Friday, January 23, 2009

Towards saving energy in our home

Took a while, but I recently sifted through our gas amd electricity bills to ascertain our annual use of these utilities. I've put them in the table below:

Pardon my poor HTML skills.

Upon reading our bills I came across in small print how much CO2 we emitted in that year and also somewhat alarmingly how much nuclear waste we genereted!

I've had sick kids to look after recently so havent been very active.

I obtained weather data from my local weather station and used Open Office's Calc to figure out how many "day degrees" we experienced here in my home town. I shall publish that info as soon as I have it.

YearElectric (kWh)Gas (kWh)Gas (m3)
2005 (Oct-Dec)7974752477

Monday, January 19, 2009

How energy efficient is my home?

...and how to calculate it?

weekend was spent prettifying out tile stove room. Led to surifng to this page as I dreamt about log fires and even fireplaces with ovens built in. Sort of a winter version of the outdoor pizza oven The following post details my efforts to mathemtically ascertain how much energy we are using and how well insulated our hoiuse is. We have the feeling the place is a bit of a Swiss cheese.

So this page is worth a look and helps to analyse the energy loss in a building.

Last year we decided to insulate our cellar. We bought a load of 50mm thick polystyrene sheets and did the job. At the same time I moitored how much gas and electric we were using every day for a while. However I figured out that comparing last winter to this winter might be useless as it is much colder this year round. Enter the concept of degree days.

Using this info which I shall digest when there is more time (like there ever is) I hope to be able to figure out how efficient our building actually is.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Exciting New Oil Discovery in Middle East! Bush to invade at once!

Erm, well...not quite crude oil, rather olive oil.

We've heard that a Mediterranean Diet is supposed to reduce our LDL cholesterol levels but it may be possible that the oilve oil in supermarkets may be adulterated with hazelnut oil. Check this out. Recent surfing about has uncovered a scandal incolving corruption on a large scale involving these oils, and they may be able to get away with it given that there are no standards applied to olive oil like other foodstuffs. There exists a body named The International Oilve Oil Council but as yet I am unaware of how it operates.

Best still might be to buy fair trade olive oil. Given the current troubles in the Middle East, it may be great to purchase oil from these people

INEBG is on again!

One of my favourite TV series "It's Not Easy Being Green" has started up again. The Strawbridge family detail ways to live greener on their series. It is full of stuff on green living, recycling and growing veg.

The best tonight was watching them build a clay oven. I am engaged in a War of Attrition on the wife to build such a clay Adobe oven in our garden and am using all manner of threats and incentives including inviting the inlaws to a party with it, to get my devious way. According to the people on the web who've built one you can bake bread and make pizzas with them.

The chap who built it emailed me this morning and his website is here

Mary had a little lamb...

...and its fleece was white as snow...
...except where it peed all over the place!

Yesterday I took delivery of three "ster" of beech wood for our tile stove. It was delivered ona tractor trailer in front of the garege so I had to move sharp to gat it all stacked up in front of the east side of the house.

Today whilst paying for our firewood at a nearby Bauernhof or farmhouse, I heard a scuppering sound up the stairs. Thinking it was a dog my eyes took a double take and realised it was a lamb. A small firl carried it back downstairs and it ran around the hall. I noticed it had what looked like a bandage round its waist but the lady explained it was a nappy. The lamb was just threee days old and its mother had died, so they had to bottle feed it like a human baby. As it was a boy lamb it would pinkel all over the floor so thus the nappy was deployed. One of the stranger sights which make Bavarian rural life never dull.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Off grid through rotting fruit!

They're selling a small heater in our local supermarket which runs on bio-ethanol which might be fine in one of our living rooms with a nice flame. A Google brought up the following fascinating article about making your own fuel to power your own lawnmower which I found intriguing. When I lived out in Saudi around all the oil people distilling was a part time business (but not for me as I was a bit paranoid).

Friday, January 09, 2009

Found a free economics textbook online

I've found the economic meltdown for some reason fascinating since it brought up the name of one of the past masters of economics who has been a dirty word for too long - John Maynard Keynes - and resurrected him to his rightful place in current thinking. For decades since Thatcher and Reagan the thinking of Milton Friedman has dominated economics and his laissez faire approach relaxed approach to the markets has now been seen to have been a false philosophy.

I studied A level economics and was reasonably good at it, but chose the geography path instead. Hence my current resurgance of interest. was surfin' about recently when I came across this fine free ebook for those who may be interested.

For those who don't know the blogger of the moment is Robert Peston who always seems to have the scoop on what is happening in the British economy. I've added his link to the right.

Back on the Treadmill

The week stuttered and started into life. Little Boy started kindergarten and apart from a few tears the pretty young assistant teacher said he has been relatively easy in his first week, apart from me leaving him crying in the lady's arms which yesterday gave me a huge guilty conscience and sent me down for the whole day.

