30 September 2012

Dark Mullein - Verbascum nigrum

Date Photographed: 17/06/2012
Location: Near Warminster
Resources: http://www.brc.ac.uk/plantatlas/index.php?q=plant/verbascum-nigrum

28 September 2012

Hellebores - A short study

Some hellebores are really nothing to look at, especially as most flowers hang facing the soil - to the point that if they were in a border with other plants, you may well miss them as just a bit of foliage. But alone, as in the photographs above, they are allowed to shine.

An interesting feature are the nectaries, which are the true petals on the plant and have evolved into tube-like structures to hold nectar for their pollinators. These can be seen between the stamen and the sepals, which take over the petal's duty of being the 'showy' part of the plant.

There are so many variations of colour and designs of hellebore flowers. A chocolate variety can be seen to the left.


A lovely pale green hellebore. The sepals of hellebores can remain on the plant well after the sexual parts of the flower have finished their job. They turn themselves to photosynthesis, possibly contributing to the development of the seeds. The plant to the left shows the different stages. The flower, low centre, shows the sexual parts remaining. Above that flower and to the left shows the beginnings of the seed cases, post-fertilisation.





The bulging seed cases, showing that it's been a good year for the hellebores.

The robust seeds of the hellebore. Apparently difficult to get going and even after 8 weeks in a fridge can take up to 18 months to fully germinate.

27 September 2012

Common spotted-orchid - Dactylorhiza fuchsii

Date Photgraphed: 17/06/2012
Location: Near Warminster
Resources: http://www.plantlife.org.uk/wild_plants/plant_species/common_spotted-orchid/
Notes: This was one of the first English orchids I have ever seen. It was amazing to see such revered plants just sitting there; growing in the wild and un-harassed.
2013 Update: The photos below show the spots on the leaves, which unlike Heath spotted-orchid are not round.

Date Photographed: 23/06/2013
Location: Nr. Westbrook Road, Wiltshire

26 September 2012

The Rose that Grew from Concrete


Did you hear about the rose that grew
from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature's law is wrong it
learned to walk with out having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping it's dreams,
it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete
when no one else ever cared.

Tupac Shakur

25 September 2012

Saving water

As part of our assessment of our life, possessions (whether we possess them or they possess us!), and resources, we decided to consider how we could use less water.

We already have a 100 litre waterbutt which has eliminated our need to use tap water to water the plants. This was very handy this year as we planted two Apple trees, so we needed to water them deeply so that the trees could settle in and follow the water downwards and ensure their own survival next year.

We have a dual flush toilet and use the short flush option where possible. I also added in a .5 litre bottle of water into the cistern when we installed the toilet to ensure that even less water is used.

Tap Aerator
Where we seem to fall short and use too much water is the kitchen tap (unfortunately a new tap would be required to sort this) and the bathroom tap, where we could install a tap insert that aerates the water flow. This means that when we're washing our hands or brushing our teeth the water flow will be restricted to ensure that we don't waste water. We already turn the tap off when brushing teeth, but hopefully this will help us out even more.

I found that you can potentially get this gadget for free, along with lots of over great water saving devices, depending on your water supplier. Simply go to the following website:

Choose your supplier and choose the items you require for your free water saving packs. You can include things like the tap inserts, shower head aerators, 4 minute shower sand timers, tooth brushing timers for kids, leaflets so you can do a water audit in your home, save-a-flush bags, and much more!



There is an option to choose Veolia Water, who seem to not require you to be a customer to order a FlowPoint Showerhead along with some of the aforementioned items. Which really is amazing.





Hopefully this is a positive step for us and particularly me in my beginnings as some sort of minimalist. And more importantly, for the environment.

Happy saving!

24 September 2012

99 Days

As of the Sunday just gone, there were 99 days until 2013. Scary stuff, eh!? Probably getting close to the time we should be worrying about Christmas and what not. Pop on the heating and sit in front of the TV for the upcoming Autumn series.

Or.

Or we could end the year on a high. We could think about something we want to do. Perhaps something we've been putting off. Perhaps something brand new that's just popping into you head. It could be a really exciting time.

Here are some ideas:

You could be designing your garden with a view to getting a much of the preparation done so that the job can be completed early next year.

Or perhaps a room in your house that it ready for redecorating or that you're wanting to put to a different use.

You could be thinking - wait a minute, when I only pay the amount of mortgage that the bank wants me to pay; it's like paying the minimum amount each month of a credit card - I'm paying off lots of interest, but not so much of the real amount. So, you may then make a financial plan of how to overpay your mortgage (bearing in mind any overpayment caps or early repayment fees), ensuring that you pay as little interest as possible, meaning that you keep your money instead of lining some banker's pocket. As a rough guide, ever £1 you over pay could be around £1.50 off your mortgage!

Maybe you want to spring clean before spring is here! This may include a bit of decluttering here or there, or you could aim big and give each room 1 week. In that week spare time will be given to giving that room a real deep cleanse and declutter. The decluttering will help cut down the amount of cleaning you have to do! More importantly there could be money in that stuff you're hoarding - get online to see if it's worth something to someone on ebay or Amazon!!

