Tag Archives: re-cycling

Summer Rewards The Work Of Spring and Butterflies Where Are You?

Buddleia for the butterflies

Buddleia for the butterflies

Spring is hard work in the garden. Digging, weeding, the preparation of vegetable beds and the propagation of flowers for those bees, birds, butterflies and other pollinating insects.

Summer brings the rewards, as well as the maintenance jobs and late summer sowings.

We’re now eating lettuce, khol rabi, turnip, a bumper crop of new potatoes, strawberries, beans (runner and French) radish and leaf beet. Tomatoes are delicious and aubergines are forming in the greenhouse. Delightful! I’m now a little frustrated, as I tripped and fell flat on my face on a hard wooden floor a couple of days ago, and muscles and bruising now have to be rested and nursed better. So how I’m going to remove the foxgloves, dead head the ladies mantle and other plants that will seed everywhere I don’t know. I also want to sow more beetroot and spring onions. Despite all the stuff that seems to be growing well, spring onions aren’t. I don’t know why I’m having such trouble with them, as they are normally easy to grow, but this year I’m having to buy them in. Very few have germinated and grown. Maybe I need to change to another seed supplier for them, or grow them in a different spot.

Wow, just went out to get some veg for lunch and realised what a great crop of Dwarf French beans we have. I’ve grown the climbing variety before but didn’t have room for the dwarf ones. They’re quite prolific and will definitely be on next year’s grow list, as they’re my partners favourite! Some you lose, but others you win. I’ve already got a small later crop sown in a container, so we should have even more to come.

Using Painted Lady runner beans seems to have helped keep the pigeons at bay, too, so my runner crop has set much better than last year, with less nipped off pods. I’m glad pigeons aren’t more intelligent! Now the beans just need a little time to develop. They are MY favourite! I could eat a plateful at a time.

Cosmos for the Butterflies

Cosmos for the Butterflies

The rest of the garden is great at the moment, with lots of flowers chosen to attract the insects, especially butterflies. So where are they? I have cosmos, buddleia, sedums and different daisies in flower now, but very few visiting butterflies. Even the verbena bonariensis has only attracted the odd small tortoishell. Disappointing and worrying. Are numbers really that low? Bees are here. I’ve even spotted a leaf cutter bee nesting in one of my alpine troughs, and I think is what is carving up my dahlia leaves,  and hoverflies are here too. So please come, butterflies. There’s a whole snack bar waiting for you!

Pallet Planter For ME

Pallet Planter For ME

Our experiment with a pallet planters is a resounding success. We made one into a wall planter for alpine strawberries (better than opal fruits for a burst of flavour) and the other into a free standing planter for my precious flowers, mainly fuchsias. That stands against a fence which was bare and boring before, but not now. Re-cycling at its best!

 

Early Summer Border

Early Summer Border

What a spring it’s been. Warmer than normal, and a high contrast to last year, when snow laid on the ground here until May. The garden has progressed greatly. We had an old ‘rockery’ neglected for the last ten years at least, and bound together by our native fern. It was a nightmare that took dedication and a lot of muscle to remove, but I now have about one and a half tons of gypsum rock to sell. That might pay for the path I want to lay down the 120’ length of the garden. Vegetable growing is now well underway. I have runner and French beans installed on their wigwams, new potatoes flowering in their rows and komatsuna, ruby chard beetroot, turnip and other veg coming along nicely. It’s so much better to nip outside and pick what we need than to get out the vehicle, go to the shops, buy stuff in plastic bags covered in whatever they decided it’s OK to wash them in and then have to pay for it, drag it home and unwrap it, dispose of the packaging, prepare and eat it. We bought some pork chops a while ago from a supermarket.

