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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Techno Hippie Community's LiveJournal:

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Thursday, March 1st, 2007
8:29 pm
[ewtikins]
Parabolic solar cooker?
I teach in Golders Green/Brent Cross on Tuesdays, and for the past several weeks I have noticed that there is a discarded satellite dish, apparently free for the taking, in one of the random rubbish piles I walk past.

Satellite receiver dishes, as I understand it, collect waves and focus them at the little sticky-out receiver thing (technical terms are important), which then sends pictures to your TeeVEe.

I have no TeeVee, and no particular use for one. I'd love to have a solar cooker, though, and light is, after all, waves. I've seen various plans for parabolic solar cookers but they all seem a bit fiddly and difficult to put together. But if I could simply put some shiny foil on that discarded receiver dish, well, then I've got a pre-made shiny parabola. Right?

Do you think this would work? I'm aware that the diameter of the mini-dish might be too small for the very fast cooking that some parabolic cookers can provide, and also that it isn't particularly portable, but I'd still be quite interested in getting the hang of using it in my back garden.

Failing that I'm quite tempted to try this method with the next broken umbrella I come across.
Tuesday, February 27th, 2007
3:45 pm
[ewtikins]
SEADOG
Okay, this has got me thinking. It's basically a pump that uses wave power to send water to a tower, and then when you need power you can use the water in the tower to generate power (for example, using a water wheel).

This is, in some ways, not the best storage system for energy, because it would need a lot of space, and at least occasional maintenance (because anythign less pure than drinking water is eventually going to clog things, and using drinking water for something like this would be a waste). On the other hand it doesn't involve any of the nasty heavy metals that more traditional batteries do, or the excess heat and pollution problems that go along with combustion.

I'm wondering whether a system like this could work on a small scale, and whether it would make sense to hybridise it with other renewable energy sources. For example, having a wind-powered pump, a bicycle-powered pump, a solar-powered pump and also using rainwater to fill a reservoir would give a lot of flexbility for 'charging' the system; even on dark, windless, dry nights it would be possible to cycle until you have about as much power as you need.

Advantages:

-should be possible to make all electricity-drawing appliances plug into the same system, which means less fucking about generally
-multiple options for charging the system reduces dependence on one or two resources

Disadvantages:

-ideally I'd want to have some duplication of whatever is used to generate electricity from the stored water; having lots of different ways to get water into storage is great but not if one can't do anything with what is stored.
-evaporation problems? Would re-use the water, obviously, but eventually it would have to be topped up
-I have no idea how much space would be required to have enough power to run various appliances, but I suspect it's quite a bit. Running out of capacity would suck.
-really, really not portable, and setting it up requires a lot more engineering than running similar systems on a stand-alone basis.

I guess something like that could work for a larger-scale development as well, small power stations with wind and solar and other generation facilities. Combine it with a gym and people could cycle or pedal to increase available power...
Thursday, January 11th, 2007
12:33 am
[pfy]
Wind-up $100 laptops could go on sale to the public
According to the BBC, the One Laptop Per Child project is considering selling its wind-up laptops to the public!

The laptops are intended to cost $100 or less each, will run Linux, will have wireless networking, and will have a hand crank to provide power if conventional power sources aren't available. They were first mentioned here over a year ago, but were only intended for distribution to schools in the developing world. If they do become available to the general public as well, I'm seriously interested in getting one. Or several.

Current Mood: w00t!
Monday, December 11th, 2006
8:16 pm
[ewtikins]
Geek Scrapheap Challenge
This Saturday in the Pembury Tavern. Reply there, not here, please. Also, feel free to come to part of it if you can't make it to the whole thing, just take your stuff with you when you leave (or make proper arrangements for someone else to deal with it). Also please do feel free to attend even if you don't have anything to take apart and just want to learn stuff or whatever. The more the merrier, and so on.

Cross-posted.
Saturday, November 11th, 2006
3:56 pm
[ewtikins]
Long Time No Post
It's been... far too long. Must not neglect this community so much. If you've applied for membership between, er, April and now, I might have missed out adding you. Do apply again. Sorry about that.

