Archive | April 2016

Living Simply (Again) In The Modern Day

We have had a lot of illness in the ‘Thrift’ family over the last few years, which unfortunately (together with my reactive rescue dog) forced me into giving my four allotments up in January 2015.

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In the beginning I almost felt claustrophobic when I was in my house and I just hated being indoors…in fact there were times when I would sit outside in my back garden even though it was icy cold, as I needed to feel the fresh air on my face….being outside made me feel alive and being indoors made me feel trapped.

To make matters worse I also had to force myself to take Judy (our rescue dog) out for a walk each day and I would hate it, as she would react so badly to other dogs and traffic, etc. by barking and lunging….I lost count of the amount of people that shouted at me on the park when their dogs approached Judy, as she went mad at them!

However sixteen months later things are now calming down at home and I am starting to enjoy my new way of life and Judy is nothing like the dog she was, thanks to our trainer…. our walks are even pleasant most of the time now.

March 2016

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So it’s time now to get back to ‘Living Simply In The Modern Day’. So I have spent sometime this week deciding what is working fine and what I need to change.  I have written my thoughts below:

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Meal Planning and Cooking From Scratch – No changes needed:

Meal planning saves time and money as nothing gets wasted and I can cook ahead, by making double portions and freezing them ready for next time.  Shopping is always easier with a list to stick to and I can check out prices on-line before I go.

Cooking from scratch where ever possible provides healthy meals for my family, that reduces preservatives, e-numbers and hidden sugars etc. and I think the meals taste better too.

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Baking and Preserving – A new routine is needed:

Over the last year or so I have noticed that I haven’t been baking as much or making as many jams and pickles that I used to and I have only been doing the bare minimum.  However, as things are calming down now I would like to begin a new routine of bread making and perserving….after all, I used to do this at the same time as running my four allotments in the past…..’Homemade’ tastes so much better than shop brought.

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Cleaning using old fashioned cleaners – No changes are needed:

I love my homemade laundry liquid as coventional powders upset my excema.  I find it doesn’t take long to make and is extremely cheap.  I also love the antibacterial vinegar spray and the polish I make and bi-carb is as good as any shop brought cleaner for my bath and bathroom sink.  So I am happy with my old fashioned cleaners.

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Growing vegetables in my back garden – On-going changes required:

It is early days for my organic kitchen garden and I am making changes as I go along.  Rome wasn’t built in a day and I know it will be a few years until I get the garden as I want it.  The ultimate aim is to make the area as productive as I possibly can, but this will take time as the fruit bushes and trees are still very young.

I have ideas to make the garden better, but time and money hold me back, so for now I will do what I can, when I can and enjoy the produce I harvest.

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Low cost living – On-going monitoring required:

This is something that is on-going.  I no longer crave the material things that others have (this stopped a long time ago) but we do have to watch our money as we still have a large morgage and only one wage coming into the family.  Our shopping bill has also risen since I gave my four allotments up, together with every other bill that increases each year……this really is another reason for us to go back to basics and grow as much as possible and make my bread, jams and pickles etc.

We also have two teenagers who get carried along with their friends and ‘Need’  money for this and that.  A few years ago we started to give them their own allowance each month to buy whatever they want and this still works well, as they have learnt that they need to budget for the month.

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Environmentally friendly living – On-going changes needed:

There are lots of things that we could do better here, below are just a few.

* Keep recycling, but better still don’t buy so many things with packaging that needs recycling in the first place.

* Use the car as little as possible by planning trips out so we can combine journeys to save miles – this will also save us money.

* I could borrow my daughters bike for small journeys….I used to ride a lot a few years ago.

* As I said previously I could make as many things as possible e.g. jams, pickles, bread, wine etc. and grow as much as possible to avoid packaging and avoid the miles that the food travels to the shops.

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Continue to learn new skills and develop old skills- On-going:

I want to continue to learn the piano as I love music, but I would also like to play my violin which is something I don’t do very often these days.

I would like to start to knit again.  This is something I used to do a lot before my daughters were born and somehow forgot about it until I knitted dishclothes a few years ago for my hampers.

I want to make soap – something I have been meaning to do for a long time now and just haven’t got round to it.  Again this will save us money in the long run.

