Category Archives: Tips, Skips and Scavenging

Yesterday’s Skip Scavenge

Saved

Yesterday I spent the whole day cleaning, tidying, sorting, taking bags to charity shops and, sadly, taking things to the tip.  I was obliged to put a few items into the ‘Household Electricals’ bin, despite the fact that they were in perfect working order, because no-one would take them without a PAT test.

However, there is nothing to stop me taking things out again.  Right near the top I found this super lamp which looks pretty much brand new and works beautifully.  Hurrah.

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How to make an attractive display case out of an old cutlery tray

Cutlery trays

Old wooden cutlery trays can make useful display cases or storage trays for little things.  My boys love little things and have masses of tiny plastic abominations which are carefully abandoned about the house in case I should feel the need of a nasty accident.

I had a cutlery tray left over when I bought a larger one to accommodate a new cutlery set, but you can pick them up at junk stalls from between 10p and £1.  I bought acrylic paints because they dry very quickly and wash off hands and clothes easily with soapy water; these cost about £1.25 a bottle and last quite a long time.  I found the felt squares in the local stationery shop costing 45p each.  For sticking the felt, you can use PVA glue, although I used a hot glue gun in the interests of speed and less mess.

First coat of paint

HOW TO MAKE A DISPLAY CASE:

Utensils:
1 x wooden cutlery tray
Acrylic paints
Felt
PVA or hot glue
Paint brushes – 1cm wide
Scissors
You might also like some transfers or sparkly things or varnish
2 x Small mirror plates if you wish to hang it on the wall

Line with felt

Method:
Firstly, choose your colours
Then paint the insides of the tray, overlapping a bit on the bottom where the felt will go
Leave it to dry then apply a second coat
Then paint the outside edges, leave to dry then apply another coat
Lastly paint the back, leave to dry then apply another coat
If you are varnishing, apply a thin coat and leave to dry, applying another coat if necessary
Cut out the felt to the size of the compartments
Glue the felt into place, making sure the glue goes right to the edges

Add extra decoration

Apply any other decorations
If you wish to hang it on the wall, apply two small mirror plates to the back

Boy the Younger's Blue & Green tray

Boy the Elder's Gothic tray

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Not enough thermals in the world

Leicestershire in October

I cannot believe how cold my house is and it’s only October.

Last winter I lived in the Victorian house across the road which had central heating, double glazing on the ground floor and hot water.  This winter I live in 1920’s house which has no double glazing, night storage heating and we have to switch on the immersion to get a bathful of hot water.  You have to be quick though, because the bathroom is so cold that the only way to tackle it is have a bath so hot that the cool air is a welcome relief.

Storage heaters are the worst system in the whole universe unless you live in one room and go to bed at eight o’clock.  The idea is that they buy electricity during the night (when it’s slightly cheaper) and heat the bricks which live in the elephantine units that are bolted to the wall.  The bricks then release the heat during the day.  Marvellous.  Except that most people are out of the house all day and want the heat at night which means you have to keep them switched on in order to have any heat at night which costs an absolute bloody packet.  I had these at a house before and our first electricity bill, in 1996, was over £500 for one quarter.  I dare not switch them on.  Storage heating is The Landlords’ Choice as it requires no plumbing in or installation of expensive boilers.  It also means that if you want to have enough money to pay your rent you’d better not switch them on.

This means that I have to think of other ways to keep my house warm.  The first way, which I wrote about last year, is to cover your windows with cling film or purpose built plastic to keep out the draughts.  It is incredibly effective and cheap.

Next, I have bought curtains from the charity shop and stitched them together to make one big curtain that covers the front door.

I have also found some old curtains that don’t fit anywhere else and this weekend I’m going to make a thick curtain to cover the sitting room door in an attempt the block out the icy draught that could not be colder if we were shooting Dr Zhivago on location.

I have bought us all electric blankets so that at least we can be warm in bed.

I’m going to buy some oil filled radiators which are apparently much, much cheaper to run.  I tried to have a look on Freecycle but the internet keeps crashing so it will have to wait until tomorrow and failing that a trip to Argos seems in order.

