Saying ‘I love you’ with cake on Mother’s Day

There’s double cause for celebration coming up with St Patrick’s Day tomorrow (March 17) and Mother’s Day on Sunday.

 It’s incredible to think that next week we mark three years since the first pandemic lockdown (March 23) – a time when we were advised to stay away from our mothers on Mother’s Day. During that dark time, when we were trying to cheer up loved ones we could no longer see, a friend sent me this postcard that made me smile – and made me make a cake.

Since my mother is a Sustainable Mum who doesn’t like ‘more stuff’ (i.e. presents) and prefers a bottle of bokashi spray (for her bokashi bins) to a bottle of perfume, I know I’m on safe ground with homemade gifts, such as a cake I know she loves. Mum calls it Feather Cake but I’ve nicknamed it Caveman Cake because it’s so basic it must be the first cake in human history. It comes with a little backstory too. What more can you ask from cake?

My favourite Mother’s Day gifts when my children were young were those they made themselves. Children wanting to make Mum something this weekend can make this cake in five minutes. Decorating it is optional, depending on the mum it’s intended for. Personally I never met a cake that wasn’t improved by dollops of chocolate ganache but my mum likes it old-school – totally plain.

Recipe books as they used to be

This cake first came to my attention ten years ago when my mother was inspired to compile a recipe book of food she remembered from her childhood that her own mother used to cook. Also included in the book were recipes my mum had accumulated from booklets acquired from local churches and women’s organisations such as the Townswomen’s Guild and Women’s Institute during her 50 years as a journalist on her local paper, The Dewsbury Reporter.

As she’s also a fan of local history, she included old photos of the town too. The purpose of the book, called Dewsbury in Food and Photos, was to raise funds for the Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice in Huddersfield. She had no idea if the book would sell well and was afraid of having unsold books left over, so restricted the number of copies that were printed. Needless to say it was a huge success, raising £16,000 for the hospice, and could have sold many times over.

 Mum assumed that only local people would be interested, but once word got out people from all over wanted a copy. One of my son’s student friends in London, a keen foodie, asked for a copy as he was fascinated to see recipes that had been ordinary fare in the forties, such as sheep’s head broth.

My favourite photo from the book – children playing marbles

Former residents who had emigrated got relatives to buy them a copy, keen for a slice of nostalgia. People with no connection to the time or the place that featured in the book were fascinated by the insight it offered into a way of life long gone – that of working people in a busy Northern mill town in the early to mid-twentieth century. People still ask Mum now if she has any copies salted away somewhere. If only she’d had the confidence to get more published!

 Feather Cake is the first and most important recipe in the book as it’s the one that reminded Mum most of her own mother.

My grandma never knew her own mother, who had died of mastitis (then commonly called milk fever) after giving birth to another baby when Grandma was still a baby herself.  

My grandmother was very typical of her generation in that she found it hard to say ‘I love you’ or show affection. She said ‘I love you’ with cake.  

Extract from Dewsbury in Food and Photos

The first cake I can ever remember tasting was my mother’s Feather Cake, baked on a Sunday afternoon after we’d had our Sunday dinner. That is why it takes place of honour as the first recipe in this book alongside the photograph of Caddy’s ice-cream cart, because for me these two are synonymous.

They remind me so much of those glorious Sunday afternoons when my mother baked her Feather Cake, and not long after a Caddy’s ice-cream cart would come rumbling down our street.

When I started writing this book, I decided to make a Feather Cake myself. What a powerful experience it was tasting something I hadn’t eaten for over 50 years. Just like the narrator in Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, who found his memory unlocked by the taste of a madeleine cake, so too I found myself that day back in my childhood.

Taste and smell are apparently the senses with the strongest link to memory. How true that is. The taste reminded me so much of those happy days of childhood when simple things like a piece of home-made cake, with no adornments, gave so much pleasure.

Most of all it reminded me of my mother.

Lost Time indeed.

Feather Cake

150g self-raising flour

150g sugar

50g lard – 50g butter (or 100g butter)

2 eggs

2 tablespoons milk.

Cream together butter, lard and sugar, beat each egg in separately and stir in the flour and milk until it becomes a light mixture.

Pour into a greased 20cm cake tin. Bake at 180 C for around 45 minutes.

Is there such a thing as leftover cake?

In keeping with the waste-free aspirations of this blog, this next recipe provides a solution for using up leftover cake that’s going dry and at risk of being thrown away.  I would like to say I have tested this recipe but in our house there is never such a thing as leftover cake.

With the fabulous and mysterious name of Wet Nellie, it comes from Lancashire during (I’m guessing) the 1930s.

 When my kids were young and I was struggling to come up with meal ideas, my auntie gave me a recipe book featuring good old-fashioned, no-nonsense cooking – Favourite Family Recipes by Mildred Smith, the cookery star of Granada TV’s The Main Ingredient.

Mildred got this recipe from her mother, who had worked in a bakery – it was the bakery’s way of using up unsold Madeira and sponge cakes at the end of the day.

Wet Nellie

225 self-raising flour

110 lard and margarine (or butter)

Pinch of salt

Cold water to mix

Make up the pastry and line a 18cm shallow square tin with half the pastry

For the filling

225g cake crumbs

150g mixed dried fruit – any combination – and candied peel.

1 tbsp lemon juice

4 level tbsp golden syrup or jam

4 tbsp milk

Caster sugar and milk to glaze.


Combine all the filling ingredients and spread in the lined tin. Brush the edges of the pastry and cover with the remaining half, pressing the edges firmly together. Glaze with a little milk and caster sugar and mark with a pastry cutter in a diamond pattern. Bake near the top of the oven at 190 degrees C. When cold, cut into fingers.

On Mother’s Day, here’s to mothers – and to cakes.

Julie Halford

Spreading the word about ‘living compost’

It’s been a year since we interviewed Michael Kennard of Compost Club about how Maze Compost Tumblers were helping him with his work. As this week is Compost Week UK, what better time to catch up with this wannabe earthworm, who is on a mission to get us all saving our soil.

 Compost Club has gone from strength to strength in the past year and Michael shows no sign of slowing down. He is interviewed in this month’s edition of Gardens Illustrated, recently featured in House and Garden and is also due to give a talk at Gardeners’ World Live at Birmingham NEC in June.

