Treasures

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Getting hold of a wider range of goods and services without using the car usually involves a journey across the estuary, and what a delight it is. A short walk takes us to our local ferry and a bumpy ride over the sea transports us to Fleetwood, a town packed full of interesting architecture and a good range of independent shops.

Designed by Decimus Burton in the 1830’s, the town was originally designed to accommodate the working classes in  ‘golden sands, sea, air like wine and breath-taking views across Morecambe Bay on clear days.’ It certainly felt that way as we enjoyed a beach side picnic today.

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A train load of books in Fleetwood Library…

And so to more domestic matters…..

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Planning this year’s harvest- inspired by the permaculture movement we are going to plant some full-size trees this year..more later

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Finding a much prettier alternative to filter cartridges

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A handwritten letter from a dear friend on the most gorgeous notepaper

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Making naan to go with our lentil and tomato curry.

The Beauty Of Zero Waste – part deux

Having a family can certainly add to the waste we produce, an estimated 1/2 tonne of disposable nappies are produced every year per child- nappies in landfills take up to 500 years to degrade and around 200, 000 trees are lost each year to make disposable nappies for babies in the USA alone. The arrival of a baby often means that we are inundated with ‘essential’ items from well-meaning family and friends or from exhausted shopping trips in a vain effort to secure the one item which we believe will make our lives easier.

The simple truth is that having a home with just a few good-quality baby items make parenting much easier on both our health and pocket.

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Baby bathing essentials: muslin cloths, baby balm in a glass jar from a good friend, coconut oil and a gorgeous washbag made by a lovely lady.

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Toddler mealtimes- metal cutlery and enamel ware espresso size cup – perfect for little hands

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Washable nappies from Bambino Mio and bamboo wipes from Ma Petite Chou

For those precious spare moments….

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Fountain pen from Allan Lloyd in Kendal, ink, blotting paper and writing paper- for those times when only handwritten letter will do.

 

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Shopping kit

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Woodstore, wormery and apple trees ( taken last May)- for time spent in the garden ( either alone or with my little boy) – bliss!

The Beauty Of Zero Waste

That’s the thing about sustainability, it’s just so darn nice to look at. Alternatives to plastic are usually far more beautiful as well as kinder to the pocket and the environment. According to the Greenpeace Energy desk news, the UK government quietly reduced recycling targets for plastics last year- meaning that even more plastic is finding its way in to landfill.

Concern over plastic in our food is highlighted in the BBC’s ‘Trust Me I’m A Doctor ‘ – in the programme scientists drew attention to how plastic leeches into our food and disrupts our endocrine system, or in other words, our hormones. These disruptions can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. The episode particularly drew attention to the need for pregnant women to be careful about eating food wrapped in plastic.

A great start to reducing plastics at home begins with swapping your single use items for their more beautiful alternatives:

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Bamboo toothbrushes ( available from here), baking soda, body lotion ( made by the lovely Clare) and crocheted cotton rounds.

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Cloth napkins, tea towels, knitted dishcloths and cotton food covers.

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gorgeous bamboo sanitary towels, made in the UK from recycled fabric

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Shopping bags

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Soft, laundered vintage handkerchiefs

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Air fresheners and medicine cabinet.

These lovely items enhance our home environment and ensure that no waste is generated. If properly cared for, these items should serve us for many years to come ( and personally they just make me smile every time I use them).

 

 

Simple Bread Recipes

IMGP0857.JPGMaking BreadWhen I was growing up my mum and dad used to make bread all the time and I would often find it in my packed lunch. I often bake on days when we don’t have anywhere we need to be, simple bread takes time to rise (prove), it’s the original slow food, but it’s so much tastier than anything you can buy and a thrifty choice for those on a tight budget. The first recipe makes around 16 rolls or 2 full-sized loaves.

Simple Bread ( mum’s bread)

1Kg Strong Bread Flour (any will do)

1 sachet of yeast

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1/2 tablespoon liquid honey

1 teaspoon salt

660ml water (1 pint) of lukewarm water

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a well in the middle of your dray ingredients and pour in the water, honey and oil. Spread the fingers on your hand to form a paddle shape and mix until well combined.

Empty the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for at least five minutes. ( push the dough with one hand, stretching it away from your body) leave your ball of dough in a warm place until it is twice as big (around 40 minutes)

Empty your ball of dough onto a floured surface again and press until  the air is expelled. Form into 2 loaves or 16 buns and leave on an oiled baking sheet to roughly double in size.

Bake in a hot oven (200C) for around 20 minutes. Tap your buns on the bottom to check that they are done, they should sound hollow.