Welcome to new member blue_jez.

Techno
I have spare batteries for my phone now, and a stand-alone charger that talks to the solar panel. So, all my mobile use is solar-powered now. Woot. It's also quite handy to be able to get away for longer than overnight without having to drag a charger with me; three spare batteries are still much smaller than a big plug and lots of cable.

When the time comes for me to get rid of the phone (hopefully not for a while!) I'm sure the shop will take the spare batteries back for recycling with the phone.

Soon I will have a dead-computer-resurrection day, where we take old bits of half-dead computers and make them be useful. If you're in the London area and you want to come along you'll have to look for details over at my journal; I haven't written the post yet (but might come back and edit this once I have).

Hippie
I learned more mushrooms this year. I have eaten russulas, boletes, puffballs, shaggy ink caps and fairy ring champignons - well worth the effort even though they are a bit small. Oh, and also Amethyst deceiver, which don't taste of much but are a beautiful purple colour. I also learned that it's best to check if the mushrooms are wormy before taking them home and washing them. Oh, and that there are some mushrooms that are not easy to identify with any mushroom books, no matter how many you have. And lots of poisonous ones, but I knew that.

Commune
We have turned the heating on at the Isle of Cats. The radiator in my room is still off, though; I actually prefer to sleep in a cooler space. mstevens and I are playing that game where one of us turns the thermostat up and the other comes along and turns it down again; this seems to be more about when the pump makes noise than anything else, though. It's time for me to hang fleece blankets in the windows again, and I do really want to get around to getting reflector foil behind the radiators this winter as I think it will help, our walls always feel cold.

A lot of my gardening in the past year has been of a communal nature, really; the foraging, as well. Lots of people came to help me with the garden on a few separate occasions, and got fed in return - sometimes produce from the actual garden! Yields were not what they might have been due to half-assedness and illness on my part. I'm set up to do even better this coming summer, though, now I have the vegetable patch dug properly. I'll just get the garden how I want it and then it will be time to move... but setting up a good veg patch for the next person is a fine thing to do, too, and I'm still gaining skills.

I'm also thinking about where to live after I finish my degree. One part of me wants a cat. Another part of me wants to live in Islington, because for various reasons it would be one of the more convenient locations for me. Another part of me wants to try being a guardian for vacant properties, because of the savings on rent it would involve... but then I get a lot less choice about where I live, and wouldn't be able to have a cat at all.

The idea of a houseboat is also appealing. London moorings would be beyond my means, though. Before making any more plans in that direction, I need to talk to more people who have boats about what the typical costs are like... and just how much could be grown on a roof. Certainly the idea of a network of semi-independent narrowboats is quite nifty.

So... what are you up to? How was your summer? What are you doing to prepare for winter?
Friday, April 7th, 2006
12:31 pm
[ewtikins]
It's been a while since I posted anything here...

Thames Water has instituted a hosepipe ban, as expected. My water butt is full from the rain this winter. I have plans for a small greywater system for additional water for the garden. Recently I had a shed-destroying party, and one of the things we found was several metres of irrigation tubing - the sort you bury under the soil and send water down. I don't know if it requires a lot of pressure to work, but I'm quite interested in using as much of it as I can, because I'd lose a lot less water to evaporation. This drought highlights the water collection problems we might face when building a for-real community; sometimes, rainfall might not be enough. Other times there might be too much rain for our storage capacity. Streams and rivers might run dry at certain seasons or in very dry years. What are ways around this? Creative water conservation, creative rainfall collection when we do have rainfall and creative rainfall storage/treatment come to mind. Effective systems for greywater would be good, too.

The garden itself is doing reasonably. gardeningCollapse )

I recently ended up with a new mobile phone. No joy yet on making it talk to the computer; I suspect I'm not going to have much luck. It does have a T Flash slot, whatever weird-ass sort of flash memory that entails, so perhaps I can get some of that and a card reader. Another time, though. The good news is that it will charge from the solar panel I have. The old phone will be returned to Orange once I've had my number transferred; I believe it will be taken to bits and recycled somehow, although I'd have to check to be sure.

