Category Archives: Living

Oisin’s Journey to Grand Design

Singer/songwriter Oisin O’Neill chats with astraea about how he came to create Grand Design, released on 25 May.
Check out Grand Design on oisinoneill.bandcamp.com

We observe the strange coincidence that Grand Design was released on 25 May, the day celebrated by some for “The Glorious Revolution” of truth – a fictional event, and now also to be celebrated by us for the martyrdom of George Floyd. Let George Floyd’s execution not be in vain. The coincidence is in keeping with the spirit of Grand Design which, Oisin tells us, emerged from his passion in a natural integration of feeling, sounds and words.
Enjoy the music!

We are mad as hell. Will we remain charred and broken or will we rise from the ashes?

The anger released by the nurder in broad daylight, on camera, of George Floyd has been held back for years.

And it has been growing for years.

Black people are right to voice their frustration and anger at the encouraging role of the government in oppressing minorities.

Everyone is angry, everyone is afraid. When the institution we build to protect us murders us we know the system is broken, and fear takes over. We should all join in peaceful protest.

We must make change happen now.

Killer Mike says it well.

What’s up this new year …

Kung hei fat choi! This traditional Cantonese greeting means “May you have great wealth!” and is expressed at Chinese new year often followed by Lai see dow loi, meaning “Give me me lucky money” ;-). 

There are many new years celebrated around the world starting from October (eg Divali in India) to the ancient Babylonian new year, Akitu, celebrated at the first new moon after the spring equinox (i.e. around March).  Our focus is usually on the solstice, but, hey, any excuse for a gathering of fun is welcome 😉 .

Here’s a quick round-up at the beginning of this solar cycle …

Thank you to everyone who joined our Walk in the Woods on 29 December.  Niall, generous as ever, lifted our spirits with a shot of whiskey to toast the new year!  Then, Richard and Jaspar, who had spent the previous day hacking at the brambles, led us all through the woods.  It was a glorious day as the lovely photos from Milena on facebook show.

in the meantime, here are a few of our snaps scratched from a video
Continue reading What’s up this new year …

Impeachment – There is a problem.

There is a problem.

Trump did nothing wrong.

That’s how Mitch and friends see it.

Put yourself in their shoes and you can see with their eyes.

They all would have done the same. They would have protected their interests. Why look after other people instead of yourself, after all?

The people supporting Trump believe that people, their people, agree with them.

They are right.

Everyone who supports Trump would have done the same thing.
They would have demanded a favour (blacken the name of their enemy – Biden) when they offered charity to a stranger (aid to Ukraine).

Now, think about what’s going to happen?

Continue reading Impeachment – There is a problem.

Fossil Free Food

There’s no such thing.

Everyone knows that fuel is used to grow our food and that petrochemicals are used to feed and protect food. But it’s probably worse than we realise. Most food has more fossil fuel energy in it than natural, current energy. It takes about 10 fossil fuel calories to produce and transport each food calorie in the average American diet. That’s about three times as much fossil fuel as we spend on transport.

We’ve been trying to take fossil fuel out of food we grow here for a couple of decades now. If you’re realistic about it, there’s hardly any chance to make fossil free food these days. In the garden here we make a pretty good attempt. There are organic or self-grown seeds, no sprays, no artificial fertiliser, etc. We do use a two-wheel tractor (diesel so can use biodiesel), chainsaws, cutters, mowers etc, but we use a lot of Tommy Power!

There are always fossil fuels involved somewhere. It’s hard to avoid. Starting with me. I eat food that comes in a bag. Paper or plastic that bag was made with energy from fossil fuel. And of course I drove to town to pick it up, and it came to town on a big truck running on fossil fuel. And the food was made almost entirely with fossil fuels – big tractors (possibly with auto-satellite drive), loads of chemical fertiliser, pesticide, herbicide, transport, sorting (by machine) etc etc The saga of our reliance on, our addiction to, fossil fuel continues. But if you want food with less fossil in it, buy local, organic, or grow your own. 😉

Where the rubber hits the road, or the spade hits the soil, we do a pretty good job. We use a lot of physical effort, sowing, weeding, harvesting. Here is a little glimpse of what it’s like to grow natural food avoiding fossil fuel and fossil chemicals.

There are three tools on show here: spade, 3 prong hoe, and swivel hoe (aka hoop/stirrup/oscillating hoe).

The spade, being used to dig and turn between rows of carrots. The ground in the patch is very weedy because it was broken, turned and planted for the first time this year. (The ground above and below has been cultivated for over a decade.) You can see the physical effort and technique employed. You can get an idea of the rate of progress – much slower than a big ol’ tractor! But no fossil fuels are being burned and no chemical sprays are killing the soil.

The 3 pronged hoe is being used to drag away the couch grass, and other weeds turned over by the spade.

The swivel hoe … ahh the swivel hoe. What would we do without the swivel hoe? It was one of the first tools we bought 20 years ago when we started. We have a 175mm (used in the clips) and 125mm. They are still going strong. The blades and handles wear out. We’ve replaced the handle on the 125 but had to use a broom handle replacement. The 175 handle is still original and we like it because it’s long and has a concave taper which enhances its handling. We replaced blades on both. (Check Dunmore Country School for them if you’re in Ireland.)

The clips are an example of light weeding potatoes, weeding tomatoes in the greenhouse and one of heavy weeding along the back wall of the greenhouse.

In 1999 we guessed that we had 20 years to change systems if natural cycles were to be protected from anthropomorphic destruction. Our guess was pretty good – nothing changed and here we are with climate breakdown …

Now we reckon we’ve got 20 years of fossil fuels left. They’ll always be around, but only in small quantities, as was the case before the industrial revolution. Why do we think they’ll run out? Because we passed peak oil some years ago and consumption is increasing. When everyone realises oil is running out, things are going to be very difficult as food supplies will shrink, transport capacity will shrivel and no one has any useful life skills any more – like carpentry, gardening, metallurgy, … Infrastructure will disintegrate as all those little plastic washers, valve, osmotic barriers etc which allow high tech to function will not be available …

So in the meantime, we’re enjoying growing fossil free food and eating and sharing it.

Time to get a swivel hoe?