mint and roses

At last, we have sun!  I have been itching to harvest the herbs and flowers in the garden and hedgerows but it has been far too wet.  So today I am in overdrive and the house smells divine.

First was the rosewater (recipe here)

A436A3D5-DB49-4E65-8B88-1CBEBC1ECB7A

The roses are heavy with flowers and there are plenty more buds so I picked about 200g and the kitchen is filled with Radio 4 and the smell of rose petals!

Next was the mint.  I have peppermint, spearmint, apple mint and chocolat emint.  First was the peppermint

0878F5E0-D499-4B78-9281-0B1D512D2705

I have already made a large jar of mint sauce and have one jar dried.  But that won’t last the winter so in went another batch and I had a cup of tea as well.

C3D8DF66-15FB-423A-90B4-1FE377B62272

The meadowsweet it out, there are fresh nettles growing around the hen house and the lemon balm is going wild as well …

4189885E-3433-4D9D-83EA-1331C8AD9449

…but there is only so much I can get in the dehydrator.  However lemon balm is a good insect repellent, as is basil, which is also going rampant.    Their insect repelling action is due to the presence of citronellal (in lemon balm) and citronellal, estragole, limonene and nerolidol, all of which affect the pesky little biters’ sensors and their ability to find their target – namely us.

So while I wait for the mint to finish in the dehydrator here is my very simple insect repellent recipe:

  • jar
  • vodka (or witchazel)
  • Lemon balm leaves
  • Basil leaves

This is just a basic tincture recipe, and I would normally used vodka to make tinctures and make separate tinctures (simples) and mix later. However, as this is a predetermined mix which  will be sprayed on the skin and witch hazel has a soothing effect on the skin I have opted to used it instead of vodka and mix the herbs in the jar.

0379992C-AA45-4825-9EDA-D2F57F7C6E66

Pack the herbs into the jar, cover with witch hazel, seal and label and date (you will not remember what it is, I promise you) and leave for two weeks in a cool dark cupboard.  Then strain and keep in a dark jar.  When needed fill a small spray bottle half full with the herb tincture, top up with water, that is it!

Love Gillie x

 

 

 

 

 

 

an english country garden

… in the rain

I seriously considered putting on wellies just to walk round to the orchard to let out Mylie and Francine.  Seen here in sunnier days at Easter

2019-04-20 14.27.16

Francine on the right and Mylie on the left.

The rain seems to be endless and I wonder if I will ever sit outside with a book and enjoy the garden.  But let’s be honest, the long, hot summer of 2018 was an aberration and this is a more traditional English summer.  So here are some pictures of the beauty of an English country garden in its more usual “habitat” … the rain.

2019-06-14 09.58.53

The flagstones under the garden table, where we will not be eating supper tonight.

2019-06-14 09.58.02

Rosa rugosa holding up against the rain, not so delicate after all!

2019-06-14 09.57.44

Leaf sailing on across the overflowing water butt.

2019-06-14 09.59.19

Snail hiding in the fallen rose petals.

2019-06-14 09.59.56

Bounty in the garden.  Woad, fennel, motherwort, mugwort, artichoke (globe and Jerusalem), runner beans, peas, yarrow.

It may be wet, but it’s still beautiful.

Love Gx

reclaim your garden

Excess photo alert: the sun doesn’t often show his face around here!

IMG_2596

Here in the UK the sun has been out for three whole days.  That is little short of a miracle and in true British fashion, the weather is pretty much the number one topic of conversation.  It is wonderful, I am a summer person, I hate wearing lots of clothes and can’t wait to be in flip flops loose tops and cut off trousers and leggings.  It certainly makes deciding what to wear in the morning much easier when you only need to wear two items!

IMG_2595

Yesterday I took the day off, no work whatsoever.  I lay in the hammock all afternoon and read.  At the perfectly appointed time The Boss came out with a large glass of Pinot Gris.  At this point for fear of wasting the Pinot by inadvertently watering the grass with it I moved to the table and continued to read, sip and listen to the birdsong.

IMG_2597

What has made this year in the garden so wonderfully easy is that we decluttered all the outbuildings two years ago.  We no longer have half a deckchair hanging around just in case.  Boxes of garden toys that the girls have grown out of have gone.  In fact yesterday morning the trampoline frame (the pad had long gone) was picked up by a chap who is going to use it to make a polytunnel (Freegle is wonderful for letting things go to new and better homes).  We now use our hammock and deck chairs, I sit out in the courtyard with a cup of tea, we play ping pong in the meadow.

IMG_2598

Dolly enjoying a doze in the sun.

