What We’ve Doing: Water Collection At The Harbour Ward Community Garden

Mike, Frank and Dave were down at the Harbour Ward Community Garden recently. One wonderful sunny morning we improved the water collection on the slope above. This year there will hopefully be lots of beds with happy healthy plants in them

We added some corrugated sheets of plastic, which should deed into the guttering and waterbutt nicely. Powered by Rooibus tea and cheese biscuits it was lovely, what a few! Mike also installed a bench to make enjoying it even nicer.

The Allotment Diary Catch Up

 
So, it’s been a while! But we have been very busy and bar a few rainy days, and with plenty of tea, we have been doing quite a lot.

We have been preparing the beds in both our allotments and already started planting a few things. Garlic and shallots, and oh so much Rhubarb, are in the ground. Beans are in the ground ready to go to! We’ve also got plenty of fruit on the go with kind donations of Raspberry canes and Loganberry bushes. We’re also trying out Goji Berry bushes.

We have a new volunteer Jill, who is another font of gardening knowledge.

And we’ve also dug a pond! And Frank has been climbing on lots of roofs.

Solar panels for an energy efficient home

Cantiaci’s DIY-er in Chief Frank explains the hows, whats and whys of installing solar panels on his Folkestone home: 

When did you decide on solar panels?

I bought my home in 2012, which was just an end of terrace house in Folkestone. I looked at ways of reducing my energy costs and, as this was supposed to be the sunny south east, I thought about solar panels. The government were gradually reducing the tariff year on year so I took the plunge in October 2014, before it went too low.

How much did your solar panels cost?

My solar panels were about £6000, which I got a loan for and paid some of it off. The KWh (Kilo Watt an hour) rate then was 14.5p and the feed in tariff (the amount the national grid pays back in unused electricity) was about 4.5p a unit. The figures for 2015, 16, and 17 will be progressively lower.

As a comparison, my cousin invested in 16 solar panels a few years before me, and gets (to this day) approx. 22p per KWh but the downside was he paid a lot more for his panels than I did.

solar-panels-on-grass.JPG

How many panels did you install? 

Even though my roof could only take 10 panels on a south east facing direction, I was able to have 6 extra panels on my rear flat roof, westerly facing. These are all individually controlled by micro-invertors, which change the DC current to AC and fed to meters in my electricity cupboard.

solar-panels-on-flat-roof.JPG

How do your solar panels work?

When it is daylight, the panels automatically prioritise over the mains supplied
current until dusk. Suns-Energy in East Anglia installed all the equipment in one day and they monitor it by wi-fi and send me monthly email reports.

solar-power-electricity.JPG

How much money have your solar panels saved?

See below. This is over a 7 day period. To give a good example of my electricity in the last 6 months, Aug. 2016-Jan. 2017, using the actual billed amounts from my electricity company, I actually gained £12.50 per month!

solar-power-energy-use.JPG

Obviously I have gas, broadband and telephone costs. The savings at this stage, at least 6-7 years later, will go towards the cost of the panels. These are part of the house and are mine. Not leased or owned by anybody else.

To help, I use, say washing machine and tumble drier, during the day. Even if cloudy, though not so effective, they are still working, remember, they work on ambient daylight.

What other ways have you found to save energy?

Early in 2016 I invested in air source heaters which extract heat from the air, even on freezing nights, so when these are used in the daytime; they are running off the solar panels, so therefore saving on my gas bill. The cost effect is not as dramatic as I am more likely to use them in the evening, but it does impact on my gas bill.

I still need hot water and the gas cooker, but heating, the biggest user, is considerably reduced.

The other new technology that helps heat gain is that I had installed new double glazing, in which the glass has a gap of 20mm (as good as triple glazing, but considerably less cost) and the glass is treated to enable a 3% solar gain into the property. It is argon filled, eliminating air which is prone to condensation.

I consider my energy use and ways to save and reduce my dependency on the national grid, completely in line with the aims of Folkestone Cantiaci. If I could afford approx £2000, I could invest in long-life storage batteries, and be totally off-grid! This would be ideal in a completely rural area. It shows that new technology can enable one to live a more ‘green’ lifestyle.

