Saturday, January 31, 2009

Age of Stupid trailer

The Age of Stupid is due to be released in cinemas on March 20th.

The Age of Stupid: final trailer Feb 2009 from Age of Stupid on Vimeo.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Carbon weevils

I found this YouTube video this morning and thought I would share it with you.

If for some reason the video isn't working the carbon weevils can usually be found at:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Washing-up with soapods

One of the, so-far unwritten, rules of our Transition House experiment is, if you run out of something find out if there is a better alternative before mindlessly rushing to buy the same thing again.

On Saturday, we ran out of washing-up liquid.

We usually buy a biodegradeable product in a 1 litre plastic bottle and recycle the bottle in the fortnightly bin collection. When the washing-up liquid started to run out, I investigated alternatives.

We've been using soapods in the washing machine to clean our clothes for over a year. They do a good job.

(Soapods (or soap nuts) are the pods from a tropical tree native to India and southern China the Sapindus Mukorossi. The pods contain a high level of saponin - a natural detergent).

So we decided to find out what soapods are like when made into a washing-up liquid. There are full instructions on

The results

Not as many bubbles as I'm used to (actually hardly any - which was surprising, as when used in the washing machine there are plenty of bubbles), but then most products add "foam boosters" which have nothing to do with cleaning power (although my original brand claimed not to add them).

I'm reserving judgment on the cleaning power, it cleans, but then so does water on it's own, perhaps I need to just get used to the lack of bubbles. In any case, I need to do more experiments to see how it compares to just water.

I'm not sure I simmered the pods for long enough, I suspect a stronger liquid can be obtained as the soapods felt quite soapy after the second simmer.

On the plus side, after washing up my hands are less dry and the expired pods have been composted.

Must remember to check thoroughly for soapod seeds before boiling. I found a seed. My wife has planted it anyway to see if it grows.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Straw Bale Urinal

Well, I admit it's not the usual thing to do on New Year's Day, but I set up a straw bale urinal. Why? Because, quite simply urine is Liquid Gold!

This is what a typical adult produces a day:

Urine produced per adult per day:
Quantity - 1000 - 1,500g/day wet weight
Water Content - 93 - 96%

Contents, Typical daily yield:
Nitrogen (N)- 8g
Phosphorus (P)- 2g
Potassium (K)- 2g
Calcium (Ca)- 2g
Carbon (C):N Ratio - 1:2
Pathogens - None in normal circumstances
(Source: Harper, P. and Halestrap, L. 1999, Lifting the Lid - I've been reading it as part of my MSC)

All that Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium and Calcium is ideal for growing crops. And believe it or not, in healthy people urine is sterile. Plus, pouring that urine down the toilet can cause problems to river water.

Good garden compost needs a ratio Carbon:Nitrogen ratio of about 30:1. You can see from the figures above that urine has more nitrogen than carbon. A straw bale on the other hand is almost all carbon. So the solution is get a straw bale and pour (or directly apply) urine you've collected onto it. The fresher the urine the better - don't let it stand in a container for more than a day. I'm collecting mine in a 6 pint plastic milk container - empty.

I bought a couple of dry straw bales from my local farm shop Hollow Trees in Semer for £2.50 each and a couple of reusable plastic bags to carry them home in. Then I covered one of our small 1 metre by 1 metre raised beds with cardboard, put the straw bale on top and have been generously applying urine on a daily basis. I'm keeping the bale covered with one of the plastic bags between applications.

The straw bale weighed 2.5 stone - just under 16 kilos, with a Carbon:Nitrogen ratio of 80:1. At the moment I don't know how much Carbon by weight. I don't actually know the Nitrogen content of my urine, but as I have a good diet high in protein - plant protein only now of course (except for free range organic eggs and milk) - I should be putting out at least 8g Nitrogen a day. Note: I'm not getting into molar mass stuff here. Carbon's atomic weight is (usually)12 and Nitrogen's is 14 so they pretty close enough for this type of experiment. But I won't always be at home when I urinate, I may be at work or out, and some the nitrogen in the urine can oxidised in ammonia gas and drift away. But as I haven't got figures for the Carbon content of the bale yet I'll continue to pour my urine on the bale and hopefully watch it break down into rich humus that I can spread on my vegetable plot - or maybe grow oyster mushrooms in - but that's another experiment.