We got an allotment! Well, we've got the chance to go and look at one and decide if we want it. Incidentally, are allotments a UK-only phenomenon? I have no idea. Anyway. We've been on the waiting list for an allotment for over two years, and although the timing could be better (newborn? Wedding? Whatever), it's a great opportunity to grow a bit more of our own fruit and veg and (hopefully) save some money on the food bill. I'm really looking forward to going and checking it out as soon as possible and hopefully sign on the dotted line. Long time readers of this blog will remember that it originally began as a record of our journey towards a greener lifestyle, and getting an allotment (in the absence of earning enough to afford a house with a big garden) was always a part of that plan.
Since our family has grown a little and priorities have shifted a little here and there, I also have other allotment ambitions: I'm hoping it will give me an easy destination for trips out as we get used to venturing out as a threesome during the week, and will be a great experience for Teddy. Any toddler gardening tips? I'm thinking of giving him his own little patch. My mother also had the inspired idea to make a teepee or den to have up there so it's also a play space for Teddy. I have no idea if that's 'allowed' (some allotmentts have pretty strict rules), but hopefully we can figure something out.
Oh, and that book? It's fab. My sister bought it for me a while back from some National Trust bookshop or other (maybe at Chartwell? I'm sure she'll remind me). I'd been after a gardening book that basically gave me a week-by-week idiot's guide to vegetable growing throughout the year, and when Charlotte saw this reprint of a World War II gardening guide, she knew it was exactly what I was after. I love the vintage adverts mixed in with a year-round planner for the average allotment holding Brit in the 940s.
The potatoes are basically there to make this post look more horticultural. We're a bit late getting them in the ground this year (have I mentioned the newborn?), but I figure we're bound to get some kind of a crop.
I don't know if anyone spends as much time as I do attempting to source organic/eco friendly alternatives to the fabrics that they use, but if they do, and if you are one of those people, I thought I'd pull together a couple of my favourite UK based online sources for organic fabric:
As anyone in the UK who has ever attempted to buy interesting organic fabrics will tell you, sometimes you just can't get what you want from a UK store. So here are a couple of US-based sites that I've ordered organic fabrics from and had good service:
I've posted on this issue before, but with the inevitable stepping up of my hand making (you'll noticed I avoid using the word 'crafting'. I hate it and all its, to me, twee connotations of pointless knick knacks that no one wants) this year, I've found that the environmental impact of what I'm doing is increasingly at the forefront of my mind.
Mainly, for me, the issue is the purchase of fabric or yarn (sure, I use some energy running my sewing machine, but it's a fairly negligible sum according to my energy meter). Every yard of cotton I buy, every skein of wool, has had some kind of impact. Sure, I've bought a lot of non-organic, non-ethically minded quilting cottons and yarns over the past couple of years. But since late last year, I've been making a real effort to move back towards more conscious hand making - that is, thinking about the journey that the raw materials have made to get to me.
For me, this has meant a couple of steps when planning a project:
Sorry for the ramble, I've been thinking about this a lot recently and I just wanted to share some thoughts.
I know Christmas feels like an age ago already, but I couldn't pass up the chance to show you the present we got for Teddy. We've literally never bought him a birthday or Christmas present (hey, the kid has a lot of grandparents, what with all our parents being divorced and remarried. He doesn't do too badly), but decided that this was the year to treat him.
I searched and searched for a cheaper alternative to this Ostheimer farmhouse, but nothing really jumped out at me like this one did, and after seeing Amanda mention that it was the most played with out of her family's toy houses/farms/caravans, I just couldn't resist. We only splashed out on just a couple of Ostheimer farm animals (which are just lovely, really robust), but luckily my dad and step mother got wind of the imminent arrival of the farm and bought Teddy a rather fantastic herd of wooden animals, including pigs, chickens, ducks, cows and sheep (which are both named, despite my repeated corrections, "sheepdog"). The horse has been christened Freddie (Teddy was rather struck by a friend's horse of the same name. I think he's quite pleased to have a Freddie of his own).
