Random thoughts and ideas about general annoyances and little ways in which the world could be made better
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Since posting my previous articles about the problems caused by plastics, I have been noticing just how much we totally rely on plastics these days. Just take a look at any supermarket aisle. Toiletries, household cleaning products, foods, gardening supplies… It is difficult to find a product that is not packaged in plastic. And when you really think about how… Continue Reading→ The post Plastics Revisited appeared first on Thoughts of...
Since posting my previous articles about the problems caused by plastics, I have been noticing just how much we totally rely on plastics these days. Just take a look at any supermarket aisle. Toiletries, household cleaning products, foods, gardening supplies… It is difficult to find a product that is not packaged in plastic. And when you really think about how many of these products are sold every single day, it is truly frightening.
And it isn’t just the obvious bottles and cases. Once you start to look closely you notice all the little tags, clips, films and bands used to hold and display your products.
Every plastic item that is carelessly discarded will be around for a very long time. It could end up anywhere – amongst the soil in a field, floating in a lake, or drifting in the ocean. In any of these environments it could damage, ensnare or be inadvertently consumed by a grazing animal, or a bird, or a fish. Most of us would be horrified by the thought of this happening, but so easily it is out of sight, out of mind.
There are many simple little changes that we can all make to reduce our personal use. For a few ideas see Some Easy Little Ways to Reduce Your Use of Plastic. And of course we should all make every effort to ensure that we recycle or reuse whenever possible.
As I have been finding out, even if you actively try to avoid using plastic it is simply not possible to do so. Take today, for example. I flew abroad on holiday. The coffee I was served on the flight came in a typical takeaway cup which, as many people don’t realise, contains plastic. I was given a wooden stirrer – in another plastic cup. The sandwich was wrapped in plastic film, as was the dessert.
In my hotel room the complementary toiletries, drinking glass and welcome chocolate – all wrapped in plastic. Then there were the bin liners, the laundry bag, the strip informing me that the toilet seat had been disinfected….. As I said, it’s frightening.
There is no doubt that plastic is incredibly useful. It is strong, lightweight, malleable, long-lasting and can be used for an infinite number of purposes. But it must have been obvious a long, long time ago that these very properties would cause a huge problem in the future. It seems that, as usual, it is only when the very obvious problem becomes a crisis, and a great deal of damage has already been done, that the problem is seriously considered on a large scale.
The efforts that we can each make individually are all immensely valuable. But what is really needed is ways to deal with the plastics already in the environment, and the development of alternative products that are readily recycled or biodegraded. Developing these is costly and time consuming. I am sure that many companies are working on these issues right now, and that solutions are being developed.
If only these solutions had been developed earlier, in tandem with the development of the overwhelming multitude of plastic products we now rely on so completely. Perhaps then the current ecological crisis would have been avoided.
Risky behaviours of cyclists that endanger themselves and others The post Cyclists Taking Unnecessary Risks appeared first on Thoughts of Dawn.
After a recent post on the unnecessary risks people take in everyday life, I have been noticing how many risks cyclists take.
I am a regular cyclist myself, and know how vulnerable cyclists are. But many cyclists seem completely oblivious, not only to how easily they could be seriously hurt, but also to how much damage they could do to pedestrians, children or pets, who may not be aware of their approach.
Here are a few typical examples of behaviours that I see all too often. Leave a comment if you agree or know of others!
- Ignoring red lights. I have already had a good moan about this one (see Cyclists – Red Lights Apply to You Too!). The rules of the road are there to protect our safety and apply to everyone.
- Cycling the wrong way down one-way streets. Cyclists – you cannot blame motorists or pedestrians for pulling/stepping out in front of you – they will not be expecting you to be coming!
- Cycling without lights at night. It may be well-lit in a city centre, but drivers easily get dazzled by other headlights, especially when the roads are wet. It is amazing how many cyclists not only don’t have lights, but are also wearing dark clothing. Sometimes drivers don’t see you until the very last minute.
- Cycling down pedestrian shopping streets. Even if it is actually a road and you are within your rights to cycle, surely common sense tells you that it is more sensible to get off and walk. Pedestrians can change course very suddenly or stumble, especially when you appear suddenly and make them jump! It just isn’t worth the risk of hurting yourself or someone else just to save a couple of minutes.
