Reuse, repurpose, upcycle: call it what you will, just do it

So much of this going on around here right now.  Both of us have spurts of STO*ing, and the pile of stuff moving onwards and outwards continues to grow.   We now have a basket by the front door for things destined for a charity shop.  It’s a good reminder to pick up a few things to take with us when we’re going to the shops.

The bag and basket will stay. Everything else to go.

Things have been offered and given on Freegle.  Some things have been sold.  Others have been given to family members.

Off to a new life with youngest son and family: basket I bought in Oxfam shop many years ago and used to bring in food from allotment; bottle given to us with home-made sloe gin, now returned with more sloe gin (we drank theirs, they’ll drink ours); book for a little girl who is just a tiny bit obsessed by rabbits (kept from when our sons were little); hat brought home by accident.

Lots of things have been repurposed around the house, and far more have been repurposed on the allotment.  Sometimes all you need is to look around you and think “what if?”.  In particular, when you know what you want to achieve, you will be more likely to spot opportunities when they present themselves.

Now a gate to my allotment. In former lives, a bedhead I found on the street paired with part of a bed frame given to me (thanks to Malcolm for spotting that they fit perfectly together.  Just needed a few small cable ties.

Previously a rubbish bin. Converted by me to be a worm bin. (standing next to the green compost bin given to me on Freegle)

Blue water pipe originally used to construct a hen run (many, many years ago). More recently I’ve used it to support netting over crops – but it was too short. Now it’s grown taller, thanks to the addition of some metal piping I found left on the street last week. Foraging isn’t just for plants and edibles.

This fence panel now provides useful shelter for the hens’ water, and as they go in and out of their house.

*STOing – Sorting Things Out.  You may call it editing; getting things done; tidying up; or something else entirely.  This is what we call it.

Posted in 2019 goals, Climate change, Community, Do what you can with what you have, Frugal, Seeing differently, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

6 (good) things on Saturday (November)

1 Baking – this week I baked the best bread I’ve ever baked.  I used my normal sourdough starter and all white flour, and followed zerowastechefs guidance on baking in a ‘Dutch oven’ (which I now know is what I call my le Creuset pot – more on that later).  So easy to do, and so very delicious.  Superb crust, and the open texture you’d expect of a white sourdough loaf.  This is definitely going to be a regular in this house.  I’ll be writing this up shortly.

2 Knitting – a couple of weeks ago I was given a large bag of leftover sock wool, to knit up as I like items to sell in the Bath City Farm shop.  I’m enjoying knitting pram/buggy blankets.  2 finished so far, and another on the way.  I’m hoping to get 3 altogether out of this donation, which will raise a decent amount of money for the farm.

3 Growing – my greenhouse seedlings are coming on a treat, and I’ve ordered my seeds and seed potatoes for next year.  I’ve also ordered some more fruit trees to add to my cordon.  The onion sets are in, and so is the garlic.  A positive start to a new growing season.  If you don’t garden, you might assume the new season starts in the spring, but in fact the earlier planning and preparation is key to success.

4 Reading – feeling in need of a sharp burst of optimism, I bought myself a copy of the newly-published book by Rob Hopkins – ‘From What Is to What If’. (He of Transition movement fame).  I’m just a chapter in so far, but it has reminded me of my decision after the referendum and then the US presidential election that now it’s up to us as individuals and communities to make the changes that absolutely need to happen.  With many examples of where people have done exactly that, it has indeed renewed my commitment and my enthusiasm – both much needed in yet another depressing UK election period.

5 Moving – not us, but youngest son, his wife and our granddaughter have now moved away from Bristol.  I admit I was apprehensive about it in advance (they used to live just 30 minutes drive away from us), but now I’m feeling excited to be involved in the very different lifestyle they have chosen for themselves.  They are living on a co-housing community farm.  It’s beautiful place in a lovely part of the country, not too far for a day trip if wanted and easy to stay overnight.  I’m looking forward to sharing in some of the farming life (hand milking cows and goats? yes please!  cheese and butter making? when can I start?  helping grow food in an old walled garden? oh my!).  And yes, I know – mud (and plenty of it…).

6. Autumn – colours, cosy weekend afternoons, different salads.  And everything else that goes with the season.

Posted in Five (good) things on Friday | 3 Comments

Do what you can with what you (already) have

By the time you get to my stage in life (early 60s), with a life of largely good fortune and hard work behind me, I already have most of the things I could want.  I am  (well, we are) in fact in a process of saying goodbye to many things acquired over many years but now unused.