I've also been trying to get old laptops up and running and online, with limited success.

I haven't learned any more electronics, fixed the spinning wheel or managed to get my bicycle out onto the Thames Path. For now, the gardening is taking priority over all of these.
Friday, March 24th, 2006
7:59 am
[qadira]
Birds & Things
We recently moved, and with our new house we inherited some exciting things. Rain-gutters on the house! In shabby repair, but they are THERE. So far, no great bargains have come through the auction or thrifty ads for rain barrels, but we've got our eyes peeled.

Also, when we looked at the house, there were bird-feeding stations in several locations in the yard. While the previous owners took most of the feeders, they did leave one seed feeder and a bird bath behind. I've not in the past put out feeders, because once you do, it seems the only responsible thing is to keep them filled for eternity. The little birds, after all, learn it is a food source, and will come to eat. But it was obvious the people who used to live here, did feed birds. So I bought a giant bag of bird feed, and filled the one remaining feeder. So far I have a nesting pair of red finches and a nesting pair of black-capped chickadees, and a bunch of other songbirds that may or may not be random visitors. Also put out a seeded suet feeder, but need to relocate it, as the birds don't seem to approve of where it is hanging.

My mother-in-law is having a major issue over me feeding birds. "I wouldn't recommend ANYone put out feeders, what with BIRD FLU". I told her I was less concerned about bird flu than I was West Nile virus, but I still let the kids play outside. I don't think that soothed her nerves any. That did get me thinking though, about what I would do if/when/if the economy or environment goes such that I cannot just run to the store and buy bird seed. Any ideas? I'd hate for creatures who humans taught to be dependent, to go hungry.

Anyhow, I'm dying to start a new herb garden, and grow veggies, but I have no idea where my light & shade patterns throughout the growing season will fall. The PLan: acquire moveable planters. I'm thinking old wheelbarrows, wagons, and such. I can either make sure they're reasonably tight enough to keep the dirt IN, or use them to hold pots. And then, I can move the entire thing around the yard as needed.

problem: no old things with which to do this. Also: weather hating me. Last week we got several inches of snow!
Monday, February 20th, 2006
8:02 am
[ewtikins]
I think I might be able to get to this course, although it's awfully close to exams for me, and I'll have to decide nearer the time whether I can afford the course fee (£90) and giving up some/all of my Sunday teaching; maybe they'd let me come Friday and Saturday and then go home?

Anyone else interested?
Thursday, February 16th, 2006
7:45 pm
[ewtikins]
This post is a stub.

It's here to remind me to write about water conservation. IF any of you lot want to get started in comments feel free; I'll probably incorporate at least some of that into the main post later.

Relevant links:
This BBC news article about low rainfall
This post by hairyears about how bad the article is
The Environment Agency's page about Water Resources
5:41 pm
[ewtikins]
Long Time No Post!
My last post was in November, and it was about heat-proofing. Then academic work ate my brane. Anyone would think I were doing a degree or something.

I didn't actually get much heatproofing done. I did find some cheap fleece blankets to hang up in windows as extra curtains. It's hard to tell if they make much difference. The air right by the windows doesn't seem as cold, though. How did the rest of you fare?

I've been learning electronics from martling and also from uon. Because this is getting done in my Spare Time it is going extremely slowly, but that's okay. I'm learning and trying to keep in mind applications involving salvage and involving running stuff off of small, off-grid generation.

I used my solar charger to charge my phone in Janaury when I'd left both mains chargers in places that were not London. Had ot put it on the roof; the garden gets no direct sunlight at that time of year. I would still like to make a windmill of some sort, though. The most convenient time for me to charge my phone is not when it is sunny.