It is so easy to stuff seasonal things away where you can’t see them out of season, but then come summer (or winter and where are the snow chains?) and the effort of digging through all the rubbish is so depressing that it is easy to be tempted by those special offers and just go out and by some new chairs or ping pong bats.

Remember the Hanging Gardens of Brancepeth?  Now look at them.

IMG_2600

It’s lovely out there, take advantage of that, clear out one bit of one garage/outbuilding/shed.  Reclaim your summer.

Love Gillie x

potagers, physic gardens and whirling topiary

Yesterday I got up exceptionally early (actually an hour earlier than I needed to because I couldn’t read the clock) to head down to London for the Chelsea Flower Show.  Despite an hour of extra time to get ready I  managed to leave my phone at home so all the photos here are courtesy of the lovely Caroline who acted as my official snapper.

I was rather disappointed with the show gardens.  I appreciate that everything comes in cycles and that fashions change, but I got rather bored of endless firs, sparse plantings and large blocks of concrete and metal.  I mean, I took one look at the metal slabs in the Best in Show Telegraph garden and the first thing I thought was “of course, mountains”??  Meanwhile I rather liked  the comment I overheard at the L’Occitane garden “I might like it when it’s finished”!  Indeed, it was an excellent reproduction of a pretty and arid scene somewhere in the south of France.  But it wasn’t a a garden.  Certainly there were precious few that I would say, “oh yes, I’d like to sit out in that.”  But then I suspect I am rather old fashioned.

This came to be proven when we came across the Harrods Garden.  Plentiful and stunning planting, we weren’t the only ones to think so, it was one of the most crowded gardens I have seen in Chelsea for years.

chelsea 3

It was rather eccentric as every 15 minutes the topiary began to whirl and bob, the garden spun around the folly, and the window boxes rose up to the second floor (I rather liked the idea of being able to take your window boxes to bed with you).  But the planting, it was a dream.

chelsea 4

The other garden I loved, was similar in style, the RHS Greening the Gray garden, again plentiful planting (I particularly liked the idea of planting roses amongst the annuals, so often they are made to stand alone).  This was unusual as you could walk through it and enjoy it as a garden rather than merely spectate.  Vegetables in pots on the roof of the sheds, traditional mixing of veg and flowers and plenty of bee friendly plants.  In both gardens I was so impressed by the lupins, delphiniums and foxgloves so tall and straight!

We are fortunate enough to have enough space to grow pretty much what we want, north of England weather and chickens permitting.  I am very keen to build a physic garden and really want to do the Foundation Course at Dilston Physic Garden.  I wanted to do it this year, but I can’t make the dates so have blocked out the dates for next year already!

In the meantime I  need to start to plan the plants and compare to what I already have and where I have them.  At Chelsea I saw these  by Bacsac

potager-bacsquare-330l

They are lovely, but more than I can afford.  So this bank holiday weekend the Boss and I are going into design mode.  Actually the design is less of a problem it’s the material, but we have an idea.  Watch this space to see if it works.

Love Gillie

 

 

 

the hanging gardens of Brancepeth

IMG_2555

I cannot take credit for these.  I first saw them on a friend’s blog, it wasn’t her idea either!  But now I pass them on to you, let there be hanging gardens around the world.

Quick diversion, anyone reading this who went to a PNEU school will have had a class called From Ur to Rome.  It was based on a book of the same name and was tolerably interesting.  However, the sections on the ziggurats and on the hanging gardens of Babylon transfixed me.  I was frequently in trouble for flicking back to them and thus having no idea what the rest of the class was discussing!

You will need LOTS of plastic milk bottles (2l) or detergent bottles (the bulk 3l ones).  Unless you are a family of 20 who each drink a litre of milk a day collecting these will be the hardest part.  You need to raid your friends’ recycling bins.

IMG_2556

Place the bottle in front of you sideways on with the handle on the left then cut out a square shape from the opening at the top down about 4-6 inches depending on the size of your bottle.  Next attach some two by two to your chosen wall.  The number you will need will depend on how long you plan on making your garden.  You will need a new support every 3ft or so.

Now insert a large round hook in each support.  Thread the appropriate length of dowling through the handle of each milk bottle, rest the dowling in the hook and hey presto your very own hanging garden.

We have planted salad greens, summer herbs, carrots, strawberries, nasturtiums

 

 

aprons and dolmades

Turkey was wonderful.  The weather was hard, clear blue skies every day.  I believe we did see one cloud, but it was small and clearly lost.  One of the things I love about coming back from holiday is digging out old recipes and experimenting with recreating the foods we ate whilst we were away.  One of my absolute favourites are dolmades.