I would love chickens and bees but it isn’t practical in our garden with Judy, our dog….However this doesn’t stop me reading and learning about it, as I never know what will happen in the future?

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Peace And Quiet

One thing I have noticed over the last year, I find that I do now crave peace and quiet….maybe this is me getting older or just a reaction to the rotten few years our family has had…whatever it is, I know that living simply in our home will rectify this.

 But overall things are calming down at home for me and I now enjoy being in the house much more than before.  This will enable me to get back to basics once again and enjoy an even more simpler life than before, with the help of my new, muchcalmer companion – Judy.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a good week.

XXX

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Planting Potatoes, Peas And More….

Last weekend the weather was very strange and Linda Darby left a comment on my blog to say they had even had snow in Derbyshire.  Snow isn’t unheard of in April, but it is unusual.

Here in Leicester we had hail stones.  Unfortunately at the time myself and Mr Thrift were mulching around my mother-in-laws roses with greenwaste compost, so we had to stop what we were doing and wait for it to pass:

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Incidentally as there were lots of annual weed seeds germinating in the beds, I laid sheets of newspaper between the roses and put the mulch on top…..this will kill the small annual weed seedlings without having to pull them all up, so it saved alot of time:

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This week I went for the monthly dog walk in Bradgate park with our trainer Steven Havers.  Unfortunately this is the last walk in Bradgate Park as the walk is being relocated to Switherland Woods next month.

The Bradgate Park Trust reported this week they have now brought in a new sets of rules regarding dogs in the park, because people have been acting irresponsibly in Bradgate Park recently.  On their website it says…..

“Incidents have included parents filming children chasing the deer, dogs chasing the deer, fights between dogs, dogs bothering people, mountain bikers riding off permitted paths, as well as dogs killing wild birds.  In addition dog poo bags have been left hanging in trees and vandalism recently occurred over night in areas where the Trust’s rangers have been improving habitats and facilities”

Reading this made me extremely sad and I am amazed that people think that it is acceptable to treat the park and it’s wildlife in this way!

The ranger that took us around the park this week together with the dog trainer, told us that the number of deer calves is significantly reduced due to this, which is terrible.

Deer in the distance lying down

Deer in the distance lying down

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Castle Gardens:

 As I have said previously there are lots of places on our doorstep that we walk past frequently without even noticing how beautiful they are, or how they change in the different seasons.

This week I visited Castle Gardens, which is just five minutes from the clock tower in the city centre and I was amazed at how beautiful it was….again Leicester City Council should be very proud of their parks department:

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Everyone that walked past me seemed to be in a rush missing the beauty I was seeing.  Some walked along talking on the phone and others were listening to music through their headphones….I think this was such a shame as they were missing the wonderful birdsong that I could hear.

I honestly believe that when people sit at the ‘pearly gates’ they won’t be wishing that they had worked more, rushed more or spent more money on material things…..I think they will be wishing they had slowed down more and enjoyed the things that life can offer for free.

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Leisure  – By William Henry Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

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This Week In My Garden:

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This week I have been planting my potatoes.  I have planted my usual ‘Marfona’ which are white second earlies and ‘Desiree’ which are a red late main crop.

Over the years I have tried lots of different ways of planting potatoes, but I have found that speading manure / compost over the bed in winter and then digging a trench and using a bulb planter when planting the potatoes works the best for me.  This way I can plant them deep and I only usually have to earth them up once.

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Amazingly, as I was digging my trenches I still found lots of rubble (though I dug the beds well last year) and I even found a big blue brick!

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This week my parsnips germinated.  As soon as the seed leaves appeared above the compost in the kitchen rolls, I moved them outside into my mini greehouse for a few days.

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I then made holes in the ground that were deep enough for the kitchen rolls.  I did this by banging an old piece of guttering pipe into the ground and then planted the kitchen roll into it, making sure there were no gaps between the soil.

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I then watered them to settle the soil around the tubes making sure there wasn’t any of the cardboard tubes showing above the soil (as this acts like a wick and dries the compost out in the kitchen roll).

Then I put mini-cloches made out of ‘pop’ bottles over them to give a bit of protection from the weather and slugs (I use old sticks inserted into the bottles to stop them from blowing away):

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This week I have also been planting my climbing peas.  They are a variety called ‘Peashooter’ which I have been growing for quite a few years now.

