Tag Archives: advice

Hoo~Doo Voodoo

Ad_lardThere now follows a Public Health Announcement:

What is mentioned here are old ‘wisdoms’ that have now been roundly debunked and should not, under any circumstances, be followed!

Have you ever heard an old wives’ tale and thought: How on earth did they come to that conclusion? / How cruel / How stupid / Were they mad? 

Last night my husband and I were discussing cats (as you do) and he told me that when he was little the other French people in the community in which he lived had advised his parents to cut off the tip of their kittens’ tails to prevent them from getting worms.  That’s a special kind of weird and horrible, now isn’t it?  How did anyone first draw that conclusion?  I’m sorry to say that they apparently followed the advice and duly sent the little bairns off to the local ‘witch doctor’ (for want of a better description).  It was, mercifully, the first and only time they did this, as presumably said kitties got worms anyway and a visit to the vets provided them with the information that they should ideally have been privy to all along.

This started me thinking of some of the other little madnesses that I’ve come across over the years. 

For instance, my mother once told me that when she had her first baby my French great grandmother told her to squeeze the baby’s head in order to close the gap (the fontenelle).  (If you see a pattern emerging here by the way, you’d be correct.  It’s not that the French have wacky ideas, [certainly not that I’m aware of!]  it’s that the French community here at that time were poor, ill-educated immigrants who were only faithfully passing on what they had traditionally been told). 

Then I remembered the special kind of crazy that was apparently happening in the first part of the 20th century – selling radioactive drinks as ‘health giving’.  Seriously!

And you must have heard the one about doctors for years promoting smoking as healthy?  No?  It’s true. If you don’t believe me, just go and Google it.

I’ve often wondered what we are doing, or being told to do now, that in years to come will be seen as completely and utterly bonkers.  We may like to think we are modern, sophisticated, wise and pretty much know it all, but the reality is that we undoubtedly still have much to learn.  Makes you think, doesn’t it?

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Natural fertilisers

Bugs1If you want to go organic and steer clear of chemical fertilisers in the garden then there are a few natural alternatives.  Common nettles make a good, if smelly alternative to commercially prepared chemical versions  (another good reason to leave a patch of your garden to run wild). 

Rubber GlovesFor obvious reasons, wear some rubber or gardening gloves to harvest, tear and scrunch up enough nettle stems and leaves to loosely fill a watertight container such as a bucket.   Then weight them down, say with an old plate.  Fill the container with enough water to cover the crushed greenery and then leave to rot down.  (This is a bit smelly so you may want to place this somewhere away from the house)! 

The brew should be ready to use in 3 to 4 weeks and needs to be diluted for use – usually in a ratio of roughly 1 part Watering cannettle liquid to 10 parts water (the resulting diluted liquid should look the colour of tea).  You can keep topping up your supply bucket with nettles and water as the season progresses.  Once your flowers have finished flowering and you no longer have use for the homemade fertiliser, just tip what remains onto the compost heap.

Another alternative is coffee grinds.  Sprinkle them around plants before you water or before rain and the grinds will slowly release nitrogen into the soil.

Flower and beesCrushed eggshells are a well-known old-fashioned fertiliser and work particularly well scattered around roses because of their calcium carbonate content. (An added bonus is that their sharp edges also help to deter slugs).

If you’re lucky enough to live by the seashore then some of the best fertiliser is freely available in the form of seaweed.  You can either treat it in the same way as the nettles above and make a ‘tea’ out of it (which again needs to be diluted for use) or, if it is winter time, dig the seaweed directly into plant borders to feed and condition the soil.

Lastly, but by no means least, consider making either a compost heap or set up a worm Butterflycomposting bin.  In my experience worm bins don’t smell (I kept mine in the garage) and given time they produce wonderful, fine compost and the ‘run-off’ is a good liquid fertiliser for the garden (use diluted as above).

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Filed under Gardening, General house tips, General tips, Money saving tips

Indoor / outdoor?

Yesterday I was preparing the house for an evening dinner party out on our new terrace (it was my daughter’s 21st, so not something I could postpone).  This coincided with the hottest day of the year so far, which would normally be 100% wonderful on such an important date, except that with new kittens in the house the usual rushing around and coming and going became that much harder.  We can at least open the living room doors into the newly constructed ‘kitten cage’ but still…it was hot is all I’m saying.

In the post party lull this morning I idly looked up on the web as to current advice on when kittens can be let out of the house.  It’s not that I’m going to do it now – they definitely need more time to get used to us and their surroundings (and need further vaccinations)  – it’s just that with yesterday’s events, it was clearly on my mind.  I was quite surprised at some of the views expressed on a forum after some poor woman had been wondering exactly the same as me.  Responses included the suggestions that anyone who lets their cat out is cruel (clearly aimed at the enquirer), that the cat will die within a year (!) but that, conversely, indoor cats could live up to age 20.  Curiously enough, so can indoor-outdoor cats because here’s the deal folks:  It depends where you live.

Now …I had typed up a whole blurb below about all the unwritten rules there are to pet ownership where I live but it’s frankly too ferkin boring to relay here.  The bottom line is – we’re an overwhelmingly responsible lot in this island and we in this house are minor experts on our feline friends because we’re cat fans and have shared our lives with a fair few over many years.  I can tell you that if keeping cats inside is necessary where you live because of traffic, dangerous predators or any other safety considerations, then of course you must.   However if you have the ability to safely let your cat come and go as it pleases then I personally have no doubt at all that they will have a better quality of life.  They are, after all, little predators, and it is in their nature to be curious, rummage, hunt and explore.  They do need to be neutered and vaccinated up to the nines of course (ask your vet for advice) but then for the sake of safety so should indoor cats.  They also need a cat flap that allows them to come and go as they please – I’ve never permanently locked our cats outside at night.  (You’ll have gathered from today’s entry that I’m quite miffed at the suggestion that I am a bad cat owner – trust me, ask our vets and they will tell you that we are anything but).

