Saturday, 13 September 2008

Easy sow Gutter Planter

When you sow seeds directly into the soil or plants before they have reached a degree of maturity and lost their initial tenderness they can easily be lost to slugs, snails and insects etc, and in addition the shock of being moved from pot to soil can easily cause them to keel over.

One way of avoiding this is to fill a gutter with your growing medium and plant your seeds in this. Keep them correctly moist and off the ground, and when the plants have grown to initial maturity, simply form a gutter sized groove in the soil and slide the plants in. Do it gently and they won’t even know the difference!

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Gardeners, an easy way to look after your eyesight:

Year after year many gardeners lose the sight of an eye or damage their sight due to bending down into a bush and catching their eye on a bamboo stake. There are rubber ends on sale that cover the end of bamboo stakes, or you can use the end of a sports drink type of plastic bottle as in the photo's. Keep you eyes open when you visit your local plastic bottle bank.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Inexpensive & quick 'Pizza'.

I like pizzas, but I don’t like the price or the packaging, or the fact that many sold in the UK come from Germany or Holland. Here then is a way to make simple, (very) cheap, fresh and great tasting ‘pizza’.

Take two slices of bread put them together and toast them in a toaster so only one side is toasted. Thinly butter the untoasted side and scatter thinly sliced tomato, bacon, mushroom and cheese on top and drizzle a little olive oil over them. Place the slices in a moderately hot oven for 8 minutes, and there you have it!

The Costs:
2 slices of bread 6p
20g of ‘bacon bits’ 3p
½ a tomato 7p
20g cheese 8p
Butter and olive oil 1½p

Total price 32p or about 63c

I have not included the cost of the electricity for the oven, as had I bought a shop pizza I would have still used it. If you don't use meat you can easily have a vegetarian option and use other toppings instead of, or as well as.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

DIY Radiator Heat Reflector

It is accepted that between 50% to 70% of the heat emitted by a household radiator is eventually lost into the fabric of the building, mainly behind the radiator and into the wall behind. A reflector panel fits behind the radiator and reduces the wasted heat by insulating the wall and so the heat that is saved either heats the air in the room, warming it faster, or is retained in the system so the boiler is not using as much fuel.

It is very easy to make your own Radiator Reflector. All you need is a tape measure to work out the size of panel, scissors, stapler some adhesive tape, a thin strip of wood, a sheet of cardboard and one of those silver heat reflecting panels you can buy to put in the windscreen/windshield of your car to keep it cool in the sunlight.

Cut the cardbord to size, place it on the reflector, cut that to suit and staple it to the cardboard. Attach a thin strip of wood to the top, I used Duck Tape as it is temperature resistant and drop the completed unit onto the supports behind the radiator!

Monday, 19 May 2008

The Potato Box, progress report...

The detail of how I made my Potato Box is on an earlier post. I put the seed potatoes in the base of the box about ten days after making it and have been have been covering the shoots from the seed potatoes as they appeared. I did this for the last time five days ago. The photo was taken this morning and you can see the growth that has occured in such a short time.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Do you save rainwater?

The average garage will have around 500 SQ Ft of roof and with only 1" of rain this will allow you to save (harvest) around 300 gallons of rainwater. The video above will give you the practical details and click on here for other information and advice from the CAT (Centre for Alternative technology) in Wales, whose main site here is well worth a visit at anytime!

Friday, 11 April 2008

Save water each time you flush!

In the UK and I suspect most Western countries water saving has not been at the top of the environmental list until now. The humble toilet uses a large quantity (usually far more than needed) of the precious liquid each time it is flushed, especially if it is one of the older types.

To save water (and money if you are on a Water Meter) you can fit a 'Bog Hog' a special water container that fits in the reservoir, but just as easy, and certainly more environmentaly friendly, you can recycle and use a plastic bottle instead.