I have, due to an auto-immune health problem, a lot of sensitivity to foods and chemicals. Plain old pork chops, I thought. A safe meal. I got ill after eating one. The symptoms felt like a reaction to gluten, normally found in grains such as wheat. We checked the packaging. THEY PUT GLUTEN IN PORK! The chops were adulterated with wheat, but still put in plain packaging so you think you’re just buying meat. Now I take glasses and a magnifying glass shopping and have to check EVERYTHING. So the more I can grow at home the better, though I can’t raise my own pigs! So, carry on planting. The food production will continue at this venue! But so will developing the rest of the garden, and my flower collection has increased hugely. I’ve sown seeds, bought young plants and propagated them, taken cuttings from friend’s gardens and treated myself to the odd little gem. Then there are the self sown foxgloves, poached egg plants and columbines, which are just lovely at the moment. The rockery disaster is now a newly planted border and is beginning to look just fine. As for the house, decorating has slowed to a halt since the weather picked up. There are only so many hours in a day! But the conservatory looks good now, and is dripping with more plants. It served well in spring to start the tender stuff, and saved heating the greenhouse. Four varieties of tomato now grace the greenhouse border, and I’m trying aubergines for the first time. So far they look good. Fuchsias and geraniums abound! I bought some very cheaply last year from a charity event, and kept them over winter. Cuttings took readily and are now lined up in rows in the greenhouse.

The front garden has had a makeover, new gravel and looks smart but a bit flat as it’s newly planted. Chimney pots are to be filled with fuchsias and trailing plants. Containers will contain more. Colour will light up the front to welcome us home. We live on a busy main road, though you wouldn’t know it when in the back garden. It’s also quite shaded for much of the day, so my shot of colour will lift it, and passers – by can enjoy my bargain plants.

I hope to continue this blog, but please forgive my absence if I periodically disappear. My health is precarious and can prevent me from having a clear enough head to write. But I want to share my experiences, and pass on knowledge if I can , so I’ll try to keep posting. Here’s an idea for you. Re-cycling combined with desperation after last year’s Glut of cabbage white butterflies and demise of my crops, an old bed base was strip0ped and recovered-with butterfly netting. Now wood pigeons and cabbage whites can only LOOK at my well protected vegetables.

Plant Protection re-cycled stlye

Plant Protection re-cycled stlye

I’m off now to sow more salads and some biennials for next year. Keep you posted.

A Drought Busting, Bee Feeding Alpine Trough

Alpine Trough-insects have adored.

Alpine Trough-insects have adored.

 

What a Waste – 10 Top Tips To Save Food

tomatocharacter

Tomato with character. I ate it, despite the marks on the skin.

I’ve just watched ITV’s What a Waste programme for the second time. I couldn’t believe my ears the first time. According to this programme, 7 million tonnes of food and drink are thrown away – ie wasted – every year. What? Read that again. The average family wastes £680 worth of food each year. Crikey! I didn’t think people could afford to do that. I can’t help getting angry.

I was born a baker’s daughter, post war by a few years. Rationing was in force. My parents had four kids and a business to run selling food. You bought potatoes at the local shop or market and brought them home in a paper bag. You cleaned off the mud, cut off the bad bits and made every one of those potatoes count. Waste was not allowed. I learned how to cook from an early age and could make a three course meal by the time I was a teenager.

So I think I’m qualified to say the food being wasted in this country is disgusting. And stupid. Who can’t work out that food wasted is money wasted? And who can afford to waste money? Food and other types of waste is shameful. Immoral. We’ve ripped up thousands of miles of hedgerows in this country supposedly to grow much-needed food, yet farmers report having to throw away as much as fifty percent, even one hundred percent of some crops, simply because the crop doesn’t meet supermarket standards. What’s wrong with a wonky carrot or misshapen turnip? Why do spring onions have to be uniform in size? They don’t of course. Homegrown spring onions certainly aren’t.

Supermarkets waste tonnes, farmers are forced to leave crops rotting in fields and people buy too much and throw it in the bin. Then there’s cooking food that no-one eats, fruit going rotten in dishes and sell by dates being taken as use by dates, and perfectly edible food going in the bin. Food does not have to be uniform, wrapped in plastic and perfect. Fruit and vegetables can be irregular, marked on the skins and differing in size. It’s still good food. Farmers are having to throw away enormous quantities of food rejected by supermarkets just because they don’t meet aesthetic requirements. One farmer had to waste 30 million spring onions because they were not uniform in size and the supermarket that ordered them cancelled the order. They rotted in the field. Madness!

