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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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: Frosty Ground

This week was chilly, very chilly! The ground was to frozen to dig and even too frozen to weed! Our new allotment friends the moles seem to have been unperturbed by this frosty ground, atleast our soil must be good. Luckily the tea wasn’t frozen, and delicious. Today we enjoyed ginger and turmeric, and dandelion and burdock.

There was still somethings to do.  Frank cut our dishevelled green house into small car sized pieces.  The rest of us, and then Frank, gave the apple tree a haircut so hopefully this year’s apples will slightly more healthy.

Even the sun was pale today!

Park Farm allotment tour

On Sunday a handful of us braved the cold, drizzly winter morning to take a tour of Folkestone’s Park Farm allotments, a large established allotment site run by Folkestone Town Council.

Our guide was Jimmy, who has had a plot there for several years and was making good use of the space he had with broad beans planted last November already at a good height and peas doing well in his greenhouse.

It was very interesting to see how this site was run – and the luxuries they had! Our own allotment at Newington doesn’t have such fancy things as electricity, running water or toilets (well, apart from that chemical toilet we found in the shed and still haven’t had the courage to open…)

Allotments are always good places to see innovative recycling and none more so than the Park Farm space, with its communal tea shed built from materials donated by builders working on the new school across the road, homemade planters (a particular favourite was the old barrel with holes cut in the sides for strawberries, plus upturned bottle for watering.) You could see allotmenteers at this site had really made their plots their home from home and put a lot of time and effort into their growing.

Also worth a mention is the concrete area to one side – huge raised beds built from breeze blocks with paving slab pathways. Quite out of place among the muddy paths and ramshackle wooden sheds you normally see. Jimmy explained that this area had been built to make the allotment more accessible – the tall raised beds are perfect for people who can’t bend down anymore, and the paving slabs make it easy for wheelchairs to get through. What a great way to make growing your own produce easier for everyone!

We did notice a few unloved plots that had been left to go to ruin. In some cases the allotmenteer had become ill or sadly passed away, but in other cases the plot holders simply didn’t have time to manage them with family and job commitments.

That’s where a group like Cantiaci can be really beneficial for people who love the idea of having an allotment but don’t have the time to take one on. By tending to our plots as a group we remove that pressure and members are able to still enjoy their free time and go away for the weekend without worrying about weeds and slugs taking over. If you’d like to take part just drop us an email at folkestonecantiaci@gmail.com or message us on Facebook. During winter we meet in Folkestone at 10am every Sunday morning and usually work until 12 – 1pm, but when the days get longer often fit in some weekday evening slots too. Of course you would be welcome to pop to the site at times convenient to you, if you can get to Newington and don’t need to carshare.

To rent one of the Park Farm Allotments call Folkestone Town Council on 01303 257946.

The Allotment Diary: Guess Who’s Back, Back Again

It’s 2017! Goodbye 2016 and your excessive culling of dearly loved figures of popular culture! Hello 2017, a year of great times ahead!

We broke ourselves in gently with some light weeding and digging over of a few beds.  We also consumed some frankly essential tea, as well as resuming our recycling and composting.

We made a few nice surprises, one was the first shoots of some rhubarb, and growth on our fruit bushes. It wasn’t all casual weeding, Mike released the apple tree from it’s thorny prison of brambles while Shallots were planted. Simon turned our bed into a zen garden.

Our beds are ready, perhaps we might be ready for the planting season?!

The Allotment Diary: Wet Things Don’t Burn

This week at the allotment it was another leisurely week.  We cleared a lot of rubbish and made room for a new bed!

We also spent far too much time trying to burn wet grass.  Even head fire starter Mike couldn’t help.

We had to mourn the loss of our green house, Storm Angus cleary didn’t take too kindly to it.  We sat and mourned the pile of twisted glass and metal over a nice cup of dandelion and burdock.

In brighter news we were able to harvest some leeks and a squash!