Washkers – prepared conkers for you to wash your clothes with
Using conkers or horse chestnuts is a free way for you to make sure your washing chemical free and will do no harm to our world.
I have used them for four years now, and every year I get to have lots of conversations with people helping them start this journey.
The one thing I found was that even when people really loved using them, preparing enough to last a family from session to session was quite hard for many.
Pressures of modern life, working, parenting, or not having anywhere close to collect conkers, and for many not having the physical ability to chop and dry was the biggest barrier to having enough for a whole year.
So WASHKERS was born.
I will always provide the instructions and help people prepare their own, but for those that can’t I hope that by offering washkers for sale I can help them on the journey of regenerative modern living.
Here is my post on how to make your own – and how the journey started
When someone buys washkers from me, they are directly supporting a UK based, non profit that works towards putting more back than it takes from the biosphere.
Every year we plant a minimum of 30 horse chestnut trees, more if we can plus other spices of trees.
Our packaging is upcycled 100% cotton material so it can be composted when you have finished using it – although they make great produce bags, or storage bags. You can even post back to us to refill if you wish, all before it heads to the compost pile.
So what are you waiting for ? why not try some today, see if you like them before conkers session gets here – October – and then you can either make your own or keep supporting New Forest Aquaponics cic with our regenerative work supporting our local community.
Until I work out how to add a shopping cart please could you use this link to purchase the washkers.
Children naturally take care of things precious to them, a favorite teddy, a special pet, and so often a treasured stick ( I have yet to meet a child who does not wish to bring a stick home from a walk in a forest!)
As adults it is easy to forget the connections we have with trees, the importance of those sticks we brought home as a child, it becomes too easy and cheap to chop down that tree that’s seen to be in the way. The value of the tree gets forgotten.
Tree planting exercises with children are run every year. There are many really good schemes to get children to help plant trees, and thankfully we continue to see those initiatives increase. If you have taken part or run one of these projects you will know we either see hopeful little hands pop an acorn in a pot and stare with expectancy to get it to grow, or dig a hole for a sapling’s roots in the middle of a field far away from the child’s home.
But then what happens?
How does that child connect with that tree, how does it know the journey the tree takes? How will the child watch the tree grow with them, how will the child help look after the tree in the long term? And let’s face it, children really love looking after precious things.
Thinking about the experiences we have witnessed in our lives, what happens next we believe is a vital step in how children and the adults they grow into interact with trees and our biosphere in the long term. Teaching the value of trees to the individual can only truly be achieved if we can create deep connections with trees. How do we do that if the trees that are planted the child never gets to see again?
David Green, part of the New Forest Aquaponics CIC core team, planted trees as part of the ‘plant a tree in ‘73, plant one more in ‘74 ‘ tree planting campaign. One of the trees he planted was in his parents back garden. A silver birch that grew big and strong. All through his childhood he could see and connect with that tree everyday, he had other trees that he had planted around the same time, but they were all in pots, just the silver birch was in the ground.
When he moved out to start his adult life, David took the trees in pots with him, but the Silver birch had to stay. It didn’t take long for his dad, not known for being a fan of anything alive and green, to chop it down, ending that tree’s life.
The trees in pots are all still safe and growing, doing what trees do best, helping us breathe.
It is this experience and the desire to help create deeper connections with trees, that lead us to get children looking after trees at home. From this the Virtually Real Forest was born. It is a forest of trees grown in pots. Each tree will be registered on our database, so the tree can be tracked as an individual tree, information on the life of that tree can be recorded. Once the guardian of the tree is able to put down roots themselves at a permanent home, the tree can be planted in the ground.
The trees will be given to people via workshops on trees, starting with oak seedlings, at a workshop all about wonderful oak trees. Then as we grow more species we will have workshops on trees in general, or tailored to individual species.
The database will show which areas the trees are growing, and how well they are doing, and where they eventually end up.
New Forest Aquaponics CIC hopes to gain funding to provide larger pots, and bioactive compost as the trees grow, so there will be no financial restraints on the tree being cared for. If the tree can no longer be kept and there is nowhere to plant the tree, it will always be welcome to come back to our care.
