Category Archives: home

June sunshine and red currants

It is warm at the moment, today I was away from Birmingham for work in Oxford. I walked from my meeting in the centre of town to the office I work in just outside of Oxford city centre. I support the operations of the team who are based there. It was a sweaty walk, touristy too. Summer attracts a lot of people from all over the world into Oxford – visitors marvel at the architecture, history and academia on show. It is a beautiful city which feels more like a town, the limestone spires are enchanting and fairytale like.

My work also allows me to see the more hidden aspects of the UK, I have not mentioned this on Self and Roots before but as a job I work with the homeless, people who have to sleep on the streets, people who live in hostels or people who live on their friends sofa. I manage three services in three cities which is part of a small but busy national charity. The contact I make with homeless people is a daily occurrence. It is a tough job that is hard but thankfully at times very rewarding, even in the Summer heat the shine of a town isn’t present for me all the time and I do notice the harder lives people are living even whilst appreciating the charms of provincial England. Working in the homelessness sector gives you a juxtaposition of England and its many paradoxes – beautiful cities and towns where sadly there are people in these cities that are living such hard lives they do not have the time or the outlook to enjoy them.

I got home today and sat in the garden, glad to be in the shade – I had a reheated bean stew with a poached egg from the chickens, it was nice to be calm for a while. Not really thinking but just being quiet. The red currants at the back of the garden are about to go red, the 2 bushes could do with cutting back and pruning this year, the red currant season is so short it will probably be this weekend that I harvest them.


The gooseberry bush that I moved to a sunnier part of the garden has fruited also and has fruited all it’s going to fruit this year. These garden growths are blessed distractions and in truth are petty far from the real world I know of in my day job. I am glad that I have these things in a world which seems fairly nuts at the moment. Even though the red currants are just red currants, I am still truly thankful.


Washing Up


We are blessed with a deli near to our home which sells organic fruit, vegetables and store cupboard items. It is not that pricey in comparison to a lot of organic delis and most of the food is seasonal, we can stock up on produce as well as tins of food and plus the the odd samosa without having to go into the supermarket. The owners also sell ethical cleaning products, some of which we are now using.

We wash up on a daily basis, weekdays we leave our breakfast items for the evening clean as it is usually only toast crumbs, then at the weekend as we are in the house a lot more it could be up to three times a day that the sink is used to wash our plates, cutlery, cups, teapot and anything else that needs to be cleaned, the items are then air-dried. A contemplation we made when going on our self-sufficient journey was to eradicate cleaning items in the kitchen by also making our own cleaning products and also trying to cut down on waste.


Using Ecover Eco Washing Up Liquid has helped us stop having to recycle empty bottles which is  a real positive, the actual washing liquid to clean has environmental advantages as it is completely biodegradable when going down the drain, it in addition doesn’t have the bad synthetic fragrances and chemicals that are attributed to cleaning items also.

Without sounding like an advertisement the best thing for me is that I can replenish the bottles of washing up liquid at my local deli, I can go to the deli and use the large 15 litre bottle to fill my own bottle –  in return I become more environmentally sure with ethical consuming. I filled up yesterday and the owner of the deli said that he was pleased to see the service in use; we got into the conversation of how the idea makes sense and is a good answer to recycling and improving greener home cleaning.

The owner also said that when he was a youngster he would go into his local shop to pick up a measure of items such as washing up liquid, soap or shampoo as standard practice – his mother used the same bottles for years on end. I like that idea a lot and although in reality it is small fry with being more ethical, greener and self-sufficient in a world where there is all manner of cleaning items to buy in my local neighbourhood,  but by making small ethical movements this will at least influence how we buy and what we buy for our ongoing project.

Kitchen towels. The wretched kitchen towels. I would love to do away with our use of kitchen towels, has any followers got any other ideas or solutions for an alternative in the kitchen ?


We have had our chickens since April 2014 so they have just turned one. I am not sure why I have not put a blog post up yet on the chickens, maybe its due to the chooks just being about all the time and not popping up like plants do in the garden, but I do sense I should be celebrating our two little hens via Self and Roots as they are very special to us. We also have a goldfish in the house who is named J Gilla (a play on names from a personally much-loved hip hop producer J Dilla) so Beck and I have our own little platoon of creatures that live with us, well three animals and us two but it feels that way.

robshaw mini size

Our chickens came with trouble when we had them, my dad hatched the hens at his home and we inherited three chicks which lived contentedly until one started to crow, the evening my dad dropped off the chicks he warned us that he thought one might be a cockerel, his animal intuition came true and we faced an issue of having to rehouse a cockerel in a world where cockerels are not needed as much as hens are.

