Green & Eco Living

Upcycled Vintage Shutter

by Claire, June 26th, 2013

We’ve recently moved to a new premises that we share with a few other businesses and we wanted a business card holder for our communal area. Having scoured the internet and found nothing inspiring I remembered an old French shutter that I picked up on a recent buying trip and decided to have a go at upcycling it.

The original shutter had a frame around it which meant that it was too big for the space we had available so first job was to remove that – it was pretty straightforward and just involved removing a hinge held on with a couple of rusty screws.

I love the look of old shutters just leant against a wall and used to display cards and other pretty things but we needed this to be more secure and wanted to fix it flush to the wall, so the next job was to remove all the metal work from the back of the slatted area. This was quite tricky and involved metal cutters and a hacksaw but I persevered and once they were off I fixed a thin piece of MDF to the back and hey presto. I slid some cardboard inside some of the slats to make it easier to display smaller cards as well – a stunning repurposed shutter business card holder.

I then painted another piece of MDF with blackboard paint and attached it to the frame to make a funky little blackboard.

For more ideas and inspiration about upcycling vintage shutters check out this fab blog post by Dishfunctional Designs

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March of the Beekeepers

by Claire, April 25th, 2013

On Friday 26th April at 10.30am beekeepers and members of the public will march in Parliament Square to urge the government to save our bees and support the EU ban on bee killing pesticides.

The march is ahead of the EU vote on Monday, when the UK’s position will be important in determining the outcome and could have far-reaching consequences for the health of Europe’s wildlife and ultimately the world food chain.

The march of the beekeepers is backed by eight organisations http://healthsavy.com – Avaaz, Buglife, Environmental Justice Foundation, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Pesticide Action Network UK, RSPB, Soil Association and 38 Degrees.  Let’s hope that the weight of public, expert and political opinion will persuade the Secretary of State for Envrionment and Rural Affairs, Rt Hon Owen Patterson to do the right thing and support the ban.

If you can’t attend the march, please show your support by signing a petition or emailing Rt Hon Owen Patterson. Click here for more information.

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National Allotment Week

by Claire, August 11th, 2011 - 2 comments

Last year, I spent a day at the Real Cut Flower Garden and came away inspired to create my own cutting patch.  As our garden is not all that large and we have two young children who need space to play, a cutting patch at home wasn’t going to be feasible but we were lucky enough to secure half an allotment plot in our village.

Ten months later and we’re still battling the weeds but we’re also busy harvesting lots of fresh fruit, veggies and beautiful blooms.  It has been lots of hard work and if I’m honest, there have been times when it’s felt like just another thing on our seemingly endless ‘to do’ list.

Mostly though it has become a bit of a haven, somewhere to get away from it all and enjoy some peace and quiet. There’s a great sense of community and even the kids, who were sceptical at first, have enjoyed making new friends, building dens and of course filling their little tummies full of fruit.

National Allotments Week runs from 8-14 August and aims to highlight the allotment movement and raise awareness of growing your own.

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Apple Day

by Claire, November 5th, 2010

Last Saturday was one of those beautiful crisp autumn days in West Oxfordshire – perfect weather for the first ever Leafield Apple Day, which Mabel & Rose were delighted to sponsor.

Hundreds of apples, which may have otherwise gone to waste, were pressed into delicious juice and the apple mania also extended to longest peel competitions, apple art and apple olympics.  And, once the hard work was over, you guessed it  – a slice of delicious apple cake. Yum!   It was great to be part of this brilliant community event which I hope will become an annual fixture.

Apple Day is an annual celebration, held on 21st October each year, of apples and orchards. It was set up in 1990 by Common Ground and now every year events are held up and down the country – click here for more information and ideas for planning your own apple day.

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Plan a Cutting Garden

by Claire, September 14th, 2010

Last Friday I spent a wonderful, if slightly damp day on the picturesque Herefordshire/Wales border learning how to plan a cutting garden.

The course was run by Charlie Ryrie from
The Real Cut Flower Garden – a fabulous mail order company supplying traditional English country bouquets from March  through to November.

The Real Cut Flower Garden offers a beautiful and much greener alternative to the high street florist and it was great to see that there is a growing demand for more sustainable flowers.

Charlie shared what she had learnt from setting up her own business very openly and her passion and energy were infectious – I came away thinking what an amazing way to make a living and pondering how I might go about buying a large field!  On reflection, and having got a sense of just how hard Charlie works I know that the time isn’t right for me at the moment – certainly not on a large scale anyway, plus I already have two little people that get me up at silly hours in the morning.

