Summer is sadly officially over and we're into Autumn. Sigh. The garden might be starting to look a little worse for wear and the trees are starting to change colour...
Which means our littlest friends will be starting to think where to overwinter. This is where you come in, yay! You can help build the perfect little warm hiding spots with all the rubbish that has mysteriously appeared in the garden shed. A broken plant pot, a few split bamboo canes, a bucket of leftover gravel, the tile that fell off the roof. It's all good.
First up, think of size and location. If you're going big, it's probably best to build your hotel in position. Where you build is pretty much up to you, someone is bound to move in eventually. If you are hoping to attract a certain species do your research, as different creatures like different conditions.
Start your creation with a sturdy base, old pallets are great for big structures. If you're saving space, maybe try a disused bird box or wooden crate. Now simply get filling. Aim to make as many nooks and crannies as possible. Think of them like hotel rooms... the more rooms you've got, the more guests you can have. Go mad, dead wood, sticks, stones, straw, tiles, corrugated card... The only thing holding you back is your imagination. Once you're happy, pop on a roof. We wouldn't want any guests getting cold now would we?
Maybe your little ones will end up looking like this:
Or if you're going big maybe you would like to take some inspiration from Abbotswood and Wapley Bushes. Hotel Abbotswood is a rather rustic affair, blending into the wider landscape. Whereas a local Brownie group took the themed approach, Wapley Bushes even has a coffee bar and rooftop garden...
Don't forget, when working in hospitality you can never really be sure who your next guest will be. The right venue could attract more than just insects... Done well you could have the cast of the Wind In The Willows coming to stay!
Shopping. It's a very marmite thing isn't it? In one camp you have everyone who finds shopping a necessary evil... And in the other you have the retail therapy lovers. Whichever side you fall on there are a few ways of shopping that are kinder on your pocket and kinder on the planet.
We had fun last Friday. A few of our chirpy volunteers spent a little time outside Wellesley and Abbotswood Primary schools talking to locals for our yearly community consultation.
This year we may have added a cheeky little incentive, free food! Barbara had been out foraging Abbotswood apples and Nessa had been busy making mini jars of jam from local fruits. The jam went down a treat and we managed to convince a few people to try apple foraging for themselves. So we'll help you out...
Here's the apples...
And here's the jam...
Nessa's Yate Bramble Jam: Nessa used local foraged blackberries and apples for her recipe. Knowing that we were doing a giveaway we bought the jam jars, but there is nothing stopping you recycling the jars you've already got at home. If you do that then all you have to buy is the sugar! Hooray! Nessa used 2 bags of sugar, which made about 5 pounds of jam. By using foraged fruits, and reusing jars that's 5 pounds of jam for a teeny tiny £1.28. What more could you ask for?
Jam can be a great introduction to home preserving as you can tweak this basic recipe to your heart's content...
1 lb granulated sugar
1 lb fruit
Step one: Place the fruit and sugar into a large pan over a low heat. Stir occasionally until all the sugar is dissolved.
Step two: Once the sugar has dissolved, turn up the heat and bring to a rolling boil. Cook for 3 - 5 minutes, the jam should start to thicken.
Step three: Remove the jam from the heat. Spoon some of the mixture onto a cold plate. Leave for a few minutes and then push the mixture with a spoon handle or your finger (clean hands please!). If the jam wrinkles, you're good to go. If not, put the jam back on the heat for a minute or two before trying again.
Step four: While the jam is still hot, pour into sterilised jars. Do up the lid while the jam is still hot, the jam will thicken in the jar and the lid should start to create a dip as it cools. This means you can keep it safely in your cupboard for up to 6 months. It could stay there longer but might start to lose flavour. If you don't see the dip in the lid, keep the jam in the fridge and use within a few weeks. What a hardship that would be right?
The growing season might be nearly over, but that doesn't mean we can't start thinking about next year.
There is something special about growing your own, well, anything. Flowers, veggies, the odd few herbs, and small space growing is a great place to start. No matter where you live there is always something you can grow.
The nights are starting to draw in and the evenings are getting chilly. Why not use some of that sofa time to start thinking of what you might like to grow next year. Then when you're stuck for something to do on the weekends turn your attention to crafting a fancy planter all of your own. Pretty much anything can be turned into a planter, just remember a few key points:
Once you've got your planter, you can start planning your plants! If you're growing from seed, toilet roll tubes make excellent compostable seed trays. Fill your toilet roll tubes with compost and pop your seeds in. Once seedlings are ready to be transplanted just reposition the whole tube in the desired pot. As you water your plant the tube will break up allowing for root growth.
