New Years Resolutions!

2017 is now upon us and at this time every year I renew old new years resolutions or make new ones.

new-year-resolutions

As some of you know, back in 2015 I made a resolution to be more self-sufficient and more sustainable – a goal I am still trying to achieve but am slowly creeping towards!

This year however, whilst still keeping the big goal in mind, have made some little new years resolutions which will help me take small steps towards self-sufficiency and sustainability.

Firstly, I want to try and increase my fruit and vegetable yields this year so that I am able to provide nearly, if not all, of my fruit and vegetable requirements this year. Last year my aim was to provide all the veg for Christmas and I am proud to say that I managed to do just that. I plan on keeping an excel spreadsheet to document my harvests this year so I can get an idea of how much I am producing and whether it is enough (or in some cases too much!).

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Spreadsheet to keep track of my veg yields!

Secondly, I want to make sure I make the most of my allotment produce this year. Last year we had some good harvests but lack of forward planning meant that the fruit and veg often got put on the compost heap because I didn’t eat it in time! So this year I want to make sure that I make better use of the produce.

Thirdly, I want to save on electricity, gas and water usage to help take that step towards greater sustainability. I have already put in some water butts on the plot to help reduce my reliance on mains water for watering the plants but I plan on installing more when I can as well as a water butt at home. I am also planning on converting to a smart meter so that Sam and I can more easily track our energy usage and see where we can make savings. This will hopefully benefit our bank accounts too (where the extra savings will go towards finally buying our first house I hope)!

I have been putting in place little changes to help reduce usage as I had already suggested in a previous post  but will try and take it a little further this year by reusing grey water when I can and ensuring that all sockets are switched off before we go to bed or we go out (except for the fridge and freezer!).

Fourthly, I want to become self-sufficient in garlic and shallots this year. By this I don’t just mean growing enough to last me all year (which I already do) but also producing the’seed’ for next year. For garlic and shallots this is relatively easy as the seed is the garlic clove and the shallot seed is a shallot. This is why I chose it as I felt this would be the easiest one to attempt and succeed at. Probably cheating a little I know but I would rather start with something easy before moving on to the harder vegetables.

One last thing I would like to do is finish all my unfinished craft items that I have started in the last few years – which is probably the biggest ask of all!

Happy 2017 everyone!

 

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Composting: How to make the most of your waste!

Compost!

What is it?

Compost is essentially decayed and decomposed organic matter which can be applied to plants in your garden/allotment/patch. Composting is a natural process of recycling organic material into a nutrient rich soil improver. By composting your organic waste you are returning nutrients back into the soil in order for the cycle of life to continue.

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Compost from my compost bin

Why is it important?

Compost is brilliant at improving the structure and water retention of the soil, it can act as a mulch around plants locking the moisture in the ground and is great at suppressing weeds. It also brings a healthy balance to your existing soil by adding beneficial microbes and fungi which can be essential for proper root and plant development.  It is the ultimate recycling machine and the most environmentally friendly way to deal with kitchen and biodegradable waste!

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My strawberries were mulched with a layer of compost to suppress weeds and feed the plant.

How do we compost?

The site and the bin!

The first thing to consider when composting is what you will compost in. There are an abundance of composting bins which are available to gardeners to buy. You can make your own out of old wood or you can simply for go a composting container or just pile the materials in a heap in your garden. You also have to consider where you will place your compost bin/area. Ideally, the heap should be sited where it won’t be subject to extremes of temperature. You don’t want it baking in the sun one day and then being exposed to cold windy conditions the next. The processes at work in your compost bin i.e. the bacteria and fungi are susceptible to these extremes and would prefer to work in a constant temperature. Most people find it more convenient to site their compost heap in a  shady unused area of the garden. My own compost bins are sited at the back of the plot where I would have been unlikely to be able to cultivate anything other than weeds!

Preferably, the compost bin should be open-bottomed, i.e. exposed to the soil underneath. This allows worms and other beneficial insects like woodlice, access to your compost bin where they aid the composting process. However, if your site has hard ground, i.e. concrete, you can get fully enclosed bins. If you go for either an open-ended of full enclosed bin when you have hard ground, then add a layer of compost at the bottom of the bin to kick-start the composting process!