My silk longjohns have started coming apart at the seams. I found some rayon and lycra leggings and bought them as replacements; I'll use the silk longjohns to make gloves and maybe armwarmers or something if there's enough fabric left. I've never made gloves before and they're not trivial, so it may be a while before I get around to this project.

I'm thinking that I might make it a project to eliminate plastic bags from my life. The main raw material required for this project would be lots and lots of pillowcases; I'd have to figure out what to put the rubbish out in, though (currently we use bags from grocery stores for this).

This year I'm staying at Chicken Central again. This year there are eight chickens, two cats, a dog and two rabbits. Thoughts:

-good, well-maintained fences are important. Using skis, bits of trellis, dismantled birdcages, wire trays, skateboards, chairs and bits of string to mend a fence is all well and good from a salvage point of view, but if the rabbits still get into the neighbour's garden, it is all for naught. Surely it should be possible to use salvaged materials and still have a fence that the rabbits don't walk thorugh as if it weren't there? We haven't found the rabbit, it was last seen at about 17.30, in the neighbour's garden. We are hoping it is not eaten by a fox but there is little we can do if it persists in hiding (probably under the shed).

-Rabbits, in general, are probably not a good idea unless they're going to be eaten (probably not by me as they aren't kosher) or they have fur suitable for spinning. Just my humble opinion but they don't chase foxes, they don't lay eggs (not even chocolate ones), they don't catch mice, they aren't particularly cuddly (or these ones aren't) and they still need food. I'd rather devote the space for the rabbit hutch to potatoes. Potatoes are kosher, and they don't run away.

-I still think all outbuildings (chicken coops, feed storage sheds, places to keep gardening tools) should come with water butts. I still dislike carrying water around. In buckets it's too heavy and it spills and makes things muddy. This is also important for water conservation reasons; any water that is falling on a rooftop of any sort should be saved for later use.

-Doing Things Properly, in general, is good. in which I rantCollapse )
Thursday, November 24th, 2005
5:37 pm
[ewtikins]
This has been cross-posted to urban_sustain, and it's partly based on an entry from my own journal.

Here in the northern hemisphere it is starting to get on for winter. This does not mean you have to freeze and it does not mean you have to spend a small fortune in heating bills.

Here are measures I've been taking to conserve fuel and still stay warm:

  • The heating is on a timer. It comes on for three hours in the morning and a few hours in the evening. During the day when it's likely that only one of us will be home, it is off. At night when we are asleep, it's off (keeping warm while you sleep is what BLANKETS are for). This changes if either of us are ill, but barring that I don't see it being a problem for the rest of the winter.

  • There is a thermostat on the pump for the heating. It's set to 18C. The heating will still come on according to the timer, but the water won't be pumped throughout the house (meaning it cools off faster, warming the air in the house, and the boiler has to run more to maintain hot water) unless the temperature in the living room goes below 18C.

  • I've blocked a fan-vent to outside in the kitchen - we never run that fan anyway, and with the leaky kitchen door we're not going to get damp problems. I used bubblewrap to do this; ideally I'd like to build a little box around the fan, with a door, so that we can open the box and use the fan if we're doing lots of cooking.

  • The loft is insulated. This is something the landlady has had done rather than something I've done, but it's still good.

  • There is draught excluder on the front door.

  • There is a porch between the inside front door and outside front door, which means hardly any cold air gets in the front door at all.

  • My housemate and I both put on sweaters/fleeces/blankets/whatever before thinking about turning up the thermostat or putting the heating on for longer. We do strange things like wearing slippers inside, too. If I think I'll be cold at night I fill a hot water bottle. We are fans of hot tea. When it gets colder I will wear long underwear if necessary.


Things still to be done:

  • Find where the draught in the loft is coming from and make it stop being a draught. It's probably the same place that bird got in a few weeks ago. This will involve wandering around in the loft, not all of which has a floor, with a feather duster and possibly some bits of tape so I can mark where the cold air is coming from. I really need a friend to come and help me with this, preferably one not frightened of spiders.

