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Recycling - and growing your own

(23 Posts)
CariGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 18-Oct-12 10:11:41

We are delighted that this week - after the popularity of her posts on the Battening down the hatches thread - Joan Lockwood has written a guest blog post for us about her Australian garden, growing her own fruit and veg (albeit rather more glam fruit and veg than we might get in UK gardens) and finding a use for anything and everything.

You can read her post here - and do add your thoughts, comments etc on this thread.

Grannyknot Thu 18-Oct-12 14:28:36

Joan I love the earthiness that shines out of your writing, and your comment in the 'Battening down the hatches' thread about not wanting to eat anything your gran wouldn't have recognised. I can't wait for the time when I no longer grab something off the 'Easy Cook' shelf at the supermarket en route home after yet another long day in the office. Just this week I gave DH and I both indigestion and we were certain it was from the crumb cover on the fish I brought home from one of the 'better' supermarkets. Which we didn't really enjoy anyway, even before we got the indigestion! I'm not sure though that I could persuade my husband - who thinks keeping almost anything is 'hoarding' - that we should stash something purely in case we ever find a use for it. He still has nightmares about having to clean out his late father's garage and workshed.

Joan Thu 18-Oct-12 21:45:53

Thank you, GrannyKnot! You could solve your problem about being too tired after work, by putting on a crockpot before you leave the house. As soon as you get up, open a can of condensed soup into the pot, add boiling water, frozen vegetables, and any diced meat (you can buy it diced). Put the crockpot on high, then turn it down a bit as you leave for work. it will take less than 5 minutes of your morning rush time. Your dinner is ready when you stagger home!! Of course, if you have time you can do something more complex, or at least use fresh vegetables. Then you can get yourself a compost bin for the peelings. I'm really big on compost myself!

I have three compost bins: one traditional large black one which I actually bought many years ago when I was still working, one tumbler which was a gift from an old friend when she had no room for it, and one is an old discarded plastic rubbish bin, turned upside down and the bottom cut out, and some recycled wood as a lid. I get compost ingredients from several sources: a box attached to the adjoining fence for kitchen waste from next door, grass cuttings from the other next door, our own kitchen waste minus what goes to the chooks, weeds that the chooks don’t like, dead leaves, and chook manure.
I grow my seedlings in polystyrene boxes from the greengrocer, and use a mixture of potting mix and compost.

I love to recycle things – well, being on the pension it is a necessity really, but it is also a matter of green principles. Old tee shirts are great for cutting into strips for garden ties; so is knicker elastic if I’m honest. A pair of thongs, a failed experiment in modern underwear (personal judgement: ouch,yukkk) became a very strong tomato vine tie! When I worked I used old panty hose, but those days are over; I live in shorts and tee shirts at home. My favourite comfy gardening shorts are going into holes, so I appliqué a flower over each hole as it appears. There are so many on them now, that I look like a faded refugee from the 1960s flower power era. But that's the beauty of not working - you can get away with almost anything!!
PS Chook is Australian for chicken of course: I speak a sort of dialect creole - Australian idiom within a strong Yorkshire accent.

Grannyknot Sat 20-Oct-12 16:52:36

Hi again, thanks for response smile and the slow cooker tip, I have never thought of using frozen veg in there, will give it a try.

FlicketyB Sat 20-Oct-12 18:19:33

When I was working and my children were at home I had a large green Le Creuset casserole - and a cooker with a 'delay cooking' clock. First thing in the morning I would get some frozen diced meat from the freezer, bung it in the casserole with a selection of veg, also usually frozen from the freezer, and some herbs and spices, stock cube and some water, quite often I would also put some potatoes in the oven as well to bake, it took less than 10 minutes to assemble. I would then put it in the oven timed to come on 2 1/2 hours before I came home from work. The process of cooking would mix all the ingredients together. When I opened the front door in the evening the smell would greet me at the door and all I had to do was cook some veg and serve. I always did double quantities and froze half of it as a home-made ready meal for a later date.

merlotgran Sat 20-Oct-12 19:05:03

Joan How big is your garden? Do you just keep chickens for eggs or do you raise them for the table as well?

glassortwo Sat 20-Oct-12 19:09:54

joan I am taking all your tips on board for when I get up to the house and can start on the garden and try to be a self sufficient as possible, but thats a long way off as the garden is a wilderness.

