Green Your Life

Talking about amazing eco-friendly products and access to my online Wikaniko shop.


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Mud, Muck and Mayhem

Now that the soil has defrosted, it is time to get out into the garden and start on the preparations for the ‘vegetable growing season’!

Actually, I am quite proud of myself – I have some lettuces, radishes and onions in the greenhouse and some onions outside too – it will be a while before the onoins are ready, but one lettuce is nearly there!   The leeks from last year are looking a bit sorry for themselves after the frosts, but the chard is picking up again quite nicely.  So, in theory, I can keep some things in the garden going all year!  There are still some beetroot in the ground too – not sure what they will be like…..

Tiny bulb shoots peering out

Tiny bulb shoots peering out

The very back of my garden is divinely rich soil, but has been given over to bracken and nettles, with a lovely show of bulbs in the spring.  I had meant to dig it out in the autumn, but somehow life got in the way.  Last year, I had daffodils flowering right the way through January.  This year they are only starting to peek their green shoots above the ground and none of the other bulbs are venturing up much either.  It just shows the difference having a few days of hard frost in November, December and January make to the timing of spring plants.

A nettle-root mass. What do you do with them?

A nettle-root mass. What do you do with them?

I made a start on digging up the nettles as the afternoon faded to dusk.  I am always amazed at the length and tenacity of nettle roots.  They just spread everywhere and seem to grip the soil with incredible strength.  A mass of bulbs also came up, so as darkness fell I was finding other spots to plant these out amongst the wlidflower beds that line our back garden and throughout our front garden.

Pine needles waiting for a good composting location

Pine needles waiting for a good composting location

I had pruned the Scots Pine to allow more sunlight into the garden on a freezingly cold day a week or so back.  Yesterday my daughter and I clipped the smaller branches and collected them in a couple of boxes to allow them to compost to make acidic compost for the heather and a little for the strawberries.  Some of the mid-sized branches were burnt and the large ones kept to dry properly – perhaps will add them as long-term compost for a perma-culture bed.

Compost bays - 1 has sticks and twigs for a permaculture bed, the other is well rotted compost.

Compost bays – 1 has sticks and twigs for a permaculture bed, the other is well rotted compost.

The next job will be to sort out the compost – the well composted stuff needs to go out onto the beds and the fresher stuff needs to go down into the compost bay to rot more over the next few months.  It is hard to time this right.  At the moment the ground is really wet so digging is a bad idea (as is walking over it) and the compost may be leached by the time planting happens.

Milk bottles in the strawberry beds!

Milk bottles in the strawberry beds!

However, I need some more for my next section of strawberry bed – one year, I will have enough strawberries to make jam as well as feeding the ravenous strawberry-eating monsters (aka my kids).  This year, I am half burying 2L milk bottles into the strawberry beds in the hope that this will help to get water to the right places during dry periods.  Will let you know how that goes.

The wildflowers I planted in pots in the autumn have largely survived and soon will need to find a summer home.  Mostly in the front garden, but some in the back and will also plant some in amongst the vegetables to attract pollinators and pest-predators there.

So, though my vegetable garden currently looks like muddy mayhem, it is in fact a plan waiting to happen.

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These will be the large spring daisy’s – great for covering large areas. I will put them where I have a Mare’s Tail problem

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A mix of wild flowers, but mostly in the purple range. I must get to grips with what things are called! Ah well, so long as the bees and bugs like them

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The flowers in pots didn’t like the frost so much! Will see what manages to survive the next month or two before planting out.

 

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Morning Head Shower!

img_1458-1Many years ago when I was a student at Stirling University, some of us would love to abandon studies and go up Dumyiat Hill behind the University in drizzly cold weather – it was a most excellent way to clear the brain-overload fog that hit around exam time.  We called it going for a Head-Shower!

img_1450-2I don’t live near any mountains any more, but I still find that being outside in the fresh air is a great way to clear my head and just be.

So I love my morning dog walks (well most mornings – yesterday when the dog managed to pull the lead out of my frozen fingers and run off after something a lot faster than her and get herself lost from us for over an hour was a lot less fun).

