is like being a builder, you never have time to get to your own place. 

Obviously organic bread is a must partly because 90 something percent of bread has pesticide traces in ti and also it can be made with no yeast, which is another pressure off your digestive system...and pumpkin seeds that are anti-parasitic...another pressure off the ol' tract.


But my top tip to going organic is this:

Try and weed more than once every two years as otherwise the moment for productive farming might have passed and you will be sorely tempted to move straight on to re-wilding instead. 

I had asked myself why I'd given a whole raised bed to daffodils...even though they reminded me of my days as Professor Sprout of Herbology fame, in Harry Potter. 900 children passed through Castlecomer Discovery Park for that themed day and although there were a multitude of activities, the majority still got around to planting onions, garlic and daffodils in the magic invisible greenhouse (bit of an Emperor's New Clothes situation!!) 

So, today, I decided to claim some of the space back for a hazel tree nursery - there are 13 two-inch-tall hazel nut trees in this picture (and one avocado).


U also got serious about organic certification. I attended a webinar. I went through the pack. It's not for the feint hearted: You have to enclose water samples from all your sources (I have a gravity-fed grey water system for my polytunnel. I have butts for the avocado gallery. Then there's the stream and of course if push comes to shove, the mains. 

The gang in Bagenalstown tell me that I have to specify what the Organic Trust are looking for. I said, well, let's say 'is it safe to drink?' How about that as a parameter? Well, yes, he replied there's an all-round wellness water sample test that is 150 euro. It checks all chemical and bacteria present. Oh great, so that would cover pesticides then, I said. He said, oh no, we don't check for pesticides unless we're asked to. 

So then there's the amount of land you must have. So that could get pricey. Then there's the Organic Training that you must get for 200 euro. Then there's the application itself which is 200 euro. Then there is presumably planting with all new organic seeds, heirloom and heritage seed varieties and those sorts that come in a Brown Envelope, 5 at a time for a fiver. Then they want your vet involved in your animal plan. I'm sure they won't do that for free. The special housing for organically-kept livestock is also different and changing - fractionally higher welfare than intensive and conventional, like calves must be 12 weeks with their mother. But they don't go as far as saying pigs should have bedding. They only say they should be 'thermally comfortable'. So, going for organic certification is a bit of a pain but I'm going to see the application through as I feel I can consult and support others with no time to spare (aka all farmers who are working 15 hour days) if I've done it myself.

One thing I know is that pigs love foliage and bedding and making their bed and sometimes even rearranging their home or moving out, when their partner's doing their head in.

Legend, when Becky moved out

Becky's pad when she moved down the garden for a break

 Becky in her and Legend's bed

I asked what was the most important thing for farmers to engage in the green transition. One farmer said, 'solar panels'. They could easily feed the whole grid if supported in covering their whole shed space with panels. As it is, they're only allowed to produce 30% more than they need for their own operation. Community Energy is a real possibility. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

NCTS Complaint

 Dear NCTS,

I am writing to complain about the NCTS and ask for a correction of your certificate award system. You deliver a rigorous test, justified by the responsibility of awarding a certificate that confirms a vehicle can be expected to be road-worthy for a year. Unless, you are another unashamed, thieving, money-spinning racket, then the certificate should really always be for a year, don’t you think?


Awarding a certificate for three months because ‘it is computer generated from the birthday of your car’ seems to me a rather strange and sudden reliance on artificial intelligence, when the rest of your system  utilizes the minds of men to do the assessment. 


Looking at it from a motorist’s point of view – which your computer didn’t do and your test centre worker’s couldn’t manage either – it is quite clearly unfair and totally arbitrary. There are the costs of the test and the re-test, following recommendations and requirements being carried out. They seem reasonable. There is the cost of the work to be done, on cars that have sat mainly idle for over a year, due to restrictions. I, for one, paid €1,100 for the parts and work my car needed. Fair enough.


But don’t tell me then that my certificate does not count for a year. I request that your future certificates cover the one year period from the day a car passes its test. Do you fear, perhaps, that car owners will get a few days’ free? In addition to the work preparation for the test, there was another €250 to be paid before the re-test. I don’t call that free. And it certainly isn’t the business of the NCTS to penalize and lengthen and shorten the time their certificates stand for. It shouldn’t be within their remit anyway.


Thank you. Please sort this out.

Yours, Frances Micklem