Will, my eldest boy, is doing Applied Science GCSE. The projects are now coming thick and fast, from cloning to the ethics of embryo enhancement, science and ethics in one.
His latest is climate change: discuss the causes and effects and make a pledge to reduce your family’s impact.
I, of course, took huge paternal interest but tried not to meddle. He had a pretty decent understanding of climate change, probably to be expected in our household. But, we did explore the practical steps that you can make to reduce carbon emissions at home, the quick wins and those that need more planning, money and outside support.
It was the mix of theory and action that we liked. We could understand the issues and then were encouraged to take an action. Much like Planet Positive!
The coursework is just like the training programme we are putting together for Lend Lease and their BeOnsite re-employment programme. They are taking long term unemployed and providing a constant loop of coaching to help them into work on construction sites, hold onto the job and learn more about health, safety and building.
And now they have asked Planet Positive to include a module on climate change. We’ll talk through the issues and talk about action, from creating green buildings to saving money and reducing emissions at home.
Whether it is training for green construction or Applied Science GCSE, we are witnessing a huge surge of education and increasing understanding. There is real energy here and real momentum. It makes me full of optimism that we will make lasting change happen.
20,000 miles. The distance it takes to make a pizza. Where did I come by this information? The Harvest Festival of course!
My middle son, Thomas, and his Bobcats class used their harvest festival session at the local church to get a message across to the mums, dads and kids assembled in Mayfield Church.
They brought the products up one by one. 5,000 miles for a pineapple, 1,000 miles for the tomatoes and the mozzarella. It is was played out as though they were picking the ingredients in the local take-away in Tunbridge Wells.
Then they let us know what food miles meant; for producers, retailers and buyers. And they explained what they meant for the environment and the carbon footprint of transporting by plane and truck. Wow. The audience was genuinely captivated.
It was fun and it got the message across. Think about where your food comes from and “look at the labels on the tin” they said. I will Bobcats, I will!
At Field End, we are on a mission to say Nil to Landfill. Every year each one of us produces about 500kg of waste of which only 1/3 is recycled. We are recycling more but total waste will double by 2020 – that means you could fill the Albert Hall every hour with our garbage!
Where would it all go? Well at the moment, containers of part-sorted recycled material is shipped off to China to be fully recycled.
At home, we have created our own systems for collecting and recycling. We are trying to train and encourage each other to use them – me, Ros and the boys. It’s not easy.
For collecting tin cans, paper (and cardboard), glass and plastics we have bins outside the backdoor. All food stuffs go to the compost that Ros and Will built by our planters. We collect it and take it out once a day, or sooner if it is too awful to have around.
All the other recycling is then taken to the local centre when we take the boys to the swimming club so we don’t burn additional diesel on a recycling-run. You can find your nearest recylcing point by typing your postcode into the search of the Recycle Now website. That reminds me, I must write to the council to get some collection service for our community.
The boys are getting the hang of it. They will be a less wasteful generation than us. And, as they rightly pointed out, if we get less rubbish in, there is less rubbish to put out. Therein lies the solution. Reduce the rubbish we buy and the packaging that it comes in.
And let’s get some joined up action on infrastructure to help each one of us make this more efficient. Nil to Landfill!
What a weekend. What a week. Our sustainable, Planet Positive lifestyle means living in the country and working in London. So, when our 4 ewes came into lamb we have been a bit stretched. We now have 7 by lambs and it has been a steep learning curve.
I’m writing this on the train to work in London. Every time I leave Field End I feel like I am ‘bunking off’. I love it at home but I need and want to work - so I would not want to give up the 9-5 yet (see Guy’s post last Friday). I’ve a busy day in town working on developing our pilot programme for the Carbon Army, a task force of community carbon auditors to help people make carbon and energy savings at home. Later, I’ll go to my first Green Monday meeting. It’s a networking event for businesses leading the way in sustainability and I’m looking forward to it.
But, poor Ros will have to handle Field End…
All the lambs came last week while I have been at work, leaving the burden entirely on Ros’ shoulders. In the evenings and over the weekend I did my bit as we struggled to get our first flock sorted with feeding. The last two, tiny lambs have been the most tricky. The ewe had mastitis which makes it uncomfortable for her and the milk taste disgusting for the lambs.
We mixed the hours with massaging her udders, expressing milk, using warm towels, bottle feeding and eventually persuading them to eat. We seemed to get breakthrough last night as they were consistently feed from their mum.
It was parenthood all over again, with all the tiredness and worry too. And the upside is that we have seven chocolate brown lambs bouncing around the field. Spring is truly amazing.