If you have a trees and would like to add it too the forest, please let us know you wish to take part, fill in the form so we know about your tree and we will allocate you a registration number. Register your tree
David has a love of big exotic and spiky plants. Our front garden at home is full of them, all shapes and sizes, and the garden is full!
So when Dave found a baby Washingtonia robusta palm at B & Q in the reduced section it just slipped into the trolley. Needing tender loving care to get this tiny palm that had not been watered or cared for back to health would be a challenge we thought. But as we were just starting out on our journey of aquaponic farming, we had a secret weapon. We had all the quarantine systems left over from our ornamental fish shop, we had added plenty of plant trays and were seeing what would grow and what wouldn’t inside our huge greenhouse.
The poor little palm was plonked into one of the plant trays and left to get on with absorbing as many nutrients and as much water as it could. Would a palm tree grow in an aquaponic set up, would it be too much water, would it cope if it got really cold? All of these things we would find out over the next few years.
After the first year we were confident it was going to do well, in fact it seemed to be doing really well. It was in one of the raised plant trays, fed by our main system, stocked with sturgeon, grass carp and koi, all really heavy feeders. By the third year it was beginning to touch the ceiling and was going to need to be moved down to floor level.
Now that sounds easy – just lift it down. But being grown aquaponically meant if we took it out of the system, we would have to replace it with the same amount of plants able to use the nutrients up to keep the water healthy for the fish. It was also really interesting to see just how big we could grow the palm.
Work started to change the plumbing to allow the palm to be on the floor and still be in the main system.
Dave spent some time making sure he had got everything ready, a cut down IBC as a pot, and all the plumbing to make sure the water flows correctly round the system.
Whilst he was getting all of this ready the metal stand the plant tray was on collapsed!
Our older son Robbie and Dave had to get it moved. If you have ever handled a big palm you will know just how dense and so how heavy they are to move. This palm has 3 stems which at this point had grown into a mighty 6 ft at the crown of the tallest stem. You can see how hard it was to move from the video – we have edited out the swearing…..
Fast forward to 2021 and we have a couple of issues. The palm has done so well and grown so fast, proving how well trees do in aquaponics, that it is now touching the top of the greenhouse.
We are worried it will damage the greenhouse glass.
The second issue is that New forest aquaponics CIC is going to have to find a new home for our aquaponic farm and we cannot guarantee we will find anywhere with the space to house the palm, or have the finance to take it with us. It will need a hiab to move it, which is not cheap to hire.
So we have decided to see if anyone would like to buy our little palm! At this size they adapt well to being moved and as long as it is well watered will be able to be planted in the ground.
We will be very sorry to see the palm go, it has been a good friend and a great talking point with visitors.
We have managed to find a little one, the same size as when we got this one, so it will be interesting to see how quickly it grows this time.
We have put together a short video of the palm, it is old footage we took when we moved it to floor level. It is now so big it is impossible to get a good picture to show how big it has got as the greenhouse is so very full of fish and other plants!
If you would like to make a sensible offer for the palm – remembering that the money goes towards supporting our regenerative non profit please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org.
When I had my first son 18 years ago I was very determined to use cloth nappies, which I did, along with cloth wipes. Of course I did the same for my second son.
The reusable wipes were the thing that really inspired me, cloth wipes can be for anything not just cute little faces!
But super soft baby wipes are not very good for cleaning the dishes – just not abrasive enough for stuck on burnt food. So I had a think…….
Using what I have is a principle I stick to as much as possible, and my first cleaning cloths were made from towelling and fleece, and as I did not have an overlocker I had to sew and turn and then sew again. They were bulky and not easy to make and of course fleece is a shedder of micro fibres, I would not dream of using fleece now for anything.
I needed to think again, so using what I had I turned to t-shirt material, bingo! They work on any surface – soft side for polishing and rough side for scrubbing. At this point I was just making them for our own use and for friends and family.
Not long after I had my second son I was able to afford an overlocker and that changed everything !
