Wear the Wild

Regular readers will know I am huge fans of Chris and Rose Bax of Taste the Wild.  I have been on plenty of their courses from Herbal Medicine (where my recently macerated knee provided a live demonstration of how to make a poultice)  two and a half days foraging in Staithes.  We have also been mushroom foraging with them and Stuart learned how to butcher a deer.  So you can imagine my glee on my birthday when I discovered I had a morning with Rose making cosmetics.

I make a lot of my own cosmetics and potions etc, but there is nothing more fun than doing it with other people and there is always more to learn.  So last Tuesday I got up early, scraped the ice off the car and headed down to North Yorkshire.  Boy was it cold so the cup of tea on arrival was most welcome.

Cop a look at this.

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Infused oils and dried herbs and flowers all ready to be played with.  First we made shampoo.  Rose gave us comprehensive tables with the properties of the various herbs and flowers. She had already made a birch decoction which we would all include in our shampoo as birch is a wonderful all rounder for hair, then we chose three other ingredients.

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We steeped our additional ingredients in the hot decoction and added it to pure castile soap.

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And there you go.  I don’t even use conditioner now, though do be careful not to get castile soap in your eyes!

Next up was a healing balm.

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Melt pure beeswax into the infused oils of your choice.  Note the clever homemade bain marie.  When slightly cool add an essential oil of your choice.

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Pour into clean pots and leave to set.  Wait until it is almost set before putting on the lid so avoid contamination with condensation.

 

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Next was lip balm, made in much the same way but this time with peppermint essential oil.  We finished up with a bath bomb and some wonderful herbal bath salts which I used when I got home that evening and there were just the ticket.

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Finally, as I was in the area I popped into Ripon for lunch on the way home!

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Love Gillie x

 

Pretty card and fingerless gloves

Apparently, according to trend forecasters the next hot craft for 2017 is going to be macrame.  Watch out for spider plants in bead adorned knotted hangers.  I love lots of crafts but I can’t see myself taking up macrame in a hurry.

One of the crafts I love, but have not had so much time for as I have been knitting and sewing so much, is working with paper.  I began scrapbooking back in 2000 when we had to buy almost all our supplies from the US and acid free glue was the holy grail!  Things have moved on a long way since then but a lot of the independent shops have given way to big stores who don’t have the individual touch and the more interesting and quirky stock.  One of the trends that has survived and does still offer that quirky touch is the monthly kit.  I used to get one sometimes from an American company that always included a little sample of flavoured coffee (before we got that over here too).  The smell as I unwrapped it was part of the joy of seeing all the gorgeous bits and pieces.

So, when this arrived this morning,

 

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and this was inside it.

 

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And inside was this..

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I was a very excited bunny!

Now I was expecting a paper cut kit.  I was not expecting a pair of handknitted fingerless gloves (which happen to be in my favourite colour), a sparkly tea light (perfect for my silver sparkly tea light holder), a yummy hot chocolate kit, a candy cane to dip into my yummy hot chocolate kit and a scalpel with spare bladses AND lovely shimmer paper to use for my cut outs.  This isn’t a kit, it’s Christmas!

Four styles of paper cut templates, all on the theme of Hygge, one of them is a template for a gorgeous little house.

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My paper cutting skills are not brilliant (I once spent an entire afternoon cutting out my daughters’ names in scriptina font for a scrapbook project.  Those were the days before electronic cutters when your only option was by hand, a bulky sissix, or if you were lucky a quickutz.  Scriptina is a fine flowing font that looks gorgeous but is a killer to cut!

 

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See what I mean!

So I was relieved to see that the designs look more manageable for a non expert like me!  First attempt will be posted shortly,  I have some time this evening and tomorrow and am really looking forward to getting my scalpel out again.

The lovely kit was from Amy Purdie at Embellish Cuts and costs an average of £18 (there are several plans you can opt for)  with free P&P within the UK.  During the course of the month the templates are exclusive to Embellish Box Subscribers.  At the end of the month the templates will be available for sale on Etsy, however Amy guarantees that the cost of the Box will always be cheaper than the individual templates and you get such lovely little extras too!  You also receive the templates in pdf and svg format so you can use them again and again (I didn’t realise this and scanned mine🙂 )  Commercial licences are also available.  You can see more of Amy’s work here.

I recieved this box for free in return for an honest an unbiased review.

 

cake tins and pin cushions

We are downsizing and blocking off the Barn and Gin Gan to make a 3 bedroom house to let.  We have a lot of floorspace that now the girls are growing up and leaving home we don’t really need, and with an old stonebuilt house like ours it costs a small fortune to upkeep and to heat so the extra income will be good too!