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As with all my crops, I  raked in some blood fish and bone a couple of weeks before.

I put up some pea and bean netting using canes and planted the peas.  Last year I grew my peas facing east to west, however the peas at the back didn’t do so well due to the shade from the peas in front, so this year I am growing them facing south to north in the hope they will do better:

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I have given the peas a bit of protection from the weather and birds using old panes of glass that I brought back from my allotment when I gave it up.

You can also see in the photo below that I put weed suppressant in between the peas so it helps to cut down the weeding, where it is awkward to hoe:

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I have continues to deadhead my daffodils this week and nearly all of them have finished flowering for another year, which is sad as they are my favourite flowers….however there is so much more to look forward to in the garden now the weather is warming up.

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We have eaten our first ‘cut and come again’ salads in my greenhouse and today I have noticed that my first radish of the year are ready to eat:

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And the ‘lollo rossa’ lettuce which is growing under glass outside is ready for me to pick the odd few leaves to add to our salads.

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Also the chives I brought back from my allotment in January 2015 are doing brilliantly sitting along my main path and I am picking them to add to every salad we have:

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Also the rhubarb I transplanted from my allotment in Jauary 2015 is also doing well.  I will be picking it sparingly this year so each plant builds up it’s roots system ready for normal harvesting from next year.

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It’s taken me over a year to get used to my small kitchen garden instead of my four allotments.  Finally I am beginning to enjoy working in it, instead of constantly thinking about what I would have been doing at my allotment.

I have had moments during this month where I can honestly say it has been sheer bliss working in my garden, whilst Judy (my dog) has basked quietly in the sun.  One big advantage is I can nip out when I have five minuites to spare and finish a job, deadhead, weed etc. and if I want I can stay out until the sun goes down and the moon shines….. and once again I have felt happy to be alive in my garden, which is how I used to feel at my allotment!

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Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a great week!

A Fox In The Garden And Planting Cabbages

I have been concentrating on my kitchen garden this week, especially as we have had some nice weather. However I did notice that we have also had a couple of frosts this week, which shows that it really is too early to be planting out anything that isn’t frost hardy.

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Last week I noticed a deep hole had been dug in one of my beds and this week it happened again:

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We have lots of squirrels in our garden, but the hole just seemed too deep to have been dug by a squirrel.  I also noticed that my bird bath kept being knocked to the ground as well.

I thought at first it could possibly be a cat causing the damage so I put a few pieces of welded wire over the bed that was being dug:

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But the next day I found some muddy paw marks on my weed suppressant which looked very much like a fox.  I also noticed the string I had put around my broad beans had been cut, which definately confirmed to me that it was a fox, as this used to happen regularly at my allotment.  I have also been using blood, fish and bone recently in my garden which always used to attract foxes at my allotment too:

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My bird bath is in the corner of my garden and I suspected the fox was entering my garden by jumping on my neighbours compost bin (directly the other side of the fence) and then using my bird bath to vacate the garden, knocking it over in the process.

To stop this from happening I have attached a thick piece of welded wire over this piece of the fence, so I will just have to wait and see if it works and actually stops the fox from coming into the garden:

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This week I gave my lawn it’s first cut.  I don’t know if you remember but I lifted slabs in this area in September last year, prepared the soil and then laid a new lawn here.  The grass looked marvelous after it was laid.

Unfortunatey over the winter our fence blew down and the grass was trampled on when it was very wet while the fence was being repaired and also Judy (our dog) used to run around madly, reacting to the dog next door when it cames out…..so our grass has gone from a lovely thick lawn to a lawn with bald patches:

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I am not mowing it too closely in the hope that the grass will start to thicken up a little bit now, though some places may be past that stage.  One thing I am pleased with is there are no yellow patches from my dogs urine….we have made sure that everytime Judy goes toilet we sprinkle water from a watering can over the area that she has wet and it seems to be working.