  • Make fleece curtains for the windows, lower priority goes to the ones in the porch and the loft (the porch has the inside door, and the loft window is double-glazed) than to all the others which are generally wooden sash windows with multiple panes of glass in each window - an insulation nightmare as most of the joins between the glass and the wood leak, as well as the tracks for the window to open and shut. I might also look into getting some of that plastic stuff you can put up (it's prettier than bubble wrap, and I like having the option of looking out the window occasionally) inside, particularly for the kitchen windows which I like to look out of onto the garden. I'm not sure where to get it in the UK, perhaps somewhere like Robert Dyas. For now, though, fleece curtains. They're re-usable, I can take them wth me when I move (hopefully not for another two or three years!), I get to use my new sewing machine, and fleece is fairly cheap to buy.

  • Draught excluder for the kitchen door. This is important. It leaks all down the sides as well as the top and bottom so I'm not sure exactly how to fit the draught excluder; I'll be putting a curtain on the window of the door, maybe one big curtain there would be better but it would make it annoying to get in and out and that's not a great option if I'm going to do any gardening.

  • That shiny stuff to go behind radiators. It's a sort of melt-proof metallic bubble wrap. I'd put it behind all the radiators that are on outside walls (so, the lot, except the kitchen one), because it doesn't make sense to heat the walls when you can heat the air in the room instead.

  • Find various draughts in the kitchen and see if they can be stopped sensibly. This is another thing that will be easier with a buddy. This is probably higher priority than the draught in the loft, but lower priority than sorting out the kitchen door and shiny stuff for behind the radiators.

  • Curtains for outside walls, like what shevek did in Bath? What he did is put bubble wrap up on the inside surfaces of outside walls, and then mounted curtains on them. I'm not sure of this. We don't have any outside walls that don't already have lots of windows. Getting the windows sorted is definitely more important. The kitchen is just going to be a silly thing to try to put curtains up in, because the exposed non-window walls are funny-shaped. The living room may be worthwhile. I'm not sure about my room or mstevens' bedroom. I probably won't bother putting curtains on the loft roof because it isn't cold to the touch like the outside walls in the rest of the house are.

  • Throw rugs/carpets for the living room and kitchen, these are ground-floor areas and we have hard flooring. I detest wall-to-wall carpeting because it can be so hard to clean, but the tile floor in the kitchen is unpleasantly cold, even with slippers, and the fake wood flooring in the living room isn't much better. If I had my way there would be radiant floor heating but I am not the landlady.


  • These are all house things. There are other things for staying warm in the outside, and they should go in another post.

    What have I forgotten? Bear in mind that I rent, so major structural changes and so on are not allowed.

    What are you doing to keep warm efficiently this winter?


Current Mood: cozy
Friday, October 7th, 2005
6:29 pm
[ewtikins]
How Well Connected Are You?</font>

44 questions from The Ecologist (May '04)

01. What species is the nearest tree to your front door?
02. Is it native to your area?
03. How far away is your nearest mobile telephone mast?moreCollapse )
ganked from survivalism
Monday, October 3rd, 2005
10:01 am
[qadira]
rosehips & sundry
Autumn is well & truly here now. Yesterday we made it a Family Day; and started the misty moisty morning by doing a quick leaf cleanup in the yard. Then off to the park down by the river (by park, I of course mean nature & wildlife preserve). Monkey Boy sent a few worms to the lake gods and slumbering fish and the rest of us wandered about along paths and near prickly shrubbery. Tree Frog was saddened by said thick plant growth, for it made it impossible for him to leave marked territory and strike out into the wild. Shark Bait was amazed at his good fortune in being Outside with Raindrops on his head. He burbled and babbled in his Bjorn and kept his Daddy entertained.

Meanwhile, I happily plucked a few plump rosehips and noted that were I inclined to gather the fluff for spinning, I could have scored in the milkweed seed pod department. (I had to google for a pic, having neglected to bring spare batteries for the camera, I was unable to take pics).

