Tag Archives: inspiration

2016 Welcomed With Open Arms. New Year, New Start

Viewing platform, Eden Project, Cornwall

Viewing platform, Eden Project, Cornwall

January 1st 2016

Happy New Year out there.

Well, it’s a brand new start again today. After a year of torturous health problems I can finally move on and look forward to achieving what had to be put on hold. So I have plans. Not huge ones, but this is the year I concentrate on achieving some of my own goals.

I started well. I considered the real start of my new year to be Yule, the 21st December. And I’d planned Christmas as the Eden Project in Cornwall. For those who haven’t heard of it it’s an educational charity promoting balance in nature, a better understanding of our eco-system and research. It rivals Kew. Built from an old clay pit, dead and disused, it contains two huge biomes that house thousands of plants from around the world. You can find out much more at https://www.edenproject.com/.

Anyway, we went for Christmas, and had the most wonderful time. Astoundingly, there were outdoor fuchsias, roses and other plants in flower, and wild strawberries in fruit. We’ve had strange seasons and they are obviously confused. Flooding over the north of England and Scotland have blighted many people’s Christmas, and we are lucky not to have had such severe weather here. Close to my home town folk were evacuated following unprecedented rainfall – two months worth in 48 hours. Poor things!

So now for my plans. The garden is in a mess due to this year’s neglect. I need to get fit, so that will be the main focus. I want those raised beds stuffed with goodies. And now my neighbour has erected a new fence, I can plant along it some fruit bushes and some native shrubs. Building is happening on the fields behind us and there have been burglaries of sheds, so we’re are trying to make the place as secure as we can. Thorny shrubs will help. I’m on my own with it all. No-one else has any enthusiasm for it, so all progress and achievement will be mine. Eventually, I’d like to get my garden up to Yellow book standard. The yellow book is a listing of gardens open to raise money for charity, and they have pretty high standards.

Anyway, inspiration comes from our trip. Eden puts on a special show at Christmas, lighting the tropical biome, putting on entertainment and taking people on a quest. We spent three days there, and I even saw real reindeer for the first time in my life. I took a lot of photos, so here are a few.


Recipe for Eden


Bananas growing inside the tropical biome, Eden Project, Cornwall


Fuchsias in Flower at Christmas. Eden Project, Cornwall


Produce and Plant display, Eden Project, Cornwall


Gardening Without A Garden

Container Gardeng In A Very Small Space

Container Gardeng In A Very Small Space

If you saw my last post, I was banging on about us all being able to grow a bit of our own food, which is not only great for your health and pocket, but helps with the global food crisis. I’ve just returned from visiting a friend and found a perfect example of container gardening. My friend has a flat with a shared communal garden.  Therefore, the only area in which people can grow  things is outside their windows in a very restricted area. One of the residents has made supreme use of this tiny space, and I thought I’d share her ideas with you. It proves you can have home grown food in a tiny space and you don’t need a huge garden to garden!

Container Garden Sweetcorn

Container Garden Sweetcorn

This lady has made the most of a very small space. It’s about 4’ deep by about 12’ wide under her window. She has sweetcorn, beetroot, runner beans, herbs,  tomatoes, French beans, cucumber, spring onions and even carrots.  I was thrilled to see such a lovely little garden  all without a garden. Everything is in a container, everything growing and cropping well, despite a few nibbles to the beetroot leaves.

Container Garden Herbs

Container Garden Herbs

It’s worth noting that you can eat the young leaves of beetroot, maximising the crop you get out of the space. Young leaves can be put on salads, or stir fried or steamed like spinach. When planning for an area like this, it’s worth thinking about what crops you can eat the most of. Obviously, if the whole plant can be eaten, as is the case with some root vegetables, they make the most of the space.  Salad leaves are great value for space, too, as you can keep coming back for more as the young leaves grow. Any crop that grows upwards  will also make great use of space. The highest yielding crop of all per square foot (or meter) is runner beans. Climbing French beans come a close second, and give you a greater yield than the low growing ones. It’s also worth considering the cost of vegetables and fruit in the shops. Onions and potatoes are relatively cheap, but khol rabi expensive. They taste great, grow quickly and you can eat the leaves like spinach, too, though I find the stalks a bit tough.