Joan Sat 20-Oct-12 22:35:59

FlickertyB I think I did that caserole thing partly for the welcoming aroma when I got home from work. Also, when I was doing uni two nights a week it meant husband and kids could eat their share befor I got home.

Merlotgan it is just a normal suburban garden - not big. I have front back and both sides though. I keep my 6 chickens for eggs - i am not against using them for the table, but it never happens. They have all died natural deaths!

Glassortwo A wilderness is good - just make sure you have some sort of compost bin for when you start pulling out the weeds. Try to avoid putting weed seeds in there though. Here in the subtropics it doesn't matter as much - the heat can kill them.

Joan Sat 20-Oct-12 22:42:17

It is spring here now, but in midwinter I attacked my two gangly citrus trees with the pruning saw. I was left with stumpy dead looking trees, which have since recovered, and lots of dead branches. Some were used on the upended table bed, and others became climbing frames against the back fence. I just attached them with a bit of wire, and now Lazy Wife beans are climbing up them.

I have an old tree stump about two feet high that just will not come out, so I dug round it as deeply as I could, attached a couple of the pruned branches to it, filled the hole with compost, and grew peas there. They were lovely, and now I have tomatoes starting in the same place. Another dead tree stump is being used in the same way. When I was digging round it I thought I was in an episode of Time Team, the archaeological program, when I encountered a hard rim of – something. If I had been in the UK I would have hoped for a Roman vase, or a mediaeval cooking pot, or something historical. I was chatting to the dog about all this – well, she’s like my shadow and there’s no one else in the garden to talk to. Unfortunately I heard the lady next door hanging out her washing at the other side of the fence, and no doubt hearing my mutterings. Not to worry, she already knows what I’m like. There was the incident of my broken ankle and - well, never mind; it was a while ago. Well, after two days of soaking round the tree stump in water and attacking it with a shovel and crow bar, a crusty rusty car wheel emerged. It was positioned in a way, which would have blocked water flow to the tree – no wonder it died. But why was the wheel there? I’ll never know.

glassortwo Sat 20-Oct-12 22:48:44

Joan truth be known I am not sure where to start its a bit daunting.

Joan Sat 20-Oct-12 23:09:18

Start in a corner - get your gloves on, get your weeding tool and spade and just do a little square. If you haven't got a compost bin, just put what you've weeded in a black bin liner and anchor it with a rock. The next day's square won't seem do bad. Weeding always seems easier after rain too.

I wish I was there to help!! Are there thistles? They are what put me off the most.

Joan Sat 20-Oct-12 23:16:27

Having been born in Yorkshire in early 1945, I grew up with all those war time and post war austerity slogans: ‘waste not want not’, ‘make do and mend’ and ‘dig for victory’ Even the slogan ‘is your journey really necessary?’ seems to apply these days, as we try to do all our shopping for two or three weeks all in one trip.

My first garden was my Dad’s ‘dig for victory’ garden, and living in the fertile Calder valley he grew everything. He kept bantams, rabbits and a pig in our suburban garden right next to the woollen mill where he worked. I loved the cute white or piebald rabbits, but every so often one of them ‘went to a good home’, and strangely enough, we always had meat stew that night. My parents recycled everything back then, and come to think of it, quite a few items got ‘recycled’ from the mill, including leather offcuts for shoe leather. Dad had a cobbler’s last, and whenever we got new shoes he would attach an extra leather sole to ensure the shoes endured. They made woollen blankets at the mill, so we got all the unsaleable blanket ends, which Mum would either sew into full sized blankets, or boil, dye and shrink them to use as dressing gown material. I guess all this sort of thing never really left me. I won’t be killing the odd chicken for a Sunday roast like Dad did, nor making fur gloves from rabbit skins like my multi-talented Mum, but the whole idea of living off our tiny bit of dirt is just the same for me.