The cloths became super quick to make and so they could be made and sold in bulk. I then got involved in clothes swaps, and was able to source huge quantities of old t-shirts that no one was going to wear any more, towels sourced from charity shops that were overwhelmed with them and we were in business.
Everyone who was given some would utter ‘oh that’s genius’ hence the name – Genius Cleaning Cloths. And when a school cleaner ordered enough to keep a whole school clean to save on using the planet’s resources as well as the school budget, production increased yet again.
So apart from being made from upcycled materials what else makes these genius cleaning cloths?
Did I mention that I still have some of the ones I made around 15 years ago? Did I mention they can be washed over and over again – even on hot washes if needed. Or that they can go in your home composting when you finally finish with them?
We don’t use labels or any other unnecessary packaging and they are completely plastic free!
And they are not perfectly rectangular, we don’t have seconds, working to make the best use of the materials if they need to be a bit shorter, or if I sew a little wonky down one edge we still love them, they still do a perfectly good job.
We sell them in packs of 10 for £6, to reduce shipping impact they can be ordered in sets of 3 or 6 packs of ten.
If you would like to try some for yourself you can order via this link
Any questions please do email me .
If your local zero waste store would like to be a stockist they can be found on https://www.sourcery.uk/ most zero waste stores who stock them sell them singularly
The view has changed from my bedroom window, I watched it change through the rain, my window open so I could hear the change happen. 7am 31st October 2021.
So what was the change and why am I feeling so sad?
Today the Fawley power station chimney came down. 198 metres or 650ft of chimney who’s building was completed in 1969 (same year as I was born) and commissioned as part of the oil fired power station in 1971. It has been a landmark ever since, the lights that shone from the top showed the way home, if you were lost – you just found the tower and you knew you could get home.
Falcons have been nesting there for many years. I heard them scream this morning as they flew away.
So why do I feel so sad? After all we need clean energy, oil power needs to be a thing of the past, the power station hasn’t been used since 2013, apart from lots of media projects like star wars using the control room as sets. You would think I would be pleased to see a relic of co2 producing power gone…..
But the power station is being replaced by a huge development – here is a quote from the website
Our ambition is to build one of the most beautiful small towns in England. A place with solid economic purpose, that has been very deliberately designed to mix jobs, homes and services.
Fawley Waterside will be a place that is attractive to both people and commerce. This new sustainable community will be home to around 4,000 people with a significant proportion working close by. It will be defined by the beauty of its buildings and places, countryside and coast.
You will note they want to build a small town, not just on the site of the power station but over a larger footprint. To be fair to the people behind the plans, this could be anywhere in the UK. My sadness is not just for this area and is not just about what they are doing, we are doing this all over the UK, as well as the rest of the world, and it is damaging to everything that calls this planet its home.
Let’s look at why – There seems to be a belief that we need new housing – in the same way we have been building square boxes, with high prices, for years. . Do we need new housing or do we need more homes? There is a huge difference.
There is a belief that new jobs will be created, new shops and other community resources will be built and improvements to the surrounding roads will happen as part of the development. Please call me skeptical but I will believe it when I see it. Of course the question is, do we need them or are they the sweeteners used to make us approve of the plans. Will they get built or like the planned use of the tower as a tourist attraction get swept by the by as too costly, too difficult or what other excuse was made at the time – after planning permission was given to the building of a town between two very small villages.
Now if we are insisting we need more housing, could it be done in a way that does less harm? A way does not replace the untouched wild land – a place rich in biodiversity, with a managed ‘space for nature’? Can we build using more natural materials that are truly renewable and fit within the circles of the world, adding more by their use than we take?
I doubt it, there is one major driving factor behind this and all other developments in the UK, and most of the world. That factor has always been greed.
If we plan our actions with care towards the biosphere, everyones and every species home, care for people follows naturally. When we act with care before greed, everyone benefits not just the few. Care does not stop profit – it spreads it more evenly.
If you see this happening where you live and you think it is not right, please take action, make your voice heard, find others in your community and act before it is too late. I wish we had.
Update – the day before the tower came down my son Robbie and his friend went to see the tower one last time. The weather was very different, and the Ahoy Shipmate team were filming, and asked for their thoughts.