There is an open fire in the sitting room and once I’ve put the curtain at the door and cling film at the windows that should be warm enough, but some arsehole has boarded up the fireplace in the dining room with a sheet of hardboard and sealed it with silicone.  I have tried to chisel this out but most of the silicone is behind the board so I’ll have to buy a chemical solvent to remove it.  The landlord assures me that the chimney is fit for use so it must be true, but in true Wartime Housewife Style, I have my own set of chimney brushes and unless there a boy or a brick stuck up there, we should be good to go.

Draught excluders under the doors are also essential and  attractive ones can be made very simply by sewing up a tube of material and stuffing it with rags.  If you don’t want to be irritated by constantly moving them every time you go in and out, attach little loops along the top, screw small curtain hooks into the door about 2” / 4cm above the bottom to line up with the loops and hang the draught excluder from it, obviously making sure that it sits on the ground.

Apart from that, I’m going to wear more jumpers and thicker socks.  And then I shall stock up on lace hankies in case my consumption comes back.

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The Great British Disgrace

I have just watched a television programme that made me feel genuinely panicky.  I could actually feel my heart racing at certain points when the visual evidence combined with statistics shocked me to the marrow.

This programme was called ‘The Great British Waste Menu’ on BBC1 at 8.30pm.  Four of the country’s top chef’s were challenged to produce a three course meal for 60 people out of unwanted, wasted food from any part of the food chain to highlight the amount of edible produce which is thrown away every day.  If ever there was a programme made for The Wartime Housewife, this was it. 

I’m going to startle you with some statistics.  I must add that none of these figures are researched by me, they are all courtesy of the programme.

  • One fifth of all food in the UK is thrown away
  • 3,500 potatoes are wasted every minute either in raw or cooked form
  • One million cattle are slaughtered in Britain every year and yet huge quantities are thown away or sold for dog meat because people only want the expensive cuts
  • £1.4 billion worth of food is wasted at some point in the supply chain by supermarkets every year
  • According to the charity ‘Fareshare’, four million people go hungry in the UK every day
  • On one farm alone, 30,000 heads of lettuce were ploughed back into the field on ONE DAY because they didn’t meet the supermarket specification

One fifth of all food in the UK is thrown away. How can that fail to sicken any right minded person? The chefs not only visited farms, wholesalers and supermarkets, they also knocked on the doors of homes in South London and asked  if there were any things that people were about to throw out.  Many of the people they asked didn’t even know what was in their fridges and had let stuff go off because they had forgotten it was there, or refused to eat perfectly edible food because it was past its sell-by date.  

Sell-by dates are there for the convenience of the supermarkets, for their stock rotation and their pathological fear of falling foul of the health and safety fascists.  Sell-by dates, like so much recent political legislation, have successfully robbed individuals of their common sense and their ability to make reasonable, instinctive judgements about what they put in their gobs.

I used to work for one of the (more ethical) leading supermarkets and I asked the manager why such huge amounts of food were going into the waste bins every day.  They are past their sell-by dates he told me and not fit for human consumption.  “I’d eat it” I said, hopefully, but it was made very clear that if I so much as glanced sideways at a wholemeal seeded batch I would be sacked on the spot.  I asked why the food could not be given to the homeless shelter.  I was told that would be illegal.  Wasting a skip-load of food every day should be illegal.

We, as consumers, are the biggest problem as far as the supermarkets are concerned.  The public has become obsessed with visual perfection and alleged convenient uniformity at the expense of flavour.  Egg farms throw thousands of eggs away every day because they are too small.  Apparently, the British housewife cannot work out how to use a small egg and panics if confronted with a hefty courgette. 

Millions of vegetables are thrown away for having tiny blemishes on their skins, potatoes wasted because they have sprouted slightly.  Supermarkets demand that courgettes are between 17-21cm long or they will reject them.  They also reject small strawberries (apparently the shoppers don’t want them) and those which cannot be sold at farmers markets are thrown away.

