Seaspiracy…

How much do we really know about industrial fishing and its impact on the environment? The answer is probably not much.

The common understanding is that there are a lot of plastics and micro-plastics in our oceans, put there by humans one way or another, which is having a negative impact on our aquatic ecosystem and that the fishing industry take out too many dolphins when trying to catch tuna.

Most of us are also probably aware that one can purchase “sustainable” fish products by reading the label on the tin (when it’s in a tin of course), and that there are several companies out there that sign up to sustainable fishing or that what you are about to purchase is a dolphin-free product.

But peel back the layers a little and you may find that the story is quite different.

Seaspiracy: A Netflix documentary…

I watched Seaspiracy this weekend, a new documentary on Netflix which follows a roving reporter whose initial scope was to find out how plastic discarded from humans was impacting our largest bodies of water. It quickly turns over some startling and sobering facts about where the vast majority of plastic comes from and how large scale industrial fishing severely impacts the health and well-being of the seas, its inhabitants and the environment in general.

It is alleged that almost half of the plastic in our seas is due to industrial fishing, that bottom trawling decimates wildlife and the seabed on a scale much higher that deforestation, and that the deaths of other wildlife being caught in the process known as bycatch (dolphins, sharks, whales and sea birds) is both huge and wasteful.

Bycatch, a bi-product of commercial fishing…

I literally had no clue about any of this and have never given a second when purchasing fish. I knew that commercial fishing probably had a negative impact on the seas ecosystem, but not to this extent.

Clearly one cannot just take the word of a single reporter and that of Netflix as gospel, fact checks (as far as one can do that) are required and there are of course several anecdotes and counterclaims bringing into question the validity and accuracy of the data and insights presented.

So much in the same way I did for Cowspiracy and the rather biased Planet of the Humans (sponsored by Michael Moore), I found that whilst some of the film making and segments may have been taken out of context and subsequently refuted by interviewees, I still came away with the notion that we have a big problem here and we need to make some informed and personal choices when buying fish. Like other sustainable goods and services (cars, energy, meat etc), the buck starts with the consumer and works backwards. If we make the decision to purchase or acquire a specific product, then the rules of supply and demand will kick in, as long as we are in a fortunate position to choose, sadly some are not.

Who’s line is it anyway…

I intend to do just that from now on. I typically only eat salmon, trout and tuna so going forward I will look to only buy line-caught products as advertised. I know this may not be the whole truth and I will pay more for the privilege, but I’ll take that chance. If I do eat such, I will look to have it endorsed by those affiliated companies (again on the basis that something is likely better than nothing).

A final thought did occur to me. In my youth I was an avid young angler, but only course fishing so catching carp, tench and the odd pike for sport.

My wife always said that firstly it was a boring sport just sitting there waiting for hours on end (which I counter-argued on several points), secondly it hurts and could potentially kill the fish (agreed) and lastly why did I not bring it home for the plate (those fish mentioned above you wouldn’t typically eat).

Fly Fishing (by J.R Hartley)…

This got me to thinking that once again, the only person I can trust in this crazy world is myself. I have been fly fishing twice in my life, and it is quite majestic, the art of casting and the chasing trout/salmon in pursuit of dinner that evening an exciting one. I also live two minutes away from the sea wall, which is fully occupied by anglers when the tide is high, all catching for their supper.

So in an effort to confirm that my fish are indeed line-caught, I will take it upon myself to catch them personally, thus taking another baby step to off-grid living…

The Plot Thickens…

Our communal and agricultural experiment has got off to a good start. When a collective forms of six individuals (and of course family members and to-be active players), it brings together people from all walks of life, each with their own backstory and points of view.

I can honestly say that it’s been a joy to converse with people on the exact same frequency as I am, all of us thus far intent on finding out successful methods of growing ones own healthy and organic food, keeping those pesky processed sugars at bay.

The 2D Plot…

One of our group had already sketched a plan for our plot before I jumped on board, so with my new found love of Minecraft (hey it’s not just a kids game right?), I took it upon myself to “3D-ise” the blueprints he had put down on graph paper so that we could all visualise what the plot could look like and where each component would be best placed for optimal use of the land.

I was very happy with the final output, which I’ve uploaded below.

The Plot Thickens…

We will meet up at the weekend to agree the final plan and start to order the poly tunnels and greenhouse, now that all of the compost has now landed and the temporary raised beds are under construction.

Looking forward to the next steps…

Spring Equinox…

If I’m not mistaken (we can’t Google everything can we), today marks the astrological start of Spring, and as such I was up early to get a few hours in at the allotment as the sun rose boldly in the West.

Before the hard graft of relocating a couple of tonnes of compost to our “landing strip”, I took it upon myself to have a wander through the two main plots on the site, each thirty foot wide and two hundred and forty foot long, with various sized sub-plots in each.