The photo shows one sitting snugly at the base of our system. If it were not possible to fit the 2 pint container shown, due to space restrictions, then two 1 pint containers should fit. Fill them full of water first and fit the cap back on and not only will you be saving water you will also be reducing environmental pollution by cutting down the power needed to get the water to your home in the first place.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Self-Watering Recycled Plastic Bottle Plant Pot for Seeds

I like my seeds to be comfortable, the seed equivalent of sitting on a deckchair under a sunshade while sipping a glass of chilled Chablis. Seeds are precious, if they weren’t companies like Monsanto (pauses to puke) would not be interested in them so here is a way to make as sure as you possibly can that they have the sort of start in life that the Good Lord intended.

The photos will give a full picture, but basically I cut a plastic bottle in two with a fine toothed bread knife, drilled 4 holes in the screw cap and inserted lengths of non-plastic string to act as a wick, (see photo). I lined the half the screw cap fits with wet paper and after fitting the screw cap back on I held the strings to one side and filled this lined half with seed compost (see photo.) After this I distributed the strings around the pot and back down to below soil level. I then filled the lower half with water to just below the cap and fitted the two parts together, (see photo.)

Place seeds on or in the growing medium as advised and cover the top with a light sprinkle of sand to discourage fungal disease. Now if you need to go away for a few days or forget to water it doesn’t matter. Don't forget to double left click on the photos for full screen size and to use the browser's back button (arrow) to return to normal. This is especially useful for the second photo from the top.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

A Potato Box

I have always been amazed just how many potatoes it is possible to get from a potato box or barrel or bin or whatever it is called in your part of the world. I know that potatoes are not usually over-expensive but I like organic early potatoes and these are expensive, so this year I have built a potato box and will grow our own. The box is made from old pallets (painted in an environmentally friendly wood treatment we had left over) and measures about 33” square by 24” high. The bottom of the box has duck tape wrapped around it to seal it from the ground, this should show up in one of the photos, and the inside has old black plastic sacks secured by brass thumbtacks on the top edge so covering the top and the inside wood to protect it from moisture and stop the growing medium from drying out, another photo shows this at the half-way stage. I will put a few inches of compost on the bottom, lay a few early chitted seed potatoes on it and cover over them for three or so inches with compost, then as the potatoes shoots grow up I will carry on covering them up until I get near to the top and the box will fill with new potatos. (Can't come soon enough for me!) The system will be frost resistant and I will save some of the first of the crop and store them in the fridge to plant again for a second crop around July time, crafty or what? Incidentally, the compost bin that is next to the potato box was also built from unwanted pallets... Waste not, want not...

Monday, 25 February 2008

The world's easiest home-made shortbread?

Take 6oz of plain flower, 4oz of butter and 2oz of (preferably) golden unrefined granulated sugar. Mix the whole lot in a bowl until it all starts to cling together, roll out on a board to whatever thickness you fancy, cut into squares or whatever and sprinkle some of the sugar on top of them.

Bake in a medium oven for about 15 minutes or so, less if they are very thin, more if they are very thick and allow to cool completely before eating. No preservatives needed, they will not last long enough for them to be needed!

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Sooo VERY easy to bake rapid bread receipe

This was mainly by accident, but it works!

I had just read an article about the price of bread, which is going up non-stop as the price of grain increases, and one part of the article stated that "you still cannot make bread cheaper than you can buy it". This sounded like a challenge and so I thought, as my ever tolerant wife was out at a meeting, that I would show they were wrong. Looking at he way bread was made, with injections of steam etc I thought this would be no problem, a little ingenuity would suffice. However as I got into the baking process, I remembered that 1. I was supposed to get some shopping and 2. when Pam returned the kitchen would still be upside down, so I rushed through the process thinking that the birds would at least approve (again) of my failed efforts. But far from fail it all worked, so here is the receipe and the pictures to confirm it all.

Take one and a half mugs of warm water, pour them into a bowl and mix in one half a teaspoon of fresh dry yeast (yes I know its a lot) and a few pinches of salt. Pour in three mugs of plain flour and mix the whole lot together, (forget all that kneeding business) cover with cling film (I know I should have used a cloth, but I like to observe what is going on) and leave somewhere warm for an hour and a half (yes, I know its not long.) By then the whole mass, which has the consistency of the slime in Ghost Busters, will be covered in bubbles.