Container Garden Beetroot

Container Garden Beetroot

It’s worth trying anything in a container. How about  butternut squash or aubergine (in a good summer). Walls retain and reflect heat, so containers placed like this in a sunny spot can succeed in growing things normally reserved for a greenhouse. Crops will ripen quickly with this additional heat, and you only have to nip outside the door for your dinner.

Container Garden Sweetcorn close up of maturing cob silks

Container Garden Sweetcorn close up of maturing cob silks

Container Garden Peppers

Container Garden Peppers

Here’s a list of vegetables you might want to try in a small space


Lettuce and salad leaves

Spring onions






Runner beans

French beans

Khol rabi

Baby turnips (great in salads)

Swiss chard (very attractive. Eat leaves and stalks, steamed or stir fried)

Radish (sow a few every three weeks)

Carrots (stump rooted varieties)

All you need is some compost and the will to try. Containers can be made for free. We buy our bird food in plastic buckets. Paint and put holes in the bottom for drainage. And you have a free container. Use pallet wood to make a box container. Even a plastic storage box whose lid has been lost or broken can be turned into an attractive container for vegetables and fruit or herbs. Grow it, cook it and be proud of it!

A Drought Busting, Bee Feeding Alpine Trough

Alpine Trough-insects have adored.

Alpine Trough-insects have adored.


Inspired Recycling Idea from another blogger!

How about this for an inspired recycling tip?

recycled eggshells

Recycle eggshells into seed containers

Completely free, organic and biodegradable. How ecological is that? It fits perfectly with this lifestyle. I’m allergic to eggs, so fellow blogger dabawenyolife kindly let me use their photo and excellent tip.

Countdown. 17 Days To Go…

Only 17 days to go before we move! Well, the last couple of weeks have been crazy. Not only have we sold our house, packed more than half of our belongings into boxes, sorted and sent loads of things off for recycling and removed loads of hoarded junk, I’ve battled a nasty sinus infection while doing it. Today I feel more like a human being who can breathe again, so here I am. My partner, meanwhile, has had to complete three freelance projects, in order that we can eat once we get to our new home. He had different deadlines for each one but delays outside his control meant they all ended up with October as their final dates. Amazingly, he’s managed to pack most of his extensive reference book collection AND clear out unwanted paperwork on top of all his work, so we’re both now really looking forward to the actual move and getting settled in our gorgeous new abode.

New Home

My gorgeous new house

I’ve spent a lot of time dreaming about the ecology of the garden, how I’m going to maximise it for wildlife and food as well as somewhere to relax, what records I want to keep of progress and how I’m going to share it with you guys. So now I’m playing with Excel – no mean feat for a technophobe, and have made a weather chart to start off with. A Couple of years ago I was given a weather station by my partner for my birthday. Last winter saw me fascinated by watching the temperature drop every ten minutes when we have record lows of minus 20 degrees. I’m going to try to keep a daily record for a year, and marry it up with details of growing and planting. This should help planning in future years and will make interesting reading, I hope, in years to come.

The house of course also will need some work and planning, and we do know where furniture is going now, for the most part, but we will be slowly improving its energy efficiency and decor as we go along. I’ll try to keep you updated. For a start, my freezer has driving me mad for a long time. It’s too small, frosts up pretty quickly and won’t fit in the new, rather small kitchen. But there is a pantry. I’ve found out that chest freezers are more energy-efficient than under counter ones, as the cold air doesn’t fall out when you open it. Putting it in the pantry, designed to be cooler than the rest of the house, will also save energy. On top of that, they hold nearly twice as much as an upright. So, chest freezer it is. I have a small one of my sons I’ve been storing for him  and will use that initially but when I do buy a new one I’ll find out the best for my needs and let you know what that is. The kitchen will need reconfiguring, eventually, as 1940s houses didn’t plan space for freezers, dishwashers etc. But it’s fine to move into and can be dealt with over time.

For now, here are some photos of the abode I’ve fallen in love with and can’t wait to get the keys for.


