Friday, 28 May 2010

Garden Delights

Kiwi flowers - hopeful for fruit this year

Well delights in the garden and allotment I suppose as some of these things are growing or being planted at the allotment. The greenhouse was bulging a while ago with plants waiting to go outside, either waiting for us to have the time or waiting for the weather to improve. We've been past frosts for a long time but I still think cold evenings and nights can stunt a plants growth so prefer to wait until it has warmed up before tender plants go outside.

Imogen helping in the veg patch at home

Fruit at home - Strawberries, Blueberries,
Cranberries, Apples, Pears and Kiwi (I think that's it)

Many (of the many) tomato plants have been planted. Some in chimney pots in one of the greenhouses, some in the thickly mulched beds at the allotment and some to still be planted into pots at home. Many more to be given away as the success rate on germination of these this year was enormous. Oops didn't photograph either - next time.

Runner beans have been planted up the permanent bean wigwam created last year, a great construction allowing easy picking all the way around and inside as there is an entrance in case of an impromptu game of hide and seek.

Bean Wigwam

Weeded and thinned and replanted some of the thinnings of lettuce and beetroot at the allotment. Planted more beetroot that were raised in modules at home.

Picked more Chard - these plants just keep on giving. I have been picking from these for 12 months now as they were planted in Spring 2009 and we picked through the Summer, Autumn, Winter and into Spring 2010. They occasionally throw up a flower spike but they gets swiftly cut down to encourage further leaf growth and they have not let us down so far.

We picked some lovely Broad Beans and have had a few meals out of them so far, many more to come. We were thinking about roasting some this year as they make a delicious snack (habas fritas) but I think we will probably eat all these fresh and maybe plant loads more in October so one bed can be for picking them fresh and one bed for roasting.

More to follow, I have climbing french beans and dwarf french beans in pots waiting to get planted out (just need some more time), numerous Cavalo Nero and Kale plants (think some of these may be given away too), new Chard plants, Spinach, various varieties of salad leaves to keep the continuous sowings (picking loads right now from previous sowings), Kohl rabi, quinoa, sorrel and more no doubt but I can't remember what I sowed last week - it's all listed in my diary book so must check it later.
Some achocha planted out

Fun and busy times out there. There was to draw, and look through an activity book, and do some birdwatching too.

And at the allotment Imogen made collected bits to make a surprise for me and created a boat with a leaf and a stick. We also saved an ant that fell in the water as Imogen was concerned it couldn't swim.
making a boat
With Daddy made scarecrow at the allotment

Completely unrelated to the garden, although I did use a butternut squash and some elderflowers, but sitting here is lovely at the moment ... lovely smell of freshly baked muffins (by Imogen, except the oven bit!) and homemade Elderflower cordial. Life doesn't get much better than that. I'm off for a refreshing drink and a muffin.

Happy Weekend all. Off to the farm for Woolly weekend and lots of other things going on too.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Living simply and thinking of others

I've recently watched "How to live a simple life" on the BBC. It follows Peter Owen-Jones, a part time vicar in Sussex as he "yearns for a life of simplicity and meaning - a deeper connection to both nature and people."

It's not so much a how-to programme, more on his experiences and has been interesting watching. It was humbling to see people helping him out with food and shelter when he needed them, but there were those who just walked past and did nothing. It saddens you to think people don't take the time to help others these days - but that's life, you can only change yourself and be an inspiration to others. I wonder what others think?

Yesterday, when taking Imogen to pre-school we sat in the shade outside before it was time to go in and I looked up at a board and read something that just seemed to follow on from watching this programme. So I thought I'd share it here, it's by John Wesley (founder of the Methodist Church), and words that I think we could all live by; it doesn't matter if you're religious or not or what faith you have (I don't consider myself to have a faith and do not follow any but embrace things I read from various faiths).

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.

John Wesley (1703 - 1791)

I just thought it was a apt to read this after watching the programme and living simply and connecting with people. Food for thought. I would like to think of myself as someone who would help others, but it makes you think if you could do more.

On that philosophical note, I'll sign off as I need to work on something for the spinning guild - scanning lots of the archive to write a "history of ..." article for the newsletter for their 60th year anniversary.

