Have a happy Easter! Or, if you don’t celebrate Easter, have some nice relaxing days off!

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Trying to live a green-ish life can be a challenge – sometimes because it takes more effort to do the green thing, or more time; sometimes because it’s more expensive, or means that you have to opt for an alternative that will work, but not be as satisfying as the original; and sometimes just because it is hard to know which choice is the greener one.

Take, for instance, electric cars. Yes, burning fossil fuels is not the solution – but with the current electric cars, batteries are a huge issue. Producing batteries takes a lot of energy and ressources, so it does take quite a while for an electric car to become greener overall, regarding its complete environmental impact, than a regular fossil-fuel car driven in an eco-friendly way. And that only if you fill up your batteries with electricity exclusively from renewable sources.

There’s a similar thing when packing stuff. Plastic or paper bags? At first glance, you’d think that a paper bag would be the greener choice by far. Unfortunately that is not the case, as manufacturing paper bags and even recycling paper is consuming quite a lot of energy and water as well. So paper and plastic bags… both not a good choice, though if you are using it only once, a lightweight plastic bag might even be the lesser evil.

While we’re at the topic of plastic and it maybe causing more good than harm, here’s an interesting thing from the BBC about plastic packaging, especially of food items.

The thing that irks me a little in these reports and assessments: It would be perfectly possible to use energy from renewable sources to produce paper bags, and while the reports mention that the trees could stay un-felled and absorb CO2 instead of becoming paper bags, they don’t mention that plastic is made from a finite ressource. So it does, overall, sound a little bit biased to me.

It would also not be so necessary to have plastic packaging for food if they are produced, sold and consumed locally. Which, obviously, is not possible for all kinds of fruit and vegetables – but buying locally from a farmer at the market will usually get you fresh produce at a fair price, and with little to no packaging. Especially if you re-use the bags you have, whether that is cotton, paper or plastic. As the plastic bags today are mostly very lightweight, it’s easy to just stuff one or two into your handbag or bike pannier or whatever else you carry with yourself on an ordinary day, for impromptu shopping stuff. (It never hurts to have an extra bag in the bag. Just like a spoon. Both totally belong in any handbag, if you ask me.)

So… I’m trying to buy things with as little packaging as possible. Which means I am trying to avoid plastic even more than paper, though, as I think that the environmental impact of microplastics and the problem of the non-renewable basis for this are still factors that speak for paper instead of plastic where packaging must be used. The bags that do land in our home are reused – paper bags from the bakery store dried bread leftovers that will be turned into delicious dishes a bit later, or – most of them – become bin liners for the compost bin. Plastic bags are re-used several times for packing things, like fresh produce bought at the market, until something really dirties them up or until they develop holes so they are not useful anymore. Some get a last call to duty as the kitty litter bag… which actually is one of the few things that would be a hassle without plastic bags.

So… what’s your stance on plastic or paper bags?

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Notre Dame, that wonderful cathedral in Paris, has burned on Monday. It’s a very sad thing – and it does bring home again how devastating fire can be, and how hard to bring under control, even with modern firefighting equipment.

No lives were lost, though, which is a good thing. Another good thing is that the statues from the spire that fell had been taken off for conservation works just a short time before, so they are safe as well, as are a good part of the treasures that were housed in the cathedral (among them, luckily, the garment of King Louis IX – whew!).

It’s not clear yet what caused the fire, and no matter how it came to be, the damage done is huge. Though, again, it could have been worse. The roof is gone completely, as is the spire, and there may be structural damage done to the stones due to the heat, but most of the building is still standing, and a lot of the inside is still intact. Plus, for the restauration works, Notre Dame was the subject of many research works, so there is a good number of documentation about it. There’s also a lot of donating going on already to help with rebuilding and restoration.

If you are looking for more info, this BBC article provides links to footage of the fire and to several other articles about the topic.

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Sometimes, making a ruckus by getting a lot of people to sign something does actually help. The “save the bees”-Bürgerbegehren that was running a while ago had a huge lot of people sign, and as a result, the contents of this petition will actually be turned into laws. Nice, isn’t it?

So, since there is hope of things changing to the better if enough people speak up, here are links to some petitions currently running that seem like a good idea to me.