Even when it is still dark out, we have had some amazing sights – the full moon over the cold and frosty fields, slowly setting as the sky pinks with the dawning sun in the opposite direction.  The slow change of light from pitch black to deep grey and then a hint of orangy pink tinging the sky.  Even a cloudy drizzly morning has its moments as my face revels in the moist air.  Sometimes the owls hooting madly – getting in their final calls before daylight arrives.  One morning they were so loud and frequent, they almost sounded like the gibbons I used to hear when living in Thailand!

img_1452Early light is stunning and we see roe deer most days.  A buzzard lives in the fields and I often see it perching on fences looking for food or digging grubs or worms from recent mole-casts.  Some mornings I hear the rattatat-tat of the woodpecker and the other day had to giggle when 6 squirrels were running across the path and over fences less than 15m from my dog who was straining at her leash.  But even she was bemused when 2 of the squirrels ran towards her to within 3m before turning away and going off into the woods!  Squirrel brains are on nookie at this time of year, though they would be wise to be aware of danger too or else they will not live to be parents!

It was divinely frosty this morning and I just had to take some photos to share with you.

img_1456I live no more than 25 miles from London, within the greenbelt and the roar of traffic never ends (though squint your ears and perhaps it is the roar of water over a waterfall!).  It is one of the most densely populated areas in the UK, house prices are ridiculous and yet, because it is greenbelt, there are swathes of woodland, farmland, heathland and wild places tucked in between villages and urban conurbations.

Increasingly, I realise, taking time for yourself is not selfish.  It is necessary.  You need to recharge, to replenish, to freshen your mind, to clear your thoughts, to just be.

I wish you YOUR time, in places that you feel at peace and at one with yourself.

 


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Make Your Own Butter

My Womens Institute recently had a talk on how to make cheese!  Got to admit, we have had better talks, but it got me thinking about what an amazing product milk really is!

OK, I know that many people are anti-milk, but I grew up in East Africa – home to the Maasai people.  Traditionally the Maasai herded cattle on the plains of East Africa and their main diet is milk.   The Maasai are incredibly fit and appear to survive well on a primarily milk-based diet.

So, I think milk is good so long as you have the gut proteins to digest it.  There are of course people who do not have these proteins and for them, milk can be a problem.

All that aside.

What can you do with milk….

  • Drink it down
  • Get Cream (just leave it to sit for a while (so long as it has not been homogenised)
  • Make butter
  • Make ice-cream
  • Make cheese

Are there any more?

Anyway, I recently found this article through Wikaniko on how to make butter and I thought I would share it with you!

I also plan to do this with my kids soon….  Will let you know what happens.

Natural Himalayan Salt

Natural Himalayan Salt

How to Make Butter…

This recipe makes about 500gm butter and 1/2 litre buttermilk

  • 1.2 litres (2 pints) room temperature, unpasteurised or pasteurised organic double cream (the better the cream – the better the butter)
  • Teaspoon Pink Himalayan salt (optional) – unsalted butter will go off in 2-3 days, salted will last 2-3 weeks

Pour the double cream into a cold, sterile mixing bowl. If you’re using raw cream and want a more traditional taste, leave it to ripen in a cool place, for 1-2 days. Homogenized cream will still whip, but not as well.

Whisk the cream at a medium speed in a food mixer until it is thick. First it will be softly whipped, then stiffly whipped.

Continue until the whipped cream separates into butterfat globules (you will see it, so be patient)

Move the mixture into a cold clean sieve and drain well.

The butter remains in the sieve while the buttermilk drains into the bowl.

You can put the buttermilk to one side to make soda bread or it is nice cold as a drink.

Put the butter back into a clean bowl and beat with the whisk for a further 30 seconds to 1 minute to expel more buttermilk. Remove and sieve as before.

Fill the bowl containing the butter with very cold water (an idea is to chill a bottle of water in the fridge right at the start!)

Fresh home-made butter on fresh home-made bread!  Yummy

Fresh home-made butter on fresh home-made bread! Yummy

 

With clean hands knead the butter to force out as much buttermilk as possible. (This is called washing and needs to be cold otherwise the mixture will liquify)

Drain the water, cover and wash twice more, until the water is totally clear.

Separate the butter in 2 and spread thinly onto greaseproof paper. Sprinkle the salt evenly across each. Shape into Pats or Rolls, wrap in the greaseproof paper or place in a butter dish and sit back to bask in your glory!