Joys and looking forward to ...

It is a joy to pick salads fresh from your garden for meals, we grow salad leaves all year round so we don't have to buy any. For winter time, we select hardy varieties and grow some under cover. Look at this lovely selection of pickings last night, lettuce leaves, wild rocket, red stemmed dandelion, red veined sorrel, lemon balm ... lovely, just lovely. No food miles, just food metres.

Fresh salad from the garden

Also enjoying this week - more continuous pickings of chard and spinach and freshly picked broad beans. How I love broad beans, got to be one of my favourite vegetables along with beetroot. I love them simply sauteed in some sage butter, fresh sage from the garden or allotment too.
Broad Beans for picking
Broad Bean Bed - lots to come

Looking forward to the bank holiday weekend where we shall be going to the Woolly Weekend at the farm, catching up with spinning guild members, watching the shearing and coming home with some freshly shorn wool. We were at the farm recently and I was eagerly eyeing up some of the lovely wool on the sheep. I didn't quite go as far as jotting down the number on the sheep I fancied the wool off (honest!), tempted as I was. There are some lovely Jacobs sheep all long and woolly, then there are the Hampshire Down and Dorset Horn. Oh for more time to just sit in the garden and spin.

I'll show you a few of my favourites. Oh, I can read a couple of numbers too (only joking!)

Jacobs mama and older lamb
Hampshire Down and lambs
Hampshire Down and lamb
Dorset Horn sheep Jacobs lambs resting
Dorset Horn lambs

Looking forward to this day out - Imogen has such great fun at the farm, and I get to indulge in a hobby I love too. Add in a lovely picnic ... perfect day out - hope it's still Sunny then.

Will be catching up next with some pictures of things growing and planted, and fun pictures from recent days out and about.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

... and then some Elderflower cordial

Elderflower bush

Followingo on from finishing the Hawthorn Cordial in my last post I have now started the first of many batches of Elderflower cordial as the Elderflower bushes around here flowering lovely - lots more flowers to follow too, so a few picked now in this lovely hot sun again - the best time to pick flower blooms for cordials, and more to be picked over the next few weeks for both cordial and champagne, and some left for the bees and buterflies to produce berries in the Autumn (for the birds and more foraging).

So, today there were some lovely full bright and heavily scented elderflowers so Imogen and I picked a few to make some refreshing cordial, the quintessential summer drink I think.

Elderflowers picked for cordial

Recipe used:
1.5 l of boiling water
1 kilo sugar
20 large elderflower heads
3-4 lemons
50g of citric acid (optional)

The elderflowers were put into the tub and I added lemon zest and then sliced the lemons too and added them. To that was added a cooled syrup made from 1½ litres of boiling water and 1 kilo sugar. You can also add 50g Citric acid as this helps to preserve it if keeping it for a while.

Wait for 3 days for the flavour to infuse, and then bottle into sterilised bottles, and enjoy. Last year I made lots of this and froze some in appropriate containers and have only recently used the last of it - Elderflower cordial all year round, what could be better. I will definitely do this again this year, and there is the champagne making to come too soon.

It already smells delicious.

Hawthorn Flower Cordial

Hawthorn blossoms

Well it's blossoming so well at the moment and with the gorgeous hot sunshine, there is no better time to pick it and again make some delicious hawthorn flower cordial. I made this last year and it was just lovely and refreshing.

Hawthorn flowers are picked and snipped away from the stems and leaves. layer them in large jars sprinkling some caster sugar over them every inch or so as you layer them in.

In a saucepan, make some sugar syrup Sugar syrup; water, granulated sugar and lemon juice. Heated until the sugar is dissolved and boiled for about 3 minutes, then set aside to cool, adding a few tablespoons of Rosewater.

The cooled syrup is then poured into the jars of hawthorn flowers. With the lids screwed down loosely, the jars were stood in a saucepan on some newspaper and with some newspaper in between them to avoid any banging of the jars. Water is added to the pan - as much as the pan can allow without it covering the jars and brought to the boil. Even with the newspaper in, this was very noisy. Once brought to the boil, the heat was turned down to barely simmering and left for 1 hour.