Michael in this month’s Gardens Illustrated

If you haven’t heard of Compost Club before, this is how the scheme – a social enterprise based in Lewes, East Sussex – works: Michael collects members’ food waste every three weeks in his electric van and returns nutrient-rich compost for their garden in the spring. The surplus goes into community gardening projects and is also available to buy.

But this is not just any common or garden compost. Michael has studied the subject, learning from American pioneers such as the microbiologist Elaine Ingham and the molecular biologist Dr David C Johnson. The compost he produces is teeming with biological life; perfect for improving soil structure and making nutrients available to plants to ensure healthy growth.

Great Green Systems bought some of the club’s surplus compost last spring and can vouch for the fact that this really is ‘black gold’, top-notch compost.

The GGS bag of living compost delivered last spring

Michael came up with the idea for Compost Club when he discovered he needed much more compost than he could produce from his own green waste to feed his no-dig allotment.

 He started asking people for input and was soon being offered more than he could use on the allotment.

 ‘People were asking me to take their food waste, because Brighton & Hove Council doesn’t collect it. In the UK, millions of tons of food waste still go into landfill. For every ton of that, there are over 600kg of carbon equivalent emissions – methane, nitrous oxide and all those nasties. If we compost that waste aerobically, the figure goes down to 8kg, which is virtually nothing. So that’s my incentive to do more.

‘Composting is about maximising the diversity of beneficial micro-organisms,’ he explains. ‘They do all the work. I’m just facilitating the process, creating the conditions for the naturally occurring life.’

He currently collects from 180 homes and hopes to set up similar schemes in the area by training other people to compost in the same way. He is also looking to set up a community-based composting system at Great Dixter House and Gardens, near Rye, as well as working with Human Nature, an eco-driven development company who are planning a carbon-neutral neighbourhood in Lewes.

Nutrient cycling

‘My vision is to start Compost Clubs within some of the most densely populated city areas,’ says Michael. ‘The excess compost can go out to the farms, so they can grow naturally pest- and disease-resistant plants that don’t need biocides. The nutrient density will come back to our food again, we’ll all be healthier and there’s a beautiful synchronicity of nutrient recycling that just makes complete sense.’

He is still a fan of his 245 litre Maze Compost Tumblers: ‘I find in-vessel composters like these to be ideal to be able to compost all your food waste in a timely fashion, without concern about rodents and also to produce a really good quality of compost after a good maturation process.’

In Gardens Illustrated (see photo) Michael is shown sitting on top of some of the reclaimed 30 litre buckets he uses to collect food waste. He adds a handful of bokashi, a micro-organism that pre-digests and ferments food waste, to each bucket he hands out. Collected waste is left to ferment in its sealed bucket (with more bokashi added) for three weeks before it’s transferred to a Compost Tumbler for another three weeks mixed 50:50 with woodchips supplied by local tree surgeons. The compost then spends time in a Johnson-Su bioreactor, before curing for two to six weeks.

He says that he used to think the best we could do for the planet was to be ‘the least bad’. Then he dived into the world of permaculture, regenerative growing and soil health. Now he sees sustainability as a minimum requirement for any business. ‘We can actually make things better if we live well,’ he says.

Michael’s on a mission to change the way people see waste and introduce them to a natural nutrient cycle whereby their food waste becomes compost, which helps them grow more food, which becomes more food waste. And so the cycle continues. ‘Waste is a human idea, and it’s a terrible idea.’

He started learning about the soil food web and bought himself a microscope.

‘I found that although the commercial compost is made of organic matter, it’s basically sterile – there’s nothing living in there. That’s the case across the board. ‘

He realised that to get the quality he was after, he would have to start making his own compost, although as he points out, he doesn’t actually make it – ‘I just create the conditions that allow the micro-organisms to do their work.’

His work energises him and has fostered a sense of what he calls ‘joyful service.’ He’s particularly keen to spend more time running workshops to spread the Compost Club ethos of healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy people.

Saving the planet

‘By empowering individuals and communities to make compost for themselves, I can have a bigger reach.’

 Michael’s recent appearance in House and Garden was part of a series by Clare Foster about people passionate about saving the planet.

He talks about how soil is the foundation of our health and, if we destroy it, it’s to our own detriment. Improved soil structure also means soil can absorb more water from rainfall to mitigate flooding.

 ‘Healthy soil will filter water, whereas soils that haven’t had organic matter added are insubstantial and the topsoil just gets washed away. As a planet, we’re losing topsoil at an alarming rate – some people say we only have 50 or 60 harvests left if we carry on as we are.

‘Everything is a reflection of the soil. If the plants have that natural cycle going on, they’re really healthy. When we eat those plants, that’s what informs our gut health.’

As Michael says, healthy soil, healthy plants, healthy humans. It makes perfect sense.

A journey to becoming a green gardener

With compost again in the spotlight (Compost Week UK runs from March 13-19) it’s timely that Nancy Birtwhistle’s green gardening book has just been published.

Nancy first came to national attention when she won The Great British Bake-Off in 2014 and she is now a best-selling author on green issues.

She’s also an inspiration to anyone wanting to live a more sustainable life; the tips in her books and on her Instagram feed are simple but effective, with something for everyone.

We had pre-ordered a copy of her latest book, The Green Gardening Handbook, and we’ve been busy this week reading and learning.

Here’s how Nancy sums up her life’s green journey:

‘Several years ago I began my green journey and this way of thinking has permeated every part of my life, from the way I clean my house to the way I resist single-use items, recycle and upcycle where possible, am mindful about the use of valuable energy and utilities, and also how I have been able to apply this way of thinking to my garden. I became more informed through researching and reading while considering the plight of our natural world and am now converted to methods that, once the penny drops, actually make utter and complete sense, and are logical and sensible. Once we learn how to work with Mother Nature and understand how the seasons work, how plants behave and how we can harness the wonder of it all, the reliance on any destructive chemical, synthetic or harmful methods for home growing are utterly superfluous.’  

 She also talks about her respect for the tiny creatures that make this soil food: ‘I found that once I embraced a greener approach to living – in the garden and in relation to my food – I was ever more appreciative and amazed by the wonder of nature, especially the creepy crawlies, and because of this will continue to do my very best to cherish and preserve it wherever and whenever I can.’

Summing up how all compost enthusiasts feel, she says, ‘I take huge satisfaction each time I add something to my compost bin, knowing that it is one less item going to landfill.’

We’re still reading the book – and noting down our favourite tips – but here are a few quick points Nancy makes about her journey in composting.

