09 October 2012

Fall, Leaves, Fall

Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away;
Lengthen night and shorten day;
Every leaf speaks bliss to me,
Fluttering from the autumn tree.
I shall smile when wreaths of snow
Blossom where the rose should grow;
I shall sing when night's decay
Ushers in a drearier day.

Emily Bronte

Hedge Bindweed - Calystegia sepium

Date Photographed: 01/07/2012
Location: King George V Park, Melksham
Resources: http://apps.rhs.org.uk/advicesearch/profile.aspx?pid=241

Green Shield Bug - Palomena prasina

Date Photographed: 19/06/2012
Location: Tower Road, Melksham
Resources: http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/wildlifegarden/atoz/g/greenshieldbug.aspx

06 October 2012

Minimalism or the journey of the personal choice

I asked my girlfriend, Lucy, the other day what she would say minimalism is if given the following three choices: More than enough, Enough, Less than enough.

She said she'd put it at less than enough. As Lucy isn't in to minimalism, she's only seen and heard what the general public are given the chance to see and hear about minimalism. She also thought that minimalists are very good at hiding their things, which was due to a 'minimalist' couple building a house on Grand Designs recently. The house wasn't minimalist and neither were they - but that's just my opinion.

Which brings me to my point. Minimalism is a personal choice, which can lead to a rewarding journey. Unfortunately we hear too much about people living with only 100 things. While being, in my opinion, unfeasible for any real length of time for most of us - is generally just untrue. It's all about perception and depth. Anyone with a laptop is already living with well over 100 things. Every hardware component and software application is a thing - but these aren't counted. Some don't even count accessories, for instance a USB mouse for that laptop, is just part of 'laptop', so it the laptop bag that stores it.

I feel that while having an aim of 100 things can be useful, it's more important to do things at a slow pace. Lucy and myself have been decluttering for a few years now. Each time we come back to a room or set of items, we realise that there are more things that we feel able and ready to let go. I really enjoy this process. I enjoy not rushing it. The adventure is in the journey and I find that learning about myself in relation to objects is worthwhile. I find that while I am happy to get rid of most things in our home, there are lots of things that really look good where we've placed them. So while we don't need to get rid of them, they'll stay - because they brighten up our day and help to make our home feel homely and cosy and it allows us to put our print on the house.

Here's a cool little video that points out some of the unfortunate things that people may think minimalism is, but isn't - apart from a few extremists. Enjoy:

04 October 2012

Tutsan - Hypericum androsaemum

Date Photographed: 07/07/2012
Location: Melksham
Resources: http://www.naturespot.org.uk/species/tutsan

03 October 2012

Self heal - Prunella vulgaris

Date Photographed: 20/07/2012
Location: Tower Road, Melksham
Resources: http://www.kew.org/plants-fungi/Prunella-vulgaris.htm

02 October 2012

Digital Decluttering - Small Steps

Everything that you do digitally requires electricity, from reading the news to updating your profile on Facebook. I recently felt a real need to minimise time that I spent online and remove as much information about myself from the internet as possible in an attempt to minimise the power required to store information about me or for me.

While I accept that this may only save small amounts of electricity, if the removal of my information or photographs from a website mean that the company involved don't need to buy another server for a while, then surely that's something. Maybe I'm kidding myself, but here's what I did just in case you felt inclined to try the same:

1) Reduce time on time sapping sites
For me this is Facebook and the Daily Mail news website - places I use as a place of mindless entertainment. As Gretchin Rubin of the Happiness Project says, they provide just enough to keep you going and stop you from thinking of more fun stuff to do!
To minimise my time on these sites I downloaded an add-on called LeechBlock. This is an add-on for web browsers that allows you to set time limits on websites. As soon as you breach the time limit, you're blocked! After choosing the websites to block, you choose after how long on the site the block is implemented. I've chosen that after 60 minutes in any 24 hour period for these two websites, the websites will be blocked until the next day. If I try to access the websites within this blocked period, then I'm shown a page telling me that the site is blocked.
A handy feature is that if you accidentally leave the site open which you're looking at other tabs, LeechBlock won't count this towards your 'allowance'. If you need access to your sites for longer, you can disable LeechBlock, for instance I needed access to Facebook for one of my study groups for a prolonged period of time yesterday.

2) Search your name and email address in various search engines.
The reason for this isn't to 'vanish without a trace' from the Internet, but just to only have relevant information on there - although if you are worried that you don't know what information is collected during your daily life, check this scenario on the Discovery Channel website. This section can be helpful to ensure that you only let employers or potential employers see what's important! (As well as saving electricity, of course).
Every time there's a search result for your name, it means that storage space and electricity is being used to keep it there. Firstly on the originating website's server and secondly on the search engine server - if you have no need for that information to be there, then it's best to delete it.
Firstly you need to go to the originating website and request that the information be removed. This is most commonly done by removing or deleting your account. Most of the time there is a 'delete account' button available on your account or profile page; however, sometimes you will need to email the site to remove the content.
Secondly, after your account is deleted, you will need to contact the search engine to have the content removed. Google, for example, have a removal tool that allows you to request the removal of pages from its search results. It's really easy to do and Google carried out the removal requests I made within a couple of days. For more information see here: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1663688

3) Remove old or unwanted content on sites that you do use. My example here is Facebook. I had a lot of old photos on there, just taking up space that I didn't even look at anymore. I also found out that every time I thought I was deleting a message on Facebook, it was just sending the message to an 'archive'; meaning that there were messages from 2007 stored in there. Unfortunately it's a manual job to delete these messages and you have to open each message and delete them individually. I also went through and unliked things that I no longer felt the need to publicly 'like'!

4) Clean out your email mailbox. This includes your Inbox, Sent Items, old Calendar Items, Junk, and any folders that you've created yourself to organise things. I went for a mailbox of 5GB to a mailbox of 5MB - it was a wonderful feeling. I used Outlook with a Hotmail account, so that meant that I was storing 5GB on the Hotmail servers as well as wasting the same amount of space on my laptop. For some reason I felt that I needed to keep ALL of my sent emails and emails sent from family. I started with deleting emails from the oldest year and quickly realised that I didn't need any of it and then just deleted them all. That was a weight off.

5) Make a list!
One of the most annoying things I find is that the moment I shut down the laptop I suddenly remember something I was meant to be looking at, researching, whatever. So now, what I try to do is write a list. So I'm not falling into the trip of switching the laptop on to check one thing and 30 minutes later finally coming off Facebook (which it wasn't even my intention to go on); but instead having a list of 3 or 4 things that I can check off the list and then shut down. Like Gretchen says in the video above - it's using the Internet more mindfully.

6) There are many other things that you can do to minimise your digital footprint, for instance cancel old credit cards, delete unused bookmarks delete messages on your mobile phone (or don't have a mobile phone), delete chat programs or actually uninstall any applications on your digital devices that you don't use, limit yourself to ONE social network (crazy huh!?).

The important thing is to only delete what you don't find useful anymore. It's like decluttering, don't throw away any item stored digitally if you still use it. But also recognise when it's time to let go.

It'd be great to hear all of your ideas about digital decluttering!

Oak Marble Gall - Andricus kollari

Symptoms: A hard, woody-like structure on the twigs of Oak trees. These often appear in clusters.

Cause: Caused by a small gall wasp.

Control: There are no chemical control methods for the Oak marble gall. There doesn't appear to be much stress on the tree, so can be left.

01 October 2012

White Water-lily - Nymphaea alba

Date Photographed: 10/06/2012
Location: The Courts garden, Holt
Resources: http://apps.rhs.org.uk/plantselector/plant?plantid=6278