The second recipe is for Wheaten or Soda bread, it is even easier and takes a mere 40minutes from start to finish. We have relatives in Ireland and they would regularly send us home with a suitcase full of this delicious bread! Made with white flour, it’s known as Soda bread, with wholewheat it’s known as wheaten bread

Simple Soda Bread

450g of white or wholemeal flour

1 tsp baking soda

400ml buttermilk

1 level tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 230C

Sieve the flour, salt and baking soda into a large bowl.

Make a well in the middle, pour in the buttermilk and then mix with your fingers (spread your fingers apart to form a rigid comb shape). Mix until all of the flour is combined but don’t overdo it.Gently roll the dough into a ball and place on a floured baking sheet.

Using a sharp knife, cut a cross in the top of your ball of dough and prick each quarter twice to let the fairies out.

Put into your oven for 10 minutes, then turn the oven down to 200C and bake for a further 25 minutes. The bread will be ready when you tap on the bottom and it sounds hollow. Wrap in a tea towel immediately after you take it out of the oven.

 

 

Family

During the last week in October CC, our little boy and I went on the boat to Northern Ireland to spend a week exploring and visiting relatives from both sides of our families. We stayed in a Georgian cottage in Hillsborough complete with peat fire ( although I couldn’t bear to burn the peat, it is traditional there), Aga and antique furniture. The cottage certainly had an atmosphere, I am convinced it was haunted !

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We enjoyed lots of walks in the woodland two minutes from the front door.

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And loved trips out to the Ulster Folk open air museum and the truly fantastic Titanic Museum at Belfast docks. The Ulster Folk Museum had so many buildings to explore, including a bank, blacksmiths,printers, farms and a court. Going inside old buildings in a natural setting gives you such a tangible taste of history, truly interesting.

The Titanic museum was a stunning collection of artifacts, photographs, a ride which took you on a tour of the shipyard and a stunning interactive tour of the inside of Titanic using surround screens.

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Our little boy is finally asleep at a decent hour so I am taking this opportunity to catch up on my digital diaries. On the domestic front we have been busy stocking the pantry with home made and home grown. the appalling weather ( three weeks of almost constant rain and gales!) has given us an excuse to cosy up in doors and make some preserves, including Sloe Gin and pickled beetroot. We had a great harvest of beetroot this year, it seems to be the only thing that the slugs don’t like.

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A Greener Baby

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While it could be said that having a baby is not the best thing for the environment, we have certainly tried our best to reduce our little boy’s impact on the planet and build a better future for him. From the outset we were certain that we didn’t want to overwhelm our little house with baby equipment and paraphenalia. We were also determined that we would buy second-hand wherever we could and, where we had no choice; such as a new mattress, we would buy as sustainably as possible.

Fast forward several months later and we do seem to have managed to limit the amount of equipment, although this has sometimes left us feeling ungrateful when we turn down kind offers from friends and family. Most friends and family members know us well enough to ask about what is actually needed, or have sent things which were as green as possible. The generosity of friends and family never fails to amaze us, gifts have included the most thoughtful and useful items, such as moccasins handmade in Canada, stunning hand knitted cardigans and blankets, handmade toys and a wide range of clothes.

Despite not knowing many parents of small children ourselves; being older parents, we were so very fortunate that a friend of my mother loaned us a beautiful crib, as well as passing on numerous toys, clothes and a simply wonderful mobile which plays the theme from Dr. Doolittle. The mobile and a wind up giraffe ( which also plays the same tune) were given to us several months before CC became the musical director for the stage version of Dr. Doolittle, it still makes us smile every time it plays and our little boy simply adores it. The joy that these pre-loved  toys give is immeasurable, and certainly trumps just going to a shop and buying new.

Nursery equipment has been purchased mostly second hand, his cot bed was such a bargain and the lady selling it was delighted that another little boy would enjoy the cot after hers had grown out of it. The only items we have bought new were the mattress and protectors which have to be new for the sake of safety, these we bought from The Little Green Sheep company using a generous financial gift from special friends in Canada.

We have also opted for washable nappies which are simply wonderful, really soft and colourful. Unfortunately, despite a thorough search online, I couldn’t buy these second hand, so we opted for the gorgeous designs and durability of Bambino Mio’s two piece nappies. Thanks to a great summer we have been able to line dry these the vast majority of the time and use our trusty wooden clothes horses the rest of the time. (I am not sure how lucky we will be with this during the North’s typically cold and damp winters though, we will certainly try to dry them outdoors as much as we can.)

We also use recycled bamboo fabric as baby wipes which are beautifully soft and are just thrown in the nappy dry bucket to be laundered with the nappies.