You may have seen from previous posts, that New Forest Aquaponics CIC is working with Joel Odongo in Eastern Uganda and TANU. This bit of help I am very pleased to have been involved in.
One of the people that TANU ( Transformation Agency Network Uganda ) is supporting is Sarah Ajiko. She is 28 and trained in tailoring. At the moment she has been living with her grandparents, in the Teso region of Eastern Uganda.
She has a disability that she was born with. Persons with disabilities account for 8.5 percent of Ugandans. Most live on UGX 2,400 per person per day which is equal to 50p. The Ugandan government has just produced The persons with Disabilities Act 2020, with the aim of getting more help to people like Sarah. I asked Joel who runs TANU about it and how much help was really available. Joel is a very polite man, I cannot write his reply.
TANU now have built their youth training rooms, and are excited to start the next phase which is training the young persons who come to them with skills that they can use to earn a living to support themselves, and families and TANU so they can continue helping others to develop skills.
Sarah has amazing sewing skills, and has the ability to teach the others to sew. using a hand cranked sewing machine. But to do that she needs to have a wheelchair, her grandfather cannot carry her for ever. And she will need to move to TANU from her village, so a plan to achieve this has been put in place.
I am super pleased to report the first stage of this plan has been achieved with the help of a few people here in the UK.
The only problem was that they fit the wheelchairs to each person, making sure they know how to care for the chairs and that the fit is comfortable. That meant a journey of 300 plus miles each way. To make this achievable for Sarah, they needed to be able to take the faster, better, safer coach. This was going to cost them far more money than they had, and they had already delayed the journey once and stood the chance of missing out on a chair for Sarah.
So I put out a request on FB, and a few amazing people donated to the cost of the journey.
Sarah got her first wheelchair at the age of 28. Thank you to those who made this possible.
Joel and Sarah travelled the first day, they treated themselves to bread for lunch, a real treat! Traffic was bad so they arrived too late to find somewhere to stay. It is not deemed to be safe to walk around many parts of Uganda at night especially in a strange place. So Joel made Sarah comfortable on the coach station seats and made sure she was safe for the rest of the night. Being in town at first light meant they were first in the queue and by 11 am she had her chair and was fully fitted and shown how to care for it.
Joel and I talk a lot via fb messenger, sometimes he is sad and worried, sometimes he is happy, but nothing like the call I got from both of them as she received her chair.
Imagine someone in the UK not getting a wheelchair till they were 28?
Now think about how much this will change her life. Not only does Sarah have the dignity of being off the ground without someone holding her, she can come to Tanu and work and teach others with the aim of being able to support themselves as a group and individuals.
Changing Sarah’s life is helping change the lives of those around her.
Tanu are making ramps to make sure Sarah can get into all the buildings, and have been collecting materials to make her a small home at the skills centre. Normally for homes they use rammed earth floors, they have made one in the skills centre, but for Sarah and her chair they would like to be able to give her a concrete floor.
If you would like to help with the next stage of Sarah’s journey the cost of the cement is around £45. You can make a donation here.
We pass all monies directly to TANU, once her home is built we will need to get her a hand cranked machine as hers was stolen last year. Any extra towards the cost (import tax and delivery of the machine has to be paid) would be a huge help.
After what seems like forever we have at last been able to build and install a project built here in the UK following the principles of plastic sequestration as laid out in the guidelines produced by the Global Ecobrick Alliance.
I would like to introduce to you the Ecobrick Settee and coffee table Four Acres academy in Bristol.
Encon construction Ltd have built a new Waste and Recycling centre in Bristol. As part of the community benefits that run alongside the build they have been working with Four Acres Academy in Bristol.
They have run lots of educational workshops for the children and one of those was to create an ecobrick project.
I was asked to run one of the Global Ecobrick Alliances (GEA) starter workshops for the children, and to build a settee and coffee table following the guidelines of the GEA plastic sequestration principles.
And here it is!
358 ecobricks all logged and authenticated on gobrik.com with a combined weight of 180.09 kgs put to use in the school. It is in the area of the school that the foodbank works from, combining messaging to the children of good healthy food and taking care of the plastic that they have no control of coming into their hands.