- Phoning or texting while cycling. For heaven’s sake……
- Cycling with a dog on a lead. So unfair on the dog….. And dangerous for both parties.
No doubt many of the cyclists carrying out these behaviours would be very quick to blame someone or something else if they had an accident. But we should all take responsibility for our own safety. And remember that other people have as much right to be there as we do.
(For a huge selection of lights and reflective clothing at great prices see Wiggle Online Cycling Shop).
Update on the seeds sown a couple of weeks ago, which are now germinating The post Seeds Germinating!!! appeared first on Thoughts of Dawn.
Well, the seeds I set a couple of weeks ago (see First Seeds of the Year Sown) are popping up and raring to go! I now have vigorous little seedlings all over the place. So exciting!
I sowed the seeds in a propagator with a plastic top to keep them warm (see previous post), and kept them in the airing cupboard until they were big enough to handle. I have now re-potted the best ones into small individual pots.
Of course I will re-use the germinator, pots and labels many times to keep plastics use to a minimum. At least I will be cutting down on a few food miles!
So far I have
- 4 tomatoes – variety Aperto
- 4 tomatoes – variety Sungold
- 4 chillies – variety Ring of Fire
- 3 chillies – variety Indian Firecracker
- 3 sweet peppers – variety Kaibi Round
- 4 aubergines – variety Baby Belle
All of these varieties stated on the pack that they could be sown in January, so I just hope that there will be enough light for them, and they will not become too leggy. I found this to be a bit of a problem last year. They are distributed around various window ledges, but unfortunately we don’t have any south facing windows in the house.
I will keep posting updates to let you know how they get on.
If you are also new to growing it would be great to hear your experiences too.
And of course any advice from more experienced growers would be very much appreciated!
A lighthearted look at the unnecessary risks people take in everyday life The post Taking Unnecessary Risks appeared first on Thoughts of Dawn.
People do take unnecessary risks. You see it all the time when you watch people in busy city centres.
I saw a prime example the other day while driving through town. A smartly-dressed business man walking quickly down a busy street while texting on his phone. He was so obviously completely oblivious to his surroundings. So oblivious that he walked straight into a lamppost.
I have to admit it was hilarious – like something out of a slapstick comedy. I laughed so much that I nearly had an accident myself. But then I did feel quite bad because he clearly hurt himself – I heard the impact of the collision inside my car. And goodness knows what damage he did to his phone…..
It got me thinking about how people are so casual about their own safety, and that of their possessions. How often do you see people on their phones who are completely oblivious? Streets are full of hazards – not just lampposts but kerbs, potholes, traffic, dropped litter (like the proverbial banana skin), cyclists going the wrong way up one-way streets……
And then there are headphones. We have highly evolved sense organs for a reason – to make us aware of what is going on around us so we can avoid dangers. And yet joggers and cyclists so often blast loud music into their ears and deprive themselves of the highly valuable sense of hearing. It makes so much more sense to be able to hear traffic coming up behind or warnings from other pedestrians or road-users.
Similarly with those selfish people who have thumping music blaring so loudly in their cars that they annoy everybody else in the street. How can they possibly concentrate on driving?
And what about our possessions. How many people do you see with their phone sticking halfway out of their jeans pocket in full view. Why is this? Do people just want to show off what a flashy phone they have?
Not only could the phone easily fall out of the pocket and be broken, or land in a puddle or, worse, a loo, but it could so easily be leaned on or sat on. And what a temptation for pickpockets and muggers – no wonder so many phones are stolen.
Our phones are so valuable to us, for the personal and irreplaceable data they contain as much as the actual value of replacing the phone. So surely they are worth taking care of.
It seems that when things do go wrong, as they often do, people are very quick to blame someone else. Hence the multitude of litigation claims you hear about these days. But surely it is best if we all take more responsibility for our own personal safety, and prevent mishaps from occurring in the first place.
The first seeds of the year have now been sown! The post First Seeds of the Year Sown! appeared first on Thoughts of Dawn.
Earlier this week I got round to sowing my first seeds of the year!
A mixture of chilli peppers, sweet peppers, tomatoes, aubergines, and with a mind to photography, a few showy flowers. These are now scattered around various windowsills, above radiators, and on shelves in the airing cupboard. I will be checking them every day for signs of germination!
I am hoping to have learned from mistakes made last year (see The Trials and Tribulations of a First Time Vegetable Grower). This year I want to grow less in quantity, but hopefully improve on quality.