The types of compost bins styles range from plastic round open-bottomed bins, to large square 3-bin composting systems, to hot-composting style rotating bins. Everyone will have a personal preference of what style compost bins they use. For the small garden, a single round compost bin or small heap is normally sufficient. I myself use the large three bin system for my allotment, which my partner and I built ourselves out of old used wooden pallets. If you want to have a look at the different styles of bins and their advantages/disadvantage these websites offer excellent comparisons and help to find the type that would best suit you!

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My 3-bin compost system. All garden and organic waste goes into the bin on the left and then it is periodically turned into the next bin and then turned again into the final bin where I will end up with the finished product.

http://www.planetnatural.com/composting-101/composters-bins/

http://www.diynetwork.com/how-to/outdoors/gardening/how-to-compost-and-the-different-types-of-compost-bins

The Ingredients!

When it comes to what you can and can’t put in your compost bin, there a few hard and fast rules!

  1. Do not put in meat, bones, fish, fats, dairy and cat and dog poo. Cat and dog poo can harbour dangerous diseases and the meat, bones fish and dairy will stink and attract pests such as rats.
  2. Do not put in most diseased plant material (those that won’t be destroyed by the composting process). This is  sure fire way of spreading the disease further. Diseased plant material should be burnt!
  3. Do not add anything inorganic such as plastic, metals etc. These are generally not biodegradable and are made up of chemicals you wouldn’t want in your soil. Throw them in a rubbish bin!
  4. Do not add invasive perennial weeds (such as bind weeds and knotweeds). These weeds and it’s seeds can sometime survive the composting process (if it is not done properly) and then you end up spreading them around when you add it to your soil.
  5. Do make sure you have a mixture of brown and green material. Your compost heap should contain between 25-30% green material and the rest brown material.
  6. Green material (high in nitrogen) includes; kitchen vegetable waste, grass clippings/hay, dying (not diseased – see above) plant material, seaweed, annual weeds, manure, coffee grounds.
  7. Brown material (high in carbon) includes; wood (not coal) ashes, cardboard, straw, leaves, newspaper, sticks and twigs (preferably put through a chipper first) and sawdust.
  8. Whenever you add a layer of green material, try and add some brown material at the same time.
  9. Turn the pile often!
  10. Keep it moist! This is normally only a problem in really dry hot weather but if your compost bins look a little dry then chuck a can full of water on it. The organisms that break down your compost like it humid in there!
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Image from : Survivalathome.com

The organisms!

We have already said that the organisms within your compost that breakdown the waste into crumbly black soil goodness need a relatively constant temperature and not subject to extremes of temperature and also require moisture. They also require good aeration. Oxygen is part of the processes that break down your waste. This is called aerobic decomposition. If there is no oxygen, you will get anaerobic decomposition which is slower and produces quite a slimy, stinky pile. It will compost down eventually but will take a long time. If you want compost much more quickly it is important to aerate the pile. This mostly means turning the pile with a fork or for those with rotating bins, a quick rotation to jumble the pile up and get oxygen between the materials. With our three bin system we turn the pile by transferring it from the first bin to the second to the third where we then have the finished product ready for use!

compostcycle

This aerobic decomposition also creates heat which helps to speed up the composting process. The micro-organisms create the heat and can heat the pile up quite quickly with temperatures up to 50-70C which is high enough to kill weed seeds and stop them from germinating. This heat does actually deter worms but as the heap cools down worms and other insects involved in decomp will return to finish the job.

The finished product!

When your organic material has undergone the processes illustrated above you will be left with lovely crumbly black soil full of goodness and water retention properties! Use it to mulch your plants and feed them.

So there you have it! Now you know how to make a good compost heap to supply your garden/allotment with nutrient rich compost all year long!

 

 

 

 

Development of a wild life pond!

Over the last three years of allotmenting I have noticed a decrease in certain insects such as ladybirds and bees and an increase in pests especially slugs and aphids.

I freely admit that I am as much to blame as anyone else in their decreasing numbers. I never thought about the affects of blindly spraying insecticide would have on the environment. All I cared about was saving my veg for me! This time last year, I got a good look at what this attitude cost me! My broad beans became absolutely infested with blackfly. Every part of the stem, tip and the beans themselves were covered in black fly and I was lucky to spot even a single ladybird! When I took on my first plot three years ago, there was a bumblebee nest under our shed – they are not there now. This could be that they moved or it could be they died. I hate to think that I was the cause of this but unfortunately that is probably the truth!

