Our new mower from the local recycling centre

Our new mower. Well it was new in 1972…

It’s a Hayterette ‘rough meadow mower’. Ian spotted it in the ‘for sale’section at the Okehampton recycling centre and paid £5 for it. Despite straw and bird poo, he’d spotted the name – and the extremely reliable Briggs and Stratton engine.

It has a cast aluminium deck (they’re mostly plastic these days) and the blades came free easily enough. The engine turned over, but needed a new spark generator.

And that was about it, apart from a little sharpening up. A new one costs five to six hundred pounds. Recyling clearly pays!

Scythes over strimmers

Well we do use the strimmer, and a ride on mower (in moderation), but we also try to use hand tools where we can… It’s quieter, it’s more selective, and it cuts fuel use.

Here’s WWOOFer Scott taking the scythe to the long vegetation on the drive way. He’d make a good grim reaper!

Greening the cleaning

Here’s how (and why) we keep our cleaning as green as we can, and with as few chemicals as possible getting into Devon’s streams and rivers.
It’s time to buy some more cleaner. To be honest I can’t remember when I last bought any, and that’s with 5 houses to clean.

We generally use Ecover because of it’s claim to break down fast in aquatic environments. And that’s what it’s about. All those chemicals end up going down the drain. Even here, where we’re on private drainage, anything that goes down the sink eventually ends up in ditches and then streams and rivers.

Up to half the water in some UK rivers is effluent from waste water treatment plants – ie it’s already been round the system at least once. And it carries with it countless tiny chemical traces that add up to a cocktail that can disrupt fish hormone systems and may even now be affecting human male fertility (here’s a link to more about that research).

So we try to keep them out in the first place!

It sounds, and is, really obvious. But it’s good for the environment and cuts costs too.

So here are our top tips (shh, don’t tell the cleaning company marketing department):

Ignore all that ridiculous advertising trying to persuade you that dousing your home with ‘antibacterial’ cleaners will keep you healthy. It won’t. And not all bacteria are bad anyway – about 1000 different species probably live on your own skin! We do use it on toilet seats and flush handles between bookings, but no-where else.

Obviously you’ve got to do some cleaning… So put the cleaner on the cloth not the thing you’re cleaning – you’ll find you use so much less.

And have two cloths – one to get soapy and one to rinse off. Otherwise you’re always rinsing those expensive cleaners down the sink, then spraying on more.

That’s it really, other than to resist the seductive call of all that packaging. We only use one multipurpose cleaner rather than lots of different products with their additional packagaing and distribution costs.

It works for us, clean accommodation is the most important thing our holiday makers look for. But it doesn’t have to cost the Earth.

The wind turbine is producing more energy than we consume

It’s early days yet. But we’ve had the turbine up and running for about a month and a half. And so far it’s producing more electricity than we consume. May and June aren’t usually windy months, though this year they’ve been breezy. And the turbine is doing well, generating more energy, overall, than our business (your holidays!) and our home uses. Here’s the graph of total generation, as it climbs day on day, and our total energy use, also day by day, since 16 May.

More about the turbine’s installation here.

Water consumption drops at the lodges and cottage

Last June our average water use was about 110 litres per person per day. Now it’s down to about 81. The UK average is 150 per person per day. There was a blip in between – we had a leak last autumn.

And we’d never have spotted it if we hadn’t been monitoring. So taking the readings, and then doing something with them (plotting them), has been really worthwhile.

Even so, it was hard to pin down the leak until the end of the busy season when most people went home and the water consumption for the four of us looked enormous!

Since then we’ve been keeping a close eye on things. The leak was fixed around the end of November.

The points are the average useage per person per night for each month. When they’re averaged, it comes out at 81 litres per person per day. The average for the UK as a whole is 150 litres per person per day(Waterwise 2011 – see link below).

OK, so people don’t do much clothes washing here (though we offer a shared machine). But these winter bookings do include bed linen, laundered on site. And since winter breaks are often weekends, that can mean sheets washed for just a two night stay. Our efficient washing machine helps, as do the low flow rates in the accommodation, and the (recycled) water butts for outside water use.

It’s not that water is scarce in Devon. But it still all has to be cleaned up before we use it (even for clothes washing). And for most people it has to be taken away and cleaned up again via the sewage system afterwards (we’re on private drainage here).

Water consumption per person is rising (by about 1 per cent a year), and as population grows there’s more and more demand. Where Maggie grew up in Sussex, wetlands have already disappeared. We don’t want that to happen here in Devon.

Here’s a link to more about reducing water wastage in the UK.

Energy exporters, long may it last…

We are net exporters to the grid – for now at least. The wind turbine, installed on 16th May, has generated 280kWh of power, and we’ve used 220kWh. That’s for the house and the 4 holiday accommodation units.

Of course, the wind won’t always blow, and our requirements will vary. But it’s a good start and we’ll be monitoring our progress so others can judge whether this is a good way to go.

Overall, if wind estimates are anything to go by (and there’s always the risk they aren’t), we expect the turbine to cover our energy needs for the house and business. Even with the new eco lodge we hope to at least break even and generate the equivalent of 100% of our own power requirements. Watch this space!

Meanwhile, here’s a little clip of the installation process – to balance the rather more dynamic, ‘dramatic music’ version the manufacturers produce!

Excuse the voices off – this is life at Wheatland Farm.

Our wind turbine is up, but not yet turning

Our 11kW Gaia wind turbine was craned into place yesterday. It should make us entirely self sufficient in clean, green, local energy. We’ve been lucky with the weather, the dry spring kept the ground solid so the crane had no trouble getting into the field.

Here’s Ian helping local contractor Andrew Tucker get the blades off Andrew’s special front- and rear-steering trailer.

And the turbine being put together in the field.

And the tower finally being craned into position.
The turbine is not turning yet – we’re still waiting on a new meter from Good Energy, electricity supplier.