The chefs had an incredible haul of food salvaged for their menu.  One baker was going to throw away a foot long topside of beef, fishermen handed over boxes of young sole, called ‘slip sole’, because British housewives can’t be bothered to cook them,  Ideally, of course, we should be developing more sophisticated methods of fishing so that these young fish wouldn’t be caught in the first place.  But how difficult is it to cook a fish on the bone (more tasty anyway) and eat it?  Markets throw away binfuls of fruit and vegetables because they’ve fallen on the floor, gone a tiny bit soft or they simply can’t be bothered to take it home.

We have let this happen.  We have become so lazy and senseless that we are treating the precious resource of food, that takes so much effort to produce, that nourishes our bodies, and of which there is plenty to go round, like so much garbage. 

A TV programme last year showed a family of five who spent £400 a week on food and threw away a third of it.  Part of this was because they weren’t great cooks and partly it was because they allowed their children to be fussy and dictate what they would or wouldn’t eat.  They were effectively running a canteen and some days cooked four separate dishes at one meal.  Utter, profligate madness.

I produce very little food waste – vegetable peelings, the very odd bit of cold meat that I have completely forgotten to cook in time.  I scrape the mould off cheddar and bread (within reason), and any vegetables that get a little elderly are roasted or turned into soup.  I don’t do massive shops, and I admit to using the supermarket more than I should because of time constraints.  When there was a farm shop up the road, I rarely went to the supermarket except for cleaning stuff and dry goods.  

However there is a farm shop on the other side of Harborough and I am going to go to it.  In fact, time permitting, I am going to start scavenging.  I am a terrific scavenger for everything else, so I’m going to start scavenging for food.  I’ll let the excitement of this programme die down a bit, and then I shall set to.  And I pledge here and now, that every time I successfully scavenge stuff, I will tell you what I’ve cooked with it.  Maybe a new side bar or feature box is called for.  I will consult an expert.

If ‘Great British Waste Menu’ is repeated on iPlayer, please, please watch it and make your families and friends watch it.  And more importantly, look very hard at your fridges and larders and make a firm commitment to wasting less and save yourself some money.  Plan your meals and your shopping, never go out without a list, investigate cheaper cuts of meat and ask your butcher for them.    ‘Waste not, want not’ is as about as good a cliché as you will ever hear.  We are entering a period of much needed austerity.  Be prepared.

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Startled by a skip

End of term and, having successfully avoided the Leavers’ Service, Boy the Younger and I wandered down the road towards the car, clutching armfuls of books, drawings, sewing, and all the other detritus collected over a school year.

Then, on the outskirts of my, highly trained, peripheral vision, I spied a skip at the side of the road.  Ah-haaa.  “Hang on Chap,” I said, “I just need to look in this ’ere skip”.  Groans all round.  But not nearly as loud as the groans I groaned when I saw what was in there.

12 x school dictionaries – used but useable
1 x large bag of size 12-14, immaculate clothing
1 x large bag of baby toys – good condition
2 x large books of children’s sample wallpapers – excellent for craft use

And all, bar a few of the baby toys, spoiled by the rain.

How much effort would it have taken for someone to drop that stuff in at a charity shop in a black bin liner?  I know one shouldn’t do it, but if necessary, pop it on the step on your way past.  As a last resort, put it in a bin liner and label the bags so the refuse men might just sort it at the tip.  Supermarkets now have weatherproof  re-cycling bins that can be accessed day or night, so there’s not really any excuse.  The contents of that skip will now end up in landfill.


We must stop wasting.   I’m not asking everyone to fashion their stained shirts into useful pinnies, use single socks to make cosy sleeping bags for hamsters or even knit their leftover spaghetti into a warm vest.  And whatever you do, don’t actually use your toenail clippings to make a nutty Bubble and Squeak.   Just think before you treat something which could be a valuable resource to someone else with profligate contempt.  There are schools in the third world that would give their eye teeth for a dozen English dictionaries and if I was a size 12, I would have snaffled the clothing, but any of the charity shops would have been grateful for it.  The Parents and Toddlers groups at any of the churches would have loved the toys.