I have been reading about the sharp decrease in the number of hedgehogs! Am I contributing to this because I liberally apply slug pellets to nearly every bare patch of soil on my allotment? What harm am I doing from the bioaccumulation of metaldehyde in hedgehogs and even birds?

Well no more! For those of you who have been following my journey on this blog you will know that I  have been developing a wildlife pond over the last year. I have learnt the error of my ways and am seeking to fix the harm that I have done!

At the same time as the realisation of what I was doing came to me, Monty Don on Gardener’s World luckily decided to put a wildlife pond into his garden, which is where I got the idea for mine from. This would be my first step in trying to right my wrongs.

Last June, just before I started this blog, I also started to plan my wild life pond. Sam and I marked out an area for our new wildlife pond. We decided it would sit within our mini orchrad where the trees would benefit from the increased bee activity and to also provide us with a lovely shady place to sit. At the time, there was a very large compost bin where we now have our pond that was left there by the previous tenant. My friends, Jenny and Adam, came up one day and helped us moved this large compost bin and the compost that was in it. A month later, they came up again to dig the wildlife pond (they really like digging!).

I had decided on a figure of 8 shape with a sloping ‘beach’ into the pond and a shelf around the deeper edge to sit pond plants on.

It sat like this for a few weeks until Sam and I then got round to buying some pond liner, shingle and a few large rocks. We spent a day putting down the pond liner and weighing it down with rocks. We filled it with water from the water trough and left the water to ‘de-chlorinate’ itself.

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The pond then sat like this all through the winter! The grass grew up around the pond, parts of the pond liner fell into the water and it generally looked a mess! No wildlife is going to want to live here!

Then we finally decided to move forward with this project and spent a day in March digging over the pond borders ready for planting, putting down more stones to hide the edges of the pond liner and putting some plants both in the pond and on the ground!

In the pond we planted a water lily, reeds, marsh marigolds, water mint and iris.

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And in the pond borders we planted lavender, bleeding heart and pansies to begin with!

My friend Stacey gave us some frog spawn out of her pond, and it wasn’t long before we had hundreds of tiny tadpoles wriggling their way around our pond!

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Since March, we have gradually added plants to the pond borders, both perennials and annuals. Bluebells have come up from bulbs planted in the autumn and more stones/shingle has been added to hide the pond liner. A bench was added and then last month, an archway where we are training a plant to grow over it (can’t remember the name of the plant -I just remember that it has white flowers).

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In the last month, what with the warmer temperatures and constant flow of rain, the plants have come on leaps and bounds, both in and out of the pond!

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The water lily is growing by the day, bees are flocking to the borage (which got so big it toppled over – although still provides plenty of food for the bees) and I have even spotted a few tiny frogs over the last week. I am not sure if these are our tadpoles maturing or if these are other frogs which are exploring our pond but suffice to say they are welcome. I can’t quite believe the change!

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I have also seen a slight increase in the number of ladybirds this year which is also welcome! There has even been a rabbit visiting although he has been eating my Brussels sprouts!

I have been so pleased with the progress of the pond but that is not the end of the story. There is still so much I can do for wildlife in my little piece of land! Firstly, I want to encourage more birds. Not necessarily pigeons but our native wild birds such as robins, thrushes and tits.

I am developing a herb garden on plot 3 which I also plan to have as a wildlife area, here I plan to put up bird feeder and bird baths to encourage birds, especially those that like to eat slugs! I would also like to put a hedgehog home in somewhere before the autumn when they start looking for somewhere to hibernate! I also want to encourage more shrews and bats into the allotment!

These are exciting times and what with my first wildlife project having gone so well, I am really looking forward to continuing on with this work and atoning for my sins!

The Sorry State of my Utility Bills!

As part of my effort to be more sustainable, to reduce my carbon footprint and move ever increasingly (albeit very very slowly) closer to self-sufficiency I have been taking an in-depth look at my utility bills. Not just the recent ones but over the last two years so I can take stock of my electricity, gas and water usage and look to see where and how I can make changes.

Water usage

I am on a water meter and am grateful for the landlord getting it installed. This does help me to look at how much I am using and costs me less, as I pay half the amount now than i did in my old house which wasn’t metered.

