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Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Increasing energy costs

I read with interest the article in the Daily Mail online about a recent invention 'the solar BBQ ''. It cooks food to a much higher temperature than traditional charcoal. This is the link to the article::
Solar powered items can be found everywhere now and every year the quality and quantity of items increase. The BBQ is expensive at the moment on offer at £142 but it won't be long before it is replicated and the price drops. 

I had a Roberts  solar powered radio bought as part  of  my retirement present when I left work last year. It has been brilliant, it goes everywhere in the garden with me and I love it. At the end of each afternoon it's is left on the conservatory window sill to absorb the last of the days remaining rays of sunshine. I can count on one hand the number of times I have had to plug it in to charge the battery. 
Roberts solar powered radio displays time, date , channel and song.

This weeks Lidl leaflet shows a foldable solar power panel for phones etc. A useful bit of kit if you are camping off grid etc.  It costs £29.99 an available from Thursday. No I'm not being paid for this, its merely a coincidence that they've brought out a product that I'm interested in.
Solar power products becoming the norm
A blog I read recently whose name escapes me  was talking about a solar cooking pot which lead me to researching solar cooking.  I was gobsmacked just how many cooking products are out there however  they are all still prohibitively expensive, which is a shame.

In the meantime energy costs have gone up, the media has been full of stories regarding the big energy supplier hikes.  It is very much a lottery and the sooner some of them simplify the way they present the information the better. Most of use can't afford to have solar panels or wind turbines to enable us to be off grid. My electricity has risen from 0.1035 to 0.1367 a Kwh.  Gas has also increased from 0.230 to 0.288 per Kwh while the daily standing charge remains the same @ 0.274.  Its only the fact that I get a decent discount for paperless billing and 3% interest on my balance that I remain with OVO. I will continue to use energy as wisely as possible. I have just replaced our iron and although it is a bit of an  energy guzzler it has a very quick heat up rate, so I can start ironing quickly, it clears the creases first time due to the higher temperature and I unplug  it when I'm down to a few items  and iron those while the iron is off.  
Its about time they invented a commercial solar power dehydrator after all it is a process that was derived from drying food in the sun.  My interest in dehydrating food is starting pique!
Has your energy prices increased? Do you have any  solar powered appliances? What would you purchase if the price was right? How do you save energy? Bye for now. Tx

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Popeye food

Thank you so much for all your lovely comments.  Its really lovely hearing from you after my break.

Many of you will remember Popeye the Sailor man, Olive Oyl and of course the baddy Bluto. He got incredible strength from eating the green stuff 'strong to the finish' 'cos I eats my spinach'. In fact spinach was accredited with far more iron than it actually had/has back in the 1930's when Popeye first appeared. It is still nevertheless a great leafy green vegetable packed with vitamins and iron.

My spinach has been coming thick and fast, I've been picking it regularly to keep it cropping.   I've been using it in a coleslaw, as salad leaves and as a parsley style dressing on top of dishes.  I actually prefer it raw to cooked, I definitely couldn't do the soggy wet tinned stuff. Yuk.

The colours are amazing

My sprializer, julienne slicer, and salad spinner
Look at those colours, you just know it brimming with goodness. I use my spiralizer  (Christmas present from my friend) to prep carrots, its so much quicker than grating. After putting the carrots through the thicker side of the spiralizer I then chop them which is just right for the coleslaw. Its a brilliant little gadget and I saw them reduced in Asda the other day for £5.95 instead of £9.99.  It makes lovely courgetti and carrot spaghetti at a fraction of the price of ready prepared supermarket bags. Its steamed in the microwave steamer for 1 minute, drained then I pour over a meaty Bolognese sauce and top with low fat cheese. Its great for anyone trying to lose a few pound and it certainly helped me shed the pounds.

My salad spinner and julienne slicer are ancient but I love them. I'm not a gadget person and I think long and hard before I buy one.  It really has to earn its place in my drawer. What gadgets have you found invaluable over the years? Have you got a gadget you can no longer purchase? I look forward to hearing from you. Bye for now. Tx

Monday, 22 May 2017

Frugal gardening and experiments

As I mentioned in the last post I've continued my frugal ways. Growing as much as possible in our own garden means reduced fruit and vegetable bills throughout the summer and autumn.  This year I'm hoping to increase my harvest even more. My approach to gardening is very simple: 1) don't over spend on fancy products or growing your own isn't economical 2) if it grows it grows 3) can you get it free(ish)? potatoes that have gone to seed in the cupboard can be planted out. Seed saved from last year provides the crop this year etc. Swap 'plants' shop with friends and family.

I start most of my seeds off in damp tissue having learnt the technique last year, it speeds the germination process up considerably and you have healthy little shoots to put straight into compost.  I'm still experimenting, I recently put some beetroot and carrot seed in damp tissue to see how it fairs using this technique. I watched a YouTube video of someone growing blueberry seeds this way and they are tiny.  My carrot seed hasn't done very well in the garden because its been so dry and the parsnip is almost non existent. This is the beetroot shooting after 48 hours. Its a little fiddly but once I'd put them in the compost they had grown leaves within 12 hours! I've had the same success with the carrots and they're in pots and have already formed the first leaves.

Sprouting in 48 hours

First leaves 12 hours later
This is a mix of two types of dwarf green bean I started of in tissue less than 48 hours ago. Peas love this process, the first three trays have been planted out and I'm just about to start another tray off. 
Sprouting dwarf green beans only take 2-3 days
2-3 days later you have the plants forming

Peas ready to be put in trays with compost after 3 days
Eggs shells collected all winter and dried in the greenhouse have been placed them in a bag, then smashed to pieces using my pent up anger before being placed around the strawberries and other plants to ward of snails and provide nutrition. I have to say the strawberries have come on leaps and bounds since I did this. Take a look. there are hundreds of flowers on them.