For example, Malcolm recently gave away the photographic enlarger that was his 18th birthday present from his parents.  Well used for many years, and then unused for many years, he realised that his photographic interests now lie elsewhere.  He offered it on Freegle, where it was swiftly snapped up by a newly-retired couple who want to resume their earlier interest in processing and printing their photos.

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure, and all that.

As for me, I am finding that often when there is something I need want, I already have that thing somewhere in the house.  Often if I sit with the thought for a while, as I go around I spot the very thing that is the solution.

I have two backpacks I regularly use.  The smaller bag is big enough for my essentials pouch (money, glasses, diary, lipsalve etc; re-usables pouch (cutlery, cloth napkin); my box for food purchases (which itself holds my reusable bags and cheese wrap); my knitting; laptop if needed; reusable cup if wanted; and maybe a book.  The larger one is big enough for all that plus whatever is needed for a night or two away, or for the weekly trip to town for food shopping. (I bought both pouches shown below in charity shops.  All they needed was a good wash).

Constantly swapping between the two, I often find I forget to transfer something I need.  So I began emptying the bags out after use, and repacking each time I go.  Looking for a container to fit with them between the end of a bed and a wall, I came across the perfect thing – a  basket that was my mum’s, sitting unused for many years on top of a kitchen cabinet.

And so it often goes.  The moral of this is, once you reach my stage in life, look at what you already have before buying something new.  The next step of course is to look second-hand (Freegle, charity shops, second-hand sales), and only buy new if all else fails and you really need (or want) something.

Posted in 2019 goals, Climate change, Community, Do what you can with what you have, Reflections on life (and death), Seeing differently, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Six good things (not) on Saturday (October 2019)

Well it would have been 5 on Friday, then moved to 6 on Saturday; 6 on Sunday.  And still I hadn’t finished writing.  I have now.  It may not alliterate but at least it’s finished.  

Because heaven knows in this quagmire of climate emergency, Brexit, and toxic politics we are all in need of celebrating the good things.

  1. A trip to London

While oldest son and partner were away we stayed in their flat.  So much can be packed into just three days.

Day one: meet up with old close friends at Tate Britain, catch up over lunch (then tea), with William Blake exhibition in between.  Walk along the river through Parliament Square to South Bank Centre where I enjoyed a bookshop browse (several books added to my library list) and several knitting stops.  The best being the Roof Garden above the Heywood Gallery..

Day 2: revisit part of the Capital Ring walk – East Finchley to Stoke Newington, taking in Cherry Tree Woods, Highgate Wood, Queens Wood, railway path, Finsbury Park, New River, East and West Reservoirs (wetlands) at Woodbury Down, Clissold Park and Abney Cemetery.  Don’t tell me cities can’t be green – this walk gives the lie to that idea.   Then bus (top deck, front seat – the only ones worth having!) to Waterloo Bridge and another walk along South Bank, this time to London Bridge.  Walked 15 miles in all, most of them through parks, woods or along water.

Best seat on the bus

Day 3: in torrential rain, to Stepney City Farm, where apart from a brief wander around we spent several hours in the dry and warm, eating, drinking and enjoying good company.  Then walk to Brick Lane to stock up on some culinary essentials that can’t be bought at home.  Tube to meet a friend at the Wellcome Collection – a beautiful, fascinating and (in half term week!) very busy place, for more sitting knitting and chatting.  Walk to Paddington Station for train home.

2.  Days looking after granddaughter

Each one a joy.  Each one an opportunity to marvel at the changes in just a few days.  She’s always delighted to see us, and we’re making the most of her still living close by before she and her parents move a little further away (less than 2 hours drive away, but too far to just ‘pop over’ without prior planning.  But there will be gains as well as losses).

Helping bubbe collect the eggs

3.  Going to a conference in Bath about cities, design, and wellbeing

….and then following up several interesting contacts.  Going to one-day conferences every few months (only one or two a year) feeds my hunger for extending my knowledge about subjects that interest me.  Over the past two years I have been to two food conferences, both fascinating and thought provoking, and now this one on cities.  All three provided stark reminders if such were needed of the gross and growing inequalities in the UK (even in a city like Bath, where the inequalities tend to be more hidden away).  All three sent me away with lots of new ideas and actions to follow up.

Street furniture being exhibited

4. Knitting with leftovers

Just as I finished another sock yarn pram blanket (made from leftover yarn) I was given a bag full of lovely leftovers.  They will enable me to make some more small things to sell in the Farm shop.  I’ve developed a selection of knitting patterns using a range of weights of sock wool, so I can weigh each small ball and decide what to make.  This time it will be a a few more pram blankets, because they’re easy to do out and about and when I don’t have a lot of time.