  • Finding the traditional Browns and Greens compost terminology confusing, because not all green items are Greens (i.e. nitrogen-rich) and not all brown items are Browns (i.e. carbon-rich), Nancy prefers to think in terms of Wet and Dry contents. (Michael Kennard, of Compost Club, makes the same point in his booklet Hot Compost – The Basics. He encourages beginners to think in terms of nitrogen and carbon content to help get the ratios right.)
  • When gardening, use biodegradable jute twine and wooden plant labels so that any oddments that fail to be removed before composting will decompose along with everything else.
  • Invest a few pounds in a compost thermometer – it will keep you entertained for hours and is a great talking point with enthusiastic gardening friends.
  • Use your compost to fill planters, top dress rose bushes and fruit trees, lay a good thick layer over veggie plots in the autumn and early winter and the worms will do the job of taking it below the surface – no need for digging it in.
  • Make your own compost scoop out of a plastic milk container:  Cut the bottle in half – the top half to be used as a compost scoop or planting funnel and the bottom half to be used as a simple seed pot or planter. Make a starting hole in the centre of the bottle using a hot skewer and use this as an entry hole for the scissors, making it possible to make a neat cut. To use one half as a compost scoop – leave the cap in place and use the handle with the bottle neck in the upside-down position to scoop your compost to take to your pots or tubs. With a scoop there is less spillage than using your hands or a trowel.
  • If you buy compost make sure it is a peat-free variety – peatlands are hugely important for plants, wildlife and humanity. They also store vast amounts of carbon which must be kept in the ground to avoid contributing further to climate change.

(Sales of peat to amateur gardeners in England will be banned by 2024.)

What can we do about food waste?

 Despite the climate emergency and the cost-of-living crisis, we are still wasting food.

As we prepare to go into Food Waste Action Week (6-12 March) it’s alarming to learn that:

  • One third of all food produced for human consumption globally is lost or wasted, contributing as much as 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • 70 per cent of food waste in the UK happens at home.
  • 85 per cent of people say their food bills have increased yet they are still wasting food.
  • According to research last year, 48 per cent of people in the UK said they threw away the same amount of food or more per week than at the same time the previous year.   One in three people said they threw away the equivalent of one shopping bag of food per week – at an average cost of £780 per year. Twenty per cent said they struggled to know where to start with finding a recipe for their leftovers.

Why do we waste so much?

 One problem is lack of knowledge of the damage that food waste does to the environment. Research shows that only 30 per cent of people understand the harm caused to the planet. First there is the cost in terms of production and transport, then there is the cost in terms of waste.

 Food waste has typically been incinerated or buried in landfill along with residual waste and left to rot anaerobically, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. Food waste is still disposed of this way in almost 50 per cent of councils in England who have yet to implement separate food waste collections. This means that currently in the UK, millions of tonnes of food waste still go into landfill. For every tonne of that, there are over 600kg of carbon equivalent emissions, such as methane and nitrous oxide. The home composting of organic waste avoids this fate, of course, which is why so many people choose to do it.

When councils collect food waste separately, it is composted for agricultural use or turned into biofuel. The Environment Act is meant to ensure that all councils throughout the UK will operate separate food waste collections by the end of this year, but details of how that will come about are still unclear.

Wasting nothing

Not very long ago the notion of wasting food was unheard of. My grandmother was born in 1901. The poverty of her life was physically evident in the form of rickets – the result of malnutrition. My mother, a war baby, also grew up in poverty and was no stranger to hunger. Lack of money meant making meals out of anything and wasting nothing.

Fast forward to my childhood in the 60s and 70s, which, thankfully, never featured hunger. Meals were simple homemade British dishes that women (never men) had learnt in the home as children. These dishes didn’t involve recipe books or ingredients you might struggle to buy, such as liquid glucose or star anise.  Stews and pies were staples, with little red meat. Egg and chips were a perfectly acceptable meal.

 Somehow over the last 50 years many of us lost touch with the kind of resourceful home cooking that had been handed down over generations. What happened?

Perhaps under the influence of TV (and advertising) we started to feel that shepherd’s pie wasn’t good enough and we should be serving something more sophisticated and aspirational, something that mum and gran had never cooked?

 At some stage it seems we all bought into the idea that foreign was better. Now, I love Indian and Italian food as much as the next person but that does not mean that stew and dumplings are inferior.  I remember my auntie, in her eighties, telling me there was something she had always wanted to try. Her tone suggested something daring, and I was mentally preparing a risk assessment to take her white water rafting or bungee jumping, until she said shyly, ‘Pasta’. She was one of the best cooks I’ve ever known, but somehow she felt this Italian substance was exotic and out of her league.

My mother always loved cooking and learnt from her own mother to use every scrap of food and stretch every penny. Today we would think these women were great role models; they’d be designing food waste reduction apps for multi-national companies.

Keeping cooking in the family

If I’d had any sense, I would have learned a lot from her. Unfortunately, I was a bolshy know-all teenager (is there any other kind?) taken in by the educational rebranding of cookery in the 70s and 80s as Domestic Science. As a science it was something you could get wrong and fail. I thought my mum couldn’t possibly know as much as the teachers. Sure, what my mum made tasted good, but it was just basic low-level cooking that kept people alive, whereas this was an O-level.

 Part of our task in Domestic Science was to balance colour and texture. You would be given a scenario to cook a menu for and you’d be marked down if there was too much of one colour or texture.

My mum took a keen interest and would make her own menu suggestions, and I would roll my eyes and inform her that, No, obviously you couldn’t have apple pie as a dessert because you’d already had pastry in chicken pie for the main. Obviously you couldn’t have two lots of pastry – it’s the same colour and texture.

My mother would argue that it made sense to use up the pastry remains from the chicken pie as a topping for the dessert and to also cook it at the same time while you’d got the oven on. That would mean no waste and less expense.  And I would retort, Fine and if I do that I’ll fail!  And my mother would shake her head in disbelief as if the world had gone to hell in a handcart.

(At this point I would like to add that in 20 years of child-rearing, at no time did any child ever complain that a meal was too brown or contained too much crumbly texture.)

 My mother was a working mother, but in those days there was no school run (children walked with other children) no after-school activities and no parents’ evenings/school meetings to erode parents’ time.  The pace of life now means we don’t plan meals, even though just 10 minutes a week doing this would save time and money in the long run.