Small space inspiration...
You can experiment with colours, decorations and finding the best position around your home or garden. You may have to do a little research into what will grow best in your conditions e.g. window sill growing, shady corners or north facing gardens, but that can all be part of the fun. If you're growing edibles, make sure you choose things you will actually eat. We don't want anything going to waste, do we?
If you've got a little more space, then maybe something like this could be an option:
Jo made this planter out of old unwanted pallets that would have otherwise gone to waste. The planter was lined with leftover polythene sheeting. Gravel was repurposed from the garden to add drainage to the bottom, and then filled with compost. The herbs were saved from the clearance section of asda's fruit and veg section and replanted. With a little tender loving care they've come back strong and healthy... Just ignore the mint in the background, that's already had several months of use and is starting to give up the ghost ready for next year. By using unwanted materials, odds and ends of equipment he already had, Jo spent less than £10 on the whole project. To buy new planters of a similar size could easily cost you £50 or more. Well done Jo, that's quite the saving!
A quick tip...
When reading guidance on seed packets or plant pots you're usually told how much space you should leave between each plant. To make the most of your small space growing, go a little mad and cram as much as you can fit in. Remember if your plants start to look a little cramped you can always take one or two back out... And then move them to other planters you've been busy making haha. A word of warning, once you catch the bug it can get a little addictive.
But oh so worth it!
Anyone hungry? Because it's recipe time!
Apples and blackberries have been particularly abundant in and around Abbotswood this year, so we've been out foraging and made a batch of wild fruit scones to have on Wednesday's Wild Owl TV Garden talk. They were the favourite from the refreshment table with none leftover, so we thought we'd share with you.
The original recipe came from the National Trust Book of Scones, but as recipes so often are, it's been tweaked here and there.
You will need:
Step one: Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and cinnamon into a mixing bowl. The amount of cinnamon can be pretty flexible depending on your taste, but a teaspoon or two is probably a good place to start. Add the butter and rub in to create the consistency of fine breadcrumbs.
Step two: Peel and dice the apples, add them to the mix and give a quick stir.
Step three: Stir the milk and egg together, before gradually adding to the dry ingredients. Add a little at a time. The mixture should come together to a slightly damp but not sloppy dough. Add a little extra milk if required.
Step four: Add the blackberries and mix until they are evenly spread throughout.
Step five: Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out to about 3cm thick. Stamp out the mixture. A 7cm cutter will give you about 10 scones. You can use whatever size cutter you like, just remember this will affect cooking times.
Step six: Place the scones on a lined baking tray and bake in a 190 degrees C oven for 15 - 20 minutes. Ours took 18 minutes. The cooked scones should be well risen and slightly springy to the touch.
Step seven: Cool slightly, then munch away! Best served warm with lashings of clotted cream... and maybe even a dollop of bramble jam if you fancy.
Chef's top tips...
After several mishaps Alex has learnt a few scone making tricks and she's kindly sharing them with you.
We've only got time for a little one today folks... We've been having more than a few technical difficulties today, so please excuse us if anything looks a little odd...
But anyway, let's get to it!
We've had another case of the community coming forward with their own suggestions for Sustainable September. Keep them coming, we love to hear them all. Today's post is all about online peer support.
Who's heard of Working Towards Zero Waste - Yate and Chipping Sodbury Facebook group? Well we hadn't until the wonderful Paul told us about them. They're a growing online community group made up of local people all giving each other support with sustainable living and reducing waste. It's a fantastic thing to be part of because they value non-judgemental attitudes. You can search for advice and make suggestions of your own. Wondering what to do with your old holey tights? Just ask! Found a local group collecting bottle tops for charity, tell others! Post a comment to promote and support local campaigns and initiatives. It's that simple...
What are you waiting for? Hop on over to Facebook and take a look for yourself!
A note from Alex...
The greatest thing for me about Sustainable September so far has been how involved Abbotswood residents and the wider community has been. When we decided to try the blog this year, I sat down, researched sustainability and did a rough plan of a post for every day. There's quite a few that haven't been used because of hearing great things from you folks! And today is a prime example of just that... Over to Jo and Theo with their suggestion of how to reuse an old plastic bottle...