First of all, and for Germans only: The Elbe river is scheduled for works to deepen the river bed, starting very soon in 2019. Unfortunately, this deepening means a lot of excavators removing matter from the river bed, killing everything that lives in there – the microbiome in the river bed soil doesn’t withstand sudden changes in its environment. The excavated soil will then be dumped in the North Sea, where it doesn’t belong and in turn causes more death of local fish and crustaceans, as their habitat is disturbed.

A petition against this is currently running on the petition site of the German Bundestag. If you are a German citizen, you can register and sign. Unfortunately, it will only run for a few more days, until and it is very far from reaching the quorum number yet – so please do sign, quickly, and spread the word!

Another petition, also regarding stupid things planned in Germany, is against a mountainbike park in the Saar-Hunsrück-Region. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against mountainbiking and MTB trails – but the plans are for a huge beast of a park with lifts, ramps, and other fixed installations. The forest that this is planned for, however, is home to wild cats and technically under protection as a natural reserve. Not a good idea to get about 27000 people per year in there, mountainbiking…

Third thing’s the charm, finally – Greenpeace is asking for signatures for better protection of the high seas. That protection is necessary, as the high seas are in danger of overfishing, there’s plastic floating around, and that together with the climate changes is damaging animal and plant life in the sea. Which, in turn, will bite us humans in the butt – so it’s high time to have some more protected areas in the sea.

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Spring has really sprung now, and there are flowers, flowers galore in the garden. Here’s picture proof, first of the first tulips:

The peach tree is also flowering nicely:

… and the hyacinths are doing a good job of adding some blue to the flower beds. Which I much appreciate, with blue still being my favourite colour!

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If you’re interested in inks or ink corrosion, there’s a conference planned about just that topic – ink corrosion – in October 2019, on the 24th and 25th. Right after this conference, there’s a three-day workshop (October 25-27) on making and using historical inks.

The webpage OpenEdition offers a number of open source books and articles from the humanities and social sciences. The website, for me, shows up as an odd mix of German, French, and English, but it seems to be natively French, and a high percentage of the texts are french. (Try searching for “quenouille” instead of “spindle”, for instance.)

There’s an old Egyptian rug that is made from cat hair.

And while we’re at the topic of animals – the Rare Breeds Survival Trust has published the current watchlist with endangered rare breeds in Britain. There’s quite a number of sheep on the list – so if you’re in Britain and thinking about keeping some sheep… (or horses, or poultry…)

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Here are a few images from the workspace, so to say – I’ve been outfitting part of the new embroidery frames with bands to attach the fabric.

The way these frames work is rather simple: You baste or herring-bone-stitch your embroidery ground fabric to the bands at top and bottom of the frame. Then you tension the fabric between the frame bars with help of the wooden pegs; if your fabric is a long strip, you can roll it around one of the frame bars to store the excess. (The bars are fairly rounded to avoid sharp crimps in the fabric or, as you progress, in the embroidered fabric.)

Once your vertical tension is thus established, you get a nice horizontal tension by stitching the left and right edges to the vertical slates. Using a needle, you pierce the fabric, then wind your tensioning thread around the slate, then go through the fabric again.

This setup of the fabric is, obviously, more time-consuming than just plopping a modern round embroidery frame onto a piece of fabric, but it will give you a higher, more controlled tension that will not slack off quickly or easily.

To make all this possible, though, you need the bands on top and bottom of the frame – and fitting these is a story of its own.

First of all, the bands are cut and their edges are hemmed. Then the real thing is up – the attachment. I use small copper tacks to attach the linen bands to the frame; they have to be placed close enough to each other so the band doesn’t get a lot of opportunity to sag between attachment points.

They are tiny, and soft, and they look really nice. As they are tiny, it’s rather fiddly to handle them, though. And because the wood of the frames – birch, beech, or maple – is rather hard, it’s also very easy to just deform the tacks instead of hammering them in – which is why every one needs some pre-holing. I do that with help of a slim steel nail.

Once every attachment spot has its hole prepared through the band and into the wood, the tiny tacks are inserted into the holes, two or three at a time. Theoretically, I could insert all of them at once, but experience has shown that this does not save time, as the vibrations from hammering in their mates makes those further down the row jump out of their prepared holes again… which is not very helpful.

So there’s bit by bit fitting and hammering, until all of the holes are filled. And then the process is repeated for the second of the bars for each frame.

Once that is done, the two fitted bars get bundled with their side slates and four pegs, turned out of the same wood – and they are ready to be used for some lovely embroidery!

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