Tag Archives: random

Peeling paint, Pot Plants and Charlie

It’s a mixed bag of news today. The snow is beginning to melt, but depressing for most of us. Sheep and cattle are dying, wildlife and birds are struggling and I still have cabin fever. Shopping doesn’t count as an outdoor activity and isn’t my form of therapy!


So, I thought a bit of cheering up was in order. Firstly, here’s the paint I’m having to strip back before repainting my conservatory windows and door. Fun, eh?  I didn’t get to it today, as we needed to go out for bird food and us food, plus a baby gate to keep Daisy from going upstairs when we finally get her home. We’ve rung again today, had no-one get back to us and are still waiting for a home visit. Maybe tomorrow?



Indoor plants of course don’t know spring hasn’t arrived, and can give you gorgeous colour for weeks on end. Here’s my latest star performer, a kalanchoe I bought as a very small plant last year. I potted it on, fed it and now look! Cheering me through this horrid weather. They are easy to grow. A succulent, the way to kill them is by too much watering, especially in the winter. Keep them on the dry side, with plenty of light. But do not attempt to grow on a south facing window in summer. It will scorch their leaves. They can be stood on the patio in summer, but for the first week or so you try this, bring them in at night until they’ve acclimatized. And don’t try until AFTER the last frost.

Charlie On His First Birthday

Charlie On His First Birthday

Last, but by no means least, a couple of weeks ago I went to visit family and as I’ve told you saw my grandson learn to walk. He also had his first birthday. I took lots of photos, as you can imagine. Here’s my favourite.

What are you doing to stave off the cold and misery of our absent spring?

Digging for Victory Update

Digging For Victory Veg Box. Contains seed, pot and compost to start onions, turnip and cabbage.

I found this in a charity shop today, having had to reluctantly leave the garden to sort out my bank. Obviously I’m not the only one to have had my thoughts about being victorious over the economy, quality of food and food shortages!

I’d better get back out there, then. Before I set off this morning to the bank, I did manage to make a wormery. I had an old wheelie bin, so we’ve put a water barrel tap at the bottom of it and used a wire basket, upturned, to make a shelf inside it into which cardboard layers followed by wet newspaper and old compost have been placed. This provides, I hope, top class accommodation for my new pets, the tiger worms. I’ve fished those out of the compost heap and hope to breed them to make my own liquid concentrated plant food. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Digging for Victory. Back of the box.


Squirrel thief charms my garden

I woke this morning and as usual took my coffee through to the conservatory and peered out of the window. It’s raining, again, but there on my bird feeder was another visitor. We’ve seen this squirrel around before, but he’s never sat for half an hour helping himself to a bird food in such a blatant way. Local ecology in action! It’s a good job we like all our garden wildlife. He’s a charming little chap! I took the photo through the window, from about 20 metres away, but it seems to have come out quite well.

squirrel thief

squirrel thief

The second he ran off all the birds descended from the apple tree just behind the feeder and in glorious full bloom and the moment.

We’ve had, like a lot of the country, the heaviest rain in a long time. Water, water everywhere! On Sunday my weather station registered 1 3/4″ of the stuff in 24 hours. Of course we need it, and our gardens will benefit greatly. That was a lot of rain all at once, though. We’re fortunately not on a flood plain! Also fortunately, this soil seems to be very well-drained, as yesterday I was actually able to go out and use my new mower for the first time, so the rough grass has had a haircut.

If you need a mower, choose an electric model, as petrol ones are much less energy-efficient, and of course petrol is rocketing in price. You can do without the extra expense! Plus petrol mowers are three times heavier than electric ones. If, like me, you want a natural, rambling look to your garden and care for the wildlife, you only need a hover mower. This will trim the grass, but not give you stripes and a perfect finish. As we don’t want that, hover was the obvious choice.

The rain has now delayed my greenhouse build three times. At the moment I can barely get into my conservatory for towering tomato plants and seedlings that should by now be planted up in the greenhouse, but what can I do? Hopefully this rain will die out by the end of the week and I’ll finally see a glass house I can use instead of a potential swimming pool!

Gardening Begins Now the Ice Has Melted.

ice hebe

Iced Hebe

At last the snow and ice has melted and the temperature is above freezing. So the last couple of days I’ve been able to relieve the cabin fever that had struck me. I’ve made a start on pruning the native hedging growing down one border of the garden. It has been neglected and needed a hard prune to help thicken and strengthen it. Not to mention the increased light levels in the rest of the garden now it’s been brought down to about 6′ tall instead of double that! I’ve also taken courage in both hands and done some pruning on a fairly mature apple tree. It was leaning far too far into the centre of the garden, and perilously close to where we want to site the greenhouse.