Take time to plan

But how to choose what to make? For decades we’ve been overwhelmed by thousands of recipes from celebrity chefs using ingredients you had to buy in specially. In many cases this leads to one-attempt meals, leaving ingredients never to be used again.

 All that is now changing in response to the climate emergency and the struggle faced by many families to put food on the table. Manufacturers now understand the need to promote low-waste solutions. Useful apps are in plentiful supply and that’s no bad thing. I’m up for anything that keeps me on the straight and narrow when it comes to avoiding waste.  I already use the Kitche app and was immediately interested when a friend told me about the Hellmann’s Fridge Night app, which helps people reduce waste and save money by using up whatever’s in the fridge.    The aim of the app is to reduce food waste by up to 33 per cent.

The chef and presenter Liam Charles dishes up flexible recipes based on a simple 3 + 1 method.

This means using:

  •  1. A carb base.
  •  2. Whatever veg you have.
  • 3. A protein.
  •  The Plus One is a Magic Touch’ to maximise taste, usually a condiment such as mayo or pesto, or a yogurt-based sauce. Variations are suggested depending on what you have available, so you don’t feel you can’t make a recipe because you lack ingredients.

So far, I’ve made a Creamy Pasta Salad using fridge veg (wilting sprouts, red pepper, courgette), a can of tuna, with the Magic Touch – 6 tbsps mayonnaise and 1 tbsp vinegar.  I’m not sure whether chef Liam would have recommended sprouts in there, but it was all I had and it tasted great. Last week I made the Great Express Omelette – eggs, cheese, red onion, spinach, mushrooms, thyme – with the Magic Touch provided by red pesto.

Express omelette using leftovers

I know that I’ve not been organised enough in the past. Now that I know better, I can’t bear to throw any scrap of food away, even though all our food waste is composted in the Green Johanna or Compost Tumbler. The internet is a treasure trove of tips and I’m learning masses from eco-influencers such as Nancy Birtwhistle and Jen Gale. If you saw Jen on The One Show recently (along with her Green Johanna compost bin), like me you may have been impressed on seeing that her fridge contains little notes telling the family which items need using up first.  

Easy wins to waste less are:

  • Plan menus for the week
  • Save leftovers and use apps for flexible recipes
  • Batch cook and freeze some for later.

See the Love Food Hate Waste website for more ideas Love Food Hate Waste | Food Waste prevention

  And yes, before you ask, I am finally listening to my mum.

Julie Halford

When you can’t let a beloved pet go

Our dog died a year ago and his ashes are still sitting on the mantelpiece in a cardboard container.

At the vets we were offered a choice of decorative urns but turned them down as we wanted to scatter his ashes in his favourite park.  My friend’s parents have had a wooden urn containing their dog Sandy’s ashes on their mantelpiece since 1978. But no, we wouldn’t be doing that.

After receiving the ashes, we decided to wait until Easter to return to Oakwell Park with him one last time.

Easter came. ‘When are we going to take Rocky to Oakwell?’ I asked my husband. He took so long to reply I thought he hadn’t heard me. But then he said quietly, ‘I can’t let him go.’ 

It’s strange. We know the cardboard box is not ‘him’.  It’s not rational, it’s not sensible, there’s not a single intelligent reason for his ashes to remain on the mantelpiece in a green and purple cardboard cylinder – and yet remain they do. Along with his photo, his pawprint, a tiny bottle with some of his golden fur and a large portrait display my son bought us saying, No Longer By My Side But Forever In My Heart.

What’s normal?

Last week a friend contemplated the mantelpiece shrine and asked if we had thought of adding Rocky’s ashes to the compost bin.

His comment made me wonder what other people do. What’s normal in these circumstances?

An internet search showed that, as you might expect, many people want to return their pet to nature by placing their ashes in the garden where they roamed and played. But cremation ashes contain high levels of calcium and increase the pH level in the soil so they should be mixed with manure, compost, organic nitrogen fertiliser or coffee grounds.

Alternatively, there are biodegradable urns for ashes that gradually decompose, and biodegradable tree urns made from natural plant fibres that enable you to grow a tree in memory of your pet.

I came across discussions on the ethics of burying a pet in the garden, with stories of people being horrified to discover animal skeletons while gardening. Some think you should have to disclose if you have buried a pet on a property before selling it.  There’s also the matter of leaving behind your pet’s burial site if you move house.

In some countries it’s illegal to bury pets in your garden, and there are environmental concerns about burying a pet that’s been put to sleep with euthanasia solution.

Then I came across a story about two vets from Columbia, where it’s illegal to bury pets, who wanted to come up with a more environmentally-friendly way of disposing of a pet’s body than burial or cremation. With cremation 96 per cent of the body is released into the atmosphere as pollution.

Their solution was to create organic compost from the animal’s body, inspired by the natural way that a body decomposes after death. Owners can then have this compost returned to them (after about 60 days) in a pot with a plant of their choosing. 

From pet to plant

I struggled to find examples of pet ashes being added to a garden compost bin but I don’t feel particularly motivated to find out more.  I feel my beloved dog is not a plant or a tree but then he’s not a cardboard box either. What he is to me is a cocky little character who races into the room at cartoon-speed, head tilted to one side, with a wild, dramatic stare that says ‘Mum, what the heck are you doing sitting comfortably when you should be getting my tea ready!’ Or who ostentatiously takes on the task of guarding our territory from a squirrel invasion, looking round self-importantly every now and again to check we’re impressed by his skills.

But that’s never going to happen again.

To think I never wanted a dog. For years my husband and sons had argued for one and I always said no. I had never had pets growing up. But two things happened to change my mind. The first was a chance meeting in a park with an adorable bundle of golden fluff that came running up to my eight-year-old son. My son was captivated as the bundle of fluff, a Norfolk Terrier called Rosie, nestled in his arms.  Walking away, I said the fateful words: ‘I could have taken that dog home with us.’

As soon as we got home my husband was straight on the internet looking up Norfolk Terriers.

A boy and his dog

But I still might have said no, if it weren’t for a psychology book I read that said having a pet in childhood leads to psychological resilience in adulthood. I could see the sense in that – if you have to deal with the nitty gritty of life early on it helps prepare you for what we all have to face later.  Life isn’t clean, calm and controllable; having a dog shows you that. It forces you to deal with poo, wee, blood, vomit, sacrifice, suffering, death – like a cross between an A and E department and a Russian novel.

 I liked the idea of our sons developing psychological resilience and I liked that Norfolk Terrier.

