Three Things Thursday: 28 July 2016

As usual I’m joining with Emily of Nerd in the Brain (and others) for Three Things Thursday’. As she says…

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

First, last week’s unexpected sunflower has been providing even more joy by attracting bees to the limery. I am very careful to ensure that they find their way outdoors again after they have taken their fill.

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bumbling around

Second, we finally have a melon developing on one of the vines in the limery… there have been lots of false starts, but this one looks like it’s actually going to turn into an edible fruit. The variety is Green Nutmeg and it came from the Heritage Seed Library.

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it’s looking promising

Third, an heirloom. My mum has passed on the family’s ancient brass jam kettle to me. My dear friend Alfred mended my stainless steel pan a couple of months ago, but now I can do twice as much preserving.

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just needs a bit of a clean

So that’s it for this week. What are you feeling grateful for?

Hanging around

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Not an appealing sight

In order to control flies in the limery I have been using a combination of carnivorous plants and fly paper. The latter is unsightly, but effective to hang high up. However, now I’m getting to know my insectivores better and discovering what grows well, I have been able to ditch the fly paper in favour of Drosera dichotoma. This astonishing sundew (at least astonishing to those of us used to our tiny native Drosera rotundifolia) produces long trailing leaves, and so is best in a location where these can drape down the side of the pot, unrestricted. Suspending this plant shows it off to its best advantage and gives it the greatest opportunity to trap its prey.

Since the plant needs to sit in water, a reasonably deep suspended dish is required. After a bit of rummaging around, I located a plastic bowl that had been given to me years ago full of pot pourri (pointless stuff, long since composted).  A little bit of work with some jute twine and a crochet hook and I had constructed a hammock for my pot.

And now it’s hanging in the limery looking much more attractive than the fly paper, and photosynthesising to boot!

Fingers crossed that it’s happy there and grows lots more fly-catching leaves.

Take it away

Inextricably linked with take-away meals, it seems, is the idea of disposability. Buy the food – take it home – extract it from its packaging – throw the packaging away.  No effort, no washing up, just trash. But it needn’t be this way. You can have a take-away, without the throw-away.

One of our favourite local take-aways is El Salsa. They have a trailer that they take to all sorts of festivals and events, but they also have it in the car park of our local farm shop several evenings a week over the summer.

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Our favourite take-away

One of the reasons we are so keen (apart from the delicious food) is their ethos:

All our food is made from scratch, using only the freshest, quality ingredients…We are committed to sourcing locally where possible. We buy farm fresh welsh beef, chicken & pork from our local butcher. Cheese that’s made just up the road, we grow our own & source vegetables & herbs from local farms when in season. We like to be kind to our planet & use only Bio-degradable takeaway containers.

But after a few visits, we decided that whist bio-degradable containers are good, reusing containers over and over is better. So, we’ve started taking our own. Finally last night, I remembered to take my camera and got round to taking some photos, which naturally led to a conversation about the subject. And the up-shot? They are now considering encouraging customers to bring their own containers and offering a discount to those who do. How great is that?

 

 

Three Things Thursday: 21 July 2016

As usual I’m joining with Emily of Nerd in the Brain (and others) for Three Things Thursday’. As she says…

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

First, unplanned plants. I do love an unexpected visitor in the garden and, in this particular case, in the limery. Some of the seed that we put out for the birds must have got into the potting compost, because one of my pepper plants has a companion. I nearly weeded it out when I first noticed it, but then I thought how lovely it would be if it flowered… and how right I was:

Second, the ‘big 50’. Not quite my birthday yet (although that will be happening in a few months time) but swimming. Since I started in mid-January, I have been swimming 50 times. I swim a minimum of a kilometre every time I go, so I’ve swum quite a long way this year. My annual pass has been a great investment and, in fact I’m close to having covered the cost already.

Third, swapsies! I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was swapping my knitting skills for some yarn. The deal is that I knit Kathryn some socks and she sends me some of the yarn that she is no longer able to use. So far I am up on the deal as the yarn to knit up, plus my ‘payment’ arrived yesterday. As well as the commercially produced yarn, Kathryn also sent me a little of the yarn she spins herself, which is lovely. I have a trip away at the end of next week, so Kathryn’s socks will be on my needles for that.