The Allotment Diary: winter slackers

The indecisive winter weather so far this year has seen slow progress at the allotment.

Due to the frozen ground and wet weather we’ve had some enforced Sunday lie-ins (oh, the horror!) but as there is not much pressing work to be done right now we can enjoy this slower time – it certainly won’t last, as soon as the ground warms up the weeds will be racing off and we’ll be struggling to keep up with it all.

That’s not to say that we haven’t done any work. For starters, our apple tree that had been so overgrown when we took on the allotment was given a winter prune, and combined with the earlier removal of the brambles suffocating it hopefully we’ll get a good apple harvest this year, now that light and air will be able to get to the fruit. Check out our apple tree before and after – hubba hubba!

 

We’ve also been busily edging our borders, and Mike was hard at work putting up some bean canes so we can look forward to another bumper crop of runner beans this year. We even included an installation art piece as a typically Folkestonian health and safety feature, thanks to a neon yellow plastic plant pot we have stuck on the end. Hopefully this will be enough to stop Cantiaci members impaling themselves.

Some new rhubarb crowns have also gone into the ground, and a couple of established rhubarb plants have started to poke their way through the matted grass. We cleared the grass from them and found a bottomless bucket to hopefully force the stems of the smaller so we can have some early rhubarb. Rhubarb was one of our key crops last year, the plant we had inherited on our other plot produced massive bundles of rhubarb right through to September so we’re hoping for similar success again.

Meanwhile at our other allotment site we continue to harvest leeks – although some are not growing as fast as others (why is that?!) and our onions don’t seem to have grown underground at all, despite their flourishing green tops – all fur coat and no knickers.

Naturally, all this hard work is always rewarded with a steaming cup of tea, often as we cower out of the wind and drizzle in our (rather small) shed, dreaming of spring harvests and mild weather (and not thinking about those weeds… or the slugs… or that chemical toilet we still haven’t had the courage to open and dispose of…!)

Frankly it sometimes feels like being at the allotment is just an excuse to enjoy a good cuppa and have a natter…

See You Tonight! Here’s An Update From Lynda Jones

We hope you’re feeling thirsty!

See you later for the tea tasting and talk!

Lynda Jones : Hello there, I’ve decided to do a “question and answer” session about my work. I felt that would b more helpful than choosing one subject that might not suit all. Please note though, I can’t be specific about your own personal health issues outside the consultation setting. I look forward to meeting you 😃 xxx

Event details are here.

Folkestone Cantiaci, Folkestone, Cantiaci, Community, Transition Town, Kipps Alehouse, Kipps, Tea, Tea Tasting

See You Thursday! Here’s A Poem About Tea

Not long until the tea tasting and talk! What blends are your favourite?

Click here for more information on the event. 

Here’s a poem about tea from our columnist Dave Horn:

The kettle boils
Signalling the end
Of recent toils
Time for tea!
A dear one calls
And from all around they descend

Just one cup of tea
Is the source of such glee!
A time to rest and share
Make it herbal
And it’s even healthy
Hearts, minds and bodies on the mend

That is the beauty of tea
Rooted in simplicity
It has such capacity
To bring happiness and laughter
A good old catch-up
Or debrief post disaster

Seemingly infinite in it’s forms
A good tea pot
Every house should adorn
Bring out an infuser
And you’re stepping
Into tea porn

Just hot water
Dried leaves
Perhaps milk
But add sugar
And you’re
Of a bad ilk

But that is tea’s beauty
Who am I to prescribe or judge
Infinite forms
And infinite variations
We all have our particular
Tea related fixations

A shared experience
Your unique expression
For times good
For times bad
Tea is a gift and tool
Bring life whatever it would

 

David James Horn ©

Folkestone Cantiaci, Folkestone, Cantiaci, Community, Transition Town, Kipps Alehouse, Kipps, Tea, Tea Tasting