I recorded a video walkthrough of both plots (including our “landing strip”) to see so what our green-fingered comrades have added to their sites, and what seems to work well for them so that we could take some good ideas to use for our own.

Plot A – Our Neighbours…
Plot B – Our “Landing Strip”

I also took some overhead drone footage of our plot, sadly I’m still a novice and didn’t calibrate the settings properly so it’s a bit grainy and the colour transitions aren’t great, but at least it gives us a good idea of what it looks like from above, and the Herculean task we have over the next few weeks to get the land primed quickly and ready for planting our seedlings.

Drone footage of our “Landing Strip”

I was the sole human on site for a good two hours on this new Spring morning, and I found myself transported into a different world, one devoid of stress, commitment and consumerism, just me and my thoughts as I shovelled my way to happiness. It gave me the first real glimpse of what retirement will be in five or so years, that day can’t come soon enough.

Until then, I will learn new skills, experiment with nature and bond with more people in tune with my own frequencies.

Those frequencies and conversations are already paying off, and I’m paying it forward in the shape of positive planting, the smart garden has worked wonders on the broad beans I planted just one week ago.

With a two day break from work this week, I’ll be spending both days at the allotment to give us a real kick-start, hopefully more mindfulness and ideas will flow, I’m certain it will.

The Barrow Boys…

When I first saw the fifteen tonnes of compost, the first thing that sprang to mind was the Jeff Goldblum line in Jurassic Park “That’s one big pile of shit”…

That’s one big pile of shit…

Never a truer word spoken…

Detox complete…

I started a science experiment last week to remove all processed sugars from my diet to see whether it was my food intake that was causing me several problems (including broken sleep, inflammation, fatigue, irritability and of course weight gain).

Little did I realise the truly negative impact processed foods and sugars has on ones overall well-being (mind, body and soul).

I ended up cutting short this two week test period, as by the end of Day Ten (yesterday), all of my goals were complete, my hypothesis validated.

As my (rather lengthy) last post detailed, I wanted to regain control of me, by shopping at the local farm, dairy and butchers in an effort to lose a little weight, get my BMI back into the green zone, give myself an energy boost and restore my ailing cognitive abilities, especially at work.

The Green Zone…

So by the end of Day Ten, I had lost 3.1kg, got to my green zone target of 24.9 BMI (any lower than that and I start to look skinny), felt great throughout each day, and came up with some really inspiring and innovative thinking in work.

Eating the healthy and more plant-based options really helped. After the inevitable body crash, things got better very quickly, I stopped getting hungry and got to the stage where I no longer opened the treat drawer to see what was inside (which I used to do several times a day).

Detox Food…

My mindset has also changed due to the sugar detox. Boycotting the supermarket and their exploitative marketing of bad-for-you products helps. Buying local produce helps from a sustainability perspective and keeps family businesses afloat, diverting funds away from big farmer and food corporations. Getting out to exercise everyday, even if it’s just a walk (with or without the pooch), allows body parts to move for this office-worker and gives the mind a chance to wander, ponder and reflect on things, a meditation if you will.

So I can’t recommend highly enough to experiment yourselves to see if a sugar detox works for you, clearly it has for me…

Watts, amps and volts…

This week was a big step forward in grasping the basics of both electronics and off-grid living.

I took ownership of the first in a series of devices that will accompany my journey into the technical world of electronic experimentation, with a view to understand what (or should I say watt?) works, what doesn’t, what our basic needs are and what luxury items one can still use whilst being isolated from the grid.

Dokio 100w Portable Solar Panel
Beaudens Portable Power Station

So the sustainable energy basics are already acquired, this week saw two exciting deliveries; the first a 100w portable solar panel, the second an entry-level 240wh power station.

I intend to review both items in time, but what it has already allowed me to do is to think in a different way. Us on-gridders invariably don’t think about how devices work, how much electricity they consume and how much it costs to run them, one typically plugs, plays, enjoys and pays the hefty energy bills at the end of the month.

With the start of the build of my “Cabin In The Yard” (the prototype for the build of over a dozen ecolodges at our retreat in Wales), only weeks away, I wanted to fully explore and understand the art of what’s possible without drawing any resources from the house.

Thankfully, my son is an electrical engineer and he gave me an electricity 101 to explain what watts, amps and volts are, how to find out the inputs and outputs of devices, and by doing the maths, I could work out the drain from each appliance on the limited power reserves I have.

What’s a watt?

I’ll admit the 101 didn’t make much sense until I started to do some research on which devices and appliances are powered by 12v batteries, USB or AA / AAA rechargeable batteries.

Once I found out the watts for each device, the penny dropped. By documenting the watts of each device, I knew exactly how much each one would drain from the 240 watt hours I had to play with on my power station.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the sheer volume of devices out there that could continue (somewhat) a life of luxury, totally cost free (besides the initial investment of course), as long as the sun was shining (the fundamental flaw in my plan of living in the monochromatic grey realm of North West England).