My poor hebe has also defrosted and is looking good. How about those brave crocus, too, flowering in the snow? I had to get photographs of them. Click on the pictures to enlarge.

ice crocus

Iced Crocus

We’ve erected a ‘man shed’ for all Jon’s tools and clutter which I’ve also painted in the last day or two in ‘forest green’ to help it blend in. I’ve discovered that the birds don’t notice me at all when I use it as a hide, so as soon as I can cope with sitting out there with the camera, I hope to get some good close-ups of them raiding the food I put out daily.

My son started on the greenhouse base but then the snow came, so now it’s gone I’ll get him back to finish the job. I’ll then have an 8′ x 12′ greenhouse for all my growing needs! Currently, there are seeds coming through on the windowsill in the conservatory. So far parsley, sweet peas and tomatoes are making their entrance into the world.

I’m doing several types of tomato. There’s one called Roma, which is a plum type like the tinned ones we cook with. Why buy tinned if you can have fresh?  I reason that as long as I can bottle or freeze  a surplus we will save money and the use of tins. Then there’s a cherry variety for salads. They came through first. Lastly, I got some tomato Marmade – big slicable Italian ones that you can grill, eat raw or cook with. I’ve not grown those before so I’m looking forward to sampling them. I’d better get the basil seeds on to flavour all those lovely toms!

Incidentally, toilet tubes are great for any deep-rooted plants when sowing seeds. I’m using them to sow sweet peas, french beans, broad beans and carrots. I’ve had to ask friends to save empty tubes for me. More recycling, less pots to store as they rot down when you plant them, tube and all, and no root disturbance for the seedlings. As I want to grow everything organically, this method is perfect.


Odd Potato

Growing your own sometimes has unexpected benefits, not just environmental and financial ones. In this case it was amusement. Here’s a potato that grew last year. I wonder what I’ll dig up in this years crop?

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.

Re-cycling Adventures-preparing for the move

We’ve had some interesting experiences while trying to de-clutter before the move. Which plastics can be re-cycled and where? It’s a puzzle. A trip to our local recycling centre revealed that I can recycle old videos (yes, remember them?) The commercially made ones have gone to charity, but we don’t record stuff on the blanks any more and had a stack. In fact, the machine itself was deposited in the electrical department of the re-cycling centre. The cardboard cases of the videos went into one skip, the videos into another, special one. Great stuff and well done Charnwood Council. But re-used but broken plastic flower pots had to go into the landfill skip. What a shame! Gardeners I’m sure would love to be able to recycle such items which are practically unavoidable. Once they’ve split I can’t see another way of using them.

Nest box in the new garden of our new nest

Of course, with two avid readers and writers in the house and too much space, we’ve amassed lots of paper. Luckily most of it can go in recycling, taken away by the Council. But they are still using the mixed collections, which I’ve just found out is not the best way of recycling, as the sorting process is automated and bales that become contaminated by the wrong materials can’t be used. That of course is wasteful and all that waste ends up in landfill anyway. This needs to change. We will, no doubt have a different system to deal with when we move as each Council does its own thing. Note to self – investigate this ready for the move. Some paper stuff, due to my partner’s work, is sensitive material, so we shred that and compost it in the garden. Job done!

The new garden

Old pillows and really old bedding that’s past being re-used is still in the van. I thought there were places that they can be shredded and made into insulation and other such items, but can’t as yet find anywhere. I’d hate to send it to landfill,  so will keep on looking.

Old ornaments, clothes and shoes have gone to charity, but what a slog! There never seems to be anywhere near shops to park up and ‘deliver’ boxes of stuff, so lugging it around town has taken longer and was heavier than we thought. The car radio, replaced in my camper when we fitted a CD player, had to be hocked around three charity shops to find one that had the capacity to check it electrically. Books have either gone to charity or, if they turned out to be really valuable, have been put on Amazon. So occasionally a post office queue has to be fitted in to our burgeoning schedule. Either way they get recycled and won’t go to waste. Whew, it’s tiring but satisfying to re-cycle as much as possible, and know a little money is being made for charity along the way.

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.