 So we got a dog. The night before we were due to go pick up our Norfolk puppy from a farm near York, I sat surveying the living room. Our youngest was eight; we had passed the stage of domestic chaos and our house was on the way back to resembling an adult-friendly refuge. And we were about to blow all that. I looked fondly at the stain-free carpet. In 24 hours, I would have a living creature crawling about on that carpet and it would be here for years and years and there’d be no going back. I felt afraid. What on earth had I agreed to?

You know where this is going.

Before long the dog wasn’t just a ‘dog’ anymore, it was ‘Rocky’ and Rocky took over our lives. At first he was anxious around other dogs until puppy training classes,  dog trainer sessions and a dozen books helped us to help him.

Keeping calm

He had one unhappy experience at the vets and for the next few visits was very stressed, but I realised that I was able to soothe him with my own reaction. If I kept completely calm, reassuring him in a cheerful voice, he would fix his eyes on mine and be guided by me. He would remain calm even though he wasn’t happy. I realised to my astonishment that he trusted me more than he trusted his own sensations. It was as if he thought, If Mum says this is ok, it must be.

 It took me by complete surprise that I, who had never had a pet in childhood, could form a bond with an animal; that this animal could like me and want to be with me and place all his trust in me. I was completely blindsided by this love, unconditional and often undeserved. I understood why animal lovers often say their pet rescued them rather than the other way round.  

So it proved during the pandemic, when this funny little furball was our tower of strength. By day, we took him for long walks round Oakwell Park, standing to one side to give other dog walkers and joggers two metres’ space. By night we watched the daily updates on TV. Rising panic was held in check thanks to having a yawning dog sprawled across my lap, sighing contentedly as I stroked his tummy.

 He hasn’t a clue what’s going on, I thought. He is just here in the moment enjoying a tummy rub. I resolved to try to Be More Dog. What use to anyone was my personal panic?

I try to blank out the day I took Rocky to the vet about a limp, only to find out it was lymphoma. And the day a few months later when for the first time he refused all food and the vet said, I think it might be time….

The next 24 hours were like nothing we could have imagined. The son who was eight when we got Rocky, and who named him after the Rocky films, got the next train home from Newcastle where he was at university.

A man and his dog

I’ll always be grateful that lockdown was over, so the vet and her nurse could come to the house.

And I’ll always be grateful that I was able to do one last thing for Rocky. The vet explained that she needed the nurse to hold Rocky very still as the line was inserted into his leg. Then he would be able to come on to my knee. But inserting the line could make a dog become very agitated and upset and she might need us to leave the room if he did.

I will never know how I did it, but somehow I was able to hold Rocky’s gaze and keep my voice calm and reassuring, just as I had learned at the vets years earlier, telling him what a good boy he was, what a good boy he had always been. I never stopped repeating those words. He was afraid but his eyes never left mine for a second and he remained still as the line was put in. If Mum says it’s ok, it must be.

A dog is a child that never grows up. Your four-year-old child wants nothing more than to be with you and shower you with affection. Your 14-year-old, not so much. Your dog always thinks you’re great, even when you can’t think of a single good thing about yourself.

So, to go back to my friend’s question. No, we haven’t considered adding Rocky’s ashes to the Green Johanna.  We know that this would be the circle of life and he’d be going back to feed the soil and create new life and all that.

 I really don’t know what we will end up doing. But, right now, as my husband said, we just can’t let him go.

Julie Halford

Saving the world from squirrels – Rocky Halford

Taking compost from the Green Johanna

At Great Green Systems we’re always keen to share our and our customers’ experiences of composting with the Green Johanna. This weekend we opened up a Green Johanna that we have been trialling with great results.

This Green Johanna was used from mid-September 2022 to mid-February 2023 with the insulating jacket permanently installed.
100% of the cooked and uncooked food waste from this household was recycled in the Johanna. There were between 2 and 4 people in the household during this time, with up to four more visiting through the Christmas and New Year period. The amount of waste diverted to the residual (grey/black) wheeled bin fell to less than 50% of the bin capacity (ie less than 120 litres) per fortnight compared to previous usage. Over the Christmas period, when bin collections were suspended for a week, the residual bin comfortably coped with three weeks’ worth of general waste.
The fermented contents of several 14-litre Bokashi bins that were accepted from relatives who don’t have their own compost bin were also decanted into the Green Johanna.
The food waste was liberally mixed with carbon-based materials, mainly autumn leaves and wood chips, and treated once per month with Bokashi bran to accelerate the composting process.
Using this method, we consistently achieved compost temperatures of 30-60 degrees Celsius even through the coldest winter temperatures. All the food waste generated from the household was comfortably accommodated by the composting system.

Saving the top section to go back into the compost bin

Compost can be accessed by unscrewing the hatches at the bottom or, since the Green Johanna is a modular unit made up of circular rings, the upper sections can be removed leaving an impressive tower of compost. As you can see from the photos, we chose the second route as we wanted to take a lot of compost out at once.
We removed the top sections of compost that are currently decomposing (taking care not to squash any worms) and placed these on an old wipe-clean tablecloth kept for this purpose until we were ready to put them back in the bin to continue the breakdown process.
More than half of the composter contents were removed for soil replenishment and other garden uses, with the remainder being returned to the Johanna for further composting.

Topping up planters with compost

To purchase a Green Johanna Complete Bundle, including Insulating Jacket, click here:
Green Johanna Complete Bundle – Great Green Systems
To upgrade your existing Green Johanna with an Insulating Jacket or Complete Accessory Set, click here:
Green Johanna Insulating Jacket – Great Green Systems
Green Johanna Accessory SetGreen Johanna Accessory Set – Great Green Systems
To combine your Green Johanna with indoor Bokashi Bins, click here: Bokashi Bin By Maze – Great Green Systems
To improve and accelerate your Green Johanna composting with Bokashi Bran, click here: Bokashi Bran 1kg – Great Green Systems

Compost – let’s all spread the love

As unashamed compost-heads feeling the love for the earth this Valentine’s Day, we thought we’d fill a space on the Great Green Systems office wall with this DIY picture.   

And perhaps we should compose (decompose?) a little ode to compost while we’re at it:

 Compost, how do I love thee?

Let me count the ways…

(with apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning)

Perhaps it would be better in prose.

Why we love compost

Let’s just start by saying that you don’t need to be a gardener to compost. That is a wrong-headed assumption some people make and if that’s you, we hope we’ll manage to change your mind.