Here is the list of devices I found, not exhaustive by any means and somewhat primordial when compared to those in the house for the likes of heating, cooking and lighting, but still an impressive list nonetheless (those marked green I already possess):

12v Appliances

🟢 Portable Showers (15w)

🟢 Cooler Boxes/Fridges (58w)

🔴 Heating Stoves (40w)

🔴 Travel Kettles (120w)

🔴 Hair Straighteners (20w)

🔴 Hair Dryers (150w)

🔴 Toastie Makers (120w)

🔴 Heater Fans (120w)

🔴 Travel Hoovers (12.5w)

🔴 Electric Blankets (55w)

🔴 TVs (40w)

🔴 Air Pumps (120w)

🔴 Water Pumps (60w)

USB Appliances

🟢 Desk Fans (1w)

🟢 Desk Lamps (5w)

🟢 Bluetooth Speakers (5w)

🟢 iPhones (5w)

🟢 iPads (10w)

🟢 Surface Pro (60w)

🟢 Nintendo Switch (25w)

🟢 Logitech Web Cams (5w)

🟢 USB C Computer Monitors (25w)

🟢 Mavic Mini Drones (15w)

🟢 Sony XM3 Headphones (15w)

🟢 Apple Watches (2w)

🟢 Portable Power Banks (15w)

🟢 Recyclable Battery Chargers (15w)

🟢 Oculus Quest VR Headsets (15w)

🟢 Portable Shower (15w)

🔴 Portable Projectors (15w)

🔴 Mini Blenders (65w)

🔴 LED Lights (45w)

Rechargeable Battery Appliances

🟢 Radios

🟢 Portable Speakers

🟢 Clocks

🟢 Nose Trimmers

🔴 LED Lights

Yes, I’m at the stage of my life now where nose trimmers have become an essential item!

The beauty of buying the items above is that they are all 100% portable, so not only can I use them in the soon-to-be-erected cabin, but I can take them camping with me later in the year, and if the zombie apocalypse does turn up some point soon, I’m sorted.

All systems working!

Clearly to stay connected, I’ll need to tether my phone to the internet-based devices I have, so not everything is free, but it’s a good start, and does go to show that the art of what is possible is both sustainable and achievable if you want it…

Off-Grid On-Grid…

As Rabbie Burns famously once penned, “The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men Gang aft agley, An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain, For promis’d joy!”

It’s fair to say that as the dawn rose this morning, another day of being both completely healthy and totally locked in left me with feelings of melancholy.

In need of cheering up, I took it upon myself to make my wife a Valentine’s Day breakfast, her favourite of poached eggs on toast with sea salt and cracked pepper. With two small gifts and a hug or two exchanged, my mind quickly returned to the great outdoors. As the snowflakes fell again upon the cold ground, I could not help but feeling that this year was another one that is going to pass most of us by, certainly in the UK.

Mrofa Nefyn, home of Ty Coch, tenth best beach bar in the world…

The extra-currlcular project that I am working to invent and create an eco-retreat in North Wales couldn’t seem further away than it actually is geographically (i.e. anything beyond the Boris Johnson invisible line of seven miles is out of bounds according to the latest “guidelines”). Here we will have something that when deployed, will bring so much personal achievement for me and my comrades, as well an avenue for many others to enjoy nature, commune with others and return to an acceptable level of mind-body-spiritual balance, all of which are out of kilter for the vast majority of the populace.

I am resigned to the fact that it’s not going to happen this year. With so much uncertainty and blockers, my proposed project plan is already slipping to the right with no actions yet completed.

Someone said to me recently to only concern oneself with the things one can control and let go of the things one cannot. Wise words.

With those sage words of advice keeping my tinnitus company this morning, I took to YouTube for inspiration, and man was I inspired!

Dave and Brooke, inspiring couple

After several attempts to find the right viewings on creating ecolodges, I came across two wonderful individuals, known in cyberspace as Bushradical and the Girl in the Woods (move over Sarah Beeny and George Clarke).

Very recently, they have created what I had been dreaming of for the eco-retreat, an off-grid cabin/lodge erected simply and quickly from standard materials one can find at the reclamation/builders yards and hardware supply stores.

So impressed am I with the simplicity, speed and quality of the build, I simply have to share the videos below, in a hope to inspire myself to build a copy of their creation as a prototype in my own compact and bijou back yard, and if successful use the same design and materials as a template for our retreat.

Bushradical

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Girl In The Woods

Part 1
Part 2

After being totally consumed by these videos today, I started to put pen to paper to see how I can use Dave and Brooke’s template to create my “Cabin in the Yard”.

With the temperatures at zero outside, there is plenty of time now to draw up my plans on what the dimensions of the cabin will look like, and what materials I need to procure over the coming weeks. The planned build is to commence on the Spring Equinox (21st March).

Cabin in the Yard, initial plan on a page

Hope springs eternal, the eternal springs hope…