We are running out of land. Land on which we should be growing food is being sold off for housing developments or more offices that will sit empty and we will never get that land back again.  Landfill sites are getting bigger and bigger and although many domestic tips are really making an effort with recycling, and opening areas where they sell on the decent stuff, we have to make the effort on the home front.

We have been in recession and now we are facing a period of essential austerity in an attempt to correct it.  Put away your storecards, hide your credit cards to be used in emergencies only; take stock of what you have, appreciate it and make the most of it.  Go mad – save up for something.  Learn some basic skills so you can bring out your creative side and make things last a little longer.  I assure you that if someone comes into your house and admires something you’ve made yourself, it’s worth every bit of effort. Smug Factor 50.  Job done.

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Summer fetes and what you can find there

We are now heavily into the Summer Fete* season. Barely a weekend goes by without there being at least one fete or summer show to tickle our fancies.  They are usually tremendous fun, with lots of games, stalls, bric-a-brac, teas and displays and they make a great deal of money for  schools, local charities and projects.  Which is a comfort as your wallet empties, your children’s arms fill with other people’s cast-off toys and your tummy starts to grumble at the third cream scone you’ve stuffed into it.

I’m going to set you a challenge based on Wartime Housewife values and sensibilities.  In the next month, I want you to attend one (or many) fetes.  Rummage feverishly among the stalls and find an object which is either an incredible find or, better still, can be turned into something else that is useful, beautiful or both.  I will do the same and report back.

Last year, I bought a concertina mug rack for 10p on which I hang all my necklaces.  I don’t know how I managed without it.  Go forth and scavenge my dears.

*  If anyone can tell me how to get a circumflex over my ‘e’ in Word I’d be very grateful.

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The Hell of an Untidy Bedroom and what came out of it

A couple of months ago, I was so utterly sick of the state of The Boys’ Bedroom, that I was obliged to declare a State of Emergency.  The Boys were banned from their room, they slept in my bedroom, while I slept on the sofa, and I went in with a digger I had borrowed from the Council.   I will tell you now that this took one week.  Eight and a half hours went into the tidying and cleaning of that room, after which I removed all their toys to the outhouse and left them with only books (which are a human right not a privilege), crayons and Leicestershire for their recreation. 

They were then given the opportunity to win the boxes back through continued tidiness and good behaviour.  I nailed a typed programme to the wall, which detailed in large simple words the 8 steps to tidying their room (which should have begun with “My name is Boy the Elder/Younger and I am a dirty, untidy boy” followed by a round of applause).

Essential Reading

Essential Reading

Within a week it looked as though I had never been in.  I walked in at the end of a rainy afternoon which had necessitated indoor play and actually burst into tears.  They had managed to trash the room with books, clothes, paper and things that they had salvaged from Outside which included sticks, leaves, jars full of insects, hub caps (my own fault), pieces of wood, wire netting, dirty cups and plates and a camouflage net.

I confess that at this point I absolutely lost it, and even though my remonstrations were verbal, they looked genuinely frightened.  But it was still not enough.  The problem is that my children are interesting and have vivid imaginations; they can make something out of the most unexpected things and see anything they find as a piece of glowing, shimmering potential.

I consulted my recently rediscovered cousins, Longlost 1 and Longlost 2, who both have grown up children and know a thing or two about the iniquities of revolting minors.  They declared that I could not win and that there were no circumstances in which I could win.  I feebly protested that surely it was my job to teach them to be tidy and clean or how would they learn?  They sensibly argued that I have spent the last 12 years in this thankless task and so far nothing has worked.

Their advice was this:-

1. Let them live in whatever squalor they choose, but if their clothes don’t make it into the wash basket, they will not be washed.  This will mean that they have to go to school in dirty clothes and there is nothing like the disapprobation of your peer group to persuade you to smarten up and change your pants.

2.  If their room is untidy, they will not be allowed to have friends round to play/hang out.

3.  Continue the rule of absolutely no toys downstairs without a chitty signed in triplicate with their own blood.  Any that are not taken back upstairs after one warning will be thrown away.

