Saturday, 31 August 2019

Weekly Catch Up

It's been an eventful week, mainly at work, with criminal activities taking place in the shop and arrests made, amongst other unpleasant behaviour.  It's starting to get us down a bit as a team, as we spend so much time trawling the CCTV for footage of shoplifters, and then forwarding information on to the police, that we can't get on with the work of getting stock into the shop. I'm very much hoping that after the drama of this week, they'll keep away for a while at least and let us get on with our jobs in peace.

I'm not at work again until Tuesday now, so I'm enjoying some time at home getting on with stuff. Yesterday, was about recovery from work and easing myself into small jobs such as top up shopping, laundry and taking time to read in bed in the morning.

Today, we tackled more jobs in the garden, namely the deconstruction of our falling down mini greenhouse.  Many of the metal rods that make up the frame had rusted through and it was collapsing.  As we don't really use it anymore, we've decided to dispose of it and clear the space for a new seating area at this end of the garden.

As I write this, OH was doing just this. The next job was to  move the composting hot bin that OH bought me for my 50th birthday.  We've never quite got it going properly and wanted to start again in a different part of the garden, once again to free up more space.

Here's a picture of this corner of the garden before we started today:

And here's the space once the greenhouse came down:

There's still lots of things we need to find a home for, but once we get a new shed, everything will be sifted through and we'll hopefully get rid of any surplus and fit everything in the shed. (It's currently full, so this stuff wouldn't fit in).

I cut all the growth back around this corner, so we now have a great blank slate to work with.  The next step will be getting a new shed and dismantling the existing one.  I'm not sure when this will happen though.

The Hot Bin has now taken the place of our previous compost bin. It's a little more compact and a bit less obtrusive, you can hardly see it from the house. It is also self contained in that it is a sealed unit and can take cooked food too, which is useful, although we do have a regular collection of this by the local council anyway. We're not sure what we're going to do with the old compost bin yet, as I don't think we create enough of the right kind of garden waste to fill two bins.

There was actually some good compost in the bottom of the hot bin and the nrmal compost bin when we emptied them, so this was duly dug in to the bed that we're currently replanting.  OH also planted out the two new plants that I'd bought to go in this bed.  They don't yet fill their allotted spaces, but they hopefully will eventually.

The hydrangea is beautiful.  I just hope it thrives here and fills out over the years, as it will look fabulous with it's fantastic white floral cones.

I was happy with the work we got done in an hour or so.  We're a little bit closer to getting the garden how we want it, but there's still lots of work to do in the next few months. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, 23 August 2019

A.Mixed Couple of Weeks With Some High Points

The last two weeks have been a very mixed bag. Work has been tough and stressful, with heaps of donations pouring in every day.  All I could do was my best.  We've got few volunteers and no interns at the moment, so some things just don't get done.

I had some abuse at work a couple of weeks ago, from a member of the public, who spat at me outside the shop. It wasn't even a customer. I didn't actually notice him doing it, it was my daughter who had just arrived to meet me from work and a volunteer that observed him doing it, I must have been looking the other way.  Disgusting behaviour, especially in front of my child.  I didn't even do anything to prompt it, save for saying that the shop was closed, as we were just leaving.

I also got abused in the street around the corner from where I live, on the same morning.  A man tried to bully me into picking up someone else's dog's poo, from outside of his house, by insisting that my dog had done it, when I knew she hadn't. He even got his wife to swear and abuse me from their flat window.  I refused to pick it up and informed them that I'd call the police if they didn't stop shouting at me and then went on my not very merry way.  Not a good day on the whole.

This week has been marginally better, but not much. An incident in the middle of the night on Tuesday upset me and I got little sleep, so work the next day was gruelling.  I'm now finished for the week though and things have got better.  LB got her GCSE results yesterday and passed all of her exams.  We're so proud of her. She did way better than we expected, not because we don't think she's capable, but just based on her reaction to the exams she took.  I thought that maybe she might fail one or two, but she didn't.