I was torn between work and home today. Our first ever lambs were born yesterday morning and, having worked late, I didn’t get to see them until this morning. Ros had been there just after they were born and she managed to rub one of them into life.
She said it was amazing and I was gutted that I missed it! I was in the Planet Positive office having a great time developing our 2020 Vision campaign that we will be launching early June.
So, this morning we went to check the lambs who were in good shape but found two of our ewes clearly had a stomach upset… After the school run we set to work in cleaning them up and calling our farming friends for some advice to make sure it would not affect their lambs.
I was able to hit-foot to work for a meeting with our web manager and the preparation of the Planet Positive carbon calculator which is looking great on the ‘mirror’ site before it goes live in a couple of weeks.
This balance is really exciting but it is difficult when it is out of kilter. When there is real pressure of essential (and fun!) opportunities to make more of our sustainable living then getting a train for over an hour to London is not so appealing. Conversely, running Planet Positive is my dream job. It is all consuming, stretching your mind and your ability. There are no boundaries and you could literally spend every waking hour making more and more opportunities happen.
So, sustainable living and working do put pressure on the work/life balance, but only because you want more of both.
Spring has really put a focus on our Planet Positive and sustainable living. Having sat back and relaxed as Basil the ram enjoyed his 3 month stay with our 4 Manx Laughton ewes, we now have had to prepare for the results!
3 of our 4 chocolate Manx Laughton sheep look like they are pregnant. This is our first lambing so we have tried to prepare ourselves as best we can.
Ros and I have a clear demarcation of duties. She and the boys tend the animals (4 sheep, 2 pigs, 30+ bantams, half a dozen ducks and assorted dogs, cats, fish and rabbits) while I do the labour and the building.
So, this weekend I built 3 stalls in our barn. It is imperative for the mum and the lamb to bond so they spend the first few days in a stall before going out into the field.
We wanted to make our own stalls so we scavenged our wood store and created 5’x 3’ pens out of old pallets, fence posts and picket fencing. Total cost £0. We let the sheep into the compound around the barn tonight and their inquisitive nature has already led them into the pens. So far, so good.
Ros has attended a local lambing course and also attended some live lambing at a local farm. She saw (and helped with a few) births including one ewe that successfully delivered 6 lambs! We are hoping ours only produce 1 (as is usual in their first year apparently) and much easier for us to manage.
So now the serious business of lambing is about to start. We think the first one is due on Thursday. We will keep you posted.
Coffee at Cafe Nero? A morning at the Gym? Or ‘Help me take my pigs to the slaughter house’!
Most mums might expect to hit the gym on a Monday morning or have a revitalising coffee with friends. When she heard that I had double booked and had to be in London instead of taking the pigs to the slaughter house, Ros had to enrol the moral and physical help of two friends.
Frankie (an expert on reversing a trailer thanks to a recent caravan driving course) and Sophie (a good knowledge of animal and country things) were happy to help Ros while I went to work!
One of the things that is apparent from trying planet positive, sustainable living (and we are mere beginners) is that people are only too willing to help. Where in the past I might have notionally talked about community, now I really feel it (and part of it).
Community works and it is rewarding - whether you are giving or receiving. Early this week, on Britain’s most depressing Monday (according to the press, this was statistically the most depressing day of the year), Ros found cheer and support from friends and strangers.
With the porkers (not weaners as Steve described in the previous blog – they are weaners when you collect them. He told a bit of a porker…) loaded into the trailer, we set off to the local slaughter house. We became aware that we were following a queue of cars pulling trailers of animals. We had found the slaughter house.
I have always considered myself a practical person but my hands were shaking like a leaf. I jumped from the car and ran to the one in front. “It’s my first time,” I blurted out. The kind couple in the car guided me through the process. You reverse your trailer into a holding pen where Pork and Crackling were guided out of the trailer and along a corridor. With a heavy heart I gave them a final pat and they were gone…
I kept repeating to myself that that was their purpose and we would not have had the enjoyment of keeping pigs if we weren’t going to use them for meat. As a meat eater all my life, I have taken this for granted. Completing the circle has given me respect for the animal and the process. The support of my friends was wonderful and much needed when I was feeling so sad. I recommend that, if this is your first time, don’t do it alone.
After a cup of tea, I went to the local butcher to run through the different cuts of meat. I had researched these using the River Cottage Meat book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (www.rivercottage.net and Perfect Pigs by Clare and Robin Wilson (www.oaklandspigs.co.uk
The decisions on the cuts are based around using the using the legs for hams or joints, the loins for chops or bacon, how many sausages, ribs, shoulder joints and so on. We will try cure and hang one back leg for Parma ham, cure one of the loins for bacon and one of the bellies for streaky bacon. These will need to be cured before being sliced.