For goodness’ sake, There are ways of not wasting food or money that anyone can utilise. I buy special offers of two for one etc. But I don’t pile it all in the fridge and hope to get through it. I put the second pack in the freezer. I also buy large packs and split them, putting some in the freezer. Increasingly, we shop locally and only go to the supermarket for things we can’t buy elsewhere. It saves money, supports local businesses and I can choose that cut of meat or the turnip I want and have it weighed so I can buy only what I need. I can honestly say our food waste amounts to only bones and the results of making my own stock from them ie a carrot, an onion and possibly some turnip peelings for flavour. Fat cut off meat is fed to the birds and tea bags, coffee grounds and peelings feed my wormery or go on the compost heap. Plastic bags or wrappings, which are unavoidable yet, have to go in the bin. But not good food.

Is it that people don’t know how to cook these days? Do they know enough about how to use what they have? Or is it just laziness? It’s costing them and our environment dear. Not to mention all the people who are struggling to get enough to eat.

So how can you save time, money and food?

    1)      Freeze your excess. You can freeze bread – if you only need half a loaf, split it and put the rest in the freezer. Sliced bread can be taken out a few slices at a time for toast.
    2)      When  I cook, there are only two of us now. My children have grown and flown. So I double up the number of portions we need, pack the rest into storage boxes and put them in the freezer. Not only does this prevent waste, but it saves fuel costs and work on my part.
    3)      Two for one offers are a bargain only if you use it all. If you buy these offers, and the food hasn’t previously been frozen, you can stash the second pack in the freezer until you need it.
    4)      Or, cook it all and freeze the surplus
    5)      Plan your meals so you don’t buy too much for your needs.
    6)      Ignore best by dates and eat the food! Use by dates should be adhered to, as these indicate that food may be harmful after this time. But best before dates are just a guide and do not mean that after this date food is not edible.
    7)      Use common sense. Just because there’s a best before date on a pack of potatoes, does not mean they are in edible after that date. Potatoes do keep for months. If they are not mushy or black, if they look OK, they should still be used. In this country each year 5.1 million potatoes are thrown away. Cut off any black bits. The rest is perfectly edible!
    8)      If you do cook too much, refrigerate food quickly and eat it for supper or lunch the next day. Rice and chicken should be in the fridge the minute they’ve cooled down.
    9)      Shop locally. That way you don’t have to buy wasteful large packs when all you want is one parsnip or 1lb carrots.
    10)   Use leftovers to make another meal. A bit of leftover ham can become pea and ham soup. The last bits of chicken can become chicken risotto or chicken broth. The carcass can become stock. That scrap of cheese can be Welsh rarebit. Use your imagination. Or buy a cook book.

Stock is so easy to make and ensures that chicken didn’t die for nothing. You’ve used every last scrap when you’ve had a meal out it, used the leftover meat in soup or stir fry and boiled up the carcass for stock to flavour your next meal or be the base for your next soup. That’s recycling at its best.

So here’s my basic recipe. Play around with it and flavour it as you like. All you need is a large pan.

One chicken carcass

One onion

One large carrot

Any other root veg eg parsnip, turnip or leek can be added. Check the veg rack for the food coming to the end of its life and use it!

Bouquet garnis – traditionally parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, plus a bay leaf

Method

Throw everything in a large pan or slow cooker. Cover with water and add 1tsp of salt and a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice. Bring to the boil, cover and leave to simmer gently for 2-3 hours.

The vinegar or lemon juice will evaporate and not affect the flavour. It’s there to extract calcium from the bones of the carcass, improving your intake of this valuable nutrient.

Strain off all the solids and allow to cool. Then skim off the fat. Any stock you don’t use straight away can be frozen in suitable portions.

Considering that food prices are set to rise another 4 – 5% this year, can you afford to continue wasting it? If that doesn’t persuade you to reduce your waste perhaps realising that 2 billion tonnes of food are wasted each year worldwide while  3 million children die of malnutrition. A sobering thought.

