Where growing, making & good living come together

Falling short – empty spaces in the garden, boo

Posted by on Friday 1 July 2011 in growing | 9 comments

I’ve spent most of this afternoon pottering in the garden and as time went on, I had a strange realisation: I’ve actually fallen short in what I’ve sown this year.

I have everything planted in final positions now and I’ve still got a bed, two wooden troughs and some containers empty. Well, the bed’s not empty, it’s full of self-seeded borage (pictured above – which I was happy to let grow until I needed the space for something else) but the wooden troughs are empty-empty — and annoyingly, it’s the nice ones I made at the start of the year. I’ve been using them as extra temporary staging in the greenhouse so all the others were filled up first, and here I am now with nothing to put in them. Boo.

I had problems with damping off at the start of the year and some stuff went to seed because I didn’t pot it on soon enough during the warm (and chaotic here) spring – if those problems hadn’t happened, I’d probably have actually sown about the right amount of stuff this year (amazingly!) but since they did, I’m left with some empty spots. Shockingly bad behaviour, isn’t it?

So now I’m wondering what, if anything, I could put in them. Any suggestions?

I’m going to see my mum & dad tomorrow* so my dad might have some spare things he could give me in exchange for the eggs and courgettes I’ll be taking. (*Mum, if I haven’t called you by the time you’re reading this, we’re coming tomorrow. Hope you’re not working all day or out. Also if you’ve been shopping today, I hope you didn’t buy lots of eggs and courgettes. ;) )

My beloved Hessayon book tells me I could plant some late peas for autumn sowing — and actually I’ve already got some seedlings that we were going to eat as pea shoots. I do though have issues with growing peas so maybe we should just eat them in their childhood form as planned.

I think we’ve got just about enough salad leaves in containers dotted around the place – although if I can’t think about anything else, I’ll grow some more lettuce.

I *could* just leave them empty, but where would the fun be in that? ;)

Have you got any empty spots this year or are you filled to the proverbial rafters? What would you plant if you had an empty bed/some empty containers at this time of year?

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Using expensive freezer real estate efficiently

Posted by on Thursday 2 September 2010 in cooking, frugal | 4 comments

I’m all about space efficiency.

Our last house was so filled to bursting by the time we moved out that we had to be efficient. Shelves everywhere. Storage units/boxes everywhere. Sometimes I think the cats were lucky they weren’t attached to harnesses and hung from the ceiling to save floor space. We nearly cried when we moved here: cupboards can be opened without all their contents spilling out, there are shelves that are empty save for an ornament or two, and each room has space for me to dance the tarantella with the cats (the closest I get to spinning them around) – but there are still a few spots where space is not so cheap & plentiful. The kitchen in general is pretty packed – it’s the smallest room of the house (save for the understairs cupboard) and since we cook, bake & preserve, we use it a lot for a lot of different purposes. However, it’s the fridge and freezer where we feel the squeeze the most – two small under-cupboard appliances – which are always crammed full.

A few weeks ago, some of our favourite ice cream was on buy one get one free but we couldn’t get any because we didn’t have any freezer space. It was then when we realised we weren’t making particularly good use of our precious freezer real estate. One of the drawers – nearly a third of the total space – was filled with a huge lamb joint we’d got super-super cheap, some cheap burger buns bought on BOGOF and a bag of ice which someone brought to our party at New Year, which we’d barely touched. The first two items were themselves bargains but had both sat in there for weeks; the ice was just taking up space — and all three things were costing us money to store and stopping us benefiting from other bargains.

We now have a new usage policy regarding the freezer: we’re not regarding it as a deep freeze for long term storage any more. We’re using it as a way to extend the life of something fresh by a few days – a fortnight at most – but not for storing things for longer than that (with the exception being my small pots of chillis and spring onions – bought in bulk, sliced up and frozen they don’t take up much room but save us buying fresh all the time). Aside from bagels (which freeze well and are a great emergency-lunch bread), we’re not freezing bread and no more buying things – whether bargains or not – especially for the freezer unless we have a specific exit plan for them, ie, we’ll eat them within a fortnight. We’re also not storing any more than a tray of ice except in exceptional circumstances (namely, a big party).

It’s early days in the new policy so I’m not sure how it’ll pan out – we’re brilliant at forgetting about things in there – but it’s worth a shot. I think the most important thing is to be aware that it can be a black hole for food, and the longer food stays in a freezer the more likely it is to end up as food waste, because of freezer burn, it acquiring that cardboard-y taste or changes of taste.

How do you use your freezer efficiently? Do you have any tips for maximising the limited space? Is there anything you just won’t freeze – or anything you obsessively do keep in there?

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