Category Archives: Reuse

General Update

I’ve been meaning to blog for ages, about various things. Rather than getting increasingly frustrated about the number of outstanding blogs building up, I thought a quick general update would be in order, to bring things up to date in the world of the badger’s kitchen garden and home brewing escapades.

The spuds love the weather more than I do…

So, it’s been nice weather for ducks. And for spuds, it would seem. After an initial panic that the weather was far too wet and cloudy for my seed potatoes to sprout, over the last couple of weeks; in line with drier and sunnier weather, my potato plants have surfaced, and are starting to thrive.

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I’ve now earthed up the plants (twice for some of the larger ones) and am mulching them with grass cuttings, in 2 inch stages, 2 weeks apart.

A week or so ago, I was digging emergency drainage and literally bailing out my garlic plants (right hand side at the back of the photo) but now they, to, are happy and thriving, as are my onions (left hand side).

My reuse projects are shaping up nicely…

I must make some time to get some more projects on the go, reusing waste to my benefit in the garden. I particularly want to get some water harvesting sorted, using old food grade barrels.

My two main, new for this year, reuse projects are my lolly jar salad planters:

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And my potatoes, growing in old car tyres:

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I’m really pleased with the progress of both. I’ve already blogged about how to make the salad planters. For the potatoes, I just filled the tyre with compost, planted 4 small seed potatoes in it (probably 2 too many!) and mulched with grass clippings. I lined the tyre with plastic and left enough of a skirt to add another tyre on top and also line that, once the plants grow over the top of the first tyre.

The planters are thriving. I cut the tops off the bottles once the leaf grew enough and have been regularly harvesting it since. Tilly has fresh rocket in her packed lunch nearly every day and we have had a couple of salad meals, using the rocket & baby leaf mix, along with garlic mustard, lemon balm, fennel, bitter cress & chives, all fresh from the garden.

The potatoes in tyres are now growing well. Slower than those in the ground, interestingly, and one has been completely eaten by something (not a problem, as I had planted too many anyway).

If it grows, ferment it!

I’ve been meaning to make some nettle beer ever since last Autumn, when I was introduced to it by my brother in law. Having borrowed some brewing equipment from a friend, I finally got round to making some dandelion wine a couple of months ago and that sparked off a new interest (nay, obsession!) with home brewing.

Since this time, I’ve made 1 gallon batches of ginger beer, fiery ginger beer (with chilli), nettle & ginger beer, lemon hooch & sloe wine, with plans to make a 5 gallon batch of nettle & ginger (in a pressure barrel), 1 gallon gorse wine, 1 gallon tea wine, 5 gallons elderflower champagne & some elderflower cordial and non-alcoholic ginger beer (both with the kids in mind).

I’m sure I will be blogging again, in more detail, about home brewing, but here are a couple of recipes for quick and easy, cheap brews, which are completely delicious. They both take about 10 days from start to finish but with a total input time of less than 2 hours. The result, in both of these cases, is delicious home brew. Probably about 6 – 7% (must get a hydrometer, so I can actually measure strength). The cost, per pint, works out at around 40p a pint (this cost will reduce as and when I scale up to 5 gallon batches).

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Tom’s Nettle & Ginger Beer
Ingredients:
1 carrier bag nettle tops
1 handful cleavers (/goosegrass/sticky willy – same plant)
150g grated fresh ginger
Juice of 2 lemons
15g Cream of Tartar
600g sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 g (1 level tsp) ale yeast (ideally, bread yeast will do the same job)
1 gallon water
Method:
Boil nettle tops/cleavers/ginger/lemon juice in a large pan (as near to 1 gallon as poss) full of water. Cool until okay to handle & strain off the bits, either through a muslin bag, or a large, fine mesh sieve. Add juice back to pan & add sugar/honey/cream of tartar. Heat & stir until all sugar dissolved. Remove from heat, cover with a cloth & leave until room temperature. Add yeast (started separately if required, or just floated on the top otherwise) & stir. Leave in pan for 2 – 3 days for the yeast to get going. Ideally funnel into a sterilised demijohn and fit an airlock but if you don’t have one, add to sterlised 2ltr (coke, etc.) bottles, leaving a few inches of space for the CO2 to expand into.
If using a demijohn, ferment with cloth covering top for 48hrs, add airlock & ferment for a further 3 days.
Chill demijohn for 2 days in a fridge, to deactivate and settle yeast.
Siphon beer, leaving the slurry.
Bottle, priming with 1 tsp sugar (per 500ml). Leave at room temperature for 48hrs to carbonate.
Chill to serve.
If using coke bottles, let the pressure off every day for 5 days. Leave for 48hrs without letting it off, chill for at least 3 days.
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Tom’s Fiery Ginger Beer