I am billed every 6 months for water; a spring/summer bill and a autumn/winter bill. I generally expect my summer bill to be higher than my winter bill as I have to water my garden and this often requires the use of the outside tap.

So my usage is as follows:

Spring/Summer 2014: 47 cubic metres; daily average rate 0.26 cubic metres

Autumn/Winter 2014/5: 33 cubic metres; daily average rate 0.21 cubic metres

Spring/Summer 2015: 44 cubic metres; daily average rate 0.23 cubic metres

Autumn/Winter 2015/6: 68 cubic metres; daily average rate 0.37 cubic metres

Now when I received my last bill, I was shocked to see how much my bill had gone up by and really racked my brains to try and figure out what had happened, maybe I had sprung a leak somewhere?

Now there are two people living in my house; myself and Sam which means per person we used 0.13/0.105/0.115 cubic metres respectively for the first three billing periods which is slightly lower than the UK average of 0.15. So we are doing pretty well although I know further water savings can be made!

What I remembered, was that for the last billing period we had a friend stay with us for that 6 month period (plus his girlfriend also stayed over some of the time) which means more washing, more showering etc. So if we divide the daily average rate by 3.25 (the .25 representing the girlfriend), the rate per person is 0.114 which is in line with the previous billing periods and still below the UK average. Phew – no leak!

But like I said, there are definitely ways which I can further reduce our water usage, and I aim to get our usage to below 0.1 cubic metres (100 litres)/ day. Here are some water saving ideas:

  1. We have a condenser tumble dryer where the water collects into a plastic reservoir. I normally throw this water down the sink but instead will use it to water plants in the garden therefore reducing my need to use the outside tap.
  2. I don’t always fill up my washing machine before turning it on and don’t necessarily use the economy wash setting but now I will make sure there is a full load in the washing machine before switching it on and will use the economy wash depending on how dirty the clothes are.
  3. I will not leave the tap running when brushing my teeth or leave the tap running when washing up.
  4. I often fill the kettle up when I am about to make a cup of tea but will now reduce that to filling the kettle halfway as I don’t need a whole kettles worth of hot water for one cup of tea (will also help with electricity)!

Gas usage

My gas provider has funny ideas about when to bill me but generally my bills can be divided into six month periods too. So my gas usage is as follows:

Summer/Autumn 2014: 2962.21 kWh; daily average rate 16.28 kWh

Winter/Spring 2014/15: 7000.76 kWh; daily average rate 38.04 kWh

Summer/Autumn 2015: 2945.58 kWh; daily average rate 16.36 kWh

Winter/Spring 2015/16: 5933.99 kWh; daily average rate 31.56 kWh

The only things we use the gas for in our house is central heating, hot water and the hob. Obviously, the higher numbers for the winter spring period is due to the fact that we have the central heating on in this time and I am more likely to cook hot meals than eat a salad or cold meal in the winter. I don’t have much to compare our daily usage with but I believe this is in line with UK averages for a small house.

Since looking at my carbon footprint back in January, I have tried to reduce my gas usage and so I turned the hot water temperature down to 60°C (it was previously at 70) and I have further limited the time the hot water is on for (couple hours in the morning and couple hours in the evening). However, the shower is run from the hot water tank (its not electric) so we can certainly make sure we don’t take extended showers or too many baths to save us both money on gas and water!

The central heating is probably the main issue with the gas bill as I like to be warm and am not all that particularly willing to compromise but in my quest to be more eco-friendly and sustainable I will make sure that I put off turning the central heating on until it is absolutely necessary, ensure that it is only on when we are in the house and that the temperature is set at an appropriate level. I may need to also invest in more jumpers and thermals!

Electricity usage

I left this part til last because it is probably where we are the worst! Whilst our house isn’t lit up like Santa’s grotto at Christmas, there are certain habits we have which, if broken, would certainly help to save us money. Again our bills can be split into two periods.

So my electricity usage is as follows:

Summer/Autumn 2014: 955 kWh; daily average rate 5.25 kWh

Winter/Spring 2014/15: 1177 kWh; daily average rate 6.40 kWh

Summer/Autumn 2015: 951 kWh; daily average rate 5.28 kWh

Winter/Spring 2015/16: 1563kWh; daily average rate 8.31 kWh

The first observation is that this last billing period there is a large hike in electricity usage but we did have an extra person with us for some of this time – extra TV, extra computer, extra lights on etc. The second observation is that the winter/spring period is generally higher as we rely on lights being on during this time!