A few weeks on, the farm is being played with pretty much all day, every day, and has been declared a roaring success by everyone in this household. As well as farmhouse, it has done duty as a train station, dinosaur museum (or possibly dinosaur tearoom. I remain unsure), garage, hiding place for satsumas (Teddy has a small addiction) and construction lesson (love the way it can be taken apart so easily by little people without fear of damage to either party).
I'm making a real effort this year (and beyond) to give Teddy (and the baby) more toys like this, which can fulfil one purpose, but aren't restrictive in the sense of only having one 'thing' that they do, as so many commercially made toys seem to. I've read a couple of times about such non-restrictive toys being great for stimulating their imagination and after seeing Teddy playing with this for a couple of weeks, I'm inclined to agree.
Can you tell I love it? The quality is amazing - solid but not too heavy. And having toys made of natural materials is just lovely beyond words for me, and Teddy seems to agree (fortunately). For anyone considering contemplating a splash-out toy, I really can't recommend this highly enough, and I hope to see it cluttering up our living room for years and years to come.
Oh, and do you see the bowl next to Adam's head in the second picture? Teddy painted it at a local pottery place where you can decorate a whole range of items and get them fired - I highly recommend it as a rainy-day activity with toddlers if you have one near you. Not the cheapest in the world, but at least you get something pleasing from it (assuming toddler paint splatters on a bowl are your idea of pleasing).
Fabric for a floor quilt in the style of a farm playmat I have planned for Teddy to go in the new house (moving in 8 days! Haven't even started packing!). I hate these colours. Sorry. I think it needs more solids and more brights. More on this another day.
There are a couple of reasons that we, as a family, do things like grow some of our own vegetables, bake our own bread, make as much stuff as possible and generally don't buy much. While money saving and the environment that we want to bring up Teddy (and any future children) in has an important part to play in all of this beavering away, the environmental impact of our lifestyle is also a huge consideration.
Without getting up on my high horse, I'd just like to reiterate that I believe that climate change and human damage to the world is a real and present problem, and that we all need to do our bit on a local as well as a national and international level to solve it. Sermon over.
As I was pondering some fabrics yesterday to start out a new quilt for Teddy, I realised that with my quilts and other handmade items I'm turning more and more to new fabric, rather than compromising a bit on the exact design I want and using entirely vintage fabrics. As I become more experienced at the whole handmade process, I find it harder to make something that is a compromise in any way in terms of design.
I don't know the specific figures, but I would imagine that the new fabric coming into our house probably accounts for a reasonable proportion of our carbon footprint from bought in goods (we don't buy much in the way of new clothes, and our food is usually local and/or organic).
I could, of course, go back to either compromising on design, or stop making things altogether until I have the exact palette of fabrics I require for any given project, but the fact is that I also need to contribute to our household income, and if I can't make my money through my supplies and handmade Etsy stores, I have to go out and get a 'proper' job. Frankly, that's not an option, as it would mean entirely changing the decisions we made about the way we want to bring up our children (with one parent at home for as long as humanly possible, not using too much childcare, and with an appreciation for a degree of self sufficiency and the nice side of life). Spending less time at home would also mean an end to the veg growing and bread baking etc, which would mean having to earn even more money, and so on and so on.
I know that was actually seven points, but we'll gloss over that...
While I appreciate that this is a long way from living in a wood heated yurt in the forest with no running water or electricity, I'm hoping that these little steps will mean that my work has a much smaller impact on the environment than it might otherwise do, and perhaps inspire one or two of you out there to do the same.
Ummm, nothing to do with the environment at all, but there are the super-speedy-delivery-from-Fabricworm Anna Maria Horner voiles I ordered (I've got another few coming from Sew Mama Sew too). I just thought you'd like something nice to look at after all that dreary green.