I bit the bullet, although it felt fundamentally negligent.  I have to admit that it has taken the pressure off with regard to constantly nagging to tidy their room and the threat of no friends gives an intermittent incentive to clear up.  The dirty clothes thing is working, although the occasion when Boy the Elder left for school with no socks or pants was buttock clenchingly awful, but it only happened once.  He had PE.

I have only returned two toy boxes to them and, other than one (ignored) plea for the Smalls Cars and Vehicles Box, it has made no difference to them whatsoever.  Very telling – and my children have more toys than some, but a lot less than most.

More Things to Make 18.10.09One of the activities that they both love is Junk Modelling, and with an age difference of five and a half years, it is often hard to find things that they can do together.  I keep a large bag behind the kitchen door into which I put any bits and pieces that I think are interesting and useful.  Egg boxes, cardboard tubes, lolly sticks, foil cake cases, polystyrene shapes, match boxes etc and they can then help themselves. 

They have a pot on the dining room table which has biros, pencils, scissors and sellotape and an Art Box under the stairs full of paints, crayons, felt pens and interesting paper.  They do it for hours; spaceships, rockets, houses for creatures, robot limbs, masks, sculptures, you name it.  Sometimes they are then thrown away and sometimes they are broken down and returned to the bag.

Toys & Games to Make 18.10.09I’ve always tried really hard to find the balance between not giving in to the mountains of pre-formed plastic rubbish that are beamed into our homes from the television, but not isolating them from their peer group. They own a Nintendo DS and they are allowed restricted access to the computer.  They get pocket money and they can spend it how they wish.  But it has really brought home to me how little they actually need.  I know someone who spends more than £500 on EACH of her children at Christmas.  After about a year, those presents end up in black plastic bin liners.  I just hope I live near her local tip.

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Make a Shield out of a Hub Cap: A Two-fold Activity for Marauding Vikings

A scavenged hub cap

A scavenged hub cap

Now that the days are getting shorter, the smaller members of the family are going to need more things to do indoors. 

I noticed a few years ago how many hub caps from, presumably, bumped cars are left strewn about the roads, both in the town and the countryside and I was struck by how much they resembled Viking shields.  I brought one home, washed it in hot soapy water and took off any obviously sharp bits.  I found an old D-shaped drawer handle which I screwed on to the back and bingo! ready for painting.  Children can then spend a happy hour painting their shields and many happy hours fighting each other with a protective shield to reduce injuries.

What I actually did was to hold a party for Boy the Elder, where his friends were invited to come round dressed as Vikings.  They spent an hour or so painting their shields, stopped for tea and games and then had free time to run around fighting each other with a protective shield to reduce injuries.  They had been instructed in advance to come tooled up!  It was a huge success. 

The handle attached

The handle attached

I find that acrylic paints work the best and are available in all good stationery and art supply shops.  They cost about 99p a bottle but last for ages and can be used for all sorts of projects including your own creative activities.  Do wear an overall though, because although the paint washes off clothes if you get to it immediately, if it’s left on, you’ve had it.

For the shield pictured above, I did buy a pair of plastic handles for 99p from Homebase, but if you go to the tip or look around your neighbourhood for people with skips outside, you can usually find something suitable for nothing.  Just make two holes for the screws with a bradawl or drill and screw the handles on, it only takes 5 minutes.

1st coat of paint

1st coat of paint

If you are absolutely determined to educate your children at every turn, you can get some books about Vikings and use them as reference to get some design ideas.  Alternatively you could just buy them a Playmobil Viking set and copy that – they’re actually remarkably accurate!  And they click so satisfyingly…

Da-DAA!

Da-DAA!

Boy the Younger's shield (in which he is well pleased)

Boy the Younger's shield (in which he is well pleased)

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How to make an Interesting Table Lamp for about £6

After  my last tirade, I think it’s about time we did something lovely with beads and ribbon.

The Wartime Housewife has a bit of a taste for the Victorian, but she does like shiny things.  I detest harsh lighting, so tend to have lots of table lamps dotted about so that the light can be both subtle and adaptable to one’s activities.  But table lamps are often very expensive and even plain shades are rarely less than £7 or £8. 