I'm drying the rosehips and will add them to tea at some point. If I wanted to make jelly, I think I'd need a LOT more than the couple handfuls I picked. no, I KNOW I would.

And I've noted where the milkweed pods are, so next year if I'm ambitious, I can gather seed fluff to try the spinning. I should be able to acquire a spindle by then, one would think.

There were a lot of bushes with dark berries, of unknown species. My field guides are packed. I don't think it is an edible berry though. There were also a bunch of those white waxy berries that birds love. I am 99% sure those are not edible. I didn't care to wade in cold lake to dig for cattail root. Some other time.

Current Mood: chipper
Thursday, September 29th, 2005
2:08 pm
[ewtikins]
I've been wondering about having a catalogue of the books those of us in the UK have and that are relevant to technohippiecommunal stuff; some things make sense to have multiple copies of (eg field guides for plant identification), but some could be quite happily shared even while this is long-distance, and it would save time and money later on if we didn't buy any that we already have. It's possible that such a catalogue could eventually be part of a wiki, but I haven't sorted out a wiki yet.

Also, a week or so ago I found out about Librarything, which is an easy-to-use online book cataloguing system.

To this end, I've started an account for us there. The username is techipcom. I'm not going to tell you the password in this public post but might make a members-only post; the idea is that if you are in the UK and you would be willing to share your books, you add them to the catalogue. It's free for the first 200 books and the catalogue can be downloaded. I find it a bit US-centric, so some UK books will have to be added manually, but it's not bad for what it is.

I'm also thinking it would be good to have a little get-together sometime this winter. We could eat food and go out walking and talk about tech and gardens and land and so on; it would be a chance for those of us in the UK to get to know each other a little better and maybe get a better idea of what we want to do and when and how and with whom. We could do this in London, or as a day-trip to somewhere else. Who knows, if it goes well maybe we could make a regular thing of it, or go on overnight camping trips or something. Who else would be interested in doing this? It's likely there wouldn't be one date that could satisfy everyone, but it would still be worth having a meet up and then having another one on an alternate date if there are really so many people who can't come.

I'd also love to have a trip to the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales sometime, go see the Eden Project, or spend time with various of you doing work for the Opportunities On Organic Farms scheme. Partly due to time constraints, partly due to lack of organisation and partly due to geography, there are several of you I very rarely see. Due to my academic committments and teaching all day Sundays it is going to be very difficult for me to get out of London for more than one day at a time during term time, but perhaps when I've got a break coming up we could plan something. Any other ideas for UK-based destinations that would be appropriately shiny?

Apologies to non-UK readers for the very UK-centric nature of this post.
1:10 pm
[ewtikins]
Posted to wrong journal. Oops.
12:47 pm
[pfy]
Wind-up laptops
"Nicholas Negroponte, chairman and founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Labs, has been outlining designs for a sub-$100 PC.

The laptop will be tough and foldable in different ways, with a hand crank for when there is no power supply."

BBC News: Sub-$100 laptop design unveiled

I want one. No, actually, I want a whole heap of them.

Current Mood: shinytoy!
10:34 am
[ewtikins]
Well, crankles wants me to do a foraging post in urban_sustain, so I'm going to make an attempt. I wasn't actually a member of the community though, so I have to wait until she approves my membership before I can post there. This means you lot get subjected to my ramblings instead! Probably makes sense to post this here anyway. So there.

I live in London, UK and I don't drive. Since January of this year, I have foraged and eaten the following:
  • Jew's Ear fungus
  • Chickweed
  • Nettle tops (didn't like 'em much
  • horseradish (okay, I gave it to leunnammi and HE ate it)
  • wild rocket
  • dandelion leaves
  • fennel leaves
  • lime (that's linden, not citrus!) leaves
  • rose petals
  • elderflowers (yummy champagne!)
  • Saskatoon berries
  • Wild garlic (hardly counts if it is in my front garden, does it? but I didn't plant it...)
  • water mint
  • cherries
  • blueberries, raspberries (during a trip to Canada)
  • elderberries
  • apples
  • crabapples
  • parasol mushrooms
  • horse mushrooms (didn't eat these but probably will next time)
  • damsons or bullaces or plums or something, not sure of exact nomenclature but they were delicious!
  • sloes
  • hazelnuts (didn't eat many before they got mouldy, oops
  • blackberries (only a few, eaten off the bush)