Bottled hawthorn flower cordial

Allow to cool, lift the jars out and tighten the lids. When quite cold, strain and filter the flower syrup and bottle into sterilised bottles. Stored cool it will keep for months, once opened store in the fridge.

And next ...

Monday, 24 May 2010

Book Sharing Monday

Yay, it's Monday and I'm going to share a book with you once more ... it seems like ages since we've done this which is odd considering how many books we read and borrow from the library.

Anyway, today I want to share this book with you - it's called Five Little Fiends by Sarah Dyer. I believe this was her debut book, and a lovely one it is too.

Five little fiends marvel at their view

I love how this book teaches the concept of sharing to children, in a lovely way. They all look out at the world and marvel at the view, and then each choose their favourite element of it and take it home. The sun, the moon, the land, the sky and the sea are taken by the five so they can look at them when they want to.

Taking their favourite element of the view

but the elements do not survive without each other

However they begin to realise that these things all need each other to exist. A simple environmental message there too. So they choose to put them all back and enjoy the view together again.

Putting it all back together, to once again share the view
and see the World as it should be

What a lovely story, Imogen enjoyed reading this very much, and on turning the pages when they started to remove the elements would often say "They shouldn't do that, should they" ... very wise.

Hope you enjoy the book. It's good to get back to book sharing, must try harder to blog about one more regularly.

If you have any lovely books you would like to share, visit Canadian Home Learning for more book sharing or to join in.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Busy times

Imogen's scarecrow
(straw added later ... outside)

Busy tidying the house and re-organising where things are (never-ending at the moment).

Busy with lots of plants being planted or waiting to be planted out in the garden and the allotment.

Busy sowing seeds, either a succession grown crop or new seeds, rather a full greenhouse at the moment.

Busy working on the Guild newsletter for July including a history of the Guild as it celebrates 60 years this year and is holding an exhibition.

Busy getting ready to go to the library.

Last week we were busy making a scarecrow (see above picture) for the allotment plant sale and scarecrow competition day, Imogen got a rosette and had lots of fun making this with me.

Never too busy to have a relaxing cup of coffee before we go out, and some drawing too.

Busy greenhouse

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Cordial and beer

Dandelion flowers

Not together of course, but this has kept both Alex and I busy lately. After picking dandelions a while back and not getting around to making the cordial due to illness in the house, we picked another fresh batch of lovely dandelion flowers and made the cordial. I decided to add Lemon Balm leaves too and it has come out lovely, although next time I would add more Lemon balm.

Dandelions and Lemon Balm

So to the beer making, Alex has made some nettle beer and it looks and smells fantastic. All brewed, bottled and sealed, courtesy of a bottle cap sealer picked up at a charity shop for 99p a while ago. Here it is bottled. Apparently it can be drunk after about 7 days, although will keep longer. We shall probably sample it next weekend (after 10 days) and hopefully we shall have time to make some more with some fresh young nettle leaves soon.

Cordial and beer
Beer and bottle capper

The next cordial to make will probably be the hawthorn flower one I made last year which was lovely and refreshing, just waiting for more blossoms and a warm sunny day to pick them - they are later flowering this year. Elderflower cordial and champagne will follow shortly afterwards, so will dig out the recipes soon.

Green Fair

Sunday (9th May) brought us to the Hampshire Green Fair and another lovely day (although a bit cool in the wind), great company, food and lots of things to see and do. It was lovely to meet Emma who blogs here, who was running a seed swap (something we are passionate about is saving and sharing seeds) and was kind enough to keep some Oca tubers for me after I'd contacted her via her blog. Thankyou Emma. I took some spare seeds to swap - some Achocha (always have spares), and some more. I had said I would drop in some tomato seedlings but the ones I had planned to take had become a bit leggy and needed potting on first and I ran out of time, they'll be passed on elsewhere soon.