Here’s one I did earlier

5.  Autumn allotment (and planning for next year)

My new (old) greenhouse is now fully installed and glazed, and already I have seeds germinating.  I’ve gradually been increasing the range of seeds I save to reuse the following year – so far it’s just climbing beans (2 varieties) and broad beans, and the broad beans will be ready to plant out before too long.  I hope to increase my range every year.  I’ve planted out onion sets to overwinter, and the garlic will be next.  I’m going to try some micro-greens in the greenhouse (and next year will be able to sow winter salads to eat through the coldest months).  I’m harvesting kale (black, and curly) and chard in abundance, as well as plentiful eggs.  I bought a supermarket pot of growing parsley, split it into 8 plants and planted them into a sheltered window box, where they’re growing well – not bad for £1.25.  I’ve sorted through my seeds (and cleared out their box) and am ready to put together my seed order for next year.  Building on the success of the apple trees I planted earlier this year, I’m also about to order some more bare-r00ted maidens to extend my top fruit cordon.  It’s time to spread muck on the beds, and also to tidy the plot and make some adjustments to the layout.  So much to do, and lots of hope and expectation for the coming growing year.

6.  A birthday coming up (mine)

I’ve not yet decided how I want us to spend the day.  Much will depend on the weather.  The thought of a whole day with no ‘shoulds’ or ‘musts’ appeals greatly! [that was last week.  I had a lovely day – a favourite local walk, delicious lunch out at a local pub, some quiet time knitting, and my best man by my side]

Posted in Family, Five (good) things on Friday, Local, Local food, Reflections on life (and death), Travels, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What I did and didn’t do this summer (garden, allotment, kitchen update)

As ever, lots of good intentions, and the expectation of a quieter, simpler summer this year.  Wherever did that idea come from?  Life has been as busy as ever, and punctuated by three unseasonal cold/flu viruses.  All reasons (not excuses, ever) for not managing to achieve everything I intended (hoped) for this season.  And yet, I’m really pleased with what I did achieve and what I learnt.

My garden (back and front of the house) has really started to come together and has begun to resemble what it looks like in my head.  I gave myself a shock when I explained to someone that I’m finally getting the front garden together, and the question came “oh, how long have you lived there?”.  When I realised that “since 2001” wasn’t the expected answer in 2019, it made me think it’s time to just get on with it.  And I have.  Several times when I’ve been out there working people have stopped to compliment me on it or ask questions about some of the plants.  Not something that would ever have happened before.

Getting the fences back and front replaced over a period of several years has been the spur to redesigning and replanting the beds.  Now I know where the gaps are, and how I want to fill them.  I know which plants don’t work for me where they are at the moment, and which  ones thrill me each time I see them.  I have bought a few key plants, but mostly have been able to spilt existing ones from one garden to plant in the other.  I’ve only used shrubs and perennials, to keep costs down.  I will add some more spring flowering bulbs this autumn, and I also plan to plant two fruit trees in the front garden, probably apples but maybe pears.  If I can figure out how to get it out of its current pot without smashing the pot, a bay tree will also be planted there.  I will post some photos as I go.

I’m now eating my crop of Chilean guava fruits (ugni molinae) – some each day on my breakfast cereal.  These are small fragrant berries with a taste unlike anything else.  I love them, and have a good crop from the three bushes I planted in the front garden.

On the allotment I’ve been scaling down and reconfiguring, reflecting the fact that we are now mostly only two (and one of our sons and his family will shortly be moving to a community that grows much of its own produce, so I will no longer be giving home-grown food to them).

I’ve reminded myself that it’s only ever worth growing food that we’ll actually pick and eat (obvious? you’d have thought so but……); that we can only eat so much even of those things we love; that we don’t both love the same things; that while I can preserve some things, there’s still only so much we can eat.  My plan is to continue to grow a smaller amount of a wider variety of things we enjoy eating.  Also to plant more top fruit and reorganise the soft fruit slightly.

There’s a iittle bit more glazing to do before it’s finished

The first weekend in October was picked as the one for oldest son and his partner to come over and help us move the greenhouse from a place in the garden where it gets almost zero sun to the allotment, where it will get full sun and be more productive.  That in turn has release the perfect space in the garden for some storage and increased rainwater harvesting (an important part of my drive to reduce my mains water use).  I am thrilled with the result, and can’t wait to get out there and start planting and sowing seeds (first off will be my autumn-sown broad beams, which gave us a great crop this year).  My plan is to use the space to grow winter salads to begin with.