However, that means we have to move our decluttering up a notch.  The great post flood declutter of 2013-14 has made the job a whole lot easier, but there is still a lot of crap that needs to go.  Most of it is now going to the charity shops, but in the interest of reuse before recycle I found a little gem in the Reloved magazine this month by designer Kate Beavis.  I have added her link to the list on the right.

Ta Dah!

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I had a set of unused cake tins which with a combination of

  • 500mm x 10mm threaded rod
  • copper piping
  • 8 nuts
  • 8 large washers

I created a vertical desk tidy which I now used to keep essential sewing bits (scissors, chalk, pens, pin cushion etc.) bits and bobs related to work in progress and interesting little things I have found recently but haven’t decided what to do with yet.

The instructions say to use as large a washer as possible to give stability, particularly to the bottom tin.  I think I will replace the washer with a metal plate as it could do with a bit more support than even my large washer.

An afternoon’s work, though I suggest that you do it outside unless you want to drill through the kitchen table!

Love Gillie x

 

Rosehips

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We have a huge Rugosa hedge and at this time of year it is bursting with hips, more than enough for me to pick my fill and still leave plenty for the birds.  They are one of the richest sources of vitamin C (rosehip syrup was a popular means to keep vitamin C levels up, especially in children, during the winter months).  We use it for rosehip jelly, rosehip syrup and also rosehip oil.

Rosehip oil is wonderful for the skin.  Packed with anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory properties it is a permanent resident in  my bathroom cupboard.

True rosehip oil is made by cold pressing the seeds. Despite the fact I have succeeded in distilling my own rosewater (and broke a sink with the brick afterwards) I have yet to build a cold press in my kitchen.  However, I have found an alternative.  First of course  you need to pick your rosehips.

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750g of fresh rosehips

Remove the stalks and tails and any of the hairy seeds (great for itching powder).  I harvest with a pair of kitchen scissors and cut the debris away as I pick.  Next chop finely, I put mine in a food processor.

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Finally you place the macerated rosehips in a heavy bottomed pan with the oil of your choice.  I used 1 litre of Avocado oil this year, but any natural oil will do, avoid olive oil – it has rather a strong smell and can overpower the rosehips.

Bring to the boil and then leave to simmer on the lowest heat possible for about 6-8 hours.  You could also use a slowcooker or yoghurt maker.

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Strain through a jelly bag or cheesecloth and store in sterilised dark bottles.  Store out of sunlight.

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Love Gillie x

 

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Comfrey

When the goldenrod starts to flower then summer is igoin out and autumn is icumen in.  I am sure we will have lots more lovely sunny and warm days like today, in fact my birthday in early October has been a sunny day for as long as I can remember.  However, now is the time to start preserving and drying to ensure the natural medicine cabinet can see us through until next summer. Today I have been out in the garden harvesting comfrey, lavender, rosehips and chamomile

Let’s start with the comfrey.  Comfrey goes by many names Knitbone, Boneset, Bruise wort.  You get the gist, it’s a healer.  There is much discussion about the safety of comfrey due to its very high content of hepatotoxic pyrrolizideine alkaloids (PAs) wh rapich as you can guess from the name can lead to liver disease in high doses and it has been implicated in one death.  Consequently I only use it topically, in a salve, tincture or fresh compress.  See here to see it in action.

First collect your comfrey.  This is remarkably easy around us as the Boss planted it some 10 years ago and it is very hardy!  I collect both leaves and the root, there is a higher level of allantoin, which stimulates cell growth (and thus healing) and reduces inflammation in the root, but also a higher level of PAs.  Again I only use comfrey products externally and would caution anyone who wishes to take it internally to seek the advice of a professional herbalist first.

I made two types of salve and a tincture.

Salve one was  made using the oldest and most traditional  method.  Chop up your leaves and add them melted lard.  I used 125g lard and four handfuls of leaves.  Bring to a simmer, cover and leave to seep for a couple of hours and pour into a sterilised jar (you may need to warm it slightly to melt it sufficiently to pour into the jar.

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Salve two is the process I first learned when making salves.  Instead of using lard I used coconut oil and cold pressed rapeseed oil.  The first stage is the same as making salve one.  125ml of rapeseed oil and three tablespoons of coconut oil, four handfuls of leaves, chopped.  Bring to simmer, leave to seep.  What you have now is comfrey oil and you can leave it like that.  It is a good massage oil for those broken bones that cannot be set (such as toes and shoulders).  If you want to make a m ore solid salve you will need approximately 30g of beeswax (the amount you use will determine the solidity of your salve).  Grate the wax and place with the comfrey oil in a bowl over a pan of boiling water and heat gently until the wax and oil are combined.  Pour into sterilised jars.