Things I ate last year and intend to eat again this year are chestnuts, hawthorn berries, and rosehips. Things I'm going to try this year are rowan berries (in jelly, they're inedible raw), nettles for cloth, japonica quinces (both from my garden and the wild) and acorns (have to be leached first to get the tannins out). I'm rather sad about having missed the mulberries this year, ditto walnuts and hazels.

Things I identified but did not eat include horse mushrooms (mentioned above because by the end of this year I will probably have et them), wild asparagus, walnuts, goosegrass, ground elder, red valerian, borage, mugwort, ragwort, tansy, yarrow and hops.

I've probably missed a few other things, as well, but this gives you an idea of the scale of foraging I've been doing this year.

So, how did I get involved in all this foraging?

To be fair, I started young. In addition to eating raspberries from my grandparents' garden, I used to go up to Pike Lake and eat Saskatoon berries there - it was just something that we did, or rather that the kids were encouraged to do. Good fun. Picking Saskatoons didn't seem like foraging in the wild, to me, it was just a part of every summer. My father had crabapple trees in the back garden and we used to pick those, but they were definitely planted trees. When I was about eight my mum mentioned that you could eat rosehips, but we didn't do anything with them; I'm not sure where I learned about dandelions being edible but it's something I can remember knowing from when I was very young, even though I didn't often eat them. A few times I had the luck of picking wild blueberries when we visited family in Ontario. I've always had a vague notion that acorns can be edible but require a lot of preparation.

When I moved to England, this seasonal berry-picking shifted over to blackberries as there are so many of them here. I learned about a book called Food for Free but didn't get a copy until this year. My boyfriend's mother taught me about medlars (which I still don't like), and once I recognised plum trees and cherry trees they were pretty easy. zaniyah taught me chestnuts, and I found them in massive abundance in Greenwich Park. Rocket I learned by myself by stepping in some; fennel was fairly obvious as I knew what it looked like from the cultivated varieties, and it's hard to mistake the smell. I'm not sure who first pointed out sloes but it was pfy I was with when I found my first ones. I've been watching cabd's journal to see what he brings home, as he's a much more experienced forager than I am. I have a copy of Food for Free, I have a few other foraging books as well. I have three mushroom field guides, because mushrooms are quite dangerous to get wrong.

Mostly, I've learned this stuff from going for lots of walks and really paying attention to the plants. I usually end up reading foraging books when I'm inside, taking one or two along with me and double-checking them while I'm on a walk. In some ways it's easy; once you learn to identify chickweed, for example, you start seeing it everywhere. I don't much bother looking for Jew's Ear fungus if I'm not surrounded by elder trees, because it grows on old elder wood, whereas parasol mushrooms are found in open, grassy places. Going for walks with other people who know plants is a very good idea if you want to learn to identify plants. I also watch for plants whether or not they are in season, so I can remember to come back to that really nice hawthorn or the prolific rosebush that had so many green hips on it earlier. The most important thing is to get out walking and pay attention, though.

Don't think you have to get out into the countryside to forage. The majority of what I've gathered this year has come from parks and City Farms, ornamental trees, and so on. This means I have to be a little more careful about location of things relative to roads and so on, but I figure it's not likely to be much worse than the pesticides used in the countryside.

Tools:

It goes without saying that dressing for the weather is important when foraging. If you're going to be out all afternoon (not necessary, but fun!), check the forecast first. Always take water with you.

Comfortable, sturdy shoes are a must.

I usually take a map of some sort with me. I'm not terribly prone to getting lost and I'm usually in London when I forage, but it helps with knowing the names of where I'm looking, and it would be horrible to actually get lost.