The pigs will come from the slaughter house over the next few days so they can be hung by the butcher. He will make the cuts and we’ll collect on Jan 30. The butcher mentioned that ‘first-timers’ can overfeed pigs which can result in the outer fat being too thick (an inch or more where it should be ½ - 3/4” thick. He’ll let us know so we can make sure we get it right next time.
We are now researching where to get the next weaners. We’ve ordered 2 Oxford Sandy/Gloucester Old Spots (ginger with black spots!) but are also interested in Berkshires but there don’t seem to be many around.
So the cycle continues.
Sunday 18th Jan - Pork and Crackling are our two Berkshire pigs, and tomorrow morning they are off to the abattoir, the slaughter house as it is supposed to be called.
It has been fun bringing up these two weaners. It has been our first experience of pig keeping and I am sure it won’t be our last. They have been a valuable addition to Field End. The boys have loved feeding them, except when they get a bit boisterous and chew on their wellies, sitting watching them, giving them a scratch and just having them.
And people beyond the family have become involved. We have been getting apples from a neighbour, local pig breeders have been offering help and advice and our friends have been grilling us on whether we want to send them to slaughter and eat them…
As a family of animal lovers (if that is not a contradiction in terms), we have felt strong feelings about the pigs going. Tonight we’re all a bit fed up. They are only 6-months old and it seems such a desperately short life.
I think, perhaps, we are all a bit naive about food and this process is opening our eyes. I am pleased about that. We talk about the food on our family table a lot now – the taste, where it has come from, if we like it. However, we all knew (all except Charlie who’s 5) that they would be leaving us one day and return another as chops, sausages and bacon.
And the day has come. To transport them to the slaughter house in Heathfield we had to get a trailer. We had been buying meat from a local farmer and he has let us borrow a small livestock trailer. It was now a matter of getting the pigs into the trailer. Using a bucket of food and apples, we coaxed them out of their pen and into a holding pen by the open door of the trailer. Once there they refused to move. Ros got in the trailer and Will and Tom shuffled and edged them forwards with the fence panels making the shrinking pen. I was pushing and shoving but they are pretty heavy and wouldn’t budge.
As light was fading, Ros told me of the tip she had from a local farmer: “Cover the head with a bucket and reverse him in. Anything was worth a try, so with a bucket over Pork’s head, I heaved him up the ramp and into the trailer.
We now have to complete some paperwork, such as the Food Chain Information form from BPEX (www.bpex-fci.org.uk) and animal movement forms from Defra (www.defra.gov.uk/animalhealth). You can also find out more about pig keeping from The British Pig Association www.britishpigs.org
Ros also has to let the butcher know what cuts we want. We haven’t done this before, so it appears to be a compromise on the type and quantity of meat you want. We are going to take advice from the butcher as this is our first go.We do want one ham, even though you have to hang it for a year.
Tomorrow the deed is done. Ros is taking them with her friends along for moral support. We will give you an update then…
We also had the hedge trimmed today. It’s once a year activity where local ace farm hand Will rocks up with his tractor to cut our hedge down to size. It’s helping thicken it up after a few years of neglect. It would take me a few days by hand and weekends are precious to keep the animals, vegetable plots and other projects going, so we gladly take this helping hand. A word of advice, stand well back because the wood flecks go flying.
Cheers, Steve & Ros Malkin, the boys and all at Field End
As many of you will know Steve Malkin (MD of Planet Positive) is trying to live the life! He and Ros have bought a small holding down in Kent along with a some pigs, sheep, chickens. They are growing their own veg and generally trying to live the life.
But it is not easy and there are many hard decisions along the way
Should they take the pig to slaughter, should they be even eating meat?
Should Steve sell his 15 year old (2nd hand) Jag or just keep on recycling it
Should the kids cycle to school along narrow dangerous roads or must Ros for the sake of their safety continue to drop them
How do they source and install a small diameter turbine and is this the right thing to do
It is not easy living a Planet Positive life, it means changing our habits and changing some of the things that we take for granted. And in this change we will be faced with many dilemmas and even ethical challenges.
Not everyone will be able to create a small farm like Steve and Ros but you will be faced with similar challenges- let’s here about them.
And so to get the ball rolling I have asked Steve and Ros make a guest appearance in my Blog over the weekend, to share some of their challenges and successes. Enjoy!