Although I’ve been thinking on this theme for some time, I’ve recently been adding more and more notes to my draft so it’s certainly in keeping with the times we’re living in. A couple of months ago, I began tearing up an old curtain for cleaning rags and ended up with 16 of them; its partner which was not frayed went to a charity shop, washed and ironed, and I hope somebody bought it cause it was only a wee bit faded, with years of use left in it.
I’d also had enough of a duvet cover and got 24 rags out of that, in two different sizes. You can see them here below and no, I will not be hemming the edges. They’re to be used for particularly dirty jobs and will then be thrown out.
One thing I draw the line at is turning a sheet. This used to be done by my mother when a sheet was getting a bit thin in the middle; it was cut from top to bottom, then the old outside edges were sewn together and the new side edges were hemmed to stop them from fraying. This meant that with a flannelette sheet, there was a fat and lumpy seam down the middle of the bed right under your back and it was so uncomfortable. The sheet might have several more years of use left in it, but at some cost to the would-be sleeper’s wellbeing.
These past few weeks, I’ve been going through my cupboards and freezer instead of shopping every day and My Favourite Niece will be saying that this is not before time. She’ll never let me forget the day she had a phone disaster and urgently needed a plateful of dry rice. The bag she pulled out of my cupboard was six years out of date and alive with creepie crawlies; it was perfectly serviceable for drying out her phone so I don’t know what her actual grounds for complaint were.
I’ve been making different soups after a rummage through the fridge and made a good pot when I had to buy a bag of carrots in a local shop though I’d only wanted one. The others went on to boil with some lentils and spices – not just ground coriander, but a varity of others too.
As our food waste bin is not being collected at the moment, I’ve been trying out composting but am hampered a bit by a decomposing fox at the bottom of my neighbour’s garden, just behind their fence. When I first noticed it, it was still ‘fresh’; I just said a few words for the poor wee creutair. I was sorry for its demise but glad it wasn’t on my side so I didn’t have the responsibility of organising burial of the remains. The very next morning, there was a young delicately de-breasted pigeon practically on the front doorstep. I was fervently hoping these were not omens. Using a bit of kitchen roll, I threw it under a bush and thankfully it was taken away overnight by an animal which was less of a gourmet.
This is the season for dandelion leaves and, when I remember, I collect a few from the garden to add to a salad; they do have a slight bitter taste and I don’t think I could just eat them on their own but mixed in with lettuce and spinach, or rocket, you’d hardly know they were there. You’re giving yourself extra vitamins as well as some minerals, including iron and magnesium, not to mention antioxidants – but you can research all this for yourself. If you’ve got too many or if they’re in the wrong place, I’ll pass on Aunt Jessie’s tip on removing the flowers if you don’t have the patience or the ability to dig out the root; she said that this stopped them from spreading so you were at least saving yourself from more work the following year. They’re actually nicer to eat than the leaves, once you summon up the courage to put them in your gob.
I’ve also been digging ground elder out of the border and eating the leaves in a vindictive manner. I remember what Miss Marple had to say in one of the Agatha Christie books about needing to dig out the whole border to get rid of all the roots but I will not be doing that. I will just try to keep on top of the problem, telling myself I’m saving a few for a crop. Seemingly, you can cook the young leaves like spinach or put them in soup but I haven’t tried that yet.
Wanting to feed my house plants, I spent the best part of a day and a half recently trying to get the child-proof lid off a bottle of Baby Bio. I was both pushing down and pushing in before unscrewing which was what the arrows on the top might have been indicating but nothing was working and I began to think I was going to have a stroke with the sheer frustration of it all. I then tried a pair of pliers, a spanner, a hammer and was even trying to stab the top with a screwdriver – these assaults were also useless. I don’t know how I finally yanked the top off but it’s stayed off since, as I thought I’d never be able to manage it again. I’m now being ultra-cautious as I don’t want the bottle tipping over accidentally and the precious fluid being lost.
Thanks to Mairi’s tip about watching Beul Chainnt on BBC Alba, I found a Gaelic word for re-using waste water which flummoxed a lot of young folk when they were interviewed about its meaning. I immediately recognised the concept and it’s my new favourite word: it’s saipleis which means water which has been used but which could be subsequently used for washing something else, slightly dirtier as it’d be wicked waste to just throw it away. There was a wifie in her kitchen standing by a basin of suds with a clout in her hand, explaining that she’d used the water but it was still “clean enough” to say, wash a table with. It was so exciting finding a word for a situation I’ve frequently been in: I’ve often felt guilty about tipping some perfectly good soapy water down the sink – and then I remember I could have at least carried it outside and thrown it on my plants at the back door. By the way, that cailleach should have her own show; we need her on tv every day just now telling us what’s what. (She reminded me very much of Chirsty Hamish who would have made an excellent tv presenter.)
On the subject of water, though we don’t normally have a shortage, I have a short way with folk who complain about rain. Most newsreaders, radio presenters and weather forecasters seem to think that the only ‘good’ weather is hot and dry; they give no thought to farmers and gardeners or to the needs of the land itself. It’s been dry for the past wee while and there’s no rain forecast for the rest of this week so I’ll be saving the washing up water for putting on my pots outside; I understand the detergent is good for getting rid of unwanted beasties on the leaves.
Although I don’t altogether hold with all of this sunshine we’re having in April, I’ve not been letting it go to waste as I’ve been hanging out bedcovers and tartan rugs to get aired in my version of drycleaning. Who was it who said that sunshine was the best disinfectant? They might have been speaking metaphorically but I’m sure I remember my mother recommending sunlight as a cleaning material and one of her brothers used to occasionally hang out his trousers to air on a sunny day.
Cleaning and polishing shoes is one of the few domestic chores I ever saw my father doing when we were young. He believed in looking after shoes so that they lasted longer and I’m thinking he was right. After Marie-Kondoing my shoes recently, I’ve lined them up a few at a time on bits of newspaper and taken a lot of pleasure in burnishing them up. I’m also getting to an age when I actively consider whether it’s worth buying new items – am I going to get enough wear or use out of them? Not that I’m in the business of buying anything new at the moment. I’ve got enough stuff which could easily be renewed or repurposed if I wasn’t so lazy.
However, I am planning to sew up the holes in the toes of my tights which I haven’t done for about 40 years. I think of doing this when the circulation in one of my big toes has been practically cut off when I’m out walking but when back at home, I look at my sewing box, my heart sinks. I did however sew the handle of my shopping bag back on, using a thimble which I used to disparage, and it’s survived two trips for messages. I enjoyed listening to Brian Cox (the actor from Dundee) on a recent Desert Island Discs talking about how he liked sewing and the surprise of others in his line of work when they came across him at it.
Finally, I was so pleased to read that the charity Plantlife were reporting that there would be more wildflowers this season as verges etc were not being cut. This is just one example of where the natural world is benefiting from less of our presence in it. Those of us who are lucky enough to have gardens can sit and watch the birds and the butterflies go about their business in peace.