Tuesday, October 20, 2009

At Home in the UK

Well, it's not a good sign that I've only managed one post a month for most of 2009. (Except for July -- an incredible six posts! Yet somehow I can't get it to show up in my sidebar.) I'm not sure what's up with that, but I feel the need to post something before October disappears altogether.

And as a way of marking six months since we left greater London for life in the English countryside (I've come to love it here already! This is such a pretty place and it's not just me -- signs along the A-road next to our house declare it An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), I thought I'd share a few things about life at the moment that reflect the culture in which we live:

*** My car radio is usually tuned to either Classic fm, Absolute (formerly Virgin) Radio or BBC Radio 4. (Does anyone know if there's an American equivalent of Woman's Hour?)

*** I bought myself a flask (American = Thermos) so that I can enjoy a cup of tea anywhere, but especially atop our local lookout point, basking in the clean country air and spectacular view.

*** The day we joined The National Trust I felt a little more complete, somehow.

*** I've learned to use my mirrors and can now back into a parking space with the best of 'em.

*** As a special treat at weekends, Matt sometimes surprises me with a (real! paper!) copy of The Sunday Times.

*** I've added Roast Dinner to the rotation of our family's menu. Usually it's chicken, but I aspire to make my dearest favorite, lamb. Yes, with mint sauce. And seriously, how delicious are roast potatoes???

*** My favorite Saturday breakfast is scrambled eggs, baked beans and toast.

*** Of all the kitchen gadgets I rely on, the one I use most often (and shudder at the thought of ever doing without) is my electric kettle.

*** This time last year I started composting! The London borough we were living in was giving away composting bins, and I loved it so much (composting is easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy, as my kids would say) that I brought the bin with me when we moved. Really. This is incredible but true. Vegetable peelings, egg shells, tea bags/coffee grounds and the cardboard bit from the inside of paper towel/toilet paper rolls -- just put this stuff into the composting bin with an armful of fallen leaves now and then, and voilĂ ! Over a period of months, it becomes rich, organic fertilizer. (And looks remarkably like, well, dirt. Still, the sense of accomplishment and pride is amazing.)

Composting has become such a distinct part of Living in England for me (along with fairtrade and justice issues in general) that I was excited to read in yesterday's New York Times an article called Nudging Recycling From Less Waste to None. Here are a few snippets:

Across the nation, an antigarbage strategy known as “zero waste” is moving from the fringes to the mainstream, taking hold in school cafeterias, national parks, restaurants, stadiums and corporations.

The movement is simple in concept if not always in execution: Produce less waste. Shun polystyrene foam containers or any other packaging that is not biodegradable. Recycle or compost whatever you can...

Americans are still the undisputed champions of trash, dumping 4.6 pounds per person per day...

When apple cores, stale bread and last week’s leftovers go to landfills, they do not return the nutrients they pulled from the soil while growing. What is more, when sealed in landfills without oxygen, organic materials release methane, a potent heat-trapping gas, as they decompose. If composted, however, the food can be broken down and returned to the earth as a nonchemical fertilizer with no methane by-product.
Clearly, this topic could/should be a post of its own! But I'll close for now, hoping that I've inspired someone, anyone out there to give it a go themselves. Autumn is the perfect time to begin... What you start making now will be ready in time for gardening in the spring. How's that for incentive?


BonnieJ said...

One of my friends has embraced organic gardening and has turned their backyard into a clothes-drying, produce-growing wonderland. She also has some kind of worm farm that she uses in composting.

Emily M said...

Love the zero waste idea! Also, i smiled about your favorite Saturday breakfast because just the other day I was telling one of my friends how I wished the dining hall would serve baked beans for breakfast :)

Anonymous said...

This is great! Especially the composting part-I am a composter too - about two years now - yes, dirt..but GREAT dirt! :) LM