Here’s the programme that inspired this blog. It’s only available for the next 18 days. https://www.itv.com/itvplayer/tonight/series-17/episode-3-what-a-waste and there’s an article by ITV news about the same programme. http://www.itv.com/news/2013-01-17/what-a-waste/

Please think before you scrape food into the bin or throw out that half eaten loaf. What can you eat? What can you feed to the birds and what can you compost? Please don’t waste! It’s immoral, illogical and costly, not only to you but to the environment.

Crochet for Charity

I’ve been doing a bit of recycling recently. As gardening has been nigh on impossible lately with such wet conditions, I’ve revived an old hobby to use up a big bag of yarn oddments for charity. The nearby city of Leicester has quite a lot of homeless people, and plenty of them are young mums or young families. We found out quite by chance that although they are donated lot of adult clothes etc they are always short of things for babies. So baby blankets and hats are occupying those late evening hours in front of the telly. Here are some of the results.

Crochet blanket

Crochet Blanket

Crochet Baby Hats

 

 

The blankets are made using a simple old American Square, and I simply played with yarn, colour and scale (by changing the crochet hook size and yarn gauge). near you. I can make a blanket in a few hours using the larger gauge hook (5mm) and a double knit yarn. The hats take an hour or two. They are both a great way of using up my leftovers and freeing up a whole cupboard! The hostel that takes them are delighted! Win win.

 

Why Buy It When You Can Make It? The Shredder.

I invested in a great bit of kit. With a long hedgerow and several trees, plus all the shrubs I’ll be growing, I figured a wood chipper would be a sensible bit of kit, enabling me to make my own bark chippings for mulch. After all, why buy it if you can make it? Each bag of that stuff needs carting from the shop to the till, paying for, carting home, carting round the house into the garden, unwrapping, the plastic disposing of and of course you’re out-of-pocket especially as woodchips break down and disappear.

So here’s my latest kit.

shredder

My new Bosch shredder

It’s very quiet compared to last one I had ten years ago. And it is more powerful. In fact it does a great job, eating all my prunings easily and safely.

The results are quite pleasing, and the first of them have already been used to mulch a newly planted clematis.

Shreddings

Shreddings

This is a very close-up photo. The size of the shreddings are perfect for making a good mulch, and nothing will be wasted. I’ve got a nice little pile growing to be used as I plant out my new beds, still as yet being dug and cleared.

Shreddings ideal for mulch

Shreddings ideal for mulch

The shredder I bought was from an auction site and is reconditioned with a twelve month guarantee, saving me over £100 on the normal retail price. Bargain! and I’ll never have to go and buy bagged and carbon heavy bark chippings again. Ecologically sound, environmnetally friendly and easier for me. A sound organic principal if ever I saw one-recycling at its best.

The one I bought and can thoroughly recommend is the Bosch AXT 2000 HP Quiet Garden Shredder.

Free Fuel with Recycling

Free fuel! Not an easy thing to come by these days, but certainly worth having with the cost of gas and electricity. We were given a paper log maker for Christmas by our friends and have made some out of the years of files my partner needed to cull. They do a great job in out log burner and so far we’ve not had to buy any wood. We’ve either used these excellent paper logs or used wood found discarded (fly tipped) by less thinking members of society. What a great ecological use of waste materials!

This cuts our heating bill by lots! We don’t need to keep the central heating running, as sitting in one room in the evening means we only need to heat that room. It gets so warm we open the door and let the heat escape into the rest of the house, and go to bed cosy. What a lifestyle improvement since we moved from our last home which had central heating and no fireplace.

free-fuel-fire-brick

Free Fuel, Recycled Paper

The gadget for making these logs is a very simple one, and all you have to do is shred paper, leave it in a bucket to soak then cram it into the log maker and press hard to squeeze excess water out. Then you put them somewhere to dry. In the summer this could be in a sheltered spot outside, but we’ve been drying ours in the airing cupboard. Just in case you fancy trying this method, you can buy them here.

free-fuel-lit-fire

Free fuel in the fire