Having a new little human being in our home has certainly required some adjustment, when people talked about ‘not getting anything done’ I had assumed that I would be able to organise my way out of the chaos…..how very wrong I was! At three months we are just beginning to get the hang of balancing time with our son and time to grow our vegetables, cook and make. Today I managed to bake rock buns while our little boy was napping and plant winter vegetables such as spinach, winter salad and kale. I am determined that we will have some organic vegetables from our newly remodeled garden during the winter. Living in the north of England means that the hours of daylight considerably reduce from August on wards and this impacts on the length of the growing season, cloches and greenhouses can only retain heat and not provide extra daylight.

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It really felt like Christmas yesterday as a parcel of a second hand bundle of baby boys’s clothing arrived, 25 items for £12 ! The most beautiful coat made in France, gorgeous dungarees by Osh Kosh, a fox design jumper to name but a few of the delights. Also included was a wet suit suitable for a 3-6 month old, although I’m not sure he’ll need it, you never know!

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Summer’s End

*   What happened to the summer ? It seemed as though the weeks were endless and September was a world away. Autumn seems to have come early this year and we’ve been making the most of the ripe profusion of blackberries growing in dense pockets in the lanes around our house.

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*  Making the most of our treasure ; first  Blackberry and Bramley jam, next a couple of pies for the freezer and then blackberry sauce to enjoy in yoghurt and on pancakes.

*   After a bit of detective work ( messages in bottles) we’ve finally found a milkman who will deliver in glass  from a dairy not 1/2 a mile away. After trying to search the internet many times we happened upon empty bottles on local doorsteps and wrote letters which we put into several in the hope that one might reach its intended recipient, we finally got a telephone call from a lovely local farmer ( who said she was not on the internet).  Our first lot at 6am was thrilling!

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*   We’ve set ourselves the challenge to try and get further afield for supplies without the car; using the bikes and our local ferry we have extended our range this summer. This allows us access to a hardware shop, bank and larger grocery stores without using petrol. We’re lucky to have a coastal bike path that is car free with stunning views of our bay. The wind turbines were spinning quickly today in the brisk breeze.

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*   The large ships from Heysham appear to float on the sand as they make the most of the deeper waters in the tidal channels.

*   Making the most of the warm weather we’ve been camping in Northumberland, despite gale force winds on the first night ( we really thought we’d lose the tent on our coastal site)we enjoyed visits to more castles – this time the castle of Lindisfarne on Holy Island. This island is part of the inner Farne islands and accessed via a causeway-( be sure to check the tide tables carefully before embarking or you may find yourself stranded!) The castle itself was an Edwardian gem – furnished by Edward Lutens after being purchased by the owner of Country Life magazine ; the walled garden – a Gertrude Jekyll design- was a true delight and has inspired me to try growing more medicinal flowers in our little garden.

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*   After spending a few hours making several batches of home made beer ready for Christmas we’ve had a lot of bottles to prepare ! – these made me smile in the castle.

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*   On our final day we got rather carried away with the romantic setting of Hulne Abbey – (the location of Maid Marion’s House in Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves)

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Ten Tips For A Zero Waste Garden

All too often gardening is seen as nothing more than a quick trip to the garden centre filling our carts with plants, plastic bags and compost and assorted ‘sundries’. Arriving at the checkout the bill frequently comes to far more than we’d imagined. By the time you arrive home and unloaded the car it’s a wonder if you actually have the energy to plant what you’ve bought! The following are some ideas for making your little patch more sustainable, they’re not exhaustive by any means, but it will make it a lot more pleasurable to garden !

1. Source second hand tools- finding ‘pre-loved’ tools in second-hand shops or backyard sales usually means that you can equip your tool shed for very little money; often older tools are far better quality that their newer versions and have that lovely aged look.

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2. Begin farming- worms that is….our wormery was bought from a company which only sells wormeries which are made from recycled computers and bottles. If you have access to the large polystyrene(Styrofoam) coolers or some old plastics boxes you could build your own for no money at all. Wiggly Wigglers have clear instructions on how to do this. www.wigglywigglers.co.uk/make-your-own-wormery

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Our wormery yields a surprising amount of compost as well as producing ‘worm tea’ an organic liquid fertiliser which you dilute in your watering can. Harvesting the ‘black gold’ is easy in our wormery as you simply rotate the bottom tray which by now if full of compost to the top and begin to fill with your kitchen and garden scraps. Compost with peat is very bad news for the environment and comes in plastic bags- why not just make your own ( with the help of your new wriggly pets)

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3. Begin collecting your rainwater- because our garden is small we have a slimline water butt plumbed in to our garage downpipe, it collects several gallons during rainy spells (frequent where our little house is situated). You don’t have to buy a special vessel, any large container will do- my father has plumbed a large former chemical drum to his shed which belonged to my grandfather- a pair of old tights stretched over the top will prevent it from becoming contaminated with leaves and insects.