I have also neatened the area around my bay tree and transplanted three or four plants that were growing in the wrong places in my garden:

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This week I planted some aubrietia plants that I grew from seed last year and overwintered in my cold greenhouse.  I thought they would look nice flowering over the rocks along the middle of my garden in years to come when they get a bit bigger:

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This week I also planted some sweetpea plants to grow up my new trellis, in the hope they look pretty and attract beneficial insects to my vegetable garden:

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I noticed the fruit bushes that I planted along my fence are beginning to grow.  I always feel a sense of relief  when new bushes start to grow as I then know that I haven’t wasted my money on them:

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A couple of weeks ago I saw a strange growth between two of my fruit bushes and I hadn’t got a clue what it was.  I looked at our old garden photos to find out what was growing in this place before and it was an area underneath our old holly tree that was covered in ‘Vinca’ (periwinkle)….so I was completely puzzled.  The growth looked a bit like a ‘bleeding heart’ (dicentra), so I decided that I would dig it up and put it in a pot just in case.

The plant has grown a bit now and it definately is a ‘bleeding heart’……I haven’t a clue how it got there, but I will definately keep it:

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This week I finally finished planting my onions.  I started growing the sets at the beginning of March in my cold greenhouse, so they were all growing well and the roots were beginning to grow through the newspaper pots.

I planted my onions very closely as I will harvest some of them as spring onions, leaving the others to grow bigger in order to get a double crop out of this area.  This worked well last year.

My onions have all been covered in environmesh to stop the allium leaf miner:

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I also planted the white cabbages that I sowed on the 25th February.  Brassicas like firm soil so I firmed round each plant with my boot.  I also placed a cabbage collar around each plant to stop the cabbage root fly laying its eggs at the base of each plant….the larvea then eat the roots and kill the plants.

I don’t buy cabbage collars as they are easy to make using cardboard cut into squares with a cross cut in the middle:

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I also covered the cabbages with netting to stop cabbage white butterflies from laying eggs on the leaves….it’s the resulting caterpillars that quite quickly strip all the leaves off the plants.

The net I used is very tall beacuse I will be planting my curly kale here when we have eaten all the spring cabbages:

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Another job I did was to mulch around my fruit trees using homemade compost from last year.  This compost was made using plants and grass that I dug up at the beginning of last year when I was creating my kitchen garden, mixed in with a few kitchen peelings etc.  It made a wonderful mulch:

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I also brought two new wall planters for the new herbs I brought last week.  Last year I placed my herbs at the bottom of my garden, but unfortunately our local squirrels decided to keep digging the plants up to bury their nuts in the pots and eventually the herbs all died as the roots kept drying out.  So this year I decided to keep my herbs next to our house, which will also be much more convenient for us to use.

I am quite pleased with how they look and I have moved my mint and rosemary underneath them too:

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I am still deadheading my daffodils in the garden and as they finish flowering I give them a feed of blood, fish and bone.

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But as the daffodils are finishing flowering, elsewhere in the garden there are other flowers for the bees to enjoy:

  I noticed the plum tree that I have in a pot has begun to flower:

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And the wallflowers I grew from seed last year are about to flower any day now:

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And my pot of bulbs that has had daffodils flowering for weeks, now has with grape hyacinth (muscari) flowering beautifully and any day now the Tulips will also burst into flower.

Spalding bulbs sent me these bulbs free in Autumn 2012 and since I planted them I can honestly say I have done absolutely nothing to them except move the pot out the way after it has finished flowering….maybe this year I should make an effort to feed them!

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In my greenhouse that is now heated to keep the temperature above 10C, things are doing well.  My different seedlings are growing strongly and this week my climbing peas which I planted two weeks ago have germinated well.  I saved these seeds in 2012 from plants I was growing at my allotment, so I was praying they would still germinate:

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My cut and come again salads are also growing well and next week I will be taking my first cut.  The radish are also nearly ready that I have been growing around the edge of the salads:

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I also saw a tiny little shoot coming from one of the dahlias that I grew from seed last year.  I kept the pots in our cold brick outhouse overwinter as a trial to see if they would survive and it appears they have.  I brought them out a couple of weeks ago and placed them in my greehouse, giving them a good watering first:

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In my kitchen I have a few seeds that needed a higher heat to germinate than my heated greenhouse can offer.  I sowed these seeds two weeks ago and nearly all of them need pricking out now…this will keep me busy over the next few days!

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I must say I am now looking forward to clearing my kitchen of seeds so we can get back to normal:

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Anyway, that’s enough for this week.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

I hope you have a lovely weekend!