Now, I just have to find the £100 I promised her if she got more GCSE's than I got O Levels, which she did.  OH took us out to lunch at the local Italian restaurant to celebrate which was a nice treat. Drinking a glass of Prosecco at lunchtime wasn't such a good idea though, as I spent the afternoon on the sofa sleeping.  It's so good to know that she's got those qualifications under her belt and has met the conditions required for her to go to her 6th Form College of choice.  She's got her interview there next week. It's an exciting time for her moving on to a new educational institution.

This morning OH cycled off up to Yorkshire with his friend, so I've got a couple of days to myself to do as I please.  LB is meeting up with friends and partying after her exams, so I probably won't see a great deal of her.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet, probably just tackle the ironing pile. The dog is still here with me though, so I know one thing, that it'll be double dog walking for me.

I hope you've had a good week.

Monday, 19 August 2019

Time for a Clean Up

It's been a while since I've done a thorough clean of the house. I've probably not cleaned through the house since before we headed off to Australia for a couple of weeks, back in mid July. As a consequence,  the house was looking pretty bad. I had cleaned both toilets and the bathroom sink, as they were bugging me, but other than that and sweeping the kitchen floor from time to time, no real cleaning had been done, mainly because I've been concentrating on getting back on top of things at work and in the garden at home lately.

At the weekend, LB informed me that she'd invited some friends to come round on Tuesday evening, so they could all have supper together. (Very grown up!)  To facilitate this, I agreed to stay late at work or go to the gym after work, so they'd have the house to themselves for a few hours. OH did likewise and arranged to go to cycling at the track with a friend and then meet me later. I didn't really mind, because she's got her exam results coming out this week (Thursday) and I think she's trying to keep busy.  The only thing was, I would need to clean the house to make it presentable for visitors.

As I was working on Sunday and Tuesday, I only had today to blitz it, which wasn't really a lot of time, as I would be going to my Zumba class in the morning and then doing the grocery shopping.  In the end, I had even less time than I thought, and didn't actually start cleaning until 3pm. (I blame YouTube!)

I started with the kitchen, as I figured they'd be spending the most time in there eating and hanging out, so it needed to look clean. I then worked my way through the house and up the stairs to LB's bedroom, where they may also hang out.  I did a quick clean of the living room, just in case they decided to watch Netflix or play on the Wi, but I didn't clean too deeply in there.

The cleaning was slightly complicated by the fact that my next door neighbours have a toddler, so I couldn't hoover too late, in case I disturbed him going to bed, so I had to prioritise the vacuuming and get it done as quickly as possible.

I was very surprised that I managed to get everything done by 8.30pm, but this was only possible with a bit of help from OH, who kindly volunteered to clean the upstairs bathroom.

It's terrible that I'm finally shamed into cleaning my house by my daughter's friends visiting, but sometimes other things take priority and that's just how it rolls. It does feel good to get it done though. Now I'll be able to enjoy my days off later in the week and not have to feel guilty that it needs doing. 

Having said that, I may actually take some time to clean our bedroom on my days off, which is the only room I didn't tackle. OH is going away on Friday. He's cycling all the way to Yorkshire with a friend and coming back on Saturday, so I'll need something to do whilst he's away! I can think of better things, but needs must.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Super Chilled Saturday in the Garden

Today, I spent most of my time in our small city garden. I mentioned a few posts back how we're trying to give it a big overhaul this autumn. Many of the shrubs and trees had got overgrown and some were just too big for the space they occupied, mainly because I failed to prune or cut them back properly last year. The time had come to actually remove some and really prune others back dramatically.

Here are a couple of photos of the garden back in late spring/early summer:

Don't get me wrong, I love the orange blossom that cascades over our little shed outside the back door, but it was getting to be 12-14ft high and I was concerned that it might be bothering the neighbours a little, so it needed some work once it had stopped flowering. 

The apple and cherry trees on the opposite side were also getting way too tall and needed a dramatic prune back.  I started on these a few weeks ago and still need to finish pruning them, but today I concentrated on the orange blossom and the left hand side of the garden.