Give the whole lot a very quick stir and leave for a few minutes (possibly thinking 'this is never going to work') while you heat up the oven to around 220c/425f and as you do this put in the oven whatever container you are going to use to bake the bread in.

When the oven is at working temperature pour the dough into the now greased container, (but be careful, its hot, I 'found' out the hard way) cover it up with aluminum foil or whatever and put it in the oven for half an hour. My thought was that this would keep the moisture in for the first stage of cooking, After the thirty minutes take the cover off and leave it in the oven for ten more minutes to allow the top to brown.

Take out and allow to cool... really was that easy!

The top photo shows the dish and 'cover' before I put it in the oven, the next after half an hour and the next after ten minutes with the cover off. The result can be seen in the bottom photo. I must point out that our oven is rather old and about as reliable as a high mileage Trabant so you may have to experiment with the temperatures. Quantity wise, three of any sort of container should work for the flour/water ratios.

PS. It tastes as good as it looks!!

Sunday, 10 February 2008

Make your own vitamin C, AMAZINGLY easy.

Many foods have vitamin C in them, including Potato, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, Red Cabbage etc, but an easy way to make additional vitamin C which will also include rutin, hesperidin, bioflavonoids, monoterpenes and limonene essential oils is from the pulp and peel of organic citrus fruits.

When you have washed and peeled your organic (it must be organic as you don't know what has been sprayed onto the fruit otherwise) grapefruit, tangerines, oranges, lemons or limes, cut up the peel into small pieces and put it on a plate on a window ledge in the sunlight, or into a cooling down oven to dry.

When the bits are fully dry and shriveled zap them in a coffee grinder, or whatever you can use, to a powder and there you have it, vitaminc C with essential oils! Store it in a screw top jar, or any other air tight container and use it when required for health reasons/cooking etc.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

A shed 'light' for less than £2

Our outside shed is small, and only used for storage of garden equipment. A light would be a good thing as at the end of the day, when it is dark, is is difficult to put items away. I noticed just how bright the LED's on the solar garden lights were so I decided to convert one of these as the shed light. If you want to do the same conversion then this is how I did it.

1. Cut off (hacksaw) from the lampshade the spigot that locates in the plastic tube that you push into the ground. 2. Take apart the section that has the solar panel, remove the electrical panel from inside and cut the LED off from this, midway between the LCD and the panel. 3. Solder whatever length of cable you need for the purpose intended to the four ends and tape over any exposed wire. 4. Glue a CD, shiny side down, to the lampshade and after fitting all the parts back on the solar panel section, glue a CD onto this taking a small nick from the outer of the CD so it can, if required drain away any water that may get in. 5. Stick a piece of 'Duck Tape' over the hole in the lampshade CD, make a small hole in this, put the LED through and tape the cable to the CD. Hang the light end inside where required and place the solar panel end where best suited, in my case it is hooked into the tiles on the shed roof.

Note, an LED will only work when connected up the right way. A diode is simply a one way street for electricity, so before you solder it onto the cable, touch them both, wire and LED, to a battery to make sure it will work. This is because if the negative side of the diode is connected to the positive supply of the battery, and vice-versa then it will block the power. If you need to it is simple to fit an on-off or a pull switch to one of the cables, but as the only time I intend to make use of the light provided is when it first gets dark I won't worry about this and the light can shine on. Like the light of many such like solar lights, a constant reminder of the inexhaustable energy the creator has provided for us, all we need is the (commercial) will to tap it.

PS. If you are wondering what that dark photo with the light at the top end is, this is a non-flash photo of the lamp, now in the shed, taken from the garden.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Do you have problems replacing rubber washers?

I used to find these things a problem. In order to get one of the right size, or at least close to it, the only option was to buy a pack with a dozen in it, eleven of which I would never use. There is however an easy way out of this.

