Friday, 19 December 2014

Old Stockings as Garden Ties

I have been using old stockings as garden ties for a few years now. It is a great way to stake or espalier plants whilst allowing room for growth.

Our crop of tomatoes after being pruned and tied using strips from an old pair of my stockings

I'm not sure where I heard about using stockings but I suspect it was from Gardening Australia. We are pretty big fans of the TV show and have been receiving their monthly magazine for a couple of years at least.

I can't say I wear stockings often but I usually ruin them the first or second time that I wear them if I do. It's great to have a useful purpose for them after they rip.

The benefit of using stockings is that they are soft and elastic so the plants can grow for quite awhile without the risk of being cut or damaged.  Hard plastic ties are rigid and don't last very long.

To re-use the stockings just cut into strips appropriate to the use. When expaliering the olive tree I use small short strips but when tying tomatoes around big stakes I use long strips. I usually cut them 2-3 cm wide for strength.

An olive branch tied with a small stocking segment - you can see the  stretch it provides.
I usually cut off the hanging ends to neaten it up.
I must admit that when I was checking on the olives a couple of days ago and tying some new branches down I realised I had forgotten to cut off the stocking ties I had used three years ago.  They were very tight but starting to break down.  So although stocking are much gentler to use make sure that you get out and cut them off once they have served their purpose.

The espaliered olive trees that we have trained for just over three years using stocking ties
Do you repurpose used household items in the garden too? I'd love to hear how.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Buying Secondhand Joy for Christmas

We have been looking to get a push along walker for Turtle to play with.  She is really enjoying standing up at the moment and building her confidence towards walking so we thought she would get some use out of it.  After having no luck borrowing one through the toy library we decided it would be a good Christmas present.  We looked them up on Gumtree, which is a great place to buy cheap secondhand baby things.  It turned out that many other families had the same idea.  We found a couple of nice Vtech walkers that are about $99 new from the baby store.  On Gumtree they ranged from $10 to $40.  I have recently limited my travel distance to collect things on Gumtree to within 20km from our home and so we only looked within this range.

The first three walkers that we enquired about were all $10 to $25 and all of them had been snapped up before we saw their posts.  While Mr Fix It was out salvaging for treasure on Saturday night I decided to check again and saw two walkers had been posted a few hours earlier.  One was a Scout and Friends walker and it was still available.  We managed to get friends to pick it up on their way to our place for lunch on Sunday too so it was a very good shopping experience. The Scout walker was $20 and turned out to be new and still in its box.  Since we are going away for Christmas and won't be taking the walker with us Turtle has been allowed to play with it since we got it.
Turtle is a little excited by her new toy
I am so pleased to have found such a lovely toy for Turtle to play with that was cheap and buying secondhand meant that it wasn't wasted even though the first buyer didn't use it or need it.  I don't see why it is necessary to buy toys brand new when children outgrow them, or get bored with them, so quickly.

I would love to hear about any secondhand presents that you have found for loved ones.  Did you feel like you had made the gift more personal by researching and putting a bit of extra effort into finding something that way?

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

From Trash to Treasure... Are Santa's Elves Upcycling Toys?

It is a foraging time of year in our area at the moment.  People in the neighbourhood are clearing out unwanted items for Council collection.  About two weeks ago things started to appear on the streets.  It really hit a peak last weekend with people driving around in vans looking to snap up some treasure.  You might notice I am hesitant to call the unwanted items rubbish or waste.  This is because most of the time it is not.  Mostly it is unwanted or underused things that are taking up valuable space in our homes.  With Christmas on the way toys are also being cleared out in anticipation for Santa's arrival in a couple of weeks.

As initially raised in Striving for a Minimalist Birthday we are trying to make sure Turtle's baby toys are secondhand wherever possible.   We had a lot of luck from the verge collection.  Mr Fix It went out Saturday night (we have such an exciting nightlife!) and came back with a car full of things.  A roller lawnmower that is compact and doesn't need fuel or electricity to run, an old wheel barrow that we are going to plant out with something (possibly mint) as a feature in the yard, two kids bikes (that went back on the curb since they were broken) and a really great activity table for Turtle.

Turtle playing with her new salvaged activity table
We gave the salvaged activity table from Mr Fix It's big night out a good clean and it is practically like new. Only one of the features is broken and it still plays music.  Since we are going away for Christmas and won't be taking the activity table with us Turtle has been allowed to play with the it immediately.  Seeing as she is still only 14 months I don't think she will remember having toys before Christmas Day.