Maybe you want to get out and about in nature and document the changing seasons. This could be in photos, words, or even in your memory.


Our plan is this. We spent some time the other week walking from room to room, including the garden and garage, listing every job that we could think of that needed doing. Some where aesthetic like completing the replacement of light switches and electrical sockets to update them to a nicer (post 1970s) design. Others are more important, like sorting out the pointing in the loft that was mentioned in the survey.
We made a spreadsheet (oh boy, do we love our spreadsheets), listing Room, Task, Importance, Urgency, Cost, Outcome, Resources. It's been working like a dream and because we were both involved and both know what each other see needs doing in and around the house, we're actually getting on with them. We've decided that the tasks that have no cost to them - because we've already got the materials, for instance, are all going to be completed by 2013. Leaving us with a less overwhelming task list and hopefully a sense of achievement.


As an old friend of mine often frequently said "Go big, or go home" :)

Whatever you do or don't do. Have fun.

23 September 2012

The young hoarder

I remember that I first started decluttering well before I was a teenager. Before the round of applause; I'm sure that most of you have realised what it took me a long time to understand. To be able to declutter at such a young age - I must have been hoarding before that.

It's obvious now I look back. You can't declutter what you don't have.

My decluttering has always been most successful if I start when I'm supposed to be asleep! It gets on my mind. Oh, this can go. Erm, do I really need that? I remember often my Mum would come into my room when I was supposed to be asleep and ask me what I was doing. I was tidying up, I didn't know it had any other name at that point.

A lot of my childhood was spent riding my bike. You can't be playing with the stuff you own if you're on a bike ride. And yet - I had a lot of stuff! It just seems to be the way of our 'civilised' world. I recall often putting my collections of magazines in a circle around me and just reveling in the wonderful feeling it gave me. I think this feeling was some sense of security. But the better sense of security were those evenings when I felt secure enough to get rid of some of my stuff. Somewhere deep inside I realised that I didn't need this stuff to live. This stuff didn't make the person I was.

Cycling around my neighbourhood and exploring were the real things helping to form me. Finding a vast open space with ponds, which I later found out was called Ashby Ville, which I'd often cycle to and enjoy spending time with nature was very exciting and life affirming to me. I spent a lot of time there over the years, on my own and with friends.

It's the nature, the wildlife, the outdoors, the adventure and exploring that - for me - help to form us, affirm us, relax us; and when we're ready, to heal us.

So I hope that you can all feel secure in the knowledge that you have enough - and more importantly - that you are enough.

All the best, Tim

21 September 2012

20 September 2012

Don't be a conned-sumer

Ha, you see what I did there. Consumer - Conned-sumer. Well a conned-sumer is what I feel I've been for the past couple of decades.

Made to feel that I need certain objects to be able to live my life. I remember feeling great as a teenager because I'd saved up paper round money and Birthday money to buy me a good old Playstation. The only problem was that after I'd bought it, I quickly found it quite boring. It was fun when I used to play on one at a friends house, most probably because after half an hour I'd be away from it again. My favorite game on the Playstation was a demo of Destruction Derby. I enjoyed the demo so much that I eventually went out and bought the game. I did enjoy the game, but frequently went back to the demo. It was my favorite track and it loaded pretty much instantaneously, unlike the real game which had to load saved data and what not!
I eventually sold it to my girlfriend at the time. And I never missed it.

More recently I've been conning myself into buying things. I love to read books. The only thing I didn't realise was that owning books and reading books are very different things. When you own a book you have to store it before and after reading. Then you have the responsibility to consider reading it again in the near future. Not that I did consider that in the first few years. It all started when I moved to Wiltshire to move in with my lovely girlfriend Loopy. I became a book collector.

As you all know, I'm into nature. So I started buying these little Collins Nature Guides. I eventually had a few of them and because the designs were the same, I then bought more! I eventually drew the line at buying the Nature Guide for Dinosaurs, as there's no way of knowing the colour of them and the details are most likely to change over time. This year I even had time to start using some of these guides (that's right, they'd been sat there, looking pretty, but unused for 4 years) and they're actually pretty rubbish! Apart from the Wild Flower book, which complements my other book as it quite simply separates the plants into flower colour. Luckily they weren't too expensive and the Wild Flower book has probably given enough value this year to make the whole collection worthwhile.

Another collection I started was Wordsworth Classic Editions. They were always on offer and again looked great because they had the same designs. Before I'd even read 1 of the 3 I'd buy each time, I'd be buying 3 more! Stupid, eh!? YUP. I caught myself quite quickly and stopped buying and used the time to read them instead. They're a great set of books. But and there is an important but; they're free as ebooks! In fact the Kobo I recently bought came with 100 free classic books and most of my physical collection are on it!
I won't be selling these any time soon though as they do look fab in the dresser that we were recently given by my parents and I do like the added benefit over the ebook version - the cool illustrations :)

So, yes. I have very much been a conned-sumer. However, in the past two weeks I've sold books and DVDs and CDs that bought in £40. The pessimist in me says that I must have originally spent over £100 to buy all this stuff. But at the end of the day I did use all of these things, it's just that they hold no value for me anymore, so a £40 financial return in addition to the enjoyment I'd had out of them was a good overall return.