A Judy Update & Seed Sowing

I can’t quite believe it’s April already, the year seems to be flying by.

Each week as I walk Judy in our local park I notice different things.  This week I have spotted some of the Camelias flowering beautifully and the first Bluebells are starting to flower in the woodland area:

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Also, as the snowdrops and crocus displays in the park are finishing flowering, there are wonderful displays of daffodils to enjoy.

The park is full of wildlife and recently I have even heard one or two woodpeckers, which I have never heard before.

I think that Leicester City Council should highly praise their park keepers, as they really do work hard to keep this park beautiful.

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A ‘Judy’ Update (Our rescue dog)

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It’s been a long time since I have written a ‘Judy update’ so this week I thought I’d write about her progress.  I will first give a little recap for those that haven’t been reading my blog for very long.

The RSPCA described Judy as ‘A little bit nervous‘ but when we brought her home in October 2014 we realised very soon that she had a lot of problems.  We later found out that we were Judy’s fourth owners.

She was very underweight when we brought her home and she also had lots of ‘doggy’ nightmares where she would whimper and cry in her sleep and her little legs would twitch like she was trying to run away.  However she loved fuss, but if she wasn’t expecting you to stroke her she would ‘cower’, which used to break my heart.  Our trainer seems to think she was hit at some stage, but we will never know.

Her first day at home with us

Her first day at home with us

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By February 2015 our first behaviourist said that Judy was untrainable and we should look to rehome her, so we went to the vet in desperation who prescribed her ‘Selgian’ which is an anti anxious drug for dogs (which looking back, it didn’t really make a lot of difference to her).

We were then told about Steven Havers and contacted him in in April 2015.  We wrote a list of Judy’s problems to show Steven when he visited us for the first time.  I’ve listed below just some of Judy’s problems at the time:

She would bark and lunge aggressively at vans, cars, lorries, buses, motorbikes, bikes, every single off lead dog, every single on lead dog, balaclavas, hats, men (especially in dark jackets), walking sticks, council litter picking sticks, prams, pushchairs, birds, squirrels, cats, walking sticks, workmen with equipment (especially spades), diggers / cranes etc.

In the house she would bark at every little noise from outside or the neighbours, birds flying past the windows, washing machine, hoover, hand mixer, hairdryer, postman, TV.  She would ‘bite’ the water coming out of the shower/watering can.  ‘Wet’ if I left her on her own and pace up and down the room if I went into the garden.  She would also ‘wet’ if I left her in a room and shut the door.

In the garden she would also bark at birds, the neighbours when they were outside and she would never ever sit or stand still…she would just run backwards and forwards up and down the garden.

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It is nearly a year since Steven Havers first visited and as he says, he has trained me and not the dog.  Previously Judy was too stressed and scared to take treats, which was why I struggled to train her however Steven doesn’t use treats to train.  So after lots of training the ‘Havers way’ I am glad to say we have overcome most of Judy’s problems and she no longer needs the anti-anxious dog tablets that the vet prescribed.  She now has doggy friends who she enjoys playing with on the park and she isn’t bothered by ‘normal’ noises in the house anymore.  We can also walk past people and traffic etc. easily now (except the very noisy lorries).

She has now put on 2kg since she first came to us and is a healthy weight, Her coat looks lovely as we regularly brush her.  She now sleeps well next to our bed and she always comes for a cuddle first thing in the morning with Mr Thrift and I, which we don’t mind.

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The one problem that continued was she still barked and lunged towards dogs on leads when I go to the park and I have really struggled with this.  So last month Steven Havers walked with me and showed me different methods to use when we see a dog on a lead.  Finally I am managing to walk past dogs on leads about 50% of the time, but I will keep practising until it is 100% of the time.

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Would I have a rescue dog again?….I’m not sure if I would, as it’s been such hard word and I have cried many tears over Judy.   However I have spoken to lots of people who have had rescue dogs that have settled without any problems.

It really has been a rollercoaster ride with Judy, but I am so glad I have persevered as she is adoreable.  She deserves to be happy after her bad start in life and we all love her to bits.