This is a housing commission home (Queensland Council House): Our new right wing government has threatened tenants like us, two people in a three bed roomed house, with a rent rise if we don’t move into smaller accommodation, which is not available anyway. So be it: we cannot move for various health reasons so we’ll have to manage the rent rise. As the current rent is assessed at what is affordable, it seems logical to assume that the new rent will be unaffordable, so the garden will be essential to supplement the food budget, and recycling will be a matter of necessity, not choice. Not that we are poor: there is no need for anyone to live in poverty in this country whatever their income: so much is free, re-useable and recyclable if we start to look at things the right way, know how to cook simple meals, and preferably have space to grow some food.

It feels good to beat the system by reusing and recycling as much as possible. Right now I’m pondering how to make use of that rusty old car wheel. I’ll think of something. Eventually.

Faye Sun 21-Oct-12 00:25:59

Joan I enjoy reading about your garden. I love the idea of a garden where everything grown is edible. I am at the beginning of starting my garden around my cottage (which is in the middle of renovations). Nearly everything I have planned to plant I will be able to eat. All there is at the moment is a navel orange tree, cacti plants, some bushes and weeds. I will remove all of these except the orange tree. I want to put in a grape vine, more fruit trees, lots of herbs and grow my own vegetables. I will put in some climbing roses and maybe some other flowers in the garden at the front of the house. Did you start your garden from scratch?

Joan Sun 21-Oct-12 02:44:38

Yes, Faye - there was nothing here except grass, clay rocks and weeds. I started small with some trees. My husband was healthy back then, and dug the holes for them. I had a 12 year old son and a 15 year old: the 12 year old wanted his own garden, with a gnome! So i gave him a patch, and a gnome, and he grew marigolds.

The gardening phase didn't last though. As soon as mulberries appeared, he used them in his war games. I'd buy him those cheap little packets of plastic soldiers - one lot grey and one lot green. He'd stage a battle in the grass, then use my secateurs to cut off some of their plastic limbs, smear them with mulberry juice, and get me to come out and admire his battle scene!!(He's a 30 year old infantry captain in the Australian Army Reserve now)

I only started serious gardening when I retired.

Bags Sun 21-Oct-12 15:04:10

Just read and thoroughly enjoyed your blog post, joan smile. Reminds me of my allotment days. I wonder if I can find what I wrote about that back in Oxfordshire days....?

Here in W Scotland I'm going for wild, or is it going for us? Finding flowers and food plants that deer don't eat is quite a challenge! I did grow outdoor tomatoes one year, andnthis year, be allowing red campion to grow all around the parsley and hid it a bit, they've left that alone. We're still cropping that for smoked salmon sandwiches. Perhaps when I've found some likely bits of drift wood on the beach, I'll have a go at making a frame for a raised bed for potatoes.

merlotgran Sun 21-Oct-12 16:09:19

Two weeks ago we filled four demi-johns with wine from our very large grape vine. We usually value each home-made bottle of wine at £5 and last year made £150 worth. I bought the vine at a garden centre about ten years ago and it was half price because they'd lost the label! I didn't think it mattered at the time but would love to know what variety of grape it is now. The wine usually turns out to be a fairly dry white which is nice.

Joan Your dilemma with the rusty car wheel reminds me of a gardening programme (back in the early nineties) featuring Bob Flowerdew who also recycles anything and everything. He made all sorts of things including raised beds and a pond from old tractor tyres. He inspired me to make two large strawberry containers from tractor tyres. I rotate them with carrots.