My first port of call whenever I need anything new in the household department is the local tip.  Many council tips now have a shop where one can buy all sorts of useful things that often just need a good scrub down or a coat of paint and are very reasonably priced.  Charity shops don’t sell electricals so leave those out, but car boot sales and jumble sales are full of treasures.  I found the lamp (incl the shade)  featured in this article at a local antique/collectable shop for £2.50.  It should have been £3 but naturally I haggled.  Always haggle – you’ve nothing to lose.

Plain shadeLamps are so hard to photograph so I’ll describe it.  It has a marble base, a crystal stem and a plain shade.  I have decorated several lamps before using crystal drops and mirrored ribbon and I had just the corner to put it in. 

I bought the ribbon with crystal drops and the mirrored ribbon from a haberdashery stall at the market for about £2.00/metre each.  A good haberdasher is a wonderful thing and it’s worth wandering round these  and other craft shops just to see what they hRibbonsave in stock and one can get so many ideas just from seeing what’s available.  I like bold, sparkly things but you may like something more subtle, so look around and see what there is.  Measure your lampshade circumference top and bottom and then get half a metre more than you actually need, just in case.  Any spare will always come in useful for other projects.

Glue gunThe next essential is a hot glue gun.  These are available from all good craft shops and I would recommend getting a small one which is light in your hand and can do finer work.  Mine cost about £5 and the replacement glue sticks are around £2.25.  The glue sets very quickly so you can attach things to each other without having to stand there like Soft Ned while everything sets.  Take some time to practice with it first on scraps of fabric or card until you get the hang of it.  You do get tiny strands of glue hanging about but these pull of easily when you’ve finished.  Do remember that this is a HOT GLUE gun and be careful as the glue will be unsurprisingly hot.

Ist layer - beaded ribbon

Ist layer - beaded ribbon

Firstly, lay out your beaded ribbon, right side up.  Starting at the seam of the shade, apply two thin parallel lines of hot glue, the width of the ribbon, to the base of the shade  about 2″ (5cm) at a time.  Apply the ribbon immediately and do another strip.  I would recommend NOT cutting the ribbon to the circumference of the shade as you will waste less this way. Work you way along the base of the shade, pressing the ribbon down firmly, until you come back to the seam.  Cut the ribbon neatly, allowing a small overlap.

2nd layer - mirrored ribbon

2nd layer - mirrored ribbon

Then do the same with the mirrored ribbon, making sure you cover the ribbon neatly underneath.  Pull off any tiny strands of glue.  You could try layering the beaded ribbon to create a cascade effect or even using two colours which would look very dramatic. 

And that’s it, and it took about half an hour.  As I say, lamps are difficult to photograph, especially at 11.30 at night when my eyes feel like they’ve been sandpapered, but it really does
look very effective.Finished lamp
Switch off the television and do something creative instead, it’s incredibly satisfying.  Put your own stamp on things; it doesn’t have to be perfect and it’ll be a heck of a lot more interesting than some homogenous lump of plastic from Ikea.

Green version

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Growing Plants from Seeds – much cheaper than buying plants

Seed trays 08.09.09There are few things more cheering and pleasant than the sight of flowers in your garden or around the house.  Stocking your garden with plants can be very costly but there are lots of ways to obtain plants, pots and ornamental objects for very little money.  I am something of a novice in the garden, so we can have the joy of learning (and falling flat on our faces) together.  I am fortunate to be surrounded by people who are really good at this gardening lark and I’m never afraid to ask questions.

The first step is to have a plan, as a bit of forward thinking gives you time to gather materials and scout around for interesting things.  At this time of year you need to be planning for the Spring and making notes about which type of plants you want to grow and how you can get your mucky paws on them.  Get some books out of the library, draw some plans in a notebook. And don’t feel restrained by conventional ornaments and containers.  Look in skips and go to the tip – make yours the most original garden in the street.