Take one old cycle tyre inner tube or one old car inner tube, (next time you have new tyres fitted ask the garage if they have one)lay the old washer on it and draw around it, or use a compass and draw the circle size you need, and then cut the washer out with a pair of scissors. If you need a thick washer the car tyre inner tube is usually perfect and the cycle tyre inner tube for the thinner ones, but it is quite simple to cut up several to make up the required dimension.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

An MP3 Solar Charger & Battery For £1:25p

I love my MP3 player, but a concern was its AAA battery demands, then I found that many solar garden lights used AAA bateries. So I bought a pack of 4 solar lights for under just under £5, took two of them apart and removed (snipped off) the LCD bulbs and put them back together again. I then left the bulbless units in the sun and when the batteries had charged replaced them with batteries from the other two lights. The other two complete solar lights, as with the two removed LCD bulbs, will be used for later projects. The solar chargers will, of course, charge up any rechargeable AAA batery.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Build An Insect Hotel

You will need a plastic bottle, one of the large types that are used for bottled water seems best, (the one in the photos is 4” / 10mm diameter) and several lengths of bamboo. If you or a friend have grown your own bamboo and have a few lengths that have been lying around for a period, then these are perfect; you can of course use other bamboo. You will also need some galvanised garden wire.

Tools required:

You will need a ‘Stanley’ type of knife, a saw, a pair of pliers that have a cutting section for the galvanised wire and a tape measure.

1. Cut the bottle to a convenient length, in the case illustrated it was at a ridge on the bottle that was about 6 ½” / 17mm from the end. 2. Make two small holes in the bottle that are in line with each other and around 2” 5mm from each end. 3. Cut two lengths of the wire about 18” / 46mm long and run the two ends of each piece through different holes, each on the inside the bottle circling them against the inner wall. 4. Cut your bamboo into lengths, in this case I cut them 7” / 18mm long, and push them into your container until it is full. 5. Twist the wire (but not too tightly, it can break) at the point where it emerges so as to lock the bamboo into place and again at the end in order to form loops. These are your fixings, and can be extended by other lengths of wire if needed. Test the construction by holding the open end down and shaking gently. If any canes fall out, put another one in.

The Hotel will need to be positioned preferably where it will not swing around and protected from the sun. The closed end pointing towards the prevailing wind in winter and pointing slightly down towards the open end so as to drain should any water enter.

Solitary bees often live in old mice nests; I have been reliably informed that they like the smell, so old canes that have been left on the ground and so have perhaps been the attention of our little furry friends will be ideal for them. Lacewings are fond of the colour red, if you can locate a red bottle they may prefer this.

A Butterfly Feeding Station

As the disaster that is Climate Chaos increases we are losing many of our native bees and insects that are needed to pollinate and predate on the more unwelcome species that are now arriving at these shores. Butterflies are also among those that are threatened by the changing climate but it is easy to feed them with a Butterfly Feeding Station, and, like the Insect Hotel, it should cost little or nothing to make.

For the Feeding Station:

You will need two small empty yoghurt pots, a wire coat hanger and a sponge. The one I used is the spare from an old paint roller, but it would be just as effective to cut a sponge into the required size.

Tools Required

A pair of pliers & scissors

1. Cut the ends off the yoghurt pots as per the photo. At the ends of the long part of the coat hanger, cut off one end at the top just before the V bend and at the other end just after the V bend using the cutters at the side of the pliers, as can be seen in the photo. Bend the lower section that has been cut off after the V section flat as this will be the lower part. Make a small hole in the centre of each of the cut off yoghurt pots. This needs to be tight fitting, and for mine I put the flat side down on a hard surface, (glass chopping board) held the point of a knife in the centre and twisted the pot end while holding the knife still. Put it all together as per the photo and bend and cut the end for a hanger.
Apply a mixture of five parts water to one part sugar to the sponge and hang the result of your work up in the garden.

Do You Like Yoghurt?