Life alone takes getting used to. Either you have loads of energy or you dopn't, especially if one of them kicks you awake in the night. Yesterday was such a day of low energy.

Today I attempted to get back to fitness with a return to the cross trainer and 25 good minutes on what I think is called interval training where the hill is climbed in short bursts. My heart rate went above 80 which was within my "training zone". Funnily enough I have discovered when you dream on the cross trainer you are in say a gym and there's a bronzed gorgeous tight boobed one next to you, your heart rate drops. Now why the hell is that so?

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

We Three Kings of Orient Are.. in a taxi one in a car.

January 6th is IIRC Twelfth Night and here in Germany called Drei K├Ânigen. What is especially nice about living in Germany is the respect they have for their traditions which we in Britain seem to have lost since corporations came to rule our lives.

I'd told my daughter the day before about thie tradition that three "kings" would come to the door and ask for alms. All day we waited - it was a Bavarian holiday (they're always on holiday here) and waited. As dusk fell it semed they weren'T going to come and my little girl began to cry as she was so eager to see this happen. Then ding dong went the doorbell and there appeared three kids in the freezing cold. They each recited a poem asnd asked for money for the church. Our local Catholic Church, in spite of what I've read in "Holy Blood Holy Grail" does quite a lot of good for charity and ours sends the money to Argentina. One of them had a blacked out face which (when time allows I'll research that and enter it here)symbolised one of the wise men.

After we'd given them money - we were so impressed that they stood out in the freezing temperatures that we gave a lot - they wrote on our door the following:

20 * C + M + B * 09.

This means 2009 split into two and the initial letters of the three kings (look up. Balthasar is one them.

Monday, January 05, 2009

My Son's big day today!

Today is a special day for us because my second baby starts kindergarden. For the last two or more years of my "Stay At Home Dadding" he's been my responsibility, always at my side 24 hours a day since his Mum went back to work. Childcare alone is a stressful undertaking, but childcare in a foreign culture as a man alone out here in a somewhat conservative society where it is expected that the women stays home and the man works is a difficult undertaking indeed. The other day we were walking in the mountains and my wife was pulling the kids' sledge. Some woman passed some comment that it was my job to do this but she replied that I was unwell. The mood I was in, I felt like saying to her "You women have thrown yourselves under horses to gain this freedom, now you have it you complain", but I meekly plodded on.

Unlike a job where you have a set task or even several set tasks which you must juggle and with an outcome to those tasks which may be success or failure i.e., they have a beginning and an end, good or bad, childcare is an amorphous entity. There si no boss to tell you what to do, and you are not the boss, rather circumstances and the situation that minute dictate what you need to do. All you can do is respond to your limited experience and draw upon your basic paternal instinct. There are no applauses in the background when you calm a sobbing child in your arms who's fallen over, nor are there admonishing fingers when exasperated with wills stronger than your own, you lose your cool and attempt to pull up that zip which they desperately want to do themselves with minutes ticking away for some doctor appointment or kindergarden bell.

In my home Welsh village there are poor wretched young girls who end up pregnant very early on in life with babies to look after alone. Although the fathers have long disappeared down the pub and dived into a glass, very often their misery is temporarily abbreviated by some grannie or aunt who helps out in a support network. Of course we had support here of the feminine kind, clothes and toys were appropriated from family, friends and flea markets and shops. But what I lacked here was a commonality with other men. There were few opportunities to gather with other blokes and simply drown the day's frustrations with a convivial laugh and a beer. The isolation here was at times rough to take, the only kindred spirits a few drunken clicks away online. The Oil Age, Information Age and globalisation have transformed the last century and engulfed us in a tsunamic wave of migrations and wanderings and left us a bit like Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat after The Flood, stuck on islands bereft of our familiar bearings and comforts. So it is in this context that I have undertook the fatherhood project here.

Was I any good? Hell, no. At times the pressure was so great I couldnt cope, and my inner man sought comfort retreating into the cave dreaming of other noble pursuits related to providing for my family through veg growing and cookery. I may not have been a model Dad, but my children grow up having had a start based upon good nutrition and health. How many places for the family does one see where the idea of a treat is a plate of greasy chips or tooth rotting sweets? All of these "family day out" places I call "Stink-of-chips" places where children receive crap food and start habits which set them up for a poor quality of life in my opinion.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Two hits and one miss

My determination to go veggie has brought us some surprises.

After walking yesterday round the lovely Hackensee (I call it Nackensee as it is the local nudist lake in summer) I cooked up basically chopped mushrooms in a roux cremy sauce over papardelle which was the bomb. All liked it.

Late evening I used up our parsnips in a parsnip and ginger soup recipe which was also delicious. This recipe came from the Vegetarian Society's wesbite recipe page. Another fascinating new taste for our somewhat jaded palette.

This evening however after walking to the wonderful Schwarzentennalm we ate Egyptian mujadarra as I outline a few days ago in another post. Full of Bulgur wheat and lentils but nope it didn't "relight the fire" as Take That might sing.