However, there are a few bad habits we need to break to ensure we save money and energy.

  • We don’t currently use energy saving light bulbs but we will make a conscious effort to change over to these.
  • We will not leave the T.V. and DVD players on standby – they will be unplugged when we leave the house and when we go to bed! That also goes for computers too.
  • We not leave the phones on charge for unnecessarily long periods of time – we should charge our phones only for the appropriate length of time needed.
  • We will not leave lights on in rooms we are no longer using.

Hopefully, by doing some of these things we can become that little bit more sustainable whilst saving some money too!

Recycling, Re-using and Re-purposing: Toilet roll tubes and egg cartons

Carrying on from my previous post ‘How to be a millionnaire‘, this post focuses on how we can re-use toilet roll tubes and egg cartons.

Hopefully, at the very least, you all recycle your toilet roll tubes and egg cartons every week so that they can be taken away and recycled into something else! However, there is a value in these little items that could help you save some money if you decide to keep them!

Making compost

compost

It is important to note that both toilet roll tubes and egg cartons (not the plastic ones) are biodegradable which is actually a handy attribute! This means that they can be added to your compost bin, providing ‘brown waste’ which will mix well with your green waste to provide a wholesome compost for your garden. You should have at least a mix of 50/50 green and brown waste. Do remember to take off any shiny paper (which can often be found on egg cartons – the shiny paper can be put into the paper recycling bin!). If ever I find I have collected too many toilet rolls or egg cartons, the excess always ends up on the compost heap! So instead of chucking these little items in the recycling bin, pop them in your compost. Remember the more compost you can make yourself – the less you have to buy!

Chitting potatoes

Most of you probably know that egg cartons are very useful for chitting potatoes. The individual holders hold each potato the right way up to allow strong shoots to grow from the tubers. Once you have placed your tubers in the egg cartons, place them in a light, cool and dry place. In a few weeks you will have potatoes ready for planting. I always save a stash of egg cartons for this purpose and after I have planted my potatoes, I can either re-use the cartons further or chuck them in the compost bin. I don’t recommend using plastic egg cartons for this as the tuber could get a bit sweaty (yuk!) and rot so stick with the cardboard ones.

Plant pots

Both toilet roll tubes and egg cartons can be used as plant pots. As they are biodegradable, the plant, once ready to be put into it’s final growing place, can be planted whole with  the tube or carton attached. The cardboard will decompose in the soil and minimise root disturbance for the plants. This is especially useful for plants like sweetcorn and beans who don’t like have their roots disturbed.

I use toilet roll tubes in two ways; firstly I cut them in half, fill them with a multipurpose compost and push onion sets into them. This gets the onions off to a good start before planting out. When the sets have a good root system and green shoots, I plant them out with the tube to their final growing position. This allows me to only plant out the onions which are showing signs of growth meaning that there won’t be gaps in my planting.

Secondly, I use the whole tube for beans, sweetcorn and sometimes squash or any plant that needs to develop long roots. This replaces my need for root trainers! Another saving made! I cut four slits in the bottom half of the tube and bend the cardboard over to form a bottom to the tube which will stop the soil from falling out. I then push the seed into the tube and cover with more compost. The whole tube is planted out when the plant is ready avoiding root disturbance. The roots will tend to grow through the cardboard. Again, this helps me to avoid gaps in my planting, rather than sowing direct and hoping all the seeds will germinate. I also use these tubes for pricking out seedlings that have gotten leggy. I plant the seedling deeper in the tube so that the compost firms the plant in and gives the plant more stability.

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I use egg cartons for those plants that don’t need root depth. Peas are the main crop that I plant into egg cartons, one pea to each station. Then when the peas are ready to be planted out, I cut up the egg carton into individual sections and plant straight into the soil. I also use this method for brassicas and headed lettuces such as iceberg and little gem.I have had great difficulty in the past with pak choi being sown directly, so this year I am going to try starting them off in egg cartons.

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Protection from pests

Toilet roll tubes can also be used as protective barriers to stop pests from eating your crop. If you sow seed directly where the plants are to crop, then as seedlings emerge you can cover  them with the tubes. Just gently push the tube into the ground around the seedlings to avoid slugs and snails. I myself have not tried this as I often use homemade plastic cloches but if anyone does try this them please let me know if this works for you!