So that’s it for this week. What are you feeling grateful for?

It’s still there even if you can’t see it

Well, Plastic Free July has come round again and so I’m encouraged to think about single-use plastics and what more I can do to cut them out of my life. The actual challenge for the month, if you take a look at the website, is:

Attempt to refuse single-use plastic during July. “Single-use” includes plastic shopping bags, plastic cups, straws, plastic packaging…basically anything that’s intended only to be used once and then discarded. If refusing ALL single-use plastic sounds too daunting this time, try the TOP 4 challenge (plastic bags, bottles, takeaway coffee cups & straws).

I don’t exactly participate in the challenge, but every year I try to think about at what progress I might be able to make to reduce single use plastic consumption.

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Plastic-free-ish

By this time last year I had already ditched teabags (almost all of which contain plastic in the bags themselves, not just their packaging). Sadly, over the past year I have discovered that whatever containers we take to the shop to transport our loose tea home in, the tea actually arrives at the point of sale in packaging that does include plastic… despite my romantic notion that it might arrive in wooden tea chests! Yes, I know it means it’s fresh and there’s less wasted tea, but it appears that unless we grow our own, we cannot exclude plastic entirely from our tea-chain (like a food-chain, but more beverage-y).

And this sort of highlights the problem. It’s possible to think about solutions when you know that something is there, but when it’s hidden you may not even know you’ve got a problem at all. Perhaps I’m cynical, but when I read those stories on social media about the person who only generates a jam jar of waste in a gazillion years, I just think PAH! Unless you are self-sufficient, there is going to be some plastic waste in your life. Go to a restaurant? I bet some of their ingredients come wrapped in plastic – just because you don’t see it and don’t have to dispose of it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Grow your own food? I bet there was some plastic in the seed packet or enclosing the compost you bought.

And so, I’m not beating myself up about plastic… yes there’s some plastic packaging in my life, yes I wish there wasn’t, but hey, I’m trying little by little to reduce and otherwise either to reuse it or recycle it…

…instead I’m being concerned about all those hidden plastic fibres being shed from the fleece I bought because it was made from recycled plastic and which are now accumulating in our seas… sigh

Cohabiting carnivores

When the limery was first built, we noticed that flies had begun to congregate in there and one of the builders suggested getting some carnivorous plants. I liked this idea – no unpleasant chemicals plus interesting specimens to care for.

In the past year I’ve had some successes and some failures – sadly not all of my plants have survived, but I have learned a lot, including what types of carnivores like the conditions available and the fact that slugs eat pitcher plants. It is because of this latter fact that my Sarracenia purpurea has a hole in the lower part of one of its 2015 pitchers (each pitcher in this species lasts a couple of years). As a result no liquid can accumulate in there, but it has attracted a resident – a spider. So I have an insectivore living inside an insectivore!

As you can see, it’s living perilously close to a Venus fly trap that would be perfectly capable of catching it. It has spun its web around all four of the plants in the water tray, but it must be very careful as it does this. This co-habitation has been going on for several weeks now and none of the organisms involved seem to be adversely affected, so I’m not interfering, although I have removed the Sarracenia seedling now as it was getting swamped by the web.

Looking round at my carnivores, it’s obvious how common co-habitation is… well, actually it’s really that sundews seem to be particularly keen to move in with any other carnivore except the Venus fly traps. What is particularly nice is that some of the young sundews must have arrived as hitch-hikers, because they are not species that I have bought.

In terms of doing their job, I’m pleased to report that fly capture is proceeding well – the pitcher plants (and spiders) catch big houseflies and the sundews catch the little black flies that seem to be associated with peppers growing in pots and whitefly that like the melons. I’m going to put the most rampant droopy Drosera dicotoma in a hanging basket, as its long leaves are getting rather out of hand on the window sill and it will then have maximum access to little flies.