The equivalent amount of AES sequestered plastic was purchased, and a certificate produced via the plastic offsetting system on gobrik.com
Follow the link to see how easy it is for you to offset your plastic usage that you cannot avoid to support ecobrick projects around the world and in the UK who are taking care of the plastic in their communities https://www.gobrik.com/#offset/
The settee and coffee table was designed and built by Robert Green who at 18 is the UK’s master ecobrick module maker having been trained By Russell Maier from the GEA and has now made over 150 modules. If you would like to book him to teach you how to build modules with your ecobricks, or Ecobricks UK to lead workshops – either starter workshops or ecobrick Trainer courses get in touch. UKecobricks@gmail.com
It has become time for Ecobricks UK ( at New forest Aquaponics cic ) to sort out the underweight ecobricks we have been sent since 2018.
It has always been our intention to be able to use these to insulate some of our aquaponic ponds. Sadly we need to reduce the number of them before we can get that far, as we have to find a new site before we can dig any ponds.
So a dedicated team of passionate ecobrickers came to start the process of sorting and remaking as many as we can so they are usable in modules
We decided to make a video to help you understand why we need you to make really good solid, dense ecobricks that fulfill plastic sequestration principles and earthen ethics, rather than underweight ‘ecobrick’ attempts that can’t be used.
We do understand and appreciate that every underweight ecobrick represents an attempt by someone to express their feelings about plastic, the desire to see change from a plastic dependent society. It also shows us the dangers of social media, how messages get spread without detail, and how we forget to research for ourselves the information we find on a facebook post.
Thank you to everyone who cares enough to try, thank you to everyone who has and is reducing the plastic that comes into their lives ……we know it isn’t easy! Regardless of if you make ecobricks or not – just keep working on not consuming the plastic, the earth will thank you for it.
Here is the transcript for the video.
It has been put together under the directorship of James who is 10 – and who leads by example and follows the earth’s ethics.
Ecobricking is a way for anyone anywhere to take personal responsibility for their plastic. Together we can keep it out of the biosphere and out of capital and carbon intensive industrial processing.
Ecobricking follows the Earth’s example towards cycling and sequestration. Based on indegenous wisdom, extensive evaluation and earthen ethics, ecobricking isn’t just about packing plastic– it’s about petro-capital transition.
This can be quite a lot to take on, but it is so important,
This short video is about why it is so important to follow the principles of ecobricking and make really good solid and dense ecobricks.
Underweight ecobricks cause problems for those who end up looking after them.
Have you ever wondered why?
At ecobricks UK we were caught out when the idea of ecobricks went viral october 2018, we had 1000’s of poorly made ecobricks sent to us. Every underweight ecobrick is a well meaning attempt to do something about plastic, but if we do not follow the principles of plastic sequestration we are failing our biosphere.
We have looked after these ecobricks, but we can’t not use them as they are and still uphold the principles of plastic sequestration. So a team of volunteers came and spent a day with us to start the process of sorting them out.
We are going to remake as many of the ecobricks as we can so the plastic is taken care of. This means opening them, and chopping up the plastic. As we opened the poorly made ecobricks we came across so much that should not be in an ecobrick.
And some were just too dirty to even think about opening……
We found paper, compostable plastics, metal, full teabags, paper, lots of bits of food and a nappy……..
An underweight ecobrick that contains materials other than plastic can become compromised, we want the ecobricks to last as long as the plastic. Excess air, organic matter and any moisture can cause the ecobrick to become weak which will affect any structure it might be part of or even burst the top off.
We ask you to wash and dry your plastic for good reason, not only will any dirt in the ecobrick slowly break down leading to bacteria and fungus to grow and this can lead to methane gas forming inside your ecobrick.
When ecobricks are used to make home furniture you want to avoid unsightly ecobricks or bloated bottles. It has been known for dirty wet plastic to cause the lids to pop off.
Logged ecobricks are the best reassurance that the ecobricks can be used in many different projects throughout its lifetime.