Decorative Lanterns

toilet roll lanterns

For the more arty/crafty of us, you can turn your toilet roll tubes into decorative lanterns. String them together and put the up around the allotment, garden or home. This is also a good activity for kids. You can find the full article here. This is definitely something I shall be doing! You can find the instructions here and a quick google search will also find other styles of decorative lanterns!

Gift and Favour boxes

If you are looking for a cheap way to make favour boxes for yours or somebody else’s wedding or need some cheap gift packaging then check out this article which will show you how to turn your toilet roll tubes into pretty boxes!

gift and favour box

http://www.popsugar.com/smart-living/DIY-Upcycled-Wedding-Favor-Container-34625100

Bird Feeders

If, like me, you are encouraging wildlife into your garden/allotment then these lovely little bird feeders are a great way to use up your toilet roll tubes.

bird feeder

You can find the article for this here!

Fire Starters

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I don’t have a fireplace or a wood burning stove at home, and often the only fire I start is the bonfire at the allotment. Now on a day that has even the slightest breeze it can be a right pain in the backside to get a fire started so why not use toilet roll tubes and egg cartons as dry flammable material to start your bonfire or your fire at home. Or you can make them even more flammable by following the instructions in this article.

Packing material

If you chop up egg cartons into there individual sections, they make a great packing material in place of polystyrene chips! Toilet rolls can also be cut up or ‘unwound’ to produce a springy packing material! There also more environmental friendly because after you finished with them you can chuck them on your compost heap! So, if you know you are going to move soon save up those egg cartons and toilet roll tubes. Better than sending all those polystyrene chips to the landfill!

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Storing eggs

There is a really obvious use to your egg cartons – storing eggs. If you have your only chickens (lucky you) you may need egg cartons to either store your eggs or pack them up to give away.

Flower wreath

Both egg cartons and toilet roll tubes can be used to make some spectacular flower wreath decorations. You will find the links to these creations and others like it at the bottom of the page!

Making ice cubes – plastic cartons only

As you can also get plastic egg cartons, there is a good use for them to – use them as ice cube trays!. This only applies to the plastic cartons as otherwise your cardboard ones will get soggy! And there will probably be a mess to clear up!

Paint palates

Whether you have crafty kids or like to dabble in a bit of art yourself, plastic egg cartons can be re-used as paint palates – and they can be washed out and re-used time and time again. I would suggest this would also be a cheap and easy way to furnish your child’s primary school with paint palates! You can also use the cardboard cartons but probably can’t wash these ones out!

Hamster toys

I have had a few hamsters in my time and they are an animal that likes to chew! They do this to keep their teeth short and will gnaw on most things. Pop a toilet roll tube in there and the little thing will happily gnaw away shredding the tube into tiny pieces. The toilet roll tube is harmless to them so you don’t need to worry about there safety and saves you a few quid on chew toys!

hamster toilet roll

I also noticed with one of my hamsters, that instead of chewing them, he liked to use the toilet roll tubes as an assault course. I would often set up a little pen for him with a few tubes and treats and he would happily run around, run through and climb over the tubes – until he found a way out of the pen that is!

Or you can get really creative like this person (HamsterCentral.com), not only using toilet roll tubes but egg cartons and cardboard boxes too! I wonder how much they saved on hamster toys?

hamster central

Some of these ideas I already do myself but other ideas have been found via research on the web. If you are interested in any further reading I have used the following sites in this article:

http://www.treehugger.com/slideshows/green-home/7-ways-reuse-egg-cartons/

http://www.canadianfamily.ca/activities/crafts/25-fun-and-easy-crafts/slide/25-fun-and-easy-crafts_78478/

http://www.buzzfeed.com/swelldesigner/22-kids-crafts-you-can-make-from-toilet-paper-tube-22zb#.ph4qr5yRGj

http://www.homegrownfun.com/rotting-gallery/

http://recreatedesigncompany.com/creative-toilet-roll-recycling/

If you have any other fun things to do with egg cartons or toilet roll tubes then feel free to post them below!