Judy relaxing in her 'forever' home

Judy relaxing in her ‘forever’ home

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Seed sowing:

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This week I have been busy seed sowing again.  I have sowed my climbing peas in toilet rolls and my dwarf peas in guttering.  The peas will be kept in my mini greenhouse until they germinate.  Peas can be sown direct but I find I get a better gremination rate this way.

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I have also sown my parsnips in kitchen roll tubes and they are in the warmth of my house, as again I get a better germination rate this way.

I wrote a post a few years ago about growing parsnips in kitchen roll holders rather than toilet rolls and you can find it here.

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I sowed some cucumber, pumpkins, butternut squash, courgettes, melon and patty pans.  As these are big seeds I put two seeds in each newspaper pot and I will remove the weaker seed upon germination.

“Squash seeds have a tendancy to rot in the compost so it is important to sow the seeds on their sides and not flat”

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These seeds will be kept inside my house in a propagator until they germinate and they will then be moved to my now heated greenhouse to grow on (it is warmer in my house at night than my greenhouse).

I have also sowed spring onions, beetroot, turnips, kohl rabi and outdoor tomatoes.

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Previously at my allotment I would grow something new every year to try.  So this year I thought I would carry on with my tradition.  Last year one of my good friends gave me some mini tomatoes to try and I was fascinated with them so I saved some of the seeds on kitchen paper.  After doing some research I have found that the tomato is called ‘Solanum pimpinellifolium’ or better known as the ‘currant tomato’ and it is the wild ancestor of all the tomatoes we eat today.

The tomato has the ability to freely cross with other tomatoes so this has allowed it to be used for the introduction of disease resistance traits in tomato varieties, as well as in the study of the genetic control of tomato traits such as fruit shape and size.

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I sowed the saved tomato seeds by just laying the paper towel on damp compost and then covering them with a thin layer of damp compost.  I have placed them in a propagator in the window and I will keep fingers crossed that the seeds will grow:

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After all the seeds I have been sowing this week,  I am really looking forward to filling my kitchen garden as full as possible with plants in a month or two.

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Well that’s it for this week.

I will be back next Friday as usual.  Have a good week.

XX

A ‘March’ Catch Up

Well it’s nice to be back blogging but as usual I haven’t been resting as planned, however I have been careful to make sure I’ve not been rushing around.

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March started off very wet and we had so much rain one night that our local park flooded in places!

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I had a wonderful mothers day with nice presents and a really nice cooked breakfast made by Mr Thrift.

One of the things my daughters bought me was a couple of bug boxes, that I am very pleased with and I put them up straight away:

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In February I repotted my blueberries and needed a mulch that was acidic (as blueberries like acid soil) and I remember that someone on here suggested I used pine needles, but I didn’t have any to use.

During March we had some very windy days and unfortunately an enormous branch broke off a pine tree at the park…..which was great for me as I managed to take a bag full of pine needles before the council shredded the tree (I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded considering how big the fallen branch was).  I placed them around my blueberries as a mulch and they actually look quite attractive:

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At the beginning of March I planted some new Snowdrops that I brought ‘in the green’ (this means they have just finished flowering and they establish quickly at this stage).  I did bring a very small amount back from my old allotment when I gave up but I like a lot of Snowdrops as I said previously they remind me of my old friend that passed away:

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At the beginning of March I also found that B&Q were selling their fruit bushes off cheaply.  I managed to get a redcurrant bush, blackcurrant bush and five summer raspberry canes for £6 which was a bargain.  I have planted them in an area that only gets 4-6 hours of sunlight in the summer, so this is a bit of an experiment….but for £6 it is worth a gamble.

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I have also had a go at making an arch to go over my path.  I have never really made anything before so armed with some left over wood and a bit extra that I purchased, I gave it a go.  I also used some expandable trellis from Wilkinsons.  After it was finished I gave it a paint with my faithful old tin of woodstain….the whole thing cost me just £16 to make and I am really pleased with it:

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I am planning to grow sweetpeas up the side of my arch and the sweetpeas I sowed previously have been growing nicely in pots and I will be able to plant them shortly:

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I then decided to carry on and try and make something to stop Judy (our rescue dog) from being able to run down the alley at the side of our house (and bark).