That isn’t to say that one day I might fulfill a dream of having a real live shop filled with vintage goodies and gorgeous home-grown blooms. In the meantime, I will certainly be applying what I’ve learnt on a much smaller scale in my own garden so that I can enjoy flowers indoors for the majority of the year.

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National Beanpole Week

by Claire, April 22nd, 2010

This week gardeners are being encouraged to support Britain’s coppiced woodland by choosing locally-grown beanpoles over imported bamboo canes. As well as being good for the environment, hazel beanpoles and peasticks look really natural and some gardeners believe that their plants prefer them too.

Traditionally managed coppiced woodlands are a really important part of our countryside – they supply us with sustainable wood, provide a rich habitat for wildlife, support rural jobs and help to keep ancient skills and traditions alive.

Last weekend I planted out my sweet peas in an old cast iron copper and used some peasticks that I carried home from the community woodland in our village – we’ll see whether the plants do better, but I definitely prefer the rustic look.

For a directory of where to find local coppice products try the Allotment Forestry website or www.coppice-products.co.uk . Details about the various events that are going on around the country to celebrate National Beanpole Week can  be found on their http://medicines4all.com website.

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Pine Cone Bird Feeders

by Claire, January 11th, 2010 - 1 comment

The snow has meant a false start to the new year for many of us and with school closed and sub-zero temperatures meaning trips outside are pretty short-lived, (in fact it takes twice as long to get ready to go out than the amount of time we actually manage to stay outside) it’s been a pretty tough week.

Despite the cabin fever, bored children and my frustration at not being able to get on with the tonnes of things I need to be doing I am trying to stay positive……the upside of the snow is that it transforms my messy winter garden into a thing of beauty (no mean feat) and it has forced me to find more creative ways of entertaining the children.

One of the things we did this weekend was to make our own bird feeders out of pine cones – they’re easy to make, the kids enjoyed it and the birds were very grateful.

If you fancy having a go then here’s what you will need….

  • Pine cones (large open ones work best but we just used ones we had to hand)
  • String
  • Vegetable shortening, lard or suet
  • Oatmeal or cornmeal
  • Bird seed

First tie the string to the pine cones, then mix 1/2 cup of vegetable shortening (or alternative) with 1/2 cup of oatmeal in bowl until blended. Spread the mixture over the cones with a butter knife or back of a spoon, then roll the pine cones in the seed until well covered.  Hang outside for the birds to enjoy.

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Deck the Halls with Natural Christmas Decorations…..

by Claire, December 8th, 2009 - 4 comments

AtworkI spent a really inspiring morning at Garden Organic in Ryton this weekend learning how to make natural Christmas decorations on one of their practical courses.

We learnt how to work with materials like willow, birch and dogwood to make wreaths, stars and other decorations. Once the basic shapes had been mastered it was time to get creative with all sorts of things you can easily find in the garden at this time of year. Fir cones, cinnamon sticks and dried oranges provided the finishing touches.

I loved the end results, which have a certain rustic charm and were really not that difficult to achieve.  As well as a great sense of satisfaction from making these myself, what I also love is that they can be easily recycled on the compost heap once the festivities are over.

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National Antiques Week – Antiques Are Green

by Claire, November 24th, 2009

logoantiquesaregreenThis week is National Antiques Week and the theme is Antiques Are Green – a campaign which aims to highlight that antiques is the original green industry and that choosing to buy antiques is a great way to recycle and conserve our precious natural resources.

The environmental benefits of buying vintage products over new has never been promoted before in such a way and I really hope it will help to reach a new audience of people who are looking at ways in which they can reduce their carbon footprint. They are already appreciated for their character, history and uniqueness but by illustrating that “antiques are green” this campaign cleverly promotes the idea that buying antiques can mean “guilt-free” shopping.

The Antiques Are Green website has lots of useful information, advice and tips and you can also add your name to a list of supporters – it doesn’t cost anything.  There are some useful links to green products and suppliers and you can even buy antiques online.

At Mabel & Rose we want to do our bit and try to be as environmentally friendly as possible. We use mainly natural and homemade cleaning products – traditional ingredients such as vinegar, baking powder and lemon juice can do wonders for rust and general grime.  We will always try to source from responsible suppliers and use packaging made from recycled and/or biodegradable materials.

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