And it looks like there may be more offspring to come – assuming Sarracenia is self-fertile, I am hoping for some seeds from this lovely specimen:

And there are likely to be yet more sundews as the Drosera capensis are flowering all over the place and forming seed pods

Now isn’t that so much more fun than fly sprays?

 

Three Things Thursday: 14 July 2016

Joining with Nerd in the Brain (and others) for Three Things Thursday’. As “Nerd” says…

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

Bear with me this week… I’m just recovering from my first cold in about eight years, which explains the lack of posts in recent days.

First… the big pile of cotton hankies that belonged to my dad. Mum gave them to me when he died and they have been of enormous value this last few days.

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Just a few clean ones left!

Second… the beginning of the courgette glut. I know I’ll be sick of them by the autumn, but it’s lovely at the moment to have such an abundance… and to know that the financial investment in seeds and compost has probably already paid off, not to mention the absence of packaging.

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Just five, and I’m trying to harvest them before they get too big!

Third… locally produced tonic water. I spotted these drinks mixers the other day and couldn’t resist: glass bottles and no artificial sweeteners. Hurrah for Llanllyr Source.

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Yum!

So that’s it for this week. What are you feeling grateful for?

Stop and go

To amuse himself whilst I have been searching for string (a quest that may finally be over), Mr Snail has been animating one of my creations…

Not bad for a first go… I think we should expect more

Three Things Thursday: 7 July 2016

Joining with Nerd in the Brain (and others) for Three Things Thursday’. As “Nerd” says…

*three things that make me smile: an exercise in gratitude – feel free to steal this idea with wild abandon and fill your blog with the happy*

First, soft fruit – possibly my favourite harvest from the garden. Specifically I love raspberries, still warm from the sun. What’s more, the surplus can be frozen and brings a wonderful taste of summer to dark winter days. Right now, though, we are enjoying them with home-made ice cream (using eggs from the garden). I’ve also been picking red currants – ruby gems that add a bit of zing to recipes. I think a cake combining the two is in order.

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One day’s haul

Second, Blacker Yarns. Having decided to make a felted version of the bird roost, I went on the wonderful Blacker Yarns’ website and was able to find a suitable British wool in perfect colours almost immediately. Not only that, but it was delivered less than 24 hours later. Hurrah for well constructed web sites and great customer service.

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Just the job

Third, swapsies! I’m just in the process of bartering some of my knitting for some lovely yarn. How fabulous is that?

So that’s it for this week. What are you feeling grateful for?

Trying times

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an early jute prototype

Ages ago I wrote a pattern for my crochet bird roosts. The plan was to sell both the pattern alone and kits with all the necessary materials in. Unfortunately things didn’t quite go to plan… my testers never got back to me with comments about the pattern, and then the supplier of the jute twine that I used during the design process went out of business. In a fit of gloom I put it all to one side.

Some months later I tried to source an equivalent twine, but didn’t have much luck, although I did buy some (unseen and, as it turned out not entirely suitable) from a British manufacturer – I really needed a local supplier who I could visit to allow me to see and feel the different types or a more distant supplier who was prepared to send me samples. I’ve had no luck on either count. However, recently Danielle from The Make It Shop offered to test the pattern for me and, as a result of chatting to her, I decided it might be worthwhile to try making a version in wool for subsequent felting.

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trials and tests (note empty wine glass in the background!)

And so, over the past week I’ve been playing around with different designs and different wool yarns plus the new jute. Some of the wool I tried refuses to felt, some of my trials have ended up silly shapes, and some are promising, the new jute was so thick it turned into an extra-large roost. We’ve found a few mistakes in the pattern and a few places where the instructions were unclear. However, progress is being made and I’m hoping that in the not too distant future the pattern will be finalised and at least a woolly feltable version of the kit will be available. My desire to use British fibres as much as possible isn’t helping and I’m sick of doing internet searches for twine, so I’m planning to brave some real shops/garden centres in an attempt to locate some twine of the right gauge.

So, I’m just off to crochet yet another bird house… I’ll be glad when I can get back to my skeleton hat pattern write-up!

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