Gloves and scissors are very helpful for prickly things like rosehips; I also wear long trousers most of the time so I can wade into clumps of nettles without getting stung.

I try to bring a variety of containers for the food I'll be collecting. Hard plastic containers work well for berries and soft fruit; baskets are best for mushrooms (I don't have a basket yet but I'm working on it), if I know there will be apples or chestnuts or acorns I take a cloth sack. I've found net laundry bags are pretty good for salad-y things like fennel leaves or rocket, if I can stop them getting squished. I also used net laundry bags for elderflowers this year.

I want a good field guide for edible plants and haven't yet found one; I think having one will increase my consumption of random little green leafy things.

I would also like a very good digital camera for taking photographs of things I'm not sure about, or indeed for compiling my own online guide to wild food available in the area.

I'm a long way from being able to forage an entire meal, partly because I don't include fish and animals in my foraging, and partly because I simply don't have enough knowledge yet. I do think the day will come when I might be able to make a thick chestnut and mushroom soup or stew with various greens, to be served with acorn-and-berry biscuits and followed by an apple pudding of some sort.
Monday, September 26th, 2005
4:33 pm
[ewtikins]
How does your garden grow?
I cut the first squash off the vine today and brought it inside. It weighs 1.6kg, which is a pretty good size for a squash. It isn't ripe yet, but the nights are drawing in and I didn't want frost to get it. I've left the others out there; when the next two get closer to eating size I'll bring one in and leave the other out, to see the difference in how they ripen.

The seeds for the squash cost me just over a pound, I think. I started them in small containers indoors and then planted them out in late June or early July (about as late as possible), with some more store-bought compost as the front garden is mostly rocks. The water used to water it was rainwater collected in the water butt. Total spend somewhere around two pounds, I guess. I've seen single butternut squashes sold for that much, and they were smaller than this one. Organic ones are even more. It looks like I might have another four or five squashes coming, and would have had even more if I'd not been so late with planting.

I really like butternut squash a lot, so I'm very happy to have grown these. I will definitely grow some more next year, and I'll be able to start earlier. I'd also like to grow pumpkins. In fact, it's getting to that time of year where I need to do garden planning and figure out what I want to grow and how to make it fit and what I need to do when.

Do you have a garden? What are you growing this year? If you don't have a garden, do you grow any plants indoors? What do you grow and why? If you had to choose only three edible plants to grow, which would you choose? Why?
4:00 pm
[ewtikins]
Some links:

This entry by megarandom talks about the temptation to just opt out of society as we currently know it. Again, this isn't something I want to do right now, but puts into perspective just how little one needs.

This entry by foolfaerie420 talks about sustainers and webs of community.

This article talks about food from acorns, cattails, and dandelions.

This thing looks like a sort of really big UPS connected to both the grid and solar (or wind or whatever) energy sources. Too bad it's Merkin, this looks like the sort of Serious Toy that could come in very handy on a technohippiecommune.
Wednesday, September 21st, 2005
1:47 pm
[ewtikins]
W00t! TechnoHippie came and said hi. I've pasted the comment below because it's on an entry from ages ago and unlikely that anyone would go and see the comment now:


You could register technohippie.org, .net, .info, .uk because I'm not
going to register any of those. TechnoHippie Software in FLA has wanted
my domain name since at least 2000. Not gonna happen. I've been posting
as TechnoHippie since April 1994 on Bellingham, Washington BBSs and
everywhere else, since.

I really like your site and community
concepts. I've even snagged a few of the resources posted in the blog.
Please take a moment to visit my site again (huge update/new look) and
feel free to post in my forum. I'll be re-publishing some pages about
the log house I built soon and I'd like more links to other people's
alternative housing/shelter {including homeless and nomadic}.

pax,
Judy DeNeal aka TechnoHippie
Email: webmaster(at)technohippie(dot)com
Homepage: http://www.technohippie.com
Forum: http://www.technohippie.com/cgi-bin/discus/discus.cgi
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