The supermarket choice is vast and expensive, so why not make your own? It could not be simpler to do so. You need a bowl that will hold two pints of milk, a plate to go over it and some towels / blankets to cover it all. Heat the milk to near boiling, and allow it to cool to blood temperature, you do this by sticking your (clean) finger in it, when it feels neither hot or cold you are there. As this happens scald the bowl with boiling water, this 1. kills any bacteria that might sour the yoghurt and 2. heats up the bowl. Cover the bowl with the plate to bring this to the same temperature and then pour the water away, allow the bowl to steam off, don't wipe it, a few drop of water will not matter. Place the bowl on a few folds of towl to insulate it, pour in the milk and then add a small pot of plain organic youghurt that you have allowed to reach room temperature. Stir it all together and then cover it well with your towels / blankets / whatever to insulate it, leave it for 12 hours, uncover and stir it all together and there you have your yoghurt. Place it in the 'fridge, add brown sugar, fruit, jam, honey, whatever is your fancy, use it for cooking or for curry, but before you do fill your (cleaned) empty yoghurt container with your yoghurt as this will be the starter for the next batch you make.

DIY Solar Electricity

At present I am remaking my workshop and naturally want it to be 100% carbon neutral. While it is still in the process of sorting out I decided to start on the lighting as the nights were getting shorter, and I needed to see what I was doing, I fitted up the solar lighting shown here. It was, to say the least, very easy indeed. I used a 12 volt battery trickle charging solar panel from Maplins, this was on offer at £9.99 and a £30 inverter (a gismo that changes 12 volts DC to 230 volts AC) from Ebay. Initially I used one second hand 12 volt battery and connected the panel to the battery, the battery to the inverter and the inverter to two flourescent tubes. It was as simple as that. I now have six S/H batteries fitted up although the single battery ran the tubes for several hours. If you do this please don't forget that 1. A 12 volt car battery is not a toy and that if a spanner or suchlike shorts out the terminals it will soon turn red hot and 2. The power output from the inverter could be fatal if not treated with respect, so please, do as I have done and connect up an RCD, a Residual Current Device. This is an item that detects the power balance between the positive and neutral 230 volt circuit and switches the circuit off when it detects an imbalance. For future use I will no doubt need a larger panel as I intend to use the workshop to its full capacity, but I will keep the current drain for the equipment that I use down to a minimum, i.e. rechargeable drill etc. The present set up will run lap-tops, faxes, printers etc, but will not run a tube type colour monitor, although a LCD type is no problem. One photo shows the lights working and the other the items I have mentioned.

Chemical Free Cleaning

Have you thought of using vinegar? It is mentioned in the Bible.We all know that Jesus was offered water and vinegar on a sponge,a popular drink for the poor and for Roman soldiers when in camp,but did you know that in Ruth 2:14 it is a dip for bread, and in Proverbs 25:20 it is a cleaning formula.It was used as an antiseptic in WW1 and it is possible that the Good Samaritan used wine vinegar on the injured man's wounds as it would have been a useful part of a first-aid kit. So what can it be used for? The following are for white vinegar only:-

As a surface cleaner, use it straight with a few drops of lemon juice,or without the juice for wooden chopping boards. As an oven/microwave cleaner, put 3 tablespoons in a small bowl of water and bring to the boil for a minute (microwave) or three (oven) and wipe off the softened deposits. Use vinegar instead of liquid rinse aid in a dishwasher. Clear blocked sinks & basins by pouring some Bircarbonate of Soda down the plug hole and then add some vinegar and place your hand over the plug hole to keep the fizzy reaction down. For grimed on tea of coffee stains in cups or mugs, pour a couple of teaspoonfulls in the offending article, add some salt, and rub with a cloth. A few drops added to the rinse water will leave items squeaky clean and help to prevent water spotting on glass. For limescale in the shower/sink use vinegar and washing soda as in Prov 25:20. For windows add 1 part vinegar to 10 parts water spray on the windows with that spray bottle you have been saving, and rub like crazy with old newspapers, worked perfectly for my Mum!.

And so it goes on... Safe, biodegradable and cheap.