We did find a home through a small holding forum eventually and the cockerel was sent to a large small-holding in the Midlands on a warm Sunday morning, there were tears from Becky and a feeling of responsibility and a little shame with being blinded with cuteness and rearing little chicks as they were so endearing. In reality we should have got point of lay hens, we were delivered with our first lesson in animal care with having to rehouse an animal which wasn’t very cool.

We got home that night, moved on to being more optimistic but only for another twelve hours as the next hen the following morning started crowing. It felt like a bit of a shitty joke nightmare at first, within two weeks we had to re-home two of our hens.


Then we had to find another hen as hens can’t be left on their own, on the second guilty drive home we went to a hen breeder in South Staffordshire and picked up a Maran hen and settled her into her new pen. The only hen from the three first chickens established a pecking order quickly by starting a tussle with the new hen, the maran won the pecking order and by the first week had established her role as the dominant hen. It was a reasonably taxing couple week but once the blame disappeared and the hens became acquaintances we felt back on track.


Without over humanising the chickens, they are good friends and spend all day together – we let them out in the morning and in the evening when we get back from work. They are not much hassle, we use an Eglu to keep them housed and they have a run which is extended with additional Eglu fencing.


The hens eat our greens and kitchen scraps that we give them; they enjoy meal worms and provide us with compost for the garden. They also have sweet personalities and their own social order, the maran is so soft to hold, pleasant to be around and loves being fussed, the white hen who was the runt of the chicks is a little smaller and ballsy, she doesn’t hesitate to peck us now and again to let us know if she is hungry and she is also willing to demonstrate how she wishes to be next in line with the order and dominance in the garden even if it’s against me and Becky.


Their rent is paid through glorious eggs which are poached for brunch, scrambled for breakfast, frittata’d (is that a word?) for dinner. We flipped a lid when the first eggs came and we are so appreciative to be provided with not only a great learning curve in animal care but also produce which could be used by us in the kitchen. They were in our lives before the eggs came and even then they felt they were more than worth keeping. Keeping hens like all living things thrive when they have food, water and a pen to be safe in – they do need to be cared for, checked on a daily basis and you have to be interested in them. What cost us initially a few hundred pounds to set up has been a worthwhile experience, an experience that we cherish on a daily basis.

Homemade All-Purpose Cleaner


A consideration I had not made when aiming towards self-sufficiency and low impact life were cleaning products in the home and how cleaning products would need to be considered with trying to stay as self-sufficient as possible. Manufactured cleaning bottles are usually chock full of chemicals,  chemicals such as phosphates, ammonia and bleach which have been watered down to perform cleaning tasks and to keep bacteria out of the home. These concoctions are given colourings to make them more appealing to the user with a nice label to attract purchasing with the guarantee of getting rid of dirt – the aisles in supermarkets are full of products and I couldn’t help think there might be a greener and cheaper option.

At home we use a lot of cleaning sprays to clean the kitchen surfaces, floors and appliances like the cooking hob. As part of becoming more self-reliant we are also trying to cut down on material waste. I don’t want to make cleaning products that will affect the earth and potentially us in the home through chemical inhalation, therefore I did some internet research in making an all-purpose cleaner which is eco-friendly and has a low impact on landfill but is also effective for getting rid of the usual household grimes.

In total the below cleaner cost me £4.00 for the materials, the materials used will be able to be used again and again which will cut down on cost as well as the need to purchase more cleaning products for the home, an economical buy for the future and another step into become self-sufficient at home.


All-Purpose Cleaner

  • A spray bottle
  • An essential oil choice – lemon or lavender would be good for the kitchen, we chose lemon
  • White Vinegar

Add a third white vinegar to two-thirds warm water in a spray bottle, put some droplets of essential oil into the water. Use the cleaner to clean work surfaces, cupboards, the oven hob – anywhere that your usual cleaner would be used.

My next consideration is eradicating kitchen towels and bathroom items, any suggestions from readers would be very welcome.