Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Our self-sufficiency ambitions

We don't have much of a garden unfortunately. We live in a mid-terrace house with shared access at the back, meaning it's more of a driveway than a garden. However, we're fortunate at the moment in that one of the end houses has their own separate access and the house inbetween us is empty due to the former elderly resident being in long-term care. This means that we are currently occupying an end plot :-)

I've always loved gardening and have taken advantage of any spare patch of soil available to me by planting flowers to brighten the place up. My previous house had even less of a garden than the current one does but the one and only border was full of bulbs and I grew herbs on my windowsill.
I keep thinking about putting my name down on the allotment waiting list (reminder to self - look into this!) but, in the meantime, I am making the most of my garden at home.

Lucinda loves to be outside. She is very "at one with nature" and shows great interest in plants, birds, stones, worms, ants, mud, etc. I have dabbled in growing vegetables in the past, with limited success, but now, for Lucinda's benefit, I am determined to become more self-sufficient in this area. This year, I have bought her her own vegetable planter and gardening set and a neighbour has given her an apron and gloves set.

Space-wise in our garden we have one small border, a mini greenhouse and numerous pots and planters positioned on the back steps and small decking area. This is what we have to work with.
Last month we started our sowing. We also bought some pea plants from the garden centre that have been started off.

In Lucinda's planter she has planted five pea plants and sown spring onion and sunflower seeds. She also has a pot of marigolds which she is growing from seed. She takes great delight in seeing how much the sunflowers have grown from day to day and loves watering them, along with her spring onions and peas. Most of all, she is looking forward to her peas being ready. She loves peas.

Other things we have sown from seed so far are chillis (these are on the windowsill in the kitchen for now) and radishes. We have also planted some cress in egg shells (also inside). We have other seeds to sow over the next couple of months - I am following the instructions on the packets very carefully - and we have a mushroom growing kit that will be started this weekend. Seeds we still need to sow are two varieties of carrots, tomatoes and basil. I'm also going to decide on some fruit plants that will grow in pots but I still need to do some research. I've tried strawberries for the last two years but they have died within weeks.
Perennials that we have had for a number of years are a lavender bush, a rosemary bush and a pot of chives and Italian parsley.

I'm really looking forward to being able to use our home-grown produce in our cooking and maybe I'll be able to share some recipes with you. I'm also intending on pressing some of the flowers we are growing and being creative. Exciting times ahead!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Crafts for Rainy Days

This is something Lucinda and I really share enthusiasm for. I have always been creative, taking a BTEC National Diploma and a HND in graphic design after leaving school, then going on into graphic design jobs in the design and print industry. At home, I make my own greetings cards, etc, and Lucinda also now enjoys making cards for family and friends. I'm enjoying Lucinda being at an age now where we can have fun with scissors and glue together. I thought I would share some of our latest craft activities with you, as with April being the month of showers (in the Northern Hemisphere - I know I have some Aussie and NZ fans!) ideas for rainy day activities are always useful.
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Feathery Birds

Lucinda loves collecting feathers. One of her favourite outings is to the bird gardens and we always find a lot there. We have now actually started taking a bag out with us, especially to put collected feathers in. One way of using the feathers is to stick them onto a bird drawing to make it look more realistic. You can also purchase colourful craft feathers and we use these too.
The photo is of two birds we made. One decorated with yellow craft feathers (bought for Easter bonnet making) and shredded paper that was part of some fancy packaging. The other bird is decorated with feathers collected from the bird gardens earlier that day.

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Sparkly Pine Cones

Pine cones are another favourite. It's always fun to go on a woodland walk and collect any pine cones we find. My parents also have pine trees over-hanging their garden so we collect them up off their lawn. We love painting too so one day I thought about painting the pine cones with sparkly paint. This has now become almost a weekly request from Lucinda.
The photo shows how we made some sparkly pine cones into a decorative, pot pourri style, Christmas decoration. We also tied ribbons to some and hung them on the Christmas tree. Any pine cones we paint during the spring and summer will probably be saved and used at Christmas again.
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Sock Puppets

I couldn't close my sock drawer it was so full so decided to make some of the older socks into puppets! Lucinda made some eyes and tongues and I constructed little crowns out of pipe cleaners. It was really quick and easy and we made loads. We didn't have any googley eyes at the time but we now have some in stock for next time.
The photo shows one of my favourites.
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Googley Pets

There's something very therapeutic about sitting and winding wool around a cardboard ring. Lucinda had been making pom-poms with her grandma and wanted to make them at home too, so I decided to make some googley pets. We took turns in winding the wool to make the pom-poms. I drew some feet shapes on some coloured paper which Lucinda cut out, then we stuck the feet and some googley eyes onto the pom-poms.
The photo is of Clarke. Named after Clarke Hall where we had been earlier that day!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Crotch Dangler Carriers v Wraps and Slings

I spent Easter Sunday at a National Trust property. It was very busy with families doing the annual Easter egg hunt.
I saw at least ten babies being carried in crotch danglers, the Baby Bjorn type carriers. All of the babies were younger than about three or four months old. Their legs just hanging there as they were suspended by their crotch. Research shows that being carried in such a position is damaging to a baby's developing spine and contributes towards hip dysplasia, but it is the sheer uncomfiness of how it looks that makes me cringe. I know that I wouldn't want to be carried that way!
Not only are these types of carriers uncomfortable for the baby, they are also uncomfortable for the adult, especially as baby grows heavier. The baby is positioned very low down which pulls on the wearer's shoulders causing back ache.

An example of how a baby hangs from their crotch when using a Baby Bjorn type carrier,
compared to the seating position of a mei tai type sling.
Such a large baby wouldn't normally be carried in a Baby Bjorn (far too uncomfortable for all involved!)
but this image illustrates the point very well.

On the way back to the car, I finally saw a tiny baby snuggled up in a soft, cosy wrap. If I had caught the mother's eye I would have made a positive comment and thanked her! Her baby was so comfy she was asleep. None of the crotch danglers were sleeping. Comparing the wrap to the Baby Bjorn carriers, with a wrap (or other mei tai type slings, etc) the baby is worn higher up and closer to the body. The higher a baby is worn, the more a part of your own body the weight becomes, which prevents back ache. The baby is also positioned differently. Rather than hanging from their crotch, a baby in a wrap or mei tai type sling is positioned more naturally. Young babies are carried with their legs "froggied" up - the same position as they are in the womb. As they get older, they can sit with their legs astride, around the adult's waist, and their weight is beared on their bottom. With a wrap or mei tai you can also carry the baby on your back, especially useful for older babies and toddlers.

An example of how a baby's weight is beared on their bottom when using a mei tai sling.
Thank you Jade.

I do not blame the crotch dangler users for using them. Afterall, they are the only carriers available in virtually all the high street shops. They may not be aware that they are damaging to a baby's developing spine and hips and that there is an alternative. I appreciate them wanting to carry their babies - a lot of people wouldn't consider carrying their babies at all and only use a pram. I just hope that all the people I saw using them on Sunday also saw the lady using the wrap and think how comfortable it looked. Then they might go home and do a bit of research. Maybe!

Below is a very informative link explaining hip dysplasia and how using certain slings and carriers can contribute towards the condition...


Footnote - If anyone knows who has "copyright" of the first image, please let me know so I can get in touch. I am not intentionally using a copyrighted image! Thank you :-)