The next lots of shells will be used to make a 'plant food'.  The shells will go in the nutri-bullett with water and this solution will be put on the tomatoes from time to time as its high in  potassium. I've collected comfrey and the tops of nettles to make two further types of plant food.  All the vegetable beds had 'free' horse manure dug into them in the autumn. They've also had our  own composted waste dug in prior to sowing to help replace the nutrients lost. 

All the compost from container grown produce last year was kept in a huge (free) tub hubby brought home. Last month I mixed in 4kilos of chicken manure, two large bags of fresh compost, 1 bag of top soil and two thirds of a box of blood fish and bone. The garden has been my sanctuary, it never ceases  to amaze me how things grow so quickly.  I swear the cucumber plants grow in front of my eyes.  
A tour of the greenhouse next time.
Bye for now. Tx

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

My Sanctuary the Garden & THANK YOU

Thank you all so much for your lovely welcome.  I will be glad when we receive the results of the tests he has undergone because we will know what we are dealing with.  The fact that we are seeing two specialists that day makes me think 'something' is afoot.
The garden and greenhouse has been my sanctuary over the last month. We have been desperate for rain, I'm reading others have had it but it doesn't quite stretch as far as the Essex coast! Every drop of water run off the mixer tap before the hot comes through is thrown onto various plants.  The water butts are empty and the hose has been out 3 times so far, thank goodness I've made water savings over the winter. Some of the local fields are just dust bowls with failed crops.  Water jets are pumping away in other fields and according to a recent news story farmers are using precious water that they wouldn't normally have to resort to until August. I suppose we will be seeing a hike in the price of fresh produce.   We've had some overnight rain but  its done nothing to the ground so far.  According to the weather forecast we will have heavy rain at various times today and I hope they are correct.
Potatoes, two rows from Poundland bags and the last row from a bag that was sprouting before we went on holiday, so I planted them in the ground quickly and they're just popping through. There is onions at the rear, again  £1 bag from poundland.  The raspberries are romping away. I've gone and mixed two different types together  without realising it.  An early and late which are meant to be pruned at different times. Oh dear, they don't look too bad.
The most nasty plant in the garden ....the gooseberry.  I have never seen thorns like it yet the birds will still have a go at stealing the fruit which is filling out quite nicely.  Hubby accidently snapped a huge piece of it off when he was hoeing a while ago.

The beetroot is really taking hold now and the next job is to weed the patch and thin it out.  A job for the weekend.
The rhododendron always gives us a beautiful display.  We pruned it quite hard last year as it was  very woody and unbalanced.
My lovely wooden graduating circle hubby made from an old pallet and the concrete from the old path that was too thick and heavy to move.
The first lot of peas are at the rear of the bed.  There is a blueberry which hasn't produced many flowers.  The blackcurrant is full of flowers and berries. The tayberry and  blackcurrant twig to the left are from Poundland and they're just starting to shoot properly.
Dwarf green beans, I've given then a little protection with some fleece.  I'm already germinating more using my damp tissue method. I haven't got plans for the troughs underneath yet.
Spinach and lettuce trough.  I'm loving the spinach which is a perpetual variety and  seems to grow before my eyes.  I collect at least twenty leaves every morning, these are added to anything I'm making, whether it be fresh in salads or cooked in quiches.  The next day they grow  as big and lush as ever. I have problems with my iron count every now and again and this gives me a much needed boost. I have space at the end of the trough to put the next sowing in. There is lots more in the garden, runner beans, sweet corn, carrots and parsnips (if they actually materialise). We'll take a walk inside the greenhouse soon. Bye for now, Tx.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Putting my toe back into the water

Hi, I hope you are all keeping well, I have been keeping up to date on lots of blogs leaving comments. I've also kept in touch with a few blogger by email. 
My 'SOLONG FAREWELL'  post was just over three months on the  26th January.  I continue to live a frugal lifestyle as old habits die hard.  I'm always on the look out for a bargain and I am still growing as much as possible in the garden, being retired means I have far more time to do it in. I'm loving retirement, my body clock is gradually settling into a normal sleeping/eating pattern after years of shift work. Furthermore,  I've finally lost 19lbs bringing my weight to a healthy  8st 11lb. My 'Womens MOT' results last month showed my BMI 21, blood pressure normal and cholesterol 'in the healthy/normal range'.

Without going into too much detail because quite frankly I can't,  I gave up blogging as  my husband was undergoing some hospital tests and although not life threatening, the outcome can still be life changing. I say can because the results from  his tests which started before Christmas and completed on the 6th February  are still not in. (Can you believe that) We have phoned the hospital to complain as we were assured we would not be left 'hanging' and promised them by mid March. Today we have received a letter with an appointment on the 1st June with two different doctors.
Although we have carried on regardless in most walks of life, we have discussed what we may need to do should  'the' worst nightmare become true. We recently went to Spain for a week and it was just what the doctor ordered (or maybe not a we haven't managed to speak to one. Ha-ha).  The weather was beautiful, we walked for miles most days and the food in the hotel was amazing.  Why does it always taste so much better when you haven't got to cook it? We even enjoyed a champagne breakfast despite it gaving us indigestion!! Best of all the holiday was an absolute bargain.
I'm hoping to return to blogging even though it may be hit and miss. I think it will be beneficial 'to talk'  and get things on paper.
Bye for now. Tx

PS: I'm so jealous of people reporting rain on their blogs, we still haven't had any decent rain on the Essex coast. Its drizzling at the moment........long may it continue.