I brought an expandable trellis on legs, added a few bits of wood including an old gate that I made last year out of an old allotment cage and attached it all to our brick outhouse and house wall to make it sturdy. I also brought a cheap planter off ebay and attached it to the expandable trellis and painted the whole lot again with my faithful old tin of brown woodstain.

I lined the wooden planter with plastic (with drainage holes) and added compost.  I then went to my local nursery and brought some primroses and cowslips for £4 as they were selling them off cheap to clear them and planted them….and this is the result:

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I am very pleased with it, though I do need to rethink the area behind as it does look scuffy.

The Cowslips and Primroses will be replanted somewhere else in my garden when they have finished flowering and they will hopefully come up year after year.

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I have been busy in March sowing seeds, though you can see from the photo below that Judy has hampered my seed sowing at times….as you can see one of her dog treats was ‘hidden’ on top of my seedlings:

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During March I sowed red cabbages, white cabbages, coriander, greenhouse cucumbers, spring onions and various flower seeds:

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I have tried very hard to keep my seedlings in the house up until now, as the greenhouse heater is expensive to run, but I do know that when I sow my next lot of seeds next week I will have to switch it on.

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At the beginning of March in my cold greenhouse I also planted my onion sets in newspaper pots that I made (you can read how to make the pots here).  This week they were ready to plant.  I have planted half of them up to now, but I have made sure that I have planted them under environmesh as I had such a problem last year with the allium leaf miner.  The flies have two generations each year and the adults first lay their eggs in March / April and the next generation lay their eggs September to November:

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I also planted my ‘spare’ garlic that I sowed in January in newspaper pots and left to grow in my greenhouse.  I also planted with some leftover onion sets next to the garlic – again under environmesh…..it feels like one day I will have my whole garden under environmesh!

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This month I also planted the broadbeans that have sat in my cold greenhouse since the middle of January, again in newspaper pots.  As always, I raked in some blood, fish and bone a couple of weeks before I planted them.

I put some garden string around them ready to support them when they are bigger:

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Elsewhere in the garden I planted some lollo rossa lettuce under glass (a bottomless box and an old piece of glass):

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I removed any yellowing leaves from around my Spring cabbages and sprinkles some blood, fish and bone around them and gave the ground a quick hoe.  I also gave them a seaweed feed to help perk them up after a long winter:

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I thinned the leeks that I sowed in January in the hope they will now grow bigger.  I use a pair of scissors to do this as it is so much easier just snipping them off and doesn’t disturb the remaining seedlings:

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And I sowed some mixed salad leaves and radishes in my cold greenhouse at the beginning of March and they are growing nicely:

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The garden is springing into life now and I have noticed that the bees are starting to buzz around my flowers, so I am glad I have plenty for them to choose from.  Incidentally the daffodils that I planted far too late last year (mid November), have been flowering beautifully during March….I’m so glad I didn’t just throw them away as I was so late planting them:

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In The Home During March:

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I made some more ‘mini cloches’ by cutting ‘pop’ bottles in half.  I will soon be using these in my garden:

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I found I still have some stored apples which I have started to add to my porridge in the mornings.  I also made some apple cakes too (the recipe is here):

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I also ran out of my last batch of laundry liquid.  I usually use Dri Pak soapflakes for convienience but unfortunately after ringing them I found out that they have discontinued them and they are no longer available.  They now sell liquid soapflakes which are equally good to use, however I chose some cheap, unfragranced soap and just grated it instead and this has worked just as well as the old soapflakes:

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(Here is the recipe for homemade laundry liquid).

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One last thing I wanted to tell you about this week is some flowers that we gave to someone special in March.  I didn’t want to buy them ready made up from the florist as they would have been so expensive, but I did want the flowers to be extra special….so I copied the florists and made my own arrangement with flowers from Leicester market instead.

The market sold me a ‘flower box’ for £1 (I’m not sure if that is the right name for it) and I used the roll of cellophane I have at home.  I carefully wrapped the flowers so that the bottom of the cellophane was water tight and put an inch or so of water in the bottom of the cellophane to keep the flowers fresh.  I popped them in the box and added a bit of ribbon and a gift card that I also brought from the market for 10 pence……..and this is the result, which I am very proud of:

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Anyway, that’s it for this week.

Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back next week as usual.

Have a great week!