My neighbours on this side were on holiday and were due back any day, so I wanted to get it pruned before they returned.  I couldn't get to all the branches, as some were growing too far over onto their side, but I did what I could. It does look a bit butchered, to be honest, but I'm hoping it will grow back well enough next spring.

Here's an after picture of this bush:

I also took another shrub out of the border on this side of the garden.  I've got a couple of new plants to go in at some point, as I wanted to freshen up this border, which has been the same for nearly 10 years.

Here's what it looks like now:

It looks pretty bare, but I can't wait for the hydrangea to go in and fill out as it's going to be a beauty.

Whilst I was tackling the pruning and cutting back, OH did a bit of clearing at the end of the garden.  He's cut out part of the fence that used to surround the trampoline that was here originally, to open up the space and today he removed the rotting potting table which ran along side the shed. The dog is very happy, as she could never access this part of the garden before and now she can.

It's looking a lot tidier:

We now just need to get a new shed, as we've had this one for 14 years and it is falling apart.  We bought it for our first allotment and it remained on there for 5 or 6 years before moving it here.

We also need to dismantle and dispose of the small greenhouse, which is collapsing due to the metal poles having rusted through.We don't actually use it anymore, so we probably won't buy a new one.  Instead, I think we'll make this part of the garden a nice paved or gravelled seating area with a few pots and some nice garden furniture. (Alternatively, a hot tub would be great, but I can't see OH going for that one!!!)

I think it will look great when it's finished and it might encourage me to sit out in the garden more, which I don't do enough currently.

A productive and very satisfying Saturday, and it feels good to get the garden back under some sort of control and to get a bit more light into the garden too.  We probably need to spend another day or two on it, to plant out the new plants into the border, finish clearing the green house, move the hot compost bin to another position and complete all the pruning and then it's more or less sorted, until we get around to doing the paving at the end and getting a new shed.

I'll keep you posted on progress.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Frugal Friday

I started posting this type of post a couple of weeks ago, but I think I can only manage to do a post every couple of weeks, because these days I don't actually manage to do all that much that is frugal every week other than the usual harvesting of allotment produce.

So here goes for the last couple of weeks:

1) More harvesting from the allotment.  Lots of potatoes, tomatoes and cucumbers mainly, but some raspberries, French beans, sweetcorn, carrots, plus a few flowers to enjoy at home.

2) I harvested a few apples from a tree in our garden last week, which OH cooked into small individual apple crumbles. Unfortunately, the squirrels ate all of the hazelnuts on my corkscrew hazels, but today I notice some public space trees where I could harvest them from in future if I wanted to. I think the parks department here are very amenable to people harvesting from trees in the parks.

3) I bought a couple of half price geranium or polygonium plants from B&Q whilst there last week, which look like they are perfectly fine and should continue flowering well into the autumn. I think I paid £3.25 for the two.

4)  I did some new sowings of seeds at the allotment yesterday and in the garden beds.  I'm hoping we'll have more luck with lettuce this time around and get more of a harvest of beans and beetroot that I can freeze or preserve. Although it suddenly feels autumnal, I'm optimistic that we'll get more hot weather before the autumn sets in proper and they'll all have a chance to grow before any cold weather comes.

5) I used another £8 off an £80 spend at Tesco voucher, plus £3.50 in Clubcard vouchers, to stock up on lots of things on the grocery shop this week. (More in another post) I've also been very disciplined about avoiding packaging on fresh items such as fruit or vegetables, where I possibly can.  It is definitely reducing the waste we throw out each week.

6) Today, whilst walking the dog I came upon some wild green gage and plum trees and harvested a (clean) dog bag full (it was all I had), which I'm thinking of making into some jam or even just eating as is.  These remind me of an allotment I used to have, where I used to be able to pick them from bushes around the edges of the car park, until certain people started to strip the tree whilst the fruit were still green.

I've now found a couple of places where they grow wild, that don't look like they've been discovered by anyone else, so hopefully in future years I might be able to harvest them again, if I remember. By the way, I did leave lots on the tree for birds and wildlife, as there were lots that I couldn't get to.