In the interest of minimalist living and using up everything I cast my eye over the grape vines in our garden.  Why on earth had I not thought to use them before?  For somebody who can make a pretty reasonable meal out of foraged or caught food you would have thought I would have spotted that opportunity before.

The dolmades were delicious, even more so I think because they came from my own vines.  Before we went away I was furiously foraging and drying flowers and leaves, soon I shall start canning and preserving.  But now I am freezing vine leaves for the winter.

Like all leaves you only want the young and tender ones.  The rule I found which seems to work for me is count three leaves down from the tip and pick the next three leaves.  Clearly this isn’t hard and fast but it gives you an idea of the size of leaf you are looking for.  In my case it is larger than my palm but smaller than my whole hand.

As our leaves have come from our own vines I know that they haven’t been sprayed but they do need washing.  Then make a pile of leaves.  There are five of us in our family and we eat about three each so I made piles of 15 leaves.

DSC_1652

Then roll them up and secure with string.

DSC_1651

Finally blanch in boiling salted water.

DSC_1653

Leave to cool and freeze.  I’ll let you know how they turn out.

In the meantime every cook needs a good apron.  I made this yesterday with some leftover upholstery fabric.  I feel very cool 🙂

DSC_1649

decluttering changed my life

One year on.  Remember this?

 

IMG_0988

and this?

 

IMG_0987

 

Well now it looks like this.

P1000715

In fact that is a mere fraction of what has gone.  As I write I have six more bags to go to charity and the Singers have been dispatching some of the Boss’s clothes on Ebay.  So what next?  What have I learned?

What next?  Well there is still a huge amount to go.  The Boss is slowly working through his wardrobe and I will have to work at his pace.  The study still has far too much in it and there are a few black holes around the house to which we have been turning a blind eye.  The videos and CDs are a case in point.  But as the house has emptied we have begun to turn our attention towards the garden.  I have plans to turn our garden into a mainly physic garden where all the plants are either medicinal, edible or have other practical uses.  Meanwhile the Boss has finally got on top of the meadow and is planning the wild flower border around it.  Currently it’s mainly vetch, poppies and cornflowers, but give him time.

P1000716

What have I learned?  How long do you want me to go on?

Don’t give  up  Like learning to play a musical instrument it is hard at first.  You can see other people knocking off a snazzy sounding concerto whilst you are still struggling to coordinate your left and right hand sufficiently to get three notes out in the correct order.  But everybody has to start at the beginning.  Everybody has to practice, practice, practice before they are a master of the art.  Decluttering is no different.

It does become easier.  Trust me, you will come to a point when you are instinctively picking up things that you don’t want or need and putting them in the charity bag or recycling.

Let go of guilt.  Just because it was a gift or a family heirloom does not mean that you have to keep it.  Offer the latter to somebody else in the family to caretake if it will cause a ruction.  So you bought a dress and have never worn it but keep it because you feel you must.  Don’t.  Let it go.  Sell it on eBay BNWT!

Space is beautiful.  The things you love can shine when they are bordered by space, space in itself is something to love and cherish.

Don’t clutter it up the space.  My entire summer wardrobe fits in less space than my shirts used to take up.  My bookshelves contain books I want to read.  I know every shoe I possess, I no longer open a shoe box and look at the contents with surprise.

As I decluttered my belongings I decluttered my mind.  Now I can’t promise that this is true for everyone or that the two were actually connected.  I suffer from acute  and severe depression, the kind where all is well and suddenly for no apparent reason the lights are all turned off.  I made an active decision after a particularly nasty attack that I was going to think differently.  Thus it is quite possible that  my mind declutter is down to that.  Either way.  This year  I have gone from unsure what to do with my life stay at home mum to published author with a second book in the works; professional tarot reader; workshop facilitator and have plans for a small handmade toiletry collection.  As I decluttered I became more focused.  The things I focussed on were not those that I had expected but I am loving life and have big plans for the future.

Not everyone likes it.  A bit like losing weight and discovering that not all your friends are as keen on the new you.  I have been told all sorts of reasons why “they” can’t do it; why “they” could never let go of books (heaven forbid!) and so forth.  Maybe they really can’t or maybe they are jealous.  Whatever the reason it has nothing to do with me so I shall continue my path.

I have discovered my own style.  As I have let go of things that I didn’t like, need or want I have discovered a style that is mine and I like it.

I have made some amazing friends and some incredible business contacts.  I have discovered crossovers and potential joint projects with people I probably would never have met had I not started, and gone public with this journey.

I have more time.  I can’t explain this one, I still live in the same house, I still have the same family.  Perhaps it is more that I am more mindful of my time, I don’t fritter it away.  As I am only keeping things I cherish I am learning to cherish my time as well.

And finally, I did it because I wanted to.  You have to want to.