 

We visited several gardens, which as always provided ideas for next year.  Walled gardens seemed to be a particular theme.  Heale Garden is a favourite, and somewhere we try to visit each month during the spring and summer when they’re open.  Malcolm goes around the garden photographing and making videos, while I sit and knit or crochet and contemplate in the kitchen garden.   This year we also visited Forde Abbey, where the kitchen garden was superb.  We had a brief visit to Barley Wood Walled Garden near Wrington, which was a revelation.  Finally, going to Charles Dowding’s open day was both a delight and an inspiration.

The glasshouse with gourds at Forde Abbey

Apple arch with bench, Heale Garden

View from the Walled Garden at Wrington

In the kitchen I haven’t managed to find the time/energy to do much preserving, despite my best intentions.  I made a small amount of jam (strawberry, raspberry), but truth to tell we’re still eating jam from last year (and the year before….).  I didn’t get round to bottling anything.  I have frozen a lot of raspberries and I know that we will really enjoy eating them.  I hope to collect some apples from the community orchard in the middle of our allotment site and preserve some of them – as puree, and as dried apple rings.  If I do so, I may also have a go at making some apple vinegar along the way.  Although we don’t need this for food use (yet), I would like to try using it for cleaning purposes.  Again, I’ll keep you posted on any progress.

One thing is for sure: life is change, and change is life.  And just in case you needed a reminder why all this growing and earth care is so important, here it is.

Extinction Rebellion climate emergency demo, Bath (September 2019)

Posted in Allotment, Do what you can with what you have, Family, Food, Growing, Local food, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Giving and receiving

At different times in our lives we both give and receive.  Sometimes one dominates.  This felt particularly true for us when our children were young adults starting to find their way in the world at the same time as our surviving parents all needed a considerable degree of help at the same time as our working lives were demanding and stressful (and I was  struggling with health issues related to menopause).  Just writing this, I struggle to find time to breathe.

Overload aside, often giving feels far more comfortable than receiving.  Yet if we are to give, others must receive.  We need to learn to both give and receive graciously and thankfully.

Earlier this month we were in the fortunate position of being able to take our closest family (including the adorable granddaughter) away on holiday – a trip to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary and postponed from last year.

With my Farm trustee hat on (figuratively speaking – I don’t do actual hat wearing), last week I found myself taking part in the Licensing service of the new Team Rector for two churches near the farm.  My role was to make a presentation of a basket of Farm produce to the new Rector, towards the end of the service, symbolising our responsibility to be good stewards of the earth.  It was a pleasure to do so, and something new to me as (I imagine) the only Jewish person present.  It was also a pleasure to be there alongside representatives of several other local charities embedded in the community.

This weekend Malcolm and I celebrated our 41st wedding anniversary.  Or more accurately, we would have done so had I not received the dubious gift of a flu/tonsillitis bug that laid me low.  Instead we simply exchanged cards, and I gratefully ate a delicious meal Malcolm prepared, agreeing to postpone the rest of the planned celebrations until I’m properly recovered.

In his card to me was a photo he’d taken recently of a boat on the Avon between Bath and Keynsham.  He recognised the name of the author as the writer of the book ‘The Making of a Counter Culture’ (Theodore Roszak, 1969) which he had read many years ago.

Is it a poem? is it prose? does it matter which?  I don’t know.   I saw and read it as a poem, and it feels very poetic to me.

I find the sentiment expressed a moving description of a mature relationship, and I was (am) very touched.  I think (hope) we both strive to treat each other this way.  I hope you too might enjoy it.  

In these troubled times, maybe we could do with extending this way of approaching others.

Posted in Community, Family, Inspirations, Poetry party, Reflections on life (and death), Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Resist!

I don’t normally do overtly political stuff here, but these are desperate times.  We have an unelected Prime Minister, a ‘Government’ stuffed full of unprincipled people, and now Parliament has been suspended.

Regardless of your views of Brexit, I hope you would agree with me that in a democracy Parliament is the body to thrash things out and find a proper way forward.

If you haven’t already, and if you’re a UK citizen (regardless of where you live), I hope you will feel able to sign this  Parliamentary petition.

I have signed, I have written to my MP, and now I’m looking for a demonstration to join.  I will not sit quietly by while a small group of privileged people sidelines democracy and Parliament, under the guise of ‘taking back control’.

I am as angry as I have ever been, and more fearful than I have ever been of where this is leading.

And now it’s down to us, the people, to do something about it.  What irony, practically on the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre.

Posted in Reflections on life (and death), Uncategorized, Whatever next? | Tagged , , , , | 5 Comments