Now go to your garden centre or supermarket and see what seeds they have on sale; the back of the packet will tell you when they can be planted, but I am very much an experimenter.  A reasonable rule of thumb is that if it’s in the garden centre, it’s the right time of year for it.  Back in July I planted trays and trays of seeds, about half of which were washed away or drowned by the positively diluvian weather we all experienced at the time. (Although when the rain stopped I did find a pair of giraffes and a two rather bedraggled cockatoos lurking in my privet).

I let the trays dry out and have been astonished to find that more seeds than I expected have recovered and started to sprout.  But the new problem is that the weather has now turned and is not particularly conducive to bringing on seedlings.

Again, a trip to the garden centre was most profitable as they have their seasonal sales like everyone else.  I came home with a small, 3-shelf plastic greenhouse for £9.00, which, if the worst comes to the worst, can be brought indoors; two trays of fuschias for £1 which I’m going to experiment with putting inside and outside the house as I have no idea whether they are hardy; a tray of pansies for £2.00, 30 small plastic pots for £1.12 and a big bag of end of stock compost for £1.50.  I also bought all the plants for my hanging baskets last month from a sale at the market  (9 plants for £9) and they were as bonny as anything.  I could have done with an extra plant in each basket, but I’ll know for next year.

Regular followers of the Wartime Housewife will remember my scavenging expedition to the municipal tip back in July where I found hanging baskets and pots galore for next to nothing and these are really coming into their own now as I am potting up seedlings left, right and centre.  I’m going to start some more to replace the ones I lost in the rain, despite the time of year, but at between 99p-£1.50 for a packet of seeds, one can afford to experiment. I have been reliably informed by the Aged Parent that garden centres often have dump bins where you can place unwanted pots for recycling.  Recycled straight into my garden as it happens.  Always re-use before you recycle.

Just a little aesthetic extra; I use old saucers under my pots in the house.  Bric-a-brac stalls, antique stalls and car boot sales will often have loads of assorted china and saucers that cost pence, look lovely and are perfect for small pots. Try planting in mugs or cups and saucers as well.

Another way of obtaining cheap plants, is to do a Seed Swap.  Tomorrow evening our local Garden Society is holding a Seed Swap at the village hall but you can buy seeds and seedlings if you don’t have any to swap.  If you don’t have a garden soc., go to your friends and neighbours and suggest it to them – it could also be a lovely way to encourage a bit of community spirit.  Get that kettle on! Take cuttings, plant seeds, cover your windowsills with pots and see what happens. Oh and don’t forget the biscuits.

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Sorting Out the Garden

In which The Wartime Housewife Pots - 26.7.09explains the cheap way
of clearing weeds with old carpet and growing plants from seed.

We have recently moved into a little cottage, tucked away behind the church in a small village near Market Harborough.  As you know, moving is a horrid business and it takes some time to get everything straight in the house and garden.

The garden is rather small and contains nothing but weeds, and it’s going to take some time and planning to make it a place for me and The Boys to enjoy.  So having consulted many garden books (your local library may well have a super range of gardening books to help you) I decided to clear the weeds and plant some seeds ready for next Spring.  This need not be a costly business.

I bought some very cheap seed trays and seeds from Wilkinson’s to get me started and planted them with the flowers I would need in the Spring.  But these seeds will need potting on and I don’t want to spend money on pots, so my next trip was down to the local tip where I found a huge lot of pots, both plastic and terracotta.  I also found some elderly hanging baskets which, after a little attention, will be perfect.  I came home with nearly 50 assorted pots and three hanging baskets for £3.  Incidentally, old cut up jumpers lined with plastic bags with a few tiny holes in make super liners for baskets.

My next problem was how to clear the weeds ready to re-structure the garden in the Spring.  There is a very simple, if unconventional, way to do this.  Carpet.  Cut down the bigger weeds  and then start inspecting all the skips one increasingly sees at the side of the road.  Many contain large pieces of old carpet which can be laid on the ground, depriving the weeds of light and air.  Always ask permission of the skip-ee out of courtesy, although they will probably be delighted to free up some space in their expensive skip!  In the winter, the carpet should be removed and the soil dug over ready for planting and landscaping.

I will let you know how I get on!

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Filed under Make it yourself, Plants, The Garden, Tips, Skips and Scavenging