You will need:
You've almost got them out Theo! Thank you Jo for sending us your how to photos and video, and thank you to Theo for your starring role. You were purrrfect!
Advisory note - Supervise your pets while playing with their treat bottles, we wouldn't want anyone chewing things they shouldn't. Have fun everyone!
Word of mouth is a wonderful thing.
The simple truth is that people love to talk. We're social, we're passionate and we're excited. So what do we do? We tell our friends what we're doing and then encourage them to take part too. One of the parents from Barnwood Buddies saw that the Abbotswood Action Group office was open, so popped into say hi and ask what we were up to. Alex said a little bit about Sustainable September, Sarah then went straight into her support for the fight against waste plastics and promoted the refill campaign... A few days later Alex was enjoying a laid on breakfast in Bristol attending the presentation of Refill's new pilot scheme.
So what's Refill?
You remember us talking about trading in your plastic bottles for reusables? Well Refill is promoting the same idea on a much bigger scale. World wide in fact. The idea is simple, recycling might not be good enough anymore. If we really want to win the war on plastics we need to go straight to the source and reduce our plastic consumption, not just recycle it. So the Refill team have produced an app that will let you search for places near you that will allow you to refill your reusable bottles with free tap water... And it's working! So it's time for us to get involved. Download the app for yourself, tell your friends and maybe even drop a few hints next at the cafe next time you're out for lunch.
But we can do more than that...
Taking the next steps...
The scheme has been so successful that it's time to expand. Starting with a pilot scheme in Bristol. That means us Abbotswood! Hooray! The new concept is to add more facilities to the app. So instead of pouring your coffee into a throw away cardboard cup, it gets poured into the reusable coffee cup you took with you. Or you fancy a bite to eat, so they'll put that hot cornish pasty straight into your lunchbox, instead of a paper bag. Takeaway salads in a plastic tub anyone? No. Takeaway salads in your lunchbox? Much better idea!
Here's your chance to take part in the pilot. If it's successful the scheme will be rolled out across the nation. You can get involved by downloading the app now. Anyone using it with a Bristol postcode will automatically be enrolled in the pilot. The more we can promote the scheme, the more businesses we can get to sign up as a Refill hotspot the better it is for everyone.
Find out all you need to know here: https://refill.org.uk/
So come on everyone, let's get Refilling!
We're all aware of savers accounts at the bank, but why should saving only be about money? We're talking about saving scraps of food. When thinking about sustainability and reducing food waste the freezer should be one of your best friends. You've probably heard TV chefs talk about batch cooking so you can make your own ready meals, but plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables are freezable too. With some clever thinking and pre-planning you can save all of those little scraps left at the bottom of the fridge.
Here's the secret...
Treat yourself to some freezer safe containers.
Alright so it's not a very exciting secret, but it's well worth it. We're over halfway through September so it's over to you to do some of the work. It's OK don't panic, think of your favourite recipes you already know and love. Then label up a couple of empty tubs. As you stumble across some sad looking fruits or veggies in the fridge, chop them up and add them to the most relevant tub. Simple. When the tub's full, whip it out and get cooking.
Here's some examples of what savers tubs you could make:
Go and have some fun experimenting. You know you want to...
Enjoying your new swap shop with your friends? Great!
Let's take it to the next step shall we? You're getting the hang of things like this by now, so we'll keep this one short. How about taking it in turns to host your swap shop, followed by a film night? In the host's house of course...
Think about how expensive a night at the cinema can be. There's the cost of the tickets, the drinks and the cinema snacks. If it's friends you don't see that often you might decide to have a group meal in the restaurant next door first, or a drink in the pub after. You've all got to get there so that's the travel expenses as well. It soon mounts up...
Not if you bring the cinema home!
Browse your DVD collection and pick an old favourite, or that horror you're never quite brave enough to watch alone or maybe that one that you keep meaning to watch but is still sealed in the packet... We all have one of those right? If you've been making the best of your swap shop everyone will have different DVD's, so you get plenty of variety.
Grab your snacks, treat yourself to some fancy drinks, turn the lights out and hit play!
We have lots of things to talk about at Abbotswood Action Group. We're sure you do too, get in touch if you would like to be a guest blogger...