Imogen's willow star
Imogen enjoyed making a hat, a willow star and doing some chalk carving and clay modelling and we watched the parade of sea creatures later in the day. Alex went to listen to Maddy Harland's talk about permaculture around the world, we visited the bookshop, and chatted with people at the various areas of the fair. We also paid £1 to sponsor one of the handmade wooden slates that will roof the woodland classroom being built by Ben Law, Imogen drew a picture on it which will obviously weather but it was nice to contribute to the Woodland classroom. We listened to the bee man fascinated and later in the day returned and Imogen was answering peoples questions from what she had learnt from the man earlier.

fascinated with the bees and looking for the Queen

We also did some tree listening too through some headphones, hearing the water moving through the tree, the popping as the water moves through the cells, and a deep rumbling of the tree blowing in the wind. These have been at various gardens like Kew, RHS sites and elsewhere and were interesting to try out.

Tree Listening

We had a lovely homemade picnic lunch but visited the Art House food stall and bought some samosas to take home for tea. Great day out again.


Friday, 14 May 2010

Catching up ... Spinning Day

I had an amazing day at Hilliers arboretum with another 11 members of the Guild, spinning, chatting and much laughter was had by all. Other members were also demonstrating weaving techniques and talking to members of the public about dyeing. I've not joined the ladies on an event before but will do so in the future as it was so much fun, and just something totally different for me. Great fun was had by all and I'm sure we may have some new members at the meetings very soon. I've added some photos here with other members but have blurred their faces in the absence of checking if they didn't mind me using them (not that I think any of them would).
3 spinners, spinning alpaca, flax and synthetics
(One of these lovely ladies was/is my tutor)

Me and my wheel in the distance spinning wool
Spinning at front of picture is cotton

One lady spent a lot of time with several members, and when I chatted with her I found out that she had been to Hilliers the day before but ran out of time to chat so came back especially to find out more. I recalled back to the first time I met the guild members at a show and how thrilled I was to be offered the opportunity to have a go on a ladies wheel (an expensive one at that!). So, I asked her if she would like to try and she was similarly thrilled and jumped at the chance. I feel it's important to not only show others the craft of spinning, etc but to also let them have a go.

Shawl Weaving by the wonderful lady who let me have a go at her wheel
a year ago now,
starting me off on my spinning journey

Taking a break and having a laugh

Much wool was carded, spun and plied on the day, and my finished skeins of wool and the knitted sheep (made previously, not on the day) were admired by visitors.

Collection of spun and dyed wools
and my knitted loopy sheep and lamb

Weaving display

Fabulous day with friends, I am looking forward to doing it again. I have already agreed to help out at Hilliers again in August where they do a Weaving crafts for children during the holidays, teaching them finger knitting, finger weaving, basic weaving, backstrap weaving, friendship bracelets, felting and lots more.

My Sister in Law arrived for a visit and came with Alex and Imogen to pick me up at the end of the day, and stayed for the weekend which was lovely. She had a great time playing and reading with Imogen. We spend some time at the allotment, and went for a lovely lunch on Saturday in town at The Art House - a not for profit run cafe with lovely people, lovely surroundings and lovely food ... especially the cake! A quote from their website sums up their ethos
"The Art House is a non profit ‘Community Interest Company’, formed in 2008 by four like-minded ecocentrics with a passion for art, community, and above all, cake."

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Waiting ...

... and watching nature

... and then they start to bloom

... a little longer now, and some lovely warm sunshine, and these wonderful elderflowers will be ready to pick a few to make delicious, refreshing cordial and champagne.

Good to be back, lots of things to update so more posts soon hopefully including my wonderful day spinning at Hilliers Arboretum, the Green Fair, foraged goodness and more. Back soon.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Weekend fun to have ...

I will catch up with the blog of what we've been up to over the next few days, but getting ready to go the Hampshire Green Fair tomorrow, bread is baking, seeds are sprouting, lettuce leaves need picking for our picnic lunch. Although the lovely people at the Sustainability Centre do great food as does the Southampton Art House who are doing food there too (sampled their lovely lunch and cakes today - yum!) - they make lovely cake.

Sustainability Centre

Had a great day Spinning the other day, so will update with some pictures soon, and pictures of our day at the Fair tomorrow. Alex has had some time off this week and his sister is down to stay too for a few days so busy times.

Right, must go and check the seedy bread muffins for our picnic tomorrow, then making homemade pizza and hummus for tea.