Ingredients:

150g fresh ginger (grated)
Juice of 3 lemons
4 tbsp runny honey
1/4 tsp hot, red, dried chilli
1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar
600g sugar
Yeast & nutrient

Method:

Mix ginger, lemon juice, honey, chilli & Cream of Tartar, in a bowl. Add mixture and sugar, through a funnel, to a demijohn.
Top up to 1 gallon with water & add 1 tsp nutrient. Shake demijohn well, until all sugar is dissolved.
Leave until liquid reaches room temperature & add 1 tsp ale yeast.
Cover with a cloth and leave for 48hrs.
Fit an airlock and leave for a further 3 days.
Chill demijohn for 2 days in a fridge, to deactivate and settle yeast.
Siphon beer, leaving the slurry.
Bottle, priming with 1 tsp sugar (per 500ml). Leave at room temperature for 48hrs to carbonate.
Chill to serve.

WARNING: BOTH OF THESE RECIPES ARE QUITE VOLATILE. USE PLASTIC BOTTLE FOR MAXIMUM SAFETY. BOTH DRINKS ARE DELICIOUS WITH NO BUBBLES, SO THE PRIMING STAGE CAN BE SKIPPED IF WANTED.

Some key dates and more recipes can be found in my calendar, in the about section.

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Lolly Rosso

I’ve had some old lolly bottles kicking around at work for some time, waiting for a chance to reuse them in the garden. I was initially thinking cloches for little seedlings but I saw a YouTube video on Facebook of some guy’s hanging garden, made of  waste water bottles and was inspired to do some planting in them.

I was thinking of doing something like the hanging system in the link above but don’t really have anywhere stable enough outside to erect it, so I had to rethink.

I decided to keep the principle of turning plastic bottles into pots for salad leaf and set to work with a stanley knife.

I first knocked some holes in the lids with a hammer and nail. This was tricky, as the plastic lid was very brittle and the holes became cracks. If I had a drill, it would have been very useful at this point! I then turned the bottles upside down (lid down) and cut D-shaped windows in each side with the stanley knife.

I filled the bottles about half full,  to two inches below the bottom of the D-shaped windows, with home made compost and vermiculite. I then sowed some rocket and baby leaf salad mix in them.

Three of the bottle planters are used like normal pots and stand on my table in the garden. I had a bit of wire kicking about in my tool box, so I made a handle for the forth planter, making it an individual hanging version, which can hang on the trampoline frame.

Finally, to protect the roots of the salad from sunlight, I painted the bottom half of the bottles with some blue tile paint that I had kicking around in the shed.

With the remaining plastic above the soil level acting like a mini greenhouse,  the seeds germinated really quickly and all four of the planters are already getting full of little seedlings.

Re-use Record

I’ve just hit a new record for the number of times I’ve reused an item: the humble bag from a sliced loaf.

So, it went like this:

Use 1. To hold a loaf of bread

Use 2. To hold my lunch on the way to work

Use 3. To line the pot at work, where folk put their composting (tea bags, coffee grinds, etc.), which I then take home to my composter.

Use  4. To hold dog poo between garden ‘poo patrol’ and the bin.

Next challenge is to find an alternative 4th that allows a 5th, or perhaps I should amend step 4, as I think the bag is recyclable and I ended up landfilling it.

Hmmmm. Food for thought…

Pilfered Perspex

Okay, so not pilfered in the sense of stealing but definitely a top freebie find.

Having spotted some huge (2m wide x 1.5m high) sheets of perspex at work, looking like they were soon to be landfill, I soon found out that they were up for grabs, so grab I did.

I managed to get 3 of them back home on my roof rack and set about making something out of them with the kids.

I’d been wanting to make a lean-to for a couple of weeks, since witnessing how much more bushy my sister-in-law’s chilli plants were, when located in one; even in the wilds of Anglesey! I’d been pondering all day how to make something useable out of huge, flat sheets, when I didn’t have any decent perspex tools. I finally managed to coble together something, by heavily scoring one of the sheets and then snapping it (roughly) along the scores. It needs some filing down to make it work properly but here it is so far:

Reclaimed Perspex Lean-To

At the moment, it has some material from an old material green house blocking off a gap at the top. I might shorten the sides and make a pespex top, instead, as the material solution isn’t ideal,  particularly in the wind.

I’ve got some salad lead seedlings, my chilli plants and some herbs that are just germinating in there at the moment. I’ve definitely noticed a real improvement in the salad leaf growth, so it must be working.

I plan to make a more airtight and funky version, probably hinged, once I can get my head round it, so watch this space:             !