We have decided it will replace the slightly less flash activity table that we had picked up a couple of months ago from the roadside collection in the suburb over.  That one is a bit unpredictable with its music but Turtle still loved playing with it.

Slightly less flash activity table back on the curb - hopefully to be reclaimed again
I think salvaging treasures from other peoples trash is something to be respected and encouraged.  It is not something that everyone seems to do (or at least talk about much if they do) but hopefully it is going to be become more and more popular as people realise that they can find great gifts that are cheap and that divert things from being wasted in landfill.

I would love to hear about any creative gifts that you have salvaged or made from salvaged materials for loved ones.  Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Finding ways to work within (and accept!) your limits

It is somewhat ironic that I am writing this post since I struggle to accept my limitations and I am always pushing to do everything myself.

I think this is always the case when you worry about reducing your impact on the environment.  Every trip to the shops becomes an ethical struggle (e.g. should I buy local or organic eggs? I really need cheese but there is no local cheese sold here and I don't have the time or energy to go to the other store that I know sells it).

There is also the motivation to cook for yourself since you have control over what ingredients are used and so you can be confident that you are using pretty ethical and healthy produce. More often than not it will also taste better. It is also likely to save you a bit of money too, particularly if you live in Perth since eating out is pricey.

To manage these never ending self expectations and somewhat exhausting jobs (don't get me wrong I get a lot of joy and satisfaction out of the things I do or else I wouldn't do them) it is good to have a couple of 'outs' to give yourself a well earned rest every now and then, or even just to catch up on other things in our lives.  We often use them when commitments are getting on top of us, when Turtle is teething and keeping us up at night or even when the pets are being crazy (like the cat at the moment but that is a whole other story!).  Here are a couple of our 'rest' solutions that we try to take as guilt free breaks: 

1. Doing all of the shopping at a major chain supermarket

I did this last weekend for the first time in a long time (possibly in years!). The reason simply being that I had been to the toy library that morning, our cupboards were bare and I wanted to get  to yoga that afternoon. Somewhere in amongst all of that I wanted to fit in some family time. So I (prepare yourself!) bought meat at the supermarket! Lots of meat- dog meat (minced beef), stew meat and a pre-cooked free range chook. Mr Fix it was stoked about the chook. We normally don't buy them pre-cooked since they are usually not free range. We normally only buy meat at the local butcher except for kangaroo mince for the dogs food. Since the Christmas season has filled meat sections in supermarkets with legs of ham, turkey and other festive meats the kangaroo mince has been difficult to get, hence buying beef mince for a change.

2. Disposable nappy weekends

Turtle is in re-usable nappies most of the time.  We usually do a load of nappies every one to two days.  Since she was 6 months we have started using disposables at night-time since re-usable nappies were leaking through the night.  We also tend to use disposables if we are going out for more than a short trip so that we don't have to go through the stress of changing her out (she pretty much hates having her nappy changed!).  While it isn't so much effort to wash the nappies there are times where the washing piles up (it did this especially when Turtle had reflux, which was up until she was about 6 months old) and we have a disposable nappy weekend.  Two days to catch up on and forget about washing and then start afresh.  It might not sound like much but when you are averaging two loads of washing a day it's a pretty nice break.

3. Take away

We all do this one of course.  We try to only do it every few weeks but every now and then it does get more frequent.  Our take away favourites are noodles in a box; pizza and Vietnamese.  So yummy but questionable how much faster it is than cooking.  I think it's the lack of preparation and cleaning up that makes it a treat when we just cannot be bothered anymore.

4. Organic Veggie Box delivered to your door each week.

It is so nice not to have to go out shopping for fruit and vegetables each week but we do run down on all the other staples because we don't need to go the shops for as many items.

5. Cooking up a big batch of food so that you can reheat it and eat leftovers (or freeze leftovers for another time so you don't get so sick of it).

6. Go on holidays!

This is on the cards in a couple of weeks and I am looking forward to a rest from our day to day jobs and commitments.  We have an awesome house sitter lined up so we don't need to worry a bit.

What do you do to take some time out of your busy schedule? Do you have some "outs" to help you slow down and avoid a nervous breakdown?!?