Apple season

The time of year has come to prepare for the apple onslaught. However, this year is different. Although there will still be an abundance of cooking apples from dear ‘old faithful’ from Perkin over at High Bank, I will have a few snail-grown eaters too.

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Old Faithful © High Bank Cottage

A couple of years ago we planted an Ashmead’s Kernel that came from Karuna. Janta had grafted in onto a small rootstock, so it was ideal for our garden. We planted it in the chicken patch, where there would be no weed competition and plenty of nutrient input. And we waited. Last year was too soon to allow it to produce, but this year it has thrived. I took lots of fruit off early in the season and even so two branches snapped under the weight. Now we have about 15 nearly ripe eating apples. It’s not the most visually appealing apple, but all sources I have consulted suggest that it is one of the best tasting… hopefully I will be able to report back soon, once I can work out exactly when they are ripe (any tips welcome).

 

Blankies

Sissie snuggling in her blankie

Sissie snuggling in her blankie

Last year Patty and Perkin loaned us a dvd; the film was called Lars and the Real Girl. Have you seen it? It’s rather odd, but very endearing and a story that, at the end, you really wish was true because you want to believe that there actually are communities that care enough about their members to overlook their odd behaviour. However, this post is not really about the film, it’s just that the main character – Lars, a sad and troubled man – has a beautiful baby shawl that his mother (who died at his birth) knitted for him whilst she was pregnant. He wears the shawl as a scarf, giving him comfort and acting as a security blanket. I found this rather touching (despite it being fictional) and it inspired me when I found out that Patty was expecting a baby.

I don’t really enjoy knitting the sort of lace shawl featured in the film and, anyway, all those fine threads are just asking for little fingers to get tangled in them, so I made a much more serviceable blankie for little Sissie. It’s got a simple knitted pattern to add a bit of interest and I made it with Sirdar’s Simply Recycled yarn, which is more than 50% recycled cotton and easily washable (another important consideration with items for babies). Apparently, Sissie is rarely without her blankie… I’m wondering whether I shouldn’t have made two of them so there was a chance for washing!

A new blankie from left-overs... it will be creams and yellows with a cornflower blue border

A new blankie from left-overs… it will be creams and yellows with a cornflower blue border

Another of my friends is also expecting a baby. This one is due in the autumn, so a warmer blankie seems in order and this time I have decided to exercise my new crocheting skills and make one out of granny squares. The yarn I’m using is left over from someone else’s baby projects and was bought for a few pounds on e-bay… as usual, it feels good to be turning waste into useful items. It also feels good to avoid jumping on the baby gifts bandwagon. So many new-borns are showered with brand new stuff, which is then hardly used. Perkin and Patty specifically asked family and friends to avoid this consumer-madness, so my gift was made specifically with this in mind… even down to the choice of yarn. Avoiding waste is an approach that permeates their lives, from gardening to running their delightful holiday cottage, so it is natural for them to want the same ethics for their family.

A little bit of internet research reveals how much new parents do spend on a baby, even before it’s born. An article on Netmums from last year states:

…new parents are spending 13% more on their new baby than they did three years ago and are forking out an average of £2,538 before their baby is born. One reason is thought to be that they are copying celebrities who are photographed with the latest ‘must-have’ strollers and baby clothes and equipment. In a poll new mums admitted they were inspired by ‘A-list’ lifestyles and many also said any money sense flew out of the window when it came to buying for their baby. The survey found that newborns in Britain have a £600 wardrobe, £180 toy collection and a nursery costing £463 in furnishings and decorations.

EEKK! And that doesn’t cover all those presents that come with the birth of a baby and the spending afterwards. Well, I’ve been assured that Sissie’s blankie was most welcome and that her pre-birth spend was nowhere near that amount. I’m sure the same will be true for the other imminent arrival and since she is going to be a third child, there will be lots of hand-me-downs as well as the blankie from me.

I hope that Sissie, like Lars, will continue to value her blankie into adulthood (although for different reasons) and if it ever wears out, I can always make her a new one… possible recyled/upcycled from something else!

Sissie in her blankie in the garden at High Bank

Sissie in her blankie in the garden at High Bank… perhaps they found her under a gooseberry bush!

Peeing in a bucket

I promise this is my last post about saving water for a while, but there are a couple of things I want to mention that have cropped up as a result of recent posts.

First, this week I decided that I would investigate a little more how much water we were using in the shower. It turns out that Mr Snail-of-happiness only spends about 3 minutes in the shower, whilst I spend about 5.5 minutes in there. Both times are much shorter than the average in the UK, which is 7.5 minutes. I also measured the water I used, so that I could find out the rate of flow of our shower. Our electric shower, it transpires, delivers about 4 l of water per minute; this is the target suggested by the Energy Saving Trust, so clearly we are not being excessive and I can stop considering changing the shower in order to reduce consumption.

Second, my friend Perkin from High Bank (a fabulous place to go for a holiday if you are looking for a cosy self-catering cottage close to wonderful places for foodies) tried to post a comment on my ‘more water-saving‘ post, but despite repeated attempts was unable to do so. What he tried to write was:

What about urine as a garden fertiliser, either neat on the compost heap or diluted on plants. It has the double benefit of massively saving toilet/flushing usage and of providing a free plant feed. Not the most socially acceptable of ideas, the fact that our compost heap faces a pub beer garden has caused surprise gasps 🙂

Well, we have a relatively private garden, but even so it’s fairly difficult for us girls to introduce urine directly onto the compost heap!

Urine is full of nitrogen and, because nitrogen is water-soluble, it’s one nutrient that gets washed out of the soil very easily. Many farmers (and gardeners) spend lots of money buying nitrogen fertilisers to apply to their land. Inorganic nitrogen fertilisers are produced by energy-demanding chemical reactions whilst all the time we flush away a natural source of nitrogen, treating this fantastic resource as a waste product.

A camping toilet, for discreet and civilised nitrogen collection.

A camping toilet, for discreet and civilised nitrogen collection.

So, Perkin is right – if we want free plant food and to save water, we should be using our pee in the garden. And the solution to collection? As the title of this post states – peeing in a bucket! OK, you may not like the idea, but it’s perfectly practical. Lots of camping and caravaning suppliers sell ‘camping toilets’, which are, essentially, a bucket with a toilet seat and a lid that seals well. Generally, the expectation is that these will be used with chemicals, but there is no need – a nice thick layer of wood shavings in the bottom will soak up the liquid and you can sprinkle more on as required. In fact, this is a great solution because the wood is carbon-rich and the urine is nitrogen rich, so you get a good balance of these two important elements to go on your compost heap. And, all that nitrogen acts as a great compost activator, so composting should happen nice and quickly.

So, don’t be squeamish – turn your waste into vegetables and save water, money and energy.

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