One thing I did learn last year was just how satisfying growing your own food can be. There is something great about thinking “I need some salad leaves and tomatoes tonight”, and being able to stroll down to the greenhouse and pick them.
Even if, taking into consideration all the washing and preparation, it is far more time consuming than buying them prepacked from the local store. And considering all the supplies needed for growing, far more expensive too (though the costs may be much less if you are growing in the ground rather than in containers).
Another good result was that I became more interested in cooking techniques. After all, I needed some way to use up all those courgettes, spring onions, chillies, pak choi, etc., etc. Cooking has never been one of my strong points, but I have now learned how to do some simple but really good pasta dishes and stir fries, using whatever happens to be ready at the time. And they are healthy dishes too.
I will be sowing and growing more throughout the season, and will post regular progress reports (or lack thereof). So if you are interested to see what works, and what doesn’t, watch this space.
If you are also growing food as a beginner, it would be great to hear about your experiences too. And of course if you are an experienced grower we would love to hear your tips and advice!
Lessons learned from a first attempt at growing fruit and vegetables The post The Trials and Tribulations of a First Time Vegetable Grower appeared first on Thoughts of Dawn.
A couple of years ago I decided to have a go at growing a few fruit plants and vegetables in containers, mainly from seed. I thought it would be an interesting hobby, reduce food miles and be healthy and satisfying.
I even thought it might save some money. Ha ha – how wrong that turned out to be! My vague interest quickly turned into a full blown obsession, and I dread to think how much I spent on pots, compost, growbags, water butts, tools, plants and seeds, a VegTrug……and eventually a greenhouse.
I did have a lot of fun, though. As a complete beginner I made many mistakes, but also learned a lot.
Among the biggest mistakes were:
- Starting too early – the seeds germinated fine, but we don’t have any south-facing window ledges, and many seedlings just became leggy due to insufficient light.
- Watering too much – many seedlings and young plants rotted – I was just trying too hard.
- Setting things too densely. It is hard to leave sufficient room between seedlings when you have a limited number of smallish pots. I find ‘thinning out’ hard – it seems such a shame to pull out seedlings that have successfully germinated. It is also difficult to visualise just how much a tiny seedling will grow.
- Trying to do too much. I wanted to know how every vegetable imaginable would grow, and ended up with far more plants than I could actually manage.
- Underestimating how much watering would be needed in the height of summer. Some hot days I spent literally hours watering, and I was worried about being away from home in case the plants wilted. A Hozelock system is definitely on the cards for this year.
But I did have some successes. The chilli plants did really well, and in addition to using them fresh I was able to dry and freeze enough to last the entire winter (Walt, my partner, absolutely loves chillies. I have to be a bit more cautious – homegrown ones are seriously hot!)
The blueberry bush was satisfyingly productive, and I was amazed how successful the broccoli plants were (until the caterpillars arrived and destroyed the crop).
And I was surprised and pleased to succeed in growing some lovely little Baby Belle aubergines, which were great in pasta dishes and stir fries (and very attractive plants).
I grew several varieties of tomatoes in pots and a growhouse (see photo of greenhouse above). Despite doing nearly everything wrong I had a surprisingly good crop (and they tasted great). I did make the mistake of growing too many bush varieties that produce their crop all at once, so for a few weeks we were completely overwhelmed. We used loads in homemade pasta dishes, soup, salads and sandwiches, but still had to give a lot away.
Lettuces and salad leaves were also very successful – we didn’t have to buy any bags of leaves for months. And we got a few decent carrots.
A few other things did grow really well, but I decided they were just too much effort for too little return. Like beetroot, for example. Plenty grew, but they were tiny and such a lot of effort to cook and prepare. And I actually prefer the ones I buy in a jar for less than a pound from M&S.
I managed to grow a couple of cauliflowers, but these turned out to be huge plants which produced tiny loose heads. This was probably down to my lack of expertise, but again it was just not worth the space and effort for me.
So now it is time to plan this year’s efforts, and start sowing seeds. After learning from last year’s excesses, I will be more selective with what I grow, and will hopefully have learned from previous mistakes.
I will let you know how I get on. And any tips from more experienced growers would be more than welcome………
The post The Trials and Tribulations of a First Time Vegetable Grower appeared first on Thoughts of Dawn.
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