Life in Crouch End, bikes, trying to be green and other randomness

Archive for sustainability

Staying alive at Glastonbury

Not me – my phone. Despite falling in the mud, my  four year old nokia 8310 clung on to dear life despite some wonky text messages from the bits of Worthy Farm that I couldn’t quite get out of the keypad straight away. Better still, the battery is still reliable if given a full charge after being completely drained. It lasted 4 days of heavy texting (“we are at the pyramid stage etc”) – and I topped it up with the Freeloader that had collected about 7 days of solar trickle charge, enough to give a half charge. It may have even been enough for the entire rest of the festival had we not got stuck in one of the car parks for 12 hours whilst everyone ahead of us was towed off site by tractors.


Green N8

It’s taken me a year to find this site – but here it is. It certainly didn’t come up when i searched for Green and Crouch End in google. Instead i found it because of an article on Parkland Walk in the local paper. Green N8 seems to be a forum for local green discussion – it is hard to tell how many people use it as most of the discussion board postings date from the last week or two.

Solar Power

Recently I’ve been experimenting with 3 different bits of Solar Kit. Solar power seems to have become very affordable very quickly over the last few years ….this has led to some really interesting items.

Firstly, some LED fairy lights designed to be used outside that have a solar charged battery attached to them. They are similar to the types of solar garden lights that have been around for some time. They charge up during the day, and then when the light falls to a low enough level this switches the circuit to turn the lights on. LED lights are very low powered, and only an hour of decent sun gave these a decent display in the twilight. I have the cord wrapped around a tree branch in the garden – and the effect is lovely. I got these off ebay, shipped from China, they are very impressive, and should have a decent lifespan.

The second is the “Freeloader” – as advertised in the Guardian Readers Offers, which is where I got mine. July is the peak month in the UK for solar radiation, so it is getting near the the optimum time for solar devices. The Freeloader works on the basis that a pair of panels trickle charge a lithium battery, which can then be discharged into another device- in my case my trusty Nokia 8310. Because i’m not sure how waterproof the freeloader is -(and it doesn’t look very) I’ve not been tempted to leave it outside over night or get up at dawn to set it up. Instead, the best two runs have come these last 2 weekends when I’ve remembered to put it outside the back door at midday, for half a day’s charge. The results are ok, half a day gives between 6-10 minutes of phone charge, depending on whether partial shade obscured the device or not. That’s enough to have kept the phone on 3/4 power all day today – with little use. It remains to be seen if there is any practical benefit of using it at one of the summer festivals.

Thirdly, there is a solar battery charger from Maplin that charges a number of different “A” size batteries. I had this in a window during the winter and it did a decent job or topping up the AAA batteries for my bike lights – but seems much less good at the AAs i have. This isn’t helped by the different capacities of the batteries I have, but the AAA’s are all the same type of high capacity battery so that’s no excuse really!

May Harvest

It’s June, and all of a sudden the weather has gone from almost wintery, to distinctly summery. About time too. What’s more the increased day length and fall of solar radiation means that everything is suddenly growing at a rate of knots – keeping everything under control is a challenge.

Now that things are coming on apace i thought I’d summarize what I managed to harvest during May – not very much as most of the things I am growing either become fully mature in July/August, or I gave away the plants that had made the best progress as presents……

Still – we managed

20 radish (French breakfast)
4 rather mangy “January King” cabbages that didn’t really form heads.
2 bowls mixed salad leafs
3/4 swiss chard leaves
1 Artichoke Globe head


Progress in the garden

Over the Easter weekend i strung together a wrecking crew of guys and we took my old rotten shed down – this solved the dangerous rickety shed problem – but also created a large pile of wood……

Hapilly, I have some room where I did have some empty beds, dying to have some raised vegetable beds put in. I’m experimenting with companion planting this year, and as you can see from the photo I’ve managed to put some of this into action already – the geraniums either side of the wooden ends of the bed are intended to catch attract hover flies that feed on aphids. The tomatoes are deliberately at the back to be shielded by the peppers in front which prefer the full sun. There some garlic there too which deters pests, and going in there later will be some basil, parsley, carrots and lovage – all beneficial.

Tetra Pak recycling

A recent recycling article in the weekend papers suggested that only Fife council recycles tetra paks. This isn’t strictly true – although it may be the only council that collects – many, including some in London have provided recycling facilities. This may only mean a collection bin in the car park at Sainsbury’s (like nearly all in London) – but that’s a start – plus it seems that if you want to you can post your tetra-paks off to be recycled – details are on this website…..

People Tree sale – cheap fairtrade and organic shirts

Arrived in the post, following hot on the heels of my recycled shoes were the shirts that i’d ordered from People Tree‘s sale. I bought a t-shirt and a pinstripe shirt, all at bargainous prices. I like People Tree’s clothes, as their cotton is such good quality that it feels like silk. I’ve been buying clothes from them for about 3 years now – although i can’t remember when I bought something full price from them. They tend to have good sales several times a year, and they sell ex display pieces of clothing from their offices off Curtain Road or more recently from the space under the Truman Brewery off brick lane.