7) I managed to buy LB a pair of Dr Marten Boots from the CS this week at a good price.  She was very happy with them. I was going to share them with her until I tried them on.  So uncomfortable. Maybe I'm just too old to wear them!!

Nothing else really to report. I'll be back in couple of weeks with another post.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

A Few Days Off

After a busy two weeks at work, as explained in my last post, the Shop Manager returned this week, get swhich has lightened the load a bit.  I left the stockroom last night, looking much better, with nearly empty donation cages and hardly any clothes on the pricing table for once.  I'm not back there until Sunday, so I'm going to enjoy my three days off and do some more cutting back in the garden and harvesting at the allotment.

This last week, when I've had spare time, I've found myself falling down a bit of a YouTube rabbit hole. On account of doing more gardening recently, I've kind of rekindled my love of all things horticultural, partly aided and abetted by discovering a couple of new and interesting YouTube channels.

The first is Roots and Refuge Farm, a young family in the US who have moved to the country and are applying permaculture principles to their homestead. I've enjoyed watching some of their videos this week.

The second and probably most inspiring has been permaculture expert Geoff Lawton's YouTube channel called Geoff Lawton: Permaculture Online.  I am loving this channel and particularly enjoyed his series on Greening the Desert, whereby over a period of 20 years, he has helped local people to create sustainable Food Forests in the Jordan desert, which receives very little rainfall and has to cope with very arid conditions.  It was fascinating to see what can be done, even in the most extreme conditions to create a food producing environment.

Geoff also has a farm (Zaytuna Farm) in northern New South Wales in Australia, where he teaches permaculture and applies it's principles to create sustainable food forests and food growing on a reasonably large scale, in conditions that can be quite difficult due to shortages of water. I'm currently working my way through his video series about this farm and it is very interesting. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys growing their own food.

Watching these videos has really inspired me to try to grow as much food as I can.  We're now getting good crops of tomatoes, cucumbers, raspberries, potatoes, beans, carrots and sweetcorn from the allotment, which is great.  Some things were a disaster this year, i.e. lettuce and I didn't sow enough beetroot, although I might sow some more this week. Peas and climbing beans didn't do well either, although bush beans are doing okay.

I've decided to try to give away my rhubarb plants as no-one but myself enjoys eating it and it is going to waste more often than not as I don't feel motivated to use it all for just myself.  I'm sure there'll be some takers at the allotment for the plants.  In it's place I want to grow more raspberries, as I can  get plants for just £1 at Poundland and they seem to do well. Besides, OH eats lots of these so it would save me money buying them.

I've bought a new plant or two in the last week, namely a white hydrangea for the border I'm replanting. At £10, I thought it was pretty reasonable. It's quite small in comparison to the space, but will grow into it eventually.  It might look strange for a while though. I still want some floral interest in the border, so this will be ideal, especially for attracting pollinators. I might even be able to cut some of the flowers to bring into the house eventually.

Just a bit of an update before I try to get stuck in again.

Monday, 5 August 2019

Back in the Swing at Work and Home

It's been almost a week since we returned from Australia and I'm gradually getting back in the swing of things.  I spent Thursday, Friday morning and Saturday working, which was a bit of a baptism of fire.  Things weren't too bad at work, but I have had to spend quite a bit of time getting the stockroom as tidy as I like.  I hate to work in messy surroundings, so the hoover (minus hose and brush, as they've disappeared) came out and I was down on my knees vacuuming the whole of the stockroom floor on Saturday morning. It felt better once it was done.  I felt back in control of things a bit more.

On returning to work, I found out that the Shop Manager was going off on leave for 10 days, so it would just be myself and my fellow Deputy Manager running the shop for the duration. Luckily, we've got lots of interns for the next week or two, so that helps, especially as we both need to attend some training elsewhere on Thursday.

As a consequence, this week is going to be a busy one.  I'll be doing the training in my own time, plus working my usual 2 and a half days. I don't mind on occasion, so long as it's not a regular thing. The past week has been a good one, though, with targets well exceeded and the stockroom under control.  It might be different when I get there this morning!!

