Friday 20 May 2016

Crofting - a major contributor to atmospheric carbon dioxide - replace the sheep with trees perhaps?

When I put the last of the logs under cover I was feeling quite smug; I heat the house and hot water with wood I also cook with the Rayburn  most of the year.  The house is well insulated, I use mainly low energy light bulbs and I'm fanatical about switching things off.

Yesterday I found the WWF "Farm Carbon Footprint Calculator"  on line. I spent 15 minutes completing the questionnaire with details of fuel use, cropping, livestock, purchased feed, fertiliser and agrochemicals, capital items and the house. The result was a shock.

Despite relying on  mainly renewable fuel, keeping grazing livestock and poultry, driving only 6,000 miles a year I generate over 15 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.  What can I do about it?.

I thought that my truck would be the biggest contributor. Its two and a half tonnes  and pulls a 3,500 kg load. I use it for firewood , livestock, hay and straw haulage but it only generates 20 % of my total carbon. The sheep are the biggest culprits as they generate 37 % of the croft's CO2 emissions.

We need more young trees, they absorb more CO2
Planting trees would help, they soak up carbon dioxide and eventually they will provide someone with firewood on the doorstep without fuel miles. The 150 million trees in Kielder Forest soak up 2 kg each of CO2 per annum (Forestry Commission). Carbon capture depends on the species, the growing conditions and how the trees are managed. So how many trees would I need here to get my carbon emissions balance with carbon capture?

At 2,500 trees per hectare ( the plant population for commercial forestry) I would need 3 ha commercial woodland;  slightly more than twice the area of the whole croft. Last year there were 19,422 crofts in Scotland if Craigard is typical (unlikely!) total carbon dioxide emissions were nearly 3 million tonnes.

Tuesday 17 May 2016

Cornish game : velociraptors and Christmas dinner

Velociraptors - Behind bars to protect the public
The Cornish game chicks hatched three weeks ago look like infant velociraptors but most of them  are destined to become Christmas dinners.

 Originally bred in the early 19 th century these short legged, broad, heavy birds were found to be very good when crossed with other breeds for meat production.

Breeders were looking for heavy weight fighting cocks but these were too stocky, heavy and docile. When scientific breeding based on quantitative genetics produced the first broiler breeds, Cornish game were part of the genetic mix. At the moment they look a bit like their dinosaur ancestors.

I'll keep the best males and females for breeding the rest will be Christmas dinners for friends but there is a drawback to this gift. The law requires you to clean it and dress it yourself, I'm not allowed to, so it will come without feathers ( dead of course) and you will have to do the rest.

Next year the plan is to cross the Cornish game with some Bresse Gauloise to produce the finest possible table bird. 

Getting home from the South.

I last used the Caledonian Sleeper to Fort William twenty years ago. Since then I have used buses, trains planes, hitch hiking and hotels to get home by public transport and minimise my carbon footprint.

On Sunday I used the sleeper again, it was perfect. I slept for 9 hours, breakfasted at Ardlui beside Loch Lomond and arrived exactly on time at Fort William thirteen hours after leaving London.

The sleeping cars must be forty years old but the cabins are immaculate, ingenious examples of design. There's a place for everything, a rather narrow but comfortable berth and after dawn..... dramatic views  of the W. highland mountains and moorland.

Last year the service franchise was taken on for 15 years by SERCO, I'm no fan of our privatised railways now largely run by the national railways of other European countries ( how can
they be privatised when they are run by the nationalised railways of other countries?). Fare increases, delays and big subsidies from the taxpayer have been the result but I will reserve judgement. So far it's been an improvement.

My ticket was a gift from friends, so much better to be given an experience then, "stuff". With Senior Railcard and advance booking I'll be doing it again.