One of the reasons we advise anyone running a project to only accept ecobricks that have been logged and authenticated on gobrik is to stop underweight ecobricks being given to the project.
We have been sent 4 purses to raise funds for TANU. When they arrived they were accompanied by lots of letters.
These have been written by the youth who use the skills centre.
They were written for them to introduce themselves, and I would like to share them with you.
Although we might read them as begging, they are not, all they want is help for the skills centre so they can continue to learn – most of them have not been to school, or had to leave when very young.
For me the most powerful aspect I wish to share is that every person on this planet has the right to equal opportunities.
What those opportunities are and how they should be shared out across the globe is something we need to address. Equalling doesn’t have to be ‘upwards’ it can’t be if we are to regenerate our biosphere to redress the damage we have done.
Let’s look at how we achieve equality differently.
I met Joel Odongo online via ecobricks. He could see how much plastic there is in Uganda and would love to be able to do something about it. But as with everything in life sometimes we have to do lots of groundwork before we can look at achieving our goals. And that has been very true of Joel. You can read the first post I did about him and the TANU youth centre here
One of the goals we have with working with them is to find a way of creating an income for TANU so they can support more young people to learn the skills to earn a living, support themselves and their families.
Now they have built there skills centre, they can start the real work they wish to achieve. Building the skills centre took all of there money, (thank you to those of you who helped with the last bit of cement) , so they are going to be baking cookies to sell locally. They have found this helps to get the centre known within the local village and is teaching skills – cooking, selling, money management and working together. All very import things to learn.
And this is where I need to ask for your help. To test the post between Uganda and the UK, back in the spring they posted a small packet of four purses they had made.
They are made using plastic beads, in traditional patterns, using traditional weaving techniques. They made linings with zip pockets, on the one treadle sewing machine they have – we hope to get more of them for them in due course.
The next purses they make will be with natural plant fibre weaving – which they have been learning to make.
But to kick start the whole process they need to be able to purchase the ingredients to make the cookies. For every £3.50 of ingredients they can make a profit of around £1.50 which will go to buy the supplies to make the purses.
If you would like to buy one of these purses they would be super grateful. I think £20 each would be a perfect amount ( plus £3.50 postage) You can order one using this link a https://donorbox.org/purses-from-tanu
Please let me know which one you would like – but please understand their is only the four in the picture.
And if you would like to know more about the people who made the purses check out their letters
What do you need if you want to provide a youth centre for young people, to equip them with skills for life, a trade they could use to earn a living, and a place to make friends?Here in the UK you need DETERMINATION. You would need to find a building to use, funding to pay for the bills and the running costs. Including wages for adults to work with you, and for any equipment you may need. What if you want to build that youth centre in Uganda?You still need that DETERMANTION. But how different would it be?Firstly save until you can buy your plot of land £3000 ish. Then start working together to make by hand the bricks that you need to build the centre. Not a quick process, as you need to make about 20,000 bricks, then fire them. Then you have to save up for the cement, the stones for the floor and tin for the roof. You have to have enough to pay the instructor who can help you build. You know this will take time, but you have determination. You have rented a couple of rooms so you can start working with the youth, some of whom are young pregnant girls, some of whom are orphans. All of whom are keen to learn and are determined to help themselves. Then covid hits your community again, and this time your landlady has said she needs the rooms back at the end of lockdown. What do you do?You build your youth centre!!! How amazing are these guys? Led by Joel (my friend), they got the bricks they had made to the right place, an instructor to guide them through the build. You dig the 20 ft deep hole for the toilet – 5 years worth apparently! And you start building. In contrast I have just packed my 18 year old off for a weekend camping trip with a group of teens. As they went with all the tech they can’t live without, fairy lights and one of the mums to put the tent up……The Ugandians are amazing and so so determined! But they have run out of cement – can we help? A bag of cement costs about £6, or UGX 29425.65. They need about 10 more bags. I have set up a donation link for them, if you are able to help them even with just one bag, they would be really grateful, there is no big funding pot they can apply to. The long term goal is for them to be self-sustaining and earn their own money. We have started on that plan, the build has had to be brought forward so caught us all on the hop.