Comfrey Tincture is the easiest recipe of all.  Wash and chop 100g of comfrey root and place in a clean jar with 150ml of vodka (the highest proof you can find, I am kicking myself for not buying the 96% vodka I saw on sale in Romania for about £15/litre!)  Leave it for 2-3 weeks and transfer to clean amber dropper bottles.

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Finally I put the leftover root in the dehydrator and will grind it up to make tincture or salve later on in the year if we run out.

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Next up rosehips.

Love Gillie x

 

A bit of a pickle

I made it just in time.  A couple of days ago the nasturtiums were in full bloom, a wave of yellow, orange and red across the courtyard.  Today they are the sorry leftovers of a super slug feast.  Like slimy locusts they have laid the courtyard bed bare.  Fortunately I had been in and harvested the seeds a few days earlier and now have my very own homegrown “capers” pickling away.

Harvesting nasturtium seeds is easy.  They are huge great things (for seeds) up to a centimetre long and look a little like mini brains.  They come away from the plant easily and you can often see them on the ground underneath the flowers.

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First you need to wash them and then soak them in brine (about 50g salt to 500ml water) for 24 hours.

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The following day rinse and pack into sterilised jars and cover with boiling pickling vinegar.  In theory you could use standard vinegar but pickling vinegar gives pickles that slightly rich flavour.  You can buy packs of pickling spices or make up your own mix using, for example, mace, cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, cardomom, coriander, juniper berries, bay leaves.  Add the spices to the vinegar, bring to the boil then leave to cool for a minimum of a couple of hours, though overnight is better.

Seal with a well fitting lid or use a kilner jar.  They should  be ready to eat in two to three weeks. Pretty much any fruit or vegetable can be pickled, I pulled out shedloads of wild leek earlier in the spring and pickled the bulbs.  I also adore pickled eggs and as we have hens it is a perfect way to use up the inevitable excess!

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Lessons from Dory … just keep swimming

How did you get along with the repurpose challenge?  For the final Friday challenge I repaired a photo frame that had been propped against a wall for eons and my knitting bowl that had a disagreement with the floor!  Not sure if it counted but I podded a bowlful of mangetout that had been allowed to grow on.  The peas are not great, a bit to marrow-fat for my liking but they made delicious soup and far better than putting them in the compost.  The chooks enjoyed burrowing for the handful I thew on the grass as well.

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This week has been Olympic week.  Especially exciting as we watched Duncan Scott who we have known since he was a wee tot win Silver medal in the 4 x 200m freestyle relay and set a new British record in the 100m freestyle.  The final for the latter is at 3.00 am UK time on Friday morning if you want to cheer him on!

 

Duncan Scott

L-R: James Guy, Duncan Scott, Dan Wallace, Stephen Milne (courtesy of Ian MacNicol)

Watching the Olympics it is easy to get caught up in the razzmatazz and excitement and forget about the all the hard work that goes into just getting there in the first place.  Duncan announced he wanted to swim in the Olympics when he was nine, that’s ten years of early starts, homework in the back of the car on the way to evening training.  Ten years of driving across the country to swim in qualifying heats.  Ten years of physical hard slog.  Furthermore it’s not just Duncan that had to make sacrifices, who do you think drove Duncan across the country, sacrificed family holidays for training and so on?  Then there are the sports clubs, the ones that train our Olympians.  They don’t run themselves, someone has to be official timer, keep the books, fundraise, all volunteers.  There is much more going on behind the scenes than we ever see on the screen.

So when you look at your plastic bags, or the recycling that didn’t make it to the recycling box; when you buy a takeaway because you are just too tired and too hungry to cook; when you look at all the stuff you have accumulated and wonder how on earth it got there, don’t worry, don’t give up.   It took ten years for Duncan to become an Olympian and he worked at it seven days a week, 365 days a year.  Nobody expects you to downsize, declutter, go plastic free, live off grid (delete as appropriate🙂 ) seven days a week, 365 days a year.  You have other responsibilities, needs, goals, ideals to fit in as well.

Do what you can, maybe up the ante every now and then and nudge yourself on.  But don’t beat yourself up and give up because you haven’t achieved it all in a year.  Watch the Olympics and remind yourself that nothing is quite as easy as it may look and congratulate yourself on getting as far as you have already.

Love Gillie x