The rather small kitchen

dining room for desk

Here's where I plan to have my new desk

The dining room is where I plan to have my desk.This is where I’ll sit and download photography done in the conservatory, work on them and write my blogs.  Speaking of desks, I’ve spent a long time looking for a desk as the one I have won’t fit where I want it to go. So my partner plans to have it as his is falling apart and needs replacing. I searched the net and found one that would be perfect, but cost over £500! I don’t want to spend lots of money and would rather recycle, so was hoping for a little miracle. The space in the alcove is an awkward size, so I couldn’t find one that will take all my equipment and fit the space. Then we went into town to see my doctor. I was drawn to go upstairs in a charity shop nearby, and there, for £35 was the perfect desk for my equipment. A tape measure confirmed it will also fit the space with 2″ to spare. Perfect! It now awaits transportation from my dining room here to the new one. Charity gets some money, another item is recycled and I’ve saved loads of money! At the same time, I also found a bathroom cabinet for £10 in exactly the style I wanted, in the same shop. Bargain.

patio of new house

Patio. Needs work!

Here’s a photo of the new patio. It needs work as the foundations for it were not done very well, but just needs packing with more hardcore. I don’t like the pink slabs, though, so I’m currently pondering what to do with it. It will be a project in itself. Mosaic? Brick and flag infill? I haven’t decided yet. What I do know is it will be full of all my container grown plants and cuttings while I figure it out. I’ve spent five years making the garden where I am, but have lots of containers as I always planned to move and didn’t want to leave some things behind. I’ve taken cuttings and pieces off the other plants, saving money and the carbon it would have cost to produce and deliver replacements. It makes the move slightly harder work, but loyal friends will help us on the day and the removal company are dealing with the house contents, so we should be OK. I’ll try and keep you updated when possible. I’m sure you’ll understand that moving is stressful and a very busy time, so I’ll do my best but there will be gaps in posts until we’re settled.

One last thing. I’d like to share an inspirational recycling link with you my partner found. It’s an amazing house – the ultimate in recycling. A House made of bottles! Enjoy. Then tell me what you’re doing to help the planet and yourselves in these tough economic times.

New Home, New life, New Blog

This is my first post on Earth and Hearth. It’s a new blog inspired by the fact that I’ve just found the home I’ve been looking for and hope to move into it in about one months time. It’s going to make a huge difference to my outlook, ambitions and lifestyle. If you’re familiar with my photographic blog, chriscaff’s, you’ll know I have a love of nature and growing things. I wanted to keep my photographic blog and my lifestyle separate, so I’ve created Earth and Hearth hoping that that like-minded souls will join me on my journey as we move into our new place. There I’ll endeavour to grow more food and live in a more ecologically minded way that I’ve been able to in my current residence.

Garden October 2011

My new home has 120ft of garden backing onto fields. It’s a 1940s bay fronted semi with bags of character. It needs work to make it home for us. The energy rating isn’t too good, the kitchen is badly configured for our needs and we want to cut expenditure on wasteful items like energy bills and buying food. So I’ll be growing my own, building a greenhouse, doing up the house and making it our home. Along the way I’ll be learning new things and utilising the knowledge I have. I hope to share all this with you, so expect money-saving tips, ecological information and the odd wry smile at my observations as we go along.

The ethos of this whole change is to live in a much more eco-freindly way than we’ve previously been able to. We can’t go the whole hog and build a straw-bale house, but we can improve the home we’re buying to save energy, grow food to save carbon miles and packaging, re-use and recycle what we have and anything we can find. Why slave to earn money to buy things if you can make or grow what you need? Of course we will have to spend some money and I can’t make everything. Just like you. We can all only do what  we are capable of, and at fifty five I don’t expect to be able to do as much as a younger person with more physical strength. That won’t stop me trying though.

Jimmy lives in my current garden. He's coming with us!

I want wildlife as well as food in my garden, and fruit and flowers as well as vegetables. So there will be many projects, inlcuding bird boxes, a home for my hedgehog and possibly bat boxes. Insects will be encouraged, a herb garden created and all will be documented here. I hope to build pages of information you can plunder to help you make more of your home and garden.

I have over 30 years of experience as an amateur organic gardener, many years as a photographer and was trained in visual art studies, with a love for imagery and interior design. If you’d like to share my journey you are very welcome to follow me as I develop my home, garden and this blog.

We’re still packing boxes, editing out useless old paperwork and items we consider clutter. I’m determined to eliminate anything that isn’t beautiful or useful to make way for our fresh start.