Our new kitties have been going bonkers, in and on everything, exploring and endlessly running at high speed like a couple of furry, spotty little tornadoes .  They’re intelligent cats and clearly already bored with the mere 2,000 square feet that is our humble (currently virtually sealed) home  ….compared to the one room they were in before.  Seeing them at the weekend, when they finally had access to a little bit of outside, with all those exciting sights and smells was just wonderful and it dramatically altered their behaviour.  Yes they still career around, yes they’re still kitten playful/naughty but they’re calmer,  more confident and more content.

Advice on vaccinations and general kitten care and health can be found here (RSPCA),  here (Pet Planet) and here (Animal Rescue and Care).

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Natural deterrent to aphids

FeverfewBattling with aphids (greenfly) in the garden?  Commercially available insecticides often contain a chemical called pyrethrum which is derived from nature.  Rather than buying bottles of commercially prepared and potentially hazardous chemicals, you can harness the power of nature in deterring greenfly just by some clever planting. 

Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is a pretty daisy-like plant that contains pyrethrins – very similar to the chemicals in commercial sprays.  Plant Feverfew amongst your flowers and it’s presence will deter the little insect marauders. DaisyGolden feverfew is a pretty plant in its own right – as the name suggests its foliage is a yellow/golden colour – and all plants will readily self-seed all over the garden if you allow them to.  (This plant is also used as a traditional herbal remedy for migraine).

BeeWhilst it is possible to make your own insecticidal spray or powder from these plants I wouldn’t advise it as it is toxic to bees. In its plant form it seems to work well enough for me and does no harm to bees.  Some sources claim that it will deter bees from the garden, although I have never found this to be the case and have often seen bees visiting the feverfew flowers.  

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Filed under Gardening, General Health, General tips, Herbal alternatives

Tea, glorious tea

Freshly plucked tea leavesI’ve just written about my own addiction to this glorious drink over at my regular blog and just thought that I’d give you a quick run-down of perhaps lesser-known facts about tea because…well just because you can never know too much about something you love.

Did you know that tea, in its dry form contains more caffeine than coffee?  However, just to confuse you, a prepared cup of coffee contains higher levels than prepared tea.

Unlike coffee, tea also contains valuable anti-oxidants that are associated with preventing cancer and heart disease.

Tea is made from the leaves of a camellia plant, in this case Camellia Sinensis.  

Since tea was first introduced into Britain (during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, 1533-1603) it has been credited with healing powers.  This is reflected in a few current English brand names – P.G. (which is said to stand for ‘pre-gestive’) and Typhoo (which is Chinese for ‘doctor’).

A New York merchant named Thomas Sullivan is credited with having invented the first tea bag in 1904 when he sent out samples enclosed in silk.

A nice cuppaAs a nation the British drink 175 million cups of tea daily and this consumption makes it our number one beverage.

The habit of drinking black tea with lemon was a Russian habit introduced by the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria, the Princess Royal, who was married to the Emperor of Prussia.  However the habit never caught on amongst the general British population as the overwhelming amount of tea is drunk nowadays with milk. 

‘Char’, as in the English expression ‘a nice cup of char’ (i.e. tea) is derived from the Chinese word for tea – tcha.

Finally – making tea.  There has been an on-going debate about whether to add the milk to the tea first or second.  Those who brew their tea and then add the milk insist they are right.  I say they’re wrong and now I’m being backed up by scientific evidence (there’s nothing like being smarmy is there)?!  Adding the milk after the tea has brewed precipitates the release of tanins, which tend to make the tea taste more bitter, not to mention causing worse staining of your teeth and the tea cups.  Also, the proteins in milk more easily split and divide if added to the hot tea, leading to clumping.  …And no one wants clumpy tea now do they?.

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Filed under Cookery, General house tips, General tips

Cooking terms – Mise en Place

Help!Mise en place (pron: meez on plass, translated as ‘put in place’)

Occasionally cook books will refer to having everything ‘mise en place’.  As the translation above infers, this just means to have everything in place before you begin – so prepare any fruit or vegetables, weigh out ingredients and preferably have any utensils that you might need to hand.  If you can get into the habit of doing this all the time you’ll find your cooking becomes more 0rganised, less messy and ultimately less time consuming.

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Lingerie / Laundry bags

Bath Towels with LavenderLaundry bags are useful for more than just delicate lingerie.  Socks notoriously and inexplicably lose their pair whilst going through the washing system.  If you zip all your socks into a laundry bag before washing you will know that all pairs will be coralled into one small space, meaning that there can be no sock escapees.  

Bags can be bought in different sizes and mesh.  Small mesh bags are designed specifically for things like bras so that the hooks cannot snag on anything else in the wash.  Bigger sized bags are available for items as large as blouses and skirts, giving them some extra protection from catching on anything else in the drum of your washing machine.  

All delicate lingerie should ideally be washed by hand if you want it to last longer.  In reality, of course, most of us don’t have the time or inclination to hand wash, especially when we know that washing machines often have a ‘hand wash’ or ‘delicates’ cycle that can be used.  However, underwire bras really don’t take to the mechanical buffeting and twisting they get in the washing machine.  Specially shaped laundry bags/’pockets’ designed specifically to protect under-wire bras are now sold from stores like Lakeland here in the UK***.  Be aware however that these particular bags have received mixed reviews from consumers at the above linked site, so for underwires at least, you may have to stick with washing by hand.

***Link to a supplier in the U.S.

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