Joan Mon 22-Oct-12 11:20:19

Gosh, I wish I lived round your way Merlotgran- wouldn't mind a drink of your 'homebrew'. My last attempt was for elder flower champagne: utter disaster! I used it to clean out the drains.

merlotgran Mon 22-Oct-12 21:19:28

Will your elderflowers soon be ready, Joan? (trying to get my head around the season in Australia) If so I'll send you my foolproof recipe. I make wine out of just about anything. Carrot wine on the go at the moment. wine

glassortwo Mon 22-Oct-12 22:26:31

joan I have put a few photos on my profile to give you an idea of the state of the garden, its all on a steep hill and covers 2 acres and its all in the same state.

Joan Mon 22-Oct-12 23:50:42

Merlotgran they are flowering now, and I would love your foolproof recipe!
Glassortwo Oh dear - I'd need a glass or FIVE before tackling THAT! How about marking off a bit near the house and starting there with a kitchen garden? If you have any old boards or something to cover it up for a while, you could then tackle it when the grass/weeds have started to rot. You'd need a tractor like the one our council uses to slash the wild areas. I loved your photos and now I'm fighting off envy. Mind you, I'm 10 years older and with a dodgy back, so I would probably decide that a steep wild garden is perfect as it is!!

glassortwo Mon 22-Oct-12 23:54:47

joan I think I will turn part over to a wild meadow, I thought the meadow would suit one of the steep hillsides.

merlotgran Tue 23-Oct-12 19:17:48

Elderflower Champagne. Low in alcohol - serve chilled.

Six heads of elderflower (shake off the bugs)
2 lemons
750g sugar
2 tbsns cider vinegar
4.5 ltrs water

Makes 1 gallon

You need large screw top empty fizzy drink bottles to store it in. Loosen the top gradually before drinking so it doesn't explode.

1. Put 4.5 ltrs (1 gallon of water) in a large, lidded, saucepan
2. Add the elderflower heads and two sliced lemons. Put the lid on and leave for 24hrs.
3. Strain the liquid through a muslin.
4. Add the sugar and the cider vinegar and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
5. Pour into fizzy drinks bottles and screw the tops on lightly. After a few days the natural yeasts will start the fermentation process.
6. After about two weeks the bubbling will slow down. When it has nearly stopped you can tighten the screw tops. Store the bottles in a cool place and you can start drinking it after a few days. grin

Joan Mon 29-Oct-12 01:30:40

Sounds terrific Merlotgran, thank you. As soon as I am organised (bottles etc) I'll give it a go.

Back in the garden, I've just transplanted a load of tomato seedlings against the mesh fence that surrounds my hen pen and vegetable garden. I also emptied my liquid manure into containers as it was swarming with flies, and used the bag of chicken manure that was in it, to enrich the soil for those seedlings. I put some blood and bone there too, which got the dog all excited and snuffling in a bit I spilled. Honestly, you'd think I never fed her!

I asked advice about the 'fusarian wilt' that attacks my tomatoes all the time. Apparently it is better to only water on a morning because if you do it at night it encourages mould, which causes that wilting. So the night after I found that out, it rained. Such is life.

Still haven't found a permanent use for old car wheels - I have two: the one I dug up and another I liberated from its way to the dump. I recently used them to weigh down the grass and leaves in my raised garden bed, prior to adding topsoil and manure. I might make one into the base for a planter.

Another aspect of recycling took place at my sewing machine. I'm 'Mother Bear' in our U3A performance group Christmas Party performance. So an old flowered sheet became a frilly apron and a mob cap, some foam discs from my CoQ10 tablet jar, covered in an offcut of brown needlecord became bear ears, and with a long wide skirt from a previous performance as a Victorian character, it is pure fairy tale kitsch. We are doing the Roald Dahl version of Goldilocks, with a few Christmassy words added. Goldilocks is being played as a mini-skirted slut. Should be fun, and if it outrages any of the more conservative members, this will be a bonus. My son has threatened to turn up and photograph it all.....