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4. Start plants out under cover- a bright windowsill, conservatory or greenhouse ensures that you get the most produce from each season. (Where we live in the north of the UK this is essential for growing plants such as tomatoes and peppers.) It also means that you can do some gardening indoors during the colder weather.

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5. Plant herbs- a great start to beginning a productive garden is to begin with herbs since these will happily grow in the tinniest of containers. Herbs are easily harvested by cutting a few leaves or stems from the plant with a sharp pair of scissors. You can also dry herbs in a warm spot in the house to ensure that you enjoy them in the winter months. Ordering from an on-line catalogue gives you a much greater choice and saves on that car journey to  buy seeds.

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6. Build your own vegetable bed from scrap wood- CC used offcuts from the garage for ours. Our little vegetable bed measures just 2 foot by 5 foot and it yields enough vegetables during the spring and summer to ensure that we are self sufficient in vegetables. Happily we often yield enough to have some to freeze as well. Growing potatoes in planters and herbs in pots also helps to expand our harvest.

7. Collect your own seeds- our grandparents saved the seeds from their gardens but our generation seems to have lost much of this skill, simply let your chosen flower, herb or vegetable produce a seed pod and leave to ripen on the plant. Take a sharp pair of scissors and cut the stem containing the seed pod and leave to dry in a moisture free place. For plants with very little seeds, (such as the leek), place the seed head in a paper bag and hang upside down in a dry place. Harvest your seeds when the pods are completely dry and store in a labelled envelope.

Growing your own plants from seed guarantees that the plant has not been grown in peat-rich compost( unlike many garden centre plants) and is a thrifty and sustainable way of growing your garden the following year.

8. Use a push mower if you have a lawn- We have a lovely lightweight model which lifts effortlessly from the garden store and make cutting our tiny lawn a pleasure -(there’s something extremely therapeutic about the gentle thrrrrr, thrrrr sensation) Lawns are not a great choice for the environment in more arid areas but we have more than enough rainfall to water our lawn, we don’t spray anything on our lawn and have two very sweet rabbits who rely on the grass cuttings to supplement their diet as well as enjoying regular play-time on the grass.

9. Encourage lodgers – beneficial insects which eat the larvae of pests and pollinate flowers are provided with accommodation rent free. Planting lavender, nasturtiums, poached egg plants and many more gives your little workers plenty of food and a home- made insect box ensures cosy beds for the night.

10. Deal with unwelcome guests in a sustainable fashion- most garden pests can be discouraged by using netting, regular patrols and keeping a beady eye on problems before they become a major infestation. Caterpillas an be prevented by using netting ( old net curtains will do a great job) or picking the eggs off your plants before they hatch. Slugs are another matter altogether in a wet climate which generally has mild winters. I have waged war with the steely determination of an army general after slugs ate all of my first vegetables. Copper tape and barriers work very well for containers, but vegetable beds are another matter. This is the only occasion where organically permitted slug pellets ( iron phosphate- which is harmless to pets and wildlife if used as per the instructions) are really an essential.

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Just a few minutes per week should ensure that you have a garden you can really enjoy and be proud of. Don’t forget the last step – relax and enjoy !

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Inspiration

During our Easter holiday CC and I went to stay in a beautiful converted barn in Cornwall. Cornwall’s stunning coastline, beaches and gardens made for a wonderful holiday and the steep coastal paths ensured great walking.

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The Eden project took our breath away- a converted china clay quarry transformed into a beautiful eco-project.

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The bio-domes contained a Mediterranean landscape and a rainforest – as well as landscaped gardens surrounding the domes – created by terracing the steep sides of this disused quarry. The most impressive thing though was the overwhelmingly positive environmental message of regeneration.

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This sculpture is called WEEE man – made from the amount of Waste Electical and Electronic products the average UK citizen throws away in their lifetime. A stunning visual motivator !

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Other educational displays included this display about the greenhouse effect – in a greenhouse.

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Even the cafe was Zero Waste – and the food delicious .

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As fans of Doc Martin we also had to go and see ‘Port Wenn’ – in real life Port Issac.

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Other hi-lights included The Lost Gardens Of Heligan – amazing gardens from a long lost estate – reclaimed and restored.

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….and Stonehenge

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…..as well as seeing Tintagel – said to be the birthplace of King Arthur.

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A Quick Update

Enjoyed beautiful walks along our shore line.

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Managed to do a Zero Waste Christmas shop, thanks to the very lovely shop keepers of Knott End who are always happy to fill our little jars for us. It’s so much nicer than shopping in a supermarket.

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As always CC helped to carry most of it home, I’ve suggested a trolley on wheels but he laughed and said not for another 30 years……

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We made chocolate truffles and marzipan fruits for Christmas presents and put them in the every lovely Kilner jars.

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We really enjoyed Christmas Day, a walk with Mum followed by present opening and a huge meal !

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