Many of our customers know nothing about composting at the outset but they start because they want to take control of their own food and garden waste. 

Composting used to be thought of as a side-line to gardening, but now more and more people are taking it up because they want to live a more sustainable life and do something to fight the climate crisis.

Compost is an ally in combatting the climate crisis because it boosts soil quality as well as helping soil to pull carbon out of the atmosphere and sink it back into the ground. The more carbon that is taken from the atmosphere, the better chance we have of reducing the rate of global warming. Along with oceans and forests, soil is an important carbon storage medium.

An American study showed that spreading half an inch of compost over half of California’s grasslands could remove carbon from the air at such a significant rate that it would balance the greenhouse gas emissions for the entire state of California for a year.

The International Compost Alliance, formed in 2021 to raise awareness about the benefits of composting, says: ‘Compost is a win-win solution to climate change – not only does recycling organic wastes reduce emissions, compost also brings many benefits when used on soils too.’

Compost boosts soil quality by:

  • holding on to important nutrients
  • improving plant productivity and quality
  • protecting plants from pests and diseases
  • preventing erosion
  • improving drainage
  • absorbing water, slowly releasing it to grass and plants so they need watering less frequently.

As compost breaks down, it delivers important nutrients into the soil. Compost contains the three primary nutrients that plants need: nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. As well as feeding the plants that grow in this soil, compost also increases the number and variety of beneficial bacteria and fungi in the soil, which helps plants to grow.

The quality of produce grown in soil treated with compost tends to be higher. International studies have shown:

  • In India – quinoa plants in soil mixed with compost showed a significant increase in ability to take nutrients from the soil.
  • In China – wheat fields treated with compost had significantly increased yields versus a control field of uncomposted soil.
  • In Italy – compost increased lettuce and kohlrabi growth by 24% and 32% respectively.

Studies on compost’s water-retaining abilities have shown that for every 1% of organic matter content, soil can hold 16,500 gallons of plant-available water per acre of soil down to one foot deep.

Compost also helps water to get to plant roots more effectively by:

  • reducing crust forming on soil, so water can get into the soil more easily.
  • helping to disperse water laterally from where it hits the ground, which means it will evaporate less quickly.

What a waste

Once you start composting you begin to realise the amount of food that is wasted and its cost. This awareness tends to help households to reduce food waste in general.

Food and garden waste account for more than 30% of the contents of a typical domestic wheeled bin, which is crazy when you think that this waste could be turned into free soil nutrition that can replace or reduce costly chemical fertilisers.

Around 50 per cent of local authorities in England have yet to begin separate food waste collection schemes, so there are still mountains of food waste being sent to landfill or incineration for the foreseeable future.

Engaging in the composting process also introduces children to environmental science. This is a topic that can grow in complexity as a child grows and is able to understand more about what is involved.

According to the charity Garden Organic, the health of the earth’s soils is fundamental to life as we know it, yet half the planet’s topsoil has been lost in the last 150 years.

Save our soil

There are around 15 million gardens in the UK – that’s millions of people with access to a patch of the planet. The charity urges people to take simple steps to redress soil degradation in their own gardens by regularly topping up beds with compost and ensuring soils are not left bare.

Bare soil is vulnerable to erosion, weeds and carbon loss. So even if you don’t need compost for the sake of plants, covering bare soil is still beneficial for the environment.

You can also spread compost thinly across a lawn or grassed area, where worms will pull it down into the soil and it will boost soil quality and by extension the grass.

Or give it away – to allotments, community gardens, school gardening clubs, voluntary groups. It will always be gratefully received.

Compost – spread the love.

Tips to deal with fruit fly nuisance

Fruit Flies are one of the most common nuisances in the UK, affecting more than 60% of households.  

So if you encounter this annoying problem, you are certainly not alone.

 Although fruit flies are part of the composting process in the sense that they help to break down organic material, you want to minimise numbers as they proliferate quickly.

 Fruit flies are not your common or garden (or house) fly; they do not usually enter the home through the door or window, they come in with the fruit that you buy or get from the garden.

Adult fruit flies lay eggs on the fruit’s skin and these hatch later when the temperature is right. Fruit flies have a strong sense of smell and are attracted by the smell of overripe or rotting organic matter.

The eggs are microscopic, so they’re invisible, until suddenly – they’re not. Obviously, if the eggs are already in fruit skins when added to a composter there’s a chance they might hatch inside it.

There are several steps you can take to minimise the risk.

In the home

  • Because fruit flies lay eggs on exposed food, take care to keep food stored in a fridge or lidded containers, not out in the open in fruit bowls.
  • Use up ripe fruit and vegetables as soon as possible.
  • Compost organic matter quickly as fruit flies are attracted by the smell of decomposing food.
  • Keep stored waste in a lidded kitchen caddy. Always keep the lid on your caddy, even between new additions of waste as you are preparing food.

In the compost bin

  • In a well-maintained hot composter flies shouldn’t be a problem as high temperatures  destroy the eggs.
  •  If there is a problem, add more carbon-rich materials (woody garden waste/shredded paper/cardboard/wood chips), and mix in well so that any food waste is covered.
  • Top the contents with a layer of fresh soil.
  • Ensure the compost is kept moist but not wet as flies proliferate in wet conditions.
  • Wrap food waste in newspaper so it is covered. Lining your kitchen caddy with newspaper is a convenient way to wrap your waste up as you take it to the composter.  
  • Bury food waste deeper in the compost so it is not exposed.
  •  Ensure the bin has good aeration – stir really well to get air into the mix.
  • Try putting the composter in sunlight – flies like a warm but not hot environment.
  • Make sure that you always lock the lid securely.
  • Take care not to spill any food around the composter.
  • Monitor acidity – if you have added a lot of fermented content from a bokashi bin to your composter, add a handful of lime or crushed baked eggshells to neutralise excessive acidic conditions as flies prefer a low (acidic) pH.
  • Flies don’t like the smell of certain plants – peppermint in particular – so you could add sprigs of peppermint to your waste and wipe round the compost bin with lavender, lemongrass, eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils.

In the Green Cone

 In the case of the Green Cone Food Waste Digester, no garden waste can be added as the Cone only accepts food waste, so covering with garden and paper waste is not an option.

Because the Cone’s basket is underground, smells are filtered out by the surrounding soil, meaning there is no obvious attraction for ordinary flies. But if fruit fly eggs are already in fruit skins when added to the Cone, they might hatch inside it. Avoid this by following the advice above on preventing infestations in the home.