I'm still a little jet lagged and find myself waking at 5.30 am most mornings, but to be honest I like waking early and getting up early, as I can get on with things. I usually hit a low after lunch and want a nap. Obviously if I'm at work I can't, but when at home I do and the cycle continues.  I'm sure that by the end of the week I'll be completely back to normal.

When I've not been at work I've been grocery shopping, doing laundry and gardening at home and on the allotment. I decided that the jungle that was our garden was getting too much, so I've spent most of my time taming it.  I've been pruning my apple and cherry trees, which I don't think got pruned at all last autumn, as I was so busy at work. They were looking a bit crazy, so I'm in the process of giving them an almighty prune back.  It will do them good.

I've also actually started on a redesign of the main border in the garden.  A couple of bushes, that I really like but had started to get woody and had outgrown the garden, have been removed, and I'm going to fill the spaces with some new plants and give the garden a new look.  It's been over 10 years since I created this border, so it's well overdue. It's quite exciting.

We're also intending to re-organise the far end of the garden into a seating area.  The little greenhouse is rotting and collapsing, so will have to go and we don't use it anyway anymore.  The hot compost bin will be moved out.  The potting table is also rotting and falling apart, so this will go too and we're going to open up a section of the fence in front, for easier access and create a nice quiet seating area here. At the moment, it is filled with cut off branches from my pruning efforts, that all need bagging up and taking to the tip.  It will all get done eventually.

I've also tidied up the decking and potted on some things that were pot bound. It's looking a lot tidier but there's heaps more to do this summer/autumn. Here's a picture of progress so far.

This young fox paid a visit as I was sat writing this post.  He seems to like to use the shed as a look out post.

With regard to the allotment, all is going well.  It's starting to get a lot more productive now, which is good.  Here's a couple of pictures of harvests from this past week:

I also cut myself a few dahlias which look very pretty on the kitchen window sill.

It feels good to have the energy to do some proper gardening again, instead of just pottering and not really getting stuck in.  I'll keep you posted on progress.

Friday, 2 August 2019

Frugal Friday

In an attempt to make more efforts at being frugal over the next few months, I'm joining with a few other bloggers in posting a Frugal Friday post each week, to summarize any savings or frugal outcomes I've achieved. Here goes with the first one:

1) I used a £12 off an £80 spend voucher at Tesco this week.  I haven't been using this kind of voucher for a few months, as it is often more expensive to shop at Tesco than Lidl, but as we'd just got back from holiday, the cupboards were bare and we needed quite a lot of things buying, I made good use of it. I bought a few yellow stickered meat items in my shop, which will help take us into next week, so I should need to spend less money that week too.

2) I picked up an old damaged wicker cycle basket off the street on my way home last night, as I want to give it a few months of life as a plant holder in the garden.  It will decompose pretty quickly, but will look pretty in the mean time and means one less thing going to landfill. I've trimmed it up and just put a pot inside it for now, but you get the drift.

3) I felt inspired to get out in the garden this week, for the first time in months.  There was a particular climbing plant (not one of ours), that was getting out of hand and strangling everything in the garden, so it got a good cut back and a few other plants got a prune in the process. It's looking a lot tidier now and it's got me thinking that I might just start a bit of a garden makeover this autumn, that I've been promising that I would do for a couple of years now, as it's getting a bit congested.

For the first time, I've noticed that my cork screw hazels actually have nuts growing on them.  I'm hoping we'll be able to eat them eventually.  There's also a few apples on our tree which will save a tiny bit of money once I harvest them. I didn't need to buy blueberries this week either, as our plants in the garden provided some for us.

4) The allotment looked great when we returned home from holiday, thanks to our fellow plot holders watering it through the hot weather.  We harvested lots of small cucumbers, which meant that I didn't need to buy these this week either.

5) I received a voucher for £3.50 from my Tesco Club Card points this week.  This will be used off my groceries, when I next shop there.