How to be a millionnaire…

So the way I see it, there are several ways in which I could become a millionnaire…

  1. Win the lottery! lottery
  2. Hitting it big on the stockmarket! Stock Traders Trading Stocks and Securities
  3. Invent a useful gardening product and go on Dragons Den. dragons den
  4. Earn money and don’t spend any of it! scrooge

I guess it’s option Number 4 for me…

So there is a purpose to this post,the catchy title was just to get your attention! It’s about recycling, reusing and repurposing, not only to save me valuable cash but to live a more sustainable way of life. As we saw in a previous post, my carbon footprint is excessively high and I am trying to reduce this in whatever way I can which includes making more out of waste! Like they say, one man’s waste is another man’s treasure!

When I got an allotment, I thought it would be a cheap alternative to buying from the supermarket but that is not strictly true. I think the benefits of growing your own far outweighs shopping at a supermarket but it is not necessarily cheaper, certainly not in the first few years. However, one thing I have learnt over the last three years of having an allotment is how innovative us gardeners and allotmenteers can be when it comes to stretching our cash.

Around my allotment you can already see where I have re-used or re-purposed items into allotment beds and walkways such as using bottles to make a bed, re-using old bookcases and doors and using old carpet to for walkways and weed control!

But it doesn’t end there! So over the next few months, I will be posting about innovative (or not so innovative) ways to re-use or re-purpose  your ‘waste’ that will increase your sustainability and also (hopefully) save you a bit of cash!

Who knows how much money you could end up saving?

‘Rodney, this time next year we’ll be millionnaires!’

only fools

The importance of being sustainable!

When I started this blog, one of the things I was aiming to do was lead a more sustainable way of life. Not really knowing exactly what this meant, I felt it was important to do more research to understand exactly how I can achieve this!

The first hit on google was a website called YouSustain. This is a website that can help you to  calculate  CO2 emissions by taking on simple challenges such as bringing your own coffee to work for a week or using reusable bags etc. and there is a carbon footprint calculator.

Having just assessed my carbon footprint via YouSustain, I am ashamed to say this was my results:
carbon footprint
My carbon footprint for 2015 !
In my defense, I do have drive to work 70 miles away but I am working hard to find a job closer to home so that I can reduce my car usage (although this is not the only reason I want a new job!). I certainly don’t like driving that much!
They also provide a list of suggestions for reducing my carbon footprint (some of which I already do):
  • Turn it off when not in use (lights, television, DVD player, Hi Fi, computer etc. etc
  • Turn down the central heating slightly (try just 1 to 2 degrees C).
  • Turn down the water heating setting
  • Check the central heating timer setting – remember there is no point heating the house after you have left for work
  • Fill your dish washer and washing machine with a full load – this will save you water, electricity, and washing powder
  • Fill the kettle with only as much water as you need
  • Do your weekly shopping in a single trip
  • Hang out the washing to dry rather than tumble drying it
  • Don’t buy bottled water if your tap water is safe to drink
  • Buy local fruit and vegetables, or even try growing your own
  • Buy foods that are in season locally
  • Don’t buy fresh fruit and vegetables which are out of season, they may have been flown in
  • Reduce your consumption of meat
  • Try to only buy products made close to home (look out and avoid items that are made in the distant lands)
  • Buy organic produce
  • Don’t buy over packaged products
  • Think carefully about the type of activities you do in your spare time. Do any of these cause an increase in carbon emissions? e.g. Saunas, Health clubs, restaurants and pubs, go-karting etc. etc.)

I will calculate my carbon footprint at the end of 2016 and hopefully we will see a big difference!

One thing that I am very conscientious of doing at the moment, as part of being sustainable, is to support my local businesses and economy. I am making a special effort to buy seasonal fruit and veg (when I haven’t grown it myself) and I have also recently discovered my local butcher (it’s amazing what you can find when you stop going to Tesco!)
I make a special effort to go shopping in the town centre in the local shops before I head on to the supermarket for everything else that I couldn’t find. I really like the idea that my money is going into the pockets of local people rather than large global companies!
However, in terms of increasing my sustainability, I think that trying to reduce my carbon footprint is definitely a good way to start especially since my carbon footprint is so big! But I’ll keep researching and look to find more ways of increasing my sustainability.

Challenge accepted!

P.S. If anyone has any other suggestions for reducing my carbon footprint or if you do anything in particular to be as sustainable as possible please let me know!