  •  Freeze your fruit and veg scraps in a plastic bag or container overnight to kill any eggs or larvae before adding them to the Cone.
  • Flies don’t like the smell of certain plants – peppermint in particular – so you could add sprigs of peppermint to your waste and wipe round the compost bin with lavender, lemongrass, eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils.
  • Add accelerator powder to add more beneficial bacteria to speed up decomposition.
  • Remember food waste should never come higher than the top of the Cone’s underground basket; waste should never be above ground level.
  • Some people pour hot water into the contents but this will also kill off beneficial bugs so use only as a last resort for severe infestations

 Get trap happy

You could also try a home-made trap that will act as a magnet.

Add an inch of apple cider vinegar to a glass jar with two drops of washing up liquid.

Put a plastic wrap cover over the top of the jar and poke small holes through with a toothpick. Flies are attracted by the smell and can get in but can’t get out.

Remember to change the liquid regularly to keep the fly trap working.

Keep food covered to discourage fruit flies.

The ultimate no-waste dinner for Burns Night

One of the funniest things about the film My Big Fat Greek Wedding is the proud Greek father’s attempts to prove that everything originally came from Greece. In my experience, Scots share a similar trait – the conviction that everybody originally came from Scotland.

It was years ago, while accompanying a group of French students on a trip to Glasgow, that I discovered, to my surprise, that I was actually Scottish. I was ordering a round of drinks in a pub when regulars at the bar heard my Yorkshire accent (think: Catherine Cawood in Happy Valley, or, if you need an older reference, Vera Duckworth in Coronation Street) and asked where I was from. The news that I was from Yorkshire was greeted warmly, as God’s Own Country was obviously considered a Little Scotland. Then they asked my surname (pre-Halford). This was greeted even more warmly as it was proof that I was really Scottish; I even had my clan’s tartan cheerfully pointed out on a big chart hanging on the wall. Then when I mentioned my mother’s Irish maiden name, it turned out that her family weren’t really Irish, they were Scottish too! Another tartan was duly pointed out.

This bond formed the basis of a great night and our party were treated to free drinks all round (Scots mean? I’m sorry, you just haven’t met the right Scots – and please don’t disrespect my people while you’re at it.)

I vaguely remember that the French teachers I was with were also told they were really Scottish too, but quite what a Dubois tartan looks like, I don’t recall.  It must have been the free drinks. But thinking about it, a Scottish/French link would explain why they share those rolling Rs.  

Family pilgrimage

The fact that my husband’s maternal family is Scottish needs no investigation. His grandfather’s family walked (literally walked) from Dundee to Birmingham in the 1930s in search of work. It’s hard to imagine how tough their lives must have been. You certainly wouldn’t have the nerve to complain you were having a bad day if your father had walked 350 miles to find work in a steelworks. Looking into his family tree, my husband found his relatives weren’t actually from Dundee but a wee place (that’s my heritage coming out) called Inverkeilor. There is even a Facebook group for the Cuthills of Inverkeilor as they were spread far and wide. A family pilgrimage is being planned – by car this time, not foot.

I say all this to head off any accusation of cultural appropriation when I share a haggis recipe for Burns Night.

It was on that glorious trip to Glasgow that I first tasted haggis. Had I been offered haggis at any previous time, I would have declined by faking dramatic vomiting sounds, due to the very thought of it. Something to do with sheep’s stomach….eurgh, pass the sick bucket etc. But on this happy occasion I had to be polite, refrain from gipping and tuck in because I was staying with a wonderful host family who had cooked it for us. Oh my word, it was fantastic. To think if I hadn’t been on that trip, I would never have tasted it and missed out on this delicious part of my Scottish heritage.

Having so far praised all that is Scottish, there is one thing I can’t let them get away with – Burns Night or no Burns Night – their problem with pronunciation.

While a student living on my year abroad in France, I made two great friends who were also studying French – Alison, from Glasgow, and Anna, from Donegal. We became the best of friend, sisters under the skin, and our ears gradually adapted to the newness of each other’s accents, even borrowing great words from each other that our own country’s ‘language’ lacked.

One evening over a meal of spag bol, Alison asked me to pass the paper. I turned to the desk behind me, picked up a pad of notepaper and passed it to her. She stared at me nonplussed and asked again for me to pass the PAPER. I responded by thrusting the notepaper more urgently towards her.

 ‘I said PAPER,’ she said, raising her voice as if I were deaf.

‘AND HERE IT IS!’ I shouted back.

Honestly, what’s wrong with her, we both thought.

This went on for a few more seconds, while Anna sat firmly on the fence grating a lot of parmesan on her pasta. Finally, Alison got up, walked round the table, picked up the pepper pot, with a meaningful look at me, and took it back to her place.

‘If you wanted the pepper,’ I asked, ‘then why did you ask for the paper?’

‘I didn’t ask for the PAPER, I asked for the PAPER,’ she retorted.

Talk about being divided by a common language. Thus, we came to realise that Scottish people have a problem with differentiating between the pronunciation of certain words. Or rather I realised that; Alison probably came to a different conclusion, and Anna clung stubbornly to that fence of hers.

Eejit test

I honestly don’t know how Scots differentiate between pepper and paper when talking to each other. Maybe they use hand signals, or perhaps they think the context would make it obvious to anyone but a total eejit. I just hope I am never in a critical situation where the confusion caused by a Scottish pronunciation of pepper and paper could mean the difference between life and death.

The Scots are on to something, however, with that little word ‘och’.  There is just no equivalent available to the English and there should be. It’s the perfect sound for all manner of situations and its absence must cause the English some kind of psychological problem – stiff-upper-lip perhaps. I have tried my best to introduce it south of the border, but it doesn’t seem to be catching on, not in Leeds anyway.  

I’m trying hard here to link a haggis recipe to the point of this blog, which is usually on the topic of waste recycling – but all I can think is this: Make haggis and you won’t have any waste to dispose of.

 Looking up haggis recipes to try out, I was happy to learn that sheep’s stomach has generally been replaced by casing, and the work involved with the offal ingredients means it’s easier to buy ready-made, which is what we’ll be doing tonight. It will be served, of course, with neeps (mashed swede) and tatties (mashed potatoes) and we’ll be raising a toast to the hardy Cuthills of Inverkeilor and all my distant unknown clans.