Are there any of you that have been like me? Am I the only conned-sumer out there?

18 September 2012

Photographs

I really enjoy taking photographs. I enjoy the challenge of macro especially; getting as close to my subject as possible while attempting to reduce my shakiness so that the image comes out clear. I have a very basic method of checking this. Take a photo and immediately zoom as far as the camera software allows to ensure the image is crisp. If not, try to take another before the insect, bird or mammal makes its get away!

The Bank Vole is an example of my good luck.
However, there a some moments that need to be savoured through being in the fullness of the experience, letting go and allowing the only photograph be the one you hold inside as a woderful memory. I thought this a year or so ago when my lovely girlfriend and I went to the Bristol Balloon Festival. Lucy spent a lot of time taking photographs of the balloons lighting up to the music, but after around 20 minutes I really wanted her to sit back and enjoy the show with me. Which, luckily, she did. However she did, as we all would, lapse a couple of times to get a few extra shots.

I've been lucky enough, that without any experience and without purposely trying, to get some photographs of small mammals and birds this past year. Each time, I've tried to make myself stop taking photos after I know I've got one that's good enough for the blog. Then I've stood there and enjoyed the moment, realising how lucky I am to have this moment.

I think it makes sense to take fewer photos when possible for a few reasons:
1) You get to spend more time with the people / nature you're with. Experiencing the moment rather than hiding behind a camera. This especially makes sense, as I frequently find, when I can't get a good photo (on macro) because I'm too shaky or the light level is too low!
2) You save time and energy because you have fewer photos to go back through. I know some people that rarely go back through their photos because they don't have the time. These photos are then rarely, if ever, looked at again. If they're not important enough to look at, then perhaps they weren't important enough to take?
3) You'll never get this moment back again. Sometimes it's just better to leave the camera and enjoy it. While I know it's nice to take photographs of the sunset, most sunset photos look so similar that I wonder what the point is. Maybe it's better to take the hand of the person you're with, or make connection in some other way, and enjoy the solitude together. Or if you're on your own, just enjoy the moment; realising that this moment is the richness in your life.
4) It cuts down on the 'invisible' digital hoard that we're all generating with our endless photos, documents, etc.

I'm as much a culprit as anyone else. If anything, this post was a reminder to myself that I need to be more mindful of moments. But if it helped anyone else, then that's great.

Take care, Tim

14 September 2012

Swallow-tailed Moth - Ourapteryx sambucaria

Date Photographed: 19/07/2012
Location: Tower Road, Melksham
Resources: http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?bf=1922

13 September 2012

09 September 2012

Time to edit your life?

I'm probably late coming to this, as I normally am for everything. But it seems that editing your life is the 'in thing' at the moment. It's something that we've been doing at our house over the past couple of years without knowing it was something that others had classified as a 'thing'.

Editing, especially in video production, is seen as eliminating unwanted material. So a big part of this can be seen as decluttering.

Decluttering is the fantastic process of taking a good look at everything that you own and understanding if it is serving you or if you are serving it. Examples of you serving it can include feelings of guilt that you have it, but aren't using it - often the case with people that own 10s or 100s of books or DVDs. It can also include thoughts that you have to keep items because they were gifted to you or left to you in a will, but that they aren't things that you want - they may even be things that you don't even like.

Information is a fantastic opportunity to declutter and edit. Check all of your documents, do you need the physical copies or can they be scanned and stored electronically? What about all of those manuals, is there a PDF version available online? I recently found that for my entire working life I'd kept documents that advised me of my tax code for the coming year. This was just an informational document and didn't need saving after the first pay slip, which would confirm that I was on the correct code - yet I had them all the way back to 2003! They were put in the rubbish pile immediately!

Editing it also includes some ongoing decisions about what you will allow into your life and the things that you will consume.

This can include media such as the internet, consumption of television and music. More specifically you may want to edit the level of 'news' intake that you consume. I recently ran an internet search on my name and my email address and unsubscribed or deleted all of the accounts shown on the results that I don't use. I was amazed that there were so many that I didn't even remember!

Commitments from work, family, online communities, hobbies, volunteering, and religion also need to be considered to ensure that you are happy with the level of commitment and that you're getting as much out of the activity as possible. There's no use on continuing with a commitment that you don't even, but that can be dropped. This is often a hobby that we've defined ourselves by, for instance dancing or martial arts, but that no longer brings us the challenge or joy that it used to.

When you've reached the stage that you've really edited the different aspects of your life; the things you own and the things you do. You are in a great situation, one that will hopefully allow you to feel much freer and allow you to get on with the things that you enjoy. It is now also possible for you to start organising things. Mainly this can include the physical things you own. Like book or DVD storage. Stationary storage. Clothes storage. For your home documents, home files are brilliant. But make sure that you're only organising the things that you need. Don't waste time and money buying things to organise things that you don't need!

I'm really glad that I wrote this post. I hope that it was worth reading.