My recipe search also came up with a veggie version that’s just as tasty, with whisky sauce to serve.  

Happy Burns Night to all Scots – including all those who don’t yet know they are!

Julie Halford

Vegetarian Haggis – Serves 6

  • 2 large portobello mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 1 medium sized brown onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 50g salted butter
  • 100g pinhead oatmeal
  • 55g split peas
  • 55g pearl barley
  • 1/2 tsp mace
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 600ml vegetable stock
  • 1 1/2 tsp marmite
  • 1 1/2 tsp black treacle
  • Oven 180 degrees C


  1. Boil split peas and pearl barley in two separate saucepans – split peas for 25 mins and barley for 20 mins.
  2. Fry onions in 25g of butter, add the chopped mushrooms and when soft, stir  in the grated carrot.
  3. Make your stock, stir in the marmite and black treacle until they both dissolve.
  4. Add the oats to the frying pan and then 400ml of the stock.
  5. Add the salt, nutmeg, pepper and mace and stir while gently heating.
  6. Drain your split peas and pearl barley, add both to the frying pan, Allow the stock to reduce down, stirring gently.
  7. Add 25g butter and the remaining 200ml of stock.
  8. Cook the mix over a medium heat until the stock has reduced completely, stirring often to avoid it catching on the bottom of the frying pan.
  9. When the mix is cooked through and the stock has reduced, taste to make sure flavour is balanced, adding more spices, marmite or treacle as required. The flavour should be warming and peppery with an earthy undertone and a little sweetness.
  10. Spoon the mix into a well-greased loaf tin and place into the preheated oven for 20-30mins, or until the top of the mix is crispy and darkened.
  11. Once the haggis is cooked take it out of the oven, place a length of tin foil over the top of the haggis and then an upturned baking tray. Gently turn upside down so you end up with your haggis, out of the tin. on the foil on the baking tray.
  12. Place this back in the oven for 2-5 mins to crisp the outside of the haggis.



 Whisky sauce

  • 2 finely chopped shallots
  • 300 ml double cream
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 tablespoon whisky
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard 
  •  Fry shallots in butter for 3 to 4 minutes until soft.
  • Pour in the whisky and allow it to cook for a minute and reduce.
  • Add the cream and mustard and bring to a simmer. The sauce should be slightly thickened. Season to taste.


Warm up this winter – get your jacket on

It takes all sorts to make a world, as the saying goes.

At Great Green Systems we know that it takes all sorts to make compost.

We never cease to be amazed at the different results that people get from their Green Johanna. For some people fast compost is the priority, while others want finer, well-matured compost and are prepared to wait longer. Some users are less interested in compost and more concerned with being able to recycle as much of their food and garden waste as possible, diverting it from landfill.

Some customers say they rarely aerate their bin’s contents but still get results they are happy with.  Some use cooler temperatures and get a bin full of worms working away on their compost, while others tells us they never remove the insulating jacket and have no problems.

 Whatever your composting style, one thing we’re all on the same page about right now is maintaining temperatures warm enough to keep the composting process going in the bleak midwinter.

Here at Great Green Systems HQ in Yorkshire, snow is covering the ground but the Johanna in my garden is clearly feeling toasty in her jacket. After a night of sub-zero temperatures, the ground temperature this morning was zero but the first compost temperature we took today was 40 degrees Celsius.

From zero….


…to hero

At the coldest time of the year, with temperatures plummeting by the day, the insulation provided by the insulating jacket is invaluable to facilitate regular temperatures high enough to keep the Johanna’s contents breaking down at pace. (In warmer weather, the jacket should be removed if compost temperatures exceed 70 degrees C as this will be too hot for beneficial micro-organisms to survive.)

Additional ways to boost the winter composting process are by:

  • adding beneficial bacteria in the form of bokashi bran
  • adding a bucketful of mature compost or the fermented pre-compost from a bokashi bin, which also help to give your bin’s contents a shot in the arm
  • ensuring that waste materials are chopped into small pieces as these will break down faster than larger items. When adding stored garden waste, make sure pieces are no bigger than 5cms as the more surface area there is for microbes to work on, the faster waste will break down, generating more heat.

Differences in climate and soil biology according to location are factors that can affect composting outcomes, as well as differences in contents due to the household’s diets. People who cook from scratch using a lot of fruit and vegetables will produce more food waste (rich in nitrogen) than people who regularly use ready meals. So two neighbours with the same bin might have different results depending on the number of people in the household and their diet, plus the type and amount of waste their garden produces.  

We have heard of Johanna users who only add garden waste and are happy with the compost produced  –  their garden waste must comprise a good balance of nitrogen-rich Greens (fresh grass clippings and green leaves) and carbon-rich woody Browns. We are surprised that some customers say they don’t aerate the contents as regularly as we recommend – we can only imagine they must be good at providing air pockets in their carbon-rich contents, thanks to inputs such as wood chips and corrugated egg cartons etc.

Full Monty composting (not what you think…)

Some compost fans, like the team here at Great Green Systems, become fascinated by the process and go Full Monty, with a thermometer, pH and moisture measure and water wand among their kit.  We also cherish our stored bags full of raked, shredded autumn leaves and wood chips ready and waiting to go into action as part of an easily accessed carbon army to get through a long winter.

It’s a fascinating subject, but it can be as simple or as involved as you want it to be.

One member of our GGS team is out early every morning to check the temperature of his Johanna and this forms a larger proportion of his daily conversation than might be considered strictly normal but, as we said, it takes all sorts…   He also has a woodchipper to shred the twigs and branches in his garden waste.  In autumn our colleague sets off with his rake to gather the rich bounty of fallen leaves from quiet streets in his neighbourhood (not busy roads where the leaves could be contaminated by lead pollution). In doing this, he says he is also providing a free health and safety service by reducing the risk of slippery leaves on pavements.

We advise people to follow the golden composting rules regarding materials/oxygen/moisture as we want them to be as successful as possible. Some people tell us they break the rules but still get away with it. We all know the type – those Rebels Without a Rulebook whose first job when opening any piece of new equipment is to throw away the instruction manual and proceed by trial and error.  

Perhaps they’re onto something. We know that what puts some people off trying composting is the fear that they might get it wrong. So perhaps we should say there is only really one golden rule: it’s better to start – and proceed by observing and adapting –  than never to start at all.

 To borrow a well-known slogan – just do it.

Spare Parts